Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!

Just wanted to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Here is the letter we sent our with our Christmas cards this year; just a little update about all of us. :o)

We hope this last year has been good to all of you.
We had a fantastic 2012!
Zavion transitioned from Kindergarten to First Grade, and is doing wonderful. He was recently recommended into the TAG program and we are so proud of him! He has kept busy throughout the year participating in t-ball, swimming, cross country races and now basketball. When he's not doing all of this, he's busy crafting his latest masterpiece, creating a new culinary delight or putting on a play. He's our complex, smartie-pants, guy-on-the-go!
Avalee has been quite busy herself this year. She participated in swimming (moving up after just one class!) and cross country races. She loves to learn and this year has been all about discovery for her. She loves going to 'school' after seeing her big brother off each day, and is happy to practice writing letters, drawing shapes or learning new words. She also loves to read and can often be found with a book (or two or five!) reading to herself. She's our little love-bug, always there to flash her smile, give a hug or kiss or just make you feel better!
Colin and Peggy are busy as usual! Colin continues to work for the State of Oregon as a Systems Analyst and has done quite a bit of traveling promoting his projects. He also coaches Zavion's Little League team as well as serves on the League board.
Peggy is busy being Mom! Between shuttling kiddos to and from activities to helping plan events for the Little League and school, she is a mama-on-the-go. She is also active in the school, both volunteering in the classroom and serving on the board of the PTC.
This year was an exceptionally wonderful year, because in addition to our usual camping adventures, day-trips to the coast and trips to Eugene (GO Ducks!) we also took a fabulous trip to California during the Summer! Peggy's brother was married at Venice Beach and we packed up the whole family (plus Grandma and Grandpa!) and drove to Cali. We all had such a wonderful time! When we weren't helping with the wedding, we were spending some time soaking up the sun at our resort in gorgeous Palm Springs. We all came back very tanned and very relaxed!
Overall, 2012 was a fun, family-filled year and we look forward to what 2013 holds!
~Peggy, Colin
Zavion and Avalee~

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

To the Husbands...

Okay, guys...first off, let me say you're in a safe place here. Really. Now, having said that, let me tell you what you're doing wrong in the Christmas gift giving department.

First off, I know you've been programmed to believe that we, your wives, partners, mothers of your children, etc, need jewelry, fancy chocolates, purses. I know you can't turn on the radio or TV without being bombarded with commercials for Zales or Jarrod. And, on top of that, you hear the other guys in the office talking about the new pair of diamond earrings they bought their wives. You're feelin' the pressure. I get it. But, this feeling is your first mistake. We'll get to this later.

Secondly, you wait until the last possible moment to go shopping. I know right now, you're wondering why the heck your wife even sent you this to read. You're wondering why I'm even talking about buying Christmas presents when you have 40 days left of shopping. You're also wondering if I included Christmas Eve in that and, yes I sure did. You're sitting there thinking you have all the time in the world, and why would anyone even think about buying Christmas gift until at least mid-December. Well, wrong again fellas. Read on.

So, let's start addressing these, we'll call them 'areas of concern.'

I know whenever you've bought your wife jewelry, she's acted genuinely happy. Maybe she even shed a tear or two. And, she probably was happy. But, guess what? She probably would have been happier with the shiny new mixer, vacuum cleaner or even (gasp) a GPS device. Again, I understand that us wives are not supposed to want appliances or useful type things. We're supposed to want to be taken care of and given things to look pretty. But, that's just not reality. We would much rather have that mixer to whip up some delicious chocolate mint brownies or pumpkin whoopie pies or homemade pie crust than those earrings, which, let's face it we'll wear exactly four times (our birthday, anniversary, your boss' wedding and Christmas) throughout the year. It's just not practical. And, a new vacuum would definitely be more useful for getting us ready for our bookclub gals to come over. Sure, that fancy box of chocolates is nice, but knowing that our floor is free of any and all wayward Cheerios, leaving us to have a worry-free evening of discussing Christian Grey and indulging in some wine and brie makes that vacuum a winner in our book.

I know, you're probably shaking your head in disbelief at me and you cannot believe what I'm telling you. You think you are supposed to buy the jewelry and that it's an insult to get us a new teapot or set of pots and pans, right. Well, you've just been brainwashed all these years. See, guys, we are practical. We need practical, we want practical. Our feelings will not be hurt in the least and our pride will not take a hit to get a something we can actually use.

Now, I know there are some women out there who do want the jewelry and would recoil in horror if you gave them a new Cuisinart. But, chances are, if you're reading this, if your wife sent you this, she's not that woman. Just give her the Cusinart.

Now to address your second folly. Guys, why do you wait until that last moment? It just cannot be pleasant fighting all that traffic, fighting for a parking spot at the mall and fighting your way through Sears for the last cashmere sweater (oh, and you know how we tell you we have to exchange it because it's the wrong size... Have you seen us wear it later? Nope, because we were able to get a couple cable knit sweaters and a nice  pair of microfiber gloves with what you spent on one fancy sweater).

I have a better idea for you. Shop earlier. No, I'm not just talking about starting in November. I'm talking about starting in January. I'm going to wait until you come back to consciousness. Are we good? Okay, now really, you can do it. You are going to be able to get gifts easier, quicker and for much less money. And, we love it when you save money. If you tell us that you bought that vacuum with a big ol' rebate, we will tear up. We will hug you. Most importantly we will brag about you on Facebook (you may even get a status update dedicated to you).

So, how to you go about this? Well, first of all, take notes. When your wife mentions something she'd really like or something that would make her life easier, remember that. It may seem silly to you but I guarantee if you present her with a new Crockpot because she mentioned in July how it would be nice to make homemade meals without turning the house into an inferno, you will be her hero. Or, if you get her that composter she' was ogling over in April, she will not forget. So, make mental notes or literally jot things down (your phones have excellent notepads just for that).

And, the great thing about having a running list is that you might just be able to score that perfect gift in, say, August at a screamin' deal. And, you might not even have to leave your house. You could stay on the couch, beer in hand, TV inappropriately high in volume continuing to watch whatever sport is in season. Yep, that's right.

You know those couponing blogs, websites and Facebook pages your wife follows. You can too. Subscribe to the feeds, get the emails and check the Facebook posts. You would be surprised at what kind of deals pop up all the time.
My husband missed out on a cake pop maker for three dollars last year, because he was too prideful to buy it after I'd mentioned seeing it on a blog. Don't let that happen to you. Just subscribe so she doesn't have to nag you.
Many of these sites are very specific and will spell out precisely what you need to do to score a great deal. Take advantage of these deals to buy early, save a bunch and look like a rockstar. Think about how surprised your wife will be when you report in October that you're done with your shopping. You might even get to gloat if she hasn't finished hers yet. You know you'd love to gloat.

And, here's a little extra something. Maybe you don't even need to buy her a gift. Really. Why not make buy her a gift card to her favorite restaurant. Better yet, make her a whole date night package personalized by you. Set up a baby sitter, make reservations for dinner and let her pick out the movie of her choice. A night to eat with both hands, finish a conversation and not have to wipe all the crumbs off the table afterward would, I guarantee, bring a smile to her face. And, it could be anything else she's into. Maybe she's always wanted to go white water rafting, or zip lining or maybe she really wants to hit the slopes. Go with what makes her happy and make it happen. A nice note or handwritten letter will really take it to that extra level.

Also, we know you're not crafty and that the idea of using a glue gun and sparkle paint makes you queasy but do you know who would love to get in on that? The kids. Don't forget about them. When we get gifts from the kiddos that we know you've helped orchestrate, and especially if it's something adorable and homemade, well, let's just say, we're putting down that book. So, take the kids to one of those pottery studios and let them paint something or take them into the craft store and have them pick out some beads to make into a funky keychain. They'll be happy, she'll be happy and you are once again the shining star in this scenario.

So, that's it. See guys, aren't you glad you read this? You still have time to listen, pay attention and get your honey what she really wants. And, if you can do it early and save a buck or two, well everyone wins, right? Good luck, go forth and Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

School's Out For The Summer!

Well, we did it! We made it through Kindergarten!
I know you're thinking, 'Wait you weren't in Kindergarten!' but sometimes I felt like I was in the trenches right there alongside my kiddo. Haha!
Last week the Kindergarten kids had a wonderful little program that they had been working on for a couple months. It was just too adorable and so much fun!
Always the performer, ha!
You think he's a little bored? ;o)
Family pic with our little Kindergarten grad!
Z with his two teachers

 I have to say, I am so proud of my big guy for all he accomplished in this school year. While he went in already being able to read and write some, I was amazed that he was reading entire books by the end of the school year. Very cool! And, while we still have a journey ahead of us on this one, he did learn some valuable lessons on time management and staying on task.

Z & his best bud, Samuel in the last day
For me, one of the biggest things I was proud of was the friendships he made and the way he treated others in general. 

I was especially proud of how he was friend to all; it didn't matter if it was a girl or guy, the quiet kid that didn't talk much or another crazy, loud kiddo (like himself!). I saw so many other kiddos stick to their little groups (completely understandable at that age and limited comfort level) but Zavion just put himself out there to everyone. It really made my heart smile!
I also had to think for myself at the end of the year; 'Did I accomplish what I wanted?' I knew before I even had kids that I wanted to be involved in school like my mom was with me and my siblings. I wasn't sure to what extent and if I wanted to jump in there starting so early. But, I decided to volunteer in the classroom weekly (thanks to Grandma for taking my girly on those days!) and was so glad I did! Not only was it a treat to get to see my boy in this new environment, but it also gave me the opportunity to get to know his classmates and teachers. But, really, I was just so excited to get to help all those wonderful kiddos learn to read! I thought volunteering in the classroom meant cutting things, filing, sharpening pencils (which I did as well)...that kind of thing. I had no idea I would get to work with all the kids one-on-one every week helping them learn their letters, sounds and finally reading books. It was really something special and I know I will always remember those little faces lighting up when they realized they already knew that letter or word, or once they finished a book. Priceless!
I also had the amazing pleasure of getting to help with each and every classroom party and go on all the fieldtrips. It was so much fun helping kids pick out pumpkins, reading Valentine's to them and even running a 'station' on field day.
My hubby and I also had the opportunity to go to the Parent Teacher Conference meetings, and it was from that that I ended up as the new Volunteer Coordinator. I hadn't expected or planned on getting quite that involved so early in my kiddo's schooling, but with an empty position and nobody scrambling to fill it, I stepped in. I admit, I am a little nervous but excited too.
So, now Summer looms close and first grade is on the distant horizon. I know the next school year will be full of lots of wonderful things and looking forward to all the wonderful possibilities it holds! :o)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Natl Pie Day!

So, I really didn't intend to do another 'holiday' so quickly, but it really gives me an excuse to share some of my fun pie creations with all of you. Yay! And, again, I just found out it was Natl Pie Day this morning (and on my dad's birthday too...Happy Birthday Dad!) but that won't stop me from throwing something together for you all!
I myself am not a big pie eater (was that gasping I heard?) but my brother is a pie fiend. Like, he prefers pie to birthday cake. Crazy, I think, but hey, it's his party. I've been wanting to gift him pie for his birthday for awhile now, but being as his lives in another state and gifts have to be sent, that just didn't seem very practical. Then, last year, I discovered Our Best Bites (truly one of my favorite food sites!) and their amazing pies-in-a-jar. Aha...that was it! I just knew it! So, for his birthday this year, I whipped these bad boys up.

Cute, right?!

These are SO easy, people.
1) Dough up the inside of your jar. Use your favorite pie crust or just be lazy like me and buy the prepared crusts. Pull off chunks of dough and press them on the bottom of the jar and along the sides. If you want a topper, use the seal part of your lid to cut out a circle from the dough.
2) Make your pie filling. Use prepared pie filling or just make your own! Very easy!

Here is a basic pie recipe (about 1/2C per jar):
2 C prepared fruit (pitted, diced, peeled, etc.)
2 T sugar- brown or white (use more or less depending on sweetness of fruit)
2 T flour-(again, more if your fruit is super juicy like cherries, less if it’s pretty dry)
1 T butter (divided between the pies to go on top of the pies)
Seasonings/flavorings- cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond extract, citrus zest etc

3) Fill it up. Add about ½ C filling per jar. Add your topper (cut a couple
vent holes) & crimp it down, or make a basic crumb topping to go on top instead.
Now you can freeze them, bake them or just give them away!
For the pies I sent to my brother, I baked them ahead of time (I didn't want pie
filling sloshing around and didn't want them to partially thaw on the way there).

4)Bake at 375 for about 45 min. From frozen, bake about 50-60 min.

I made blueberry (from our blueberries we picked during Summer!), apple and pumpkin (I just followed basic pumpkin pie recipe and directions, since it's a little different than other pies).
For the blueberry, I made a lattice pie crust, which I think turned out really cute.

The apple pie, I topped with a crumb topping, yum!

The pumpkin, I obviously just left alone (and this one won't need the pat of butter on top, either).

These were so much fun to make and so easy, that I decided they would make fun Christmas gifts for my son's Kindergarten teachers! He helped me make each of them an apple pie (what's more appropriate for a teacher right?) then we added some cute labels and put each one into a little gift bag. They were so impressed (one teacher had to be convinced it wasn't a candle, haha) and excited. Now, for those, I just gave them un-cooked and un-frozen and left it up to them to decide what they wanted to do. I also made a couple up for my grandma for Christmas, but froze those first. She received, blueberry, blackberry and apple.

Another fun pie idea that I did last year on Pi Day (yep, house full of geeks here, hehe) is to make pie pops!

I didn't follow any specific recipe here; just cut the pie crusts with my 3” circle cookie cutter, added about 1T pie filling (careful not to overdo it or these guys will get messy fast!) pressed a lollipop stick into the dough, then put another circle on top and crimped it down. I brushed some melted butter on, then sprinkled some sugar and voila, pie pops! After they cooled down, we added a dollop of whipped cream and they were ready!

These were a big hit with the family!

And, these little cuties came courtesy of a friend's borrowed pie maker (and,
now I have my own...thanks Mom!).

Since my daughter’s birthday party was horse themed, I thought mini pies would go along perfectly with the kind of rustic-ness of it. I decided to just swap out pies for cupcakes and loved the outcome!

And, for a regular ol' pie, this is my absolute most favorite; Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

I make this every year for Thanksgiving and try to find any excuse to make other times of the year too. It is so rich and gooey; the perfect pie in my eyes! :)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

20 milk chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 3/4 cups milk
1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked (I use the ready-made chocolate cookie pie crust)


Melt the chocolate with the whipping cream. Stir until smooth, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie shell. Refrigerate until ready to fill; chocolate should be firm before filling.
Put the dry pudding mix and peanut butter in a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, gradually stir in the milk using a wire whisk. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Cool for 15 minutes, stirring often. Pour peanut butter filling into crust. Chill several hours.
Top with whipped topping and garnish with chopped peanuts, Hershey's Kisses, Peanut Butter Cups or Reeses, if desired.

And, here are a few of my favorite pie recipes I've seen around...

This brownie pie looks so yummy!

And, how about this Grownup Pumpkin Pie Milkshake. Yes, one here, please!

Check out these mini S'mores pies! These would be so much fun for a Summertime treat, or even a fun dessert for indoor camping night (we have these every so often and they are quite popular for the kiddos-not so much the adults with bad backs though, hehe).

And, last but not least; these lattice pie cookies makes my heart go pitter pat! They are incredibly adorable and pretty simple. What a 'wow' factor they would be for a fun girls day!

So, how are you celebrating Pie Day? :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Natl. Popcorn Day!

Okay, I really just discovered it was Natl Popcorn Day about ten minutes ago on Facebook, haha. But, that doesn’t mean there isn't time to celebrate it still!

And, who doesn't love popcorn?! Popcorn is awesome; it's buttery, salty, fluffy. It's the perfect movie food, of course, but also great for kids snacks, and even parties.

I made these fun cones for my son's 5th birthday party; it was a monster theme so I used monster scrapbook paper then filled with green-tinted caramel corn. Yum and fun!

My mom made these adorable mini popcorn ball pops for my daughter's last birthday!

Of course, a personal favorite of ours is to grab a bag while we're shopping at Target. No better bribe to get your kiddos to behave than the promise of Target popcorn, hehe!

In honor of Natl Popcorn Day, I thought I'd share some of the amazing popcorn recipes I've seen on Pinterest and my all-time favorite, personal caramel corn recipe.

Check out this amazing white-chocolate popcorn recipe for a baby shower!

And how about this amazing popcorn cake. Yes, I said cake! How great would this be foe that popcorn lover?!

This white chocolate peppermint popcorn from Our Best Bites is amazing! I actually made some myself for Christmas presents, and it was very well received. :0)


Instead of boring ol' cupcakes at your next party, try these adorable popcorn cupcakes!

And, this one is mine. My take on Harry and David's Moose Munch.

I use my basic caramel corn recipe, which produces THE best caramel corn ever, and spruce it up a little.

Caramel Corn


7 quarts plain popped popcorn (about two 3.5oz bags of microwave popcorn)
2 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans (I use my turkey roaster pan). Add the peanuts to the popped corn if using. Set aside.
2) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
3) Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don't worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.
4) Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes (use a long wooden spoon). Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.

To make it into Moose Munch, just separate out some popcorn (use the big clumps) and dip in melted chocolate. Do the same with peanuts, then mix both in with the caramel corn. Voila...instant Moose Munch! Yum!

I hope you enjoy Natl Popcorn Day!! :o)

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