Crafts · DIY · Holidays

4th of July “Wreath”


I’ve had this stack of metal stars for quite a few years now and it is always a pain to hang them for the holiday because they require five of those “removable” hooks to be attached to my front door for Memorial Day and then again on Independence Day.  I was looking for a way to hang them all together when I found a piece of scrap wood in my shed.


I applied two coats of white paint.

Then I attached two small eye hooks to the back and strung several layers of wire that I also found in the shed.IMG_6613

I arranged the stars on the white background and then used tiny nails to hang them.

Now I can hang all my stars at once and I don’t have to fight with those “removable” hooks.  I think it turned out pretty well.


Family · Holidays

Solar Eclipse 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017 was the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since February 26, 1979.  Although I was only 7 at the time, I still remember it.  Our whole elementary school made shoe box viewers and we all stood out on the playground to watch the eclipse.  It was a day I’ll never forget.


This year Dave and I were so excited that our girls were going to get to experience the same phenomenon.  And living here in Arkansas I was anticipating viewing a closer to total eclipse (93%) than I had in Indiana back in 1979 (we only experienced about 80% coverage).  The girls were starting their second week back at school and we assumed that the school had made proper preparations for this historic event.  We thought WRONG!  The Thursday before the eclipse we got an automated phone call from the superintendent of our school system stating that due to “safety concerns,” they were keeping all students inside school buildings during the hours of the eclipse and the children would be able to watch it “live” on NASA TV.  (Not live in Arkansas, live in Oregon and South Carolina and wherever else NASA had cameras, but not live like we would see it here).  We were flabbergasted. It turns out that the school had ordered viewing glasses but they were now unsure of the safety of their purchase.  So their solution was that nobody would get to view the eclipse in person.  I understand their concern for the safety of the children but this was an event that hadn’t occurred in 38 years and I wanted my children to have the opportunity to experience it first-hand.

Needless to say, my husband and I made a mad scramble to try to acquire viewing glasses.  We weren’t going to let our girls miss witnessing this historic event first hand, but everyone was sold out.  Dave’s mom came to our rescue, overnighting us three pairs of glasses on Saturday from Colorado!  Thank you Nana!  We gave one pair to my mom, who shared them with her whole neighborhood so everyone could get a glimpse of this monumental moment.  We picked the girls up early from school and the four of us shared the other two pairs of glasses.  We laid on the lawn in our backyard and watched the sun move across the sky as the moon crossed in front of it.  Once the sun was 93% covered by the moon, the sliver of the sun at the bottom that wasn’t covered seemed to rotate around the right side of the moon until it reached the top and then the moon slowly passed completely off the sun.

During the eclipse we even tried some other methods of viewing the event.  Peyton made a simple “pinhole” viewer by punching a hole in a piece of cardboard with an ice pick. When she held it up above her shoulder with her back to the sun it projected a crescent-shaped light on the shadows on a dark t-shirt that we used for a background.  The side and shape of the crescent changed as the moon moved across the sun.

Someone on the radio had suggested using a colander in the same manner as Peyton’s pinhole viewer.  It took a little while to get the angle and distance right but then we were rewarded with a whole “colander-full” of tiny crescent “lights” reflected on the dark background.

The trees shading our swimming pool even made crescent-shaped shadows on the pool and pool deck.

Peyton’s words:  “The Solar Eclipse was awesome. It got dark and kind of chilly. It was a great experience because I wouldn’t want to watch it on TV. That would be lame. We got 95% covered and we could only see a sliver of the sun and we watched the sliver move to the right side of the sun and then the moon slowly slid off the sun and when the sun was 1/2 covered with the glasses it was an orange circle that looked like someone took a bite out of it.”

Presley’s words:  “The moon resembled a cookie with bites being taken out of it, kind of like Cookie Monster ate the sun.  I thought it sort of looked like a moon on Halloween, all orange and scary.  We got to lay down on the lawn and watch it with our safety glasses on.  I hope when I am older, I remember this awesome event and get to tell my children all about it. It got eerily dark and looked almost like when you dim the darkness on your phone.  I can’t wait to tell my friends about what I saw since they had to watch it on TV, which wasn’t even the one happening here, it was just NASA talking about the eclipse and showing it from different parts of the United States.  It was a really cool scientific and historical event, since the last eclipse on North America was in 1979.”

It was a wonderful experience to share with my family and I’m sure none of us will ever forget it.  Maybe I should be grateful that the school’s plans fell apart.  If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have gotten to share this moment with my girls.

Family · Food · Holidays

Happy National Waffle Day

The girls enjoyed celebrating National Waffle Day this morning before school. I’ll admit I used frozen waffles but they thought their creations were great!

Peyton decided on blueberry syrup (blueberry jam melted in the microwave) and fresh blueberries on top.

Presley opted for strawberry syrup (strawberry jam melted in the microwave), fresh strawberries, and whipped cream.

Last year we celebrated with fresh peach waffles (since it is also National Peach Pie Day) and chicken and waffles for dinner.

What do you like on top of your waffles?

Family · Food · Holidays

Tomorrow is National Waffle Day

Tomorrow is National Waffle Day and while they’re not pancakes, they’re pretty close.  Here are some pictures of Presley with her latest waffle creation from our recent stay at her favorite “breakfast is included” hotel to inspire you.

A freshly prepared waffle topped with whipped cream, crushed Butterfinger candy bars, and chocolate syrup.  I know it’s not exactly healthy but it is beautiful and Presley proclaimed it, “Delicious!”

We hope you enjoy celebrating National Waffle Day as much as we will.  Since it’s a school day we’ll be using those popular frozen toaster waffles, but I’m sure we’ll come up with some interesting toppings! 

DIY · Family · Food · Holidays · Party Ideas

The Amazing “Grill” Cake

This post is for all of you who were wondering how to create that realistic grill cake from Peyton’s ninth birthday party. Many of you have told me that you shared photos of the cake with your friends and coworkers who asked questions like, “Is that plastic food on top of that cake?” Or “What is on top of that cake?” Or “Where did she get that fake food for the top of the cake?” You all seemed as proud as I was to tell them that everything thing on the cake (aside from the grill rack) was homemade, entirely edible, and delicious (except maybe the “hot dogs”). So I thought I’d take a minute to explain the construction of this “amazing” cake. The Food Network site provided a video and recipe for building this cake, which you can see here, but I went “off the reservation” a little with some of my ingredients.

The recipe called for burgers made with Cocoa Rice Krispies, marshmallows, and melted chocolate chips. I simply followed the traditional Rice Krispie treat recipe and substituted Cocoa Krispies. Then I scooped up balls with an ice cream scoop and shaped them into patties with greased hands (I had to re-spray my hands with cooking spray several times during this process). I laid the patties on greased parchment paper to set up. The recipe called for using yellow fruit leather for the “cheese” on the burger. Of course I couldn’t find any fruit leather in solid yellow, so I kneaded one yellow and one orange Starburst candy together and then rolled it out into a square to make the cheese.

The corn on the cob that the Food Network people wanted us to make was an extremely complicated project consisting of cutting the ends off of a Twinkie and then covering it with vanilla frosting and rows of yellow and white jelly beans. It was beautiful but time consuming and I knew that I wanted to provide a grill full of “food” so the kids wouldn’t fight over what was on top of the cake. There was no way I was making more than one of those ears of corn. It was time to improvise! I found a package of puffed rice rolls (think corn on the cob shaped rice cakes) at the local dollar store. They almost looked like ears of corn just as they were but I wasn’t satisfied. I cut them in half to make more than a dozen mini corn on the cobs. Then I melted yellow candy melts and rolled the cobs in them. A skewer through the middle finished them off.

Next came the difficult task of making a realistic looking hot dog out of candy. Those helpful people at Food Network suggested using 2 caramels and one piece of pink salt water taffy kneaded together and shaped into a hot dog. You guessed it, I couldn’t find any salt water taffy. I tried to mix red gel food coloring into caramels, but the longer the finished hot dogs sat the flatter they became (and the red food coloring rubbed off on your hands!). Time to try again and I didn’t have to look any farther than that bag of Starburst that I bought to make “cheese.” One cherry Starburst and 2 caramels produced a very realistic looking hot dog. I added a few grill marks with an edible marker and we were good to go. I’ll admit that the taste was a little strange but they looked perfect!



The vegetable kebabs were the easiest to replicate. I simply halved gummy fruit slices, dipped the cut ends in sugar, and alternated them with round cherry sour balls on bamboo skewers.




The cake itself was a simple two layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The “coals” were simply a 7″ circle of mini marshmallows broiled in the oven. Two important pieces of advice here: First, Food Network said to arrange marshmallows on a greased teflon baking mat (which of course I don’t own). Second, they said to let the marshmallows cool completely before removing the circle from the baking mat. As I said I don’t own a baking mat so I used non-stick aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray. It seemed to work just fine until I tried to remove the foil (after cooling completely). The marshmallows refused to let go of the foil. What was I going to do now? It was 2 hours before the party and of course I didn’t have a backup plan. In a last ditch effort I placed the baking sheet in the freezer. Fifteen minutes later the marshmallows popped right off the foil. Hooray!! I placed the marshmallow circle on the frosted cake, sprinkled on some crushed hard cherry candies, and placed the grill on top.

I arranged the “cheeseburger ,” “hot dogs,” “corn-on-the-cob,” and “vegetable skewers” on the grill and the cake was complete. I filled a small camping stove with the extra faux food and we were ready for the party. The kids ate the entire cake and all the faux food (except a few of those strange tasting hot dogs) so I guess it was a success! My take on the corn on the cob and the cheeseburgers were the crowd favorites.

Crafts · DIY · Food · Holidays · Party Ideas

Birthday Party at Camp Peyton


Another successful birthday party is all “wrapped up!”  I swear I make it harder on myself every year.  By now people expect a lot out of my girls’ birthday celebrations and I feel a need to outdo myself each year.  This year Peyton had difficulty choosing a theme for her party, which is of course the first step for a successful gala.  We entertained several ideas and finally settled on a “Camping by the Lake” theme for her pool party.  I thought it would be simple:  put up a tent, float some boats on the “lake” (swimming pool), and come up with a suitably themed cake.  Of course, it wasn’t simple.  The tent that I’d imagined  (an old Army tent like the ones I’d slept in at summer camp) was impossible to find.  All that I could find were white catering tents.  And we couldn’t decide on a cake:  a giant s’more, a campfire, or similarly themed cupcakes?  Also, I wanted to build a “dock” at one end of he pool to tie up the boats and my husband was dutifully ignoring my requests.  It looked like this year’s party was going to be seriously lacking,  when it finally all fell into place.  First my mother-in-law sent me an awesome cake idea off of Food Network. It was a grill topped with “hot dogs,” “cheeseburgers,” “vegetable kebabs,” and “corn on the cob” made out of candy.  I thought she was a little over-confident in my abilities, but Peyton fell in love with the idea so off we went: trying to figure out how to make hot dogs out of caramels,  corn on the cob out of Twinkies (we didn’t), and cheeseburgers out of Cocoa Krispie cereal and Starburst.

I finally came up with a workable dock design made out of old deck pieces,


realized I didn’t need a tent because I own a camper,

built a campfire pit,


and managed to pull off the cake.


We also made a “Camp Peyton” sign and wreath.  Aren’t we crafty?

For party snacks we filled a tackle box with gummie worms,


cut up watermelon, and made a grill full of faux cheeseburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and veggie skewers.

IMG_6698 The party was big success and of course I’ve set the bar even higher for the next birthday.

Family · Food · Holidays

Independence Day Pancakes

Yes!  There will be pancakes!  Independence Day pancakes that is.  We made these fun star-shaped pancakes this morning to celebrate July 4th.  We used a squeeze bottle to draw the stars with pancake batter, then topped them with red (strawberry jelly), white (whipped cream), and blue (blueberry compote).  They were delicious and really got us into the holiday spirit! IMG_7136