Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ritz Cracker Cookies

I love these Ritz cracker cookies!
They're the perfect combo of a little bit salty & a whole lot of sweet.
Another bonus, you can change up the flavors over & over again, 
just by switching a thing or two.
Now, I know this isn't a new recipe, by any means.
But, just in case there's one single person out there in the universe who hasn't 
had the opportunity to try these tasty treats, I had to share.
Yes, for you I share.
Trust me, you'll thank me for this.

The basic ingredients, the original way I first tasted them, are 3 things:
Ritz crackers {or any store brand round, buttery cracker},
peanut butter & chocolate chips.

This is a super simple recipe.
Put a smoodge of peanut butter between 2 ritz crackers & squoosh together.
Very technical.
After preparing the desired amount of cookies, melt the chocolate 
in the microwave according to the package directions.
{You can use a double boiler if you prefer.}

Dip each cookie in the chocolate to coat & place on wax paper.
This is the time to add any special toppings while the chocolate is still soft.

Now, I mentioned variables.
Here's where they come into play.
You can't go wrong dipping the cookies in milk chocolate &/or white chocolate, 
but you can find many varieties in the baking isle at the grocery.
I found a bag of peanut butter & milk chocolate chips & were they ever delicious.
For the filling, as you can see from my pic, 
I used 2 types of peanut butter ... regular & maple.
Let me just say, if you haven't tried Kroger brand maple peanut butter, 
well, buy a jar the very next time you're in the store!

Another yummy thing to use instead of peanut butter:  Nutella!
Uh, yea!
I like dipping the cookies in white chocolate when I use Nutella.

Frosting is another filling variety.
Lemon frosting is my favorite, again dipped in white chocolate.
Buttercream filling & dipped in milk chocolate = yum. 

 You can dress them up for any holiday by adding sprinkles or candy bits on top. 

 These were for Christmas. 

Here, I topped them with mini-chocolate chips & toffee bits.


Or they can be left completely plain, cause really, they are perfect just like they are.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinterest Review - Oreo Poke Cake & Salsa

There really aren't words to describe the continuous inspiration 
I find each.and.every.time I log on to Pinterest!

From recipes to crafts ... to things to look at that are just plain pretty.
Yep, I love Pinterest.

As I eventually get around to trying some of the numerous  
{& I do mean numerous} things I've pinned, I've decided to write a review, of sorts.
It's kind of nice to hear from someone who's actually tried things.
The 411 & tips 'n tricks are always good to know.

Now, I'll warn ya ahead of time, probably 99.9% of these reviews will be of recipes. 
I'm seem to get around to trying those delectable tastys pretty quickly.

I'll, of course, be linking back to the original posters.
Be sure to check them out for more brilliance, I'm sure!

The Country Cook
I made this Oreo Poke Cake this weekend when we had company over.

I was drawn to ... hello, Oreos ... & the concept of the cake was interesting to me.
I've never made a 'poke cake' using pudding.
Another bonus, it only takes a few ingredients.
{a box cake mix & the ingredients needed to make cake, 2 boxes of Oreo pudding & milk}

It was tasty, don't get me wrong, but just not as over-the-top as I thought it might be.
Another thing, my pudding was more of a brownish color for some odd reason.
I like how hers is all creamy looking.
Some of the reviews suggested making the pudding right before you are ready 
to use it, so it's not completely set.
I second this ... even doing so, it's a bit of work it get it all 'poked' into the cake.

Will I make this cake again?
It was tasty & easy.

For the next review ... hold the presses!
This one is D-elicious!!
I made this one twice in one week.

Quick & Easy Salsa
I've been lovingly referring to this as 5 Minute Salsa & would like to give a big shout-out
to Mountain Momma Cooks for an amazing recipe!
There are many things to love.
The taste, well, my family says it's better than any restaurant salsa.
It's super easy, quick & such a fresh addition to any Mexican dish.

Will I make this salsa again?
Oh yes ... over & over! 

Stay tuned for more Pinterest reviews.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


"Often we set out to make a difference in the lives of others only to discover 
we have made a difference in our own."
-- Ellie Braun-Haley

My sweet sister-in-law emailed me a beautiful video a few weeks back.
It bought me to tears ... & made me think.
It's a one minute clip, full of wisdom.
You have to take time out & watch this ... you must.

Wow, I'd say this young lady made his day!
Now, a few hours later, on the very same day, a video showed up in my Facebook
sent from my loyal, 'through thick & thin' friend.
It made me tear up too, but put the biggest smile on my face ... 
& in my heart.
She had just officially 'made my day'!
Here's what she sent.

If that won't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will!!

So, between the 2 videos, I was really impacted & I got to thinkin' ...
what does it take to be a DAY MAKER?

I say it's much simpler than we think.

It's as easy as taking time out of your day to be kind ... either in word or deed.
It's following through when your heart tells you to do something.

Here are a few ideas:
  • a phone call just to say hello ... or I love you
  • a card in the mail ... for no reason at all
  • a note tucked under the pillow ... to your hubs or the kiddos
  • an encouraging email message or a text 
  • a special song on Youtube sent it to someone you love
  • a favorite snack or treat, just because  

 "We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, 
ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to 
big differences that we often cannot foresee."
-- Marian Wright Edelman 

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, 
an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring: all of which have the potential 
to turn a life around."
-- Leo Buscaglia

It's often the smallest gestures, done at just the right times that can turn a day around.
I can't tell you the number of times that I've gotten a note or a card that was just exactly 
the boost in my spirit that I needed.

{In fact, yesterday & today, I received thee sweetest note from a blog reader that 
I will cherish always.
It came right on time.} 

This scripture comes to mind:
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

You can do something to bring a smile, to touch a heart, to change a life.
Go out there & be a DAY MAKER!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I was putting the finishing touches on yesterday's blog when I ran across 
these wonderful quotes from Charles Swindoll.
I must admit, I know virtually nothing about him, other than he's a preacher, 
but his quotes are definitely inspiring.

Here are a few that I really loved & wanted to share:
“Anything under God's control is never out of control.” 

“The pursuit of happiness is a matter of is a positive attitude we choose to express. 
It is not a gift delivered to our door each morning, nor does it come through the window. 
And it is certain that our circumstances are not the things that make us joyful. 
If we wait for them to get just right, we will never laugh again.

 “The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. 
 Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, 
than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. 
 It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. 
It will make or break a company...a church....a home. 
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace
for that day. 
We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. 
We cannot change the inevitable. 
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. 
And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” 

“Real integrity stays in place whether the test in adversity or prosperity.” 

“Learning more truth is a poor and cheap substitute for stopping and putting 
into action the truth already learned” 

“Disagreements are inevitable. 
There will always be opposing viewpoints and a variety of perspectives on most subjects. 
Tastes differ as well as preferences. 
That is why they make vanilla and chocolate and strawberry ice cream, 
why they build Fords and Chevys, Chryslers and Cadillacs, Hondas and Toyotas. 
That is why our nation has room for Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals 
- and moderates. 
The tension is built into our system. 
It is what freedom is all about, including religious freedom.
I am fairly firm in my theological convictions, but that doesn't mean you (or anyone) 
must agree with me. 
All this explains why we must place so much importance on leaving "wobble room" 
in our relationships. 
 One's theological persuasion may not bend, but one's involvement with others must.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bringing Our Thoughts Into Captivity

Felt the old, all-too-familiar worries & frets this week trying hard to take hold.  
Many times, I leave myself open ... an easy target, non-resistant, all too compliant.  
Not only do I listen to these voices in my head, I entertain them.  
I give them permission to stay awhile.  
Sometimes, I even believe them.

I decided this was not happening this time.
I determined not to just quote the familiar scriptures, but to believe them ... 
to stand on them.
I wanted a different result this time around.

I knew I had to gird up my mind.
I knew I could & must take charge of my mind, my thoughts, & emotions ... 
controlling them & not letting them control me.

I know what I do ... I am well-aware of my pattern.
It's all too often that I camp out in negative places {& stay waaayy too long}.
And it's not only me that's effected, but my whole family ...
even the atmosphere of our home.

I let 'the deceiver' take up residence.
I allow my thoughts to be a playground for the enemy.
Not only is he achieving his purpose in those striving against me
but also in me for passively allowing him to loiter where is doesn't belong!

My job to FIGHT against him, & boy, am I ever equipped!

The scriptures say this:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God
to pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, & every high thing
that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, & bringing into captivity 
every thought to the obedience of Christ.  
2 Corinthians 10:4-5

God's Word is FULL of precious promises for me to stand on!
Do I believe them to be true?
Of course I do!
I decided to pick up my weapon, put forth a lot of on purpose effort, & wage war!

Every.single.time a destructive thought or a worry {over things I cannot control!}
tried to weasel its way in, I made a conscious effort to bring that thought
into captivity!
I was determined to be diligent & aggressively subdue all the negativity that tried
to enter my mind!    

Here's how I combated against the enemy:

1)  I stood strong & sure on the promises of God, without waivering.
     I named them & claimed them ... often!
     I took Him for His word!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
Psalm 28:7

This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; 
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 
2 Samuel 22:31

2) I asked God for strength as I fought to capture my thoughts!
     He said He is our present help, so I asked for it!

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. 
Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 
John 16:24

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:14

3) I gave it to God ... & refused to pick it back up!
Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. ~Pro. 16:3 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,   whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,  think on these things. ~Phil. 4:8

4)  I kept {& continue to keep} reminding myself that fear & worry is not from God!

When I'm held captive by my fears & I give way to worry,
I am not only weighed down but I'm distracted.
This makes it more difficult for me to do what God's desires for me to do.

Half the things I worry over never come to pass anyway ...thank God.
I must bear this in mind instead of  going into a tail-spin over every little thing
that could or might happen.

For god has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, 
and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

5)  Lastly, but definitely not least, I must always remember:

I cannot change people.
I cannot change circumstances.
I cannot stop people from spreading gossip, lies & slander.
I cannot make people do the right thing.
I can, however, change how I react to it.

From the meddling relative, to backstabbing co-worker,
to the busybody on Facebook that is always in my business... 
I am in charge of how I react to the people & events in my life!

The Bible is clear that the things that come out of our mouth
(or typed from our fingers ;) ) are a reflection of what is going on in our heart.

I have a choice.
I refuse to be reactionary & in essence, lower myself to their level.

Charles Swindoll says that 'life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it'.

I can either give power to negativity over my life or I can choose to pursue
JOY & HAPPINESS instead! 

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, 
but those who plan peace have joy.
Proverbs 12:20 

I choose to stay sweet!

**I originally began writing this particular blog nearly a month ago.
I had not published it because I just wasn't ready to share it yet.
I can attest to you that since that day ... the day that I took charge over my thoughts,
claimed & stood on 2 Cor. 10: 4-5,  I've not been the same person.
Believe me, there have been several opportunities for me to slink back into my old,
despairing ways, but I have remained steadfast in my resolve.
With the daily help of the Lord, I am a conqueror!
I choose to live victorious in Christ!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Unseen Hand

I took this photo in August of last year ~ had to capture the pink cloud!

 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy the soul in drought, 
and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, 
and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.  Isaiah 58:11

This scripture was in the passages I read yesterday morning before leaving for church.
It stood out to me & I pondered on it {& a few others} all morning long.

What a reassurance to me, a daughter of God, to know that He is continually guiding me!

According to Psalm 121:3, we know that He does not slumber or sleep
nor will He suffer our foot to be moved.
Another translation says he will not allow our foot to slip.

Again in Psalm 37: 23-24, we are reminded that the steps of a good man 
are ordered by the LORD!
It goes on to say even though he may fall, he shall not be utterly cast down,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand!

What precious promises & complete comfort to rest in Him!
There's no need to fret or stress myself out with worry, He's in charge.
He's continually guiding me!

As I read this passage again this morning, an old song came to mind ...
one that I haven't heard sung in years, 'The Unseen Hand.'
Oh, what assuring lyrics!

There is an Unseen Hand to me,
That leads through ways I cannot see
While going through this world below,
This Hand still leads me as I go
I’m trusting to the Unseen Hand,
That guides me through this weary land
And some sweet day I’ll reach that strand,
Still guided by the Unseen Hand

This hand has led through shadows drear

And while it leads I have no fear
I know t’will lead me to that home
Where sin nor sorrow ere can come

I long to see, my Saviors face

And sing the story saved by grace
And there upon that golden  strand
Ill praise Him for His guiding hand

I’m trusting to, the Unseen Hand,
That guides me through this weary land
And some sweet day I’ll reach that strand,
Still guided by the Unseen Hand.

{written by AJ Sims}

I am so thankful that my walk with the Lord does not have to be filled with confusion,
indecision, & a constant search for God's will.
Should I do this, should I do that, should I go there...
what is God's plan for my life...
how will I know if I am in His will...
& on...& on...& on.

HE is continually guiding me!
The key is being submissive to His guiding.
We must place our life, our will, our plans ... even our fears...
place it all in His hands... & then let go!
Let Him take the wheel!
His ways are so much higher than our ways.

With His guidance, I have no question that I will safely arrive at my destination!

Just in case you've never heard the song, 'The Unseen Hand',
here is a link so you can listen to it & be blessed!
{The lyrics are a bit different from the original version on one line of the chorus,  
but the message is unchanged.}

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garrett's attending TeenPact!

Garrett love politics & this week, he is attending TeenPact Indiana.
He heard about this at the Indiana Association of Homeschoolers Convention 
& immediately knew he wanted to participate ... 
so much so that he voluntarily payed his own way!

TeenPact is a dynamic, hands-on leadership school for Christian students.

Their mission:
to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, 
defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time 
in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things.

TeenPact Leadership Schools helps students to become informed citizens 
& to understand the political process through participation at one of our state 
classes {in 38 different states in 2012}.  
These students will learn these foundations of government from a Biblical perspective.

Before going to TeenPact on Monday, Garrett had lots of 'homework' to complete 
& he's been diligently working on it for several weeks.
There was plenty of memorization: scripture, state officials name & positions, etc.
One assignment was to write a bill that would be discussed & voted on.
Garrett's bill proposed teaching {in public schools} about our country's founding fathers 
& the principles which guided the shaping of our country.

Yesterday, Mike Pence addressed the group!
That was very exciting for all the students.
Afterwards, Congressman Pence opened for questions afterwards.  
Garrett raised his hand & Congressman Pence promptly picked him, 
"the young man in the bow tie"!  
Garrett stood, announced his name, where he was from, & thanked Pence 
for coming to speak to them, all before asking his question.  
After the Congressman turned it back over to the director of TeenPact, 
he {director} asked Garrett to stand.  
He thanked Garrett for the exemplary way he addressed Congressman Pence.  
Kudos to Garrett!

Later in the day, the students were divided into 3 parties.
Each party had to nominate one person to run for governor.
Out of 70-80 teen participants, Garrett was one of the 3 nominated!  
He was pretty excited!
Last evening, he went to buy his campaigning materials 
{markers, index card & poster board} so he'd be ready for today's campaigning, 
debating & voting.  
This is all so up his alley ... & we are sure hoping he wins!

Makes me sad that we aren't there getting pictures of all this activity!

Tomorrow is the ceremony for completing the course, so maybe I'll get some shots then.
Friday is an additional Political Communications workshop that Garrett opted to attend.
At the end of the week, he will have had a full week of learning & making new friends 
& contacts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Aren't these so fancy & elegant looking?
They will raise the wow factor on any table!
Truth be told though, chocolate covered strawberries are a rather simple dessert. 
Even so, I generally make them most often for a special occasion ...
& almost always for Valentine's Day.

Here are the few easy steps to put these together.

First, give the strawberries a QUICK rinse &
place them on paper towels to completely dry!

Now, just so you are in 'the know', strawberries are like sponges.
If they are left in water too long, they will absorb it.
Not a good idea!
They'll become waterlogged, tasteless & mushy.

As for the chocolate, water & chocolate don't mix!
Just a drop of water can cause it to seize ... which means it clumps & gets all grainy.
Overheating will also ruin chocolate.
Only heat for 30 seconds at a time to avoid burning.

You can also add a teeny bit of canola oil after the chocolate is melted.
This will make it nice & shiny.

Use 1 whole package of white chocolate bark for 3 lbs. of strawberries.
 Dip the strawberry in the melted chocolate, swirling it around to coat.
Leave a bit of the red showing at the top of the berry.
Place on wax paper to set.
At this stage, the strawberries are perfectly wonderful just as they are.
You can plate them up & have a decadent dessert!

Buuut, if you want to go the extra mile, you can bling them up even further!
If you choose to go this route, prepare the toppings before dipping 
the berries in the chocolate.
While the chocolate is still wet on the berries, dip them in the prepared toppings.

My deviled egg plate served as the perfect holder for all these goodies:
crushed oreos, peppermint sticks, mini-chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, & red sugar.

Make sure to display them on a pretty plate ... this one is a favorite of mine
& I always use it when I make chocolate covered strawberries.

Here they are ... all plated up & ready to be devoured!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homemade Oreos

When I stumbled across this recipe on the internet, I couldn't believe
I hadn't heard of this before .... homemade oreos .... whaaattt?
Being a fan of the o-r-e-o, I knew I'd be promptly giving these a whirl!

Let me tell you, these are delicious x 100
& were a bit hit here at the Pennington's!

This is another one of those, "you're ganna love me for this one" recipes!


For the chocolate cookies:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process or dark cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar 
1 1/4 sticks  (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/2 stick  (1/4 cup) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat to 375°F.

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar thoroughly, 
using a food processor or an electric mixer. 
While on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. 
Continue mixing until dough comes together.

Place rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a baking sheet, 
approximately two inches apart, slightly flattening the dough. 
Bake for 9 minutes.
Place baking sheets on a rack to cool.

For the filling, add butter and shortening in a mixing bowl.
At low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. 
Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. 

To assemble the cookies, put teaspoon-size amounts of cream into the center 
of one cookie & top with another.
Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. 
Continue until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. 

Recipe notes:
If you'd like to tint the cream filling, blend in a tiny bit of gel dye until you reach 
the desired color.
You could do pink for Valentine's Day ... or red & green for Christmas, etc.

Also, the amount of sugar in this recipe is to mimic the not-so-sweet
taste of the chocolate cookie part of the oreo.
If you'd like to make these without the cream, just as a chocolate cookie, 
add an additional 1/2 cup of sugar to sweeten it up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cake

Taking an ordinary box cake to extraordinary can be pretty cinchy 
when you follow these easy peasy steps.
{OK, after you get up off the floor from the shock of someone actually 
sharing a recipe that starts with a mix from a box!}
All bloggers seem to have a 'just keeping it real' post, so I guess this will be mine.

I used a yellow cake mix that had some yellow, orange, & chocolate sprinkles
in the mix ... one I picked up for .10 off the clearance rack at Aldi in November
{Halloween clearance}.

To the dry mix, I added 1 cup of mini chocolate chips 
& then made the cake according to the box directions.

After cooled, I iced it with cream cheese frosting 
& topped it with more of the mini chips.

It was as yummy as it looks!

You don't have to have an expensive or complicated gourmet dessert to make 
your family feel like you've gone the extra mile to make something special just for them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

& I thought I liked the lemon!

Oh my.
I do like the lemon biscotti that I blogged about last week, 
but heavens to Betsy, these turtle ones are to die for.

I've been calorie-counting this week & let me tell you,
this has been the best 110 cals of my whole day.

Seriously, go buy a box.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Birthday Blessings

Here are the pictures I promised~

Absolutely gorgeous basket put together by the sweet ladies from church.  Yep, I cried like a baby!

Aren't these flowers unreal?  This brilliant blue is so unique.  These are from my 3 boys.

What's not to LOVE about this! My sweet friend, Carissa, shares my love of old books & couldn't have given me any nicer surprise!

Jody, I couldn't have said it better myself.  Friends make the hard times easier ... & the good time even better.
I LOVE this card!  Notice the fruits growing on the tree ... & the cute lil' kindness cart?  Paula, you are the sweet one;)

James surprised me with an overnight stay at Sybaris.  We had 2 referral gift cards, a regular coupon, & a birthday coupon which added up to a BIG discount!  We normally don't do much for Valentine's Day, so this wonderful get-away was sort of a pre-Valentine's celebration to boot.

I'd have to say, seeing how I wasn't jumping up & down about my birthday 
{this is my official '39 & holding' birthday},
all these bountiful blessings sure did soften the blow.

~Live well, laugh often, love much.

~The greatest gift I ever received came from God – my Family

~Friendship sweetens the cares of life