Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sending Christmas Cards

I tend to be a procrastinator.  In a big way.  So, while many of you are almost done your Christmas shopping well before Black Friday, I'm usually just getting around to thinking and planning stage.  This year, I'm slightly ahead of schedule but not by much. 

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas season in our house.  I know that's how it is for a lot of people, but I just can't help but envy those super-organized (and frugal) shoppers that have already completed most of their to-do lists! 

Every year, I tell myself that I'm going to be fully prepared for Christmas by the time Thanksgiving arrives, but I never seem to get my butt in gear and every year, I'm scrambling to get the rest of my holiday shopping done.  Like I said, this year I'm slightly ahead of schedule but I still have lots to do! 

Christmas cards have always been high on my holiday to-do list!  Finding the perfect card year after year and sitting down to listen to holiday music while writing out my huge stack of cards, still that's usually at the last minute. Since I am a semi-new momma, I love to show-off include a  photo of my beautiful daughter with each Christmas card. 

Here's the photo I shared with family and friends last year: 

At 18 months old, Grace is a handful!  She's a very active and curious toddler and always wants to be right there in the middle of whatever mommy is doing!  Since I have so much trouble finding time to get things done with her following me around all day, writing out Christmas cards will feel more like a chore than a festive holiday tradition. 

To make things easier on myself this year, I've decided to send out holiday photo cards.  I'll still search for the perfect design to match the photo I want to share with my family and friends, I just won't have to sit down to fill them out.  The image on our Christmas Photo Cards will be a photo of Grace (as soon as I choose my favorite!) and our greeting and signature will be printed right there on the card making it super-easy and keeping it frugal at the same time!  

With all of the extra money being spent this time of year, I like to keep my eye out for a good deal.  And what a great deal I found!  Right now, Shutterfly is offering a few Cyber Week Deals (until December 1st). You can save up to 30% on Holiday Photo Cards, Free Shipping on orders over $25, plus a bunch of other great ways to save! 

If you are still trying to decide what to do for your holiday correspondence this year, you really should check out the many attractive designs and products that Shutterfly offers. 

And don't forget about Thank You cards.  Shutterfly also has a wonderful selection of holiday thank you cards that you can even coordinate with your Christmas cards! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Young Plantations Giveaway Winner Annouced!!!

Thanks so much to everyone that stopped by to enter the Young Plantations Favorite Foursome Tin Giveaway! And of course, a BIG "thank you" goes out to Young Plantations for allowing me to give away this wonderful prize to one of my lucky readers!

I wish I had a Favorite Foursome tin to give away to all of you, but could only select 1 of you.  There were 33 entries and chose comment #10!!! 

Nicole from Colie's Kitchen said: 
"I follow UTBOK on Twitter"

Congratulations, Nicole! 
I'll be sending you an email shortly.  Please respond with your mailing information within 48 hours to claim your prize!  Be sure to let me know what you think of those yummy pecans once you get them! 

  • I was not compensated in any way for this review/giveaway. All opinions and ideas are honest and my own. Young Plantations has generously offered to give a free Favorite Foursome Tin to one lucky reader of Under the Big Oak Tree.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of November 22nd

I'm pretty excited about Thanksgiving this year.  In all of the years that Joe and I have been together, this will be our first Thanksgiving together.  In past years, we always just carried out our own Thanksgiving traditions.  This year, we'll be spending it together as a family.  Just the 3 of us.  This probably seems ordinary to many of you but for us it's very special. 

Joe works long hours and most nights he doesn't get home until after Grace and I have already eaten dinner.  Since he usually works 7 days a week, it will be really great to have him home with us all day! 

When we were dating, we often cooked together on the weekends instead of going out to dinner.  I enjoyed sharing the kitchen with him and I'm looking forward to spending time with him in the kitchen on Thursday.

I've never cooked a turkey, so that is Joe's job.  I will gladly prepare everything else if he takes care of the turkey.  The "everything else" portion of the meal hasn't been fully planned out yet.  We both have our favorite side dishes for the holiday meal, I may try making smaller portions of all of them instead of crossing them off of the menu.  It will still be too much food for the three of us, but then maybe I won't have to cook the rest of the week!

To make things easier on myself, I'm planning simple meals for the rest of this week:

  •   Monday:  grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta salad, sweet gherkins
  •   Tuesday:  ham steak, vegetable/cheese topped baked potatoes, salad
  •   Wednesday:  scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, toast w/ apple butter
  •   Thursday:  Our First Thanksgiving
  •   Friday:  Turkey Soup, rolls, salad
  •   Saturday:  Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad
  •   Sunday:  Leftovers  
On Thursday morning, we'll pop the turkey in the roaster oven before we head out to see our nephews play football for their high school team.  For a nice light lunch after the game, I'll serve up warm bowls of Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with crackers.

I'm hoping to get some of the sides prepped before we leave for the game, too.  So, after lunch, I'll finish whatever needs to be done. 

Here's the list of side dishes that we still need to choose from: 
  • mashed potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • stuffing / cornbread casserole / biscuits
  • green bean casserole
  • cranberry sauce
  • corn
  • gravy
  • coleslaw
Now that I see it typed out, the list doesn't look as big as I thought it was.  The coleslaw and cornbread casserole can both be made ahead of time.  The biscuits, corn and cranberry sauce are all from cans, so that's easy.  It's funny, I love to cook and try new recipes, but I feel that keeping it simple will be best for this Thanksgiving.  I want to enjoy our day together and not be overly stressed from trying new recipes.

Of course, we'll be serving up some desserts too!  I'm thinking pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin mousse. 

This will be a slow week for posting so I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving in advance, in case I don't get back here to post again this week! 


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Giveaway Winners!!!

Thanks so much to everyone that stopped by to enter the Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Giveaway!  And of course, a BIG "thank you" goes out to Butch's BBQ for allowing me to give away this wonderful prize to one of my lucky readers!

I wish I could give everyone that entered some great sauce and dry rub, but only three could win today!  (I'll be hosting another Butch's BBQ giveaway sometime after the holidays, so be sure to keep checking back so you can enter to win next time!)

I used to pick the three winners for today.  (I don't know how to add the image of the random generator, so you'll just have to trust me!)

First pick was #13.  It was the mandatory entry left by Janelle:
  •  Butch's Smack Your Lips has 4 kinds of sauce from mild to extreme pyrogenic!  Thanks for a chance to win this great giveaway!
Second pick was # 4.  This was an extra entry left by Debbi Does Dinner Healthy
  • I liked you on facebook! I don't do twitter or anything, haven't figured that out yet!
Third and final pick was #8.  This was an extra entry left by Cheeky Momma:

Congratulations, Janelle, Debbi and Cheeky Momma!  I'll be emailing you shortly.  Please respond with your mailing address and phone number within 48 hours!

  • I was not compensated for this post.  Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ provided me with 2 non-returnable products for my family to sample and review as well as the products provided for this giveaway.  The opinions stated in this review are honest and my own. 

Vitalicious Vitatops Super Sampler Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone that stopped by to enter the Vitalicious Vitatops Super Sampler Giveaway!  And of course, a BIG "thank you" goes out to Vitalicious for allowing me to give away this wonderful prize to one of my lucky readers! 

I wish I had a VitaTops Super Sampler to give away to all of you, there were 48 entries but could only select 1 of you. 

I don't know how to add the image of the random generator, so you'll just have to trust me! chose comment #14

Comment number 14 is the mandatory entry from Janis @ Open My Ears Lord.  Here's what she had to say: 
  • "That chocolate cupcake with fat-free whipped topping sounded delicious.Thank you for visiting and becoming a follower of my blog. Hope your 40th birthday is the beginning of a decade of abundant blessings."
Janis, thanks for entering and thanks for the sweet birthday wishes!  Congratulations!  You'll be getting an email from me shortly.  Please contact me with your mailing address and phone number within 48 hours to claim your prize!


  • I won a free Sampler Pack of Vitalicious Vitatops that I decided to review in this post. I was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions and ideas are honest and my own. Vitalicious has generously offered to give a free Sampler Pack to one lucky reader of Under the Big Oak Tree.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of November 15th

I can't believe that Monday is here already!  Last week crawled by so slowly, yet the weekend was gone in a blink of an eye! We had a pretty uneventful weekend. 

We ran a few errands on Saturday then came home and we all took naps!  I really should have cleaned the kitchen while Grace was napping, but after seeing that Joe and the dog were also napping, I just couldn't resist grabbing a blanket and taking a snooze on the couch!  On Sunday, Joe went out to do guy stuff and Grace and I had a nice visit from a friend. 

Not our normal, crazy-busy weekend, but that was just fine with us. 

Today is the last day to enter my Vitalicious Vitatops Super Sampler Giveaway and it's also the last day to enter my Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Giveaway.  Those giveaways close at 10:00 EST tonight, so if you haven't already...hurry and enter!  Don't forget about the Young Plantations giveaway too...since I'm mentioning my giveaways! 

This week also closes the voting portion of the Sears KitchenAid Rescue My Appliances contest.  I would love it if you would vote for my kitchen.  Each time you vote, you're entered for a chance to win a KitchenAid Mixer!  As you can see from the photo, I really need some new appliances!  Please, help me out and vote!  If you want to see close up photos of my old appliances, click here for a tour!

Last week, I did really well in following my menu plan.  I may have switched up the days a bit, but pretty much stuck to the meals for 6 out of the 7 days.  I STILL didn't get around to making that potato soup, so that will be making another appearance in this week's menu! 

Instead of getting takeout or fast food on Saturday, we picked up a tomato pie from the grocery store.  Some of Joe's family is from Norristown and there is a place there that makes THE BEST tomato pie!  Occasionally, our grocery store will get in a bunch of fresh pies on the weekend.  We stopped in the store on our way home from Target on Saturday to pick up some milk and dogfood and saw the stack of tomato pies and couldn't resist!  Ended up being cheaper than if we went to Sonic or McDonald's.  Plus, there was some leftover so Joe took that with him for lunch today.

As I type this, I'm still not sure what I WANT to eat this week for dinners.  I'm in a weird food mood.  I don't want our usual stuff, but I'm not feeling ambitious enough to actually want to try a new recipe. 

Here's what I have planned so far: 
  • Monday:  Chicken Casserole or open-face hot chicken sandwiches
  • Tuesday:  Veggie Stir Fry (for product review)
  • Wednesday:  French Toast, sausage
  • Thursday:  Potato Soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday:  Leftovers
  • Saturday:  fried chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetable
  • Sunday:  take-out
I'm surprised that I was able to come up with something for every day.  Well, I guess the night for take-out doesn't really count, but I have a feeling we'll be running lots of errands on Sunday.  If we manage to get them finished at another time, then I'll come up with a nice Sunday dinner.  Maybe a new recipe. 

I think I'm going to check out all the great menus posted over at I'm an Organizing Junkie's weekly Menu Plan Monday for some inspiration for next week.  I think you should too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Take a Tour of My Vintage Kitchen

Since today is Vintage Thingie Thursday, I thought it would be nice to give you all a tour of my vintage kitchen!


While I love vintage, the novelty of my vintage stove and wall oven has worn off.  These appliances came with the house when we purchased it 3 years ago.  I suspect that they came with the house when it was built 40+ years ago.  We had hoped to replace them before now, but it's just not in the budget now or anytime soon! 

So when I heard about the Sears KitchenAid Rescue My Appliances contest I just knew that I'd had enter for a chance to win some new appliances. 

I could really use your help.  I thought I was doing good with votes, but then I saw someone else's entry that is way ahead of me!  Would YOU please vote for my kitchen

The voting portion of the contest runs until November 17th, you can vote once a day and each time you vote enters you in a chance to win a KitchenAid Mixer! 

Last time I voted, my entry was on page 19, second row, first one.  You'll see collage photo of my appliances like the first picture up above.  Alison in Souderton, PA

Thanks for your votes!!!

You can find this linked to Food On Fridays and Homemaker Mondays.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday ~ Easter 2010

Giveaway reminders: 

Yes, I realize that it's November (and ALMOST Thanksgiving) and I'm just now getting around to posting Grace's Easter pictures.  Due to issues with the old computer, I was just recently able to get them off the camera card.  Plus, I figured that since we took so many pictures of Grace at Sesame Place last week and also took her to get her portraits done, I'd give her a little break from the camera this week. 

Here are a few pictures from Grace's first Easter: 

She was cutting her first tooth and was so grumpy that day.

She was only happy when we were outside or when mommy was holding her. 

She took her first steps two days later, but didn't try to walk again until a her birthday weekend a month later.  Now we can't get her to sit still! 

I'm linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Don't forget to enter my current giveaways!  To make it easy, I've linked them at the top of the blog (under the page tabs).  There are several ways to enter to win! 

Here's a recipe that I first posted over at My Vintage Kitchen.  Life with a toddler doesn't really leave me with enough time to devote to two blogs, so from now on, I'll just be posting Under the Big Oak Tree.  I'll try to bring a "new" recipe over from My Vintage Kitchen each week, in addition to posting new recipes we try along the way!

For years, I only bought baby carrots from the grocery store.  I like them better for snacking than whole carrots.  Recently, I started buying whole carrots to use for cooking, since they are cheaper.  I still buy baby carrots for snacks, but if I know I'm planning to make soup or stew, I'll buy whole carrots. 

Now that I'm hooked on making my own veggie broth from scraps and peels, the whole carrots really come in handy!  For some crazy reason, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a 5lb bag of carrots! 

When I wasn't using them as quick as I thought I would, I started to get worried that they would go bad and I'd have to throw them away, so I searched for recipes for carrots.  I found a few recipes for carrot soup and decided to attempt to create my own recipe in my Crock-Pot.

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled & sliced into coins
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz. each) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • dash of cloves
  • Sour cream (optional)
Add all ingredients to Crock-Pot, cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender. 
Blend with stick blender to desired texture.  Top with sour cream and serve. 

I served the soup along with grilled cheese sandwiches for a Lenten Friday (meatless) meal.  We both loved the flavor of the soup, but agreed that it wasn't filling enough to be a main course.  This soup would be a wonderful first course to a more filling meal or even a festive holiday dinner. 

We also think that ham would be a great addition to this soup to make it a bit heartier soup for a main course. 
I'll be sharing this recipe with the following blog carnivals:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet Me On Monday

While trying to come up with a little blurb for my About Me section of my sidebar, I discovered that I have a difficult time talking about MYSELF!  Sure, I blog about daily stuff that goes on around here, but that's not the same as talking about ME. 

Over at Never Growing Old, Java hosts Meet Me On Monday.  It's a great blog hop where she invites us to share a little bit about ourselves each week by answering a few questions.  It sounds like fun, so I thought I'd join in this week!  You can join in too, just click the Meet Me On Monday logo to take you to this week's questions. 

Here's what Java asks us this week: 

1.  What is your favorite kind of pie? 
  • Pie is usually the last thing I would choose for dessert.  I usually prefer cakes or cookies.  A few years ago, I tried Pecan Pie and it was love at first bite!  MMmmm! 
2.  Have you ever run out of gas in the car you were driving?
  • Right now, I'm not driving (long story), but when I was driving, running out of gas was something that terrified me.  I never let the truck get below a 1/4 tank and I got gas on my way to work 2 times a week, just to make sure it was always close to being full. 
3.  How many languages do you speak? 
  • Just one.  Having friends with parents that spoke other languages, I've picked up a word or two here and there, but not enough to even speak a full sentence.  Unless you consider Old Man No Pants a sentence (in polish)! 
4.  Do you take daily vitamins? 
  • No, but I should.  I really, really should. 
5.  What is your worst eating habit? 
  • Worst eating habit?  Hmmm.  I have a few!  I am a junk food junkie that eats too much, too fast!   (I really need to start counting my points on Weight Watchers again!). 
So, there you have it!  All you ever wanted to know about ME!  LOL! 

Have a great Monday! 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of November 8th

Today, I celebrated my 40th Birthday with my family and friends.  It was both a wonderful and exhausting day! 

Check out my Birthday Bash Giveaways links posted at the top of the page!  I have three currently running and I'll be announcing a couple more this week! 

I got out of bed early this morning and got some cleaning done, ran some errands and prepared for lunch with my family.  My parents, sister-in-law and nieces arrived with a huge tray of lasagna, along with a big bowl of Caesar Salad, loaf of crusty bread, and of course, a birthday cake.  I didn't have to do a thing! 

I knew we were expecting friends over at some point during the day, and wasn't sure if it would overlap with my family's visit, so I threw some frozen meatballs into some sauce just to make sure there would be enough food to go around! 

Turns out that the lasagna itself would have been more than enough for everyone!  Our friends ended up arriving later in the day, more near dinner time.  My family, left us the leftover lasagna and along with meatball sandwiches made a wonderful meal for our teenage nephews! 

I sit here now, recovering from the busy day.  Finishing up my menu plan before getting myself to bed.  I'm still dealing with a bit of a cold and it will be really nice to get to bed early for a change! 

Here's what's planned for this week: 

  • Monday:  Pepper Steak, Egg Rolls, Crab Rangoons, steamed broccoli
  • Tuesday:  Leftover Beef Stew, salad, biscuits
  • Wednesday:  Meatballs, spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
  • Thursday:  Potato Soup, bread, salad
    • We didn't get to this last week, so I'm carrying it over into this week's menu.  
  • Friday:  Tuna Casserole, biscuits, salad
    • This is also being carried over from last week.  (recipe will be shared soon.)
  • Saturday: take out
  • Sunday:  leftover buffet
I'm trying to get back into the habit of eating more salad, so you'll see it listed in a lot of my menu plans.  I love salad, but tend to be a bit lazy when it comes to preparing them.  As Grace is beginning to pay more attention to the food on the table, I want to set a good example.  She loves her veggies and I want her to see us eating more of them as well. 

That about wraps it up for this post!  I need to get myself to bed, it's already a bit later than I planned on getting to bed....then add in the Daylight Savings Time.....boy, am I tired!  Goodnight, friends! 

You can find this menu (and many others) linked up at Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie

I'm also linking this to Fit Meals Monday hosted by Fit Moms Fit Kids Club.  (I'm not anywhere being a Fit Mom!  More like Out of Shape Mom!  But I want Grace to be a Fit Kid.  So, I'm trying to add healthier meals to our weekly plans...I'm learning!) 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Giveaway: Young Plantations ~ Favorite Foursome Tin

A few months ago, I told you all about Young Plantations.  They are a wonderful, family-owned business based in Florence, SC that offers premium pecan products for personal and corporate gift-giving. 

Young Plantations ships their wonderful pecan products such as pecan pies, double dipped chocolate pecans, gift baskets, etc. to over 50 countries each year.  You can order online or if you are local, you can stop in any of their 5 retail shops (2 permanent, 3 seasonal) in South Carolina. 

You can also visit Young Plantations online and request a catalog. 

I'm not sure how much baking I'll manage to get done this year, so I'm thinking I might order a few of their pecan pies to put on the dessert table this Christmas!  Of course, I'll also order some double-dipped Chocolate Pecans to put in my stocking on Christmas Eve since they are my absolute favorite! 

I am very excited to annouce that Young Plantations has kindly agreed to help celebrate my birthday by participating in my 40th Birthday Bash Giveaway! 

In honor of my birthday, Young Plantations will send one very lucky, Under the Big Oak Tree reader one FREE Favorite Foursome Tins filled with this assortment of flavors:
  • Butter Roasted & Salted Pecans
  • Double Dipped Chocolate Pecans
  • Honey Crisp Pecans
  • Praline Pecans
I've tasted 3 out of the 4 flavors and I've got to tell you, they are out-of-this-world good!  So good, you're not going to want to share!  Especially those Double Dipped Chocolate Pecans!  Oh, and the Honey Crisp Pecans!  YUM!!!! 

Here's how you enter: 

Mandatory Entry:
  • Visit Young Plantations online and check out all of their great products.  Come back here to this post and leave a comment telling me what product/s that interest you or tell me something you learned about Young Plantations and their products. 
Additonal Entries:
  • "Like" Young Plantations on Facebook and leave a comment on their page telling them that Under the Big Oak Tree sent you.  Come back here to this post and leave a comment letting me know that you have done so. 
  • Follow this blog publicly using Google Friend Connect (see sidebar to the right).  Be sure to leave a comment here on this post letting me know you are a follower.
  • Subscribe to my feed via email.  (See buttons on the top right of sidebar...thanks, Lisa!)  Leave a comment here, letting me know you've subscribed.  Subscriptions must be confirmed/activated.
  • "Like" Under the Big Oak Tree on Facebook.  (See buttons on the top right of sidebar)  Come back here to this post and leave a comment letting me know that you've done so.
  • Follow Under the Big Oak Tree on Twitter (again, use the buttons at the top right of sidebar). Come back here to this post and leave a comment letting me know you have done so.  Also, provide your Twitter name, so I can follow you back. 
  • Tweet this giveaway and come back here to this post and leave the link in a comment. 
  • Blog about this giveaway and come back here to this post and leave the link in a comment. 
Bonus Entries:
  • This giveaway is the first part of my 40th Birthday Bash Giveaway!  Other giveaways are posted at the top of the page. If you enter any of my other Birthday Bash Giveaways, you can earn an additional entry for each one.  Just come back here after entering the other giveaway/s and let me know which ones you've entered.  Leave a seperate comment for each one. 
Additonal Rules and Notes: 
  • Please provide your email address with your comments.  I need to contact you in order to let you know that you've won.  To avoid spam, you can enter your email address like this:  UnderTheBigOakTree at gmail dot com.
  • Remember, comments are counted as entries.  So to earn entries (mandatory or additional) you must leave a comment for each task (after task is complete) for it to be counted.
  • Additional entries or bonus entries will only be valid IF the mandatory entry is complete. 
  • Giveaway will close on November 22nd at 10:00 pm, EST.  Winners will be chosen by and contacted by email.  Winners will also be announced in a new blog post and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. 
  • This giveaway is for US residents only. 
  • I was not compensated in any way for this review/giveaway.  All opinions and ideas are honest and my own.  Young Plantations has generously offered to give a free Favorite Foursome Tin to one lucky reader of Under the Big Oak Tree. 

Blog Love ~ a few favorite posts from the past week

Since I've spent a lot of time this week recovering from our busy weekend and trying to get rid of a cold, I haven't had a lot of time to read a lot of blogs.  I do, however, have a few posts that I managed to take a quick peek at and I want to share those with you today. 

In helping us all prepare for the holiday season, Lisa shares some of her family's favorite holiday recipes from her 1996 Thanksgiving Dinner Menu.  I've never made homemade biscuits before, but her recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits has me considering the attempt at biscuit making for the holidays.

Debbi, has several recipes posted this past week that I really want to try, but her recipe for Root Beer Baked Beans is at the top of my list!  I really look forward to making this recipe, since like Debbi, I've resorted to using the crock pot for my baked beans.  It's been a long time since I actually baked them in the oven.  Since I am still without a Crock Pot, it's the perfect time to mix up a batch of these and pop them in the oven! 

This week, Christy posted about a holiday tradition that she learned from a friend.  As I read her post, tears actually came to my eyes!  I could imagine all of the fun moments shared at the table every year as family members participated in this wonderful tradition.  I don't want to give too much of the idea away, I really want you to head over to Glitter and Gumdrops and read the actual post...reading about it while looking at the many detailed photos will make you want to start a new family tradition in your home! 

Don't forget to enter my giveaways!  You can find the links at the top of the page for my Vitalicious VitaTops Super Sampler Giveaway and my Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Giveaway!  Both of these end on 11/15.

Sunday is my birthday and to celebrate, I'll be announcing 2 more giveaways!  So, be sure to check back here for the latest giveaway news! 

And just in case I'm not running enough giveaways, head over to Colie's Kitchen, where Colie is hosting a couple of great giveaways this week!

I'm linking this post to the following carnivals: 

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Little Blogging Corner

With Grace spending less time in her pack and play and more time running around the house, it was no longer easy for me to blog in the guest room.  Even though we live in a small rancher, I still felt far away from my very curious toddler!  Especially after she broke my big Pyrex bowl a couple of months ago!  Shattered glass everywhere when she pulled it off the kitchen table! 

Since we bought the new laptop, I no longer have to try to find time to blog from the guest room.  But, as I said, Grace is very curious and tries to play with the keyboard if I try to sit on the sofa with the laptop. 

I set myself up with a little workstation in the corner of my kitchen!

Originally, my microwave lived in that spot, but it wasn't a very convenient location.  So I got rid of my dish drainer thingy sacrificed what little counter space I have in the kitchen and relocated the microwave next to the sink.

The work space is counter height and the electric socket is also high enough that Grace won't pull at the cords! 

I was using my vintage step stool to sit on, but after sitting on it for a bit, I realized that it was very wobbly and that the screws need to be tightened on it!  So, I swiped Joe's stool from the garage (left by the previous owners).  This is just temporary until I save up for a new counter stool.  Maybe one with a vintage/diner look!  With a padded seat! 

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to show you my little corner of the house! 

See that bare wall?  I'll be working on a project to hang on that wall very soon!  Well, as soon as I find someone to keep Grace busy so I can work on it!  I'll keep you posted!  :)   

Don't forget to enter my current giveaways posted at the top of the page....they end on November 15th! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Help Me Win the Sears KitchenAid Rescue My Appliances Contest!

I entered my kitchen in the Sears/KitchenAid Rescue My Appliances contest!  Our kitchen needs some serious help!  Help that we just cannot fit into our budget at the moment! 

Winning this contest would be such a huge help in getting our kitchen into shape!  Take a look at the pictures below and then hop over to VOTE FOR MY KITCHEN  (please!!!!) and help me win some new appliances!  You can vote once a day and each time you vote, you are entered in a sweepstakes to win a KitchenAid Mixer!  Cool, right?   

Here's a little description of my kitchen: 

In all the time that Joe and I were looking for a house, I dreamed of a house with a big, beautiful kitchen.  Unfortunately, those homes weren't in our budget!  Not if I planned on staying home once we had kids! 

So, I settled for a nice, sturdy house that needed a lot of upgrades!  Especially, where the kitchen was concerned.  Three years later, the kitchen is still pretty much the same as it was when we moved in.  And that was pretty much the same as it was when it was built 40+ years ago! 

When I describe my kitchen to someone that's never been to our home, I usually say:  "It's vintage...but not in the good way!"  LOL!  I love vintage items.  But my vintage cook top and wall oven just aren't the type of vintage I am looking for! 

Our kitchen is at the front of our home.  So, when you walk in the front door, this is what you see: 

Pretty bad, huh? 

Check out the knobs on the cook top!  Those coils are impossible to keep clean, not to mention the fact that they keep disconnecting.  The front burners are a bit crooked so I don't even bother to use those!  I've cooked on electric stoves in the past and this one is the worst ever!  Everything sticks, even when the burner is turned on low.

What about that wall-oven?  Since we moved in three years ago, we replaced the heating element.  The door sqeaks so loudly when opening or closing that I sometimes think it's about to fall off!  Or it just gets stuck in the open position!  Anything cooked in this oven gets a bit over done.  And the glass window on the door?  I'm afraid to clean that.  I'm afraid it will just fall apart!  The dirt is probably the only thing keeping that glass in place!  :)  So, I usually hang cute little dish towels from the handle to hide the dirty window!  :blush: 

Now, the refridgerator isn't nearly as old as the cook top or the oven, but it's just as bad!  It takes up a lot of room in the kitchen, but it doesn't seem to hold much.  The freezer is tiny, no ice maker either.  As I sit here typing this, it's making a ton of noise.  It hums, rattles and knocks.  I worry every morning that today will be it's last day!  As it is, we have to adjust the thermostat every other day or so, otherwise our milk freezes.


Those turquoise counters wouldn't be so bad for a vintage-themed kitchen, except for the fact that they are so worn.  The shine has come right off of them, causing them to stain very easily.

The floor is linoleum in a very ugly pattern with a seam right in the middle of the room that's been peeling up for some time now.

The cabinets are old and there aren't nearly enough of them.  There isn't any room to store dry goods in the kitchen, forcing me to keep a "pantry" in the basement.  Every time I cook, I have to run downstairs to get what I need for the meal. 

Our porcelain sink is very old.  It's dull and chipped and stains very easily.  It's a double sink and it's very difficult to clean larger pots or pans.

I could go on and on about this kitchen!  It's bad, really bad!  I try to make it look homey and clean.  But the old appliances don't really allow for a pleasant cooking experience!  I enjoy cooking, but this kitchen pretty much takes a lot of the fun out of it!

Please rescue my appliances!  Please vote for my kitchen!

Check out the official rules
Check out the prizes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday ~ Halloween at Sesame Place & the Pumpkin Patch

Before I get to this week's photos, I want to remind everyone of the giveaways posted at the top of the page!  There are 2 currently running and more to come!  Click the links at the top of the page to find out how to enter! 

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post! 

I mentioned earlier this week, that Grace and I have been unusually busy the past couple of weeks.  I thought I'd share what kept us busy this past weekend!

First, we have our third trip to the pumpkin patch this year!  It's not too far from our house and we had some tickets left over from our last visit that needed to be used.  We skipped the hayride to the actual patch this time, instead let her run around and play in a pile of hay, let her ride the pony, we visited the little zoo that they have there, and watched the pig races! 

For anyone that does want to take the hayride to the pumpkin patch, they offer a selection of already picked pumpkins available for purchase: 

Grace wanted to empty that box of pumpkins....
She put the small pumpkins from the box
in the pile with the big pumpkins on the ground....

She went back and forth a few times before we stopped her! 

We also took her to Sesame Place on Halloween.  My sister-in-law, Toni, has a season pass and takes her daughter (our niece, Bella) several times a month!  She lives a lot closer to Sesame Place than we do, but after seeing how much fun Grace enjoyed herself, I'm going to make it a point to go a few times next summer! 

Grace was on my lap, clapping her hands and wiggling to the music!  Joe was taking pictures of the show.  I wish we would have thought to get pictures of her watching the show!  Does anyone else get super-emotional when they see their kids having a great time?  Or is it just me?  My eyes kept filling with tears of joy seeing her have so much fun! 

Here are a few of her running around Sesame Place:

Grace and Aunt Toni, running around in one of the empty pools.

Grace just HAD to touch each and every one of these tables
while I tried to lure her over to the train cars! 

I was finally able to get her into one of the cars! 
She just observed everything! 

Here she is picking leaves instead of playing on the slides. 
Still exploring instead of sliding on the slides! 

Grace and Bella in a maze to help Abby find her wand! 
Grace is more interested in the ceiling fans! 

We all had a wonderful time and Sesame Place! I can't wait to take her again!

If you ever find yourself in Eastern Pennsylvania, we have lots of great family attractions! There's Sesame Place, Dutch Wonderland and Hershey Park! We can't forget about Knoebels!  There's also Storybook Land across the bridge in New Jersey (not too far from Atlantic City)! 

These are all places I visited with my family when I was a kid and later with my nieces. They are all on our list of things to do with Grace!

Although these attractions are summer activities, many of them are open for holiday events.  Check out their websites to find out what holiday fun they are offering!

I'm linking this post to the following blog carnivals: 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

I've been looking for a really good vegetable chili for a while.  I've found a few over the years, but was never brave enough to serve a MEATLESS chili to my husband for dinner.  For the past several months, we've been trying to add more meatless meals to our menu plans.  Less meat is healthier and cheaper. 

Since Joe has been open to the idea of meatless meals, I knew right away when I found this recipe that I wanted to try it!  But true to form, I made a few changes here and there.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

  • 3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced & seeded
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chicken broth (or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 37.5 oz. black beans
  • 1 cup fire roasted salsa
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Wondra (or your favorite thickener)
  • shredded cheese and/or sour cream (optional)
  • In a large pot, saute onion and peppers in hot oil over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. 
  • Add garlic powder, cumin and chili powder and saute for another minute or two. 
  • Lower heat to medium-low and stir in the crushed tomatoes and broth.  If you plan on thickening the chili later, reserve 1/4 cup of the broth for later.  Stir and scrape sides of pan to remove any browned bits in the pot. 
  • Add remaining ingredients (except the cornstarch, reserved broth and shredded cheese and sour cream). 
  • If you wish to thicken the chili, whisk together the cornstarch & reserved broth until smooth.  Pour the mix into the chili pot.  Stir until mixed well. 
  • Bring chili to a boil for 2 mintues.
  • Reduce heat to low.  Simmer, uncovered for 1 hour. 
  • Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. 
  • Serve in bowls and top with sour cream or shredded cheese if desired. 
Remember I said that I was leary of serving this to my husband?  I originally planned on just having this on the stove, ready to put on the table when he walked in from work.  Just before he left work, he called asking me what I had planned for dinner.  I told him and boy, could I hear the skepticism in his voice!  I knew he thought I was crazy!  Chili without meat??  No way! 

He even tried to stall dinner.  He was checking the mail, playing with the dog, taking his boots off....anything to avoid sitting down to dinner. 

I placed a chunk of cornbread in the bottom of a bowl, then scooped a large portion of chili right on top of the cornbread.  Joe added sour cream to his, I enjoyed mine plain.

I really liked the chili.  A lot.  I didn't miss the meat at all.  It was a nice and hearty meal.  And for as leery Joe was about the meal, he also really enjoyed it.  This recipe made enough for dinner for the two of us for two nights and I still have a small container in the freezer that I plan on serving on wraps as a black bean and sweet potato burrito!

This recipe is a keeper!  In fact, I plan on adding it to my menu plan agan soon.  This week is starting off to be pretty cool and brisk.  If the cool weather keeps up, I'll be making up a pot of this for a nice and cozy meal! 

  • I used dried beans in place of the canned beans.  I like to cook a couple bags of dry beans and keep them in zip lock bags in the freezer.  They thaw pretty quick and can usually be added to recipes while still partially frozen. 
  • I used chicken broth because that was what I had handy at the time.  This could easily be a vegetarian meal, if you use canned or homemade vegetable broth instead. 
  • This would probably work well in the crock pot, too. 

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of November 1st

Don't forget to enter my current giveaways.  Click the links at the top of the page to take you to each of the giveaway posts!  More giveaways to be posted this week!  It's all part of my 40th Birthday Bash Giveaway!

November is here.  Can you believe it?  I'm wondering where the summer went and now we're a good bit into the fall.  Halloween is over and Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it. 

Right now, the house is quiet.  Everyone is asleep, recovering from a busy weekend.  For the past week and a half, we've been having a lot of fun visiting with family and friends.  Grace and I aren't accustomed to having so much planned in such a short amount of time.  It's been fun, but we're exhausted! 

Years ago, I went to a therapist twice a month for help with OCD and depression.  When the office changed their hours, it was no longer easy for me to get to appointments, so I stopped and have been managing on my own (with a lot of support from Joe) since then.  When things start to feel overwhelmingly busy, I can feel the OCD (and panic attacks) start creeping up on me.  That's when I know it's time to take a break.  So, when Grace napped on Saturday and Sunday, I turned off the television and the computer and I took a nap!  It felt great!  I would do it everyday if there wasn't so much that needs to be done during that valuable time when Grace naps!

Looking at the calendar today, I see that we're still going to be busy for the next few weeks.  We have a lot going on.  Nothing exciting or anything, just a lot of errands and running around.  And maybe a nap or two! 

Last week's menu went mostly as planned.  The stuffed shells that was on last week's plan, turned out to be spaghetti with meat sauce instead.  I'll be carrying the stuffed shells over into this week's plan.  We didn't get to the tuna casserole last week, either.  So, that will be another carry-over.

Here's another menu plan that includes lots of easy meals:

  • Monday:  Stuffed Shells, garlic bread, salad. 
  • Tuesday:  Beef Stew, biscuits, salad. 
  • Wednesday:  Tuna Casserole, salad. 
  • Thursday:  Hot Dogs, Beans, Baked Potatoes. 
  • Friday:  Potato Soup, crusty bread, salad. 
  • Saturday:  leftover buffet
  • Sunday:  take out

I haven't had the chance to check out this week's sale ad, so I'm trying to work with what we already have.  The Beef Stew is a repeat of a meal that we've had very recently, but since we really enjoyed it AND I have all the ingredients for it, it's making another appearance in this week's menu plan! 

Since I'm not much of  a baker, we'll be picking up the breads and rolls for this week's meals.  We'll be picking up some salads too, using coupons that my friend Colie sent me.  (Thanks, Colie!)  Other than the bread and salad, I'm pretty sure we will only need milk and diapers.   Oh!  We need chocolate!  We're all out of chocolate and that is a major crisis in this house!  Maybe we can score some leftover Halloween candy on clearance!  Fingers crossed! 

As always, I'll be linking this post to I'm an Organizing Junkie's weekly blog carnival, Menu Plan Monday.
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