A Football Fan Giveaway from XFINITY

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My love for football is well established. Sundays, I am often camped out in our family room with the big screen tuned to the Colts game and the smaller screen tuned to the Bears game. My family doesn’t mind as long as I fold the laundry while I watch. XFINITY also loves football and football fans. They sent me their ultimate game watching supplies and an extra fan pack to giveaway to one of my readers!

  • Football Fan GiveawayFootball Stress Ball because being a Bears fan hasn’t been very exciting this season. As a bonus, it is small and soft enough to throw at the tv when the refs make a bad call for those of you who might be so tempted. I haven’t tried it myself, no really, I haven’t!
  • Team Color Snacks I loved the local Just Pop In Colts Blue popcorn and you will too. XFINITY suggests keeping snacks on hand, so you never miss an important play.
  • Koozie to keep your favorite beverage cold – if you like beverages that come in bottles – because games are long
  • Remote What would you do without being able to back to see that touch down again or switch channels to check out the other games on commercials? XFINITY is giving away remotes branded with your favorite Hoosier teams: Colts, IU, and Purdue. To get one you just have to sign up for SurePrice Double Play or higher. Or just enter the contest below. You can also enter at Chaos Is Bliss.

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Crockpot Applesauce Recipe

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Happy Fall Y’all! While I love Autumn, I never hurry the end of Summer with it’s sunshine and warm days. I relish football and boots and sweaters and hot drinks and leaves and especially Halloween, but I don’t look forward to the cold and snow of Winter. Decorating for Halloween started to get me in the spirit, but last weekend I really got into the spirit of the season.

picking apples

After visiting The Children’s Museum Guild’s annual haunted house, we braved the misty weather to visit Tuttle Orchard and pick some apples.  Actually, we picked a lot of apples – filling two wagons. I made an apple pie and some apple chips, and EW has been eating apples like they are going out of style, but most of the apples will be turned into applesauce which we will stock our freezer with for the year. I already have lots of blueberries in the freezer; this weekend, I also loaded it with a quarter hog and six large jars of butternut squash soup (my two squashes were so large I had to add a lot of broth and milk). I guess part of Fall is preparing for hibernation.

Crockpot Applesauce

Makes 5-6 jars which can be frozen

  1. Peel as many apples as you need to fill your crockpot (or less if you don’t want to make so much)
  2. Sprinkle in cinnamon and nutmeg – approximately 1T cinnamon and 1t nutmeg
  3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours, depending on how chunky you might want it
  4. Enjoy your applesauce warm or jar and freeze. Defrost frozen applesauce in the refrigerator.

Haunted House Decoration Ideas from The Children’s Museum

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creepy carnival sign

Of course, decorating for Christmas is always special and full of magic and memories, but decorating for Halloween is probably my second favorite. Not everyone wants a skeleton hanging from their chandelier, but I love it! I was pretty excited to find some easy crafts that anyone could use to decorate their own home or a haunted house when previewing The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House: Creepy Carnival. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis does such a great job decorating for holidays, but many of their fabulous decorations would be difficult to reproduce.

spooky light table clothes

I may have to borrow the idea of hanging a spooky table cloth over lights for my family room. I really like the look of this one, but I like the rough edges on the ones the Museum Guild Witches used. pool noodle haunted house maze

What can’t you do with pool noodles? Hang several from the ceiling and you have a disorienting maze to push through.

Creepy Carnival

“Creepy Carnival is the perfect combination of creepy and colorful. We are excited about staying true to an ‘old time’ authentic carnival and offering a thrilling and chilling experience for children of all ages,” said Haunted House Head Witch Kristin Crisp. There are three ways to enjoy the Creep Carnival:

  1. IPL’s LIghts-On Hours for children who scare easily
  2. Defender Direct’s Frightening Hours with the lights off for children who dare to be scared
  3. William’s Comfort Air’s Xtreme Scream late nights for teens, adult, and brave tweens.

creepy carnival photo booth

Get times and ticket information here. Don’t forget to check out Bat Encounter when visiting the museum. You might want to sign up for the Black Hat Bash or Black Hat Dash too. The Children’s Museum is offering so many ways to get your kids in on the fun and frights of Halloween.

 

My family and I were invited to a free preview of The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House.

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Red, White, and Blueberry Recipes

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I love blueberries. Every year, we visit Driving Wind Blueberry Farm and pick enough blueberries to fill our freezer for the year.

blueberry farm

The ability to sneak a few in their mouth rather than the bucket helps keep the kiddos from getting distracted.

boy picking blueberries

Since July is peak blueberry season, the Fourth of July is often a great day for picking.

toddler picking blueberries

We had to Driving Wind first thing in the morning and pick berries until we are hot, sweaty, and we have filled several buckets. While I freeze a lot of berries, I also like to use a lot of them fresh. It is tradition to make Red, White, and Blue Burgers. The recipe was originally inspired by this one at Diets In Review, but I have made some slight alterations.

 

Red White and Blueberry burgers on lettuce

Red, White, and Blue Burgers

  • Cut the top off a couple of red peppers, remove the seeds, and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees.
  • While that is cooking, make burgers in a cast iron skillet. Use whatever spice mixture you prefer. I like garlic, onion powder, cumin, and a pinch of ginger.
  • Simmer blueberries in a sauce pan over medium heat until they start to pop and juices bubble. You can have plain blueberry sauce without adding anything else, thicken it with corn starch, add a bit of sugar or honey, or make the blueberry balsamic reduction sauce. The blueberry balsamic reduction sauce is wonderful, but I tried it without the vinegar when detoxing from potential allergens. Rather than the truvia suggested at Diets In Review, we use either honey or organic coconut palm sugar. For six ounces of blueberries, add up to a Tablespoon of sweetener, and 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar.
  • When the red peppers are roasted, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool until you can cut them into slices large enough for the burger to fit inside.

red pepper and knife

  • Rather than feta, I use goat cheese, which doesn’t bother my dairy allergy. One way to control the crumbles is to put them in a red pepper slice and put the burger on top.
  • I wrap mine in lettuce, but toast or buns will also work well.
  • When it is all constructed, drizzle the blueberry sauce on top and enjoy!

It is a bit labor intensive for burgers, but they are scrumptious and such a great patriotic dish. I serve it with home made fries and whatever other vegetable we happen to have on hand.

HPG Blueberry Salsa

Later in the day, we might snack on blueberry salsa and tortilla chips or white bean Beanitos (my personal favorite). Blueberry salsa is made with chopped blueberries, red pepper, onion, poblano pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and sea salt.

 

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Ninjago Birthday Party Favors

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I simply had to make the kids ninja headbands when I saw a pin from (I)(L)ove(D)oing(A)ll(T)hings(C)rafty. The (free) birthday printable is from eighteen25 and something we use over and over. ninja head band party favors

To prep your own ninja head bands, order some 1.5″ satin craft ribbon (I ordered ribbon that was too wide the first time) and print out the names of all of the party guests in 80 point Chinese Takeaway font. I had plenty of extra ribbon on hand for head bands for the adults as well. Ninja headbands

Tape the pages to a window, tape a strip of ribbon (approximately 36″ long) over the name, and trace with a fine point Sharpie pen. This has to be done during daylight hours, so I did it mostly on weekends and saved my origami throwing star folding for after bedtime. ninja head band on baby Aren’t these ninja head bands adorable?!? Almost as cute as Designhermomma’s Baby Paul

Ninjago green ninja favor bags

In addition to the head bands, I sent everyone home with fortune cookies. You can get these green bags here and the free printable Ninjago green ninja favor tags at our homemade happiness.

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Ninjago Birthday Party Activities

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Activities are Essential at a children’s birthday party. Even with several things plotted, I still clearly needed more. Heather once put on a movie while the children ate which I should have learned from. I am generally opposed to watching and eating, but it probably would have rounded things out perfectly.

origami ninja stars

One thing I did learn from Heather is to start out with a craft to keep the kids busy until everyone arrives. I folded close to 60 origami ninja stars for kids to decorate using the directions from Basic Gray. Simply coloring them probably was not intricate enough to keep them busy as long as I would have preferred. My tip is to use printer paper, cut half an inch from the long side to make the paper 8″x11″ then cut two inch strips across the paper in landscape, giving you five 2″x8″ strips per page (you will have an 1″x8″ strip left over). You need two strips for each star, so I cut two pages at a time.

ninja star toss

After decorating their ninja stars the kids got to practice throwing them (into a bucket). Since they were made out of printer paper, it was not an easy task. They each tried several times.

Ninja obstacle courseNext was the ninja obstacle course. My brother taped crepe paper strips for the kids to crawl over and under. It was the perfect time to remind the kids that ninjas are stealthy and silent. They each took several turns before it all came down. 
birthday boy ninja photo booth

Next, we posed with the ninja photo booth using the Ninjago golden weapons props, signs, and Sensei Wu’s beard. I don’t really have the set up to print out photos for the kids as party favors which would have been super fun, but I did share all of the photos with their parents. I hope the kids love them as much as I do. I mean, how cute are these kids?!

Ninjago photo booth

I also challenged the kids to chopstick races, picking up as many beans as they could with chopsticks in 30 seconds. My phone was busy with the timer, so I didn’t snap any photos. I got everyone their own bamboo chopsticks as another favor, but they were too difficult for the kids so I got out the dinosticks for the races. birthday party plates

Finally, it was time to eat all of the party food! I didn’t have enough chairs, so I had them sit on the floor. This would have been the perfect time to show an episode or two of Ninjago.

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A Reason To Party Every Day

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When I first set up my blog, I wrote this for my “About” page:

I love a good theme party. Pinterest is the platform I have been waiting for my entire life. Perhaps I should have been a Kindergarten teacher (I was an aide briefly)… I see celebration as an important part of life and fun as important to staying sane. We try to decorate and celebrate as many holidays as we can. Documenting our theme parties and the crafts I attempt (I have no skill) will only make it more fun for me.

While I don’t blog nearly enough, you know that we celebrate everything from Cinco de Mayo to half birthdays to house-warmings. We even have birthday parties for the dog and make special treats for visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I haven’t gotten around to blogging the “primavera” I made for the first day of Spring, the pie we ate on Pi Day or even our celebration of the Ides of March. A lot of these “smaller” holidays may simply be focused on what we eat, but we still find a way to celebrate. For Mardi Gras I make king cake and we eat creole from our favorite Yats; but my son’s school taught him that we also need to have pancake races and lots of lots of beads. Luckily, they hurt less when you step on them than Lego’s do.

Recently, I was invited to beta test a new app from Studio 27 called Allidays, described on iTunes with:

Turn a boring day into a celebration with a holiday for all your days. Allidays features fun and quirky holidays every day of the year, with options to share your favorites with friends or add an event to your personal calendar.

I now have Waffle Day added to my calendar. We had chicken for dinner on poultry day, and an early morning text from a friend on Single Parents Day was lovely. I haven’t told my son that March 23rd is National Chip and Dip Day, but he is going to be THRILLED. I truly do believe that celebration is an important part of life and fun is important to staying sane. I am looking forward to adding more holidays and celebrations to our calendar with the help of Allidays.

You can download Allidays for FREE on iTunes. I would love if you used it to tweet me some of your favorites and we can celebrate together. Let’s make every day special with Allidays!

I was provided a pre-release version of Allidays for testing purposes. All opinions on life, apps, celebrations, and parties are my own.

Vegan Irish Cream and Cooked Cabbage Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day

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vegan irish cream recipe

We are not vegan, but we are dairy-free. My original Irish Cream recipe - before I discovered a dairy allergy – called for whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. While you can get evaporated goat milk, I wanted to see what I could do with (canned) coconut milk. While this recipe may continue to be tweaked, but as I sip it right now I feel confident enough to serve it to friends. My original Irish Cream recipe, I bottled and gave as gifts on several occasions. I am definitely not forgetting that recipe.

My first attempt at creating my own Irish Cream recipe, I added more chocolate. My morning coffee was more mocha than creamy or Irish, so I tried again. That one could have been called “Black Irish” Cream. Here is what you will need for something closer to the traditional:

irish cream ingredients

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (I prefer this brand in BPA free cans)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (I use organic coconut palm sugar which does add a slight carmel-y flavor)
  • 1/3 cup extra strong coffee (or espresso)
  • 1 teaspoon of chocolate powder
  • 1 Tablespoon approximately of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons approximately of almond extract (this intensifies sweetness)
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of Irish whiskey

Start by brewing your coffee. I used double the amount of beans and let it steep a bit longer. I brewed a full pot and can just add hot water to it before mixing in my Irish Cream in the morning.

Heat the coconut milk in a medium to large sauce pan over medium low heat. The key here is to melt the sugar not to boil the milk, stirring in the sugar until it is well combined. Reduce heat to low and add the chocolate powder. I prefer to combine all of this with a whisk rather than a spatula.

Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients – vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon, and whiskey.

Serve over ice or with your morning coffee. The coffee is fairly strong, so I would not consume this too late in the day or you may have trouble sleeping. Store it in the refrigerator; you will likely need to shake or stir gently before pouring.

Irish Cream recipe

We have our corned beef resting. I will add potatoes, carrots, and onions, cooking it in the slow cooker. Of course, it will be served with cabbage. Our favorite cabbage recipe is below.

  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-4 Tablespoons bacon lard
  • salt
  • red pepper flakes

Cut the cabbage and let rest for at least thirty minutes in a colander with salt. Squeeze excess ager from the cabbage. Melt lard in a pan and cook onion until soft. Add cabbage and cook until soft (there is no perfect level of done – it depends on what your family prefers). I like to season with red pepper flakes. My son used to be sensitive to spicy, so I sometimes leave those out. It is easy, healthy, and yummy.

What will YOU be serving on St. Patrick’s Day?

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Lego Brick Bunting, Ninjago Decorations, and What Was Missing

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While the Sugar High Sushi was probably my favorite part of this party, the Lego brick banner was a close second. I saw lots of cute Ninjago bunting ideas on Pinterest, but I wanted to work the Lego part of Ninjago in a bit more. Delia Creates has the perfect free printable Lego bumps and lots of other cute Lego ideas. I took her printable, turned it landscape (without auto-rotate) and printed at 137% to create two 3×4 Lego bricks per 8.5″x11″ page.

lego block buntingI then printed my letters in 300 point Chinese takeaway font, cut them out, and applied them to my Lego blocks with pop dots just like I did for the antique book bunting. This, like all the other banners I have created, now hangs in the birthday child’s bedroom.

Lego block Ninjago birthday buntingWe re-used lots of dragons from Chinese New Year, like this guy with the bamboo sticks and gold pipe cleaners left over from New Years Eve, and Lego dragons from the old castle sets.

bamboo and drago

The giant Lego brick back drop is made from disposable table clothes and paper plates, although I would have used Delia Create’s Lego bumps again if I had papers in the right shades. The nunchucks hanging from the chandelier were an impulse buy at Dollar Tree which basically became yet another gift for my son along with the Ninjago Green Ninja t-shirt we spotted while picking up last minute party supplies. giant lego block back drop

The balloons (weighted by ball jars filled with Legos) would have had Ninjago eyes if I hadn’t run out of time. There was also a “7″ candle and a tall jar filled with Legos ala this first birthday party centerpiece, but it showed up (with my parents who were filling it) right as the party started and I didn’t grab a photo. Of course the birthday party wreath was hanging on the door to welcome our guests. You could use the same font to add your child’s initial just like we did for the Mario birthday party.

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Candy Sushi and Ninjago Party Food

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My favorite part of this party was the “Sugar High Sushi” made from Rice Krispie treats, fruit leather, and candy. Rice Krispie treats remind me of my grandmother. I have her recipe in her handwriting framed and hanging in my kitchen right by my stove – which was handy as I was making so many batches after midnight the night before the party.

bulk rice krispies

I ordered the Gluten Free Rice Krispies and mini marshmallows in bulk from Amazon. I used three entire boxes of Rice Krispies and part of the fourth. We only had a few left over pieces and they were all gone by the next morning. Rather than pushing the Rice Krispies, marshmallows, and butter into a pan, I created rolls in parchment paper, dividing each batch into 2-3 rolls, depending on how large you want your sushi pieces.

candy sushi cutting guideOnce the Rice Krispie treat logs were solid, I cut them into pieces using a serrated knife. The ends looked more like the oval rice rolls used to make nigiri, and they laid nicely when cut in half to give a flat edge. Then it was time to make them look like sushi.

sugar high sushi

Obviously Swedish Fish were an important staple. I tied some fish on using Strawberry rope candy (warning: this is not gluten free). I used the darkest fruit leather I could find (since dried seaweed is black) rather than trying for a neon green. To make the fruit leather stick (even though it is a little sticky), it has to be heated. I kept a tray in my oven set to warm while working. I tore the pieces into the size I wanted, then pressed them onto the Rice Krispee treats.  candy sushi close upTo create candy caviar, I tried to make paleo (blueberry) gum drops, but I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency, so I rolled some of the extra mini marshmallows in black food dye. 
candy sushi

There were at least two additional trays of Sugar High Sushi – it was popular stuff! If you notice, in the bottom right hand corner, though, after several hours the red ropes untied as they dried out.  Ninjago Green Ninja cake with fondantHeather has decorated some amazing cakes for us (John Deere Two and Half a Death Star) but I kind of like working in fondant. I use the recipe from A Spicy Perspective that consists of a package of melted mini marshmallows, a package of powdered sugar, shortening or butter to keep things from sticking, a bit of almond extract (my preference), and a bit of water. I free-handed all of this to create the Green Ninja from Ninjago per the birthday boy’s request.

One batch was enough to create two Green Ninja cakes and decorate three cupcakes for one of my favorite birthday traditions – a special cupcake with candles. We even do it for adults. There was even still enough fondant left over for me to snack on all day the next day – yum.

birthday cupcake 7I did also use the paleo gum drop recipe to make mango Lego mini figures using this mold, but I forgot them in the freezer… We served Golden Dragon Scales (tortilla chips) and Fire Sauce (salsa), a fruit dragon made with strawberries, blueberries, and mango inspired by this that the kids ate before I could get a photo, and Salted Numchucks (pretzel sticks), along with Golden Ninja Nectar (lemonade), water, and Sensei (Wu) wine for the adults.

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