Sunday, December 02, 2012

Taraskiewiczville, in the County of Tschudy

It's hard to go shopping this time of year without seeing gingerbread house kits on every end cap. Being a lover of both sweet and crafts, Linda's been pretty excited about getting her hands on one of those kits. Last night she got together with our friends and their kids to not just put together a house - they built a village. Introducing Taraskiewiczville (in the county of Tschudy).

As you can see, this is a colorful land. Though there is only one color of house paint, the HOA doesn't care how you accessorize. 


Candy cane pillars and gum drop walkways - anything goes!


Now that Linda has one gingerbread village under her belt (literally - we already ate the buildings), she's ready to teach Butter Bean and Pudding Cup the fine are of cookie construction and edible embellishments.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn

I love playing around in the kitchen, and one of my favorite things to make is flavored popcorn. It started a few years ago when I had too many bags of candy and no desire to eat it. Instead, I melted it over popcorn. Since then I've been experimenting with different flavors. In preparation for my coffee party tomorrow, I decided to try something new - Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn.

My inspiration? Necco Mary Janes, half price after Halloween. I enlisted Linda to help out and got to work. First, opening all of those candies!

 

While Linda unwrapped, I popped - a cup of kernels (1/2 cup at a time in an air popper) into a roasting pan (I like to stock up on the foils at Thanksgiving, then I reuse them until I ruin them).


Next it's time to melt things - one stick of butter first, then the candies. I used an entire 16 oz. bag, but it was a lot. If you like your popcorn coated, use a whole bag. Otherwise I might suggest 8-12 oz.


Once everything is nice and smooth, pour your melty, peanut buttery goodness over the popcorn. Stir it well to coat. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan and turn upwards.


Popped, melted, and coated, it's time to bake - 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.


When the popcorn is done, spread it onto a strip of waxed paper to cool. While it's cooling, it's time to melt the chocolate. This was my first time adding chocolate to popcorn, so I had to guess. I started with a 4 oz. bar of semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate. Melt it with 2 tablespoons of butter (without the butter it won't be smooth enough to drizzle). It still wasn't as easy to drizzle as I'd like, but it worked.


Pour the melted chocolate over the popcorn. The Ghiradelli chocolate didn't set as well as I'd like, but it did it's job - a hint of yummy chocolate on top of chewy, peanut buttery popped corn.


This recipe takes a little while to make (because of the bake time), but it really is super easy and terribly scrumptious!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad

Can a determined roller coaster designer take a reluctant, no-nonsense widow on the ride of her life?
The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is four feet tall and six years old.

Widowed two years ago, Lilly left the shelter of her intrusive in-laws home to stand on her own and provide for her son,
Levi. She figures after a summer of working at the lake, she should have enough money for a place in the city where
she could get a job at the candy factory. When her interfering in-laws show up at the Midway diner where she’s
employed insisting her tent home at Lake Manawa is unsuitable, she is furious. They demand she allow Levi’s return
to their home. A verbal altercation ensues and a handsome stranger intercedes on her behalf.

The stranger, she soon learns, is the roller coaster designer, Nick Perrin. But Lilly is not about to get involved with any
man, especially a cocky rich man whose job requires him to travel the country. Charismatic Nick, however, is hard to
ignore.

Saving Levi pulls them together, but will Lilly let her fears tear them apart?  

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I read Lorn Seilstad's first book, Making Waves, when I agreed to review the book for her. When she came out with the next two books, A Great Catch and The Ride of Her Life, I couldn't wait to volunteer to review them for her - Seilstad quickly became one of my favorite historical romance writers.

Like her first two books, The Ride of Her Life introduces Lilly and Nick - endearing, flawed, engaging characters. Lilly and Levi quickly pull you into their lives. Then Nick pops in, capturing everyone's heart, including Lilly's. 

Seilstad's plot and setting wrap you up in their world, taking you on a fantastic, romantic adventure. A wonderful story.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Book Review (and Giveaway!): Firethorn, by Ronie Kendig

Nightshade leader Griffin Riddell is framed for murder. While he's in a max security facility, the rest of is team is attached and kidnapped. He doesn't know this until covert-op Kazi Faron, a tiny blonde gal, shows up and breaks him out of prison. As they work together, they discover a traitor, fall in love, fight to save each other , and the team.

This books was a little hard to follow because it's been so long since I read the first three books, and I've already given them away (so I couldn't look back for reference). There are a lot of characters, so I really had to focus to remember who was doing waht.

I had a hard time relating to Kazi, so I didn't quite understand her motives - her storyline reveal seemed a little anti-climactic.

HOWEVER ... Firethorn is a fitting conclusion to the Discarded Hero series. Kendig brought back all of the original characters for one more mission. Not only do you get to follow Griffin and Kazi and their personal adventure, you get to see the transformation of the team and characters from their first meeting to their final mission. It's more than just the thrill of watching Griffin and Kazi fight for and fall for each other - there's a joy in watching the team evolve as they learn more about each other and God.

Discarded Heroes is one of the best military series' I've read, and Firethorn doesn't disappoint.

Now - your chance to own and read Firethorn! I'll pick a winner in two weeks - leave your name and email address for your chance to win!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Samurai Saga: How to Make a 5 Year-Old Cry

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In case you didn't know it, the Power Rangers are still around. In my younger days they were the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Today, they're samurais. They still wear bright costumes, move their arms while talking, and beat small AND giant bad guys. They are also my niece's (Pudding Cup - PC) favorite new TV show.

A week ago PC Skyped me from her dad's iPod. It was a good time, but it was dragging on and PC was making me sick every time she flipped and flopped the iPod. Her dad had decided to nap on the couch, so I decided to plant a seed of annoyance in his daughter's head. My goal - get her to drive her parents crazy by asking for Kung Fu lessons.

During my Skype time with PC, I "called" a random phone number. Would you believe it was Kevin, the blue Power Ranger?? Turns out he lives in the SAME city as PC, and he said she could come visit whenever she wanted ... after she learned Kung Fu.

That night and into the next day, PC asked incessantly for Kung Fu lessons. She also wanted to call Kevin. And every time the phone rang she asked if it was Kevin. Then she dropped the bomb: "Mommy, will you miss me when I move into the samurai house?"

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Obviously I oversold the phone call. While asking for Kung Fu lessons would be funny, I didn't want to plague my sister with a child who wanted to drive through every neighborhood in a major US city in an attempt to find the samurai house. It was time for Kevin and the gang to get an emergency call out - to Oklahoma.

At 8 a.m. the next day I got the call. Hysterics. Sobbing. "Why did they have to MOVE?!? I'll never get to see them again!!" After assuring PC that her favorite super heroes would still be on TV, I switched to damage control. I didn't feel the least bit guilty about PC bugging my sister, but when the kid is so upset that she has to lay in her room to try to calm down enough so she can make it to the birthday party?? Aunt Karin needed to help.

Later that day PC assured me she was feeling better, and that night at dinner she told her grandparents the sad news about the move without shedding a tear. Because she held it together so well, I decided she needed a reward. On Tuesday evening, PC got a special Amazon package in the mail - two Samurai Power Ranger books! Kevin sent them to her because he felt bad about not getting to meet her; now she has two books to remember him by.

Aunt Karin has certainly learned her lesson.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Midgie Missed Me

I know family members shouldn't really have favorites, but at the Beery home sides have been taken. Bucket loves Matt, and Midgie loves me. Bucket will hang out with me if no one else is around, but as soon as Matt walks into the house I'm chopped liver.

Midgie, on the other hand, prefers me and me. While I was gone for two weeks she pretty much ignored Matt. When I got back, she started stalking me:

video

Even thought it sounds like she wants my attention, it's more than that. Midgie has decided that we have a "spot". She doesn't just want me to pet her - she wants me to follow her to "our spot". I wouldn't mind so much of we had a nice spot, a cozy or scenic or comfortable spot, but that's not the case.


This kitty likes the bathroom. Fabulous. Look at her - rolling around, purring, looking for some lovin'. She's just weird (she is, after all, a Beery).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Speak Up - VOTE! (MI residents only - sorry!)

It's that time of year again, folks. Time to vote!

The Michigan Primary is right around the corner, and it's time to do your homework and cast an informed vote. If you're not sure what's on the ballot, don't worry. I'm here to help. The first thing you need to do is figure out what the heck is on the ballot, so visit the Michigan Voter Information Center (click here).

You just need to enter your name, birth year, and zip code, then you'll get a look at your local ballot. Since this is the presidential primary, you may only have a list of presidential candidates (most other issues will wait until November).

I'll admit, I was a little confused when I went to the MVIC link - the first two Republican candidates noted have officially withdrawn from the election, but are still listed. Um, okay. And if you're unclear as to why there's only one candidate noted on the Democratic side, please contact your local high school government teacher.

The Michigan Primary is February 28, so MAKE TIME TO VOTE! And if you're not in Michigan, make sure you know when you're supposed to vote - it's your chance to make a difference1

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review (and Giveaway): Replication by Jill Williamson

Someone is covering up multiple secrets…


Martyr—otherwise known as Jason 3:3—is one of fifty Jasons kept in a remote underground facility. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to “expire” in less than a month - to see the sky.

Abby Goyer just moved to Alaska, and she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up in her room asking about the stars.

As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures—the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have.
-------------

I love Williamson's Blood of Kings fantasy, so I jumped at the chance to review her new book, Replication. Yes, it's a young adult book written about cloning (not my particular cup of tea), but that doesn't matter when the author is as talented as Williamson.

I started the book with the plan to read it over the course of a week or two, but I couldn't put it down. The story pulls you right in, right into the lives of Marty and Abby. You do have to suspend some level of rationalization to believe that for some reason a high school junior can outsmart a bunch of scientists, but isn't that what fiction is all about?

If you or a young adult near you enjoys sci-fi, you'll love this book. In fact, it's so much fun that I'm going to help you enjoy it - I'm going to give you my copy! Leave me a comment and with your name and email address for your chance to win! I'll pick a winner at the end of the month - good luck!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mega-Meal Monday

I got this cool menu board from my sister for Christmas. It's been a lot of fun, but I'll be honest - I don't actually cook the meals on the days that they're scheduled. I tend to fix everything in two days. This week, I went for Sunday and Monday. I've dubbed today Mega-Meal Monday. I wasn't actually planning on making such gigantic meals. It just happened. Here's how things worked tonight.

It started with a box of soup.

As you can see by the price tag, I got a good deal on this quart of soup. It's a yummy, sweet soup, but it's not very filling. I could eat the whole quart and still want to eat. The pretty picture on the cover gave me an idea. I chopped up some onions and bell peppers, sauteed them with some garlic, then browned a pound of ground beef. Toss in a few hands full of spinach, some salt and pepper to taste, and viola!



This is quite possibly one of the tastiest soups I've ever made. I just wish I'd measured everything out so I could duplicate it. (I'm sure I can make it close enough)

Even though the pan is huge, it won't feed Matt and I all week, so I had to whip up something else. Matt's two favorite things in the world are macaroni and cheese and tacos. My mom turned us on to this casserole, which I, of course, have modified.


A couple of boxes of Annie's organic mac & cheese, one pound taco meat, some of the sauteed onions/garlic/peppers, a handful of shredded taco cheese, 1/2 jar of salsa. Mix. Bake. Magic!

Just look at that ooey, gooey, greasy goodness. I think I'll let Matt eat the bulk of this one. 


Between the two meals, we'll be full all week. Bon appetite!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Book Review: Mind Over Madi by Lynda Schab

Madi McCall admits her husband lacks a little in the romance department, but all in all, he’s been a good husband, a good father. Now, though, she suspects Rich is having an af  air with Fawn Witchburn, the mother of one of his fourth-grade students. To say Fawn shows of   her “assets” more than should be legally allowed in public is an understatement, and Madi’s insecurities kick into high gear. When, in a heated moment, she asks Rich to leave and he complies, Madi is forced to deal with her issues. Issues of love and trust she’s tried so hard to avoid. Issues that trail all the way back to her childhood and make her act like a total moron.


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Mind Over Madi is the debut novel of my on-line friend Lynda Lee Schab. This book touches on a sore spot for many women today - the insecurities that come from living in a world focused on appearance. Madi not only struggles with her insecurities, but also with the crazy way she acts while trying to deal with her issues. Can she figure it out in time to save her marriage? Take a peek and find out!


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LYNDA LEE SCHAB got her writing start in greeting cards  (Blue Mountain Arts, Dayspring)  and from there  went on to write  articles and short stories (Mature Living, Christian Home &  School)  and in many places online (including www.Examiner.com and  www.wow-womenonwriting.com), but  her passion has always been fiction.  

Mind Over Madi, her debut novel, is near and dear to her heart.  Lynda admits  she has a lot in 
common with  the character of Madi. Not only are they both  addicted to ice cream, chocolate, and computer games,  they  struggle with the same types of insecurities and continually require a hefty dose of God’s grace. 

Lynda works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com and is a member of ACFW. She is a regular book reviewer for FaithfulReader.com and is the Grand Rapids Christian Fiction Examiner and the National Writing Examiner for Examiner.com.  Mind Over Madi  received Runner-up in the 2007 FaithWriters Page Turner contest, was a finalist in the 2007 RWA Get your Stiletto in the Door contest, and won second place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest, Chick Lit category. Lynda lives with her husband, Rob, and two teenagers in Michigan

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Is it a cold, or is it the flu?

Well, I didn't make it past Christmas without coming down with a cold. I debated whether or not I should go to work. I mean, I didn't feel great, but I can't stay home every day I'm not feeling 100%. Since there weren't many people in the office, I risked it. Then I came home and opened my latest copy of Fitness Magazine. 

Guess what I found?

This chart (see below). Just tell it your symptoms and it will help you determine whether or not your fighting the flu or just a cold. I figured this is a good time of the year to share it.


(And if you've never used a Neti Pot, GET ONE! I used it daily when I was sick and made the cold so much more bareable!)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Isaiah 12 - for 2012

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In case you haven't figured it out, I believe in God. Even more than that, I believe that the Bible is His word, it is truth, and if anyone will accept it as such, God will not only save you, but guide you through every step of your life. That doesn't mean life is easy and nothing bad will ever happen, but God will always be there. He just loves us all that much.

I like to talk to God, too. I call it prayer. Not the kind of praying most people do (Dear God, I need this and this and this. Thanks.), but an actual conversation. I pour my heart out, then I listen.

Each year on December 31, I ask God about the coming year: how can I prepare? This year I didn't have to ask. I didn't even have to wait until New Year's Eve! Friday night at church, God showed me a few things about 2012 and my life.

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1. Twelve. That's an important number this year. I'm not sure why, but it is. Twelve is the perfect number, signifying perfection of government, or of governmental perfect. It also reappears in the Old and New Testaments on multiple occasions: 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles, 12 gates of heaven guarded by 12 angels. I don't yet know why 12 is important this year, but it is.

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2. Isaiah 12. I don't read Isaiah very often. I tend to think of that book as containing long chapters of prophecy or woe that my brain doesn't wrap around very easily. I couldn't shake the feeling, however, that I needed to read Isaiah 12. Wow. I've decided to adopt this chapter for the year. I've been obsessing over music and worship for the past few weeks. I know that reading this chapter wasn't just coincidence.

Isaiah 12 (NLT)
In that day you will sing; "I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me.
See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory."

With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
In that wonderful day you will sin: "Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make know his praise around the world.
Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy!
For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you."

That's what 2012 has in store for me. I'm excited to see how this year plays out. I pray that you'll see God's plan for you in the new year, too.