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Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor living in the woods of Wisconsin with my husband, four children, a black lab, and two crazy cats.


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Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
+ Mahatma Gandhi

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Summer Favorites

Grandma Marilyn’s Peach Jello Pie

Grandma Marilyn's Peach Jello Pie

Every summer, there’s a day when we go to the grocery store and the peaches are displayed front and center and we know it’s Peach Jello Pie time. Grandma Marilyn’s peach pie is just about the easiest pie in the world to make and it absolutely oozes summer.

You can do a quick version or a super-quick version, it’s up to you. With the quick version, you make your own whipped cream and graham cracker crust. Homemade graham crust is surprisingly easy to make, and it’s especially nice if you have a small helper who’d enjoy smashing the graham crackers.

The super-quick version involves Cool Whip and ready-made crust. With either version, keep in mind that you need to give the Jello an hour or two to set. (You can make the pie the morning of, or even the night before, the day you want to serve it.)

Grandma Marilyn’s Peach Jello Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3-ounce package peach Jello
ripe peaches (4-6, depending on their size)
baked graham cracker pie shell, store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
whipping cream or Cool Whip

Mix cornstarch and sugar together in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and add package of peach Jello. Stir. As the mixture cools a bit, cut up peaches and arrange to fill the graham cracker pie crust. Pour Jello mixture over the peaches. Refrigerate for an hour or two until Jello is set. Serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Homemade Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces crushed graham crackers, about 1-1/2 cups
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place graham crackers in a large zip-lock bag, seal tightly, and roll over the bag with a rolling pin until the crackers are crumbly.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Combine the sugar with the graham cracker crumbs. Add the butter and stir until well blended. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until the crust just begins to brown. Cool on a rack before filling.

 

Muffin Mondays: Grandma Charlotte’s Nutmeg Muffins

French Muffins

Lexie dug out this old favorite from Great-Grandma Charlotte to make for Muffin Monday. The muffins are very simple with a hint of nutmeg and the topping adds just the right amount of sweet. You can make a batch to enjoy and then freeze the leftovers (if you have them!) for another Monday.

Grandma Charlotte’s Nutmeg Muffins
makes 10 muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together:
1-1/2 cups + 2 TBSP. flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a separate bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter (don’t worry if the butter firms up a little when mixed with the cold milk)

Stir lightly into the flour mixture until just blended. Fill greased muffin tins halfway or use cupcake papers. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove muffins from oven and, handling carefully, dip tops in 1/3 cup melted butter, and then dip into the following mixture:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Serve warm or reheated.

A Fairy Garden + ABCs of Summer

Lily and Fairy Garden

Grammy gave Lily a Fairy Garden starter kit in her Easter basket this year, and they spent a pleasant afternoon shopping for flowers and putting the garden together. It’s really just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Grammy picked up the kit at Gordman’s, but you can find one on Amazon or probably any garden supply store. And, of course, you can go old school and make a fairy garden with little treasures from your own yard.

Fairy Garden

I don’t know about you, but I love being on our own schedule during the summer. But without any structure, we don’t get anything done. So I love the ABCs of Summer. We got the idea from the third-grade teachers at our school, who are ending the year with an ABC list. We borrowed a few of their ideas and added some of our own and came up with this list. I think it will provide just the right amount of “something to look forward to” without making us (a.k.a., me) feel overwhelmed.

So starting on the first Monday after school gets out, we’re going to tackle one letter a day, Monday through Friday, until we go through the entire alphabet. Here’s our list:

The ABCs of Summer

A—Art Projects
B—Books
C—Crafts
D—Dance Party
E—Experiments
F—Fairy Tales
G—Games
H—Hike
I—Ice Cream
J—Jokes
K—Kumbaya & Songs Around the Campfire
L—Languages
M—Memory Games
N—Newspaper
O—Obstacle Course
P—Popsicles
Q—Quest
R—Rejuvenate (Spa Day!)
S—Scavenger Hunt
T—Tongue-Twisters
U—USA
V—Volunteer
W—Water Balloon Fight
X—eXercise
Y—Yummy Treats
Z—Zoo

So how about you? Do you like a little structure or a lot? Would a list like this be fun in your house?

Books! What We’re Reading

What we're reading

I finally finished the first post-writing read-through of my manuscript (the one I wrote last November, for heaven’s sake) and my reward is I get to write a blog post! We haven’t talked about books for a while, so I thought I’d share what we’re reading around here and ask if you have any recommendations—for any age.

Here goes:

The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand is one of the queens of the “beach read,” so I’m reading this for research—to get a feel for pacing, character, point of view, etc., for my own attempt at a beach read. Plus, a little escapism on Nantucket is kinda nice.

Night by Elie Wiesel. Andrew is reading this account of the Holocaust for his English class. As a mother, part of me is glad he’s reading this, but another part of me wishes I could protect him from what’s in the pages. Have you ever experienced that?

Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole. I bought this book after hearing the author speak at a writing conference Lexie and I attended recently. Kole is a former literary agent, and her presentation was full of humor and great information, so I’m sure her book will have more of the same.

The Never Girls: In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe. A friend of Lily’s recommended this series about Disney fairies, and she’s loving the first book. And with five more books to go, it’ll keep her busy for at least part of the summer!

Read more »

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Will and Tim at Geo Bee

Tim and Will on the Giant Map of Europe at the National Geographic Bee in Madison.

Today is Tim’s 46th birthday. To celebrate those 46 wonderful years, I thought it would be fun to list 46 Awesome Things about Tim Taylor. So in no particular order because I’m typing as I go, here they are:

1. He never complains. I’m not exaggerating. The entire time he was in the hospital after his mountain biking accident, he didn’t whine or fuss once. Not once in more than three weeks. He just worked hard to get better.

2. He patiently listens to me complain.

3. He has a knack for finding great new music and introduced me to some of my favorite bands, like Over the Rhine and The Cowboy Junkies.

4. He’s an amazing father.

5. He makes me laugh every day. Even when I’m mad at him, he can still make me laugh.

6. He’s incredibly loyal and inspires loyalty in others. He’s worked with the same core group of people for more than a dozen years, and they’ve got each other’s backs. One of them is even Lily’s godfather.

7. He plants bulbs with the kids in the fall and a vegetable garden and pumpkin patch in the spring.

8. He spends countless hours making a skating rink every winter.

9. He doesn’t treat his girls like princesses. He has too much respect for them to do that. They’re growing up strong and confident because of his belief in them.

Read more »

Save the Gallbladder!

SCAN0129

So I’m getting my hair cut yesterday and my stylist says, “I think we’ll skip texturing on top today.”

What? She must have sensed my horror because she quickly added, “Maybe we’ll need to do it next time.”

Every haircut I’ve ever had has involved texturizing the hair on top of my head. I have a lot of hair and it tends to weigh itself down if it’s not thinned. I’m absolutely terrible at styling so it’s always been nice to know that while I can’t competently curl or straighten my hair, at least there’s a lot of it.

Until now. And this is just one more thing in a series of things that have been happening lately and I’m starting to think my problems might be related to gluten.

I won’t go into all the hairy details (so to speak), but let’s just say that when I go down the checklist of symptoms for gluten-related problems, either I or someone else around here has it. Tim had his gallbladder taken out a year ago and mine has started acting up recently. It went crazy during our trip to Florida. I thought I was eating really clean (I had salmon twice!) and drinking tons of water and walking a lot, but then I remembered all the pasta and the beignets and the cornbread….

Darn, darn, darn. I’m not organized enough to have a gluten intolerance!

Read more »

April Fool’s Day Pranks

Plastic toy food

Does your family get into April Fool’s Day? For some reason, mine never really has. It’s probably because when we flip the calendar over late on March 31st we’re all surprised to see that it’s April 1st and we haven’t planned anything!

I did see an idea that I thought might be funny for the younger kids. You pack their cold lunches with plastic toy food and let them scratch their heads for a minute before showing up with their real lunches. This would take a bit of planning to make sure you got there on time—or else a teacher who’d be up for being in on the joke.

There are always the classics like yellow food coloring in the milk to make it seem like it’s gone bad, tissue paper stuffed in shoes to make them seem smaller, or even jeans a couple sizes too big or too small put in the drawer. Or how about this seriously messed-up trick? Make caramel apples out of onions. That one is for your enemies, apparently.

I’m thinking this jello-as-juice prank might be do-able, and not too mean:

Jello Trick

 ivillage.com

Do you have any pranks planned? Are you usually the pranker or the prankee?

Happy Weekend

Kali River Rapids with Will

Hello! Did you have a good week? We’re back from Andrew’s high school band trip to Walt Disney World and are settling into our regular routine. Funny how easy it is to slip into vacation mode and how hard it is to slip out of it!

I’m so happy we tagged along on the trip. The weather was wonderful (low 80s) and the high schoolers put on fantastic shows at Epcot and Downtown Disney. The best part is that our younger kids are old enough now so we could all play and go on most of the rides together and there was hardly any fussing! I really felt for the parents of little ones who had Had Enough. We’ve all been there.

We took lots of photos, but this one of Will and me is one of my favorites. We were on the Kali River Rapids ride at Animal Kingdom, happily chatting away with the mom, grandma, and daughter sharing our raft. The mom happened to catch the very moment that Will and I got soaked. And I mean soaked. As we got off the ride, she was kind enough to get my phone number so she could text me the photo. Technology can be pretty awesome.

While I catch up on laundry (and sleep), here are some links I thought you might enjoy:

+ I’ve been using coconut oil right out of the jar as a moisturizer, but this simple addition would take it up a notch.

+ Recipes to make with 6- to 9-year-old chefs.

+ Heavenly hummus wrap.

+ Can literature help you make better business decisions?

+ How to put a toddler to bed in 100 Easy Steps. Sounds about right.

+ Is it lame to link to your own website? It’s just that I’m so happy to have finally written an official “editor” post.

+ Thanks to this exercise move, I’m feeling like Po. Ouch. But it’s a good pain.

+ Speaking of fitness, Dani at Fitness Food and Style always has fun monthly challenges to get you  motivated. Lots of great recipes, too, like this healthy version of caramel corn. For real!

+ The most awkward things that ever happened. Some of these made me laugh out loud.

+ Will is heading to the state championship for the National Geographic Bee next week! To celebrate, we’ve been playing this cool game even more than usual.

Do you have any plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating the birthday of one of my lovely goddaughters (bonus: we get to meet their new puppy) and I hear it’s supposed to reach 60 degrees this weekend. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Dear Future Mom: World Down Syndrome Day—March 21

Mom and Daughter World Down Syndrome Day

I’m expecting a baby. I discovered that he has Down Syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?

I think many of us are familiar with “Welcome to Holland,” an essay Emily Perl Kingsley wrote to offer encouragement to parents of children with special needs struggling with the lost dream of a “normal child.”

Well. Imagine that the letter is coming from your future child. And instead of a letter, it’s a beautiful video.

Grab a tissue and check it out:

CoorDown, Italy’s National Coordination of Associations for People with Down Syndrome, created the Dear Future Mom video—with help from ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi Italy—in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, coming up on March 21st:

The chosen theme for World Down Syndrome Day this year is the right to happiness and well-being of people with Down syndrome. The goal is to promote a culture of diversity and true integration into society, especially in the worlds of school and work.

Jeff Ryan, who is, among many things, Andrew’s history teacher, baseball coach, and our friend, sent me this video and a link to a lovely article written by his niece Erin Gloria Ryan in honor of one of his six brothers, Stewart, who had Down Syndrome. Stewart passed away in 1995, but, as Jeff said, “He had a great life. All of us have said that he defined us a family. My niece sent all of her uncles this video knowing how much it would resonate with each of us. It did.”

I hope this video resonates with you, too. Pass it on.

 

Amy Poehler: No One Looks Stupid When They’re Having Fun

Amy Poehler Fun

{ Bona Fide Amor }

Before I became a mom, I had no idea that my kids would teach me just as much as I teach them. More, actually.

Like this morning. Andrew came downstairs wearing a striped hat à la The Cat in the Hat.

“Why the hat?” I said.

“It’s hat day,” he said.

“Doesn’t that usually mean baseball hats?” I said.

Ugh. As soon as I said the words, I regretted them. Feeble, feeble, feeble.

Luckily, Andrew just shook his head and said, “It’ll be fine, Mom. You worry too much about what people think.”

Ouch.

Read more »

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