>Spring Kick Off Blog Hop: Easy Rhubarb Cake

>Spring – yes, I’m a bit obsessed with watching the snow melt. Just like a pot boiling, it doesn’t go any faster with me staring out the window. But since Nina and Sarah at Recipe Lion had a February theme of Winter Warm-ups, they decided to think positive thoughts and celebrate March with this theme: Favorite Spring Recipes.

At the risk of tempting fate or attempting to fool Mother Nature, I pulled the last bucket of rhubarb out of the freezer and tried something new from a Kraft Kitchens newsletter: Rhubarb Dump Cake. It’s not a true dump cake in the sense that this cake does layer the ingredients in order, but it is a very, very simple cake.
Rhubarb Dump Cake
1 lb. fresh or frozen rhubarb, diced (about 4 cups)
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, adjusted for sweetness of rhubarb
1 package (3 oz.) strawberry or raspberry jello
1 package (2 layer size) white or yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place rhubarb in bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
Sprinkle sugar and jello mix over rhubarb.
Whisk together cake mix, water, and melted butter until well blended. Spread to completely cover rhubarb.
Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I’m thinking of having it for breakfast with a cup of java.
And then I’ll resume staring out the windows and watching the snow melt. There’s a whole season of fresh rhubarb just waiting to burst free, I just know it.

Share and Enjoy !


>Comfort Foods: Winter Warm-ups

>The saying goes “If you don’t like Wisconsin weather, wait a day.” Last week we were dressing in several layers and wearing our boots for the warmth, not the snow. This week temperatures rose above freezing, and I joined the line at the car wash. I walked to the polls on Tuesday with an umbrella, thinking “It’s warm enough for rain, wow!” Comfort foods are still on the table, though. Mother Nature is just teasing. I know we could still get another blizzard or two.

When the weather outside is frightful, I go with the standards: chili and homemade bread. This is chili Wisconsin style, with beans and noodles. Trust me; it warms physically and emotionally.
Daisy’s Wisconsin Chili (slow cooker style)
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb. browned ground beef
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced peppers (green & red bell peppers are my favorites)
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup noodles; elbow mac or shells are my favorites.
Brown ground beef in a skillet with the onion and peppers. Drain and rinse.
Add ingredients to slow cooker in this order:
  1. beans
  2. tomatoes
  3. ground beef & onion & pepper mix
  4. chili powder
  5. tomato sauce
Simmer on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. An hour before serving, add noodles and turn to high. Stir.
Serve with with glorious toppings from America’s Dairyland:
  • a teaspoon of sour cream with diced green onions or chives
  • grated cheese: basic cheddar or for the adventurous, pepper jack
I’ve had good luck with dried beans as well. Measure out 1 cup of each kind, soak overnight, and rinse before adding to slow cooker. Black beans also work well; they add a different flavor and color to the mix.
I’ve also used home-canned tomatoes and home grown peppers. If you can tomatoes from your own garden, it’s such a great flavor! The home grown peppers may be smaller, but the taste will be strong and you’ll dispense with the waxy covering on many store tomatoes.
As for the beef, no, I don’t raise my own cattle. Sorry.
As for bread, I use my bread machine. You can find my basic bread recipes in these posts.

Share and Enjoy !


>Money doesn’t grow on trees or in the ATM

>Two years ago, I posted a few basic guidelines for going back to school with the three Green Rs; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Buying school supplies is also a good time to teach children about the value of money. Back to School sales employ all kinds of marketing. Does this student really need that Hannah Montana backpack or perfect purple polka-dot gym shoes?

Teaching any good lesson requires a balance of theory and meaningful practice. A good source for money theory is the Moneywi$e eLearning tool developed by Capitol One and Consumer Action, a national consumer advocacy group. Available in English or Spanish, this online course of study has audio and video lessons to help learn how credit works and how to be a smart consumer.

Amigo worked part time for the first time this year. He participated in a six week long employment program at our state school for the blind where he learned about interviewing, taking public transportation, packing his own lunch, and then actually worked several days a week for a real paycheck. He enjoyed working, bonded well with his boss and coworkers, and came home with stories galore to tell his parents. In addition to working, he and his pals stayed in a dorm where they did their own laundry, cooked and cleaned up, and handled themselves independently with the minimal assistance of the adult supervisors and teachers.

One of the most important pieces of this program was the experience of managing his own money. Teens in the program made regular trips to the grocery store, the mall, and more. Some of his purchases included a ladle for his collection of unique kitchen utensils and a case of (are you ready for this?) individual packages of hot and spicy Cheetos. Yikes! He packed one in his lunch each day, snacked on them after work, and then donated the rest to an end-of-program party in the dorm. I’m just happy he didn’t eat them all in one sitting.

Now that he’s had a taste of earning money, we’ll work even harder to teach Amigo the value of those dollars in his wallet. Moneywi$e may be a good way to help him learn that his income is finite, has limits, and needs to balance with his expenses.

If you’d like a shorter course of action, follow @TeachingMoney on Twitter for short snippets of financial wisdom in 140 characters or fewer. For more posts with details on Back to School money management, look to Parent Bloggers Network. ‘Tis the season for the sales, and I’m not alone in posting to this valuable topic.

Share and Enjoy !


>I can see clearly now!


The view through the French doors to the deck looked like this:

The view out the kitchen window into the backyard looked like this.

The view through the front door looked like this.

All were lovely. But now that it’s spring, I’m looking forward to this!

Parent Bloggers Network is looking forward to spring and even summer. They’re also teaming up with Windex and looking forward to cleaning windows. My views would certainly improve if I did this more often. The last time I cleaned windows was Spring Break, when I washed the curtains and realized how grimy the underlying windows were! One chore led to another. Don’t let that happen to you!

Share and Enjoy !


>It’s genetic: I get it from my children.

>Mother’s Day: the annual opportunity to tell the kids that no, I don’t want to go out to brunch and stand in line with all the other mothers who tried to tell their kids that really, they didn’t need to go out, either.
Wait, that’s not me. We usually eat at home.
Mother’s Day: the annual opportunity to celebrate or complain about those lovely inherited traits that Mom passed along.
Long ago, I posted a list of ten traits I have in common with my son, Amigo. A few days later I posted a companion piece, a top ten list of traits I share with my daughter. Are these lists still true? Let’s find out.

Ten things I have in common with my son, Amigo
1. We’re both disabled. Yes, this remains true. He is vision impaired and has Asperger’s Syndrome. I am hearing impaired.
2. We like to go out for lunches and brunches, especially in the summer. This tradition will continue when school is out. Funday Friday, here we come!
3. Both of us have a tendency to get anxious in new and difficult situations. He’s gotten a little better at coping, which lessens the stress on me as well.
4. We bond over Trivia. Amigo’s expertise lies in the areas of sports venues and college teams, among others. He’s amazing.
5. Green Bay Packer football! He is a cheesehead through and through. We’re both appalled at the idea of Favre becoming a Minnesota Viking.
La Petite shares #5 with us. Favre? Say it isn’t so!

After I wrote my list of ten about Amigo, I promised La Petite I’d write about her, too. She responded, with her voice positively gooey and dripping, “Ooo, I feel so special.”
1. We share a talent for sarcasm.
2. We enjoy shoes. She loves her Converse All-Stars, and I actually enjoy taking her shopping for shoes because it’s so much fun.
3. We don’t mind getting dirt under our nails. she is good with flowers; I take charge of the vegetable garden.
4. We can share a box of mixed chocolates without conflict. She likes the milk chocolate, while I prefer the dark.
5. We enjoy our caffeine. She lives on Mt. Dew, and I love my coffee.

We do pretty well, my kiddos and me. We have enough in common to enjoy each other, when I’m not embarrassing them or driving them crazy with my hovering and worry. I’m cold, put on a sweater! Wash your hands! Don’t forget your cell phone! Call me! I mean it!

In honor of Mothers’ Day, Parent Bloggers Network is calling attention to the Celebrity Hand Me Down Auction running from May 7th to May 14th on eBay. If you’re not bidding on something from Jessica Alba or Gwyneth Paltrow there, do something nice in your own area for your own mom or another special woman in your life. We’re tentatively planning a potluck at our house. With everyone here, it’ll be like Thanksgiving, but better weather!

Share and Enjoy !


>Will she clean for her mother’s visit?

>I’m staying in my daughter’s apartment Friday night. La Petite, age 22, is in college and lives in a place suitable for, well, college kids. Once in a while, she and her roommate clean the place. Sometimes.

The kitchen usually isn’t too bad. The girls like to eat, they cook decent food (the boys down the hall drool with envy), and they wash their dishes. They’ve even been known to wash dishes by hand because the dishwasher and the town’s hard water don’t clean thoroughly. Well, maybe not during midterms or final exams.

The bedrooms are okay for the most part. If the laundry is growing its own compost, I won’t see it. She hides it in the closet, and for that I’m grateful, even though I think she really hides the hamper to keep the pet rabbit from chewing holes in the sweaters.

But the bathroom — the bathroom. It’s an adventure. The landlord replaces parts with no regard for color matching. So even clean, this bathroom is an experience. Mint green toilet with a white seat, a sort of goldenrod for the tub and shower, and a 60s style shade (does it have a name?) for the floor – and remember, that’s when it’s clean.

I asked her if I should bring my own sheets, and she said she has extras. I trust that means clean.

I’m not sure anyone dusts the light fixtures; hopefully they don’t need it. Maybe now that the ducks and geese have flown north for springtime someone can spare a feather duster…

The rest? I’ll take my chances. She’s a college senior with a full course load and more; following Fly Lady’s cleaning tips isn’t on her agenda. Frankly, it’s not on mine, either. Spotless it isn’t, but whose home is? It’ll be a little more comfortable than being a guest in her old dorm room!

Parent Bloggers Network wants to know how people clean. Honestly, I’d rather garden. But gardening tracks in the dirt, so I can’t help but clean a floor and a sink once in a while. I don’t have any Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner yet: am I missing the boat? Will it replace the crowded shelf I call the Cleanser Bottle Graveyard? Is it environmentally sensitive? Is this disclaimer a little too long and a little too silly? I blame the wine we had with dinner. At least I’m looking forward to a fun weekend.

Share and Enjoy !


>Beyond egg salad: Deviled Eggs galore

>Deviled eggs are deviled eggs. Right? Wrong. I have a few egg-stra possibilities for cooks with an abundance of Easter eggs in their refrigerators.

My beloved Eggbert (Husband’s temporary i.d.) has a knack for finding the right spice combination for great variations on deviled eggs. No matter which flavor you’re making, I recommend the Frugal Cook’s Pastry Bag: a zipper baggie with one corner cut off. Squeeze the yolk mix “filling” through this corner to make it flow egg-actly the way you want it.

Take your basic recipe (and here’s one if you don’t already have your own), and have fun with it.

  • Southwestern Deviled Eggs: a dash of chili powder with the paprika; a splash of tabasco sauce in the egg yolk filling if you’re really adventurous.
  • Country Style Eggs: Add sweet pickle relish to the egg yolk mix, leave out the paprika.
  • Zippy Eggs: Add a tablespoon of spicy brown mustard to the yolk mix.

Not to be outdone, I found this recipe (courtesy of Rachael Ray) and decided we should try it. Husband bought the salmon, and we’ll try it. As long as we have eggs, we’ll always have something good to eat.

Prepare the Deviled Eggs yolk mixture using 3 tablespoons sour cream in place of the mayonnaise. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped smoked salmon and 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives. Fill the egg white halves and (optional) top with chopped capers.

Hmmm…I wonder if we could use mock crab meat instead? Hand over those Easter eggs and I’ll try it. I’ll have the ears on that chocolate bunny for dessert.

Parent Bloggers Network and the American Egg Board are looking for creative ways to prepare hardboiled eggs after the Easter baskets go back into storage. If you’d like to join in and post your own egg-cellent solutions, check here for details. Put on your Easter Bonnet, with all the flowers on it, and join the Egg Parade.

Share and Enjoy !


>See you in my dreams!

>Sleep like a baby? The person who coined that phrase wasn’t a new mom or dad. The phrase should really read “sleep like a rabbit.” Rabbits, like cats, never suffer from insomnia.

Buttercup is as stretched out as she can be and still fit under the table. Yes, she’s that big. She’s waiting for me to go away with the camera, already, so she can nap.

Peanut and Sadie snuggle in a sunspot on their favorite blanket. These tiny bunnies are peeking at the photographer, but they’re not worried. That’s because La Petite took the picture, and she’s their “mama.” They know she’s a safe person.

Remember Tiny Bunny? He could find his way into the strangest places. He napped almost anywhere, too. It’s true, bunnies never have a problem finding a good place for naptime.

Parent Bloggers Network asks about the creative excuses kids use to postpone their bedtimes. My kids are 22 and 17; I’m more concerned about getting them out of bed before noon! The new light goodies from sylvania still look mighty nice. I’m sure the bunnies would enjoy them.

Share and Enjoy !


>Give me your tired, your fur

>Oh, wait, that’s not how the poem goes.

There’s a lot of fur in our house. I keep joking (but help me out if there’s really a way to do this) that if we could spin into yarn the rabbit fur that’s shedded all over the house, we’d never have to buy another blanket or sweater for as long as…well, as long as we have bunnies.
There’s Buttercup, the one who can run figure eights around our feet, even though she’s bigger than any of our shoes.

There are Peanut and Sadie, the bunnies who went to college with La Petite so she wouldn’t be lonely in her apartment.

They may have left our lives for that big warren in the sky, but we still have wonderful memories of Tiny and the incredible Beast.

Fur? We have plenty of it. On the fireplace hearth, on the loveseat (where the sunspot hits by day), and on the floor under the rocking chair. Toothmarks? Those empty boxes all over the living room aren’t clutter; they’re bunny toys. They help keep Buttercup from chewing on the furniture…some of the time.

But no matter how much shedding, how much gnawing goes on, nothing equals a hug from a snuggle bunny.

In honor of the love they give so freely, and the fur they shed just as freely, this post is for our little furry ones. Parent Bloggers Network is shedding, er, featuring more pet posts this weekend in a blog blast called Show Off Your Shedder with a sweepstakes sponsored by Pledge and their new Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair. Don’t laugh; you might be the next one with rabbit hair stuck to your sweater.

Share and Enjoy !


>I can’t post about that.

>I can’t post about what a tough day I had at work, followed by another even tougher day. But I can post about coping, and how my ever-loving husband helps keep my spirits up.

I can’t post about the kid who made an obscene gesture before we’d been in school five minutes today and how he tried to lie about it. But I can tell you that the insulated coffee jug that Husband gave me for Christmas kept my beverage of choice warm on my desk while I filled out the discipline record form.
I can’t post about the frustrations with schedules and trying to get into Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training. I can tell you that when I emailed Husband and said, “It’s okay, I can take this during summer break or wait until next year” he replied within an hour telling me he’d be able to cover both training dates by working half days and meeting Amigo after school.
I can’t post about the kid that is the major reason for my eagerness to renew any and all crisis training. But I can tell you that when I came home and started up my laptop, Husband led me to the link for outtakes on the etrade baby commercials.
Laughter truly is the best medicine.
Chocolate comes a close second, though.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope all of you have someone who builds you up when you’re down, who won’t let you drop out, even if it’s just a training session.

This post is entered in a contest sponsored by Parent Bloggers’ Network and Insure your Love, part of Life and Health InsuranceFoundation for Education (LIFE).

Share and Enjoy !