Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog Anniversary: Under the Big Oak Tree turned One yesterday

Here I am, late with another post!  I really need to catch up!  But until I learn to either manage my time better, or figure out how to run on even less sleep than I am currently getting....we'll all just have to deal with the late posts!  I don't mind if you don't! 

Monday, marked the one year birthday of my blog!  I really cannot believe that I've stuck with this for so long!  I thought for sure, I'd have gotten bored with blogging after a month or so, but nope...I'm not bored at all!  If anything, I'm enjoying it so much more now that I know what I'm doing.  Don't get me wrong, I still have so much to learn about blogging and I'm having so much fun while I'm learning! 

Thanks to all of my readers, fellow bloggers, and my friends and family that support me and my blogging habit by sharing comments, ideas, recipes and other topics for my blog! 

Looking forward to another great year! 

Follow Us Monday Morning: Better Late...right?

PhotobucketI really planned on posting this much earlier today....um yesterday!  Joe had a rare day off today yesterday and we spent the day doing stuff as a family.  It was a very-much-needed day! 

This is my second week participating in Follow Us Monday Morning.  I'm enjoying finding new blogs and meeting new friends.  All in all, just adding to my blog addiction!  :) 

I made some readers sad with my post about my first days of school last week.  I'm sorry.  That wasn't my intention at all.  I guess now, my mom and I can look back at those days and laugh.  But I guess it still hits too close to home for all of you with school aged kids.  I still have some time before I have to deal with Grace's first day of school and I do worry that I will have to deal with separation anxiety issues with her.  If not her anxiety, but my own! 

I decided to answer this week's question, too! 

What is your favorite season? 

During my high school years,  my favorite was summer.  From sophomore year until the year after graduation, my family rented a campsite year round about an hour from the city.  (Not far from where I live now.)  I met some of my bestest buddies there and since we all lived in different areas, once summer was over, we didn't see each other again until the following spring/summer.  I don't get to see my old friends from those days, but I do keep in touch with many of them (thanks to facebook!).  Great memories of those days always seem to be more prominent during the months between Memorial Day and  Labor Day! 

Now, as an adult, autumn is my favorite season.  I love cool, crisp days outside when you can smell the smoke from a fire in a fireplace or burning leaves from one of the nearby farms.  Pumpkin patches, caramel apples, bright colored leaves on the trees and ground!  I'm really looking forward to enjoying the fall with Grace this year.  I can't wait to show her the fun of running around and jumping into a pile of leaves! 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of August 30th

Last week was a really good week as far as food goes.  I tried two new recipes, I had my nieces over for a play date and enjoyed a wonderful lunch with them, and visited with a dear friend over buffalo chicken wraps and coffee cake!
As usual, I didn't get to all of the meals on my menu plan from last week.  I already scheduled two days of leftovers, and somehow, we still didn't get to two of the meals! 

I've always cooked too much.  But lately it seems as if we have a lot more leftovers.  I guess I'm eating less since I'm measuring and weighing my portions so I can figure the Weight Watchers points for what I'm eating. 

Hey, that's okay by me!  Eating less, stretching a recipe into several meals.  That all works for me!  I'll be losing weight AND saving money! 

I'm planning an easy menu this week since we've got a lot going on around here in the next few days. 

  • Monday:  leftovers
  • Tuesday:  Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili with cornbread
  • Wednesday:  salmon burgers, macaroni salad, corn on the cob
  • Thursday: Chicken, Risotto, salad
  • Friday:  leftovers
  • Saturday:  (undecided)
  • Sunday:    (undecided)
I'm really looking forward to the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili. I've been wanting to add some meatless meals to our menus each week.  This is a new recipe and I really hope that it's a keeper! 
I'm a bit behind in posting, but keep checking back for new recipe posts.  Last week, I promised to share the Veggie Fritters recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago.  I finally got to it, here's the link!

As always, I'll be linking this week's menu to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie!  Be sure to check it out!  You'll be inspired by all the menu plans and recipes shared each week!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baked Veggie Fritters: a new favorite!

Last week, I showed you our small veggie garden.  Tiny, huh?  Well, like I said in that post, it's a trial run for us first time gardeners. 

In addition to the trial garden, I've also been on the look out for different ideas for using vegetables. 

If next year's garden is bigger and better like we have planned, I don't want us to get sick of looking at (let alone eating) another squash, zucchini, tomato, etc. 

So, I figure looking now and having a plan might be a good idea!  :) 

GetHealthyCheap.com is one of my favorite places to check out new recipe ideas!  For me, though, recipe blogs tend to be like my cookbooks that live in a closet in my basement.  I flip though the pages and never get around to trying the recipe.  I have good intentions, but I guess I'm easily distracted, too!  The "I want to try this" recipes are often forgotten! 

Sooo not the case with Julie's Baked Summer Squash Fritters!   Once I saw that recipe, I just KNEW I had to make them!  Especially since I just picked one zucchini and one summer squash from our trial garden! 

I followed the original recipe almost all the way through without making any changes but at the last minute, I made a couple of adjustments.  But that's just the way I am!  Again, good intentions and all!  :) 

Baked Veggie Fritters 

  • 1 1/2 yellow summer squash
  • 1 1/2 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup oats (ground)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Shred summer squash, zucchini and carrots.
  • Add shredded vegetables to a strainer.
  • Place a large bowl under the strainer.
  • Sprinkle the shredded vegetables with 1 tsp. of salt. 
  • Let sit for about 15 minutes. 
  • Saute onion in olive oil, add garlic. 
  • Cook until tender.
  • Allow to cool. 
  • Pour liquid from the bowl under the strainer. 
  • Use the back of a ladle to press as much liquid as possible from the vegetables.
  • Sqeeze with hands to remove more liquid. 
  • Add the shredded vegetables and the onion/garlic mixture to a large mixing bowl. 
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • Mix well with hands.
  • Form into patties.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes on a foil covered cookie sheet that's been treated with cooking spray. 
  • Use a food processor or hand grater to shred the veggies.  I used my vintage Tupperware food grater, because I don't know how to use the grating attachement on my food processor! 
  • I shredded and drained the liquid from the veggies the night before and placed the covered bowl in the fridge over night.
  • Squeeze as much liquid from the veggies as possible.  This will help your fritters get crisp in the oven.   
  • I added the roughly ground oatmeal to the mixture because I couldn't seem to  get as much liquid out of the veggies as I would have liked.  Not sure if I just didn't squeeze enough out or if it was because I stored in fridge overnight.  Either way I really liked the addition of the oatmeal. 
  • I used 1/4 cup less of the parmesan cheese than the recipe called for since I'm not overly fond of parmesan cheese.  Also, I didn't use a fancy parmesan, just the one in the green container in the supermarket. 
  • I made small patties, each one approximately the same size.  Think silver dollar pancake size! 
  • Since I made these in such a small size, we had a lot of little fritters.  We ate these hot as a side to our main meal.   
  • For a quick and healthy lunch, I served them cold with a bit of Chipotle Mayo for dipping! 
  • These would be great to serve as an appetizer at your next party!  Perfect for your friends and family that are vegetarians, watching their weight or just looking for healthier options! 
These veggie fritters were amazing!  I thought for sure that this recipe was going to be something that Joe wouldn't go for at all.  But he fooled me!  I was in the middle of making the rest of dinner when the timer went off on the oven.  Joe was just walking in the door from work at the very same moment, so I handed him the oven mitt and asked him to remove the cookie sheet. 

He took them from the oven and ate one immediately!  I'm surprised he didn't burn his mouth!  He ate several before we even sat down to dinner! 

This recipe is definitely a keeper!  I'll be making them again very soon! 

Since this is Julie's recipe (just slightly adapted), I thought it more than fitting that I link this to her weekly blog party, Family Food Fridays

I'll also be sharing this recipe at the following blog carnivals:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vintage Love: Jadite Green Tupperware Grater

When I was a kid, my family would go flea marketing.  Sometimes to buy, sometimes to sell.  Selling was always the most fun!  On Friday afternoon, we would load up the van with all the stuff we planned on selling.  We would go to be early because we would have to get up super-early to get a good spot!

When it was time to wake up, it was usually really dark outside.  My brother and I would sleep the entire way to the flea market and through some of the setting up.  Once we woke up, we'd have a donut for breakfast and then help sell all of our junk!  I loved it! 

I also loved looking at everyone else's junk!  I think that may have been when I started to love vintage things! 

In my early twenties, I moved out of my parents' house.  I worked on Saturday afternoons.  I hated working Saturday afternoons.  But meeting my mom in the mornings to go yard sale-ing made it bearable!   

I don't get the opportunity to hit the flea markets or yard sales as much as I would like, but I do make it a point to check out our local thrift shop on half price day! 

I tend to look for vintage kitchen items from the 20s to the 60s.  Things I remember seeing in my grandparents' or friends' kitchens when I was growing up. 

Because I look for items from that time frame, I don't end up buying a lot of things that I remember my parents having in their kitchen.  My parents were married in the seventies and that just isn't really my style!

Don't get me wrong, my mom has great taste!  She even had great taste in the 70s.  She never went for the trendy stuff for the house.  She, like my grandmother, have more of a classic style when it comes to decorating their homes.  But kitchen items from that era just don't appeal to me.   

I do have a few older items from my mom's kitchen.  Older items that were handed down to her, that I loved seeing in her kitchen and love having in my kitchen! 

I was really excited when I found this vintage jadite Tupperware food grater on one of my most recent trips to 1/2 price day!  I remember my mom having one just like this! 

I remember her using this for every batch of cole slaw that she made for many, many years...until my dad won a Cuisinart food processor as a door prize at a banquet!  

I don't know where mom's Tupperware grater ended up...maybe the flea market??

This one turned out to be just a buck!  SOLD!  I was so excited!  One Dollar!  I've seen these on ebay or Etsy for much more (plus shipping charges)!  This one is missing the lid, but that's okay with me! 

I will be linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Giveaway News: Extraordinary Life's Lunch Box Experiment: Easy Lunch Box System

Hey, everyone! 

Summer is just about over and it's almost time for the kids to head back to school.  In fact, some kids have already started the new school year in recent weeks. 

Lisa, from Extraordinary Life has been discussing back to school lunches for the past couple of weeks.  She's been planning healthy, gluten free lunches for her kids as well as comparing a series of lunch box systems trying to find what lunch box works the best for her kids. 

She started her Lunch Box Experiment Series with the new Ziploc 3 compartment containers and insolated lunch totes that she purchased separately.  You can read Part 1 of her series HERE

Next came Part 2 of the Lunch Box Experiment, where she discusses what she's planning on putting INTO the actual lunch boxes.  Check out Lisa's extensive list of lunch options.  While Lisa's children require special diets, her ideas can be easily adapted to fit your non-gluten-free needs. 

Lisa is currently at Part 3 of the Lunch Box Experiment.  Part 3 consists of a product review and giveaway!  How fun! 

If you are in need of a lunch box for your kids, or even for yourself, I really suggest you take a look at her product review of Easy Lunch Boxes.  Lisa has included her honest opinions of the Easy Lunch Box system as well as videos of her kids putting the containers to the test! 

Plus, on Tuesday August 31, she will be giving away an Easy Lunch Box system to one lucky reader!  Click here to find out how to enter.  Or you can click the Lunch Box Experiment banner at the top of my page. 

I think Lisa will have a lot more to say about lunch boxes and what goes in them, so be sure to check out her blog....and really, don't forget to enter that giveaway!  You can't win if you don't enter! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gardening: Raised Bed Garden from a recycled pallet

This summer was the first time we had a vegetable garden.  We started small for this year since it was pretty much a trial run.  

My nieces and I started some seeds in one of those little greenhouse kits from the hardware store.  Once the seeds started to grow, Joe built his version of a raised bed. 

He recycled an old pallet for the base, bought some lumber for the sides and added some wheels on the bottom. 

This worked fine for our small garden this summer.  We did move some of the tomato plants out of it and into buckets.  Next year I want something bigger and better! 

If this bed stands up to the winter weather, I plan on using it as a tray to start my seeds next year.  The wheels will make it very easy to put them out in the sun or move to the shade if it's too bright for the delicate plants. 

We're really, really new to gardening.  Both of us grew up in the city and although my mom planted a beautiful flower garden in the yard of my childhood home, I never paid much attention to the process. 

The picture up above is from the beginning of June when everything was still small, I wish I would have taken a picture of it when it was nice and full.  We had a zucchini plant and a summer squash plant (they both died last week), we have several varieties of tomatoes, banana peppers, rosemary and boxwood basil. 

I'm really excited to plant our vegetable garden next spring and have been bookmarking ideas I find on the internet.  If you have any tips or suggestions for this beginner gardener, I'd be very appreciative!  Have a blog post about your garden?  Leave a link to your post in the comments section! 

I'll be linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Young Plantations: A Product Review

Last week, I was lucky enough to get the chance to sample 2 great pecan flavors from Young Plantations.

Young Plantations is a family-owned business based in Florence, SC.  They ship to all fifty states and to over 50 countries each year.  They also have 5 retail shops in South Carolina (2 permanent and 3 seasonal). 

I first became familiar with Young Plantations several years ago.  At the time, I worked for a flower shop that had a large selection of gourmet products to be added to fruit and gift baskets.   Pecans from Young Plantations was one of the many items that were offered to our customers.  Specifically, the Double Dipped Chocolate Pecans.  Do I really need to say more?  Double. Dipped. Chocolate.  Mmmmmm! 

In thinking of what products I would like to share with my readers, I knew right away that I wanted to contact Young Plantations and set up a product review!

Shortly after being in contact with them, I received a box containing 2 bags of flavored pecans.  Praline Pecans and Honey Crisp Pecans.  We were so eager to try them, I didn't get a picture before we dug into the bags! 

Both flavors were amazing!  The freshness and quality of the pecans was wonderful.  One thing I hate about bagged snacks is that often in shipping they get crushed and broken.  I was so happy to see that there weren't any broken bits at the bottom of the bags!  The packaging was perfect! 

Something else I love about the pecans, is that the ingredients are all-natural.

Here is what makes up the Praline Pecans:
  • Pecans (of course)
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • maple syrup
  • touch of salt
See?  Just 5 ingredients!!!  Amazing, right?  These days it's really difficult to find tasty snacks that don't contain a bunch of preservatives and chemicals or HFCS. 

It gets even better with the Honey Crisp Pecans:  slow-roasted pecans, sweetened with pure drizzled honey.  Yep! Two ingredients!  How great is that? 

While both flavors were a hit at our house, the Honey Crisp Pecans were unanimously voted the favorite of the two!  Every pecan reminded me of a bite of pecan pie. They are described on the website as being   "Incredibly delicious and sinfully divine!"  I think that is a truly accurate description!   (I'm really making myself hungry right now!)

Below, you can find a description of some of the gift packages and flavor options that can be found at Young Plantations.  Click on the links if you would like more information.  

Young Plantations Cigar Box

This mixed box is the #1 Seller at Young Plantations.  The 22 oz.  total weight cigar box is filled with 3 of their most popular flavors:
  • Double Dipped Chocolate Pecans
  • Honey Crisp Pecans
  • Butter Roasted & Salted Pecans
Who wouldn't love an assortment like this? 

Down Home Pecan Pie

Enjoy a taste of the south with a Young Plantations Down Home Pecan Pie.  To me, nothing says "the south" like a pecan pie!  MMmmm! 
Click the link up above to place an order for this pecan pie.  Perfect as an after-dinner-treat after a nice home-cooked meal or as a hostess gift for the holidays! 

Young Plantations even offers wedding favors.  Any of their favors would be perfect for a unique way to say thank you to your wedding guests for sharing in your special day! 

Here are some photos and links for other gift options you can find at Young Plantations: 

All Occasion and Corporate Gifts

Gift Baskets and Towers

Tubs & Canisters
Gift Tins (How cute is that tin?!  I love that the logo is a TREE!  I think I may have to order one and pretend it's a BIG OAK TREE!) 

Be sure to check out the Young Plantations website to view all of the wonderful products they offer, find out about pricing, or even check out some recipes

Don't forget to keep them in mind for holiday gifts for teachers, your hair dressers, babysitters, hostess gifts, business gifts,  etc. 

Disclosure:  I was not compensated in any way to do this review.  Young Plantations provided me with 2 non-returnable sample packages for my family to try and review.  The opinions stated in this review are honest and my own. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of August 23rd

So, it's Monday already?  Really?  I have no idea where the last week has gone!  It's all a total blur!

Grace has been super-cranky all week.  She's teething.  Need I say more?  I'm sure all you moms out there can totally relate. 

Thank goodness for leftovers!  Seriously!  We had tons of leftovers from the week before and two of the meals I made this week saved me from cooking a few nights. 

Normally, I like to freeze my leftovers for meals later in the month.  But right now, I'm just using them up. 

This week, I'll be trying some new recipes.  Hopefully, they will turn out so that I can share them here.  I'm not against posting new recipes if they don't turn out, but these days, I've been having a tough time posting in general, so I'd rather use my computer time to post successful recipes!  Eventually, I'll get around to sharing my flops!!! 

I am hoping to get the time to post a recipe I tried a few weeks ago.  Huge success!  For now, I'll just tease you with a photo:
Also, this week, I'll be sharing another product review.  If you love learning about new products like I do, be sure to check back this week!  If you missed last week's product review, you can check it out here:  healthy snack, perfect for back to school!  

Okay, so on to the menu plan....that's what you're really here for, right? 

  • Monday:  salmon burgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, fried potatoes
  • Tuesday:  hamburger gravy with elbow macaroni, veggies
  • Wednesday:  meatloaf, mashed potatoes, veggies
  • Thursday:  black bean & sweet potato chili
  • Friday:  chicken, vegetable risotto, salad
  • Saturday:  leftovers
  • Sunday:  leftovers
I'm hoping to do some freezer cooking this week.  Over the weekend, I bought several bags of dried beans that I want to cook and freeze since we're starting to run low on beans.  We're completely out of cooked, diced chicken.  Luckily for me, Acme is having a sale on bone-in chicken breast.  If I still have time after all of that cooking, I might just make some spaghetti sauce.

Now that I read my plan for the week, I'm thinking this might actually be a 2 week plan!  That's a lot of cooking!  We'll see what I can get done this week.  Check back during the week to see how it's going!

I'm linking this post up to Menu Plan Monday, a weekly Menu Planning carnival hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie.  Check it out if you need to be inspired!

My friend Lisa is hosting a product review and GIVEAWAY.  One lucky reader will win an Easy Lunch Box System!  Click here to find out how to enter! 

Follow Us Monday Morning: First Day of School

I decided to try something new this week: I participated in a couple blog hops over the weekend.  (Thanks for following, ladies!  I'll get over to your blogs very soon!) 

When I found out about Follow Us Monday Morning, I figured this will be something fun to join on a blah Monday morning!  Well, the Monday morning itself isn't blah.  It's really nice and sunny this morning.  It's just me that's feeling blah.  I really could have used a bit more sleep last night!  I wish I had time to nap with Grace today. 

Every week, at Follow Us Monday Morning, there is a new topic question.  This week's question made me laugh!  Really, I laughed out loud!  Mom, you'll get a chuckle out of this one! 

Question of the week: 
  • Do you have sweet memories, or memories of terror from your first days back to school?

My answer: 

To say that I hated the first day of school would be an understatement.  I had terrible separation anxiety as a kid and I have vivid memories of my Mom trying to get me into the classroom, carrying me, while I grabbed everything I could to try to keep her from taking me in there. 

I spent most of kindergarten in the bathroom.  My crying would disrupt the class so much that they set a chair in the bathroom for me.  I don't know why I wouldn't stop crying, since I remember LOVING my kindergarten teacher.  Mrs. O'Donnell. 

Sometime before Christmas vacation, I started to warm up to being in school.  I no longer had to sit in the bathroom. I don't remember exactly how it happened,  but we have evidence that I actually did participate in class.  Evidence in the form of Christmas decorations that we made in school: 
  • a tennis ball can covered in yarn, then spray painted.  (A candle holder, maybe?)
  • an angel made from egg cartons, a foam ball and some glitter and pipe cleaners.
  • and my favorite, a cardboard christmas tree painted green decorated with beads.  (I actually remember making that one.)
And then, that first day of school after Christmas break, it all started again!  The separation anxiety.  The screaming.  The crying.  The wrestling match to get me into the classroom.  My little chair in the corner of the kindergarten bathroom.  Same thing happened before and after Easter break, too. 

I blame it on the fact that I was too young for kindergarten.  The cut off dates for starting school was different then.  I was 4 when I started kindergarten in September.  I turned 5 in November.  That was way too young to start kindergarten.  I don't think pre-school was available then. 

The crying on the first day of school continued until the 2nd grade.  But even after that, I always dreaded the first day of school. 
If you want to share a story about your first day of school, click on the Follow Us Monday Morning button at the top and join in on the fun! 

Oh!  Speaking  of Back to School...My friend Lisa is hosting a product review and giveaway on her blog.  One lucky reader will win an Easy Lunch Box System from easylunchboxes.com!  Just in time for back to school!   Click here to find out how to enter! 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blog Love ~ August 21st

I've been wanting to post about all of the wonderful things I find in blogland, but haven't gotten around to it until now.  Here are a few of my favorite finds from the past week: 

Lisa, my long-time friend (in real life),  quietly celebrated her One Year Blog Anniversary this past week.  Sorry, Lisa, just remembering it now!  Lisa enjoys cooking and prepares many foods for her family from scratch.  She shares many recipes on her blog,  My Extraordinary Life.  Lisa's recipes are helpful for families that deal with gluten issues, as well as those that do not have to worry about gluten. 

In recent weeks, Lisa has been working hard to find the perfect lunch box for her kids to carry to school.  She plans on filling it with healthy lunch options that her kids will love!  In her post, Lunch Box Experiment - Part 2, you can read about what Lisa plans on packing for her kids this school year. 

Also, check out Part 1 of the Lunch Box Experiment series.  Part 3 will be coming soon, along with a  product review & giveaway! 

Over at Welcome to Colie's Kitchen, Nicole tells us about a restaurant her family often went to when she was a kid.  She alos shares a recipe for a candy she enjoyed from that restaurant.  I cannot wait to make her easy, 5-ingredient recipe for Monterey House Candy.  I'm thinking these will be great around the holidays! 

Last weekend, Joe bought me some chalkboard paint for a project I've been wanting to work on.  So I was really excited when I saw the Chalkboard Paint Projects on It Feels Like Chaos.  Because I know that once I finish the project I have planned, I'm going to want to paint a chalkboard onto anything I get my hands on!  I love the fact that she even got her kids involved! 

Debbi's Saucy Veggie Meatloaf is another recipe I cannot wait to try!  I've been hooked on adding extra veggies to my recipes for a while now,  so her recipe is right up my alley!  Now that I am trying to lose weight, I have a feeling I'll be trying a lot of Debbi's recipes!  I love that she post the approximate calories for every meal on her blog, Debbi Does Dinner Healthy.

And probably the best thing about this past week in blogland is that my Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs post was picked as a Colie's Kitchen Impressive Recipe on Thursday!  Thanks for the love Colie! 

I'll be linking this post to the following carnivals:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to School Deals: Children's Place, OshKosh B'gosh, Carter's

It seems that the hot topic these days is Back to School.

Everyone is either shopping for school supplies, looking for school clothes and uniforms, or planning healthy lunches  for their kids. 

Grace isn't in school yet, she's just 15 months old.  I don't even want to think about the day that my sweet baby girl has to leave me and go to school every day.  Nope.  Won't think of that now, I have plenty of time before that happens.  Although, I know that her first day of school will arrive faster than I think!   (sob!)

Since I shop online for a lot of Grace's clothes, my in-box has been flooded with deals for Back to School clothes.  Some really great deals. 

Here are a few I thought I'd share with you today: 

The Children's Place is having several sales:
  • Stock Up & Save sale.  Many items are $5, $7 and $10! 
  • Fall Sale (addtions 25% off)
  • or a Take 15% off entire purchase sale.  Use code Z7AGX6EE8A at checkout or click here for a printable coupon.

In addition to really great prices, OshKosh B'gosh is offering FREE Shipping until Monday on all orders over $50. 
  • Use code:  OKBGFREE at check out. 

For a limited time, Carter's is having a sale on many items. 
  • $6 tees and pants
  • $8 microfleece Sleep & Plays
  • $10 playsets
  • in-store only
  • find a location near you
I think I might check out some of these deals myself.  Even though she's not in school yet, she's still going to need some new clothes for the fall.  I'll have to see what I can get for our very limited budget this week! 

I'll be linking this post to the following carnivals: 

Back to School Deals: Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps

Recently, I had the opportunity to sample Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps.  You can check out my product review that I posted the other day. 

If you purchase online at the Brothers-ALL-Natural website, you can check out their discount offers on their Specials page. 

They are currently running a special on select Fruit Crisp flavors: 
In addition to FREE Shipping, you can save 25% when you purchase 4 or more 24-packs of the varieties listed above. 

Now that school is starting soon (or already in some areas of the country), this is the perfect opportunity to stock up on this healthy snack option for your child's lunchbox. 

Order soon, special is only valid while supplies last!

I'll be linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

DIY: Frugal Birthday Invitations

Wow!  It's been over 3 months since Grace turned one.  I just can't believe that in just a couple of months, she will be a year and a half!  Time is moving way too fast for me! 

In the past 3 months, I've posted about other aspects of Grace's birthday. 

I told you about the cupcakes that my niece decorated for her party.

I showed you the Sweet Shoppe that I created for her party from a yard sale shelving unit.  Click on the link above to see more photos of the Candy Buffet.  It was a huge hit with both the kids and the adults! 

Today, I want to tell you about the invitations I made for her party. 

Even though we were planning a small party for Grace, I still wanted her invitations to be special.  I saw so many great options online.  But all were priced higher than what I wanted to spend.  I decided to go downstairs and check out my abandoned craft room to see what I had that I could use. 

I found my stash of polka dot ribbon and knew right away that I wanted to use that for the invitations.  (Notice that I also used that same ribbon to decorate the candy buffet.)

After seeing that I was low on cardstock and didn't have enough to do one color scheme, I decided to go with an assortment of  different colors. 

I purchased a Fiskars Squeeze Punch (Something Old, Something New) on sale at Joann Fabric and I used that for the corners. 

And instead of buying stickers or other embellishments, I dug out my out-dated Sizzix machine (I was really hoping to buy a Cricut Expression but couldn't fit it into our budget at the time....sigh...someday) and used the cupcake die cutter to cut out a bunch of cute little cupcakes. 

In the end, I only had to purchase the corner punch and the adhesive to put the invitations together.  And even with those two purchases, the cost was still much less than the custom invitations that I wanted to purchase. 

My only regret is that I didn't get a better picture of them.  I was a bit late in getting them done and needed to get them in the mail.  The picture posted above is from my camera phone, taken just before I stuffed them into envelopes to mail out. 

I'll be linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Giveaway News at Colie's Kitchen: Daisy Cakes and Slap Ya Mama

My friend Nicole (from Welcome to Colie's Kitchen) is soooo lucky!  She recently had the opportunity to do a product  review for Daisy Cakes.  Nicole and her family taste tested a Chicken Pot Pie, comfort food at it's best!  You can read her review here. 

I checked out the Daisy Cakes website and have to say, the cakes look scrumptious!  Especially this CHOCOLAT-A-YA-YA

This cake reminds me of a cake I used to order for special occasions when I still lived in the city.  MMmmmm! 

In addition to doing a product review for Daisy Cakes, Welcome to Colie's Kitchen is also hosting a giveway for a 4 layer 24 Karat Cake from Daisy Cakes.  Let me just say, ever since Nicole posted her review with the link to the Daisy Cakes website, I've been dreaming of Carrot Cake. 

I'm dieting and dreaming of carrot cake.  Not a good combination...and since misery loves company, I figured I'd share Nicole's giveaway news with all of you!  If I have to sit here and crave carrot cake, then so do all of you!  :)  (Question:  Is a slice of carrot cake considered a veggie serving?) 

Click the link below to find out how to enter Nicole's giveaway: 

Welcome to Colie's Kitchen is also hosting another giveaway.  This one is for a Slap Ya Mama gift bag of assorted spice mixes. 

This giveaway is right up my alley!  As much as I love my sweets, I also love spicy foods!  Joe often goes to sportsman conventions and he always visits the spice booth.  Of course he has to bring something home for us to try!  And in all these years, we've never come across the Slap Ya Mama brand!  I sure hope we win this gift package so we have the opportunity to cook up some spicy foods with their spice blends! 

Since I'm such a nice person (and I've already made you all crave carrot cake), I figured I'd share this giveaway info with you as well!  Click the link below to find out how to enter for your chance to win! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps: A Product Review

Now that Grace is no longer eating baby food, I'm always looking for new food options for her. 

Grace loves fruit.  She really loves fruit.  If she's eating a cookie and I put some pear slices on her tray, she quickly drops the cookie and gobbles up the fruit. 

Fresh fruit isn't always convenient.  It can be messy, sticky or just a hassle to dice up when we're away from home.  Plus, some fresh fruit (like bananas) just spoils quicker than we can finish it.

That's why I was very excited when we had the chance to sample some Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps at our local Costco.  Grace quickly finished the 2 little sample cups of the freeze dried fruit that the nice lady handed to her, so we purchased a box of 3 assorted flavors. 

Soon after, I was in contact with a representative from the company about doing a product review.  They very nicely provided me with samples of the many other flavors (7 in all) that they offer:
  • Asian Pear
  • Banana
  • Fugi Apple
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry/Banana
Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps are also available in packages that are marketed towards kids featuring Disney Characters such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Cars, Princess, & Toy Story

In addition to the other 7 flavors that were sent to me, I also received 5 of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse packages:
  • Mickey Mouse Apple
  • Donald Duck Pear
  • Mickey's Clubhouse Pineapple
  • Goofy Strawberry-Banana
  • Pluto Peach
Grace's favorite flavors seem to be the Asian Pear and the Strawberry/Banana.  But that's just my guess.  She eats all of the flavors and has never turned any of them down when I offer them to her. 

Each package of Brothers-ALL-Natural Fruit Crisps contains 100% all natural fruit slices equal to 2 servings of fruit.  That's it.  Nothing else.  No Preservatives.  No added sugar.  No fat.  No HFCS.  So, I have no problems with giving these to Grace every day.  She gobbles them up as if they are candy and they are nothing but fruit! With the same nutrition as fresh fruit!  Gotta love that! 

Also, unlike fresh fruit, they have a 1 year shelf life!  Grace eats 1/2 of a fresh banana just about every day, I like to keep the banana flavored ones to give her when we are out of fresh bananas and don't want to run to the store just for one thing. 

Here are some of the other ways we use our Fruit Crisps:
  • Snack time at home for Grace.  Something sweet without added sugar.
  • I keep a package in the diaper bag for easy, on-the-go snacking. 
  • Joe keeps a few packages in the truck for those days he doesn't get a chance to stop to eat while at work. 
  • I like to add some dried apples to my morning oatmeal.
  • Also, Fruit Crisps would be a wonderful, healthy snack to add to your school-aged child's lunch box. 
If you are interested in purchasing some freeze dried Fruit Crisps for your kids' lunches, you can place an order online at Brothers-ALL-Natural or you can click here to find them in a store near you.  Also, click here, to see current on-line specials. 

Disclosure: The product featured in this review was given to me by Brothers-ALL-Natural. The opinions and views of the product mentioned in this post are my own.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of August 16th

It's that time again!  Time to plan out the menu for the week, check the pantry and freezer, and make my shopping list for the week.

Last week, I only followed half of my menu plan.  Out of the 4 meals listed, only 2 were served.  One of those meals was Swedish Meatballs

When I planned last week's menu, I didn't realize that we had a lot of leftovers in the fridge from the week before.  There isn't any room in the freezer right now, so rather than waste the leftovers we incorporated them into the menu plan.  And I'm glad we did.

The leftovers helped a lot, since I really haven't been in the mood to cook lately.  I don't know if it's the weather or the lack of sleep that I've been dealing with that is affecting my feelings about cooking lately.  Probably a combination of both. 

Here's the plan for this week: 
  • scrambled eggs with spinach, onions and potatoes, Canadian bacon, toast
  • crock pot ravioli, garlic bread, salad
  • meatloaf, vegetable risotto, salad
  • quick chicken enchiladas, refried beans, rice 
There should be plenty of leftovers from these meals to fill in the remainder of the week. 

I don't usually include breakfast or lunch in my menu planning since we all eat something different for those meals.  If you are interested in finding out what I eat for those meals while I'm dieting,  I posted some suggestions on my weight loss post: I'm Going to Lose It!

If you are looking for some menu planning inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

I'm going to lose it! Now we're getting somewhere!

Yesterday completed my second full week following Weight Watchers Online

I am so happy to report a loss of  2.6 lbs this week!  For a total of 7 lbs since I began "dieting" in July!  I finally feel like I am getting somewhere! 

I still have to log in my points from the weekend, and I think I may have possibly gone over my weekly points, but I do feel as if I did much better with the points than the first week. 

I still had some trouble getting in all of the Good Health Guidelines (water, veggies, multivitamin) but at week 2 of following the plan, I am doing much better than I've done in weeks months YEARS!  I'll have to continue working on my Good Health Guidelines. 

Last week, after mentioning that vitamins make me sick, I received a couple of comments suggesting that I take them before bed.  So, once I get Grace back on schedule, that's exactly what I'll do.  Thanks so much for the suggestion, ladies!   

Dinner time has been a bit of a challenge to me these past couple of weeks.  I didn't mind measuring and weighing my food when I followed the program years ago.  But now, it seems a bit time consuming.  While trying to get dinner on the table for us, making sure there is something that Grace will eat, putting down the dog's food, it seems like forever before I get to sit down to eat.  And usually when I do, Grace needs help with her food in some way. 

Sometimes if there are leftovers, I will measure a portion or two for myself into separate containers so that on "leftover night" I can just  heat up my pre-measured portion.  This makes it easy since I'll know what the points value is from the first night. 

Breakfast and lunch are a bit easier.  I still measure or weigh my food for those meals, but since we're not all sitting down at once for dinner it doesn't seem as time consuming. 

I tend to eat the same few things throughout the week for breakfast and lunch.  It's just easier that way for now.

Some of my "go to" items for breakfast and lunch are:
  • cereal with fat free milk & half a banana
  • oatmeal with dried fruit
  • cheese and crackers
  • lunchmeat wraps or sandwiches
I always include snack time too, so I don't feel extra hungry at dinner time.  This way, I won't be tempted to eat a double portion of a higher point meal.  Here are some things that I like to snack on: 
  • yogurt
  • granola bars
  • popcorn
  • graham crackers
  • veggies and dip
  • fresh fruit
  • frozen yogurt
In future weeks, I'll get into more detail about the foods I am eating and hopefully that will be a help to any of you that are trying to lose some extra pounds. 

I'll also be sharing some healthy recipes as I try them.  I have a really great recipe to share this week, so be sure to check back! 

Also, be sure to check out "Hot To" Homemaker and her "How To" Healthy Living series. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs ~ Easy Dinner or Party Food

When I was going through the freezer last week, I found an un-opened bag of store-bought frozen meatballs that I totally forgot was in there.  Thinking about the last time I bought pre-packaged meatballs, I realized that they have been in there since Superbowl Sunday!  It was time to use them up!  I wasn't in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, but if I didn't prepare those meatballs soon, I would definitely forget about them AGAIN. 

I remembered that Joe likes Swedish Meatballs.  I've never made them before and I only ate them once when they were served as hors d'oeuvres at a wedding.  So, I really had no clue how to make them. 

Years ago, someone told me that the secret ingredient in their Swedish Meatballs recipe is grape jelly.  So, I googled Swedish Meatballs with grape jelly. 

I found many different recipes for Swedish Meatballs.  I found a few that I would like to try in the future, but this time, I chose the recipe that looked the easiest and had the least ingredients. 

The original recipe, posted over at Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats, includes homemade meatballs and I really prefer to serve homemade to my family, but for now, my plan was to use up those store-bought frozen meatballs. 

Whether you decide to use frozen meatballs from the store or homemade meatballs that you froze during your last OAMC session, this three ingredient recipe really couldn't be any easier! 

Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs

  • frozen meatballs
  • 12 oz. Heinz Chili Sauce
  • 18 oz. grape jelly
  • Pour chili sauce and grape jelly in cold crock pot insert. 
  • Stir until well mixed.
  • Add frozen meatballs and stir to coat meatballs with sauce.
  • Cover and cook on High for 1 hour. 
  • Stir, reduce heat to low and cook for 3-5 hours or until meatballs are heated through. 
  • I used the cocktail sized meatballs since that was what we had in the freezer.  I'm sure this recipe would work well with the larger sized meatballs as well. 
  • I served these as a meal with buttered egg noodles.  But they would make a great appetizer for a party or sporting event! 

I'll be linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Singing With Birds

Friday, August 13, 2010

Freebies For Friends: Be Snack Ready ~ Free Cheetos Sample

I read about a great deal on Freebies For Friends and I want to share it with you.  If you have a facebook account, I definitely think you should check out the Freebies For Friends page! 

Now that it's almost time for the kids to go back to school and football season is about to begin, Frito Lay wants us all to Be Snack Ready

To start getting ready, sign up to receive a  Free Sample of Cheetos Mighty Zingers*!  Also, don't forget to check out the Be Snack Ready website for recipes and fun tips! 
*While Supplies Last.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Giveaway News: Frontier Soups, Vitalicious, CSN Stores

A few of the blogs that I read are hosting giveaways this week/month.  I wanted to share them with you today: 

Is it just me?  Or are the rest of you looking forward to brisk fall days with a pot of soup simmering on the stove?  If so, check out Colie's Kitchen for a tasty soup and dip giveaway:  Frontier Soups Giveaway.  Hurry, this giveaway ends on Wednesday, August 11th.  This prize will be great to stash away for a quick fall meal or if you can't wait, crank up the air conditioner and have a bowl now! 

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm trying to lose some weight.  I love trying new diet friendly foods and I've heard about Vitamuffins from reading Hungry Girl.  I've never gotten around to ordering them though.  Debbi Does Dinner Healthy is hosting a Vitalicious Super Sampler Pack Giveaway.  This giveaway ends on Friday, August 13th. 

I've said this before and now I'll say it again:  I love CSN Stores!  I really think that they will be my one-stop-shop for the holidays this year.  Get Healthy Cheap is giving away a $25 CSN Stores Gift Certificate.  This giveaway ends on Sunday, August 22nd. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm going to lose it! Starting Week 2 on Weight Watchers Online

This past week was a bit difficult.  It was my first week following the Weight Watchers Online program.  I use the term "follow" loosely.  It was more like I was getting reacquainted with the program. 

I mentioned before that I followed the WW plan before.  It was much easier to keep within my points when I was working.  Food wasn't always readily available at work like it is at home. 

I weighed in this morning.  I was dreading it.  I knew it wasn't going to be a big loss and thought it might even reflect a gain.  I lost .6 - not even a full pound.  I didn't let it bug me, since I'm happy it wasn't a gain. 

Note:  the ticker above will change as I lose or gain each week. 

Like any diet lifestyle change, I need to remember that  it doesn't happen overnight.  Last week, I made a lot of mistakes.  I need to learn from them and improve over time.  I can do this.  I will do this.

I want to post about my mistakes.  Not to make excuses, but so I can come back and read and use these posts to help me along the way. 

One of my mistakes last week was getting a Blizzard from Dairy Queen on Miracle Treat Day.  I know I can have a Blizzard, I just should have gotten the mini blizzard instead of a small. 

The biggest of my mistakes last week, was ordering a regular sized Sonic Burger instead of the Jr. Burger.  I figured that it would be both my lunch and dinner and thought I had enough points to cover that AND an order of tater tots AND a LARGE Blue Coconut Slush.  Boy, was I wrong! 

I need to remind myself that I can have these things, but in smaller form.  I remember from my old Weight Watchers days that eventually, a kids meal is enough food to satisfy me when I am in the mood for fast food.  I don't always have to "super-size" everything. 

Last week wasn't ALL mistakes.  There were a some good points as well.  I ate more fruits and veggies last week.  We walked after dinner a couple nights.  I drank lots of water (better in the beginning of the week than the end of the week). 

The biggest success last week, was avoiding soda.  I only had one glass of Diet Pepsi last week.  That is a HUGE success for me!  To make avoiding soda even more challenging, Joe found Pepsi Throwback at our local grocery store last week.  He bought 6 bottles.  Pepsi Throwback is my absolute favorite and even with an open bottle in the fridge, I didn't have any!   People who know me in real life will know how much of a non-scale victory that is for me! 

Now, don't get me wrong, I will be drinking some of that Throwback Pepsi, but I will drink it in moderation.  Especially since it's not diet! 

I'm hoping this week will be easier.  I'll be sticking to basics again this week. 
  • 6-8 glasses of water each day
  • 5 fruit/vegetable servings each day
  • 2 dairy servings each day
  • keeping within my daily points (24)
  • not going over my additional weekly points (35)
  • more exercise 
If you want to read more about weight loss and getting healthy, follow me over to "How To" Homemaker's Healthy Living blog post. 
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