Monday, May 30, 2011

A Blogger Apology!

I've been busy the last couple of days... very busy and it's only going to get worse over the next few days!  So, I just want to apologize in advance for my lack of upcoming blog posts!  I'll be back to normal blogging soon!

Here's what's been keeping me so busy!

Before... (the duct tape was temporary!)

After Day 1...

Handy Woman!

Here's my bathroom!

Dust-covered Hubby and I

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Celebrating Summer with Cornhole! (Read on for an explanation...)

Brennan and Grandpa Brad (A.C.A. Member!)
My family and I have always been 'outside' people.  We would much rather be outside on a nice summer evening than stuck inside.  That's why my parents have a lot of deck parties each summer.  They are so much fun!  Everybody (usually a couple sets of neighbors, an aunt or two's family, and maybe my grandparents) shows up around 5 or 6 for a weenie roast or fish fry, a lot of talking and laughing, a few drinks, maybe a Twins game on the flat screen that my Dad moves outside, and ultimately some Cornhole.

You may have heard some other definitions of the word Cornhole, but the definition Wikipedia gives is what I'm talking about!
"Cornhole (bean bag toss, baggo or bags) is a lawn game in which players take turns throwing cornhole bags (cotton duck bags filled with feed corn) at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. These platforms are usually made with plywood or plastic and are often decorated. A corn bag in the hole scores 3 points, while one on the platform scores 1 point. Play continues until a player reaches the score of 21."
This game is so much fun!  Anyone who plays always ends up wanting a set of their own!  Lucky for me, I have a crafty Dad!  He used our neighbor's set as a model and made sets that snap together for easy travel for another neighbor, himself, and me!  Later on he received two more set requests- one from my older sister, and one from my friends Shannon and Eric as a wedding gift!  Needless to say he was busy making the games!

Well, since Dad had become so 'involved' with the game of Cornhole, I thought that he would appreciate becoming an official member of the A.C.A.- The American Cornhole Association!  I hopped Online and signed him up!  He is now an official, card carrying, "American Cornhole" (as my niece and nephew like to call him)!  Haha!
Dad and I in the Cornhole tournament.
Two summers ago, my Dad and husband, Ryan, entered a Cornhole tournament together.  They did really well, and finished only one place short of the prizes... darn!  So last summer, we decided to have them enter again... on different teams!  I entered the tournament with my Dad (I was one of very few girls).  Our team name- "Slim Chance"!  Ryan entered with our friend Eric as "Bazinga!"  (They aren't fans of "The Big Bang Theory", are they??)  Unfortunately,
Brennan & I at the Renaissance Festival.
as luck would have it, we were paired up in the first round!  It was a double elimination tournament, so we knew that after the game one of our teams would already be one step away from elimination.  Well, the impossible happened- Dad and I beat "Bazinga!"  They are really good, but we pulled it off!  So we were in the winner's bracket and they were in the loser's.  This ended up being good for them, since we were playing the best teams and were soon knocked out!  Ryan and Eric came back to take 8th place, scoring four tickets to the Renaissance Festival in the Twin Cities.

Grandma Jan and my nephew, Wiley, playing Cornhole.
Anyway, Cornhole has become a very enjoyable part of our lives.  It's played every year at our 4th of July party and many other times throughout the summer.  It truly is fun for everyone and for all you guys out there- it only requires one hand so you can hold your beer with the other.  If you have a chance, give it a try!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Good Friday Night Laugh! German Coastguard Video..

Hello to all my loyal followers!

The other night I was watching a funniest commercials show and this commercial was shown.  I laughed SO HARD!  I hope you all enjoy!

My Baby Bites! Help!

Attention Mothers! (and Dads, Grandmas, Grandpas, Teachers, Daycare Providers and anyone else that has experience with toddlers!)

I am asking for child rearing advice!  My precious baby boy (15 months), whom you all know I just adore, is a very stubborn, strong-willed little guy.  The older he gets, the harder he gets to handle!  He definitely understands what "no" means, but he rarely chooses to listen to it.  We've tried to be firm and consistent with him, giving time outs and/or redirecting him to another activity, but in two seconds flat he is back to doing the unwanted behavior.  

Image courtesy of
Our biggest problem lately is that he is becoming violent.  If we tell him "no" and try to pick him up, or walk him away from where he is, he'll bite!  He has also been known to pinch and hit, mainly in the face.  Don't get me wrong- I'm not trying to make him sound like a little monster!  He doles out as many kisses and hugs as he does bites, but we need him to realize that biting is NOT OK!  Last week my left forearm was covered in jaw shaped bruises and this week it is my right arm.  He tends to bite me more than his Dad or anyone else.  I think it is because I'm the one home with him all day so I'm the main disciplinarian. 

So, I'm wondering.  Has anyone dealt with this sort of thing (obviously!)?  What did you do?  What worked for you?  Do you have any ideas to help stop the biting, specifically, or about dealing with a strong-willed child, in general?  I'm open to any and all suggestions and I'm getting desperate for some help in this area!  We are bringing Brennan to the doctor for his 15 month well baby check this morning and I definitely plan to ask the doctor what he suggests, as well.  Here's hoping someone has some good advice for me!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chantal's New York Cheesecake Recipe!

In an earlier blog post, I offered to post my cheesecake recipe if anyone wanted it.  Well, I received a recipe request from Babymama at Ava Grace's Closet, so I'm pleased to share it!  I don't know who to give credit to for this recipe, except for Chantal!  I found this recipe on a cooking site a few years ago and have been making it ever since!  This is restaurant quality, or better!

Chantal's New York Cheesecake
Yield- One 9" Springform Pan
Preptime- 30 Minutes
Cooktime- 1 Hour
Ready in - 7 Hours and 30 Minutes  (or a bit less if you're in a big hurry!)

Before beginning, it is a good idea to let your cold ingredients acclimate to room temperature, most importantly, the cream cheese.  This helps to eliminate lumps.

4 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup flour

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix together well.

First, prepare a water bath to bake your cheesecake in by placing a cookie sheet or cake pan large enough for your springform pan to fit into in the oven.  Put an inch of water into the cookie sheet.  (I recommend using an old sheet or pan, if possible.)  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your springform pan.  Use aluminum foil to wrap the outside of the pan in order to make the seam area at the bottom of the pan waterproof.  Grease the bottom and edges of the pan with shortening.  Prepare a graham cracker crust.  Press into your well-greased pan.

Note: if using an electric stand mixer, be sure to use a spatula to scrape the bowl between each ingredient addition to avoid chunky cheesecake and keep is smooth and creamy.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth.  Blend in milk, then mix in eggs one at a time,  mixing just enough to incorporate.  Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.  Pour into pan.

Bake for 1 hour.  Keep an eye on your water bath during the baking hour to ensure that it doesn't run dry.  Replenish with more water if necessary.  Turn oven off.  (The center 3 to 4 inches of your cheesecake will still look very wobbly.  This is normal!)  Carefully pull the oven rack that the cheesecake is baking on out of the oven far enough that you can run a greased knife around the edge of the cheesecake.  Slide the rack back in and shut the oven door.  Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven with the door closed for 5-6 hours to prevent cracking.  Chill in refrigerator before serving.  

Serve with your favorite topping and enjoy!

Now, let me tell you that the cooling times and techniques given are ideal, but not 100% necessary.  If I'm trying to speed the process along, I'll follow this process instead:  Bake for an hour... blah blah blah... Slide the rack back in, but leave the oven door cracked open and allow the cheesecake to cool for as long as you can (preferably at least an hour).  When you must, pull the cheesecake out of the oven and put it immediately into the refrigerator.

The only reason for the long, drawn out cooling process is to avoid a crack in the cheesecake- it is purely cosmetic.  It is really more important that your cheesecake be very firm and cool from refrigeration than having look perfect, but be warm or soft.  Honestly, I normally shorten the process quite a bit and have only had my cheesecake crack once and it was pretty minor!

I hope you all enjoy this!  It is a little bit of a hassle, but once you take a bite, you'll know it was worth it!!

Help Save a life- Be a Donor!

I received an urgent plea from one of my followers yesterday.  They asked if I could share this information with you.  Here's what she has to say,
"The other day - I wrote a post asking for people to donate blood to help a young girl obtain a bone marrow transplant... Please read Haley's Story Here...
Today I was contacted by Erika Toto from DKMS Americas - the worlds largest bone marrow donor center - She gave me a lot of information that can help Haley's family move in the right direction to obtain a donor.... The family will be meeting with Be The Match this week - Be The Match is the National Registry for Bone Marrow. DKMS adds all of their donors to the Be The Match Registry and DKMS does NOT require any of the donors or volunteers to cover the costs of registration. Donors can request kits from around the country on their website They will receive their free kit within 3 business days. I'm thinking this makes testing a bunch easier don't you... Before you leave this blog - Please request your kit today!"

You are eligible to be a donor if you meet the following:
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 55
  • Be in good general health
  • Weigh more than 110lbs but not exceed BMI 40
  • Not be HIV positive or have AIDS
  • Not have had heart surgery or heart disease
  • Not have an autoimmune disorders such lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis
  • Not have sleep apnea, breathing problems or sever asthma (daily inhalers are acceptable)
  • Not have diabetes requiring insulin
  • Not have hepatitis B or C
  • Not have a stroke (including TIA)
  • Not have chronic or severe neck or back problems
  • Not have epilepsy or have a had a seizure within one year
  • Not have a blood clot or a bleeding disorder
  • Not have a personal history of cancer (melanoma, breast, bladder, and cervical cancer)
We are asking you to share this information!  Post it on Facebook, Tweet it, tell your friends and family.  Saving a life can be as simple as making a blood donation (which is how most marrow donations are done nowadays!).  Please get the word out to save a life... Save many lives.... Make a difference!

I'm off to request my kit now!  I hope you'll do the same!

First Giveaway Winner Announement!

Hi everybody! 

Thanks so much to those of you who entered my very first giveaway of a blanket from the Pink Polka Dot Boutique!  Overall, I was pleased at how smoothly the process went!  I hope you'll all watch for more reviews and giveaways to be posted in the future. 

And now, for the big announcement..... Drum roll, please!  The winner of a beautiful blanket of their choice from the Pink Polka Dot Boutique is entry #9- Amanda B!  Amanda has been contacted with prize redemption instructions. 

Thanks again, everyone!  Have a great Thursday and Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #4

For anyone who was following my very first giveaway:
The giveaway ended at Noon today.  I will be announcing a winner tomorrow, so please check back!  Thanks so much to all who participated!  Now, on to the post!

Although Halloween is a while off, this first picture made me laugh hard and I wanted to share it.  I was only seven, but I remember being embarassed even at this age! 

Halloweens past and present...
(Not wordless this time!)

Yeah... I'm supposed to be Princess Jasmine.  This is what Jasmine would look
like in Minnesota!  Haley is the ever popular purple dinosaur, Barney!

Sweet little me kissing my skeleton Papa!

Brennan's first Halloween.  He made his debut as an adorable, hairy spider!
Ryan was the spider web and I was a witch!

The Devil and his pregnant Angel wife.  Maybe we should be counting
2009 as Brennan's first Halloween!
In 2008, I went as a Madrigal Renaissance woman and Ryan was a mad scientist!  It works for him... he is a scientist in real life!  Our dog, Emmy, is possesed in this picture.  Emmy actually wore a cheetah headband for our walk to the neighbor's house- she was a Cheetah Girl!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All Thing Bright and Beautiful!

I've been blessed to see so many beautiful things in my life.  These are just a few of them.  I took all of these pictures except for the ones I'm in.  These are the beautiful words of the hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Cecil F. Alexander written in 1848.
All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.


Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.


The purple headed mountains,

The river running by,

The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.


The cold wind in the winter,

The pleasant summer sun,

The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.


The tall trees in the greenwood,

The meadows where we play,

The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.


He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Was Given Two More Awards!!

I was recently surprised to receive two more blogger awards!  Thank you very much Rachel at for the Stylish blogger award!  Rachel has a beautiful blog that I hope you will take the time to check out!

Here are the rules that go along with the award...  I must share 7 facts about myself and then share the award with 10 bloggers.  Well, rules are meant to be broken!  I'm going to choose just one blog that I've been loving lately so it's an extra huge deal!

First, here are my 7 facts:
  1. I am a 'Little House on the Prairie' addict and aficionado.
  2. I'm proud to be even a little bit Irish... especially on St. Patty's Day!
  3. They say it's impossible to lick your elbow, but I can do it!
  4. I don't like beer or coffee.
  5. I am a HUGE needle phobe!
  6. My birthday is on Pi day- 3/14!
  7. I make a killer New York style cheesecake!  Let me know if you want the recipe!
And now, to pass on the award...

I'd like to give the Stylish Blogger Award to Flavia at!  You've got an awesome blog and it's been great getting to know you!  Thanks!!!

Next, I'd like to thank Melanie at for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Melanie's blog is so much fun to read!  She leads a life that is so different from most of us!

The rules for this blog are just like the other one, except I'll be giving it out to 5 bloggers instead of only one.  So here are 7 more facts about me, as if anyone was REALLY interested... :)

  1. Sour gummy worms are by far and away my favorite candy!
  2. I've only had one boyfriend... my husband!
  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE roller coasters!   The wilder the better!
  4. I'm not much of a drinker, but my two favorite drinks are Brandy Slush and Sex on the Beach.
  5. Although I'm a grown woman I secretly (or not so secretly) want a remote control helicopter!
  6. I consider myself a Mrs. Fix-it around the house.
  7. I love a good thunderstorm with lots of lightning and thunder!
And the award now goes to: 

Congratulations, everybody!  Keep up the good work!

Leap Frog's My Pal Scout- A Great Toy!

Before my baby shower over a year ago, I registered for a lot of baby things.  But one of the things I really hoped someone would buy for me was My Pal Scout.  It looked like such a fun toy and I just loved that it would actually 'learn' and say your baby's name!  

Well, I lucked out!  One of my best friend's mothers gave it to me!  I was so excited!  Here's what Leap Frog's website says about Scout.
"Give learning a personal touch with this soft, cuddly green puppy named Scout!  Scout connects to the computer so you can customize the music and personalize the learning with your child's name and favorite food, animal and color.  Scout comes with 5 pre-loaded songs, or you can select and download your choice of learning tunes and lullabies from an online list of 30 songs.*  Press a paw to play music, learning songs or games!  Parents can connect to the online LeapFrog® Learning Path for customized learning insights and ideas to expand the learning.
*Internet connection required to personalize Scout with your child's name and favorite items or to change songs."
Scout is really easy to program and use.  He has two volume levels and can be turned off, as well.  He is very soft and sweet looking!  Along with talking and singing, Scout makes his collar flash to catch baby's attention.
Brennan really began to enjoy playing with Scout when he was around 6 months old.  Now he is 15 months old and Scout has just made a big comeback!  He loves his Scout (and so do we!)  I absolutely recommend giving Scout a try!  I'm sure your baby will love him as much as we do!

* I did not receive any sort of compensation for writing this post nor did I receive the product for review.  This product was given to me as a gift from a friend.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Anyone Ever Tried Paper Quilling?

A nagging quick reminder- Enter my current blanket giveaway!  It runs through Wednesday!  Win a great blanket for the baby in your life or for a friend!
(Click the giveaway link at the top of the right sidebar to enter)

A few months ago my neighbor turned me on to paper quilling.  Paper quilling is a really cool and unique art form that involves curling paper with a small tool, and then forming it into different shapes.  It is great for scrapbooks, wall hangings, card making and all sorts of other things!  

I decided I wanted to give it a try, so I ordered myself a kit.  I made an 'ABC' framed picture for my best friend, Heather's, new baby.  Here it is!

I found that quilling isn't nearly as hard as it looks!  I'd love to try making another one!  I suggest that anyone who loves to craft give this a try!  It is so fun!  Here is a great website to buy a kit at:

Have a great day!  Try something new!

Friday, May 20, 2011

10 Tips for How to Take Great Baby Photos at Home!

Everyone wants to have great photos of their kids.  After all, kids grow so fast!  You want to have a permanent record of just how they looked as babies, toddlers, and young kids.  Many people take their kids to a professional photographer and though they are often able to get great pictures, it is often quite expensive.  I have yet to bring my little guy to a photographer and I think we have a ton of awesome pictures of him!  We've taken all of our pictures at home or in our area where our little guy is most comfortable.  All of the photos I'm posting today are either of Brennan, or his cousins Claire and Evan.

Tip #1: In my opinion, this is the most important tip of all- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BACKGROUND!  To me, this is the difference between an ok picture and an awesome one!  I find that clean, plain backgrounds that don't distract from the subject of the photo are best.  Most of the time I just use a sheet or a blanket as a background.  I use the back of my couch to hold the sheet up and spread it out nicely out onto the floor.  You can also tape, pin, or tack the sheet to a wall if that works better for you.  Try to use an area of your house with lots of windows, but don't set up in direct sunlight.

These are all examples of pictures I've taken with plain (or mostly plain) backgrounds: 


Tip #2:  Have help available.  Having a second pair of hands is invaluable when trying to capture amazing shots of your little one.  Whether they are straightening out your sheet background that your toddler messed up, making silly faces to get baby to smile, or helping to 'wrangle' baby back into the photo area it helps so much to have them!

Tip #3:  Use appropriate props.  I think that the overuse of props in pictures can really distract from a photo, especially with newborns.  But the use of props actually becomes necessary as babies evolve into toddlers.  Toddlers are too wiggly and have such a short attention span that props must often be used to keep them in one spot for long enough to snap a picture!  They can be used very tastefully, though.

Here are some of the pictures I've taken with props:


Tip #4:  Use a dog toy to get your baby's attention.  I've found that using a squeaker that my dog ripped out of one of her toys works the best for getting babies to look at the camera.  It doesn't necessarily guarantee a smile, but it's a step in the right direction!  I now have a little dog squeaker that permanently resides in my camera bag.

Tip #5:  If at all possible, use an DSLR camera.  If you have one of these digital cameras you know that it takes the picture instantly- as soon as you press down the button.  This is HUGE!!!  Babies and kids move so fast!  You need your camera to take the picture NOW!  Check sites like eBay for good deals on these cameras.  Mine was purchased from eBay refurbished and it works great!  If you think it would fit into your budget, I highly recommend getting one!

Tip #6:  Take advantage of nature's beauty!  Outside pictures are always beautiful, plus, most kids love being outside!  Although everyone loves a sunny day and is more likely to be outside, an overcast day is actually best for pictures.  You don't have the harsh effects of the sun washing out your photos or creating dark shadows.


Tip #7:  Make sure your baby is well rested!  If they are tired you might as well quit trying!  Put them down for a nap and try again when they wake up!  If they are rested, full, and wearing a clean diaper, you'll be much more likely to get a bunch of great pictures!

Tip #8: Although we all love a smiling baby, sometimes the best pictures are the ones that capture their other expressions.


Tip #9: Get close!  You want to capture all the details of that precious little one, not only their beautiful face, but their hands and feet, too!  They are much more important than the background- and cuter, too!

Tip #10:  Consider using a remote to trigger your camera.  This way, you can get your face out from behind the camera and get the baby looking at you!  Make silly faces, squeak your squeaky toy, and smile at your baby to get the reaction you want.  Plus, you just might be able to get some good pictures of the two of you together with no one behind the camera!

Sometimes the very best pictures come by combining several of these tips!  I took this picture earlier this week in our backyard.  We were outside (#6) and I used a Sony Alpha DSLR Camera (#5) and a remote (#10).  I chose my background carefully (#1) in order to match my prop theme (#3).  I also chose to take these pictures right after a nap and snack (#7).

And because of the wireless remote, I was able to get this cute shot of Brennan and I together, with the dog in the background, of course.  I guess I didn't follow my own tip #1 (though she is awfully photogenic)!

I hope these tips help!  I'd love to see any photos you all take!  Let me know which tip you think is most important!