Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

The back cover:
"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."

So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart.
So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.

Once again Lynn Austin has written a great historical novel.  Though Waters Roar covers the span of four generations and each is magically woven into the next.  Harriet (the plain child referred to above), her mother Lucy, grandmother Bebe, and great grandmother Hannah overcome circumstances and become strong women and fight against different social injustices.  Each character is distinct and the emotions, attitudes, and actions greatly vary in how they respond to situations.

Though I initially struggled to follow the characters (because it jumps from year to year), I quickly was brought into the story and could not put it down.  It begins with Harriet in jail pondering over the irony of how she got there.  As she thinks back over her past, she recalls not only her past, but also the stories that have been told to her.  It all relates to how this young woman found herself in a jail cell.

This book is well worth the many late nights I had when I could not put it down.  I do recommend it!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Bethany House?  Click the link!  Also, feel free to ask me questions!

I received this book to review.  My review reflects my own opinions.  Thank you Bethany House Publishers.

How to Use a Pork Roast

I have cooked many pork roasts, mostly because I can often find them at a very good price.  The downside of my pork roasts is that they tend to be rather flavorless.  Well, that's not yummy.   We have come up with two alternatives to flavorless pork.

Pulled Pork

The alternative became making pulled pork sandwiches with our roasts.  We don't really use a recipe, but use the slow cooker, lined with a slow cooker bag, if desired.  Place your trimmed roast inside (it can even have a bone).  Add some (maybe 1/2 cup) barbecue sauce, a touch of Worcestershire sauce, and less than 1/4 cup of water.  Cook on low for at least 6 hours, then remove the roast and shred with two forks.  Dispose of the juices (and any bone) right in the slow cooker bag.  Place the shredded meat back in the slow cooker (without bag this time unless you want to use a new one).  Add a lot of barbecue sauce (the rest of the bottle).

(If your husband suggests that he take over making the pulled pork, use caution.  He may add way too much A-1 Steak Sauce.  I know...and we both regret that!  I am hoping that he won't ever add it again.)

Continue to cook on low for about 30+ minutes.  Then serve on rolls.  Yum.

For a tasty and very simple to make pork roast, I used Start Cooking's directions.

Pork Roast

In a small bowl, I combined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon oregeno
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I rubbed this all over the roast and placed it in the roasting pan, fat side up.  I also used their tip to make a rack for my roasting pan from tin foil.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Then lower two 250 and bake for 50-80 minutes or until internal temperature is 150 degrees.  Much better than my previous unsavory roasts!

How do you use a pork roast?  Any tips for us?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Candy Cane

M had a lot of fun making her own candy cane from two pipe cleaners.  I held one end while she twisted the other. Simple.  Fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Baby Jesus

This baby Jesus is made from felt.  Though he was simple to make, he was done just in time since I procrastinated.

I cut two gray ovals and then a small oval for his face.  After embroidering the eyes, mouth, and nose, I stitched the face to the gray "blanket".  Derek suggested that it needed some blanket folds.  I just used some triangular-shaped scraps to add the folds and thought it added the right touch.

Christmas morning when M found the last advent book for our calendar, baby Jesus was there to be added to the manger instead of a piece of hay.  She knew exactly who he was and what to do with him.

I was really pleased with our advent calendar and how we prepared for baby Jesus' birth by adding a piece of  "hay" daily to the manger.  We'll definitely do it again next year!  I also want to do this Jesse Tree and with the felt tree I already made.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Free Veggie Tales DVD

Yes, a free video for you!  Just pay shipping!  Check it out at Big Idea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you...all of my blog land friends! This is the Christmas photo collage I created for our Christmas cards this year.  We'll be taking a bit of a blogging break until the new year (unless I find lots of spare time on my hands).

Recently I was asked if we would travel to see family or host this year. The answer is BOTH! One weekend we'll be away, and the next Derek's family will have Christmas here in southern PA. They'll travel from VA, NYC, and northeastern PA.

 We hold the celebration of our Savior, Jesus Christ, close to our hearts. May you all be greatly blessed.

Love, Annette (For all of the family...Derek, Annette, M age 3, and E age 1)
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 21, 2009


Do you ever get a package in the mail with a ridiculous amount of paper in it as packing material?  Instead of just tossing it all, I thought it'd be fun to do some large-scale painting.

M changed from her white sweatpants to shorts.

M asked for her name to be written.  She did a great job writing each letter.  Though you can't tell by looking at the final painting, as I watched her, she made all the proper strokes.

She also learned that mixing red and green will make brown.

Then we made a second painting using just her footprints.  She loved this.

The paper is like a newsprint, so I was glad to have the newspaper down to protect the floor, even though the  tempera paint is washable.

Before painting I had pulled M's hair into two ponytails.  As soon as she began painting, I realized that they could turn into paintbrushes, too, so I had to pull her ponytails into one ponytail.  I did it just in time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Beyond the Clouds...

When you see a Down Syndrome person, child or adult, what comes to mind?
I recently listened to the audio book Just Beyond the Clouds by Karen Kingsbury on CD. It was a wonderful book that educated me and opened my mind about people with Downs. Though I already knew some about Downs, but this book opened my eyes and mind.

Just Beyond the Clouds gives hope and insight, and I highly recommend it.
(Apparently this is book #2 in the Cody Gunner series. I did not read book one. This certainly stands alone as a great book.)

Recently I have really enjoyed getting to know Karen, at The Rocking Pony.  She is open and honest...and often shares about life with her son, Micah, who has Down Syndrome.  Her blog is definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Christmas Thoughts

I do love Christmas. It's the time to celebrate Jesus' birth...and you know, without the birth, there would not be a resurrection!  I just thought I'd share some thoughts on how I/we do Christmas.

One year Derek even made me a CD of Christmas music. It was one of my favorite things he has done for me. (Just don't consider asking him to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. He would prefer to wait until December!)

I do not shop on Black Friday, but I do shop year round. Many years, before children, I would finish my shopping in October or November. I like to give thoughtful things, but try to be practical, too. I keep a running list of gift ideas in a Word document for ideas for us and others year round, so I might have some ideas when it comes time to shop.  Usually I try for really good deals, but sometimes, we just "have" to get something mid-summer at full price.  (Penn State items seem to be the biggest culprit there!)  I often ask family members what they would they aren't surprised either.  At least I know they'll like it.

We usually put up our tree the first weekend in December. It's artificial. I light a pine scented candle to compensate! Derek grew up with an artificial tree. I appreciate it because as a kid, I was anxious to get a tree, but always had to wait for the right time to get it. (My dad would usually get a tree to plant, which I appreciated. My mom is a bit of a Scrooge and doesn't always put up a tree.)  This year our tree is not up yet because we have little E, age 13 months, who would help our cat bring it down!  We'll put it up this weekend though.
As a child I collected rocking horses. They are now a large part of our Christmas decorations. My first tree (a Charlie Brown type tree) when I lived on my own was mostly decorated with my own ornaments and just a few bulbs.
When Derek and I were on our honeymoon in Lake Placid, NY, we bought quite a few Christmas ornaments. It began a tradition of trying to pick out an ornament when we traveled. It doesn't always work though.

We have no mantle to hang stockings, but we do have a wooden banister.
Last year I made treats to take to our neighbors, many whom I didn't know yet.  But, really, I don't typically have a Christmas baking day.  This year I thought I was making sugar cookies to decorate, but really, they were so good without the icing that M and I didn't get to decorate.  She didn't seem to mind since she had a yummy dessert.

We travel for Christmas...or shortly after.  Last year was our first Christmas morning in our home, I think.  We found out that traveling later on Christmas day is okay...if you don't mind starving.  Thankfully we found a convenience store with some bad pizza.  It worked.  Thankfully our families all (three sets of parents, at least) live about an hour from one another.  So we can see them all, though it's hard to spend a lot of time with any of them.
I like to be surprised with gifts, though all too often I know what I'm getting.  It's not because I peeked.  I'm not ten, you know.  Or thirteen.  NOW I like to be surprised!  Yes, I admit it, and my dad and sister often remind me, as a child I snooped.  Shame on me!  In my defense, my dad would put gifts under the tree as soon as they were wrapped.  Talk about temptation. 

Derek and I tend to be very practical when it comes to giving each other presents.  However, I can usually count on a Yankee candle for every summer (birthday or anniversary) and Christmas.  My favorite scent is probably Christmas Cookies, but it makes me want to EAT.
One last thought for now.  Our spare bed is COVERED in bags and gifts...and very few are for our own children.  I think I need to start wrapping!

Baby Jesus, Where Are You?

Due to seeing this happen way too often, we had feared our Baby Jesus from our Little People Nativity had found its way to the garbage.

Thankfully, when our neighbor was babysitting E (while I went to M's school), they found Baby Jesus snug in our Little People barn.  Appropriate, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Cards Questions

So I'm curious.  Do you send Christmas cards?  We do.  Though I have done a couple of Christmas newsletters,  when I did, I made sure to include a personal note, as well.  Now the year M was born, she was hospitalized for two weeks due to a heart problem...that year we only sent out a Christmas photo card.  (I did send out birth announcements before she was hospitalized.)

If you send out Christmas cards, do you make sure there is a return address?  I hope so!  Do you include a personal note?  Do you include a photo or a photo card?

Who do you send cards to?  Only to those you don't see?  Everyone in your address book?  Do you send to friends/family who do not send cards?

I struggle with Christmas cards, in case you can't tell by all my questions.  I like the idea of letting folks know we care, as well as telling them what is new with us and celebrating the birth of Jesus with others...or letting them know why we celebrate Christmas even if they don't.

This year I made some of our cards...not all of them.  I feel like a lot of people know that E had his seizure before his first birthday.  I'm not so sure that everyone knows that M started preschool or that she has a speech disorder.  So I did include some notes that discussed what's been happening.   I seem to struggle with writing enough to keep it personal, yet keeping it short enough to hand-write all the cards.  My goal is to keep it personal.

Are pre-printed address labels tacky?  I've been using them for a few years, but tell me your thoughts!

Oh, I used Picasa to make a photo collage of the family last year and this.  It's simple.  I wrote about it.  You can read about the affordable Christmas photos by clicking the link.

Please share your thoughts with me on how you do I'm off to write some more Christmas cards!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Lack of Self Control: Sugar Cookies

This week I made sugar cookies. My thought was that I would make them one morning and roll them after the dough chilled for a few hours during nap time. I thought it might be fun to do a little with M, my 3 year old. I also had in mind to decorate them using cake decorating tips, since I never have before. You know-practice! With my son teething and being sick this week, not much has gone as planned. (Have you noticed the lack of posts?)

I made the dough on Monday. YUM!! It was great for snacking! The Tuesday night, after the kids were in bed, I rolled it out. These cookies are so good! In fact, they are so good that I have not even frosted them.

Want to know the best part? Both Derek and I like them! It seems to me that if I like a cookie, he thinks it is only "okay." Though he was content to eat the dough, I felt the need to make some Christmas cookies.

There is a downside to great cookies. Apparently, I have NO self-control. Wednesday morning I had a couple after breakfast...and more before lunch. I probably had a few more in the afternoon, and again after dinner for dessert. Seriously. By mid-afternoon I recognized I had a problem. I put them on top of the fridge, somewhat out of reach. By Thursday morning I gained some self control. I didn't have a cookie until nearly lunch time. Then I pushed the cookies far enough back on top of the fridge that I would need a chair to get them down. Now, I know I love a good cookie, but I am NOT usually like this. In fact, I usually freeze my cookies so that they don't go stale. (Cookies are wonderful frozen, don't you know?) Oh, and this was my first time making these sugar cookies. I definitely have a keeper of a recipe!

Since you are not likely to stop by for a visit today for a taste, here is the recipe.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
My note: I followed the recipe exactly, but when I rolled them out I used confectioners sugar instead of flour.

What's your favorite recipe? I love to bake...and eat baked goods. I'm always looking for great new things to try. (Remember the cheesecake I made? I agreed to make dessert for a dinner party and made another one today. I just hope it's as good this time as it was the first time!)

If you make these cookies, let me know!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Toys My Kids Actually Play With

Two of our favorite toys for our 13 month old son, E, are Leap Frog's My Pal Scout and Fisher Price's Miracles & Milestones Musical Projector Soother. He sleeps with Scout. He pushes all the paws on his own. The music is truly soothing. It's programable to say his name. He loves it. The star music box (my name) has been used since M got it at age 2 months. She enjoyed it until E was born when she was two years old. It can play music for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. It puts colored pictures on the ceiling or wall. If E is having a particularly difficult night, I will even put it in his crib with him. My favorite is nature sounds so I don't have to listen to music, but really, the music settings are good too. So there are two toys that my son and I highly recommend of a 1 year old. (M did get Violet, the feminine version of Scout, for her birthday, but as a 3 year old, she isn't really interested. It does say to age 36 months, so that makes sense.) You can see others' toys at My Bilingual Boys.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I made this manger to go with the Jesse Tree that didn't happen (yet) and the advent calendar with the tiny story books. Each day we read a new little book for the advent calendar and put a piece of hay (yarn) in the manger to prepare for Jesus' birth.
I used mini and regular popsicles to make the rectangular manger. I just used craft glue for the base and sides. Then to make the sides stay in place, I used hot glue.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salt Dough Ornament Keepsake

We did a bit of a different salt dough ornament. I took a bowl and cut a circle to make a keepsake ornament instead of a cookie cutter type. The plan was to have the kids' hand prints in the circle. E (13 months) would make a lovely hand print and then dig deep enough to put holes in it. After 8-10 tries, I went to the back up plan. I think it turned out well.

My only regret is that I didn't do this keepsake sooner.

Read about how to make your own Salt Dough Ornaments at my new blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I made these practice paper trees in preparation for cutting a felt tree.  Read all about these simple Christmas paper trees at the new blog.

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  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

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