Candy Cane Cookies

Yummy!  This is my fave of all times!  I love almond flavoring and peppermint and sugar all mixed together.  Don't let these scare you because they might look difficult.  They're really not.  Basically, it's a sugar cookie recipe with a little extra.  Then, you're making balls and rolling.  Pretty simple.  Here's the recipe.  These freeze really well, so you can make up to three months before Christmas. (The picture above is missing the sprinkles on top which are really important, see recipe below). 

Candy Cane Cookies

1 c. shortening (half butter)
1 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. red food coloring
1/2 c. crushed (really fine) peppermint candy
1/2 c. granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375.  Mix shortening, sugar, egg and flavoring thoroughly.  Mix flour and salt: stir into shortening mixture.  Divide dough in half.  Blend food coloring into one half.  Refrigerate overnight before rolling out.  **Hint** Only take out a little dough at a time to work with because the dough is much easier to roll when it's cold.

Take 1 heavy tsp of dough and roll into ball.  Then, roll the ball into a 4 inch strip from each color.  Roll smooth, even strips.  Place them side by side and twist together like a rope.  Roll one cookie at a time so dough doesn’t dry out.  Shape into candy cane on cookie sheet.  Bake about 9 minutes.  Immediately after bringing out of oven, sprinkle with mixture of peppermint and sugar (1 to 1 ratio).

Dinner with Food Only

Hello Friends,
Here's another great activity that my family still begs to do again.  I'll tell you how we did it, but obviously, the sky is the limit with what you could serve and do.  I told my family that we were having a very special dinner, where we would practice our etiquette skills.  They hear this from me a lot, so really no big surprise.  I allowed them to watch me prepare in the kitchen; getting out the china, the linen, etc.  I did purchase a white plastic tablecloth and placed it on our dining room table, which my husband thought was a bit strange (plastic, really?).  When it was finally time to eat, I instructed everyone into the dining room to be seated.  The menu was:
  • Spaghetti
  • Salad
  • Brownies and Ice Cream
I brought our first course out on my beautiful silver tray.  There were no plates, bowls, or silverware on the table.  I asked my dear husband, "Salad sir?"  He said, "Yes."  So, I then proceeded to  drop salad onto the table in front of him.  After a good pile was formed, I asked, "What type of dressing sir?"  Ranch was his reply.  So, I then poured ranch dressing on his salad.  I also dropped some bacon bits, croutons and nuts onto his beautiful salad.  The kids were dying.  After serving everyone their beautiful salad, I then instructed them to begin eating.  "With what?" was their reply.  "I don't know, but figure it out," was my reply.  We went on to eat spaghetti, and brownies and ice cream in the same manner; no plates, no silverware, no napkins.  It was a blast!  And believe it or not, my floor was clean after-wards.  That was one of the rules.  We laughed a lot and became very creative with the best technique to get the most amount of food into our mouths at a time.  Great etiquette skill.

Making memories.  That's what it's all about.  Cut loose and have some fun.
Monica Irvine, a.k.a. Mary Manners

Taking the Last Bite, Should I?

Here's just a little lesson that's good to review with our children, before they find themselves faced with this situation.  I find that if I discuss with my children ahead of time (not in the moment), they are much more likely to listen and to ponder what has been said.

Proper Etiquette regarding taking the last piece or bite of something is simply; ask first.  Have you ever been “eyeing” the last piece of chocolate pie and wondering whether you should go for it or not.  Well, it’s OK if you do, but the polite thing is to ask if anyone else would like it, before you take it.  For instance, “If no one is going to eat this last piece of pie, I would love to have it,” or, “I would be willing to share.”  Most people, unless it’s your brother, are going to say, “No, you go ahead and enjoy it.”  People appreciate so much your willingness to ask before you take, that they usually allow you to have it, even though they might love it themselves.  This rule applies to everything, whether it’s the last piece of cake, the last piece of pizza, or the last piece of gum.  It’s amazing the payoffs that happen when we use proper etiquette.  Another consideration is asking for "seconds."  Remember, that when you’re in your own home, it is perfectly polite to ask if you may have "seconds."  However, when you are a guest in someone’s home, it is impolite to ask for "seconds"; wait until you’re offered "seconds," and then it’s perfectly OK. 

Now that my children understand this, are any of you willing to explain this to my husband?  Let me know if you have any suggestions for this problem.  I give up:)

Monica, a.k.a. Ms. Mary Manners

Manner's Checklist for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

OK, so let's not stress.  We have grocery shopping to complete, a house to get clean, and children to turn into little angels before Thursday.  No worries.  We can do this.  Right?

OK, so maybe there's reason for a little stress.  I can't help you with the shopping or cleaning, so let me help with those little dev...I mean angels.  No, we can't completely transform a caterpillar into a butterfly in three days, but these helpful hints will surely get you started.  Let's review with our children the following to ensure a happy, joyful and as little embarrassment as possible at the Thanksgiving Dinner Table.

  1. Take a gift to the host.  Whether it's your grandmother, your aunt, or a friend, whose home you are visiting for Thanksgiving, make sure everyone has a small token of appreciation in hand.  The children actually really enjoy this.  It can be a flower, a candle, a special treat or really anything.  It's a polite way to show our loved ones how much we appreciate them helping our holidays become special memories.
  2. Make sure everyone is dressed appropriately.  Thanksgiving is special.  It's a meal that we usually bring out the best china and the linen napkins, and we ensure that the table looks beautiful.  To honor such a special occasion, the children should reflect the attitude of the day with appropriate dress.  I'm not saying they need to be in their church clothes, but definitely, "dressy casual."
  3. It's not polite to ever announce that we don't like something at the dinner table, but it is especially rude when we are a guest in someone's home.  Let's remind our whole family that absolutely never, never announce our dislikes when we are a guest.  The polite way to handle turning down food that we do not care for is simply, "No thank you."
  4. Find ways to compliment the host (cook).  It's really not easy to prepare a Thanksgiving meal with all the "fixins."  Let's give our children an assignment on Thanksgiving, that they have to "hand out" at least 5 sincere compliments on this special day (2 of them going towards the host).  This will be a great challenge that will be fun to discuss at the end of the day.
  5. Finally,  send thank you cards.  This is a great occasion to allow our children to practice the art of sending thank you cards.  The day after Thanksgiving, have the whole family sit down and write a little note of appreciation to the host of Thanksgiving.  The host is probably in the bed, recuperating, and will surely appreciate the gesture.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We are so blessed to live in America!  I love our country, my family and especially my Savior.  May we all count our many blessings during this week of gratitude.

Tardiness is Never Polite

Here's the Etiquette Lesson for the week:  Tardiness is Never Polite.  

As most of us moms know, this is very hard.

It's not that we mean to be late constantly, but if you've ever had to pack up a baseball team just to run buy milk, you'd understand.

Getting to church on time, come on. Are they serious!!!  Having to make sure Joey isn't wearing his lawn mowing tennis shoes, Rachel is wearing underwear and I've put on deodorant takes time.  And usually, by the time we make sure everyone is "just so," someone has taken something off, spilled something on someone or even become lost themselves.  It is difficult.

However, with all that said, we must be aware of how our tardiness is perceived by others.

When we are late, it sends a message to the ones who have planned the activity that we simply don't care about their time, their schedule or the distraction that our tardiness causes to others.  

It says loud and clear, "Your time, effort and schedule are simply not of importance to me."  It's important that we do our best to be on time.  Sure, things are going to happen.  But, it doesn't need to become a habit.

Proper etiquette means we are always sensitive to others' time and effort, and we try to be respectful of both by showing up "on time."  

This lesson is definitely for me, too.

Christmas Cookie Favorites

Good Day to You,
I want to share with you some family secrets.  Since I was a little girl, I remember my Grandma, Aunts and Mother, getting together before Christmas (usually starting in October) to make Christmas cookies.  They would usually make 2 different kinds of cookies each time they got together and then divide them up into cute Christmas tin cans.  Everyone would take their tins home and save for Christmas.  I remember opening the freezer and seeing lids that read, "Strawberries," "Nut Rolls," "Candy Canes," etc.  My mouth would water, waiting for the big day when we could open all the cans.  What a cherished memory this is for me and all my family.  So without further ado, here is the first of these cherished recipes.  I'll submit one per week until Christmas.  This one wins #1 every year.

Nut Rolls

1 1/3 c. sifted self-rising flour       
1 unbeaten egg
1/4 c.sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 c butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix flour, sugar, egg and butter with electric mixer.  Add almond and vanilla.  Divide this dough into 4 parts and wrap in wax paper. Chill overnight.

1 1/4 c. pecans (ground)
1/3 c. sugar
1/16 salt
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. water
1/16 tsp. maple flavoring

Mix ingredients thoroughly and then chill dough overnight.  Really easy.

The next day, take out one roll at a time (works better when cold).  Roll out dough on floured surface (very thin, about 1/8 - 1/4”).  Cut diamond shape (with small diamond shaped cookie cutter).  Place 1 tsp or less of nut filling in center of diamond.  Roll and place on cookie sheet.  Bake 7-10 minutes at 400 degrees

**Hint:  The biggest mistake I make with these is, I fill them too full with the nut mixture.  Try out a couple before you bake a whole cookie sheet to make sure you have the right amount and that you like the way they turn out.  Your pan is also a big deal.  You know how some baking pans cook too quickly, burning the bottom of your cookie before the rest is done.  Once again, baking just a couple at first will let you know how your pan does and if you need to adjust the temp of oven.

Fighting Negativity

I think I'm getting more negative as I get older.  My head knows, as I've been taught, that being negative is not becoming of a lady, yet...then my day starts.  :)  I am so blessed.  Too blessed to ever have a negative thought or comment for the rest of my life, so how do I make sure I'm not.

I don't want my children to hear me gripe or complain, especially about things that don't have eternal consequences.

I want them to hear me be grateful, appreciative,
 thoughtful and non-judgmental.  

I struggle like the next person, but I know that as I focus on my blessings of being a mother, living in this great nation, knowing why I'm here and such, it will be more difficult for me to gripe and complain.

I vow to try harder to be positive and gracious, so that my children will want to do the same.  I know it makes for a happier person, day and family.

Have a great day!

Monica Irvine

Fun Family Activity: Front Yard Dining

Here's a great activity that the whole family will enjoy.  First, choose another family that will be willing to participate.  The first week, your family cooks dinner for the other family.  However, you move their dining table out to their front yard, set the table attractively, and serve them.  They will enjoy waving to neighbors and laughing at the silliness of it.  Hopefully, your family has some good cooks in it.  The next week, the other family returns the favor.  Making memories with our children is one of my greatest joys.  Think outside the box, have fun and decide that having fun with your kids is never embarrassing, just rewarding.  I want to hear some feedback when this assignment is completed. 
Have fun,

Teaching Children Accountability

I wanted to tell everyone about a great product I found this past summer.  The company is called Accountable Kids.  It is for children ages 3 years to probably 12 years.  It is really amazing.  It helps mom and dad manage the household, teach children accountability (my favorite), and provides great organizational skills regarding parenting.  I love that it teaches consistency, which is many parents hardest parenting skill to perfect.  Check it out when you have time.  The website is:
Love those children,

Stand Up for our "Elders"

It is polite to stand when an adult enters the room, approaches a table, introduces themselves, and stands to leave.  I hear so many people complaining that the young people today, don't show respect for their "elders."  There are many different ways to teach respect, but one way is to teach our children to stand.  Sometimes, when we teach our children to do something new, they are hesitant, embarrassed, or irritated regarding the new rule.  Be patient, yet consistent with teaching your children this important etiquette skill.  It's interesting that when we stand for someone, our respect and appreciation for them actually grow.  Think about if you were sitting in a chair when the President of the United States walked into the room.  You simply would stand.  Even if you didn't particularly care for the current President, you would stand due to your honor and respect you have for the office of the President.  And, by standing, you would be reminded of your love and appreciation for our country and for the freedoms the office of the President represent.  Similarly, as our children stand for Grandma when she enters our home, or when they stand when Dad comes home from work and give him a welcoming hug, these acts of kindness help solidify, in a small way, their respect for these individuals.  It's important.  Let's teach our children about standing.

Not Another Parenting Blog

Yes, another Parenting Blog.  Can we ever get enough advice about parenting?  Of course not.  Why?  Well, because the second we think we have mastered our latest parenting skill, our wise and ever evolving children come up with another challenge for us (just for the fun of it, I've decided), to see if we really mean what we say, when we tell them, "I love you and there's nothing you can ever do to change that love I have for you."  You're child's thinking..."We'll see about that."

Granted, no they're probably not that sinister, however, we must stay diligent in out plight to conquer, achieve, succeed...who am I kidding...let's just try to keep up, shall we?

I would like to share a few insights that I have, and hope that you are willing to share your gifts and insights as well.  I enjoy helping and educating parents on creative ways to teach our children proper etiquette and social skills.   However, I don't want this blog to just be about manners, I want it to be about parenting, self improvement and spiritual growth.  If you have anything that you could share with us regarding these subjects, please share.   I especially would love to hear success stories, but also welcome questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monica (a.k.a. Ms. Mary Manners)