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March 2009

A Pretty Place for Easter Plans


A couple of weeks ago I made up this folder for my Easter planning - and then promptly forgot to post about it! Lol, I did take pictures though, so I thought I'd share them all with you today. As we near the holiday home stretch (next week is Holy Week, after all) I am finding this folder system very handy. It's been a great place to store lists and ideas. 

I took a plain light green folder and stuck a pretty label sticker on the tab (seen best in the first pic). On the outside of the folder I glued a small sheet of patterned cardstock to use as a pocket.



Inside this pocket I've been placing coupons I will use as I shop.


Inside the folder on the right hand side, I placed several sheets of my favorite lined paper, and stapled them at the top. Voila ~ instant note pad. :)


And on the left-hand side I used a metallic blue paper clip to hold random print-outs, magazine clippings, recipes, etc. 

It proably could have been a whole lot prettier with some stickers or stamping on the outside, but this will do for now. It might seem like a whole lot of fussing, but holidays are so special to my family - to my children in particular - and it seems I can never start planning too far in advance. Also, because we host most holiday dinners at our house (this year it will be 20 for Easter) there are lots of details to keep track of. I plan to make up up a folder for Thanksgiving and Christmas very soon - true, the autumn holidays are more than half a year away, but I think it will be handy to have a place to keep ongoing notes. (Plus it will be fun to make up those folders!)

And now I'm off - because lunch needs to be made or else my kids will go hungry, and we can't have that, can we? After lunch, if I have time (aka energy) I will make up some cupcakes. I've been promising the boys cupcakes for days now and I might just make good on that promise today. It's a beautiful day by the way - partly sunny, cool but nice, around 50. The birds are just singing away out there. I picked up a whole bunch of library books this morning and plan to "refresh" the learning room this afternoon in time for the brand new month starting tomorrow ... 

Mid-afternoon, after picking up Crackerjack from his Boys' Club meeting, I will turn my attention to dinner. What's on tonight's menu you ask? (Or you might not, but I'll pretend you did ... ) Barbecue beef biscuits, roasted spring veggies and baked onion rings. Yum.
Oh, and while I'm talking about food, if anyone has a good recipe for jam tarts, please let me know. I'd love to make some for Palm Sunday this weekend ~ using some lovely organic fig spread I picked up at Whole Foods. (Palm Sunday was once also known as Fig Sunday, and figs were a traditional food for this day.)

OK, this post has now officially become a ramble, so I'd really best be going. 
Have a lovely afternoon, everyone! :)

March goes out like a ...

... lamb.


This is the morning sunrise, a picture I took just moments ago. March is living up to its legend - coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb (55 and sunny today).
I stood out on the deck with the boys - all of us in pajamas, some of us half awake - and watched the woods come alive with sound and sunlight ...
Such a nice way to start the day. :)
I hope yours is a good one!

Spring Weekend Pictures

It was a lovely weekend here ... we're noticing lots of changes as Spring settles in. I thought I'd share a few pictures with you this morning ...

The finches are out in force, both purple and gold. As you can see below, the goldfinches are turning their signature shade of brilliant yellow:


And everywhere we look we seem to spy a purple finch pair, courting:


Bill took these next three pictures while he had the boys out on a bike ride Saturday afternoon. The bike path passes a large pond and here they spotted a family of mallards. It's hard to see in this first picture, but the male mallard's head is actually dark green:


I'm not sure if this next picture is a female or a juvenile:


And if you look very carefully, you can see the turtles (yes, more than one!) sunning themselves in this picture:


The swans are alway a beautiful sight; soon there will be cygnets here, too. 


We spied a chipmunk in the tray feeder Saturday morning! (Sorry so blurry - I had to sneak up on him through the window!) Seeing chipmunks again is a very good sign; it means they're done with their winter hibernation.


Other things we've noticed ... the peepers are back! We can hear them in the woods behind our house. (I have a whole post about our April nature study - amphibians - coming soon. We have some vernal pool expeditions planned later this week.) And there are crocus all over the place, and as I showed you this weekend, we have snowdrops in the yard, too. On a less positive note, we also found a deer tick on Earlybird (not attached, thank goodness). It's the only thing I dislike about spring - those darn ticks. Time for daily tick checks again ...

So many exciting signs of spring - and we're just barely getting into it! It appears we're in for a mild, sunny week, so I'm sure I'll be back with more nature updates before long. :)

For now, thanks for stopping ~ Happy Monday, everyone!

~ An Early Spring Garden Surprise ~

Just look what we found today, growing in the shade of the chimney:


A Snowdrop!
And not just one, but three!



Aren't they lovely?

I cannot tell you how ridiculously excited I am to find snowdrops in our garden! I have always wanted to grow snowdrops - Anglophile that I am - but it was only last autumn that I finally made certain to purchase the bulbs. One blustery day last October Bill planted them for me ... but then he couldn't remember where he planted them! So I've been watching the ground for signs of these tiny spring heralds, and had just about given up hope, when Bill spied the above beauties this morning while raking the yard. Lol, he called me at the supermarket to tell me! The first thing I did when I got home (after putting away the frozen things, of course) was to run outside and take pictures. :)

And now, naturally, it's time for ...

The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy

Deep sleeps the Winter,
Cold, wet and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.

Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!

(From The Flower Fairies of the Winter by Cicely Mary Barker)

Now see, this poem makes much more sense in the UK where (I believe) snowdrops pop up from the late winter ground. No matter ~ I will happily welcome these little blooms in whichever month they so choose to awaken - but I'll admit I'm glad there's no snow for them to stand in. 

And now I am sorely tempted to dig out our copy of The Story of the Snow Children - though a decidedly winter tale (and therefore stored away with the wintertime books) - it does feature snowdrops on each beautifully illustrated page. But I'm still working on digging out the Easter books, so instead, I'll just enjoy this little tale I found online: The Snowdrop by Hans Christian Anderson. How did I ever miss this? What a sweet story!

I have to represent the snowdrops, our Merry Maids of March, at our nature table in some way. I'd love to make a Snowdrop Fairy - maybe something like the simple one described in All Year Round - because I could never hope to make one as pretty as this. A reasonable facsimile could be attempted, however, and now a quick trip to the craft store might be in order for tomorrow ... ;)

What have you found in your early spring garden? 
Any surprises to share?
I hope you're all enjoying the weekend. I will see you all again sometime soon!

Poetry Friday ~ The First Mild Day in March*

It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield

To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.

~William Wordsworth~


Well ...

I don't know what kind of weather YOU all had today, but here in southern New England we reached SIXTY degrees! I think it's safe to say that Spring has officially Sprung!

The cool March air feels so good, so fresh ... it was the first day in many, many months that we've been able to open windows all over the house. The air was just so gentle and mild. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have laundered our Easter linens today and hung them on the line to dry. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow - it's supposed to be just as nice.

The boys are playing in the yard right now, and it just makes my heart so happy to see the balls, bats, trucks and swings in motion again. The neighborhood is waking up after a long quiet winter - the girls next door are chatting on a trampoline, there's a meeting of bikes on the road, the little boy across the street just showed up to play, and I smell someone burning off in the distance. Whether it's a grill or a leaf pile, I can't be sure, but it smells good. When I can smell fresh dirt and woodsmoke in one sniff, then it smells like Spring's in the air.

And speaking of Spring in the air, I wonder if we should listen for peepers tonight? Maybe I'm pushing it, lol ... but the nights are getting milder. Time to replace the flannels with cottons, the comforters with quilts. I can say for sure that my youngest will be in need of a bath tonight - as you can see from the picture above, he spent some time "building roads" this afternoon. That's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. ;)

Well, I'm going to get going now ... Bill is on his way home from work, and he's picking up pizza on the way, so YAY! My work here is done ... 

Let the weekend begin! Have a GREAT one, my friends!

*Technically this poem is called "To My Sister," but I didn't include all of the stanzas, and the feeling I was trying to capture for Poetry Friday was expressed in that very first line. :)

Forsythia and Fungi

(Now there's a post title to scratch your head over, lol!)

Well, I wanted to share some sunny pictures from my backyard with you all - they were taken on Monday, today turned out rainy and cool - but I first want to address a question about the forsythia wreath seen in this post.

I bought it at Michael's Arts & Crafts last weekend. I used a 50% off coupon so I paid $19.99. I have always wanted to make one of these wreaths - preferably using real blossoms and grapevine - but I finally decided that's one craft project I'm not going to get to anytime soon. Plus, I think Bill is allergic to forysthia, so the fake flowers are a better choice all around. :)

Speaking of forsythia, this weekend I plan to put our Easter garlands up in the dining(aka learning) room. Here they are in a picture from last year ... 


I have my eye on some butterfly twinkle lights at Target - I think they would look very pretty intwerwoven with the garlands ... 

Now, about those nature pictures. :)

I had wanted to take the boys on a nature walk Monday, but it was just soooo cold I decided to put it off till later this week. I still ran out to fill the birdfeeders and while I was out there I happened to notice this dead birch tree just behind our fence. What caught my eye were the multiple varieties of fungus growing all over the tree!






I'm kind of fuzzy on mushroom identification, but I think the above pictures show three distinct types of fungi. I just thought this tree was such a striking sight!

Moving a bit further into the woods - still bare and awaiting the new life spring will bring - we spied a tidy hole drilled into a dead tree. 



I wonder who lives in here?

I hope you're all enjoying a nice week; can you believe it's already nearing its end?
Have a nice night, everyone ~ thanks for stopping by here today!

More Calendar Chat ...

I've had a few questions about my calendar, so I thought I'd do a quick(ish) planning post. First of all, the calendar I am using this year is made by a company called Blue Sky. It is a monthly-and-weekly planning, spiral-bound calendar. What I like best about it is the ample writing space, the feel of the paper (I know, that's neurotic) and the way it can lay open flat. It fits perfectly in my tote bag and on my kitchen island counter - aka command central. :)


I first spied this particular calendar during a planning session with a few homeschooling mums. My friends Debbie and Holly each had a version (I think Debbie's has an address book section, while Holly's is just like mine). I am prone to calendar envy, so I found myself looking longingly at their calendars, wondering how well they worked for a homeschooling, homekeeping, familykeeping mum ...

Despite the temptation I didn't actively seek out this calendar, because - technically - I had a perfectly good calendar already in use. But I was shopping at Target one day in January and naturally I can't pass the office supply aisles without poking around. There were a few of these calendars left - in gunmetal gray and slate blue. I took a quick-look through and determined that, for $9.99, it was worth a shot.


I chose the metallic blue as you can see. I like the plainness of it, but couldn't resist dressing it up ...



Just a few puffy stickers make all the difference ... I'm so silly about my paper products.

And here's a closer look inside:


Basic title page.


Month-at-a-glance page (more gussying going on here). Lots of room for writing all those domestic/family/social notes.


The week-at-a-glance page works well for lesson planning/recording, dinner menus, chores, daily reminders and other obscure notes. I use a sticky note as a page marker.


I'm just crazy about stickers and rubber stamps; they bring life to the mundane.


As I've shown you before, I stick my current file folders in the back of the planner (when traveling or when not actively in use). I keep them in place with a metal binder clip.

I didn't show them, but there are also personal information pages, yearly overviews and several contact sheets (like an abbreviated address section). 

Now ... I couldn't find this calendar online, and I am not sure if Target still has them - it might be off-season for calendars. It would be worth asking though, perhaps they keep the overstock in back. Or possibly, they might get academic calendars (August cycle) in pretty soon.

Well, for those who are calendar-crazy like me, I hope this was a fun post. I LOVE seeing other people's calendars, so please let me know if you've posted about yours in the past.

And now I guess I'd better be off. I have chicken to marinate and veggies to chop - not to mention math to correct and carpets to vacuum and towels to fold and ... well, you get the picture. :)

Have a good night, everyone!

A Little Afternoon Quiz

I saw this at Donna's and just had to partake:

You Are Spring Cleaning
You are an organized and efficient person. You don't like messes or chaos.
You like simple, high quality things. You don't have room for clutter in your life.*

You believe that everyone deserves a clean slate from time to time... including you.
You tend to see a lot of opportunities in life, and you take advantage of them.

*I think Bill would beg to differ with that "no room for clutter" part and goodness knows - with three boys, a husband and two cats - "messes and chaos" are standard fare around here. :)
But speaking of Spring Cleaning, how's yours coming along? Mine is beginning in earnest this week - spread out over three weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. Actually, I should give credit where credit is due - Bill started in on the blinds, windows and screens this weekend. :)
Have a great evening, everyone ~ Please let me know if you do the quiz!

Sunday's Project ~ A Recipe Binder


It was a partly-sunny, mostly-springy Sunday here and we had a nice, quiet afternoon. Between lesson planning and laundry folding, I was able to spend some time on a recent household project of mine - sorting and storing the bajillion recipes I've saved from the gazillions of magazines I've bought over the years. 

Now, I've admitted this here before but for the purpose of this post, I'll do it again: I buy A LOT of magazines. So it only makes sense that I try to get my money's worth from all these magazines by actually using them. A lot of the things I clip out of magazines are bits and pieces - sometimes an occasional article - for my journals. But the bulk of what I save are the the recipes. 

Another confession: I am an absolute junkie for recipes. I couldn't even begin to guess how many I've saved through the years, but the stacks and piles and folders of recipes that lay about the house would suggest a rather substantial number.

So my main issue has been - how do I keep track - and therefore make better use of - all those ripped-out recipes?

Well, Bill tried to convince me to store my recipes by scanning them into my macbook. I understand the logic behind the suggestion, but I just can't do that. I need a touchy-feely visual experience when it comes to my recipes. 

I briefly debated a hanging file folder system (maybe even using the back of my weekly file crate), but in the end I decided to try a binder. (Third confession of the day: I am also addicted to binders. Lol.)

So anyways ... I took an old wide 3-ring binder and gussied it up with some new homey scrapbook paper (part of a collection called "Grandma's Kitchen" in fact). I inserted lots of clear sheet protectors and made up some tabbed dividers. 


I might play around with the tabs a bit - I couldn't settle on the division of recipes, so I just went with this for now:

Appetizers & Snacks
Soups & Salads
Main Dishes
Side Dishes
Desserts & Sweets

Now comes the "fun" part - going back through each clipping and printout and filing it - first in a sheet protector, and then behind its proper tab. As I file things, I may find I need to adjust the tab headings, but we'll see.


It will take me a while to do this, but I think it will be worth it in the end. Any system has to be better than the shlumpy file folders (and piles and stacks) of clippings that have been sitting around for years. I am also looking for sheet protectors that have index-car-sized pockets; if I can find them, I'll use them to store my small collection of recipe cards here, too.

Well, that's all for now! I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that this new week's off to a good start for you and yours. Before I go, I thought I'd mention that my blog turned 3 years old yesterday! Thanks to all my readers, the old and the new. I enjoy spending my time here with you. :)

Thoughtful Friday ~ The First Day of Spring


"The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month." ~ Henry Van Dyke

This picture was taken last year (or possibly, the year before that) - thankfully, the ground is snow-free today. Just a few sad-looking snowbanks left on the the street corners, which I take pains to ignore. But they'll be gone before long. It might be cool today, but the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it feels - maybe not quite springy - but definitely not like winter anymore. After the winter we had, I'll take it. :) 

Domestic note ~ I'm scrapping plans for the Pasta Primavera tonight because I forgot Bill won't be home for dinner. Instead, I will make up something easy - veggie-omelets and hash browns sound good. I can't wait for rhubarb to show up at the market - a crumble would make a delicious dessert. (Doesn't mean I can't make one with frozen berries, though ...)

Before I go, I want to show you all a picture I took last night:


It's a hawk of some kind - maybe a juvenile because he was quite small. He landed in our feeder tree last night just before 7 p.m. You know, I'm always torn when a bird of prey lands in our tree - on the one hand I want to scare him away immediately so as to protect our precious songbirds and squirrels ... but on the other hand I really, really want to get that picture! Luckily the feeders were empty when he landed, so I felt safe in taking a few pictures before he took his leave. If you have any clue what he is, please let me know!

Speaking of birds and pictures, let me suggest you stop by my friend Angela's for a peek at The End of Winter, by Katydid - her pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

OK, I'd best be going now as all my boys are up and ready to go. I might be back later with a post about our First Day of Spring. If not, I will see you all again sometime soon!

Happy Friday, everyone ~ Happy Spring!


Nature Club this Month: Maple Sugaring


Our Nature Study Club met for our March meeting today ~ our theme this month was maple sugaring. Now, I could complain about the lousy weather (raw and rainy) but since we got to spend the bulk of our time inside a steamy sugarshack, it wasn't so bad. Also, the weather might not have been lovely but it certainly was very "March."

My friend Cherice set up this month's activity - a field trip to a local maple sugaring farm. I thought you might like to see some photos I took today. I don't have a lot of time right now to write a big post about what we learned (which is a shame, because we really learned a lot), but I hope you enjoy the pictures just the same. :) 

Inside the shack:





Syrup samples through the season (first to last, left to right):

Trying plain sap:


And partially boiled syrup:


Outside the shack, a tapped tree:


The shack itself:


A cold mossy creek in the midst ...


And our brand new bottle of Grade B syrup:


I have just revised our dinner plans - we will still have our sloppy joes tonight, but for dessert we'll enjoy vanilla ice cream smothered in locally grown maple syrup!

Thanks for stopping by today ... I wish you all a good night! :)

Food & Fun for Today and Tomorrow

Today is St. Joseph's Day, so for supper tonight we'll have ... Sloppy Joes!

Nan's Sloppy Joe's

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. chili sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
whole wheat buns

1. Brown beef and onion in saucepan. Drain.
2. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.
3. Cover. Cook on low 4-5 hours.
4. Serve on buns.

I plan to serve the sloppy joes on big, braided bulky rolls along with roasted parmesan potatoes and green salad. And for dessert: Italian cookies and gelato. :)

Tomorrow brings us the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring! It will be the perfect evening to serve Pasta Primavera and fresh homemade popovers. The weather is supposed to be cool and sunny on Friday so the boys and I will spend some time in the yard, looking for signs of spring. They will each receive a new nature journal for the year and we'll work on our first entries that afternoon.

Now, the weather today doesn't look as promising, but our Nature Club is meeting at a local maple farm for a tour and sugaring demonstration. So we'll dress accordingly, and I will bring my umbrella - hopefully I'll be able to get some photos in spite of the rain.

Well, whatever the forecast where you live, and whatever your plans for the day, I hope it's a good one! See you all again sometime soon ... 

Deer at Dusk


I was working at the kitchen sink earlier this evening when a movement out the window caught my eye ... we had not one, but two deer grazing out back!


They appeared to be young or female - or perhaps both - I don't know how to tell. They sported no antlers, and the deer on the right was definitely a youngster. They were nibbling away at the smidgens of grass poking up through the thick blanket of pine needles.

Here's the larger of the two:



Gorgeous, isn't he/she?

And here's the younger one:



Adorable. :)

(You know, if it's not the pesky phone lines out front, it's the chain link fence out back wrecking my nature pictures, lol!)

I took these pictures through the rear family room windows - the boys and I were glued to the panes, watching in absolute awe. Usually when we have deer out back (a relatively rare occurrence) they are too skittish to photograph. I swear they can hear the click of the camera! These two, however, were completely aware of our presence (as you can see, they were staring us down!) and even Earlybird's noisy exuberance didn't scare them off. (That boy just does not understand the concept of "Shhhh!")

It wasn't until a walker came down the bike trail that they left us ... 



Their fluffy white tails disappearing into the dark woods.

Boy, what a gift! An absolute gift to have these quiet moments observing such lovely gentle creatures. I just had to "run" here and tell you all about it! We're all quite excited; the boys bombarded Bill as soon as he walked in the door a few minutes ago: 

"DADDY! Guess what? GUESS WHAT?? We had DEEEEEER heeeere!"

Lol, we're such nuts. 

Well, I'm off for now. My family is digging into supper and I've spent enough time online. I hope you all have a pleasant evening - thanks for stopping by and sharing in our exciting special moment!

Top o' the Morning to You!

Irish angel

May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.

I hope you all have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day! Sorry to have been MIA the past few days, but I've been under the weather. (Nothing like a kidney stone to slow you down!) Happily, things seem greatly improved this morning so hopefully we'll get back on track around here. (There's also nothing like a mother getting sick to turn the whole household upside down!)

Plans for the day ... an Irish craft and story with Earlybird in the morning while the older boys do their math. Then it's off to Earlybird's therapy appointments. Once we're done there, we'll head over to visit with Nana and Damee for lunch. 
For supper this evening, I am planning to serve Irish Beef Handpies with boiled potatoes and brown bread. And for dessert: homemade shamrock shakes!

I'm off for now but before I go, here's a fun little Shamrock Personality Test for you:

Your Shamrock Says You Are Wise
You are well balanced and good at taking charge. You have good judgment.

Sometimes you take on too many projects at once. You get stressed out rather easily.

You don't really consider yourself a lucky person. In your view, people create their own luck.

You are traditional, easy going, and appreciative of the simple things in life.

Just a wee bit o' blog blarney to start your bonny day. ;)

Wishing you all a happy and healthy St. Patrick's Day! See you all again sometime soon!

Poetry Friday ~ The March Sap Moon


Cold nights,
warm days,
sap is sure to run.
Moon looms in
the branches,
waiting for the sun.

Did you see the full moon last night? It was breathtaking!
Technically, the moon was "full" on Wednesday, but it was raining here then. Last night was clear and beautiful, though, so I stood out on our deck, taking pictures through the darkness. I could almost hear the peepers in the woods ~ they won't start stirring for another couple of weeks, but it was fun to imagine.

This past week was a busy one - it really flew by! - and next week brings lots of fun. St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day, our Maple Sugaring trip and the First Day of Spring! I will post our plans for next week over the weekend. I'm still nailing down all the details. :)

Dont' forget, tomorrow is National Pi Day! (3.14) Are you going to have a little fun with it? Today I'll pull out the Sir Cumference book, and on Sunday we'll make individual pizza pies for lunch and enjoy a delicious grasshopper pie for dessert. I'm going to try to make a chocolate "pi" symbol on the top of the pie. Fun, right? :)

Well, I hope you all have a great weekend ~ I'll check back in again sometime soon!
Happy Friday (the 13th)!

p.s. I just looked out the window and noticed this in the western sky:


Sorry about those pesky telephone wires, but I had to show you the morning moon, too. :)

Homemade Samoas!


If you've given up sweets for Lent, you might want to skip this post.


Yesterday, while the snow fell fast and furious, I stayed in my warm kitchen and baked some delicious cookies: Homemade Samoa Bars.

Yum, yum, yummy.

(And I don't even really like coconut but these cookies are goooood.)

Last week, a co-worker of Bill's brought in a batch of homemade Samoas - and he was able to snag an extra one for me to try. Well, let me tell you, Ellen's Samoa looked just like the kind that comes out of the box - only prettier - and the taste! Oh my, the taste. She forwarded Bill the recipe because she knows how much I love to bake, and as I looked it over, I noticed a nifty variation for bar cookies - as opposed to cut-out shapes. So much less fiddling and all the same great taste.

Here's the how it all went down.

I started by creaming 2 sticks of unsalted butter with 1/2 cup of sugar. Next I beat in 1 large room temperature egg and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. (Now I made a mistake here; the recipe actually only calls for 1 1/2 sticks - but somehow I got carried away. The shortbread crust still came out nicely.)


It baked, in a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan for 25 minutes at 350 F.

While the crust cooled on a wire rack, prepared the coconut. I've never toasted coconut before - it's kind of fun! I felt very much like the Barefoot Contessa, especially when Earlybird walked in, got a look at what I was doing, and promptly asked to watch Ina. :)
First I spread out 3 cups of Baker's "angel-flake, sweetened" coconut evenly on a cookie sheet (lined with a Silpat). I then toasted it at 300 F for 20 minutes, stirring lightly every 5 minutes or so.


It made the kitchen smell really nice.


While the coconut and shortbread crust cooled, I set the boys to work on the caramels. Their nimble little fingers unwrapped approximately 12 ounces of chewy caramels, tossing them in a Pyrex bowl. (I say approximately because the bag contained 14 ounces and we weren't too scientific about it. I just set aside a handful of candies and we worked with the rest.)


I added 3 Tbsp. milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the caramels and microwaved them for 3 1/2 minutes. (Stirring a few times as they cooked.) After the caramels were melted completely I folded in the toasted coconut ...


And then spread this mixture on top of the cooled shortbread crust.


Once the topping was cool, I cut the whole shebang into bars ...


... and then prepared the chocolate.


I microwaved 10 ounces of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips till smooth. (I actually melted the whole 12 oz. bag.) I dipped the bottom of each bar into the melted chocolate and then drizzled chocolate over the tops of the cookies (using a handy-dandy ziploc bag snipped at the corner).


A little while later the chocolate had set and the bars were ready to eat (and photograph).


They might not look exactly like a Samoa but they do taste awfully good.

Next up, I aim to try Thin Mints. I'll let you know how they go ...

Dinner Plans this Week

Recently I've been pushing myself to plan the coming week's dinners before I do my Saturday shopping.

I know - brilliant concept, right? ;) 

I wish I did this regularly, but for some reason this domestic task often gets overlooked. And then I find myself wandering through the grocery store, making things up as I go. Which is never a wise course of action. We end up with too much pasta, not enough veggies, and at least one if not two take-out nights.

When I do take the time to plan dinners, I spend less money and time at the grocery store, my week is less stressful, and, most importantly, my family eats so much better. (I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but sometimes I need to remind myself of this basic home management rule.) Ideally, I should start planning dinner menus between Thursday and Friday - after the sales circular arrives and once I have a handle on next week's schedule (the busy days, the at-home days, the special days etc.).

Well, here is my menu plan for this week. I have everything I need but the chicken for Tuesday - I'll buy that fresh on the way home from EB's therapy tomorrow. (I have zero luck with keeping chicken fresh in my fridge, lol.)


Baked Ziti
Roasted Asparagus w/Parmesan
Garlic bread


Taco Chicken
Spanish Rice & Peppers
Leftover Cookies

(Full Sap Moon)

Whole Wheat Pancakes 
Turkey Kielbasa
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Hash Browns

 (Busy Day - Easy Supper)

Leftovers and/or Take-Out Pizza
Veggies and Ranch Dip


Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Fruit Salad

(National Pi Day)

Grilled Hamburgers
Green Salad
Baked Onion Rings
Leftover Pudding or Ice Cream

(Celebrating National Pi Day)

Homemade Pizza Pies
Roasted Potato Wedges