Friday, July 29, 2011

As per request: Freezing Milk :)

Thanks for your comments guys! :) One of you "wonderfuls" asked about

freezing milk! I am so glad you did, because


This can save you from Costco for an entire month! I love getting my

milk there because it is consistently less expensive

..... buuuutttt..

Costco.. in all of it's bulk glory can be quite a trickster! How many times have

you went in for a few things.. and left with a few things but at check out

the register screams "Gotchya again!"

when it rings up to over a 100 dollars.. you look in your cart and you are like.. WHAT? How did that happen? I tell you, once I dropped those trips from at least once a

week to only once a month, my grocery budget glowed :) Here and there I have

to sneak back in because I used more cheese than I anticipated, but with the new glowing budget, I am happy to just grab the cheese and run. :) heheehee. -----

ANY WAY, back to freezing milk! YES! You can. All you need to do is to pour a little out from the top because the milk WILL expand. (I'm going to be honest, I totally forgot this part, I got home with 3 or 4 boxes of milk and took them out of the boxes and put them directly in the freezer.... it did expand.. a lot, but NONE of them leaked.... I don't dare try it again because I've read too many leaky stories :) ) People have been doing this for decades and have been just fine. :) The milk separates as it freezes, so each time you take it out of the fridge to use, give it a good shake! - In my personal experience, the milk does loose some of it's flavor.. maybe I didn't shake it enough - So, if you rarely use milk other than in cooking or cereal, I would TOTALLY do this. And even if you love to just drink it, buy one gallon, freeze it and see how it goes! :) It's a total time saver, how many times have you ran out of milk and you make an entire trip to the store to get some and then end up with a few other items in the cart? :)


Yes, you can freeze Milk.

To be safe (not always necessary) open each gallon up and take about 1 c out. Jug will expand.

Let thaw in fridge for 2 days or on the counter for most of a day. Just make sure to shake it often to keep it all cold.

Milk will separate, just shake well before each use. (whole milk is very difficult to shake out)

It will take away from the flavor a little, but if you are mainly using it for cooking and cereal, you probably won't even notice. :)
Good for 6 weeks ... some have even said 3 months!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did you know?

Did you know you can freeze Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches??! What?! I heard about this before I had kiddos and was like "are you serious? how long does it take to make a PB and J??" BUT.. after many lunch times staring into the abyss of my pantry seeing

plenty of possibilities for lunch and just not having the motivation to make it,

this is sounding pretty fabulous!

I know it only takes a few moments, but how many people stock up on frozen chicken nuggets or frozen corn dogs for days like this? I used to have Costco's Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets in the freezer at all times for these days, but no more! :)

If you are ever in an industrious mood, you can make a bunch of these for those crisis days - or even better! For those days when you know you will be out and won't be back in time for lunch! (That's where Wendy's had us won!) But not any more! Grab a few of these babies out of the freezer before you go and by the time lunch rolls around, wam! A homemade PB and J. Not the absolute healthiest, but SO much better for you than McDonald's dollar menu. :) One of these days I will do a freezer jam post (SO EASY) So if you have your homemade bread and homemade jam, it's a lot better for you! :)
Time is short, so I will just post the link instead of all of my pictures :) Thank you google!

Peanut butter sandwich TIP: Using fresh fruit as your "jam" makes for a much healthier meal. Store bought and even canned jellies and jams have SO much sugar in them and sliced fruit tastes so much better! I wouldn't count on freezing them, but for the smoother days, try it! :) Our favorites are bananas or strawberries but the possibilities are endless :) Any berries, peaches, apricots, plums apple, even all natural no sugar added applesauce... pears, kiwi.. endless :) You could even make ants on log sandwich's with PB, diced celery and raisins. . I know there are a lot of people that buy their produce at Costco and man, you can rarely beat their strawberry prices, so this is another way to use them up before they get sad and wilty :).

Friday, July 22, 2011


This week has been a tricky week. I am TOTALLY exhausted and you know what?

I didn't make dinner last night,

had cereal this morning, and

WENDY'S for lunch

(ew... and by EW i mean, man that was good, but EW I feel gross)

Thankfully I had an AWESOME dinner over at my amazing sister-in-law's house

in which I was going to bring DELICOUS homemade hamburger buns

and then ended up buying them on the way over.....

And you know what?

I'm not going to beat myself up over it. :) (I say that, because, I can be pretty good at doing that) But in ALL honesty -

perfection is a total illusion.

If you have weekends or weeks like this,

give yourself a break.

Soak it in, enjoy it.. don't feel guilt~! Just enjoy the kitchen without dishes and then

hop back on board!

I am saying this for a few reasons... One.. to motivate myself.. (hehehe) and two because I have a feeling that I'm not alone in the "all or nothing" syndrome. Too many times I have tried then felt like I have failed when I faltered, but the truth is that we all work so so so hard and we all deserve a few UN guilty pleasures :) So if you are sincerely trying to "LIVE FOR REAL" the way I described it in my first post and you are less than perfect (which should account for everyone as far as being imperfect at least) then relax :)

Tomorrow is a fresh, new day without an mistakes - so accept today and
be excited for tomorrow.

Remind yourself of your values and goals and feel

one step closer to living FOR REAL,

because REALity is step by step growing and

I can't think of any baby that has not fallen while learning to walk....

can you imagine if they just gave up because

they told themselves they could do it and then fell down?



- Think of the possibilities and the freedom we will have if we can take control. Think of the priceless lessons we will teach our children as we teach them sacrifice, saving, self reliance and provident living. The lessons in making mistakes but accepting them, growing from them and using them to your advantage to make you stronger rather than putting an F grade on your forehead and giving up. I have worn the F grade on my forehead many times and I am still trying to rub off the imaginary permanent ink so

I can live life as it was intended. REAL - imperfectly ..

but the VERY best I can.

Good luck!

Sincerely and Imperfectly,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Beans? What else can you use them for other than burritos?"

I've decided to do a few posts periodically on the possibilities of beans. :) Is it weird that whenever I type "beans," in my head I hear a brother or friend from middle school making some joke about the "musical fruit?" - ha - Well! It's time we get over it! :) -- Beans are inexpensive and incredibly good for us. They have awesome amounts of fiber, protein and a bunch of other power nutrients.... in fact... you need to read this article! -

Beans are so so simple and there are a million recipes that include them. I think when people hear "beans and rice, rice and beans" they only think of drab bean burritos. ( I love bean burritos.. but I can see if you think they are your only bean meal option, they can be DRAB :) ) - The possibilities are limitless - casseroles, hummus, dips, Mexican food, soups.. soups soups! ... the lists go on!

Here is a VERY VERY SIMPLE black bean soup recipe that my mom gave me at my last recipe group with her! I was looking at it today as I was making it and laughed! The website she got it from is called "REAL Simple" How perfect is that!! Seriously. This meal takes like 10 minutes or less to prepare and it is so filling and SO So good.

REAL Simple Black Bean Soup

(I took this photo from the website that the recipe was on... this is really what it looks like, I just forgot to take a picture tonight :) )

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pint store-bought fresh salsa (so far i've just used Pace salsa.. I'm sure it'd be better with fresh, but it's what I've had on hand :))
1 16-ounce can refried black beans
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can vegetable or chicken broth (you can buy "Better than Bullion" at Costco. It's an organic broth base, I think my jar was 8 bucks but if you were to compare it to cans, you could make around 40 cans of chicken broth with on of those jars - and it's ORGANIC :) .. Can't beat that!)

Sour cream
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 ½ cups of the salsa and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
Add the refried beans, black beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Divide among bowls and garnish with the sour cream, cilantro, and remaining ½ cup salsa.(extra salsa optional.. I never put more on)

By Kate Merker, September 2006


Monday, July 18, 2011

Healthy Snacks for Kids, Part One: Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries!!!

Have you ever had these at a restaraunt before? I'm pretty sure Rumbi Grill has them - anyway - They are SO good. A few years back my wonderful mother in law bought a huge bag of these from Allison's Pantry and gave me a bunch of them. You can also find them at Costco for like 7 bucks or so if you don't feel like making them. - I was so thrilled to find this recipe on "Our Best Bites". I LOVE LOVE LOVE their blog. I have NEVER made anything that I didn't like from that blog and I have a few "regulars" that I got from them .. this will make blogging very easy since they've already done all of the work for me :).

They have a Sweet Potato Fry recipe that looks fabulous. They prepare them with a lot of herbs and spices and even a dip. I'm definitely going to have to try it some day! I just make these for Sammy and Claire to munch on, so I don't put anything on them. Sweet Potatoes have enough natural flavor as it is :). If you want to add something to make it more like a treat, you can sprinkle light cinamon or even cinamon and brown sugar, but really.. they are sweet enough as it is :). I just took the basics from the blog - how much olive oil, what temp and how long to cook them for :)

What I love about these that Our Best Bites doesn't mention is that you can make large quantities and then freeze them!!

I bake mine slightly under what I would if I were going to eat them fresh then let them cool a bit then line them on a pan just like you did when you baked them and place them in the freezer. When they are frozen, you can clump 'em all up and put them in a gallon ziploc bag! (SO EASY)

When I am ready to eat them, I take the portion I want out of the freezer onto a pan (I don't need to make much each time, so I just use my 9x9 baking pan) and bake them at 400 degrees (or broil them on low) until they are golden and have that awesome crisp outside and soft inside.

You can also microwave them, it just won't be as perfect of a texture. :)

What I absolutely LOVE about these is that my kids can't get enough of them!! Last time I made them, Sammy would eat them frozen he loved them so much! - I love that they are eating a power vegetable with a power oil (olive oil) and they are thinking it's a TREAT! :) An awesome way of ensuring they get their vegetables in! :) SO REAL right??? :) ... ENJOY!!! :)


Apparently, I struggle with balance. I see that I can do EVERYTHING perfect (har har har) if I only had ONE thing to do at a time... Well.. when does that ever happen? - Living real is so important to me. It is so important to me to spend excellent focused time with my kids and doing that and blogging (for me) just doesn't work! :) ... I wish I was better at balancing - but if I'm an all or nothing kind of girl - I'd like the nothing to be the blogging world and the ALL to be my family. So yesterday I told Mike I was going to stop blogging ---- then! I had an idea - I have a few ideas that I got from other places online, I will just post the links and you can see their pictures and tutorials to know how to do it... Deal? :) Here and there with my own recipes I will do my own detailed posts, but there is so much that I have found on the Internet that I could just direct you to, and then, you will be able to start doing searches within those sites to help you with what ever you want? Good plan, right? So! "Heeeeeerreee WEeeeeee Gooooooooooo" -Peter Pan.(that's what Sammy says as we drive down the hill/mountain out of our neighborhood.. silly boy! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

HelloooooOoooOooo.... Anyone else have a million loads of laundry to do today?

I have had a few requests for the homemade laundry detergent recipe, so here it is!!

First - There are two different recipes, a liquid and a powder laundry detergent. The liquid detergent is more cost effective, but I worry about using it with my front loader washing machine... So! I haven't tried it yet... so, if you do, let me know!! The powder detergent seriously took me about 5 minutes to make and is so so easy and it works great! The powder is like paying .06 cents/load vs about .21 cents/load with store bought. The liquid detergent is like .01 cents/load (amazing hu!?) Here is a link for the recipe and how to for the liquid detergent :)

You ready for this?
1c Arm&Hammer washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda)
1c Borax
1 bar of soap grated - Most recipes call for Ivory soap. I had Fels Naptha which is a heavy duty laundry bar soap, so I just used that.
You can find all of these ingredients in the laundry isle at the store. :)

Mix all of the ingredients together until it's all well incorporated ... then... you're done!! Can you believe it?? Pour into a container with a lid and use 1 1/2 Tablespoons per load, or 2 for heavily soiled loads. -
If you have a bad stain, just scrub some of the detergent onto the stain and let it sit for a few hours, then wash.
You could also put a few scoops of Oxi-Clean in your detergent for a boost - So far I haven't needed to :)

I just used a cheese grater to grate the soap - you can also break it in chunks and put it in a food processor.

This is what it ends up looking like after mixing the borax and washing soda with the fels naptha.

Taaa Daaa.... That will be the last time you will see a store bought laundry detergent in my laundry room! :)

Make sure too keep out of reach!! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Parmesan Chicken

Okay. This really shouldn't be called Parmesan Chicken. It's my great Aunt's recipe (slightly tweaked by me) and that's what she named it -But, it's too close to Chicken Parmesan and they are not at all alike - any one have a better name for it?

I LOVE this. I love that it is So easy. I love that it is SO good. I love that it is the epitome of comfort food.. I love that it is Easy... did I say that it was so easy? It's perfect for Sunday dinner, and much less expensive then a roast.

Parmesan Chicken

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (Tip: Chicken breasts are HUGE, slice the chicken laterally to form 2 thinner breasts.. your meal will go twice as far and you will have a much healthier portion.)
1 1/2 cubes of butter melted
1- 1 1/2 boxes of chicken stove top stuffing

Mix together and then add to stuffing:
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
½ t onion powder
½ t garlic powder

First - prepare a cake pan by greasing and lightly cover the bottom with some of the stuffing mixture. Dip chicken in butter and then roll in stuffing mixture. Place in greased bake pan. When finished, pour the rest of the stuffing, and then butter on top of chicken. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes if needed.

Okay! Let's get started! You know my post "Don't waist a single?" ... well! I was watching a show that gave me a few ideas- you can save and use your butter wrappers to grease your pans instead of using cooking spray. (Mike thinks I'm crazy.. oh well :) ) - If you are using oil for another recipe, use a cloth to rub some of the oil left in the measuring cup you used to grease your pans)

Melt Butter in one shallow container and mix the dry ingredients in another. Dip chicken breasts in butter......

Then roll in stuffing mixture......

Place in Pan

Pour remaining stuffing mixture

Pour remaining butter over that...

Cover and bake according to instructions and serve with potatoes and carrots. You will be your kids', spouses, friends- BEST friend :) Enjoy! Let me know if you think of a better name.

"Don't Waste A Single"

7 years ago, I moved to China for a few months to teach English. I lived in a building on the campus of the school I was teaching at. Around campus, there were several signs written in English and Mandarin. I seriously took a picture of almost every single one of them because they were HILARIOUS. They made No sense.

This one, however.... did!

Okay - Our food budget is really one of the easiest to adjust ... So - when I'm scrimping by trying to make EVERY THING from scratch, eating BEANS all of the time.... when food goes bad.. ooohhh.. it makes me so upset!
Well! Last Saturday, Macey's had a STEAL of a deal on strawberries - $.78 /lb! Awesome right? So I got .. well, A LOT - I figured I could make a bunch of freezer jam with it ... turned out I didn't need the million lbs that I got! hee hee! - I looked into the fridge yesterday and, well, I had sad, sad strawberries. There was NO way we could eat them fast enough.. and to be honest.. well.. I don't I could've stomached the sad strawberry texture.

Then! I had a novel idea!! .. Okay, maybe not so novel ... I just haven't thought of it before and if you are anything like me... you too have thrown way to many of the above babies in the trash can.... Well! not any more!

FREEZE them.

This is probably self explanatory, but... I'll post the "how to" any way!

Wash and behead the strawberries ... yes. I said behead... and that cool little red thing makes it really easy! :)

Line a pan with ... basically whatever.. tinfoil, wax paper, parchment paper.. or nothing.. I just didn't want ONE more dish. Slice the strawberries how ever you want.. perfection is kind of a joke right? Claire needed to be held. All. Day. Long... poor girl has a nasty these babies were cut one handed.. and it didn't matter - they all freeze the same in the end. :) - Stick that pan in the freezer, and wait!

Remember - If you don't have a deep freezer, just use a smaller pan and in a few batches :)

Mine stuck a little to the tinfoil,(this is where I justified using the tinfoil) so just lift up the sides- this makes it easy to pour into a freezer bag.

Taa Daaa - I really feel like I saved their lives today. Doesn't that feel good? hehehehe. I am sure you can do this with any fruit you can find in the frozen fruit isle. :) You can use these in your oatmeal, smoothies, shakes, snacks for your kids... anything!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Favorite Recipe #2: Cranberry Nut Bagels

This is a recipe that I ALWAYS get compliments on .. you will LOVE IT. I will never need to go to another bagel shop again! These are seriously better. You can transform these into what ever type of bagel you want - These are my ALL time favorite. :)

Cranberry Nut Bagels

3-1/3 cups warm water (Good rule of thumb: make the water temp the same as you would fill up a baby's bathtub with :))
1 ½ T yeast
1 t sugar
¼ c sugar
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
8-9 cups bread flour (Just add until dough cleans the bowl)
2 cups dried cranberries
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Combine water, yeast and 1 t sugar. Let sit until bubbly.
Mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon oats and flour.
Add cranberries and chopped pecans.
Let dough in mixer for about 4 minutes or 10 minutes by hand
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide into 12 balls. Push thumb through the center of each ball to form a 1-in. hole. Place on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring 2-qt. water to a boil. Drop bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Cook for 30 seconds; turn and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain well on paper towels.
Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

This is me and my sweet Sam Man making the bagels :) .. Mike was like "should I take a picture of you cooking?" My first instinct was "Hide the dishes, hold on, let me get out of my jammies.. where's my makeup?" .. and then I was like "No. Yes, it is still light outside and I am in my PJs, my dishes are overflowing... but that's what's real. :) )

This is what your dough should look like. It is really sticky after you are done mixing it, so the floured surface is a must, roll it around in it so it's workable :).

This is the best way I've found to evenly cut the 12 pieces of dough to form the bagels

Punch your thumb through the center of the ball and sort of stretch the dough to make a 1-1 1/2 hole in the middle. Remember! :) They don't have to be perfect :).

This is the fun part! Boil some water and drop those bagels in!! This is what gives the chewy outside texture. :) Plop them in and let them be on each side for about 30 seconds or so. Then with a slotted spoon or spatula, place on cloth or paper towel to let the water soak in.

Then bake following the instructions...... cool on cooling racks then ... waaaLAa! :) BAGELS! :)

Butters in the Kitchen: Bountiful Bliss

Well, I don't have a picture for all of these yet, and pictures do SO much for recipes wouldn't you say? ---
SO! I HAVE to tell you about my amazing sister Heather. As I was thinking of all of my favorites, I kept realizing that a few of them come from her and she is writing a recipe book, SO, I am SWORN to secrecy :) --- HOWEVER... She does have a blog -

She is involved with a food co-op called Bountiful Baskets It is really popular around here, so each week she makes a recipe using some of the fruits and/or vegetables that she gets in her basket and calls it "Bountiful Bliss" :) - Here it is and ENJOY - She is the most "REAL" cook ever. She is beyond the "look for a recipe" stage and she makes her own - DEFINITELY check her blog out. It's still new and because she's REAL and has 3 kids, she posts once a week - but it is definitely something to be excited about each week :)


Favorite Recipe #1 Asian Orange Chicken

Watch out Chinese restaurants.... THIS is the best orange chicken I have EVER had! :) I found this recipe a long time ago and never made it until last year... WHAT was I thinking? You will LOVE this! :)

Harry Wetzle's Asian Orange Chicken


1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (or 1/8- 1/4 t of ground ginger :))
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil


Pour 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.

>Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag. Reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Place chicken to drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil.

Wipe out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water (do not skip mixing this in separate dish... you will have a very very sad experience if you do... mix it first!); stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice with broccoli as a side and add some fortune cookiesfor fun! :) mmmmm...

Recipes! Recipes! Recipes!

Well! The vote is in! Turns out through email, facebook and my one comment on this blog (c'mon! leave your comments!) :) ---- Recipes are what you want right now! :)
Nicole asked me to post my favorite recipes! I like that idea! :) ... however... I have about a million of them! :)

Food! My mom (yes, I know .. my mom is amazing) - is an excellent cook. I'm pretty sure she can do anything she wants in the kitchen and turn anything into something gourmet. I remember when I first got married, I just felt like I was a good cook, it must've been in my blood, my sisters, mom, and grandma all had the "good cook gene"... ..
........... and then I had to ask my mother in law how to boil noodles. YES! Boil noodles! I guess it's just one of those things where I saw so many people cooking my whole life, I figured I knew how to do it too.... no no no no I didn't. I'm pretty sure I ruined just about every recipe, couldn't make mac and cheese and burnt pop tarts. .........BUT! I love good food. SO I was determined to figure it out- I started by finding recipes .. I'd think of what I wanted to eat, then look the recipes up in books and on the Internet. Then you practice.. :) - Do this enough, and then you feel like you can start tweaking things, combining different recipes, adding more or less of what you like to make them your own...I am no chef by any means, but I do have so many good recipes that I can't wait to share with you! :)
They won't be in any particular order.. because, well.. I"m just not organized like that! ha! :) Mainly I just can't make up my mind... they are all my favorite for different reasons! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Feel free to send tips, advice, recipes, your stories.. etc. :) I'd love to spotlight you! :)

What to do? What to do? :)

So! I have a MILLION ideas, recipes and tips that I am so excited share, but I have so little time, so I just don't know where to begin...

So, I am wondering...

What would you like to see?

Restaurant recipes?
Dessert recipes?
Money saving tips?
Healthy meals and snacks for kids?
Bread/cereal and cracker recipes?
Fun activities for kids?
Quick, easy and delicious recipes?
Not so quick, but DELICIOUS recipes
Couponing tips?
What? :) :)

Obviously a few of these can be found in each post, but I'm curious as to what you are hoping to see out of this! Hope to hear from you soon! :) Also, I would LOVE to spotlight YOU with your REAL living ideas :) .. recipes, fun activities with your family, money saving tips, your "story" ;) - I will be setting up an email address for this blog.. but alas! The 4th of July bbq is calling my name... mmm.. - SO! I will post the email address to where you can send your info on my next post! :) ... HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!! :) :) :)

*Quick and easy idea for the 4th - maybe it's not as novel of an idea as I think, but I heard it in church on Sunday and LOVED it!! --- Make a birthday cake for America with your kids... decorate it like a flag (or like me, I used fun fetti frosting ... with a box cake... and called it good..... see, I am real! :) No one ever has time to do everything! :) You pick and choose your battles each day, right? :) ) Light some candles, turn of the lights and sing happy birthday to America!! :) .. totally memorable! You can even get pots and pans or play instruments and have a little parade around it before you sing and blow out the candles :)