Monday, October 31, 2011

Monster Munch!

I don't do scary...ask anyone who knows me. But for some reason, Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I always loved that time of year at school because everything was fall themed--bulletin boards, art projects, activities, games, etc. Now I'm the teacher, and let me just say; not a day has gone by since the first day of fall that my preschoolers haven't done something in our class with a fall theme. Skeletons made from pasta noodles, ghosts made from bowls and tissue paper, bats made form toilet paper rolls...we definitely played to the theme. We even have a class scarecrow that we named "Macaroni Puppy" teachers we are encouraged to allow for creative thinking and teamwork. This was a unanimous decision made by seventeen 3-year-olds. How could we say no?

Our preschool Halloween party was this past Friday. I imagine the school decided a party for a holiday centered around sugar and costumes would be much better suited for a Friday than a Monday, the day Halloween happened to fall on this year. The kids were absolutely precious. With a few Buzz Lightyears, 2 firemen, several Disney princesses, 3 puppies, and a few others; I felt like I was on the set of a Disney movie. My co-teacher and I both joined in on the fun. I've always been one for dressing up. I dressed up as a ladybug, and she as a Ninja Turtule, Michelangelo to be specific. The Ninja Turtle costume really dated both of us, when we realized none of our sweet little friends were familiar with this teenage mutant.
The dynamic preschool teaching duo!
One of my favorite things about Halloween is the candy! I'm a sucker for anything chocolate. But my favorite thing is the seasonal candy, and by this I mean candy corn! I was at a tailgate a few weeks ago in Auburn and there was a sweet and salty mix that immediately caught my eye, because of the candy corn of course! So after eating enough handfuls to hold me over until next Halloween, I took a mental picture of this delicious concoction and decided to create my own! I went and visited one of my dear friends, Taylor last weekend in Atlanta. Our friends are good at many things, one of which is eating. So I decided this would be a perfect time to try out my new mix. It travels well too! Oh...and i decided it deserved a proper title as well. So I dub this fall mix, "Monster Munch!" Enjoy! Happy Halloween!

Monster Munch
Life cereal
Graham Cracker Goldfish (Honey and/or Chocolate)
Caramel Corn (I used pecan--if you like it nutty!)
Candy Corn
Reeses' Pieces

Mix all of these ingredients in a big bowl and ta-dah! You have your very own Monster Munch! Best part about this recipe? Not only is it super easy, but you get to decide the measurements! In my opinion...the more Reese's Pieces the better!

Munch ingredients
Monster Munch!
Taylor and I in Atlanta! I think we ate half of the jar...oops!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nordstrom says it perfectly

I am a big believer in celebrating holidays one at a time. It makes my skin crawl when I see holiday items and decorations in stores and displayed on lawns a good month (sometimes longer) before the holiday. However, the worst is right around this time of year when three holidays fall very close together: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I love holidays, and I love decorating for them even more. But sometimes people jump the gun and go straight from singing summer songs about the beach to singing Jingle Bells and I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus. I love Christmas music too, but pump the brakes folks. You can still listen to your music after Thanksgiving, the lyrics will not change. And as for you early decorators, your inflatable Santa and accompanying reindeer don't need to go out any earlier than they have to. I'm doing you a favor by sharing this me on this one.

If you think I feel strongly about this, you should meet my dad. Halloween has always been one of his favorite holidays, which is kind of funny if you know my dad. That is probably the last holiday I would ever choose for him as a "favorite". He told us this week, "I love Halloween. I do it big on Halloween. Open the door, put out a bowl of candy, and listen for trick or treaters." Real "big" huh? From the sound of it, he likes Halloween because it requires very little of him. 

When my sister in law told us about a sign she saw in the window at Nordstrom, I immediately searched for it on Google. If my dad had the means to do so, he would have this copied and reposted in store windows throughout the United States. Wouldn't even be surprised if he came up for one similar to hang on our door. Thank you for this, Nordstrom. I couldn't agree more. Happy Halloween! (the next big holiday)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The baby's growin' up

Today the baby of the family turned 19 years old. I still can't believe he is 19 and in college! This is the first birthday he has spent away from home. My parents are convinced he is feeling the sadness of not being with his family on his birthday for the first time, but I am convinced they are the sad ones and they are just hoping he feels the same way. Seeing that he spent a fun weekend with some of his new pledge brothers in Birmingham, I have a hard time believing he didn't enjoy his birthday weekend. Although I know my parents will read this, so for their comfort, I'm sure he missed a home cooked birthday dinner prepared on the red "You Are Special Today" plate. McKinney family tradition. 

The birthday boy
He is truly a joy in our family and brings lots of smiles and laughter. I envy his wit and humor and energetic outlook on life. He is always fun to be around...unless: 1) Auburn has lost 2) he has gotten an inadequate amount of sleep or 3) you make a comment about him being on his phone or his inability to take care of it.

I have always been like a "mother" to David. I have had a motherly sense about me ever since I was little and when David was born, he wasn't just a baby brother to me, he was a real live baby doll! Sometimes my parents had to step in and kindly remind me who his parents were. They still have to do this from time to time. When I played "house", he was my child. When I played "dentist" (yes, I played dentist) he was my patient. When I played "beauty shop" he was my model. My older brother joined in for this fun. We actually dressed David up, painted his nails, and did his makeup. Oh, and we named him Barbara. As David got older, my mom told us Barbara would be no more. When I played "school", he was my student. I made him call me Mrs. Landers, and I also gave him tests...I graded them harshly. I vividly remember one time in the playroom (A.KA. my classroom), David didn't do well on one of my test and I wrote an "F" on his paper and told him I would be calling his mother. I wasn't sure who to call...myself or my real mother. The roles got very confusing. He was a good sport, putting up with my antics. But I like to think I contributed to his manners and well being today, along with my parents who actually did the raising of this baby turned 19-year-old.

Needless to say, we have had some great times together and he is truly a blessing in my life. I value the relationship we have, as well as the one all three of us have together. I am extremely fortunate to be the only girl in the middle of two amazing young men. (Dave, I guess since you're 19 you're now old enough to be called a "man")

Thanks for being a great little brother and such a wonderful person! Love you! 

P.S. For your sake, I won't post any Barbara pictures...wouldn't want those to get loose on the web.

Even in a 'stache he looks good
David's High School graduation! May 2011
McKinney sibs. Love them so much

Monday, October 17, 2011

"You shouldn't have!"

"You shouldn't have!" We've all heard someone say it, and I'd venture to guess you've been guilty of using this phrase at some point in your life. Three words that pack a heavy punch. Three words that are in fact wrapped in sarcasm, but covered with a giant bow of (fake) gratitude and appreciation. Funny that we're on the topic of wrapping and bows, because those two things actually contribute to this phrase's frequency; in my opinion at least. How many times have you opened a gift and experienced the following: A) What is this? B) I think I opened someone else's gift. C) How in the world am I supposed to react? D) This person clearly doesn't know me at all. E) ALL OF THE ABOVE.

If you're like me, your answer was E. Unfortunately I'm not here to give you a "What kind of gift receiver are you?" Quiz and provide you with proper receiving etiquette for your "type" once you finish the quiz. In fact, I'm here to seek advice, because it is beyond me.

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. My gift receiving skills, or lack thereof, come from this guy. Like father like daughter. If you ask him what he wants for Christmas, Father's Day, or his birthday, his answer is always the same. "I don't need anything. All I want is to spend time with my family". Yeah...he's one of those. And it always elicits the same response from all of us: rolling of eyes and a push for a better answer. Granted, that is what I want for my respective gift receiving days as well; time with the people I love. However, that is usually a given, thus take this opportunity to be selfish and ask for something you might want or need! do get to be selfish every once in a while.

Now back to this request of his about not needing anything. Obviously we are not going to let him have a birthday without getting some sort of gift. Because, (and he won't admit to this) I believe if we did in fact honor his request, he might be slightly disappointed if there wasn't some sort of gift. He wouldn't let off this feeling of disappointment, but we would hear about it in some sort of joking tone at some point later on down the road. Thus, we give him gifts, and usually his response is less than thrilled because he doesn't actually like the shirt or the CD we chose. And that is why gift receipts are kept. Dad, if you'd be a little more specific, we wouldn't have to do this every year.

If you don't know my sweet mom, you must understand she wouldn't stand for a birthday without gifts. She loves making people feel special on their birthdays. Having a mother who does in fact give great gifts and puts a lot of thought into them, means suffering from BOP (Bad at Opening Presents) makes you feel quite terrible. Again, I'll blame it on my father. I swear its genetic. Now hear me out, those that suffer from BOP are not heartless or ungrateful or rude. Those are all negative connotations that people like to associate with BOP. I like to look at the positive. We fear that our reaction, wether fake or real, will not please the giver. We are also very honest people (see? that's definitely a positive!). Example: If we open an ice bucket on our birthday* we don't know how to create the appropriate response, when all we want to do is laugh and ask "Did I give off some sort of hint that allowed you to think an ice bucket was what I wanted?"
((*Based on a true story. To protect the giver/receiver of the gift, names were not used and the gift giving occasion was changed. No, the gift was not changed. It was in ice bucket.))

Us BOPers, or at least this one, are also much better at giving than receiving (another positive). I love picking out presents for my family and friends. I love knowing I got something I am absolutely certain they are going to love and seeing the look on their face when they open it brings me so much joy. You'd think someone who loves seeing that excited face would be capable of imitating it upon opening a gift themselves...nope, can't do it. My attempt at doing so results in failure almost every time.

Think about a common gift giving scenario. You're in a room full of people, wether it be 5 or 20. You have a box in front of you. In this box is a gift for you. Someone has spent their time selecting this item for you. They spent their money on this item. They wouldn't be giving you this item if they didn't think you would like it. Do you feel the pressure yet? They are staring at you (along with everyone else in the room) expecting the response they want post-gift opening--excitement about their gift they selected with you in mind. If you ever wanted to be an actor/actress here is your chance! And talk about improvisation...I bet Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are really good gift openers. The minute you see what's inside of the box, it's gametime. You should take about 3 seconds to examine it yourself, so you can atleast identify the gift. Next, and you always include this step, take it out and hold it up for everyone to see. This not only gives you a few more seconds of planning your response, but also provides great opportunity for an onlooker to comment which may benefit you. Example: After holding up an outift, unsure if it is a jumpsuit or matching pajamas, a party guest says "I have some of those pajamas! Love them!" Ding ding ding! Saved by the guest. Be sure and send them home with extra leftovers as a thank you.

The final, and most important, rule for opening gifts following the independent examination and the viewing for guests, comes the 3 words: "You shouldn't have!" Works like a charm--IF you execute it properly. Practicing in front of a mirror is not frowned upon. Better to be safe than sorry. This simple phrase works in 2 ways. 1) Makes the giver feel if they have gone above and beyond in their gift selection while 2) allows the receiver a cop-out while even still not lying...because they meant it literally when they said "You shouldn't have".

My dad has vowed he is going to be better about opening presents. Pressure is on tomorrow big guy. Although, I must say he is making improvements as far as responding when we ask if there is something he would like. He actually told us recently he would really like a "rolling ice chest". I'll give you one guess as to who was the giver of the ice bucket came in my previously mentioned story...bless his heart, he really does have good intentions.

Happy Birthday Dad, love you!!!

He still gives great hugs and kisses...even though he's getting older :)

Disclaimer: This isn't to say that I don't love gifts of mom just read this post and said "I sure hope your friends don't read this...don't expect gifts from any of your readers especially" please take note, I promise I will love anything you'd like to give me. (minus an ice bucket....). My birthday is November 4th. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall in a Muffin

Fall is finally here! It is my favorite season for so many reasons; the weather, the colors, the smells, football, the warm clothes, Thanksgiving, and food! Now I must admit I get a little cynical when it comes to some peoples' obsessions with seasons; especially fall. If you have a Facebook or if you're on Twitter, I'd venture to guess in the past month or so you've seen at least one, if not 20, posts regarding fall. Words included in these post may include, but are not limited to: cold, warm, candles, fires, boots, cuddling, scarves, sweaters, coffee, 'a good book', pumpkins, and my all time favorite (the most overused 3 words used all season) pumpkin spice lattes. I honestly don't know how it is not a trending topic worldwide. Now hear me out...I love fall and everything that comes with it. But if I had a nickel for every time someone has mentioned a "pumpkin spice latte" via some social media source; I might actually be able to afford one from Starbucks. I haven't actually tasted this notorious beverage, but if I ever do, I'll be sure and tell the barista at Starbucks they've got quite an advertising crew via my Facebook and Twitter feed. 

People really do get excited out about pumpkin season. I love the taste, but too much of it will make me sick of it real quick. I like it baked, usually in bread form; wether its bread, cookies, or muffins. For some reason I can't do pumpkin pie. Something about the texture just does me in. 

A few years ago, one of my college friends had made pumpkin muffins, and after eating one, I could have easily eaten the entire pan. I believe I would have gone into a sugar coma. You'll see why after I share the recipe. When I came home for Thanksgiving that year I tried out the recipe myself. They didn't turn out as good as hers on my first attempt, but they still got eaten. Having two brothers (with hungry guy friends) means "Cook it and they will come". I've made these muffins every year since then and I must say I think my batch this past weekend was my best. This year my little brother was the one coming home from college instead of me, and I sent him back to Auburn with a container full of muffins for him and his friends. I'm not sure if he decided to share or not...but that was the idea. 

If fall had a taste, it would be the sensation you get when you bite into one of these muffins. A little dramatic? Don't knock it 'til you try it. And if you're one of the many that have fallen victim to the Pumpkin Spice Latte phenomenon, I bet one of these muffins would compliment it quite well!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 16 oz. can pumpkin
2.5 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Chocolate chips (you decide how much!)

Combine oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Mix well.

Add remaining dry ingredients and beat until smooth.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into muffin tins. (I spray the muffin tins with Baker's Joy so they don't stick!)

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

**You can also use loaf pans with this batter if you'd rather. Bake at 325 in 3 small loaf pans for 45-55 minutes. Cool in pans before removing.

Happy Fall! Enjoy them! I know this guy does...he even helped me make them last year! (Stirring and posing for this picture was about the extent of his "help")