Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flag Jello

This is the recipe for the flag Jello that we have every year on the Fourth of July.  It's also known as Seven Layer Jello Salad and is my Aunt Bev's recipe. 

Let me tell you a bit about my aunt...she can cook.  And, she has a sweet tooth, just like me (or should I say I have one just like she does?)  And the funny thing about it is?  We have no genes in common, since she's married to my mom's brother, but we are a lot alike.  I admire her and I feel all 'homey' when I'm around her and my uncle.  They have always been very special to my brother and sister and me.  I just wish I could spend more time with them, but we live 500+ miles away from one another.  :(

This recipe is time consuming, but not difficult.  It's cool and refreshing for summer, and sweet enough without being too filling.

In the original recipe, it's all colorful because it calls for 4 different flavors of Jello.  But, for Independence Day, I use 2 boxes of Berry Blue and 2 boxes of Strawberry.  Here is my version of the recipe, but you can make it as colorful as you want by using whatever flavors float your boat (she uses lime, lemon, orange, and cherry and I highly recommend those flavors!)

Flag Jello (aka 7 Layer Jello Salad)
2 small boxes Berry Blue Jello
2 small boxes Strawberry Jello
2 envelopes Knox gelatin (unflavored gelatin)
2 cups of milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sour cream

First, make the white layer and keep in a bowl and set aside (do not refrigerate) until ready to use:
Mix 2 envelopes Knox gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water.  Heat 2 cups of milk to boiling.  Add to the gelatin mixture.  Add the cup sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.  Beat with a mixer until creamy.  Set aside.

For each Jello layer: mix one cup boiling water to a package of Jello and stir until it's dissolved.  Stir in 1/2 cup cold water.

First, prepare the blue Jello and pour it into a 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
After it sets, add 1 2/3 cups of the white mixture.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Then comes the strawberry layer.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
1 2/3 cups of the white mixture is next.  Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Blue layer...Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
1 2/3 cups white mixture...Refrigerate 45 minutes
Last layer!  Finally!  Red layer...Refrigerate at least 45 more minutes before enjoying (but I usually make this the day before we eat it.)

Make sure you pour each layer in slowly so that you don't leave any 'holes' on top of the layer before it.  You may need to spread the white layer gently with a spatula so that it's even.

It should look like this when you cut it:

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  Thanks, Aunt Bev, for the yummy recipe!  xoxo

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ahhhhh, Summer!

I love summer!  It's the time of year to unplug, relax, and read a good book.  Time for visiting family, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors.  Summer also means Independence Day, one of our favorite holidays.

We went to my sister's house over the Fourth of July weekend and had a blast, as usual.  Scott and I stopped on the way there to stock up on fireworks. 

On Saturday, we went to the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair while in WV and sampled yummy food, saw some wonderful local art work, and bought some delicious pickles and hot pepper jellies to take back to my sister's house to share. That night we went to downtown Huntington for dinner.  The downtown area is beautiful!

Craig and Scott golfed on Sunday and we girls hung out and then grocery shopped for the 4th.  Craig fired up the grill and we had burgers and lots of sides for lunch on the 4th.  We got to visit with his side of the family that afternoon.  Good times!  That evening, we had a large 'camp' fire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner. 

After it got dark, Scott started the fireworks show.  The girls got to set off some fireworks and I even got brave enough to light some fountains.

Here are some pictures from our holiday.  Once again, it would have been perfect if Nick could have joined us, but he's working hard at camp....we are truly empty-nesters.   

I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day!


Roasting hot dogs and posing...I love these girlies!

One of the many fountains from the show

Enjoying their sparklers

Flag Jello...a 4th of July tradition in our house...recipe in a future post.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Snake Charmer and Hank Williams, Jr.

Nick works as a counselor at Scout camp in the summertime.  For the past two summers, he has been the director of the Ecology/Conservation area.  He writes the syllabi for his program and teaches some of the merit badges involved in the program, and has an assistant and CIT to help him with the classes.
The tent on the right is where Nick spends his nights at camp.  It's large enough for 3 full sized cots and is equipped with electricity!
 During Staff Week, while he was at his computer writing the syllabi (and had music streaming from the computer), he looked up and saw a black rat snake cozying up to his computer.  The song?  A song by Hank Williams, Jr....and that is how the snake got his name. 
Nick and Hank Williams, Jr.

This snake?  Not Hank Williams, Jr....and according to Nick, not a friendly snake. 
We went to camp during family night and got a 'behind the scenes' tour of the Eco-Con area.  Nick introduced us to Hank Williams, Jr. and offered to let me hold it.  Um, NO THANK YOU!  I love soft, furry puppies, not icky, cold snakes.  Hank was slithering all over my boy, and Scott commented that he was probably enjoying the warmth from Nick.  (I was having heart palpatations.)  Nick kept saying, "MOM!  He's not going to bite me!" (because I kept saying, "Watch out!  He's going to bite you!"  duh.)
Slithering snake is all over my boy!  ACK!

After Nick put Hank back in his cage (and I breathed a huge sigh of relief), we went over to the turtle tank and he showed us the various amphibians and reptiles in the tank.  There were many sizes of frogs and turtles swimming or lounging around.  Nick picked up some of the animals to point out what made them unique.  Very interesting!

Oh...and being the germaphobic mom that I am...I hosed Nick down with hand sanitizer when all of the animals were put away.  Because that's how I roll!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes

I was invited to my friend Becky's house to watch the Bachelorette last night.  Each of us were to bring an appetizer.  The first thing that came to mind was dessert.  These mini cheesecakes are perfect for an appetizer party because they don't require a fork (unless you want to be lady-like).  Unfortunately, my headache turned much worse so I had to pass on the party, but I sent these with a friend so that they could enjoy them.

Mini Cheesecakes
2 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
12 vanilla wafers

Preheat over to 325 degrees.  Line muffin tins with foil wrappers.  Put a vanilla wafer into each wrapper.  Mix together cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar until creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way full;.  Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  When they come out of the oven, they will look like regular cupcakes, but as they cool, they will fall and create a small indentation.  Once they are cool, remove from muffin tins and top with desired topping.  I used cherry pie filling, but blueberry is also yummy.  Fresh berries or chocolate ganache would also be delicious.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Fathers' Day

I want to pause for a moment to wish the important men in my life a very Happy Fathers' Day. 

First, to the love of my best friend...thank you for being a great father and role model to our son.

Second, to my own father, who left this earth much too soon.  You were the best father a girl could ever hope for.  You lived for your wife and kids and it showed.  I love and miss you, Dad!

Next, to my dear father-in-law.  You are a wonderful example of Christian love.  You have accepted me as a daughter from day one, and for that I love you!

Dave and both mean a lot to us!  Thanks for being there.

If you are fortunate enough to still have your father, please call him and let him know how much he means to you!  Life is too short...time waits for no one.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday Funday

  Phone call with my mom
  Long phone conversation with cousin
  Lunch date with my hubby
  Two hour nap
+4 mile walk
Perfect Friday

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chicken in the WHAT?

Ugh, I've neglected my blog for over a week and have much to write about.  School's out, Mother Nature has finally figured out it's summer, we celebrated a birthday, and we went on an amazing River Cruise around Chicago. 

May 24 is a special day in our household (Scott's birthday), and it was made even more special by the fact that our good friend Melisa celebrated her book launch on a Chicago river cruise.  After six years of research, she finally released her travel guide for families of tweens and teens.  After reading the book, I think that any age can appreciate the book.

The title of the book, Chicken in the Car and the Car Won't Go, is from an old folk poem? song? that starts out like this:  Chicken in the car and the car won't go; that's how you spell Chicago.  According to Melisa, her mom used to recite that to her and her sister when they were children.

Melisa wrote the book and it was a total family affair.  Her sister Julie took the author picture and her older son did the graphic work on the cover. 
Melisa's sister Julie, photographer extraordinaire
Our boys from left:  Nick, Melisa's younger son, her older son

My family and I drove up to the suburbs to meet them at their house to follow them into the city and to help carry things onto the boat.  I thought that since it was late afternoon the traffic wouldn't be very congested.  I'm naive.  Scott did a great job staying right with them, though, which can be nerve wracking when you're in city traffic.  It's a good thing he was driving.  He knows how to keep his cool, especially when you have three teen aged boys and one wife talking constantly.  ;)
driving into the city

We found a parking garage very close to the pizza place where we were to get the food for the cruise.  We met Jim, Melisa and Julie (Melisa's mom was waiting at the pier with the various accoutrement).  Scott was to go with Jim to pick up the pizza, but Melisa warned him that he shouldn't be around the bad karma in that vehicle on his birthday.  So, Jim, one of their boys, and Julie got the pizza and the rest of us walked to the pier.  I'm not going to lie, it got a bit hairy as we were taking wrong turns and having a bit of difficulty finding our way there. 
finally at the pier with a view of the Chicago flag, Illinois flag, and the US flag
 BUT, in the end, it was all good, we made it in plenty of time and as soon as the boat pulled in, we were able to board and set things up.

A few important people in Melisa's life were unable to come, including her father who was stuck in TN dealing with issues at his hotel, but she made a special extension of her name tag to honor them.

We enjoyed Chicago style deep dish pizza, along with other Chicago based specialities.

We cruised around Navy Pier...

and up and down the river and had amazing views of the city...

We had a fabulous time on the boat.  After the cruise, we loaded their SUV and were set to meet them at their house (because we had their boys with us!)  Hmmm, this is where it got interesting.  It was cold for May.  I had on sandals (bad idea) and no jacket.  Chicago is windy (duh) and we were walking all over the place trying to find that stupid parking garage.  We knew the intersection where it was located, the trick was to find one of the streets of the intersection.  Finally, I decided that we needed to go into a restaurant to get directions.  Sound familiar?  And, as luck would have it, we were 2 blocks from one of the streets and then another 2 blocks from that intersection.  YAY!

We got the boys home around 11:30ish and then drove the 1 1/2 hours back down here to Farm Country.  It was a wonderful day, and words can't describe how happy, proud, excited we are for our friend!

Melisa, you rock!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

If that chemistry gig doesn't work out for him, he has a back-up plan

Nick is home for a week.  He finished up his finals last Wednesday and got home Thursday night.  He leaves next Sunday for his summer job at camp.  Scott and I are thrilled to have him home and are enjoying every minute with him.  The guys are planning to golf in much of their spare time.  Anyway, he is officially a junior in college.  Where did the time go?

Nick's part time job while going to school is making pizzas at a local pizza shop.  He is so fortunate because the people who own the shop treat him as part of the family.  As a mom, it makes me feel so good to know that he has a 'second mom' who looks out for him.  I met them when I visited Nick during my spring break.  He was invited to have Easter dinner with them because he couldn't come home for the holiday. They are good people!

Nick offered to make pizzas for us for dinner last night.  He made the dough and besides the ingredients, I have no clue how he did it.  Secret recipe...well, he really didn't know the recipe, he kind of guessed, but the crust was wonderful!

the pizza guy

mugging it up for the camera

the dough on the left wasn't stretchy enough...

getting ready to stretch the dough
action shot
showing off his tossing skills

stretching the dough

The first pizza we made was Scott's request.  He went to a restaurant in Santa Fe, NM during one of his business trips and had a pizza that he really enjoyed.  The pizza had roasted garlic (to roast garlic, cut the end off of a head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes...then squeeze it out and smear it on the crust), fresh mozzarella, baby portabellas, regular mushrooms, oregano, and grated Romano cheese.  When the pizza came out of the oven, we drizzled it with truffle oil.  (I hope I can find more uses for that truffle oil because that was an expensive purchase!)

the mushroom pizza ready for the oven

the mushroom pizza freshly baked

The second pizza had pesto, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Pesto and tomato pizza with mozzarella and grated Parmesan

pesto pizza freshly baked

Nick also made a small Stromboli with some extra dough.  He filled it with baby bellas, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.  It was divine!

Stromboli (after we took a few bites)

Before he left for home last Thursday, Susan treated him to dinner.  He had chicken Marsala and cannoli.  He brought home a cannoli for the three of us to share.  I could eat my weight in cannoli!  He said that Joey (Susan's son) made the sweet dessert.  What a talented kid!

Leave the gun, take the cannoli (couldn't resist quoting my favorite movie)

We used my pizza stone and had the oven temp set for the highest it would go, 550 degrees, but the bottom of the pizzas didn't get as crispy as we wanted.  However, they still tasted delicious.

He was the chief cook and I was the chief 'bottle washer.'  Tossing dough is a messy business with all of that flour flying around!  We shared many laughs, talked in our fake Italian accents (he's really good at  Not so much), and just enjoyed the time we had together in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Inspiring me to be Fabulous

Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!

I have spent many years reading blogs.  I enjoy reading about the goings on in other people's lives (I can do without the TMI that some people blog about, though.)  I have a handful of blogs that I read on a daily basis.  I don't personally know all of the bloggers, but I feel like I do after we leave comments back and forth.

My first fabulous blogger is a no-brainer.  Melisa, from Suburban Scrawl, and I go way back.  In fact, we've been friends for so long that we're like family....our husbands are best friends, our boys are friends, we get together for extended family get the drift.  We've been friends since 1985 and have been through a lot together.  She was the first person I told I was pregnant (I had to send Scott a telegram because he was deployed.)  I could go on and on, but that would take up the entire post.  ;)  

Melisa is fabulous for so many reasons.  One reason is when I wrote my first blog post, she sent her blogger friends over to read it and to comment.  How sweet was that? Another reason is that she turned her blogging into a writing career.  She wrote a book a few years ago about dealing with the loss of a pet.  The beautiful dog that was featured in the book was her beloved beagle Bijoux.  Recently, she wrote a travel guide and her launch party is next week.  I'm so excited and proud!  She's my tiara-wearing friend and I love her!

Ringing in 2011 together.

The Pioneer Woman is another fabulous blogger.  Her name is Ree, but I refer to her as PDub.  Ok, so maybe I don't call her that to her face.  In fact, the time that I met her, I was so star-struck that I got verklempt and suddenly got diarrhea of the mouth and couldn't. shut. up.  It was as if I was bound and determined to tell her my life story in the time it took her to sign 5 copies of her cookbook.

I love her blog!  She has a cooking section (with step-by-step recipes), a photography section, a homeschooling section, a home and garden section, and a section for just everyday blogging.  The photographs she takes are breathtaking.  I love to see the animals on her ranch and I especially love reading about her punks and about her basset hounds Charlie and Walter.  (Oh, and her husband Marlboro Man is especially easy on the eyes, if you know what I mean...wink wink).  Ree is going to have a cooking show on The Food Network.  I can't wait to watch!
This is the only picture I have of the two of us with my mouth closed.  Seriously.

Another fabulous blogger is one of my friends that I met on a message board about 10 years ago.  Betsy is a young mommy of 3 precious little boys.  The name of her blog is The Peculiar Homemaker.  I love reading the recipes that she posts in her blog, hearing about how her family is growing, and the fun things she does with her boys.  She's a stay-at-home mom who knows how to stretch a dollar and makes it seem effortless.  She is fabulous because she takes care of her three boys, cooks from scratch, and has at-home date nights with her husband, The Tomato King.  Betsy, you're the Best-y!  ;)

Next on my list is Liz from This Full House.  I've mentioned her on here a few times.  She posted an accent vlog and I posted an accent vlog and we made fun of each others' accents (although I have no accent and she's from Jersey...'nough said.)  The thing with Liz...I've never met her and only know her through our blogs and other social networking sites, but I feel like I know her, know her.  Make sense?

Liz is hilarious as she tells stories about her husband Garth (not his real name), 4 children, and one Doofus Dog all living in a 7 room house.  Because I was also raised in a small house, reading her blog is so comforting to me for some reason.  Liz, I want to come visit!   She is fabulous for many reasons, but one reason is that she can even make folding laundry sound fun!

Liz and Melisa at the blogging function...2 of my fabulous bloggers together.
My fifth fabulous blogger, (and it was hard to narrow it down to just 5) is Lincee Ray from ihategreenbeans.  I can't remember when I first started reading her blog.  I may have heard of her from tv?  I'm not sure.  Anyway, she is a huge fan of a certain dating show.  She posts recaps the day after the show airs.  If you don't watch the show or even like reality tv, it's still fun to read her blog, because the show can be a trainwreck.  However, I like those types of programs (they make me feel normal), so I watch the show and then read her blog the next day.  Good times.  She is fabulous because she can take a sometimes boring episode and make it hilarious with her recap.  She's the type of person I could hang out with! 

Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.