Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Balls

I made these Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Balls
for Little Princess' Lilo & Stitch Luau last week...

I had seen a couple different versions of these here & here,
but neither one included the yummy buttery brown sugar glaze
that is on traditional Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
I was determined to somehow include it.

1 box Yellow cake mix
1 can crushed pineapple (well-drained, but reserve juice)
1 10 oz jar Maraschino cherries (drained)
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 cup brown sugar
Vanilla frosting (may not need it)
Yellow candy melts

Make cake mix according to directions but substitute reserved pineapple juice for water called for in the directions. Mix in well-drained crushed pineapple last (I used about a cup, but might try more next time) & bake according to directions. Once completely cooled, crumble with hands or food processor. Combine brown sugar with melted butter. It's okay if not all the brown sugar melts. Drizzle warm brown sugar mixture over the top. Combine well. If the consistency is still off, add frosting little by little until the right consistency is achieved (holds together easily, but not too sticky). Form then flatten a ball of dough & place a cherry in the center. Firmly wrap the dough around the cherry to make a ball again. Place cake balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, then refrigerate 10-15 minutes to firm them up for dipping. Use a fork to submerge each cake ball into melted chocolate & carefully tap off any excess chocolate. Carefully slide the balls off of the fork onto the cookie sheet. 

Note: You may have to bake your cake longer than the directions if you didn't drain enough of the pineapple juice, so making sure that you drain them enough is an important step.

Note: You can chop your cherries & mix them in right after the buttery brown sugar if you don't want them whole.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pulled Pork Hawaiian Haystacks

I grew up eating Hawaiian Haystacks for dinner all the time.
You know...
A bed of rice,
chow mein noodles,
almond slivers,
diced chicken with some sort of gravy sauce that I never wanted to put on mine,
whatever you see fit really.
I've seen plenty of variations online lately
with all sorts of different toppings...

When we lived in California,
we were feeding some LDS missionaries for dinner
& decided to have Hawaiian Haystacks.
One of the elders was from the islands.
He informed us that although the meal was tasty,
the only things Hawaiian about it
were the pineapple, coconut, & the bed of rice.
That has bothered me ever since.

When I was planning Little Princess' Lilo & Stitch party
I instantly thought of Hawaiian Haystacks for dinner.

I started thinking of ways to make it slightly more authentic...
Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes?

Here's what we decided:
Ignore the blue jello with Swedish fish in the picture.
We didn't eat that on the Haystacks...

Pulled Pork Hawaiian Haystacks
Bed of rice
Crockpot Hawaiian Pulled Pork (recipe below)
Chow Mein noodles
Monterey Jack cheese
Almond slivers
Pineapple tidbits
Shredded coconut
Banana Poi (recipe below)

We tried it both with & without the poi on top.
I liked it both ways.
With the poi it is definitely sweeter,
but you don't need to add that much or it may overpower the other flavors.
A light drizzle should do (:

We served King's Sweet Hawaiian Rolls on the side of the Haystacks.
Hubby tried the pulled pork on those & said it was good too.

I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork over at East 9th Street,
but ended up doing a few things differently...

Crockpot Hawaiian Pulled Pork
3 lbs pork loin, cut into 3-4" pieces (next time I might try 2-3" pieces if using it for Haystacks)
1 cup onion, chopped into small pieces but not quite minced
2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp salt
1 can crushed pineapple, drained (I only used 1/2 can since I needed the rest for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Balls, but next time I'm going to try the whole can)

Cut the pork & place in crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients & cover. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the pork can be easily shredded with two forks. Shred all the meat in the crockpot & turn off heat.

As for the Banana Poi...
I found the recipe at,
but could not find coconut cream anywhere
so I decided to try it with cream of coconut instead.
I just used whatever was left after making the piña coladas.
(approx 1/2 can)
my poi was probably a little sweeter than it would be if I had stuck to the original recipe.

Banana Poi
2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup coconut cream (I used roughly 1/2 can cream of coconut instead)

Mash bananas until a smooth paste is formed. Add the lemon juice. Gradually add the coconut cream, stirring constantly. Chill & serve.

If you try this version of Hawaiian Haystacks
let me know what you think...
Do you like it better with or without the poi?

Don't forget to check out the Lilo & Stitch luau!
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Lilo & Stitch Luau

I can't believe Little Princess is two!

She LOVES Lilo & Stitch right now,
so we went with that theme for her second birthday party.

Since I've been dealing with a lot of stress lately
we decided to just stick with our little ohana.
My dad has been in town this week for a business trip
so we were more than excited to have him celebrate with us!

The kidlets love it when Grampa comes to visit! (:
He watched Lilo and Stitch with them
while Hubby & I were finishing up getting dinner ready...

Then we turned on the Hawaiian music Pandora station & sat down for dinner...
with Banana Poi,
(not pictured)
King's Hawaiian sweet rolls,
blue jello jigglers with Swedish fish,
& delicious virgin Piña Coladas that I wish I had more of right now.
(not pictured)

The kids enjoyed their Piña Coladas in plastic coconut cups that I found at Party City,
but they didn't have enough for everyone so I just bought two...
I also bought Salted Caramel Macadamia Clusters from Costco for everyone to munch on,
but we were all so full that I don't think anyone had any!

If you look back at the first picture you can see leis at each seat
& a little dress that looks kinda like a muumuu...
The plan was to have everyone dress up as Hawaiian as possible,
but all of our leis were already packed so I had to buy more.
I bought the dress for Little Princess since I knew she didn't have anything Hawaiian,
but I couldn't find ANYTHING for Little Dudeman.
He ended up wearing a pajama "surf" shirt & some matching non-pajama shorts.
I wore my muumuu,
Hubby wore his Hawaiian shirt,
& we let Grampa borrow a Hawaiian tie.

We let Little Princess decide which color leis we were all going to wear,
but then she decided that she wanted to wear all the leis.
I wish I had a picture of that.
It was adorable!

We never got a group picture with all of us dressed up in our garb.
With or without leis.
But we did get some pictures of the kids opening presents...

Yes, kids.
Little Dudeman helped Little Princess open them
because the wrapping paper was impenetrable.

after a blur of excitement (:

& lots of silliness...
It was time for cake!
Little Princess had a miniature Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
so that she could blow out her candles.

Then we all munched on Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Balls
while eating banana pineapple "ice cream"
made with my Yonanas machine.
It was all very good
but very rich!

By then it was getting pretty late,
we were all really full,
& Hubby had more work to do
so we decided to call it a night.

If we had more time we could have done a few of these things:
Make hula skirts
Make fruit loop leis
Hula dancing
Hula hooping
Play the ukulele
Listen to some Elvis music
Science experiments (since that's what Stitch is)

For more Lilo & Stitch party ideas
you can check out my Luau board on Pinterest
or revisit my Lilo & Stitch themed week (:

Also, you can figure out your Hawaiian name here...

Aloha 'Oe
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Becoming a budget sleuth

We've been using YNAB for about a year now.
You'd think I would have it 100% figured out by now, right?

I learn something new every time I check out the blog,
every time I visit the forums,
I most importantly -- when I learn from my mistakes.

Now I could be way off when I say this,
but I'm sure Jesse (the guy that started YNAB) still learns new things from time to time too.

I'm no budget guru.
I don't have it all figured out.
Our budget is nowhere near perfect.
In fact, it has plenty of flaws.
Which means we have plenty to learn from & plenty of room for improvement.
We're just an average couple that set a goal last year to make some major budgeting changes.

We had kind of reached a net worth plateau
& it wasn't until September or October this past year
that I started to really grasp what was going wrong with our budget.
We weren't truly following the 4 rules...

1. Give every dollar a job (Be the boss of ALL of your money)
2. Save for a rainy day (Break all big expenses into manageable monthly chunks)
3. Roll with the punches (Be flexible & address overspending before it becomes a problem)
4. Live on last month's income (Stop living paycheck to paycheck)

It's amazing how well those rules work when you follow them correctly,
& depressing how quickly that net worth can drop or become stagnant when not following the rules.

We were assigning every dollar a job
& rolling with the punches by moving things around when we would overspend.
But we weren't checking the category balances before spending,
which of course led to overspending.
Our rainy day funds would then become depleted as we moved things around,
making it near impossible to live on last month's income.

It's been quite the bumpy road,
(okay, maybe more like a roller-coaster)
but now we are debt free except for the house AND have a one month buffer going!
(meaning we are finally living on last month's income)
Such an awesome feeling!

Our next step is to remember to use the YNAB app on our smartphones religiously.
Because without checking the balances ahead of time,
we tend to very easily get sucked into the black hole of bad spending habits
& then we end up pulling from categories that we would rather not have to pull from,
simply because we are less aware of how much money is in each category.
There was an awesome post about that on the YNAB blog recently.
You should definitely check it out.
If that doesn't solve our problem,
we'll at least have one better budgeting habit under our belts.

We'll also have another reason to pull out our detective caps & magnifying glasses
to figure out what else we can do to better our budget & increase that net worth.

photo credit:

It's kind of fun being a sleuth when you think about it.
The delayed gratification that comes with solving a mystery after following the right clues
can parallel to the delayed gratification that comes with finally making a purchase
after saving up for it the right way.

I've noticed less & less delayed gratification in today's society.
We have cell phones at our fingertips with the ability to look things up in an instant.
We don't have to wait to receive a hand-written letter by snail mail since we have texting & email.
We can buy things on credit cards when we don't have the money saved up for an instant purchase.
However, I highly advise against that habit.

Seriously though, just don't do it.

I think it's human nature to want to take the easiest or quickest route to get things done...
We're constantly looking for shortcuts or life hacks.
But remembering things without looking them up keeps your brain healthy,
hand-written letters are so much more meaningful than a text,
& saving up for that purchase the right way can help you appreciate what you bought
so much more than just putting it on a piece of plastic & racking up more debt.

Because debt makes nobody happy.
Except for debt collectors.
Other people's debt is job security for them, so they probably appreciate it.

What I'm getting at is that if you take a step back & look at your budget with a new perspective
you may find something that you can easily change,
and have one of those "By Jove, I think we've got it" moments.
Then you can improve your budget, save more money, & feel better about your purchases.

Take the road less traveled.
Enjoy the scenery along the way.
It will be worth it.

Delayed gratification, folks...
Keep it alive.

Interested in buying YNAB?
Check out this link to get $6 off your purchase!

Also, you should check out my Building a Better Budget post if you haven't already read it...


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MOPS: Mompetition & Bullying

Last week at MOPS we had another great speaker!
Char Binkley came & talked about
(aka competition amongst moms)

She talked about 5 main points.
So I'll go over those first,
then I'll move on to the other random notes I took.

1. Comparison is a human, inborn trait - it's a God-given thing...
It's the way we can tell the difference between good & evil.

2. Comparison is necessary in life - it's a good thing...
It creates choices for us:
We compare prices when shopping to get the better deal.
We compare when we decide what kind of food to buy.
We compare when we decide which clothes to wear each day.

3. Comparison is embedded in our culture - it's a dangerous thing...
It can create:
feelings of inadequacy
distorted thinking
mental paralyzation

4. Comparison is your choice - that's a hopeful thing...
You're only a competitor in mompetition if you sign up for it.
Don't sign up for it.
Choose to be present with your children...
"Motherhood is not a spectator sport."

5. Comparison is a spiritual perspective - back to that God-given thing...
God is on your parenting team.
He doesn't compare any of us, so why should we?
Society can't tell you what you're doing right or wrong. God can.
The most important thing is to reflect God -- that is your job description in life.
Reflecting God requires being present with your children & husband.

"Just stop it."
Stop competing with other moms.
Remember that it is your choice.

Does the conversation always end up with you talking about your child
whether it be bragging or complaining?

Do you avoid talking about your family
because you are afraid of feeling inferior to the other mom?

Ask yourself... "What does it matter?"
Are you making it about you or are you making it about your child?
Make it about your children.

How do we avoid comparison when confronted in conversation?
1. Don't engage - deflect. (How great! You must be proud of them!)
2. Change the subject. (How great! Crazy weather we've been having, huh?)
3. Tell them that you would rather they try to avoid comparisons.
(Only if it's someone you're close to & you know they wouldn't be offended by you saying this.)

It's easy to feel like other people are intentionally parenting "AT US".
Is that really the case?
More than likely not, but even if they are...
What does it matter?
 Char read us this post titled 'Quit Pointing Your Avocado At Me' from Glennon at
It's well worth the read if you have the time!
I love the part where she says that we're all fighting the same fight on the same team.
There is so much truth in those words!

Be your child's best cheerleader.
Be careful not to give them an exaggerated idea of themselves.
Encourage them, but you don't have to say they're the best.

Don't brag about other people's kids or husbands.

Don't compare yourself to "experts".
It's so easy to do with Pinterest & social medial nowadays.

You never know what struggles the other person may be going through,
so when you catch yourself comparing, ask your Father in Heaven for help...
"Bless her. Fix me."

You can reflect God every moment of every day
to your families
& everyone you meet.

That's it for my MOPS notes, but please keep reading
since I have more to share on this subject...

Michelle from Connecticut Working Moms
so kindly let me share this picture with you on my blog:

It's part of a series of photos
on her 'End the Mommy Wars [Special Photo Edition]' post...
If you haven't seen those photos,
I HIGHLY encourage you to do so!
The pictures cover so many of the topics that moms tend to argue about,
& show how we can make different choices & still raise happy, healthy children.
Such a wonderful message (:

The way I see it, there are two main types of dangerous comparing...
Feeling like you are better than someone else (pride).
Feeling like you are worse than someone else (inadequacy).

I tend to do the latter more often than not...

The other night as I was reflecting about all of this,
I started thinking of a different angle that wasn't really mentioned at MOPS...

Comparing vs Bullying.

It may have been on my mind after reading this post about Bullying at Church
& watching the video at the end of the post...
It really hit home for me because I have been on the receiving end of exactly that.
Sometimes it was intentional.
Sometimes it was unintentional.
It was never physical,
but the comments hurt me just the same.
I like to think that I've gotten over the hurtful comments.
For the most part I have.
I've forgiven those that were mean to me,
but every now & then those comments sneak back into my mind.
I remind myself that I am a daughter of God
& that He loves me...
The only opinion that matters is my own,
& only I have the power to choose whether or not I let those words get to me.

Nobody likes being bullied.
I know I never enjoyed it.
So why do I bully myself?
That's essentially what's happening when I compare myself to others.
Really though.
Why do I allow myself to beat myself up
when someone else simply does things a different way than I do?
It's pretty ridiculous when you think about it.
That's when I have to remember to

As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his April 2012 conference talk,
'The Merciful Obtain Mercy',

It's a wonderful talk
with a wonderful message.
Please read or listen to it.

Stop the competition.
Stop the bullying.
Stop beating yourself up.
You are a child of God.
You are loved.
You are enough.

Remembering these things reminds me that
I don't need to change for anyone.
I don't have to try to get 87,452 things done in one day.
Honestly, I don't want to be supermom.
I just want to be a super mom.
And I am.

Other MOPS posts you may want to check out:
Advice From Experienced Moms
Children & Discipline
Controlling Your Emotions

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Platypus Day 2014

Whatcha doooin'?
Oh yeah, you're probably reading this post...
Did you remember to celebrate Playtpus Day this past Saturday?
We did (:
There was no way we would miss it!
We couldn't celebrate at Disneyland like we have in the past years,
but we still tried to make it the best day ever.
Okay, so maybe it didn't go anything like I had planned,
but it was still a fun day!

photo credit:

Here, let me tell you the back-story...
I promise it has nothing to do with lawn gnomes or doonkelberries.

I woke up on Saturday thinking,
"I know what we're gonna do today."
But then I remembered Hubby had to work all morning
because of all the crazy weather over the past few months.
'Tis the life of a busy auto damage adjuster.
<le sigh>
When he came home, he changed into his Perry shirt & we ate lunch.
My pregnant mind is having a hard time remembering what we ate,
but I know it was some sort of food.

Hubby & I were sporting Perry the Platypus shirts again,
but the kidlets had grown out of the shirts I made for them last year.
I didn't have the time to make new ones for them this year,
so they wore regular clothes.
So sad...

Anywhooo, we couldn't start our party right away
since we are STILL trying to pack & get our house ready to list.
We let the kids watch some Phineas and Ferb while we were packing,
but us adults easily got sucked in & stopped being productive,
so we had to turn on Pandora instead.

The sister missionaries from our church,
came by around 3 to help us clean & pack for a couple hours...
They're the best!
We ended up getting quite a bit done,
so we felt pretty good about starting our party shortly after they left.

We had a themed dinner which consisted of Phineas and Ferb mac & cheese, Phineas and Ferb shaped jello jigglers (A much smaller scale of the gelatin in Isabella's pool that was hit by the Turn-Everything-Evil-inator. Not nearly as large or evil & a different flavor, but just as jiggly...), mini corn dogs from Mr. Slushy Dawg, slushy gatorade & Icees (also from Mr. Slushy Dawg).

As you can see, it was kind of a lazy dinner...
(I even took pictures of the boxes instead of the actual food.)
But hey, Perry is a platypus.
They don't do much.

After dinner, we watched some Phineas and Ferb together as a family while our food settled.
We had plans for the biggest ice cream sundae ever made,
second only to the one that Doofenshmirtz ended up accidentally making,
but we all got sleepy so we nixed that idea...

I wish there were more hours in the day
so that we could have done everything I had imagined.
In my head I had pictured:
teal streamers,
teal, orange, & brown balloons (& Balloony)
decorating our living room.

I had pictured at least a half day of events including but not limited to:
pin the hat on Perry (to make him become Agent P),
a "Where's Perry" scavenger hunt,
a game of Skiddley Whiffers,
& of course watching Phineas and Ferb.

Although it wasn't how I had imagined,
It was pretty fun for just winging it when we had so much going on.

I'm thinking that next year we'll have 'The Candace Special' for dinner... grilled cheese!
That is of course if we can't make it to Disneyland.

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