Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Algebra Causing Homework or Homeschool Problems? {#Giveaway (12/6) US & Canada}

Sponsored by I suck at math. Actually, I should say I used to. I barely got through my high school Algebra, Geometry, etc. classes with D's. It just didn't make sense to me most of the time, so I stopped trying to figure it all out. When I had to take "Problem Solving I & II" for my online degree, I knew it was going to really be just a bunch of Algebra (it was.) BUT, I found that I learned much better when I was teaching myself! There is usually more than one way to get the right answer to a math problem, but my high school teachers always only taught ONE way. By learning on my own, I was able to find an easier way to remember all of the rules and ended up getting A's in both classes (mostly while nursing a newborn at the computer!)

When my oldest started having problems in Algebra last year, I was more than happy to help him out. We worked a few times a week together on his homework. I loved seeing that light go on whenever he finally understood how to do a problem. Then came his first test. He failed. While all of his answers were correct (Oh, yeah. I checked!), his teacher had marked all of them wrong because he didn't show his work the way she taught him how to do the problems - HER way or the highway. I tried to talk to her, to the principal, to get him transferred to a different teacher - nada. He was stuck. I couldn't understand her way, so how could I explain it to my son? He ended up giving up around October and failed the class. While I was disappointed that his GPA had dropped and he was no longer a member of the Junior National Honor Society, it was OK. He was taking a high school Algebra class in 8th grade, so he could take it over again this year and there wouldn't really be a penalty.

This year's Algebra teacher has been wonderful. While she cannot teach every possible way to do every type of problem, she does allow for students to figure out the best way for them to do the problems. As long as their answers come out correct consistently and they show their work, she's cool with it. My son did great the first few weeks - they did a bunch of review work. When new stuff was introduced, though, he got lost. I think that he stopped listening just long enough to find himself completely baffled. I tried to do the homework thing with him again, but his teen "I know it all" attitude got in the way. We'd both end up angry and frustrated with one another. When I had the chance to try out the Algebrator Software Tutor Program, I jumped at it!

Here's my 13 year-old's review:
I really like this algebra program. All I have to do is put one of my homework problems on the screen and this will show me how to do each step of the problem. It seemed hard to do at first, then my mom showed me that there are demos of how to solve every kind of problem. I could use this all the way to college. I'm going to need it because I want to be a video game animator and they need to have a lot of math classes. This will really really help me.
So, there you have it. When you see a video game that my son created in 10 years or so, you can think, "Gee, I guess Algebrator really does work!" LOL The demos he referenced are really cool and he's right - there are Videos and Screenshots of how to solve nearly every kind of problem there is. And you can choose between seeing the demos animated or on slide shows. (I love this because I just cannot learn effectively while watching a video, unlike my son.)

Algebrator covers all levels of algebra, from the basics of Pre-Algebra all the way up to college-level classes.  Below is a list of the types of problems that can be entered into the program. I've got to tell you, this is just amazing to me that you can enter your own problems and learn how to solve them! My son likes to check his homework with Algebrator now because, if the answer is incorrect, going step-by-step shows him where he made his mistakes.
This is a screen-shot from the Algebrator Web site. Click on the picture above to see the entire page.
I love having this available to my son and I know that it is going to come in handy for years to come. You can get your own download and optional CD-ROM RIGHT HERE. It is a special price at nearly 50% off for my readers! Algebrator has received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and is used in a ton of public & private schools and colleges. *Algebrator is compatible with any PC running any version of Windows (including Windows 7) and any Intel Mac running OS X.*

Or, you can see if you can win your own download of Algebrator in the Rafflecopter form, below!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

The We Do Listen Foundation {#Giveaway (12/5) US & Can}

I've wanted to write up this post for over a week, but just couldn't find the time. Yeah, I could have done a quickie post... But I think The We Do Listen Foundation deserves more than that. This non-profit's mission is to help children learn to communicate their emotions effectively and find their own inner peace (how cool is that?!)

So, how do they do this? Check out the We Do Listen Foundation Web site. There, you will find FREE animated books, songs, posters and non-violent games. Additionally, the foundation sells nine Howard B. Wigglebottom books. The books are pretty darn great! Each one is focused on a subject that is important to children's personal growth, self-love, and general emotional well-being. Some of the topics covered in the books include: listening to what others have to say, bullying, anger management, divorce, peer pressure, and the need to belong. I received a book on the last subject for this review, and I love it!

My oldest was always pretty happy with himself. That is, until he decided to go to "real" school. The first month was pretty hard for him. His dad had cancer and was pretty sick at the time, so I attributed his quiet, withdrawn behavior to that. Then, I received a call from his teacher. It seems that he had started to make up unbelievable stories about himself - things he had done, toys he owned, people he knew, etc. - and the other kids knew that he was lying, the stories were just too amazing to be true. He wanted them to like him and thought this was the way to do it. After a long talk about listening to his own heart and being himself, then reassuring him that he would find friends who liked him just for who he really was, he managed to get past this huge speed bump. Within another month, he was one of the most popular kids in the class due to his empathetic nature (oh, and he was "totally cool" because he could draw neat pictures, too! LOL)

I really believe that the Howard B. Wigglebottom books, games, songs, and lesson plans would have prepared my oldest for his first taste of "I'm better than you because I _(fill in the blank)_" that seems to run rampant in classrooms.  In the book Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart, written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F, Cornelison, Howard (a cute bunny who has the same feelings and makes the same mistakes that most children do) wants desperately to fit in. When his classmates laugh at him when they see him doing his very favorite thing, he vows to never do it again. Instead, he tries doing all sorts of other things that he thinks will make the other kids view him as being "cool".He screws them all up... miserably. He has a talk with his grandfather about the troubles he's having and, without telling him what to do, Grandpa steers Howard in the right direction. In the end, Howard is once again caught doing his favorite thing but, this time, he is cheered for it!

I am so glad to have this book for Little Guy. He's pretty self-confident right now, but you just never know when that confidence will crumble. It happened to my oldest! I've also been taking Little Guy to the Foundation's Web site to watch the animated versions of all of the Howard B. Wigglebottom books, play games, and learn new (catchy) songs. I've also taken some time to read over the lesson plans. There are some really great ideas in them! I think that, at three years old, it's the perfect time to introduce him to these concepts. Although I don't intend for Little Guy to go to school (he's 100% the unschooling type!), he'll still be around other children and need to be prepared for the inevitable.

I strongly urge you to go check out The We Do Listen Foundation's Web site and then head over to their online store. Right now, for U.S. buyers, all hardcover books are on sale for only $6 each (regularly $15)! And you can buy all 10 books for just $50. In addition to the Foundation's online store, you can find Howard B. Wigglebottom books nearly anywhere books are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada.

So, would you like to WIN your choice of a Howard B. Wigglebottom hardcover book for a special child in your life? Just enter in the Rafflecopter form below!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tuesday's Giveaway Linkup {11/29}

Tuesday's Giveaway Linkup
Welcome to Tuesday's Giveaway Link Up with your hosts Aimee @ Classified: Mom & Karen @ Tots and Me & Alicia @ McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts!
This link up will be posted Monday at 7 PM est. and run all week long! Make sure you stop in as often as you can to list your latest giveaways.
Here is how to use the Giveaway Link Up 1. Post your reviews and/or giveaways, as many as you have, be sure to add the end date (family friendly please) 2. Help spread the word about the giveaway link up by grabbing our button, Tweeting or posting on Facebook. (Not mandatory- but it helps get more exposure to your giveaways as well!) 3. Take a moment to enter any giveaway that strikes an interest to you! If you would  like to follow the three hostesses, we will gladly follow you back! Simply leave us a message to do so. Thank you for linking up with  Aimee @ Classified: Mom & Karen @ Tots and Me & Alicia @  McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two New #WINNERS! {Story Harbour & UGLee Pens}

I know, it's been one hell of a week around here. I am hoping to stay up late tonight and get a few more of these review & giveaways posted. We'll see what happens.  Anyway, right now I have two winners to post! I cannot put both Rafflecopter announcements in one post without making everything go haywire, so you can check out the actual review posts to see that part if you want.

The winner of the Story Harbour Folklore CD is: Pam M
The winner of the UGLee Pens 3-pack is: Corey O.

Congratulation to the WINNERS:
Pam & Corey!!!

Both winners will be emailed in a few minutes and will have 48 hours to respond. If they do not, I will choose a new winner(s).

You Can #WIN Some Great @MelissaAndDoug Toys for #CyberMonday!

Starting at 8am ET, head over to Melissa & Doug's Facebook page to enter to win some great prizes. They will be posting status updates with questions throughout the day. In order to be entered to win whatever the active prize is, just answer the question in the comments section of the question. The very first giveaway winner will with that really cool Train Table pictured above!

They are giving away prizes based on their Terrific Twenty - the Top 20 educational toys for the holiday season. Click below to see what toys are in the giveaway line-up:
Get ready early and "Like" Melissa and Doug on Facebook now. The giveaways will run from 8am ET to Midnight, so make sure you check back often throughout the day!

AND, it looks as if this giveaway is open to US and Canada!

Oh, and there are two great discounts going on for Cyber Monday at Melissa and Doug, you can choose the one that is best for you: You can get 15% off your order with the code NSAVE15 OR you can score free shipping with the code FREESHIPZERO. Codes are good in the contiguous United States only (sorry HI and AK) and will no longer be valid after midnight!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday is HERE!

Here it is, Small Business Saturday! I'm not really sure it's as big as many make it out to be, but give it time - new ideas always take a while to really take effect. So, for my part in this new movement, I'm doing two things: First, I'm urging you to hit the small, non-corporation businesses this year to shop for gifts and services. Next, I'd like to share with you some of the small online businesses I've had the pleasure of doing business with. I've checked for discounts and deals on each site - some had them, some didn't. Don't assume that there won't be any sales, etc. if I haven't listed them. I'm sure that many are probably waiting for Cyber Monday (and a few I came across had Black Friday-only deals.)

I can update this list, so if you know of a great small business please let me know. I'll need the name of the company, the URL, and a description of what they sell. And if they have any sales going on, let me know - what the sale is, when it ends, and if there's a discount code I'll need that, too! If your shop is listed and I haven't represented your discount properly (or completely missed one!) let me know ASAP. The fastest way to get my attention is via the Contact Me page.


ElJay Plushie Hand-cut original appliqué cloth baby books, original soft fleece baby rattles and stuffed animals.

 Laugh Rabbit Jr.  Hand-sewn children’s items. From pillowcases to tooth fairy pillows to baby blankets and toys.

 Olive and Ollie  Modern quilts, chenille bibs, handmade appliqué tees, chenille blankets, lounge sets and pants, dresses, custom birthday shirts, custom birthday lounge sets.

 Beanie Designs  Handmade baby and children’s hats Always free shipping to US. Facebook fans get 10% off (look for code in the “About” section on FB sidebar)

 Freckles Crafts  Freckles Craft Kits offer convenient, safe, educational and fun craft projects for children ages three and older. Each craft kit contains everything you need to create a cute, fun, gift quality craft with your child and includes simple detailed instructions. With a wide range of materials to make paper crafts, wood crafts, and beaded crafts, Freckles Craft Kits can offer something for everyone's interest and ability. Free shipping on orders over $25 with code SANTA

Memorable Children’s Books and Gifts  You can receive a discount of 10-15% on the items listed on the page that I have linked to. Additionally, you will get a free place mat of your choice with every order! Sale ends 11/26. Also, look for Cyber Monday deals!

 Gummy Lump  Melissa & Doug, ALEX, and many other toys at great discounts! 40% ALL Toys sale!!! Everything in store marked down until Tuesday.

Frozen Creek Woodworks Quality handcrafted wood toys, home decor, and bookmarks made with reclaimed, repurposed and other woods that might otherwise be discarded. Prices reflect mark-downs for holidays.


4th Street Candle Co.  Handmade dye-free soy candles  (The scents are wonderful and last!)

8daysOfTreasures  Moss Terrariums, Nature Photography, Wall Decor, Vintage items, Jewelry Through Dec. 6, the code: BLACKFRIDAY will get 25% off  at checkout.

Amore Vivo  Unique Gifts, Speciality Florals, Peacock Feather Wreaths, Wine Ark, Cork Wall Art, Upcycled Cork Decor, Heart Wreaths, Summer Wreaths, Fall Autumn Wreaths, Handmade Heart Wreaths, Silk Everlasting Rose Arrangements, Home Decor, Italian and Wine Art and Wine Gifts for the Wine Lover,Wine Bottle Toppers and More! Looking to send Flowers? Make them last all year with realistic silk arrangements, I can ship right to your recipients door! *Also - Fresh Michigan Evergreen Centerpieces available for the holidays!*

Camp Honeybelle  Mid-century mod design, campy 1950's housewives, kitschy kitchens, atomic decor, retro school supplies, old books, vintage clothing. If someone on your list likes vintage, you've got to check out this shop!

The Peaceful Housewife  Safe, natural handmade cleaning products, bar soaps, and candles. 35% off all Peaceful Housewife products (all prices reflect discount – no code needed!)

For Her

MelJoy Creations  Hand-woven beaded jewelry at very affordable prices. You can request custom orders, but you may be pushing it if you wait too long! You can get a huge 25% discount with the code: SBS25 Today only!

 Party in My Pants  Mama cloth! If you’ve never tried cloth, you can request a free sample – just pay shipping! I held onto my free sample for months before I finally had the guts to try it out. I'm in love! (If anyone wants to send me a Christmas gift, this is it! LOL)

Cynical Redhead Creations  Handmade jewelry and accessories. For sales, coupon codes, etc. become a FB fan

 Khara Ledonne  Amazingly small paintings inside lockets – unique! She will do custom orders, so make sure to get in touch ASAP if you have something special in mind.

Paper Goods/Cards

 Scrapin’ Sara’s Gifts  Great handmade greeting cards, gift tags, and gifts. Sara ALWAYS includes free surprises with every order, which amazes me since her prices are already so low! Get 20% off through the month of December with the code: THANKYOU

Budugalee Cards  Vintage handmade cards. You won’t find anything like these anywhere else! Cards are made with vintage photographs that have been altered – with colors, sparkles, even random objects. You’ll find cards from hilarious to serious. And, if you can’t find it – just ask! Custom orders are a specialty!

Now that's I've got my list together, I just know that I'm missing some shops. It's now 3:42am and I'm done thinking for the day (night? morning?) PLEASE don't hesitate to let me know about any sales, discounts, or great affordable small businesses that I should be sharing here! I will try my best to update this list (or maybe even write another post or two) throughout the day on...


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Late Post with a Thanksgiving Craft

OK, I'm so sorry that I'm posting this now. The last few days have been nuts. While I was busy with prepping for Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday, I needed something that was very simple for Little Guy to do on his own. Now, I have a TON of cool Thanksgiving projects lined up for him that I've seen featured in posts by some of my favorite crafty bloggers but they all needed me to help either by cutting or controlling the flow of glue. So, I just did the old turkey handprint thing. Then, we used some Sweet Gum leaves that we found and has pressed in a book a few weeks ago to create a frame. Finally, we added a few beads to say "2011".

1) Make hand prints with brown watercolors.

2) Outline "turkeys" with a black waterproof marker.

 3) Let your little one go nuts with watercolors! I used black paint to give each turkey an eye, red for their waddles and combs, and yellow for the beaks and feet. I got a solid 1/2 hour of kitchen time (alone!) while Little Guy worked hard to paint all of his turkeys.

4) I helped "steer" the glue, then gave Little Guy a pile of leaves to put all around the painting. Then, I wrote "2011" with glue and he added the beads.

Turkey in the Crock Pot {And a Couple More Thanksgiving Recipes}

Just like with my Thanksgiving craft post, I'm late on this one, too. But I wanted to try it all out before posting the recipes, so I have a good excuse. Plus, these are all things that can be made anytime, not just Turkey Day! In fact, I will be making turkey in the slow cooker from now on - it's so moist and I really don't care if it has a golden brown skin (we never eat that part anyway, and I think the cat doesn't care what color it is, either!) So, here's what out Thanksgiving Menu looked like (the ones with stars have recipes below):
  • Crock Pot Turkey*
  • Roasted Acorn & Butternut Squash
  • Green Bean Casserole (It's my oldest's favorite)
  • Fresh Cranberry Sauce* (three ingredients!)
  • Mushroom & Sage Dressing
  • Red Mashed Potatoes w/ Garlic & Rosemary
  • Sweet Dinner Rolls*
  • REAL Pumpkin Pie* w/ Real Whipped Cream
 Crock Pot Turkey
OK, I found this recipe via The Crock Pot Recipe Exchange. It came from A Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Adventures. These are both my go-to sites for crock pot recipes that aren't the same old thing. I changed the recipe quite a bit so it included the things I think are essential to a Thanksgiving turkey. 
7lb. Turkey Breast (bone-in, skin on)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 apple
1 onion
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (NOT salt!)
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 fresh rosemary stalks (is that what they're called?)

  1. Cut up the carrots, celery, apple, and onion into big chunks. I just rinsed them off and chopped. They're there for flavor, not to eat (they go into the woods tonight for all of the little animals!)
  2. Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the veggies and apple. Put the rest into the breast cavity, along with the rosemary. 
  3. Set the turkey into the crock pot. I bought some slow cooker bags for this one. I knew I'd be doing dishes all day long and did not want to be scrubbing the crock at midnight! 
  4. Mix up the salt and herbs. Rub them onto the breast's skin. *OPTIONAL - cut up 3-4 Tbsp. butter and set on top of the breast.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Now, I just want to tell you about our turkey this year. Due to the long cooking time, I put everything into the crock pot the night before, then stuck it into the fridge. Hubby was supposed to set his alarm for 7am so he could wake up, put the crock pot into the cooker, plug it in, and set it to low. I expected to sleep in and wake up to the smell of turkey cooking. He forgot to turn it on!!! So, our dinner didn't get finished up until after 7pm. (I couldn't get mad - I can't tell you how many times I've done this!)

The turkey was amazing!! I am a dark meat person but, with this way of cooking it, I didn't even miss it. It was moist, flavorful, and YUMMY!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce
This is from my very, very favorite cooking star, Alton Brown. I could watch Good Eats all day, every day. I have learned so much about the science behind cooking just by watching (not trying to write everything down or memorize it all.) I've found that the knowledge just kind of embeds itself into my brain. I'll be cooking something and just know what spices to use. I also know why it's important to spend the time to cream the butter & sugars for cookies and how to make the flakiest pie crust ever. If you ever have a chance to watch one of his shows, you'll be hooked - I promise! As with the turkey recipe, I changed it just a little. Alton's recipe calls for both OJ and cranberry juice (Click on "Alton Brown, above, for the real recipe). I forgot the cranberry juice when I was shopping, so I doubled the OJ. I've never had real cranberry sauce, and my mouth was in heaven when I tasted this. The extra OJ, I think, gave it the perfect flavor.

(Oh, and this makes the perfect "sick food", too. With all of the Vitamin C, honey, and antioxidants, it really helps get over that cold fast. Plus, the tartness cuts through the mucous. Little Guy came down with a cold and has been more than happy to eat a few bites throughout the day!)
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1/2 c. fresh orange juice (I used reconstituted frozen)
1 c. honey
  1.  Mix juice and honey in a tall saucepan. You want a tall one because the cranberries will pop and they tend to spray. Also, this can boil over if you're not careful. Cleaning up cranberry/honey goop from the stove is NOT easy! Heat the juice and honey until it boils. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Rinse cranberries. Pick out the soft and wrinkled ones. Add to juice/honey mixture. Let cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until all berries have popped and sauce thickens. Do NOT cook longer than 15 minutes or the pectin in the berries will break down and it won't gel up.
  3. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
  4. Find a 3-cup mold. Anything will do, as long as you can invert it and let the sauce slide out. I used one of my square food storage containers. Pour the sauce into the container and let cool for another 10-15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours. You can do this a day ahead of time, but make sure you eat it within 24 hours or the sauce will begin to get watery again.
  5. To loosen from the mold, hold the container in hot water for 15-30 seconds. Put a plate over the top of the mold and - flip! - you should have the perfect-looking cranberry sauce. If it's ugly, no big deal. The taste will make everyone forget how it looks!
  6. *** You can add cloves, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, etc. to the recipe, if you want. Add these when you add the cranberries.
 Sweet Dinner Rolls
I love dinner rolls! I have had a hard time finding a recipe that is fast, uses few ingredients, and really has a lot of flavor - until now! These are amazing rolls. They are so easy to make that my husband (who can't cook anything unless the ingredients are cold cereal and milk) did it himself one day when I was sick. By Himself! I found this recipe on Foodie's Hope and didn't change a thing!
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (this is a little less than 2 packets of yeast)
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. warm milk
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour (you can replace up to 2c. with wheat flour)
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. honey for glazing rolls
  1. Mix the Yeast, 1 tsp Sugar (out of 4 tbsp sugar), 2 tbsp warm milk (about 105 F), let it froth for 5-10min. Use a cereal-size bowl, because when it froths, it grows! (The kids like watching the yeast "fart" - Yeah... they're guys!)
  2. Heat 1 cup of milk, the rest of the sugar, and the butter until butter melts in the milk. Set aside until it cools down just "warm to touch" temperature. I used my thermometer to make sure it was below 105 degrees F because I've killed yeast by adding milk that's too hot.
  3. Add 1 egg to the milk and beat well. Then add in the yeast and stir. It doesn't have to be beaten in or anything.
  4. Sift 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with salt. Make a well in the center, add milk mixture and stir. Knead it well until you get a soft dough, not sticky. Now, I hate cleaning flour off of the counter, so I just knead tit right in the bowl. You can do it either way - just make sure the gluten in the flour are working and the dough gets stretchy.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl (I use olive oil, you can use anything you want.) Place dough in the bowl and turn it so it's coated in oil. Cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let it rise until double, about 1 hour. You can also let it rise in the fridge overnight.
  6. Punch down the dough and lightly knead it in the bowl. Divide it in half, then divide those in half (you'll have 4 equal pieces.) Cut each of the four pieces into three even pieces - you'll have 12 total. Roll into balls and set onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise one hour.
  7. Preheat the oven at 400 F (this is the one thing I changed in the recipe. It said 425 F, but I found it made the bottoms burn.) Uncover the rolls, brush it with egg glaze for the best browned color (or with melted butter for super-soft rolls), then place the cookie sheet in the oven on the middle rack.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden. If you tap on them, they will sound hollow. Do not over-bake, they are softer when they are a bit undercooked. Cool them on a wire rack.
REAL Pumpkin Pie
I bought pie pumpkins at the farmer's market for Halloween this year. I had the kids decorate them with facial features that we cut from magazines so we could eat the pumpkins later. I just can't see how laying out $7-15 for a pumpkin that ends up as waste is good for much.) Anyway, after Halloween, we cut up the pumpkins, roasted the seeds, and I cooked the flesh in the slow cooker. I pureed it in the blender and had to add cooking water because I couldn't get it to puree without it. I was worried that the pie wouldn't set up, but Jen, Life with My BOYS, shared this recipe from Group Recipes with me. It was originally for white pumpkin pie, but I don't think it really mattered what color the pumpkins were... Oh, and this recipe makes enough filling for TWO 10" pies. I made one pie, and froze the rest of the filling for later.
I only changed one thing - I made my own pumpkin pie spice. So, rather than including all of the different spices the recipe called for, I added up the total amount of spices and just used my pumpkin pie spice mixture for the entire amount. The pie set up perfectly and the spices were perfect (if you don't like a lot of spice, cut back by about 1 tsp or so.) Oh, and I used Alton Brown's Pie Crust recipe. It's the only one I use now - it's perfectly flaky and very easy to make. If you have a hard time with pie crust, watch this episode of Good Eats. He explains everything you'll ever need to know to make crusts of any kind, with any recipe, and have them turn out perfectly every time!
4 eggs
3 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. evaporated milk (it's 1/2 can - I gave the rest to the cat. He's now my very best friend.)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together. I used a wire whisk because I've found that using a mixer causes bubbles to form and you end up with a pie that has a bunch of little holes on top.
  3. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared 10" pie crust(s) - I have a 9" deep-dish pan, so that's what I used. I cannot stress this part enough: Line a baking sheet with foil and set the pie(s) on top. My pie boiled over and I'd have had a nasty mess if I hadn't used a baking sheet. The foil saved me from lots of soaking and scrubbing, too!
  4. Set pie(s) in the oven. After 15 minutes, TURN DOWN the thermostat to 350 F. Bake 50-60 more minutes, or until the center is set. Because my pie was deep-dish, it took about 70 minutes.
  5. Cool on wire rack. We eat our pumpkin pie warm, which is how I thought everyone ate it until I moved to L.A. and people looked at me as if I had two heads when I asked them if they wanted their pie warmed. So, if you want it cold, make sure it's cooled to room temperature before putting it into the fridge. If you don't, you'll end up with that gooey, watery stuff on top. Not a big deal, but not all that pretty, either.
Everything was wonderful! It's now Friday night, and we have only enough leftovers for one more meal - for one person. I do have extra turkey and a quart of turkey stock in the freezer. I think that, with the response from my family (and the fact that even my oldest was having leftovers, and then seconds!), I need to make this meal more often. Who says a turkey dinner is for Thanksgiving only?!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Parade - Yeas, We Already Had Ours! {Wordless Wednesday}

Last Saturday was the kick-off to the holiday season in our town. We attended a parade, Little Guy visited Santa for the first time, and we ran into a few familiar faces. We came home and warmed up with some hot apple cider, which I put into the crock pot before we left, and Smiley Cookies.

"It's THOMAS!!!"

Marchin' Mans
Here come Elmo & Cookie Monster!

Pretending to look like they're interested in the parade, but really wonder, "How much longer do we have to stand here before we can wander around?"

All he asked for was "Thomas"

"Bye, Mom!" He was not afraid of these guys AT ALL. In fact, I was kind of cramping his style with all of the picture-taking.

The picture above is from this year. The one on the right is last year's. Now, if you'll notice, both Buzz and Woody look as if they've been partaking in some of nature's more psychedelic gifts. Now, I thought that someone would have noticed this and done a little work on the costumes for this year. NOPE! So, I had my oldest stand next to Buzz and he gladly obliged with the goofy face for me.

"Hmm, I wonder how many cookies I can grab before anyone notices..."

Probiotics for Your TOILET?! {And a #Giveaway! (12/2) US}

Sponsored by
When I heard about Natural House's non-toxic household cleaners, I have to tell you I was intrigued. First, there were the names of their products: Sinky, Flushy, and Trashy. Hmm... weird, but what's in a name, right? Next, I wondered how on earth would probiotics help with cleaning. Well, it only took a few minutes to watch this video to see and understand. The idea seems so simple to me now. Why did no one think of this before?!

Yeah, kind of a "DUH!" moment for me! LOL

So, I gave them a try. Hubby, who is in charge of cleaning the bathroom (hey, I'm the only girl in a house full of guys - ICK!), was handed the package of four Flushy probiotic packets. He doesn't do well with instructions, so I was interested to see what he'd do. Oh, come on! I have to find some form on entertainment, don't I? I don't get out much... Anyway, the bag has instructions that are so easy, even Little Guy could have figured them out - there are pictures and words! Hubby looked at the pictures. LOL! He dropped the packet into the toilet, let it foam for about 15 minutes, then used the brush to scrub the inside of the bowl. He asked me, kind of worried, if he should flush the toilet or not. Um... yeah. While we didn't notice a difference right away, other than a sparkling clean toilet bowl, we did find a NOTICEABLE difference in the morning. Our bathroom no longer had that lingering truck stop bathroom odor anymore. I knew it was the toilet giving it off, but we just couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Must have been under the rim. Those little probiotics went at it and I no longer have to hold my breath when I go in the bathroom! YAY!

I have a huge complaint about dirty dishes in this house. People (Hubby and my oldest, to be exact) have a nasty habit of leaving a bite or two of food in their bowls and on their plates when they put them into the sink. Then, they rinse the dish off (at least they do that!) Well, little bits of cereal, cookie crumbs, and veggies end up getting washed down the drain. Add grease that inevitably ends up in the pipes when I wash pans. We always have had a slow drain and it will clog at least once every week or so. I refuse to pour toxic drain cleaner down there, so I've been hitting the clogs with baking soda and vinegar and following with a boiling water chaser. It works - kinda. Well, after just two weekly uses of Sinky, my drains are fast and we haven't had a clog! Additionally, my kitchen smells better, too. You know how clogged drains have that nasty, lingering odor? Well, I must have just gotten used to it - not a good thing! The steps leading to our apartment land visitors right in the middle of my kitchen. It never occurred to me that they were getting nasty sink odors as a first impression. It didn't until someone mentioned how nice it smelled in our apartment the other day. (Can you say "embarrassed" and "relieved" at the same time?!)

Finally, there's Trashy. He's my oldest's new cleaning friend, since he's the garbage hauler around here. Now, since we try to recycle, reuse, and compost as much as possible, our trash can go many days without needing to be taken out. We've tried using a smaller trashcan, but it leads to people trying to "make baskets" and making huge messes everywhere (that they, then, pretend they didn't notice and leave for Mom to step in at 2am on her way to the bathroom!) We've tried a lid, but that just concentrates the odor until it's released in one big stink cloud all at once when the trashcan is opened. I handed over the spray bottle of Trashy to my son and instructed him to give the can two sprays before he put the bag in, then two more inside the garbage bag. I wanted those little probiotics all over my trash. It worked wonders - no more stinky garbage!I can imagine using this in diaper pails and outdoor trash cans, too. In fact, I may just try it out on the dumpster when the weather gets warm again. When we get just the right breeze in the summertime, I have to close all of the windows or risk passing out from the terrible smell of that dumpster. I'll bet, if I spray the interior of that dumpster once a week, after the garbage truck comes by, I could probably keep that smell in check - nd send lots of little probiotics to the landfill to get working!

Natural House uses all plant-based ingredients that are eco-friendly and biodegradable. I really like knowing that they are working long after I toss my cleaning rags under the sink - an entire week, in fact! How's that for the biggest house-cleaning procrastinator in the world? And, I like to think that I'm doing a little extra long after the sink has been rinsed, the toilet flushed, and the trash has been taken out. Think of the probiotics that are being sent into the sewage system in the water. And what about the ones that are on my trash bag? If you can imagine more than half the households in just the U.S. using Natural House products, those probiotics could even turn around many of our polluted areas! Just by tossing a simple little packet into the sink and toilet once a week and spraying the trash can before putting in a new bag, I know that odors are controlled and those areas of my home are safer for my family (especially that little 3 year-old who loves touching things then sticking his fingers into his mouth!)

If you'd like to try out this revolutionary new cleaning products for yourself, you can purchase them directly through Natural House's Web site or on Amazon (great deal if you've go free shipping!) You could also enter to WIN A ONE-MONTH SUPPLY OF ALL THREE PRODUCTS! Just enter on the Rafflecopter form below!

*I've had problems with the Rafflecopter form loading properly on my homepage. It was suggested that I put in a page break before the form, so that's what I'm trying here. If you don't see the form, PLEASE just click on the title of this post and it should show up for you. If not, leave a comment on this post or get in touch with me on my Contact Me form so I can fix it!