Thursday, October 30, 2014

Banana Cake Recipe

Since we moved to New Hampshire, and I have more time at home, I also have more time to cook!  My family seems to be enjoying a wider variety of meals -- we were in a real rut when I was working 35 hours a week and getting home close to 6:00pm Monday through Thursday.  I have found that I enjoy cooking now that I have more time and I'm not feeling rushed to make dinner for my family.  For the first time in years, I have had time to actually make some of the thousands of recipes that I have pinned on Pinterest!  I also have been airing out my poor, neglected recipe box.  I bought myself a little white board that fits perfectly into one of my kitchen cupboards and I have taken to making actual meal plans -- actually going through recipes, deciding what I am going to make for the week, and then shopping once a week and picking everything up for my recipes.  It's quite amazing!  ;)

One of the recipes I found while going through my recipe box is actually an email I sent to two friends and former coworkers -- in 2009!!!  Here's what I typed in the reference line -- "Totally making this -- thought I'd share!"  Yeah, that I was in 2009 -- totally did not make this, until 2014!!  It's super easy and a nice alternative to use those overripe bananas sitting in my fruit bowl, as opposed to the banana bread I seem to make ALL the time!  (Thankfully my girls love it, but still, variety is the spice of life they say!)

Banana Cake

1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water
2 ripe bananas

1 can of vanilla frosting (and 1 more banana -- optional)

Mix cake mix and the rest of the ingredients (except for the frosting and optional extra banana) in a large bowl with mixer.

Pour into a cake pan (I used a 9" x 13" Pyrex dish) that you have buttered or sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 45-50 mins or test with a toothpick.   Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 - 15 minutes and then frost. 

I just used plain vanilla frosting which was quite yummy, but the recipe called for microwaving a (plastic) can of vanilla frosting until it is slightly melted and then mashing the 3rd banana in a bowl and combining that with the melted frosting.  Then you can pour the banana/frosting mixture over the cake and let it run down the sides of the cake.  That sounds delicious, but I took the easy route. 

Regardless, my family loved it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkin Fairy House

We carved pumpkins on Sunday -- beautiful fall day!  We were able to do most of the messy stuff outside on the table in the backyard -- no fuss, no muss!  ;)  My husband helped my 13-year-old, and she chose a "tri-force" (3 triangles that make up 1 large triangle -- it's from Legend of Zelda, if I'm not mistaken!) and I carved a pumpkin fairy house for my little one!  As my 13-year-old said, "Mommy, I think your inner child is coming out in this one!"  True story!  I saw a picture of this online (Pinterest?) and I had kept it in mind for this Halloween, as my 8-year-old is ALL about fairies!!  It was quite simple, actually. 

First, I carved the top, as you would with most pumpkins.  Then I carved a "door" on the front side of the pumpkin -- as you can see in the picture, I tried to be artsy and I kind of angled the top -- totally up to you what shape you want to use!  This "door" is really just the opening to the fairy house -- can be any shape and you can just throw that piece out -- no need to keep it.  Then I carved 2 windows, one on either side of the door.  I cleaned out all of the "guts" and seeds -- saved the seeds to roast, of course!  My little girlie found some sticks in the backyard and I used those to make panes in the windows -- simply cut them (broke them) to be a tiny bit bigger than the windows and then stuck them into the flesh of the pumpkin.  They fit perfectly! 

I had purchased some of the battery-operated candles for our pumpkins this year -- safer than lit candles -- and I put one of them inside as though it were a little campfire for the fairies.  I also added some acorns and small pine cones that I found around our yard (use whatever you think fairies would decorate with!).  I also made a little ladder our of twigs, twine, and some pony beads, just for a little bling!  ;)  As a finishing touch, I put some white glue on the top of the pumpkin and dusted it with white glitter so that it would look snow-capped or fairy-dusted -- use your imagination! 

After I was all done, Tinkerbell and her sister Periwinkle moved in and my daughter could not be happier!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Anti-Bullying Campaign - #loveoneanother

I would like to share something that is very near and dear to my heart.  My sister-in-law, Jenny, has recently started an anti-bullying campaign as a way to try to make a difference on behalf of her 8-year-old daughter who has been a target of bullying since Kindergarten.  I say "target" and not "victim", because my sweet niece does not let the bullying get to her -- in fact, she frequently tells her parents that she feels sorry for them, that they must have issues at home that make them the way they are.  Amazing insight and empathy in such a little girl -- I couldn't be more proud of her!  And I also couldn't be more heartbroken about this situation.  My youngest daughter, her cousin, is also 8 -- we have another niece in the family that is 8 (big year in our family!) -- I CANNOT IMAGINE anyone bullying my littlest daughter!  I CANNOT IMAGINE how that would make her feel, what that would do to her self-confidence, the sweet smile on her face, the joy she shows every day.  How dare someone try to take those things away from her!  My husband and I have always taught our girls -- "you don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you do have to try to be as nice as you can to everyone."  Seems simple enough.  My sister-in-law Jenny's campaign fits perfectly with that.

Jenny is a photographer and recently, friends on Facebook have seen pictures that she has taken in her town of people holding a sign that says, "Love one another."  Yesterday she posted this explanation on Facebook, and I wanted to try and help get this message out in any way that I can, so here it is:

"So what is the what with this sign?! Well thanks for asking! The ‪#‎loveoneanother‬ sign is one that I happily purchased from a NoFo thrift shop for ten bucks about 3 years ago. It's been hanging in our den until about a month ago when I had an idea for a photo shoot.

What if we were surrounded by messages like this regularly? On billboards, in magazines or Buzzfeed, anywhere, everywhere? What would our world be like if we loved one another regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, waist size, bank account size, etc. What if we taught our children this? What if this simple phrase or idea was everywhere you looked? On Facebook or after a hashtag or on a tee shirt? Would it make a difference at all? Would it start trending? If it did, wouldn't that be amazing? 

As some of you know, my daughter has been bullied every year since she started Kindergarten. Same daughter, different bullies. It. Is. So. Hard. How do you explain to a child who has been raised to treat everyone with kindness, and respect, regardless of their life's circumstances, that she is not liked enough by some to receive that same respect and kindness? It is heartbreaking for her and everyone that loves her. And she is just one kid in a world of bullied kids. It's hard because as a parent I want to protect her from all heartache but I can't. I feel helpless. I'm idealistic, I know. I realize not everyone is going to #loveoneanother or even ‪#‎likeoneanother‬ but can we all just agree to be kind to each other anyway? 

So back to the sign...I guess it's my way of working through an ongoing crappy situation. My way of drumming up a little hope for the future. When I ask people if I can photograph them with the sign, I explain that I have been inspired by my daughter and her struggle with bullies. Every person so far has smiled when they read the sign and then held it for a photograph. Maybe it will catch on?! I hope so. All I know is that I am not the only mother struggling to understand why her child is singled out, made to feel alone, sad, anxious, hurt, picked apart. But it is my job to show her the good in this world and to me, the good are the folks in these pictures, especially this one. You can view more #loveoneanother photos on Instagram or JNI Photography. Take the ‪#‎loveoneanotherpledge‬ to ‪#‎teachyourchildrenwell‬ ‪#‎respecteveryone‬ ‪#‎endbullying‬ - make your own #loveoneanother sign, take a picture and share!"

We love you too, Eki!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"A Law on Chores"

My 8-year-old came home with a "What's Your Opinion?" essay that she had to write in school regarding an article her class read about "A Law on Chores."  Apparently Spain might pass a law saying that kids have to do household chores and my daughter's class was supposed to write about their opinion on whether the United States should follow suit.  Here's my little darling's response:

"I don't think the US should pass the law for kids.  First, if the kids are doing chores what are the parents doing?  Second, kids need time for playing and other activities like going outside or going to the park.  Finally, some chores are too dangerous like dusting something that is glass that would hurt.  Those are three reasons why the US should not pass this law."

Now, she does make some valid points -- it is very important for kids to get outside for fresh air and exercise, and really, dusting glass can be very dangerous!  ;)  She lost me a little at "If kids are doing chores, what are the parents doing?"  Why, outside playing at the park!  ;) 

But in all honesty, I feel that chores are a good thing for kids -- at least simple, age-appropriate ones -- but I think this is something that parents should enforce, not the government -- in my opinion!  

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mouse in the House!

Eeek!!  Yes, I actually made that noise the other day...  My youngest was playing in the playroom and ran to tell me that she saw something "with feet and a tail" run under the recliner in there...  My husband is at work and my eldest daughter was in her room with her door closed.  I called to her - my other brave helper when Daddy is not home! - and said, "Can you come here and help Mommy with something?"  She said, "Sure!  What is it?"  I said, "I think there's a mouse in the playroom!"  And she said, "Yeah, I'm going to stay in my room then!"  Sigh.  Should have seen that coming!  I went in with a broom and when it scurried by me I screamed like a little girl (or little boy, as my eldest used to say when she was younger -- so cute!)!  The dog went into attack mode - against the BROOM, not the MOUSE!  She really hates the broom - almost as much as she hates the vacuum!  The mouse went behind the Barbie house and I tried to be brave and shoo it out the door and out of the house, but no luck.  When it darted by me again -- about 2 inches of cuteness, I'll be honest -- I screamed again and decided it was best to seal off the room (close the glass slider) and never go in there again (until my husband came home and took care of it!)!  I called him at work and told him we needed to move again!  I am nothing if not totally cool under pressure... 

He forgot to bring mousetraps home (have a heart kind -- my littlest dolly did NOT want us to kill the mouse -- just get it out of her playroom!), so we left the door closed until the following night (last night).  Yesterday afternoon, while the dog was sleeping peacefully -- hard to believe her obnoxiously loud SNORING did not wake her up -- the mouse came out of hiding and was lying in a sunny patch of carpet in the playroom -- totally toying with me, I just know it!  I felt like I was at the zoo, because the door is glass and so I sat in the kitchen and watched the mouse like it was an exhibit.  It woke up and darted about here and there and eventually laid down in the middle of the carpet again.  My girls got home shortly after that and my eldest just shuddered as she walked by, but the youngest watched it and then informed me that she thought it was dying!  I think she noticed it's breathing slowing, and it did not move from that spot.  By the time my husband got home, we were certain that it was dead.  My little one was happy that it was out of her playroom (don't worry, she has not been in there yet -- I did a THOROUGH Lysol-ing, absolutely coated everything in there with Lysol but I wanted to wait until it dried and then go in and do a thorough vacuuming and dusting!!), but my sweet girl was sad that the little mouse had died.  We talked about it reminding us of Stuart Little because we are certain (mouse droppings...) that the little guy was hanging out in the second floor of her Barbie house!  (Lysol-ed!!!)

We are living in the country, essentially in a forest, in the mountains...  It's getting colder...  I'm afraid this will not be our last uninvited guest!  Ugh.