Friday, October 28, 2011

Give Halloween Treat Bags

I LOVE holidays!  Of course, this means I LOVE Halloween!  As a kid, we didn't carve pumpkins, and I didn't have any neighbors close by who knocked on my door to say, "Trick-or-Treat."  In other words, after we moved from the city when I was five to the country, Halloween became very boring.

Once I got married and had children, I took the celebration of Halloween to heart.  I get giddy with excitement to carve a pumpkin.  I love watching my children get dressed up to go door to door in search of candy...there's no need to mention my raiding their candy after they go to bed...hehee.  Furthermore, I wait eagerly by the door to hear the faint knock of children dressed in costume.  I know the moment I open it, they will say, "Trick-or-Treat."  

I don't want to be like the one house I went to when I was younger.  Uhhh as interesting as it is, it was also very disappointing...I got a sugarcane.  A real sugarcane!  Imagine a kid trying to find and get to the sugar in a sugarcane.  Ha!  There were also the few occasions of getting an apple or a toothbrush--I'm assuming he was a dentist.  

Soooo, what I decided a few years ago was to become the best Trick-or-Treating house on the block!  Instead of just giving candy, I give them a complete treat bag with all sorts of goodies.

I color fun, Halloween designs on the front of orange bags.  
Then fill it with the following:
  • I have all of my friends and family save the unopened toys from fast food restaurants (it is really important that they remain unopened).  
  • I print out Halloween themed word searches, mazes, and connect-the-dot pages.
  • I buy the Halloween colored mini play dough containers and add one to each bag.
  • I add a Halloween themed pencil and bookmark--education is important.
  • Then, I toss in a few pieces of chocolate and candy.
The kids LOVE getting the Halloween Treat Bags just as much as my children and I like to give them.  We always have such a good time putting them together, especially drawing the fun, spooky designs on the front.

Pumpkin Bread

Autumn isn't complete without pumpkin bread!  This recipe will quickly become your favorite...all it takes is one bite!


  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 shakes of nutmeg (otherwise it will be too strong)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

  1. Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Grease and flour 2 bread loaf pans.
  5. Pour evenly into the bread pans.
  6. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
  7. Let cool on wire racks.
  8. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Pops

I came across Martha Stewart's idea for the white chocolate ghosts years ago, and the kids and I have made them every Halloween since.  You can take her recipe even further by substituting ingredients and making different designs for other holidays throughout the year.


  • 12 ounces of white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • lollipop sticks (I ran out and used popsicle sticks instead)
  • mini semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Melt chocolate over simmering water, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add oil and stir until fully mixed in.
  3. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  4. Drop a spoonful onto the lined sheet and spread into the ghost shape.
  5. Put the lollipop stick in the middle.
  6. Add the mini chips for eyes and a mouth.
  7. Put the sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat.
* To make the pumpkins, I substituted peanut butter chips in the place of the white chocolate chips.  Then added red and yellow food coloring to get the orange color I wanted.

Try adding food coloring and shaping them into different holiday designs: trees, eggs, coins.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bucket List

"Skydiving is one more thing I can cross off my bucket list."  I said this with enthusiasm as I chatted with my father.  
"Yeah, it's weird that your bucket list has things on it that could actually be the end of your list."  He responded.
My aunt had her thoughts on it as well.  "You are too young to have a bucket list."

I don't consider myself young, but I don't consider myself old either.  I actually started my "bucket list" when I was a young child.  I remember telling my mother that I was going to go to Europe one day.  I think I was probably seven or eight at the time.  I even wrote in my diary that one day I would do this or that before I died.  My list hasn't changed very much as far as the content, but it has gotten longer.  :)   

Why do I have a bucket list?  That answer is simple.

A long life is not guaranteed.  That sounds so blunt and harsh I know, but it is the truth.  We never know when our health may fail or when our time is up.  It is completely unknown.  We can only hope with all our hearts that we will live long and happy lives surrounded by our friends and family.  Shouldn't that be enough?  Well, keep reading...

Live each day as if it is your last!  Do things you want to do NOW while you can!  

Live, Laugh, Love

I don't know how many times I have heard or seen those words and phrases.  It seems everywhere we turn, we are faced with some message telling us to live our lives, laugh till our stomach hurts, and love with all that we have.  Do we do it?  Not usually.  We don't like to put ourselves out there for fear of being hurt emotionally or physically.  But fear is what is really crippling us.  We hurt ourselves and others around us if we don't open up to all possibilities.  

For example: Holding back on love can leave you unhappy or alone and hurt your loved ones.  Put your heart on the line!  Give all of it over.  You might be surprised to watch it grow.  

Jump out of an airplane!  Feel the power of the wind!  See what the Earth looks like from above the clouds--It is amazingly beautiful--breathtaking.  Trust in the person guiding you that you will land safely and unharmed.  Trust is a big word here...we all need to learn how to use it more in our everyday lives.

I don't know if I will live to be 100 or if I will die next week.  No one knows this.  What I do know is that I want to live, laugh, and love while I still can.  And just think of the stories I will may get to share with my grandchildren.  

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."  - Helen Keller 

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meaning of Sex?

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, What on Earth is Elizabeth thinking talking about sex on her blog?!  Well, it isn't exactly about sex.  It's more about what my daughter thought sex was.

Imagine my horror when I heard my sweet, beautiful, innocent daughter who was playing in her room, say "they are having sex."  WHAT???!!!  I jumped up and practically ran into her room to investigate.  

How could my five year old even know that word, much less what it meant?!

I didn't want to storm in with ferocity and scare her, so I took a deep breath to calm myself before taking on the challenge of the conversation I feared we might have.  I wasn't ready for "the talk" just yet with her.  In my eyes, she's still my baby.

As I entered her room, my eyes scanned over her toys.  I was looking for any sign that she may or may not know the intimacy that word carries for adults.  There she sat among her stuffed animals.  She had them lined up beside each other except for two.  Her giraffe and her brother's elephant were set in front of all the others as if putting on a play.  I watched her as she had the two hug and kiss each other.  

Then, I asked what she was doing.  She gave me the sweetest smile as she told me the tale of how giraffe and elephant, though very different from each other, had fallen in love.  They just got married in front of all their friends (hence the animals lined up facing the two).  She smiled again before saying the very words that sent me to her room in the first place, "They're having sex." She said it so matter of fact as if it were a common, everyday sort of thing.

"Caitlin," I began, "where did you hear this word."  Well, she couldn't recall where she had first heard the word, but she could answer my next question.  "Do you know what this word means?"  I asked praying she would just say "no" and that would be the end of it.  
Instead, she looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes, batted her lashes, and flashed me her sweetest grin ever before replying, "Of course I do.  Zach told me."  

My breath caught in my chest.  I had once told Zach, her older brother about sex (I will recount this story at a later time for you).  I thought I made it clear he wasn't to tell his sister about it.  I was still holding my breath.  "What do you think sex means?  What did Zach tell you?" I asked.  
She made her animals hug each other again as she answered, "It means they love each other."  
I resumed my breathing.  "What else does it mean?"  I pressed.  
"It means they get married and love each other.  That's what Zach said.  They hug and kiss and spend time together.  You know like you and Daddy do lots of stuff together?  Well, that's what it means."  She smiled as she recounted her vision of what she thought it meant.
I smiled down at my innocent (thank goodness) daughter as I brushed her hair from her eyes.  "That is exactly what it means...they love each other.  Do me a favor."  I asked.  "Can you use the word 'love' instead of sex for now on for me, please?"

Well, it seems even a five year old can know the meaning behind sex (or what it should mean anyway)--love--without knowing the details.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heartwarming Chili

When the cold weather pays us a visit, I like throw on my Snuggie...umm...I mean blanket, curl on the couch, and eat something that warms me from the inside out.  Chili just so happens to be one of those warming comfort foods for the cooler months' weather.


  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 pounds of beef (or venison if you prefer)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, run through a food processor to cut up the tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans, undrained
  1. Brown meat with celery, onion, garlic, and green bell pepper.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 1 hour or more if desired.
  3. Serve with cornbread muffins.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Wonder of Your Love

The Wonder of Your Love will bring tears of sorrow and joy to your eyes as you follow Katie Ann Stoltzfus, a widowed Amish woman raising a child while in her forties.  She had lost her husband, Ivan, to another woman which was shameful enough but even more shameful was that the woman was an Englisch (non Amish) woman.  Then, she lost him forever when he died in a car accident.  Her son would never know his father, and all hopes Katie Ann had of getting Ivan back were shattered.

While attending a wedding, Katie Ann meets Eli Detweiler.  He had also lost a spouse.   His wife, Sarah, passed away seventeen years earlier.  It is customary for a widower to remarry after losing a wife, but Eli didn't think he would ever find one who could hold a candle to his Sarah.   So, Eli did the unthinkable (according to the Amish), he raised their six children alone.  This gave Eli an extra gentleness most Amish men do not have.  This both intrigued and scared Katie Ann.  

Time between Katie Ann and Eli allowed for friendship, but could there ever be more?  Eli was done raising children.  He was ready to travel and enjoy a slower pace of having no one to care for except himself.  While Katie Ann was in the beginning stages of raising a baby boy on her own with no man in the house to help her or set a good example for her son.  Do their own personal plans fall in line with God's plans?

Beth Wiseman has a deep affection for the Amish and it shows in her writing.  She opens a door to a secret life that has been shut for us Englischers.  We can live in their world, experience their lives of heartache, and dream their dreams of love.  

This is a great book.  I didn't want it to end.  I kept hoping for more pages to suddenly appear at the end to keep the story going.  It isn't at all what I imagined it to be.  It is SO MUCH BETTER!  

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Sunday, October 9, 2011

WW Pumpkin Spice Muffins

My mom shared this recipe with me several years ago.  She got it through Weight Watchers.  I have enjoyed making these for an easy and super fast breakfast or snack whenever the craving of Autumn spices arrives.  They are high in fiber, low in fat, and SUPER moist! 

BTW, if you are a WW follower, I think this is suppose to have 2-3 points for a regular sized muffin but only 1 point for a mini muffin.  

  • box of Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Spice Cake
  • 1 can (15 ounces) Pumpkin  or  2 cups (just shy) of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup water
  1. Put all three ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon.  You can use a mixer, but I find it is less to clean if I just use a spoon.  Don't worry if there are a few small chunks of cake mix still showing...just mix as good as you won't notice the difference once it is baked.
  2. Spoon into muffin tins sprayed with nonstick spray or lined with muffin paper cups.
  3. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  4. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  They taste the best once they have completely cooled off.
* I line 12 muffin tins with the paper cups and bake them in the morning.  The remaining batter I put in a container in the refrigerator.  I pull it out later that day to use as a snack or the next morning for more muffins.  The entire recipe makes about 20-24 muffins based upon how much you scoop and put in each.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Granite Walkway

from the front steps looking out to the street

When we built our house in 2008, we had no idea what we wanted for a walkway leading from our front door to the street.  Flagstone was an idea we liked, but we didn't want the cost that came with it.  I like to "drink champagne on a beer budget" as they say.  

While picking out our granite countertop for the kitchen, my husband noticed a large dumpster full of granite scraps.  He had the perfect idea!  He asked if he could take some of them, and the owners happily agreed.  With the pieces he took, he built our walkway.  People stop by our house all the time, get out of their cars, and feel our path.  They can't believe it is granite!  LOL

If you will notice on the left side towards the top half, there are small ovals.  Those are the granite cutouts from sinks!  We used them as stepping stones leading from the garage to the walkway.  

I guess you could really say their trash was our treasure...and it tastes like champagne!

By the way, this isn't the best picture.  It was a very cloudy day, so the sun is not glistening off of the polished granite.  Yes, it is polished and sealed like a kitchen countertop, which is why I think everyone is surprised when they see it.