Healthy Lentil Soup

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Saute 1/2 a chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic in 1 Tbsp. olive oil for 5 minutes.

Stir in:

4 cups (or more) of vegetable stock

2 cups fresh or canned diced tomatoes

1/3 cup pearl barley

1/3 cup green lentils (known in the real world as split peas)

1/3 cup yellow lentils (known in the real world as split peas)

1 tsp. dried oregano (or more – I never measure spices)

1 tsp. dried basil

2 bay leaves

1 cup of chopped vegetables (whatever you have on hand…carrots, zucchini, celery…)

Simmer, covered for about 45 minutes.  Then add:

1/2 cup or more of sliced spinach leaves

2 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cook for another 15 minutes.  I like to add a bit of hot sauce into my personal bowl for some kick.  This recipe freezes well.


Horse Theme Party

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For Miss Optimism’s ninth birthday party, she wanted a horse theme party.  She loves horses, though with her allergies, she cannot actually ride them.  Having two kids with December birthdays is always a challenge, but I was so fortunate this time to have The Ferrari ice the cake for me.  I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things including cake decorating, so when I ice the cakes myself, it can take me anywhere from two and a half to four hours to finish, but as long as someone else is doing it, I don’t much care whether it’s perfect or not, so having him do this for me saved me hours of work.

This was The Ferrari (who is 15)’s very first time ever piping a cake and he did an amazing job!  What an amazing gift for his little sister and for his mom!  This is the finished product:

Decorations were pretty easy.  I had ordered horse plates, napkins, cups, banner, and blowouts.  I didn’t get a tablecloth, as I thought the wood table would be best.  I found a plastic bucket at the dollar store that looked like a tin feeding bucket.  I put the treat bags in the bucket and placed it in the middle of the table to build a centrepiece around.  I propped up some carrots with stalks on the bucket, propped up a foam cowgirl hat, and placed an apple next to that.  So simple, so inexpensive, but it worked well.  I placed little plastic horses on the table, which the party guests were able to take home after the party.

For activities, the girls at the party coloured white cardboard horses and they decorated the foam hat from the centrepiece with foam horse and cowgirl theme stickers.  We played “Trainer Says” which is like “Simon Says” but horse themed so the girls pretended to be horses and I said things like “trainer says swat the flies” or “trainer says trot”.  This went over well.  I had another game planned, but the girls decided to play a make believe barnyard game instead.

For food, I of course served carrots and apple slices and the birthday girl’s request of macaroni and cheese. Here is a picture of the happy birthday girl.

I can still hardly believe that the baby girl who came to us at 4 lbs. 14 oz. is now 9 years old! We love you like crazy muffins Miss Optimism!

Penguin Theme Party

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It is no secret that Granola Girl’s favourite thing in the world (next to God and her family) is penguins.  For her sixth birthday, she asked for a penguin theme party.  This one is not as easy to pull off as themes where the cake pan and decorations are ready made, but I was up to the challenge!

For the cake, I baked a cake in the 3D mini bear pan, cut off its ears and feet, made a beak out of part of one of the ears and glued it on with icing, moved the feet to the front and iced.

Then with the remaining cake batter, I poured it into a glass bowl and attempted to bake an igloo cake.  This one didn’t really turn out because it stuck to the bowl really badly and came out in pieces so I had to use the other side of it, so it wasn’t very round, but six year olds didn’t care. I sprinkled icing sugar over everything to look like snow and voila – penguin cake!

For activities, the kids did races with a balloon between their legs, like the dad penguins carrying the eggs, made a penguin craft, and made sugar cube igloos. The kids who stayed later also got to watch the movie “Happy Feet”.

For food for the penguin party, the kids ate Penguins of Madagascar pasta, fish crackers, Oreos (because they are black and white), and drank blue punch (for the ice cold water that penguins like). Granola Girl had a great time!

A Mickey Mouse Birthday Party

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For his birthday party, our son Snuggle Puppy chose a Mickey Mouse theme.  The cake was a big hit!

For the cupcakes, I made a spice cake, iced with buttercream, and then cut three circles out of fondant to make a Mickey Mouse head on the top of most of them.  I don’t usually make a cake AND cupcakes for the kids’ parties, this party was extra special as it was Snuggle Puppy’s first real birthday party ever.

I made Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Krispie treats on lollipop sticks and displayed them by hiding a Kleenex box inside a gift bag and poking the sticks in holes in the bag and box.  I handed them out to the kids as they were leaving.

The birthday boy loved the celebration just for him.  We had fourteen kids here, plus our seven, and seventeen adults.  For food, we served Mickey shaped hamburgers with the fixings, a layered dip, potato salad, Asian salad, devilled eggs, crackers, cheese, pickles, pickled asparagus, and cheese dips.  It was a beautiful day, so the kids played outside most of the time and I didn’t need to organize many activities.  We played Mickey-Mickey-Minnie (like duck-duck-goose) and I had Mickey party colouring sheets for the kids with markers set out.  It was an easy theme to work with as far as colours and decor go.  Most importantly, Snuggle Puppy absolutely loved all of it!!!