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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Breakfast Casserole

This recipe is PERFECT for Christmas morning, or any morning that you want something special. You can make it the night before and it's ready to go in about an hour. You can even make it in a crockpot!

Pillsbury Tex-Mex Breakfast Casserole
Overnight Tex-Mex  Egg Bake 
photo cred:

Slow Cooker Sausage-Hash brown Casserole 
from The Brown Eyed Baker
Slow Cooker Sausage, Hash Brown & Cheddar Breakfast Casserole by @browneyedbaker ::

This recipe is from my neighbor Tiffany, not sure where she got it. 

Breakfast Casserole
6-8 slices white bread (or whatever you have-hot dog buns, wheat bread, etc.)
1/4 c softened butter (just for buttering the bread)
3 c grated colby jack cheese, or whatever you prefer
12 oz pork sausage, browned and drained if necessary (I use turkey sausage)
1 4 oz can green chiles
6 eggs
2 c milk
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Remove the crusts from your bread and lightly butter it one side.Place bread butter side down in a 9×13 baking dish. Cut up the bread as necessary to fit into the pan.
Grate your cheese and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the bread.  Spread the cooked sausage on top of that, and top with the green chiles.
In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk eggs. Add milk and then seasonings and whisk to combine well.  
Slowly stir the egg mixture while you pour it evenly on top of the assembled casserole. You’ll want to keep stirring or else the spices will all gather in one spot and drop onto one single piece of casserole.Cover well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pop the casserole in there and bake (uncovered) for 50-60 minutes. It's done when the center is set and the outside edges are golden brown. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving or the casserole will fall apart.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Holiday Break Fun

How do you stay busy after the holiday parties are over? When the Christmas Break begins it can be a mixed blessing for some of us. I love having my kids around, and not waking up at first light, but then there's me (aka Cruise Director) that feels like she should be "doing" something with them, not only because they won't be around here forever, but because mostly I genuinely like my children and want them to remember how awesome their childhood was.

Seriously...they have an awesome childhood despite the look on one or two faces this picture. So what to do....with 14 days of fun.....yeah. Is it holiday or helliday? I'm Kidding! This year it's holiday--that's my goal. I'm going to keep the screaming, yelling, fighting and eye rolling to a minimum, and remind myself that someday they will be off living their own lives under another roof. I will take time to love them and teach them, even it if feels like a huge amount of responsibility that I am nowhere near old enough to be ready for.

So here's some ideas that will help all of us survive the break!

1. Go to the Dollar Movie
2. Have Movie night at home ( often has discount codes)
3. Bake cookies (yes, you can cheat and use a box mix, or pre-made dough. No judgement!)
4. Go to a library and read! I know it sounds lame, but they need to keep their skills sharp!
5. Play cards or a board game.

6. Play "Would You Rather." There is an actual board game, but it's just as easy to do your own. Take turns asking crazy questions like: "Would you rather walk across hot coals or jump out of a burning building?" Or "Would you rather eat Brussels Sprouts or creamed spinach?" The questions are limitless, and it allows for kids (and adults) to use creative thinking skills. If you want to make it interesting you can keep "score" or give points for the most creative questions--it's limitless! This is a great car game to play on the way to Grandma's.

7. The Story Telling Game- taking turns one person starts a story and when ready says "pass" and then next person takes the story from there. Rotations continue until the story ends. This is another great car game to play on the way to Grandma's too.

8. Build a fort (you remember-- card tables, end tables and blankets) and have a paper or marshmallow snowball fight. The older kids will protest and think it's lame until they realize they can have a legit reason to throw things at their siblings. Remove all breakable items before snowballs start to fly. Take it from me, marshmallows can be destructive in the right hands.

9. Have a Scavenger Hunt-around the house or in the neighborhood this is a great way to kill some time. Here's a great link to get you started!

10. Make an Obstacle or Relay course--again inside or outside, you're creating a great memory!
11. Build a snowman. Marshmallows or snow (if you're lucky enough to have some), inside or outside, this is a fun way to hang out--TAKE PICS!
12. Fingerprint stamp art. Use a stamp pad and the kid's sweet little fingertips to create treasured works of art. Here's a link to get started!

13. Make "I Spy" bottles from old, clear water bottles and white rice. Find "treasures" from your junk drawer (yes, we all have them, even I) and put them in the bottle. Fill the bottle 3/4 of the way with uncooked rice, glue the lid on, and shake. Kids will spend hours searching for the treasures, and it's great in the car. We used simple things like buttons, pennies, beads, pins and foam shapes for ours.

14. Make New Year's Poppers. Directions Here!
15. Play driving or walking bingo.  You can print cards for FREE HERE and select from a plethora of word and/or picture cards with varying themes. Once printed, take a walk or a drive crossing off what you find.

Bonus Idea: Teach them something you are good at--how to take a good picture, how to draw stick figures, how to change a tire--it really doesn't matter what it is, they will remember that YOU taught them something awesome!

Enjoy the holidays! And in case I don't make it back to blogging before Dec. 31- HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Where have I been? Don't ask. For the last 3 weeks I have had the pleasure of being a maid, doctor and nurse to my children and husband as the flu and sinus colds have hit us time and time again. I will spare you the details, but let's just say 2 bottles of Lysol, and a bottle of Clorox wipes are just the tip of the iceberg that I have been dealing with. Not that I am so narcissistic to think that you live and die by my posts, but I don't want those of you who do read this to know I have not given up, just busy mopping up.

So now, onto better things!
We have started (or revived) an old neighborhood tradition. I call it "Good Neighbor Night" where I invite the entire neighborhood to our house for treats and hot chocolate, and the opportunity to give back to our community. This year we collected warm coats, blankets, towels and hygiene items for local charities. This tradition is what we do instead of neighbor gifts, although if you want to do both go for it. Besides helping those in our community that need a bit of cheer, we also have time to really get to know each other, talk and become better neighbors and friends. We got a good turn out for a new event, and the weather was beautiful, and not too cold. Our daughter, D. brought out Christmas books and read to the little kids on the porch--dang that I didn't get a picture! I had a great time, and I hope all my neighbors will look forward to coming again next year.

This is a new tradition, but I have lots of old ones that I look forward to each year. Why are traditions important? Why do we do them? Are they just a rut we run into, or is there a purpose? We each have a different answer to these, but here's my Two Cents Worth. Traditions are important; they create special memories for us that we can glean from during the year. Creating joy and happiness can sound a bit cheesy, but really creating positive emotions makes us better people. Happy people are needed by everyone--even grouches and grinches. You may not always remember what you ate during a certain event, or what the entertainment was, but you will always remember the feeling of what happenend.

Our Christmas Traditions include 1- Since Jesus is the reason for the season, we start with Him by putting out our Nativity scene one character at a time, beginning 12 days before Christmas. There is an accompanying scripture, song or story that goes along with each piece. Here's an idea link for the 12 Days Nativity. 2- Doing a Service Project as a family. This has ranged from making blankets for the hospital, coat drives, food drives, sending cards to military members, making welcome bags for women's shelters, sending random notes to neighbors who need some cheering, or donating to Toys for Tots and Angel Tree. There are lots of options, make a great memory by choosing a charity and getting involved. 3- Cocoa and Lite night is my favorite. We drive around the neighborhoods and check out others creative decor. There is a fun "I Spy Christmas" game or Bingo that you can play in the car. Print off your own cards HERE and see what you can find. 4- Movie Night and treats. What would any holiday be with food? Boring! We make our favorite treats like marshmallow popcorn, (recipe here) Chex mix, cookies and Spinach Artichoke dip (recipe here) and watch our favorite Christmas movies which always include "Charlie Brown's Christmas," "Elf," and if our teens allow it "A Christmas Story." We also watch "Mr. Kruger's Christmas" and if you haven't seen it you can find it HERE. 5- Reading "The Polar Express" and the story of Jesus' birth from Luke on Christmas Eve. I guess we have a good balance between the temporal and spiritual here, but we want to remember WHY we celebrate and have fun too.

Whatever you choose to do, remember WHY you doing it, and that the MEMORIES made are more important than anything under the tree.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Marshmallow Popcorn

This is the best, easiest, yummiest treat you will ever have. My friends Vicki and Tiffany are always whipping up awesomeness and this is from them! Thanks girls!

8 cups of popped corn (I like Kettle Corn)
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups cashews or peanuts (optional)
2 cups M&Ms or other small candy
3-4 squares of chocolate or white candy coating, melted

Mix the popcorn, marshmallows, nuts and candy together and pour onto wax paper. Drizzle melted chocolate over mix and let cool. Break into pieces and enjoy!

Use your imagination and mix in any small candy and nuts of your choosing for your own custom mix.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Almond Artichoke Cheese Dip

Almond Artichoke Cheese Dip - This came from Rennly Williams

1 lg. can artichoke hearts chopped

1- 7oz. can diced green chilies

8 oz. cream cheese (soft)

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1-1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese (fresh)

1 cup sliced almonds

Mix together and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  Serve with cubed bread or crackers. 

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 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 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


  • 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. or 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
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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dinner from the Garden

Stuffed Zucchini with Turkey Sausage
1 zucchini about 12 inches long, or 6 medium ones                     3 Tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped onion                                                                     3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms                                                           1 lb ground turkey
2 diced tomatoes                                                                           3 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary                                                       1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese                                                      2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
   1. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise.  Scoop out insides, leaving shells about 1 inch thick.  Reserve about half of the insides.

2  2.  Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in skillet on medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add mushrooms and reserved zucchini insides, and saute another 2 minutes.

    3. In a separate skillet heat a Tbs of olive oil on medium heat.  Add ground turkey.  Lightly brown the turkey, stirring only occasionally.  Cook until ground turkey is lightly browned.  Stir in the onion and mushroom mixture from the other pan.  Stir in tomato, basil, and rosemary and cook 1 minute longer.  Drain any excess fat.  Remove mixture from heat and set it aside.

   4. When mixture has cooled, add cheese, egg, salt & pepper.  Fill zucchini shells with mixture.  Fill a baking pan with an inch of water.  Place filled zucchini halves in pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove zucchini from pan and serve while hot.  (Serves 4)

Hope you are enjoying these amazing garden veggies as much as we are! And if you live close by, I've got lots of extras to share!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Habanero Pineapple Salsa Fresco

Oh My Gosh!! This combo of Hot Peppers and Fruit is one of the strangest, but you WILL NOT be disappointed if you like a little bit of sweet heat.

We like things HOT! HOT!HOT! at our house--we grew 23 different pepper plants this year, so yeah--a little spice is normal around here.

This delicious sweet-hot flavor combo will have you coming back for more. This salsa is great with tortilla chips, or with enchiladas, or on top of burritos. If you don't like Habanero hot, Jalapenos work too! Enjoy!

Habanero Pineapple Salsa Fresco
1 cup pineapple, chopped (fresh or canned works)
3 green onions, diced
1 green pepper
4 med. tomatoes, cored and halved
1/2 bunch of cilantro 
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Not only is this salsa delish--it's easy too!

If you have a food processor throw everything in and pulse it to desired consistency--pulse only 3-5 seconds at a time so it doesn't go to liquid. I haven't tried this in a blender, but that would likely work too.

If you don't have a food processor, you can hand dice the ingredients and mix them together in a bowl.This produces a lovely chunky salsa.

If you like a slightly chunky consistency blend half the amount of each ingredient in a food processor or blender, and chop the other half, combining in a bowl.

The best part is that most of the ingredients were super fresh from my garden--which I think makes the flavor even better!

~ Enjoy!