Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fruity Chocolate Truffles

Fruity Chocolate Truffles? Well, yes, it does sound a bit strange doesn’t it? When my mom sent the recipe along with a package of vanilla wafers for my daughter’s birthday, I have to admit I wasn’t sure I’d like the finished product, but we figured it was worth a try – and Emilie was certainly excited about it. (One thing I have found with letting children cook, is it works best to have just one at a time be the little helper and the rest be watchers. )
Recipe for Fruity Chocolate Truffles
1pkg 8oz cream cheese softened
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c crushed vanilla wafers
1/4 c strawberry preserves
1 1/4 c chopped almonds
Children love so much to be able to really make something in the kitchen, and there’s so much of the process that they *can* do. Emilie starts by measuring out a cup of chocolate chips. (You can guide little hands so that the chips get into the measuring cup and help them stop at the right time. Of course, a few extra chips don’t matter all that much. Just dig them back out and enjoy them as is!)
A big person melts the chocolate chips in the microwave.

“Frying pans, who knew, right?”
What could be more fun for a little girl than smashing up vanilla wafers?
By now, the chocolate is all melted. Emilie’s big helper takes the bowl out of the microwave and she gives it a stir to make sure it’s all smooth. (Be careful, as the bowl might be hot.)
Emilie dumps the cream cheese (out of the mostly opened for her package) into the mixing bowl.
The cream cheese is beaten, and Emilie pours in the crushed up vanilla wafers. (Yes, a few didn’t quite make it into the bowl. That’s ok.)
The strawberry preserves are added at this time too. And finally the melted chocolate.
And it all gets mixed up until it looks like this!
The chocolate mixture is scooped out (Emilie’s big helper used a pampered chef cookie scoop, but a spoon would work nearly as well.) and rolled into little balls. Emilie rolls these in the chopped almonds to coat.
The finished truffles are refrigerated until it’s time to eat them. They were actually pretty yummy – and Emilie loved making them!
What do your children like to cook?


When I was young, my mom had a notebook in which she would glue pictures she found in magazines and catalogs – pictures of ideas and dreams. There might be a picture of a kitchen with a note beside it that mentioned how much she liked the tile on the counter or a picture of a bed with a spread she particularly liked. I have a very similar notebook that I’ve added to throughout the years and I even made one for my daughter when she turned 13.
Now, along comes Pinterest and it is much the same thing – only internet based. I am completely hooked. :) If you haven’t seen it yet, check out http://www.pinterest.com It’s kind of like a visual way to keep track of and organize your internet “favorites” – only I use it so much more than I ever did my favorites folders.
One of the things I saw and pinned, was an idea for a hanging organizer.
Actually, I pinned several of them.
So, finally I decided to make my own organizational center.
First, I made myself a couple of write on wipe off boards – simple picture frames that I had sitting around with pictures or scrapbook paper behind them. You can write on the glass with a “vis a vis” pen and wipe it off easily. For my to do board, I found a picture of a plate like the ones I like to collect, stretched it to fit the 8×10 area and added lines on which to write each item on my list. (My son says that when I have a long list of to do’s, I can say I have a lot on my *plate*! LOL
I still wanted a pocket organizer though, so I started by measuring the area I had to work with and I found some fabric that I thought would be just right. (It was an old drape that had been in a box of hand me down fabric.)
I cut two rectangles to fit the size I wanted the pocket organizer to be. Then cut smaller rectangles to make each of the pockets. I started each pocket by sewing a strip of ribbon near what would be the top. Then I folded the pocket in half, right sides together and sewed around the edges, leaving an opening for turning. After turning, I top stitched them onto one layer of the organizer where I wanted them to sit. I backstitched several times at both top edges to strengthen them.
The “pens” pocket, I did differently as I wanted one that was more cylindrical in shape. However, I am not satisfied with how that ended up working out, so I won’t go into that. :)
One thing I do like that I did with the pens pocket, was that I sewed three buttonholes into the top edge. I use these to tie my scissors, my scotch tape, and my favorite pen to the organizer so that they can’t run off as they have been prone to do.
Once all the pockets were sewn on, I put all my layers together. I decided to add a layer of very thick interfacing between the two layers of vinyl-like fabric to make sure it would lay straight. So, I laid all three layers together and bound the edges with navy blue bias tape. I put two buttonholes in the top edge of the organizer to hang it by.
I wonder if it might look nicer with some other coordinating fabrics mixed in, but then, I didn’t really have anything that would have worked just right anyway, so I guess I’m satisfied with how it turned out.
Finally, I wanted tags. I liked that about the brown one shown above, and I’ve always loved labels – especially the cute metal framed ones that look like library card catalogs. I found a place online that sells them, but haven’t been able to afford the splurge yet. So, I decided to make my own for this project. I created them in Photoshop Elements and printed them out on cardstock and just stuck them on with Fabri-tac. I really like how they look!
So, in “give a mouse a cookie” fashion, one thing led to another, and I decided to make some more of those tags for my bins. :) We have a bin tower beside the freezer in the kitchen with bins for medicines and bins for tools etc. So I made and printed out some pretty tags for each one. (I glued each one to a scrapbook paper background.)
I was so excited recently when Walmart got *Navy Blue* bins in, and switched out my mixture of royal blue and white bins, putting them to work elsewhere in the house.
Here is the jpg of the tag that I made. (I was going to include the psd version with its layers but the blog wouldn’t let me do that. Hmm.) Right click and choose “save picture as” to download it and make your own tags.
Enjoy! And happy organizing!

A Boy and His Blocks

Wilmer got a big bag of foam blocks for Christmas.
The photo isn’t too bad, I guess – for an indoor picture in winter with a flash.
I found this website recently http://www.itworksforbobbi.com/2011/11/getting-great-indoor-photos-this.html and hope to try some of the suggestions she has there.

On Resolutionary Thinking…

A new year, a new start, and many of us sit down and write our New Year’s resolutions, which last all of a few weeks… maybe. Many many years, I’ve written down my goals and they have fallen by the wayside. Will this year be any exception?
Last week, a group of women on a board that I help moderate, decided to work together and hold each other accountable. We each came up with 36 goals to accomplish in the next 366 days. (2012 is a leap year.) Then we organized our goals into categories and months to get them done in and broke them down and made a plan of attack. I don’t think I’ve ever gone about New Year’s resolutions in quite such an organized fashion. But there are still so many places where I know I can fall off the tracks.
I have a bit of the perfectionist in me. If I make a goal to read my Bible every day and then I miss several days, I feel like giving up completely. After all, I’ve failed, right? Do you ever feel that way?
I got to thinking that it’s a little bit like baptism. It’s easy to think of that as a washing clean of the old sinful nature and a fresh start, just like a new year. The Holy Spirit is living in me and I should do it all right now, right? I see the sanctification of my life as something I have to do and should be able to do, if I just try hard enough. But then I fail, I fall down, and I tend to think of myself as hopeless, useless, worthy only of rejection.
But, maybe that’s why Martin Luther says that this washing with water “signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Daily, even moment by moment, that old Adam is drowned in repentance and the new man comes forth. And all of it done by the Holy Spirit through me, not of myself.
And maybe my resolutions should be the same way. I should not make it a resolution to read my Bible every day this year, but rather to work toward making Bible reading a daily habit. And then remember that there is grace, not perfection. And the changes that occur in me will not be of my own doing, but of the Holy Spirit working in and through me. Those are the kind of resolutions that might actually be resolutionary.

Coconut Dream Bars

Today was Amanda’s day to bake something. She just turned seven in November and has had plenty of experience having someone tell her step by step what to do, and doing it. Today I wanted her to go a step further and figure it out for herself. I chose a recipe I knew she’d like and printed it out so that the font was not too tiny and she could read it easily. With a little prompting, she did a great job checking the recipe and figuring out each step along the way.
The recipe called for 1 cup of butter. Amanda figured out that if each stick was 1/2 cup, she needed 2 sticks of butter. She unwrapped them both and dropped them into the bowl.
She added a cup of packed brown sugar. (The fact that it was a 1/2 cup that we had available gave her the opportunity to do some math again.)
Two cups of flour were next (or 4 half cups)
Manda mixed it all together with a pastry blender…
… until it looked like this.
She greased a 9×13 pan…
…and patted the mixture down into it. Into the 350 degree oven it went for 20 minutes.
There was more to be done so she washed out the bowl to be used again.
Into the bowl went two more cups of brown sugar.
Manda cracked each of the four eggs the recipe called for into a separate cup. Only a couple of tiny bits of shell had to be fished out. She’s getting so good at that. :)
Two teaspoons of vanilla (and a discussion about the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons and how they’re written)
1 teaspoon of salt
4 Tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder (Big brother teaches her how to scrape the spoon against the can to level it.)
and 2 cups of coconut.
Amanda mixes it all with a whisk. It was thick. Next time I think we’ll just use a spatula,
which is what we switched to, to spread it in the pan of crust that had just come out of the oven. (Her brother did that part for her as she was afraid she might accidentally bump the hot pan.)
Amanda got to lick the bowl. Being the baker has its privileges. :)
The recipe says 20-30 more minutes in the oven. It took us 35, perhaps because we always skip the nuts in this recipe? Chocolate chips are sprinkled over the hot bars fresh from the oven and they are left to cool – oh what torture waiting is!
Mmmm! Sweet, chewy, so yummy! Thankyou for making them, Amanda!

An Inspirational Artist – Keith L. Cooper

You Tube Video: Invitation
Keith L. Cooper is a Christian guitar player that we happened across by accident several years ago and totally fell in love with his music. His website is www.keithlcooper.com and you can listen to many of his songs there as well as purchase cd’s and lesson books. His style is unique and wonderful. I’d love to get his lesson books and learn to play like that, but I suppose I should work my way through the Esteban lesson dvd’s that I already have first. LOL

Living Room Before and “After”

Sharing a recent home decorating project. :)
North wall – a hodge podge of bookshelves stacked mostly two or three high – I thought someday I’d build floor to ceiling shelves, but wasn’t able to come up with the money for the project, so these were to fill in the gap in the meantime. Unfortunately, it just looked rather messy.
Great love seat that I found for $25 at a rummage sale and planned to reupholster. Cost of materials again along with indecision about fabric choices and fear of messing it up got in the way.

East wall. Just a very full room with a lot of furniture. The large expanse of navy blue behind the armoire is a quilted window covering.
South wall – clutter. Piano bench has a pretty needlepoint seat, but the support beneath it is broken so it’s very uncomfortable to sit on. See that tall skinny wooden thing between the violin cabinet and the door? That’s my Gramma’s folding screen with four silk panels that she and Grampa brought back from China. So special, but one of the panels managed to get torn :( I felt awful about it – and there’s no room for it anyway.
West wall – boring expanse, the beautiful big potbelly stove hopes to be restored and then take the place of the little one.
Sooooooo – how to help this room?
North/Northeast – I started by paring down the bookshelves. One went to our bedroom to hold videos, another went to the kitchen along with all the cookbooks, and a few just moved to new places within the room. The many binders in which I stored my sheet music and Suzuki books were emptied and the music given a new home in the coffee table-esque stack of boxes. (My son made those out of pallets! They’re supposed to be crates for delivering arrows to the castle in the movie we’re making, but I’m borrowing them. :) The loveseat was able to find room between the bookshelves against the wall. I picked up two tablecloths which I’m using as a throw until I can finally reupholster both loveseat and chair. That left me with a large open space above the couch. We had a mirror that used to go on an antique dresser, so I got my sons to help me hang it. I’m not positive yet about what should go around it. I felt it needed something. But for now, there’s a neat looking clock and a little corbel pedestal for one of Micha’s beaded dragons.
East – We found another home for the armoire and generally reduced the clutteredness. I gave the piano bench a new seat, got the top of the piano almost completely cleared off, and cleared out some of the extra stuff. I also made lace valances for the windows.
And finally West – my favorite and the most dramatic change. :) I decided to paint an accent wall. (The kids thought it was just about the craziest thing they’d ever heard of – painting just one wall! LOL) My friend, Cathe suggested the color and it turned out to be just perfect. I kept looking at that right hand edge of the green. I didn’t want to move the bookshelves again, but it needed something. Finally I came up with the idea for the scalloped edge. I used a stencil – part of it anyway and marked it on the wall with pencil, then painted in the lines with a small brush.
I took apart Gramma’s Chinese screen and turned the panels into a trio of wall hangings. (The fourth, torn panel became a pair of throw pillows for the couch.)
So that’s it – although “After” is in quotation marks because there are of course things I still hope to do in this room (like the reupholstering). I really like the changes we were able to make so far.