Saturday, April 28, 2012

Who's Hungry for Enchiladas?

Enchiladas are on my go-to list for dinner.  I usually prepare them during the kids naptime, refrigerate, then pop them in the oven later that evening.  That way, making dinner doesn't take over my evening.  It's also good if company is coming, since they can be prepared in advance.  Since it takes almost no extra time, I double the recipe and freeze the other 9x13. 
Normally, I would post a picture of the recipe also, but we ate them so fast I didn't have a chance!  Here is the basic beef enchilada recipe that always ends up a favorite with the kids and my husband.
Yield: (1) 9x13

Beef Enchiladas
2 lb. ground beef
1 small white onion
1 can chili with beans
"Mission" corn tortillas
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1 can "Taco Bell" mild enchilada red sauce
2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
Lettuce, shredded
Tomatoes, chopped
Sour cream
  1. Brown ground beef.  Add onion and cook til clear.  Drain well.
  2. Add can of chili and sour cream to beef.  Mix well.
  3. Warm corn tortillas on skillet.  Fill with beef mixture.  Lay in 9x13 casserole dish.
  4. Pour can of enchilada sauce over the top.  Top with cheese.
  5. Bake at 350ยบ for 25-30 minutes.
Before serving, top with:
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Sour cream
This recipe can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 48 hours or frozen. If freezing, when ready to bake, refrigerate overnight to defrost first.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Area Summer Camps for Kids

Like so many moms right now, I am planning the events for the summer. When I was a kid, I had a lot of fun at summer camps, and I definitely want to work in a camp experience for my kids! Last week I started my hunt for quality camps that kids could enjoy and decided to publish them here for everyone else, too.

White River Youth Camp (Forsyth, MO)
I had the privilege of attending WRYC as a child, and I still remember the songs I learned while there. Even today, it ranks as my very favorite camp experience, proving that cost does not always equal fun. This camp has several sessions, divided by age. As I was talking to the director (he and his wife have been directors of WRYC for over 20 years!) my jaw dropped to the ground when he said all campers (even the high schoolers) attend for FREE. Seriously? This will be a must-attend for my kids. It's located off East Hwy 76 as you head from Branson to Forsyth. For more information, call (417) 546-5920.

2012 dates for Kiddie CampJune 1-2, 2012 Kiddie Camp is a 1-night camp that starts at 6:00 PM Friday, June 1st and ends at 3:00 PM Saturday, June 2nd. Arrive 30 minutes early for registration. It includes dinner Friday night, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, crafts, children's worship, playtime, and tons more. For ages 2 years old (potty trained) to children going into 1st grade. Parents must stay overnight with their child. Your child will remember the quality time you spend with them at this camp for the rest of their lives. Great family fun that is FREE!!

2012 dates for Overnight Camps for the Big Kids:June 4-8, 2012 Sr. Camp (9th - 12th grades)
June 11-15, 2012 Jr. High (7th & 8th grades)
June 18-22, 2012 Intermediate camp (5th & 6th grades)
June 25-28, 2012 Junior Camp (3rd & 4th grades)

Just bring your overnight bags and a registration form with you or fill one out at the door. No charge.

Camp Lookout (Hollister, MO)
Camp Lookout is a 1-week camp designed for children age 8-12 from Stone and Taney Counties. Another bonus is that this camp is FREE -- even the meals! Very popular in this area, and has an excellent reputation. They go hiking, sing to the geriatrics at the nursing home, and visit Silver Dollar City. Camp always fills up quickly so turning in registration early (read: NOW) is recommended. Call (417) 690-3454 for more information.

Here are some comments I got on Facebook within minutes when I put a shout out for info on Camp Lookout:

"Haygn went until she out grew it, and Austin goes there now... its AWESOME!! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!"

"camp look out is free for the week! kelsey had a lot of friends that went to Kanakuk and would tell her that it was the best camp. kelsey told me, 'I don't know how it could be any better, Mom, because Camp Look-out is AWESOME!'"

2012 dates for Camp Lookout are: 
8-10 yr. olds
June 4-8
June 11-15
June 18-22
June 25-29

11-12 yr. olds
July 9-13
July 16-20
July 23-27
July 30-Aug 3

8-12 yr. olds
August 6-10

Kanakuk Kamps (Branson/Lampe, MO)
The is the premium camp experience -- hands down nationwide -- for children ages 7-18. Children come from all corners of the nation to Kanakuk Kamp to be blown away. Since there are so many different camp locations, dates, and they vary from 7 days to 28 days, I couldn't list them all here. Thankfully, they have a fantastic website you can visit to see what Kanakuk is all about.

Mighty Mini Camp - May 18-20, 2012 (Branson, MO)
Mighty Mini Camp is a weekend-long camp for kids grades 1st - 6th.  They will spend (2) nights, so be sure to bring a sleeping bag!  This will be held at fbc Branson beginning at 6:30 pm on on Friday evening, May 18 - May 20.  Kids can be picked up in the Children's Area Blast Zone after 10:55 am worship service on Sunday.  Early bird registration is $20 ($15 for each additional child in the family) and after May 6th registration cost is $30.  Register online here.

VBS at First Presbyterian - June 18-22
VBS is a fun, exciting day camp for kids pre-school - 6th grade.   Half-days in the morning at First Presbyterian in BransonRegister online or call (417) 334-3468.  This VBS always blows the kids away.  They love it, and we listen to the CD long after the camp is over.  I highly recommend it.  Event is free. There is crafts, music, and memory verses.

SummerBash VBS 2012 at fbc Branson - June 18-22
June 18-22 5:00 - 8:30 PM will be the SummerBash VBS 2012 at fbc Branson. This is for age 4 - 6th grade (completed).  Pre-registration is available.  Event is free.  Complimentary dinner served from 5:00 - 5:45 pm.  Call (417) 334-7437 for a registration form and they will be happy to mail you one!

P.E.E.P.S. Retreat - May 19, 2012 (Branson, MO)
This is a one-day retreat for children ages 4, 5, and Kindergarten.  They will have fun with games, music, fun, food, and stories.  Drop off is at 8:45 am, and pick up at 12:00 pm.  Lunch will be provided.  This will be hosted at fbc Branson in the Life Center.  Early bird registration is $10.  Registration after May 6th is $15.  Registration forms available at the fbc Branson office.

Branson Parks and Recreation Summer Day Camp
The Branson Rec Plex provides a day camp for kids from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM Monday through Friday. If you have a tight schedule, you can drop off/pick up as much as 2 hours before/after camp. You can sign up for one week or even the whole summer! There are fantastic activities and programs such as games, sports, swimming, arts and crafts, movies, field trips, and much more. The cost is $85.00 per week. Campers do need to bring a sack lunch each day.

2012 Dates for Rec Plex Summer Camp
Week 1 *May 29-June 1
Week 2 June 4-8
Week 3 June 11-15
Week 4 June 18-22
Week 5 June 25-June 29
Week 6 July 2-6
Week 7 July 9-13
Week 8 July 16-20
Week 9 July 23-27
Week 10 July 30-Aug 3

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Case for Love - Kaye Dacus

As soon as I finished this book, I got onto Amazon to find out how many other books Kaye Dacus has written so I could order more!  You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that I had inadvertently read the last installment of the trilogy, "The Brides of Bonneterre."  That said, the good news is that you can pick up any book in this series and not feel like you are tuning into a show halfway through!
This story is based on a newscaster, Alaine, who falls for her attorney, that just happens to be representing her parents in a class action lawsuit -- against his parents.  At first I was concerned that this obvious conflict of interest would not be believable, but it appears that Kaye spoke to an attorney when doing the research for this novel.  The situation was very believable, and the pieces of the story came together perfectly.  Since his parents are represented by the same law firm he is a partner of, the actions that follow add an interesting element to the story line. The emotions of both sets of parents and their children who were dragged into the controversy were well-represented.  There was a little suspense, but this was mostly a romance novel.
Reading the romance was such a refreshing change from the more intense and serious books that I have read recently.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I will most definitely be ordering her other two trilogies, "The Ransome Trilogy" and "The Matchmakers."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Love Amid the Ashes - Mesu Andrews

"Love Amid the Ashes" is a fictional book focused on the story of Dinah and Job of the Bible.  The author is very talented, and the amount of research she did for this really pays off.
There are several storylines, and all are individually compelling.  We see life from the perspective of Job, Sitis (Job's wife), and Dinah.  Although much of the book is fictional, I did learn a lot about Dinah's story from "Love Amid the Ashes."  Reasonable assumptions were drawn about the personalities of Jacob, Esau, and many other historically correct characters.
The basic outline of the plot stays true to the Biblical account, but the majority of the book is completely fictional.  It became difficult for me to draw lines in my mind as to what was true and what was creative interpretation.
I have always held the opinion that it is unfair to judge Job's wife for her moment of weakness recorded in the Book of Job.  We know very little about Job's wife other than that she said "Curse God and die."  We must remember that she, too, had lost all her children and possessions in one day.  A normal person, Christian or not, would be in agony and most likely say something they would regret.  I didn't think this one quote was enough to make the book believable when painting a picture of Sitis as an idolater and would-be adulteress.  As I read, this continued to nag at me.  More likely, a man of integrity like Job would have placed a high value on an excellent wife similar to what is described in Proverbs 31.  Because I was distracted by how much information was given in the novel that was not included in the Bible's version, I think I would have enjoyed this beautifully written story much more if the names and a few other details had been changed so that this appeared unrelated to the story of Job.  I left more confused about Job's story rather than enlightened, as I felt after reading Dinah's story.
That said, the book was captivating and held my attention solidly all the say through.  I am looking forward to more from Mesu Andrews.  She has an extraordinary talent for writing and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.
This book was a free gift from the publisher in exchange for a non-biased review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Perform a Professional Pedicure

Every now and then I blog about something fun and completely unrelated to books.  This is such a time.  Since I am a licensed cosmo and have done many (read: a LOT) of pedicures, I thought it might be a fun idea to post the official pedi steps.  This way, you can save some money and do a pro-quality job at home.  This article will tell you how to do a basic pedicure, the correct order of events, and the products I recommend.  Most everything listed below can be purchased at Sally's Beauty Supply, except for the foot file (best in class) which you will need to hunt down and order online -- but it's worth it. The links give you brand name/price information.  If you can't spring for everything all at once, a good start would be the Seche products and the Checi Pro foot file.

Assemble the following items:
Foot bath
Antibacterial soap
2 towels
Toenail clippers
Metal spoon shaped cuticle pusher
1 medium/fine grit nail file
Sanding block
Checi Pro Titanica foot file in "coarse"
Cotton gauze (if you cannot find gauze, cotton pads are fine)
100% acetone nail polish remover
Toe separators
Seche Clear base coat
OPI Nail polish
Seche Vite top coat
Nail dryer
Lotion (optional)

  1. Fill the foot bath with hot/warm water.  Squirt a very small amount of antibacterial soap into bath and turn on jets.  Soak feet.
  2. Remove one foot and rest on front of bath.  Dry with towel.  Remove any existing nail polish with acetone and cotton pad.  Clip toenails straight across.  File straight across, then soften sharp edges with file.  Clean under nails.  
  3. Use the spoon-shaped cuticle pusher to push back cuticles. 
  4. Use the sanding block to remove ridges and lightly roughen nail bed.  Do not use a buffer to shine.  Leave the nail bed roughened, which is going to help the polish stay much longer.
  5. Use foot file on heels, sides, and sole of foot.  Return to bath.
  6. Remove other foot.  Repeat steps 2-5.  Rinse, then dry with towel.  Massage lotion into foot/leg (optional).  Leave foot out, and do not return to bath.
  7. Bring first foot back out of bath.  Dry with towel.  Apply lotion (optional).
  8. Drain foot bath.  Insert toe separators.
  9. Thoroughly clean nail beds with cotton pads soaked in acetone to remove all dust, oil, and lotion from nails.  Repeat.  Do a third time if necessary.  You need the nail beds completely free of all oil before moving forward.
  10. Apply Seche Clear base coat 1x.
  11. Apply OPI color 2x.
  12. Apply Seche Vite top coat 1x.
  13. Spray with aerosol nail dryer.
While you can certainly achieve professional results at home, nothing can replace the relaxing and pampering environment of a spa.  If you have a chance to visit Spa Chateau in Branson, MO I highly recommend their Signature Dogwood pedicure.  It involves quite a bit more than what is listed above and is well worth the price.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Garden of Madness - Tracy L. Higley

"Garden of Madness" is the story of Tiamat, daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.  The writer did a fantastic job of painting a picture of ancient Babylon, life inside the palace, and the customs of the people there.  I felt like I was in a time machine of some kind and had the opportunity to travel back to 570 B.C.! It was obvious the author has a lot of talent, and I personally cannot fathom taking on a project this big.  The historical research alone must have been overwhelming.  You can't tell it from reading, though.  Even with all the stress of including historically accurate data, the author keeps her cool.  The story flows as it should -- never too fast paced, never a lull.  "Garden of Madness" by Tracy Higley was an incredibly insightful novel.
For those of you who are wondering how much of this is fiction, and how much is truth... this is based on a true story.  The truth lays in the history of the city, and the madness that overtook King Nebuchadnezzar.  Some of the characters actually did exist, and the book represents well their part in history.  Amytis, Amel-Marduk, and a few others.  The location of Nebuchadnezzer during his seven years of madness was assumption.  Tiamat, the main character, was fictional.  Both Pedaiah and Sheltiel actually existed, but little is known about them.  One of them did bear a son, Zerrubabel, who led the Israelites back to their homeland from their captivity in Babylon.  Which son it was and who the wife was is a mystery.  It was difficult while reading to separate fact from fiction, but she explains which was which in the back of the book if you read the Author's Notes.  All in all, I thought the author did a very good job of including as much history as possible in the novel without sacrificing the entertainment and imagination side of things.
This novel kept me up until the wee hours more than one evening, and had my husband wondering if I would ever sleep again.  This one is definitely outside the box. No Victorian era romance here.  I highly recommend it to those of you who love ancient fiction.
My only critique of this is that the cover could have been more compelling.  I liked the cover used on Mesu Andrews' novel "Love Amid the Ashes," for example.  That said, I can't wait until the next book from Tracy L. Higley!