"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baptism Day

In our church, children get baptized when they are eight. With two sets of grandparents, one set of aunt and uncle, parents, brothers, two cousins and friends from church, Princess Sparkley was baptized yesterday.

*dress made by Jed's mom, pattern picked out by Princess Sparkley.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

My mom sent me this cookie recipe awhile ago. I just now got around to trying it. YUM! My cookies didn't look nearly this good (I think my dough needed to chill longer, and I needed to push harder with my glass) but they sure did taste delicious!


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup peanut butter


3/4 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

For the dough: Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Set aside. Sift together the flour and cocoa, add to the creamed mixture, and mix well with a mixer or hands. Chill for 30 minutes.

For the filling: Mix the peanut butter and powdered sugar together and form into 1-inch balls. Chill until ready to complete the cookies.

Wrap 1 tablespoon of dough around each ball of peanut butter and place on a cookie sheet using parchment paper. Flatten all with a glass dipped in sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 9 minutes, or until done. Allow to sit 5 to 6 minutes before placing on racks to cool completely. Enjoy. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Read more: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/jun/19/this-grandma-bakes-good-goodies/#ixzz0xXATZsrV

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mom and Dad

My parents fly in on Wednesday for a two week trip brought on my Princess Sparkley's baptism. We're getting pretty excited around here. The two bigger kids have been counting down (although they don't count the current day, or the day they arrive - and they don't arrive until after 10 at night, so their count is a little low). The other day, I listed off a bunch of stuff that needed to happen that day. Little Guy added to the end of my list, "pick up Grandma and Grandpa!?!" with a super excited, hopeful little voice. It's especially fun because he's only actually met my parents twice as a newborn, and then last summer when he was 1 1/2. Yea for grandparents visiting!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Sling

I'm always finding creative bookshelves (one involved using a rain gutter to create a wall shelf for kids) but none of them are typically in my realm of crafting ability (I'm not a wood or metal person... and not really paint either). This one was in the Family Fun that came with today's mail and it looks like maybe I can handle it.

Here's a tutorial at Penny Carnival: Hanging Book Display


Conversation with Walmart Cashier
(who I should note, had a foreign accent and thus cookies are probably not part of his culture)

Cashier: What do you use this for? [holding up brown sugar] Making cookies?

Me: [nods] Yeah.

Cashier: What else do you put in to make cookies?

Me: Ummm. Flour, sugar, eggs, butter... vanilla and throw in some chocolate chips.

Cashier: And then put the cookies in the oven. What temperature do you think? 375?

Me: (internal monologue, "Crap! He wants an actual recipe. He's going to go home and throw a bunch of ingredients that I just listed off to him into a bowl and then bake them up and expect cookies." Outloud - ) It depends on the recipe. You can look online and do a Google search for chocolate chip cookie recipe and come up with a ton of good ones.

Cashier: I cook a lot, but not sweets. I've never baked a cake either. It looks simple, but I've never baked one.

Afterwards, I texted Jed to see if this was his favorite Walmart employee (we each have a favorite* - since you know, there are so many great ones to choose from), figuring if this was his favorite, maybe we could bring him a recipe for cookies sometime when Jed makes a late night run to Walmart for ginger ale and grenadine. But it wasn't. I also thought afterwards that I should just have told him to follow the recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate chips.

*Mine is an older man who greets at the door, but is a normal guy who seems like he retired from a business job and was bored so got a job at Walmart. Not a weirdo. Not super old. Just a nice grandpa-ey guy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cookie Pie

I had a homeschool park day* last Friday that involved bringing a favorite pie to share. I forgot all about this until the night before. And I'm not really a pie person but if I did have to pick a favorite, they would all be pudding or ice cream based. Not something that would hold up at the park on a hot summer day. I looked around online and settled on a cookie pie. It turned out great. I've made it three times in the past week now.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 2/3 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Mix sugars, butter, and vanilla. Add egg. Mix the two mixtures together. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips (I used half milk chocolate, half miniature semi-sweet). Press into 9 inch, greased, pie plate. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve topped with ice cream.

*Which fell on the same morning as a big storm, and we were almost an hour late, and the only ones that showed up. At least we got to eat the whole yummy pie ourselves.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Pet

We have a new pet. It's a spider. It lives in the corner where wall meets ceiling above our computer desk. He's a daddy long legs spider and since they tend to stick to their corner on the ceiling and not crawl across me on the couch, I'm cool with letting him live there. We've named him Homer (all except Princess Sparkley who calls him Pippi LONGstocking) because right next to his corner is Jed's Homer Simpson clock.

Update: Homer was gone within 24 hours. So now I am a little bit paranoid about where he's wandered off to. Cross your fingers that it isn't my couch, or my bed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Baby Girls

My BFF Angela just had her first baby, the adorable M&M,

{picture missing}

and Jed's little brother* just had his first baby, sweet little A.

Girl babies all around! Princess Sparkley could not be happier (unless of course, these baby girls were being born into her immediate family). You see, there is only one girl cousin in each family, on both sides. Among my nieces and nephews, the girls are currently outnumbered, 14 to 5 (with one more girl cousin on the way).

On my side of the family, I'm in charge of sewing blankets for new babies, etc. because no one else can sew. I decided to branch out and sew for some other special people as well.

For my new little niece.
(I LOVE this fabric. It would have been for Little Guy, had he been a girl. That's how long it's been in my sewing box waiting for a worthy recipient.)

For my BFF once removed, I suppose.**
(This fabric has also been in my sewing box*** for awhile, probably even longer. I think this would have been for Buddy or my sister's son that's the same age as Buddy, if they'd been girls.)

Here she is with her blanket:

*He's not even MY little brother, but he's seven years younger than Jed so when the call came that they had their baby, I was a bit thrown back. He seems too young to have a family! But, I think we started our family even younger!!! Man, am I getting old or what!?!

**I've been sewing tiny blankets (about 2x2 feet) that match the bigger blankets, since my kids all LOVED their blankeys, it was often more convenient for them to be loving a TINY blanket, rather than one that filled the entire diaper bag. So, if I have enough fabric, I'll sew a tiny one. I didn't have enough of the yellow polka dot fabric. :(

***And YEA! for shrinking my fabric box contents down! Plus one more I'm not revealing yet.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fairy Garden Party

This started out as a Fancy Tea Party. Then a Fairy Tea Party. Then the reality of trying to track down a fancy, inexpensive (or borrowed) tea set hit me and we decided on a Fairy Garden Party.

The Invitation:

After I took this picture, we hand wrote [Princess Sparkley] is 8! next to the fairy's wand, and I wrote Fairy Garden Party in fancy green cursive. Oh, and we glued on a purple rose above the white box.

The Set-up:

Idea from Family Fun here.
Canopy was PS's Christmas present from here for $16 or so.


Skirt directions here (Tulle and ribbon from Michaels)
Wings (from Dollar Tree)
The fairy on the wings was under a dollar from Michaels and I hot glued it on to block out a striped bug body on the wings.

The flower peaking out of the goody bags are clipped to headbands (headbands from Dollar Tree 5 for $1, flower from an end cap at Michaels, $1)

Wand idea from here (flower from Dollar Tree)

The food:

PS loves treats as much as me and wanted to have a tiny food party. Here's the food we settled on.

Oreo Balls girled up.

Swirly Pink Cookies from here

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups de aqui, as our friends to the south would say. [Phraseology courtesy of guest-blogger Jed. --Ed.]

Pretzel Wands

Toothpick Fruit Kabobs (idea from here)

Drink = June Bugs (found here)
Drink straw with Gummy Lifesaver decorations (idea from here)

Fairy Cakes (these weren't really any good. Make a yummy cupcake, cut it in half and add jam, frost with a powdered sugar/lemon glaze, add sprinkles)
Cake Plate - cheap version of this, only I wish I'd had more than one size plate.

The Birthday Girl:

Princess Sparkley turned 8 today!

The Guests:

I should have centered Princess Sparkley, she's on the left.

Buddy didn't get his own set of wings, this is towards the end of the party when PS had abandoned her wings.

Little Guy was also a guest. This is the only picture I seemed to get of him, moments before he ate all the candy corn off his sunflower cookie.

The activities:
I didn't really plan anything beyond eating, and opening presents. The party was an hour and a half. I let them get dressed up and play like they were fairies. After we opened presents, they played with the new presents some.

We did however make these Sunflower Cookies (idea from here) that I sent home with them in their goody bag.

And Princess Sparkley created a "Pin the Wand" on the fairy game.

The Goody Bag:

They of course got to keep their wings, wand and skirt. They also got a flowery pencil, a flower notebook (4 for $1 at Dollar Tree), a fairy beading necklace to make ($1 at Michaels), their sunflower cookie, an extra pretzel wand and I think that's it.

Overall, a success. Not counting food, I spent about $25 on the stuff to make the skirts, the wands, the wings and the stuff for the goody bags. The girls weren't so big on eating all the treats. I think Princess Sparkley was the only one that even tasted the fairy cake. But she requested it all, and I'm trying to be a good mom that doesn't plan every detail the way I want it. I suppose she is my daughter, and she's going to like treats more than the next person because of that.

Happy Birthday Princess Sparkley!!

My baby (okay, my FIRST baby) turns 8 today!!!

Somehow she went from this

to this

in the blink of an eye.

Happy Birthday Princess Sparkley!!!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Chocolate Layer Dessert

I LOVE this dessert. I could eat the whole thing by myself. That's why I made it tonight because we were feeding the missionaries... so I'd at least have to share some with them . . . and my family.

from The Essential Mormon Cookbook (with some adjustments by me)

1 box shortbread cookies
¼ cup butter (melted)
8 oz. tub lite Cool Whip knock-off (thawed)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese (I use 1/3 the fat Neuftchatel) (at room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 (5.9 oz.) packages chocolate instant pudding
4 cups milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
a handful of chocolate chips
Crush shortbread cookies until fine.  Stir in butter.  Press in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 300 for 5-8 minutes.  Cool completely.
To prepare first layer, blend together thawed Cool Whip, cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Spread over cooled crust.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
For the second layer, combine pudding, milk and vanilla with an electric mixer at low speed until it begins to thicken.  Spread on top of cream cheese layer and refrigerate several hours or overnight. 
Before serving, garnish with grated chocolate chips. 
To serve, cut into squares. 

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fairy Garden Party Invites

This year is Princess Sparkley's year to NOT have a birthday party (I pretend to be on an every other year, birthday party schedule). But because this is the year she turns 8 and is baptized, and her baptism isn't happening until two weeks AFTER her birthday so my parents can be in town, I told her we could have a tiny party with just a couple friends. She invited one friend from church and one from our church homeschool group, and we're having a FAIRY GARDEN PARTY. I'll be sure to post pictures once it's over, but for now, here's the invite:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Greatest Sugar Cookie: Cookie 4

This recipe is from my friend Leslie and was in my file of recipes to try.

Sugar Cookies on a Stick
Makes a "strong yet soft" cookie, durable to be on a stick for edible arrangements.

4 cups sifted flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 TBSP. milk

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla while batter is light. Slowly add flour mixture. Mix in milk. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

We made these Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle shaped cookies in honor of Princess Sparkley's book club (even though no one showed up but us). We used a gingerbread woman cookie cutter with a little ball of flattened dough for her bun (that was PS's touch).

Thoughts on these cookies:
These cookies were yummy. I'm giving them four stars. Depending on your personal tastes, they could easily be scored as a five as well. I didn't try to bake them on a stick. That however sounds fun, and maybe one day I'll be brave and give it a try. I think I've gotten myself in over my head with trying all these recipes and then trying to rate them. There should only be two categories: good and bad... otherwise I'm going to give them all either 5 stars or 1 star. I could never be a food critic.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Cutest Little Runner

One of my goals for the year is to be able to run a mile without stopping. I haven't run since... maybe before Princess Sparkley was born, EIGHT years ago. I could be wrong. But, whenever it was, it's been a long time. Jed runs. He ran track and cross country in high school. For his exercise he runs or swims. We've been trying to exercise as a family so we go to our neighborhood junior high school's track (not nearly as frequently as we should) and I walk laps, Jed runs, and the kids walk a few, run a bit and kick a soccer ball around the middle of the track when they get bored. Usually I push Little Guy around and around in the stroller, then convince one of the bigger kids to push him while I run a bit. Lately Little Guy's been begging to get out and run as well... so after a few laps, I let him. He's such a cute little runner I had to capture his picture with my cell phone camera.

As he approached these trees ahead of him, I caught up with him and heard him say, "Not get me birdies" and he scooted in toward the inside lane. So dang cute!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I Vote for No End to the Summer...

...as long as I also get a say in the temperature and humidity.

Princess Sparkley is about to turn eight! And be baptized.
She asked the other day if I thought she'd be able to read The Secret Garden on her own, but I still can't convince her to read the original Nancy Drew books because they are TOO SCARY!

Buddy can swim!! Only a few feet now, but by the end of the summer (especially if it is never ending) will be our first swimmer!! And he asks almost daily if it's time to sign up for soccer yet.

Little Guy's new favorite phrases are:
"Lana got coned!" (from The Princess Diaries movie, PS taught him to say it.)
"Suusssann!" (from Monsters vs. Aliens, said in a creepy slow voice)
"I a doggy named Caterpillar." (When he's playing he's a doggy, he tells us this.)
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