Tiny Holidays: Easy Shortbread Cookies

Guys. I awoke yesterday morning with a desperate need to bake 20 dozen cookies. Does that ever happen to you? I think it stems from the fact that my brain correlates Christmas decorations to baking cookies.

As soon as the decorations are up, the cookies appear- just check out our “to-bake” list!! Our freezer, by next weekend, will be chock full of cylinders of dough waiting to be sliced and baked. If you want to get a jump on your cookie baking, here is my very favorite bake-ahead recipe- shortbread!

We are going to use this shortbread for 3 kinds of cookies this year, both caramel and raspberry thumbprints as well as chocolate-dipped traditional shortbread cookies.

This is the shortbread recipe we go-t0, of course it’s from the Pioneer Woman because she can do no wrong. (more…)

Quickie Dinner- Mike’s Shepherd’s Pie

Ally’s note: Oh man, I love it when Mike cooks. He always makes something spicy, comforting and quick. It’s the perfect dinner, every time. Hmm…why don’t I have him cook more often?

Anyway, this is one of our favorite recipes. Try it and I promise, you’ll love it.

Spicy Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat the oven to 350f.

Peel, cube, and boil 3 potatoes or sweet potatoes. Drain and mash. You can add milk or butter, we like to add low-fat cream cheese. Set aside.

In a frying pan, add one chopped onion, two cloves of chopped garlic and 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey. Cook until it’s brown. Drain, if there is any liquid. Season with some cumin, chili powder, garlic powder- whatever spices you like. Or you could add half of a package of taco seasoning in there. Move to a bowl and add 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to the pan.

Stir until it’s combined and add a cup of chicken broth. Make sure you stir this really good or else it will get lumpy. When it’s thickened, add meat back in. Now put in some frozen corn, peppers or whatever else you like.

Pour into a baking pan and top with the potatoes and some grated cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is nice and melted.

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Tiny Holidays: Turkey Day Decor

We did some last-minute crafting in preparation for our Thanksgiving dinner with Mike’s family. I thought since we are not eating at home, we could make a few fall-ish crafts that would inject our personality into the meal. Also- I really wanted to make a banner, so I did!

This could be easily adapted to any holiday/occasion with different papers, and it cost just a few cents to make! We bought the scrapbooking paper on sale at A.C. Moore, and we had the white cardstock, so it was really cheapy cheap.

First up, a Thanksgiving banner reminding us to Give Thanks for our many blessings. I look forward to hanging this up again next fall in our own home.

We started with some cardstock (we used size A2 flat cards from Papersource which measure approximately 4″x5″). I cut down some scrapbook paper in a fun, sunny yellow pattern to size with scallop scissors. Note- I didn’t measure at all for this project. If your banner is a little lopsided I promise you that the world will not end as a result. Glue to backing card stock- we use a glue stick and it works fine.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

We love a good taco. Living in a neighborhood that has a huge immigrant population, we are lucky enough to try foods from all over Latin America. But we always come back to the humble taco.

Not the Americanized, ground-beef, cheese-covered, crunchy shell kind of taco either. These babies are stuffed with tender chicken, homemade guacamole and pico de gallo, hot sauce and fresh cilantro all nestled inside a warm, soft corn tortilla. Oh my. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Okay, now comes the not fun part. As part of our new 2018 budget, we’re slashing our restaurant spending even further. That means, our beloved tacos (which we treated ourselves way more frequently than we care to admit) are going to have to become a rare treat. So, we decided to try and re-create them ourselves. Here goes:

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

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Outdoor Life

I’ve mentioned before how much I love our porch. It’s a quiet little retreat from the city- green, breezy and relaxing. When I saw Gussy’s Inspiration Workshop post for today, I just had to join! It’s all about the porch!!!

I love to walk out here before cooking dinner and gather fresh herbs! We’re growing thyme, rosemary, and basil!

Our porch looks out onto our backyard and our neighbor’s backyard- this is their gorgeous rose bush that has crawled up the fence that separates our yards! How lovely! When we’re having dinner on the porch, I can gaze down onto our thriving little garden! It’s pretty nice to eat dinner with garden fresh veggies and see right where they grew!

Mike and I spend almost every night in the summer out on the porch. We catch up while dinner is cooking. We share a meal. We play board games while the sun goes down.

We listen to music out there. We enjoy time with friends. We have a cup of coffee on lazy weekend mornings. We discuss the important and the mundane. We celebrate and we problem solve. Sometimes, we just sit together and hold hands. It’s our little place and I love every moment we spend on our little porch.

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Comprehending Fiction: What Is Fiction?

how-to-increase-reading-comprehension-in-adultsFiction is imaginative narrative in any form that is designed to entertain, as distinguished from writing which is designed primarily to explain and describe. Fiction is found in many literary forms.

What Are Some of the Forms (Genres) of Fiction?

  • Picture Books–the story is presented through a combination of text and illustrations. A variety of art is found in the illustrations from woodcuts to collages, photographs, and watercolors. The illustrations and the text work together to establish the mood and theme.
  • Folklore–represents the literary heritage of humankind. Variety in folklore includes traditional stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, and songs from the past.
  • Fantasy–under this classification are the imaginative worlds and make- believe. Stories that are set in places that do not exist, about people and creatures that could not exist, or events that could not happen
  • Science Fiction– stories about what might occur in the future. These stories are usually based on taking physical laws and scientific principles to their logical outcomes.
  • Realistic Fiction–stories based on events that could happen in the real world where the characters and the problems that they face seem real and can be related to by the reader. Realistic fiction is set in modern times.
  • Historical Fiction–stories set in the past that portray character and events that actually did or possibly could have occurred. Plot and character are developed within an authentic historical setting.
  • Multicultural books–books that portray diverse groups of people accurately, while demonstrating the common humanity that connects all human beings. These books help the reader appreciate similarities and celebrate the uniqueness of cultural groups.

I am currently working with Best GED classes as a test writer and helping GED students, I think it’s important they understand how to distinguish between genres and how to read comprehensively.

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