Gettin’ Crafty: Hair Bow Holder

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are expecting a little baby girl in September.  We already have two boys, Jackson and Bennett, so I am finally getting a girl.  Growing up in a family of four girls I had no idea what I would do when we had our first boy…what did boys even like to do???  I quickly learned how much fun they can be and I can’t imagine it any other way.  But since we are having a girl I now get to spend some time doing “girly” stuff.
Big hair bows are all the rage right now and while I am not sure if they will be an everyday accessory or just a great photo prop, I have started her collection and I needed a place to store them.  I ran across several ideas online from Etsy and Pinterest and I decided surely I could make my own.  It was very simple and I think it will be a perfect addition to her room.

NOTE: I am new to crafting so there may be better tools to use but this worked for me.  Hopefully as I do more projects (and not just look at them on Pinterest and other blogs), I will become better at it.

Supplies you will need:
- Wooden Letter
- Multi-Surface Acrylic Craft Paint (I used the Martha Stewart brand)
- foam paint brush
- 3/4″ ribbon
- Tacky Glue
- Embellishments

All of my items were purchased at Michael’s but you can use your local craft store and they should have these basic items.
Step 1:  Paint wooden letter.  I used a foam paint brush and painted two coats.
Step 2: Decide how many ribbons you would like to hang down and the length.  Because I needed an “S” I only had room for two but if you had more room on the bottom of your letter you could use more ribbon.  Cut ribbon.  I also made one smaller piece for the top so that I could hang it from the ribbon but my letter does have a cut-out on the back so you wouldn’t need that.
Step 3:  Attach ribbon with tacky glue and place something heavy on it to hold it still until it dries.
Step 4:  Hang on the wall or on the back of a closet door.  Attach bows.
This is such a simple craft but I love how it adds a little personalization to her room and it is a great way to keep track of all of her hair bows.   We are in the process of building our house so I will update pictures of her room when it is finished!

You can find us linking up HERE and Chic & Crafty Party!

Fun & Inexpensive Summer Activities for Kids

Now that I have a very active 2-year-old I am always looking for fun activities for us to do, especially this summer.    I am sure we will be spending lots of time at the pool this summer but it is always good to have some other activities to mix in and back-ups for rainy days.   I searched the internet and found several ideas that I thought I would share with you.
1. Have movie day with the kids.  Choose a movie that everyone will love and make some popcorn or other movie theater snacks.  
2.  Make a lemonade stand and teach your kids the importance of making and saving money.
3.  Create a “Water” day with some other kids around the same age.   They can run through the sprinkler, throw water balloons, or play tag with the hose.  Let your kids paint the house.  Take a bucket of water with a paint brush and let them paint the house or deck.  When it dries, they can start over.  
4. Check out story time at the library or become part of the summer reading program at your library if your kids are old enough.
5. Find somewhere to volunteer with your kids.  Check out local charities or social groups that would like a little help and you can teach your kids the importance of helping others.  You could even make a meal for a family in need and have your kids join you to deliver it.
6. Write a letter to family or friends telling them what you are doing for the summer.  The kids can help write it or draw a picture to go with it.
7. Have a picnic at a park you haven’t been to before.   I recently noticed as I was driving around that there are so many great parks around that we haven’t been to and now that Jackson is older he will have more fun at the bigger parks.
8.  Take a walk before breakfast to enjoy a beautiful, summer morning.
9. Create your own summer t-shirt.  There are a lot of options out there for iron on transfer, t-shirt paint or tye-dye.  Have fun and let your kids make their own shirt to be proud of.   You can purchase inexpensive, plain t-shirts at Target or Walmart.
10.  Get moving.   Find an activity each day that keeps your family activity.  Maybe a bike ride, a swimming lesson or create your own race in your backyard.
What is your favorite summer activity?  Share it with us!
Enjoy your summer!!!

Provolone & Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Today’s STEP:  Closets and Dressers

While making my meal plan this week I decided I needed to try something new and different.  My husband loves chicken breasts but I don’t really prefer them to be just plain.  So these are spruced up just a little bit and they were so easy to make.   I decided you could really stuff them with lots of different things so if you don’t prefer these fillings, make it your own.  I would love to hear what you think of these once you have tried them.  My husband and my dad loved them but I always like to hear what our fans think.  We served with steamed broccoli and parmesan brown rice. Amazing!
Provolone & Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1/4 cup shredded provolone cheese
3 Tablespoons chopped California Ripe Olives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large egg white
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
Combine provolone, olives and pepper in small bowl.
Lightly beat egg white with fork in a bowl.  Mix breadcrumbs and salt in shallow dish.
Cut a horizontal slit along thin edge of chicken breast half nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each chicken breast and fill with one-fourth of cheese mixture.  Close breast over filling and press edges together to seal.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts and filling.  Hold each chicken breast together and dip in egg and then breadcrumbs.  
Heat oil in nonstick pan on medium high heat.  Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. 
Transfer chicken to baking pan, browned side up, and bake until it is no longer pink in the center or reaches 170 degrees, about 20 minutes.
Serves 4.
Enjoy!!
Recipe from Eating Well

What is your favorite way to eat chicken?

Steps to Great Meal Planning

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today’s Step: Pay Attention to Your Computer/Desk Area.  I know mine is DUSTY.  We pile our bills on our desk as well which definitely needs organized.



Today we are going to spend a little time talking about meal planning for the week.  This is a method that I have used for several years and it has really worked for our family.  Sometimes this can be one of the hardest tasks of the week as you try to please your family members, find what works in the time you have and staying within a budget.  I feel like I am always thinking about what we can have for dinner for the next week, this helps keep me ahead of the game when I sit down to plan out our meals.
The first step is to look at your family calendar and see what nights you will be home as a family.  For instance, we eat dinner with a group of friends one night a week  (usually Monday or Tuesday) but we only have to cook for the group every third week.  Then there may be times our family has other obligations so I mark that down on my meal planning sheet.  If just part of the family will be home, we might have leftovers that night or I might just make something simple like sandwiches.
The next step is to plan out the meal.  I try to plan each part of the meal so I am prepared when I make my grocery list.   I usually plan a vegetable and/or a salad for each meal.  This helps to increase the amount of veggies we are eating and makes for a more well-balanced meal.  When trying to create a healthy meal, think of your plate like this.
Here is what my dinner meal plan for the week might look like:
T- Baked Tilapia with steamed broccoli, brown rice and small salad
W- Leftovers
F- Grilled Pork Chops with grilled asparagus, baked potato
And on Fridays it is usually our day to let loose a little so I would probably finish the meal by adding dessert something like: Scotcheroos or Golden Graham S’mores.
I also plan other meals for the week like breakfast, lunch and snacks.  To make it easy I usually choose something to eat for breakfast for the week and then switch it up, for instance, we might have oatmeal this week, waffles next week and cereal another week.   We choose from the same things but just switch up what I buy.  The same goes for lunches maybe we do sandwiches this week, wraps next week and so on.  This makes it easy and you use up what you buy at the store.
The final step is going to the store.  I try to just go to the store once a week.  This helps me to stay within budget and to get that errand out of the way.
We would love to hear questions you have about meal planning or creation or way to make your meals more interesting.
Do you go to the store once a week or more often?  Does your family go out to eat often?

Spring Break Snack Attack

Today’s Step: The Baseboards – Take a clean absorbent rag, dampen it with a solution of soap and water, wring it as dry as possible.  Wipe the top and sides of baseboard all around the room, where you started should be dry by the time you finish.  TIP: Go over the baseboards again with a used fabric softener tissue from your dryer. This will help prevent dust from settling on the clean baseboard.

It’s that time of year…the kids are taking a week off and you’re going to be needing something to feed them.  I have a few ideas for you.

BREAKFAST
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 
Cinnamon Rolls
Easy Caramel Rolls
Mini Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins 
Muffins – Any Way You Like ‘Em
Simple Doughnuts


LUNCH/DINNER
Pizza Boats
Pizza Roll-ups 
Three Cheese & Bacon Macaroni
Walking Tacos


SWEET SNACKS
Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Butterfinger Oreo Ice Cream Dessert
Chocolate Oreo Rice Krispy Treats
Golden Graham S’mores
Puppy Chow
Puppy Chow Cookies

It’s also helpful to have the ingredients on hand to whip up a quick snack when you need one.  This one is similar to the Cinnamon Sugar Snack Mix.  I made it one day when we were needing something fast.  I had all of these things in the pantry.  Easy and delicious!

CINNAMON SUGAR PRETZELS

16 oz. bag PRETZELS
1 stick BUTTER, melted
2 teaspoons CINNAMON
1/3 cup SUGAR

Place pretzels in a large bowl.
Mix 1/2 of the sugar and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Add melted butter.

Pour over pretzels, stir to coat.

Spread evenly on 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake at 250° for 10 minutes.

Recipe Source: Tasty Kitchen

This post is linked to Melt In Your Mouth Mondays.

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Today’s Step: The Microwave
It gets used so often but it doesn’t always get the cleaning it deserves!  TIP: When cleaning your microwave, boil water with a squirt of lemon juice in it.  It will steam the microwave making it easier to wipe clean with a damp cloth.

One thing that has always interested me is people of other cultures and their food.  Backpacking through Europe and living in two of the largest cities in the United States really increased my interest, but the thought of cooking some of that food has always seemed too complicated. 

A few years ago I received a French cookbook by Ina Garten called Barefoot in Paris as a gift and finally had the confidence to try something in it.  Of all the recipes, the first one I chose was Herbed-Baked Eggs.  It is made in individual bowls and makes for a different take on the usual breakfast food.  We served it at breakfast with toasted french bread, but it would be a wonderful lunch or dinner entree.
HERBED-BAKED EGGS


Ingredients
-1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
-1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
-1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
-2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
-2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
-12 extra large eggs
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-Kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-Toasted French bread, for serving
Directions
Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.
Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan cheese and set aside.  Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 4 small bowls or cups (you won’t be baking them in those) without breaking the yolks. It is very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.
Place 4 individual gratin dishes* on a baking sheet.  Place 1 Tablespoon of cream and 1/2 Tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes*, until whites of the eggs are almost cooked.  (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren’t cooking evenly.)  The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven.  Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.
*I didn’t have gratin dishes, so I used my Corelle cereal bowls and had to lengthen the cooking time slightly.

Cheesy Taco Joes

Today’s Step: Ceiling Fans- Get out your step stools and climb on up and get those fans cleaned!  You know they’re dusty?!?! 

So, I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but, I do remember I used to make it all the time.  It’s very simple, only uses a few ingredients and tastes great.  Another plus is that my kids like it! (When I use a mild salsa anyway!)
Cheesy Taco Joes
Printable Recipe Here


1 lb. ground beef
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Brown meat.  Drain.  Add soup, salsa, cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Serve on buns. (Looks like a sloppy joe.)
Doesn’t get much easier than that!  Enjoy!

5-Ingredient Challenge Week 2 Results


Before we get to the challenge, here’s today’s STEP: Dust It All – Remove EVERY object from each surface that needs dusting.


Okay on to the challenge. I chose these five ingredients from the suggested items and made them into a delicious meal.  My ingredients are pasta, asparagus, sausage, green pepper and fresh mozzarella.  Just as a side note if you suggested an item for a specific use but it was used differently, we didn’t forget about it.  We will be working it into our recipes in the coming weeks.  Thank you for your suggestions and don’t forget to add your suggestions for next week.  At the end of the month we will be doing a drawing for those who have participated.   


This week I will feature Whole Wheat pasta with Sausage and Asparagus and Roasted Pepper and Mozzarella Bites.  This makes for a perfect Italian meal served with some warm bread.  Enjoy!


The first recipe is an appetizer, it is easy to make a delicious.  Best if served immediately.  I used green and red pepper but you can use whatever you have on hand.   The recipe calls to make about 20 bites but I just wanted a sample so we chose to make a few.  It seems like a lot of steps for this recipe but they go quickly and I did most of them while making the pasta dish.




Roasted Pepper and Mozzarella Bites



2 bell peppers
1 tub fresh mozzarella, cherry tomato size
olive oil
salt and pepper or another favorite seasoning
3-4 fresh basil leaves


Set oven to broil.  Line baking sheet with foil. Place the whole peppers on the foil and place under the broiler.  When the tops of the peppers have turned black rotate until the entire pepper is black.  Remove from oven and place in a plastic bag and seal for about 10 minutes.   Remove peppers to a cutting board and let cool.  After the peppers have cooled, the skins will slip off easily.  Remove all of the skin and then cut in half.   Remove stem carefully so the peppers do not tear.   Slice each pepper half into about 5-6 strips.   Season pepper strips.


Drain 20-22 mozzarella balls.  Place mozzarella in small bowl and drizzle some olive oil over the cheese.    Sprinkle some salt and pepper and other seasoning (if you choose) on the cheese.  Don’t be skimpy on the salt.  I added the chopped basil to this mixture.  Toss.


Take each mozzarella ball and wrap with a strip of pepper.   Secure with toothpick and place on serving platter.  Repeat with remaining cheese and peppers.  


Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from The Italian Dish


The next recipe got rave reviews from the group I served it to.  I always love serving new dishes to company, even though it can be risky if it is the first time you make something.  Even Jackson liked this dish so it may work for your whole family.  The recipe calls for turkey sausage but I couldn’t find the turkey sausage that was also the sweet italian sausage at the store I went to.  So I went with mild sweet italian sausage.  Enjoy this pasta with a piece of warm italian bread.




Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Sausage



8 oz. Whole Wheat Rotini or Penne Pasta
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
10 oz. (3 links) sweet italian sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (these were added during serving time to adjust to taste needs)
1 pound thin asparagus, ends snapped off, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I left juices in with tomatoes)
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup parmesan


Cook pasta in salted water.  Drain, reserving a little pasta water.  Set aside.


In large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add sausage and brown 5-8 minutes, break it up into bite sized pieces as you go along.  Spoon meat onto plate and set aside.


Add remaining olive oil to skillet, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring frequently.   


Add asparagus, cook for 3-4 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.


Pour in tomatoes and cooked sausage.   Heat through, 1-2 minutes.  Turn off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.  


Add pasta and stir to combine.   If a little dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.  


Spoon into bowls and serve with parmesan cheese.


Serves 3-4 people. 


Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from Cheap, Healthy, Good

NOW we’re ready for your next suggestions…give it to us!
What’s your go-to ingredient for a last minute dinner?
What is something you always find yourself cooking with and you need a fresh new idea?
What was one of your favorite ingredients growing up?


Leave your suggestion as a comment on this post.  You have until tomorrow at noon CST (Thurs. March 10).  The prize for the drawing at the end of this month is the Our Best Bites Cookbook.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Today’s STEP: The Linen Closet – run down the hall, fling open the door and air that baby out!  Organize it by putting like items together, store your sheet sets folded neatly inside the pillow case for that set, use baskets to keep miscellaneous items from wandering all over the closet. Get rid of items that are no longer useful to you (i.e. you don’t need a twin sheet set if you don’t have any twin beds in your house!).  TIP: Adding a bundle of chalk in a closet helps absorb extra moisture and keeps clothing and linens fresh and dry. Mount a hook in the closet, fasten a rubber band around a dozen pieces of chalk, and cover the band with ribbon, allowing enough loop to hang chalk.

I hope you can use these spring cleaning tips.  I know I can.  There is always something to do around the house but it seems better when you can break it down into smaller parts.   These recipe I am sharing today is an easy crowd pleaser.  I feel like we often have places to go where we need to bring along an appetizer to share; not just around football season, but all year round.  I will warn you that this is very addictive once you get started it is hard to stop, but all the more reason to try it.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 (10oz.) cans chunk chicken, drained
2 (8oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing (or 1/2 cup each)
3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 bunch celery, cut into pieces
Snack crackers or chips for dipping

Heat chicken and hot sauce in sauce pan on medium heat, until heated through.  Stir in cream cheese and dressing.  Cook and stir until well blended and warm.  Mix in half of the cheddar cheese, stir until melted.  Transfer to a small crock pot.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, cover, cook on low setting until hot and bubbly.  Serve with crackers, celery or chips.

Enjoy!

It’s Time for Spring Cleaning (immediately followed by a recipe for delicious bread sticks)

Today we’re kicking off a CHALLENGE that was actually given to us by our mother.  The reality is that, in the midst of life’s chaos, cleaning things sometimes falls a little lower on the priority list that one would like.  And since spring is lurking around the corner somewhere, this is a great time of year to do some deep cleaning…before we have much better things to do than clean! 
So the idea is this, we’ve taken a list of common spring cleaning tasks and will share one with you each weekday.  We will each be at our own house taking on the job and you can join us if you like (but at your house, not ours!)  At the end, we’ll be able to relax when our mom does stop by knowing that we did make “Spring Cleaning” a little more of a priority than last year and without a doubt, there will probably be little hands to come along and undo all the good that we’ve just done!  Ahhh, the joys of motherhood!

Today’s STEP:  The refrigerator – toss out anything that’s bad or that’s totally turned into a science project, check expiration dates, wipe out shelves and bins.  Don’t forget about the freezer!  Finish by doing a complete wipe down of the exterior of the fridge.  TIP: It’s best to use soap and water to start wiping out and then rinse with a solution of 1 gallon water and 2 cups white vinegar.  It’ll freshen without harmful chemicals.

And if you can’t do a step each day, you can catch up on the weekend!  Check the SPRING CLEANING tab above for the complete list (updated daily with a new step).  Have another great tip for the step we’re doing today?  Feel free to share in the comments of this post.


Now for the food…I love bread in a serious way.  While these garlic rolls are my absolute favorite, I have been on a mission for the last several weeks to find a really great recipe for bread sticks. I have found the best of two worlds in the ones pictured below – you know, the texture of the bread sticks you get at the Olive Garden WITH the parmesan topping that Pizza Hut puts on their bread sticks.  I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it! (Name that movie!) These bread sticks are heaven sent!
BREAD STICKS
1 pkg. YEAST (2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 1/4 cups FLOUR
2 Tablespoons BUTTER, softened
2 Tablespoons SUGAR
2 teaspoons SALT
Place 1/4 cup WARM WATER in a bowl and sprinkle yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes until foamy.  
Add the flour, sugar, butter, salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons WARM WATER to the yeast mixture.  Stir with a spoon (or use your mixer).  Add some additional flour (if needed) and continue mixing until a nice soft, smooth dough forms.
Place on a floured surface and cut into 16 even pieces.  Roll each piece into a 7 inch long bread stick.  
Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes*.
Preheat oven to 400°.  Brush tops of bread sticks with mixture of 2 Tablespoons of melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.  Bake until light golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
*When I start to make the dough, I turn on the oven to 200°, after the oven reaches 200° I TURN IT OFF.  Then I place the cookie sheets in the oven while the bread sticks are rising.
Recipe source: slightly adapted from Your Homebased Mom
GARLIC BREAD SEASONING
1/2 cup POWDERED PARMESAN CHEESE
2 teaspoons KOSHER SALT
2 Tablespoons GARLIC POWDER
2 teaspoons OREGANO
2 teaspoons BASIL
2 teaspoons MARJORAM
2 teaspoons PARSLEY
Combine ingredients and store in an air tight container in the fridge.  Will keep up to 3 months.  
I brushed the bread sticks above with melted butter when they came out of the oven and then I sprinkled them with this seasoning.  
Another way to use it: combine 1 1/2 Tablespoons with 1/2 cup room temperature butter, spread on French bread.
This recipe is linked to Melt In Your Mouth Mondays

Will you be joining us for our SPRING CLEANING CHALLENGE?