The Birds and the Bees, Round 4- Feedback Friday

Okay, all kidding aside, you know my past experience with discussing this tricky subject with my boys. It's not happening as I planned or hoped...actually, I hoped they were just born with certain knowledge...

I've decided to consult the experts and choose a book for my almost 11 year old to read on his own, then come together for some uncomfortable silence, crying, lively discussion. I think this is the least stressful healthiest option (for both of us).

In searching for the right book, I've found the following problems:

1. too little information
2. too much information

I know that giving him something too young and vague will not satisfy his curiosity and escalate Google searches, but some books cover topics I'm not sure have entered his mind yet (masturbation, birth control, alternatives to intercourse...). Don't shy away, girls! Your day is coming! Oh, and I just misspelled "masturbation" so I need all the help I can get!

For those of you who have an opinion on this subject, let me ask you this...

If a book has more information than I was expecting to cover at this time, is that necessarily a negative thing? Should I be trying to prepare and educate him about things as he is questioning them (would I even know?) or be proactive and try to cover future questions now?

Ultimately, a book with chapters velcro'd together to allow me to pick and choose is what I'd wish for at this time, but until a smart mom comes up with this alternative - I'd love to hear the titles of books you found helped discuss this touchy subject with your kids, too.



Hope Studios

Hope Studios, originally uploaded by hopestudios1.

The time has come for me to set the Holiday Order Deadline in my shop. The deadline for Holiday orders will be November 15th in order to guarantee Christmas delivery.

If you have a gift in mind, please contact me at jsneill@zoominternet.net or visit my Etsy Shop, Hope Studios soon! I want to be able to accomodate everyone this year.




Laughing, Planning, Spying, and Pumpkin Tiramisu

Intriguing title, no? Well, the girls got together to plan our upcoming weekend away. And nothing aids in planning like apple muffins, pumpkin tiramisu, and coffee.

November is D-day for our girls weekend, and we couldn't be more excited to get away to the Laurel Mountains for a few days. We planned our meals, (lasagna, soup, sausage souffle, and dinner out!)

We planned our field trips, (art festival at the lodge and Ligonier for shopping!)

And our crafts, (fabric flowers, a scrunchy scarves, pumpkin jars, button bracelets, and sugar cookies!)

Finally, we assigned everyone to bring their favorite cocktail and video to share. Do you think we have enough planned for our 2 days away?

After all that planning, there was plenty of time for picture taking

Some internet spying (seriously, who needs private detectives with Google around?)

And Pumpkin Tiramisu:

Someone twittered this recipe from BGH and I was in love...

Pumpkin Tiramisu


1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T. bourbon

Combine and set aside.

1/2 of a 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
1 T. powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 oz. package lady fingers

**I assembled this recipe as instructed, but found it messy and ugly to lift out of the pan with plastic wrap, I'm going to give you instructions to layer it upside down so you can just turn it out onto a plate and get rid of the plastic wrap.**

Assemble your fillings:

Combine pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In small mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/4 cup sugar. Beat on med. speed to medium peaks. Fold into pumpkin mixture.

In another small bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar and beat on low speed. Gradually add 1/2 cup whipping cream until thickened (do not overbeat).

To assemble, line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving long edges hanging over the sides.

Fill bottom of pan with the mascarpone cheese filling and smooth with spoon.

Spread half of the pumpkin mixture over the mascarpone and smooth with back of spoon.

Arrange 1/2 of the lady fingers in a single layer on top of filling and drizzle with half the maple syrup/bourbon mixture.

Spread remaining pumpkin filling on top of lady fingers.

Add another layer of the remaining lady fingers and drizzle with remaining syrup.

Fold long edges of plastic wrap over the top to seal and place in fridge for 8 - 24 hours.

Turn out onto serving platter, sprinkle with nutmeg, then slice and serve to giggling girlfriends with coffee.



How to Attend a Pittsburgh Steeler's Game - Tutorial Tuesday

Find your 3 cutest kids...

Outfit them with Steeler jerseys and Terrible Towels and face paint...

Place Daddy's phone number in their little pockets (just in case, of course I trust you, Big Guy!)

Send them off to watch your favorite team with the rest of Steeler Nation...

What to do while the kiddos and Big Guy are away? Paint, bake a cake, watch movies, eat cake, watch more movies, forget to make dinner for them when they get home...oops...

Ps. (I'm over my pity party...you guys rock.)

I Suck.

How can I be rollin' along feelin' pretty good about this mom thing, then suddenly be slapped with the realization that I'm mediocre at best? I try to do what's right for my kids, balanced with some time for just me, but in the end I always end up feeling inadequate, guilty. Does this sound familiar? God, I hope so, because I could use some back up.

Last week, I was in the shower when I suddenly heard the alarm on my phone ringing. First thought? "Crap! Where am I supposed to be that I forgot about?!" School. Mystery Reader. I'm late.

I twisted my hair up in a clip and took off for the school, book in hand, with a wet head. I waited impatiently to sign in, then took off for the classroom apologizing profusely. I missed it. The teacher covered for me and said we could reschedule. She said she had a reminder for me last week, but since the munchkin was home sick I never got it.

Now, I baked them treats this week, helped them with homework, made them yummy dinners, cleaned up their messes, and gave them lots of hugs and kisses, but this little episode sent me home in a funk. I suck. I suck, I suck, I suck...The chant in my head in the car.

I think, as mothers, we are our own worst critics. I know I was a good mom to them this week, but it was all erased in my mind once I messed up with Mystery Reader. How can I do better? Is it possible to never mess up? How can I accept it and move on without it demeaning all I've worked for up until that moment?

I don't have the answer. But, I can sit down here and type it out here and know that I do the best I can. That nobody's perfect. That they will not be scarred forever if I miss reading time at school. The big picture is much more than that. But, it would still be rewarding to feel like I have it all together at some point in this process. So, until then, I sucked at being a Mystery Reader, but I'm trying my best to be a great mom. That's all I can hope for at the moment.


One of my girlfriends just emailed me a Job Description for Mothers she wrote in response to this post:

Job Description:

Pray with the children each day and night, bathe them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair each morning by 7:00. Take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment, and an appointment for a haircut. Know all of the words to every stupid song that comes on TV and the name of each and every repulsive character on Nickelodeon. Take each child to play two sports and either music or dance classes. There is no fast food.

Cook, do laundry, decorate house, keep house clean and presentable at all times, and plant flowers outside. Correct all homework, complete science projects, pay bills and budget in money for groceries each week. Make cookies or cupcakes for a social function. Attend weekly PTA meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

Shave legs, wear makeup daily, which is applied either while driving or making lunches. Adorn self with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep nails polished and eyebrows groomed. Have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.Know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor. Each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

Clean up after their sick children at 3:00 a.m. and then spend the remainder of the day tending to that child and waiting on them hand and foot until they are better. Make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla and one marker; and get a 4 year old to eat a serving of peas.

Have enough energy to be intimate with spouse at a moments notice. Do this over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years...eventually earning the right to be called Mother!


Spy Phones - Feedback Friday

A friend forwarded a news story to me last week about spy software for cell phones. I actually remembered someplace in my memory banks that I've seen a commercial for this already, but didn't fully understand.

Check out this video:

I guess they are marketing this "tool" to spy on spouses and teens...

Thoughts, comments?



Spooky Outside Halloween Decor!

I mentioned the decorations I put up for Halloween outside my house before. The kids like the effect of walking through a spooky forest to get to the front door, and I like that it's cheap and easy. Win win situation.

I literally, gather dead branches from the woods, the gnarlier the better. I prop and tie them around my front entrance. (Free)

Then I begin to cover them with spiderwebs ($1.00 for a bag) and blackbirds ($1.00 or less each). I discovered last year, when the Dollar Tree ran out of large crows early in the season, that I could spray paint random craft store birds black to get the same effect. Actually, I like the variety of shapes and sizes a litte better and I can find them for about 25 cents apiece at any craft store.

I picked up one large vulture from JoAnn's that keeps watch over the front door for $5.00.


What do you do outside for Halloween?



Pumpkin Cobbler

I love to pull out a handwritten recipe from my file and set to work cooking something that brings warm memories of a moment in time.

I was reading Heather's blog, Mindless Junque, (my "friend" who doesn't know I exist) last week and she mentioned making Pumpkin Crisp. It reminded me of something tucked away in my recipe file for Pumpkin Cobbler, a recipe handed down from my Step-Mom's Mom. I decided it was the perfect dessert with the Pan Seared Pork Chops with Apple Chutney I was planning for dinner.

So, without further ado, here is...

Dora's Pumpkin Cobbler


1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg

Mix, and reserve 1 cup. Spread the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan.


16 oz can pumpkin
5 oz can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix ingredients together and pour over the "crust" already in pan.


1 cup reserved cake mixture
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix topping ingredients and dot over the top of the pumpkin filling (I like more coverage on top, so I take clumps of the dough and press in irregular, flattened shapes to place over the pumpkin mixture)

Bake 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. YUM!


How to Build a Fire - Tutorial Tuesday

What screams Fall more than sitting out in the crisp air in front of a crackling campfire? Our fire pit was one of the things that was intended from the beginning when we built our home 6 years ago. We wanted an outside spot to entertain and to hang out as a family, centered around a campfire.

We leveled the ground and hired a landscaper to build a platform with large rocks and pea gravel and set a fire ring made from scrap metal in the center. To this day, it's one of our favorite spots to entertain.

If you don't have a set up like this, you can still allot a spot in your yard for your fires, but first, you need to know how to start a good blaze.

Always start with nice dry hardwood, and begin to construct Lincoln Log type layers like this:

You can stack it up to 4 layers high for a larger blaze, but 3 layers is good for a low key family fire.

Next, gather some small twigs and skinnier pieces of wood and place them into the center.

Twist sheets of newspaper to use as starters, like this:

Stick those twisties in the nooks and crannies and light 'em up! (it doesn't hurt to stick in some fatwood or a few wax firestarters from Home Depot into the bottom for an effortless start).

Look this! A boyscout worthy campfire, and some smokey fun for the night!

Add some hot cider, poking sticks, marshmallows, and some friends, and you've got yourself a party!

Speaking of parties, did you know Kimba is having a DIY Linky Party? She is...click on the button to head on over.



Inventions...Mom Style

I was in the shower this morning, or as I like to think of it, my wet therapy compartment, and I started thinking about all of the inventions I've thought of over the years. They totally suck as far as execution, but man, wouldn't they be great.

What if?

What if the grocery store had a pharmacy-style drive up for staples? Call in your order and pick it up while your kids slept in the backseat?:

(Yes, I'll have a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butta... )

A cushion of air above public toilet seats that allows you to hover with ease:

(I could be peeing with ease right noooooowwwww!!!!)

A toothbrush with a built in lazer flosser that flosses for you while you brush:

(I smell burning hair, but my teeth are squeaky clean!)

Little elves that live in my garage that refill my gas tank, top off my washer fluid, and sweep up crumbs...

(Fill 'er up?)

A "fold and put away" button on my dryer...

(Here I come to save the daaaaaayyyyy!!!)

What would YOU wish for?



Sunday Funny - Golf Balls

A man entered the bus with both of his front pockets full of golf balls and sat down next to a beautiful (you guessed it) a blonde.

The puzzled blonde kept looking at him and his bulging pockets.

Finally, after many such glances from her, he said, "its golf balls."

Nevertheless, the blonde continued to look at him for a very long time, deeply thinking about what he had said.

After several minutes, not being able to contain her curiosity any longer, she asked, "Does it hurt as much as tennis elbow?"


Exciting News!

I opened my email to an exciting bit of news this morning and had to share right away. My girls at Fave Crafts have included my Fabric Scrap Apron and many other bloggers' sewing tutorials in a new ebook! It is called 25 Sewing Crafts from Bloggers. And you can find me hangin' out right there on page nine. Let's hear a big woot woot for page 9!!

This ebook is available for download now over at Fave Crafts, so click here to check it out!

Now, I just had another munchkin wake up with a fever this morning so I'm going to be chicken soupin' and Motrin-in' it all day, but there is nothing stopping you from heading over and getting inspired for the long winter ahead. Have fun...and wish me luck with this latest bout of illness over here!



Homeless American Girl Doll - Feedback Friday

Well, The Constant Complainer has uncovered another strange story that is perfect for this week's Feedback Friday.

The American Girl doll company is known for their concept of bringing history and dolls together. They develop dolls with a background, then sell the doll and history book together. Kind of an educational extension of the doll. I have boys, but it seems okay.

Well, the newest limited edition doll is named Gwen. Her accompanying story is that her daddy left her and her mother and they were forced to live in their car...(CBS News story, Parent Dish story).

The proceeds from the sale of Gwen do not go to aid the homeless. Gwen retails for $95.00.

Thoughts, comments?



Spooky Fall Decorating

I really hate to decorate inside the house for Halloween. The orange and black color scheme really wrecks havoc on my decor. But, watching Martha last week, I was inspired by some Halloween party invitations that were shaped like a mask. Using scrapbook paper that was antiqued, she made some pretty classy invites that could double as decor. Woot, Martha!

I cut out the shapes using this template.

Then, I used a black ink pad to distress the edges (gradually get lighter toward the center).

I hot glued the masks to an old vine, complete with curly cues, I found in the woods and stuck it in a vase. Bam!

Now look at what Rachelle, from Fingerprints on the Fridge came up with, this could almost be my window. She's down with the classy Halloween decor!

And, finally, I tweaked my mantle a little because I finally found me some...wait for it...MONKEYBALLS! You know I love these things, so I replaced the mantle moss:

And made a little pile next to my candle sticks:

And nestled one next to my new $14 Costco vases (yep, 14 bucks for all three!):

I love me some monkeyballs...



The DIY Show Off



Always. Sometimes. Never.

Whimsy Girl always brightens my day and today was no different. She posted her Always Sometimes Never list and I knew it was a great idea right away. Sooooo...I stole the idea and ran away laughing! Here is my list:

I Always...

Misplace things
Forget to pay/mail the bills
Sing in the car
Cry when I sing the National Anthem or Christmas carols
Dance in the dressing room when trying on clothes

I Sometimes...

Remember to take something out of the freezer for dinner
Spend too much time on the computer
Forget to feed my dog
Refuse to turn on my car's high beams when driving the Big Guy at night, because it really irritates him.
Pee my pants a little when I jump on the trampoline!

I Never...

Smoke cigarettes
Text while driving
Send my kids to bed or to school without a kiss, like it or not!
Keep up with my housework as well as the Big Guy would like
Go a whole day without smiling or laughing



Halloween Mummy Cupcakes!

(help! get me out of here! this lady's crazy!)

How many of you are in charge of the Halloween party snack at school? (Raising my hand) Okay, let's do something this year that looks special but is quick and easy. Something that makes your kiddos brag to their friends "MY mom MADE those cool cupcakes. She's the best mom ever. Better than YOUR mom!" (Okay, I might have just gotten a little carried away. Really, I don't want a classroom throw down. Sorry.)

Where were we? Right, Mummy Cupcakes! I saw these on Party Cupcakes and tried to figure it out.

Bake up a box of cupcakes (I'm realistic here, kids don't appreciate cake from scratch) and a batch of Martha's sugar icing:

3 sticks of softened butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla)

Beat 5 minutes on high.

Let's get to work.

Give your cupcakes a skim coat of icing like this:

Pop in some chocolate chip eyeballs:

Pull out your decorator tips, find the one that has a saw tooth edge then turn it upside down and use the smooth side:

Begin to create the bandages:

Ta-da! Spooky!




Welcome SITStas! Hey Baby, It's my SITS Day!

Well, looky here! We’ve got some visitors! Some SITStas! Want to be my SITSta? Head on over to The Sits Girls to learn how. You’ll like it…you’ll become addicted to commenting and comments…I promise.

Okay, let’s talk. I’m just a mom who’s trying to find her way amid the piles of laundry and waves of testosterone. I’ve got 3 boys and a husband and my blog is a diversion from the daily grind of football, burps, and stinky farts.

I began an art business almost 2 years ago and a blog was a natural extension of this wing-stretching period of my life. At home I’m “mom” and “hon”… but here? Well, I’m just one of the girls. I like that. A lot. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you guys are my crack.

This blog is as scattered as my brain, one part tutorials, one part recipes, one part home decorating
one part entertaining, and one part random crap that sneaks in.

It adds up to one goofy blog. MY goofy blog and I love her. She’s all mine. (cue the kissy sounds)

Want to take the tour? Pick a topic, any topic:

Let’s Make Sex in the City Shoes!

The Birds and the Bees

Alphabet Photography

My Secret Life as a Kickboxer

Any questions about my cast of characters? Want more DIY's?

Frequently Asked Questions

My Bathroom Chandelier Makeover

Are you still here? Have I driven you away? If not, please take one more minute to read this heart wrenching story of a terrible accident that took place this summer near my own neighborhood.


Sunday Funny

So sorry ahead of time... If you aren't from Pittsburgh, you will NOT understand this video at all.


H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine - Feedback Friday

(How you doin'?)

Okay, this Feedback Friday edition is short and simple. As a mom, this debate is raging in nearly every circle I enter...kickboxing class, coffee with the girls, lunch with friends, neighborhood Oktoberfest party, countless emails...

Are you going to get the H1N1 (or Swine Flu) Vaccine for your kids?


Ps.(In unrelated news, I have until the end of the month to wrap up my benefit for Camryn, do you know her story?)


Triple Layer Chocolate Stout Cake, Oh My!

I was invited to an Oktoberfest party last week and knew I wanted to make dessert. Dessert that WASN'T apple strudel. So I hit up my good friend Google (we're tight).

Anyhoo, Google recommended this recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Ganache from Epicurious and I was like, oh yeah!

Google neglected to tell me that stout is usually considered Irish, thus NOT Oktoberfest, so I did get heckled a bit. But once my friends tasted the cake, they zipped it for the rest of the night.

I'm not gonna lie, this is one of the best fudgy chocolate cake recipes I've ever made. It was excellent.

Okay, so it might have 2 cups of Guinness in it...is that why I like it so much? Am I drunk???

Chocolate Stout Cake


2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream


2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours. (I cooled it for about an hour then whipped it in my mixer to make a fluffier frosting...It. Rocked.)

After all this mixing and stirring and measuring, you might just look over to see this:

I have eaten the leftovers of this cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 3 days. I might now be a fat alcoholic, but it was worth it. Still moist and yummy 3 days later! Try it, your husband will be so impressed you can cook something so delicious with beer!


Your Skin Fix, December Edition