Sunday, October 31, 2010

Made by Me Monday

Hey y'all,
How was your weekend?  How was trick or treating?

Our weekend was wonderful.  My mom and Grandma came into town since Saturday was my birthday. We were busy.  Friday we went to a Taste of Home cooking show.  It was fun to get out and do something with my mom without the kids.  The kitchen is my haven so I loved it.  So much fun to learn some new recipes and laugh at the antics of the local radio personalities.

Saturday was fun.  Mom took the kids to the library for a literacy fair.  They dressed up and played games and earned books.  Hubby and I went out to lunch by ourselves.  Amazing!  A full meal without getting up to take someone potty.  Bliss!

That night we all went out to dinner.  The kids loved reminding me that it was my birthday.  And since I'm eight months older than my husband, he loved reminding me too.  :-)

And of course Sunday was church and trick or treating.  We took the kids to a Halloween fair and they loaded up on candy.  So many memories and so much fun.  I have a tons of photos so share with you later in the week.  Costumes, birthday, cooking,... all that.  But I'll save them for later in the week. 

In the mean time, check out this awesome Sew as you Go Bag @ Sweet Limes.  I'm always looking for fun projects and this one looks like a fun one.  Check it out!

Also I'll have a tutorial up for this necklace and bracelet set later in the week.  Hope you like it.

For now, let's get partying with Made by Me Monday.  Write a blog post highlighting your project with a link back so that others can join in on the fun.  Then link up below to the blog post itself.  You can post more than one project; just add more than one link.  I'll be picking one of your projects to highlight next week.  So start linking up!

*Linked to these Parties

Happy Halloween

Hope you're having a fun day filled with all the best CHOCOLATE Halloween Candy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And the winner is...

Sorry this is coming in late.  I've been out all day enjoying my birthday with family.  But I wanted to let you all know the winner of the Real Food on a Real Budget Giveaway, sponsored by Keeper of the Home.

Our winner today is....


Amber D.

Congratulations, Amber.  I'll be contacting Keeper of the Home so she can contact you with your prize.

For those of you who didn't win, don't forget to check out Keeper of the Home's great sale going on right now, including both of her books, plus several other e-books from other bloggers.  Proceeds go to benefit a great cause and there's some wonderful titles to choose from.  I'll be checking it out myself more this weekend.

And Congratulations again to Amber!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twelve Weeks of Christmas: Half Apron

These little waist aprons are so easy to make and so economical.  A few years ago, I made longer aprons out of the pants legs, but couldn't stand wasting any of the leftover material.  Thus the half apron was born. I think they're great for working in the yard.  I have two hanging in my garage near the back door and use them for all kinds of things.  Let me show you how I did it.

I went to my local thrift store and bought women's jeans in an average 8-10 size.  I cut off both legs and used those for full length aprons.  Then I took off the back seat of the pants, cutting up the side seams.  I wanted the full waist band so I carefully cut that out, leaving it attached to the back of the pants.

Then I cut all the way around the waist band.  I liked the way the belt loops looked so I cut around them to reattach later.  I measured a piece of material to the width of the pants and as deep as I wanted my pocket.  I gave the bottom edge of the material a finished look before attaching it to the V of the pants.  Then I reattached the waist band to the top, sewing down the belt loops as I went as well.  Finally I sewed up the sides of the pocket.

I opened up the ends of the waist band and tucked in finished ties of material before sewing it back shut.  Lastly I finished of the front of the apron with binding and some pretty stitching.

You could easily pretty these up with some yo-yo's, small embellishments, buttons, etc.  I use this one for keeping my clothespins in.  When I don't have clothes on the line, they are tucked away in the pocket and the apron hangs near the door.  I have a second one that I use when working in the yard, sometimes to keep the portable phone with me, other times to carry gardening tools.

I love them.  And how much more frugal can you get?  A pair of jeans at my local thrift store runs $1 and I got 2 full length aprons and a half apron out of it.  Add some leftover material from my box and some matching binding and you've got a great gift.  Perfect for crafters, gardeners, bakers, and chefs.

What will you craft up for the holidays?  

*Linked to these Parties

Let's Celebrate....

Keeper of the Home is offering some great discounts on both her e-books as a way of celebrating three years on her blog.  Additionally 25% of the profits will go toward sponsoring street kids in the Philippines and 25% of the profits will go toward their family's international adoption fund.

Real Food on a Real Budget is one of the books on sale.  So if you don't win this week's giveaway, be sure to pick up a copy.  I promise you'll love it!

Additionally, several other bloggers are offering up discounted e-books on real food and healthy living.  Many of these titles look wonderful and remember, Christmas is less than two months away.  Do you have someone on your list who would love one of these titles?  Now's the time to be thinking.

Happy Shopping!

Pumpkin Decadence: Part Two

As I mentioned before, carving pumpkins is an annual tradition around here.  The kids love going out to pick their own pumpkins and then we make an event of the carving.  We do pizza, sometimes homemade, sometimes pumpkin from Papa Murphy's.  And I always remember to do a pumpkin dessert.  We've bounced back and forth from muffins to pumpkin pie cake to finding a pumpkin cheesecake brownie this year. 

Honestly I think these Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies are to die for. My husband is always skeptical of pumpkin brownies.  We've tried enough recipes to know that most of them do not come out gooey like traditional brownies and that's what he likes.  If I say "brownies," he wants goo.  So to say that he was wary of trying these would be an understatement.  However, as we were working together on the recipe, I knew I had him won over when he tasted the pumpkin mix and his rolled into the back of his head.

Since my love language is food, I'm filing this one away in my cookbook.  I'm sure we'll make another batch this fall, but seriously, these are dangerous. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies
(from Beantown Baker)

Brownie Batter
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder 
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter
8 oz cream cheese, softened 
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree 
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/3 tsp each ground ginger and ground cloves 
(I used pumpkin pie spice in place of the spices)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" square metal baking pan.

Beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients.

Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.


We also toasted our pumpkin seeds for the first time this year.  Really!  I don't know why I didn't try this before.  They were so good.

I took one batch and mixed with olive oil to coat and then seasoned with cinnamon and sugar.

The other batch was soaked in salt water.  Later we mixed them with olive oil, then they were seasoned with cayenne, cumin, sugar, and ginger.  

I sprayed a cookie sheet for each batch with non-stick cooking spray and popped them in an oven @ 350 degrees for 30-40 min, turning every 10 min.  Make sure you have a single layer of seeds and they're not all bunched together. And watch them at the end so they don't burn.

We all had our favorites.  I like the sweet and spicy ones while the kids love the sweet ones.  The cayenne got to spicy for them.  But they are so good.  I'd love to do them year round.  They make a great snack food and are so easy.  We'll definitely be making this a new family tradition.

*Don't forget to check out this week's giveaway: Real Food on a Real Budget.  You'll love it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

52 First Dates: Week Twenty

Hey all,
How was your spa night?  Did you have fun creating the spa experience at home and snuggling with your hunny?

We had an awesome time.  A massage from my husband is not a typical event so this date was great for me.  The spa experience at home was wonderful too 'cause once we were relaxed, we didn't have to drive home.  This is a date that I'd love to recreate time and time again.

How about you?

Are you ready for this week's challenge?

Playing off the theme of Halloween, let's do something creative.  I know we'll be out with kids so ours will be more like a family night.  But I also know that several of you will be attending Halloween parties this year.  Usually I don't like to dress up, but this year I'm feeling in the mood.  It can be as elaborate or as simple as you like.  Actually I'm thinking simple since it's already Wednesday, but let your imagination go. And as you're taking pictures of the kids, make sure you take pictures of yourselves as well.

If you're not going out, pick up a scary movie to cuddle on the couch.  Personally, I don't like the typical slasher Halloween movies.  But I loved to be scared.  Stuff like Sixth Sense, Signs, LOST, ... etc.

Let us know how it goes.  How are you enjoying this dating experiment?  Have you learned anything new about your partner?  Any ideas for future dates?

And don't forget to check out this week's giveaway.  Ends Friday at Midnight.

*Linked to these Parties

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Promise Kept...

On our way to the wedding a couple of weekends ago, all Noah heard was that we were going to the Lake Tahoe... a "lake."  In his five year old mind, lake meant fishing.  We were about 30 min outside of Lake Tahoe when he asked if we were going fishing that day or the next.  Fishing?  Where had that come from? He knew we were going to a wedding; he was going to be in it.  What was this about fishing?

At this point, my husband turned around to explain to him that we weren't going fishing; we were going to his auntie's wedding.  Noah burst into tears.  In the five years since he's been born, I don't know that I've ever seen him cry so hard and so long.  It broke both my husband and I's hearts.  Noah had this trip so built up in his head.  He just knew that we were going fishing and when he found out we weren't, it was the end of the world.

In that moment, we knew we had to make it right.  I suggested that this past weekend would be the perfect opportunity to go fishing as we had nothing on the calendar.  And in typical Noah fashion, he didn't let us forget about it for the entire week.

As the days went by, I brought up the topic of fishing and suggested that Lydia and I would plan something that day as well while Noah and his dad were off fishing (so not my idea of a good time).  Noah again stepped in and insisted that we all go fishing, even went so far as to encourage us to buy Lydia a pole and helped her pick out which one.  He completely took the big brother role, explaining to her what we would do and what her choices were.

Finally Saturday arrived ... and so did the rain.  It was cold, windy, wet, ... and we were right in the middle of it.  We had to make it right and keep our promise; there was no wiggling our way out of this one.  They packed up their fishing poles and I... well, I packed my book, fully intending on sitting in the car, reading quietly.

Seeing my kids standing there, side by side, catching about fish, enjoying the day... that made it all worth it for me.  The book got left in the car, the worms... well, those were my husband's department.  One glorious morning spent family bonding in the way that only fishing can bring about.  It's mornings like this that make it all worth it.

Made By Me Monday

Good Morning!

How are you doing on a Monday morning?  It's bright and early for us this morning.  Getting Noah off to school, trying to get the phone calls made that I thought of over the weekend, making a grocery list.  We had a fun weekend.  The kids wanted to go fishing so we took Lydia for the first time and carved our pumpkins later that evening.

We also had traditional pumpkin carving dinner: homemade pizza and something pumpkin.  I also try to make a pumpkin dessert that evening.  One year we made pumpkin brownies, one year pumpkin pie cake.  This year I looked around and found the most sinful dessert: pumpkin cheesecake swirl brownies. They are so decadent.  Even my husband who is skeptical of pumpkin and brownie... well, he just about passed out when he tasted the batter.  They were fantastic.  I'll be sharing the recipe later this week.

In the meantime if you haven't checked out these Gift bags from Lil Daisies, you've gotta look at them.  They are so cute and versatile.  Perfect for the holiday season.  I might have to take the sewing machine and whip up a few myself.

What about you?  Write a blog post highlighting your project with a link back so that others can join in on the fun.  Then link up below to the blog post itself.  You can post more than one project; just add more than one link.  I'll be picking one of your projects to highlight next week.  So start linking up!

And don't forget to check out this week's giveaway!  Real Food on a Real Budget: You don't want to miss this one.

*Linked to these Parties

Giveaway: Real Food on a Real Budget

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Keeper of the Home about doing a giveaway on her great e-book, Real Food on a Real Budget.  I jumped at the chance.  For several reasons.  Stephanie's blog is absolutely one of my favorites, this is a title I've been dying to read, and it's also the type of book that I really want to bring to my reader's attention.

So I dove headlong into reading this book and came out with such encouragement.  Eating real nutritious foods is not impossible.  We've been so trained in our society that potato chips and corn dogs are ok.  And they're not.

Our bodies crave real foods.  The vitamins and nutrition in them cannot be replaced by a one a day pill.  And although I believe that supplements and occasional treats are fine, the day to day norm in our lives has to be these real foods.

That's why this book is so great.  It takes the reader step by step through several options for improving your overall diet.  It's not an all at once type of philosophy.  Rather there's several steps that can incorporated one at a time to lead to a better lifestyle.  Additionally Stephanie provides hints and tips for making this lifestyle change do-able on a budget.  Also included in the book are voices of other women who have made these changes and how they've done it.

I'm so excited about this book that it's reignited my passion for healthy living.  It  speaks in a true to life manner to will encourage you to get out there and start making changes, right where you're at.  It's a must read for any homemaker looking to improve their families diet, with the added bonus of being written from a budget perspective.

I'm happy to be giving away a copy of Real Food on a Real Budget (e-book format) this week.  Wanna know how you can win???

Here's how to enter:

Mandatory actions:

1. Become a public Creative2xmom follower.
2. Go to Keeper of the Home and come back to comment on what you like.

Additional entries:
After completing the above actions, you can earn additional entries in the giveaway by doing any or all of the following:

1. Blog about this giveaway on your blog linking to this post and to Keeper of the Home.

2. Tweet or facebook this giveaway (may do once for each action).

3. Become a follower on Creative2xmom's facebook page.

You have until midnight Oct 29th to enter. Leave me a separate comment for each entry. One winner will be chosen at random and I'll announce the results on Oct 30th (my birthday!).  

As an added surprise, Real Food on a Real Budget is currently on sale.  The e-book copy is selling for $18.97 while the hard copy is selling for $25.97 (including shipping).  This is an exception value for the information you will gain.  A great buy!

Good luck!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lee's To Do List

Check out this incredible list of Homemade Gift Ideas (@ Prudent Homemaker).  I'm bookmarking this one for many ideas to come.

This article on The Subtle Body: Should Christians Practice Yoga (@ Albert Mohler) has caused quite a stir in the Christian blogging community.  What's your take?

Love these Halloween Cupcakes (@ Tiffin Tales).  I'm gonna make a batch of the pumpkin ones soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Advent Conspiracy 2010

If this were my child that was drinking MUD, wouldn't I want someone to help?

If this were my child getting sick from the WATER he was drinking, wouldn't I want someone to help?

What if I were this mother?

What if that was my child?

What if I were holding a dying baby?

Don't these people deserve clean water more than my child needing ANOTHER DOLL?

$10= Water for a Lifetime???

Conspire With Me THIS Holiday Season!

Twelve Weeks of Christmas: Little People Playset

If you have a little girl in your life that is anything like mine, she's all about princesses and castles and fairy tales.  My daughter is only two and already, it's fancy dresses, Cinderella, and singing mice.  And she loves pretending.  

I came across a similar project earlier in the year and knew that I wanted to make one for Lydia based on a princess theme.  This was a super easy project that took no time at all.

I started with a small wooden case from Michael's.  They're only about $1-2 and group it with a %40 off coupon.  I painted it a light pink and added the purple detailing with a pen.  The case also has fancy lettering with the words... "Once Upon A Time."

The inside is lined with white felt, adhered with Modge Podge.  The castle scene is pink cut felt, layered again with Modge Podge and detailed with purple pen.

The little people came in a pack of three wooden pieces, again from Michael's or Jo-ann's with a coupon.    They have felt clothing, yarn hair, and pen detailed faces.  The princess has a pearl necklace cut from beading, the prince has a shield in contrasting felt (not visible in photo), and the dragon has a tail with yellow diamonds down the back.  The details were adhered with wood glue on these pieces.

All three pieces fit nicely in the case for portability.  Plus since the case is lined with felt on both sides, it makes for quiet play in church, meetings, etc.

There's all kinds of different sets you could make out of this: prairie, manger scene, miniature family, etc.  Michael's has lots of little wooden pieces that could be added as well, including pets.    I've been thinking of making a second set for Operation Shoebox.  Wouldn't that be a great addition?

How is your Christmas crafting going?  Any ideas to share with us?

*Linked to these Parties
& Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stained Glass Masquerade

I've been listing to a lot of Pandora the last couple of days and have had a few songs that stand out to me.  Like Give Me Jesus.

This song in particular hit a nerve.  Will you dare to live a transparent life?

Pumpkin Decadence

I love baking this time of year.  I don't know why, but as soon as October hits, all I want to do is revel in the flavors of fall.  Pumpkin, warm spices, ... it's different than Christmas even.  Not so much winter comfort foods, but warm, spicy, ... fallish.

So I've been experimenting the past couple of weeks, with both old and new recipes.  My tummy is loving it, but my waistline is quickly expanding.  Isn't that so true?

In case you're in the same mood I am, here are some fantastic fall recipes:

Pumpkin Latte

  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger brewed espresso
  1. Brew your espresso. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and milk. Warm over medium heat, whisking constantly, until hot and frothy. Do not bring to a boil. Pour the espresso into a mug and pour the pumpkin spiced milk over it.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

  • Muffin Ingredients:
  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup (heaping) Pumpkin Puree
  • ½ cups Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1-½ teaspoon Vanilla
  • ½ cups Dried Cranberries (optional!)
  • _____
  • Topping
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons Nutmeg
  • _____
  • ¼ cups Softened Butter
  • 4 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
  • ½ pounds Powdered Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease 12 muffin tins.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in butter with two knives or a pastry blender until it is fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Add raisins. Fold gently until mixture is just combined.
Pour into a greased muffin pan—batter hardly ever fills all twelve unless you keep it down to 1/2 full. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture over the top of each unbaked muffin.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. Ice with cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, mix all ingredients on high until soft and whipped. Spread onto completely cooled muffins, or place into a large pastry bag with a large star tip and go crazy! Store in the fridge, as icing will soften at room temperature.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
12 ounces chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
Mix together flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture looks a bit curdled). Reduce speed and mix in dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until edges pull away from the pan and toothpick comes out clean.

*Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

52 First Dates: Week Nineteen

How was your date last week?  Did you have fun getting out of the house?

I must confess I saved this one for a week I knew we would be able to get out of the house.  Having no family in the area, it's often hard for us to have dates out.  But this weekend we were in Tahoe for my sister in law's wedding and I knew there would have to be some time where we would be able to get "out."

It didn't look like I had quite pictured it, but it worked out just the same.  The wedding was very small, but even with just immediate family, the table at dinner was quite long.  It ended up being my hubby and I and my brother in law and his wife at our end of the table.  Noah was sitting with Nana and Papa and Lydia was back and forth.  It actually ended up being a great time to talk, catch up, and have some real adult conversation.  Truth be known, I hardly noticed the kids were there until my feet were aching and I was having just as much of a melt down as they were.  We really enjoyed ourselves just chatting away.

I didn't get pictures of us at dinner, but here's the fam at the wedding.

And my brother in law and his wife
Yes, she is pregnant and that's why I've had baby fever lately.

Anyways... back to the dating...

This week's challenge: 
You are going to create a spa date.  Now I know what you're thinking, "My husband is never going to go for this."  But wait, I do have a few ideas up my sleeve.

Make sure you set the scene.  Flowers, plants from around the house, candles, soft music (I'm a sucker for classical), those little flat marbley thingies...

You have to have food.  I don't know why all my dates have to involved food, but they do.  Tapas if you will.  Water with lemon slices floating in it, crusty bread and a light spread, definitely something chocolate... Google it and see what you come up with.  This is the time to take out the fancy dishes.  It will be ok.

Bubble baths are good if your tub is big enough.  Make sure you have your water is nearby or cider or champagne.  Really soak it in.  When was the last time you soaked in a tub, without or without your husband?  Pre-kids for sure.  

Massage oil or lotion is a must.  What's a spa without a massage?  Take our your robes and be luxurious.    Dim the lights.  Don't have a dimmer?  Scarfs over lamps are fantastic for this.

I'll let you plan the rest of your date, but remember that spas are all about luxury.  You can't be too over the top for this date.  Set up a menu, send him an invitation, go the extra mile.

How is your dating life?

*Linked to these Parties.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkins, Field Trips, and A Wedding...

The past week has been very full so rather than just tell you, I thought I'd show you as well.  October tends to be our crazy month with two birthdays, the fun fall season and Halloween.  This year has been no exception.  One of our favorite tradition is hitting the pumpkin patch, usually the same weekend as Noah's birthday.  Lydia's getting old enough to really get into it as well.  And no doubt about it, they love the bouncing structure.
A rare "sibling love" moment as he helped her down the slide

Wow, looks like it wasn't so rare that day

Searching for her perfect pumpkin
She's two so she couldn't go for the round one near the end that Mommy picked out
She had to find her own

Being in charge as always...
He insisted that he could do it himself

Family photo

That same week, on Noah's birthday, I help chaperone a field trip to the local Convention Center.  Lydia was allowed to come along as well and did a great job.
Her first time on a bus

Noah lining up with the kids for his first time on the bus as well

The New Christy Minstrels
Mommy had a great time too

This past weekend, we were in Tahoe, so we went to a local park for the Salmon Spawning.  I love having the flexibility to take a few days and homeschool and this was a perfect opportunity.  I couldn't believe how much the kids were into it.
Pointing out the crazy bird we saw

Both fascinated by the salmon swimming up stream

She insisted that Mommy read her EVERY sign
By the end, she wanted to read them to me.

Our real purpose for going to Tahoe was my sister in law's wedding.  My husband performed the ceremony and the kids were the ring bearer and flower girl.  Noah took his job very seriously.
Another family photo, Mom?

We'll be good

So that's a world wind tour through the past week or so in our house.  Actually looking forward to a week of doing "house stuff."
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