Have You Read……..?

with the book fair coming to our school next week, instead of reviewing ONE book this week, i figured i’d share several of my favorites that you can buy right on the spot at our very own book fair!   isn’t that nice and accommodating of me? 🙂

one of my favorite things to smell is coffee, because it means i’m in a bookstore!!!!!!  i love, love, love bookstores!   as i walk through the doors i take a deep breath and try to stay calm.  there are so many sections i want to look at, but i ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS end up in the youth and children sections.   there seem to be so many choices and never enough time.

that’s why i love the school book fair!   instead of going out and searching through thousands of books, you can walk right into our own library and they have new releases nicely displayed on pretty shelves, according to age and interests.   isn’t that nice and accommodating of them? 🙂

we have no school on monday, so the book fair officially starts tues oct. 6th and goes through friday oct.  9th.   we’ll end the week with DADS N DONUTS ON FRIDAY!  mmmmm……donuts!

most people know my first love is food.  next to food, i’m a picture book junkie.    i especially love the rhyming ones!  my new favorite book is the pout-pout fish by deborah diesen. mr. fish pouts around the ocean looking for a way to cure his “dreary wearies”.    it’s a cute story for kids who ‘pout about’ and will show them how to ‘smile awhile’.

usually i am a dog person, but there are two must have cat books.   splat the cat by rob scotton (just for the adorable cat) and happy birthday bad kitty by nick bruel.   if you don’t have the bad kitty and poor puppy books they are great fun.  happy birthday is the latest edition to this cute friendship.

holy frijoles!  it’s a poquito skippito!  skippyjonjones is a siamese cat that pretends to be a chiahuhua.  his latest adventure introduces him and his amigos to a T-REX!  favorite things about this series:  skippyjonjones mom has a ton of silly nicknames for him and the books are so fun to read with a spanish accent.  ole!  skippyjonjones and the big bones by judy schachner

if you have a girly girl attending manila fancy nancy by jane o’connor will be a favorite.  lil nancy has a huge vocabulary full of big FANCY words.  it’s a creative way to expand your child’s vocabulary while having fun reading.  the new book has two books in one and is an ‘i can read by myself’ level book!  isn’t THAT fancy?!

several other “new titles” in some great series are:

judy moody goes to college by megan mcdonald-fun books to keep girls laughing

percy jackson and the olympians battle of the labyrinth by rick riordan-if you liked hercules you’ll love percy!  it’s like harry potter meets greek mythology.

battle of the red hot pepper weenies-totally ridiculous stories.  reminds me of stories you would tell around the campfire while roasting WEENIES!  boys in upper grades will enjoy these warped and creepy tales.

the 39 clues by rick riordan-if you enjoyed national treasure the movie, you’ll really enjoy this series.  there are going to be 10 books in the series over the next several years and they read like a treasure hunt.  there are trading cards, a website with games and puzzles and a little bit of history thrown into each book.  this is a great series for kids 9-14 yrs old.

dare i say……diary of a wimpy kid by jeff kinney?-   parents if you don’t have these books at your home your kids are missing out.  these are like the twilight series but for kids.  they go crazy over them!  the latest one won’t actually come out until one week AFTER our book fair, but don’t worry……mrs. webster has made sure we can pay for them at our book fair and they will be delivered to our school as soon as the book officially comes out.  i hope you have lots of order forms mrs. webster!

the last two books i’m mentioning in this post are boys are dogs by leslie margolis and all the lovely bad ones by mary downing hahn.   these are the two books i haven’t read but will purchase at the book fair.  both have wonderful reviews and look like great stories.  boys are dogs is humorous and bad ones is a ghost story.  if you have children in 5th or 6th grade, have them take a peek at these two new titles.



Crock Pot Taco Soup

ole! seeing as the weather is supposed to change this week, i thought a nice hearty soup would be the best choice for this week’s recipe.

this recipe “CAN” go both way for kids.  some will raise an eyebrow at their bowl and others “CAN”not get enough.  it eats like a thick chili with beans, corn and chicken, but it’s by far the BEST taco soup recipe i’ve ever had.   parents! this is one of those recipes you’ll want to make all the time because it’s so easy to “DUMP” together.  just make sure you have an electric CAN opener because you’ll be opening your fair share of CANS!

you will need a crock pot and a whole lotta CANned stuff to create this recipe.

Taco Soup.1Crock Pot Taco Soup

The BEST Crock Pot Taco Soup

1 can pinto beans              1 can white kidney beans

1 can red kidney beans     1 can black beans

1 can chili beans                  1 more can of whatever beans you really like

1 can diced tomatoes        1 can of niblet corn OR 1 small bag of frozen corn (the corn is our favorite so we like lots of this)

1 can diced green chilies   1 can tomatoe puree (this just keeps the soup nice and juicy)

1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix   1 pkg taco seasoning mix

shredded chicken       1 bottle of your favorite salsa

Dump everything into crock pot-DO NOT DRAIN CANS, just pour them in juice and all.

Stir everything and cook on low 6-7hrs hours.

Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions tortilla chips, etc.

we like to crush tortilla chips in an empty bowl, sprinkle them with cheese, ladle soup on top, then dollop with sour cream.   it’s like a little FIESTA in a bowl!

Helpful time saving hint:

Use the canned chicken from Costco and it works out great.  I use two cans.  I drain the chicken and make sure it’s shredded and not it big clumps. Then pour everything else in.  Makes a ton, so plan on dinner guests!


Friday FUN Days at Manila/ EARS to YOU!

most people around the world look forward to friday because it’s close to the weekend.  at manila we have a few more reasons to smile on fridays!

first we have our friday features!   for 10 yEARS emily varney has been involved in bringing the students and faculty at manila AMAZING stories about quality character traits, moments of history and ‘things you otta know’ moments.    as a substitute and volunteer, i looked forward to the days i could be at the school on fridays to hear the friday feature.  i loved every word, but was sad that all the parents couldn’t hear these great ‘mini lessons’ their children were hearing.

this year, emily has gone the extra mile and i say, EARS TO YOU!!!!   she has made a friday feature BLOG and will be updating it every friday!   now everyone can read the little messages emily shares on fridays!   you can link to the friday feature blog easily from our blog!   on the right hand side of the page you’ll see her link.  isn’t that great?!

i’d also like to thank emily for putting extra effort into her friday features this year.  if you go back and read all of them (which i suggest you do!)  they are all tied into our disney theme!  it’s been fun to see the kids faces light up when emily mentions ‘lightening mcqueen’ or ‘walt disney’ in her feature.   WAY TO GO IDAHO!  (what movie is THAT from?)

FAMILY TIP:   if you print out the friday features, they make great dinnertime conversation starters!  emily has added photos to the blog which is fun for the little ones to follow the story.   after dinner you could even, pop some popcorn and pop in the movie that was featured!  it could turn into a family night of fun, with a feel good message on the side.


the other fun thing we have on fridays are SUNSHINE FRIDAYS!!!   the pta spreads a little sunshine once a month to the entire faculty and staff at manila elementary.  this fun tradition was started several years ago by sara allen and i’m happy to see the SUN IS STILL SHINING AT MANILA!

once a month, the sunshine friday voluntEARS pull together little gifts, treats or crafts for all 60-ish staff at manila.   they put little decorations up at lunchtime in the faculty room and lighten things up at lunchtime.   over the years, the faculty has been given super smoothies, darling cupcakes, loaves of homemade bread, items for their classrooms and thank you’s galore!

sara and her team are over sunshine fridays again this year and i’d like to personally thank them for tying things into our MAGICAL disney theme also!  i was giddy with joy when i walked into the first sunshine friday and saw winnie the pooh, tigger and a sign that read:  GOT HONEY?    there were tons of freezer packed HONEY chicken dinners, honey graham crackers and a recipe to go with everything.

EARS to the sunshine friday team and their BEE-rilliant ideas!!!

i know our voluntEARS actually prefer to quietly help behind the scenes  (definitely WORK horses, not SHOW horses), but i just had to CELEBRATE some of their accomplishments that bring joy to my life and manila elementary.

from the adorable bulletin board in the entryway, to the many posters that adorn the hallways, to room moms, newsletter, membership, t-shirts, vision screening, red ribbon, reflections, family fun nights, sep dinners…….my EARS go off to all of you!    thanks for making manila ONE OF THE HAPPIEST PLACES ON EARTH!

can’t wait to celebrate again together soon!


The Quiltmaker’s Gift

as the weather gets cooler i start to pull more quilts out of the hall closet.  there’s nothing better than curling up in a warm quilt with a good book, right?   when i was folding one of the quilts today i thought of the perfect book to review!  it’s one of my favorite books to give as a gift and i know your family will love it as much as mine does.

the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the words are perfectly matched to the illustrations!   whether or not you like the fine art of quilting you will appreciate the artwork and moral of this story.

the quiltmaker’s gift is about an old lady that lives high up on a hill.  she uses a bit of magic and a whole lotta love to make beautiful quilts for the townspeople below.  the quiltmaker doesn’t sell the quilts.  even if you had the money you couldn’t buy one from her.  she only makes her quilts for the poor and needy and gives them away.

the king of the village is self indulgent, demanding and very, very rich.   he has SEVERAL of everything you could ever wish for and still asks for more.   when he hears of these amazing quilts he demands the quiltmaker make him a quilt.    she says she will make him a quilt when he gives away everything he owns!

the king can’t even imagine GIVING things away.  his entire life he has only had items given TO HIM.   the story tells of his journey to find happiness and the joy you feel when you GIVE instead of receive.

this is a beautiful story that every family member can learn a lesson from.  especially as the holiday season is just around the corner.   (i hear the christmas catalogs are arriving in the mail!  yikes!)

the quiltmaker’s gift is a more than a picture book!  from the illustrations to the story your family will want you to read this over and over again, so curl up in a quilt and start reading!

Calling Families ‘FORE’ Wiffle Golf



if you haven’t ever done a neighborhood wiffle golf tourney this is a must to participate in!  here’s how it works:

several families in a neighborhood each create a ‘hole’ in their front yard.   it doesn’t have to be a real HOLE.  it can be a hula hoop, spray painted circle or even a tent!


you just need a starting point to TEE off and an ending point to SWING for.  you can go all out and put real water hazards, sand traps, etc OR you can use sidewalk chalk and backyard toys.  half the fun is having your FAMILY work together to create your hole.  it really can be as simple as laying down some hula hoops in your yard and the golfers get to hit the ball from one to the other.   spray paint and chalk are fun additions because they can be washed or mowed away. 🙂


everyone is required to provide their own golf club and wiffle ball, we just need families to help with the courses.

we would like to offer several courses throughout manila and leave them up for 2nts.  oct 12 & 13th.  that way families can golf ‘at their leisure’ on those nights and visit several different courses if they would like.   once the courses are set, we will post a map on the blog so your family can decide where to start.   you can golf one course or all of them if you prefer!  it’s just a fun FREE activity that you can enjoy as an individual family or as a neighborhood of families.

we prefer to have the course set up in front yards for safety reasons and make it more visible to the golfers looking for that hole, but if you don’t have pets and would prefer to set the hole up starting in the front yard and continuing into the backyard you are welcome to do so.  (we’ll call those Par 10’s!)

as mentioned before the hole doesn’t need to be a huge project.  we are just looking for neighborhoods that are willing to set up several holes that families can easily walk to one hole (home) after another.   we don’t keep score and you don’t have to be home the entire night watching the course.   we want you out there enjoying the fun!  it’s all about our manila community pulling together to create a fun family activity.

if you and your friends would like to be in charge of a course, please email me at melanie@browerfamily.org and we’ll talk FORE……i mean, MORE!   even if you only have 4 homes that would like to participate that’s fine.  we are just hoping to get homes in each area of our school boundries so parents don’t have to drive all over the place.


hope to see you on the course!

*to protect the yards, homes and golfers……. ONLY golf sized WIFFLE BALLS can be used.   hence the title – wiffle golf 🙂

*to protect the safety of our golfers and the ‘entire course’ we ask that ALL golfers are to travel together as a FAMILY with parental supervision.  children need to be golfing with their families.   similar to a pool without a lifeguard……this will be a golfcourse without a caddy.   let’s keep things safe and enjoy the golfing in groups with supervision.

*we ask that the course be set up by 3pm on oct. 12th and remain up until 8pm on oct. 13th.   that way families will have time to visit more than one course in the two day period.

once again, if you are interested in hosting a course in your neighborhood, please contact me as soon as possible so we can get the entire course mapped out!

it’ll be a HOLE LOTTA FUN!

Sirloin Stir Fry

my kids love stir fry! i think they really like the chopsticks, but as long as they eat everything on their plate, i’m happy.

when making stir fry i usually stand over the wok and toss in a pinch of this, a dash of that until i have a colorful spicy sauce that is perfect.

with this recipe the only ‘tossing’ you’ll do is the empty bottle of salad dressing!   the cooking part is easy, it’s the chopsticks that are hard.   chop, chop, dinner is ready!


Sirloin Stir Fry

1 bottle Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing

Sirloin meat, cut into thin Strips (to save time you can even buy it this way)

your families favorite veggies (broccoli, carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, onions and snow peas)   i usually end up eating most the pea pods before they get in the pan!

your favorite rice (if you are busy and love rice, i suggest investing in a rice cooker.  it’s like a crockpot for rice and will be a life saver.  they also make killer sticky rice!)

to prepare meal:    heat some of the dressing in a large saucepan over med to med high heat.  you want enough to coat the meat but not have it swimming in the sauce.  if you cut your veggies thin, you can just toss them in with the meat and cook things together for under 15min.   if you prefer your veggies a bit bigger, i steam them in the microwave for a few minutes to get them started cooking, then add them to the meat mixture.

stir everything until meat is brown and veggies are tender.  if you need more sauce just pour some in while cooking.  you’ll want it saucy enough to enjoy it over the rice.


All Rolled Up In One…..

howdy folks!

i can’t believe we made it through one month of school!   back to school night, open house, sunshine fridays, friday features, newsletters, room mother’s ‘mad tea party’, membership drive, t shirt sales and family fun festival…..which i will continue to refer to as the Flood of ’09! 🙂   seriously, i was waiting for noah and the ark to just float around the corner at any minute!

after MONTHS in the planning, the festival didn’t turn out exactly how we’d planned……but what’s a little rain, right?   i could fill an ARK with the number of voluntEARS it took to help pull this off, so forgive me if i miss anyone.

EARS to you!

dr. sorensen for accommodating 1,100 last minute house guests!  we were soaking wet, eating, dancing, playing loud music and setting off the fire alarm. (note to self: cotton candy machines cannot be used in school hallways, who knew?)

glen and his janitorial staff for keeping smiles on as we spilled drinks, dropped sticky cotton candy on the floor and left popcorn trails wherever we went knowing the janitorial staff would be there until very late cleaning up our mess.

teachers who voluntEAR’d their time.  they were supposed to be there to play games with your families and join in the fun.  instead they helped set up and take down chairs, pick up trash, created organized lines for our special guests and kept thinks moving smoothly.  some even added music in their hallway so everyone in line could dance!

our hometown heroes (p.g. fire and police dept.) for braving the down pour outside while we waved to them from inside the school.  please thank them for their service to our community!  i hear they like cookies! 🙂

parents, youth voluntEARS and manila students for HOURS and HOURS of help.  the youth that ran the popcorn and cotton candy machines ran them for over SIX HOURS straight!  my EARS go off to you!

pta members that voted YES! when i asked if we could do this.  i felt strongly our families needed a night together at the school and BOY, did we get a night together at the school!  (i’ll try to be more specific in my future “wish making”)


*the princesses arrived by honda instead of horse drawn carriage.  😦


*jack sparrow steered an automobile instead of the black pearl  😦


*the train on the plain, sat unused in the rain 😦


*the outside family activities were all but washed away by the rain.  (i kept looking for someone to float by in one of the sumo suits!) 😦

NO! it wasn’t how the ‘FAMILY FUN’ was supposed to turn out but i thank EVERYONE who made it a great night!  EARS to all of you who supported this event! it really was a blast……of water and i loved every crazy minute of it.

i’d like to send out a MATTERHORNED sized HUG to all of our wonderful sponsors who donated their time or money to make this event happen.

Radio Disney was paid for by BMW of PLEASANT GROVE-how cool is that?   BMW, thanks for being part of our community!

our princesses for donating their time to visit with us.  if you are interested i’ve posted their website links on the blog, so you can invite them to your home for parties!   the princesses have a new friend named princess amerah.  i know she loves to host birthday parties and play games so check out her website for picts.  Justine@MagicPrincessParties.com

and finally to jack sparrow for taking time out of his ‘looting and swashbuckling’ to visit our corner of the map.  it was a treasure having him with us!  did you know he does birthday parties?  he will even bring his big black ship to your home!   you can reach him at:   utahjacksparrow@hotmail.com

overall, it was a great way to start our ‘year of celebrations’ off, but we have lots more to go.  (hopefully events with less water!)

check out the FUN we have planned for the upcoming weeks:

family fun night at classic skating:  wed. sept 30th 5:30pm-8:30pm  free admission, skate rentals $1, blades $3 or you can bring your own skates, scooters and blades.

oct 6th-9th book fair and dads n donuts!  this is a great time to load up on great reads.   i’ll be posting my favorite selections as we get closer.

oct 6th and 8th are SEP’s:  have you reserved your appt time yet?     WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEARS TO HELP BRING DINNERS ON THESE NIGHT.

oct 7th wed pta party (mtg) 9:30am in the trailer.  we will plan the upcoming events and share halloween party ideas for the classrooms.  IT’LL BE A SCREAM!  everyone is invited.

oct 12-14  red ribbon week   our focus will be on making healthy choices.   WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEARS TO PLAY GAMES AT LUNCHTIME RECESS (more updates to come)

oct 15-16 no school for fall break

oct 12-13th  family fun neighborhood golf  WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEARS TO SET UP A ‘GOLF HOLE’ IN YOUR FRONT YARD. (it’s with wiffle balls so no worries on beating up the house. please check the blog tomorrow for all the details of this fun event.  hope you can PLAY-A-ROUND. get it? a round of golf?  i thought of that all by myself 😉

oct 30th common start day for halloween party.  i’m DYING to see all the costumes!  moo-ah-ha-ha-ah!

reflections is just around the corner!  the theme is “beauty is…..”   thanks to GETAWAY TODAY VACATIONS we have some MAGICAL prizes to give away to this years winners.  IMG_1205 i can’t wait to see what clever entries we receive!

WHEW!  i think i rolled everything up into one big blog!  please check the blog often for upcoming events, voluntEAR requests, recipes and book reviews.  i’ll update it tomorrow on the family fun golfing activity and voluntEAR list.

if you ever need to get ahold of me, I’M ALL EARS!   melanie@browerfamily.org

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