Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Date Night and OWL's Well!!

I've hit a bunch of animals with my Suburban lately. We live out in the country and it's not uncommon for all kinds of critters to run out in front of our cars in the dark. In the last week, I've hit a possum (who looked RIGHT AT ME before he went *crunch*... I still feel bad about that!) and 2 squirrels! But last night, on our way home from our Date Night to go see Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows (which PS, was AWESOME!)... where Dave took me to have one of these:
Toasted Marshmallow Amore
It was all fun and games until some creature with a death wish decided to SWOOP in front of our moving vehicle.

That's right. This guy flew into my windshield!
We hit an owl. Strike that... we hit a FLYING OWL!!!

It left a smudge print on my windshield and spun off across the street! (Thankfully, it wasn't big enough to go THROUGH the window!)

Because I was hoping that it wasn't dead... and because it wasn't a possum or a raccoon, but actually a kind of bird that I LIKE... after I took the babysitter home, I drove past where it bounced off the Suburban. It was sitting in the grass turning its head around but otherwise, not moving.

I was happy that it wasn't dead but, I felt bad leaving it there to be eaten by coyotes or whatever larger predator might be hankering to a morsel of owl... I went home to get a blanket and Rubbermaid tub. This breed of owl is only about the size of my 10 yr old's sneakers. It was LITTLE.

OK, at this point, I realize I've LOST you.

WHO the hell brings a wounded owl back to their house after hitting it with their car? Figuring they could take it to a vet in the morning to attempt to mend what was broken?

Me. That's who.

And YES, Dave thought I was slightly nuts... but he knows me... and he knows that it wasn't a rodent. I'm NOT signing up to be your "Friendly Local Squirrel Rehabilitator". My brother has a story about that from Notre Dame. I'll have to tell it to you some day.

So, I drove back (the whole 300 yards from my garage to the spot where the owl was) and as I was getting out of the car, the owl hopped a few feet, turned itself around, and flew across the street into the woods. If you're thinking that I'm crazy enough to follow a STUNNED owl into the woods... you're off your gourd! As long as that sucker was off the ground, I'm OK with walking away...

...which is just what I did.

And that's how a regular Date Night... became a near death experience... and turned out to be quite a hoot.

**I'm JUST that PUNny!**

Disclaimer: I've spent a lot of time around birds. I actually studied and handled lots of them in college. If I hadn't, there's no way I would've gone back to check out the owl. I DON'T recommend that you attempt handling wildlife.

Further... I DON'T recommend you hit flying birds with your car.

For the record, this bird had a death wish. WHO swoops, silently, in front a moving vehicle? Suicidal owls... that's WHO!

**even my disclaimers are PUNny**

Sunday Funday #15

It's Sunday again and that means it's time for another #SundayFunday link up! This is a great opportunity to link up a post from the past week that maybe didn't get as much attention as you wish it would've.

Remember the rules!

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar and place it in your linked up post!

#2 Please don't link up any giveaways AND please turn off your captcha!

#3 Please go visit the other links AND leave lots of comment love!

#4 Tweet that you linked up with me (@MamaRiceCake) using the #SundayFunday hashtag! (If you're not on that crazy tweeter thing that the kids all have these days, don't sweat it!)

Can't wait to see all the great stuff that you guys link up! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Trick for Taking Great Photos of My Kids

Anyone with a kid will tell you that it's hard to get a sweet photo of their little cupcake that is useable for Christmas cards. Anyone with MULTIPLE children will tell you that the difficulty of getting a great photo of all of them together multiplies exponentially by the number of children you have!

I have a trick for getting cute photos of the RiceCakes... all together... and smiling like this:

The ceremonial pre-Christmas Program RiceCake photo!

I take a whole bunch of photos and let 'em go nuts FIRST... like this:

They were pretending that they were on a roller coaster! AGH!
And this:

They're frightened... can't you tell?
And this:

They're vewwy vewwy angwy!
And this:

RiceCake Christmas Zombies

And this:

They're SO surprised that their Mommy is taking their picture!

So then, when I say, "OK, smile nicely please!"

They do!

This one makes my Mama-heart happy...
but I'm totally using a crazy one for my Christmas card!

Got any good tricks for getting good photos of your kiddos? I wanna hear about it!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Candy Cane Meringue

All the holiday baking photo sharing going on around the interwebs had me feeling like maybe I oughta try something new in the Christmas baking department. I LOVE making holiday cookies. I love making the ones with a bazillion ingredients that turn out looking amazing. I love making really simple cut-outs with my kids and letting them go hog wild with icing and sprinkles. I consider myself to be a pretty good baker... mostly because I really LIKE to do it. I think that makes a big difference.

Also? I'm a recipe FOLLOWER.

Yeah, I like to change things up every once in a while but... you really ought to know what you're doing when you do that. I have a friend who tried to make chili once but, she was out of tomato paste so... she used ketchup. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how that turned out. Gag-o-matic!

I don't want to be that girl!

I've also been cooking my way through Jamie Oliver's cookbooks. I love them. I don't like them. I LOVE them. They're really fun... really interesting... and really HELPFUL when it comes to trying new things. Whether you're an accomplished cook... or totally don't know what you're doing in the kitchen... they're fabulous. Go get one... you'll see I'm right! He said that meringue was easy. But I've SEEN meringue... it's light... it's fluffy... if you blow on it too hard, it'll shatter. I thought Jamie Oliver was full of crap. (On just that ONE thing! Please forgive me for doubting you St. Jamie!)

I didn't try his recipe for meringue. I skipped that page. Cooked right on past it. But it's always been in the back of my brain...taunting me.

 This week, my buddy was having a Christmas cookie exchange and I was digging thru another cookbook (Pillsbury Christmas 2010) when I saw a recipe for Candy Cane Meringue... and I knew I had to give it a whirl. I'd already made a bunch of other cookies so, I figured "If these are awful, no one will know but me!" Usually meringue sort of just looks like blobs... pretty, sort of frosting-star-like blobs. This recipe called for piping the meringue out into candy can shapes instead! They're so cute!

Seriously... cute right?
So, it turns out that Jamie Oliver isn't a big fat liar and meringue actually IS really easy! I'm sharing the recipe with you so you can make your own!! (I altered the original recipe slightly by adding more sugar. It makes the meringue a little more stiff and it's easier to form the shapes that you want to make. I also used some different tools than the recipe recommended.)

Candy Cane Meringue

3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 Cup of sugar
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
red or pink food coloring

Heat your oven to 200 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Yes, you could use foil but, that changes how meringue will bake. Do yourself a favor and get parchment paper. It's not expensive and it's a million time better than foil when it comes to baking!)

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high until it's very foamy. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, while beating with the mixer until the meringue is stiff and glossy. (It'll almost look like marshmallow fluff!)

Beat in the peppermint extract. (You may need to add a little more sugar to stiffen the meringue back up after you add the extract. Sometimes the alcohol in extract can deflate it a little.)

The recipe called for using a decorator bag with a 1/4 in. star tip. I used a Pampered Chef product called an Easy Accent Decorator because I don't have a decorator bag. When I've absolutely needed one before, I've just used a gallon size resealable bag with a corner cut off. I opted for the decorator because it has different decorative tips and it's really easy to use. I don't love all PC products but, I've used this thing more than I can count and it's awesome. (And nobody paid me to say that... it's just the truth.)

Using a small paint brush, paint 4 or 5 evenly spaced red stripes on the inside of whatever you're using to pipe the meringue. Make sure that you paint from the upper end of the bag all the way to the tip. I used a food coloring gel (versus the liquid drops) and it worked really well when it came to painting those stripes!

Use a spoon to fill the bag (or decorator or whatever!) really carefully. Don't rush it and mess up your pretty stripes! Pipe 2.5 inch candy canes onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake them for about an hour or until they are dry but NOT BROWN!

Start to finish, this whole process takes about an hour and 20 minutes. And it makes 42 candy canes!

They are so yummy! So light... really minty and refreshing! If you've never had meringue before... it's sort of similar to eating cotton candy. It melts in your mouth and is sort of like eating flavored air! They're less of a cookie and more of a candy.

I can't say that these are great for mailing... meringue would shatter in the shipping process for SURE! But they're fabulous for taking to a holiday party! The RiceCakes LOVE them and so does their Daddy! I think tomorrow, I'm gonna melt one in my coffee! YUM!

Give 'em a whirl! These were the first ones I've ever made and it was so much easier than I thought it would be.

Candy Cane Meringue Wreath anyone?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday Funday #14

Hooray! It's time for another Sunday Funday link up! This December has really hit the ground running! It's been a busy week in Lower Alabama!

Matthew and Abi had a field trip with their gifted education class to the Exploreum in Mobile. There was a special exhibit about Australia that included live kangaroos, wallabys, and dingoes! The kids thought it was awesome. They had baby kangaroos and all kinds of really neat stuff from Australia. They've been studying Australia's history, art, and ecosystems for the last 2 months so, they were extra excited  that they got to see the exhibit!

My car is broken... my transmission died last Thursday. That sucks. Thankfully, my husband is super handy. Thank you Wyo Tech! So, he's fixing it but, we've been a single car family all week. I'm thankful that Dave is working 3rd shift so, I still have a car during the day. This is totally a #firstworldproblem and I know it. I don't have anything to gripe about. It'll get fixed. In the meantime, I just have to plan ahead a little more than I usually do.

I started a new job this week. Actually, it's the first paying gig I've had since I became a Mom a decade ago! ha ha! I'm teaching elementary school level "Intro to Game Theory". Basically, it's teaching kids to use logic based in games. Not video games. But actual board games that involve strategy. We're starting with chess and we'll move on to Othello and other logic games like that. I think games like that are a great way to teach children mathematically principals without making them feel like they're learning math. It's "sneaky math" because they're learning to use probablity and statistics without knowing it. The best part? It's at my children's school and I only work an hour a week. It's the best job ever. Jack comes with me and we play games for an hour and I get paid. The paycheck is lucrative enough that it's totally worth my time. But frankly, it's just fun to teach kids something new and watch them having so much fun.

OK so... you know the deal for the linky!

1. Please insert the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar in your post.
2. Please DON'T link up any giveaways!
3. Please PLEASE turn your captcha off!
4. Please go visit the other linked up posts and leave some comment love!
5. If you're on The Twitter, please tweet that you linked up to #SundayFunday and link your post there too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Awana Grand Prix

Our kids are involved in a kids' program at our church called AWANA. It's really fun. The kids have a blast playing wild games, hearing Bible stories, and memorizing Bible verses. It's similar to scouting in that you earn badges and pins for doing different things, include community aid based projects. They also have fun stuff like Bible Quiz and the AWANA Games where kids from our AWANA club compete with kids from other church's clubs. All in all, it's a fun, faith-based, place for kids to be. I was involved with it as a kid but, our kids didn't get involved with it until last year. They totally love it! Now Dave and I are both AWANA leaders. He works with the 3rd-6th grade boys and I work with the kindergarten-2nd graders. It's so stinkin' FUN... even for grown ups!

Last month, we had the AWANA Grand Prix and it was such a blast! If you have kids involved with Boy Scouts then you already know about pine derby cars. Our family hadn't ever done anything like this before. We had so much fun! Our three oldest got car kits that included a block of wood and their wheels and axles. They set right to work designing their cars. They drew the shape that they wanted it to be on the block of wood and Dave used a saw and belt sander to help shape it for them. (No little people on gnarly power tools!)

Dave and boy RiceCakes working on a car!

The rest of the work, they did completely on their own... sand paper, painting, decals, etc.

Jack is a serious sander!
It's fun to see how their different personalities come out in their cars.

Matthew made a replica of Finn McMissile... his favorite car from Cars 2! He has a die cast car that he used as a model to make him. He even custom mixed paint colors to get it exactly the right shade of blue!

He did 90% of the work himself... including the Union Jack flags on the hoods!
Abi made a car that looks a lot like a jet... although she said she was just making a shape that she thought looked cool. It's gotta have tail fins to be a racecar in Abi's mind!

Abi is WAY proud of her vehicular masterpiece!

Jack and Joshua shared a car MOSTLY because Joshy has the attention span of a typical 5 year old! :) Jack was WAY into designing the car. He picked a shape that he thought would be really fast and worked on it for a long time. Joshua's ONLY stipulation was that it "be red."

Morning of the races... these two were stoked! Check out those racing stripes!
We had so much fun making cars! One thing we didn't realize was how competitive some people would be! There is a weight limit for the cars... they couldn't be over 5oz. There were people hot gluing pennies as weights to their cars. There were even a few people who'd used melted lead... SERIOUSLY... to get their car right up to the weight limit. We were not that serious, but man we sure had fun!

The track looks like this... A big hill and a straight away with 4 lanes!
If you've never done anything like this, give it a whirl! It's really worth it. I'm sure some people spent a fortune on their cars. We built 3 for a total of about $25. Not too shabby for a creative project for 4 kids and some great family time spent building them and then hanging out on race day!

Check out the staging area for all the cars!
These cars were all built by kids.
There was a whole other division for grown ups and teenagers!

We didn't have the fastest cars but, everyone came home with ribbons! And Matthew won a trophy... the Commander's Choice Award... for having built a really cool car primarily by himself!

Jack won a ribbon for the Straightest Axles!
Matthew wont a ribbon for the Best Disney Car along with his trophy!
Abi won a ribbon for the Best Military Vehicle!
We had such a great time! If you get a chance to do something like this with your kids... do it! It made such a fun memory and gave us time to work together on something that was purely for FUN!

Our kids can't wait to go to the AWANA Grand Prix next year!

Let's BEE Friends

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Most Beautiful Heart

BEE Beautiful You

My sweet friend Bruna over at Bees With Honey is hosting a new meme that involves writing about celebrating women's beauty inside and out. When she first announced her idea, I thought it was a great way to think positively about ourselves and what we're doing right... but I also thought it was a fabulous way to spread the love for other women that we really care about.

The first person I thought of was my friend Lisa.

Lisa is one of the most remarkable people I've ever met. She went on a medical mission trip to Tanzania several years ago. While she was there, she helped treat all kinds of ailments and the doctor she was working with told her that the biggest issue the people had was the lack of clean water. Literally, most of the illnesses they were seeing in the clinic would be nearly eradicated if they had clean water.

Lisa's heart was moved.

As a mother of 5, she knew how often she uses clean, running water every day. These African Mamas were walking an average of 10 miles each day to get UNCLEAN water for their families because that was the only water available. The water they were using for drinking and cooking was the same water that they used for animals, bathing, and washing clothes. Can you imagine how difficult would it be to keep a toddler clean without access to clean water? She knew she had to do something.

And she did.

She started a non-profit organization from her kitchen table to raise money to build wells in Africa. Dig Deep Give Well put in their first well in Tanzania in 2010. They had to drill the length of two football fields to hit water! They installed a windmill pump and now the people of the village have clean water. They went back to Arusha this past summer and started drilling for another well. They had to find a special rig because of the kind of rock they hit when they got deep into the ground. They're currently planning FIVE more wells this next summer. This is life changing for the people of Tanzania. Dig Deep Give Well is installing wells where other organization are not going because of how difficult it is to get there.

Lisa has the most beautiful heart of any person I know. While other Moms are thinking of buying new handbags and dreaming of owning a bigger and better house... her thoughts are about the water crisis in Africa. The drought this year has killed thousands of Africans, mostly small children, because there hasn't been enough water to grow crops and feed livestock, let alone treat illnesses. A bout of diarrhea can equal death for anyone under the age of 5. While some of us gripe about having to park "too far" from the mall entrance, Lisa's thinking of how far her African counterparts are walking to find water for their families. Her body may be in Alabama... but her heart and mind are in Africa.

And it's contagious.

Her love for the continent, and especially Tanzania, is spreading like wildfire. School's in our area have joined in on the fundraising and have actually challenged each other over which school can raise the most money. Churches in Louisiana have invited her to come and speak and have joined in helping African families have clean water. In our country, where it's so common to think only of ourselves, Lisa's heart is causing people to look beyond themselves and to have great compassion for our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic Ocean. And the world, seems a little smaller because of that. The people of Tanzania don't seem to be as far away. Their faces and stories become etched on our hearts because Lisa shows her photos and stewards their stories so well.

Lisa is proof that one Mom's heart can impact the world. Because she had a dream and she didn't just wish about it... she didn't just WISH things in Africa would get better... she didn't just PRAY that it would rain... she did what it took to bring water to the people for whom she cares so deeply. She MOVED. And she calls others to action as well.

That kind of selflessness is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

I encourage you to visit and join in bringing clean water to 5 places in the summer of 2012. Dig Deep Give Well is completely non-profit. There is no overhead. No one is paid a salary. Every penny donated goes directly into the wells. I know that there are many organizations soliciting donations around the holidays but, this is the one most dear to my heart. Give the gift of clean water. It changes people's entire lives.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Funday #13

It's been a busy week at my house! It's December and that means lots of decorating and crafting!

The oldest two RiceCakes had a project for school where they had to recreate Australian aboriginal mimih art.

Aren't they awesome artists?

Dave and I hung up our Christmas lights.
The kids decorated the tree.
And I did this to my mantle:

Garland makes me happy!

I had Craft Night with my BFF Alison and her daughter KK and I made this:

It's made with some awesome yarn I found at Michael's!

The holidays are in full swing! What've you been doing this week? Link up a post and tell us all about it!

Here are the rules for #SundayFunday:

1. Grab the button from the sidebar and place it in your post!
2. Don't link up any giveaways please!
3. Please turn your captcha off!
4. Visit the other posts and comment away!
5. If you're on "The Twitter", tweet your link with the #SundayFunday hashtag!