Category Archives: Memory Makers

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

Broken Seashells

For an Oklahoma Girl that loves her home and every beautiful big sunset across the skies, my heart has always yearned for the ocean views. I don’t need to pack up and move, but it does my soul good to gaze at an ocean from time-to-time. My family got that opportunity this summer. 

The waves were stirred up in the ocean and my two older sons LOVED it! They ran out into them and collided with wild abandon. They jumped into them, over them, and got knocked down by them for hours. They laughed for such a long time.

The foam that rushed to shore teased my two younger sons over and over again. They ran through it as it reached and pulled back toward the ocean. Sand castles were made, and boys buried each other up to their necks in sand for the better part of a day.

BUT THE SEASHELLS! The seashells were the BEST part. But not in the way I had dreamed them to be. My mind was fixed on big, beautiful shells; whole and perfect in every way. Because the tide was so rough on our stay, the shells that are normally on the beach had been taken back into sandbars under the water. We were left with scattered fragments and broken pieces on the shore. My youngest was completely captivated by each tiny, broken sliver. He brought each one to me as of holding a treasure of great worth. I kept thinking of what might be out further if only we could see them…I tucked away my disappointment at not being able to get them.

Meanwhile the other boys kept shouting, “You should feel how many shells we are walking across out here, Mom!” “There are tons of them!!” And I knew there was no way to pick them up because of the persistent waves. These shells that I imagined were big, perfect…at arms reach, but impossible to see or get because of circumstances.

Meanwhile, my youngest son’s bucket overflowed and JOY was found in each broken discovery on shore. He never once saw them as incomplete. He was in awe at each color, pattern, barnacle attached…each one SO WORTHY.

What a picture of God’s LOVE I saw played out before me on that ocean shore. We came together as a family and collected many pieces of shells together. We turned each fragment over in our hands and discovered hidden beauty in each part; they became priceless to our hearts. AND THEN…we began to dream beautiful dreams of how to put them together once we returned home; taking the many pieces and giving them beautiful purpose that can only be made together.

I just love the ocean. I learned the hidden beauty in the broken shells. It will impact me forever.  Near that water, if you are still, God speaks to your soul.

If you are in our neck of the woods this Thursday evening, please stop in for a Simply Summer Session at 7pm. It’s at Di’s home and it is an open house Bible Quilt night. I’ll be working on a page with Seashells…

What Do You Do When A Unicorn Arrives In The Pool?

As a certified “Boymom”, I have expertise in many things: preparing large quantities of food, all the top jokes on belching and farting, the technique of spitting and all the ways Nerf darts can get wedged in things.

I have lost touch with “cute and dainty” and colors like pink and purple faded out of my color palette long ago. Boymom’s know about Nerf Guns, Lego’s, Cars and games like Battleship, Risk, Monopoly, (with LOTS of Uno in-between). So when I had an opportunity to host a pool party for my cousin’s two girls, I of course said, “YES!” The theme was Unicorns, the colors were pink and turquoise…sounds simple, but then I remembered I live in a world of camo colors!!

So we put a Unicorn Float in the pool and I hunted, (to no avail), for pink decor in my home; why I don’t know, just ever hopeful. I imagine that girls would probably “float” on a Unicorn Float.  Boys “ride” a Unicorn Float. And by “ride”, I definitely mean “grab it by its rainbow wings and yell”. So hence, this is how our first Unicorn Float lost its “float”, all before the girl’s themed party.

My sons, ever resourceful, spent two hours and half a roll of duct tape trying to find the leak. The bigger problem arose when they realized it was not just a one leak issue.

Let it be noted that when you leap with wild abandon onto a Unicorn Float all afternoon and scream at the top of your lungs,”giddy-up go, go, go!”, this is the end result.

By the time I saw all the tape around the Unicorns wing and neck, I said “enough”. This meant I had to get another Unicorn. And this is how the original float became just a Unicorn Head. The boys salvaged the head that had its own air supply. My first thought was, “well, alrighty we have the makings of a Halloween costume”, but my boys first thought was not even on the same level. I did not discover their grand plan until the night before the girl’s party…

Once we had another Unicorn Float in our possession that we deemed “Unicorn Island” because of its massive dominance over the pool, it was well-known to the boys that it was off-limits! They were told to not even walk near it. It must stay intact for the party.

The day of the party arrived and as I walked outside to survey our Unicorn,  I gasped as I looked up in the tree fort and saw the Unicorn Head tied on a rope hanging off the decking! The boys thought this was hilarious; I imagined the horror that girls would have on sight. And so another difference in boys and girls!!

The Unicorn Party was a huge success in the end, and I must say the memories made in the process are priceless to me. I love the vast differences in boys and girls; and I now have a fun connection with Unicorns! (Ours is going to be spoiled, I can see it now…)

Happy Summering!

For the love…of blueberries!

Summer is all about curious explorations and fun family outings.blueberry farmRecently we had a joint family adventure to a local blueberry farm and dove into our first experience of picking fresh blueberries.

We each grabbed a bucket and headed down the rows of lush blueberry plants.Within a few minutes we had established a rhythm:

Reach in to a full branch, grab a few berries,  do a sample taste test, and drop the remainder into the bucket.

Repeat.

It wasn’t long before we were confident in our picking game. The boys quickly determined that the ripest berries would release easily, leaving the rest on the vine for later.The sun warmed our backs and a light breeze kept us going when our task began to feel a bit like “work.”

Occasionally we’d switch rows and swap stories, eyeing each other’s buckets to see how much progress we were making.blueberry pickingConversations bounced about as our buckets slowly filled.

Sweet tidbits of summer’s glory…

With boys ranging in age from 6 to 15, we could see the difference in their maturity levels in their conversation as well as their picking styles.

Some were methodical and steady. Others experimented with centrifugal force as they hurled their buckets in large circles, challenging each other to go faster and faster.

One needed to do his taste-testing at the sno-cone truck to “preview” flavors for the rest of us. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)

The Lord must see this same maturation process in our spiritual lives. Our prayers and spiritual walks strengthen as our faith ripens over time, saturating into us as we press through life’s challenges.

We are all maturing at our own unique pace – – –

… some of us are “green” yet full of potential

… others are at the “sweet spot” of maturity & ready to share 

…others are past their “peak,” yet maintain a strong, distinctive flavor



Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Hebrews 6:1



amily picking blueberriesAs we rallied the troops and weighed in our buckets, it didn’t matter how much each of us picked. Our efforts were gathered together in one beautiful heap.
One family outing reaped many bonuses:
  • the simple joy of having freshly plucked berries to add to our granola, yogurt, and salads

red, white, and BLUEberry~~~ the red, white, and BLUEberry fun during 4th of July celebrations ~~~

blueberry buckle– camaraderie shared in the deliciousness of blueberry buckle,  carrying on traditions of friends &  past 4th of July parties

blueberry muffinsHow much sweeter all these experiences were because we had gathered the blueberries ourselves and shared in our collective abundance, enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Sweet rewards for hot, summer days – – – infusing fond memories and new traditions – – – for the love of blueberries!

 

 

Squished In: Family Vacations for the Long Haul

Who remembers those long summer road trips when you were a kid, squished in beside your siblings and marking out your territory with imaginary lines? What memories are sharpest for you? What senses were most heightened?

flower marketWe rattled around in the backseat without seatbelts (gasp!) & looked forward to an ice cold Orange Crush from a pop machine at a gas station somewhere along the way. We often had to stop to clarify directions to supplement our well-worn, wrinkled state map that never seemed to fold back into its original shape. If we missed a turn, we could drive for miles completely unaware of our error because we didn’t have a computerized voice perkily “re-calculating” for us.

Recently, we logged hundreds of miles on a family vacation.  At the end of a busy day of touristing, we squished in tight into our hotel room each evening. Our boys had their nightly discussion re: who was sharing the foldout couch and who was bunking on the floor.

family selfie

Somewhere in the midst of traveling, we are reminded about our nucleus as a family. We make frequent eye contact as we’re plotting our course for the day. We track one another through noisy crowds. We squish in closely together in various modes of public transportation. During all these bumps and nudges, we’re reminded of our belongingness in this rugged little family of ours.

brothersWe amuse ourselves waiting in lines by messing with each other, cracking jokes that don’t make any sense to those around us.

We smooth out each other’s rough edges and finish each other’s sentences.

Although we’re out exploring new territory and mingling among strangers, we’re drawn back to one another to circle up for the next transition.

We move on together as a pack.

My husband and I are not big fans of selfies…and certainly don’t have “the knack” for taking them, especially if we’re trying to capture some scenic background, too. Something happens, though, when we huddle in together, squishing in to fit all of our faces into that little square. We claim each other. fam picWe recognize ourselves in each other’s expressions and features.

We identify as a unit, a lifelong team. famWe validate our sense of belonging to one another. We catch a glimpse of who we are together in this snap of time. This is Family.

In this moment, this is Us. familyWe reconnect in ways on trips that we don’t in our everyday routine. We aren’t distracted by our daily chores and pressing schedules. We focus in on one another.

coffee in the parkAs parents trailing along behind our children, we see with fresh eyes the ways they have grown since our last vacation. We observe how they assert themselves in new situations.

Independence lurks at this one’s fingertips and we feel a click of confirmation that he is ready to launch. I’m reminded that we have to hold him loosely, allowing him to stretch forward toward his new adventures.

treeSummer vacations are full of potential and opportunity. It’s a time to explore and be curious, lingering over new discoveries.

We can be carefree and silly with one another as we share new experiences. frisbee fun

We play frisbee in different parks and walk miles on unfamiliar streets, soaking in the sights and sounds.

We cultivate as many family memories as we can into these precious summer moments, unifying together for the long haul of our family story. . . SQUISHING IN for all we’re worth!



“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1



A Perfect Blend of Boyhood Joy

 

The Perfect Blend of Boyhood Joy:

Hermit Crabs, Lego’s, Stuffed Animals and Forts...(just in case you need the recipe)

With my two older sons away at Scout Camp, I found a sacred little niche of time with my two younger sons. It has been unstructured and simple, just the way we all like it.  We’ve had breakfast for dinner and snacks in-between. We’ve read books, watched videos, played in the garden and even busted out the puzzles and board games.

After a couple of days of complete chill, we rallied to tackle a monumental task…their closet! It took most of a day and into the night, but they were champs at sorting, cleaning and releasing things to the recycle pile. Then they relished in how nice their room felt with its new, clean edge to it. (And so did I! Purging kiddie litter always makes me feel great!!)

During this process we stumbled onto a perfect blend that creates much joy in a young boys heart. The stuffed animals had been overwhelming us all winter, and no amount of structure seemed to contain them. We finally have found a fun summertime approach to taming our zoo!

By claiming a nook in their room, we piled it high with penguins, bears, giraffes and puppy dogs. We then grabbed some large legos, (but any building structure would work; even baby gates), and built a wall around them. It was just high enough to keep our live dogs out, but short enough that boys can step over to get in. And then it’s kind like a garden, but instead of water and sunlight, just add books, blankets and a sheet to transform or upgrade to fort status when needed. (I actually haven’t seen the boys since!!) This also keeps your couch pillows from being kidnapped for fort use because all those soft stuffed animals fit the bill perfectly.

We added to our joyful blend by taking a trip to the pet store for much-anticipated hermit crabs. The boys have been waiting patiently since March when we first started talking about them. It was a sweet surprise reward for their hard work cleaning the day before. It seems like a rite of passage to give children the chance to care and nurture a pet and keep it in their room; they return often and linger longer because of it. 

Relaxing and then cleaning out closets has  all turned out to have been quite exciting and the boys have proclaimed they have the “best room ever!” I whole-heartedly agree!  When the right combination reaches this simple level of joy, it makes you want to linger as long as you can. One day when these two are grown up, I will smile on this week and cherish every piece of it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18