Friday, February 19, 2010

Longing for spring


I am looking for signs of spring and I can’t find any. There are 10 more days of February and 20 days of March until spring officially arrives- that’s almost another whole month! We are expecting 7 inches of snow this weekend. We’re flying off to Las Vegas Sunday morning so I hope most of the snow holds off until after we leave. What a long, cold, snowy winter!


It is 64 degrees in Las Vegas right now! That’s not bad compared to the 39 degree cloudy weather we are experiencing. I can’t wait. It’s been 15 years since we’ve seen Vegas. I’m guessing there will be a lot of changes. We’ll be flying on Southwest for the first time and that should be a new experience too! I’ll tell you all about it when we get back. Someone sent me this card trick this week: http://officespam.chattablogs.com/archives/2007/07/david-copperfield-card-trick.html.



Try it out – it will blow your mind!

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my new store and making spring crafts. Making bunnies and chicks cheers me up. I also put out some St. Patrick’s Day decorations and a new screensaver on my computer. That bright green is cheery! I think I’ll buy a shamrock plant when I get back.

Did you ever wonder how they make green beer? They put shamrock juice in it. Just kidding! There are a lot of ways to make green beer but the easiest way is to add a few drops of green food coloring to a frosted mug and then pour in a beer. Very refreshing!!! Darker beers will require a few more drops to get a good emerald green color. You can also make green milk and milk shakes (a la McDonald’s shamrock shakes) by adding a few drops of food coloring before mixing. You can add mint extract for a mint flavored drink.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh Book Review



If you like Regency romances, you will like this book. It is a re-release, so if you have read a lot of books by Mary Balogh, you may have already read this one.

A Precious Jewel
by Mary Balogh
336 pages
Published 2009

Priscilla Wentworth is a precious jewel. She is graceful, educated, accomplished, and must work for a living. Misfortune has caused her to end up as a prostitute in a very elite brothel. It is not a difficult job and she learns to do it well. She is a practical and cheerful woman and has a knack for looking on the bright side. She begins to fall in love with a new client and to her surprise, he asks her to become his mistress.
Sir Gerald Stapleton hates marriage and attachments but he is worried about the safety of his new paramour. He sets Priscilla up as his mistress for her own safety and to keep her exclusively for himself. Despite Gerald’s attachment issues and Priscilla’s unsuitability, they become deeply attached to each but neither will admit it.

Mary Balogh wrote this book in 1993 and re-released it in 2009. Priscilla and Gerald were 2 characters in another book she had written. She wrote this book in 2 weeks and it has been a very popular book.

I especially like the character development of Gerald. At first, he seems like a typical young hero of the Regency time period. He is a handsome, selfish, gambling, drinking, social young man. As time progresses, you learn that he is insecure, not very bright, and lacks self confidence. He has issues about attachment and being loved. I like that he is so flawed. He is not who you would expect to be the hero of an historical novel. I also like the novelty of having a prostitute as the heroine even though her character is not very realistic. You will like her and feel sorry for her.

If you can fall in love with these interesting characters, you will like this book. It chronicles the ups and downs of their budding, impossible romance as you get to know them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

EBay Dilemma


EBay Dilemma!

What to do?

On March 30th, EBay is raising seller fees. As a store owner, I will be paying $116.00 per month instead of $31.00 just to list the items in my store. I will still have to pay 9% for sales plus PayPal fees. This will not work for me.

My plan is to reduce my EBay inventory to 100 items for a month or two and see how it goes. I am in the process of opening my own store: The Crafty Cupboard at http://mycraftycupboard.com/. It is very time consuming and I haven’t had a single sale yet.

I sell crafts and used books and odds and ends – things that I absolutely love! There is not much profit in those things especially considering the work I put into them. I have known for a while that I need to find an item that will generate more income but until then, I am sticking with the crafts and books.

I have had stores at EBay (http://stores.ebay.com/The-Crafty-Cupboard) and Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/jewelgirl22000) for several years now. EBay has a lot of rules and problems but has good traffic. I have had over 1300 sales there and have met a lot of really nice people. Etsy is a craft store mall site that does really well. I have had 85 sales there.

My new store is in progress but my St. Patrick’s Day items are listed and also my Easter things. Payment is by PayPal. I will be listing more things every day. I plan to add book reviews, recipes, and free patterns. I have had excellent feedback on EBay and Etsy and plan to continue this service.

Please stop by and check out my new store. Free gift with every order!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pay It forward

Last Wednesday, the Starbucks in Springfield thought they might have set a record for the longest chain of pay it forward coffees. They sold a chain of 172 drinks starting at 7:30 AM and stopping at 2:30PM.

Pay it forward is a concept where a good deed is done for a person with the stipulation or expectation that the receiver do a good deed for another person. It is also known as generalized reciprocity, generalized exchange, random acts of kindness, or alternative gifting.

Benjamin Franklin was the first person to describe the concept in a letter to Benjamin Webb. He loaned Webb someone money and asked that Webb loan money to someone else in the future so that his small loan might do a great deal.

Most recently, a novel written by Catherine Ryan Hyde called Pay It Forward was adapted into a movie. In the book and movie, “pay it forward” is described as an obligation to do three good deeds for others in exchange for one good deed received. The idea is make the world a better place exponentially. The book and move spawned The Pay It Forward Movement and the the Pay It Forward Foundation. Their goal is to spread the idea to children, parents, and educators in order to make children more socially aware and also to make the world a better place.

In 2006, Ophra gave $1000.00 debit cards, a camcorder, and a pay it forward challenge to 300 show guests. They were to use the money to help charitable organizations and people within one week and record it.

Pay It Forward has become a valuable social movement. You can read dozens of testimonials at the Pay It Forward Movement website. It is easy to do. If someone performs an act of kindness for you, make a mental note to do three things for other people. If they ask to repay the kindness, ask them to perform three acts of kindness for someone else. It could be as simple as opening a door for a mother pushing a baby stroller or shoveling snow from your neighbor’s sidewalk to more complicated deeds like finding a home for a homeless person. It is a wonderful way for an ordinary person to make a difference and it feels good. You will feel warmth and contentment when you make someone else smile or feel happy. You will feel great satisfaction when you do something that makes the world a better place.

You can get a free bumper sticker at the Pay It forward Foundation:
http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/bumper_stickers.html.

Pay It Forward.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year


The Chinese New Year is this Sunday, February 14, 2010. This is the year of the Tiger. It is the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon. It is also called the Spring Festival because it marks the end of winter and the beginning of Spring!


What are some of the traditions of the Chinese New Year?


It is traditional to clean your house starting a month before the New Year to make room for good luck. The color red represents happiness and is used to decorate. Gold is a sign of wealth. Doors and windows are decorated with special red cutouts called Jianzhi and scrolls with good wishes for prosperity and wealth. Families wear red and celebrate with a feast followed by fireworks which are thought to scare away evil spirits. Red envelopes filled with an even amount of money are given away as a symbol of good luck. Lions are considered to be good omens and the lion dance repels demons. The dragon represents strength, wisdom, and good fortune.

If you want to have your own celebration you can buy decorations from the Oriental Trading Company or Partycheap.com. Wear red clothes and buy some Chinese takeout food or try some simple Chinese dishes. Afterwards, set off some fireworks.


Here are a few of my favorite Americanized Chinese dishes:

Pepper Steak
1 ½ lbs. sirloin
½ tsp. salt
2 medium chopped onions
1 cup beef broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
2 green peppers cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tbsp corn starch
½ cup cold water
Trim fat and bone from sirloin and cut into strips. Spray skillet with Pam and brown meat. Season and push to side of skillet... Add onions and cook until tender. Stir in broth, soy sauce, and garlic. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sliced green pepper. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend cornstarch and water. Gradually stir into meat mixture. Cook stirring constantly until mixture thickens and starts to boil. Serve over rice.

Sticky Chinese Chicken
1 cup finely crushed onion and garlic croutons
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
1/1 cup canola oil
In a large bowl: whisk crouton crumbs, and cornstarch. Stir in soy sauce. Add chicken and toss until completely coated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook covered for 20-25 minutes until crispy and cooked all the way through. Turn 4-5 times during cooking to avoid burning. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately over rice.

Sesame Chicken
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp. flour
1 egg white
¼ tsp. Asian sesame oil
½ tsp salt
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
Mix sesame seeds and flour. Beat egg white with sesame oil and salt. Dip chicken breasts into egg white, letting excess drip off, coat with sesame seed mixture.
Heat oil and butter in 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 5 to 6 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through.

Serve any of those dishes with rice and sugar snap peas.
For dessert have some fortune cookies.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!!!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dessert Party


A few years ago when Valentine’s Day was on Saturday, I hosted a Dessert Party for my friends. It worked out really well because they could go out for dinner and come by for dessert. This party works well for Christmas too and just about any other Friday or Saturday evening.

Invitations: Buy readymade invites or download and print your own from http://www.purpletrail.com/. You will also find party ideas at this site.

Decorations: Choose a theme and buy some partyware from a discount store or go with a romantic theme and use a pretty tablecloth, candles, flower arrangement, crystal or glass plates, scattered rose petals, paper hearts or Hershey’s Kisses.

Music: Play your favorite CDs or love songs. There are some good lists at http://www.lovetripper.com/love-notes/love-notes.html.
Drinks: Serve coffee with an assortment of flavored creams or tea if you prefer and dessert wines like Riesling or champagne. Make a festive punch or cocktail and have some beer and soda available.

Valentine’s Day Punch
1 qt. cranberry juice cocktail2 c. pineapple juice1 1/2 c. sugar2 qts. ginger aleLight rum (opt.)
Mix juices with sugar; chill. Add ginger ale and rum at serving time.(Cooks.com)

Chocolate Martini
1 oz. vodka
1oz crème de cacao
1 ½ oz.milk
Pour over ice cubes, shake then pour into glass drizzled with Hershey's syrup.


Food: Serve an assortment of appetizers like raw vegetables and a crockpot of little sausages or meatball for contrast. Make or buy and assortment of luscious desserts and a cheese plate with crackers. There are dozens of dessert recipes at: http://www.joyofbaking.com/other/ValentinesDayDesserts.html

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February Celebrations


It’s snowing again. We got two inches last night and are expecting more today. Winter is here to stay.
At least we have a cluster of holidays coming up.
Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is February 12th.
Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year are on Sunday, February 14th. Mardi Gras is February 16th. More snow! We got two inches last night and are expecting more today. George Washington’s Birthday is February 22nd. We can do a lot of celebrating this month! Here in Springfield, we have a lot of events happening. Check your local newspaper and see what events are happening in your area.

We have a huge celebration for Lincoln’s Birthday starting with a new display of artifacts in the Abraham Lincoln Museum. A new Lincoln penny will be released on Thursday. There will be lectures, banquets, and storytelling programs for children. A new Lincoln penny will be unveiled Thursday. There will be pilgrimages to Lincoln’s tomb. Valentine’s Day is on Sunday this year and we have a lot of specials dinners and events for lovers. Specials meals, desserts, and hotel packages are available. Mardi Gras will be celebrated here starting with a costume party on Monday, February 15th. A family parade will be begin on Tuesday followed by a pub crawl led by the Jambalaya Marching Band. Several restaurants will be serving Cajun and Creole foods.

To celebrate at home: Read the Gettysburg Address and make a log cabin out of pretzel sticks or bake a log cake for dessert for Lincoln’s birthday. Make or buy a Valentine’s Day Card for your sweetheart, cook a special meal with a chocolate dessert, and watch a romantic movie. Cook some Chinese dishes or get takeout for the Chinese New Year. Listen to jazz and bake a King Cake for Mardi Gras. Read a biography of George Washington and bake a cherry pie or cherry dessert.

So, if you have cabin fever like me, you can get out and enjoy some of these events and foods. Go to the mall , a movie, or to an indoor event like a flea market or trivia contest. Try a new restaurant. Read a book or article about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Try something new. Winter can't last forever!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Delicious Homemade Valentine Treats


Need some ideas for decorating treats for Valentine's Day? Homemade treats are a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It can be very satisfying to make homemade goodies for your family and they will love it. They also make great gifts!

Cakes, Cookies, Brownies
If you have a heart shaped cookie cutter, you can make a lot of heart shaped treats. You can cut out cookies, brownies, cakes, rice krispy treats, jello, sandwiches, biscuits, toast, pancakes, and lots of other stuff. Cookies, cakes, and brownies can then be frosted and decorated. Cookie cutters are relatively inexpensive and come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. If you don’t have one, you can cut out a cardboard heart pattern and cut out your treats using the pattern and a sharp knife
.
To decorate: You can frost with white or pink or red tinted frosting. Here is where you can really get creative. Write messages on them like “Love Ya” or “Be Mine” or simply write their names. Decorate with pink or red sprinkles, icing, tinted sugar, conversation hearts, pink M&Ms, chocolate pieces, tinted coconut, raspberry jam, cherries, strawberries, the list is endless. You can decorate cakes with cut out and decorated cookies. You can also make a heart stencil, place it over the cookie, and sprinkle sugar across the heart cutout. (You can make your own tinted sugar by placing some granulated sugar in a ziplock bag, add a few drops of food coloring, seal bag and massage until mixed.)

Heart Shaped Cake or Cupcakes
If you are lucky enough to have a heart shaped cake pan, you can easily make a heart shaped cake to frost and decorate. You could also make a jello mold, banana bread or even a meatloaf. Wilton makes heart shaped cake pans and cupcake pans. If you don’t have a special pan you can still make a heart shaped cake. Mix up a cake mix and bake it in one square pan and one round pan. Cool for 10 minutes and gently remove from pans. After it has cooled, cut the round layer in half. Arrange the square layer on a flat cookie sheet in a diamond and place one of each of the round layers with the cut side against each side of the diamond. Frost and decorate.

You can make heart shaped cupcakes or muffins with a regular cupcake pan and some marbles. Fill each line half way with batter. Drop one marble between the liner and the pan to make a heart shape and bake as usual.

Candy
You can buy many pretty candy melts and molds at craft stores like Michaels. They even come in kits. You can make all kinds of candy and it is easy and fun. You can also make traditional candy and decorate them.
Here are my favorite candy recipes:

Fudge
2/3 cup carnation milk
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 ½ cup minimarshmellows
1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla.

Mix milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat until boiling, then cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add marshmallow, chocolate chips, and vanilla. Stir until well mixed. Pour into butter 8 inch square baking pan. Cool. Cut into squares. Decorate.

Peanut Clusters

½ pound vanilla coating
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups peanuts
Melt chocolate and coating in the microwave for 2 ½ to 3 minutes until melted. Stir in nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls on to cookie sheet cover with wax paper, chill until firm. (Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

Truffles
21/2 packages Baker’s Semi Sweet Chocolate
1 package cream cheese, softened

Melt 8 chocolate squares. Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Refrigerate until firm.
Shape into 36 balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet. Melt remaining chocolate. Use a fork to dip cream cheese balls Return to cookie sheet. Decorate. Refrigerate for one hour. (Kraft)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

16 oz milk chocolate chips
2 tbsp Shortening
Strawberries

Melt chocolate and shortening in a double boiler stirring occasionally until smooth. Stick a toothpick into each strawberry and dip into chocolate. Stick strawberry upside down into Styrofoam until cooled. (Allrecpes.com)
Valentine’s Day is about making the special people in your life feel loved and appreciated. Cooking or baking them a special treat is one perfect way to show your love.



Friday, February 5, 2010

Give From the Heart


According to US Census of 2006, the top 5 gifts for Valentine’s Day are:
1. Greeting Cards
2. Dinner Date
3. Flowers
4. Candy
5. Gift Card or Stuffed Animal.

The first year I was married, my husband bought me a large file folder to organize bills for Valentine’s Day. I was crushed and he didn’t understand why I was so unhappy with what he considered to be the perfect gift for me. He thought he was choosing something I would really like because he knew that I liked to be organized and an organized bill folder would be very helpful. It was unromantic. I want romance for Valentine’s Day. I don’t want something that says, hey, this gift will help you be a better person, wife, mother, cook, etc. I want something that says I love you and I adore you and you are the most wonderful woman in the world! I want to feel loved.


It’s tricky to find a romantic gift. Romance means different things to different people. You have to really listen and observe your partner to figure out what they think is romantic.

I am very happy with a night out, flowers, or candy and a card. I like traditional gifts. I usually give my husband something related to his favorite sports teams and a funny card that makes him laugh. I am lucky to have a husband that likes whatever I get him. As I have said before, we are going to Las Vegas this year for Valentine’s Day and I think it will be a very romantic trip.

Giving a gift is almost better than receiving a gift. Giving a well thought out gift makes you feel good. While you are in the spirit of giving, maybe you can give something back to the community. Donate some money to the food bank or to the Red Cross for Haiti. Donate blood. Clean out your closets and give to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. St. Jude’s Ranch for children is accepting greeting card fronts so they can make new cards for a fundraiser until the end of February. They especially need angels and teddy bears. It is a good way to recycle cards. Send the card fronts to:


St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Southern Nights by Danielle Steel Book Review


Need to escape a long, cold, dreary winter? I recommend reading this new book by Danielle Steel. Much of it is set in sunny Charleston.


Southern Lights by Danielle Steel
326 pages
Copyright 2009

Southern Lights is Danielle Steel’s 79th novel. I like about 30% of her novels as some of them are very tedious. This one was very enjoyable. It is a story of betrayal, family secrets, loss, bitterness, grace, and healing.


It is mostly set in Charleston and Manhattan. Charleston is described as a beautiful, historic, Southern city with gorgeous architecture, lovely beaches, nice weather, and friendly people. “It is just like the ‘War Between the States’ never ended.” It sounds like a lovely place and this book will make you want to visit.

I feel sympathy for the main character, Alexa Hamilton. She has suffered and has never recovered from her past. Alexa is a Yankee from Manhattan who has been dumped by her rich, Southern, banker husband from Charleston. He dumps her after 8 wonderful years of marriage to remarry his first wife. Heartbroken, Alexa flees back to Manhattan with their 8 year old daughter to become a public defender. Ten years later in the middle of prosecuting a dangerous serial killer, her daughter receives threats from the killer. She is sent to Charleston to live with her father and his unfriendly family until it is safe for her to return home.


What makes this book so engaging are the two simultaneously occurring story lines and the intriguing characters. The trial of the creepy serial killer flips back and forth with the challenges of establishing relationships with a disapproving family. You can easily sympathize and admire Alexa and her daughter Savannah while hating and despising Tom and his mean spirited wife Luisa.


This is not the book for you if you are expecting a lot of suspense and twists and turns. This is a good story about family and healing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super Bowl Nachos



Do you want to have hot, cheesy nachos for your super bowl party?



Here are some suggestions for making the best nachos ever:


Start with fresh, crispy chips from the super market or buy some from a Mexican restaurant. Better yet, make your own:



Slice corn tortillas into 6-8 wedges. Heat oil in deep pan or deep fat fryer until 375 degrees. Drop a handful of chips into fryer, stir, and cook for 1-2 minutes until light brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Start next batch.

For spicier chips: Place freshly cooked chips in a bowl and sprinkle with the juice of half a lime, kosher salt, and chili powder. Toss to coat.

Chips can also be fried in a skillet in 1 inched heated oil for 1-2 minutes per side until lightly browned and crispy. Turn once.

To make healthier chips: Spray tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and season with salt and chilli powder if desired. Cut into 6-8 wedges, arrange on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes until edges start to curl. Watch carefully after 5 minutes because they burn easily. Cool on paper towel lined trays.

Spread chips in a single layer on oven safe platter, shallow baking dish, or foil lined cookie sheet. Layer toppings as follows to prevent sogginess: a thin layer cheese, a thin layer topping, and a 2nd layer of cheese. Do not mound toppings. Bake at 475 degrees for 5 minutes or until cheese is just melted and starting to bubble.



You want to be able to taste all layers on each chip.



Experiment with different cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey jack, Gouda, Muenster, Swiss are all good choices.



Toppings: hamburger, sausage, sliced chicken, smoked salmon, shrimp, bacon, crab, chili, refried beans, sundried tomatoes, olives, onion, pepper, garlic, chilies, avocados, enchilada sauce, sour cream, and salsa.



Here is a simple and delicious nacho recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook that I like to use:



Skillet Nachos



1 tbsp. oil
1 med green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup canned corn
1 cup Old El Paso Thick and Chunky salsa
1 cup chili beans in sauce (from 15 oz can)
4 oz tortilla chips
1 ½ cups shredded Monterey cheese
Sliced black olives



In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add bell pepper and corn; cook and stir about 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in 1/2 cup of the salsa and the beans; cook until hot. Remove mixture from skillet.

Wipe skillet clean. Arrange tortilla chips in single layer in skillet. Spoon vegetable mixture onto chips. Sprinkle with cheese.

Cover and cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with olives. Serve with remaining 1/2 cup salsa.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Your Family


Valentine’s Day falls on Sunday this year so why not celebrate it all day with your family.


Beginning with breakfast, you can easily make a heart themed meal. Make heart shaped toast, French toast, or pancakes and top with strawberry or raspberry jam. You can use a cookie cutter to cut the shapes out of toasted bread or thawed French toast or pancakes or even waffles. You can make your own heart shaped French toast by using a cookie cutter to cut out shaped from bread before cooking. You can make heart-shaped pancakes by pouring batter into a ziplock bag and cutting off one corner. Pipe batter onto skillet in a heart shape. Serve with cranberry juice.

Serve tomato soup for lunch. You can easily cut a heart out of a slice of stick margarine to top off the soup. Serve with heart-shaped toasted cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly and maybe some Strawberry Quik mix in Milk.

These activities could be done anytime during the day:

Bake some cookies or cupcakes and decorate with frosting and colored sugar or sprinkles.


Play bingo and use conversation hearts for the pieces. Older children can play the old card game – Hearts. Hide a bunch of paper hearts around the house and give a prize to the person who can find the most.

Do a craft together. Make bracelets out of string and beads and use some letter beads if you have them to put messages or names on them. You can also string large pony beads on a pipe cleaner and bend it into a heart shape for a pretty decoration or gift. Make cards for each other using construction paper, scissors, crayons, markers, glue and tape. There are also many websites with pages Valentines that can printed out and colored or decorated.

Pop some popcorn and watch a romantic movie. Small children will like Lady and the Tramp or Shrek. Older children will like A Cinderella Story, High School Musical, or Ever After.

Put on some good music and dance, dance, dance.

For dinner, you can make a heart shaped pizza. Some pizza places sell heart shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day. You could also serve spaghetti and meatballs with heart-shaped garlic bread slices and salad. Let the kids decorate the table with heart cutouts from construction paper chocolate kisses, and red and white or heart shaped balloons. Serve the leftover cookies or cupcakes for dessert or make a special dessert like chocolate pudding, red velvet cake, or your family’s favorite treat.

Lastly, read a romantic story or Valentine’s Day themed book together such as I’ll Love you Forever, I Love You the Purplest, Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink, or just about any Disney classic.

Your family will love the extra attention and love they will be receiving this Valentine’s Day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog Day

Whew! We survived a very cold, dark January. The sun is shining today but it is only 17 degrees.

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. If it is a sunny day and he sees his shadow, he will be scared and will run back into his burrow and we will have 6 more weeks of cold, freezing, snowy, icy winter. If it is a cloudy day and he does not see his shadow, spring is just around the corner. I hope he doesn’t see his shadow. Isn’t that silly? The reality behind groundhog day is that people used to watch for small hibernating animals to come out of their burrows for a sign that spring was imminent. It has nothing to do with shadows except that a winter of sunny, cold, clear days is an indication of a weather system that blows away clouds and pulls down cold air from the north and is likely to stick around for awhile.

Have you heard all the protests about abusing groundhogs? PETA says that groundhogs are being poked out of their holes with sharp sticks roughly handled, and frightened by huge crowds and the flashing lights of cameras. They want all groundhogs that are used for Groundhog Day ceremonies replaced by robots. There is a lot of controversy about it. Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXPkHMkgTZ8 .

I hope that the groundhog in your area does not see his shadow and that we all have an early spring. Meanwhile, I will be watching for signs of spring: robins and other singing birds, budding trees, and the sight of spring blooming plants popping up.