App Review Thursday

Ok…so I don’t normally do an App review on Thursdays, I just couldn’t think of a good title for this blog.  My creative juices aren’t flowing very fast today.  I’m sure as soon as I take a shower (most of my great ideas come to me in the shower…), I will think of a fabulous, wonderful, amazing title.  Until then, “App Review Thursday” is what you get.

So, my 3 year old can count to 10…and beyond (although, she tends to skip 16, 17, 18 and goes from 15 to 20), and we’re working on the alphabet.  I was perusing the App store the other day, and I stumbled across a really cute app.  I don’t know if it was under The “New and Noteworthy” or “What’s Hot” in the Featured section, but it doesn’t really matter…it’s this mom’s new best friend.

Here is the link to it in the App Store.  It’s called “Endless ABC” and it’s developed by Callaway Digital Arts, Inc., the same company that does “Monster At The End Of The Book” (one of my favorite childhood books, by the way).  When I saw that, I figured it would be a cute app.  The Monster At The End Of The Book (referred to from here on out as “MATEOTB) is wonderful.  Not only is it a book, but there is a lot of interaction within the app.  But anyway, I digress….

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What makes this app so great?  Well, first of all, it’s free!  My brother sometimes always gives me a hard time because I refuse to download the Angry Birds Star Wars app to get the complete game when my kids can just play the free version over and over again.  I know it’s $0.99, but if I can get it for free…even better!

The graphics are so cute!!  The app features these colorful little monster thingys.  The animation is amazing!!  So, what the app does is introduces a word (alphabetically), one at a time.  It shows the word on the screen and the little monster thingys run over the word, scattering the letters everywhere.  Your child then has to drag each letter back into place (there are letters still there for them to match up).  While they are dragging the letter into place, that letter comes alive and starts making its phonetic sound.  When placed correctly, the letter then says it’s name.  After you get all of the letters put in place, the little monster thingys act out the meaning of the word, and then the narrator gives the definition.

And, we’re not talking basic words like “cat” or “dog”.  I saw “cooperate”, “vegetable”, “quarrel” and “gargantuan”. 

This app really has so many things going for it.  Matching, phonetics, letter recognition, reading comprehension and vocabulary building. 

Sophie loves it.  No really, LOVES it!  I can’t even emphasize how much she loves it.  She played with it while I was fixing her hair (and if you know her at all, you know that even brushing her very looonnnggg hair is an ordeal).  After we took her brother to school, she begged to play with it when we got home.  She’s only been playing with it for a day, so the letter recognition hasn’t kicked in yet, but I’m hopeful that the more she plays with it, the more she’ll start to connect the dots.

Did I mention that it’s free for a limited time?  I strongly encourage you to just go ahead and download it now…go…stop reading…go on now…download…it’s ok…I don’t mind!

Happy Thursday!!!

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Easy Peasy Biscuits

Well, my blog has been kind of quiet the past week or so.  I haven’t been too crafty lately.  I’m gearing up for my son’s big 8th birthday, coming up this weekend.  I’ve been busy researching Phineas & Ferb cakes.  Of course, I’ll be blogging about the party after Saturday.

So, last weekend, we had some friends over for dinner.  For some reason, I tried not one, but two brand new recipes that night.  The first one was venison stew.  This was the first time I had ever made stew….I know!  How did I survive 12 years of marriage without ever making stew?

My second new recipe was something my hubby tried at a friends house.  After he and a buddy and his buddy’s father went hunting, they went back to his friend’s parents house.  They arrived just in time for dinner & the mom insisted that my hubby stay for a quick bite.  One of the things she was serving was Mayo Biscuits.  

Sounds weird right?  Well, my hubby raved about them, so much that I felt I needed to make them.  So, I got the recipe and tried them out.  Here it is:

4 Tablespoons mayonaise

2 c. self rising flour

1 c. milk

Mix ingredients.  Grease a muffin pan.  Put dough in pan.  Bake at 375 until brown (about 12 minutes).

That’s it.  Hard to mess up a recipe with 3 ingredients right?  Well…you haven’t cooked with me then :).  About 30 minutes before our friends were going to arrive, I started working on the biscuits.  I discovered I only had bread flour.  Flour is flour, right?  WRONG!

The biscuits didn’t rise (obviously) and they were…um…dense.  So, I served our guests flat, dense biscuits.  However, we didn’t have any left, so it wasn’t a total waste!

I tried it again tonight, with the proper flour and it was a much different story.  The biscuits rose, they were light and fluffy.  The mayo makes them very moist.  It cost pennies to make and my kiddos were asking for more.

So, check your pantry…make sure you have self-rising flour & try these out.  If you don’t have self-rising flour, run…don’t walk…to the grocery store and get some!!  

Make Your Own….Coffee Creamer

You’ve probably noticed a new trend.  I have been making my own…(fill in the blank), a lot recently.  I’m not really sure why.  I just see these cool projects on Pinterest and think, “why not?”

So, I found this pin the other day for make your own coffee creamer.  Now, I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but my hubby does.  If you’re an avid coffee/creamer drinker, I don’t have to tell you it can get pretty pricey to buy.  I usually buy the store brand, unless I have a coupon and/or the name brand is on sale.  I also get the larger, 32 ounce size, because it seems to last longer (I don’t know if it’s just a mental thing) and you usually get a better buy when you buy in bulk.

So, when I went grocery shopping, I picked up a can of sweetened condensed milk.  I got the fat free version, since I was going to use skim milk for a fat free creamer (which is what I normally buy anyway).  I was a little disappointed because the store I shopped at didn’t have a store brand version of the ff sweetened condensed milk, so I had to buy a brand name can, which was a little more than the regular store brand.

I added sugar free vanilla syrup to the mixture.  Then, the taste test.  I brewed one cup of coffee and divided it equally between 2 cups.  I added a pack of Splenda to each cup and 1 TBSP of the store bought, vanilla ff creamer to one mug and the homemade version to the other.

The verdict?  I’m kind of mixed on this one.  The taste is not exactly the same, but it’s not bad.  I ended up adding an extra tablespoon of the vanilla syrup to the homemade creamer, and that helped.  The cost, in my mind, is about the same.  When I buy the creamer on sale, I end up paying about the same amount as I spent making the homemade version (keep in mind, the homemade version doesn’t make 32 ounces…only makes about 30).

The consistency is about the same.  I felt that the homemade stuff was a little thinner.  It doesn’t make your coffee as creamy looking as the store bought stuff, but you do still have the taste that you’ve added creamer to your coffee.

Pros for the homemade version:  #1:  You can experiment with flavors.  The blog that I got the recipe from has tons of suggestions.  I used vanilla because I wanted to do a taste comparison and we had vanilla creamer at home.  #2:  If you’re looking for something without a lot of chemicals in it, this is for you.  The sweetened condensed milk had 4 ingredients…the first was milk…and I could pronounce all of them!  Our store brand creamer had 12 ingredients…the first was water, only had a milk derivative in it, and forget about pronouncing (or spelling) half of them!  #3: I’ve always wondered about the shelf life of the liquid creamers…especially the ones that don’t ever have to be refrigerated.  The one in our fridge doesn’t expire until April 2013!  The creamer you make yourself should last about as long as the ingredients you put in it.  In other words, when your milk expires, dump any leftover creamer.

I haven’t had my hubby try it.  Not sure it would be his kind of thing…but if he does try it (hint hint) I will update this post & give you his opinion.

Feeling brave??  Try this out & let me know what you think!

Happy Monday everyone!

Happy Happy Happy

I love Duck Dynasty.  I’m not sure what it is about that show…is it the beards?  Is it watching old men in camo skin multiple animals on tv?  Maybe it’s watching Miss Kay cook.  Maybe it’s Uncle Si’s commentary.  Whatever it is, it makes me Happy, Happy, Happy!

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Duck Dynasty is a show on A&E that has become wildly popular.  I have to say, I’m bummed that the new episodes don’t start until March.  Part of their success has been attributed to their family values and their faith in God.  They don’t apologize for their beliefs and they proclaim them as much as they can on national tv.

What makes you happy??  Today, we had snow at our house.  That made my kids and my hubby happy, happy, happy 🙂  Finding really cute projects on Pinterest, that makes me happy.  

Does mourning make you happy?  How about being hungry or thirsty?  Poor?  Being persecuted or insulted?  Sound like fun??  Didn’t think so.  Most people would say they would not find happiness in these things.

However, in Matthew 5:3-11, Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount.  These are the Beatitudes.  Most translations say “Blessed are…”  Some change “blessed” to “happy”.  “Happy are the poor in spirit…happy are those who mourn…happy are the meek…happy are those who are persecuted.”  You get the picture. 

How can we be truly happy in those circumstances?  I mean, let’s be honest, no one wants to be persecuted.  That does not sound like my cup of tea.   But, we need to keep reading.

“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven…”  Matthew 5:12.  

If we can endure the things on this earth, if we can just hang in there long enough and find happiness in what we’re about, our reward is great.  And, we’re not the only ones who have gone through this…

“…for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Matthew 5:12

That’s “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey used to say.  Others have gone through all of this before and made it.  How wonderful is that??  The Bible is chock full of great examples of faith.  By reading their stories, we can be encouraged that we can make it and survive.

So, next time someone asks you what makes you Happy Happy Happy, think about the beatitudes.  Can you truly say that they make you happy?

Five Years Ago

Five years is a lot of time.  A lot can happen.  Five years ago, my life changed drastically.  My husband and I made one of the biggest decisions of our life.  We left our home, our family, our friends, and everything we knew and moved 1200 miles across the country to Virginia.

We were living in Oklahoma where my hubby was a Youth/Family Minister.  We had been there for 7 years…one year was spent part time during our senior year of college.  We would drive 1 1/2 hours to the town, spend the weekend with the youth group, then drive back on Sunday nights (usually after a youth devo) and go to school the next day.  When we graduated, we moved down and started working with the church full time.

We had some great times and made wonderful memories there.  Our son was born at the hospital in town (which just happened to be across the street from the church building..very convenient!).  We made lots of lifetime friends.  It was our first “grown-up” job…and we did a lot of growing up along the way.

I remember the day that started all of the changes (ok…I don’t remember the actual date, but I remembered the events).  My hubby and I felt the need to start looking for another ministry.  We prayed that God would lead us in a place that needed us, where we could serve Him.  One day, I came home from work, and my hubby casually stated “Oh, I sent my resume to a church in Virginia”.  What???  That was a huge announcement.  I took a deep breath and said “….okay…”  He then said “Don’t worry, it’s a long shot”.

Well, when you pray to God, you better get ready for the answer!  A couple of phone call interviews, a trip out to visit and several months later, we packed up our U-haul and took off for a new adventure.

Moving out here has been one of the most amazing, wonderful, scary, stressful experiences I have ever had.  We’ve had lots of fun hosting family members who have come to visit.  We live within a day’s drive to the beach, Washington D.C., numerous historical sites, mountains…you name it…we’ve pretty much got it.  We’ve had some sad times.  While out here, my husband lost both grandmothers and his only grandfather.  Being away from family, especially during those times was hard.   I missed the birth of my niece, and finally got to meet her face to face a week after her 1st birthday.

We have met some wonderful people.  We have seen many come to/return to the Lord.  It is exciting to see the church members grow….not just physically, but spiritually.  We’ve made lots of memories.  From record setting snow storms to preparing for hurricanes, and even a familiar tornado or two thrown in for good measure!  I’ve learned a lot about living in the “south” (although Oklahoma is south…I have found that Virginia is truly southern!)  One ritual I learned of was on New Years Eve, at midnight, if you live in the country, it’s normal to go outside and shoot your guns off…not at anyone or anything…just up in the air.   Still haven’t figured that one out!!

I have no idea what God is preparing for us in the future.  He threw us a curve ball last year when my hubby was asked to step up as the Pulpit Minister after our former minister retired.  We are slowly easing into this new position, as more of an “up-front” minister’s family.  I’m sure we’ll have our ups and downs, but we are surrounded by a great group of Christians that will help us…we will help each other!!

I feel truly blessed to be able to live in a beautiful area of our country.  I know we never know what God has planned for us, but I am thankful everyday that He has allowed us the chance to live here in Virginia, to work with some wonderful people, and to raise our children in Him.

“…Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16.

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How To Make Your Own…Storage Bags!

Well, Christmas is over.  The major holidays are behind us, and if you’re like me, you’re assessing the damage.  What is it with toys that have multiple tiny pieces???  It’s a parent’s nightmare.  That, and toys that have blinking lights, noisy noises and battery drainers.

My daughter got the cutest Disney Princess Little People’s Castle from my parents for Christmas.  She loves that thing…I mean LOVES it.  It gets played with almost everyday.  Considering that she got it around Thanksgiving time, that’s pretty impressive.  Name one toy that your toddler has played with every day for almost two months!

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The castle came with two princesses.  Sophie also got 7 other princesses that go with the castle.  My fear is that we’ll start losing princesses…one by one.  So, when I found this pin on Pinterest, I knew I HAD to make it…it was perfect to keep all of our princesses together!!

I have never sewn with vinyl.  Never worked with it.  I was scared.  But, I soldiered on and faced my fears.  You know what?  Not too bad…a little tricky at moments, but I made it through!!

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The fabric I used to make the storage bag was left over from the pouf pillow I made Sophie for Christmas.  I found the vinyl in the remnant bin at Wal-Mart…$2.40 for 3/4 yard (you should see how much I have left!!!).  

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This project took me about 1 1/2 hours (hard to gauge, because I stopped in the middle of the project).  I looked and looked for the drawstring clip that the tutorial calls for, but neither Wal-Mart or Michael’s had it.  So, I went with leftover ribbon I had from another project and just threaded it through the top and tied it in a bow.

I think this maybe cost me about $0.50 to make…seriously.  I used a fraction of the vinyl and used fabric scraps.  Now that I have one under my belt, I have big plans for these storage bags!  We are currently working on organizing/cleaning our nursery at the church building.  There are lots of blocks and other little pieces of toys that are just calling out for storage bags 🙂

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Sophie loves her little bag.  While she was playing with it, I realized how easy it would be for her to grab it & take it with her to the babysitters or on a car trip.  Yay!!  

I hope you enjoyed this project!  Have a wonderful Saturday 🙂

Home Ec 101

I took Home Ec in high school.  I honestly don’t know if schools still offer that class, or if it’s called that anymore.  I was also part of FHA (Future Homemakers of America).  Don’t know if that organization is still around either.  I’m sure some politically correct/women lib organization came in and gave it a more PC name or abolished it altogether…I hope I’m wrong though!

I remember two things from Home Ec.  For the cooking part, we made pizza (from scratch) and cookies (from scratch)…two things that I don’t do today :).  The other I remember was sewing.  I made an apron (which I still have AND use today!).  That should impress you, because that was back in 1994-ish.  The apron has survived my high school & college career, a marriage, many jobs, four moves, two kids and two states.  

I kind of remember sewing the thing too…well, I remember using the seam ripper a lot!  I think it was the straps that gave me fits.  Sewing them together, wrong sides facing each other and then trying to turn it right side out…nightmare!

About one month ago, my lovely sister-in-law asked me to make an apron for her niece’s birthday (if her mom is reading this…spoiler alert!).  I immediately started perusing Pinterest for a tutorial.  I had no idea little girls aprons are so popular!  I definitely had many choices, from very basic to intricate.  I looked for an apron that was cute, girlie & came with a good tutorial.  I found this one (you’ll have to scroll down to find the tutorial).

Once I clicked on it, I immediately recognized this blog.  I had used one of her tutorials earlier, to make my kiddos pouf pillows (see article “Pouf, There It Is…my apologies for the cheesy title!).  I remember really liking her tutorial.  It was well written, had great pics and were just easy to follow along.  

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 The birthday girl is a big fan of Hello Kitty and Walmart had this really cute print.  I found a coordinating pink fabric to use for the back, straps and pockets.  

The tutorial has a downloadable pattern (which I really love).  You can also make pot holders and a hand mitt with this, but I just needed the apron, for now.  The directions call for elastic thread (you’ll use this on the pockets).  I was a little nervous about this part.  I had never used it and you have to hand wind it on the bobbin.  If you’ve never used it, let me put you at ease…it was super user friendly!  The results really make the apron!!

This would be a great apron for any little girl!  The pattern will fit sizes 2-6, so it’s very versatile…great for lots of ages.  It’s also very inexpensive to make.  You only need 1/2 yard of each fabric!  I do have a little bit left over, which I’ll be using to make yet another Pinterest project later on (hopefully later this weekend!).  

On a completely different note, I found this pic on Pinterest and immediately thought of my hubby.  I texted it to him & he said “I feel his pain”.

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There you go!  Happy Thursday 🙂