Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Welcome to the World, Baby Faith!

Baby Faith Ann came into the world on Tuesday, April 21, 2009, at 9:13am. She was a couple of weeks early, but weighed in at a healthy 8 lbs., 2 oz. and was 20 1/4 inches long! Deanna wants to let everyone know that this was a drug-free birth... Not by choice, but because they got to the hospital 61 minutes before the baby was born :-)

Congratulations, Bartomeo family!

Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tips to Help Children Develop Strong Reading Habits

(NAPSI)-Getting a child to read can be challenging, but a recent survey found that 96 percent of U.S. and Canadian parents recognize the importance of having strong reading skills for school and as an adult.

"As U.S. literacy rates worsen, parents need to make daily reading a priority for themselves and their children. Our society cannot afford a generation that doesn't enjoy reading," says Dr. Mary Mokris, education specialist for Kumon Math and Reading Centers.

The survey for Kumon, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that activities such as playing outside, watching a movie and eating together were more important to today's families than reading together.

"Spending as little as 15 minutes a day reading together helps children of any age improve literacy, analytical and lifelong learning skills while fostering a love for the English language," said Mokris, who offers the following tips to promote literacy at home:

1) Bring reading home-Create a reading area in your house that has comfortable furniture, good lighting and, most importantly, magazines, newspapers and books your children will enjoy.

2) Start a parent-child book club-Parents can learn more about their child's interests and children will get more comfortable reading and sharing in front of peers.

3) Read the book, watch the movie and discuss-It gives children and adults an opportunity to discuss the content, dilemmas and moral implications of the story. This combination sharpens both comprehension and decoding abilities, two of the most important skills for learning.

4) Physical reading-Make reading a part of your outdoor playtime. Read to your child and ask him to act out what he has just heard. Older children can read a play and then perform it.

5) Read and explore-Have each family member choose an area attraction that he or she would like to visit. Have older children read about the area and play tour guide for the day.

Need help selecting books that appeal to your child's interests or reading ability? Kumon Math and Reading Centers offers a free Recommended Reading List, which includes a range of 350 titles for any reading level. You can stop by a Kumon Center for a copy.

For Kumon locations, visit http://www.kumon.com/ or call (800) ABC-MATH.

Reading can be a family affair when parents look for books that the whole family can enjoy reading together.

Hugs and Blessings~
~~~Anne

Friday, April 24, 2009

How to Make Cake Mix Cookies ~ $5.00 + 90 Minutes = 6 Dozen Cookies!

"Wife," my husband (a Realtor) said to me the other evening. "I'm having a big open house this weekend. Do you think I should serve cookies?" As wives around the world know, this translates to "Anne will be baking on Friday." I just feel grateful that he gave me a couple of days notice instead of letting me in on the secret the night before the event!

Anyway... For about $5.00 and in 1 1/2 hours, I whipped up 6 dozen cookies, and ended up with a kitchen that was cleaner than when I started my baking. Yeah, me!

I discovered "cake mix cookies" a couple of years ago. I've modified the traditional method a bit, so I'm calling this rendition "Auntie Anne's Creative Cake Mix Cookies". Below the recipe you'll see some flavor combinations I have tried (today was old-fashioned chocolate chip and "Almond Joy"), but the possibilites are only limited by your imagination :-)

"AUNTIE ANNE'S CREATIVE CAKE MIX COOKIES"

Ingredients:

1 box cake mix (any flavor)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup "stir in" (chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, etc. This is where the "creativity" occurs!)

Directions:
  1. Combine cake mix, oil, eggs, flour, and vanilla in a bowl and mix thoroughly. (Mix will look greasy. It's supposed to look that way.)
  2. Stir in your "stir-in".
  3. Roll a rounded teaspoon sized amount of dough into a ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.
  5. Upon removing from oven, let cookies stand on sheet for two minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

These are my "Almond Joy" Cookies. I used chocolate cake mix, almonds and coconut. I substituted almond extract for the vanilla.

These are "plain and simple" chocolate chip cookies. Yellow cake mix with chocolate chips.

Other flavor combinations I've tried:

  • Devil's food with peanut butter chips
  • Strawberry with chocolate chips
  • Yellow with white chocolate chips and macademia nuts (a fan favorite!)
  • Carrot cake with coconut and pecans
  • Spice cake with raisins and walnuts
  • Chocolate with Andes mint chips
  • Cherry chip with chocolate chunks

Hugs and blessings~

~~~Anne

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What do you do when you fall down?

One of my "Kumon Moms" sent me this video. It's short but absolutely inspiring. It's also interesting to see how many different languages have translated Nick's message. Thanks for sharing this, Maria!



Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to make Pepper Steak - A Quick , Delicious, Inexpensive Dinner Recipe

Ahhhh... I've been doing Kumon work from home today, and have been glued to my computer for about 12 hours! Because I'm at home, I have no excuse (yeah, right) for not making Dave a home-cooked dinner. He commented the other day that there were about 8 bags of "Trader Joe's" frozen bell pepper slices in the freezer. I told him they were there for PEPPER STEAK or FAJITA emergencies, and to just hush. Well... Today is a "Pepper Steak Emergency", and here's the recipe.

Note: If you slice the meat when you buy it fresh and freeze it with the marinade, you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, and it will be good-to-go when you get home from work the next day. Freeze several bags when meat is on sale. It's a great time and money saving trick!

BUSY WOMAN'S PEPPER STEAK
Ingredients
1# (approx.) Top Round, cut into thin strips
1 cup bottled Italian dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
A couple of splashes red wine, if you have it on hand
1/4 cup Allegro Marinade (this can be omitted if you don't have it. Just add a tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce and a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
Bell Peppers, cut into strips (As many as you want. 3-4 mediun fresh, or a bag of frozen. More or less to taste.)
1/2 envelope dry brown gravy mix
3 tbs. soy sauce (more or less, to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a gallon-size Ziploc bag, combine dressing, soy sauce, wine, and Allegro. Add meat and seal bag. Allow to marinate for at least one hour (the longer you marinate, the tastier the meat.)

Pre-heat a large frying pan over high heat. When pan is hot, use tongs to remove the meat from your "marinating bag", and add to pan. Discard marinade (I know it smells really good, but trust me. Throw it away!) Cook meat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in gravy mix and continue to cook for one minute. (Sauce will thicken a bit, but if you like a thicker, more "gravy-ish" sauce, add the entire pack of gravy mix.) Add soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add onions and peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender. Serve over rice. Enjoy!


Hugs and blessings~

~~~Anne

Monday, April 13, 2009

JoJo's Frozen Limeade Pie

My "good/better/best" friend John called the other night, and said his 9-year old daughter wanted to make a pie from "one of those cooking shows you watch on TV". He and JoJo went to the store, and she picked out her ingredients. He was a bit skeptical, but they brought home their supplies and she went to work on her dessert... with no recipe! His skepticism subsided when he took his first bite of her frozen masterpiece. It was delicious!

In honor of JoJo and her culinary efforts, I'm deeming her recipe a "child friendly" project, as it involves no cooking or baking. Way to go, JoJo!

JO-JO'S AMAZING FROZEN LIMEADE PIE
Ingredients:
1 graham cracker crust
6 oz. frozen limeade concentrate (thawed)
12 oz. container of thawed whipped topping (Cool Whip)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 lime, zested and separated into two equal portions

Combine limeade, whipped topping, condensed milk, and half the zest. Pour into crust. Put in freezer and alow to set until firm (about 2 hours). Garnish with the remaining zest and enjoy.

Doesn't this sound like a quick and easy recipe your kids can make this summer?

Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CREAM PUFFS - Inexpensive, elegant, and easy!

Want to look like you spent hours making a fancy dessert? These amazing CREAM PUFFS look like a really challenging project, right? NO!!! It's a super easy, quick , inexpensive recipe that has a huge WOW factor. Here's the recipe:

ANNE'S "DON'T TELL ANYONE HOW EASY THEY ARE" CREAM PUFFS
(Makes 5-6 big puffs, but the recipe can be easily doubled.)
Ingredients
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup flour
dash salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1 pkg. French Vanilla Jell-O Pudding, prepared and refrigerated
Powdered sugar (for decoration)

Melt butter in boiling water. Add flour, salt and sugar all at once and stir until thouroughly mixed. Cook over meduim heat, stirring constantly, until mixture forms a ball. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat with a hand-mixer until mixture is smooth.
Drop mixture in heaping tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet, about 3" apart. (Don't worry! They'll puff when they bake!)
Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes (a little less for smaller puffs). Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 15-25 minutes until puffs are golden. Check on them often, so they don't burn. Cook time depends on your oven and the size of your puffs :-)
Remove from oven, and split puffs in half. Put puffs back on cookie sheet and return to oven to dry. MAKE SURE OVEN IS OFF!!! The drying process takes about 20 minutes.
Spoon prepared filling or custard into tops and bottoms of puffs. Reassemble, and sift powdered sugar over the tops. Put on serving plate and enjoy. Easy, right? Enjoy!
Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne

Friday, April 10, 2009

Super Simple Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe

I was so excited about making CREAM PUFFS for "Ladies Night" tonight, that I completely forgot I had volunteered to also bring a salad! Time for some quick thinking and some creativity. Since I found frozen artichoke hearts (bonus!), this was my starting point. Also having flour tortillas, I was leaning toward an artichoke dip with tortilla "points". Alas, none of the cheeses or spinach were to be found, so I had to travel a different direction.
'
So... Here's my "use whaterever you find" recipe for PESTO PASTA SALAD:

Ingredients
7-8 oz. uncooked pasta (I used mini penne)
Fresh or frozen veggies (whatever you can find)
Sliced Black Olives (I didn't have any, but if I did, I'd have tossed 'em in!)
1/2 cup Salad Dressing (Miracle Whip)
7 0z. jar of prepared pesto
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Diced tomatoes for garnish

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside.
2. Put your veggies in a bowl. (I used artichoke hearts, broccoli, peas, and some diced onion.)
3. Stir together salad dressing, pesto, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in bowl.
4. Put cooled pasta in large serving bowl. Add pesto mixture and stir to coat. Add veggies and mix gently until all ingredients are evenly coated.
5. Garnish with tomatoes. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Hugs and blessings~

~~~Anne

Monday, April 6, 2009

A tisket, a tasket... An adorable springtime basket!

I finally made time to get some weaving done on Sunday. (I feel much better now that I've gotten my "fix", thank you very much!) Above is the amazingly cute springtime basket I made for Aunt Suzie. It is loosely based on the pattern "Springtime Wine Basket" by Sandra Lyons. I did not use the handle called for in her basket, and I chose to make my flowers in different colors (Aunt Suzie is a rather colorful lady!), rather than all pink. I also used "regular" flat reed for the flowers instead of the "paper thin maple" noted in Sandra's materials list.
'
Random thought: The pattern calls this a "wine basket". Hmmm. I put a standard wine bottle in it, just to see how it would look. It "floated" in the basket. Then I tried a 2-liter soda bottle. Better, but who puts soda in a basket? Really, at about 6" in diameter and 7" tall, this would make a pretty container to store cooking utensils on your kitchen counter.
'
Other news... I signed up for my first "Basket Swap" through the Yahoo Group "Weavers Words". My swap partner's name is Diane and she lives is Michigan. She has been weaving for 25+ years and works in a basket shop. I think that I'll have to substitute creativity for basket weaving skills on this one, so... My thought is to make a Southwestern version of my ribbon basket for her. I'll stain the basket and then, instead of ribbon, I'll weave lengths of turquose and silver beads (or maybe I'll use leather cording, we'll see). Instead of a bow, I'll finish off the basket with a concho or other SW type bobble. Into the basket will go a jar of "pickly pear" jelly or other New Mexcian goody. If anyone has any suggestions for this basket, I'd love to hear from you.
'
Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Think I'm Suffering from Basket Weaving Withdrawal!

It's been a few weeks since I've attended a basket weaving class. I find myself sorting through my collection of reed and surfing for basket patterns on the internet when I should be working! Yikes... Am I already and addict? "Hello. My name is Anne and I'm a weaving addict." Nice.
'
Anyway, the picture above is the first weaving project I tackled on my own, at home, without the help of Nancy ("The Basketmaster"). I did this one a couple of weekends ago, but I have to admit I will be weaving again tomorrow. Dave's wonderful Aunt Suzie is coming to town next week, so I think I'll try making a basket decorated with tulips for her. I found the pattern here: http://www.justpatterns.com/weavers/patterns/springwine_basket.html . Cute, right? I'll post a picture if the project goes well. (OK. I'll post even if it doesn't! )


Aunt Suzie is rather crafty and artistic, herself. She made this beautiful pot, which we have proudly displayed in the living room. I'm very much looking forward to her visit, and am excited about presenting her with one of my "woven with love" baskets.

Hugs and blessings~

~~~Anne

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bittersweet Mocha Cake: A Tale of a Good Recipe Gone Bad... And Then Good, Again!

OK. We all have at least one story of a good recipe gone bad. My FLOURLESS BITTERSWEET MOCHA CAKE started out good, then took a very unfortunate turn down the "road of badness", but I was able to rescue it and guide it to "chocolate bliss"! Below is my recipe and tutorial (bad pictures and all...)
'
Ingredients:
20 oz. bittersweet chocolate (5 4 oz. bars)
6 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup Kahlua (coffee liqueur), plus extra for drinking... I mean drizzling!
6 eggs, separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In double boiler, over medium heat, melt 3 chocolate bars, butter, and Kahlua. Cook and stir until melted. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
2. In bowl of electric mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and thickened. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture.
3. In separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites about 5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. In batches, fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.
4. Pour batter into 9" cake pan coated with flour-based cooking spray. (Notice how full the pan is. This should have been a warning to me, but NOOOO!)
5. Bake 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
~Here's a picture of the "bad" cake I took out of the oven. Notice the burned edges rising up and over the edge of the pan. YIKES! Not at all the result I wanted.~
~Here's my cake "post surgery". Things are looking up!~
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6. Allow cake to cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan, turn upside down, and allow to cool completely on cake rack.
7. If desired, brush or drizzle extra Kahlua on top and sides of cake. (This was a "must" for me, as my cake was a little dried out and a tad burned. The extra Kahlua aided tremendously in my cake's recovery process!)
8. In bowl, combine 1/2 cup boiling water and remaining chocolate. Let sit 2 minutes and stir until smooth. Let cool for 2 minutes. Pour chocolate over cake to coat.
9. Chill completely.

10. Garnish with fruit and serve This rich dessert goes great with a cup of good, strong coffee or a glass of deep port. Truly a slice of "Chocolate Heaven"!
'
Hugs and blessings~
~~~Anne
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