Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dehydrating Update


Look what I made!  I put all the dried fruit together (you could easily add some granola or cereal and a little nuts and it would really be delish!).  It's all good, but we decided the bananas are the best.  They're not like the super hard chips you typically buy.  They're a combination of crunchy and a little soft.  They'd probably get much crisper if I let them go longer.  The fruit leather turned out great.  I cut it into strips, rolled them up and put 'em all in a glass jar.  They kids said it was "awesome" and "way better than grocery store fruit rollups."  OK, I'll take that!  Very easy and inexpensive.  The strawberry leather is just a cup of berries, 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce, and a tablespoon of sugar pureed in a blender and dumped onto parchment paper.  Tastes just like a fresh strawberry in your mouth.
My middle child said that what he liked best was that he could put the dried fruit in his mouth and let his spit "redydrate it"!  Hmmmmmmm.......maybe a little science lesson got thrown in there too.  :D

Angry Birds Pom Pom Game

This is GENIUS!  It will take a little time and prep, but it looks like sooooooooo much fun.  Click on the Fun Crafts tab at the top of the blog for a full tutorial.  Happy crafting!  ;D

Do It Yourself Microwave Popcorn

Homemade Microwave Popcorn
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Have your kids ever asked for some microwave popcorn and you go to the pantry to discover you are fresh out?  Instead of popping some on the stove, or dragging out the air popper, here is a quick and easy fix!  Who'da thunk it?!  Lisa from Snack Girl has shared her secret recipe.


It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:
  1. Put 1/4 cup popcorn in a brown paper bag. Fold top over a few times and tape it.
  2. Place in microwave folded side upfor 2 to 3 minutes or until there is 5 seconds between pops.
  3. Eat plain or add flavors (such as salt, butter, sugar, etc.)
Easy Homemade Microwave Popcorn

YES!

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Definition Of Boy


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Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'm Experimenting Again


Guess who's dehydrating her own fruits and makin' her own fruit leather!  I was going thru the grocery circulars this morning and saw that Aldi's has a fruit dehydrator for $19.99 this week.  I've been toying around with the idea of making my own beef jerky for a while now (my kids love it, but it's so expensive), so I thought "why not!"  This is typically how things go in my household.  I see something on a whim, and then 5 minutes later I have my car keys in hand telling my husband I'll be back in a few.  (poor Tim)
And so my adventure begins.....I've got banana chips, apple slices, bing cherries, blueberries, strawberry fruit leather and (get this) chocolate banana leather going.



Plainly, I did not think this thru before I just jumped in.  Most of this stuff won't be finished until way past my bedtime tonite.  So I should have just waited until tomorrow, and get it going early in the morning - but that's just not how I roll.  I'll let you know how it all turns out.  Next up - beef jerky!  :)

I've Got Lunchbox On The Brain

I just got an email from Pottery Barn that they are doing free shipping on all lunch boxes and food storage items. I just checked out their stuff here and they've got some really cute things.  I especially like these:

  • Spencer Chip & Dip Container
  • Spencer Bento Box
  • Planet Box Lunch Box (although this is way pricey!)
  • Lunch Punch Sandwich Cutters
  • Lunch Box Love Notes
  • Lunch Lines (I'm gonna order these!)

I also love the Star Wars ice packs, but my boys have never been into Star Wars.  Guess I shouldn't complain.  :)

Drive As I Say, Not As I Do?

This cannot be right.  My firstborn, my precious little baby who kept me up countless nights with colic is suddenly old enough to drive.  What sort of society allows these fresh faced, little babies the chance to get behind the wheel of a two ton death machine?!  OK, maybe I am being a little melodramatic (NO!).  But seriously - this is a child who cannot make his bed, has to be reminded to flush the toilet (seriously), and couldn't do his own laundry if his life depended on it.  Yet, there it is sitting on the counter...a newly printed learners permit with his little face staring out at me.
Suddenly every time we get in the car it's a battle over who "gets" to drive.  Considering I am the (very) proud owner of a new (to me) Cadillac, surely my nomination for Mother Of The Year is a lock! I had to wait until I'm 43 to drive one - he gets to at 15!  No fair.
Which brings me to my initial point.  Suddenly, every single thing I do in the car is scrutinized.  I now have a very attentive set of eyes squarely on me watching every thing I do behind the wheel (which is kinda scary).  Little did I realize how many times I forgot to turn on my turn signal, or come to a complete stop.  After a day or two of this behavior, I come to the realization that this may not entirely be a bad thing.  It's not that I'm a bad driver.  I'm not.  But perhaps I have gotten a little complacent.  
Think about it next time you get behind the wheel.  Imagine that you have two little eyes watching you every step of the way.  Are you doing everything as you learned in driving school?  Do you remember all the rules of the road?  I think you might be surprised to find that you may have gotten a little lazy about the whole safety thing too.  Maybe everyone's not exactly buckled in before you start to drive off.  Maybe you're fiddling with the radio, or talking on your cell phone, or handing your kiddo in the backseat a snack.
It's a hard realization that if I'm gonna talk the talk, I better be walkin' the walk too.  So having a new teenage driver in my midst has indeed made me a better driver.  Which is good for me, and YOU!

More Fun Lunchbox Ideas


I couldn't sleep this morning and happened to catch an infomercial about this product.  It's the PackIt Freezeable Lunch Bag.  Of course I then had to get online and check out their website (that's how lame I am!).  These are really intriguing, as I get really tired of throwing in an ice pack every morning in my kids lunch.  Plus these would work well with the bento-style lunchboxes I featured several days ago - particularly the My Square Meal one!  You can go here to check out the PackIt, and here for My Square Meal.  I'd recommend buying just the actual lunch box on My Square Meal without their case (which costs extra), and then buying one of these babies to put it in.


YOUR LUNCHES COULD LOOK LIKE THIS!  :)
Here are some fun (and easy) lunchbox ideas from Lisa Storms to get you inspired, straight from Lisa's great website.

Blog_lunch_face1
I love this guy.  Mostly his hair.  I just cut off the crust from the sides and bottom beginning where the loaf dips in.  I wanted him to "talk" so I added a Cheerio for an open mouth.  The speech bubble is just punched cardstock.  The eyes are slices of marshmallow with edible marker.
Blog_lunch_face2
This guy was cut with a circle with sliced carrot sticks sticking out for hair.  The eyes are slices of cheese stick with edible marker.  The nose is an almond, and the mouth a cut from pepperoni.
Blog_lunch_facesalad
You can even make a face in their salad!
Blog_lunch_snowman
Start out with a Smuckers Uncrustables sandwich, and you'll save some time!  Give your snowman raisin features glued on with peanut butter, and of course a carrot nose.  Another compartment is full of  more "noses" on top of grapes, and the last is a marshmallow snowman on a bed of pistachios.  In order to make the marshmallow snowman... spear three marshmallows with a pretzel stick, break another pretzel in half for the arms, and draw on features with food markers.

This One Spoke To Me :)

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Friday, July 29, 2011

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Anti-Theft Lunch Bags

Got a food thief in your office, then these might be just what you need (or you could just freak your kids out!) Too funny!  They make your sandwich look like it's moldy.  Go here to purchase.



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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coupons For Prescriptions

Yes, you read right - there is such a thing as coupons for prescription drugs.  Before you fill your next prescription, it is definitely worth your time to check on the drug manufacturer's website to see if they have coupons available.  I was nearly giddy when I found a $25 coupon for my migraine medicine on the Axert website.  On a whim I typed www.axert.com on my computer and was thrilled to see an Instant Savings link right there on their home page.  I can use this coupon up to 6 times a year.  Since I typically fill this particular prescription every 4-6 weeks, that's a savings of $150/year.  Now my cost is $25 cheaper than the usual $60/month.
At this point I started feeling just plain cocky, so I looked up my son's nasal allergy medication.  Low and behold, they have a coupon for $25 off also.  Same deal - I can use it 6 times a year.  What a deal.  And in case you are wondering, the coupon comes off my co-pay price!  I have done this many, many times and never had an issue with the pharmacy.  They know just what to do, and it didn't take any more time for them to fill the prescription.  Look up your prescriptions - you might be pleasantly surprised to see you could be saving money every month.

I. MUST.DO.THIS

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Pour Capri Sun into popsicle molds, add sliced fruit and freeze.  Do these look amazing or what?!

I Love Pooh (with an H)!

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Today I Will Not Be Dazzling

This is no way to start a day.  You see, every morning when I wake up I don't walk to the coffee pot and grab a cup of joe.  No, I prefer my caffeine cold.  So I stroll to the fridge and grab a Dr. Pepper Dazzle (Aldi's version of Dr. P).  But to my surprise (anguish) a certain teenage boy who shall remain nameless (Sam) appears to have taken the last one late last night.  Bummer.  I am NOT a happy camper.  :(

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things Overheard In The Park House Today

  • He started it.
  • Can I drive the car?
  • Have you ever noticed that Alice has a mustache?
  • I am NOT eating that.
  • What is that smell?
  • Luigi's arm fell in the toilet.  Can you get it out?  (no)
  • Do I really have to scrub up, or can I just take a relaxing bath?
  • That's not fair!
  • Jack told me I'm his favorite.
  • Draw circles on my back please.

Snowman Pancake

If you're making pancakes and bacon, what's to stop you from making something like this sweet little snowman?  Add a slice of bacon for a scarf, and chocolate chips (or blueberries) for the face and buttons.  I would forego the marshmallows, but that's just me.  Whoever said you shouldn't play with your food had no sense of humor!
You can do this!

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Sea Life Aquarium At Grapevine Mills Mall

My family had a great afternoon at the new Sea Life Aquarium.  It recently opened, and I was very impressed.  Almost all of the exhibit tanks are open at the top, so you feel like you can just reach right in and touch.  In fact, they do have several tanks where you can touch a starfish, a horseshoe crab, and some other fun stuff.  Their stingray and shark tanks are AMAZING!  If you're interested, you can check out more information here.  We bought our tickets online, which saved us $5 per ticket.  However, the big draw to purchasing tickets online ahead of time is that you get to skip thru the long line of people waiting to buy tixs, and go in a much shorter line of people who already have their vouchers!  We got right in, versus waiting in what looked to be a line that would take at least 20 minutes to get thru.  But the big question is............will you be brave enough for the SHARK WALK???
It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and did I mention it is air conditioned?!


Interactive rockpoolseahorse - back from the brinkGreen sea turtleCow nose ray

Laundry Tag

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Easy Way To Follow This Blog

As most of you know, this blog is an ongoing work in progress. I started it just 9 days ago but have made great strides in figuring out how it all works.  You can see that I've added tabs up at the top with sections for Gift Ideas, Crafts and Recipes.  I'm sure more will be added later, as I organize my thoughts.  

If you have not done so already, you can subscribe to the blog and receive one email at the end of every day that shows just the posts for that day.  To do this just type your email address in the "Follow By Email" space off to the right and hit submit.  If you find that you are not receiving it, check your spam folder or add brendawritesablog.blogspot.com to your address book so they show up in your inbox.

Always feel free to share the site address with your friends and family.  I'd like to generate enough traffic and followers that ultimately I might get a few advertisers on the site to make a little money.  We'll see how that goes!  :)

I appreciate your feedback and welcome any comments you may have on the posts.  I have it set so that I approve comments before they're posted, so they won't show up immediately.  But please leave comments - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

You Could Do This!


Yes, you could!  My boys WILL be seeing this in their lunchbox when school starts up again.  LOVE IT!  The eyes are just cut out pieces of cheese with a little edible food marker (get 'em from Michaels in a pack of all different colors) for the eyeball.  Add some sprigs of parsley for hair, and it's pretty much done.  The shape is easy to cut.  You can do this!  

The Right Way To Serve Milk

I suggest surprising your favorite munchkins with a plate of fresh baked (notice I didn't say homemade?!) cookies and a funky glass of milk like this.  It's so easy, and will brighten their day and yours.  Yep, it might take you 2-3 more minutes to add a fun sprinkles rim on the glass, but you will see a huge grin on your child's face.  So that makes it all worth it.  :)
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Right?


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Won't Someone Please Knit This?

OK, this is hilarious!  I would totally pay someone to knit one of these for my two little guys.  Yesterday they ran around the house all morning with a fake mustache taped onto their faces.  This would be right up their alley!  (although we might need to wait until it's not 10000 degrees outside)  If this doesn't make you laugh, then you need a vacation.

Creepy And Cute All At The Same Time

My little Zach would be all over this!  He will only eat plain spaghetti, no sauce, and I plan to try this little Xperiment in the next few weeks.  I'm nearly certain he will love it!



Poke your uncooked pasta thru cut-up hot dogs.  Add to boiling water and cook just like you would normal spaghetti.  I think it's fun!

A Parent's Promise

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For garnish:
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.   

Amazing!

Glow stick fun: break open a glow stick, dump it in a jar, shake it up and you have an instant glow stick lantern!  Get 'em in the dollar aisle at Target and line up all different colors!  

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Lunchbox Ideas

In case you haven't looked at the calendar lately, the end of summer is rapidly approaching!  We have one month before school starts.  Which means back to school shopping.  New school supplies, clothes, backpack and lunchbox.  I'd like to offer up some suggestions for lunchboxes beyond the standard lunch fare.

Last August I made the decision that I would stop sending a gajillion Ziploc bags to the landfill every school year.  I did some research and found several bento-style lunchboxes that I liked.  Here are my favorites:


This is one of two lunchboxes I have for the boys.  I cannot tell you how much I love this.  It is so ideal for leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies....items you would never, ever pack in a standard lunchbox or bag because it's too messy for a Ziploc.  See all those sweet little compartments?  When you push the lid down each one seals completely.  So your dressing from your salad doesn't mix with your cut up melon, which doesn't then make your sandwich all soggy.  They sell little embroidered bags to put them in that are so cute my boys wouldn't touch 'em with a ten foot pole.  But I found that it slipped very easily into one of those neoprene lunchboxes from Target (they came in elephants, bunnies, frogs and dogs).  So that gave it the handle and space to add a juicebox.  LOVE IT!   


This is the other box I have for the boys.  I like it because it has a water/juice bottle, which has never opened up and spilled, yet the little guy can open and close it just fine.  I alternate between this one and the My Square Meal.  They go in the dishwasher with no problems, although the stickers did eventually all come off.  I just looked on their website and see that they sell replacement sticker set, so I'm guessing I'll be making that investment soon.  That way I can trick the kids into thinking they get a "new" lunchbox this year.  :)

There are tons of alternatives out there.  These are just a few options.  I really like the concept that it's good for the environment and I find that I pack much healthier and cheaper lunches.  I cut up fruit, I add leftovers.  I can honestly say that it is quite rare that the kids do not eat every single bit of these lunches.  A much different story than when they were taking standard brown paper bag fare.  I make them leave whatever they don't eat in the box.  Not so that they get in trouble, but so that I can see what they like and don't like.







Thursday, July 21, 2011

Less Really Is More

At the beginning of summer, I went on a tangent and decided that I was gonna clear out the clutter once and for all.  I went thru every single room, every closet, every dresser.  I was ruthless.  If it had any stains on it - out it went.  If it even looked like it might be too small - it was a goner.


I was particularly diligent in the playroom.  I try to be mindful of how much stuff these boys accumulate, really I do (don't tell them, but when they're not looking I sometimes get rid of all those cheezy kids' meal toys).  Yet still, our pile of belongings grows and grows.


We had a yard sale and decided to NOT do what we did last time and use the proceeds to go out and buy fun NEW stuff (what was I thinking?!?!).  Instead I stashed it away to use for fun summer activities we wouldn't normally have the money for (it's all gone now - it's amazing how little $187 gets you!).


After all was said and done, though, a funny thing happened.  The kids actually started pulling books off their shelves to read.  I had gotten rid of all the books I thought they should read, all the books I thought looked cute, or that I had loved as a kid.  I kept all the ones that they picked out themselves, or that I know they liked.  Without so many books to look at, they could actually see some that stood out and begged to be read.


I cleared out a LOT of stuff from our playroom (I told you I was ruthless).  Without so many things packed in all the nooks and crannies, they could SEE what was there.  You know how sometimes when you go into Baskin Robbins and there are so many choices, it takes forever to pick out which flavor you want - just because there are SO MANY to choose from?  Well with less stuff I found that they actually played with the stuff they had.  They have subsequently spend hours on the playroom floor going thru bins of Legos and putting them back together.  They have pulled out buckets and just sat and played with their toys.....things they had forgotten they had, stuff they never paid much attention to looked kinda interesting now.


It's been amazing, and a real eye opener for me.  So many times we (I) have so many possesions that we (I) can't see the forest for the trees.  It's all about getting something new, something different, that we (again, I) forget how great some of the things we already have are.  I'm looking at my stuff a little differently now too.  And that's a good thing.

Easy Peasy Homemade Popsicles

Full disclosure - this was not my idea.  My kids came up with this, and they totally love it.  I'm sure yours will too.  Purely by accident they discovered that Capri Sun juice bags make really tasty popsicles.  I love that there is no fuss, no muss.  Every night before bed they pop a few in the freezer, and voila!  When they wake up in the morning they have fresh popsicles.  They like the Roaring Waters, but regular Capri Sun juice or KoolAid Koolers would work just as well.
Take it out of the freezer, cut the top off, and enjoy.  And even though you're freezin' 'em and cutting off the tops you can still "RESPECT THE POUCH!"

Monday, July 18, 2011

We're Doing A Little Experiment

The easiest way to stream on TV. Without a PC.

On a whim, I decided to do a Google search for alternatives to satellite TV.  You see, we don't have all the premium channels, but our TV still costs over $96/month.  That seems like a lot of money to me.  Especially considering that we typically only watch a handful of shows.  We don't watch primetime TV for the most part, and I've never seen an episode of American Idol (gasp!) or any other reality TV show.  Not because I'm some TV snob or anything - I just don't have the time or the interest.

So I started doing a little research and came across an interesting article.  If you care to read it, here's a link. http://manofthehouse.com/money/budget/life-after-cable-tv-and-satellite-6a

This weekend we bought a Roku box.  According to my husband (who knows way more than me about these things), that's what lets us stream video into the house and get stuff like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video On Demand, etc.  It was fairly inexpensive, I think he paid $79 for it, and it looked like it was easy to hook up.

We are toying with the idea of getting rid of our satellite TV completely, and only going with the Roku and a few providers - definitely Netflix, and probably Hulu.  The Roku is already paid for, Netflix is $8 per month and Hulu Plus is $10/month.  Add in the cost for an antenna to get local programming, and we've got a pretty streamlined TV expense.

While this all sounds well and good, I'm not sure how it will work in reality.  We're spending the next month navigating thru it all and experimenting.  I'll let you know how it goes, what we end up deciding, and how my little guinea pigs feel about the whole process.  Here's to keeping all your options open!

Know Any Good Italians?

Maybe one of you can help me out.  I'm on a mission here.  I am looking for an amazing spaghetti sauce recipe that I can mix up a huge batch and can.  Canning is my new obsession.  So if you know of any little old italian ladies who have some "knock your socks off" red sauce recipe, I would be forever indebted to you if you could get it from her and share it with me.  I've gone online and looked for recipes and not found anything that peaks my interest.  Got any ideas?

Why Groupon Deals Are So Awesome

The other day I came across a Groupon daily deal for $22 for two (5 hour) summer camp sessions at ASI Gymnastics.  That's half price for a place that my kids have been begging me to take them.  Since I could use five hours of freedom, I thought "What the heck - I'll give it a shot."   I bought the Groupon, signed them up and they're happy campers (literally!).

In the process of registering them for the camp sessions I had to give ASI my email addy.  Guess what showed up in my inbox the next day....a coupon for a FREE summer camp session!  Yay!  That means I got THREE camp sessions for the price of one, and two very happy kiddos.  Total cost - $22.  Fifteen hours of quiet time - PRICELESS.

Nearly everything we are doing this summer is the result of some type of daily deal coupon/groupon.  We've got movie tickets, zoo tickets, indoor safari park tickets, gymnastics camp, one week of summer camp, tickets to Legoland Discovery Center.  I've saved so much money, and kept the kids entertained.  If you have not checked out Groupon, or any of the other multitude of daily deals sites you truly are missing out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sometimes You Just Gotta Bribe 'Em

I admit it - sometimes I'm a bad mommy.  There.  I said it.  My two youngest are playing a video game and being REALLY loud, making car noises and arguing.  They're just excited about a new game, but it's driving me crazy.  Then, suddenly a thought occurs to me.  I have a fresh new bag of Tootsie Pop suckers on top of the fridge.  Completely undiscovered.  I figure it's kinda hard to scream if you have a sucker in your mouth, so I gave one to each kiddo.  Guess what?!  No more noise.

Their pops have been gone for a while, but still no noise.  Whatever that pop did - it broke the cycle (thank God!).  I'm sure I'll feel bad later and give them an apple or something else healthy, but right now I'm just too busy enjoying the sweet, sweet silence.  Sometimes it's good to be bad.

House Party....Yeah! Yeah!

Thanks to House Party and Ball, I was able to see just how easy (and addictive) home canning can be!  I was selected to be a host and House Party sent me a huge box filled with all sorts of goodies for me and everyone at the party.  We had coupons, a canning starting kit, recipe books, funnels, pectin and all sorts of other stuff.  Did I mention it was all free?!  What fun we had doing our first canning experiment - jam.  Then on to pickles, apple butter, and salsa.  I'm hooked!  Cannot wait to try the pickles out - waiting 6 weeks is TORTURE!  The jam is amazing, though.  If you have not signed up for www.houseparty.com yet, I highly recommend it.  And if you've ever thought about canning...do it.  You will love it, and it is a great family tradition to start.