All of the Gang...

All of the Gang...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Easier than Pumpkin Pie...

So, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, my oldest son has suddenly taken to the flavor of pumpkin.  We were blessed with a pumpkin pie from our neighbor last week, and there is where it began.  I have also been on the hunt for a relatively simple recipe for pumpkin muffins and I found it!  Thanks to!  How much easier could it get than just two ingredients!?  They are soooo yummy and moist!  They don't have the regular texture that cupcakes or muffins have, they are moist and, for lack of a better word, smooth.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 box Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz. canned pumpkin

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Do NOT follow directions on cake box.  Mix ONLY the dry cake mix and the canned pumpkin on medium until well blended.  Mix will be thick.  After mixing you can add any additional 'mix-ins' such as raisins, chocolate chips, cranberries, etc. by gently folding them into the mix.
Spray or line muffin cups.  Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-24 minutes.   If using mini muffins bake for about 15 minutes.  They will be very soft and squishy to the touch.  Top with cream cheese frosting!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blending Away...

I'm all for saving money.  I have to be.  With a family of eight, I admit and am no where near being ashamed to say that I will save a buck any way I can.  If there is a way...I will find it.  With that said, I follow several blogs from couponing to homemade gifts.  I also think it's funny how our society, trying to make things "easier" has almost made things more complicated.  A recent magazine I received in the mail had this thing-a-ma-bob that you could order, for only $14.99 to use to stuff the yucky food down the drain to your garbage disposal.  Nifty, ya...but really?  To me all that says is that I have one more "thing" to find a place for when it's not in use.  This brings me to what is known as The Magic Bullet.  it's a nifty contraption, but again.....really?  Sure, it would be nice to make single serve smoothies for myself (who am I kidding, the sound of it would be a call to my kids and I would instantly hear, "Can I have one?!") but there is a solution, and it was right up in my cabinet.   A common Mason jar MAGICALLY fits onto the bottom mixing part of my blender!  Now, I won't be making myself a personal smoothy....but I can customize everyone's with what ever ingredients they want (even though I may not choose bananas and lemon juice, but who's judging, right?).  Oh,'s great for making baby food too, no deep blender pitcher to try to scoop stuff out from.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

14 Days of Love at the Toms'

Within the last couple of months I have joined some pretty neat websites and followed some blogs that have ideas ranging from easy, quick meals to couponing.  Most of the sites are run by SAHM's (Stay-at-Home-Mom's) and I always have the intention of doing some of the ideas that they throw out there, but the reality of it is, I can't.  I have six kids, I can't spend a day and a half refinishing the bathroom cabinets or making pretty little costumes for my kids to play in for no special occasion.  Yet I still find myself "trying" to do some of the cutesie-pootsie things featured on these websites.  One thing that I managed to get done, though it's not as pretty as the ones I've seen, is I created an advent calendar that leads up to Valentines day.  Each day one of the boys draws out a heart shaped card from the calendar that coincides with the date and on the back of the heart there are instructions on one special activity to do for the day.  It ranges from "make a Valentine for Grandpa" to "Go around the table at dinner time and tell everyone one thing you love about them".  I even have to say, my husband was even in to it.  I of course systematically put certain things in certain days.  For example, yesterday the card that was pulled said, "Enjoy a Valentine Themed Breakfast"  So, we had heart shaped strawberry scones with strawberries and topping.  I had to save that one for a weekend.  There was no way I was going to try to make scones and get all the kids up and going during the week.  Each morning the boys are excited to see what the calendar has in store for them, and in the end, we are working together as a family.
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Valentine's at the Toms'

I'm not very good at being original.  But I am cheap.  Sutton and I always try to come up with ideas for his valentines to make them a little different.  Last year they were individually wrapped moon pies with alien occupied space ships (courtesy of my Cricut) that said, "You're Out of this World Valentine".  This year though, I think I even out-did myself as far as the expense.  Total cost (minus the man hours, minutes really) was one dollar and six cents.  And that was for the bag of Pixy Stix from the dollar store.  Sutton and I had looked up ideas on one of my favorite sites, as well as looked at a Current Stationary Catalog.  We took a little bit from this and a little bit from that, and this is what we came up with.  I used my Cricut again for the body and eyes (the second layer on the eyes are actually garage sale price stickers), a whole punch, my Close to My Heart acrylic stamps and glue stick.  Sutton and I enjoyed putting these together as our special one on one time.  Then earlier tonight while I put the finishing touches on some of them I had a thought.  It's been said, and I certainly will not argue, that the oldest child reaps benefits that his or her sibling may never have.  These are things such as more baby pictures and new clothes.  Then it occurred to me, do I really plan on putting all this effort in to the valentines for six kid's class mates just a few years down the road, simply to save a buck?  I would like to think so, but that's a lot of Valentines. It is nice spending the time with him to put them together each year, because it is just special "Mom and Sutton" time.  No brothers are allowed, no interruptions.  Just the two of us.  So I would like to think that, yes, I will do that with each of my kids when they are in grade school.  We will just have to start in December instead of the week before Valentines day.  Okay, maybe not that early, but I will have to be organized!  We'll see!
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Friday, January 21, 2011

OH! For the Love of Puff Corn!

This past holiday season I held my first cookie exchange.  I was a little nervous, as it was my first time.  However, it proved to be quite a success and I am now planning on "Mandy's Annual Cookie Exchange" to join our other holiday traditions. 
    One of the goodies that my friend Allison brought, though, has proved to become an addiction of mine.  If I weren't so weak in the sweets department, it wouldn't be an issue.  And this is no ordinary snack.  The fact that the recipe really is 'too easy' makes it even more difficult to ignore.  I also use the word "recipe" loosely because I'm not sure if something that only has, mainly, two ingredients could be considered a recipe.  The funny thing is, I had heard of almond bark.  Heck, I had used it quite a few times.  Almond bark could almost fall into a category similar to that of bacon.  Many times I've heard my husband, Jeff, and several friends (you know who you are, wink) say "Everything is better with bacon", (of course, Jeff says the same thing about cheese too though).  This new "recipe" holds true to that for almond bark.  
    Another great thing about this snack is that it can end the fix of someone who has a sweet tooth, as well as those who prefer a salty snack.  As my friend Allison said, "People either love it, or they hate it."  I definately fall into the "love it" catagory.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention (and I can't make this stuff up) but this was such a hit with many of the "Exchange" participants, that it caused a shortage of Puff Corn at the local Walgreens, which at the time was the only place here in town you could get it.  I'm not kidding, I sadly admit, that I even went so far as to speak with the manager to find out what day of the week the Cheetos guy came to 'replenish' their stock.  I can happily say now though, that I have since noticed the local King Soopers now carries it as well.  That is, until next Christmas.   It was a big hit to those at the exchange and many others have since asked how to make it, so here it is.

Ingredients (a.k.a. "recipe"):
1 4 oz. bag of BUTTER flavored Chester's Puff Corn
1/2 of a package of vanilla almond bark.
Colored Sugar Sprinkles (red & green for Christmas, pink & red for Valentine's Day, you get the idea)

Lay wax paper out on your work surface and dump out and spread the Puff Corn into a single layer.  Melt half of the package of almond bark either in the microwave or on the stove top as directed on the package.  When melted, drizzle the almond bark onto the Puff Corn and mix up with a spoon or spatula.  Sprinkle with colored sugar (don't be chintzy!).  There ya have it!  When it cools just break it up into bite size pieces!

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Just Because I Graduated College Doesn't Mean I'm Smart

You could say I did it because I'm blond, or because I have six kids and lost my mind somewhere along the way, or for the real reason, pure, simple stupidity.  One of the jokes between my own mother and myself is the fact that I graduated from college and that, for some reason, I have the hardest time figuring simple things out.  I'm writing this as I am taking a break from my most recent frustration, or what my husband lovingly has come to call "The Happenings of Mandy", that as an end result, has me taking apart our dryer. 

Many mom's (not to exclude myself, of course) have accidentally washed crayons.  Only a few months ago I found myself 'googling' how to remove melted crayon from not only the inside of the drier, but from the clothes as well.  Of course I didn't notice until I had put a second load into the drier, because I am not efficient enough to immediately start folding laundry once its out of the takes me a few...days.   My frustrations with the "Crayon Incident" are easily trumped by my latest "accident". 

If I wanted to play my own version of "the blame game" I could blame my husband, but I will take full responsibility.  I could blame him for the fact that he has always had a 'no table cloth' rule at our house.  I finally convinced him that it was easier for me to clean up the table if we had one, reluctantly he agreed, but with one stipulation.  It had to be a vinyl table cloth.  I winced, but agreed.  I have long hated those things.  It is near impossible to find one that isn't tacky and the kids like to play tug-of-war with them.  But, it was a compromise. 

Looking back, I can now say, without question, dispute or argument...vinyl table clothes are not "machine washable"...and especially "dry-able" for that matter.  From this incident I did realize one interesting, useless fact though....I have a pretty big dryer.  I am a big gal and I can easily fit over half of my body into to remove the inside back panel.  I guess I know what I'll be doing tonight after the kids have gone to sleep.  I won't be sipping a hot toddy or cuddling up to a good book.  I'll be picking plastic off a piece of metal that looks like a giant cheese grater.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wearing Thin...

During grandma's visit over the holidays, she had purchased a couple new pairs of jeans for the boys.  Last night as we were picking out what to wear to school today, I caught Sutton admiring the 'scratch' marks or 'wear' marks on some of the new pairs of jeans.  "These are kinda neat", he said.  

With four boys it has become custom that Sutton, our oldest, usually gets the newer clothes and the younger boys, of course, are blessed with his hand-me-downs.  It's been a while back that I figured out why thrift shops don't usually have many boys jeans, but we have only recently run into this little 'snag'...holes in the knees.

Girls jeans can be quite simple to patch.  You can put pretty little flowers on them and they can become "stylish" or even cuter that what they were before.  This is not necessarily the case with boys.  
As I looked last week at the pile of jeans on my dresser that were otherwise in pretty good shape, and most importantly, still fit them, the light bulb over my head slowly but surely began to flicker.  

What if I put the patches on the inside?  So, with about 10 iron-on denim patches and about eight pairs of jeans I whipped out that thing that maybe gets used once every couple of months (twice if I'm feeling ambitious)...the iron.  I cut the patches to fit the holes (making sure to cut rounded edges on the corners), turned the jeans inside-out and made sure that those obnoxious white strings that now replace where denim had once been were straightened out.  

The pairs that were so worn and no longer had the strings were put into another pile for shorts for next summer.  The great thing about patching the jeans this way is that not only are the patches "invisible" but Sutton can still wear his favorite jeans and they are now also re-enforced with the patch.  It also works great with jeans that are starting to wear thin but haven't quite ripped yet because it serves as a reinforcement for them then as well.  The patches also tend to stay on longer as well, there's not as much to catch on or rub up against.  

I guess this could be seen as a way of being thrifty and trendy at the same time.  It has long been a joke at our house how, when I was a kid, my mom once refused to pay fora pair 'ripped' jeans when there were plenty my closet.  No, it's not the same, but it works...