Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Not Thanksgiving Without . . . (Revised)

Cranberry Relish. Along with my grandmother's fabulous stuffing and her perfect pie crusts, this fruit salad completes Thanksgiving; the holiday is not the same without it. You can eat it as a side, as a dessert, or in place of gravy on your turkey breast (my favorite). This is also a perfect "make-ahead recipe" that can wait in the refrigerator until you need it.

Note: My grandmother is notorious for writing down recipes using terms like "a pinch of this" and "add to taste" insted of more exact measurements like 1/4 teaspoon, so taste along the way if you try this recipe.

1 large* package jello (I use cherry or strawberry, something that will not overpower the taste of the fruit; if I can find it, cranberry-flavored jello is the best.)

2 cups boiling water

Mix in a large bowl.

1 lb. fresh cranberries

2-3 oranges

2-3 apples

1-2 cups chopped nuts (We've always used walnuts.)

Chop the fruit (I don't peel the oranges) and nuts using a food processor. Add fruit to the jello in the large bowl. Mix well while adding 3 cups sugar. (Yes, that is a lot of sugar, but remember that cranberries and oranges are tart fruits and you need to make the salad palatable. If you are concerned, start with half the amount and add sugar a half-cup at a time until it tastes good to you.) Chill in the refrigerator.

*Now, this recipe fed my grandmother's family which included up to five adult children and their families. You could try using a small package of jello instead; just use 1 cup boiling water instead, and add less fruit to the mix.

**I apologize for the formatting of this post - I have been having trouble with it lately and I don't know how to correct it. It seems that Blogger can have a mind of its own sometimes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Real Mom Authors

If you scroll down to the end of the sidebar on this page you will notice that the author list is expanding! Yup, that's right, you get to hear from other moms now! I'm so excited for this, not just because I won't feel so obligated to post frequently but because these moms are awesome and I can't wait to hear their ideas or at least hear that they have the same dilemmas that I do! We're in this together right?! So, stay tuned for great things to come! And thanks again to my friends for taking pity on me and agreeing to contribute!

P.S. NEVER type in "moms" for a google image search. Seriously, the results were appauling! Type in something more specific, not so much to get what you're looking for, but to not get what you're not looking for. So we are going pictureless for this post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alternatives to Babysitters

As I mentioned in the last post, getting out for dates becomes expensive with kids but in a lot of ways it's even more important. I hate to put the Beehives out of business, but here's some alternatives to paying for a babysitter:

1. Group Date Exchange- Form a group of couples to go out with. Each couple takes a turn being the babysitters while the other couples go out together. You can do this sporadically or on a regular schedule (once a week/month).
2. Temple Playgroup- It's hard to get to the temple when you have kids, especially together. I know the youth are encouraged to babysit for free for couples going to the temple, but I don't feel comfortable asking someone to come babysit without pay. In our ward we have temple playgroup. Twice a month we meet at someone's house and half of the moms will go to the temple and half will watch the kids. That way the kids get to play together, the babysitters get to socialize and moms go to the temple. We do it on a weekday morning for the ladies but you could do it in the evening if you wanted to make it a couple outing.
3. Couple Exchanges- Whether it's for the temple or just a date. Find a couple that will swap babysitting with you.
4. Babysitting Co-op- In my last ward (our church group) we did this and it's the most detailed system but the most fair. Participating moms get tickets to exchange for babysitting (everyone starts with 20). Each ticket is worth one hour of babysitting for one child. Each month everyone in the group picks at least two, three-hour slots when they will do babysitting in their home (morning, afternoon, or evening). Then everyone gets a calendar of the days and times people signed up for. If you need someone during their time call them and bring your kids over. Then pay them with your tickets (depending on how long and how many kids you brought). The more times you babysit the more tickets you earn. This system was a life-saver when my husband moved out to Georgia before us and I was alone with three small children for three months. I had collected a lot of tickets the months prior to the birth of my third child and when he was 6 weeks and my husband was gone and I needed to pack I cashed in on my babysitting. Anyone interested that would like more details on this system, e-mail me and I'll send you more info.

Date Night

When you have kids, getting out for a date not only gets harder to find time for but gets more expensive too. I'm far too cheap to get a babysitter so we try to find things we can do at home after the kids go to bed. Here's just a few:

1. Movie night at home- Pop in a movie and pop some popcorn after your kids go to bed or if you have two tvs you could put the kids in another room with their own movie). Not a new idea but there's a few ways to do this. You can always watch a movie from your own collection but you can also swap movies with friends. I also like getting movies from the library. They're free (but ony a week so watch those late fees) and depending on your library there's usually a pretty good selection of shows. I've even been able to find new releases. You could also pull up tv episodes online to watch together or subscribe to Netflix.

2. Adult Dinner Night- So when you have kids your menus often become limited to their tastes. So plan a night where you cook a grown-up meal together to enjoy (after the kids go to bed)! It's nice to have your husband help with the cooking and not have little kids pulling at your legs while you prepare. You can use this as a time to try out new recipes too.

3. Game Night- Pull out your games and invite some friends if possible.

4. Projects- Make a homemade Christmas gift for your kid(s) or someone else. Or have another project or hobby to do together.
Alright, I'm out of ideas. As you can see, I'm not very good at this so what ideas do you have?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Seasons, Soups, and Service

I love Fall, especially now that we have trees to change color! But one thing that makes Autumn so grand is the reintroduction of soups to my menu! Mmmm! The one pictured above is my mom's potatoe soup that is creamy and yum! Okay, so my mom didn't invent the recipe but it was one of my favorite meals growing up. I say meal because she always made this scrumptious cornbread to go with it. This is not the southern crumbly, stiff, real corn cornbread. This one's moist and sweet (especially if you drizzle on honey)! My kids devour this stuff! I was trying to decide today if this meal is as good as my mind has made it or if it's good for sentimental reasons. This meal makes me think of my mom and family and cool Vegas evenings of winter and service. Yes service, this is the meal my mom made when she was taking a meal to someone, which was often because my mom's great that way. I remember holding the warm pot on my lap and breathing in the scent of soupy goodness while my mom drove to someone's house to bring them a much-needed meal. It felt good, it smelt good. I remember one night my mom was making a huge pot of soup and told me she just wanted to take some dinner to some friends she thought needed it. Nothing says you care like a pot of mom's yummy soup! So here's the recipe. It makes a bunch, I half it and still have leftovers (which is fine by me). But maybe you can make the whole thing and give half to someone who could use it, I think it tastes better that way!
Cream of Potato Soup
boil until pot. done:
12 chicken boullion cubes
3 quarts water
1 heaping tbsp. parsley flake
1 heaping tbsp minced onions (or I just use a little onion powder)
1-2 large carrots (add a little later, cooks faster than potatoes)
6-10 potatoes
2 cans condensed milk or 1 qt half & half
Mix and melt in pan
2 cubes butter
1 1/2 c flour
Skim some soup into roux and beat with whisk then add to soup. Simmer 5 minutes (not too long, milk separates).
Jacquee's Cornbread
2 c Bisquick
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cornmeal
1/2 t bake soda
Stir in:
1 c milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 cubes melted butter
Pour into 9x13 pan and bake 20-25 min. at 350.
Serve warm with honey.
Got a favorite soup recipe? Everyone should! Share yours as a comment or e-mail me!
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Learning about bones

A friend of ours broke his wrist and my daughter became very worried she might brake a bone. So we talked about our bones and did this fun activity I did while student teaching:


  • Find a picture of a skeleton (I have a couple good ones, e-mail me and I'll send it as an attachment)
  • Lay a piece of paper on top of the skeleton sketch and trace the body to fit around it
  • Give your child the traced body to color to look like them (light colors).
  • Staple the coloring on top of the skeleton, align bones into body again, and staple.
  • If you have a light box use it as an "x-ray viewer" or just hold the papers up to the light. What's inside?
  • Sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "Hinges"
  • Talk about how strong your bones are and food that will help make your bones strong.
  • Use a piece of cardboard and straws to make a "skeleton hand." Show them a glove and talk about how floppy it is on it's own (like our skin). Then insert the "bones" and talk about how our bones give us shape and support.

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My family is starting a new tradition this year I thought I'd share for anyone that wants to try it or share their own tradition! Starting November first we've been doing "Days of Thanksgiving." Every evening we all say one thing we are grateful for and write it on a paper chain (or you could use a leaf garland). This chain will be displayed for our Thanksgiving dinner (the table if it fits). I'm also writing a post each day for my blessing. I'm thinking this might be a good lead in for some Thanksgiving or December service, "because I have been given much I too must give." Simple idea but I'm all excited! What are some Thanksgiving traditions your family does or ways to inspire an attitute of gratitude?