Book an Enrichment Night

Cartoon cake

We are booking spots for 2013 additional Relief Society meetings for Utah County wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We love to present on homemaking topics, including:

* Budgeting and money-saving tips

* Saving money with effective meal planning and grocery shopping

* How to cheaply acquire food storage — and use it!

* Simple cooking tips for beginners

* Home organization

If you would like us to speak at an enrichment meeting, please e-mail .

Peaks and pits: Parenting lessons from the Kardashians

real josh and tyler (640x425) I’m not planning to enslave my kids to build a reality fortune, or to encourage them to hawk everything from shape-up shoes to pistachio nuts, but there is one parenting trick I’ve stolen from the E! Network’s hit show “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” It’s a longstanding tradition that the Armenian clan will go around the table at night and have members talk about the “peak” and “pit” of their day with each other.

At my house, we’ve used the same concept for a dinnertime conversation starter called “Best and  Worst.” I started doing this after becoming increasingly frustrated that my 7- and 4-year-old couldn’t tell me what they had done at school on any given day. For some reason, asking them to tell me their best and worst moments at school opens up a floodgate of dialogue. In fact, they can rarely make it to dinnertime and usually tell me “best and worst” in the car ride home from school.

I briefly considered only letting the kids tell me the best thing that happened at school — no worsts! I like the idea of teaching children gratitude and to have a positive attitude. But, truthfully, I’ve learned some important things from listening to the “worsts.” For example, my older son, Josh, one day told me his “worst” was having to stay in at recess to redo his homework I’d failed to correct. I’d been initialing his homework each day, assuming only that it was being checked for completion, not realizing that I needed to go through the 40-some math problems individually for accuracy. I don’t know how long this would have gone on had he not mentioned it at dinnertime.

Every once in a while, a kid will come home with a whole list of “worsts,” unable to name one “best” thing that happened. On those days, I bake cookies, or plan an impromptu outing, or do whatever I need to do to make a bad day better for my child. And then there are times where “bests” come easy, and Josh or Tyler can’t even think of a “worst.” As a mom, you can bet that’s the peak of my day.

—    Elyssa Andrus

Creepy Ideas for Classroom Halloween Parties

KSL real spider Is there any holiday greater than Halloween? It’s such a low-stress holiday, and what’s better than getting dressed up and eating candy? I was on KSL TV’s “Studio 5” today talking about ideas for classroom parties.  You can watch the segment at . Below are directions for the Spider Toss game featured on the show, as well as two of my other favorite classroom ideas.

Spider Toss

This game is quick to assemble, inexpensive and fun.  It works great for both classroom and home Halloween parties.


  • 2 bags of cotton webbing
  • Enough plastic spider rings for each class member
  • Red Tootsie Pop
  • 5 black pipe cleaners
  • Tape to mark start line

Directions: Pull apart cotton webbing to make large spider web in corner of classroom. (You can use clear tape or Sticky Tack to hold down edges of web.) Assemble giant spider by wrapping pipe cleaners  (the legs) around a Tootsie Pop (the body). Snip off any of the Tootsie Pop stem that is still showing. Place giant spider in center of web. Mark a “start” line with tape several feet behind the web. Have each child toss a spider ring into the web. The winner is the child who gets his or her spider ring closest to the giant spider.

Witches Brew

What’s Halloween in America without a little Witches’ Brew? My dad has been making the cauldron drink since I was in elementary school, and it’s a tradition I love to continue with my own children.


  • Cauldron
  • Smaller stainless steel bowl that fits in the cauldron
  • Plastic spiders, bats, rats, etc.
  • 2 large containers of apple juice
  • 2 pounds of dry ice

Directions: I go all out for this one, dressing up as a witch for the classroom presentation.  I tell a story about a magic concoction that I’m making for the children, first by pouring “bats blood” (apple juice) into the bowl inside the cauldron. I then drop all sorts of fake spiders, rats and bats into the brew, making sure they land in the space between the cauldron and the smaller bowl, and not into the actual drink. Then it’s time to add ice from a magical cave (dry ice) directly to the apple juice, which makes the drink hiss and bubble. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING DRY ICE – IT CAN EASILY BURN ANYONE WHO TOUCHES IT. (If the ice is in a big block, it’s helpful to break it into smaller chunks before adding to drink. Add small amounts at a time.) Serve it up to anyone brave enough to drink it.

The Magic Pumpkin

This is a fun activity for preschoolers because it’s more magical than scary.


  • Pumpkin
  • Bag of wrapped candy
  • Spray paint in color of choice
  • Knife for carving pumpkin
  • Cookie sheet or serving platter

Directions: Prior to visiting classroom, carve a circular hole in the bottom of a pumpkin. Hollow out entire pumpkin, removing seeds and innards until it is scraped dry and clean. Replace bottom of pumpkin.  Cover with several coats of spray paint – I like silver – and allow to dry. Open pumpkin up from the bottom and stuff with candy.  Bring to school on a cookie sheet or platter that hides the hole in the bottom.  Carve the pumpkin and show children that it’s filled with candy, and not seeds. When I do this at classroom parties, I dress as a magical good witch who brings magic pumpkins from her garden.

Shout Out for Shout

One of my favorite parts of our book “Happy Homemaking” is the section on stain removal. It may seem dorky, but I love clothes, and I want to keep them looking beautiful and clean. This is almost impossible with children who are determined to get blood, chocolate and mud on everything I own. I recently discovered the Shout Advanced Ultra Gel Brush, which you use to pretreat stains before throwing them in the wash. I’ve been amazed at all the stains it has worked on — watermelon, chocolate milk, melted cherry fruit snacks. Another great stain removal tip recently came from a woman I met at the park. My 1-year-old daughter had just fallen and skinned her face, getting blood all over her shirt and mine after I picked her up to comfort her. The woman said her in-laws own a dry cleaning business. To remove blood, she said, simply soak the garment in cold salt water before laundering. With three wild kids, I feel like this is a tip I may be using too frequently. But at this point I’m willing to do whatever it works to preserve the life of our clothing a bit. Happy homemaking!

Save Money While Stocking Up

food storage image

The Daily Herald recently ran an excerpt from “Happy Homemaking” about saving money on food storage. The full text of the article (below) is available on the Herald’s website at .

Food Storage 101: Quick tips for saving money while stocking your pantry

A big part of provident living is self-reliance. Now is the time to prepare so that in an emergency or financial hardship, you won’t have to rely on your parents, your neighbors, your church or the government to rescue you. “Some people think that if there is a disaster in the world, the [LDS] Church is going to take care of them,” or the government or their neighbor will, says Jeannie Dayton, co-owner of the local instructional baking company Pantry Secrets. “But what will you tell your kids if you aren’t prepared, and they are hungry?”

Even if you don’t have children at home, there is a peace of mind that comes from being prepared for whatever the future may hold. With that in mind, here’s a quick primer on food storage, excerpted from the book “Happy Homemaking: An LDS Girl’s Guide” (Cedar Fort, $16.99) by Natalie Hollingshead and Daily Herald features editor Elyssa Andrus.

First things first: water:Â So where should you start? With water, says Don Pectol, vice president of customer service for the Utah-based retailer Emergency Essentials. “In terms of your storage plan, the number one thing is water. A person can live up to a month without food, but within days, you may have damage to vital organs without water.”

How much water do you need to store? The Federal Emergency Manage ment Agency recommends storing at least a three-day supply of water per person. Households should store a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day. “A normally active person needs at least one gallon of water daily just for drinking,” says the agency on its website, .

A three-day supply of drinking water is the minimum you should store, of course. It’s ideal to store more if you can. Pectol of Emergency Essentials recom mends storing at least a two-week supply of water for each person in your household (one gallon per day).

A three-month supply of food:Â In its 2007 “All Is Safely Gathered In” Family Home Storage pamphlet, the LDS Church says the following about a three-month supply of food:

“Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage.”

No matter what stage of life you are in, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you like to eat. The trick is to just keep a little extra of it on hand. The following suggestions will help you save money while you are acquiring it.

Make a list. You may find it helpful to make a list of a handful of favorite family meals and all of the ingredients that go into them. That way, you will know what sales to watch for at the grocery store. If, say, your family likes a lot of Mexican food, you can look for sales in the Hispanic foods aisles for sales on chiles, salsa, beans, sauces and so forth.

Watch and record prices: Keep your list in a notebook and record the ingredients’ regular prices at the grocery store where you shop. Then watch coupons and ad circulars for items to go on sale. Remember, if you don’t want to buy one can of peaches at full retail price, you most certainly don’t want to buy 20. (You may find it helpful to sign up for some sort of couponing service, such as the Daily Herald’s .)

Don’t break the bank. Set an amount for food storage in your grocery budget and stick to it. At first, it may only be $10 or $20. Use that money to buy in bulk the best deals you can find on non perishable items. And then use them! It’s so much better to pay 40 cents for a can of beans than $1. As you build your pantry, you’ll hopefully get to the point where you are buying the majority of nonperishable items at their lowest prices. Because you will already have a supply of items you commonly use on hand, your weekly gro cery bill should decrease. This extra money can then go toward more food storage items. It’s a positive cycle.

Think about meat. Remember you can stockpile meat when it goes on sale as well. Meat is typically the most expensive item in any meal, so taking advantage of a good meat sale means extra savings. If space permits, it’s helpful to have an extra chest or freestanding freezer in your home for storage. If that’s not possible, purchase as much meat as you can store and afford.

Rotate, rotate, rotate. To keep items from going bad, start using them immediately. When you put items away, put the newest items at the back of the pantry so that older items get used up first. It’s also helpful to write the purchase date on everything you store.

Case lot sales! In Utah, many grocery stores hold case lot sales around general conference time, where they sell units of food by the case. These are often offered at deeply discounted prices, and it’s a great way to quickly build your pantry. Even if you can only afford one case of food — typically between $10 and $30 — it’s a great way to get started.

Store to serve. Storing items for ready-to-assemble meals will allow you to be ready to serve at a moment’s notice, and it will reduce the cost of providing a meal to someone. Jeannie Dayton, of Pantry Secrets, says she keeps “brown bag” meals in her pantry with all the items she would need for something like a soup or casserole. These supplies are ready to go as soon as they are needed.

In addition to food items, remember to stockpile nonperishable items such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap and shampoo. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can store additional items that have a long shelf life.

On its Provident Living website, the LDS Church recommends storing grains such as wheat, white rice and dried beans, which can last 30 years or more (at least to sustain life).

Easy as Pie: Mom’s Apple Crisp

The women in my husband’s family are the ultimate happy homemakers. Just the other day, my sister-in-law Susan, in the middle of making a gigantic family dinner for several dozen people, decided to “throw together” an apple crisp because she had some apples on hand. I love the idea of using up what’s in the fridge or pantry, and I so admired the way she made the task seem so effortless. Luckily, she did have a great recipe. The one I’m including is from my mother-in-law Maryann’s huge recipe binder, which I love to dig into for inspiration. Happy homemaking!

Mom’s Apple Crisp

8-10 Jonagold apples, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¾ cup cugar

1 tsp salt

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups flour

2 cups oatmeal

1 ½ cups butter, melted

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Fill a 9-inch by 13-inch pan with sliced apples. Sprinkle with lemon juice. In small bowl, mix together cinnamon, sugar and salt. Mix into pan with apples. In another bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, melted butter and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Serve warm, with ice cream.

– Elyssa Andrus

“Happy Homemaking” on KSL’s “Studio 5″

Here’s a link to Elyssa appearing on KSL’s “Studio 5″ to talk about household tasks for fall. (Check out Natalie in the video):

You can also see us in the latest issue of Utah Valley Magazine by clicking this link:

Happy homemaking!

10 Tasks for ‘Fall Cleaning’

fall cleaning

We think fall cleaning is every bit as important as the deep scrub you give your house in the spring. After all, it’s easy to let housework fall by the wayside in the chaos of summer. And it’s likely you’ve tracked a fair amount of dirt and dust indoors during the warm summer months. Now that it’s autumn and the kids are back in school, it’s an ideal time to tackle some deep-cleaning projects.

Here are 10 items to put on your fall cleaning to-do list:

1. Clean windows and window treatments.

2. Scrub baseboards.

3. Wipe down walls.

4. Sweep and mop wood, tile or laminate floors. Wax non-wood floors as well.

5. Vacuum and shampoo carpets.

6. Scrub the microwave, and wipe down other kitchen appliances such as a toaster or slow cooker.

7. Dust fans, hard-to-reach shelves, books, and other areas that are frequently missed.

8. Clean out refrigerator and wipe down individual shelves and drawers.

9. Clean out pantry and assess food storage. Fall is an excellent time to build your long-term food supply during caselot sales.

10. Tidy up outdoor spaces by cleaning outdoor light fixtures, washing off patios, driveways and walkways.

Happy Happenings Around Town


Elyssa and Natalie at BYU Bookstore book signing and party

Our launch party at the BYU Bookstore Aug. 14 was a lot of fun. Thank you to all who came by. We’ve got two Costco book signings coming this week: At the Orem Costco from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 6) and at the Costco in West Valley City from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 8).

In the meantime, here are a few articles featuring our book:

In the Deseret News:

In the Daily Herald: Â

In the Daily Universe: . (page 20)

Listen and look for us on the radio and TV next week. More details to come. Happy Homemaking!

A Bit of Frosting Fanatacism


I have a crazy cupcake compulsion that I may never get under control. Mostly, I just love the frosting. My daughter, Lily, and I have been frequenting Utah’s dessert restaurants, looking for the valley’s best cupcakes. We love the Cocoa Bean cupcake Café in Provo (see above picture). We also love the cupcakes at Dear Lizzie Boutique & Bistro in Highland.

My favorite cupcakes, though, are the ones I make myself. I’ve been busily cooking my way through Wendy Paul’s cookbook “101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes.” It’s a great resource for different types of cake batter. My favorite frosting recipe is one that I created myself and have been using for years. It’s included in our new book “Happy Homemaking: An LDS Girl’s Guide.”

Cherry-Almond Buttercream Icing

½ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. milk

½ cup shortening

2 tsp. cherry extract

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. almond extract

5 cups powdered sugar

Soften butter in microwave 15 seconds, then cream with shortening. Add salt. Add sugar one cup at a time. Mix well after each cup on medium speed, scraping the sides and bottom. Add milk and beat at high speed until fluffy. Add cherry and almond extracts and beat at medium speed. You may need to add a bit more to taste, depending on how strong you like the flavoring. *Note that you can switch out the cherry and almond flavorings for vanilla, lemon, or even orange flavoring, depending on your needs. Start with a tablespoon of flavoring, and add more to taste.