Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Autumn Backyard Birds and Happy Thanksgiving

I am really looking forward to this holiday weekend, as well as the start to the Christmas season. We have all been busy this week, the kids have been busy studying for finals week, and Gary and I just finished a garage organizing project that we were glad to get done. During all of the busy activity I often need a little downtime, and one of my favorite ways to relax is to sit down and watch all of my backyard birds at the feeders out in my yard. Now that the colder weather has arrived the birds are happy to visit our bird feeders, and we have had quite a variety of different birds as well as our resident sparrows all through the garden.


The sparrows live in our garden year round they are always flying around through the garden and enjoying the feeders as well as any bread I put out for them.


I don't see the red headed finch much in the summer, mostly it is gold finch, but in the fall and through the early spring, the red headed finch show up at the feeders. I love the beautiful red coloring on their heads and touches of red on their back feathers, they are so pretty!


Also when the colder weather arrives we have cute little black capped chickadees hopping around eating at the feeders as well as cleaning up seed that the finch and sparrows have kicked out to the ground.


The blue jays stop by from time to time, it is definitely time to put out suet for them which they really seam to enjoy. We also have visits from crows when I put out bread or crackers. The crows are so intelligent, they walk around carefully investigating the yard, and then hopping down for bread or crackers. We have seen some of the crows pick up crackers and stack them in their beak when they get three or four crackers they fly off, it is really something to see! :)

I just love their cute quizzical little expressions like this little bird below, so cute, I could watch them for hours!


To get ready for Thanksgiving, I have set out some of our favorite fall decor. In my dining room, which also serves as my crafting space, I decided to set out my new favorite crafting supply, washi tape. I put it out in one of my wooden bowls, with pine cones and wooden spools of twine and ribbon that I will need for holiday wrapping projects. To organize the washi tape I have put the rolls onto drift wood sticks so I can easily pick them up and decide what pattern I might want to use. The colorful tape looks pretty among the natural objects and adds another element of color to my already colorful bookcases! I am looking forward to crafting with my washi tape for Christmas!


I also recently got this cute little wooden music box from Magic Cabin, I enjoy Magic Cabin's selection and have found many treasures there over the years. I thought this little music box, with its dancing royals and bright orange color, would be nice to set out for fall.


The rest of my decor are my favorites that I set out every year, you can see some of them in my Autumn Home post from last year. :)


I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving celebration, stop by this weekend for the Christmas Blog Hop I will be hosting. :) I am looking forward to all of the fun Christmas projects I have in mind!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Sister's Baby Shower- Appetizer Buffet, Desserts, Games, and Favors

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my little sister's baby shower. We are all excited to be welcoming a new baby to our family. It has been quite a few years since we have had a little one in the family, and I am super excited! I had a really fun time planning her shower and thought I would share some of the activities, games, and foods that we had at the shower.

Everything was decorated in light pink with touches of other pastel colors like yellow. Since my sister is having a little girl I had fun making our dessert buffet very pink themed.


I made classic Madeline cookies dusted with powdered sugar, mini chocolate cupcakes with pink cream cheese frosting, I made a whole tower of crispy rice squares dyed pink which ended up looking really pretty. I also set out an assortment of pink candies from the party store, like rock candy, jelly beans, and butter mints.  I have to say the dessert table is always a hit with the little ones, they love to nibble on the candy. I set out little plastic bags for the kids (and adults too) to take home a small bag of candy. :)


Earlier this year I added to my turquoise moon and star glass collection, and they looked beautiful filled with all the pink candies. Most recently I added a tiny candle holder as well as a tooth pick holder that I used in the appetizer buffet to hold toothpicks. I just love old fashioned glass dishes!


I went with an owl theme and found these cute decorations at Amazon.


I also decorated with pink and white tulips and carnations which I arranged in my green mason jars for the different tables. I have a good sized mason jar collection now which is so useful for entertaining. I used the mini glass jelly jars as drink cups, with pink striped paper straws. The jelly jars also were the perfect holders for the pencils and pens for our games and crafts. I set out little compote dishes with butter mints and cracker munchies at various tables as well.


We had a very large turn out and my little house was happily full of people. Since I knew we would have a lot of people and table space was at a premium our activity had to be relatively simple. I searched on Pinterest and found many people had done diaper decorating for all of those night time diaper changes. So we all decorated a basket full of little diapers with art work, positive messages, and funny messages to encourage my sister and her hubby when they are changing diapers in the middle of the night. :) I set out an assortment of colorful sharpies and everyone had fun decorating the diapers. I found the owl printable for the basket label on Pinterest as well. Isn't Pinterest handy!!


The next game we played was a twist on the game we played at my sisters wedding shower, this time instead of Bridal shower Price is Right, we played Baby Shower Price is Right. I purchased baby necessities all on one receipt. Then printed out a sheet with all the items listed, the participants must guess the closest price, and whoever has the total closest to the correct total wins. I made the game label and game sheet just using basic word program and the included clip art and a french script font with pink ink. I printed it out on cardstock so the paper would be sturdy. This game is always fun, then you can send the mother to be home with all of the baby goodies. :)


Of course one of the best parts of a baby shower is delicious appetizers. So I made a bunch of my favorite appetizers as well as a couple of salads to feed a crowd. I made classic crescent wrapped li'l smokies,  a family favorite ham and onion cream cheese cracker spread, sweet and sour meatballs, a broccoli bacon and raisin salad, classic bacon cheddar crescent pinwheels, and the other appetizers with recipes below. We had pink lemonade, a crock pot full of mulled hot cider with whipped cream and caramel to top it with, and of course hot coffee.


One of the salads I made was a very easy classic Italian Pasta Salad. Just cook and drain two boxes of colored rotini pasta (use one box for a smaller sized salad), then add two medium cans of sliced black olives, a finely chopped red onion, two diced red bell peppers, a small block of cheddar cheese cut into tiny cubes, and toss it all with a bottle of Italian Salad dressing. Then chill until you are ready to serve. This is such an easy recipe and is perfect for buffets and potlucks.


The next appetizer I made was also one I made this past Halloween, and again, it is a classic recipe that always gets nibbled right up. I use the ham that is sliced and rectangle shaped. I thin out softened cream cheese by mixing in a little milk and a spoonful of mayo until it is soft enough to spread, but not so soft the cream cheese will smash out of the roll, use an electric mixer until the cream cheese is nice and smooth. Then spread on a tiny layer of cream cheese, and at one end of the ham lay a mini dill pickle, or two, with the ends already cut off of the pickles, then roll up. I made all of the rolls and then chilled them in the fridge overnight before I sliced them so the cream cheese could harden a bit, it works best to chill them for at least a couple of hours. Then put toothpicks through the pickle roll  at evenly spaced intervals and then slice through, making little rolls. Arrange on a plate like below. This is a nice appetizer since it can be made ahead of time.


I have always wanted to make cream cheese wrap style pinwheel appetizers, but wasn't sure of a recipe. After browsing on Pinterest I found a bunch of yummy ideas for inspiration which I modified to come up with one I wanted.

Mix together-
3 blocks softened cream cheese
1 pack of cooked, cooled, and crumbled bacon
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 small can copped black olives
a dash of ground black pepper to taste

Layer on Spinach and Sun Dried tomato wraps-
a layer of cream cheese mix from above, then
strips of red bell pepper evenly spaced, then
5 slices of turkey

Leave last inch of wrap with only cream cheese mixture and no turkey or bell pepper to act as glue when wrapped. Place toothpicks about and inch or and inch and a half apart along wrap and slice. Arrange on plate and chill until party.

They turned out delicious! I will definitely be making a smaller batch for lunch sometime. :)


We all had fun socializing, playing games, and eating. My sister got so many nice things for her new baby, it was fun picking out girly baby clothes! I can't wait to meet her! When everyone left I passed out little favor bags. The favors were little Bath and Body Works Hand Sanitizers in different pink scents, including one which was perfect for our owl theme, Ms. Owl a berry scented hand sanitizer. I also included little colorful tablets, in a bag tied with pink ribbon and a little clear pink pacifier charm.


It was nice seeing everyone and having a celebration. I have to give a big shout out to my husband and children, I could not have pulled off the party without their help. They all helped with cleaning and decorating and were wonderful assistant chefs in the kitchen! We make a great team! :)

Now that the shower is over I am gearing up for the holidays and am looking forward to all the festivities ahead!

Thanks for reading! :)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ham, Potato, and Broccoli Soup and Creamy Ham and Noodle Casserole

Colder temperatures have definitely arrived! Yesterday was a cold and blustery day, and today is a crisp clear fall day, definitely good weather for warm comfort foods! The past couple of weeks I have been making plenty of soups, stews, and casseroles, today I thought I would share two yummy recipes.

I love having little half hams in my refrigerator, I dice them up and turn them into a couple of meals. Last week I made half of a little ham into a Creamy Ham and Noodle Casserole, and the other half into a Ham, Potato, and Broccoli Soup. They were both delicious!


Creamy Ham and Noodle Casserole is a great, easy to prepare weeknight meal. Here's the recipe.

Cook, and drain a box of Pasta, I used Farfalle (bow-tie), you could also use shells or even macaroni, whatever pasta you have on hand.

Mix in to pasta- 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can milk, 1 cup (rounded) of shredded cheddar or cheddar jack cheese, 1 cup frozen green peas (you can add more if you like),  about a cup and a half of diced fully cooked ham. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir together.

Pour out into a greased casserole dish, top with a sprinkling of shredded cheese, cover with foil or a casserole lid and bake at 350 F. until bubbly about half an hour, then remove lid and let the top crisp up for about five minutes if you like.

This meal is good all by itself or with your favorite casserole side dishes.



The next day I used the rest of the ham in this delicious meal, Ham, Potato, and Broccoli Soup.

Ham, Potato, & Broccoli Soup

Into a soup pot add-
1 carton of chicken broth (32 oz.)
1 cleaned and chopped bunch of celery
1 large chopped onion
8-10 cleaned, peeled, and cubed red potatoes ( I like to leave a little skin on the potatoes for color)
1-2 cloves of pressed or finely minced garlic
1 1/2 cups small cubes of fully cooked ham
and about 2-3 cups of water to cover veggies
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for at least a couple of hours until veggies are all cooked through, add more water if necessary during cooking and stir often to make sure potatoes don't stick to the bottom. When the potatoes, onions, and celery are cooked through, add a bag of frozen chopped broccoli, and about half a cup of milk to one cup of milk. Continue cooking soup for about another hour until broccoli is cooked through, check seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve soup with a sprinkle of cheddar blend shredded cheese and a small pat of butter, and a slice of sourdough or french bread. I love adding a small pat of butter to the top of my potato soups and chowders, it definitely adds a delicious extra flavor.

This week I am busy getting my fall organizing done in preparation for my sister's baby shower I am hosting this weekend, as well as the upcoming holidays. I am very excited about the upcoming holiday season, and looking forward to all of the fun holiday preparations and extra family time! Hope everyone stays warm in all this chilly weather! :)

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Simply Sunday School- Jacob and Esau and Joseph and The Coat of Many Colors

This week I am blogging all of my Simply Sunday School lessons that we have been learning this fall in my Sunday school class. My last post was about The Tower of Babel and Abraham, the next two lessons we learned about were Jacob and Esau and then Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors. Here's what we did.


The story of Jacob and Esau can be found in Genesis 25:19 through Genesis 33, I told a simplified version of this story that told about Jacob and Esau being the children of Isaac and Rebekah, and then the story of how Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew and bread, and how Jacob dressed up like Esau to receive Issac's blessing.

For snack time we had Lentil soup, so my students could taste something similar to the Lentil Stew in our Story. For ease of transportation and preparation I chose to bring canned soup, I don't buy much canned soup, as I love making my own, but I have always enjoyed Progresso's Lentil Soup. I served it in heat proof cups, with soft Hawaiian Rolls, which the students really loved. I was happily surprised how all of my students tried the soup and really enjoyed it, knowing how kids' tastes can sometimes be, I was not sure what they would think about this soup, but most of them ate it right up, and thought it was a fun snack time.

For our craft we made take home story cards. I traced a soup pot shape onto black construction paper, and cut out enough for each student. I also printed out Genesis 25:34 (see below) and pre-cut that out. Onto orange textured cardstock, about a quarter of a page, we glued the soup pot and verse on the card using glue stick, then with regular white Elmer's School Glue, we added glue to the top of the soup pot and glued on real dried Lentils. I started the craft at the beginning of class, right after our story, so the lentils would have time to dry a bit before class ended. Overall a fun lesson! :)


The story of Joseph and His Coat of Many colors can be found in Genesis Chapter 37 and goes to about chapter 47. I told a simplified version based on these chapters, who Joseph was, about his brothers, and how he was Jacob's favorite and his father gifting him with his colorful coat. About Joseph and his dreams, and his brothers being jealous and selling Joseph, how Joseph ended up in Egypt and eventually held a high position for the pharaoh, and prepared for a famine, and eventually years later reconnected with his family. Since there is so much to the story of Joseph, rather than reading it straight from the Bible, you could read it from your favorite children's Bible, or learn the story and tell a simplified version. 


For our craft I thought water colors would be a fun way to decorate Joseph's coat. I folded a 12 x12 sheet of white cardstock into quarters, and traced a simple coat shape onto it, then cut out all of the coat shapes. Before we painted I had the children draw stripes with white, silver, or any very light colored crayon, to act as a guide for the water colors. Then we set the coat shape on a plain sheet of white paper to protect the table, and painted colorful coats. Watercolors are always a hit in my class, and each coat turned out unique and very colorful. We set them out to dry, and worked on some Joseph worksheets and had our snack.


So that ends what we did in our Sunday school class during September and October. This November we are spending the whole month learning about Moses, then on to our lessons leading up to Christmas.

You may want to check out more of my Simply Sunday School Lessons at the Link below.


Thanks for reading! :)

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Simply Sunday School- Tower of Babel and Abraham

This week I will be sharing all of the simple Sunday school lessons that we have been doing this fall. In my last post, I shared our Noah's Ark paper and stamp craft which you may want to check out. Today I will be sharing what we did for the Tower of Babel and our lesson on Abraham.

For the lesson on the Tower of Babel I told the story right from the NIV Bible, which can be found in Genesis 11:1-9. Then we made a simple little book.


Fold a sheet of colored construction paper in half, using my word program I printed out the title, which I pre-cut. I also provided strips of brown construction paper, which the students cut into brick shapes, and using a glue stick made their own Tower of Babel. I had them write the words Tower of Babel and where to find the story in Genesis 11:1-9.  Then we learned how to say "Hello" around the world.


I printed out, in different colors of ink, the way Hello is said in different countries, then they glued that in their books as well. I have a world map in our classroom which I used to point out where the different countries were, and we practiced saying "Hello" in different languages, which was fun. We talked about what it must have been like after everyone's language was confused. For an activity I also provided a stack of cups to build towers with, which the students also really enjoyed trying to figure out different tower designs, and how tall they could make it, of course you could also use blocks for this.

The following Sunday we talked about who Abraham was. There is quite a bit of information to teach about Abraham, and the plan I have is to introduce him this year, and next year when we come back around to the story we will focus on some of the other parts of Abraham's life. For this lesson, I wanted to share God's promise to make Abraham a great nation, and the verse from Genesis 22:17, I also told the story of how old Abraham and Sarah were when Isaac was born, and the story of the Three Visitors in Genesis 18.


For craft time we made a simple take home card to help them remember the story, with the theme, God Keeps his promises, and the verse Genesis 22:17a printed onto paper and pre-cut. The card was a nice sturdy cardstock, the card also had a little texture and shimmer, which made it look extra nice. Using glue sticks, the verse was glued down in the center. Then I provided classic foil star stickers (one of my favorite craft supplies) to represent the part of the verse which talks about Abraham's descendants being as numerous as the stars, then we used gold glitter to represent the sand on the seashore from the verse. To make the glittering less messy, I set out little tiny ketchup cups with a tiny bit of glue and inexpensive bulk paint brushes to brush the glue on, rather that gluing it on and having a globby mess. :) Whenever I glitter, I always have the "glitter station" by me, and when a student is happy with their glue, they can come up and set the project in a box or glitter tray and glitter, that way I can transfer extra glitter back into the bottle, and we don't have glitter everywhere. All of the cards turned out great, and each one a different design of stars and sand. :)

I really love simple crafts, they seem to be the best fit for my class, just enough to be interesting, engaging, and relating to the lesson, but not so complicated as to be frustrating.

The next two lessons I will be sharing about are Jacob and Esau and Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors.

For more Simply Sunday School Ideas click the link below, which is also located on my sidebar.


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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Simply Sunday School- Noah's Ark Paper and Stamp Craft

This past September and October in my Sunday School Class we have been focusing on Old Testament Stories from Genesis. This week I plan on sharing what we've been up to. I last posted our lesson on Adam and Eve through Cain and Abel , the next story we learned was Noah's Ark.

I had a plan for our Noah's Ark Lesson for quite some time. Whenever I teach Noah's ark and do a craft, I find it can be difficult to locate enough animal stickers or pictures in pairs for my whole class. So I thought I would find stamps of animals that could be used over and over again, and easily could be stamped in pairs. Then I came up with a simple paper craft to use our stamps with.


You will need 1 brown sheet of construction paper, and one sheet of regular printer paper, glue stick, scissors, markers, and stamps with ink pads. I used the Melissa and Doug Baby Farm Animal Stamp set and Baby Zoo Animal Stamp set. You can find them at Amazon, I have provided my affiliate link below. Melissa and Doug have multiple stamp sets, I hope to add more to my collection, I think they would be very useful for multiple crafts.




Start by cutting a sheet of printer paper into three equal strips from top to bottom, so you have three long strips of paper. I only used two of these paper strips for each Noah's ark. I made sure to cut enough in advance for each student. Then I traced a basic Noah's ark shape on the brown construction paper, and cut it out, along with a brown square that was slightly bigger in width that the paper strips. I cut out all of the ark shapes, doors and paper strips in advance, since I sometimes have a large class, and some children are still learning to work with scissors I find it best to cut out shapes in advance.


Fold the first strip of paper accordion style like shown, then glue on the second strip, and continue folding until you have one lone accordion folded paper strip, trim off any last bit of paper that does not fold into a complete section, so when it is folded up it is a little square (see third picture above).


Then glue the top square of the accordion to the bottom of the ark shape, like shown above, be sure and glue it so the accordion paper strip will open downward making a ramp into the ark. Fold up the accordion like shown above in picture 2, then glue on the brown paper square to cover the accordion strip, which then becomes the ark's door. The ark can be decorated with markers at this point, then its time to stamp the animals.


I set out ink pads around the table, and set out half the animal stamps on each half of the table, when each side of the table was done stamping all the animals from that side of the table, we swapped animal stamps so everyone got to use every animal stamp. Each animal stamp was stamped twice, side by side, so there were pairs of animals leading up the steps. This was everyone's favorite part of the craft, using the stamps was fun and easy.

I told them the story of Noah's ark, a simplified version based on Genesis 6-9:17. Our memory verse was
"If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15 We discussed how Noah obeyed God and why we should obey and trust God too.

I also provided color pages and printable activity sheets, which I do for almost every lesson, for the kids who love to color or do activity pages like mazes, sometimes having an activity sheet helps them concentrate during story time. I also got out our Noah's ark playset which my class always enjoys setting up and playing with all the animals. This was definitely a fun craft and lesson, and one I will use again with future classes.

Next up I will be sharing what we did for the Tower of Babel and Abraham.

Check out all of my Simply Sunday School Lessons at the Link below.


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Game Night with Spiderweb Layered Nachos and Pumpkin Carving

This past week we have been having fun gearing up for Halloween. One thing that our family really loves is family game night. So I decided it would be fun to have a Halloween themed game night and play some of our games that would best fit the Halloween theme.

I chose Monster Fluxx, which was really fun, we normally play Star Fluxx which is really fun too so when I saw Monster Fluxx I knew it would be fun for Halloween, we played a couple of rounds of It's Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown themed UNO, we have had this UNO game for years and play it every Halloween. A new game we tried out is called Gloom, this is a fun game that involves a little creative story telling and strategy and features interesting families of gloomy characters, we look forward to playing this one again too!


I thought a nice simple dinner of our family favorite layered nachos would be the perfect dinner for game night, and to make it fit our Halloween theme, I topped it with a "spiderweb" sour cream topping and an olive "spider". Here's how I made it.

In a round pie dish spread 1 regular size can of refried beans, you can heat it up in advance on the stove top or heat it for a couple of minutes in the microwave after spreading it in the pie dish (of course if it is a microwave safe dish). Then top with a thin layer of shredded Mexican cheese blend, and a thin layer of your favorite salsa, next, add half of a can of drained and rinsed black beans along with half a can of drained and rinsed corn, then add a layer of thoroughly cooked and browned hamburger, about a pound, you can season it with a little dried minced onion and cumin or a teaspoon of your favorite taco seasoning, then add another thin layer of salsa, cheese, the other half a of the can of drained and rinsed black beans and drained corn, top with a bit more cheese then either heat it through in the microwave, which is pretty quick, or heat it in the oven at 350 F. until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through. When the layered nacho dip is heated through, top with sliced black olives if you like them ( I made two batches, one with olives and one without). 


To make the spiderweb sour cream topping, scoop about a cup of sour cream into a large ziploc bag, down into one corner of the bag, then cut out the corner and it works just like a decorator bag. Pipe on a spiderweb shape to the top of nachos. To make the spider for the center of the web, I cut a large black olive in half, one half makes the body, the second half I cut into eight thin slices and place around the body as legs. Using a toothpick I added two red eyes to the spider out of ketchup. To serve, scoop a pile of layered nacho dip onto a plate and serve with tortilla chips, I love the little round chips because they are sturdy enough to hold the dip. I have made this recipe before you can read my original recipe for layered nachos here.


We have also been busy lately carving pumpkins. I am allergic to raw pumpkin so I can't carve them myself, luckily hubby carved in my design for me, the kids had fun carving their pumpkins into themes that they are interested in, we lit a fire in the fire pit as well, and carved after dark since it gets dark so soon these days. The weather held out and it was a very nice evening.


Then a couple of nights ago I saw a local news story about The Teal Pumpkin Project. The idea is to paint a pumpkin teal and set it outside your front door to let children with allergies know that you have non candy treats available that are kept in a bowl separate from any candy that might contain allergens. Since I too have tree nut and shellfish allergies as well as allergies to a host of other random things, I can definitely understand what a struggle this might be for kids with life threatening allergies. Allergic reactions are scary, my allergies didn't surface until I was an adult, it is difficult now as an adult to constantly check things, I can't imagine how hard it is for parents of children with very serious allergies. So when I saw this I knew I had to take part and raise awareness by setting out a teal pumpkin and posting a sign. Click the link below for print outs, information, and ideas for non candy treats.


Here is the teal pumpkin I painted and will be setting out tomorrow night. What a great idea this is! :)


I am looking forward to tomorrow night, I will be making up a spread of appetizers like I do every year, and enjoying passing out treats to the neighbors, and having fun with the family. I hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween! :)

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