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Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanks for Giving

FYI This year's "Thankful Door" project turned out to be an amazing work of art. In fact, our door is so crowded that the sticky notes full of our blessings fly off the door. It's a new tradition for sure.

  It has been so fun to watch the kids run to the door each day to put their blessing sticky note up. They also have been reading each others notes to make sure they aren't duplicating any. So maybe this experiment really is making an impact.

Now that Christmas is right around the corner, we wanted to create some new memories, and carry on our family tradition of an annual service project. I've created "Good Neighbors Night," a new spin on an old neighborhood tradition of coming together to help others, and get to know each other better. This is one day during the holiday season that we gather (in my driveway) and share stories, treats, hot chocolate and bring donations for local charities. We are getting to know our "good neighbors" as well as "being a good neighbor" by sharing and donating, but most of all creating new memories. It's a full-on family affair- literally the entire neighborhood is invited. Each person is asked to bring a treat to share, and a donation of a winter clothing item and/or new hygiene items. We are donating them to a few places including the Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the winter homeless shelter, the food bank and possibly a few other places if we get enough donations.

We've had a lot of awesome new people move into the area, and I am not very good at getting out there and getting to know people. So here's my chance, and for those of you who live close, your chance, to widen your circle and hang out with great people.

I think neighbor gifts are super fun, but can be super stressful and expensive too. This event is an opportunity for those who chose to fore-go the neighbor gifts, and make a very helpful donation instead. It also creates the opportunity for us to really have a minute or two to chat around a warm fire (in a totally safe pit to keep the kids out of the ER), and get to know each other, rather than dropping a gift off on the porch and having no contact, besides the gift tag, to share our appreciation for each other.

Blizzards withstanding, this will be a fun night of casually gathering to share a thought, make an impact, and create a memory or two. I am really hoping my kids realize these Christmas memories can't be bought, and really are more important than anything that could be.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Collection No. 1

Wouldn't it be awesome to have one place to go for great Thanksgiving recipes each year? Well here you go! I am scouring cookbooks, websites, tv and more to find some great ideas to help keep your holiday meal prep easy, fast and efficient, and most importantly...delish!

Sweet Potatoes 
from All Free Slow Cooker Recipes

Cheesy Cauliflower
from All Free Slow Cooker Recipes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
from Six Sisters Stuff

Slow Cooker Turkey
from Six Sisters Stuff


Individual 7 Layered Salad
from Time Over Things

Strawberry Jell-O Pie
from Our Best Bites

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
from Our Best Bites

Enjoy Making New Memories this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Simple Gratitude

This time of year is so busy, it's easy to get lost in the day to day "To-Do" list. Like every family, we are in the middle of lots of activities and sometimes I feel like there's too much to do to even think about slowing down. It's such a fun time of year too! I don't want to lose the joy and excitement of the season to the "To-Do" list this year.

I had this simple idea to help keep us grounded during the holidays, so as the season's activities keep us going, we will (hopefully) remember what's important. Enjoy!

Our Thankful Door
Everyone uses this door daily. Hopefully it will act as a simple reminder of what's really important.

Each day we are encouraged to write one blessing/thing/experience down that we are thankful for and stick it to the door. We are all thankful for clothing, food, shelter and each other, so I encouraged my family to think outside the box. So far we have the Internet, electricity, indoor plumbing and SpongeBob, but it's only the second day...so here's hoping.

I love this project because each time we leave the house we see our blessings, and it reminds us to think about a new blessing for that day to add to the door. Hopefully, by the end of the month our door will be full, and we will be more cognizant of what is really important. Maybe that will keep us grounded for a bit longer.

Making Memories one sticky note at a time.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making It Personal

Most of you know that I earn my living by writing...writing everything from grants for non-profits, freelance pieces for magazines, news articles for newspapers, blog posts; at this point I've done a lot of writing. I love to write, but it has to be purposeful for me to extract any kind of pleasure. Writing a piece just to write it, doesn't flow out of me the way something I am passionate about does.

My latest writing adventure has been around the topics of Family History, and helping people preserve precious memories and family stories that often disappear as the older generations go to a better place. I have been inspired to read the "everyday" stories from my clients. We are all so much more than we realize.

With that in mind, let me say this...no matter your religious (or not) affiliation (or not) you should be leaving something in writing for your families. Everyone has a contribution to make--some of us are great leaders, teachers or friends. Others of us are granted the patience to be incredible spouses and parents. We each have the opportunity to leave a positive mark on this crazy world, so why not do it?

I like to dabble in "Genealogy" or "Family History" just because it's fun. I like to learn about the past, where I came from, what challenges past generations overcame, what they excelled in, and the like. The only reason I can learn these things is because they left journals or other writings, and by the grace of God, someone preserved them. It's important--so take a minute and jot down something simple about you so others can learn from your experience. Really, it's important, I promise.

Writing Ideas
~ Your first date
~ The first time you drove a car
~ Your first crush
~ School Memories
~ Your Best Friends
~ Your Siblings
~ Memories of Family Holidays
~ Things you hate
~ Things you love
~ Childhood Memories
~ How you met your special someone
~ Things you wish you knew when you were younger
~ Your Hobbies
~ Experiences that shaped your life
~ Best Decisions
~ Worst Decisions

Get the idea? Feel free to think outside the box and record a bit to share with the world.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicken & Dumplings

This is a delicious way to get veggies into your diet, as well as enjoy a good comfort food without the guilt.

Chicken & Dumplings
  • 1 1/2 c. milk or evaporated milk
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. frozen green peas 
  • 1 c. diced carrots (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried Rosemary
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 package (8 oz.) of wide egg noodles
  • 1 can of pre-made biscuits

Directions

  • Heat all ingredients together in a 3-quart saucepan, or Dutch Oven, stirring frequently. 
  • Cook uncovered over low heat 20 minutes until chicken is done (no longer pink inside).
  • Add 1 additional cup of water and Egg Noodles, cook 5 minutes.
  • Open biscuit can and place biscuits on top of stew. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer, until the biscuits are done (you can check this by poking the middle of the biscuit with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, they are done.)
  • * Helpful Hint: If the liquid in the stew is not thick enough for your liking, thicken it with a few tablespoons of Poultry Gravy by whisking the gravy powder into the stew. 



Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Gift Ideas

Yes, I am aware that it's October...and this post about gifts...possibly Christmas gifts....I may be OCD and a bit obsessed.

I'm a planner. If you've been following this blog, or know me at all you know this. I love details, perfect details, and being organized no matter what I am doing. Does it stress me out? Honestly, not very often because I am hard wired this way. My high octane, over the top organization comes as naturally to me, as eye rolling may come to a teenage girl.

So, no, being ahead of the game (whatever that game may be) is just how I am. I embrace it, and in doing so, hope to pass a few good ideas your way to help make your life easier. Thanks for reading.

I have lots of amazing people in my life that I like to find the perfect gift for--whether that occasion is Christmas, birthday, or whatever. However, since I really do love the idea of not collecting materialism and being weighted down by over consumption of stuff, I like giving and making memories with my friends and family. Here are a few good gift ideas for those in our lives that really mean the most to us.

1. Treat of the Month Club. This is such a great idea and I love it. You can order from companies like Harry & David, flower shops, fruit basket companies, or other high end companies that will send your special someone a gift basket or box each month. These are great because it's a gift that keeps on giving the whole year, and those special people are reminded of how much you think of them on a regular basis. My money tree died a long time ago, but this idea is still awesome as it can easily become a DIY gift. You can make or buy a treat (cake, cookie, cupcake, etc.) each month and hand deliver or send someone a treat each month. This is supposed to be fun and easy, so don't think the treats always have to be homemade, they can easily be things you pick up from the bakery or cookie aisle and put in a cute bag/basket/container and deliver. It's the thought that counts.

2. Edible Gift Baskets are especially great for those people who have everything. One big basket loaded with delicious breads, jams, cookies, muffins, etc. is a great gift. This idea is again easy to pick up at bakeries and cafes already done, or you can DIY if that's your thing.

3. How about a Magazine Subscription? Great for kids and adults, comes regularly throughout the year so your special someone is remembered how much someone cares, and there's often discounts on them so you can give a great gift without breaking the bank. www.thrifymags.com or www.discountmags.com have great deals.

4. Personalized photo gifts are sometimes the perfect gift. A canvas or collage of favorite moments you've shared together is a great way to share some love. Calendars are a great gift for grandparents, or family/friends who live far away. Sharing old photos is a wonderful way to start remembering stories and important moments.

5. Monogrammed gifts are simple, sometimes inexpensive and easy DIY. It's easy to glass etch plates or cups with Amour Etch (or another brand) of etching product. It's also easy to personalize items with vinyl, paint or other craft products. Of course, there are also many companies that can engrave, etch, or embroider the perfect gift too.

6. A bag/basket full of Your Favorite Things. Whenever I find a new product that I love, I want to share it with EVERYONE! So what a great way to show someone you care, by sharing a little bit of yourself with them.

7. On that same note, a gift bag full of Their Favorite Things is a great idea too. For those who love travel how about a treat from their favorite place, a book about travel, and some travel necessities like antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks and a crossword puzzle book. For the cook in your life how about a good bottle of Olive Oil, a bottle of infused vinegar, a potted herb, and a fun kitchen gadget. For the Sports Nut a book about sports stats, some flavored almonds or peanuts, a baseball cap with a favorite team, or a magazine subscription will make a great gift.

It's about the thought, not the price tag. Enjoy making memories with and for those who make your life bearable.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Meals

This is such a busy time at our house --harvesting, preserving and taking out the garden takes all the energy I have. I love Autumn because the weather is beautiful, college football is in full swing and I can use my crockpot to try new things.

My husband used to really turn his nose up at the meals I cooked in the crockpot. Granted, the crockpot I was using was older and from our wedding many moons ago, but he swore nothing tasted good coming out of it. So in order to maintain sanity (mostly mine) I bought a new crockpot, and now he (and everyone else) happily eats the meals that come from it.

With the holiday and busy times fast approaching, the October Meal List is a little different. Following is a list of blogs I have found helpful in my monthly meal planning. We have a whole bunch (50) of recipes we all like, but I hate status-quo mentality, so I like to try new things. Hopefully you'll find some ideas here that revive your family's meal times!

You can always search this blog for "Meal Time" or "Meal Ideas" in the search bar on the home page.

BHG Best Slow Cooker Recipes
Cooking Light
Our Best Bites
Kohl's Healthy Kids
Easy Recipes for Kids

Some of our 50 favorite meals include
Spaghetti & Meat Balls
Taco bowls (make with chili for easy meal)
Shredded Pork tacos or sandwiches
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Lasagna
Spaghetti Pie
Kung Pao Chicken (or sweet & sour for those who don't like HOT)
Potato Cheese Soup and Grilled Cheese
Beef Stew over Mashed Potatoes
Chicken and Waffles
Sloppy Joe's & Oven Fries
Roast Beef Sandwiches