Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bills (And Our Military. And West Herr) Make Me Wanna Shout!

Dear Girls,

Since we're talking about football, I have a story to share that warms my heart and will hopefully make you smile.  It's about my brother. My younger brother, Kevin, is a Major in the Air Force.  He's a pretty awesome guy; a C130 Navigator, son, brother, husband, dad AND Buffalo Bills fan.  I'll get to how all these relate to my story in a moment.  

My nephew, brother and sister-in-law
For as long as I can remember my brother has LOVED the Buffalo Bills.  There is a 1980's family video floating around somewhere of my brother boasting about his Christmas haul, "I got my Bills wallet, my Bills shirt, my Bills watch..." and so on.  He went to Jim Kelly football camp when he was younger.  He studied at the University at Buffalo -- close to his beloved team.  And later, when he moved away, he still made rooms in his home dedicated to the Buffalo Bills (my sister-in-law is really understanding).

This is when they lived in North Carolina.
So a few years ago my brother was finishing up a deployment to Afghanistan.  He was returning home on the heels of his 30th birthday.  It was his 5th deployment.   My sister-in-law called me and said she was going to throw a party to celebrate Kevin's return and his milestone birthday!  I asked what I could do to help and she mentioned decorations.

What kind of decorations do you get for a thirty-year-old coming home from the desert?  Well, if it's my brother, who probably still wears his Bills watch with his flight suit, you go with the Bills.

We didn't have much time to pull things together so I thought about decorations and wondered where I could get something fun.  My husband and I were coincidentally living in Buffalo at the time and were familiar with West Herr car dealership and their celebrity spokesman, Steve Tasker.  For those of you who don't know Steve, he was a superstar wide receiver / gunner for the Bills during their golden years in the 1990's.  He now also works as a broadcaster for CBS.

The one and only Mr. Tasker. 
The wheels started spinning and I thought maybe West Herr would have some promotional materials they could spare.  Or better, a stand up cutout of Steve that I could purchase.  I crossed my fingers and called the general number where I spoke to a sympathetic receptionist.  I pled my case and told her how much it would mean to my brother to have some Bills decorations at his 30th birthday/homecoming celebration.  She kindly took down my information and said someone would call me.

I wasn't sure if I'd hear back so I started looking for balloons.  Then the phone rang.  It was the Vice President of West Herr, Bill Loecher.  Here is how the conversation played out:

BL:  "Hi Carrie (I mean, Mrs. Kelly), it's Bill Loecher.  I understand you're looking for some decorations.  I have a cutout for you.  What's your nearest West Herr dealership?  I'll have it to you by the end of the day."

Me:  JUMPING UP AND DOWN "Oh my gosh! THANK YOU.  You have NO idea how much this will mean to him.  He is going to LOVE it.  And thank you so much for getting back to me this quickly!" (Remember, I only had a couple days to get this together)

BL:  "What's your brother's name again?  Steve might be in later. I'll see if he can sign the cutout."

Me:  "OH MY GOSH.  (I AM THE BEST SISTER IN THE WORLD!)  Thank you, I don't know what to say."

Later that day my husband went to pick up a cardboard Steve Tasker from our local West Herr.  Not only was the Steve signed to my brother, but along with the personalized sign came an autographed football.  I won the lottery!  Mr. Loecher called me the next day to follow up.  And if it seems like the story can't get any better, he said, "Your brother sounds like he's a big sports fan.  I've got four Sabres tickets this weekend if he'd like them."  

Yes.  Yes, he would like them. And I will like you forever.

My brother with his autographed ball from Steve Tasker
I tell this story because it restores my faith in people and businesses.  That receptionist could have dismissed my call.  But she didn't.  And the Vice President certainly did not have to call me back.  But he did.  And Steve Tasker did not have to stop everything to sign a football and a cutout.  But he did too.  Everyone went above and beyond to help a stranger.

As an older sister of a serviceman, I can tell you that having a loved one overseas has been, at times, frightening.  I have a difficult time watching the news when my brother is away.  I can't imagine what my sister-in-law and nephew go through or what so many other families experience.    I am so grateful for all our military members and those families.  Anything we can do to show support--like sending an autographed, life-sized cutout of a favorite football player--is awesome and appreciated!

Too often we hear the negative stories so I wanted to share a positive one.  

My brother and nephew sharing a meal with Steve.

My brother and I at his 30th birthday celebration!
As my brother packed up his car that night he joked, "It's going to be a long ride for Nicole (my sister-in-law) to North Carolina because Steve is riding shot gun."  I found out later that he wasn't joking (I mentioned earlier how my sister-in-law is really understanding, right?).

Are you ready for some football?  Go BILLS!  

 And, God Bless the USA, 

PS Go like our FB page to see another cool picture!  My brother had another football dream come true recently.

Mrs. Gosling comment:  I don't live in Buffalo but I am considering buying a car from West Herr.  I love that fact that they went the extra mile or "10 yard line" (if you will) to make sure that you and your brother had the best party ever.  You can't make it up, it's just good ol' fashion CARING. 

Mrs. Williams Comment:  Hey, Mrs. K. has Steve made any other appearances at family events?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What a Load of "Crock" - Chicken and Penne

Passing notes today:  Mrs. Gosling

Hello fellow pub goers (our latest blog meeting upgraded from Starbucks to the local watering hole) - 

While we were sipping our wine/beer and last of the spinach dip, us ladies discussed crock pot meals.  Exciting?  No.  Necessary? Yes.  See our little families are getting quite busy, as they tend to do and we are finding ourselves searching for easier, QUICKER meals to prepare.  Every week there is a version of chicken, pasta, Chicken, Pasta, CHICKEN, PASTA on my kitchen table.  This crowd isn't picky as long as it's hot and ready to eat.  But, I am getting sick of the same old shopping list and it's cutting into my soccer time out back, standing at the oven all night.  I need to embrace my little friend under the cabinet, THE CROCK POT.  Ironically, my mother gave it to me and my hubby before we were married to make .... well, CHICKEN!  As I was pulling out the crock pot, I had visions of football watching and comfort food. 

Can you smell that? Yup, that's the smell of yummy goodness cooking in the kitchen during a football game.   Fall = rising heating costs, pumpkin picking and non-stop football watching. Me, no.   I could care less about the sport, but I am surrounded by the other gender who love sitting on the couch and screaming at the TV. My job is to make the eats! 

So naturally, I decided to whip up some DANG THAT IS GOOD, MAKES YOU WANT TO SLAP YO' MIMI.

Mimi = My Mother

A few years back, a family friend brought this over for a party (thanks Mama Trish) and we have been enjoying it ever since.  It's good, it's easy, pretty affordable and EVERYONE loves it.  It is perfect for any gathering (especially football Sundays) and can be prepared before, refrigerated and reheated.  

Here it is:

And here is how you make it:

Pasta:  Penne or Bowtie, 1 or 2 boxes 
depending on your crockpot size
Alfredo sauce x 2
Bacon bits (optional)
Chicken breasts or tenderloins (appr. 2-4 pieces)
Emeril's All Natural Bayou Blast seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
Step 1:  Sautee' or grill the chicken 
Step 2:  Cook the pasta, drain, quick rinse with water and transfer to the crockpot
Step 3:  Combine 1.5 jars of alfredo sauce, 2 teaspoons of bayou blast, a pinch of salt and pepper
Step 4:  Let sit in the crockpot for 1 hour, 10 minutes before serving add the other .5 jar of alfredo sauce and bacon bits
If you prefer to make the meal before hand, place all the ingredients in the fridge for up to 2 days.  Transfer to the crockpot and heat for 2 hours.  Serve warm, salt and pepper to taste.  The bayou blast has a kick to it, if you want it spicier .... ADD more!

PS - if you want, leave the chicken out and make this a vegetarian meal.  You could add your favorite seasonings and pair with a hearty salad, for an excellent meal! 
Here it is again:

Oh yea, so I thought that I was pretty cool with my crock pot meal but then I realized that I don't compare to these ladies.  Check them out.  They are two moms that started crock pot "mealing" Their quest for easy, quick meals has gone viral in the social media world.  Now look at them, over 600,000 likes on Facebook and growing.  Way to go ladies!  Check out their website for family and budget friendly meals of all kinds! 

Crockin' Girls

What are you cooking up?  Or, throwing in a big metal pot, plugging in and dishing out? 

Off to watch the game and dive into the crockpot,

Mrs. Williams Comment:  Yum, Mrs. G.  that does look so good that I would slap your Mimi - wait, maybe not.  I'm also impressed with the crockpot ladies.  I'm wondering, have you come across a blog about take-out ladies?  That's something I can really relate to.

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  What a sweet nod to your mom.  Did you and your siblings come up with that touching title?  :)  The recipe sounds great and you're right, perfect for a football afternoon.  I'm going to retitle it for my husband-- Dang That Is Good - Makes You Want To Clean the Bathroom For Your Wife.  :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Football Party Invite

 Passing notes today:  Mrs. Williams

Hey Girls, 

In the spirit of football season, I thought I'd share an idea for a football party invitation and/or a place card.  My son and I made these last year after he brought home a party planning book from the library (I mentioned his nonfiction ways in a note I passed before).  Last winter, he wanted to have a Superbowl party and since I love the dips and snacks associated with cheering for a football team, I was totally willing to help him put it all together.  Here's the invitation we made last February:

These invitations are the hand-deliver kind.
We did a bunch to prepare for that Superbowl party aside from the invitations.  We bought Dollar Store decorations (real highbrow, I know), made a football pinata, prepared snacks and food, and then...the boys got sick. canceled!    

My oldest son has not let his football-party-dreams die.  So this weekend we put together some football party supplies and turned those invitations into place cards.  If you'd like to have a party of your own or if you've always wanted a way to use the free artificial turf samples at Home Deport, read on.
All you ned is some Magic clay, white out, pipe cleaners, tape, hot glue, and some turf samples from Home Depot.  Yes, I took this many samples.  Yes, I looked like a crazy lady.  Yes, I just walked in, took them, and left.

First, I used masking tape to create lines on the turf.

Then, I dabbed some White Out along the lines.

My son made some air-dry-clay footballs.

I used a single pipe cleaner to fashion a goal post and hot glued it down on the turf.

My son made some flags for the place cards.  We just used a coffee stirrer for the handles.

We ended up getting our football on and fashioned some plasticware settings with a strip of football paper from Michaels.

I recruited my husband to make the football field table runner out of wrapping paper.
Now we're totally ready for a football party.  What are you two doing next Sunday?  I hope our fake husbands show up because we have place cards for them.

See you then,

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  I want to come!

Mrs. Gosling comment:  Ryan and I will be there ... leaving the kids at home!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Thanksgiving Kids' Table the Kids Can Make

Passing notes today:  Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Kelly


So, Mrs. Kelly got us brainstorming about a Thanksgiving kids' table.  Then, she got us really rolling when she made a Mayflower centerpiece.  She was inspired by a pricier version she had seen at Potter Barn Kids.  I'll let her fill you all in on that later though.

Once her Mayflower was complete, she left it at my house and I got started on all the other elements of the Thanksgiving kids' table.  Here's the thing, they're all super kid-friendly to create.  In fact, my oldest son did a ton of the Thanksgiving table prep.  He was just super confused about why we were doing it so early.  I tried to explain that it was all for you guys, but he still wasn't sold.  Even if he's not a Naptime Notebook fan, he is an awesome helper.  Check out what we made.

  • A roll of craft paper
Well, it doesn't get easier or more kid friendly than this...roll out some craft paper to create a Thanksgiving table"cloth."

Leaf Garland
  • Twine
  • Leaves
  • Mini-clothespins
All you need to do is collect a few leaves, tape up some twine, and clip them in place.  So easy and festive.

My little guy was so excited that he photo bombed this picture.

Napkin "Rings"
  • Tan Ribbon
  • Yellow Paper
  • Napkins and Silverware
I was inspired by a Pilgrim's hat and thought that the buckles could make a cute looking napkin ring.  I had my son cut out the some squares and cut two vertical slits along the side.  Then, he weaved the ribbon through the buckle.  I tied the back and just like that, we were done.

Sail Straws
  • Straws
  • White paper
  • Marker
In less than a few minutes you, too, can have yourself some sail straws.  I just had my little helper cut out the sail pattern, cut some slits in the sail, and pop it onto the straws.  Oh, and he added some stitching detail around the edges to look like Mrs. K.'s sails on the centerpiece.

Coloring Activity
  • Coloring Pages (printed from the internet)
  • Scrapbook Paper
  • Crayons
  • Glue
We all know the kids will be up and out of their seats in no time on Thanksgiving.  So, we created a coloring activity using coloring pages we printed from the internet (in hopes of keeping them all busy).  I cut out two different sized pieces of scrapbook paper and my son glued them down to make a pocket for the coloring page and one for the crayons.  Now, if only keeping the kids away from the adult table was that easy.

Name Tags
  • Twine
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Marker
OK, so remember how my son was confused about the timing of this project?  Well, he was even more confused about the names I had him create for the name tags.  Try explaining the idea of a fake husband to a six-year-old...not pretty.  Making these name signs?  Pretty easy.  Just cut out some triangles for each letter in the child's name, write the name, and tape them along some twine strung up on the back of each chair.

And just like that, our crafting and tablescaping was complete.  Now, our kids' table is set and ready for the big feast (unless, of course, you were expecting that cool centerpiece back Mrs. Kelly).  I'm actually looking forward to the day even more now.  

Thanksgiving Placesetting Kids

The good thing is that I think there's still time to make some turkey or pilgrim hats for the kids to wear (and hate me for later).

Happy crafting,

Mrs. Gosling comment:  Awwwww, you made a seat for Ryan.  I will have to give him a call tonight and let him know!  Great job ladies.  I LOVE the teamwork and creativity.  The best part is, while the parents are sipping on some vino and talking about the "ol' days" ... the kids can be QUIETLY(?) coloring and talking about the maiden voyage to the promised land.  Food, geography, history and family!  Just what every holiday needs!!!

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  Two things I love about this: 1.) The kids CAN do this.  They can go retrieve leaves while you are cooking, or watching the parade.  And, 2.) This was done on the cheap.  The only cost was paper and ink...and a basket if you don't have one.  Nicely done.  Also, I'm digging those mini-clothespins.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Roll

Passing notes today:  Mrs. Gosling


This time of year is very exciting for our family.  Things I'm excited about:  the kids are back to school, everyone has the new routine down, my husband's birthday and of course, Pumpkin Roll

My Mother-in-Law makes a pumpkin roll that you would wait in line for.  And, my husband patiently waits for it every autumn.  He also reminds me that mine just doesn't have it like his mother's.  I can't disagree, hers is better.  I don't know if it's the fact that someone else made it or she just has that motherly touch.  Either way, I hope you like it, make it and share it.  Pay it forward and give this recipe to everyone you know - you will become their favorite person.

Pumpkin Roll

3 large eggs
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (I use 1 bag of nut topping)


2 teaspoons softened butter or margarine
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon molasses

Whipping Cream for topping:  Optional

1 pint size of heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip for 3 minutes on medium speed, anything over that and just might get butter

Grease a 10 x 15 cookie sheet with shortening (cooking spray).  Line with wax paper and then grease again.  Mix all the cake ingredients together at a medium speed until the mixture has a smooth consistency.  Pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread with a spatula until evenly distributed.  Adds nuts uniformly over the mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back. 

After letting the cake rest for 1 minute, lightly flip onto a lightly sugared kitchen towel.  (Do not use terry cloth, it will stick)  Immediately roll cake lengthwise, with towel, and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

Beat all the filling ingredients until smooth.  Unroll cake (don't worry if there is a little cracking, unroll it slowly) spreading the filling over the whole thing.  Re roll the cake up, without towel.  Wrap in foil and refrigerate until needed.  You can make this 1 or 2 days in advance, the longer it sits the better it tastes. 



Our pumpkin roll usually doesn't make it 24 hours in this house, but there are times that I give this as a gift.  You can easily wrap it in something you have at the house.  I put this one in aluminum foil and Kraft paper.  I then wrapped it with a small piece of twine and put a little note on it, with chalkboard paper (purchased at Michael's).  You could wrap it in parchment paper, any wrapping paper, a gift bag ... etc. 

Serves 10 people or 1 really anxious and grateful Son.

Happy Baking,

Mrs. Williams comment:  I'd like to test that theory about when someone else makes the Pumpkin Roll for you, it's just better.  So, feel free to stop by with a roll anytime Mrs. G.

Mrs. Kelly Comment:  Um, should I start calling you Ina? Do you and Jeffrey, I mean, Ryan, drive around the Hamptons visiting quaint little wine and cheese shops in your Beamer?  Ok, so maybe I'll switch out my standard Libby Pumpkin Roll recipe this year.  I love the way you packaged that.  You made someone REALLY happy.  Also, there are some pretty pictures in there but my favorites are the one of the pumpkin roll and the little guy in the background...and the single shot of heavy cream  :)

Mrs. Gosling comment:  Ina and Jeffrey are in Paris this week.  They asked me to go but I was too busy estate sale-ing and canning tomato sauce for the upcoming winter.  Ryan and I will have to catch up with them later.  Oh, the life of a JetSetter!!! 

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