Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cooking Thursday

I made a yummy potato side dish last week.  It was quick and easy to put together and so good!  The leftovers even heated up well.

Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds small (2 inch) redskin potatoes (or cut to size)
6 tablespoons olive oil
seasoned salt and ground pepper to taste
4 pieces crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (yes - 500!)
Scrub potatoes and lay on baking sheet with sides.  Pour about 3/4 cup water into baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove potatoes from oven, drain and let cool for 10 minutes.
Toss with 3 tablespoons oil and place back onto baking sheet.
Take a cup and smash potatoes to about 1/2 " thick.
Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.
Place back into 500 degree oven and place on top rack.  Bake for 15 minutes.
Move potatoes to a lower rack and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese and bacon over all.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes to melt cheese.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tip for Tuesday

Today I have a pie baking tip for you.  Many pie recipes tell you to put strips of foil on the edge of your pie crust the first part of baking it.  I always had trouble getting those strips to stay on the pie when I moved it into the oven.  I came up with another idea that I've been using for years!

 Cut a piece of foil large enough to cover your whole pie.  Fold it in half, and then in half again so it makes a square.

 Cut a piece out of the center, the size of the pie center, then unfold the remaining piece.

 Place that piece over the pie, leaving center open, and press foil around the edges of the crust. Remove foil when there is 15 minutes left to bake the pie.

Take pie out of oven and you will find that the crust is a uniform, golden brown!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Don't be cruel...

My friend Cheryl, did a post last week where she talked about the poem by T.S. Elliot, in which he states "April is the cruelest month".  Some parts of April are wonderful - like the melting of snow and the arrival of warmth and flowers.  However, I have to agree that at other times it can be cruel, and this year it seems especially true!

After a long, cold winter I was so happy to see the snow melt, the sun shine and the flowers start to bloom.  This past week though, has not been so cheery.  Cold temps, freeze warning and that awful four letter word that starts with S has made its way to Michigan.   It's not bad when compared to January and February, but it's still hard to take once Spring has arrived.

There was a lot of moaning and groaning when snow started to fall.  Staff and residents were not happy to see it arrive!

This little nest was barely built last week when the snow started up.  I haven't seen Mama Robin in it since then so she may have moved elsewhere.
I believe this should be the end of the snow though.  It's still cool, but Sunday has been sunny!

So, April may have it's cruel moments, but when the sun shines, and the flowers start to bloom, I'm happy!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


I've posted before about Swagbucks, but it's been awhile and I thought there may be some of you who don't know about it.
Swagbucks is a website where you do searches (like Google), but along with the information you get, you may win Swagbucks. When you collect enough Swagbucks, you may trade them in for prizes or gift certificates. I've been using it for several years and have gotten lots of free stuff through it. You can get most anything from Amazon; I buy a lot of Christmas gifts this way.  I got my DSLR camera, a toddler bed, bookcase, a Kindle Fire and that's the larger items.  I've also gotten books, household goods, skin products, printer ink...
You can get gift certificates for lots of other stores, restaurants, paypal... if you don't want to use Amazon.

Here's what I do to get Swagbucks.
1) Here is what I do every morning to get 3 easy bucks.
a) on the top of the Swagbucks home page is a list of quick links. If you click the one that says answer you'll see a sub-heading that says daily poll.  Click on it and a poll will pop up.  Answer the daily question and you get another buck.
b) Next to the answer tab is one that says Discover.  Under it is a sub-heading called NOSO. Click on it, then go through it clicking "skip" and you'll get 2 bucks.
That's 3 easy bucks every day. In a month you can get 90 just by doing these things!
2) Do searches! I do a search every morning, again in the afternoon when I get home from work and another one later in the evening. You can search for anything - you never know what might win.  When searching, if what you put in doesn't get you anything, click on images. I often get bucks that way. 
3) Look at the home page. It has different offers on it.Sometimes it has videos that take only a few minutes to watch that will pay swagbucks. There are special offers that pay out swag bucks. Many of them aren't worth the hassle, but sometimes there are some easy ones that pay well.  You can also find special offers under the Discover tab.
4)  Also under the discover tab, is something called Encrave.  It involves watching videos, and you get swagbucks just for playing them.
5)  There is a tab called Play.  If you hit it, there are a bunch of games to choose from.  Every 2 times you play, you get 2 swagbucks and you can get up to 10 swagbucks a day this way.
6) The swagbuck people give out codes that give you bucks; usually between 2 and 6. These codes are given out usually daily on the weekdays and they may do one on the weekend. You can find out about these codes by following the Swagbucks blog or checking the swagbucks facebook page. The other thing you can do (which is my main way to find them) is to go to Facebook, and like the swagcodez page. They will then send out a message to your Facebook page when there is a code.
7) On the tab called Answer is a subheading called trusted surveys. If you qualify for a survey you can get quite a few bucks. They have also recently added a link called Swagbucks TV. If you click on it you will find all kinds of videos to watch. They are all short and as you watch a gauge fills, which gives you 3 swagbucks.

These are my main ways of gathering swagbucks. I do a lot in the evening if the tv is on. It really doesn't take too much time and it's worth it!  If you have any questions feel free to ask here or shoot me an e-mail.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cooking Thursday

Here's a recipe for chicken and potatoes, that goes together very quickly and is tasty.  Just add a salad or vegetable and dinner is ready!

Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut in half
2 pounds redskin potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes*

Mix oil with seasonings in large bowl.  Add chicken and potatoes and toss to coat.
Arrange in single layer on foil lined 15x10x1 baking pan, lined with foil.
Roast in preheated 425 degree oven for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, turning potatoes occasionally.
*I used regular potatoes this time, because it's what I had on hand, but it looks prettier with the redskin variety.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Making Slime

Here's a fun activity to do with young kids.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and tried it out with Alaina.  It was easy to make and she had so much fun!

 Pour glue into a bowl, then add food coloring till you have your desired color.

 Add glitter!

 Stir it up and then add liquid starch.

 Mix it together, using your hands.

 Now you can play with it.  Roll it and stretch it.

 Spin it around...
Have lots of fun seeing how much you can make it stretch.  Alaina had fun making this and playing with it.  I sent it home in a Rubbermaid tub and Laura said she played with it again.   I don't know how long it lasts, but we got lots of enjoyment from it already.

Borax Free Slime

1 7 ounce bottle Elmers school glue
12/ to 3/4 cup liquid starch
food coloring
fine glitter

Pour bottle of glue into bowl and stir in food coloring to get desired color.  Then stir in the glitter.
Add starch in small increments at a time, mixing well.  After adding a little starch you'll have to use your hands to knead it and get it mixed.  As you add the starch, keep checking the stretchiness of the slime, and stop when it reaches the right consistency. (The woman who originally put this out, said she has never had to use all the starch.)
Have fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bob's latest carving

Many of you know that Bob does caricature carvings.  He is almost always working on one, whether it's planning, carving, assembling or painting.  He has a waiting list, and right now it's close to a year out.  People usually give an idea of what they want in the carving, or tell him what they are interested in along with several photo's so he has something to work from.
He recently did one for friends of ours.  The husband, Mark, asked some time back for a carving of his wife, and asked that it include her kayak.  Bob knew that a few of Jennifer's favorite things are reading her Bible and kayaking, so he included both in the carving.
I love watching these carvings come to life, from a block of wood, and part way through this one I decided to start taking pictures.  (I wish I had started earlier!)   He had most of this carved and was working on the fine details when I started.  Here's what I have.

Here's the body of this piece.  He does the arms and head separately, than attaches them and does a little more carving to blend them.

Here's the kayak, painted and getting fine tuned.

One of the things I love about his carvings is all the little details.

Here, he was working on a middle elevation piece, and was painting it to look like water.

Getting ready for more paint and assembly.  See the head sitting there?

Before he paints the pieces, he wood burns the lines.   It gets painted over, but adds depth.  The Bible has been painted, complete with red letter verses.

The base is now stained, and the rest of the piece is painted and assembled.  He put epoxy over the water section to add shine.

Close up of the face

Note the Michigan S on her shorts.  Mark played football for Michigan State, so they are big fans.  Also note the pink toenails!

The view from above...

The title plaque.  I like the way it ties together the Bible and the water.

The finished piece.  One thing I didn't take a  picture of is a little handprint he carves on each of his carvings.  The card he puts with each of them explains it like this:
When God formed man he figuratively left his hand prints on his creation. Genesis 1:27 says we are made in the image of God, reflecting his attributes and ways.
"By His Hands" carvings are the outcome of the creative gift God has given me. The mini hand print you will find on my pieces is there to give credit where it is due, to God alone.

I may be biased, but I think he's really talented, and I so enjoy seeing how each one comes out.  If you would like to see more, you can check out his blog, By His Hands. (which has been neglected, needs updating, but still shows his work!) 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Olivers new home

We went to Heather and Andrew's home for supper recently, and I thought I would share a few pictures so you could see their place.

They are renting right now, and live in the top of this house.  It's in an area where there are a lot of these big old houses.  I love the charm they have!  (I took this photo earlier in the year, when there was still snow on the ground.)

Their house sits on a hill and it overlooks the Grand River.  This picture doesn't show it well, but they have a nice view of the city and the river.

They had crocus blooming already!

Here's Oliver!  He is happy on his cat tree, which sits in front of this big window with a view he enjoys during the day.  Alaina has come to visit him a few times.  He doesn't have as many hiding places here!

I didn't think to take more pictures inside!  We were enjoying a yummy dinner and good conversation.  I'll leave you with one more picture from their place.

Here's the sunset over the city.   What a beautiful view!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cooking Thursday

This post is probably a week too late, if you had ham on Easter!  We did, and I was looking for a different way to use the leftovers.  I found this recipe and it was perfect for that last bit of ham.  Bob and I both thought it was really good - so next time you have leftovers, here's a good way to use them.

Deluxe Ham Casserole

3 cups elbow macaroni, cooked as directed
1 cup cubed ham
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1 6 ounce can french fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Stir together the soup, sour cream and milk.  Stir in the minced onion and garlic powder.
Stir in ham, cheese and peas.  Then add 1/2 can of french fried onions.
Place covered, in oven for 40 minutes.  Then remove cover and sprinkle remaining french fried onions over top.  Bake another 5 minutes, until golden.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Simple joys!

We attempted to have Alaina and Ruby overnight this past weekend, attempted being the key word...

Look at this happy group - all's well here!

 But then - Ruby realized she was in a different place and her parents were not with her.  She was not happy, and she wasn't calming down.

Alaina tried to give her hugs and told her it was ok, but Ruby didn't think so.  We ended up calling Laura and Aaron and they came to get Ruby.  Alaina said "I can stay here though!"  And she did.

The next day, Alaina and I had fun together.

I was getting her breakfast and she called me into the living room, all excited "Grandma, I found a rainbow!"  She studied it and told me that she has a rainbow book at home.  "A rainbow means God will never send another big flood". 

We went to Grandpa's work to have lunch with him.  She was amazed by this big lift and wanted me to take her picture with it.

And then came the most exciting part of the day:
You may remember that I posted about this last year.  She calls these things "silly boys".  This silly boy has been put away all winter and she missed him.  When we drove past and she saw it, she was beyond excited.  We had to stop and get out - she even touched it this year.
I think this is one of the things we lose as we get older - the joy in simple things.  It's a good lesson for everyone.  There are things to get joy from all around us!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring in our yard

April is such an amazing month here in Michigan.  The snow usually melts in the beginning of the month.  Then we have this variety of weather - cold, rain, sun, some warmth - but through it all Spring is arriving!
Here's a few things in our yard that make me happy.

 It's such a happy day when I see the leaves on the trees start to bud!

These little berries are still hanging on the bush from last fall, and are looking pretty sad, but they add a touch of color in this brown season.

Although Bob hauled about 10 wheel barrows full of acorns from the yard, there are still plenty out there!

The dried grasses look pretty in the sunshine.

 The red twigged dogwood is starting to bud too.

The daffodils are growing fast!

And the crocus are almost ready to open!
Doesn't it just make you smile?