Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Birthday Candy Bouquet

It's birthday party season.  If you are a parent of an elementary school aged child, you know what I am talking about.  For those that don't, allow me to explain.  The Monkey is in a class that has just over 20 students in it, and she averages a party invite about every two weeks.  More often than not she ends up missing them, due to previous commitments.

But not today!  Today she went to a laser tag party (she's there as we speak) that included a chocolate chip cookie cake.  I'm not sure what she was more excited about -- the cake or the party itself.

I wanted to do something a little bit special for this friend, because she is a "good kid".  You know, she's the kid you want your child to stay friends with for as long as possible.  She's friendly, polite, kind, considerate....just a good egg.  I saw posts all over Pinterest for a candy bouquet, so I decided to make one for her.  Here's how you can do it.

(I purchased all of these at the Dollar Tree, so this is not something that will break the bank)
4 boxes of movie theater candy, roughly all the same size
One block styrofoam
Package of crazy straws
6 regular size candy bars
Packing tape, glue, and a piece of cardboard

Line the boxes of candy up so that they form a square (sorry, for some reason I neglected to take a picture of this step).  Use the packing tape to tape the boxes together FROM THE INSIDE.  This way, the recipient will not see the tape.

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit the bottom of your "box".  I used an empty cereal box.  Line the candy boxes with glue, and attach the board.  You will need to allow the glue to set, so walk away and do something. 

Once the glue is set, turn your masterpiece upside down so the board is now on your workspace.  Place the styrofoam inside your candy vase.  You most likely will need to cut it to fit the space. 

Attach the candy bars to the crazy straws with a piece of packing tape.  If you don't have the straws, you can use a wood dowel or a ka-bob stick.  I thought the straws were a fun addition to the craft, and it was something that could be used again.

Once you have the candy bars taped to the straws, you can place the straws in to the styrofoam.  You want to place them as far down into the foam as you can, so they can be stable.  You don't want things to fall apart when you are giving the gift.

The styrofoam looks pretty ugly, so you want to fill up all of the empty spaces.  You can use more candy if you, like Hershey Kisses.  Or you can fill it up with strips of crinkled paper, or even Easter grass.  I had some tulle left over from when I made my niece a tutu, so that is what I used. 

Voila!  You are done.  You have now created your own candy bouquet.  My aunt told me that she found a store selling candy bouquets for $30, which is CRAAAZY to me. This cost me $11 to make, and I'm sure it could even be made for less money if I shopped around.

The birthday girl loved her gift.  The first words out of her mouth were....well, they were "Thank You".  Remember, I just gushed about how polite she is.  The second words out of her mouth were "AWESOME!".

Until next time.....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peep Pops

Today was the Monkey’s last day before Spring Break begins, so she wanted to bring in a treat for her class.  Nothing says Easter to me like a Peep, and what kid (or adult) doesn’t like chocolate.  This was a no brainer!

  • Peeps
  • Chocolate wafers
  • Sprinkles 
  • Lollipop sticks

This is the cruel part of the recipe – you need to…ahem….put a stick up the bunny’s butt.  Dab a little bit of the melted chocolate on the top of the stick, and then jam it up there.  You want to press the stick as far as you can without it coming out the other end.

So sorry Mr. Bunny

Melt the chocolate according to the package directions. 

Most people would dip the Peep into the chocolate, but I prefer the spoon method.  Hold the Peep over the chocolate, and spoon the chocolate over the treat.  Use enough chocolate to cover the Peep, and then gently tap the stick on the side of the bowl.  This will allow you to get rid of any excess chocolate.

You can “dress up” your Peep with sprinkles, or you can leave them “naked”. It’s up to you.  We left one naked because one of her classmates has a food allergy, and can’t eat anything with the color purple in it.  We didn’t want to not include her in on the fun.

Place the treat on to a piece of wax paper to allow the chocolate to set, which should take about 10 minutes.

Since she was giving these out to her classmates and her teachers, I wrapped them in a small bag and tied them with curling ribbon.  

The Monkey informed me today that we are known as the family that brings stuff in.  Does that mean I set the bar high for myself, and I need to bring something in for every holiday?  Or does that mean the teacher and the parents are getting ticked off at me?  I'll let you decide....

Until next time.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hoagie Dip...Super Yummy

Today is the first day of Spring.  Spring makes me think of baseball.  Baseball makes me think of summer.  Summer makes me think of backyard parties.  Backyard parties make me think of food.  Food makes me think of…well, right now, all I am thinking about is food.

Have you ever tasted hoagie dip?  It’s delish (I hate that word).  This is one of my favorite dips, but for some reason it’s not one that I often make.  It’s pretty simple to put together – it just requires a trip to the deli.

Hoagie Dip

  • ¼ lb Genoa salami, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb cooked ham, thinly sliced
  • ¼ lb pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • ¼ lb American cheese, thinly sliced
  • ¼ lb Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (may need more, depending on your preference)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 12 hoagie rolls, torn into pieces for dipping
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • Slice the deli meats and cheese into bite size pieces, and place in a large bowl.
  • Add the onion, oregano, and tomato to the meat and cheese mixture
  • Add the mayonnaise, and mix until everything is well coated.  You may need to add more mayonnaise (it all depends on what you like)
  • Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve
  • Serve will hoagie roll pieces
**Some people add shredded cheese to this dip, but I don’t because wet lettuce grosses me out.

Backyard parties remind me of my family, and if you have been following me this week, you know that I have been writing about my family.

Today I am highlighting my cousin Lauren.   Not only is Lauren my cousin, but she is also my God-daughter.  That’s a big deal in my family.  It’s like being runner up in the Miss America contest.  In the event her parents can’t fulfill their duties, I have to step up and take responsibility.  That was a huge thing, considering I was 18 and just about to head off to college. 
Here’s what you need to know about her:

Her hair style and hair color can change at any minute.  At.Any.Minute.  I know this sounds silly, but I see that as being courageous.  I have had the same hairstyle since I was 18.  I fear change.

She's hip.  She speaks a different language.  Sometimes I think she makes words up, but I spot check her.  She speaks the truth.

Halloween in Disney World

She's smart...real smart.  Sometimes I wish she could use her knowledge for good, just like a super hero.

Goofing off in the Magic Kindgom
      She has a wide taste in music.  She listens to bands that I never even knew existed. Truth be told, I don’t think the bands even know they exists.  Some of them seem so obscure and off the wall.  Just like the language she speaks, I find myself spot-checking the bands in Rolling Stone magazine – just to be sure they are real.  And they are.  Funny fact -- I remember when she loved Hillary Duff.  She reminds me of John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity (a movie I LOVE)…don’t bother talking to me if you are going to buy that crap music. 

I sometimes think of her like a little sister.  For a brief time in 2000, after my mother passed away, I moved in with her family (Lauren is Mary Kaye's oldest).  We all fell into a familiar routine.  Each night, my husband (then fiance) would prepare her lunch for the next day.  They would work side-by-side in the kitchen, and she made him always cut the crust off of her sandwiches.  I'm pretty sure she invented Uncrustables.  Each morning she would wake up early, and we would have breakfast together before I left for work.  And when I say early, I mean early....6:30 a.m. is early for the Ellis family.

From the way back machine....2001
Another day....another cousin.....Back to the other part of this post.  Give this dip a try, and let me know what you think.  I will let you in on a little secret -- there are plenty of delis that already have this prepared.  Go pick some up, put it in your own bowl, and serve it at your next party.  Just pretend you made it!

Until next time....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Irish Potatoes

Well, I was planning on having today’s post be simply about Irish Potatoes.   I always assumed that people knew what I was talking about when I mentioned them, but I was wrong.  I often found people staring back at me with a blank look on their face.  Apparently, these are a regional thing, and most people outside of the Philadelphia area aren’t familiar with them.

Irish Potatoes are a mixture of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and coconut.  Once combined, the mixture is rolled into cinnamon.  The final result looks like a small potato.  These are delicious, and if I let myself, I will eat the entire batch.  This is an easy recipe to make, and it’s perfect for little hands.

  • 1 block cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups confectionars sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ butter, softened
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • Cinnamon          
  • In large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together.
  • Add vanilla and the sugar.  Beat until the mixture forms a ball.
  • Stir in the coconut.
  • Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls (or form them to look like small potatoes).
  • Place the cinnamon in a shallow dish, and roll the balls in it.
  • Place the balls on a cookie sheet, and chill for about an hour.
The final result!
Yesterday I posted about my first friend, and cousin, Kevin.  I specifically stated that I consider all my cousins my friends, and that I didn’t want any texts from them with complaints.  So, what happened?  I got this.

This is my cousin, and my friend, Timothy.  Everyone used to call him Timmy, but he put a stop to that – or at least he tried.  I stopped calling him that when he bought me a beer at a U2 concert, and he was underage.  Like, really underage.  It was during the Elevation tour, so you do the math.
Penn State / Temple Game 2007

He is Kevin’s younger brother, and again, he’s one of the funniest people I know.  He shares my nerdy interests, and is the only person outside of Mary Kaye that shares my obsession with Bruce Springsteen.   We dragged out spouses, and our children, to the Springsteen exhibit this past summer at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.  We could have easily spent the afternoon looking at Bruce’s old liner notes, concert posters, and tattered jeans – it was Bruce heaven.  However, we both decided staying married was a bit more important, as his wife and my husband looked bored out of their minds.
Kevin and Michele's Wedding (2007)

Tom and Mandy's Wedding (2008)

Boba Fett?  Boba Fett?  Where?

The Monkey started calling him Uncle Tim, after she would hear her cousins continually say it.  He never blinked an eye when we heard it, and he made sure that everyone knew it.  He treats her as if she is truly her niece.  Family like that is rare.
Megan, Uncle Tim, and a member of the Imperial Army
Happy now bonehead?

Jeez….who is going to text me next?

Until next time….

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Happy Family is But An Earlier Heaven

I saw this phrase posted on someone’s Facebook wall, and I had to agree with it.

Cousins are usually the first friends we have as children. No one will ever understand your crazy family like your cousins do even if you haven't talked much lately.

Cousins are your first friends because they are pretty much forced on you.  It’s not as if you can make friends on your own at a party when you are a year old. 

What’s really rare is keeping your cousin as a friend later in life.  Sure, you see him or her at family functions.  But do you keep in touch on a daily basis?  Do you do things together outside of parties, graduations, etc?

I do. 

Not our best moment (2013)
This is my first friend – my cousin Kevin.  My mother and his mother are sisters.  I am a 1 ½ years older than him, and he never lets me forget about it.  We were always family, but as we got older we became friends.  We share the same nerdy interests, and we both believe that Batman is a superhero.  He is one of the funniest people I know (as are his two brothers, who are both my cousins and my friends).  How often do you get a text like this?  I get stuff like this on a daily basis.

What’s invisible and smells like bananas?
Monkey farts.

When my aunt (who you should know by now is my best friend) said she was moving to Florida, he said he was happy for her and worried for me.  He told me not to worry because he was going to be my new best friend.  Granted, this was after a night at the bar…but I think the intent is there.

If you look at this quickly, you would think that this is a picture of our kids 
He was super happy -- I apparently was super scared

Selfies before selfies were cool (2008)

We both have kids now – his oldest son is 8 months older than my Monkey.  They are at the age now where they tolerate one another when they are together.  I’m pretty sure she bosses him around like I bossed Kevin around.  I hope that they are friends in 30 years – and that she can remind him often that she is younger.

The 2nd generation of cousins

Mini Me

I consider all my cousins my friends (so don't start texting me with your complaints!).  I am simply telling you about my first friend.  Some people don't seem to understand the bond I have with my family -- it starts with the friendships I have with my Aunts and Uncles, and goes on down to my cousins.  We are all close.  In fact, it extends to spouses too.  I'm very fortunate to have them in my life.

Until next time....

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day (a few days early) !

Here is something I put together for the Monkey to hand out to her class today. It was fairly easy to put together, and took less than an hour to do.  It probably would have taken less time but I was watching Shameless while I was doing it. I love me some Gallaghers!

I designed the notes using Microsoft Publisher, and simply printed them out. The little bags can be found in the jewelry section of the craft store. After cutting the notes to fit inside the bag, I slipped the paper in, and then added a chocolate coin.   This little treat lets everyone have a piece of the leprechaun's pot of gold.

And I will leave you with this saying, which was proudly displayed in my grandmother's home: May you be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Until next time.....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Operation Baking Gals (Again!)

Last month I wrote about Operation Baking Gals, which is a great program I take part in.  It’s a group of volunteer bakers from around the country who bake and ship homemade treats to military men and woman that are currently deployed in war zones.  I signed up to participate this month, and shipped out the package yesterday.

I fully intended to have the Girl Scout troop help with this package, but time wasn’t on my side.  Sometimes ideas sound great in my head, but when I try to execute them, they go C-R-A-A-A-Z-Y. 

This month I made a batch of Puppy Chow.  No, I did not send dog food.  For those not familiar with it, Puppy Chow is a sweet version of Chex Mix.  It’s super easy to make, but be warned!!!!  It is very addicting.  There are various recipes (check them all out on Pinterest).  I found this one for a Thin Mint version, and that seemed appropriate.  I used the recipe as a guide, and adapted it to use ingredients I could find.

I also included boxes of Girl Scout cookies, plus drink mix packs, peanuts, and gum.  I figured the package would arrive just before Easter, so I included plastic eggs that I filled with candy.   I thought they looked cute, and hopefully it will bring a smile to the face of the recipient.

Some BUNNY is thinking of you

Thin Mint Puppy Chow

10 cups Rice Cereal (such as Chex)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp mint extract
Pkg Wilton Candy Melts (or any melting chocolate)

In microwave, melt the chocolate for one minute.  Stir, and continue melting every 30 seconds until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine the cereal with the melted chocolate.  Add the mint extract.  Fold mixture together until all the cereal is coated.
Add the powdered sugar to a large Ziploc bag.  Spoon in the cereal mixture.  Seal the bag and shake until the sugar is coating the cereal completely.
Pour cereal onto a large piece of wax paper and allow to cool.
Store in an airtight container.


Not only is it rewarding to participate in Operation Baking Gals, it's easy too.   The boxes are free from the post office, and you can probably whip up something using ingredients you have in your pantry.  If you are interested in taking part, let me know.  I am thinking of becoming a team leader, and could use a little support.

Until next time....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On My Honor.....

Yesterday was the 101st birthday of Girl Scouting.  It was on March 12, 1912, that Juliette Gordon Low registered 18 girls as the first troop of American Girl Guides (which became the Girl Scouts). 

Four years ago, the monkey came home from a school with a flyer announcing Girl Scout registration night.  I was never a scout (I remember going to one meeting, in a church, but that's it.  I guess it just wasn't for me at the time).  She asked if she could join, and I couldn't see a reason not to.  Registration was pretty cheap ($12) compared to what I heard the boys had to pay.

We went to registration night, which was held in the school's multipurpose room.  It was pure chaos!  Girls of all ages running around, laughing and having fun.  I signed the paperwork, and just as I was handing over the check, I was asked if I would be the leader. thanks.  Not interested.  Two weeks past, and the troop still had no leader.  "If you want your daughter to have a troop, you will need to be the leader."  Really?  This is how it's done.  I was pretty ticked off, and just as I was going to say forget it, I looked across the room and saw the Monkey playing with the other girls.  "Yes, I'll do it".  I have since found out that this type of recruitment is called "Volun-told".

First year Daisy -- Kindergarten

I don't regret being a leader at all. In fact, I enjoy it.  Sometimes I think I enjoy scouting a bit more than my daughter.  But I do have a confession to make: Cookie season drives me nuts, and so does some of the political things that happen behind the scenes -- the drama that can happen between leaders and troops.  Sometimes an hour meeting can feel like three hours.  Sometimes I leave a meeting thinking what a disaster it was.  I ask myself  "Did the girls have fun?" or "Did that make sense?".

2nd year Daisy (First Grade).  I love how they don't have any teeth!

I put all those thought away the next week, when the girls come back for the next meeting.  They are full of enthusiasm, and eager to do the next activity.  They LOVE anything related to animals -- learning about them, caring for them, collecting supplies for them.  They LOVE group games -- the goofier the better.  They LOVE snacks -- eating them and making them.

Her first year as a Brownie, and her 2nd cookie season

The Monkey is a very compassionate person.  She has a ton of patience for those younger than her.  In fact, the principal of her school calls her Dr. Megan, and told me that he feels she will be a pediatrician one day.  She cares deeply for her friends, and for those that are in need.  I like to think that her involvement in scouting helped shape that in her.

2nd year Brownie, earning her pottery badge

I'll leave you with the words we say at the beginning of every meeting.

The Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Having fun at our Holiday Party

Until next time.....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy Birthday To You!

I’m saying this a day early --
I couldn’t be in person to celebrate her birthday, so I did the next best thing I could think of – I shipped her a “party in a box”. 

No party is complete without a cake.  Since I couldn’t figure out how to ship a decorated cake without it arriving in several pieces, I shipped her cake mix and frosting.  No cake would be complete without candles, and you can’t go wrong with festive napkins and plates.

I threw in some other odds and ends: gum, candy, lollipops, and sunglasses (she now lives in the sunny state of Florida.  One must protect their eyes).  I’m pretty sure if the Statue of Liberty celebrated her birthday each year, she would wear this birthday crown.  Hey New York --- think about it.

You can’t have a party without balloons!  I put money in each of these balloons, and used my lung power to fill them up with air.  If you do this, I suggest that you not over-inflate the balloons.   Remember…you need to fit them in a box with all your other goodies.

Lauren will be 19 tomorrow.  Holy crap!  Where did the time go?  I hope you have a good one Lu!

Until next time.....

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Is a Bubby's Buddy?

This is my good looking, and charasmatic cousin, David Charles.  Not many people call him by this name.  We call him Bubby.  That's the name his twin sister Shannon bestowed upon him when she was learning to talk. 
Chillin' and relaxin' in 2009
This is Bubby's family: him mom Mary Kaye, his dad David, and his sisters, Lauren and Shannon.  By all intents and purposes, Mary Kaye is my aunt, but we are more like sisters.  We grew up together (like, literally, we grew up in the same house).  There is only a 10 year age difference between the two of -- in fact, 10 years and 13 days. 

Any one that has been within in ear shot of me knows that I am part of a group called Bubby's Buddies.  The name speaks for itself.  We are a mix of family and friends that work hard throughout the year to help raise awareness and money for autism research.  You see, Bubby was diagnosed with autism when he was three.  I believe that autism doesn't make him different or special.  It simply makes him into the person that you see today.

Who are Bubby's Buddies? 

It's our youngest member....
It's Bubby's Aunt and Uncle....

It's Bubby's cousins (including his favorite!)
It's another little member with a lot of style

It's his cousins who like to goof around
It's a group of adults that run to get their picture taken with Vadar

It's a pretty baby with her Grandpop
It's a group of friends

It's a fantastic group of musicians that DONATE their time to our events.
It's our kids division wing eating champion
These pictures are just a sample of who makes up this group.  I could fill up pages and pages with pictures of family members, friends, and businesses that have supported us since 2007.

What started out as an idea we kicked around while drinking in the back yard has grown into a small roots campaign.  We have all done something in our own way -- we held annual Beef-and-Beers, hosted bowling events, organized 5K Fun Runs, held wing eating contests, hosted happy hours....even turned a birthday party into a fundraising event.  My monkey spent a day selling tattoos and silly bands in her school when she was in first grade, and raised $115!

And we do it all for this guy......
Bubby and his mom