A New Arrival!

It's HERE and it's BEAUTIFUL!!! I've been privileged to witness the birth of my friend Kadie's Etsy store and it's pretty special. I held her hand, told her to breathe, and I'm totally just kidding. But go check out her store.

Kadie is an amazing artist, among other things, and her store is full of gorgeous HAND MADE jewelry. I'm partial because she's my friend, but I'm also partial because I've seen her work. She's pretty darn picky on what goes into her jewelry - it's ALL glass beads or real metal - no plastic. Honestly - these are going to make some great Holiday gifts because her prices are awesome, it's hand made (my favorite part), and it's NOT going to disappoint! And if you want something custom-made, contact her and she can do anything. Right, Kadie?

here's a small taste...


Great Book!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book, "The Last Lecture", and I can't wait to read it to my kids. It's short, sweet, and LOADED with some incredible truths about life that I needed reminding of. The author, Randy Pausch, a married father of three little kids and a university professor, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 3-6 months to live. The way he handled this news, and everything else in his life for that matter, is completely remarkable. You have to read this. I think it's so well written, too, each segment being a short chapter on something specific, so I could easily read a chapter to my kids and I really think they'll love the stories. The book makes you want to dream BIG!

We read this for our Book Club meeting this month and discussed it at my house last night and since the book is full of "childhood dreams", we all talked about ours and how to make them happen. I remembered that one of my childhood dreams has always to be in a symphony orchestra!!! I want to be in a long, black dress, playing the violin, getting lost in the music in a sea of other talented musicians. Kinda nerdy, I know, but it's still a dream. The only hang-up is that I don't play the violin...guess I should learn, eh? Or I could pick up my clarinet - they have those in an orchestra! Nah - not as cool as a violin. This guy, Randy, would figure out a way to do it so I guess I could, too. Also, I was going to grow up to be Crystal Gayle - the country singer with hair down to her feet - I always wanted hair down to my feet. I don't think hair that long is pretty now, but that was my dream!

So I know you're reading this and I want to know some of YOUR big childhood dreams - and don't skip out on me.

HERE is the link to the You Tube video of Randy's Lecture.


Cooking 101 - Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never tried Brussels sprouts before yesterday. AHHH!! What on earth is WRONG with me?! Anyway - I got a taste of what I was missing out on and I swear I could eat these every day and not tire of them! And - these little guys are SO CUTE!!! They're like little tiny heads of lettuce! (but so much more flavorful in my opinion)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 10-16 oz. package Brussels Sprouts
5-6 slices Turkey Bacon, cut into pieces
1/4 c. chopped nuts
Olive oil

Wash and cut the stems off of the Brussels sprouts, then slice them in half.
In a large skillet, cook turkey bacon with nuts until it's firm and a little crispy; remove from pan.
Add Brussels sprouts to the pan with a drop or two of olive oil. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add bacon bits and nuts to the pan, mix together, add salt to taste. That's it!


Kadie's Buttermilk Syrup

There are no words...you just have to try it, especially with the whole grain pancakes I just posted. The first time I tried this syrup with those pancakes, I got all cross-eyed and couldn't speak - just groan. It was amazing! Thanks, Kadie - now I have MORE laps to run today...BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!!

**Note: I doubled this recipe and it pretty much boiled out of my huge stock pot. If you don't have a gigantic stock pot, I don't suggest doubling the recipe. However, because I made a big batch, I just keep a jar of the syrup in the fridge and it keeps nicely.


3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

4 T karos syrup

2 sticks butter

2 t baking soda

Mix all together in a large pan, boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and add 4 t vanilla

AMAZING Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

I don't have a picture because WE AT THEM ALL - but if you're looking for a GOOD pancake recipe, look no further. I made these this morning and I sent the kiddies off to school in full confidence that they won't be getting hungry for another five hours!! These bad boys are so filling and good!

**I always double this recipe because my kids are big pancake fans and always want more

Dry Ingredients:

2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. oat flour (or quick oats)
2 T. wheat germ
1 -2 T. ground flax seed
2 t. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Wet Ingredients:

1 c. buttermilk (+ more if needed)
1/4 c. milk
2 eggs
1 T. oil
1/4 t. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients; in a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Mix everything together and let sit for a minute. If mixture is too thick, add more buttermilk.

Ladle onto hot griddle, flip after pancakes get bubbly and lightly browned on the edges.


Shotgun Wedding!

Okay - visualize this with me, girls - it's Thursday night, 10:30 p.m., I'm getting ready to go to bed when I get a phone call from my girl Denise (she is our Relief Society President). She asked if it's possible to put together a wedding by Saturday for a couple in our ward (church). (that's 1 1/2 days, folks) She let me know that they don't have any money, it can be something very simple, but something to make the day special. The reason for the haste: The groom, fresh from Marine Corps boot camp, is shipping out on Tuesday for some more military training, so the poor couple wanted to get married before he left in order for her to join him when he's done.

Now this is where most people would panic but I got a surge of electricity through me because this could be FUN! I told Denise that it is ABSOLUTELY possible and this bride better like Fall colors because that's what she's getting! Naturally, I enlisted my girl Kadie and the three of us set to work on making a game plan. Also, there weren't going to be very many in attendance, so that also made this party quite easy.

Here's what we came up with in a couple of hours on Friday:

Dinner In a Pumpkin (SO good - you have to try this before Fall is over!)
Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Bars
Chocolate Eclair Dessert
Fruit Trays
Sparkling Cider
French Bread
(Thanks, Jen, for assigning everything out - and thanks ladies, wherever you are, for making, baking, and shaking for us!)

Fall, Fall, Fall
White lights
Dim lighting with lamps
Platters, cake stands, ANYTHING
Whatever we have at home - and between Kadie and I, we stripped our homes of every piece of decor and made the place quite cozy!

(honestly, people, we had to turn a seriously ugly room into something sort of pretty...big task but manageable...)

So here's our ugly gym - and all of our junk.

Hard workin' ladies - Kadie and Denise

More junk...

Our centerpiece: Floral pumpkins

I spent about $60 on some clearance fall foliage and we clipped everything apart into piles. From there, Kadie and Denise stuffed the flowers into a pumpkin with the top cut off. We didn't have time to clean out the guts - we just stuffed! Normally, I'm sure you'd want to clean out the seeds and such.

They did great, eh?! I also had a bunch of these berry garlands that we encircled around the base of each pumpkin, along with acorns from my back yard. (I paid my kids $1.00 to gather as many as they could...haha!)

And here's our finished table. That tiny little cake in the back is all I had time for! Everybody we knew was either watching kids or baking themselves, so that left NOBODY to do a cake - which is fine. I found a cute little cake at the store, added some flowers, and that's what they got.

And, yes, those are paper plates you're seeing in the corner but don't judge me! We had no budget for cute plates! (besides, they match the decor...)

With a little bit of magic and floral tape, I put together a cake top and a couple of boutonnieres for the men. I'll give a tutorial on that when I get some time. (Heaven only knows that I've got plenty of leftover scraps.)

(The cake top is wet because I had to wash off the frosting...but you get the idea.)

All in all, I spent about $100, maybe $150 (I lost count, actually) on pumpkins, foliage, and a little food.

We all spent roughly 9 hours total on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. - unloading junk, decorating, ironing table cloths (you rock Denise), decorating, decorating, getting dressed quickly, serving food during the wedding, and then disassembling everything, cleaning the kitchen, then re-loading our vehicles so we could go home. We rock.

Was it worth it, you might ask? You bet it was. The groom, who is a sweet young man in our ward, had no idea it was possible to make the gym look so nice! He was SO very thankful and hugged all of us who worked so hard. We later learned that the couple had no expectations of a nice wedding since it was such late notice.

Great things can happen when we get the girls together! Not pictured are many, many other people who contributed to this event - thanks everyone!

Dinner In a Pumpkin

This is the best discovery EVER! My girl Kadie got the idea from her cute mom and I love it!! It's quick, easy, and SO good!!! For a large crowd, we doubled the recipe and used a bigger pumpkin - but you'll have to cook the pumpkin longer if you do that.

Kadie's mom (love her...) made this dinner every year on Halloween for her family - what a fun tradition!!!


1 small to medium pumpkin
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs ground beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (about 3/4 c. dry)
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Cut off the top of pumpkin and thoroughly clean out seeds and pulp. Paint an appropriate face on the front of the pumpkin with a permanent marker or acrylic paint.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until tender. Add meat and brown. Drain drippings from skillet. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms and soup. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked rice and water chestnuts. Spoon mixture into the cleaned pumpkin shell. Replace pumpkin top and place entire pumpkin, with filling, on a baking sheet. Bake 1 hour or until inside of the pumpkin is tender. Put pumpkin on a platter. Remove pumpkin lid and serve meat. For your vegetable, scoop out cooked pumpkin and serve. Serves 6.


Cooking 101 - Summer Corn Chowder

This is one of my MOST favorite soups of all time - we just had this yesterday. It's a very basic base, it's quick and easy to make, and it has the most homey, earthy, comforting flavors you'll ever taste. (is homey a word? Besides "What up Homey?")

I have a story about this soup, too! (how fun...I love stories!...but this really isn't very exciting - just a fun memory of this soup.) It was a couple of years ago, in the Fall, and VERY, very cold in Michigan at that time. The sun was going down early, making everything dark too soon - and I noticed that we had a newlywed couple moving in across the street. I assumed that they were cold and hungry, and knowing that I had soup and homemade rolls cooking, I walked over and invited them in for a warm dinner. (thank goodness it wasn't hot dog night...) They gladly came over and joined us for dinner, we sat down to this comforting soup and warm rolls, and we all smiled and devoured it in our warm little home, getting to know one another. So when I eat this particular soup, I get that memory stuck in my head every time and it never gets old!

Anyway - you HAVE to try this. I'm serious. Also, I usually skip the bacon and go the olive oil route, but if you want to do it right, use the bacon.

Summer Corn Chowder

4 oz. Bacon (or 2 T. olive oil)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 can diced green chili
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 t. thyme
salt & fresh ground pepper
3-4 c. chicken stock (less stock if you want thicker soup)
2 1/2 c. yellow summer corn (or 1 medium bag of frozen corn)
5 oz. red potatoes, diced (about 4-5 medium sized potatoes)
1 - 2 pieces grilled chicken, diced
1 1/2 c. half & half

Cook bacon in stockpot until browned; remove and transfer to a paper towel, set aside. Discard all but 2 Tablespoons of the drippings. (OR...in stockpot, heat up 2 T. olive oil) Add onions, celery, thyme, salt & pepper, and green chili; cook until onions are translucent. Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Add corn & potatoes; cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add half and half, as well as the chicken, and simmer until soup is hot. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish by crumbling bacon on top.

Don't forget the homemade rolls!