Pi Day Pie Fight for a Cause

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Pi Day Pie

Image from Buzzfeed – original source no longer available

Pie on Pi Day (March 14th as in ∏ = 3.14…) is nothing new. My family loves pie and obscure jokes like math jokes. Having a pie fight on Pi Day sounds like a fun new twist. A local group that has raised money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society each year through the East Central Indiana Walk MS is upping the ante this year to make a bigger donation. Their goal is to raise $1000 before participating in this year’s walk. They are raising this money by putting on a big messy pie fight.

You can donate here to help fund MS research. If you are in central Indiana, you can join in the pie fight on Pi Day at Central Christian Church in Anderson (923 Jackson Street 46016). There will be a raffle for the right to Throw the First Pie. After the pie fight, you will want to have some cash to get your chance to throw pies at the seated team members. You can find out more on Facebook or on the booster page. Be sure to use the hashtag #MandisPiDay to help them build some social momentum.

Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological disease that is important to me personally. It is an unpredictable disease that can be devastating for all even if the symptoms are different for every person. Research is needed to better understand this disorder and develop new treatments.

Mandi's Pi Day

Pi Day Pie Fight for a Cause

We still have plenty of blueberries left, so I will probably make a blueberry pie on Pi Day. I can only hope that it looks as lovely as the one pictured. What kind of pie will you serve on Pi Day?

Gluten Free Dairy Free Vasilopita: Greek New Years Cake

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I am blogging this not because I have the perfect recipe, but because I want to perfect the recipe. I only make this once a year and in 364 days I won’t recall what tweaks I want to make. (I started from this recipe, but made some variations due to my food allergies.) Vasilopita is a Greek New Year’s tradition. gluten free vasilopita HPG

• 3/4 cup of butter or dairy-free sub (room temperature)
• 1 1/2 cups of coconut palm sugar (coconut palm sugar gives a slight-carmel flavor to foods)
• 6 large eggs
• 1/2 cup of brandy or rum
• zest of 2-4 oranges (can sub some lemon zest)
• juice of 2-4 oranges
• 3-4 cups of Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend (I used Pamela’s Products Baking and Pancake Mix, but it is not entirely dairy-free and I think the Artisan blend will give a nicer texture)
• 3/4 cup of canned coconut milk
• 1 coin wrapped in foil
• confectioner’s sugar (optional)
• grated coconut (optional)
• marmalade (optional sub lemon curd)

Pre-heat oven to 390F. Butter and flour two 9″ round cake pans.

This is one of those recipes where you are very thankful for your Kitchenaid. Cream the butter substitute, then slowly add the sugar, eggs, brandy or rum, zest, juice, milk, then flour. (I might consider adding a bit of cinnamon next time)

Divide batter between two cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes then carefully insert foil-wrapped coin parallel to where you might slice the cake. Bake for another 20 minutes. Allow cakes to fully cook (up to four hours).

Layer cakes with marmalade between the layers and on top of the cake. Decorate with powdered sugar and grated coconut. Get creative! I have also seen versions with a thick brandy icing poured over the top of the Vasilopita.

Just after midnight (or in the morning if you have little ones), the head of the household cuts the Vasilopita, wishing good fortune in the new year to all who are present. Pieces are handed out from eldest to youngest. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of Vasilopita is said to have an extra measure of good fortune in the new year.

coin in new years cake HPG

What Are You Doing New Years – New Years Eve?

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I have always loved that song and New Years Eve has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps it is the new start, the fresh page on the calendar. Over the past several years, I have integrated more and more traditions from various cultures to start off the New Year on the right foot. I think it all started when I learned about the Italian tradition of breaking dishes at midnight. I am generally limited to how many of these traditions I can integrate because I’m traveling or attending some party, so in 2014 I decided to throw a dinner party and include as many as I could.

NYE tablescape

Decorating was easy with a couple of gold fringe curtains, pre-made New Years Eve banner, gold, silver, and black glitter noisemakers, and some party hats, I picked up on at a chain party store. I kept to the color scheme of gold, silver, black, and white. I used gold pipe cleaners to make napkin rings (and a cake topper), and I set each plate with a menu and educational materials.

NYE place setting and menuThe menu included:

  • Black Eyed Pea Hummus (recipe here)
  • Red Lentil Soup – a crowd-pleasing, easy, large-batch recipe (here)
  • Rosemary Pork Chops braised in Sweet Apple Cabbage (recipe here) – While we enjoyed this recipe, my preferred pork chop recipe is below.
  • Cabbage (recipe below)
  • German Chocolate Fudge Balls (recipe here)
  • Vasilopita – Greek New Years cake (recipe here)
  • Champagne (of course)
  • Wassail

NYE menu and traditionsYou can get a word copy of the menu and education materials here: NYE lucky traditions. This year may be more low key, but I will still shop for new underwear, I will still make pork and cabbage and black eyed peas and vassilopita, I will toast at midnight, and I will break a plate or a mug.

Savory Prosperity Pork Chops

Season both sides of pork chops (preferably about an inch thick) with:

  • Sea Salt
  • Paprika
  • Allspice
  • Thyme
  • Optional Sage
  • Optional Garlic

I don’t measure things, but season well without adding too much salt. All the chops to rest while you melt bacon lard on high in a cast iron skillet (butter will also work).

Cook chops on both sides for 1-3 minutes then turn heat to medium or medium low and cover the pan. They will cook for 5-15 minutes depending on how thick your chops are and how done you like them.

You can also chop up some onion and apple and allow it to cook with the chops while they are on medium heat. You can do this simply in the juice of the meat or you can add up to a quarter cup of apple cider.

Lucky Cabbage

  1. Use a serrated knife to shred a head of green cabbage
  2. Place in collander with 1t salt to “sweat” the cabbage for 30 minutes
  3. Squeeze excess water from the cabbage with paper towels
  4. Melt 1T bacon lard in a large pan on medium heat
  5. Add 1 small onion chopped
  6. Add cabbage and cook to desired consistency
  7. Optional add red pepper flakes 1/2t

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

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