Candy Flower Cupcakes

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My 8-year-old helped me decorate these amazingly simple cupcakes for her birthday this year.  I simply made cupcakes with a boxed cake mix and frosted them with store-bought frosting.  I chose to make lemon cake with cream cheese icing, but feel free to choose whichever flavors you like best.  Then my daughter used M&Ms to create the cute flower on each one.  We were really pleased with the results and it was a fun and simple activity to do together!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix + ingredients to make it
  • frosting (from grocery store or homemade)
  • M&Ms candies

Directions:

Make cupcakes according to package directions.  Let cool.  Frost.  Use M&Ms to make a flower on each cupcake.  Enjoy!

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Valentine’s Day Candy Bark

For some odd reason I decided to make our bark in a pie pan.  Bad idea–stick to waxed paper on a jellyroll pan.  I love how the salty pretzels help offset the sweet of the candy bark.  Once the candy has melted, you’ll want to work quickly so that it doesn’t set before you place your decorations on it.  Thanks to Wilton for the original idea!

Valentine’s Day Candy Bark

Ingredients:

  • white candy bark
  • chocolate candy bark
  • pretzel twists
  • M&Ms
  • sprinkles

Directions:

Line jellyroll pan with wax paper.  In microwave safe bowl, melt white candy bark according to package directions.  Spread over wax paper in thin layer.  Lightly place pretzels on white bark as desired.  Melt 1/4 to 1/3 package of chocolate candy bark according to package directions.  Carefully spoon into openings of pretzels, covering pretzel so that it resembles a chocolate heart in the center.  Place M&M or desired candy in middle of pretzel hearts.  Decorate white bark with sprinkles.  Leave at room temperature or put in cool place to harden.  Break into pieces and store in airtight container.

10 Tips to be an Awesome House Guest #1

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Since we find ourselves in the position of being extended guests of late, I thought a post about how to be a great house guest would be appropriate.  Having been both the guest and the host, I’ve come at this issue from both sides.  Both roles can be quite challenging!  Here are ten tips to help keep both the guest and host sane:

  • Communicate!  Keep the lines of communication open at all times, so both parties feel comfortable bringing up problem areas.  It’s also good to communicate about expectations, meal plans, daily activities, shopping for supplies, etc.  You don’t need to get permission for every little thing, but it’s courteous to keep one another in the information loop.
  • Ask for a house tour and tips.  Your host will probably welcome the chance to show you around the house, let you know what is off-limits, and show you how things work.  If they care about their home, they will likely be relieved that you care enough to ask.
  • Help buy household goods.  When you see that a household supply is getting low or you have just finished the hand soap, why not go out and replenish that item?  To be on the safe side, I would recommend buying an exact replica.  Your host may be partial to a particular brand or scent.
  • Bring a host gift.  It’s a great way to show your appreciation to your hosts by bringing a thoughtful token gift.  It doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant, but do put some thought into it.  A few ideas: chocolate or other yummy food, wine (if your host is so inclined), flowers/house plant, gift card and handwritten note, or a special item which fits their interests.
  • Keep your room/area tidy.  This is a no-brainer, but it still warrants being said.  Nothing will get your hosts upset with you quicker than if you leave their house messy.  Even if you have a private guest room to yourself, it shows respect to your hosts when you keep it looking nice.  Of course it also makes sense to clean up after yourself in the common areas, as well.
  • Help with pet care.  You don’t need to take on full-time pet care, but it’s thoughtful to help care for your host’s pets when there is a need and you’re available.  Make sure you are familiar with the particulars of caring for their pet before you jump right in.  You don’t want to give them the wrong food or something.  A few easy tasks are feeding, taking the dog for a walk, or changing the cat’s litter.
  • Spend time away from your hosts.  Even if you and your hosts are having the time of your lives together, it’s beneficial to both parties when you can spend some time apart.  Don’t be afraid to make plans to see a movie, go shopping, or go to the library.  When you come back together again, you will feel more refreshed and energized.
  • Help with dishes and meal clean-up.  This is just common courtesy and it helps the household run more smoothly.  If your host has been kind enough to prepare a meal for you, why not be kind enough to wash the dishes for them?
  • Limit your bathroom time.  This is especially important when the bathroom facilities are limited!  Try to take reasonable showers and bathroom breaks so that you’re not preventing others from using the facilities.  Ask your host when it would be most convenient for you to shower.  You don’t want to mess up their morning routine!  Also, try not to use up all the hot water.  😦
  • Buy groceries.  If you’re staying for more than a meal or two, you should definitely be helping with the grocery bill.  You could offer to go with to the grocery store and foot the bill, if your host already has the menu planned.  Or you could plan some meals yourself (ask when it would be a good time for you to cook) and go purchase the necessary groceries.  It’s also nice to get the occasional treat for everybody–donuts, snack food, or pantry staples.  Again, ask your host if there are certain brands they prefer.

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Spoons Game Giveaway – Cross Promotion

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Howdy Moms!  I’m promoting my giveaway for the game of Spoons on this site, as well as on my game-themed site.  It struck me that moms might want to participate in this giveaway too, and score a fun game to play with their family.  I love playing this game with a bunch of kids.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s open to U.S. residents and ends on February 28, 2017.  Good luck to you!

Fried Plantains

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Fried plantains are one of my favorite foods to snack on!  The key is to buy a couple of plantains and let them sit until they turn black and look like they’re basically inedible.  At that point, check them to see how soft/firm they are.  You’ll want them to be a sort of medium firmness–not hard but not too mushy.  They are addicting!

Fried Plantains

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 plantains (1 feeds about 2 people)
  • canola oil (try other oils for a slightly different taste)

Directions:

Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Peel plantain by cutting in half, slicing off other end, and making a slit down the length of the skin.  Peel skin off of fruit.  Slice plantain into coins.  Once oil is heated, place sliced plantain in hot oil to fry.  Flip and fry other side once bottom is golden-dark brown, depending on your preference.  Once fried on both sides, remove to paper towel-lined plate to cool slightly.  Enjoy!

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L’BRI Skin Care Products Giveaway — CLOSED

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It’s been a long time since I last hosted a giveaway, and it’s time to make it a regular habit again!  This month I’m giving away a tube of L’BRI aloe vera barbadensis jelly, a vitamin E stick, and a sample of their intense moisture cream.  The aloe vera jelly is awesome at speeding up the healing process and I’ve used it many times on myself and my children.  The vitamin E stick keeps lips moist and provides a bit of SPF, too.  If you’re not from Wisconsin, you have probably never heard of L’BRI products.  It’s a local company which uses aloe as the first ingredient in its skin care, beauty and home products.  If you want to learn more about the company, visit their site.

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open to participants within the 48 contiguous United States and will end on Feb. 28, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

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I believe that I found this recipe on allrecipes.com.  But honestly, I can’t remember anymore.  The point is that I love, love, love these appetizers!  They are very messy, so have forks and napkins ready.  If you prefer less sauce, they are just as good with half of the called-for amount.  I especially enjoy serving these at Christmas or New Year’s parties.

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans water chestnuts, drained

Directions:

In small bowl combine brown sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut bacon strips in half.  Wrap one halved slice of bacon around each water chestnut.  Secure with a toothpick or place seam-side down in 9″ x 13″ cake pan.  Bake wraps about 45 minutes for crispness.  (If desired you can broil them in metal pan for about 15 minutes instead.)  Remove from oven and drain grease from pan.  You can use a cooling rack to keep wraps in place when pan is tilted for draining.  Drizzle refrigerated sauce over wraps and bake 30-35 minutes more.  Let cool slightly.  Serve warm.

*Note: This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  If preferred, you can halve the amount of brown sugar, ketchup and Worcestershire that you use.

Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

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I got this recipe years ago from a friend at church.  She brought them to a baby shower and I had to get the recipe for myself!  My family loves them and we had fun brainstorming alternative fillings.

Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz. mild green chiles, drained
  • 1 C. shredded cheddar
  • 2 Tbsp. taco seasoning (optional)
  • 4-5 flour tortillas

Directions:

In medium bowl, mix sour cream, cream cheese, chiles, cheddar, and taco seasoning (if desired).  Spread evenly on tortillas.  Roll up each tortilla somewhat tightly.  Place in gallon ziploc or wrap in plastic wrap.  Put in fridge to chill.  Once chilled and firm, place on cutting board and slice into bite-size spirals.  Serve with salsa.

*Variation: luncheon meat & diced dill pickle instead of green chiles (omit taco seasoning)

Chocolate Cavity-Maker Cake

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When I want a rich, chocolatey cake this is my go-to recipe.  It’s heavenly when it’s just warm and the chocolate chips are gooey.  Enjoy it with a hot cup of coffee or tea!  I got this recipe from my dad who printed it off of allrecipes.com.  It looks like their version is slighty different from mine, though.

Chocolate Cavity-Maker Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box dark chocolate cake mix
  • 1 sm. box instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 C. canola oil
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/4 C. coffee
  • 1 C. chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10″ bundt pan.  In lg. bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil, milk, and coffee.  Beat until well blended.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Batter will be thick.  Spoon into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour or until cake springs back when lightly tapped.  Cool about 10 minutes in pan, loosen sides with thing spatula or knife, and turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar to make pretty.  Best served warm.

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