Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving: Thankful Turkey Hostess Gift

I've always felt the importance of taking the time to express what I am thankful for.  Thanksgiving is a great time to share the concept with children and others.  I recently came across this idea in a magazine (can't remember which one) and I thought it was perfect for my kids who LOVE crafts!  So we made one to share at at this years Thanksgiving feast.  After we get all the guests to fill out what they are thankful for we will leave it with our host as a thank you.

We just took a medium sized pinecone, cut out and glued on a turkey body, cut some "feathers" with little slits around the edges out of construction paper and stuck them in.  

I will update this posting after our dinner so you can see the finished turkey!

It's cute to see what little ones are thankful for.
My 6 year old daughter said "camping" and my 4 year old son said "monster trucks"!

Rainbow Cupcakes

My daughter recently celebrated her 6th birthday and she was torn between wanting a party at Chuck E. Cheese or having a unicorn/rainbow themed party.  So we held it at Chuck E. Cheese but incorporated some unicorns and rainbows where we could.  The cupcakes were a portion of that.  I discovered this unique trick that I couldn't wait to try.

I started with a basic white cake mix (box version - prepared as directed).  I separated it into 6 bowls with equal portions.  Then I added some food coloring to get the colors of the rainbow.

For those of you that are picky about details -
I know that there are 7 colors in the rainbow
but I decided to stick with the 6 most noticeable for this small project.

Next I placed about 1/2 Tablespoon of purple batter into each cup.  Then I topped that with blue,

then green, yellow, orange, and red.  You will want to change up what cupcakes get batter first versus at the end.  Otherwise you may end up with large cupcakes in the first pan and small cupcakes at the end (when you start to realize that you only have so much batter left to fill the remaining cups).

Bake the cupcakes according to package directions.

 After they have cooled you can frost them.  I used a vanilla butter cream frosting.  I attempted to try a coloring technique I had learned but they looked a little more like tie-dye then rainbows ;-)

Of course we had to give the boys cars instead of My Little Pony unicorns.

The guests were very impressed but most importantly - my little girl LOVED them!

Kids in the Kitchen: Crock-Pot Caramel Apples

This is an idea that the pre-school my kids have attended do every year.  They have so much fun with it! Since it is easy and "festive" I thought I would share.

You start by melting some caramel in a crack pot.  Just follow the direction on the caramel packaging (how much caramel you need for "X" number of apples and how much water you should also add).  Then you need to make sure someone is keeping a good eye on the caramel.  You won't need to stir it a lot at first but it will also burn easily!  It does take a little bit to get started but if you give it some attention it will melt pretty easily. 

While you are waiting for the caramel to melt you can get your decorating supplies ready.  The pre-school simply places candy on paper plates so the kids can easily access it when they are ready to decorate.  They prefer candy that the kids will be excited about.  At home we use melted chocolate (which can be messy) and sometimes nuts (which the school will not allow).  

I recommend that an adult dip the apples in the caramel!  It is very hot and very messy!  You can see in this picture that we used popsicle sticks to help with dipping (and later eating).  You might need a spoon to help get some caramel on the top of the apple.  After the apple is covered in caramel you will want to place it on a plate or bowl that is covered with wax paper.  

Next you can send your child and their apple over to the decorating table.  The kids had a lot of fun with decorating!

Since these apples are made at school, they always have to face the tricky part of getting them home without making a mess.  So they use ziploc bags (their names are on the bottom of the bowls or on the popsicle stick).


If you are making caramel apples at a place where you have access to a refrigerator - I would recommend refrigerating it right after decorating.  This will help the caramel to firm up before most of it slides to the bottom.  

Did you know that you should always refrigerate caramel apples?  I know that when I have bought them they were never refrigerated but if you do it will greatly increase the number of days it will remain fresh.

Eggplant Parmesan

I love this meal!  I still can't believe that it took so many years for me to finally try eggplant Parmesan.  It's been a year now and I just can't get enough of it!  This recipe usually makes enough for two meals in my house so I bake it in two separate pans.  The 2nd pan is frozen and always tastes great when cooked later.


1 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 cups spaghetti sauce, divided*
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil**


Arrange the eggplant slices on baking sheets and sprinkle all over with kosher salt.  Set aside for 1 hour to let bitter juices weep from eggplant.  Rinse under cold water and blot dry.
**Update:  I don't always do this step and I haven't noticed a difference.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs (covering both sides). Place in a single layer on baking sheet.  

Bake for 5 minutes on each side.

In a 9x13" baking dish ( or smaller if making two meals like I do), spread enough spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom.  

Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce.  

Sprinkle top with cheeses.

Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with cheeses.  Sprinkle basil on top.  Bake for 35 minutes.

*I love this with spaghetti pasta!  If you like lots of sauce you may want to increase the amount of spaghetti sauce used with this recipe.

**I prefer fresh basil when I have it.  If you choose to use fresh basil I would recommend mixing it in with the sauce instead of sprinkling it on top.

Update:  I now cover the bottom of the pan with 1 can of diced tomatoes (do not drain juice).
It provides more sauce for the pasta.

Freezes GREAT!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting Personal - Part 4

This website is not to the surgeon I used


I'm going to start this post with a little reminder (disclaimer) -I am not a doctor!  That will become very clear as you read on and find my lack of "technical terms" ;-)  Also, every person is different - this is my story.

I completed my 3rd appointment which was a follow-up with the doctor to discuss my test results.  As he predicted from my first appointment, the tissue that provides support for the "tube" (the final passage of urine before it releases) is deteriorating.  It is no longer providing enough support so when under pressure (cough, sneeze, jump), the tube twists and releases urine.  To fix this I will need to have an out patient surgery done.  I will be put under anesthesia for the procedure.  An incision will be made in my vaginal area (to access the area from the bottom) and two pin hole incisions will be made in the outside of my abdominal area.  The larger incision will allow enough space to insert a mesh ribbon that will act like a hammock for support.  The two exterior abdominal pin holes will give the surgeon access to manipulate the ribbon into place.  

The surprise news about my test results was about the position of my bladder.  During my discussions with others I have become familiar with the fact that many women have issues with their bladder lowering and needing some form of surgical procedure to raise it back into place and add some type of support for it.  During my first appointment the doctor mentioned that my bladder appeared to be low but not to the point of any concern.  However, the X-rays showed that my bladder is really low and that the tissue providing support has greatly deteriorated.  The surgeon was surprised that I hadn't noticed discomfort and that I hadn't seen a doctor about it.  Obviously he doesn't know my high tolerance for pain ;-) Heck, I almost had my first child at home because I didn't think that I was really in labor - I thought I was supposed to be in more pain!  Besides, any discomfort felt I figured was just part of life as I get older and my body changes.

So, I will be having two procedures done.  To repair the issue with my bladder the surgeon will be making a second incision in my vaginal area to access the area under my bladder.  He will be inserting a larger mesh ribbon that has 4 "arms".  These are extra sections that will attach to areas inside me to help provided needed support.  The doctor said that another option would be to simply "fix" the tissue that is deteriorating (just sew it back up like you would mend a hole in a shirt) but since that is the same tissue that has already failed me there is only about a 40% chance that it will work.  The mesh type of material they use is intended to be permanent.  Keep in kind that they don't have 25 plus years of history with this to know for sure but so far things have been working as expected.  There are also cautionary things to know before having the procedure done but they all seemed not important to me since I know that my surgeon is a specialist with over 2,000 successful procedures completed.  So, do your research on who you have doing a procedure like this.  I surely wouldn't have my normal OBGYN operate on me like this!

Restrictions:  I need a driver to get me home after the procedure since I will be under anesthesia for a chunk of the day.  Most of my post operative restrictions are because of the bladder portion of my procedure.  I can not drive for 2 days.  I can not lift more than 10 pounds for 6 weeks!  That will be a hard one with my cuddly kids but they are at a good age now to understand and respect my limitations.  And my physical activities will be very limited until the doctor lifts my restrictions.  

I have to admit that after this appointment I went through a bit of depression for a couple of days. It's kind of hard to explain.  I went into this knowing there is a problem and that surgery was going to be needed to fix it.  I left this appointment with a plan and an appointment.  Why would I be depressed???  For me, I think it was a reminder that I am getting older.  When my mother-in-law turned 70 years old she made a comment that I remember vividly.  She said that it was kind of strange because she knew she was 70 but in her mind she felt more like she was still 30.  For me, I still feel like I am younger than I am but my body gave me a reminder that I am not.  I'm at the point in life where some things will just need to be fixed to keep working right.  

I have scheduled my procedure.  I was lucky to get a day that my kids do not have school, my mom can watch them, and my husband has the day off work so he can be at the hospital with me.  I have also scheduled 3 follow-up appointments.  Of course, the surgery and the follow-up appointments all have to be on days that I am not in my menstral cycle.  For some reason no one ever reminds me of that when I am scheduling the appointments so I always have to reschedule some things later when I have reminded myself.

Cost to date: 2 co-pays (one for each time I actually met with the doctor).  For me, that's a total of $30 out of pocket so far.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Personalized Thanksgiving Cards

My daughter LOVES any type of arts and crafts projects.  So this past weekend we worked on Thanksgiving cards for the grandparents.  It was easy and cute so I thought I would share.  I just took a card size piece of paper, had her trace her hand, color in the turkey, and then write her message on the back.  She loved creating it and is really excited to share them.  Plus, it provides a memory of how big her hand was at this point in time!

Front and back of card

Getting Personal - Part 3

This website is not the surgeon I used


I have completed my 2nd appointment in the process.  This one involved a lot of testing and x-rays to verify what my issue is and where it is.  The information I received for this appointment said that it could last 2 hours and to bring an extra pair of socks.  When I scheduled the appointment they said it would take about 1.5 hours.  I was actually done in 45 minutes but I can see why it might take longer for some people.

I did not have a co-pay or any kind of payment to make at this appointment.  I'm still very curious to see how much this will cost me in the end.  So far I have had one co-pay.  The more people I talk to the more I'm starting to think that my insurance really may cover this - BONUS!!!!!  :)

 You really have to go into this appointment with an open mind.  The person who does this testing has done this many times and I am sure they have seen a wide variety of things.  I had to just accept that some things were going to be embarrassing to me and move on.  I have been in the hospital for the birth of two children and then a surgery that required a 4 day/night hospital stay.  So I have adjusted to just giving in to medical professionals examining my body inside and out.  This is a necessary step for me to resolve an issue that I hate so I had to do it!

I had a room all to myself that included a bathroom and exam room.  I was also given an antibiotic to help prevent extra irritation or infection.  I had to remove all of my bottom clothing (except my socks) and put on a paper gown.  No urine sample needed for this appointment so I had to empty my bladder.  From there I went into the exam area.  First I was asked to sit in a "chair".  This was the craziest chair I have ever seen (and hopefully will ever see again)!!!  But, it was designed for what they needed.  The lady was very kind and walked me through everything that we were going to be doing.  First a catheter was put in that would allow her to add water to my bladder.  Then another catherter is needed in the rectum to help them monitor from another angle.  This one had a balloon in which she warned usually makes people feel like they need to use the restroom ;-)  Then she added a few "stickers" that were attached to a monitor.  From there she walked me though a process of filling my bladder, stopping now and then to have me cough.  Once I was done with this she had me do something that she said usually takes people a while to do.  I had to sit up in the chair and pee in a "bucket".  The chair has a spot cut out for this but I was still wired to all the monitors and catheters so it is very strange.  Plus, she was in the room watching.  It's just water but I can see why this would add time to an appointment!  Again, I just had to give in for the cause ;-)  After that, everything was removed and it was time to move onto the next step.

This time I had to lay down on an exam table.  Another catheter was put in to access my bladder.  Then she filled my bladder with a die (was clear like water) so she could take x-rays.  She took a couple of x-rays while I was laying down and then the rest were while I was standing.  This is where the extra socks come in.  Remember that you have no bottoms on, you have a full bladder, and they are trying to get x-rays that show them what things look like when you actually have a leaking problem.  So, while standing for the x-rays she had me strain as if was giving giving birth.  If you leak, your socks will get wet....  Hey - I did title this blog post as "Getting Personal"  ;-)

Once she verified that the x-rays provided them the needed information, I was done.  The bathroom had baby wipes to clean up afterwards so I just got dressed and I was ready to go :)  Of course she check to make sure I was feeling okay before I could leave.