Middle daughter's current favorite candy & flavor is Swedish Fish... and so, for her birthday, she wanted a Swedish Fish Candy flavor cake....  I really didn't know what they taste like, so first order of business was hitting the internet for recipes (not so successful) and tasting the candy!  I can't quite describe the flavor, but one recipe suggested adding "raspberry flavor."   While there are many extracts at our supermarket, there is not raspberry extract.... so I improvised!  I used fruit punch flavor Jell-O, I would have used raspberry flavor Jell-O, but they only had sugar-free..... which contains aspartame... which is a whole other post about the evils of artificial sweeteners and foods.  Anyway, the girls all tell me I nailed the flavor. Unfortunately, not being a regular baker, I can't make food-network worthy beautiful creations... yet!  If you try this, please let me know what you think! 

Swedish Fish Flavor Cake

For the Cake:
Duncan Hines Signature Red Velvet Cake Mix
Jell-O Fruit Punch (I used the regular, not sugar free)

For the Frosting:
Raspberry Jelly
Cream Cheese (I used three packets!)
Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

I made the cake following the Duncan Hines directions, but added in the Jell-O packet.  

Make Cream Cheese Frosting:  
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth.  Many recipes call for two cups of powdered sugar to 4 ounces of cream cheese.  I find that way too sweet... so I just pour in some powdered sugar, blend, taste, add more sugar, taste, and on until I'm happy.  (and actually, since I've been tasting all along, I get a second opinion from my husband before I think it is sweet enough - because he thinks it is sweet enough at that point)

Cut the cooled cake rounds in half, more carefully than I did to avoid a lopsided cake.  Spread a very thin layer of raspberry jelly, then frost with the Cream Cheese frosting... repeat two times (or not at all if you decided not to go for four layers!).  I did not put raspberry on the very top of the cake - only the cream cheese frosting. Decorate with Swedish Fish.  (for the more skilled cake bakers out there, I would love to see your creations!)

A usual dessert at my Grandmother's house in France during our visits was always Tarte aux Pommes.  It is such a simple dessert to make, and melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.  On my last visit with her, she showed me how to make this dessert. A similar, slightly more complicated version can be found in  Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the At of French Cooking.  The differences are that I used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, instead of homemade, and I did not spread applesauce under the apple slices.

Pillsbury Pie Crust
a few Apples
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
Apricot Jelly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the Pie Crust into a tart pan.  Create a low crust by bending over.  Prick bottom of shell with fork several times.

Peel and slice the apples into 1/8 inch thick slices, then arrange in a pretty, overlapping pattern on the pie crust.  Sprinkle with the vanilla sugar.

Bake in the upper third of preheated over for about 30 minutes, or until the slice apples have browned lightly and are tender.  "Paint" tart with apricot jelly to give it a lovely glaze.

Serve warm or cold, with or without fresh whipped cream.

At the end of every school year, my kids come home with a shopping bag each of artwork.  I wish we would get pieces here and there throughout the year, and it would give us the opportunity to gift a piece of artwork for Christmas to grandparents.  But, alas, the art teachers insist on sending everything in a pile at the end of the year.

Whether you receive your kids artwork in a bundle all at once like me, or throughout the year, it still needs to be dealt with!  While I am choosier about which pieces to keep as they get older, I still need a way to corral all the papers.  

I decided to create books by year, by child, of all the artwork.  I selected a page of artwork to serve as the cover, and wrote all of the pertinent information on it.  
Then order the rest of the pages.  The contents don't all need to be the same size; I often glued smaller pieces to the backs of large pages, or single-punched smaller pieces.  
Depending on the size of the book, I individually hole-punched two to four holes per page.  I used loose leaf rings or ribbon to tie it all together.
My husband is home from deployment this Memorial Day.  He marched in two local parades, followed by speeches at each town's war memorial.

At home we rehung our flag for the summer. This is the third flag we've hung from our porch in the years we have lived here.  The first two were hung from poles attached from the white columns on our porch.  And twice the wind ripped the flagpole from the column.  

As a result, we've tried this new hanging.  We ordered a very large flag to fit into the open space between two columns.  Amazingly, our light hooks were spaced perfectly, and up went the flag.
Unfortunately, we quickly discovered the wind quite easily blows the flag right off the hooks.  After trying a couple different methods (rope and plastic ties) to no avail, I thought of wine corks. 

 I pre-poked holes in with a screwdriver, and pushed them onto the hooks.  ...no more flyaway flag.

So, who knew starting a blog involved so much technical skill?  (A lot of you, I'm guessing!)  I've been bogged down in trying to learn wordpress so I can switch over from weebly, learning to edit my photos better using picmonkey, and generally forgetting to take "before" photos.  So, just a quick post about a work in progress....

Middle daughter's bedroom was nothing special, which also encouraged the messes to stick around.  While we painted the room when we moved in seven years ago, they had become quite dirty and scuffed.  Over the years, the room has been shared by all three girls, individually, and by various combinations of two.  As all three girls are growing up, it is time to give each of them their own personalized space.  

We poured over pictures on the internet of girls rooms, and decided to do a Paris Theme.  The room is about 80% done, we just need to finish decorating the walls...
OMG!  This was soooo simple, and made me look like a superstar cook.  Everyone loved it!  (That's saying a lot with three picky-eater daughters.) It comes from Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner cookbook.  

Crock-Pot Taco Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans tomatoes with green chilies (I didn't have this, so I substituted two cans of diced tomatoes and one small can of chiles)
1 package taco seasoning mix

In a Crock-Pot, add all ingredients and cook on low 7-9 hours or until chicken is tender and easily shreddable.


I served it with sour cream, cut up fresh Kumato Tomatoes (brown tomatoes), avacodo and chopped mixed greens.  Yum!

There's so much leftover (I had eight thighs on hand, and the girls are little), that tomorrow this is turning into the sauce for bean enchiladas!

Buried deep in the latin quarter of Paris, France is a tiny little restaurant you would hardly notice as it only has only a tiny name sign next to the door.  I was guided here by a co-worker who had learned of it from a friend...  You are jovially greeted by one of the owners and seated at a tiny table, in a room much like someone's living room.  There is no printed menu, in French he tells you the two choices of meals.  While we waited for our dinner, the owner handed us a box of postcards to look through...

It inspired me to put my postcards in and old cigar case, open, for perusing.  The postcards are ones I've received since childhood in the mail, postcards I've purchased on trips, and postcards the girls and I sent hubby while he was deployed.  Now, when we purchase postcards on trips, we write little memories on them to rediscover years from now.

Reminders of of beach trips, here a mini collection from Long Island Beaches.

For the pantry.  I love the very old ones with the wire closure and glass lid.
The classic money jar.
In the bathroom for cotton balls and nail files.
~~~ A Throwback Thursday Post~~

When we moved in, we inherited this scary 70's room on our third floor. Paneling, wallpaper, a drop ceiling & a green rug of unknown age (which I temporarily covered with one of our rugs - in purple, which just matched the green soooo well, lol).  Fixing this room was the first order of business since we needed a safe, clean place for our girls to play with their multitude of toys.
Tore the paneling and drop ceiling down, had the ceiling replaced and painted the walls....  I purchased a white Expedit from Ikea as well as four Trofast frames and bins.  Kitchen, dollhouse and art easel from Target.
Behind the kitchen is an art area...
An art nook - smocks on the door, painting on the opposite side of the chalkboard. Ikea magnetic strips to easily swap out the artwork. Ikea door drape to "hide" the bathroom door.
And opposite the table with all of the supplies, crayons, markers, coloring books, all arts & crafts.
A reading nook with my childhood crib, and Ikea leaves.
I'm on a mission to start cooking healthy food & to stop purchasing processed food.  After a year of my husband being deployed, and a year of quick and easy kid-meals, I am sick of hot dogs, chicken nuggets & take out rotisserie chickens!

To help keep my inspiration and challenge myself, I am going to post my meals here....  Join my challenge, and post your dinner here too!
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Not much of a cook?  I have the best cookbook for you to try!  Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely.  The cookbook offers weekly menus along with the weekly shopping list.  It was just what I needed a few years ago when I wasn't much of a cook.  I didn't have to plan, I just went through each menu... and surprise, surprise, my family liked so many more of the meals than I would have expected!  AFter sic months or so, I found I had actually learned things about cooking, like using cornstarch to thicken liquids into a gravy.  I finally had confidence in my cooking!  Now I am more apt to try new recipes, and have discovered my inner cook!