Archives for May 2008

Flexible Friday

Running a home business for more than 20 years has given me a lot of freedom and fun.

The best part for me has always been the flexibility.

I have always loved to set my own schedule. I am a night owl by nature and the structure of a nine to five job was something I never enjoyed. I know myself well enough to know that my internal clock makes me most productive when most other people are usually going to bed. It’s also why I’m glad I have a few friends on the West Coast!

Being your own boss and/or working from home is a dream that many people have. But I have often shared that the dream can become
the nightmare if you don’t give yourself some structure and boundaries.

Since The Grunter was born 18+ years ago, I have always been a full-time mom first and a home-based business owner second.

The structure I set for myself many years ago was setting up daily theme days. Anyone who knows me knows I have to keep things simple. Complicated means confusing and coma patients really don’t like to be more confused than necessary!

Back in the day with three toddlers, naptime, preschool, 5:00 meltdown, etc., my theme days went something like this…

Monday

“Me” Day…this was the day I got a babysitter or later kept them in an aftercare program at school so I could play golf. Often, I went and played 18 holes all by myself. Some Mondays I had lunch with friends. If it was a rainy day, I curled up at home with a good book or a few magazines. I did NOT clean the house or do any kind of work!

Tuesday & Thursday

“Telephone” Day…a good part of my business was and still is spent on the phone. I learned that I didn’t have to answer the phone when it rang. I could return calls on Tuesday and Thursday. I could make business-building calls on those days.

Wednesday

“Wacko” Day…this was the day I made lists and ran around running errands and doing all those little things that piled up throughout the week. It always felt like a crazy day but crazy didn’t start with “W” and Errand Wednesday didn’t fit my theme week. This is where this form really came in handy because I wrote on it throughout the week and then took it with me on Wednesdays.

Friday

“Finances & Family” Day…Since Friday was usually pay day for PhilBillPaul and I always had bookkeeping tasks related to my business, I handled that kind of stuff on Friday. Friday night was reserved for pizza or tacos or whatever “fun” food the kids wanted to have. Then we’d play a game or rent a movie.

So now with these three teenagers and the nine year-old, most every day feels like Wacko Wednesday and my theme days seem to have disappeared.

It got me thinking as I’ve been working on this website and a few other web business ideas with a good friend, I should re-institute my theme days.

I also remember how many moms of multiples and other home-based business moms have told me how my “theme” days have helped them. It really is hard work to be at home without a boss or some structure. It’s easy for the days to all blend together and feel unproductive.

So as we start this summer and I know the benefits of setting boundaries for myself, I bring you “Flexible Friday.”

It’s a running joke with a few friends who will understand when I say this loudly…

“I AM THE MOST FLEXIBLE ONE IN THIS GROUP.”

Which is a big lie. Well, I guess it depends on the group I am in. 🙂

“Flexible Friday” for me means that I’m going to quit stressing about what to write about on Fridays. For some reason, I feel the most self-imposed pressure.

“Flexible Friday” will hereby be a day where I am free to blog about four or five fascinating or fabulous or free or fun or favorite facts (or fiction) I FEEL like writing about.

Are you feeling my theme? And because I’m sooooo flexible, I’m starting Flexible Friday…next Friday. Hush already, I don’t need the pressure.

I also hereby institute MONDAY ME DAY for every MOM who doesn’t schedule a day for herself. Come on, you can do it!

(Okay, start with a ME hour if the day concept is freaking your inner martyr.)

I really want to hear from every woman who has a ME day and I also want to hear from all of you who are now adding a ME day to your life! Click on the comment button and make a commitment to YOURSELF–you are worth it. Share it with us here!

Your ME day doesn’t have to be on Monday…see, I’m flexible like that.

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Little Lesson #7 Teenager Dating Tips

I am often asked what our dating *rules* are at the Humphreys house.

People seem to be fascinated that we have three teenagers at home while they usually only have one or maybe two. Almost seems like they are gloating that their family planning was better executed than ours.

Or maybe I’m just defensive about our lack of planning. Go figure. Yes, I’m tired. Is it showing?

PhilBillPaul and I have a list that we’ve discussed at length made up as we’ve gone along this journey of parenthood.

Rule number one

No dating until they are 16.

It kept things simple and uncomplicated and we announced this rule early. I think we may have started chanting it when they started kindergarten.

The definition of dating for us is getting in a car and going somewhere without adult chaperones. We like to be crystal clear with our definitions because it seems that their full-time job is twisting our words, looking for loopholes and the Never Enough Syndrome.

We have strong, personal feelings that no adolescent needs to have a boyfriend or girlfriend any earlier. We’re still not convinced they need one at 16 but we’re trying to remember the joys of youth and a still-developing brain.

We did have a few *special* visitors at the house before they were 16. We even took them to a movie with us and that means we ALL went to the same movie and sat in the same row and everything.

It’s a real bonding time – double dating with your parents – they love it!

Okay, maybe not so much but I will say it gives you an idea of how interested the dating candidate is if they’ll go to a movie with you and your mom and dad.
(I can also spot a brown noser a mile away so that doesn’t work for me!)

Rule number two

The individual who would like to go on an actual date with a Humphreys teen must come to the house to meet the family and participate in what I like to refer to as “The Interrogation Dinner.”

Roger Leroy has given the dinner a more friendly name. She calls it “The Stupid Home Date” and places special emphasis on the word stupid.

The Interrogation Dinner involves sitting down to dinner with all of us. I make no secret that we will be conducting an interrogation and I tell the potential date just that.

These are just a few things we look for as we start the interrogation:

1) Do they make eye contact with us? That’s huge for me.
2) Do they speak clearly or mumble?
3) Do they answer our questions or try to dodge them?

We ask them to share things like:

1) Tell us about your family
2) Tell us about school…how are your grades, what classes you’re taking, etc.
3) Tell us about your job…you do have a job, don’t you?

We end with:

1) We’d like your cell phone number and who is your service provider?*
2) Spell your last name and what will we find if we Google you?
3) One of us usually says to the other, “Did you get their social security number?”


*Major bonus if they have the same cell phone carrier as your family. Or not. You’ll have to weigh this one carefully.

The girls spend lots of time during the dinner saying things like, “They’re just kidding.”

And we counter with a deadpan, “No, we’re not.”

We love to gauge their responses and stress levels. You can really learn a lot about a person over dinner. 🙂

We know it’s hard to hang at the Humphreys house and we want them to know what they’re getting into before they invest their time and money with one of our precious teens.

We end with:

Has _______ (insert teen’s name) told you we are absolute freaks about car safety?

To which Roger Leroy recently replied in a flat voice as she rolled her eyes, “Oh yeah, my mom was in a coma for like 11 days…”

The date candidate was duly impressed. He has completed the first phase of our approval and they’re in their 4th week of dating. Woo-hoo.

Bonus points if:

1) They are nice to Scary Baby and the wiener dogs
2) They interact well with the other siblings
3) They actually eat while we interrogate & don’t lose their appetite

Rule number three

The date must be planned in advance and no changes are allowed after they leave the house. Tell us where you’re going, who will be there and what time you’ll be home (within our pre-set curfew). They know that we will and we have shown up where they are suppose to be and they darn well better be there.

We really “go with our gut” and we’re not afraid to share that with the kids. There is a lot of intuition that plays into this. We have welcomed each guest who they have wanted to have over for “The Home Date” but they haven’t all passed with flying colors. We’re trying to teach them how to trust their intuition as well. Because sometimes that’s all you have. And sometimes that will save you in a bad situation. It may even save your life.

We’re no experts and have done plenty of things wrong and will continue to make mistakes. We will also continue to parent and make them abide by our rules while they live in our home.

Three rules. And somehow they still find ways to make it difficult. I know this is their job. To push us up against the wall and see if they can wear us out. I’m worn out. PhilBillPaul is worn out. Lucky for them, being worn out isn’t the same as giving up. We will not surrender!

Little Lesson (LL): There is no perfect system. Just be involved and get to know who they are with.

Share a Little Lesson (SALL): Please, please share your dating tips, rules, or thoughts here. We all need each other’s help!!

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Memorial Day Memories & Miracles

Let me start by saying I’m doing my my civic duty to educate any readers who weren’t sure what yesterday’s Memorial Day signifies here in our country.

Cities all around the United States hold their own ceremonies on the last Monday in May to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of their country.

Memorial Day is not limited to honor only those Americans from the armed forces. It is also a day for personal remembrance. Families and individuals honor the memories of their loved ones who have died. Church services, visits to the cemetery, flowers on graves or even silent tribute mark the day with dignity and solemnity. It is a day of reflection. However, to many Americans the day also signals the beginning of summer with a three-day weekend to spend at the beach, in the mountains or at home relaxing.

The above is an excerpt from this website in case you want to prepare your next year’s homeschool lesson and you need more history, quizzes, puzzles and fun about Memorial Day. Oh yeah, I am a planner – just ask my kids about those homeschooling years and how organized I was. Always getting things ready a year in advance. I’m like that.

I do hope that you were able to take a little time to say a quiet prayer or pay special tribute to our armed forces who continue to serve our country with such honor.

So many relatives and friends have served that if I started to list them, I know I would leave someone out. Right now, my cousin Sally’s son, Rob, is serving in Iraq.

And of course, you all got to read the special words my friend Ann’s husband shared right here.

There is never a time that a story or a picture of our our military doesn’t choke me up.

2517959749_b414c7478f
(Arlington National Cemetery – May 22, 2008) — Flags stand vigil at gravesites in Arlington National Cemetary. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) began their rounds to place a small American flag into the ground in front of every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for the upcoming Memorial Day observance. (Photo by Adam Skoczylas).

Memories

But Memorial Day does more than choke me up.

Every year PhilBillPaul and I take time to remember how our lives changed and what we have survived.

Today marks 20 years to the day.

May 27th, 1988.

The day we were hit head-on by a drunk driver.

We never forget the irony of that Memorial Day weekend when we went to see this movie before the crash.

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I’ll never forget the stories of what happened that I’ve been told. Because I really don’t remember anything.

The phone call he had to make to Illinois to tell my parents.

The last thing my mom remembers him saying before they hung up.
“Oh, and you should probably know she’s on a respirator.”

PhilBillPaul has always had a way with words. This time we didn’t argue about it.

It’s hard to argue when you’re in a coma…

Eleven days in a coma.

I’ve lost count of how many times people have asked…

Do you remember waking up?

Could you hear people talking to you?

Did you see a white light?

No, no and no.

I do vaguely remember pulling out my IV and other various tubes because I needed to get all the doctors together for a conference call to Portugal.

Who knew they gave coma patients such big responsibilities?
(I think this is also called hallucinating.)

I am still not sure where Portugal is.

I clearly remember my mom telling me to behave and answer the doctors’ questions correctly or they would think I was crazy. I remember her telling me through gritted teeth “This is no time to be funny.”

See, I was funny before the coma. Some people think I’m still funny.

So much to learn when you wake up from a coma.

Did you know that when you have been hospitalized for close to 30 days that you shouldn’t raise your arms up when you have guests? Luckily my mom was there to motion from across the room and hiss whisper
“Put your arms down!”

“WHY?” I said in a very loud voice.

More hand gestures and pointing and my brain worked well enough at that moment to realize that visitors didn’t want to see four weeks of my new European unshaven look.

Whatever. Like I really cared. I was alive.

Miracles

Brain injury, rehab, therapy…

I believe.

20 years later, I believe more than ever.

Tonight, after we put Scary Baby to bed, we might even get crazy and watch the DVD we have of the crash scene and me being loaded on the LifeFlight helicopter to remind our three driving teenagers that they are not in control of everything.

Who knew that an ambulance chaser with a new video camera would provide us with such a teaching tool for our then, yet-to-be-born children?

Don’t think we’re being morbid. We will have popcorn and celebrate, I promise!

I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and happy.

I truly hope you all enjoyed a three day weekend filled with fun memories and fabulous miracles…

Life Lesson (LL): Little or big. They’re all around us. Miracles happen every single day.

Share a Life Lesson (SALL): Feel free to ask me any *coma* questions…people still seem to be fascinated and I don’t mind. 🙂 Share a miracle in your life…your miracle can serve as such inspiration for someone else!

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Little Lesson #6
Day One of Summer

For us, Day One of Summer was officially yesterday.

On Wednesday evening, PhilBillPaul and I enjoyed a lovely dinner out by ourselves and we had an animated discussion on starting the summer off by making a solid, serious plan for regaining control at our house.

Crazy things were discussed like getting our kids to do their chores every day. The chores that we consider a normal part of being a family member.

We got even crazier and thought we would sit down and talk to our lovely children about all of us working together to create a peaceful environment at home. We thought we could all start fresh and have a nice, relaxing summer.

Still trying to help them connect the dots about this simple fact:

“Mom won’t yell if you did the things we’ve asked you to do since you were three.”

We’re tough, I tell you. Here are some of the unreasonable things we keep reminding nagging them about…

“The rules haven’t changed.”

“Work before play.”

“Clean up your own mess.”

“Make your bed.”

“Brush your teeth.”

“Put toliet paper in the bathroom.”

“Hair brushes don’t belong on the kitchen counter.”

“Bath towels belong on your hook, not the floor.”

“Beach towels are not to be used as bath towels.”

And my all-time favorite because I just want one place in my whole house untouched by sticky hands and dirty feet…

“Stay out of our bedroom.”

Imagine my delight when we got home to find a water glass on my night stand that wasn’t mine, the TV set at a volume I’ve never listened to in my life and American Idol’s season finale deleted from my Tivo.

Oh yes, Mama Bear said someone has eaten my porridge, slept in my bed and left a big trail of evidence.

I won’t even go into the *story* that we got a.k.a. THE BIG LIE that kept getting bigger.

So our first day of summer was spent contemplating how long two of the three teens are grounded.

So much for our peace treaty.

Okay, I’ll stop now. As you can see, my expectations are way too high. This is all my fault.

Everyone would be a lot happier if I took more Valium and never left my bedroom.

I’ll let you know how Day Two goes…

Little Lesson (LL): The fun never ends.

Share a Little Lesson (SALL): What unreasonable things are you requiring your kids to do this summer? Eating, sleeping and going places doesn’t count.

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Graduation Party Fun Food

The graduation party fun seems to be all-consuming for families with seniors (and families with kindergarteners?).

The Grunter has made this all a little too easy for us since he’s not participating in the ceremony and didn’t want to have a party.

I’d feel more guilty about it if he hadn’t made a lot of other things really hard for us and in case anyone forgets, we will have TWO more seniors next year. I’m pretty certain they’ll be walking in the ceremony and want a party too. I’ve heard that I need to start the planning now. (Giant SIGH)

Here’s a little last minute tip for those supermom party planners (i.e. my friend Leigh Anne) who need just one more thing to do for the party…luckily these are super-easy graduation treats for the food table and you can never have too much chocolate!

I’m putting this is my “party file” for next year. (Yeah, sure, I have a party file.)

Our neighbor had these at her son’s party over the weekend and they were gone by the time we arrived. She was nice enough to email me the instructions and the link. Thanks Marla! 🙂

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Aren’t these just too stinkin’ cute?!

Grad Caps

Miniature peanut butter cups
Frosting or peanut butter
Chocolate-covered graham crackers
Fruit leather

Step 1
Place a miniature peanut butter cup, bottom up, on a plate. Top with a small dollop of frosting or peanut butter, then press on a chocolate-covered graham cracker.

Step 2
For a tassel, tightly roll up a small square of fruit leather. Cut fringe on one end and attach the other end to the center of the graham cracker with another dab of frosting or peanut butter.

The idea comes from FamilyFun.com

Sidenote: Someone on the website suggested using mini m&m’s to hold the tassel.

There’s even a video if you need help assembling them. Seriously…let me know if you needed the video.

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Graduation Day & The Grunter

It’s graduation week here in the South. The open houses and parties have begun.

We’ve been through graduation with our firstborn once before.

GrunterCHCS

He made it through kindergarten with flying colors.

As if any of us needed to wear a cap and gown and “graduate” from kindergarten. Sure, we bought right into the new ritual. Ahh, the peer pressure.

He sailed through elementary school even when we homeschooled (gasp) during his 4th grade year.

Grunter1st1996
He was a cute 1st grader.

Middle school (known as junior high back in my day) was relatively painless as well.

Grunter7th2001
He was a cute 7th grader too. Yes, I know I’m biased.

He will remind me that homeschooling again (double gasp) in 8th grade created struggles for him in high school. Math specifically.

Sorry, Bud, I did the best I could.

We made the best educational decisions we could throughout the years. We have experienced private Christian school, homeschooling and public school.

We know there is no such thing as the perfect school much like we know there are no perfect children or perfect parents.

Eighteen years and thirteen years of school have not really flown by. Some people claim that the years fly by. Sometimes I have even claimed that.

The Grunter has survived being our firstborn and our “test boy.” He has actually passed again with flying colors.

Don’t get me wrong – the journey has not always been smooth sailing. The Cocoa Krispie Nightmare was just one of our many struggles I can write about while still maintaining some decorum (and while he still lives at home with us).

He is not walking in his high school graduation ceremony. After he told me three times he didn’t want to go to the ceremony, I listened. It seems to have created more stress for friends and family than it has for him or us.

This is the first of many decisions he is making on his own.

This is the part where my job description as mom starts to change.

This is the part where I worry and praise and love and pray.

This is the part where you start to let go.

This picture is one of my all-time favorites in his photo album when he was just a wee little naked baby learning to walk.

GrunterTruck

The quote I wrote on the page of his album so many years ago and is very poignant for me right now…

“A boy has two jobs. One is just being a boy.

The other is growing up to be a man.”

–Herbert Hoover

His job of being a boy is almost over.

His job of becoming a man is just beginning.

GrunterGrad2

Life Lesson (LL): Growing and nurturing a baby boy into a man is a hard, scary job.

Share a Life Lesson (SALL): Share how your “babies” are turning out. Moms supporting moms makes the job a little less overwhelming!

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A Year by the Sea

Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous thing to do?

Spend a year by the sea. Ahhhh…

Sign me up. My bags are packed. I’m ready to go…

But I have a few obligations and responsibilities I have to tend to before I can go. I’m guessing you do too.

So short of leaving, you can read the book…

AYearbytheSea
A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman

Joan Anderson is the author of that book and she is one of my favorite authors. I saw her almost a decade ago on Oprah and went right out and got the book. I still love the tagline of the book because I know that is really who we all are — unfinished women.

Since then, she has published 4 more books and I have devoured them all and given some of them as gifts.

On Wednesday night I had the privilege of attending a Borders event called “Getting Better All the Time: Women and Writers in Conversation.” If you’re in Atlanta, I’m sorry you missed it.

She was an absolute delight! Warm, funny, sincere and truthful – all the qualities I love in a women at any age.

My friend Wendy and I were so glad we made the trek downtown. It’s still an effort to get out and do things like this that feel selfish to many women but are really the things that lift us up and keep us going when we’re tired and overwhelmed.

Of course, having dinner after we left Borders was an added bonus!

I was sad that I forgot to snap a picture of us with Joan (our new friend whom we now feel like we can call by her first name).

I did, however, snap pictures of our desserts at The Cheesecake Factory.

RaspberryLemon

I chose the LEMON RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESECAKE
Raspberry Vanilla Cake, Creamy Lemon Cheesecake, Raspberry Lady Fingers and Lemon Mousse

Turtlecheesecake

Wendy went for the CARAMEL PECAN TURTLE CHEESECAKE.
Pecan Brownie and Caramel Fudge Swirl Cheesecake, Topped with Caramel Turtle Pecans and Chocolate

Obviously, we were both counting calories. Not.

I can’t wait to dive in to her new book this weekend. Just the title makes me smile…

TheSecondJourney
Second Journey, The: The Road Back to Yourself

And I love the tagline of this one too. “The Road Back to Yourself” It’s like she wrote it just for me.

My personal recommendation is to start at the beginning and read every one of Joan’s books. Or go wild and read the new one first. Read them out of order. Just read them!

Do something for yourself this weekend – eat some cheesecake and curl up with a good book! Make every weekend Mother’s Day…you deserve it!

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P.S. If you click on the purple text link of the book titles, it will take you right to Amazon.com and you can order the book and have it delivered to your door!

Alive & Overwhelmed…

I am alive…

I am well…

I am overwhelmed…

I am “well” is relative in terms of allergy season in the south. The pollen count is off the charts and some of us can barely walk outside to get the mail without serious side effects–even with meds!

I am “overwhelmed” as in managing a house of six can really reduce me to a raving lunatic–even with Valium (but I haven’t taken one today thank you very much)!

I’m off to an author event at Borders for a much-needed girlfriend night out. I’ll report back on Friday and tell you about the author, the books she has written that I love and any new, exciting things I learn by listening to her!

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P.S. My email subscription and RSS feed service seems to have abandoned me and my site. (sob). I’m looking into changing services. Thank you all for your patience while I work to fix the problem.

Never Enough Syndrome

At our house, we call it the “Never Enough” syndrome. It seems that no matter what we buy, give or do, it’s “never enough.” If we say yes, they ask for one more thing. If we say midnight, they say “12:30.” If we say pick one, they say “two. If we say pick two, they say “three.”

Okay, you get the idea. Anyone else relate to this syndrome?

Reflecting on a quiet Mother’s Day yesterday and keeping focused on my job as the mean mom with Scary Baby grounded for the day and the teenagers all working, I thought of one of my favorite Erma Bombeck writings. I know it has made its way around the internet email forwarding system many times. Often without proper attribution.

My kids actually read the blog from time to time and I wonder if they’re still too young to really “get it.”

Fellow mean moms get it.

Erma got it.

It’s really worth reading again.

You Don’t Love Me

“You don’t love me!”

How many times have your kids laid that one on you?

And how many times have you, as a parent, resisted the urge to tell them how much?

Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother I’ll tell them.

I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom, and what time you would get home.

I loved you enough to insist you buy a bike with your own money that we could afford and you couldn’t.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover your hand-picked friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to make you return a Milky Way with a bite out of it to a drugstore and confess, “I stole this.”

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom, a job that would have taken me fifteen minutes.

I loved you enough to say, “Yes, you can go to Disney World on Mother’s Day.”

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust, and tears in my eyes.

I loved you enough not to make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners.

I loved you enough to admit that I was wrong and ask your forgiveness.

I loved you enough to ignore “what every other mother” did or said.

I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall, hurt, and fail.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for you own actions, at six, ten, or sixteen.

I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party being chaperoned, but forgave you for it … after discovering I was right.

I loved you enough to shove you off my lap, let go of your hand, be mute to your pleas … so that you had to stand alone.

I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, not what I wanted you to be.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say no when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.
–Erma Bombeck

I hope all you mean moms (and nice moms) had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

And I hope and pray that my kids know that I have always loved them enough even when it seems like it is never enough…

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Grandma’s Applesauce Cookies

When we want to try to eat healthy…

…okay, that made me laugh just typing it.

Let me start over.

When we’re out of chocolate chips, we make these cookies.

Well, that and if the applesauce doesn’t have mold on it since no one really eats it except if it’s in these cookies.

(Or at Red Lobster in lieu of a green salad.)

They could be mistaken for being “semi-healthy” if there is such a thing.

I’m sure you could use whole wheat flour and sneak in some flax. Yum.

I did grow up eating these and the recipe is in our family cookbook.

These could be my Mom’s recipe or Betty Crocker’s. I just don’t know for sure.

Truth be told, these are really good! So maybe when you are burned out on chocolate chip cookies and brownies, you might give these a try.

Applesauce Cookies

3/4 C soft shortening
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 C applesauce
2-1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves

Heat oven to 375º. Mix shortening, sugar & egg thoroughly. Stir in applesauce. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend dry ingredients; stir in. Drop by spoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

Enjoy and let me know if you try them and if you like them!

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