Easiest Chocolate Cherry Cake

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This recipe can be whipped up in no time and is downright delicious!

1 package of dry chocolate cake mix

1 19 oz. can cherry pie filling

1 1/4 tsp. almond flavouring

2 beaten eggs

Combine all ingredients together.  Mix well.  Smooth into a cookie sheet that has been greased or is lined with parchment paper.  I like to use parchment paper because then it also makes for easy clean up.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

This photo is how it looks before going into the oven.

For the icing, put in small saucepan,

1 cup sugar

5 Tbsp. butter

1/3 cup milk

Bring to a boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Pour icing over warm cake.  Cool and serve.  If served with whipped cream, it tastes like a moist black forest cake!

More Snow Day Activities

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On a cold and snowy day, the kids easily start to get restless.  These activities will help to keep away the winter blues and redirect all that pent up energy!

In my first Snow Day Activities post, I concentrated on indoor activities that kids could do when it was just too cold to go outside.  This time, I thought I would concentrate on winter activities that actually incorporate the snow.

Snow Art.  Fill spray bottles with water and a bit of food colouring.  Send the kids outside and have them create masterpieces just by spraying the snow!  This is so easy to do and one that can entertain from toddlers to teens and every age in between!

snow painting

Snow Castles.  Using empty ice cream buckets, pails, sand toys, or moulds, the kids can pack the containers with snow and make snow castles instead of sand castles.  They can even add flags made from straws and paper to complete the look!

Back to Basics.  Sometimes we forget that the most fun in snow can be had by playing in it the way kids used to.  Making snow angels, building snowmen, making snow forts, making pictures on the snow with sticks, going tobogganing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing are all things that are just as much fun now as they were when we were kids.  Snowball fights are fun too as long as there are ground rules set to keep it safe and fun for all.

Tracks.  Finding or creating tracks in the snow is fun and educational.  Have your kids try to find tracks in the snow and then using books or the internet, help them discover what type of animal made those tracks.  You can also have them play detective and try to figure out which family member made which human track by using clues such as foot size, treads, and weight distribution.

Bring Winter Inside.  When the temperature outside dips too low, bring the snow in for a fun change of pace.  You can do this by filling plastic buckets or even the bathtub with snow and then letting the kids use their imaginations to play.  They can use toy cars to make roads, make imaginary scenes using small toys or make “mountains” for their dolls to ski or toboggan down.

Of course a great way to end off a snow day activity is with a nice cup of hot chocolate and a snuggle under a warm blanket!

Book Review – A Positive Life

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A Positive Life…Living with HIV as a Pastor, Husband, and Father” by Shane Stanford is a book about so much more than living with HIV.

Shane Stanford’s life is a fascinating one. Of interest is not just his experiences and reactions of living with HIV and Hep C after being diagnosed at the age of 16. Shane’s upbringing, in particular, the relationship he shared with his grandfather which largely helped shape his outlook on life was particularly touching to read. Shane’s story neither starts nor stops though with the diagnosis of a condition that at that time was a death sentence. Shane’s courage and positive attitude ensured that his story did not end in that doctor’s office.

What I admire most about Shane are his choices. There were many crossroads in his life when giving up would have been the easiest choice, when having a pity party would have been justifiable, and yet, he chose hope, love, and faith. It was largely his faith that would sustain him through some of the more challenging times that were to come.

A diagnosis of HIV in the 1980s was very different than one today. At that time, public fear and judgement was at an all time high and there were not people living with HIV, only people dying of AIDS. Shane takes us carefully through that time in history and relives what it was like to be facing HIV during that tumultuous time.

In his memoir, Shane speaks openly about the most personal aspects of his life and shares in a way that engages the reader’s heart as well as mind. His honesty about his marriage is admirable. HIV does not define this man and is not the only struggle he has lived through. His faith and love of God with all that has happened in his life are inspirational.

Shane Stanford spoke at the Global AIDS Summit in 2006 and his concise and honest speech is also included in the book.

His wife, Pokey Stanford, provides a chapter near the end and I found it very intimate to hear from her after all I read about her on previous pages. I appreciate her willingness to open up the most personal details of her life in order to help others.

At the very end of the book, there is a study and reflection guide entitles “9 Lessons From a Positive Life” and I found these especially helpful.

Overall, the lessons that Shane has learned from living with HIV are lessons that can help us all to live better lives in whatever trials we face. This book is thoughtful, honest, and well written and reading Shane’s account may change the way you look at the face of HIV/AIDS.

Snow Day Activities (indoor)

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Today is way too cold to venture out, so I got to thinking about what indoor activities I could do with the kids to keep them (and me) from going crazy. Here are some easy ones that I came up with that could be made with household items.

Doll House or Castle.  Using empty boxes, help your child make a doll house or castle.  Imaginations, scissors, and markers are all you need.  If you really want to be creative, use scraps of fabric, pipe cleaners, and tiny boxes (such as match or toothpick boxes) to make curtains, lamps, and furniture for the house.

Faux Stained Glass.  Use up your broken crayon pieces by spreading out a sheet of wax paper and having the kids make crayon shavings on it using a pencil sharpener.  When they are done, fold the wax paper in half and iron it on a low temperature.  The kids can then make a frame for their creation out of construction paper.  They can make it look like a butterfly or a stained glass window.

Themed collage.  Have the kids create a collage using glue and pictures from a catalogue, magazine, or flyer.  Give them a theme such as “favourite things”, “foods that are healthy”, “things that fly”, “things that are red”, or “what I would buy if I had a hundred dollars”.

Masks.  Masks are a good way to change the mood.  They can be made using large paper bags, paper plates, stiff paper, or paper mache.  Feathers, glitter, sequins, ribbons, and beads can make the masks more interesting.  The kids can even then put on a play wearing their masks, which will help the hours pass more quickly on a rainy or snowy day.  If you don’t have supplies for mask making, face painting can also change the mood in the house and be used for make-believe.

Easy Shrinky Dinks.  Use empty small size potato chip bags or regular size chocolate bar wrappers.  Hole punch one hole near the corner and then place them on a baking sheet.  Put them in the oven at 325 degrees, keeping an eye on them.  They will shrivel and curl and then uncurl.  Remove from the oven when they are at least halfway uncurled.  Wait for them to cool.  They can then be made into keychains, zipper pulls, or jewelry.  Kids love this one!

For other great stay-at-home activities, be sure to check out these fun posts:

Creative Mail Ideas
More Snow Day Activities (outdoor)