Friday, December 17, 2010

Five on Friday

Today I am grateful for..

1....two smart daughters who brought home excellent report cards-Becca made honor roll again!

2...a hot cup of coffee with peppermint mocha creamer on these cold, cold mornings.

3...Kenzie's music teacher and all the kids who did a great job with the holiday concert.

4...being able to squeeze in some time to start reading again-it has been way too long!

5...being able to squeeze in some crafting too!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Poopy Game

I don't like playing the poopy game.
And what is the poopy game you ask?
The poopy game is what we have named the often times frustrating process of housebreaking the new puppy.
Said puppy is getting the hang of housebreaking. He goes to the door and whines when he needs to go potty. Which is great, right? But once outside he gets really distracted.
"Look a leaf!"
"Look a stick!"
"Look a car!"
Now I know he is just a puppy and everything is new and exciting but after wandering around the yard for 15 minutes freezing my butt off in the 20 degree (or below) weather is not my idea of a good time. If there is such a thing as ADD for puppies Tuukka surely has it.
This is the third Puppy I've gone through the housebreaking ritual with and I have never had this experience before.
So we head back in.
And within 5 minutes Tuukka is back whining at the door and we head back outside.
"Oooo look at the pretty flag blowing in the wind!"
"Oooo a leaf!"
"Ooooo there's Boomer, I'm gonna go eat his face!"
And so it goes on, in and out until he can't hold it anymore and now he's doing the poopy dance.
And finally he does his business.
Hopefully outside.
And not inside.
Right in front of the door.
Because I got sick of going in and out playing the Poopy Game.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Found this super easy and yummy cupcake idea here . Basically you cook up some chocolate cupcakes according to the package and a few minutes before they are done you stick a York mini peppermint pattie on top. Then continue baking for the remaining few minutes. In the original directions she made mini cupcakes so that the mini patties cover the whole top. I actually made full size cupcakes and sunk the patties in bit. That's all there is too it. You don't need any frosting! This is a big hit for my oldest who loves peppermint patties and doesn't like buttercream frosting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Five on Friday

Today I am grateful for....

1. ...the smell of fresh cut Christmas trees.

2.... A nice warm cup of Cocoa with Baileys Irish Cream.

3... family snuggle time while watching Holiday movies.

4. ...Receiving Christmas cards from family and friends near and far.

5. requesting home baked goodies instead of store bought ones.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The holiday spirit is in full swing here in the Ciolino household. The tree is up, the decorations are up and cards are trickling in daily from friends and family. The only thing missing is the snow.

I like having snow for Christmas and other than a few flurries and a dusting a few days ago we've got nothing. It has been really, really cold though and housebreaking a new puppy when it is 20 degrees out and windy is not my idea of fun, but it has to be done.

Along with the Christmas decorations came the arrival of our elves Deenie and Jeannie. They have been up to their ususal antics- decorating the bathroom with toilet paper, trying to go fishing in the fishtank, playing yahtzee and causing mischief in the kitchen cabinets are just a few of things they have been up to since arriving December 1st. Yesterday we caught them watching movies (Elf-of course) complete with popcorn! They also brought the new Shrek movie for the girls.

I was finally able to convince everyone to sit for 5 mins. so that I could get a picture for our Christmas card. I was getting worried that I wouldn't get one done because a certain member of the family would complain every time I even mentioned taking pictures. But it is finally done and will be sent out soon!

As the days pass I have been working on a Christmas journal from I receive daily writing prompts and phototography prompts via email. It has been kinda fun to put together.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent Calendars

Every year since Becca was little we have done an advent calendar in one form or another. Our first advent calendar had pockets just big enough for a little piece of candy. When Kenzie came along I was able to squeeze two pieces of the Celebrations candies into the pockets. Then I was unable to find the Celebrations candies anymore. We have done some different variations including Lego and littlest pet shop calendars. Then one year I found a cute wooden calendar with little doors just perfect for little treats. When we got it home we realized that it had a 21 where 12 was supposed to be, but it gave it character and no one really cared.
Unfortunately we only had that calendar for a couple of years before Boomer chewed it up do to the fact that it smelled like candy. So that left us with no calendar. In the course of a year I forgot we didn't have a calendar and had to come up with something quick this year. Thanks to the wonder of the internet I came across a cute idea using paper rolled into cones, tied with twine to hang up and numbered. It was perfect because I had everything I needed on hand and it was quick to put together.
My only dilemma was how and where to hang the cones. The ones online had them hanging from sticks or tree branches from outside but that wasn't really going to work for me. The final solution was staring me in the face. The girls have their own small artificial tree in the play area that they decorate and that is where I hung all the cones!

The cones were made with a 12 x 12 piece of scrapbook paper cut in half. Then I rolled each half into a cone and used a hot glue gun to glue it in place. I punched out some circles with a circle punched and stamped numbers onto them. I hot glued the circles to the cone. I punched a hole at the top of each cone. I tied twine around the cone and then stucked it through the hole at the top of the cone. Next I tied the twine in a loop so it could be hung up. That's it!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tree Trek 2010

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we made our annual trek to get our Christmas tree. Despite the bright sunshine it was quite cold and very breezy but that didn't stop us. We even brought Tuukka, giving him another chance to get used to riding in the car and to check out all kinds of new sights and sounds. He of course got lots of attention from all the other people out getting their trees.

After checking out several trees, we finally found that special one. Of course no tree gets to come home until it gets the official Kenzie hug of approval.
Once the tree gets the official hug Dom cuts it down..
This year we found a little suprise in the branches of our tree after we got it home. Tucked all cozy inside was a bird's nest! This has got to be a sign of good luck, right?
We ended up way back in the tree farm so it was a little bit of a trek back but no one seemed to mind. Especially Tuukka who thought it was fun to chase the tree as Dom pulled it on the sled!
And here is the finished product all lit up and ready to enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blueberry Muffin Tops

This week I've got a recipe that is not from weight watchers and not very healthy, but it is very yummy and goes great with a cup of coffee!

1 roll(16.50z.) Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 pkg cream cheese (3oz.) softened
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 to 3 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen(thawed) blueberries
Let cookie dough stand at room temp. 10 mins. to soften. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl mix 1/4 cup of the flour, sugar and butter with a fork until crumbly. Set aside to use for topping. In another small bowl, mix remaining 1 cup of flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
In medium bowl, beat dough and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. On low speed, beat in egg, milk, lemon peel and lemon juice until well blended. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Do not overmix, batter will be thick. Carefully fold in blueberries.
Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 1 to 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets. Bake 3 mins. remove from oven. Sprinkle each muffin top with about 1 tsp. crumb topping then immediately return to oven.
Bake 16-20 mins. longer or until edges begin to brown. cool on cookie sheets 2 to 3 mins. before removing to cooling racks. Serve warm or cool.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

On this Thanksgiving I have many things to be thankful for.

I am thankful that Dom and I have both of our parents, and our children have both sets of grandparents to help us celebrate.

I am thankful for the healthy birth of my great-nephew, Ari.

I am thankful for a husband who is a huge help in the kitchen.

I am thankful that we will spend lots of quality time with the kids over the next several days.

I am thankful for warm fuzzy puppies.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sicilian Sausage Stuffed Pizza

Here is another favorite from the Weight Watchers cookbook. This one is 5 points a slice.


1/2 pound fully cooked smoked chicken sausage, coarsely chopped
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms or white button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/2 recipe Basic Pizza Dough at room temp.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add mushrooms and onions to skillet. Cook stirring occasionally until mushrooms give off liquid, it evaporates and the mushrooms are golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushroom mixture to sausage; let cool. Stir in mozzarella, ricotta, and romano cheese.
Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour. Turn dough onto surface; knead lightly. Cut dough in half. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll half dough into a thin 12 inch circle. Transfer circle of dough to a nonstick pizza pan or large baking sheet, gently pulling the dough back to a 12-inch circle. Spread the filling onto the dough to 3/4 inch from the edge. Brush around the outer edge with water.
Roll remaining dough into a 12 inch circle and place on top of the filling. Press the edges together to seal, then crimp the edges/ Cut five slits in the top of the dough. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool 5-10minutes and serve hot, or let the pie cool on a rack and serve at room temperature. Cut into 8 slices.

Basic Pizza Dough


1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl combine the water, sugar,and yeast; set aside until foamy. Stir in the oil, flour,and salt until the dough starts to gather around the spoon. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 mins.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and put the dough in the bowl. Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about one hour.
Punch down the dough, then cut in half. Refrigerate or freeze in floured zip-close freezer bag at this point or use as directed in the recipe.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tuukka Time!

Last Friday we brought our new Springer Spaniel puppy, Tuukka home. He has been keeping us on the go ever since. In true puppy fashion he has completely taken over the house and our hearts. He's got lots to learn besides the obvious housebreaking, like no chewing on shoes, furniture and people and how to go up and down stairs. He's actually mastered going upstairs. Down is a little tougher, but he can do it with a little coaxing.

He loves to be outdoors chewing up sticks and leaves. He will even whine at the door because he wants to go outside, not to do his business, but just to play. And because I want to encourage him to go to the door I spend a large chunk of my day going in and out. That is all part of having a puppy though!

You can expect to see a lot more of Tuukka and his antics in the future.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eight is Great!

Mackenzie turned 8 on the 8th. She had a few friends over for an Austalian themed party complete with Koala cake!
Since her party was on the Saturday before her birthday I made cupcakes for her to take to school on her actual birthday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winning at Losing

Over the past several years I have been gaining weight and it was finally to the point that I was feeling tired and sluggish all the time. I knew I had to make some changes but I had fallen into the "I'll start tomorrow or next week" trap.
After hearing some first hand accounts from people I knew who were having success with Weight Watchers I decided to try it out. I gave myself 4 months to decide if it was going to work and would be something I would stick too.
I joined on September 10th and have lost 15 pounds so far. My clothes are getting loose and I have a ton more energy. I am feeling pretty proud of myself!

I have been trying a lot of recipes from the website and a Weight Watchers cookbook that I purchased. I have liked most all of the recipes so far but I definitely have some favorites. One of them is the Mexican Style Brown Rice Casserole. It is perfect for the cooler weather and there is enough for leftovers the next day!
So I thought I would share the recipe.


1 spray cooking spray
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/4 cups salsa
1 tsp ground cumin
15oz. can refried beans
10oz frozen corn kernels, thawed
4 oz canned green chili peppers, mild, sliced
1 Tbsp chili powder
10oz chopped frozen spinach or collard greens, thawed and set to drain in a strainer over a bowl
3/4 cups low fat shredded cheddar cheese divided
2Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped (optional for garnish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2 quart rectangular, round or oval baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine rice, salsa and cumin. Spoon 2 cups of rice mixture into prepared baking dish and spread out evenly on bottom of dish.
In another large bowl, combine refried beans, corn, chili peppers and chili powder. Using a rubber spatula, scrape bean mixture on top of rice layer and smooth out top.
Squeeze and excess water from spinach or collard greens and then spread on top of bean layer. Sprinkle with 6 Tbsps. of cheese. Top with remaining rice mixture and smooth out top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Place casserole on a large rimmed baking sheet to catch any spillage. Bake until heated through and cheese is browned and bubbling. About 30 mins. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Cut into 6 pieces and serve.
One serving is 6 points.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disney Delights

We spent last week in Disney World with Auntie Lisa and Uncle Chuck and Nonna and Nonno.
We got to trick or treat at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and get a quick visit with the Child family who were also on vacation down there too! A side trip to Universal Studios was even squeezed in so that we could check out the new Harry Potter attraction. We did a lot of stuff and even though the kids aren't big into rides we managed to get them on some. Soarin' and Toy Story Mania were two favorites that we did twice.
There was a tremendous amount of walking and waiting and late nights but the kids were real troopers and handled most of it well. There were a few grumbles now and then but no major meltdowns. Considering how far out of their element they were with the crowds, noise and constantly being on the go I am proud at how well they did.
We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in a room with a view of all kinds of animals. Here is a picture of the girls looking at a roan antelope from our balcony.

Here is the lobby of the hotel. I never took a picture of our room but it was a pretty basic hotel room with an african theme. I also didn't get a picture of the pool, but it was nice and we spent most afternoons in it for a couple of hours before dinner. Despite all the wonders of the parks the hotel pool was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Five on Friday

Today I am grateful for:

1. The miners in Chile who were all safely rescued.
2. Good friends who will take care of our pets while we are in Disney.
3. Cool, brisk fall air.
4. Living in New England so I can enjoy the fall colors in my own backyard.
5. The fall rain after such a dry summer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Puppy Power

My brother and sister-in-law recently became the proud parents of this adorable chocolate lab.
Her name is Birdie. How adorable is she taking a nap on Kenzie's lap? She was so exhausted she was snoring!

Here she is before she fell asleep. This picture was taken with my ipod touch so please forgive the quality. I try really hard not to judge cell-phone pictures and go with the importance of capturing the moment but truth be known I am a photo snob and they really bug me. I had hoped by playing around with my ipod touch camera it would change my hasn't yet. But it is convenient because it fits right in my pocket so I will continue to work on my issues.
Now there have been discussions in our house for over a year about getting a new dog after Copper passed away. I have the been the holdout because I know the bulk of the care will be mine. I had agreed to get another puppy, in the spring when it would be warmer to housebreak.
And after all our travel plans were done.
Everyone agreed....until several weeks ago when my family ganged up on me. They started surfing the internet, looking at breeders, and showing me pictures of adorable puppy cuteness.
My husband was the ring leader because he thinks I'm a sucker for animals.
Which I am. But it is unfair to use against me.
The next thing I knew we came across a listing from the same breeder that we got Boomer from and she happened to have a recent litter. And the litter had some tri-color springers.
And well the rest is history. Last weekend we drove up and picked out a puppy.
Here he is in all his fluffy, puppy cuteness:
His name is Tuukka. He is named after one of the Boston Bruins Goaltenders. Plus the name is fun to say. For any of you non-hockey fans it is pronounced Too-ka.
And here he is with his brother and sisters. He's the one on top! He is only four weeks old and will be coming home with us mid-November.

I have recently heard from Dom's sister that they too are planning on getting a new dog soon,so there must be something in the air in this family!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tomato Cage Ghost

I wouldn't let Halloween go by without a craft or two. This idea came from Family Fun magazine one of my favorite sources for kid friendly ideas. This a super easy and super quick to make.
All you need is a tomato cage, (I am sure my dad will be so proud to see that I turned the tomato cages he let me borrow into ghosts.) You 'll also need some white christmas lights- a strand of 50 is good, a white twin sheet, some twist ties and some felt or a black marker.

First you turn the tomato cage upside down. Next curve in the prongs and use the duct tape to hold them together. Once that is done, take the lights and drape them around the tomato cage.

You can use twist ties (I actually used pipe cleaners) to keep the lights in place. Now take the sheet and drape it over the frame and use the felt to cut out a face and glue it in place or you could just draw a face on with marker.
Now you will notice that my ghost has an arm. I just used a cardboard tube from wrapping paper and duct taped a ball of newspaper on the end. Then I duct taped it at an angle to the tomato cage..

And if you're really lucky you'll have a spider decide he likes to hang out on ghost for added spookiness!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Chip Muffins

Here's a nice pumpkin recipe I found for the fall. I don't usually play around with recipes but this is one I'd like to experiment with the next time as it has a lot of eggs and a lot of sugar. I did cut the sugar in half and add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon. I also substituted the eggs for egg beaters. They came out pretty good. My family ate them with no complaints, even my super pickey eater so that is a good sign. But I think I will tweak the recipe a little more the next time I make it. Any suggestions are welcome!

Here is the original recipe:

4 eggs

2 cups of sugar

1 15oz. can of pumpkin

1-1/2 cups canola oil

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, pupkin and oil until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes for until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Five on Friday

I have posted before about how I like to make lists of things that I am grateful for and that I often find it a helpful way to lift my spirits. With that said I am going to try making it a weekly thing on Friday's to list five things that I am grateful for.

1. I am grateful to have such a wonderful husband, who supports and indulges my photography
2. I am grateful to have two smart, healthy, happy, and incredible cute daughters.
3. I am grateful to my family for helping out with all our outdoor projects this summer.
4. I am grateful to my in-laws for a greatly anticipated trip to Disney.
5. I am grateful to have two awesome sisters-in-law. One who planned and took care of the
details of the Disney trip and the other who recently invited me out on a fun night in Boston to
see Wicked.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Enormous Apples

We took the kids apple picking and found that they had some enormous apples growing on some of the trees. I assume they are some kind of hybrid, I think they are called AC Macs??
Anyway, one single apple could easily make a pie, or feed a small family. Just check one out compared to a normal macintosh apple.

Enourmous, right??

And look at this one. It's as big as Kenzie's head! Okay, not really but it's still pretty big compared to her little hands.

We picked pumpkins too. Kenzie's got her pumpkin and is telling me to hurry up and take picture 'cause it's heavy!

Becca looks around to find the perfect pumpkin.

Kenzie isn't pretending to be a small child so she can fit in the wagon she is trying to keep the bags of apples from falling over!