Thursday, September 26, 2013

Favorite Books for 7th Grade Girls -- 2013

At the end of every school year I ask my students to hand in a list of their top five books. I compile these into a recommended reading list for 7th graders. Here is the girls' list for 2013.

GIRLS’ TOP 10  (in order of popularity)The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins

  1. Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull
  2.  Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan
  3.  Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan
  4.  Matched series, by Ally Condie
  5. The Candyshop War series, by Brandon Mull
  6.  Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
  7.  Janitors series, by Brandon Mull
  8. Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 series, by Richard Paul Evans
  9. Beyonders series, by Brandon Mull

All Others  (in alphabetical order)
The 13thClue, by Ann Jonas
± A Child Called It, by Dave Pelzer
Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz
Artemis Fowlseries, by Eoin Colfer
Beyonders series, by Brandon Mull
The Book of Mormon
Books of Bayern series (Goose Girl), by Shannon Hale
Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Close to Famous, by Joan Bauer
Crazy, by Han Nolan
Delirium series, by Lauren Oliver
Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke
Fire Girl, by Tony Abbott
Flipped, by Wendelin Van Drannen
Frindle, by Andrew Clements
Generation Deadseries, by Daniel Waters
The Giver series, by Lois Lowry
Gregor the Overlanderseries, by Suzanne Collins
± The Guardian, by Nicholas Sparks
The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer
The Host, by Stefanie Meyer
Ida B.: And Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World, by Katherine Hannigan
Inheritance series (Eragon), by Christopher Paolini
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
Janitors, by Tyler Whitesides
Kindom Keepers series, by Ridley Pearson
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews
Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies
± The Lost Boy, by Dave Pelzer
The Lions of Littlerock, by Kristen Levine
A Long Way From Chicago / A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
The Magic Thief series, by Sarah Prineas
The Missing series (Found), by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Missing Children(Light Traveler Adventure series), by Brent Rowley
Mother Daughter Book Club series, by Heather Vogel Frederick
The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper
Paint the Wind, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Palace of Mirrors, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Peeled, by Joan Bauer
Peter and the Starcatchers series, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Princess Academy series, by Shannon Hale
Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George
Pretty Little Liarsseries, by Sara Shepard
The Ranger’s Apprentice series, by John Flanagan
The Red Pyramidseries, by Rick Riordan
Riding Freedom, by Pam Munoz Ryan
± Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks
Savvy series, by Ingrid Law
Science Fair, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The Selectionseries, by Kiera Cass
Septimus Heapseries (Magyk), by Angie Sage
The Shadow Childrenseries, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Spiderwick Chronicles series, by Holly Black
Swindle series, by Gordon Korman
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stephenson
Twilight series, by Stefanie Meyers
Uglies series, by Scott Westerfield
The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
Vladimir Tod series, by Heather Brewer
Way to Be! 9 Ways to be Happy and Make Something of Your Life, by Gordon B. Hinkley
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
White Fang, by Jack London
Witch and Wizardseries, by James Patterson

± Represents a book written for adults
‡  Represents a book that I CAN NOT recommend for this age group. 

Favorite Books for 7th Grade Boys -- 2013

At the end of every school year I ask my students to hand in a list of their top five books. I compile these into a recommended reading list for 7th graders. Here is the boys' list for 2013

BOYS’ TOP 11  (in order of popularity)
  1. The Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan
  2.  Beyonders series, by Brandon Mull
  3.  Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull
  4.  Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins
  5.  Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney
  7.  Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
  8.  Inheritance series (Eragon), by Christopher Paolini
  9. The Candy Shop War series, by Brandon Mull
  10. Alex  Rider series, by Anthony Horrowitz
  11.   39 Clues series, by various authors

All Others  (in alphabetical order)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by SethGrahame-Smith
Adventurers Wantedseries, by M. L. Forman
All Things Bright and Beautiful series, by James Herriot
The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud
The Big Field, by Mike Lupica
The Book of Mormon
Bone graphic novels series, by Jeff Smith
The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar
Chaos Walkingseries, by Patrick Ness
Charlie Bone series, by E. Rogers
Conspiracy 365series, by Gabrielle Lord
Dragonlance Chronicles (trilogy), by Margaret Weis
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
Farworld series, by J. Scott Savage
Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick
Guinness Book of World Records 2013
Glass series, by Maria v. Snyder
Gregor the Overlanderseries, by Suzanne Collins
Gross Jokes, published by Scholastic
Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer
The Hunger but Mainly Death Games: a Parody, by Bratniss Everclean
I Am a Seal Team Six Warrior: Memoir of an American Soldier, by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore
The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings series, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Holes, by Louis Sachar
Insignia series, by S. J. Kincaid
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Janitors series, by Brandon Mull
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Leven Thumpsseries, by Obert Skye
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel 
Lone  Survivor: the Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Loser, by Jerry Spinelli
Matched series, by Ally Condie
The Maze Runnerseries, by James Dashner
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 series, by Richard Paul Evans
The Missing series (Found), by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway
Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
Pendragon series, by D. J. MacHale
Peter and the Starcatchers series, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Poison Studyseries, by Maria V. Snyder
Rangers Apprenticeseries, by John Flanagan
The Red Pyramidseries, by Rick Riordan
School Jokes, published by Scholastic
Science Fair, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The Shadow Childrenseries, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Septimus Heapseries (Magyk), by Angie Sage
The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare
Soldier X, by Don L. Wulffsonn
Star Wars: Last of the Jedi series, by Jude Watson
The Stonehearttrilogy, by Charlie Fletcher
Storm Testamentseries, by Lee Nelson
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Ten True Tales: Heroes of 9/11, by Allan Zullo
Through My Eyes, by Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker
Travel Team, by Mike Lupica
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stephenson
The Unwantedsseries, by Lisa McMann
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
Witch and Wizardseries, by James Patterson
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the
Living Dead, by Max Brooks

‡  Represents a book that I CAN NOT recommend for this age group.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Turning to the Lord for help in controlling appetites . . .

Note:  The following is an entry that I originally wrote in my personal journal on June 11, 2013. It's not ordinarily something I'd publish online, but I'm learning that sharing my struggles helps me realize that I'm not the only one battling to be happy with who I am and how I look. This entry also references my religious faith. (I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) I don't know why, but it's taken me a loooong time to realize that I don't have to face my health and wellness issues on my own.

Tonight I was reading Elder David A. Bednar's April 2013 conference talk, "We Believe in Being Chaste." Although Elder Bednar was talking about chastity, his comments had a lot to do with our physical bodies and our spiritual well-being. I found his words to apply to my own struggle with physical health and overeating. Here are a few quotes from his talk that I found meaningful.

  • "Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence."
  • "... The man [or woman] of Christ is spiritual and bridles all passions, is temperate, and restrained, and is benevolent and selfless."
  • "We are dual beings, for our spirit that is the eternal part of us is tabernacles in a physical body that is subject to the Fall. As Jesus emphasized to the Apostle Peter, 'The spirit indeed is willing, but the flish is weak.' (Matthew 26:41)"
  • "The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord? That is the test."
  • "Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the atonement of Jesus Christ."
  • "Because a physical body is so central to the Father's plan of happiness and our spiritual development, Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. One of the ultimate ironies of eternity is that the adversary, who is miserable precisely because he has no physical body, entices us to share in his misery through the improper use of our bodies. The very tool he does not have is thus the primary target of his attempts to lure us to spiritual destruction."
  • "Significantly, disciplining the natural man in each of us makes possible a richer, a deeper, and a more enduring Love of God and of His children. Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsize indulgence." (Note: This applies to 'love of self' as well -- said the woman who impulsively indulged in six Creamies -- the entire box -- today.)
  • "The Savior is often referred to as the Great Physician, and this title has both symbolic and literal significance . . . . From the Atonement of the Savior flows the soothing salve that can heal our spiritual wounds and remove guilt."
Elder Bednar's talk really spoke to me and helped me see that I can turn to the Lord and draw on His Atonement to help me overcome overeating. Like so much else in life, I have to find the personalized and specific tools that will help me overcome physical appetites.

Just like it says in Alma 34: 21-26, I can:
21) "Cry unto him in [my] house, yea, over all [my] household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22) "Yea, cry unto him against the power of [my] enemies.  (treats and sweets)
23) "Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24) "Cry unto him over the crops of your fields . . . .
25) "... But this is not all: ye must pout out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness."

And the way my clothes fit lately, crying in the closet is a definite possibility. It should say, "Cry unto him in the kitchen" . . . That's what I'll be doing. I'll ask for peace and contentment as I eat, that I can be filled with gratitude and open to the subtle feelings of fulness.

Here's a thought -- when I over-do it on eating, I wonder if the Lord looks at me like my husband does? I'm sure that they both want what's best for me, and they're probably both going to be delighted to see me nourishing myself just enough and not too much.

My prayers will be different. They may include these phrases:
  • Give me the determination and will to awake and get out of bed and EXERCISE. Help me to remember how good I always feel whenever I go to the gym or work up a sweat.
  • I need thy help to spiritually create a day where I treat my body with the love and respect it deserves.
  • As I feed my body, help me to be thankful for the food I eat -- for its taste, texture, smell; for those who grew it, processed it, and prepared it.
  • Please help me get the nutrition and nourishment I need from the food before me, but help me to realize when I've had enough. Please give me the strength to put down my utensils and step away from the table -- even if there's still food remaining on my plate.
Of course part of overcoming the "natural woman" also means finding and engaging in activities to help me not eat out of boredom. I'm sure that the Lord can inspire me to come up with all sorts of great activities.

I'm won't be on a diet. I may lose weight, but that will be secondary to nourishing my body and using it in a way to fully enjoy this time in mortality that I'll spend with it. It really is all abou health and happiness.

I truly believe that the Lord expects me to pray and then do. I'll continue to learn about tips and strategies that fit in with caring for my physical and spiritual well-being.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Quotes for Teachers and Students -- vol. 1

I use part of my back whiteboard to post weekly quotes. They motivate me, and I'm hopeful that they rub off on my 7th graders too. Here are a few that I'd like to use.


"I have yet to find a man, whatever his situation in life, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he ever would do under a spirit of criticism." -- Charles M. Schwab

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again!"  -- William E. Hickson

"Never cut what you can untie."  -- Joseph Joubert

"To lose patience is to lose the battle."  --  Mahatma Gandhi

"The future belongs to him who knows how to wait."  -- Russian Proverb

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."  -- Dorothy Nevill

"What should not be heard by little ears should not be said by big mouths."  -- Author Unknown

"Let us be patient, tender, wise, forgiving, in this strange task of living."  -- Martin Armstrong

"Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world."  -- George Bernard Shaw

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."  -- William James

"I used to think of inpatience as simply a natural part of some people's personality, but over the years I have come to conclude that habitual impatience is a mark of immaturity."  -- Dr. Harold Lee Snow

"When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, count a hundred."  -- Thomas Jefferson

"Anybody can become angry -- that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way -- that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."  -- Aristotle

"We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough."  -- Helen Keller

"I do the very best I know how -- the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so."  -- Abraham Lincoln

"The best thing about the future is that is comes only one day at a time."  -- Abraham Lincoln

"Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time."  -- Abraham Lincoln

"The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just."  -- Abraham Lincoln

"As long as you live, keep learning how to live."  -- Seneca

"Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."  -- Thomas A. Edison

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."  -- Thomas A. Edison

"I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work."  -- Thomas A. Edison

"In any contest between power and patience, bet on patience."  -- W. B. Prescott

"Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself."  -- St. Francis de Sales

"Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling."  -- Margaret Lee Runbeck

"If happiness truly consisted in physical ease and freedom from care, then the happiest individual would not be either a man or a woman; it would be, I think, an American cow."  -- William Lyon Phelps

"Whoever is happy will make others happy too."  -- Anne Frank

"Your best shot at happiness, self-worth, and personal satisfaction -- the things that constitute real sucess -- is not in earning as much as you can but in performing as well as you can something that you consider worthwhile. Whether that is healing the sick, giving hope to the hopeless, adding to the beauty of the world, or saving the world from nuclear holocaust, I cannot tell you."  -- William Raspberry

"The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up to it yourself."  -- Benjamin Franklin

"You have to sniff out joy, keep your nose to the joy-trail."  -- Buffy Sainte-Marie

"The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up."  -- Mark Twain

"We all have come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."  -- Elmer Davis

"The wishbone will never replace the backbone."  -- Will Henry

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face . . . You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."  -- Eleanor Roosevelt

"All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary."  -- Sally Ride

"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight -- it's the size of the fight in the dog."  -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."  -- Booker T. Washington

"If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart."  -- Arab Proverb

"I expect to pass throught life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."  -- William Penn

"A word of kindness if better than a fat pie."  -- Russian Proverb

"One kind word can warm three winter months."  -- Japanese Proverb

"Never lose a chance of saying a kind word."  William Makepeace Thackeray

"The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit of doing them."  -- Benjamin Jewett

"Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify, simplify."  -- Henry David Thoreau

"A man who both spends and saves money is the happiest man, because he has both enjoyments."  -- Samuel Johnson

"Saving is greater than earning."  -- German Proverb

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor."  -- Vince Lombardi

"Never lef the fear of striking out get in your way."  -- Babe Ruth

"It's so important to believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it, under any circumstances. Because if you believe you can, you really will. That belief just keeps you searching for the answers, and then pretty soon you get it."  -- Wally "Famous" Amos

"No farmer ever plowed a field by turning it over in his mind."  -- George E. Woodbury

"Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting."  -- Dale Carnegie

"Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done, and done right."  -- Walt Disney

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."  -- Beverly Sills

"Strong people are made by opposition like kites that go up agains the wind."  -- Frank Harris

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homemade Doughnut (holes)

Hey! Natalie and Amanda here.

We got kind of bored today, and we were craving a treat, so we decided to make doughnuts. Which later just became doughnut holes. This is where we got the recipe.It was really delicious and the doughnuts turned out wonderfully!

You will need:

  • .25 oz active,dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water 
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
If you choose to make your doughnuts with a glaze, here are the ingredients.
 (We just made ours with powdered sugar which we will explain later.)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 tbsp hot water or as needed
Step 1
Weigh/measure the yeast

Step 2
Add it to the warm water, and let stand for 5 minutes, or until it's kind of foamy. We put our mixture outside on the front porch.

Step 3
In a large bow, mix together all the dough ingredients, including the yeast/water mix. Mix at low speed. We had to use a pastry blender to mix all the shortening in.

Step 4
Beat in the remaining flour (3 cups) 1/2 cup at a time, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl and is smooth/elastic.

Step 5
Put the dough into a greased bowl, place it somewhere warm, and let it rise. The actual recipe says to let it double in size, but ours wasn't going to ever double, so we just let it sit for 20 minutes, which worked out great.

Step 6
Put the dough on a slightly floured surface and roll out until it is about 1/2 inch in thickness.

Step 7
Cut the shapes of your doughnuts out. The recipe then says to let them double in size again, but Natalie and I didn't do this, and ours turned out great!

Step 8
Heat up the oil in a fryer or heavy skillet up to 350 degrees. Once it's heated up, begin to cook the doughnuts. 

Step 9
Make sure to turn them over so they are evenly brown (we recommend using tongs to turn them). When they're done, use the tongs to take them out, and put them on a plate covered in paper towels. 

Step 10
When the doughnuts are no longer steaming hot, roll them/dust them in powdered sugar if you would like. That's what we did, and they were great! Though we also discovered they were delicious if you put a little bit of peanut butter and raspberry jam on them. Or honey. Or cinnamon sugar. Again, if you just want a simple glaze, the instructions are here.

(this is when we sprinkled the powdered sugar on, it didn't work out too well)

(we recommend rolling it, because the sugar ended up sticking better to the doughnut holes)

And thanks to Khrys Bosland for the cute font used in the previous image!


-Amanda and Natalie

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to take pictures of sparkler images/words

Hey! Amanda here.

Since it's the summer season and many of you are lighting/watching fireworks, I figured it would be useful to write a post about how to take the long-exposure shots.

You will need:
  • A digital camera- one that has "bulb" mode
  • Sparklers
  • A tri-pod
  • People to help take the pictures
First off, set your camera to bulb mode, with the ISO set to 100.

Set up your tripod and make sure your camera is in focus- I know it's really tempting just to start taking pictures as soon as the sparklers are lit, but take a second and make sure it's focused, otherwise, the entire batch of pictures will be garbage quality.

Next, light a sparkler. When they start to draw or write, push down the shutter button and hold it down until they're done (it's helpful to have them say start and stop) or until the sparkler goes out. 

That's it! Here are some of the pictures we took with sparklers! Enjoy! Please comment down below with any questions you may have!

*This method (bulb mode) also works great for fireworks!

Dill Pickle Recipe -- a family favorite

I'll be the first to admit that I usually complain about canning season. That is, about everything except canning pickles. These are my favorite thing to can! Perhaps it's because I can do it in small batches, and it doesn't consume a whole day. Or perhaps it's because all the ingredients are fresh and home-grown.

I only use whole cucumbers for my pickles. I pick and store my baby cucumbers, up to a week, in plastic bags in the fridge -- UNWASHED -- until I have enough for a batch. (Washing them causes them not to store as well.) Also, if you're as addicted to canning pickles as I am, I suggest planting at least 3 hills of pickling cukes (we plant Pioneer Pickler). That way, when the cucumbers begin coming on, you can accumulate enough for a batch quickly. And, once you have canned enough pickles, you simple pull up the plants.

Happy pickling!

Dill Pickles

8 pounds cucumbers (I can whole cucumbers -- baby size. I think they stay crisper that way.)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canning salt (I don't know what canning salt is. I just use regular iodized table salt.)
1 quart vinegar (4 c.)
1 quart water (4 c.)
3 Tablespoons mixed pickling spices (in a tea diffuser or tied up in cheesecloth)
fresh or dried heads of dill -- 1 per jar
cayenne pepper or pieces of hot pepper
whole garlic cloves, peeled -- one per pint jar
ground mustard, fine

Wash cucumbers well; drain. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot. Add spice bag to mixture; simmer 15 minutes. 

In clean pint jars place: head of dill, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 tsp. ground mustard, 1/2 inch piece of hot pepper (no seeds) or 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper. Next, pack in clean, fresh cucumbers leaving 1/4-inch headspace.

Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust 2-piece canning lids. (I like to soak my lids in just barely simmering water for 5 minutes before putting them on the jars.) 

Process pints and quarts 25 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Note: After canning the pickles, allow 6 weeks before eating them so they'll reach their full flavor.

Monday, July 08, 2013

LOVE this article! Exercise isn't always about losing weight . . .

In this weekend's Deseret News, there was one article in particular that I loved.

I could really relate with what C. Jane Kendrick wrote  about exercising for health and mental wellness but not necessarily for weight loss.

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog, but this article is something that I'm sure I"ll go back to again and again for reassurance that I'm not alone in being a curvaceous exerciser.

Thanks, C. Jane Kendrick!

Monday, June 24, 2013

All-American Dessert: Patriotic Pie

Christie here, sharing my signature dessert for the first time on the internet.

Anytime is a great time to make a delicious raspberry pie, but when you add a few blueberries atop the whipped cream, you have an All-American Dessert perfect for the 4th of July!

Let's start with the crust.

You will need:

  • 1/4 c. cold water, (with 1 ice cube in it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 1 tsp. salt

Crust - Step 1
(Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.)

Add all the liquid ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir well with a fork. Let sit (must have the ice cube) while you gather the rest of the ingredients.

Crust - Step 2
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add only 2 cups of the flour and the teaspoon of salt. Stir together. Then measure 1 cup of shortening and add to the flour mixture. You will be cutting the shortening into the flour mixture until the shortening pieces are about pea-size.

Note: I use my Kitchenaid mixer, but you can also use a pastry blender or two butter knives.

This is the bowl before cutting in the shortening.

This is the bowl when the shortening is in sufficiently small pieces.

Crust - Step 3
Remove the icecube from your wet ingredients and add the liquid to your flour/shortening bowl and stir together until just moist. DO NOT overmix! The secret to flaky pie crust lies in not over-working the dough.

Once the dough is hanging together, form into two, fist-sized balls. These will be your pie shells.

Crust - Step 4
When we were making the pie dough, we only added 2 cups of the 2 1/2 cups of flour that the recipe called for. That's because during the crust rolling-out process you want to USE PLENTY OF FLOUR. I like to roll out my crusts on a Tupperware plastic sheet, but the counter top works fine too. For each ball of dough I use approx. 1/2 cup of flour on my surface. Then I roll the dough ball around in the flour, and begin rolling it out with my rolling pin.

As I'm rolling, I sprinkle on more flour as needed, being careful not to allow the crust to stick to my rolling pin. (Yeah. There's nothing like weilding a rolling pin to make one feel like a real woman!)

There's not rush to rolling out the crust. Go slowly, rolling out the dough into a rough circle. I like to roll my crust until I can just read the lines of my Tupperware sheet through the crust -- that's when I know that I've rolled it thin enough.

If your crust doesn't cooperate, and sticks to everything, gather up all the dough, sprinkle more flour on your surface, and start that crust again. Note: I don't roll out a piece of dough more than twice. It's just too tough after that, so I start over from step one if roll-out number two goes kaput.

Crust - Step 5
Now comes the tricky part -- getting your dough from the rolling surface to your pie pan. I use a metal spatula and carefully go under the edges of my dough. Then I ever-so-carefully fold the crust in half, carefully using the spatula to lift the center of the crust off the surface without tearing. Once the crust is completely unstuck, I carefully lift it into my pie pan and then un-fold it.

I mend any tears in the dough by overlapping them and pressing them together. It's also important to firmly press the dough into the bottom and edges of the pie pan. As you can see in the picture below, I like a lot of crust to work with around the top, so I fold the dough under itself around the rim, pressing as I go. Once the dough is firmly pressed into the pan, and I've got plenty of dough around the top, I trip off the excess with a butter knife.

After fluting the edges, I poke holes in the crust with a fork, and place the crust in the freezer for at least 6 minutes. (This helps prevent shrinking when baking the crust.)

Crust - Step 6
Now you're ready to bake your pie crust. Place it on the center rack of an oven that's preheated to 400 degrees F. It bakes for approximately 15 minutes or until a light, golden brown. (Time varies depending your individual oven.)

Once the crust is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.

Note: This recipe makes two generous 9" pie crusts. You'll also have some dough leftover. I like to scrunch in into a ball, put it in a sandwich bag, and freeze it to use later as the top of a chicken-pot-pie.

Once your pie shells are out of the oven, you can start working on the raspberry pie filling.

You will need:

  • 1, 3-oz. box of raspberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch (a tad more if fruit is from frozen)
  • 2 c. water (1 3/4 c. if fruit is frozen)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 to 4 c. fresh raspberries / 4 c. frozen raspberries

Filling - Step 1
In a medium saucepan, add dry ingredients (gelatin, sugar, salt, cornstarch) and stir well.

Filling - Step 2
Next, add 2 cups of water if using fresh raspberries, or 1 3/4 cups of water if raspberries are frozen and two tablespoons of lemon juice.

Filling - Step 3
Cook mixture on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat, and let filling cool slightly.

Filling - Step 4
If using fresh berries, let gelatin mixture cool for at least 30 minutes before adding berries. For frozen berries, let the gelatin mixture cool for 10 minutes or so, and add berries to the saucepan, stirring well.

Once berries are combined with gelatin mixture, divide the filling evenly into your two pie shells and refrigerate for approximately four hours.

Only real whipping cream for an all-American pie. 

Before whipping cream, place the bowl, beaters, and rubber scraper in the freezer for at least 5 minutes -- this makes for no-fail whipped cream every time!

In your chilled bowl, dump in a 1/2 pint (8 oz.) of heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Beat with chilled beaters on medium-high until the cream is stiff and forms peaks that are firm.

Divide whipped cream onto pies and garnish with fresh blueberries for a red, white, and blue dessert.

Note: You can make this pie with a variety of  fresh or frozen fruits. We also like:
strawberries and strawberry flavored gelatin
peaches and peach flavored gelatin.

Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Benefits and Uses of Coconut Oil

Hi, Natalie here.

Today's post is going to be about coconut oil!  I recently bought some EfaGold Coconut Oil.  And let me say, I LOVE it!!  It's not particularly cheap, but for the amount you get, it's a pretty good deal.  Especially because it should last a long time, too.  I found this great website with 122 uses for coconut oil!  Check it out!  I'm going to share just a few of my favorite ways to use this amazing stuff.

1.  On your face- Some days this is all I use on my face.  Nothing else!  You may think, cleansing my skin with oil?!  Won't that make my skin worse?  Oil is actually a great way to clean your skin!  It can clear blemishes, fade scars, moisturize, remove make-up, and it makes your face su-u-u-per soft, and glowy!

I like to use coconut oil to exfoliate my skin, and it's super easy and fast to make. All you have to do is mix 1/2 cup of oil with 1/4 cup of baking soda!

In the past I've used Castor Oil to wash my face, and it's worked pretty well.  So if you have that or any other oil, you could mix it with the coconut oil.  Before I put the coconut oil on my face, I splash warm water on my face to open my pores.  Then massage the oil on your skin for a few minutes.  After that, cover your face with a warm wash cloth; take if off once it's cooled down. Then wash it off and moisturize! (If needed).

To moisturize with coconut oil pretty straight forward, just apply a thin layer to your entire face.  Lips, eyebrows, and eyelashes included!

Another great way to use coconut oil is as a body scrub!  Afterwards you'll smell like coconut!  And not like artificial coconut, but real coconut.  In my scrub I used peppermint, vanilla, and sugar.  But you can add salt or brown sugar and any essential oil if you choose to use one.  I just estimated how much sugar I wanted to add, but a guideline is 1 part oil to 2 parts sugar or salt.  I use mine in the shower and afterwards, you will smell SO good!! Plus your skin will feel baby soft.

Besides using in on your face and body, you can use coconut oil on your hair.  The oil actually penetrates the hair shaft, not just coating it.

Before applying the oil to your hair, melt some of it by placing it in warm water.
Once some of it is melted, just put it all over your hair.  I combed it through to evenly distribute it, then wrapped my head in a warm towel.  You can leave it in 30 minutes to hours!  Leaving it in overnight nourishes your hair best, but be careful not to apply to much and to thoroughly wash it out.  I didn't, and my hair looked pretty greasy, so I put in some dry shampoo.  If you have cornstarch, that will work too because it's absorbent. You can add essential oil to the coconut oil if you want, but I didn't.

     To promote growth
Peppermint, Lavender, Rosemary, Basil, and (Clary) sage.
Oily Hair
Tea Tree oil, Lemon, Basil and Rosemary.
Dry Hair
Peppermint, Olive, and Myrrh.
Tea Tree, Aloe Vera, Chamomile, and Eucalyptus.

Lastly I use coconut oil for eating!  I used organic, pure, cold pressed coconut oil.  If you don't, it's not going to taste and smell like coconut as I learned.  I bought Spectrum coconut oil because it was cheap and looked like what I wanted. It wasn't. Whoops. . .  Coconut oil is actually very good for you. (If taken in proper amounts.)  It's also good for cooking, and for. . . animals!  I fed some to the cats and they loved it! Maybe it'll help Oreo (the black one) lose some weight. . .

Hopefully if you have some coconut oil sitting unused you found some new ways to use it!  If you try any of the above uses, tell me how they worked out for you.  Good luck!  Comment your favorite ways to use coconut oil!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cheesy Vegetable Soup

 Christie writes:

Monday evenings are my nights to make dinner. I had almost an entire vegetable tray leftover from our Father's Day family get-together, and figured that I'd use the veggies to make a cheesy soup. Mind you I didn't have a cheesy vegetable soup recipe, so I did a little experimenting. It turned out YUMMY! All the kids even liked it. Here's how I did it . . .

Cheesy Vegetable Soup

3 c. water
3 tsp. chicken bouillion granules or 3 cubes chicken bouillon (optional -- I left this out of mine, and it tasted great.)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 whole stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet pepper or 2 small sweet pepper, chopped fine
12 to 15 baby carrots, chopped
broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. flour (scant)
2 to 3 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt


Pour water in a large stock pan and bring to a boil, adding all the vegetables in the order given. (The veggies are listed in order of how long they take to cook. So, while you're cutting up the broccoli and cauliflower, it should give the onions, celery, and peppers plenty of time to get nice and soft.) Once all the vegetables are added and have cooked five minutes or so, start making the sauce.

In a seperate pan melt the butter over medium heat. Use a spongy-up-and-downer (that's what we called it growing up) and stir the flour into the butter, stirring and cooking for a couple minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. This will take a few minutes. Keep stirring!

Once the white sauce begins to thicken, add the salt and cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted. Add the cheese sauce to the large stock pot of vegetable, and stir until combined.

Turn off your stove, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Homeade Marshmallow Brownies

Hey everyone!
Amanda here.

Today I'm sharing one of my all-time favorite dessert recipes, Marshmallow Brownies!

 For the brownies you will need:

  • 1/3 C. Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 C. Flour
  • 2 C. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 3/4 C. Butter (one stick and a half)
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 4 Eggs

For the frosting you will need:

  • 1/3 C. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Stick of Butter (1/2 C)
  • 1/3 C. Evaporated Milk

And of course, marshmallows!

Let's get started!

Step 1
(Preheat your oven to 350)

Mix all of the brownie ingredients together...

...until it looks something like this.

Step 2
Spray a jelly pan with non-stick spray

Step 3
Pour the brownie dough onto the jelly pan and spread it evenly over the surface....

...until it looks something like this.

Step 4
Put the brownies in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

Step 5
When the brownies are done...

...put a bag (depending on the brand, it doesn't need a whole bag) of marshmallows on the brownies right after they are out of the oven. Keep the oven on (for now, anyway).

Put the brownies and marshmallows back in the oven for 3 minutes. Turn the oven off.

Step 6
Get the brownies out of the oven after 3 minutes. The marshmallows should be very puffy.

Step 7
After waiting a couple minutes for the marshmallows to cool, add the frosting/glaze.
The recipe for the frosting is pretty simple - add the ingredients listed above at the beginning of the post
-Mix all the ingredients together. Make sure the frosting isn't too thick.

When the frosting is done, pour it evenly on the brownies and spread it.

It should look something like this when it's done.

Next, just leave it to cool for a while, cut, and enjoy!

Here's a picture of the recipe- just to make it easier to print off and use!

Enjoy! (: