Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooking Pasta

My friend at Adventures in Carpooling had a post about when to add salt to boiling water.  When I was a kid, I was taught to add salt from my Sicilian Grandma, I think it was to keep the pasta from sticking together. After I was married, someone told me that salt toughens the pasta - so I should use oil instead. Then just a couple of years ago, I was told salt makes the water boil faster.  I didn't know what to believe!

Being the nerd that I am, I Googled it.  (Isn't it fun using nouns as verbs?)  So here's what I found out from a science forum.  Salt water raises the water's boiling point.  One site said cooks don't add enough to significantly change the temperature that water begins to boil, I figure every little bit helps - I'm going to add it after it starts boiling.  A cool site listed the results of a science experiment that showed that 2 Tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of water raised the boiling point about 6 degrees.

Now as far as cooking pasta goes, I found a forum where most agreed that adding salt improved the taste and texture of the pasta and that oil interfered with the sauce soaking into the pasta.  They are talking adding a significant amount of salt to you water - "salty like seawater" was mention many times.  I'd be careful of that advise if you are watching your salt intake. I think I'll go back to Grandma's way and try adding salt to the water the next time I have spaghetti.

My favorite part of this research, it's yet another example of using science in real life!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cake Decorating Contest

This month's Cub Scout Pack Meeting featured a cake decorating contest for the boys and their families. There were some creative cake!  Some had a Boy Scout theme, one had a camping theme with sugar cone trees, and another was a racetrack.  I didn't want to put up too many pictures, but I really enjoyed the frog and the island!  Creativity galore! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Defining Success, Achieving Balance, and Loving Life

Michelle from Scribbit wrote a great post about following dreams.  Is the right thing to follow your dreams regardless of the sacrifice?  Are you guaranteed to have success because you worked really hard and sacrificed so much?  Do we have the inalienable right to be spend our days doing only what we want? 

One of my kiddos said that winning gold medal wasn't worth missing so much time with family and friends.  I thought that was a very mature statement for one so young.  Does this child have goals?  Absolutely!  This child works very hard at school and at developing her talents.  There is a great understanding of the definition of success and that there needs to be a balance between different areas of life.  Out of all my children, this one also understands that not everything that needs to be done in life is going to be our favorite thing to do.  Housecleaning isn't my favorite activity, but it needs to be done and I can choose my attitude.  I can look at cleaning my home as a gift to my family, a way to love and nurture them - and I can do it with a spirit of love!  So even if  I'm not living my dream, I can love what I do because I'm doing it with an attitude of love.

How do you define success?  Is it a gold medal?  Or maybe it's home cooked meals?  Whatever it is, if it's part of a balanced life and done with a love for the activity or those it benefits; it can be achievable!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief

Our awesome neighbor took us to see the Percy Jackson movie.  We all enjoyed it. I was a little more mature in a few places than I would have hoped, but a good movie nevertheless.  A few of my kiddos have read some or all the books.  Maybe we'll start reading them this summer - and study a little mythology while we are at it! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympic Metal Count

To make the Olympics a little more fun for our family, we made a graph to track the U.S. medal count. It's nothing fancy, but this is a fun way to keep track of what's going on.  It's also a great conversation starter! What events did we win those three gold medals in? Who won the medal? What country has won the most medals so far?  I think watching Shaun White amazing run after he already had the gold medal locked up was my favorite Olympic moment so far.  What was yours?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Park Time

I always forget how therapeutic playing at the park can be, until I do it! I used to go to the park with my kiddos and bring a book. I'd get frustrated that they would interrupt my reading time by wanting to spend time talking and playing with me. The nerve of them!

Now that I'm a little older and wiser (maybe that's a lot older and a little wiser), I appreciate the time my children want to spend with me and I enjoy knowing them better by spending time with them. Also, it feels good to throw a football or a Frisbee. I had fun trying to learn to punt a football with my cutie pie. It's rejuvenating to get the blood flowing and run around on the playground equipment. Who knows how much longer I'll physically be able to do those things? I better enjoy it while I can!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cake Mix

I was going to make cupcakes the other day, but I didn't have any cake mix in the pantry like I usually do. Even though there is a grocery store nearby, it still seems to take me 20 minutes to pick something up "real quick". I decided to pull out the old (and I do mean old) Betty Crocker cookbook and whip up a batch from scratch. It took me around 15 minutes to get them into the oven, less time than it would have taken me to go to the store.

Then I started wondering why I don't do this more often. I can still stock up on cake mixes when they are super cheap, but it's not expensive to make cupcakes from scratch. It doesn't take much extra time and its not hard. My chocolate cake is made from scratch and it's my favorite.

Not that cupcakes are healthy, but I know the cupcakes I made do not have any high fructose corn syrup. All the ingredients were simple things like flour, sugar, milk and vanilla. The only ingredient that is questionable is the margarine. So homemade cupcakes are healthier.

Most importantly cupcakes from scratch disappear just as quickly!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scavenger Hunt

I had a fun "date" with one of my kiddos. My sweetie came up with a list of 20 items from a store's website and we had a scavenger hunt to see how many of the items we could find in 20 minutes. We wrote down the price when we found the item. You should have seen us zipping around the store! We found all the items in 19 minutes.

It inspired another kiddos birthday party. We're going to have a scavenger hunt at a local mall. The teams will have to find the item, record the price and what store they find it in. We're still working out the details. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It's not even noon yet and I've already worn 11 different hats today, some of which include Mom, alarm clock, friend, wife, exercise enthusiast (somewhat enthusiastic), house cleaner, and now blogger. Looking at today's schedule, I'll be adding a few more to the list before I go to bed tonight.

Hats are a funny thing, some we choose to put on ourselves, others are put on for us. Some hats we enjoy wearing and wish we could wear them more often, others we'd rather not wear at all (just an FYI - I don't like being an alarm clock). One of the struggles in life is to balance the hats we are called on to wear, and we all seem to do better at some times and not so much at others.

Time for another hat, I'm off to put in some laundry. What hats are you wearing today?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What I Need

Do you sometimes get into a funk and can't figure out how to get out? It happened to me last week. I found my solution yesterday, spending time with my mom. That was the solution last time it happened too! I'm not sure what it is about spending time with my mom that helps me put things in perspective. Maybe it's because she knows me so well and loves me anyways.

How do you get out of a funk? Is a good friend? Or maybe indulging in a hobby?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Traditions

I can't say Valentine's Day has ever been my favorite holiday, maybe it had a rough start because I never seemed to get that special valentine from the cute boy in school. In high school, I never got a candy gram from a boy.

We always do something for Valentine's Day as adults, but in my mind it's pretty much a made up holiday. I prefer our family friendly traditions over the "romantic" ones. On the night before Valentine's every puts something at everyone's spot for them to find in the morning when they wake up. The younger kiddos usually use extra valentines from the ones they gave their class mates. The older kids buy a little something for everyone - usually candy. For the last few years, breakfast has been special muffins with strawberries and a Hershey's kiss inside. I'll probably make heart pancakes for dinner.

All I really need for Valentine's Day to be successful is a little chocolate!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blue and Gold Invitations

This week in Cub Scouts, the boys made their parents invitations to the Blue and Gold Banquet coming up. It has been so interesting to watch the boy's reactions to the different activities. I know what my children enjoy, but not so much what other people's children enjoy. The first week I was a den leader, I had a word search for the boys. Most were really excited, and the one who wasn't was still very polite about participating in the activity.

I had the same question with making invitations. The boys were excited and enjoyed it. A couple only enjoyed it briefly and then they were ready to move on to the next activity. Only one of the boys got impatient for the activity to be over.

While some of the boys were finishing up invitations, I shared some interesting differences between now and 1910, when Boy Scouts was organized. Did you know the life expectancy in 1910 was only 47? Or that only 14% of households had bathtubs? I told the boys that only 8% of homes had telephones and that it cost $11 to make a three minute phone call from Denver to New York. So when I asked them how much a pound of sugar cost in 1910, they were guessing 2 or 3 dollars. They really liked the idea of 4 cents for a pound of sugar and 14 cents for a dozen eggs. I could tell some of the boys are working on reports of individual states, because when I told them there were only 45 stars on the US flag in 1910, they started shouting out the dates different states came into the union!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Birthday BSA!

On Monday, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) turned 100 years old! Growing up as girl with no brothers, I didn't have anything to do with Scouts as a kid. I married an Eagle Scout and he has worked with the Scouts for the last several years. Last August I started working with Cub Scouts - there is a lot to learn! It is a great program and is an excellent tool to help teach boys to be the kind of men we need in this world.

I've been a den leader for about a month and that is even more fun than working with leaders. Cub Scouts is right up my alley, they have monthly themes! I get to plan a month's worth of activities around the theme. This month's theme is Happy Birthday BSA. It's been a little challenging planning fun activities for young boys that focus around history, but so far so good.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Remember

This morning I was worrying about if we were going too slow for the person driving behind us. I remembered a time when I was learning to drive on a steep, curvy canyon road; an impatient driver passed me on a blind curve. It totally unnerved me. While I'm not a very aggressive driver, I do occasionally get impatient with slow drivers. I was remembering my reading of In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore last October. I was trying then to slow down on the road, and in life. How quickly I've lost that focus in both areas. I'm already back to rushing at full speed, trying to get it all done, expecting the same of those around me.

Thankful for the reminder I will slow down, do my best, and be satisfied with my efforts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Empty Box

I'm sure our home is the only one where children leave books, toys, papers, and whatever else on the floor, or on the couch, or on the counters. I discovered the joy of an empty box (and you thought they were just for kids)!

A few weeks ago there was a small empty box by the wall near the living room entry. Don't ask me why it was there, it just was. That day like many other days, there was several things around that weren't mine, so I tossed them in the box. I let all the kiddos know that anything still in the box by Friday would be discarded or given to goodwill. Amazingly, the box was empty the next morning.

The next day there were still things lying around that weren't mine, but there were fewer of them - and I put them in the box. Without a reminder, the box was emptied that evening. Friday morning came and the box was empty except for a couple of little papers that I tossed into the trash.

The box was tucked away before the shower, but it's time to bring it out again, there's stuff in the living room that's not mine...

Sunday, February 7, 2010


During family scripture study, we read about a Stake in Utah that came up with something to S.M.I.L.E. about. 2 Nephi 9:39, Jacob speaks of being "Spiritually Minded In Life Eternal". S.M.I.L.E. became a reminder to be happy by living the commandments.

We talked about what it means to be "spiritually minded" and how that leads to life eternal. President Hinckley states "Each of us, with discipline and effort, has the capacity to control his thoughts and his actions. This is part of the process of developing spiritual, physical and emotional maturity".

I'm trying to remember to be spiritually minded each time I see a smile and to share that goal with others by smiling.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Week in the Woods Book Club

To celebrate the completion of A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements, we did a simple orienteering activity. I learned I the little compass we were using wouldn't help much if we really need it to help us get anywhere. It has a 90 degree range of where North is. But we still had fun and my kiddos learned how big a foot is compared to a step.

It would be fun to get a more accurate compass, and set up a scavenger hunt using compass bearings to go from one point to another. We'll add it to the list of activities to try!

All of us in the book club enjoy the book. The one kiddo that doesn't choose to participate doesn't like it. The complaint is about the attitude of a couple of the main characters. One of the things I like about the book is that they make mistakes and how they deal with the mistakes. Besides the "moral" of the story, it has a good pace and holds kiddos attention.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Love Bingo

This is a take-off from the gift bingo we played at the bridal shower. I made a simple bingo card on Excel. Have everyone make their own bingo card by brainstorming "love" words like hugs, chocolate, hearts, etc. The free spot in the middle could be "free love". Write the words on little slips of paper and place in a small bowl. To play, draw the words out of the bowl one at a time. Conversation hearts or Valentine M&M's would be great markers. Every time someone gets a bingo, they can eat their row of markers!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

3-D Hearts

My sister-in-law showed us how to make these fun 3-D hearts. We have them hanging down from the stair railing. We had a few Valentine's decorations up, but now you see these cuties right as you walk in the door! So festive, and super easy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ground Hog Pudding Pops

Yesterday, I made my kiddos these fun pudding pops. Since they didn't have a stick, we ate them with forks. I found the idea at .

I accidentally bought mini Nilla Wafers (I didn't even know they came in more than one size!), so my guy's just peeking out of the dirt. They were yummy and a nice surprise for an uncelebrated holiday.

Fun fact! Did you know that the groundhog (aka woodchuck, marmot, whistle-pig or land beaver) is the largest member of the squirrel family?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Corn Muffin Follow Up

The wedding worked out and was successful, the bride now has a new last name!

I wasn't sure how far the muffins would go at the wedding, but there were plenty. We even brought about 30 of them home. We had them as part of brunch on Sunday and have been eating them for breakfast the last couple of days. I even put some back in the freezer to go with another meal.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bridal Shower

It sounded like quite a few more people than I originally thought were going to be at the bridal shower, so I decided to wrap the truffles individually. That was a good decision! We had a great turn out for the shower.

The bride and some of the younger ladies made the bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres. We played a fun Scattergory-type game that broke the ice for the bride and grooms families that hadn't met before that night. The crowd got a little competitive for the last game. Everyone was given blank bingo squares and had to fill in what gifts they thought the bride would receive. As the bride opened her gifts, the guests marked off a bingo square if they had filled it in on their game piece.


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