13th Birthday Party


sleeping bag invitation

The invitation: the sleeping bag is clip-art from MicroSoft Word. I changed the color of the bad for each invitation. (It can be printed in black and white onto different colored paper if you don’t want to use up as much ink.) I used an X-acto knife to create a slit at the top flap of the sleeping bag diagonally. Then I folded paper in half and glued along the 3 open sides to create an envelope. I cut the invitation narrow so the rectangle looks like a pillow in the sleeping bag. Slip the invitation into the diagonal slit to complete look.



Posted in Penny Pincher | Leave a comment

Indoor Smore Recipe


When you can’t (or don’t want to) go outside (or build a fire), make smores in your oven or toaster oven.

CAM004591I like the square marshmallows for this, but cylinder-shaped work well too; I lay them on their side if I use cylinder ones.

Place chocolate square on 1/2 graham cracker and top with marshmallow. Toast on broil in oven or toaster oven watching until marshmallows begin to toast. *Watch closely, they burn VERY easy.



Remove, top with other 1/2 of graham cracker, turn upside-down and slightly press to spread chocolate to the edges.CAM004621 Enjoy!


Alternate ideas:

Use your favorite cookie instead of graham cracker.

Posted in Desserts, What's For Dinner? | Leave a comment

Spinach Artichoke Dip

With chip

Makes a 9X13 pan

Preheat oven to 375°F.


2 cups Parmesan cheese

1 (10 ounce) box thawed chopped spinach from frozen

1 (14 ounce) can drained and chopped artichoke hearts

2/3 cup sour cream

1 cup cream cheese

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Grated Mozzarella Cheese (enough to slightly cover)


Mix together Parmesan cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts.

Combine remaining ingredients to first mixture.

Spray olive oil in bottom of 9X13 pan.

Spread mixture evenly into pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until surface begins to turn slightly brown.


Grate just a little mozzarella cheese across top and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.


Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or toasted bread.

(Adapted from food.com recipe)

Posted in Sides, What's For Dinner? | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taco Seasoning – Homemade

1 Tbsp. Chili Powder (If you have chili lime rub, use it here)
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. onion Powder (or dice a bit of fresh onion)
1/4 tsp. Oregano
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Salt (sea salt is best here)
1 tsp. pepper (fresh ground pepper is best here)

Add this to 1 lb. ground beef, chicken, fish or shrimp to make taco seasoned meat.

Helpful hint: To make your ground beef stretch further, add a can of drained & rinsed black beans as well as a can of fat free refried beans. If seasoning is too mild, double the recipe above.

Posted in Sides, What's For Dinner? | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Dippity Cake recipe




3 Cups flour                                  1 Cup veggie oil

1tsp. baking soda                          2 Cups sugar

1 tsp. salt                                        3 eggs

1/2 tsp. cinnamon                       2 tsp. vanilla

1 Cup pecans (chopped)

3 Cups apples (peeled and chopped) (I used Granny Smith)


1 Cup packed brown sugar

1/4 Cup milk

3/4 Cup margarine


Powdered sugar for dusting


Mix oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla till well blended.

Sift together flour, salt, and soda.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.

Fold in pecans and apples.


Best device for peeling, coring and slicing an apple (Pampered Chef product)


Simple dice the coiled, peeled cored apple. If you don’t have this product, you will have to do this by hand.


Pour into greased and floured bunt or tube pan.

Bake at 350* for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is still in pan and warm, make sauce.

Bring brown sugar, milk and margarine to a boil. As soon as it begins boiling, pour it over warm cake still in pan. Let sit until cooled.


Once cooled, invert pan over serving tray and dust with powdered sugar.

(Modified from recipe posted by friend on Facebook.)

Posted in Sides, What's For Dinner? | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Chicken Taco Bowl


Serves about 6


4 thawed or frozen chicken breasts or thighs

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (I make my own)

1 jar salsa

1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)

1 lb. corn (frozen or canned)


Shredded Colby Jack Cheese to taste

Cilantro (chopped) to taste

Alt. toppings:

Dollop of sour cream

Fresh squeezed lime to taste


Cooked brown rice


1. Add all ingredients but toppings to crock potTaco Chicken Bowl

2. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 minutes

3. Shred chicken with fork as once chicken is tender enough to shred mixing occasionally if desired

4. Place cooked rice in bottom of bowl and cover with chicken taco mix

5. Top with topping of choice

(Adapted from Pinterest recipe)

Posted in Entrees, What's For Dinner? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caramel Apple Spice Muffins

It couldn’t be easier!

Two ingredients + 20 minutes = 1 dozen caramel apple spice muffins


One can of caramel apple pie filling (or pumpkin pie filling) and one box of spice cake muffins


Mix together with the back of a scraper until mix is moist


Spoon into muffin cups (nuts and/or shaved coconut and/or cinnamon with sugar may be added to the top)


Bake at 350* for 15 – 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Posted in Sides, What's For Dinner? | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mosaic of Life and Loss

I have never had alcohol aside from cough medicine, so I had to take the nurses at their word when they said, “The effects of magnesium sulfate are like being drunk.” Everything was blurry.  The room and the sheets smelled like antiseptic. The “mag” was required to prevent seizures due to the preeclampsia I had developed.

But I was going to be able to deliver my baby.  Finally!  It had been a horrific pregnancy.  From multiple hospitalizations due to nausea induced dehydration to Bells Palsey leaving me looking like a stroke victim to PUPPP (a severely itchy and painful skin rash) and then to preeclampsia which caused so much water retention I looked more like a balloon animal than a mother-to-be.  I was not a glowing pregnant woman!

It was one o’clock in the morning on May ninth 1999 – Mother’s Day.  The on-call doctor had checked me and I began to push.  Nothing seemed to work.  I hugged my bloated knees.  I pulled on a towel.  I even pulled on my husband’s hands because there was more resistance; this gave him a whole new meaning to the term “active labor”.  His arms were sore for three or four days.

Three hours after beginning to push, the doctor asked me if I would agree to a cesarean.  Looking back now, I realize no one should ask a woman in the middle of the most painful experience of her life for permission to do anything.  I had in my mind that I was going to finish the way I started.  Maybe that is what it is like to be drunk.

The anesthesiologist was called to give me a second epidural because I could feel everything.  Apparently the second epidural was like being drunk twice.  Is that possible?

I don’t remember all the questions I asked the nurses, but I do remember that I asked if my mid-wife, Penny Brown, was going to be able to be in before I delivered.  “It isn’t her night on-call, Lassie,” the gruff Irish nurse informed me.  But I felt as though I needed her; I wanted her with me.  Just to see her ever gentle expression, her short blonde hair which rested on the collar of her white lab coat would not only comfort me, but allow us to celebrate the end of all the dreadful days and months prior.

Seven and a half months earlier, I met Penny the day after I had found out that I was pregnant.  I had begun to throw up so frequently that my husband insisted I visit the emergency room.  She was on-call in the ER that evening.  Her gentle manner instantly put me at ease.  She was always attentive to what I was feeling, how I was progressing, and what my current condition was.  Her touch was much like a mother – not a doctor.

I called Penny’s office the next day, and she agreed to be my doctor over the next agonizingly complicated months.

About a month after meeting Penny, while in the hospital again for nausea issues, I developed an unusual reaction to the anti-nausea medication, Reglin.  My muscles flexed and lifted from the bed randomly for eight hours straight.  It was excruciating!  Penny sat at my bedside for over an hour gently caressing my arm.  Would a doctor ever do that?  Penny did!  She placed a piece of herself into the mosaic of my life.

The great thing about a mosaic is that each piece can be haunting or delightful depending on the memory of each moment.  The great mystery of life, is that often these pieces are placed side by side.

IsaiahFour hours and 15 minutes after beginning to push and after having the doctor push him back in and turn him, Isaiah Paul was born.  It was 5:16 am.  He looked like a beautiful raisin.   Love finally had a face.  His cry was a squeal.  It was melodious!  I wanted to share him with Penny and thank her for all she had done to assist in his safe arrival.

For another forty-five minutes the doctor and nurses assisted with the plethora of complications which arose.  Such as the moment I became unconscious during the seizure in spite of the “mag” due to my elevated blood pressure.  I prayed God would sustain Paul, my husband, and our little baby.  I was certain in my drugged state that I was dying.

It was my first Mother’s Day.  The hospital gave me a pink carnation on my breakfast tray to celebrate.  I don’t remember a lot about that first day because of the drugs.

I do know Penny never had the opportunity to see Isaiah.

The hospital provided a celebratory meal on Monday night (not the usual lame excuse for a meal).  I had just fed Isaiah, and Paul had turned on the news while we ate.  Instantly the name the newscaster mentioned caught our attention.  “Penny Brown.”

“What about her?” Paul’s tone was uncharacteristically concerned.

“She probably got some award or something.”  I knew she deserved it anyway.

The newscaster began, “The town of Salamanca and Olean, New York were shocked to find the body of Penny Brown just off a path this afternoon.  She was reported missing yesterday afternoon when she had not returned home after a jog.”

I am certain the newscaster said more things, but my ears refused to hear it.  My joints became achy – like when you have the flu.  I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.  I had no appetite despite the elegance of the meal.

What have we just done?  What kind of world have we just brought our son into?

We left the hospital as soon as possible the following morning.  The staff were mourning the loss of their coworker while we were trying to rejoice in the birth of our first child.  I told myself I had to be happy for my son’s sake.  Looking back, I realize I never had the chance to mourn for Penny.

The newspaper later revealed that Penny had been brutally suffocated and raped by a fifteen year old.

Penny BrownShe was so gentle and kind.  Penny was eager to learn.  She asked the doctors questions about my condition frequently.  She cared beyond the nausea.  She made me feel special at a time when I felt awful.  Her pieces remain permanently and affectionately yet hauntingly within the mosaic of my life.

I wanted to write to Penny’s family many times, but I never knew quite what to say.  Because I never took the time to mourn for Penny, to write that note, to say good-bye, it became an uncompleted mosaic, a space waiting for Penny’s contribution which would never be provided.  She was gone.

But, can’t the lives she touched continue to be blessed and warmed by the pieces she contributed while she was alive?

There are days when I am filled with anger and regret that I did not get the opportunity to see Penny hold Isaiah.  Within my mind, this would have been the final contribution from Penny to my mosaic and in turn, it may have added to hers.  I realize I now have a choice.  Do I hold on to the empty space left within my mosaic due to her life being taken, or is there something more that Penny taught me?

I choose to offer pieces to others’ mosaics, pieces of the same spirit of compassion Penny showed me.

(Thank you, Christin Taylor and The Blank Page Writer’s Workshop for assisting me in developing this piece.)

Posted in Everyday Living, Stories of Home | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Laundry Soap Recipe

1 – 55 oz. bottle of Purex Crystals (for scent) (opt.)
2 bars of Zote soap grated (I used pink. Doesn’t matter which color though. Fel Naptha may also be used.)
1 – 3 lb. container of OxyClean
1 – 4 lb. 12 oz. box of Borax
1 – 3 lb. 7 oz. box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda  (how to make homemade washing soda: http://naturesnurtureblog.com/2012/05/08/ttt-turn-baking-soda-into-washing-soda/)
(all the above items are usually located in the laundry/detergent isle of your local discount store)
4 – 1 lb. boxes of baking soda (any brand works. If you can find a 4 lb. box, use that.)
(Baking soda is usually located in the baking isle of your local store/grocer.)
1 – 3 to 5 gallon tub with air tight lid for storage (available in the paint departments of local discount stores or home improvement stores)

1. Grate the 2 bars of soap. I purchased a grater to solely be used for making soap so as not to have to use my food grater. A food processor with a grating blade may be used. I grated with the largest holes and the soap dissolves just fine.
2. Layer ingredients in the storage tub and mix well. Layering helps to evenly mix all the ingredients.
3. Place several cups of mixed detergent into the OxyClean container for daily use and easyDSCF0157 storage. Leave the rest of the well mixed laundry soap in multi-gallon storage container with lid tightly secured. (Optional step)
4. Use 2 – 4 Tablespoons per load of laundry.

  • Safe to mix with bleach, liquid fabric softener and/or dryer sheets without issue
  • May be used in top load, or energy efficient washers
  • Have used this on the following types of fabric without issue: Cotton, polyester, satin, rayon, fleece, denim and poly-blend fabrics (I haven’t found a fabric I can’t use it on yet. Follow the directions on the clothing label of each piece of clothing.)
  • My daughter and I break out in hive when I use some laundry detergents; for us, it’s Wisk. I haven’t had any reactions from this detergent.

(The internet is full of laundry recipes for both liquid and powder detergent. This is my favorite. The quantity above should last for 9 months to a year for the average family.)

Posted in Penny Pincher | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Prayer For the Foolishness of God

O God, give me power and wisdom now, but that of another kind.
Keep before me all that I cannot do and do not know and help me to find my identity there.
Give me your strength through my weakness and your wisdom through my simplicity.
And what power and wisdom I already have, help me to bring into the service of your kingdom and in the nature of your Christ.
Put upon my life the circumstances that cause me to be weak and foolish, and keep me there.
Impede my progress in the power and wisdom that I, by nature, seek and put me into the company of those whose power and wisdom is not of this world.
Set before me the daily memory and example of Christ who was before all things, yet made Himself nothing; who was rich, yet for our sake became poor.
Encourage me, through the Holy Spirit, to flee from the authority and applause of men into the dark and secret places where virtue grows, giants dwell and God [abides].

(author unknown)

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment