Festive Mardi Gras Food

Let the good times roll with easy recipes that salute the Big Easy, from shrimp po'boys to pecan pralines! By Cheryl Slocum


Black and White Pumpkins

Savannah stylist Liz Demos skipped the carving knife and went straight for a paintbrush to fashion these graphic pumpkins. "With a stark black-and-white palette," Demos said of her trio of bold designs, "you can make any pattern, even creepy insects, look downright chic."

Complete How-To: Black and White Pumpkins

Read more: Pumpkin Decorating Ideas - Pumpkin Painting and Carving Ideas - Country Living


Pumpkin Carving Tips

HOLLOW IT OUT: These pumpkins were hollowed out from the bottom to give a cleaner look. Stylist Bella Foster, who executed the designs shown, advises scooping out additional flesh behind the design once you've carved it to make sure a light can shine through (leave about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of pumpkin).

DRAW ON THE PATTERN: Sketch with a pencil first to decide on a preferred size and placement, then draw your pattern on the pumpkin with a china marker or grease pencil.

Read more: Pumpkin Decorating Ideas - Pumpkin Painting and Carving Ideas - Country Living

9 Inns That Go Beyond Bed and Breakfast
Why stop at coffee and scones? These inns offer extraordinary bed-and-breakfast food all day long. And check out more amazing inns.
Big Cedar Lodge
Ridgedale, Missouri
Nestled in the Ozarks, this 1921 wilderness resort's got 161 comfy lodge rooms as well as private log cabins with fireplaces. Plus, guests can hike, bike, or take guided horseback rides on the 800-acre parklike grounds.

Read more: Best Bed and Breakfast Restaurants - Bed and Breakfast Food Reviews - Country Living

I love to grill just about anything, and that includes some good hard-crusted bread and then top it with some wonderfully flavored vegetables.  This is one I just tried.  It was super!

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salsa
Provided By:
Spicy jalapeƱo, sweet fresh corn, and cool mint give this unique crostini topping its playful personality.

Related Recipe: Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salsa


15 Who-knew? uses for your microwave
by Real Simple Magazine

The major...

More than a popcorn popper, this versatile appliance was underutilized―until now. By Melissa Clark and Lindsay Funston

1. Disinfect and Deodorize Sponges
Don't throw out the kitchen sponge that smells like last night's salmon. Soak it in water spiked with white vinegar or lemon juice, then heat it on high for 1 minute. (Use an oven mitt to remove it.) This will also disinfect any sponges you used to wipe up the juices from a raw chicken.
2. Cook an Entire Dinner in Under 10 Minutes
Not just the TV variety. We mean braised salmon with green beans and mashed potatoes. Use the microwave for any recipe that calls for braising, poaching, or steaming. Just subtract about three-quarters of the cooking time. Remember to stir liquids often to redistribute the heat, and always take the food out a minute or two before it's completely done, since it will continue to cook.
3. Disinfect Plastic Cutting Boards
Wash the board well, rub it with the cut side of a lemon, then heat for 1 minute.
4. Soften Brown Sugar
Keep the sugar in its plastic packaging, add a few drops of water, and heat on medium for 10 to 20 seconds.
5. Decrystalize Honey
Honey that has solidified can be brought back to liquid life by uncovering the jar and heating on medium power for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
6. Proof Yeast Doughs
Yeast doughs that normally take an hour or more to rise at room temperature can be proofed in the microwave in about 15 minutes. Place the dough in a very large bowl and cover with plastic. Place an 8-ounce cup of water in the back of the microwave with the bowl of dough in the center, and set the power as low as possible (10 percent power). Heat for 3 minutes, then let the dough rest in the microwave for 3 minutes. Heat for 3 minutes longer, then let rest for 6 minutes. The dough will double in bulk.

7. Heat up Health Aids
You use a microwave to reheat your coffee, so why not use it to heat and reheat gel packs for headaches? (Don't do this with a metal-wrapped pack.)
8. Warm Beauty Products
Warming up a hot-oil conditioning pack for your hair takes about 10 to 20 seconds and feels marvelous, as does briefly heating up a moisturizing facial mask. (Stir the mask and test the temperature with your finger before applying to your face.) And if hot wax hardens when you're only halfway up your calf, reheat it in the microwave. It's much less messy than using a double boiler

9. Roast Garlic
It takes 45 minutes to roast garlic in the oven but less than 8 in the microwave. Slice off the top of the head to reveal all the cloves. Place the head in a small, deep dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of good olive oil. Spoon 2 tablespoons of water into the bottom of the dish, cover it with plastic wrap, and cook at medium power for 7 to 7½ minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before unwrapping.
10. Get More Juice From Citrus Fruits
A lemon or lime taken straight from the refrigerator is harder to juice than one left at room temperature or warmed slightly. To get the most juice, microwave citrus fruits for 20 seconds before squeezing.

11. Toast Bread Crumbs, and Coconut
The microwave toasts them in a quarter of the time it takes in a conventional oven. Spread them out on a plate and heat on high for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Keep in mind that they will continue to toast for about a minute after removal.
12. Warm Tortillas
Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel. Microwave on high (power level 10) for 40 seconds to 1 minute.
13. Toast Pine Nuts and Sliced Almonds
Spread nuts on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high (power level 10) in 1-minute intervals, tossing in between, until beginning to turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes
14. Make Applesauce
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 pound peeled and diced apples (Macintosh, Fuji, or Gala are best) with ¼ cup water, 2 teaspoons sugar, and ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon. Cover and microwave on high (power level 10) until the apples are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Mash with a fork or potato masher.
15. Make Homemade Popcorn
Place ½ cup popcorn kernels in a large microwave-safe bowl with 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil. Cover with a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high (power level 10) until the majority of the kernels have popped, 3 to 5 minutes.


9 Strange But True Health Tips
Summer Picnic Recipes
Pack up these delicious sandwiches, side salads, drinks, and desserts and head outdoors for a refreshing alfresco meal.

Read more: Summer Picnic Recipes – Best Recipes for a Summer Picnic - Country Living


Laundry Hampers Ain't What They Used to Be


5 Ways to Eat Ramen Noodles
Times are tight, budgets are pinched. We had two dollars left in our food budget on Tuesday of last week, so I buzzed to the store and bought the only thing I could think of. Ramen. At 17 cents a package, ramen has to be the best food deal out there. And, it’s a fun deal, too. Because a packet of ramen isn’t just soup waiting to be made. It’s actually a blank canvas ready to be turned into art. Here are 10 super-simple ways to pimp out your ramen and make it into a simple, satisfying dinner.
1. Veggie Ramen(pictured above) . Toss a tablespoon of butter into a skillet. Add 2 tablespoons each of thinly-sliced carrots, frozen green beans, frozen white corn, and edamame. Cook just until softened. Add a packet of Pork Ramen, 2 cups of water, and cook until the noodles are cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add seasoning packet. Serve and enjoy.
Related: S'more please! 10 S'more recipes for summertime
2. Egg Foo Ramen. In a small bowl, whisk an egg with 1 tablespoon of water until well beaten. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour egg into the water, then add the noodles. Cook just until tender. Season with seasoning packet. Garnish with sliced green onions.
3. Chinese Chicken Salad. Shred 1/4 a head of cabbage, 1 breast of chicken, and 1/4 white onion. Add 1 package of crushed Chicken-flavored Ramen. In a small bowl, whisk together the seasoning packet, 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Toss dressing into salad, serve and enjoy.
Related: 10 ways to eat pizza for breakfast
4. Ham Fried Ramen. A simple take on Fried Rice, cook a packet of Pork Ramen until the noodles are tender. Drain completely. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil until sizzling. Add 1/4 cup diced ham and 1/4 cup of frozen peas & carrots to the oil. Immediately toss in the noodles. Crack an egg into the mixture and stir until well cooked and distributed around the noodle mixture. Season with soy sauce, garnish with a handful of diced green onions.
5. Parmesan Ramen. Cook a packet of ramen noodles. Save the flavoring packet for another day. Once the noodles are cooked, drain the water from them completely. Top with a pat of butter, a bit of freshly-shredded parmesan, and some chopped parsley.


It used to be our tradition to spend the 4th of July at a waterpark near us and then be home in time to watch the fireworks at the community festival after we'd shot our own at home.  It was always a fun day, but spending the day in the water, always meant some sunburns.  Here are some things to keep in mind and to prevent those nasty things:


On Moving Mountains7 Lessons for Mastering Your Biggest Challenges

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

I know.... it might not look like much of a mountain here ~ but trust me, its a

In fact this paved walking path is the south side of our local ski hill, Granite Peak... and leads up to the State Park. It's become a very good friend of mine as of late.

I took this picture on my cell phone this spring ~ but not sure I captured it.

Perhaps it's more of an experience, but one thing I know for sure is that this mountain not only contains messages - but lessons for mastering life.

And it's true... life sometimes feels like your
"moving mountains" as you are paving your own path to where you want to go. The ego experiences the action steps and to-do lists that can feel very heavy.

Those life experiences even feel like an impossible climb at times.... just as this mountain walk did for me just three months ago.

But the truth is -- that moving through your biggest challenges, through your life
contrast, through your toughest climbs are by far the life experiences that expand you the most.

It's not getting lucky that expands you -- it's the journey, the the ups, downs, ebbs and flows that expand the spirit also known as YOU. It's through these life climbs that you become ever stronger, and an ever more mindful manifestor, and masterful creator of life.

So...this mountain walk has become sacred in all sense of the word. It's beautiful, it centers me, it moves energy through me. It's meditative. Healing. Cathartic. It's a problem solver, a quiet listener, an all accepting partner, and lead group therapist all at the same time. :)

On top of that -- it brings unique perspective to life that I didn't quite bank upon (when my mother and brother convinced me to join them) -- for I had no idea what would unravel for me in mind, body, and spirit.

After the shin splints healed (LOL!) and I was able to pay attention to energy, vibration, intuition, and my connection.... and I began to see the deeper meaning here.
So ~ after much contemplation, here are the nuggets:
7 Mountain Lessons for Mastering Life
1. Come prepared. Let's just say that I've been a tad unprepared from time to time... walked in the rain with no rain gear, gotten eaten up by a few bugs (no deet!) and have been scared to death of the dark when our timing's been off and a flash light forgotten. So... right. A little preparation is a good thing. Prepare for your experiences, and when you don't ~ create through your contrast! We've been blessed by a good soaking, made peace with the bugs, and learned to stock the car with the goods. Such is life. You live, you learn, you adjust, you expand and you grow. How could you prepare yourself -- spiritually, emotionally, energetically... to lean yourself in the direction of your dreams?

2. Be present. It a lot of fun to focus on getting to the top-- but you come to quickly find out you can activate the other side of that coin... the NOT being there "yet" -- and then it's not so much fun, right? I like to ping pong back and forth...the top is near... and here I am. It's a mantra. The top is near, and here I am. Oh, look a twig that looks like a wishbone! Wouldn't of seen that if I was "only" focused on the top. Enjoy your moment. Be present in life. Seek what's in front of you, your opportunity, your experiences, and your creative power is right here. How often do you give away your creation power in the present by obsessing with the top? Create balance between visioning and present moment being.

3. Honor your peaks and valley's. You don't climb the mountain to stay at the top, do you? I don't. In fact I climb climb climb... hang at the top for a second and enjoy the joy ride down, just to turn around and climb again the next day. The journey is exhilarating, blood pumping, and life giving. Such is life. Honor your ebbs and your flows. There is much to be learned and gained through all of these vibrational states of life. Where are you ebbing right now? And where are you flowing? Feel through your challenges and focus on your flows. 

4. Cultivate Your Creation Space. You have the power within you, through the power of your intention and your presence, to cultivate "creation space". Now, my office is that. Occasionally my car is that. Coaching sessions are SO that. And low and behold, the mountain became that. Pretty cool. We've learned that we can totally expand an idea, solve problems, and be totally infused with spirit in 1 hour and 7 minutes flat ~ and we created a new space it flows through....called Mountain. (Funny how that's just about the length of my coaching sessions!) Think about "your space", or creating one and your life challenges will begin to seem like science experiments in your creation laboratory.

5. Energy in motion tens to stay in motion. The truth is, love in motion tends to stay in motion... and as you love your physical self through a movement that you are aligned with ~ you create through your body on many levels. Can you feel the shift in your body when you move it? Do you know your energy changes? Sometimes you've got to make a decision to flow your energy, and it does. And life responds. With that said....

6. Your body is a vehicle for spiritual growth. It's funny how we tend to separate our bodies from our spiritual endeavors... like don't bother with the physical, with the dense earthly energy. However, consider your expansion through the physical, vs. expanding away from the physical. The ride is sweet and vibrationally blissful. People wonder why exercise "works", and it's because you raise your vibration to it's natural state of love when you care for it, and when you allow the body to release emotional resistance on a physical and cellular level. I believe it's much more about that than building muss-kles.

7. Stuff flows downhill ~ much easier than up. Sometimes you have to choose effortlessness. Did you know you can? Did you know you can choose struggle or you can choose ease? Struggle is a match to scarcity. Flow is a match to abundance, and joy and peace of mind. What choice could you make today.... in your thought or in your emotion, and even in your action....that would ease the struggle and activate your flow?

 Lori Hamann is a mentor and life coach to conscious entrepreneurs and professionals, who she helps to create more prosperity and peace of mind in their lives and businesses. She is the creator of The ButterflyExperiment, and her Evolve Your Life Newsletter goes out to over 7,000 like minded subscribers. You can sign up for a f.r.e.e subscription at

Easter Breads

Life Lessons from the Wizard of Oz
by Dena Ross on beliefnet

Check this out:


Climber, 69, on historic quest to scale Mt. Everest twice in one seasonBy: Pete Thomas,

Bill Burke has arrived in Nepal for visa processing and will soon embark on a quest to become the first person to climb Mt. Everest -- at 29,035 feet the world's tallest peak -- twice in one season. Making this more remarkable is that Burke, who two years ago became the oldest American to summit Everest and live to tell about the experience, is 69.

"It's going to be quite an epic journey," says the mountaineer, who lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., with his wife, Sharon. "It's going to be a little bit like threading a needle, though, because everything has to fall into place just right. But that's part of the fun -- setting a goal and trying to achieve it, and at the same time being safe and smart, because I'm not out to get myself killed."

Drawing inspiration from a severely disabled grandson, whom he describes as "my training partner," Burke intends to scale Everest from the north side via Tibet, after an unsuccessful attempt last year, and then from the south side, via Nepal.

His itinerary also includes an ascent of neighboring Mt. Lhotse -- at 27,940 feet the world's fourth-highest mountain -- after his second Everest climb.

Not everybody is as confident as Burke about the likelihood of attaining such an ambitious goal. Renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs said via email, "The key factor is the physical endurance that will be required. I've pulled of a few doubles in my career, and everything has to fall into place -- health, endurance, perfect conditions, etc. Take it one climb a time and see how it goes."

(Viesturs has not doubled Everest but has climbed Everest and Lhotse in the same season.)

Burke's successful summit of Everest from the south side in 2009 marked the culmination of a Seven Summits campaign -- attaining the highest peak on each continent -- that began when Burke was 60 (see note at bottom).

He enjoys the support of his wife, four children and 14 grandchildren, but concedes that, because of his age, some of them are not as enthusiastic as they were before his previous climbs.

But the spiritual mountaineer, who harbors a deep passion for the Himalayas, points out that he has never had a serious mishap and prides himself on being overly cautious.

For example, he abandoned a south-side Everest attempt in 2007, from just 300 feet beneath the summit, because he was fatigued. He quit during a north-side attempt last year while even closer to the summit, because severe weather was predicted to move in.

Two climbers died close to the summit during the next two days, after foul weather arrived. "That confirmed to me that I made the right call," Burke said. "I'm not out there to break records at all costs. I try to be smart, conservative and safe."

Burke has not used a commercial guide service for his Everest campaigns. He has gone with local Sherpa porters, though, and this year he'll also be be accompanied by a much younger Mexican climber, David Liano.

In the months leading to his adventure he trained in a gym and on Southern California peaks such as Mt. Whitney, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. More enjoyable, he said, were his 50-mile Sunday bike rides with Oliver, his 10-year-old grandson.

Oliver, who rides in a customized bike trailer, suffers from an undiagnosed condition believed to be Angleman Syndrome, a neurological disorder whose symptoms include developmental delay, lack of speech and balance disorders.

"Oliver is is my hero and inspiration in life," Burke said, explaining that the child's plight has helped him achieve a greater perspective about life and the importance of family. "He has made me a better person in ways that are too numerous to describe."

For now, though, majestic Everest and the spectacular beauty of the snowy Himalayas beckon once more. Burke can feel the mountain's pull with the advent of every new season.

"I feel like I'm almost addicted to the Himalayan range and Mt. Everest to the point where I just really look forward to going back every year," he said. "It's just an awesome sight and every minute I'm on that mountain I'm standing on sacred ground. It just draws me back, year after year."

-- Burke will update his progress whenever possible via his blog. Facebook users can follow the expedition on the climber's page.

-- Photos: Bill Burke is pictured at the top, with Mt. Everest in the background, and at bottom right, on the summit of the world's tallest peak. Middle image is of climbers nearing the summit during one of Burke's expeditions. Images are courtesy of Burke.

-- Editor's note: Climbers consider Mt. Kosciuszko on the Australian mainland and the Carstensz Pyramid, an Indonesian peak on the Australian continental shelf, as interchangeable. Burke has climbed both, technically making his Seven Summits campaign an Eight Summits campaign.

What a difference fifty years makes!  Please check out Going Like Sixty's post for today.  Those of us over fifty will get good chuckle (it hits pretty close to home). 
Scroll down the page a little to find it, but it's worth it!

I love old barns!  Check out this beautiful home in Country Living's newest edition: The Lannes

Jennifer and Dick Lanne rest on the barn steps he fashioned from fieldstones found on the property. The sliding barn door doubles as an exhibition space for Jennifer's paintings, including one of Louis, a regal black Cochin rooster. Jennifer's studio reveals neatly ordered compositions depicting bluebird eggs, Araucana chicken eggs, blueberries, lavender blossoms, pears, hydrangeas, and roses.

25 Ways to Waste Your Money:  Plug your financial leaks and pocket the savings!

Love these kiddos (and what a great teacher!) Please watch this video:  (better have a hanky ready!)

Keeping it SimpleMy cousin started a series on his blog (Keeping it Simple) yesterday on the Golden Rule.  Here are some tips he gives today:

The Golden Rule doesn’t really mean that you should treat someone else exactly as you’d want them to treat you … it means that you should try to imagine how they want to be treated, and do that.

Twenty-five ways to care for others:  Absolutely FREE:

1. Be friendly
2. Be courteous in traffic
3. Listen to others
4. Give everyone you meet today, a smile
5. Instead of asking "how are you?" and moving on, genuinely wait for the answer and listen with both ears
6. Stop criticism
7. Volunteer at a retirement home/senior center
8. Take care of your neighbor's children for a couple of hours so that she can do something she doesn't get to do ordinarily
9. Do something for someone anonymously
10. Send an email to someone you haven't talked to for a long time....just because
11. Shovel the neighbor's sidewalk
12. Call someone
13. Volunteer at a daycare or hospital
14. Check on an elderly neighbor
15. Bring groceries/dinner to a shut in
16. Hold the door for someone
17. Find something good to say to everyone you encounter today
18. Say a prayer for someone who showed you his/her anger
19. Give blood
20. Tell someone a joke/make them smile
21. Write a letter to a serviceman/woman
22. Overcome prejudice
23. Help someone else at the airport with their bags
24. Forgive someone
25. Praise or encourage someone

Check out his blog for more great ideas! (Click on the link at the left and it will take you right there!)

Fried Okra is great site to visit!  I particularly enjoyed her comments entitled:  One Question:  If you had a friend who talked to you the way YOU talk to you, how long would you keep her around?  Please check it out.

Oh my gosh, you all have to check out these beautiful sculptures:
They're spectacular!

Chickens in the Road is an awesome site to visit!  I could spend hours there!

Check out our Simply Faith store on Amazon.

 I just watched the funniest video on YouTube.  My cousin sent it to me and if you want a really good laugh, check it out!  Dennis Swanberg is a Baptist Minister who travels with his ministry.  I'd never seen him before today, but I'm so glad she shared it!

Have you read the Pioneer Woman?  I love her blog!  She is a woman from the city who has moved to a ranch and is raising her family there.  She is witty and funny, touching and warm!  I really enjoy her recipes and her stories about her children, her animals and her husband.  When my cousin, my friend and I were first talking about blogging and giving it a try, we ran across her blog.  She makes it look so easy and fun!  Check it out:  I think you'll like it--a lot!

I was just checking in with one of my favorite blogs Delightful Mom Stuff.  Jenica is awesome and I love that this young mom of 2 little girls shares really good stuff with the rest of us, like favorite recipes, good educational products for young kiddos, and ways to treat yourself well as a parent.  We forget sometimes that we can't take care of others very well, if we're not taking care of ourselves.  Please check this out!

Another good site is Keeping it Simple .  In the effort to be completely open, this site was created by my cousin, another fledgling blogger.  We are working together to create a site that will be fun, educational, fun, helpful to others, and fun!  Thank goodness he's much better at the business and technical end of things.  He's spent a great deal of time checking other blogs, visiting websites, and generally just getting some good ideas for what we want to do.  I thank him for keeping me on the straight and narrow.  Check out his blog!