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Category Archives: Cooper Family Fun

The Pop-In


I think this just about sums up the state of affairs around here. The nice fresh greenery from the beginning of summer is a pitiful, drooping husk. The Grand Ol’ Flag — which was the extent of our 4th of July decorations — is still waving proudly. Trying, but not that hard.

In other words: The wheels have come off. It’s August. Let me say that again: AUGUST! How did we already get here?! I’ll tell you how: one action-packed day at a time. And my definition of action-packed is not really all that packed, but we’ve had somewhere to be just about every day for the entire summer, which has been really great…and really frazzling. You know I can’t maintain that level of activity for long. It makes it hard to keep up with the day to day stuff, you know? But…it’s summer. I can’t be bothered to care all that much.

Know what else I have trouble caring about right about this time of year? Cooking dinner. Or, evidently, changing lightbulbs. Three out of the five in the chandelier overhead have been burned out for weeks, but have I taken the three minutes to change them? Nah. I’ll just continue to strain my eyes for a little while longer. It’ll get done eventually. (P.S.: We’re talking about the room where I do all of my work. Yeah.)

Oh, but there has been sewing going on. So much sewing! I sneak in stitches every chance I get, and you know why? Because Christmas is coming (yes, I just said that on the first day of August), which means that our annual winter boutique is coming even sooner, and this stuff doesn’t make itself, friends. But since we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you another secret: I’ve finished the bulk of my Christmas gifts. YES!! I think that’s a first! Too exciting. I can’t remember the last time that I actually came across an idea, printed it out, and then made up all that I needed with shorter than a six month lapse.

In a nutshell: Christmas prep in full swing; too hot to cook; house in disrepair. How has your summer been?

Nice and Easy

A couple of posts back, I made mention of my recent adventures cooking with the kids. Now, if you’re someone who naturally digs cooking with your little ones, you are not going to be impressed; trust me on this one.

However, if you — like me — tend to get a little frazzled, and were not born with that super useful ability to unclench a little because they’re just kids and this is supposed to be fun for all, well, this post is for you.

Also: if you like delicious chocolate, this post is for you. We’ll be covering both.

So, my kids love to go through this book and make their requests. I like that, since I’m all too happy for new lunch ammo, and the recipes we’ve sampled have been hits. This time around, my son lit on the oatmeal bars. I told him that we’d give them a shot one day. Ah, that mythical day, when we have some free time, and I’m in the mood to get everyone into the kitchen with me and the table is clear….

It just doesn’t happen that often. And why? Because I totally overthink it! This time, after he went to school, I looked at the recipe again, and realized that we had everything in the cupboards. And the table was 80% cleared off. And we had free time in the afternoon. Oh, and it is a super easy recipe. Why not just make the darn cookies? No reason not to. I did, however, try to think of a way to make it less stress-inducing for me, because it just makes sense.

Brace yourself — here it is:

  1. Prep all the ingredients and have them all set up before calling the kids into the kitchen. Yes, this takes some of the fun learning out of it, but it’s a process. We’ll get to more fun hands-on stuff down the road. Probably way down the road.
  2. Pick something easy!

I can’t stress that second one enough. The oatmeal bars were as easy as they read, not to mention delicious, and took about ten minutes to put together. I thought it might have been too easy, and they’d be kind of let down by the experience, but no! They were happy to have cooked, happy to be done, and didn’t fight for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh yes. Best ten minutes ever! I could not believe the difference.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love a couple bites of tasty chocolate at the end of the day, but always feel a little guilty when I throw the “good” bars into the cart (especially since I don’t like to share. Shhhh.) Also, we have been eating A LOT of dessert lately, so I thought that having a nice nibble of something sweet at the end of the meal might wean us off somewhat without all the ruckus. What about chocolate bark? I found this recipe on Pinterest and figured that it would be a good one to try sometime. Doh! Here we go again! See how ingrained this tendency has become? So my little buddy and I stopped at the store for a bag of Ghirardelli chips, rummaged through the pantry for fancy add-ons, and made us some bark.


(I meant to take fancier step-by-step pics, but then I forgot, what with all of the excitement over actually doing something.)

We added chopped salted almonds and flaked coconut to our chocolate. I spread out the chocolate puddle, and Bridget rained down the toppings. And then I rained down some more, because she totally refused to get out to the corners. Teamwork!


Here it is after it’s chill time, all nice and shard-y. It’s quite delish, and it sure has done the trick as far as making everyone forget their nightly cries for ice cream cones (mine included), but next time I think I’ll stir some of the toppings into the chocolate to add more flavor. We’ll see.

I’m going to need a lot more of these quick little projects before the summer is upon us.


Happy Valentine’s Day!


Romantic plans for the evening: Chick Fil A dinner; Olympic viewing; tasty raspberry pie cookies*. Wishing you love this Valentine’s Day!


*Yes, I totally cheated and Pillsbury-ed the crust. There’s still plenty of love baked into these little beauties!


What day is it? With all the crazy “snow” days interrupting our regular schedule, and all of the other stuff making our days a little cuckoo, I’m feeling even more scattered than usual. But that’s winter for you.

Still, we press on! This weekend we made ninjabread cookies (thanks, Ms. Heather!):


Later, I gave new life to one of Bridget’s old faves, thanks for this tutorial:



She was so happy. I, of course, spent the next hour wildly looking for more ruined long-sleeved shirts in my stash to try that trick again.

And then yesterday we had Cold Day (which is when they close the schools on account of the weather, and then it doesn’t actually do anything), so I decided to make good on the beef bones in the freezer and whip up another batch of stock. Oh, it simmered away all afternoon, and I had big plans for french dip sandwiches and pot pies in our future. Finally, I lovingly strained it into my largest bowl, and caught the bottom of the pan on the edge of said bowl, tipping it over and dumping the entire contents down the drain. I mean straight down the drain, as though it were being vacuumed down the disposal. AGH!! It was just disgusting. So I washed the nasty, greasy dishes and closed the kitchen for the night. Or maybe FOREVER! Ugh.


Speaking of Apples…


…my other oldest one didn’t fall far from the tree. This is his creation. Well, it was a team effort, but he designed and stitched it, so it’s his!

At the beginning of December, he brought home a letter explaining that they would be researching a country — in class, and no home research would be allowed — and would then be responsible for creating an ornament (at home) based upon that research. They would also present their findings and their ornament to the class on the 17th. The research paper would be coming home on the 4th. Oh, and the ornament needs to include of a minimum of five materials in its construction. So, I — good mother that I am — signed the letter, posted the info on the fridge, and waited for him to bring home the info and his idea on the 4th.

Fast forward to the 11th, when he casually mentions that the project is due next week. Oh, but wait! Isn’t there supposed to be some paperwork coming home? You say you’ve been carrying it around in your backpack for a week?! And I promise you, it wasn’t until that very moment that I re-read the note and connected the dots: the 4th was a week ago! And the 17th was Tuesday! And we had no ornament!!

Luckily, he had his idea firmly planted in his mind. Our country was Finland, so I was thinking about Lapland reindeer and there is this whole thing about a mean goat. Thank goodness he was stuck on the bird, because it was sure a lot easier.  [According to his research, our Finnish friends traditionally put out a sheaf of wheat for the birds on Christmas; they get to eat first. This was Joey’s favorite fun fact.] Best of all, I buckled down and made him do it on Saturday night, so it was good and done come Tuesday.

Clearly, though, I need a better system for my “reminders”.


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About ten years after the first time juicing was so hot, I finally jumped on the bandwagon. Actually, it’s been long enough that it’s once again THE thing to be doing, so I’m not unfashionably late — I’m on-trend! There’s a new one!

Also, it’s important to note that I’m still too cheap and indecisive to actually buy a juicer, and this conversation wouldn’t be happening at all were it not for the fact that my darling sister gifted me her [very, and I do mean very] gently used one. Score! Another important factoid is that I would never have done it more than once if said juicer weren’t easily dismantled and cleaned. Your talking about a woman who really can’t be bothered to clean the pot from the morning oatmeal in a timely fashion, so…yeah, a whole juicing contraption is a bit of a stretch.


People can change, because I’ve been juicing like a boss and that thing is clean as a whistle. I told you we were doin’ things around here, people!

Okay. Now for the juice:


Carrot Apple Ginger was the first one. Delicious! Really, just about anything with the apple-lemon-ginger trifecta is going to be a winner in my book.

Oops — well, not really. This one ended up getting the eventual thumbs down from me. Kevin *loved* it; absolutely couldn’t praise it enough. In fact, he keeps asking me to make it again — and I will, because I love him — but it hasn’t happened.

It’s the celery. Oh, I can hardly think about it without getting queasy all over again. I was able to drink it, and even thought it was sort of refreshing, but that celery taste is pronounced. I spent the whole night convincing myself that I wasn’t actually going to be sick, that it was just the thought of the celery flavor that made it seem that way.

I should point out that I hate celery. Hate it. But I thought that maybe it was just crunching into it that I hated, and maybe the subtle hint of it in the juice would be delightful. I can’t stress this enough: IT’S NOT SUBTLE. If you hate celery, by all means, leave it out yo’ juice. If you like it, though, blend away — I hear it’s a winner.

(Also: the whole reason I never liked V8 was because of the celery overtone. Should’ve been a clue.)

Not all green juices are created equal, though. The next one was minus the celery and cucumber, and included kale, parsley, and mint:


And yes: that big ol’ pile was ground down into a single little jar of juice.


Well, what can you expect from a pile of leaves? I only wish that I’d been doing this when the glut of winter greens was rolling in — making juice really cleans out the fridge! The bag of carrots that we’ve received every week in the CSA box have been disappearing rapidly, and never have I used up the beets and been looking for more. (The beets are for this one — so sweet and good!)

Even more exciting is having Kevin eagerly asking about what’s on the juice menu. I never thought I’d see the day! Of course, he’s asking for a V8-type fix (see above for my feelings on that), and it’s always a little sad to see him pound his glass in five seconds, but still!

The only question is this: Is it wrong to have Chick Fil A for lunch and a cleansing, fresh juice in the afternoon? I think I may have just hit on one of my main stumbling blocks on the road to optimum health….

Pinterest To The Rescue

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Look, I’m not big on take-home projects in the primary grades, seeing as how it really only means more work for me. And it’s not like I’m unwilling to do my part, but I can never figure out exactly what that entails. The instructions are always maddeningly open to interpretation and super vague, and just try getting details out of this boy of mine. Not easy. We’ve ended up getting it all wrong more than once.

Well, not this time. No,  this time, the assignment was to create something new from found objects. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — Happy Earth Day! Didn’t take me two minutes to remember this fine idea I’d pinned last year, and he bought in on it immediately. Of course he did, because it’s so cool!


The even-more-exciting part was that I had every single thing we needed to complete the project. I primed the cans, but he did all the rest of the painting, and well, he filled in the outline I made on the bird’s face. Hey, I only had one t-shirt scrap large enough, and it wasn’t likely to go well. Oh yeah, the bird is a scrap tied around an old sock. Repurposing all the way, buddy!

He was so proud of his project, and plans on expanding the line to include some Storm Trooper pigs and other characters. Looks like I’ll need to work some more canned food into the meal rotation; shouldn’t be too difficult.

No Big Deal

One of my more unfortunate tendencies is to treat every little thing like it’s major. Creatures of habit can be that way, and I’m nothing if not routine-driven. On the one hand, I’ve come to accept that I need to take a minute to really spin things around in my mind for a while before committing to an answer. I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with constantly leading with a “no” (just ask my kids if you didn’t know this about me, but I’m pretty sure you know it, too), or completely blowing things out of proportion when it comes to timing.

For example:

Last week was the AWANA Grand Prix at church. I bought some cupcakes to add to the dessert table, and was really thrilled with myself for dropping them off early in the day so that I could check it off of my list of obligations. Really, anything I can do to reduce the noise level in my head is a good thing, and I already told you that the last few weeks have left me feeling a little out of control. (Not that I have control issues. Surely not.) Anyway, as the afternoon went on, I thought about making some cookies or something. Ooh, but would there be time? And then I spied the lovely jar that had been sitting on my counter for a whole week (after I spied it in the pantry and decided that there was no way I was wasting such a sweet gift…and then promoted it to the counter to wile away a few more days.)


Really, how long does it take to add butter and eggs to pre-mixed dry ingredients? And then to drop and bake the cookies?


Not long at all, as it turns out. They were delicious, by the way, and we were all sad that there was only one left when we got home. I’m kind of becoming a fan of small batch baking; it’s so much more manageable! Anyway, I’m trying very hard to adopt more of a new “just do it” attitude, and pop-ups like this won’t be such a shock to those who live here.

Here’s hoping.

Guess I’ll Just Go On Anyway

When one of the kids gets sick — which was Monday afternoon’s special surprise — I find it hard to re-group. At the almost eight year point, I’ve finally stopped completely freaking out every single time, which is saying something. (Just ask my husband.) Sure, I still blow a gasket, but only in my head.

Well, sort of. I should probably say that I don’t immediately blow a gasket anywhere but inside my head. Still a significant improvement; I used to do everything but run hot laps around the living room. The second kid broke me of that to a certain extent. She got sick a lot more often, and I just couldn’t keep up with the number of breakdowns required by her frequent mystery fevers.

Here’s a couple of things I managed to accomplish today:

  • prepped the Children’s Church materials for Sunday
  • made my first but definitely not last pot of congee, which is probably the most awesome sick day food ever. Why didn’t I know about this when I was pregnant?!
  • baked bread and made a nice pot of vegetable soup for dinner012

The soup is from this book, which I highly recommend — both the soup and the book. I will tell you that I chose the moment for snapping a picture of this soup deliberately. Once you blend it, well, it’s not pretty. Not at all. In fact, the first time I made it, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t even like it, let alone the kids. Everyone LOVES this soup! It’s really tasty and feels like you’re doing something healthy for your body. Of course, I like to mess that up a little by sprinkling some feta on top before serving it, but that’s just me.

Oh, and there was laundry. Blessedly little, considering.

Really, this is just a way for me to remind myself that I didn’t do nothing today. It only felt that way, but I’m okay with that.

‘Round Here

Today most definitely had Wednesday written all over it.

Yesterday, I had a mad taste for chocolate cake, so today I whipped up my favorite one. Mind you, when I say “favorite”, that doesn’t mean I make it often. I think I’ve made it twice before.


Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle: indeed, it will do so because it’s such a dense and damp cake, ” it says. Indeed. It looks like the pan is actually swallowing the cake.


“...put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later,” it says. Yes. “Drips.” It was more of a pile. A pile which fell off the pan and onto the floor and into an open drawer below the oven. Awesome.

(It was delicious, though, I must say.)

All madness aside, this is quite the tasty cake — almost more of a bread pudding in its consistency — and there’s a very helpful note in the version of the recipe link which mentions bailing out some of the batter if it’s too close to the top. That is to say: if your loaf pan isn’t the right size after all [ahem!], and you don’t want it to go all volcanic on you in the oven.

While that was all going on, I was treated to a pampering manicure:


Anything goes on Momma/Bridgie Wednesdays! [Joey’s thoughtful question: Do your hands feel disgusting? You know, since it’s two inches thick? I declined to comment.]

At least there was granola, which I’ll share later. I only dumped a couple of servings on the floor while trying to pour it from pan to jar.

Let’s hear it for Wednesday!