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Lately, I have been facing a lot of intense deadlines. I have so many irons in the fire (like so many of you also have) most days I feel like a blacksmith. Since the people in charge of cloning are being super slow at filling my wish list, it seems inevitable I’m gonna drop the ball once in a while, or lots of them— okay some days the whole place looks like a ball pit I drop so many, but that’s just life. Sometimes everything else needs to stop to make time to bake chocolate chip cookies. It’s not practical, but who wants to live in a world where all the “adulting” gets done and there are no cookies. Today was that kind of day. I super stunk up the day. It was a day full of a lot of not-even-close-to perfect, major insecurity, wish I hadn’t done that moments. So, as I was lying on my kitchen floor with a mouth full of cookie dough- don’t judge, it could be you tomorrow- I remembered this video a wonderful friend of mine sent me and decided maybe you could all use a little laugh about life. Tim Urban is hilarious. This is about being a procrastinator, which is so totally my specialty, but there’s also a great life message in here.
Well, since it’s February now, and my last post was December 7th, I’m forced to admit that I really stunk up the whole blogging through December thing. In all fairness, it was an insane month for our family. One of those crazy I-can-do-it-all moments when you find out you really can’t. I finished my capstone project, a 35-page business plan with financials, and received my bachelor’s degree. (I hate that bachelor’s degree isn’t capitalized. It was sooooo much work. It should at least get a capital letter, or some sparkles, or unicorn tears. . . something. Sorry the pain is still fresh.)
With Miracle Maker coming out in hardcover there were also book events- singings, book launches, and school visits (one of my favorite things to do). Add this to the already full month of Christmas events, shopping, and visits with extended family, and it all makes a lousy time to try and do a blog fest. We didn’t even get a Christmas tree this year. I know right. . . simply scandalous. My kids are probably traumatized forever, but it’s just as well. We always seem to have a dead tree in our yard until practically summer, and I know some day a bunch of banjo playing hillbillies are going to start hanging out on our porch.
Anywhoo- it is snowing here today, and I have this great cocoa recipe that I was going to post in December, so it’s CHRISTMAS COCOA DAY IN FEBRUARY TODAY!!!
This is a super easy recipe and it makes a TON of cocoa. I store it in Tupperware and leave in a half cup measuring cup to make it easy. I can’t really say how long it stores because my family never lets it last more than about three days. (When you see how much it makes you will be amazed by this feat, but yeah, we are gifted in gluttony.)
I made this recipe up years ago, and have tweaked it over a decade. It’s only four ingredients- five if you like mint, so it’s super easy.
*For some reason I don’t have the powdered sugar in this photo. I’d love to provide some great story behind it, but I was probably just chocolate-jonesing and was loopy for my fix.
Here is the recipe.
2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
3 cups powdered milk
4 cups Nestle quick powder
2 cups powdered sugar
Then you can add mint extract or my personal favorite peppermint essential oil. (On the latter, it really only takes like 5-10 drops or your eyes will water and your sinuses will be clear forever.)
Mix the first three ingredients together. The best way is to put it all in a big bowl and mix it with a big wooden spoon. Then add the mint oil and sift it into another bowl with a big strainer (see the picture to clarify). The powdered milk can be a bit too chunky to go through the sifter, depending on the brand. Just add what won’t sift into the mix and give it a stir. After that is sifted a few times, add the powdered sugar, and sift again a few times to mix it all in.
To make a cup just add ½ cup of mix to hot water and stir. Easy-peasy.
** If your felling fancy you can even crush up some of those old candy canes that have been hanging around since you emptied out your stocking, and put that into the mix for color.
Looking for a good family flick for Christmas? Sally Meyer, screen-writer extraordinaire let me interview her about her new film The Christmas Project. (There’s a trailer for the movie at the bottom of the page)
The Christmas Project
ME: Tell us a little bit about the movie.
The movie is about a family, the Buckley family. Pam and Ralph are raising four boys and Pam is expecting her fifth child, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s hoping for a girl. She decides to wear pink always, to ensure that she will have the girl she wants so badly. The story centers around the four brothers, Simon, Matthew, Peter and John who are your typical all American rambunctious boys. Christmas is approaching and they begin to wonder who their family will ‘Elve’ this Christmas.
Every year it’s a tradition to choose a family and take out gifts in secret to them. All the boys look forward to it, and this year is no exception, until their Mother chooses the Hagbart Family to Elve. The Hagbarts are a poor family, consisting of Finn, Feeb, Fae and Little Francie. The Hagbarts bully the Buckley’s every day, so their dilemma throughout the movie is having to endure the bullying, during the day, and at night deliver treats to their enemies in secret. The story is heartwarming and hilarious, and teaches a message that I personally hope people will take to heart.
ME: What was your favorite part about making this movie?
My favorite part was working with all the children on set. I love kids, and I love working with them. They bring so much to their parts, and it’s fascinating how they can create a character and make it their own. I loved having my granddaughter play a part in the movie, as well as my daughter. Even my wonderful fur baby, Bridget, my Shih Tzu, had a small role. I loved that it snowed too, lots and lots!! My first Christmas movie with “real” snow! Yay!
ME: Is there a funny story to share?
There are so many, but one or two stand out. There’s a scene with Matthew and Juniper, (the new girl in the neighborhood) they are in the pirate ship with the dog. It was critical that Bridget should eat a candy cane on cue, because. . . well, watch the movie and you’ll see why. I’d practiced with Bridget at home, and we both love candy canes. Every practice she would happily crunch hers. I was confident that the scene would go off without a hitch. However, on that cold night, Bridget turned up her nose at the candy cane.
After a few takes it was obvious that she wasn’t going to eat the candy cane, until by accident Juniper dropped it and it broke into pieces. I then realized that I’d always broken the candy cane in piece, so she could manage to eat them. She could not eat one whole, ha ha. So, the scene went off without a problem after that. She crunched the candy cane, and the line was delivered.
One of my favorite parts is when the actor playing Allen has a hat over his head with eye holes, so his face is hidden as they Elve the Hagbarts.. He wears glasses, so they were put on top of the hat. Because it was so cold, the glasses steamed up, so he couldn’t see, but he just went with it, and delivered his lines, without batting an eye (pun intended).
ME: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the film?
I’d love for people to watch the movie with their children and grandchildren. There will be a lot of moments that children might ask questions as to why this happened, why the bullies didn’t really get what they deserved in the end, and why they acted the way they did.
There are many teaching moments during the movie. Kids will love the movie because they can relate to the antics of boys, and the magic of Christmas. I hope audiences will enjoy the humor and heart of the film. One cute thing is that it has become my 4-year-old grandson McKay’s favorite movie. He watches it every day. He even quotes lines from it. I’ve always wanted to write a movie where someone quoted my lines.”
This film can be purchased online from Amazon.com, Desert Book, or Seagull books.
I had planned to announce the winner of the Miracle Maker movie today, but we had way too much fun at the book launch last night and I was too tired. So, my procrastination is your gain. You still have one more day to enter. I will post the winner in the morning! Good Luck.
Today is the first edition of TOY STORE TUESDAY!
I LOVE TOYS. I love researching them, buying them, and okay, I’ll confess it- I love playing with them. What I hate is buying a stupid, badly thought out, or cheap toys. I call these toybox fodder, because they end up in the bottom of the toy box, a worthless pile of plastic
Because I run a daycare I basically get paid to play with toys and watch kiddos play with toys. I thought it would be fun to include toy reviews to help you out with your holiday shopping.
For this review, I chose Fisher Price’s Double Poppin’ Dino. I saw this one at Costco, and had to try it out.
To sum up this toy, it’s a cute little dinosaur that plays music and has a little mechanism inside that pumps balls up and down, bouncing them around. It has two levels to put balls on and comes with six different colored balls. They balls also roll out of the dino’s mouth. There is a roller in the front, making it easy for little ones to operate without adult help and a blessed on/off button for those days when crazy kid music needs to be silenced. Fisher price has a few different varieties of these- a blue dinosaur and a hippo, that I know of. I really like the ease to the balls and the two tiers of ball popping.
Sorry the picture is a little blurry – I’m a really lousy photographer. 🙂
COST- $ $ I checked a variety of different places. They first thing you should know about this one is that the price varies A LOT. Anywhere between $17 dollars and some change to around $35.00. (Amazon seems to have the best deal I could find and you don’t even need to leave the house. Whoo hoo.) **It does take 3 C batteries though, so add that to your cart so you don’t forget them.
AGE- This is listed for ages 6-36 months. (I won’t even get started on why I think people should stop referring to ages in months after 1 years old, but that is what it says.) This age limit is accurate, although even older kids will play with it too.
EASE OF ASSEMBLY- You guys, this one is awesome! It takes like three clicks and a screw and you’re golden. Very well thought out plan. Fifteen minutes, tops- but you do have to find a screwdriver. Honestly, that part took me the longest to do.
QUALITY OF MATERIALS- LOVE IT. Solid and sturdy. Great colors and this little guy can take a beating. It need to because this toy will get plenty of action.
OVERALL IMPRESSION AND RATING * * * * *
Five stars!! I love this toy. If you’re purchasing it for a relative I wouldn’t give it to anyone over 2 because it will seem like a baby toy, but I know for a fact that my four- year-old’s will play with it, and even some of my older kids. The two-year-old’s LOVE IT! I has a great song that comes on when a wheel thingy in the front gets rolled and the balls jump around like crazy, leaving them cracking up. They play with this thing for hours.
**The only downside at all is that the balls roll out so easily that they get lost. Best if played on carpet, so they don’t roll so far away. Especially for crawlers.
Thank for taking a look at my first toy review. I love it if you’d leave a comment and let me know if it was helpful for you. Also, you still have time to enter the drawing for the Miracle Maker movie by signing up for the Newsletter. Don’t be afraid. I know we all hesitate to give out our email because we’re drowning is spam, but I promise this one will be painless. They’ll have great info about books and book deals, as well as some inside info, and will only be about once a month.
For today’s blog post I enlisted the help of the amazing Christie Millet and her super-powered craft skills. She has come up with a fantastic craft to give a boost to your holiday decorating. I LOVE this project because it is easy on the budget as well as just plain EASY! Take it away Christie-
Holiday Present Blocks
These adorable blocks are both fun and simple to make, and they dress up any holiday decor!
All it takes is four easy steps.
1. We went to the local Home Depot for supplies, here you see a 4 x 4 that has been cut in 3, 6, and 9 inch increments.
2. Next you will want to paint or stain the blocks. For our project, we used both Wood Stain which we purchased at Home Depot and Chalk Paint we bought at Walmart.
3.Once they are dry, tie the ribbon on. I love ribbon, it always adds just the special something to a project. Here you can see we added it to the block before cutting so we could get just the right look. We also used two different ribbon styles and colors. The best thing to do is add the ribbon you love because the ribbon is the pop in the project.
4. Here you can see the finished block. To add a little bit of flair, we sanded the edges and a bit towards the middle. Then they were then sealed with Modge Podge.
**The ribbon is dove tailed on the ends. Love it, but not sure how to do it. Don’t worry- I’ll show you how in my next post.
– Christie Millet/ Owner of Designs By Christie Millet.
If you guys love her stuff as much as I do, head to her Facebook store
https://www.facebook.com/designsbychristiemillett ( I couldn’t get the link to work, but it will pull up easily and is taking a minute to do some shopping. One less trip to the store for presents.)
We are still looking for entries for the Dec. 1 drawing for a copy of the Miracle Maker movie. To have a chance to win all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter below.
The Miracle Maker coming out in full-color illustration has been a dream come true. To celebrate I decided to fill the next few months of posts with gloriously-good food, decorations, and holiday tips. I call it “HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS”. For the first holiday blog post I decided to skip straight to dessert. Those of you who know me aren’t surprised by this, and of course it’s chocolate.
This is one of my family’s go-to desserts with a little extra holiday flourish. If you have a pot luck event, or holiday company this recipe is sure to get oohs and aaahhs.
TURTLE BROWNIE TEXAS SHEETCAKE
When I was young, my brother Russell, (*waves wildly- “Hi, Russ!”) brought this cake recipe back from Missouri. I grew up calling it “Russell Cake”. Until I was married, I didn’t know Texas Sheet Cake was even a thing. By any name you want to call it, it is DELICIOUS. I don’t make it too often, because I will literally eat the entire sheet pan of it by myself. I’ve added a special turtle topping to make it holiday spectacular.
It’s a super easy cake to make, and one of the great things about this cake is that you get to ice it hot- so no waiting around for it to cool. The caramel topping tastes delicious, but it does start to break down the frosting after a day or so. (If it’s even possible to have leftovers.) Just one more reason to eat it quickly.
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp soda
½ sticks butter
2 beaten eggs
½ cups buttermilk (If you don’t have buttermilk use 1/2 tsp vinegar in regular milk)
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tblsp cocoa
Turn oven to 325 degrees.
Sift together flour, sugar, soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Bring to low boil butter, cocoa, and water. Add to dry ingredients while it is still hot.
Add eggs and buttermilk and vanilla.
Bake in a greased jellyroll pan at 325 for 20 minutes.
Frosting- (Again frost while the cake is hot.)
1 stick butter
4 Tblsp cocoa
5 Tblsp milk
1 Tblsp vanilla
1 lb powdered sugar
Bring first three ingredients to a slow boil. Add vanilla, then slowly add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. (It can get clumpy if you’re not careful) Frost as soon as cake comes out of oven. For the Turtle version continue to the next step.
Top frosted cake evenly with:
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramel sauce (put this on last after everything is cooled.) I prefer a salted caramel variety, but that is purely a taste preference. Squeeze bottle versions are the easiest to use.
Just don’t let it get too gloppy. It’s prettier if you keep circling it lightly.
Happy baking!! Don’t forget, if you haven’t entered the contest for the Miracle Maker Movie, by joining the newsletter list, you can do that at the bottom of this page. The drawing is Dec. 1.
I have always loved fall, but now I have an even better reason. MIRACLE MAKER IS OFFICIALLY OUT IN COLOR ILLUSTRATION. Wow that’s a lot of caps. But yes, if you were here I would be yelling from the rooftops. It’s been an incredibly long road, but I am so please with the way it turned out.
Now that it is November, we can officially settle in and embrace the holidays. We can look forward to Grandma’s pumpkin pie, visits from extended family (with all the crazy that brings), cozy nights by the fire, and of course holiday movies and stories.
For the next few months this blog is going to be all about the holiday season. I have some easy craft ideas, gift recommendations, Toystore Tuesday’s (where we review some great toys), and of course FOOD ideas to make your celebrations fun and festive. I am also starting a Newsletter subscription where I’ll give updates on new writing projects and events as well as fun giveaways and book deals. To kick it off I am going to have a giveaway for the Miracle Maker Movie. To enter in the drawing all you have to do is sign up for the news letter at the bottom of this blog post. It’s easy and painless and I promise never to sell off your info or send you a bunch of junk mail.
For our final day, I have an interview with Caitlin E. J. Meyer.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with this project?
Caitlin: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City with a big family of 7 siblings! I loved acting from a very young age and started doing theatre when I was 5. I grew up on the stage and then later starting doing film. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Psychology. I am a preschool teacher in a school specifically for children with Autism and I am so lucky to work with such amazing kids! I got married 7 months ago to my best friend Daniel. We love to go to movies, take road trips, and spend time together with friends and family.
How did you get involved with this project?
Caitlin: I am very blessed to have an extremely talented mother who happened to write the movie! She is amazing and it’s a really fun thing for both of us to spend time together doing the things we love (writing and acting!). I also have known John Lyde since my awkward teenage years and it’s a great time working with him also.
What was you favorite part about making this movie?
Caitlin: Well first off, it is always a pleasure to work on a film that my mom has written, so that was really special. And secondly, it is probably the experience and the attitude that everyone had on set while filming. It was so fun and everyone was always joking and having a good time.
Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?
Caitlin: One of my favorite moments while filming was when Melanie and I were on the horse carriage trying to find “Oliver.” I was pretty excited when I first sat up there…until I saw Mel’s face! I asked her if she had much time to practice driving the carriage with the horses and she said no. *gulp* But we thought we would wing it! As soon as they called action the horses took off like they were in the Kentucky Derby! I was pretty impressed with Melanie that she was able to control them so well, until I heard the real sheer panic in her voice as she was trying to make them slow down. We just kept getting closer and closer to the camera and I was almost certain we were going trample everyone. Thankfully the horses stopped at what seemed like the last second. As soon as they said cut we both started laughing! Both because we were terrified, and secondly because it was hilarious and exhilarating. If Melanie ever quits acting I really think she could get into horse racing! 🙂
Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?
Caitlin: This was not an easy film to make! There were lots of really long days and nights and the heat and the cold and the bugs and the sewer sprinklers (another funny story J) and uncooperative birds, and the rain, but there was still such an awesome feeling of joy between everyone. People were just happy to be a part of such an amazing project. There were so many people stepping in, helping and working hard to pull it off. Those are the ones who made it all possible! It was so worth it!
How do you feel about Miracles?
Caitlin: Having the opportunity to have a role in three “Miracle” movies, I would be pretty ungrateful if I didn’t notice the miracles around me. I think God sends me little miracles to keep me humble and to always remember Him. It is a little piece of Heaven on earth that shows us that God loves us.