My 3 Monsters: July 2013

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Our Super Fun, Super Simple Back to School Ice Cream Social
{with Kleenex Hand Towels!}

First things first:  Congratulations to Danielle, who gets to try out some awesome Kleenex Hand Towels!!  I have emailed you to get your info.  You're going to love 'em.

So, we had our little Back to School Ice Cream Social for our kids' friends {and our friends and their kids}.  Shamefully, I didn't make any homemade ice cream.  The last week of summer is way to overwhelming. I don't know what I was thinking.  I didn't even really decorate.  But guess what . . . it was still fun!!  Sometimes I shy away from entertaining because I have this idea in my head of what I want my party to look like -- gorgeous back drops, too-cute utensils and accessories, elaborate foods -- and I just don't have the energy to execute it.  Not that there's anything wrong with those things.  They make for awesome parties.  But I'm embracing the fact that sometimes I can just have my friends over for some store-bought ice cream in my little 'ol house and that can be awesome, too. 

{I had a hard time getting good, crisp pictures of excited little ice cream eating bodies.  At lest they were having fun, right?!}  I did decorate the tiniest little bit.  I rolled out some kraft paper gift wrap on the table and labeled the ice cream and toppings with a Sharpie.  

I had to do something, after all.  Then, when the party was over, we just rolled up the paper and threw it straight in the trash so clean-up was a breeze.  Love that!  With so many little kiddies eating messy ice cream the Kleenex Hand Towels were a life saver, too.

{Again . . . the wiggly babies . . .}  The moral of the story is:  entertaining can be super simple and still be super fun.  Thanks to Kleenex Hand Towels for inspiring this little end of summer get-together!  If you would like to try Kleenex Hand Towels yourself {and you should!}, you can find them in the paper towel aisle of your local grocery store.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Hosting a Summer Ice Cream Social
{With Kleenex Hand Towels}

What is more fun than getting together with friends in the summer?  Eating ice cream with friends in the summer!!!!  Our summer break is just about over -- in fact the kiddos will be back in school a week from Monday.  {I'm still in denial.}  We thought it would be super fun to have a few friends over for an ice cream social before heading back into the classroom. 

You better believe I'll be bringing out the Kleenex Hand Towels for the occasion.  These are the decorative hand towels that I normally keep in my guest bathroom:
They're all cute and ruffly, right?  Believe it or not they don't usually look that fresh and clean.  {They DO, however, usually look that disheveled.  I don't really stage my photos.  Like, at all.} No, those ones right there are fresh out of the wash.  Here's what they look like after about a day with my three kids using them:
Grayish and not nearly so fresh.  At least I know my kids are washing their hands.  That's something.  I just don't wanna use it to dry my own hands, thank you very much.  Your hands are only as clean as the towel you use to dry them . . . Now imagine if all my kids' friends had wiped their hands on those towels, too.  Ummmm . . . sick.

Look how easy it is to solve the problem:
Plop a box of single-use Kleenex Hand Towels on the rack and everyone gets a fresh towel to dry their hands on.  Every time.  It totally blends in with the decor of my room, too.  I appreciate that very much.

So, now that my bathroom is ready for our guests, it's time to start thinking about what kinds of ice cream to have.  I've gathered up a few home-made ice cream recipes that sound absolutely delicious!

pina colada ice cream #recipe 

Salty Caramel Ice Cream 




Check back to see how our little ice cream social turns out!  In the mean time, don't forget to visit this post for your chance to win some free Kleenex Hand Towels so you can see for yourself just how great they are.  Entries close at midnight {Arizona time} on July 28th so you still have a few days left.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Summer Entertaining with Kleenex Hand Towels
{Plus a GIVEAWAY!}

Good Morning, friends!!  I think summer is the perfect time for entertaining.  I don't know if it's if it's my kids kids' incessant nagging {"There's nothing to do, mom . . . ."} or the laid back schedule that makes me feel like I finally have time to invite friends over.  Either way, we tend to have more get-togethers with our friends in the summer months.

In our group of close friends there are 17 children between the ages of 0 and 17.  That's a crazy lotta' kids running in and out of the house and using the bathrooms.  Regular old hand-towels can get pretty grimy with that many little hands being washed.  I'm not a germa-phobe, but I shudder think to what those towels are holding on to by the end of a party like that!  Thankfully, Kleenex has offered the perfect solution -- single-use Kleenex Hand Towels.  The boxes are designed to fit perfectly right on your towel bar and everyone gets a fresh towel every time.  It's pretty brilliant, if you ask me!  Check it out:

Say no to shared cloth towels that are often damp and germy due to overuse. Take control of your towel situation by visiting, and join the 14 million people who have already joined the Clean Hands Campaign by using Kleenex Hand Towels.

Would you like to try a box for free?  Kleenex is giving away a box of their awesome hand towels to one of you!  Simply leave a comment on this post to be entered to win -- easy cheesy!  Entries close at midnight {Arizona time} on July 28th.  Winner will be chosen using  Please leave an email address or a way for me to get in touch with you if you win. 

In the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing how I prepare for and host a summer get-together with Kleenex Hand Towels.  I can't wait to share.  Have a great day, friends!!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and
the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Shirley Temple Cupcakes

After giving you a brief break from my baking yesterday, I'm back again with another sweet treat. 

Shirley Temple Cupcakes recipe at /

I made these goodies a month ago for my daughter's birthday party and they were delicious.  Then I came down with a really bad stomach bug, and you know how the last thing you ate before you get sick always gets the mental blame, even though it wasn't the culprit?  Yeah, that's what happened here.  It has taken me a solid month to even be able to think about editing those photos and writing about these yummy cuppies.  But that shouldn't discourage you from trying them.  I promise, they're really good!

We LOVE Shirley Temples in our house.  It's our go-to "mock-tail" for New Year's Eve and other celebratory occasions.   Ginger ale and grenadine?  Um, yeah.  I'll have some of that.   Why not in cupcake form?!  

Shirley Temple Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1-1/2 C. ginger ale
2 Tbsp. Grenadine

Mix cake mix with ginger ale.  {Don't add any oil or eggs -- just the ginger ale.}  Separate half of the batter into a small bowl and stir in grenadine.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Fill each liner with equal parts white and pink batter then swirl the batters together with a tooth pick to create a marbled effect.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until done.  Allow to cool and top with Grenadine Butter Cream and a maraschino cherry.

Grenadine Butter Cream Frosting

1 1/4 C. shortening (do NOT use butter flavored!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C. grenadine
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 lbs confectioner's sugar

Beat the shortening with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the salt, grenadine, and vanilla. Beat until mixed. The mixture will be sort of watery at this point, so it's ok if it's not completely combined.  Add the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time. Mix well after each addition.  Once frosting is the desired consistency, keep on mixing for about 5-7 minutes until your icing is nice and fluffy!  Icing will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Shirley Temple Cupcakes recipe at /
These cupcakes were delicious {really!} and so pretty.  They were perfect for a girly-girl's birthday party.  Or Valentines Day.  Or anytime, really.  After sipping ginger ale through my stomach bug, I may just be ready to try these cupcakes again now!


Custom Painted Drink Cooler

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

I got this weird notion about a month ago that we needed a cuter cooler.  I know.  Who EVER thinks that?  Like, ever?  Well . . . .me.  I think about things like that.  

"Wouldn't it be grand," I thought, "if we had a really awesome painted cooler?  Maybe with a monogram or something so it would never get lost on picnics or camping trips.  'Cause we go on so many of those -- picnics and camping trips, I mean.  Awwww, yeah.  Life would be preeety sweet with a cuter cooler."  That's how people who decide to make painted coolers talk to themselves. 

Now, I thoroughly realize how frivolous and unnecessary a cute cooler is when a regular old red or blue or orange cooler actually gets the job done.  I also know that using a Sharpie to jot your name on your plain old red/blue/orange cooler will quickly solve any issues of picnic cooler confusion.  But I am in love with the way ours turned out.  I couldn't be happier with it.  In fact, it has sat in our front entryway for about three weeks, waiting to be photographed, but also being admired by me.  It's too cute to just be stashed back away in the garage.  I think a painted cooler adds just the right decorative, fun touch to a pool party or back yard barbecue.  I can't wait to fill'er up and get to entertaining.

There are a few steps that you'll need to follow if you want to make a painted cooler that will hold up to regular use.  It's easy, but labor-intensive.  You want to make sure that your hard work will go the distance and last for summers to come.  

Step 1:  Spackle

You can get a cooler just like this one for about $20 at Target or Walmart.  I think mine was from Target.  I wanted to remove all brand-names from my cooler to have a really fresh canvas for painting.  If your cooler has raised writing on it, you can sand it off in the next step.  If the brand name is indented you will need to fill it with spackle and allow it to dry completely.

Step 2:  Sanding / Prepping

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

You want to sand the finish of your cooler down so remove as much of the shiny-ness as you can.  I used my palm sander with heavy grit sandpaper and sanded, and sanded.  Then I sanded some more.  I tried to remove as much of the branding from the lid and front of cooler as possible.  It just takes some elbow grease and patience.  Sand the spackle smooth, too, if you used that.  Once you have as much of the finish removed as you can, use a fine grit sandpaper and go over the whole thing again to smooth it out as much as possible.

Once you are finished {or completely fed-up} with sanding, clean the cooler really well to remove ALL the dust. Tape off any areas that you don't want to be painted.  My handles removed easily with screws so I just took those off instead of taping them up.  You can see in the picture I taped off the lip of the cooler lid, but then I decided to just paint the whole thing black.

Step 3:  Painting

Spray paint your cooler with a paint formulated to bond with plastic.  I really liked Krylon Fusion spray paint.  It went on really smooth and bonded FANTASTICALLY.  I think I used 2 cans.  First I made sure the whole thing was evenly covered with color and then I just kept adding light coats of paint until all the paint was gone.  I wanted to have a really good solid base coat.

Allow the spray paint to dry for 24 hours before adding your detail painting.  Here is where you can go crazy with it.  You could use a stencil to create an all-over pattern or hand paint a beach scene.  Whatever your heart desires.  I was kinda' conservative and used white acrylic craft paint with a circular foam brush to dab on polka dots.  I measured out the pattern and marked it with chalk to keep it all uniform.  Then I sketched out the monogram and painted that on, too.

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

Step 4:  Sealing

Use a CLEAN brush to paint on 2-3 coats of Mod Podge to seal and protect the paint.  If you use a brush that has any paint still in it, your Mod Podge will not dry clear or may have streaks in it.  I used a brand new foam brush for each new layer.  Allow the Mod Podge to dry for about 24 hours, then spray with a clear acrylic sealer.  

Remove all the tape and screw your handles back on.  Use an X-acto knife to slit the Mod Podge all around the lip of the lid before you try to open it to make sure you don't mess up the finish the first time you open it.  {Ask me how I know that . . .}

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

I am IN LOVE with this cute cooler!!!  I can't wait to see Brent and the boys take it to the Father & Son camp out with all the men from church next year.  {Hee hee!}  We may need to make another, more manly version with a sports team logo or something for them.

Wanna know something crazy?  I'm not the only one who wants a cute cooler!  While I was dragging my feet, putting off photographing my painted cooler for three weeks, Stephanie Lynn from Under the Table and Dreaming was making a fabric-covered cooler that is very similar to mine.  Great minds think alike {if I do say so myself!} 


Reality Check

Here's the deal, friends.  My kiddos are gone to the family cabin in Montana with their grandparents for the next two weeks and my husband has been in Utah all weekend, dropping the kids off at Grandma and Papa's house and visiting his brothers. I have been home all by myself for the past several days getting things together for the fun decorating project I'll be working on this week.  This is what it looks like when mom doesn't have to cook dinner {or clean off the dining table} for a few days:

{There's another pile of prettiness on my bedroom dresser, too.} I'm sewing pillow covers, fixing up that thrift store lamp and drum shade, and crafting up some accessories.  There will be some decorating posts in the near future, but for now, while I have the computer all to myself,  I'm sharing all the food posts that I have been saving up all summer. 

I hope you'll forgive me.  And not judge me for making so much junk for my family. We do eat healthy stuff, too.  Often, actually.  I swear.


Raisinet Cowboy Cookies
{and my secret for perfectly chewy cookies every single time!}

Raisinet Cowboy Cookies recipe {and my secret for perfectly chewy cookies every time} at /

I know, I know . . . again with the recipes.  I'll be sharing some brand new DIY and decorating ideas with you really soon, I promise!  We were playing cards with our kids last weekend when we got a hankering for something sweet so we whipped up a batch of these yummies -- Raisinet Cowboy Cookies!

Have you ever had cowboy cookies?  They are my absolute favorite cookies of all time.  Imagine if  pecan chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies got together and decided to get married.  Cowboy Cookies would be their sweet, delicious, ooey-gooey babies.  I first ate these at my grandma's house when I was a kid and they quickly became the gold-standard by which all other cookies would be measured in my book.  But most of the members of my family now don't like nuts so we have always made them without.

When I saw boxes of Raisinets at the dollar store the other day, I got to thinkin'.  Instead of adding chocolate chips and raisins, I could just put in a bunch of Raisinets.  That way you would for sure get chocolate and raisin in every bite!  I thought they turned out perfectly and my family wasn't complaining either.  Win-win.

Raisinet Cowboy Cookies

1 C. sugar
1C. brown sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 C. oats
2 C. flour
2 C. Raisinets {or 1 C. chocolate chips and 1 C. raisins}
1/2 C. chopped pecans {if desired}

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Cream butter and sugars in a bowl with a mixer.  Add eggs one at a time until well blended.  Add salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix well.  Add flour and oatmeal a little at a time until fully incorporated into the dough.  Stir in Raisinets and nuts by hand so that they stay in tact.

Use a spoon to form ping-pong ball-sized dollops of dough on a cookie sheet, spaced about 2-inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.   

Here's my little secret for perfectly soft, chewy cookies every time --  I use a stoneware baking sheet {like the ones from Pampered Chef} and slightly under-bake the cookies in the oven.  I take them out when the center is still pretty gooey -- maybe a minute or two before you think they're done-done. {Like at 10 minutes instead of 12.}  Then I let them sit on the hot stoneware pan for about 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  The pan retains the heat from the oven and finishes baking the insides without getting the edges too crispy.  Perfectly chewy cookies every single time!

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

Raisinet Cowboy Cookies recipe {and my secret for perfectly chewy cookies every time} at /
Next time I make these I might add a few more Raisinets.  I put 2 theater-sized boxes from the dollar store in, but I think it could have used 3.  That's just my personal preference.  Like I said, no complaints from the family exactly as they were.  This will be making an encore appearance at family night very soon! 


Easy Chicken Chimichangas

Yummy {and easy!} Chicken Chimichangas recipe at /

I'm in the middle of a fun decorating project right now that I am super excited to share with you once it is finished.  That's why the blog has been heavy with food posts lately -- because even when I have unfinished DIY projects, the family still wants to eat.  Go figure!  Chicken Chimichangas has long been one of our favorite family family dinners.  In fact two of my three children ask for these every year for their birthday dinners.  I made them when we had one of Syd's friends staying with us and now she wants to come over whenever we have them, too.  I'm not trying to say that these chimichangas are THE MOST delicious family dinner you'll ever make, but everyone I have fed them to loves them.  The facts are the facts. 

Chicken Chimichangas with Green Sauce

{adapted from USA Weekend Magazine -- Nov. 2006}

For Green Sauce:
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 (4.5-oz.) cans diced green chiles
2 Tbsp. lime juice {fresh is best, but bottled works, too.}

For Chimichangas:
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2-3 C. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2  package taco seasoning
1 lb. shredded cooked chicken {about 3 C.)
8 flour tortillas {I use soft taco-sized}
1/2-1 C. vegetable oil {for frying}
green onions, sour cream, & guacamole for serving

1.  Scoop the cream of chicken soup into a blender along with green chiles and lime juice.  Puree until smooth then pour into a saucepan and warm over medium-low heat while you prepare the chimichangas.

2.  In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and taco seasoning until well blended.  Add the chicken.  {I like to use my Kitchen Aid mixer for this.  I just plop the whole chicken breasts in there with the other stuff and it shreds and mixes everything really easily.}

3.  Evenly divide the mixture between the 8 tortillas, placing filling in center of tortilla.  Fold both sides in then roll the tortilla to make a nice little "packet".

4.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Fry a couple chimichangas at a time, seam-side down, until golden brown (about 90 seconds).  Flip with tongs and fry the other side, too.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  

5.  This is where the original recipe says you're done, but in my experience the filling doesn't get warm enough with just the frying.  I place my fried chimichangas on a baking sheet and put them in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes to warm them up throughout.  This is just a personal preference.

6.  To serve, place a chimichanga on a plate and ladle the warm green sauce over top.  Sprinkle with green onions {which I forgot in the photo, but really make it extra good} and top with sour cream and guacamole.  We usually eat these with a side of spanish rice and refried beans to round out the meal.

Yummy {and easy!} Chicken Chimichangas recipe at /
Mmmmmmmm!!  Delicioso!  What is your favorite family dinner?  You can find a few more of ours by clicking here or the Recipes tab at the top of the page.


Jello Candy Popcorn
{Free Printable Recipe Card}

Where has the time gone?!  My goodness!  It has been really hot here in Arizona so I am moving at a snail's pace these days and time is just slipping away from me.  Today I wanted to share one of our favorite July traditions -- Candy Popcorn.

Delicious Jello Candy Popcorn recipe {with free printable recipe card} at /
I always like to make a couple big batches of red, white and blue popcorn for the 4th to eat while we hang out by the pool all day or while we are watching fireworks in the evening, but it is really a delicious any-time treat.  You can make it any color and flavor that appeals to you, depending on the flavor of Jello that you choose to add.  It would be super fun to make pink and white for Valentine's Day or orange and purple for Halloween.  They have fruit punch and  strawberry lemonade flavored Jello out right now that would make DELICIOUS summer movie night snacks.

The best part is that it SUPER simple to make -- almost everything is done in the microwave.  That's my kind of recipe!  And just look at all that candy-coated goodness right there:

Delicious Jello Candy Popcorn recipe {with free printable recipe card} at /

It's enough to give you a cavity just looking at it.  What I love about this recipe, too, is that you bake it at the end.  It hardens up that candy coating and gives the popcorn just a little extra crunch that makes it oh-so yummy.  If you want more than one color/flavor, be prepared to invite over a buncha' friends to help you eat it.  Each batch uses 3 bags of microwave popcorn so it feeds a crowd.  {Though I think I could probably eat a whole batch myself if I wasn't careful.  It's pretty addictive.  You have been warned.} 

Jello Candy Popcorn

2 sticks butter
2 C. sugar
1/2 C. corn syrup
4 Tbsp. Jello gelatin powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 bags microwave popcorn, popped {approx. 16 cups}

Pop popcorn and place in a very large bowl.  Pick out as many unpopped kernels as you can.  Place butter, sugar and corn syrup in a bowl in microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave 2 minutes more.  Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes.  Watch the mixture to see if it boils.  If it has not boiled at the end of the second 2 minutes, stir it up and put it in for another 2 minutes, removing when it boils.  Add Jello {any flavor}, baking soda and vanilla.  Pour over popcorn and stir until popcorn is evenly coated.  Spread popcorn out on 2 baking sheets and bake at 250-degrees for 15 minutes, stirring midway.  Remove from oven and turn out onto wax paper.  Break into pieces as it cools and hardens.

Delicious Jello Candy Popcorn recipe {with free printable recipe card} at /

Just because I like a pretty printable recipe card, here is one that I digi-scrapped up for you:

Delicious Jello Candy Popcorn recipe {with free printable recipe card} at /

{Just hold down CTRL while clicking the image to open it up in it's own window.  Make sure it's as big as it will go then right click and save to your computer.  The image is sized to print at 5x7 inches.}  Enjoy!

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