Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recipe: Betty Crocker's Caramel-Peanut Butter Bars

I wanted to try these yummy looking bars and I decided the last day of school was the perfect day to make these for my family.  These bars didn't disappoint!  Pat said they tasted like a Snickers.  I also took some to a weekend BBQ and they got many rave reviews. 

To get a printable version go to the Betty Crocker page HERE.  This recipe has a few steps and needs chill time, so be sure to plan ahead.


Cookie Base

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
15 miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in candies. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

I found these at a convience store in case your local grocery store doesn't have them.

Cookie base after baking
36 caramels (from 14-oz bag), unwrapped
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup peanuts

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat caramels and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted. Stir in peanut butter. Heat to boiling. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup peanuts. Spread over warm cookie base. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

I found these in the baking aisle with the chocolate chips! 
Way easier than unwrapping all the caramels and they melted faster too!

The melting process

Pouring on top of the cookie base

Ready to sit for a couple hours to cool off.
1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy milk chocolate frosting
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

Spread frosting evenly over filling. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. For bars, cut 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Betty Crocker's Photo of the finished product - YUM!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Heaven is for Real

By Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Published 2010
Christian Non-Fiction

From the back of the book:
This is the story of a young boy who emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his trip to heaven.  It is the true story of Colton Burpo, the 4 year-old son of a small town Nebraska pastor.  After surviving emergency surgery, he began talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room.  He also described being in heaven, seeing God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and meeting long-dead family members.  Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message of this book is that heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

I had heard about this book for awhile and was being told at least once a week by someone that I HAD TO read this book.  I was already interested because it reminded me of another book I had reviewed called THE BOY WHO CAME BACK FROM HEAVEN.  I was curious to see how similiar the two stories were (which there are similiarities and differences) and what this little boy's story was all about. 

I had been putting off reading it because I have several books that I am on a time-line to get read and didn't want to take the extra time.  Plus my mom had purchased it and told me I could read it when she was done.  So, I wasn't in a hurry.  But, on Thursday, I walked into our local library and as I was about to head out, I noticed this book on the shelf.  I decided right then to check it out.  This book took me just 2 hours to read.  Once I started I didn't want to put it down at all.  Even though I had already heard about certain parts of the story, it didn't affect my interest.

I was particularly moved and emotional reading the parts regarding Colton's time with his older siser and Great-Grandpa in heaven.  I think anyone who has lost a child to miscarriage or a loved one will find this part of the story comforting.  I know that I did.

This is a very simple story and would be appropriate for older elementary age children on up to adults.  It would make for a great family discussion about heaven and your family's beliefs.  I also appreciated the appendix in the back of the book with all the Bible verse references. 

Whether you are a believer or non-believer, you should read this book.  It will no doubt give you a reason to rethink your beliefs and likely convince you that.....Heaven is indeed FOR REAL!

For more on the Burpo Family and their story go to http://www.heavenisforreal.net/

This review is my honest opinion.  I wouldn't review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or my family. I did not receive any compensation what-so-ever for this review.  I just wanted to tell you all about this great book.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Celebrating the Last Week of School and a Recipe

Summer begins today for us.  We had a great year of school and each of our kids excelled and had awesome experiences.  Even Patrick is still wanting to be in school.  I'm thinking since he is still sleeping at 7:30 that he will change his mind today. 

I had a lot to be proud of this week.  Monday we attended the annual talent show and both boys performed.  Patrick and Bennett did a duet to MAGIC by B.O.B and they did awesome.  Patrick who stutters had no trouble at all performing the rap in the middle of the song.  It amazed me that they had no trouble getting up in front of their peers and performing. 

Then on Wednesday, both boys made it into the annual Spelling Bee.  Patrick won the 3rd and 4th grade division the last 2 years and this year was in the 5th and 6th grade division.  Unfortunately, he lost out to "juncture".  Then Bennett was up and he was extremely nervous, but kept his composure and thought hard about all the words.  Suddenly he was in the final two and the other boy missed "escalator".  Bennett spelled it correctly and then had to spell "independence" to win and HE DID IT!  Bennett won the 3rd and 4th grade spelling bee!  So, for the last three years, a Gorkow has won that division of the spelling bee.  Pretty awesome! 

Dylan 2nd place and Bennett 1st place
Yesterday I decided to make a special supper to celebrate our last day of school.  Even though everybody had ball practice and we couldn't eat until 8:30, it was still nice to all sit together at the table and share about the school year.  So, I served Butter and Herb Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Asparagus.  Bennett even tried the asparagus and thought it "wasn't bad".  The turkey was so easy and juicy that I wanted to share the recipe with you today.  I figured up our meal last night cost a total of about $20.00 and then divided by 5, it isn't bad.  Well worth the time and enjoyment around the table.

from Simple and Delicious Magazine April/May 2011 pg 14.

1 bone-in turkey breast (6 to 7 pounds)

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Rub turkey with butter. Combine the rosemary, thyme, garlic powder and pepper; sprinkle over turkey. Place in a 6-qt. slow cooker. Pour broth over top. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender.
Remove turkey to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with turkey. Yield: 12 servings (3 cups gravy).

Like I mentioned, this turkey was so easy to make.  I had it in the crockpot in 10 minutes.  Because my crockpot has a probe I could set the crockpot to cook until the turkey reached an internal temperature of 175 degrees.  Then it just went to the warm setting until I took it out at 8:00PM.  It was very tender and juicy and will make great leftovers this weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to Survive Summer With Your Kids

If you have been reading my blog, you know that every summer I try to plan fun activities for our kids.  It doesn't always work, but it is nice to have some ideas layed out.  This summer we have 87 Days of Fun to fill.  So I better get busy!

The first thing I do is gather ideas - big or small- from the kids to see what they want to do this summer.  Their ideas include small ideas like having friends over, going camping, going to Coldstone for ice cream, and big ideas like going to Disney World (not happening) and going to Adventureland (a theme park).  Then I look at our scheduled activities like baseball, Tball, basketball camp, speech camp, vacation, and come up with some sort of plan.

Other years I have given each day of the week a theme, but this year I decided not to do that.  Each day there will be chores.  Chores are written on popsicle sticks for the kids to draw from.  The kids will be expected to read and keep a Reading Log.  Treats will be given along the way for meeting reading goals.  Then there is the fun!

One place I get ideas for summer fun is from THE CONFIDENT MOM.  Susan  of THE CONFIDENT MOM makes up this awesome calendar for June, July and August with an idea/day.  Some days include recipes, crafts, or outings. 

The calendar can be printed off or used online with the accessible links in the calendar.  She has done all the research for you and for just $7, you can access all of it!  It is well worth the money if you have kids preschool-elementary age.  You can access the calendar by going to her BLOG and clicking on the summer calendar picture.  Within minutes you can be planning your summer fun!  Thanks Susan for all your hard work!

Some of my other ideas:
-Get our your cookbooks, have the kids pick new recipes and plan the whole meal and then go to the store and get your ingredients.  Include budgeting skills in the activity by giving the kids a budget. 
-Empty out your craft bins and create some wacky crafts!
-Have a movie marathon (great for a rainy day) with popcorn.  Each kid gets to pick a movie.
-Have a board game marathon and each kid gets to pick a board game or pick an outdoor game.
-Create a scavenger hunt around your community.  Have the kids take pictures of wacky items that they need to find and you provide the transportation.  Like a Red S, a flat rock, a black dog, etc...

I also try to work in some school related activities to keep their minds working.  I found some great workbooks at LEARNING TRAIN.  They have great activity books like Learning to Draw Pets as well as subject/grade related workbooks.  My order arrived in just a few days!

Be creative.  The whole point is making summer fun and making sure the kids aren't sitting in front of the TV or attached to the Wii all summer.  Parenting is all about making memories and I am excited to get our summer started!  What neat things do you do with your kids? 

Moving on to the Next Thing

This weekend we finished up our soccer season with all three of the kids.  As I posted on Saturday, it was fitting that we finished it in the rain.  Most of our soccer games seemed to have been played that way this season.  Patrick also scored his first goal ever in Saturday's game.  He really has made strides in his soccer skills this year and I could see this being a great sport for him. 

Sunday, we headed in for Bennett's last flag football game.  The weather was wonderful but there was talk of potential storms popping up.  Unfortunately, before the game was over, the sirens were going off telling us there was a tornado warning.  So, the game ended and everyone headed home.  After getting home and hearing about all the devastating tornados in the Midwest, I was thankful that it didn't hit in Cedar Rapids.  Hundreds of children and families were out in the open football complex area.  No where to go...only one exit out of the complex.  A tornado hitting there would have been horrific.  I can't imagine how families in Minneapolis or Joplin are feeling this morning.  I am thankful Cedar Rapids wasn't hit, but heartbroken for the towns that were.  Donations to the Red Cross, UMCOR, or other disaster organiztions will be greatly needed, especially with Alabama still recoving from theirs. 

This week we start our last 4 days of school.  There won't be a lot of "schooling" going on as today is the annual Talent Show, tomorrow the 4th grade field trip, Wednesday is the Spelling Bee and Thursday they will be done at 1:00 PM.  It will be a fast week.  I am trying to plan our summer days.  This year we are lucky to have 87 days of Summer Fun, which is our most ever I think.  Stay tuned for more on that......

Have a wonderful week and count your blessings and while counting, help others who need it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Recipe Repeat on a Beautiful Saturday

This morning we had to get up WAY TOO EARLY for our final soccer games of the season.  And, true to form, it started raining as soon as we got there.  It rained all the way through both of our games and everyone came home muddy, soaking wet, and glad we have one less thing on our list.  I figured it was going to be a day stuck inside and maybe catching up on some projects.

But, then at 1:00, the sun came out, it started warming up and turned out to be a beautiful Saturday.  After taking our daughter to a birthday party, we played a little yard-baseball, some pick-up basketball and bocce ball with the boys.  While I was outside I noticed my neighbors rhubarb patch that I hadn't gotten into yet.  So, I went over and picked a bunch and decided to make a Rhubarb Crisp that is easy and yummy.  I posted it over 3 years ago HERE.  It is always delicious and even better with ice cream!  What a perfect way to end a great family day!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cystex Review and Giveaway

If you've ever been struck with a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know how disruptive and miserable they can be. But did you know how prevalent they are, particularly among women? Urinary tract infections
(UTIs) account for more than 8.3 million doctor visits each year, making it the second most common type of infection in the body.  And for many women it's not once and done...20 percent of women who
have one UTI will have another, and 30 percent of this group will have yet another!

For women with recurrent UTIs (that's three or more in a 12-month period), cranberries have long played a role in helping promote better urinary health. However, as much as drinking cranberry juice may help
better your bladder, drinking large quantities can be intolerable, not to mention the added sugar and calories. A wonderful alternative is just one tablespoon of new Cystex Liquid Cranberry Complex
with Proantinox taken daily. Cystex Liquid Cranberry Complex combines the health benefit of eight
glasses of cranberry juice in one tablespoon of its unique, convenient Proantinox cranberry formula. More than just cranberry concentrate, its proprietary blend also contains D-Mannose (from cranberries), bromelain
(from pineapple), inulin, and vitamin C, a winning combination designed to boost bladder health. In addition, Cystex Liquid Cranberry Complex:
* Is lactose-, gluten- and sugar-free
* Is only one calorie per tablespoon
* Contains 17 times more proanthocyanidins (PACs) than cranberry tablets

I personally have never had a UTI and am thankful for that.  Ironically, as you see in my previous post, I actually thought I had a UTI when I woke up Monday morning.  So, I actually drank some Cystex because I wanted to do anything to get rid of the pain I was having.  Frankly, the Cystex did not taste very good, but lots of medicines and therapies we take don't taste very good.  If I was someone who was prone to UTI's, Cystex would be something I would keep in my medicine cabinet. 
If you would like to try a bottle of Cystex, you must leave a comment here with an email address stating which you did.  You may comment for either or both.

-Like Cystex on Facebook Here
-Follow Cystex on Twitter Here

For additional entries:
-Follow my blog
-Follow me on Twitter HERE
Leave a comment for each entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents Only.  All entries must be in by 11:59 on June 5, 2011.  I will choose a winner with http://www.random.org/ on Monday, June 6, 2011 and contact the winner via email.

Additionally, on the Cystex Facebook Page, you can check in with the BETTER BLADDER CHALLENGE where participants are taking part in a 12-week challenge using Cystex and documenting their progress.

This review is my honest opinion.  I woudln't review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or my family.  I was provided with a bottle of Cystex to review and 1 bottle will be provided by the company for the winner.  I was not compensated in any other way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not the Way to Start My Week

Monday morning my alarm went off and I got up and went to the bathroom.  Nothing unusual so far.......then.....
I started having pressure and pain in my lower abdomen.  I felt like I had to go to the bathroom constantly.  The first thought that went to my mind was a UTI.  I didn't want to deal with that this week - my first week off after working for 8 weeks.  I had PLANS!  But, within the next 1 1/2 hours the pain became more intense and traveled to my lower right side of my back.  I knew I was probably in trouble.  So, my husband took me into the clinic and to my surprise, after a CT Scan confirmed it....I had a Kidney Stone.  That was the last thing I was expecting to hear.  So, I was sent home to rest, drink lots and lots of water, and wait.  I ended up sleeping most of Monday afternoon and then attending our boys' baseball game.  I had some mild cramping, but nothing major and slept all night.
Tuesday, I was supposed to meet up with my BFF for the day.  She is moving to Nashville, TN in a week and it was supposed to be our last hurrah.  Well, I cancelled because I didn't want to get stuck somewhere, unable to drive, and in major pain.  But, what do best friends do when something falls through.....they come to you!  My BFF Tammy drove all the way to my house and spent the day with me.  Even though I was feeling fine.  We watched cooking shows, E News and Oprah's network.  She brought me my favorite bagel from Panera and we caught up on our lives.  So, even though we weren't shopping or eating out, we still had a great time and I am so grateful to her for driving to see me! *HUG*

Day 3 and I still haven't had any pain or trouble from my kidney stone.  I keep waiting for the pain to hit, but, I've decided I need to go along with my plans and hope that I have already passed that tiny 1-2mm stone and the worst is over.  I'm not going to let a kidney stone ruin my week!

Princess Diana

Last Friday was my first day off after substitute teaching for 8 weeks.  First on the agenda was packing for a trip to Kansas City.  My mom, sister, and two nieces joined me for a trip to see the Princess Diana Exhibit. 
The Diana Exhibit is only in Kansas City for a few more weeks....ending on June 12, 2011.  But, if you are remotely close to there, you should definitely go!  The exhibit is at the Union Station and is very easy to get to.  For more info you can check out http://www.dianaexhibit.com/ and for tickets you can check out http://www.ticketmaster.com/.  Our tickets were a reasonable $23.50 (seniors $18.00) and took about 1 1/2 hours to go through.  You do have to choose a time to go through and I recommend the earlier the better.  As the morning went on, it got quite busy.

This is taken from the exhibit website:
Diana, Princess of Wales, touched the world with her compassion, style and human warmth. This exhibition is a celebration of her life, her works and her legacy to the world.  Born as simply Diana Frances Spencer, she made a mark on the world which will be forever remembered, before her untimely passing.  The Diana: a Celebration exhibition showcases this unique life and the legacy which remains. This remarkable exhibition shows Diana's legendary fashion, showcases her engagement to HRH Prince Charles and the subsequent magnificent royal wedding which was seen by television viewers throughout the world.  Diana's childhood is featured in the exhibition, showing how this rather ordinary little girl grew to be one of the world's most respected and revered women of her time because of her human warmth and caring leading to the charity work she undertook.

I will always remember the reaction to seeing her wedding dress and my mom's reaction as well.  She said, "I have goosebumps."  The section of the exhibit related to her death and funeral was also quite emotional, even all these years later. 

The fun part was looking at all her beautiful dresses and suits worn to different events.  It was neat to see the changes in fashion over her time.  She truly was beautiful no matter what she was wearing. 

For our hotel, we chose the Fairfield Inn at 3001 Main St.  I highly recommend staying there if you choose to go.  It was literally 2 minutes from the Union Station.  The hotel had very helpful and friendly staff, even dropping my rate $10 upon arrival, without me asking!  The rooms were a nice size and beds were firm and comfortable.  The hotel had FREE parking (which is rare near the Union Station), FREE breakfast (waffles, biscuits and gravy, bagels, fruit, cereal, etc), and FREE Wireless.  They also had a pool and fitness center.  All for $129.00! 

The Princess Diana Exhibit may not return to the states ever again, so this is your LAST chance to see and remember the beautiful princess.  Book your ticket soon, remember it leaves June 12!  No photos are allowed once you are inside the exhibit, so be sure to get a photo taken next to the big photo of Diana outside the exhibit.

My Sister, Me and Mom

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Circle Cupcakes

Once a year, I am in charge of hosting our Ladies' Circle at our church.  I am the youngest member and enjoy getting together with the "older" ladies of our congregation.  But, sometimes, the pressure of hosting can be heavy.  I feel like the tables need to be decorated just right for the season.  I feel like the dessert I prepare has to be unique, yet delicious.  I don't want it to be discussed at coffee the next morning about how my dessert bombed! 

So, this year, I had gotten an idea from my Gooseberry Patch Tip-A-Day calendar. (You know I love those Page-A-Day Calendars!).  On April 3rd, it suggested making upside-down pineapple cupcakes.  I thought they sounded yummy and easy, so decided that was going to be my dessert for Circle.

Upside-Down Pineapple Cupcakes
1 Yellow (Butter Recipe) Cake Mix plus ingredients on box
2 big cans crushed pineapple, drained
brown sugar
melted butter

Grease your muffin tins and preheat your oven according to cake mix directions.  Mix up your cake mix according to package directions.  Place 1 Tablespoon crushed pineapple in bottom of muffin tin.  Then sprinkle 1 Tablespoon brown sugar on top of pineapple.  Then take a tsp of melted butter and pour over top.  Then drop the cake mix into the tins filling almost to the top.  Bake as directed for cupcakes and checking for doneness with a toothpick.  Cool and flip out the cupcakes from the tin.  Top with Cool Whip if desired.

So, I think I survived the Ladies of the Church Circle and wasn't heckled at the next morning's coffee.  BUT, I will NOT make these AGAIN!!!  First of all, I didn't think ahead.  I only have 1-12 tin muffin tin, so I could only do one batch at a time.  I didn't think about the fact that I would have to CAREFULLY flip each of these cupcakes out of the tin, and place them nicely on the serving platter without them falling apart.  I didn't think about the time for cooling before removing from the pan and then washing before starting the next batch.  I didn't THINK!  So, this whole dessert took me 2 HOURS to complete.....ON MY AFTERNOON OFF....when it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY outside! 

So, needless to say, I was a little frustrated with the baking of these cupcakes, but they were a hit with the ladies and were quite delicious.  So, if you have a better system for getting these out of the pan effortlessly....please share....until then I will enjoy some regular cupcakes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Gift Code Turns into an Early Mother's Day Gift

I recently won a Day Spring Gift Code from a new blog I have been following called http://www.joyfulmothering.net/.  It is an uplifting blog full of wonderful tips, blessings, and words to brighten your day.  You should definitely check her out. 

So, with my Day Spring code, I ordered the items pictured below:
I ordered these neat Mother's Day cards that open up to look like a bouquet of flowers.  I have heard a lot of buzz about the book ONE THOUSAND GIFTS by Ann Voskamp and so right away, I knew I wanted to get that.  Then I also got the companion perpetual day by day calendar.  I haven't decided if I will save it for January of 2012 or start it in June.  But, I love daily calendars that give you wisdom, something to think about, or give you a laugh.  I have been a Day Spring fan for awhile.  I enjoy buying their cards when I am at our local Christian store.  Their gift line is extensive and I found a lot of neat ideas while browsing their sight.  If you haven't checked them out, you really should.  The shipping was reasonable and fast.  http://www.dayspring.com/

Thanks to Joyful Mothering for the awesome early Mother's Day gift for me!

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Toy Sneak Peek from Cepia

Cepia, the brand behind the popular ZhuZhu Pets, is coming out with an awesome new toy. It’s called DaGeDar and its unlike any other toys or games on the market! From the moment a child picks up a DaGeDar ball, they will know it’s something different. Drop the ball down the track and swoosh – you are hooked. This simple game of speed and skill is innovative and addicting!

Check out this video teaser of the DaGeDar and stay tuned for a future review.  This may be the new MUST-HAVE toy for Christmas 2011!