October 11, 2013

Crashes and Failures

This week has been pretty rotten, troubles with Google, spam and losing my page rank. I have attempted to set things right only to have my Laptop Hard-Drive fail on me. It's not even a year old , and on top of that ( like it can get worse!) I haven't backed up my files since about March. Yes shame on me for not doing it much more. It was thought that I had backed up since May but it's not showing on my external hard drive.

It's not the end of the world but months of work, writing pictures of my children and so forth, things I cannot put a cash value on . Priceless things , memories are ( maybe) gone. I have spent the better part of the day trying to look up ways to recover any data if I can off the hard drive. Chances are 50/50 , half of these posts say yes, the other half say screw it , it's all gone!

Positive thinking and a little hope never hurt anyone so I won't give up.

On a sad note though, due to losing my laptop HD I can no longer do the The Halloween Challenge, it has to end. The laptop was the only thing my camera hooked up into. My PC doesn't run very well and it does not run my photo programs either so I must call it quits. :(  I may try to push on through but I highly doubt it. If there's a chance of saving any data on the HD I can get the posts I had written up but until it's looked at my hands are tied...

Thanks for sticking with me through the entire Lunch Box Challenge, and part of the Halloween Challenge. I will have another Challenge in February, and possibly another for Slow Cooker Meals as someone asked about that. :)


I'll update when I can , Hope You all have a Wonderful Day/Week ;)
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October 8, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 7 & 8: Nutty Monster Snack Mix & Posioned Pecans


This is a double recipe day, you can either mix the two up or use as two separate recipes. I like mixing it up to make one party mix. Instead of making a sweet party mix with even more candy I kept this snack healthy and still fun to mix it up. You can add things like M&M's to it, even marshmallows but the idea behind these were to stay away from the sweets.


Nutty Monster Snack Mix

16 cups popped popcorn
5 cups mini pretzels twists
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry pumpkins seeds ( with or without shell)
1 cup salted sunflower seeds
2 cups Poisoned Pecans ( recipe below)

Take all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix up, you can add a little more butter but this really should be enough. Work in batches if you don't have a large enough bowl.
This would make a wonderful alternative to school parties instead of adding another sweetened treat to the deal. A variation to sweeten this up is leave out the salt and Poisoned Pecans. Add just plain roasted Pecans and sprinkle entire mixture with Cinnamon sugar. Store in air tight container.



Poisoned Pecans


16 ounce pecan halves
1/2 cup butter melted
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cayenne pepper


Combine everything in a large bowl and place on a foil covered roasting pan. Cover this with foil and bake on 200 stirring every ten minutes until it's all heated through. 50 minutes total. Take out and let it cool completely . Store in air tight container .


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October 6, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 6: Halloween Jars

 I know I've seen these Jars around Pinterest and wanted to post the ones I did last year. The idea was simple though, turn jars into some cute Halloween Crafts. All it took was Glue and Tissue paper.



What you need:
-Empty Jars (clean the label off the outside with hot water and dry completely) Any size would do bigger though is better.
-Tissue Paper and construction paper
-Glue
-Candles
-Paper bags or constructions paper to cover the table.
I've seen these Jars done with Paint too, but I went with the paper.


Directions :
*Have the kids cut out their patterns and or Pumpkin faces they want. Little kids will need help and you may want to cute faces or patterns out of construction paper so it won't rip easily for them. I did mine in tissue paper and they ripped fast if you are not careful.

*Take your pieces and arrange them on the jars. Glue them in place and wait for them to dry or at least till they aren't sliding around.


Next cover the jar with a thin layer of glue dotting over the pieces you already glued on. Carefully lay strips of Tissue paper around the glass. I cut pieces that would easily roll around the jar so it would be easier for the kids. Pat the tissue paper carefully to the jar and around the rims. If over hanging the rim, trim off and set aside to dry completely.
When finished set the candle inside. I recommend hot gluing the bottom of the candle your using, and then placing it in the jar, they will end up sliding around otherwise. Or use the plastic battery lights you can find at the store, those will be perfect! Place them away from little hands though!

My White and black skulls didn't turn out as well but the kids loved it :)


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October 5, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 5: Monster Mouths

I actaully took these pictures  a few years ago, and my kids like them so much I repeat them each year. They have enjoyed making their own faces so now I just set out the ingredients and let them go at it. They are fun and easy, perfect to make if you plan on having a Halloween Party with kids!


Ingredients for Monster Mouths 

Prepared Jumbo pasta shells as directed to package.
1 med onion chopped
4 slices bacon , chopped
1 pound ground beef
2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
4 slices of American cheese chopped (I used shredded sharp cheese)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Decorating items- baby carrots, small pickles, olives, peppers sliced cheese & whatever else you have on hand that may be useful.

-Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish.

-Heat oil in a large skillet of med. heat. Add onion and bacon, cook until onion is tender. Add beef, cook and stir about 5 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, cheese, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into cooked shells. Place on prepared baking dish Bake 3-5 minutes or until hot. (I skipped the oven part, and just spooned beef into shells when they were finished cooking. I also added peppers to the beef, as well as green onions and some taco seasonings. I bet you could prepare sloppy Joe's and be able to come out with the very same thing, just be aware of more saucy mess to deal with :)

To decorate-
Cut carrots into thin strips, to use in the middle of the olives for eyes. Cut bell pepper into fang shapes for teeth. Slice pickle lenghtwise to make a tongue, and cut cheese into teeth shapes.
 This is from a magazine I got, which has NO cover. I have no idea where this came from, and I've tried looking up up. No luck, if anyone knows let me know so I can post a link. 

 This is what I came up with, using bell peppers for arms, as well as teeth and even a tongue, olives for eyes, cheese for teeth, Peas for teeth, sweet tomatoes for eyes, and cut green beans for a tongue :) Whatever you have, try to use it with these, it's alot of fun!





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October 4, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 4: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I've had to change a bit to this challenge due to how busy things have gotten around here.
 There's a lot going on and I'll try to keep up, but today is a quick easy snack recipe for you to enjoy ! My kids love Roasted Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds, it makes a great snack, and you can add them into a lot of things:  Salads, trail mix, homemade granola bars, even a bowl of popcorn is spruced up with pumpkin seeds.


What you need

Water
Pumpkin
Sea salt
Cookie sheet


Directions. Gut the pumpkin. You want to get all the guts out and try to get the pulp off the seeds.  ( should be about 3 1/2 cups of seeds when finished)
Place what you have into a large bowl running under the water to rinse as much pulp off as possible.  Remove as much as you can then place it all into a large pot of water.  Most the pulp will sink to the bottom seeds should float.
Drain them in a strainer or colander then place in large bowl with warm water and 1/3 cup of sea salt. Let this soak for about an hour or two then drain.
Preheat the oven to 350 and spread the seeds out onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the seeds lightly with more sea salt . Bake for about 25 minutes. stir them rotate the pan so they cook evenly. Bake until they are dried, you don't want them to be brown but dry and white. Let them cool off and store in an air tight container.


Enjoy!


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October 3, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 3 : DIY Mummy Flower Vase

This is quick and simple DIY craft to spruce up the house for Halloween. I had everything I needed on hand and you can do it not just with a flower vase but with other jars around the house. Mason jars or even containers on the kitchen counter would work.

What you need

Vase, plastic or glass
Gaze I used two types, the thin stuff and a thick roll
Craft eyes
hot glue gun


Step one start wrapping the vase with the think gaze covering it from top to bottom. You can tie the end to part of the wrapped gaze or glue it but it's easier to tie.


Start to wrap the vase with the thicker gaze, only change it's angle so it looks more like a mummy wrapping. Criss cross it and spread it around to get the effect you want.

 When you are finished, either tie or glue in place. Glue on your craft eyes and then set your flowers inside.



An easy but fun project to spruce up the house for Halloween! Do you do any crafts for Halloween?
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October 2, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 2: Spooktacular Chocolate Pudding

This pudding is so easy you should make it once a week! My kids go through this too fast I'm lucky to ever get a taste of it sometimes, they even lick their bowl spotless I can't even swipe a little out for a taste. Sneaky creatures.

You can serve this with fresh fruit, strawberries or raspberries. 

Ingredients

3 tablespoon cornstarch
9 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoon powdered nondairy coffee creamer
1/4 cup sugar substitute- I used Coconut Sugar
3/4 cup low fat milk divided

Directions

in a medium microwave safe bowl stir together the corn starch, cocoa creamer and sugar. Add 1/3 cup of the milk to the bowl and whisk thoroughly until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk until thoroughly mixed together.

Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove and stir well. Heat again for 2 minutes until it looks like it's thickening. Remove and stir well. Let it stand at room temp then set in fridge. You may serve this warm or let it chill, my kids eat it fast so I have no idea if it tastes good cold.


Just a little heads up, I have had to take Halloween decorations down in my house and put awa due to my youngest expressing a large dislike for them suddenly. I don't ever have scary things up, but she's not going for the decorations this year.
 This was a Halloween Challenge and I had a lot planned around crafts, and fun things to do with Halloween but this has suddenly changed. Posts may be a little late and I am going to adjust to still have some fun with this. I still plan on doing many things but they will be slightly changed to be more happy and less scary for my youngest.  Stay tuned to find out what happens!
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Win a signed copy of the book - The Prodigal

SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY !!  5 WINNERS !!
5 Lucky Winners will each receive a SIGNED book of The Prodigal 

Courtesy of author Michael Hurley
Open to US/CA
Ending on Sunday 20th October at 11.59pm est

For 2,000 years, Christendom has believed that faith and penitence are the narrow gates through which all who seek heaven must pass, and that the church on Earth holds the key. What if a forgotten relic, hidden inside an abandoned ship thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, suddenly reappeared and cast doubt on that belief? Who would seek to use it? Who would seek to destroy it? And whose lives would it forever change?

This sweeping allegorical tale begins with the escape of a Gypsy princess and her young lover from her father’s camp in 1851, recalling the flight of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The boy steals Prodigal, a sailing ship blessed with unnatural speed, and the lovers escape to sea, leaving the father to grieve for the loss and pine for the return of his child.

 More than 150 years later on Ocracoke Island we meet Aidan Sharpe, an aging lawyer, as he rises from the sand of a remote beach after a lost weekend. In a strange foreboding, one woman gives him wine and another gives him water just as his world is about to be consumed by scandal. While struggling to rebuild his life in this lonely outpost of the Outer Banks, Aidan is caught up in a two-thousand-year-old mystery that unfolds with the sudden reappearance of Prodigal off the coast, adrift and unmanned. Its discovery will lead Aidan and those close to him into the deep, in a race between time and eternity.


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October 1, 2013

Halloween Challenge Day 1: Killer Tomato Soup

 Oh yes, it's that time of year again- Halloween!

 If you know me, you know this is just about my favorite time of the year. Though I play with my food all year round this time of year I get to really pull out all the tricks and creative play with my foods. I go all out, creating some creeping fun Halloween inspired foods and crafts. This Halloween Challenge hopefully will be a daily thing but I may end up doubling up on things. Last months Lunch Box Challenge took a lot out of me and it's a ton of work to do while still managing a house full of four crazy monsters with all the school activities going on. We shall see how it goes I will try to keep up as best I can to post .

Today's recipe is from the garden, I am over loaded with tomatoes- it's a killer carrying them inside now a days. So I bring you- Killer Tomato Soup


Ingredients

1 large onion minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups tomato juice, either bought or homemade ( find my homemade one here)
2 cups freshly chopped crushed tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups heavy cream
Parsley


Directions

Take your tomatoes and blanch them to take the skin off. Dip the tomatoes into burning hot water, and leave them for a few minutes before taking them out and placing them into ice cold water. The skin should peel right off. After you've done this, core then chop the tomatoes. Heat in a large pot on simmer and crush , crush, crush them. Mash them to bites, make tomatoes brains!  Or cheat and use a blender , either way you get liquefied tomatoes.
While the tomato brains cook heat the butter and saute the onions till clear. Stir in flour and make a smooth mixture then pour this into your tomatoes mixture along with the tomatoes juice. Heat on low for about 20 minutes and salt and pepper to taste. Should reach a low boil and cook for about ten more minutes. Slowly stir in the cream, keeping on low heat. Making sure everything is heated through should only be another 5 minutes or so.

Serve with a garnish of the parsley on top and some more chopped up tomatoes.



Some of my Heirloom tomatoes carved for Halloween fun! 



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The Prodigal Book Tour



My Review

Once a high powered attorney Aidan Sharpe, now fallen must pick up his life. The book starts with Sharpe finding himself on the beach of Ocracoke Island after a night of heavy drinking with no memory of where or even how he ended up there. Think of the questions, the confusion. This man was at the top of his game and lost it all. If anyone needed a wake up call, it was Sharpe and he certainly got it in this book.

The adventure has already begun as he starts his journey of self awareness, awakening and discovery. One journey that grows throughout the book. I like how his character just builds with each turn of the page. It's a steady growth that has you hooked and wanting to watch him continue his personal quest.
As he meets people throughout the Island he starts to transform, earning trust, finding love again, creating friendships. This all the while he is trying to restore this ship with history back to 1851 which appeared out of nowhere. It's his new task to get this running for a race .
Secrets and questions arise leaving you with the thought of wondering -will all this new adventure he's been traveling with destroy him?  Or help him grow even more as it continues?  Which path will he take if he even takes one?  Will he shut down this chance, or take it and keep moving on,  growing not just as a person but as a man who truly has more to offer.

 The events given to Sharpe are slowly tying into the past and you're really intrigued from the first page. The saying the past haunts you really come back in this book, not as haunting but linking, a connection I would say. How much does the present connect to the events in our past? This is a constant growing question in the book.

I was taken in by the writing, happy to find out this was Michael Hurley;s first novel. It leaves room for so many more to come, and I look forward to it! I have rated this 5/5 stars and recommend it to any book lover.


The Prodigal


For 2,000 years, Christendom has believed that faith and penitence are the narrow gates through which all who seek heaven must pass, and that the church on Earth holds the key. What if a forgotten relic, hidden inside an abandoned ship thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago, suddenly reappeared and cast doubt on that belief? Who would seek to use it? Who would seek to destroy it? And whose lives would it forever change? 

 This sweeping allegorical tale begins with the escape of a Gypsy princess and her young lover from her father’s camp in 1851, recalling the flight of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The boy steals Prodigal, a sailing ship blessed with unnatural speed, and the lovers escape to sea, leaving the father to grieve for the loss and pine for the return of his child. 

 More than 150 years later on Ocracoke Island we meet Aidan Sharpe, an aging lawyer, as he rises from the sand of a remote beach after a lost weekend. In a strange foreboding, one woman gives him wine and another gives him water just as his world is about to be consumed by scandal. While struggling to rebuild his life in this lonely outpost of the Outer Banks, Aidan is caught up in a two-thousand-year-old mystery that unfolds with the sudden reappearance of Prodigal off the coast, adrift and unmanned. Its discovery will lead Aidan and those close to him into the deep, in a race between time and eternity.




About the Author


Michael Hurley and his wife Susan lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Born in Baltimore in 1958, he holds a degree in English education from the University of Maryland and a law degree from St. Louis University. His first book, Letters from the Woods, was a collection of essays compiled from eight years of wilderness canoeing expeditions with his children. It was a finalist for the Book of the Year Award by ForeWord magazine in 2005. In April 2013 Hachette Book Group published his memoir, Once Upon a Gypsy Moon. The Prodigal is his first novel.







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