Saturday, June 27, 2009

Six Word Saturday - Family Reunion


The Parham family reunion is being held July 31-August 2 this year, at the Summit Inn in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I've volunteered for the task of organizing/prepping the Saturday night dinner and providing desserts for both nights. Since the functions will all be held outdoors, anything I serve needs to be either made ahead of time, "no cook", or grillable. Did I mention it's a four hour drive to the reunion site? Hmmm..... The good news is that I booked the last available cabin, so I have a tiny kitchen with a stove, oven, and refigerator. This makes planning a little easier!

Last reunion, I set up "Fajita Night": Dave cooked the fajitas on the grill, and everyone dressed up their fajitas with the condiments of their choice. We also served guacamole and chips, pico de gallo, beans, and Sangria. I made enough cakemix cookies so there were leftovers for all the children to take home.

This year, I think I'm leaning toward "shish-kabobs". I think it would be easy enough to prep the veggies ahead of time, and I think I'll cube the meat and freeze it in marinade so I can simply thaw it in the cabin fridge and it will be good to go. We'll set up all the fixins' and people can create their own skewers on site. I think maybe a green salad and garlic breadsticks (cooked on the grill) should be enough to complete the meal.

In keeping with the "create your own" theme, I'm considering making cupcakes and setting up a decorating station with frosting, sprinkles, fruit, etc. so people can reate their own yummy masterpieces. We'll award prizes for the "most creative", "prettiest", and "funniest" cupcakes. Does this seem like fun or a disaster waiting to happen? Either way, it will probably provide some great photo opportunities!

Does anyone have any ideas for Friday night dessert? Dinner is just hotdogs and burgers, so dessert doesn't need to be fancy. I'd love to hear what you'd bring to an outdoor family reunion.

Of course, I'll be posting all my recipes and pictures as the reunion date approaches.

Hugs and blessings~

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cherry Pecan Coconut Bars

Ahhh.... I finally took a little well-deserved time off to do some basket weaving with my friends Faith, Dar, and of course, Basket Master Nancy. Nancy offered to help me figure out how to weave a "Peanut Basket turned into a Prayer Basket", for which we had no pattern. Nancy generously provided pizza for our evening of weaving, so I offered to bring dessert. I whipped up my chewy, buttery, Cherry Pecan Coconut bars for all of the ladies to enjoy. Below is my recipe...

Chewy Cherry Pecan Coconut Bars
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped pecans (but you could substitute walnuts)
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and quartered
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare crust: Combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter in medium sized mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour/sugar using a pastry blender or two butter knives. Press mixture into an 8" square baking pan. Bake 18-23 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven.
3. Prepare filling: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. (I added the cherries last, because I was afraid the whole thing would turn pink... not that this is necessarily a bad thing!) Spoon on top of crust and spread evenly.
4. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
5. Cool completely before cutting into bars. This recipe will make 16 bars of chewy goodness. Be careful to make them right before your event if they are a contribution to a potluck or a party. The have a tendency to disappear very quickly!
Hugs and blessings~

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers Play Key Role in Children’s Education

Survey Finds Dads Active in Academics

Teaneck, N.J. (June 10, 2009) – Fathers believe helping their children excel in school is one of their primary roles according to a recent survey by Ipsos Public Affairs for Kumon Math and Reading Centers. As America prepares to celebrate Father’s Day on June 21st, the survey finds today’s dads are more active in their children’s academic development compared to their own fathers.

A recent educational survey of more than 1,000 American parents with children ages five to 15 found that 50 percent of dads say they are the ones who most motivate their children to do their homework, indicating that dads feel they are as likely as moms to help with schoolwork. This is quite different from previous generations. Only nine percent of these same parents chose their own father when asked who motivated them to complete their homework when they were growing up.

“In a world of dual income families it is inspiring to see fathers taking a leading role along with mothers in their children’s education,” says Dr. Mary Mokris, education specialist for Kumon Math and Reading Centers. “Fathers are actively addressing their children’s academic needs all year round.”

Kumon Math and Reading Centers shares other dad highlights from the survey:
  • Fathers who volunteer with their children spend an average of 2.78 hours per week volunteering together.

  • More than eight in ten dads feel confident helping their children with math, history, geography or science homework.

  • Ninety-eight percent of dads personally help their children when he or she experiences a problem with homework.

  • Three out of four dads are aware of summer learning opportunities for their children.

  • Six out of ten dads enroll their children in an organized learning program for at least one week over the summer.

  • More than 30 percent of dads enroll their children in supplemental education programs such as tutoring or summer camp to keep their skills sharp during the summer.

Kumon, the world’s largest after-school math and reading program, was founded more than fifty years ago by Toru Kumon, a math teacher and father, who wanted to help his son do better in math.

About Kumon Math and Reading Centers:
Kumon [k -mŏn] is an after-school math and reading program that helps children fulfill their potential by motivating them to achieve more on their own. The learning method uses a systematic and individualized approach that helps children develop a solid command of math and reading skills. Through daily practice and mastery of materials, students increase confidence, improve concentration and develop better study skills. Kumon has 26,000 Centers in 46 countries and more than four million students studying worldwide. For more information, please visit

About the Survey: The survey was fielded April 3– 9, 2009 via the Ipsos North-American I-Say Panel, a household consumer panel that has been pre-staged and pre-screened. A total of 1,039 American parents with children between the ages of five and 15, inclusive, were interviewed online.

Happy Fathers Day!

Hugs and blessings~


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Make a Candy Bouquet

I've always wanted to try my hand at making a candy bouquet, but somehow my available time and a "candy bouquet" occasion never had a chance to meet. Until now! I enjoyed this project so much (it really didn't take a lot of time) that I am trying to come up with other "bouquet occassions" so I can do this project again. I'm thinking "theme" bouquets, maybe red, white, and blue with little American flags for Independence Day, all white and silver for a bridal shower, pastels for a baby shower, a Mexican fiesta theme, or a pirate theme, decorated with little gold chocolate coins and bandanas intermingled with the tissue. Too cute!

Here's the tutorial on how to make your own Candy Bouquet:

Assemble your supplies:
  • Assorted wrapped candy bars, gum balls, hard candies, lollipops...
  • Container for your arrangement (Mine was a plastic bowl and about 2" deep and 6" in diameter, but I'll bet a flower pot would work great for this!)
  • Wooden skewers or dowels
  • Silk flowers with leaves (Strip the flowers and leaves off the stems. Save the flowers for a future project.)
    Floral tape
  • Floral foam
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Cool-temp glue gun
  • Bow to decorate container
Cut floral foam into chunks that fit your container. Floral foam is very light weight, so you will have to glue the chunks to the bottom of the container so they don't pull out due to the weight of the candy.
Poke skewers through the leaves you harvested from your silk flower stems. Make sure the leaves are pushed down far enough that you have enough "naked skewer" to run the length of your chosen candy bars. Wrap the bottom of your leaves and the skewer with floral tape to about 2.5 inches from the bottom. (Notes: Skewers should be cut to different lengths, tall ones go to the back of the arrangement, with lengths getting shorter and shorter as you come toward the front. For heavier candy, wrap 2 skewers together.)

For the taller stems at the back of your arrangement, fold tissue paper and poke the skewers through the paper as shown. This will help the tissue paper stand up to hide the backs of your "flowers" and the little fold at the bottom will cover your floral foam.
Begin creating your flowers by gluing your candy bars to your stems. Make sure the "naked" part of your skewer reaches the entire length of your candy, or the weight of the candy bar will cause them to droop or pull away from the skewer. (The picture above is how NOT to place the skewer!)
Here's a completed Reese's flower. I like the square shape in contrast to the longer, thinner rectangles of the other candy bars. I think York peppermint patties with their silver wrappers would also provide a nice contrast and a bit of sparkle :-)
For the "blooming" flowers, I glued the candy bars to a bit of cardboard for support. I then glued the cardboard to a stem.
Begin poking your stems into the floral foam. You'll see in the above picture that I have already cut some of my dowels and arranged my tissue to cover the foam. (Don't worry too much about placement at this time. Trust me, I poked and re-poked several times before I created my final bouquet. My foam probably looks like Swiss cheese!)
On a whim, I wired three Bit-O-Honey candies together to create a different flower. You'll see it in the picture below, as well as a bloom made of 4 pink and purple chewy candies with a gumball center. Cute!
Woo hoo! My bouquet is taking on a pretty good shape right now, but we still have a way to go. What shall we put in next?
Here's the stripped wire stem from my silk flowers. It was just laying on the counter looking lonely, so I decided I needed to incorporate into my bouquet. But how?
HA! I used floral tape to attach a gumball to each of the stems. I poked it right into the center of my bouquet and bent the wires to place these little balls of color randomly in my arrangement.
Aren't the colors pretty? The gumball stems added just what I needed to even out the bouquet. Genius, if I might say so myself!
We're almost finished. Looks pretty good, right? Keep poking your flowers into your foam until your arrangement is full of sweet goodness, and there are no bare spots. You might have to shorten some of your stems at this time to get the look you want.
We are done! Isn't the finished product fun? You'll see I've tucked in a few small pieces of tissue paper in between some of the blooms to cover any exposed foam. I also used glue dots to hold up some of the floppy folds of tissue at the back of the arrangement. Overall, this project cost under $10.00 and took about an hour to create. Best of all, I have a handmade-with-love birthday gift for a good friend. Happy birthday, Deanna!
Want more candy fun? Click here to take a fun candy quiz from . It's harder than it looks. I only got 15 out of 26! How did you do?
Hugs and blessings~

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pico de Gallo - My Recipe and "The Song"

It's a beautiful day here in the Land of Enchantment. Sunny, but not too hot. I had a very busy week, so I am going to enjoy hard-earned "down-time" this evening. I think if I lived in the south, I'd recline in the swing on my veranda, sipping a mint julep and snacking on cheese straws, while fanning myself delicately. YEAH RIGHT. I live in New Mexico, so it's me on the front porch with a margarita, homemade pico de gallo, and tortilla chips!

Pico de gallo (Spanish for Rooster's Beak) is a fresh condiment, much like salsa. It can be served as a dip for tortilla chips or as a topping for your next batch of tacos or fajitas.

Before you begin this easy recipe, you have to take a couple of minutes to listen to the "Pico de Gallo" song by Trout Fishing in America. Listen closely to the lyrics. I guarantee you'll laugh so hard you'll cry-o!

Anne's Pico de Gallo Recipe
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (2 jalapenos will give you additional heat :- )
Squeeze of lime juice
Salt to taste
Optional: Cilantro, chopped (I'm not a fan of cilantro, so I don't use it in my version)

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to tacos or fajitas.

Hugs and blessings~

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chile Relleno Casserole

Chile rellenos are one of my favorite New Mexican foods, but they require a lot of preparation. Get a whole roasted green chile, peel the chile, clean out the seeds, stuff it with cheese, dip it in batter and deep fry. Way too much work for this busy lady, so rellenos are more of a "restaurant treat" for me!

When I came across the following recipe for kind of a "faux" chile relleno casserole that involved none of the above prep and NO FRYING, I thought "no way", and filed the recipe card away. So... I was fumbling around in the kitchen the other day trying to figure out what to make for a weekend brunch and came across the recipe. I had all the ingredients for the casserole on hand, so I thought I'd give it a go. Oh my goodness! It was quick (5 minutes of prep!), easy, and absolutely delicious!!! This one gets filed under "love it". I will definately be making it again. (My husband said I'll be making it again SOON!)

Here's the recipe:

courtesy of Casa del Granjero in Albuquerque, New Mexico


1 cup green chile, roasted, peeled, and chopped (Check the freezer section at the grocery for chopped green chile. It's already prepped for you :-)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/4 cups Montery Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup flour

1 t. baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk

Garnish suggestions: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, diced onions, sour cream, salsa


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the first seven ingredients, stirring until well incorporated.

Pour the mixture in a buttered 9x9 baking dish or a 10" pie pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until fully set.

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Slice, garnish, and serve.

Hugs and blessings~


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Breaking the Reading Code

This is the Junior Kumon room at my
Kumon Math & Reading Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Have you ever wondered why reading is so easy for some children, yet so difficult for others? Breaking the reading code is the key to unraveling the mystery of learning to read. To decipher the code, students must first transform letters to sounds, and then blend the sounds together to form words. This is not an easy process. Yet as complex as it is, this process happens rather effortlessly for the majority of children during kindergarten or first grade.

Once children break the code, they become emergent readers, ready and eager to learn to read. These are the students who take off like reading rockets and smoothly transition through the rest of the stages of reading, eventually becoming successful readers. Ideally, this transition occurs before students enter fourth grade where they begin to use their skilled reading ability to learn all school subjects, including math and science.

For children who have difficulty breaking the reading code, however, learning to read can be an agonizing ordeal. The bad news is that as these children wrestle with learning how to read, they fall farther and farther behind their classmates. The good news, however, is that these struggling readers can be taught to read. Scientific research has provided us with the knowledge of what works best in teaching children to read, and Kumon’s Reading Program—starting with it's beginning levels—has put this knowledge into practice.

There are two parts to the reading puzzle that children need to master in order to break the reading code.
  • Part one requires the ability to recognize that words are made up of small sounds. We call this phonemic awareness. For example, the word cat is made up of a hard /c/ sound, a short /a/ sound, and the /t/ sound.

  • Part two requires the ability to link these sounds to letters of the alphabet. We call this alphabetic principle. For example, the hard /c/ sound is represented by the letter c, the short /a/ sound is represented by the letter a, and the /t/ sound is represented by the letter t.

The purpose of developing phonemic awareness in students is to give them these linguistic insights upon which the alphabetic principle depends. By understanding that words are made up of a sequence of sounds, students easily learn the sounds that go with letters. For example, when the sound /d/ is recognized as the sound heard in doll, dog, and day, students quickly learn that the sound of the letter d is /d/. When the sound /h/ is recognized as the sound heard in house, hat, hen, and heavy, they understand that /h/ is the sound of the letter h.

Phonemic awareness is the ultimate difference between those who catch on to reading very quickly and those who do not. Simply put, struggling readers lack phonemic awareness. Trying to memorize which sounds go with what letters and which words begin with what sounds, will not help these students learn to read if they have not mastered this skill. Fortunately, phonemic awareness can be developed if it is taught explicitly and systematically for approximately 15 minutes per day over the course of one school year.

How can struggling readers learn this skill? The development of the reading readiness skills of phonemic awareness, followed by the alphabetic principle, begins in Kumon's early Reading Program. Children can be taught phonemic awareness by first drawing their attention to rhymes and then making their own rhymes. For instance, by rhyming words such as cat, hat, pat, and mat, they quickly learn to recognize the sound of /at/, and they learn that by changing the beginning sounds of rhyming words, they can make new words. When they learn to do this, they can be taught to substitute the ending and finally the middle sounds of rhyming words to form new words. For example, if they change the /t/ in cat to /p/, the new word is cap.

Next, children need to learn to play games with words. They can be taught to blend sounds together to make words. For example, if a child blends the sounds /m/, /a/, /p/ together, the word map is formed. A child also needs to be taught to take a word apart by breaking it into its different sounds.

Although it is not easy for struggling readers to master these skills, it is possible with daily practice. For students who learn to attend to the structure of language, the alphabetic principle will make sense and they will rapidly develop the phonetic skills necessary for reading, thus breaking the reading code. Once accomplished, struggling readers and beginning readers will all grow into successful readers!

Hugs and blessings~

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