Friday, February 27, 2015


In college when Paul and I were dating, we used to enjoy playing bingo.  We were always the youngest people in the smoky bingo hall.  This was in the early 90s, and all the ladies playing used to bring troll dolls and stroke their hair for luck.

A local park and rec here recently had a family bingo night.  We decided to go.  It was $1 for a card, and you got to keep the card for the whole night.  Talk about a great deal!  We played 20 games.

Luck wasn't with us on this night, but we had a great time.  There were interesting prizes - air mattresses and fish aquariums and chia pets and fishing poles.  Every seat was taken.  We saw next to three elderly women who were very friendly, and one of them shared her boxes of raisins with the boys. 
And when a construction worker at the table with Cort won a round, he let Cort go up and get his prize.  The prizes were wrapped in newspaper, so you didn't know what it was until you unwrapped it.  Cort was proud of his four pack of flashlights.
Supposedly, family bingo happens twice a year.  We'll be on the lookout for the next event.
Readers, when is the last time you played Bingo?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mocha Latte Cake Recipe

This is one of my favorite cakes I have ever made.  Possibly my favorite.  It starts from a simple cake mix, but it evolves into a masterpiece of chocolate and coffee that will impress the most discerning guests.  The frosting is absolutely heavenly.

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 package chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
2 tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pkg. (16 oz.) powered sugar + 1 cup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350*.  Coat 2 (9 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.  Melt 1/2 cup butter; cool slightly.  On medium speed, beat cake mix with 1 cup water, eggs and melted butter until just blended.  On medium high speed, beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Divide batter between two pans and bake 25 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes.  Transfer from pans to racks.  Stir coffee granules into 1/3 cup water until dissolved; reserve 2 tbsp. of mixture.  Brush warm cake layers with remaining coffee mixture, cool completely.

On medium high speed, beat remaining butter until fluffy.  On low speed, gradually beat in 16 oz. powdered sugar and reserved 2 tbsp. coffee mixture until blended.  On medium high speed, beat until light and fluffy.

In separate bowl, on medium high speed, beat cream cheese and vanilla with remaining 1 cup sugar until blended and fluffy.  Transfer one cake layer to serving plate and spread with cream cheese mixture to within 1/2 inch of edge.  Top with remaining cake layer.

Spread cake top and sides with coffee frosting. 

It's a little bit of an effort to make this cake, but it is certainly worth it.  I'll be making this again in the near future!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Clay Creations

When I was a kid, I always took Art as my elective in school.  I loved creating all sorts of things.  I still have a few of the drawings I did.

Whenever I would make something from clay, my mom would always put it in the china cabinet.  There, it would have a prominent place among the family heirlooms - crystal and goblets and beautiful cups and plates.  It always made me feel special.

Pierce brought home this little golden fish that he created in art recently.
Following tradition, it now resides in the china cabinet.  Between all three boys, I suspect my china cabinet will be very full in a few years.

Readers, what did you do with your art as a kid?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spinach and Scallop Angel Hair Pasta Recipe

I am always on the lookout for quick and healthy recipes to pull together for dinner.  I tossed this combination together in about 10 minutes, it was a big hit with the boys, and total cost for a family of five came in at under $5!

16 oz. angel hair pasta
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped garlic
9 oz. package fresh spinach
4 oz. frozen scallops, thawed
1/2 tsp. black pepper
freshly grated parmesan

Cook pasta according to directions, drain.  Heat oil and garlic in large skillet over medium heat.  When garlic starts to sizzle, add 1/2 cup water and spinach and scallops.  Cover and cook 5 minutes or until spinach is tender.  Add pepper and toss with pasta, sprinkle with parmesan to taste.

I found frozen scallops at the dollar store, which is what I used for this recipe (and why it was so cheap).  I think it would be awesome with large scallops, too, albeit not quite as budget-friendly.  If you didn't have spinach on hand, kale would be a good substitution. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where's Pierce?

I found Nemo.  Now where's Pierce?
Picture taken at Center in the Square.
Linking with Wordless Wednesday at Planet of the Apels.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Excavating the Pyramid

A few weeks ago our house got hit hard with that dreadful stomach virus that has been making the rounds.  Pierce had some special activities going on at school that he'd really been looking forward to attending.  I have to give him credit for positive outlook.  He kept going around the house (as his brothers hovered by the toilet) saying, "I'm not going to get it.  I know I'm not".  Famous last words. 

I found him hiding in his bed.  He didn't want us to know he was sick.  He wanted to go to school that badly.

Needless to say, he had to stay home.  But he cheered up when I pulled out the pyramid that he received from Santa Clause. 

I read to him about Egyptian culture and archaeology while Pierce got set up.  His first step was to crack the top and find the secret slide to remove it.

Once the top was off, he discovered the pyramid was full of sand.  Luckily, he was armed with special tools to carefully remove the sand.

And, he found a sarcophagus!  Pierce got very excited over this.  He kept saying how cool it was. 

Bit by bit, he removed a mummy, a death mask, the sarcophagus, and 4 animal urns (which were used to store the organs before mummification. 
What a fun way to spend a sick day!  Luckily, Pierce was able to return to school the next day, and he still got to do the activity he'd been so upset over missing.

Readers, does it seem like sickness always comes at the most inconvenient times?  Or is it just me?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lake Fencing

I love a beach in winter.
Even if it is just a lake beach.
Picture taken at the new community park at Smith Mountain Lake.
Linked with Good Fences at Run A Round Ranch.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Vaseline Intensive Care for the Winter Outdoors

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of One 2 One Network.  I received sample product and a sled and snowball maker (which I sadly didn't get to use for the post, as we've had no snow) to facilitate my post.  All opinions are my own. 

Even in the cold winter months, we tend to spend plenty of time outdoors.  I continue my running, my husband cycles and chops wood, and the boys do what boys do when you live on an acreage with plenty of room to roam.  Between the dryness of our wood stove and the time spent outside in the wind and cold, our skin takes a beating.  I've had eczema patches behind my knees for the first time ever this winter, and Cort struggles with it every winter, often waking up in the middle of the night crying over painful and itchy patches of skin. 

Vaseline sent us some of their Intensive Care Advanced Repair lotion to try.  I was thrilled to see it was fragrance free, since Cort has asthma and is sensitive to fragrances.  This lotion goes beyond basic hydration.  It deeply moisturizes and is clinically proven to heal dry skin in just 5 days.  The formula combines humectants (to draw water into the skin) and healing micro-droplets of Vaseline Jelly (to lock moisture in). 
Paul went for a four hour bike ride, after putting some on his face.  He said his face gets really dry from the wind on long winter bike rides.   Vaseline helped protect his face from the wind, and afterwards he told me he could really tell a difference.

Meanwhile, I lathered  up the boys with Vaseline and layers of clothes, and we headed out to a new community park at Smith Mountain Lake.  Even though it was a chilly and breezy day, we were happy the sun was out, and the water was gleaming.

When it is cold, the boys often complain about their hands hurting.  I've noticed their skin has become rough and dry after playtime outside this winter. 

On this day, no one complained about their hands hurting.  I think the Vaseline really offered a nice layer of protection.  After checking out the dock, we went for a hike along the water, through the woods.  It was so nice to get some fresh air.

The boys were full of smiles.  I'm thankful we live in Virginia, where taking appropriate steps before going outside can protect you from the elements for most days of the year.

After our hike, the boys weren't tired or too cold at all.  They were all ready to check out the playground.

There was a good breeze blowing, so I do feel like there was plenty of wind exposure going on during the time we spent outside.

Yet the boys didn't complain.  Here, Pierce tries out one of those voice amplifiers, which transmit to another one across the playground.

Reid drives the slide. 

It wasn't until the boys got hungry that they were finally ready to go.  When we arrived home, I was so pleased to see that their skin had held the moisture well, despite our extended stay outside. 
And the boys?  They slept well that night!  It was a wonderful day, and we will be sure to be outside one winter day in the near future, particularly with a layer of Vaseline Intensive Care to protect from dropping temperatures. 

Readers, do you struggle with dry skin in the winter months? 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Coconut Almond Bundt Cake Recipe

The boys were complaining recently because we didn't have any homemade desserts in the house.  I daresay they might be a bit spoiled in that regard.  We eat very healthy, and get plenty of exercise, so there is really no reason to ever skip dessert.

I tossed together a new recipe, and it turned out to be so light and fluffy and flavorful.  It starts with a cake mix, but you will never know it when you taste this cake!  I had several requests on Instagram for it, so I knew I was going to have to share it on the blog.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box (3.4 oz) instant white chocolate pudding mix
1 cup light sour cream
4 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350*.  Mix first 8 ingredients for 2-3 minutes, until well blended.  Stir in coconut.  Pour into greased bundt pan and bake for 55 minutes.  Allow to cool 15 minutes before turning out on plate to cool completely. 

This is wonderful topped with strawberries!  Enjoy.

Friday, February 6, 2015


They have this game at the science museum that measures your brain waves.  You compete against another individual by being the most calm and relaxed.  My boys adore this game.  Below, you can see Cort and Reid in a Mindball battle while Pierce observes.
So last time we were there, the boys talked me into competing.  I was sitting there, eyes closed, trying to still my mind.  I was doing pretty well against Cort.  And then.  Some random old man came up and hugged me.  Boy was he surprised when I jumped!  Turns out, he thought I was a statue.  Needless to say, after that I lost my round - I just wasn't relaxed anymore.

Readers, ever been hugged by a stranger when you were least expecting it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Texts of the Future, to My Kids

This is a picture of the boys wearing sweaters that their great grandmother knitted for them.  Cort, as always, has to be a little different.

Now that the boys are back in school, and we're all back to our normal routines, I miss our winter break.  It was so nice to relax and not rush about with obligations.  I liked having the extra time with them.

As any mom, I still think of the boys while they are off at school.  I'm busy myself, so I don't have a lot of time to daydream, but I do often see little things through the day that I know they'd love.  Or I pick up something they need at the store.  And I think, "Oh, I wish I could text him to let him know!"

Do you think, when they're in high school, and old enough that I break down and buy them cell you think they'll be embarrassed to be getting a bunch of texts from mom?  Because let me tell you - I am saving them up! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teeny Strawberry Jam Teacakes

A good friend of mine sent me the first three seasons of Downton Abbey, and as a result I have become obsessed with all things tea.  Including the little cakes and such that go on the side. 

I modified a recipe from my vintage Virginia Hospitality cookbook to create a little jam teacake.  The original recipe involved pecans instead of jam, and I'm just not a huge fan of pecans.

4 oz. cream cheese (light versions are fine), softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sifted flour
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
Strawberry jam (I did half strawberry and half apricot - both are wonderful)

Mix cream cheese and butter.  Stir in flour.  Chill 1 hour.  Shape into 2 dozen 1 inch balls; place in tiny ungreased 1 3/4 inch muffin tins.  Press dough on bottom and sides of cups.

Preheat oven to 325*.  Put a teaspoon of preferred flavor of jam in each cup.  Beat together egg, sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle egg mixture over each cup.  Bake 25 minutes or until filling sets.  Cool before removing from pan. 

Readers - these are going to just melt in your mouth!  Do you drink tea?  Do you have a preferred flavor?