In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Friday, September 30, 2011

Apple Crisp and Easy Caramel Apple Bars

Yesterday I shared this post about a trip to the apple orchard.  While the girls were doing their own apple picking, I was picking a few Jonathan apples to purchase for some yummy fall baking.  These recipes are from a Betty Crocker website, and they are great recipes to have on hand for such an occasion as apple picking.

Apple Crisp

4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 cups)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cu all-purpose flour
½ cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Grease  9 inch pan and spread apples in pan.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients then sprinkle over apples.   Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla icecream on top.

Easy Caramel Apple Bars

1/2 cup cold butter
1 pouch oatmeal cookie mix
1 egg
1 cup finely chopped peeled apple (I used 2 cups)
¾ cup caramel topping ( I used one bag of caramel sqares instead)
¼ cup all-purpose flour (I didn’t use flour)

Cut butter into cookie mix and mix in egg.  Reserve 1 ½ cups of mixture.  Press remaining mixture into greased 9x13 inch pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle apples on top of mixture.  Add caramel.  Add remaining mixture.  Bake for 20-25minutes.  Cool completely before serving.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Apple Orchard

         I can't believe September is almost over!  Seriously, where did this month go?  September brings apples around here, and I’ve been wanting to take the girls to the apple orchard all month.  With only a few days of September left, my window of opportunity was coming to a close.  Today was the only day of the week that weather cooperated for us to go apple picking, so we took advantage of the warm sunshine and finally made a trip to Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield, In.  I really like this apple orchard.  Everything is reasonably priced, and the fall experience of apple picking is priceless. The girls had a blast picking their own apples and playing in the kids play area.   Here are a few pics from our afternoon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pepperoni Pinwheels

         It’s fall, and that means football.  In our house, certain food just goes with a football game.  For example, chili is a classic Sunday football meal.  Nachos of any kind are great for a weekend game.  And of course you have chicken wings and jalapeƱo poppers that are in the “classic game food” category as well.   One thing that Matt often request for a football game snack is pepperoni pinwheels.  He loves these little bite size pizza snacks, and he can easily devour a whole plate of them before half time.  I don’t mind making them for him at all, because they are a five ingredient snack that is quick and easy. 

2 cans of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 package of pepperoni
1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
dried oregano
pizza sauce

Open  can of dough and cut dough in half.  Unroll both of the halves. Top the dough liberally with pepperoni.  Add cheese and sprinkle dried oregano on top of the cheese.  Roll up each half and cut each half into eight “pinwheels”.  Follow the directions on the can of dough for baking.  Each can of crescent rolls will make 16 “pinwheels” yielding  32 total.  Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Help - Book and Movie Review

           A few weeks ago, my mom came up to visit me for the weekend, so I could take her to see The Help.   I devoured the book in two days.   When the movie came out, I knew my mom was the perfect person to enjoy it with.  Of course my mom loved the movie, even though she sobbed through the majority of it.  The movie was great, but as it is usually my opinion, the book was even better.  There were certain parts in the book that the movie kind of brushed over for sake of time, so I recommend reading the book to get the whole story. 
            The Help is definitely a must-read on my recommended book list this year.   I love the way Kathryn Stockett tells a historical/fictional story from a unique perspective while stirring all sorts of emotions in the reader.  This book is powerful yet comical, but in the end, it makes the reader realize and appreciate how far our nation has come in just a few short decades.  So if you’re looking for a good read, go to your local bookstore and pick up The Help.   After reading the book, treat yourself to the movie… won’t be disappointed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Zucchini Bread

              Yesterday, I shared my vegetable stew recipe with you and mentioned that I made it when my mom was visiting me a few weeks ago.  Every few months, my mom comes up and visits me for a weekend.  When she was here two weeks ago, we spent Saturday afternoon doing some fall cooking.  She wanted my recipe for vegetable stew and I wanted her recipe for zucchini bread.  That morning, I took her to the farmer’s market and got all of my fresh produce for the week and any ingredients that we needed for our afternoon in the kitchen.  The zucchini, squash and corn were to die for!  After stopping by a few garage sales, we went back to my house and began our recipe swap.  First, I showed her how I make my vegetable stew, and then she shared with me her zucchini bread recipe.  Here is her recipe, and boy is it moist and delicious!  This bread also freezes really well.  I make a couple loafs at a time and keep single size servings in the freezer, so I can eat small, guilt-free portions throughout the fall season.

½ c. oil
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. nuts (optional)
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 c. shredded zucchini
2 c. flour
3 tsp vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon

Mix ingredients together, pour into greased bread pans and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until done.  Yields to loaves.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vegetable Stew

        Today, I’m going to share with you my vegetable stew recipe.  Fall is in the air around here, and this is the perfect stew to make late summer and early fall.  I call it a stew instead of a soup, because it is so hearty.  This is the best time of year to get fresh produce at the farmer's market, and I add a little bit of meat to my stew to make it even heartier.  I made this stew a couple of weeks ago when my mom was visiting.  My mom loves this meal and wanted to make it with me, so she knew exactly I what was in it.  It’s only been two weeks since my mom visited, and Matt has already requested vegetable stew again for this weekend.  Who am I to disappoint him?  Looks like this recipe is on my weekend menu; )

2 squash
2 zucchini
4-6 ears of corn (canned corn is fine too)
8-12 baby red potatoes or baby Yukon potatoes
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 onion
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
1 tbs. crushed garlic
2 tbs. dried parsley
1-2 tbs. salt give or take a little
1-2 tbs. pepper give or take a little
½ c sugar if needed
1- 1½  c. tomato juice
1-2 c. beef stock in box
1 c. vegetable stock in box
1 package of Hormel Beef Au Jus Roast

Roughly chop up all vegetables and put in a large pot.  Add entire can of diced tomatoes.  Add garlic and parsley.  Add all other liquid ingredients.  My measurements on the liquids vary to taste.  Follow microwave direction on the Beef Au Jus.  You could actually make your own roast and au jus, but the packaged beef au jus is much easier for this recipe and taste just as good.  Cut up the beef and add the beef and the au jus to the mixture. Add salt and pepper.  I’m not exact on those measurements.  I just add them to taste.  Add sugar if needed.  I only add the sugar if the stew is too acidic from the tomatoes.  Sometimes I add canned sweet corn and the sweet corn liquid instead of adding sugar.  Bring soup to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Free Dates with the Hubs

            Do you ever feel as though you only see your spouse in passing throughout the week?  Matt and I often feel like that.  That’s why we make a point to have a weekly date night, which usually ends up being on a Friday or Saturday.  We don’t spend a lot of money on our weekly dates.  In fact, I always look at my local community website or the Indianapolis city website to see what free events we can take advantage of for our weekly dates. 
            Last week we ended up going to a local park to watch free movies under the starry sky.  Our town has Movies at the Park on Friday nights during the months of August and September.  Most of the showings are kid-friendly, so it’s a great thing for young families to do on a Friday night.  But last week was a little bit different, because Movies at the Park was showing a double feature (one movie for a kid/family audience and one for an adult audience), so Matt and I decided that Movies at the Park would be our date for the week.  We dressed in warm layers for the brisk fall-like evening, packed up the car with chairs, blankets, dinner and movie snacks. We then made a five minute drive down the street to the local park to watch Shreck Happily Ever After and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The sad thing is that we were really tired after the first movie, and we found ourselves packing up our things at the intermission along with the other families who had small children eager to go home and go to bed. Yep….I’m pretty sure that means that we’re just getting old…..too old to stay out late and watch the grown up movie with all of the other grown ups.  Oh well, I don’t have a problem with getting old, and Matt and I had a great time regardless of which movie we ended up watching. 
            The next morning, we went to another free event that our community has annually, Art in the Park, and today we went to Oktoberfest when Matt got home from work.  So if you are looking for inexpensive things to do with your spouse, check out your community web page to see what kind of events you can enjoy together.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I've Got Nothin'......

                 I apologize that it has been so long since my last post.  I haven’t made a point to post in over a week.  Every now and then, I get in “blogging funks” when I can’t seem to find the words to post even though I have a list of things I want to post about.  Are there any other bloggers out there who know what I’m talking about?  You know… when you go to your computer, and you know what you want to write about….but the words don’t come to your brain…so the fingers don’t press down on the keyboard….and the page just sits blank….and before you know it, you find yourself leaving the Blogger website all together and arriving on  Facebook or some other pointless site that you never intended to go on, yet you find yourself spending countless wasted minutes there….or even worse, you put the computer away completely and grab a book for the remainder of your evening not giving another thought to your blog until the following day.  Yep, that’s kind of how it’s been for me these past few days.  Oh yes, I’ve had many attempts at writing a post, but at the end of each night……. I’ve got nothin’. 
                Today isn’t any different really.  I’ve had a couple of great weekends and I want to share them with you.  And I’ve decorated my house for fall and can’t wait to write about this favorite season of mine that brings such beautiful colors, cool weather and fun festivals.  I’ve also got a couple of projects and recipes I want to share with you, but I just can’t get my little blogging self together to put them into a post for you.  It’s like my mind has been everywhere but here lately.
               So, here’s to me getting my mind focused and back to normal.  Hopefully, I will have more for you tomorrow….but until then….I’ve got nothin’.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Will Never Forget

        There are certain days of my youth that I remember very well.  You know what I’m talking about, for you remember those days too.  I’m talking about the kind of days that changed the pages of our history books.  For example, I remember coming home from school as a fifth grader and having the television images of the Oklahoma City bombing be forever etched in my mind.  I was only in Jr. High when Princess Diana died, but like the rest of the world, I watched her funeral from my living room thousands of miles away.   As a freshman in high school, I vividly remember the Columbine shootings that took away my generation’s high school innocence with the enforcement of metal detectors, school cameras and security officers sharing school hallways with students.   But above all of these markers in history, I remember September 11, 2001.  I remember this day like it was yesterday.
            I was a senior in high school at the time.   When the first plane hit, I was in a first hour study hall with just a few other kids.  I remember my teacher turning on the radio to listen to the news after he was informed about the first tower being hit by an airplane.  Before second hour was over, the news had reported that the second tower had been hit as well as the Pentagon.  By lunch time, I was very aware that my country was under attack.  Being only seventeen at the time, I soon realized that this act of terror meant that America had entered a new kind of war, and that it would be my generation who would go over seas to fight this new kind of war.  When I went to my after-school job, I passed gas stations with lines that were as far as the eyes could see.  Long gone were the days of gas prices under one dollar.   When I arrived at work, there was a small T.V. at the counter that had been pulled out of the back room, and my co-worker and I watched the footage on the news for hours.  Not a soul entered the Hallmark shop that I worked in that night, so we closed the shop two hours early.   When I drove to school that morning, my mind was filled with thoughts about SAT scores, the senior play and the Friday night ball game, but when I drove home from work that night, those thoughts couldn’t be farther from my mind.   Life as I knew it ~ as every American knew it, would never be the same.  It didn’t take me long to realize that my children would never be able to experience the kind of world that I lived in before 9-11, for 9-11 would change everything. 
            It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since that dreadful day. While it is important to remember the horrors of that day, it is also important to remember that heroes rose above the ashes that day.  Let us never forget the first responders that walked up the steps of those towers, many of them knowing that they would not make it back down.  Let us never forget the office workers who stopped to save the lives of others and lost their lives in return. Let us never forget that aboard the same aircraft as the terrorist were civilian men and women fighting in a war that they did not enlist in, for this war did not exist when they woke up that morning. 
            We can not escape the death of that tragic day, but we can also not escape the heroism that was born that day among our American citizens.  The enemy took many  things away from us  that day, but they can not take away the sacrificial acts of kindness that were shown in offices, stairwells and aircrafts that very same day.  Nor can they take away the sacrifices that were made by the soldiers that would proudly put on an American uniform in days to follow and fight for our freedom in a dessert land far away from home, or by the volunteers that would dig through the piles of rubble for the following days and months after the towers collapsed, or by the construction workers that would spend the next ten years turning the piles of ashes and debris into a beautiful memorial for all Americans to honor those who lost their lives on that day.  While the enemy took away our innocence and with it thousands of lives on that horrific day, they can not take away the American spirit that existed ten years ago and still exist today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ruffle Ribbon Lamp

           A while back, I transformed these Goodwill lamps seen here and here into functional lamps for my home.  Around the same time, I came across this post at Big Lives and was inspired to create a similar lamp for our master bedroom. 
            I wish I had a before and after pic of my lamp, but I forgot to take pictures before and during this process.  Using an ugly $2 lamp base from a garage sale, a $1cream lamp shade from Goodwill, leftover ribbon and spray paint from previous projects and my hot glue gun, I was able to make this lamp for $3.  I spent $4 on the ribbon for a previous project and $2 on the paint, so this project would cost someone $9 at the most.
            This project was easy.  All I did was form ruffles with my ribbon while hot gluing it to the lamp shade.  I used two kinds of ribbon, forming five layers of ruffles.  Lastly, I spray painted the lamp silver.  I think it looks pretty good on my dresser.  It adds to the vintage feel of our bedroom.  What do you think?  Not too bad for $3 huh?  Gotta love repurposing someone else’s junkJ

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflecting on My Summer

            As you all know, I am a nanny for two little girls, so I thought that I'd take a few minutes and share some of our summer fun in this post.   During the summer, I take the girls out of the house just about everyday, because their parents run a business out of the home.  For this reason, it tends to be a lot easier for everyone if I take the girls out and about to burn energy and have fun.
            One of the best things about living in the Indy area is that there is so much to do.  I try to occasionally share things on my blog that Matt and I do as a couple, but there are a ton of kid-friendly things to do in our area as well.  For starters, there are ton of great parks on the north side of Indy.  I can think of five or six nice ones within a ten minute drive from the house.  Two of my favorite parks to take the girls to are Brook School Park and Holland ParkBrook School Park has all knew equipment and the kids love it.  My absolute favorite park is Holland Park, because it is the most family-friendly park with two playgrounds, basketball courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, sand volley ball courts, walking paths, restrooms, and plenty of shade.  It's a great place to take kids for a picnic or bike ride, because there is always a breeze.  And of course, if it is too hot for a regular park, the local splash park is a great alternative to spending a hot summer day at the neighborhood pool.
            Now what would our summer be like without our local library, farmers markets, summer camps (Hamilton Sports Complex), summer fairs cream, yes lots and lots of ice cream.  We have so many great ice cream places close to our home, but one of the girl’s favorite places to get a cool treat this summer has been Orange Leaf.  I gotta tell ya that I don't mind that one bit, because it's actually the sugar free fat free chocolate frozen yogurt that the girls love.  And since Orange Leaf cost per ounce, I only give the girls a small portion of what I know they will eat. 
            When your looking to take your kids out for much more than a cool treat, Indy has really fun educational places to the kids that require a little more work on the parents part and little more from your wallet too.  Some of these places include  Conner Prairie, The Indianapolis Children's Museum, The Indianapolis Zoo and Carter Toy Museum.  These are all fantastic places to take kids, so check out the websites for more details.   I’ve lost track of how many times the girls have gone to these places this summer, and they never seem to get bored of it.  If you go to these places often, I recommend getting the yearly membership to save yourself a little bit of money.
            Of course there are those days when the kids need to burn energy, it's too hot be outside and you don’t want to break your wallet.  One of the many bounce zones in our area are perfect for days like that.  My favorite bounce zone is Monkey Joes near Castleton Square.  I think it's the most parent-friendly of all the bounce zones, but lately the girls have taken a liking to Snapperz located near Clay Terrace.  Snapperz has more than bounce houses, but they don't open till so plan your day wisely. 
            Other than bounce zones, kid-friendly arcades are a great place to take the kids when you don’t want the kids to get too hyper.  You can't go wrong with  Chuckee Cheese and you can always find coupons on the internet.  The girls also like Ben and Aris  for arcade fun and miniture golf.  Right next to Ben and Aris is Pinheads.  I personally love taking the girls to Pinheads, because they have their Play-A-Lot zone that has play centers, a huge play place and rock climbing wall that keeps the girls entertained for hours.  The best part is that Play-A-Lot only cost $2 for admission.  Pinheads also has an arcade and duckpin bowling to keep the kids  entertained. 
            On rainy days the movie theatre is a great place to take the kids. During the summer, our theatre has $1 movies playing every day at   You can't go wrong with that price.  The girls also like to get their toes painted at the local nail salon or spend their allowance at the local mall.  Castleton Square Mall is a great place to take them, because they have an indoor play area.
            So there ya have it.  This is how the girls and I have spent our summer.  We’ve had lots of fun at parks, pools, libraries, movies, bounce zones, play places, zoos and kid-friendly museums.  If you live in the Indy area and you’re looking to get out of the house with your kids, I’ve given you plenty of ideas. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Food, Family, Fellowship....Labor Day Weekend

       I can't believe it's already Labor Day weekend!  Where did the summer go?  One of the best things about Labor Day is spending time with family.   Every few months we drive two hours south to celebrate family birthdays at my mother-in-laws home, but yesterday, everyone drove up to our house to celebrate September birthdays and Labor Day.   

        We had a really great time with family. I wish I would have taken more pictures of our day.  I am horrible at remembering to take pictures when we have family get-togethers, but this candid shot says it all.  There's just something about food, family and fellowship that make for a perfect day.

       Another plus to having Matt's family over was the addition of masculinity that we had in house for one day.  A special thanks to my brother-in-laws.  These manly men volunteered to help take a huge armoire that has been sitting in our garage all summer upstairs to our bedroom.  This sucker is heavy, so I'm truly thankful for the additional muscles we had in our house yesterday.  Now that the armoire is not in the sweltering garage, I can get around to refinishing it.  I’m hoping to have this big project finished in the next week or so.

      Matt and I really enjoyed what will probably end up being our last cookout of the summer.  We had a great time with his family, and we can't wait to do it again.