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My Life Monday | My Favorite Muffin Recipe

Two weeks left and then we head into February.  And with this beautiful weather, I have gotten the itch for spring.  Flip-flops, anyone?  I so can’t wait for bonfires, warm sunsets, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and seeing birds frolic in the ponds of water that collect in our driveway.

Sigh…..

Oh, snap;  back to reality!  I really can’t complain though.  We’ve been pretty fortunate with a mild winter this year.  Sure, we’ve had some really cold snaps;  however, these warmer days sprinkled in-between have made up for it.  I’ll take all that I can get, despite the fact our entire town turns into a mud mess.  lol!  Let’s just say the dog has been getting a lot more baths lately!  What a beautiful sight though, even in the middle of winter.

nd winter sunset

Quick re-cap of my last two weeks.  Hubby and I had gone to his company’s Christmas party earlier this month.  We rarely get to the movies and as a Christmas gift, he added on a night’s stay to the hotel we were staying at for the Christmas party, dinner out, and a movie.  So, it was something we were both looking forward to, as we also rarely get away alone.  Well, we had decided to see “Take 3.”  We would have preferred “American Sniper” but ti wasn’t out yet.  Anyway, with 15 minutes left in the movie, the smoke alarms went off.  Everyone in our movie stayed seated, including us, as the movie kept playing.  I think we were all thinking the same thing – some kid playing a prank.  Well, it didn’t take too long and a worker came in and told us we needed to get out.  Well, we go out and everyone, from our movie and others, are just standing in the commons area.  No one is actually instructed to actually exit the building.  I’m not sure what their procedure is for this type of thing, but I’m pretty sure it was revisited after this incident.  Supposedly, someone asked and apparently someone did supposedly smell something.  But that area of the mall itself was never shut down, so who knows!?  Needless to say, we missed just the very end of the movie, received a ticket to come back for a free movie in the future, and ended the experience with a fire truck self-us. :)  One for the memory books, that’s for sure!

me and hubby

I just wanted to share this sweet gesture from my family.  While my family came over New Year’s to celebrate our Christmas, I took family pictures for everyone and finally got some of my siblings and I with our mom.  I received this in the mail not long ago and what a nice surprise.  :)  Once I get the images all finished, I think I will add them to the session I did previously with my mom.  I’m so.behind.on.blogging. Oh vey!

Maurices is my store – my sister knows me so well.  I can always walk in there knowing I’ll find something that fits me just right and that I will love.  Actually, on mine and my hubby’s trip out of town, I went into Maurices and got a “Stay Calm and Drink Wine” shirt for $6!  Woohoo!

wonderful family gesture

Also, not long ago I came across this recipe on Pinterest.  It’s a weight watcher’s recipe and these little muffins sure pack a lot of goodness for only about 100 calories each.  My son LOVES them.  I think this will be my go-to snack for wrestling tourneys and practice for the kids.  Easiest recipe ever – just a cake mix (dry, not prepared) and a can of pumpkin and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar!  You can vary this too, by using a chocolate cake mix, add in some mini chocolate chips, or use carrot cake mix and throw in some raisins.  You can read about this recipe HERE.

weight watchers pumpkin muffins

Well, that about catches up what’s been going on in our neck of the woods.  Oh, and wrestling practice started.  Excited to watch all three of our kiddos this year.  Jozlyn was so excited to start, she was using my exercise bands as a jump-rope, saying she was working on getting in shape for wrestling.  That girl is a card!  :)

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

“The threads of friendship embroider our lives with patterns of joy.”

My Life Monday | a torch of joy

Hello, and welcome to another edition of My Life Monday.  This past week is kind of a blur.  That happens a lot though, since I often have to look back on the calendar to see what all went on, in preparation for these Monday blog posts.  My memory just isn’t as sharp as it used to be!  lol!

One day that will stick with myself and many, from this past week, is January 10th, 2015.  A dear friend texted me, while my husband and I were out of town, asking if we had heard the news about Tom Scherr.  And in dumb-founded shock, I sat there staring at that text, reading it over again in disbelief.  All I could think of the rest of the day, were the loved ones he left behind – much too soon.

I’m really at a loss for words.  One thing I know though, is there will be a lot of people showing up for Tom.  To me, he was the type of guy that commanded attention when he walked into a room.  But not in a self-centered, egotistical way – very much the opposite.  He commanded to share his joy with the room;  to shake and exchange words with someone on every table as he walked by.  And as I shared with his daughter Emily, on Facebook, he always made me think to myself “I bet he is the funnest dad and grandpa.”  I can’t hold back my own tears as I write that because, what a blessing he was – WHO he was, to those he loved and those around him.  It makes me think of all the memories and laughter I missed out on with my own father.  To have those moments of joy with someone, those are the moments you cherish.

The pursuit of happiness…

When you ask people what they truly want in life, many will reply with “to be happy.”  People seek happiness in all walks of life, in all social classes, in all age brackets, and in all ethnicities.  There are likely thousands of books out there on the topic.

Some people look for joy/happiness their entire lives but never truly find it.  Then there are those that find it (or, more importantly, choose to create it) and make it a life’s mission to share it – to share their joy.  I don’t know if that was a conscious choice Tom made, but I think it is pretty safe to say it was one thing he did and did well.  A life’s purpose well-served, in my opinion, intended or not.  And I would add, that that characteristic about Tom, is something we all should strive to possess.  Young and old, and everyone in-between benefited from his presence and will miss the smile/laugh he would bring to every conversation.  Imagine a world full of more Tom’s all over the place.  There wouldn’t be a corner of life where you couldn’t get a good laugh, a smile or a solid handshake.

So, as the day approaches (this Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.), where we must say goodbye, let’s continue to carry Tom’s torch of joy and strive to make 2015 a year where we create more of it in our own lives.

I had intended to share more in this post from our weekend getaway, but as has happened before, when we lost someone in our community too soon, it just doesn’t feel right.  So, I will close with this very fitting quote from my calendar, on the day Tom went to be with our Lord.  My thoughts and prayers to all those near and dear to Tom’s heart.  I have no doubt Tom made sure you know who you are.

“The sound of laughter has always seemed to me the most civilized music in the universe.”

- Sir Peter Ustinov

My Life Monday | Welcome, 2015

A new year is upon us and I hope yours has started on the right foot.  Mine started with my family, who had traveled here to celebrate Christmas.

We had a great visit and I’m so glad I started preparing in advance.  All of my baking had been done, most of the meals I made were quick, easy, and also new – utilizing crock pots and the electric skillet for most meals.  I got most of the recipes from Pinterest and the only bomb recipe was the crock pot mashed potatoes.  The recipe lacked flavor and I just overall wasn’t impressed.  They were super-easy to prepare, but they seriously became “stick-to-your-ribs” potatoes!  lol!

The big Pinterest winners, in my book, were this apple streusel recipe with homemade caramel sauce and this ham, apple and sweet potato dish.  I loved the sweet potato dish so much, I’ve already made it a second time, after my family left.  It’s a meal chock-full of goodness and a perfect blend of flavors, in my opinion.

While family was here, I also photographed everyone.  We haven’t made the time for family photos in several years and so this past Friday, my family learned all the posing tricks for their camera selfies  (lol!) and I’m pretty sure my brother will never forget “chin forward and down.”  It was a great afternoon!  We had planned on one large family group photo, when my husband was here and not working;  however, the weather didn’t really cooperate for that as we wanted to go outdoors.  So, this summer we will do this all over again outdoors. :)

Here are a few outtakes from our family photo shoot.  This is what happens when I leave the room and my brother-in-law has my camera.  Getting on my blog is also what happens when the photographer is related.  lol!  Seriously – we are this nutty and maybe some of us just tish obnoxious (not naming any names – KenDrick, my brother…the one “twerking” it).  ha!  We definitely had a lot of laughs – great memories!  And yes, I still had hair left.  And yes, it is 10x harder photographing your own family. lol!

outtakes from family studio session

I would like to close with a quote (if you’ve read my blog long enough, you know I LOVE quotes) and with a thought on my heart today.

My wish for you, is that you decide to make 2015 your year to shine, in whatever capacity that fulfills you.  Make one goal – take one thing you’ve always wanted to learn, do, see, create, design, invent, give love to, embrace, mend, visit, write about, share, reconnect to, rediscover…..it’s likely the one thing that creeps up in your thoughts out of nowhere and you find yourself saying…”gosh, I’ve always wanted to do that….maybe someday.”  Then start with a plan to make that happen.  Do one thing today that will give you momentum;  make a call, draft a letter, transfer $50 into savings towards your one thing, spend 30 minutes researching, tell someone about your one thing – just one step.  The world needs more people shining.  And yes, even you, the one reading these words.  And I too, am doing this with you. :)

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one.”

– Elbert Hubbard

My Life Monday | What’s on Your 2015 List?

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by love and laughter!

Is anyone else feeling like this Christmas hasn’t really felt like Christmas?  It seemed to have come and gone so fast.

We celebrated with Tony’s family over Christmas and will be celebrating Christmas with my family over New Year’s.  And conveniently, I’ve gotten the nesting urge and have been organizing practically every room and closet in the entire house, as well as getting some deep-cleaning done.  Seriously, this kinda thing rarely happens, so I must take advantage of it when the energy seems to come out of nowhere.  lol!

Today and tomorrow I’m finishing up business tasks before family arrives Wednesday.  Before I know it, it will be 2015, and before I know it, I’ll be talking about 2016.

I caught myself, in the middle of my organizing spree, pausing to look through Xavier’s scrapbook.  Where, oh where, do the years go?  Two minutes later I saw Alexandra’s scrapbook, not even started.  Xavier’s scrapbook also abruptly ends Halloween 2006, just 10 days before Alexandra was born.  Funny how that works.  Any kids after the first get jipped, don’t they?  Oy vey….starting is always the hardest, isn’t it?  I’m pretty sure finishing all three was on my “get done goal” list for 2014.  I guess we’ll move that on to 2015.

What do you have on your goal list for 2015?

Do you want to get healthy?  Lose X amount of weight?

Do you want to be promoted at your work?

Do you plan to finally get that credit card/loan paid off?

We all relate to goals like this.  We all want to feel the accomplishment that comes along when we cross them off our list.

But how do you feel when you don’t?  Absolutely terrible and like a failure, I imagine.  I know.  I’ve been there.

Why do some people seem to just accomplish what they aim to do?

Is it a personality trait?  Is it luck?  Is it who they know?

I think all those things can make the results happen more rapidly;  however, it comes down to one thing, in my opinion.  The “why” of what you want to accomplish, do, create, finish, etc., has to be strong enough to see you through to the end.  And how you associate the steps you need to take, one by one, to get to the big picture end goal also makes all the difference.

If you look at all the things in front of you that need to take place before you reach your final destination and end up feeling anxious, overwhelmed and tired – before you even get started, you will never acquire the momentum you need to even start.

It takes a strong why, a plan and just starting to set things in motion.

I have really simplified my goals for the coming year.  I really don’t have to-do’s, but rather statements of intention.

I plan to dive more deeply into this (and much more) when my new blog launches in early 2015.  The cat’s outta the bag! :)  I felt it was time, after several years of creating these “My Life Monday” posts, that I needed a personal space on the world wide web to share more of what’s on my heart (<—— that’s a clue as to the name of my upcoming website).  I didn’t get the courage to do so until, honestly, very recently.  And too, it took several weeks for me to even come up with a domain that 1. resonated with me and 2.  was available.

I hope that whatever is on your list for 2015, that it resonates so deeply with you, that you have no choice but to attain it.  Feel it, declare it, own it, and claim it.

In closing, here are a few photos from my family’s Christmas.  Scroll through, as I share some gift ideas that were a hit with family.

And my husband knows me so well.  He had remembered a few things I had mentioned or knew I would like (like a huge Sam’s Club container of raisonettes), but then surprised me with an overnight getaway with dinner and a movie.  Getting away is very rare for us and he knew exactly what I wanted and needed.  I am so very lucky.

My hubby in the first photo is holding a mug I had designed in Photoshop.  It has highlight photos from 2014.  And please know, that if you’ve had a session with me, if you’re looking for something special, I can probably design it, create it, or find it for you. :)  Father’s Day will be here before we know it!

The middle photo is our kids holding their new game, “Bugs in the Kitchen.”  It’s a little spendy for a game (found it for $25 on Amazon), but the kids had played it before and we knew they loved it.  Even for parents, it’s a fun strategy (with a little luck, too – depending on where the battery-operated bug goes) game and it doesn’t take forever either.  It can have up to 4 players.  And lastly, my humongous Reese’s peanut butter cups.  No wonder I have a treadmill on my wish list! ha!  Whomever is the genius though, that put chocolate and peanut butter together, I could kiss ‘em!

Christmas 2014

 Wishing you a wonderful rest of 2014 and a safe and memorable start to 2015!  Cheers!!!

 

 

 

My Life Monday | One more minute

One more minute, each and every day – that is what we will get from here on out.  I love December 21st because every day that follows it means one more minute of daylight gets added.  And that, for me, is worth celebrating!  Woohoo!

Sure helps when you look out the window today and its snowing and we’re in a winter weather advisory.

This post is going to be short and sweet today.  If you’re like me, you’re feeling like you have a million and one things on your brain and that the time flies faster than you can say “snufolufogus.”  Did you catch that Sesame Street reference?  lol!

This past week was filled with more baking, the school concert, and the church program.  Also, I decided to re-arrange, throw, and make a curtain.  Oh, and also learned a lick on the guitar!  I found a great You Tube video creator, that gives some very easy-to-follow instructions.

Also, I can’t forget to mention that I got to photograph a very adorable 6-month old.  Her mom and I planned and schemed but Nora had plans of her own.  And ya know, things worked out perfectly.  Being able to work on the fly, and having the trust of my clients, is what really makes my creative juices flow.  I can’t wait to share more from Nora’s session.  Culling her images down to the best has been the hard part.  I literally filled an entire card on this session – how could I not, with a sweet face such as this?  Definitely more to come from this session!

6 month old studio portrait with banner

Well, that’s all for now – I have a consultation this evening, so off I go to get something cookin';  likely something unhealthy and fast because me and the oven need a break from each other.  Update – we’re having cheese ravioli and a ring of sausage made from local sausage maker, Frank from the Zeeland Grocery Store.  Frank, by far, makes the best sausage!!

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas week.  Rejoice, our Savior’s birth! :)

Nora | Newborn Studio Pictures

Sweet Nora is on my baby plan.  What’s a baby plan?  It’s a session option that includes three sessions:  newborn, 6 months (sitting), and 12 months (standing).  I also include some goodies and discounts.  I like offering the baby plan because I get to watch wee ones grow and photograph their first year, which, to a sleep-deprived parent, seems to go so very fast.

I absolutely love her name.  I kinda like the uncommon, un-traditional, and different things in life.  As luck would have it, most clients that come to me, do too!  Nora’s mama, Terisa, is no different.  And I’m excited for Nora’s 6-month session tomorrow.  That is such a fun, fun age!  Everything is an experience and their eyes are so full of wonder.  That’s the age where they just start learning how the world works.  Which yields many games of got-it, dropped-it!  lol!

Nora was a very wide-awake newborn.  I think Terisa and I were both in awe of how she just never seemed to tire completely.  And as a photographer, a newborn can sometimes decide to run the show.  There is information I provide in order to make the session as successful as possible;  however, ultimately, those 10 tiny fingers and toes, just might decide otherwise.  And so it went…..Nora’s mostly wide-awake newborn session….little stinker!  Fortunately, she wasn’t spending the entire time in distress;  quite the opposite, actually.  She was content and just very wide awake, taking everything in.  I anticipate a very adventurous, laugh-filled session tomorrow.  :D

But first, let me share some images from her newborn session.

I would have loved to have photos like these with my littles.

mother and newborn studio pictures

clothed newborn pictures newborn posing

I could caption this next one!  ha!  “Neener, neener, I’m no longer awake!!” :D

newborn Christmas inspiration

5×7 birth announcement printed on premium press paper

newborn announcement design

Know someone expecting?  A gift certificate to VLV Photography, LLC is a wonderful gift!  I also can create a newborn registry for the mommy-to-be! :)

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone! :D

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life Monday | Strumming along…

We’re nearly half-way through December and just a little more than a week away from Christmas.  Not that you needed the reminder, right?  ha!  Well, in case you needed a dose of some funny here’s one for ya!  Goes along splendidly with my new-found Pinterest addiction, thanks to baking recipes and DIY Christmas gift ideas.  lol!

Pinterest Funny Find

Speaking of which, I have a funny (not so funny to me) update on the whole baking thing.  So, if you read last week’s blog post, you’ll know I’ve been baking like crazy and freezing the goodies, in preparation of my turn hosting my family for Christmas this year (usually over New Year’s).  Well, over the weekend, my [fortunately] adorable husband who can’t help himself, tells me he and the kids have been digging into the frozen goodies.  Now, I RARELY bake, so I was a bit fuming, only because now I have to bake those same things again.  Whereas, my time could have been spent on baking the other things on my list.

It was funny though;  he felt it would smooth it over (I think), to throw the kids under the bus with him.  Needless to say, over the weekend, Tony was baking monster bars (which he used peanut m&m’s and we agreed they’re not as good – FYI if you make them) and cookies.  Seriously not sure how everything will last another two weeks!

In other news, I got my hands on an acoustic guitar today to teach myself how to play!  I’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin and considering that is a farther cry than the guitar, I settled on the guitar.  I got a hair up my butt nearly 3 months ago, and thanks to a very generous man who has given me a “loaner” guitar, I shall be strumming away hopefully sooner rather later.  I found a very good You Tube video and already learned how to get my fingers moving.  All I have to say is it is MUCH harder than it looks!  I think my pinkie finger may need some ice later!  I seriously can’t wait until I can play like I dream of being able to play.

In other, other news….due to my improper grooming skills, we will likely have a dog that may somewhat resemble a hairless cat.  When we got Gizmo, I put a ton of focus into learning how to properly train him.  Although I am pleased with how quickly he was potty-trained and the tricks he knows, I totally didn’t do enough research on the grooming.  Being he’s a havanese, he has very light, cotton-candy like fur – it’s very fine.  Well, I had been brushing him religiously and that was the problem.  I should have been using what’s called a buttercomb, and combing from the skin out, in order to get all the fine hairs.  He then got neutered and started to blow coat (where his undercoat started to come in more rapidly) and I couldn’t bathe him for two weeks.  I then slacked on the brushing, because with this breed, you want to be sure to brush before bathing in order to avoid matting.  At the same time, the weather started changing.  Needless to say, all of these circumstances were a recipe for a Gizmo fur disaster.  He is full of mattes and despite my best efforts in trimming him down myself, it’s just far beyond what I even want to attempt.  I feel terrible.  I just might have to get him an ugly Christmas sweater.  Poor, little guy! :(  I’ll probably share a before and after next week.  I’ll consider it my post of shame due to my not-so-great grooming.  It’ll be a “learn from my mistake” kinda post, I’m sure!

Other than baking, learning guitar, the dog getting stripped of his dignity, and the vendor show where I gave away a studio session to one lucky entry (hooray to Deann B.), I get to see sweet Nora again this week!  And as I searched for her previous blog post, I realize now I never posted all of the session images I meant to post!  Ack!  So, look for that post tomorrow!  :)

Well, I hope this week is a wonderful one and I will see you right back here tomorrow for Nora’s full blog post! ;)

My Life Monday | Pinterest Challenge

Two weeks and two days until Christmas Eve.  Are you ready?  Even my 9-year-old remarked at how quickly Christmas seems to be coming.  It seems, as soon as you get your Christmas decorations out and up, is as quickly as it is time to take them down again.  Today’s post is a jam-packed one with several recipes I’ve already tried for this year’s Pinterest-inspired Christmas baking.  I hope you enjoy them!

I honestly can’t wait until December 22nd.  Why?  Because December 21st is the longest day of the year with the winter equinox and every day after that, there is one more minute of daylight.  REJOICE!  These days where it starts getting dark around 5pm and it’s just light when the kids get on the bus, take a real drain on my motivation and do a number on my mood.  My husband and I have already decided that someday we shall be snowbirds.  Although, I can honestly say, I can’t imagine Christmas without snow.  It is suppose to start getting beautiful out this week though, and that is surely something to be thankful for. :)

So, you may be wondering what the post title is about.  Well, I have decided to give myself a challenge.  I am hosting Christmas this year for my family over New Year’s and I’ve already started preparing by baking like I never do.  I’ve said it before, the extent of my baking doesn’t go far beyond chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, brownies, and rice krispy bars (which I made for the first time this year – no joke).  By the way, cocoa pebbles rice krisipies with some peanut butter added….my new favorite induldence.  Yum!

Anyway, my challenge to myself was to make just about everything from sweets to meals, from recipes found on Pinterest and most things I’ve never made/tried.  Since I’ve started baking, I’ve made hershey kiss blossoms (that recipe actually came from the package), no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies (Pinterest), monster bars (Pinterest), and two loaves of Amish bread from the starter recipe (also from Pinterest and the best Amish bread recipe I’ve had).

The kids couldn’t choose a favorite between the blossoms, no bake cookies, and the monster bars – they loved them all.  Oh, and I had also made caramel rolls using the rolls pre-made by the Linton Grocery Store and all I gotta say about those – soooooooo good!  They are MUCH better than the kind by Rhodes and they actually rose really nice.  I think I’m going to attempt my own though – we’ll see…maybe I’ll have to search Pinterest for a recipe!

I’ve always enjoyed Pinterest;  however, it wasn’t until I was on the hunt for some homemade gift ideas that I really started pinning and searching like crazy.  I have come across so many neat ideas, recipes, crafts, tips/tricks, and I’m wondering when it won’t be free anymore.  Pinterest was a genius idea, and like Facebook, free eventually isn’t “free” anymore, especially when it comes to users in business.  I guess the jury is still out on that one.

In the meantime, if you’re not partaking in all things Pinterest, you truly are missing out.  It has started to take the place of my cookbook.  I recently made some porcupine balls (easy peasy with 1 pound of hamburger and Beef flavor Rice-a-Roni) that my whole family loved.  It might just be a dish I make while company is here.

If you’re interested in the recipes for the desserts I’ve made so far, I’m including them here in case you’re one of those “anti-Pinterest” people. lol!

Hershey's Kisses Peanut Butter Blossoms
Servings Prep Time
4 dozen 15 minutes
Cook Time
8-10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 dozen 15 minutes
Cook Time
8-10 minutes
Hershey's Kisses Peanut Butter Blossoms
Servings Prep Time
4 dozen 15 minutes
Cook Time
8-10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 dozen 15 minutes
Cook Time
8-10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: dozen
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 c. granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
Recipe Notes

Kid approved!

Hershey's Kisses Blossoms

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Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
A quick treat for peanut butter with chocolate lovers that not only uses few ingredients, but also satisfies your sweet tooth.
Servings Prep Time
24 cookies 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cookies 15 minutes
Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
A quick treat for peanut butter with chocolate lovers that not only uses few ingredients, but also satisfies your sweet tooth.
Servings Prep Time
24 cookies 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cookies 15 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cookies
Instructions
  1. Add the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for one minute. Stir in the next three ingredients and drop onto wax/parchment paper. Let cool until set.
Recipe Notes

Kid approved!

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

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Amish Bread (with starter)
This Amish bread recipe uses vanilla pudding - the best one I've come across yet!
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 20 minutes
Cook Time
55 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 20 minutes
Cook Time
55 minutes
Amish Bread (with starter)
This Amish bread recipe uses vanilla pudding - the best one I've come across yet!
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 20 minutes
Cook Time
55 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 loaves 20 minutes
Cook Time
55 minutes
Ingredients
For the Starter
For the Baking Bread
Servings: loaves
Instructions
For the Starter
  1. To prepare the starter batch, mix yeast with 1/2 c. hot water until yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add 1 1/2 c. hot water, 1 c. milk, 1 c. flour, and 1 c. sugar. Mix until blended. Use whisk if needed. You now have enough batter for 4 portions.
  3. In three ziplock freezer bags, add 1 c. of batter to each bag. These can be given away or used immediately.
  4. In your bowl will be a remaining cup of batter. You can use this immediately following the directions below.
For the Bread
  1. To your remaining 1 c. of batter, add the remaining ingredients (except the last two for the crust). Mix. Will be slightly lumpy and that's okay.
  2. In two loaf pans, grease generously. I greased the pans, lined the bottom only with parchment paper, greased again, then sprinkled with sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  3. Divide the batter between the two pans and top each with the remaining of the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  4. Bake at 325 degrees for about one hour. I baked mine for 55 minutes, so maybe check the last few minutes. Cool about 10 minutes in the pan, and remove to completely cool.
Remaining Batter
  1. For the remaining 3 bags of batter, write the following on each bag with a sharpie for easy reference.
  2. Day 1 - Day you make starter or receive bag (do nothing)
  3. Day 2-5 - Mush bag
  4. Day 6 - Add 1 cup of each: flour, milk, sugar to bag and mush
  5. Day 7-9 - Mush bag
  6. Day 10 - Pour contents into large bowl (non-metal), and add 1 1/2 cup of each: flour, sugar and milk.
  7. Measure out 1 cup into 3 Ziploc bags (give or bake). For remaining batter, follow the instructions above for making bread.
Recipe Notes

Best Amish Bread recipe I've tried!

Amish Bread recipe with starter

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Holiday Monster Cookie Bars
Servings
24 bars
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings
24 bars
Cook Time
30 minutes
Holiday Monster Cookie Bars
Servings
24 bars
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings
24 bars
Cook Time
30 minutes
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Lightly spray with cooking spray a 9x13 pan. If you prefer not as cake-like bars (as I do), I used a jelly-roll pan (larger cookie sheet).
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, beat butter, peanut butter, and both sugars on medium until light and fluffy and well-mixed.
  4. Stop mixer to scrape sides before adding eggs one at a time, beating after each egg.
  5. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour/oat mixture until well mixed, ensuring the flour mixture from the bottom of the bowl is well-blended. This batter will be thick. If not, add just a bit more flour, a little at a time until you get the right consistency (I had to do this - added less than a 1/4 c. of flour).
  6. Fold in chips, candies, and cranberries and spread onto greased baking pan.
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes, until batter is puffed and brown on edges and dark golden all over. Let cool completely before cutting.
Recipe Notes

**I did not have neither the white chips nor the dried cranberries.  Rather, I substituted those by just adding a full 2 c. of M&M's (one whole bag).  Also, because it seemed like a lot of batter and I don't care for thick, cake-like bars, I opted for a jelly roll pan and shortened the reduced the baking time to 25 minutes.**

Kid approved!

Holiday Monster Cookie Bars

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Whew!!  I hope you enjoy these recipes!  This post took me MUCH longer to put together than I anticipates.  I originally tried another recipe plugin (to share via my blog), and after getting the first one inserted into the blog post, I would have had to have a paid subscription to add more.  So, I was back to square one.  I hope these print easily for you.  Let me know if you try any of these and what you think.  Also, know these are not my recipes.  They were adapted from various sources and some didn’t list on the printout where they were from.  And don’t be afraid to modify and make the cookie and bar recipe work for you.  I love to add my own spin to recipes.

Have a blessed week, everyone and HAPPY BAKING! :D

My Life Monday | Turkey & Tigirlily

It sure doesn’t feel like two weeks since my last My Life Monday blog post.  Last week Monday, I featured John on the blog, and it was also his 18th birthday.  These past two weeks sure went fast.  This morning I was reminded it’s now December.  Holy moly, how did that happen?

If you haven’t even started Christmas shopping yet, I feel for ya.  And I will also say “neener, neener, neener,” as we are pretty much done.  All I have to do is hit “submit” on my shopping cart on Amazon but it really just erks me that I need to add just over $19 to get free shipping.  I know all about Amazon Prime….but to me, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.  The $99 I would pay yearly just to have the service would likely equal the amount of shipping I end up paying because 3/4 of the stuff I order doesn’t qualify for free shipping.  We already have Netflix and the movies on there aren’t any newer or better than what we already get through Netflix streaming, which I can load with an easy app on my tv.  It may be nice for books, but I’m still old-school and prefer a book in my hands.  Besides, technology changes so rapidly, how do you know your Kindle version will even be accessible 10 years from now.  I read some pretty great books and I want to know I can pass those down to my kids someday.  You know, in case they ever need to know where to invest their money, how to brand themselves in their business, or figure out what their core desires are.  lol!

I read recently that less than 10 percent of the population read non-fiction.  Yup, I’m part of that 10 percent.  Come to think of it, it may have even been 1%, not quite sure now.  Regardless, I am considering reading 50 Shades of Gray Grey (better than getting your and you’re mixed up – lol!), which would probably tide me over in the fiction department for a while. lol!  A group of girlfriends and I plan to read it and then go to the movie.  Too bad movie theaters don’t allow wine.  Well hey….there’s a brilliant idea!!  ;)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving with loved ones.  And if you were alone for Thanksgiving, I hope you had a door you could knock on.  Just having loved ones around for the holidays is a blessing, so I hope you cherished your time with them.  I don’t take part in the crazy Black Friday shopping.  I hate shopping to begin with and then to be shuffled like a cow or feeling like I’m at an amusement park on a really crowded day and then get to stand and wait my life away  in line- no, thank you.  I’m patient, but not that patient.  But, I have heard that people don’t do it for the shopping but rather bonding.  Well, ya know…I can think of a hundred other ways I would rather bond with my friends/family!  lol!

Rather than doing the Black Friday thing, I took my girls to the Tigirlily concert in Linton.  It was their first concert and they had an absolute blast!  These sisters, originally from Hazen, are sure talented!!  I spoke briefly to their mom while the girls and I waited their turn and off the bat, I could tell that she’s a very humble and proud mom.  Here are a few snapshots from my phone from that night!  Santa was handing out reindeer antlers, red noses and glow necklaces.  All were a big hit with the kids, I think.  Jozlyn wore her antlers and nose the entire night.  The girls and I have a wonderful memory and I’m so glad I took them.

Tigirlily Concert

Other than spending Thanksgiving with Tony’s family and going to the concert, we pretty much just enjoyed four days of relaxation.  It went so fast.  Saturday morning, I had an impromptu studio sesion with my family.  I’m so happy with the photos of the kids.  I took a few family ones too and even Gizmo (our pooch) made it into the pictures!  After church Saturday night, I made some popcorn, and thanks to BEK, we enjoyed watching “Captain Philips” on free Starz weekend.  If you haven’t seen this movie based on true events with Tom Hanks, I highly recommend it – very good movie!  We also watched “After Earth” with Will Smith.  That’s a different movie.  It wasn’t terrible but I don’t think I would watch it again.  All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend for my family.  I am so thankful for that time with all of them.

Well, I think I’ll close for today (actually tonight).  I was busy working on my newsletter today, which will be sent out tomorrow (click HERE to sign up), as well as a Christmas card design for a client.  I need to get my own card designed yet.  The hardest part will actually be choosing which images to choose of the kids.  It was that good of a session with them.  And that, my friends, is a rare ocassion.  It certainly didn’t start off the right foot but I am pleased with the results.  I will certainly share images from my family sesion on the blog too.  I still have a few sessions to blog yet too.  Most don’t know this, but it probably takes me a good 90 minutes to prepare and write a blog post.  I wish I were quicker; I have so much in my head that I’d love to share in the written word. :)

I hope this blog post finds you all well and I wish you a wonderful week ahead, filled with abundance from unexpected places. :)

ND Senior guy session | John

Over the years, there have only been maybe a half-dozen times I’ve had to reschedule a session due to weather.  And the evening of John’s session was an absolutely perfect ND summer evening.  A very soft-spoken, charismatic young man with a sense of humor, his down-to-earth mom who made me feel so comfortable in her presence (like it was okay for me to be myself), and a perfect night…..well, I’d say that’s a recipe for a perfect session.  And a perfect session it was.

We started at my studio, where we got some formal photos.  I think I forget how much older I am at times, because I remember at one point, I had told John to give me his “GQ look.” Well, needless to say, guys nowadays don’t know what “GQ” is, so I’m going to have to adjust my lingo, I think! ha!  I’m open to suggestions.  lol!

Here is John’s favorite from the studio portion of his session.

senior guy studio portrait

 

After the studio, we headed to the farm, where I got to practice my graffiti skills, got that “GQ” look I was waiting patiently for, and got to provide images with the farm as the backdrop that they were hoping to get.  Check out his posing – a natural!

senior guy what to wear

In the sequence below…his “GQ” look would be the one in the upper-left, in case you’re wondering! ;)

ND senior photographer

Took two-takes on the year.  And before we know it, we’ll all be writing “2014” on our check blanks for the first two weeks of 2015! lol!

senior guy graffiti senior guy farm session

By this time, the sun was starting to go down and we had to head to the football field before we lost the light entirely.  I had my lighting with me, but I was hoping for more sunset and what I didn’t take into account were the trees blocking my sunset, which was a bummer.  Overall, we still managed to get the job done.  After getting those shots and becoming mosquito lunch, the session was coming to a close.

senior guy football pics

One thing I hadn’t realized and that John stated during their consultation, was that when Tony and I were in Iraq, he and his fellow classmates had written us letters and drew pictures.  We had gotten so many pictures and letters during the deployment.  And I was pretty certain we still had many of those.  However, to my disappointment, that wasn’t the case.  So bummed about that! :(

In closing, I want to extend a very HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY to you, John!!  I hope your day was a good one and I wish you a memorable year ahead!  You’re a one-of-a-kind with so much humor and compassion to offer the world.  Never let anyone tell you differently.

This post will replace my weekly “My Life Monday” post because birthdays are more special.  Besides, John is probably way more interesting than my sticky floor life! lol!

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