Painting the Yard

You know those blooming hanging baskets you can pick up at big box stores this time of year?

Homemade? Nuts!

For Teacher Appreciation Week at our school, the parents were asked to send in “homemade goodies” today.  I don’t bake.

But my mother-in-law gave me this easy recipe for “Cinnamon Sugar Pecans” that I pull out every time I need to pretend that I do.  The middle of March is probably too late for them (they make a great holiday treat), but they’re delicious and, well, my options are limited.

1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water
1 pound bag of pecan halves (4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix egg white and water well.  Stir in pecan halves.  In another bowl, mix sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in nuts to coat.  Spread out on cookie sheet (cover with tinfoil for easy clean-up).  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

A very similar recipe is also here, on

Now, if these don’t count as “homemade,” please don’t let me know.

Faaamily Book!

When my daughter was 3-months-old, I lay her on her back next to me and read “Who Said Moo?,” over and over again until my arms hurt from holding the book up.  Next came “Rainbow Fish.”  We both loved it.

Now, she’s 6, her brother is 5 and their dad and I still read to them every night.  They run down the hall announcing ”Faamily Book!,” after they’ve brushed teeth and dressed for bed.  But it can be a struggle to find books that appeal to both of them – a reader and a non-reader, a girly girl and a boyish boy, school-age and pre-k.

Enter Magic Tree House.  Great series that our daughter has read independently, but was also interested in listening to.  As was our son.  He loved it as much as she did and the brother and sister protagonists make it a perfect fit if you have boys and girls.

Next, Charlotte’s Web.  We all cried when Charlotte died and cheered when her babies were born.  Stuart Little was a big hit, too.

Then we moved on to Junior Classics for Young Readers by Dalmatian Publishing, available sometimes in Target’s Dollar section.  We think these abridged versions of the classics are well-done.  Plus, they have an illustration on every few pages.  Our son enjoyed The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as much as our daughter did, but he played with Legos through Little Women.  (Truth be told, his dad would rather have been playing with Legos, too.)

Both kids also liked The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Ann of Green Gables.  We omitted a few paragraphs about the town drunk in Tom Sawyer - not ready to go there yet.  In Ann of Green Gables, when Ann mistakenly gives Diana currant wine, we got away with a brief explanation about a ‘grown-up drink that makes kids sick.’

Now, we’re on to Harry Potter, halfway through The Goblet of Fire (Book 4).  I’m amazed at how enthralling this 734-page book is to kids this young.  My husband uses a different voice for each character and does it so consistently that the kids know right away who is ‘talking.’  (Of course, his theatrics don’t explain the several hundred million other copies of Harry Potter books that have sold.)

Good, old-fashioned plot and wonderfully-developed characters, plus an enthusiastic reader.  Faaamily Book!

You Know It’s a Good Cookbook When…

…it falls apart every time you pull it out of the cabinet.


Personalize Kids’ Rooms

I love wrapping paper.  Every print, pattern, color, character possible, for less than $5 a roll.

When my daughter was crazy for Dora the Explorer, a piece of Dora wrapping paper pressed inside a cheap Ikea frame made her so happy.  Now, two of those same frames display her American Girl posters, one of which she made herself with Scotch tape and cut-outs from a catalog.

We’ve had an old particle- board bookcase for so long that I don’t remember where it came from.  It was headed for Goodwill 3 years ago when a can of red spray paint and a roll of paper (outdoor table covering?) from Ikea turned it into funky storage for our craft room.

Just recently, when our craft supplies outgrew the bookcase, my son inherited it for his room.  I replaced the old paper with Star Wars paper that he chose.  Well…at least he likes it.

Ikea Hensvik Cabinet

My favorite makeover, though, was with a vinyl tableloth – I loved the cheery print, but it was too girly for our family table.  So I used it to cover the back of an Ikea chest in our infant daughter’s room.  It served her well for 6 years before we traded it for “big-girl” furniture.