Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Butterfinger Cupcakes

A few weeks ago, I made these oh so yummy cupcakes!

My friend, Jenna, had told me about these, so I was off to search the internet for the recipe. I found a few recipes on Blooming Foodie and Your Cup of Cake.

They are a bit of work, but they are worth it! (That is, if you are not on a diet. I can't make them while I'm trying to be good!)

If you try them, you'll have to let me know what you think!

Butterfinger Cupcakes

Caramel Sauce
½ can sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg. caramels (unwrapped from wrappers)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Devil’s Food Cake Mix
3 eggs
½ cup water
¼ cup milk
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
½ can sweetened condensed milk
Caramel Sauce (homemade recipe above or store bought)

Butterfinger Buttercream
4 Butterfingers
¾ cup butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 ½- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffins tins with cupcake liners.

Caramel Sauce: If you are not using store bought caramel, make caramel by heating the caramels and sweetened condensed milk. Let boil for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

Cake: Lightly beat eggs, water, milk, and oil together. Stir in vanilla and sour cream and cake mix.

Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 13-18 minute or until a knife comes out clean. While cupcakes are in the oven, pour caramel sauce into a squeeze bottle with a small tip if available. (Believe me, this will make the process a whole lot easier!)

While cupcakes are still hot, fill with condensed milk/caramel mixture by pushing the tip of the squeeze bottle into them or use a knife to cut out a shallow hole at the top of each cupcake and spoon mixture into the hole. Keep cupcakes in airtight containers until ready to decorate.

Butterfinger Buttercream:
Unwrap the Butterfingers and do your best to shave off the chocolate layer. Take the orange middles and crush in a bowl on in a plastic bag. Sift as much of the candy as possible.
You want to get about ½ cup of orange Butterfinger powder.
Beat butter and cream cheese for 5 minutes. Add as much powdered sugar as desired and milk. Add the sifted Butterfinger and beat well.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and use the chocolate shavings and the parts that were too big to sift to decorate.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

16 Years And Counting...

On Friday, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary! We've had a pretty laid-back weekend, but it's been great. The boys went to Texarkana with my niece, so we had time to go on two dates in one weekend! WOW! I don't think that's happened since we've had children! :) But it has been very quiet & a little strange not having them around! I'm ready to see them tonight!

On Friday night, we went to Nacogdoches and enjoyed a meal at Clear Springs.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, we drove to Shreveport to meet our dear friends, Kim & Eric, who not only share our names but also our anniversary! We ate at the Boardwalk with them at Saltgrass Steakhouse! Yum!!! We had a wonderful time visiting with our friends, too!


How time passes so quickly! I can’t believe it’s been 16 years ago today that we walked down the aisles of Rose Hill Baptist Church to get married!

What a wonderfully perfect day it was…

…Until you had to cut through that web of yarn & pulled me down those stairs on the way to the car and...

I fell! I’ll never forget that HUGE bruise on my leg!

And I’m still upset that we didn’t get it on video so we could enter it into AFV! :)

I guess you can say I’ve been “falling for you ever since.” (That sounds like a pun you would say—I’m proud of that one!)

So in honor of our 16 years together, I came up with 16 reasons I'm thankful for you, my sweet husband...

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

1. I love it when you sing songs to me! You have such a beautiful voice, and I’m thankful you are using your talents for the Lord!
2. I love how you spoil me and the boys!
3. I love your sense of humor! You make me laugh all the time!!
4. I love it when you give me your undivided attention! With a life in the ministry and two boys, it doesn’t happen too often, so it’s a very special treasure!
5. I’m thankful that you don’t complain when the house gets messy and the dishes get piled a little too high. (Well, sometimes you do complain a little about the dishes, but I am doing a lot better about keeping them in check.)
6. I love it when you wrestle and act silly with our boys! They absolutely adore you and I do too!
7. I’m so thankful that early in our marriage we decided it was your duty and privilege to handle all the bills. Thank you for taking care of our finances. It’s so nice that I don’t have to worry with them!
8. I’m thankful that you are as frugal as I am! (Isn’t that a nice way of saying we’re both pretty tight?)
9. Thank you for always taking care of the “gross” jobs like cleaning toilets, taking out the trash, mopping, killing bugs, etc.
10. Thank you for being a peacemaker.
11. I’m thankful that you love to travel as much as I do! And that you like to drive when we do because there’s nothing like sleeping while traveling! 
12. I’m thankful that you are a servant-leader and that you are teaching our boys to serve as well!
13. I’m thankful that you like my cooking…and I love it when you cook for us—especially when you grill! You are a good cook!
14. I’m thankful that you have such a love for learning. Sometimes I don’t really enjoy the History Channel or “How Things are Made” or “Modern Marvels” or “Mythbusters,” but now that we are homeschooling, I can see the value in them. I love how Evan (and sometimes Ethan if he stops long enough from playing) enjoys learning right along with you.
15. I love how kind-hearted you are and how you are always thinking of others before yourself.
16. I’m thankful that you let us take that giant leap of faith as a family just last year at this time for me to quit my (paying) teaching job to stay at home and teach Evan (and Ethan a little bit). This year at home has been hard work and a learning experience, but it has been the absolute biggest blessing for our family.

You are truly a fine Christian man, and I am honored to be your wife!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Sweet Boys

I'm so thankful for my two boys...

Ethan, I love the way you are such a free spirit...

I love to see your imagination run wild...

I love to see you explore nature...

The way you make up stories about anything and everything...

I love your contagious smile and laugh...

Evan, I love how you are growing up into such a young gentleman...

I love how you do NOT like your picture taken anymore but you let me take it anyway...

I love how you are trying to have Justin Beiber hair...

And I love your contagious smile & laugh, too!

I love you, Evan and Ethan!
I'm so thankful that God created each of you to be in our family!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dewberry Jelly by Eric

Eric & Evan recently discovered a dewberry patch behind our house. They decided to pick berries to make some jelly. Eric did this a few years ago and made a huge mess because the sugar/berry mixture boiled over. He learned to take the mixture off of the heat this time & didn't make much of a mess at all. He was quite proud of himself! And we are all enjoying the fruits of his labor. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

HARD Life Lessons

I know our children have to grow up, but I really don’t like it.

I know it’s our job as parents to train our children in the way they should go… (Proverbs 2:6).

And I know it’s so important to help them through difficult times, but it’s hard.

HARD when the world is so ugly and mean and full of evil.

That’s what we’ve had to face with our 12-year old this past week. One of his sweet friends was not just killed in a house fire. And not just sweet Guinevere but her younger brother and her mom too. Authorities say it was not just a house fire but a “brutal triple homicide.”

Not something that I can even wrap my mind around, much less help a 12-year old wrap his mind around! And the news continues to bring it up OVER and OVER and OVER. At first, we tried to keep him from watching it, but the more we talked with him, the more he wanted to talk. And then he said he wanted to go to the funeral. He NEVER wants to attend visitations or funerals (something we do have to do more often than a lot of people with his daddy being in the ministry).

So we decided to do whatever we could to make that happen. Fortunately, the timing worked out for us to travel to Texarkana to go. And we were so thankful we did. To hear some of the miraculous stories of God’s timing and hope made it more bearable.

Let me first introduce you to sweet Guinevere from Evan’s point of view.

Evan first met Guinevere in his kindergarten class…he, Guinevere, and Desean became instant best buddies for the next 3 years! Even if they were not in the same class, they still played together every day on the playground. She made Evan homemade Valentine & birthday cards because she said he was the only boy that wasn’t “mean and gross.”

Two special memories stick out for me…when she came to his 8th birthday party…all dolled up with his special birthday card & gift. She was a little sweet on him, I think. J

In 3rd grade, they ended up going to different schools, but they didn’t forget each other. She called him one time because she missed him. And then Evan wanted to invite her to his birthday party. She couldn’t come that day, so she called & asked him to play putt-putt with her at the mall.

Being the very conservative parents that we are, we were really debating but we thought it would be ok. It turned out that I had something to do, so Daddy had to take him. He had to sit & visit with her mom the whole time they played. They had the best time! Sweet memories!

That was the last time they saw each other because we moved out of town that summer. But every once in a while, we would talk about her…we’d find a card or letter or see a picture that reminded us of his precious friend.

And then last Wednesday morning, we got the call from my parents that there had been a horrible house fire…that’s all we knew at the time. I’m so glad Daddy got the call at work & then called me. I don’t think I would have handled it by myself really well. I knew something was wrong when his voice was quivering & he started crying… “It’s Guinevere,” he said.

My thoughts couldn’t focus much the rest of the day. We talked to Evan at lunch. He was pretty much in shock until the next day when his emotions got the best of him.

Such a hard life lesson to learn at such a young age!

I remember one of my band friends dying in a car wreck when I was a junior. I can still remember where I was when I learned the news. I will never forget it.

So back to the funeral…two stories will stick with us forever! Testimonies of God’s sovereignty.

First, one of the preachers told us that Guinevere just got baptized on Easter Sunday! Just 17 days before the tragedy! God was working on her! She was so active in Awana, learning about God and memorizing scriptures! Praise the Lord!

But that story pales in comparison to this one…

Within hours of the fire starting, all sorts of investigators set up camp at the scene…not only local authorities but the Texas Rangers and the ATF. They combed the ashes foot by foot, scooping up the ashes & taking them to the back yard & sifting them to see if they could possibly find any “evidence” to help them solve this crime. It was only AFTER every square inch of the house was combed by the investigators that the family got to walk around the remains of the house. It was during that time that Guinevere’s stepdad kicked over a pile of ashes and a bag fell over. The drawstring bag disintegrated from the heat, but inside was a t-shirt with something wrapped up inside of it…Guinevere’s Bible and her little green Gideon Bible that she got at school as a 5th grader!

God’s word was NOT destroyed! A little wet from the water from the fire fighters…but both were completely intact!

(I can't help but wonder how those Bibles got wrapped in the t-shirt and placed in that bag. I wonder if she had it ready for Awana that night...we'll never know.)

Bro. Farrin said that her stepdad had been praying and pleading with God to give them some sign that He was with them…and there it was! Guinevere’s Bibles!

Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my WORDS will never pass away!”

HOPE for the family. HOPE for us!

When we think there is no hope, no peace, we can rest assured that God’s WORDS are “alive and active.” His WORD will always give us hope! His WORD will help us through any trial or trouble…no matter how hard they are!

Thank you, dear Lord, for giving us a glimpse of Your presence in the midst of this horrible tragedy!

Guinevere, so many people will miss your sweet friendship. But we pray that your testimony and God’s gift to your family of His HOPE through your Bible surviving the fire will bring many others to His saving grace!

“And we know that in all things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cupcakes with Oreos & M&M's

OK, I've had this cupcake obsession since I took my cake decorating classes last summer! I enjoy baking & decorating cakes, but I really like making cupcakes even better! For on they are a lot easier to decorate than an entire cake! And sometimes you don't feel quite as guilty eating a cupcake for some reason. :)

So my friend, Jenna, has been experimenting with all sorts of cupcake recipes & it has been tempting me! So I decided I needed to try some too! I just had to find some reason to make & take them somewhere because I can't make them & keep them all here! WAY TOO TEMPTING!

First, I made M&M Cupcakes because I had a big bag of M&M's sitting around that kept begging me to eat them. Instead, I just found a recipe to use them in!

M&M's on top & inside!

TIP: I learned a trick from reading some blogs...if you mix just a tablespoon of flour with the "mix-in" (M&M's, Oreos, or whatever you want to mix in the cupcake batter) before you pour it in the batter, then it will keep the "mix-in" from dropping to the bottom of the cupcake. It really worked pretty well! I just love learning tricks like that!

Next, I made these scrumptious Oreo Cupcakes...

Oreos on the top...

And Oreos in the middle AND on the bottom...YUM!

I'll post the recipes soon...I'm off to watch American Idol with my sweet husband!

***OK, it's now Thursday, & I'm posting the recipes for those who might like to try these.***

Oreo Cupcakes

ADAPTED from Beantown Baker


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour, plus 2 Tbsp for the Oreo chunks
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup sugar

1/3 c. plain yogurt

1 pkg. instant white chocolate pudding

4 large eggs

1 pkg Oreo Cookies (~45 cookies)

Preheat over to 325F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.

Twist apart 24 Oreos. Place the wafer with filling on it, filling side up, in the bottom of each paper liner. Cut 12 of the other wafers in half. Save these 24 halves to place in the frosting.

Crush the other wafer halves, also for garnishing.

Cut the remaining Oreo cookies into quarters with a sharp knife. Toss with 2 Tbsp flour and set aside. (This helps them not drop to the bottom of the batter.)

In a large bowl cream the butter until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix until integrated. Stir in sugar. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat for 30 seconds. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs. Beat for 2 more minutes. Stir in the quartered cookies.

Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in the pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese at room temp
1 stick butter at room temp
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4-5 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).

Add vanilla extract. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Assembling the cupcakes

Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with crushed Oreos and place 1/2 of an Oreo on the frosting of each cupcake.

M & M's Cupcakes

1 package French Vanilla cake mix
1 package vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 1/4 cup M&Ms (toss 2/3 cup of M&M in 1 T. flour to keep from falling to bottom of batter)

Preheat oven to 325F.
Line two 12-cup muffin pans and one 6-cup pan with cupcake paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, flour, milk, oil, yogurt, and eggs.
Beat with an electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Then beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.
Quickly fold in 2/3 cup M&M's and divide among muffin cups
Sprinkle a few more candies on top of each.
Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until cupcakes are fully risen and golden brown on top.
Remove and let cool.
Frost each cupcake with cream cheese frosting. (The same as the Oreo Cupcake recipe.)
Sprinkle remaining M&M's on top.

Adapted from The Cupcake Club.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Memory Verse #10

Wow! I can't believe we are already up to our 10th verse for the year! I hope you are striving to hide God's word in your heart this year as well. I just told Evan today that we have not been practicing our verses this month as diligently as we have in the past. We better get back on track! We don't want to let that ugly devil get a foothold & trip us up! :)

So here's my verse this time...it's the 2nd verse of the passage I started last time. I'll just go ahead & post them both. They are great!

Psalm 32:7-8
7 You are my hiding place;
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.

I'd love to hear the verse that you are memorizing...will you please leave me a comment?

Easter Egg Hunt

We were honored to be invited to an Easter Egg Hunt with some of our new friends from church. Allison told us that her parents have hosted huge Easter Egg Hunts since she was a little girl, and now they enjoy doing it for their grandchildren and friends. We all had a wonderful time! And, oh my, did they have a huge table of tasty sweet treats!

The Easter Bunny entertained the kids...I think he was probably exhausted after all the children chased him everywhere!
Ethan found a tree to climb...He spent most of his time in the tree or with the balloon animals.
What a good-natured daddy...Randy made balloon animals over & over for the kids.
One of Ethan's balloon swords...he kept popping it & Randy would kindly make him a new one.
Who's that cool kid?
Waiting patiently for the egg hunt...

Still waiting...
Searching for eggs...
Fighting over the eggs...luckily there was one for each of them.
Oh, what a day! I'm tired!
Thank you, Sculls, for inviting us! We had a wonderful time!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why We Decided to Homeschool

Kelly’s Korner had a “Show Us Your Life” about homeschooling, so I thought I’d write a little about our decision to homeschool.

If you would have asked me my opinion about homeschooling 2 years ago, my answers would have been dramatically different than they are now.

Several circumstances led us to our decision to bring Evan home from public school to teach him at home for his 6th grade year. It all started when I read Sally Clarkson’s book, the Mission of Motherhood, last fall (2009). This was the book that our ladies decided to study on Wednesday nights at church, but I couldn’t join them on the discussions because I was in our handbell group that met at the same time for practice.

This book changed my life!

I had never heard of Sally Clarkson before, but let me just tell you that this author put into words what I’ve felt for the past ten years as I tried to balance all of my roles as a wife, mom, and teacher to the best of my ability! Early in the book she talked about having a “divided heart.” It was then that I started dreaming of the idea that we could actually homeschool Evan & bring our family closer together. (Not to mention that we had become friends with a family just the summer before that had homeschooled for 8 years and totally admired their children!)

Another major influence on our decision is the fact that Evan has dyslexia and has struggled with academics as a result. He is very intelligent but his gifts are not in writing and reading—but if you ask him to explain something to you, he’ll talk your ear off! He maintained an A/B average because we were always staying on top of his assignments and stayed in close contact with his teachers. However, that daily struggle & homework until bedtime was really wearing on all of our nerves.

We also could see how he was being affected by the “worldly” influences at school. It is our heart’s desire that both of our boys grow up to have a love for Jesus and live godly lives. Each year, we could see more & more of the world creeping in on his thoughts & attitudes. We wanted to be able to teach both boys about God’s word every day and teach them about things that have eternal significance. However, with our busy jobs & his homework load, the most important things would often get neglected for the daily deadlines of homework & tests.

After SEVERAL months of prayer, research, and late-night discussions with my husband, we decided God was indeed leading us to take a HUGE step of faith & homeschool Evan. This would mean that I would quit my teaching job of 17 years & live on Eric’s church income. This made us very nervous, to say the least! But we felt that if God was leading us to this decision, then He would help us make it financially!

And I am happy to say that we have survived this first year with so blessings! I can’t say that it’s always been easy…some people have told me that homeschooling is not for the faint of heart! Boy, is that true! Some days it’s extremely difficult. But the positives definitely far outweigh the negatives!

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Evan’s confidence & love for learning is slowly coming back!
  • We have had much more quality family time.
  • We are able to travel when necessary without Evan “missing” school.
  • We have memorized a ton of scripture!
  • We have all learned a lot about so many topics & have enjoyed several field trips as a family!
  • Ethan loves “learning” with us!
  • We have made some really neat friends that we would never have met otherwise!
  • The flexibility and freedom are amazing!

We said we would try this for a year and see how it helped Evan, and we have decided since it’s gone so well this year, then we will do it again next year. Ethan is still too young to start school, so we’ll just have to keep praying about that decision.

This just barely scratches the surface of all the thoughts & discussions that we’ve had about homeschooling…perhaps I’ll share more soon.

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Homemade Granola

I came across a Homemade Granola Recipe on the Life As Mom blog that sounded really interesting. I started searching for other recipes. I took what looked good on each of the recipes and came up with my own. I also had to use what I had on hand. I only had peanuts and pumpkin seeds. I didn’t have any almonds, sesame seeds, or sunflower seeds, but I definitely want to use them next time I make it. This was really good…especially with vanilla yogurt! Eric liked it with milk too!

Honey Granola Recipe:

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 cup whole raw almonds

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup canola oil or ¼ cup butter

1/2 cup honey

¼- ½ cup pure maple syrup

½ cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, and/or raisins) (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Either butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I used aluminum foil & sprayed it with Pam.)

In a large bowl combine the rolled oats, nuts, seeds, ground cinnamon, and salt.

In a small saucepan, stirring constantly, bring just to a boil the water, oil, honey, syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and toss together, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the liquid. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 - 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the mixture browns evenly. (The browner the granola gets (without burning) the crunchier the granola will be.) Place on a wire rack to cool. You will notice that the granola may still be sticky when it is removed from the oven but it will become crisp and dry as it cools. Make sure to break up any large clumps of granola while the mixture is still warm. Once the granola has completely cooled, store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.

Serve with dried or fresh fruit and milk.

Makes about 6 cups.

You could find other recipes at www.joyofbaking.com and www.lifeasmom.com.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cottage Garden Awards Assembly

Last week, we went to the end-of-the-year Awards Assembly at Cottage Garden. It was truly a special ceremony where the teachers recognized students for their achievements. We enjoyed visiting with our friends, but we were a little sad because we won't get to be a part of it next year. Since we moved to Center, it's just too far to drive every week. It has been a wonderful experience & we met some wonderful people!

Here are some pictures from the evening...

We were a little worried how Ethan would act on stage but he did a great job!
The opening prayer...

Ethan's pre-school class sang a song for us. Ethan was a little embarrassed at first.
Now he's starting to sing...
He received a Pre-school certificate & "Science goggles" since they learned so much about scientific investigation this year.
Of course, he had to play with the goggles during the rest of the ceremony.
Don't I look cute?
I absolutely love his crooked smile!
The middle school students...of course, Evan had to sit on the back row, making it difficult for me to get good pictures.
Evan said he was so nervous to get up in front of everyone. He was receiving an award from Mrs. Sparks for his social studies class. He also received an award for achieving the goals for his Fit to Serve class. He had to memorize scripture, exercise, and do community service each week. We were proud that he memorized all of Romans 12 and Ephesians 6:10 -20 (the Armor of God passage) this year.
Ethan's best buddy, Kaitlyn!
Ethan absolutely loved Miss Rae Lynn. Every time we would talk about her, he would get this huge grin on his face! She is truly gifted to work with the little ones.
Evan's buddies, Hayden & Mac.
Evan & I both enjoyed getting to know Hayden's mom, Keli Sparks, this year! She was his Social Studies teacher & I had the opportunity to work with her during Boys' Club.

I don't know how I didn't get a picture of Jennifer, my carpooling buddy until we moved. I'm so thankful that we got to ride together during first semester! We especially looked forward to our excursions to Sonic on the way home each week for half price drinks! Wonderful memories with a wonderful friend!

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