Oct 2012 Conference Packets and Activities

{Update: Click HERE to view/download the newest, latest and greatest Conference packet. Enjoy!}

In two weeks (October 6th and 7th), we have the blessed opportunity to listen to prophets of the Lord speak to us in General Conference to give counsel and commandments needed for our day. What a wonderful time to be alive! I’m truly looking forward to hearing what they have to say and soaking in the peace they have to offer. Whether of the LDS faith or not, I encourage everyone to listen to their words and find out for yourself if the words they speak are true. It is so wonderful to be able to gain a testimony of truth and to have that stability in this world of uncertainty.

As always, I try to do a lot of prep work prior to Conference for my young kiddos (now 5, 3, and 6 months) so that not only they will be able to learn something, but so that I can actually sit and learn something too (without being constantly peppered with little requests). 🙂

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our family garden–how we need to get our fall crops planted soon, etc.– and that gave me an idea for another fun Conference activity for the kids (like the Fall Tree and the Spring Garden from previous Conferences).

This activity is the Fall Harvest Garden. (See below to download.) The theme behind it is: ‘Sew Seeds of Faith, Harvest a Testimony’. The idea is to cut out the different vegetables in the packet, and then while listening to the speakers in Conference, write the theme of their talk on the front of the vegetables and then on the back you write something you can do that you learned from the talk. Then you ‘plant’ your garden on your wall (aka tape it up) and then as you either discuss the talks or apply them (do what’s written on the back), you harvest your fall vegetables and pick them off the wall. 🙂  There’s better instructions in the packet, but that’s the gist of it.

This activity will serve not only as a reminder of the things we learn in Conference, but it will also help to remind us to get working on our fall garden! lol. 🙂

Click to get the Fall Harvest Garden Activity: Download PDF

In addition to the activity, I also revamped my packets that I created for the kiddos. Nothing crazy exciting or different, just some new coloring pages in the Nursery/Sunbeam edition, some new activities in the Jr/Sr Primary editions, new questions in the parent interview from the Sr Primary edition, etc… Just brushing off some dust from the older versions. 🙂

My General Conference Packets

And just FYI, each packet has the same ‘BINGO’ card in it, but if you have more than one child and they want to compete by having different layouts, here are two extra BINGO cards you could use:  Download Cards

Okay! Well, that does it for me! There are, of course, tons of wonderful ideas on the internet for other activities to get your family involved in General Conference. Here are some links to some great ideas that I’ve enjoyed searching before:

  • Packets and Ideas from Sugardoodle: Click HERE
  • Primary Age Packet from Jenny Phillips: Click HERE
  • Primary Age Packet from Deseret Book: Click HERE
  • A BIG LONG Collection of Ideas from 2 Kids and Tired Activity Ideas: Click HERE
  • A Collection of Conference Ideas from Prepared, Not Scared: Click HERE
  • Activities for Children from LDS.org: Click HERE
  • And another Collection of Ideas from LDS.About.Com: Click HERE

I hope you all can enjoy the wonderful Conference Weekend! I’ll try and check in a bit later with some more of my Conference Preps, but until then, Happy Prepping Y’all!

Skinny Jean Cookies

So uh… yes. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new here due to the precious new little guy that has entered into our family’s life. Valid excuse? I think so. 🙂 It’s been a real joy having a new baby in the home again. What hasn’t been a real joy is trying to lose all the baby weight–again. Especially when I love treats and had developed a habit of indulging in them regularly towards the end of the pregnancy. (You can do that when you’re pregnant.) 🙂 But now I’m just supposed to kick that habit cold turkey?? Help!

Well, thankfully I know a recipe or two for some healthier treats (i.e. the Bean Cookies) and have been able to work on shedding some pounds while still satisfying my sweet tooth. *whew!* I’ve even tweaked the Bean Cookie recipe to make it even more healthy, and now I seriously don’t have an issue with eating these cookies as a snack or just whenever I please. (And the weight still comes off!) 🙂 So here is my new recipe for what I like to call my Skinny Jean Cookies (not that you will EVER see me in skinny jeans) 🙂 …and yes! It’s Food Storage!

Skinny Jean Cookies

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans (I like to use Great Northern or Navy), drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups sugar (white or brown… your preference)
  • 5 eggs (or 10 Tbsp egg powder and 15-20 Tbsp water)
  • ¼-½ cup applesauce (I just scoop in two big spoonfuls… probably close to 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4½ cups whole wheat flour (can use half all-purpose if you’re not used to whole wheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1¼ cups dried cranberries (i.e. Craisins)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Place your drained and rinsed beans in a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer), and using a fork, mash them down till they’re creamy and non-recognizable as a bean. 🙂 Add the sugar and cream them together (you can use your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment now), then add the eggs, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix.
  3. Add the flour (a little at a time to prevent flour flying everywhere), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well blended.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
  5. Drop the dough by small, rounded spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. (Note: These cookies do not spread when baked, so you can pack them pretty close together on the cookie sheet.)
  6. Bake 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie), but DO NOT over bake these. They will not turn golden when done, so try testing them with a light touch on the top of the cookie. They should be barely firm to the touch and will set up more as they cool. (My optimal cooking time for me was 11 minutes.)
  7. Remove baked cookies from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container. (Or you can freeze them for later.)
  8. Enjoy your healthy cookies! 😀

Yields 4-5 dozen cookies.


Why I’m M.I.A.

Just wanted to introduce y’all to the reason I’ll be Missing In Action for a while…

This handsome little man joined our family about 2 weeks ago and is absolutely the newest love of my life. 😀 He is such a sweetheart.
Hubby can’t wait to teach him all about hunting and fishing. I can’t wait to teach him all about baking and cooking and crafting and sewing. 😀 (Hmm… who do you think he’ll like better?? Daddy of course!) 😀 But regardless, we’re thrilled to have him in our hearts and home.
So please excuse my extended absence, but I’m needed elsewhere for the time being. 🙂
Happy Prepping to you all!

April 2012 General Conference Activity and Packets!

{Update: Click HERE to view/download the newest, latest and greatest Conference Packet. Enjoy!}

I know I’ve been a big slacker in not posting lately, but I feel I have a valid excuse: I’M PREPARING TO GIVE BIRTH HERE, PEOPLE! 😀 Actually, I guess my excuse would be a lot more valid if I had already given birth and was trying to take care of a newborn. But if you really knew me, you’d know that the pre-birth preparations are every bit as crazy as post-birth life. So anyway, posts are obviously going to be rather sparse from my end for the next little while (and by ‘little while’ I mean however long it takes for me to reach the non-comatose state of parenthood again). 🙂

However, I have not forgotten that we’ve got General Conference coming up right around the corner (March 31st and April 1st) and I had another fun idea I wanted to share that takes right after the Fall Conference Tree activity I did for last October’s Conference. This one is basically the same thing, except instead of a fall tree, we’re going to grow a ‘Conference Spring Garden’ with lots of beautiful springtime flowers. 🙂 The basic concept is that you’ll set up a ‘garden area’ on one of your walls, and then you use the Conference flower tops (provided in the download below) to take notes about the topics of the talks in General Conference. Color the flowers, tape them up in your garden, and then apply the talks in your family life as you pick the flowers from the garden. (It’s explained in detail in the download.) I can’t wait to see my wall plastered with a paper flower garden. 🙂

So anyway, here are the downloads for that (one for Nursery/Sunbeam age and one for Primary age children), along with my Spring Conference Packets from last year. They all apply pretty much the same (except that the cover page says ‘2011’… but with the computer issues I’ve been having lately, I’m not feeling motivated to spend 3 hours to make a change for just that. :)) I hope you enjoy the activity, the packets, and most importantly that you enjoy General Conference!!

THE ‘CONFERENCE SPRING GARDEN’ ACTIVITY DOWNLOAD:

My General Conference Packets to Download:

And here are some Conference Helps from Other Sites that I love:

  • Packets and Ideas from Sugardoodle: Click HERE
  • Primary Age Packet from Jenny Phillips: Click HERE
  • Primary Age Packet from Deseret Book: Click HERE
  • A BIG LONG Collection of Ideas from 2 Kids and Tired Activity Ideas: Click HERE
  • A Collection of Conference Ideas from Prepared, Not Scared: Click HERE
  • Activities for Children from LDS.org: Click HERE
  • And another Collection of Ideas from LDS.About.Com: Click HERE

And in case I don’t check in again soon, I hope you enjoy a wonderful Conference, a Happy Easter, and a lovely Spring!! 😀

What’s For Dessert? Gorilla Poops!

I’ll bet I lost half of you right there at the title. 😀 Well, for those of you with a strong enough stomach to have made it past that… these little delights are also known as Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies. Sounds a little more appetizing that way, but not nearly as entertaining… especially for little kids (which is when I happened to learn how to make these). 😀 The first time I made these was in a church girls activity group (called Valiant Miss– does anyone besides me remember when it used to be called that??) Anyway, our leaders taught us how to make them and told us they were called Gorilla Poops (clearly a result of the way they look) so I went home and told my mom that’s what they were. She thought that was absolutely disgusting and has hated that I call them that ever since. But it’s just so much fun! 😀

Well, regardless of what you call them, these cookies are so delicious, SO easy, and SOOO addicting! (Sounds like a perfect little cookie if you ask me!) 🙂 The recipe I currently use to make these has been slightly adapted over the years as I’ve found other things to add and enhance the cookie, but it’s mostly true to what I started out loving as a youth. However, I’ll go ahead and give you both versions, since the original recipe is super basic, as well as shelf stable. But the second version is my preferred version. 🙂 So go ahead and whip up a fresh batch (haha… doesn’t ‘fresh’ take on a whole new meaning when you think of the title?? Sorry. Overly gross. My bad.) and I dare you to eat just one!

{Side note: I’m having computer issues these days and can’t save any PDF files in Word or edit and save my pictures in Photoshop, hence I don’t have any nicely arranged pictures to show you nor a printable version of the recipe for you to download. However I was tired of just waiting to figure out what’s going on and decided to go ahead and post this anyway. But I promise to add the nicer photos and files when my computer is back up to full working status. :)}

Gorilla Poops – a.k.a. Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies {Original Recipe}

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup shortening
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup milk (reconstituted powdered milk)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats (quick oats is best, but old fashioned will work fine)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat and melt together the shortening and cocoa.
  2. Add the sugar, milk, and salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the mixture has come to a rolling boil, start timing for about 1 minute (and continue to stir).
  3. At the end of 1 minute, remove the pan from the heat and add the oats. Mix everything together thoroughly.
  4. Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and allow to cool and set up for approximately 30 minutes. Eat and enjoy.

Gorilla Poops {Modified/Preferred Recipe}

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups white sugar
  • ½ cup milk (reconstituted powdered milk)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick oats

Directions:

  1. Measure and prepare all of your ingredients in advance. Prepare 1-2 cookie sheets lined with wax paper. (This makes the process go so much more smoothly since things will start happening quickly!)
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. As soon as it reaches a full boil (i.e. the top is all foaming up with bubbles), start timing for 90 seconds while constantly stirring. (Do not overboil the mixture or your cookies will be dry and crumbly. Do not underboil or your cookies may not set.)
  3. Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the peanut butter until melted. Then add the salt, vanilla, and oats. Mix until fully combined.
  4. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared lined cookie sheets. (I like to use two spoons for this, since the mixture is really hot. Use one spoon to scoop the mixture from the pot, and the other spoon to scoop the mixture off the first spoon and onto the wax paper.)
  5. Let cool until set/hardened (30-40 minutes). Eat and enjoy!

Well, I hope you enjoy your tasty jungle treat! 😀 (I know, I know, Mom… that’s disgusting.)

From The Garden: Home-Squeezed Lemonade!

Let me just start out by saying… if you have never had homemade lemonade (and we’re talking from fresh squeezed lemons) you are missing out my friend! If all you’ve ever known of lemonade is CountryTime, you have my sympathies. I grew up with a lemon tree in our backyard and have fond (or perhaps only partially fond) memories of picking and juicing bag after bag of lemons for a Saturday work project. And, okay, although the labor may not be anyone’s favorite part, the reward is so worth it. So for those who have never had the experience, it’s time to be edumacated (uh… that’s Texan for ‘educated’) in the deliciousness of homemade lemonade.

To make fresh-squeezed lemonade, clearly you’re going to need some fresh lemons. We currently have two lemon trees in our yard, but both are pretty young and still in the ‘not really producing much yet’ phase (although we were actually able to use two lemons from our trees that had actually turned yellow and were ready for the pickin’! I cannot wait until these trees produce in large quantities!). Fortunately, however, we have some good friends with a mature lemon tree that produces lemons like crazy and they were kind enough to share some with us. (Thanks Browns!) 🙂

So the process starts with picking the lemons, but since that was already done for us, we moved right on to the juicing phase. Cut the lemons in half and then juice, juice, juice those babies until they have no more juice left in them. (Note: an electric juicer is TONS of help when doing any substantial amount of juicing, although not necessary as you can read about below.)

Add child labor whenever possible.

Pour the collected juice into a jar…

and ta-da! You’ve got freshly squeezed lemon juice that is just BEGGING to be made into lemonade. 😀 (P.S. Just refrigerate or freeze any lemon juice that will not be used right away.)

Fresh Homemade Lemonade

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • approximately 2 quarts of water

Directions:

  1. In a 2-quart pitcher, add your lemon juice and sugar.
  2. Add enough water and ice to make 2 quarts. Stir. Enjoy.

{Note: These amounts are based on personal preference. If you like your lemonade a bit more tangy, use more lemon juice. If you like it more diluted, use less. More sweet, more sugar… you get the idea. This is just a starting point. Also note that different types of lemons (or different levels of maturity) will produce different flavors. So depending on the type/maturity of lemon you’re using, you may end up varying your amounts as well.}

So here’s my funny lemon juicing story… just to keep life real: We have an electric juicer (as you can see from the pictures above), and I put it together to go ahead and use to juice all these lemons. I tried to juice the first lemon and it wouldn’t work. No motor noise, nothing. I’d only used it a few times before and couldn’t believe it was already broken! ‘Piece of junk’ I’m thinking to myself. So my girls and I juice all our lemons by hand. I disassemble the juicer, and then I remember we’ve got two lemons on our tree, so I run out to grab those to add to our spoils. I come back in and put the juicer back together, and this time I notice a little notch in the top that looks like it’s maybe supposed to line up with the seed catcher part. Hmmm… so I line them up, and badda-boom badda-bing, it works! I couldn’t believe we juiced all those lemons by hand due to my user error. (I seem to be pretty good at making extra work for myself based on user error.) DOH! Well, it was a good arm workout anyway. 😀

Gardening: Growing Lettuce

Lettuce has quickly become my favorite thing to grow in the garden. It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s beautiful, it’s delicious, and there’s something totally satisfying about going to the garden and just picking your own salad for dinner (especially when you remember the price tag at the store for that same amount of produce!). I’d say that, by far, we’ve gotten the most bang for our buck with our lettuce crops. We put it to use much more than any other crop we’ve planted so far, which saves us a lot on our produce bill at the store! (Gotta love that!) So I guess it’s easy to see why this is one of my favorite things to see popping up in the garden each year (and no… that is not my garden pictured below–I WISH!). 😀

Lettuce is mainly a cool weather crop–which I find interesting since I usually crave it most during the hot summer months when I want something light and refreshing to eat. But regardless, you want to plant it when your temperatures will be mild (generally between 45 to 75 degrees F, and most lettuce can even survive a light freeze). During the hot weather, lettuce tends to turn bitter and bolt (which means it sends up a flower stalk at the top, and basically it’s done growing). This happened to us this past summer, and the lettuce isn’t really salvageable at that point (unless you like eating bitter lettuce), so your best option is to just pull it up and replant when temperatures are cooler, or to plant in a location that receives more shade (particularly afternoon shade). You can also find lettuce varieties that are more resilient to heat and don’t bolt as quickly. {I’m thinking I’m definitely going to have to look into that this year!}

Planting: When planting lettuce, it’s fun to choose a variety. {Right now we’ve got about three different kinds growing, and the mix makes for a beautiful salad. I especially like the small amount of red romaine we’ve got included.} Prepare your soil by loosening the top 10 inches or so, and mix in some compost to the top layer.
You can plant lettuce by either broadcasting the seeds (which means you basically just sprinkle them all over your prepared garden soil area), or you can plant them in rows to a depth of about 1/4″ and spaced about 1″ apart. I like to plant in rows, but the seeds are so tiny that I don’t worry about how far apart they are spaced within that row. I just sprinkle them down the row and then, when they start growing, you can thin the plants out, if needed.

Tending: Lettuce does best when the soil is kept cool and moist. Water in the early mornings so that the leaves have time to dry during the day and you can avoid mildew and fungal problems that can come if the leaves are continually wet overnight.

Harvesting: One way to “thin” out your lettuce is to just start eating it! As the plants start growing and getting crowded together, just pick the outer leaves (new ones grow from the middle of the plant) and throw them into a salad and leave the rest to continue growing. There’s no need to let the whole plant grow to a certain point and then pull it out or cut it all together. Just harvesting the outer leaves allows for a continued growing process and you will enjoy your lettuce for a long, long time (or at least until the end of the growing season). Also note, that it’s often best to harvest in the mornings. This is especially true if your days get pretty warm as they move to the afternoons. The hotter temperatures will make the lettuce wilt in the afternoon hours and then it’s hard to get your lettuce to be crisp (even if you stick it in the fridge). However, if your temperatures are mild all day long, you can really harvest at any time during the day.

We’ve got a good amount of lettuce growing right now in our winter garden and it is doing pretty well (yes, that is lettuce from my garden pictured above). Granted… Houston’s “winter” isn’t exactly the same as the majority of the country. We don’t usually get to freezing temperatures until sometime in January/February, and even then, the periods of freeze are so short (generally only a few overnight hours) that crops can often make it through unharmed. {You hate me now, but trust me… you’ll be the one with the last laugh when I’m suffering through the miserable, humid, Houston summer heat with withered vegetables! :)}
We lost a fair amount of the crop over the Christmas holidays when we were on a 3-week vacation right during the time the lettuce was sprouting up and needing to be thinned… so we came home to a fairly tangled mess of mixed up and strangled lettuce leaves (not to mention the weeds!), but I was just impressed any survived at all! 🙂 We were able to revive quite a bit of it by getting rid of the bad parts and giving the rest room to thrive and grow.
So anyway, we’ve been enjoying having a healthy salad dinner at least one or two times a week without having to buy any lettuce at the grocery store! It. is. SO. cool! I absolutely love it. If you’ve never planted lettuce, you have seriously GOT to try this. 😀 You will not regret that you did!
(And P.S. If you don’t have any garden space at your home, lettuce would do awesome in a small or decorative pot as well!)
Happy Gardening!