Sunday, January 30, 2011

Joss & Main

Hey everyone!  I just wanted to drop in real quick (Grace's naptime is almost over) to let you know about a new deal site called Joss & Main.  It's an exclusive, members only, deal site.  Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  Well, it is exciting, but really not all that difficult to become a member.  In fact, shortly after I signed up, I received a welcome email that included a $15 gift code!  Plus, I also learned that they have a great referral plan! 

Now, the reason I really want to share this with you, is because tomorrow Joss & Main is having a Le Creuset sale!  I love Le Creuset and cannot wait to see what bargains Joss & Main will be offering when the sale begins!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Spaghetti + Brownies = Pure Joy

Being the junk food junkie that I am, one would think that Grace would be too. Turns out, she's not really into junk food at all.  Sure, she likes her snacks, but prefers goldfish or oyster crackers over cookies and other sweets or yogurt melts instead of ice cream!  Don't even get me started on the fact that she doesn't like french fries!  REALLY!  My kid doesn't like french fries! 

At 21 months old, Grace still doesn't talk much. At least not many words that WE can understand!  Last week, she took my hand and led me to the fridge.  This is new, her leading us to the things she wants.  I figured she wanted some milk, so I opened the door to get the gallon of milk out while Grace checks out the stuff on the shelves.

I guessed that she found what she was looking for when she made a happy sound and then grabbed the bowl of leftover peas and handed them to me. I asked her if she wanted some peas and she jumped up and down and clapped her hands!

I think it's fabulous that she loves her veggies, especially GREEN veggies! Don't most kids hate green vegetables?  But, I get the feeling that our families think we don't allow Grace to have sweets, when really we offer them to her and she pushes the cookies or cakes away.

I still offer new things to her, just to try to see what it is that she really likes. And I always have the camera ready for proof to our relatives that we really do allow Grace to have a sweet treat!

Here are some photos of Grace over the holidays eating her first brownie: 

Grace isn't usually such a messy eater.  But with spaghetti, the mess just can't be helped.
She looks pretty proud of herself in this picture, don't you think? 

Being silly for the camera....

C'mon Grace, try the brownie....

Okay, now she's just messing with me...

Taking her first bite of brownie......

I think she liked it! 

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

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet Me On Monday ~ January 24th

Since I managed to get my menu plan posted and linked up super-early today, I decided I would take advantage of Grace's naptime and join in the fun over at Never Growing Old.  Each week, Java hosts Meet Me On Monday and each week, she asks (and answers) five questions in the hopes of learning more about her readers and fellow bloggers. 

Here's what Java asks us this week: 
  1. What is your favorite kind of fudge?
  2. Is there snow outside your window?
  3. What is your favorite meal of the day?
  4. Do you text on your cell phone?
  5. Waffles or pancakes?

Here are my answers: 

1.  What is your favorite kind of fudge? 

  • My favorite fudge is from the boardwalk at the Jersey shore.  Any boardwalk shop on any of the Jersey shore points.  I just love the whole candy shop atmosphere and must buy a pound of fudge and box of salt water taffy when I'm there.  Sadly, I don't visit the shore and it's many fudge shops very often.  Good thing I know how to make some homemade fudge!  Cranberry Walnut Fudge (with marshmallows) is my current favorite! 

Cranberry Walnut Fudge (with marshmallows)

2.  Is there snow outside your window? 

  • YES!  I don't think I've seen my grass since Christmas!  Everytime it seems to be melting, we get another storm!  I heard we'll be getting more snow this week.  Grace has been out to play in the snow twice.  We were out less than 10 minutes each time!  She's still little.  She understands the concept of needing gloves on to keep warm.  She "gets" the whole bundling up in her snow suit and hat and gloves, but keeping them on is another story!  So, once she touches the snow with her bare hands, she lets me know it's time to come in! 

3.  What is your favorite meal of the day?
  • Dessert was the first thing to come to mind when I read this question!  I love my sweets!  But seriously, I'd have to say dinner is my favorite meal of the day.  On most days, dinner is the one meal we eat together as a family.  Joe has his breakfast before Grace and I are even awake in the morning.  By the time we get up, Joe is at work and Grace is full of energy.  I usually give her something she can munch on while she's running around the house and playing.  All of that playing makes her tired, so on a typical day, she naps through lunch.  So, I eat my lunch while trying to catch up on some blog reading.  She gets a snack to hold her over until dinner.  By that time, Joe is usually home from work, just in time to sit down to dinner with us. 

Chicken a la King

4.  Do you text on your cell phone? 
  • I love being able to text on my cell phone!  Really, though, I don't text too much.  I usually only text 2 people:  I text my sister-in-law some pictures of Grace every once in a while (she shares pics of my niece, Bella, too!) and I text Joe pretty much every day.  Joe gets pics of the baby and a list of stuff we need from the store!  Let me tell you, he gets mostly everything on the list now that I text him the shopping list!!!  Other than that, the cell phone barely gets used.  I'm not much of a phone person.
5.  Waffles or pancakes? 
  • Definitley waffles.  I'm not a fan of pancakes and will only eat blueberry pancakes.  Joe and Grace both eat pancakes and Joe will usually make a huge batch and I'll freeze the leftovers for easy breakfasts for Grace.  As far as waffles go, I don't eat them too often.  We don't have a waffle iron, so it's the frozen ones for us for now.  My favorite way to make them is to spread some peanut butter on them while they are still hot.  The peanut butter gets gooey and melty!  Mmmmm!  Sorry, I don't have a'll have to use your imagination!  :) 
Okay, so that's a little bit about me!  Now it's your turn!  Want to join in on the fun?  Click on the Meet Me On Monday logo at the top of the page to go to the linky over at Never Growing Old.  There you will find the rules for the blog hop as well as the linky.  Plus, you can see who else joined and find out their answers to this week's questions! 
Note:  I intended to get this posted much earlier.  Halfway through the post, the power went out in our town causing me to lose my internet connection until power was restored!  I get a few minutes to myself and the power goes out.....figures!  :) 

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 24th

Does anyone else feel like last week really dragged on by?  I'm not really complaining.  I'd rather my days with Grace seem longer than feel like they are just passing me by.  But really it just seemed like a really long, drawn out week.  I'm really feeling the winter blahs right now.  We had snow again last week and there is talk about a possibility of more snow this week.  I've lost count of how many snow storms we've had already this winter. 

Really, I shouldn't complain about the snow.  It's not like I have to go out in it.  I don't have to worry about shoveling out my car so I can get to work in the morning.  Not to mention the worry of having to actually drive in it.  I don't have to do that either.  I just can't stand the cold!!!  We live in an older home with drafty windows and doors, so it always feels chilly in here during the winter months.  Joe bought a window insulator kit by Duck Tape and put it on several of our windows.  That, (plus all of the hot bowls of homemade soup) seems to be helping a lot.

Last week was another successful week for menu planning.  I still didn't get to everything on my plan, but that's mainly because I cook way too much for just our small family.  We had an extra night or two of leftovers last week, but that's okay.  We haven't minded the leftovers, I actually like the idea of stretching the menu plan.  Since I've been trying to plan around food we already have in the freezer and pantry, whatever we don't eat one week, just rolls into the next week.  Helping to keep our food budget low.  Gotta love that, right? 

Grace took a really good nap on Sunday, which allowed me to organize our chest freezer in the basement.  I also re-organized the kitchen freezer too.  I moved some items downstairs that I knew we wouldn't be using right away, and brought things upstairs that I planned on cooking in the next week or two.

Hashbrown Casserole

Here's what's planned for this week: 

Crock Pot Minestrone Soup

We still never got around to having the chicken, rice and veggies.  I'm really hoping to get to it this Sunday.  I have a lot of chicken in the freezer that I really want to see get cooked soon.  The Scalloped Ham and Macaroni wasn't made either.  AGAIN.  It would have appeared this week again, except the ham dish for this week will be made with cabbage so I can use the half a head of cabbage that's in the veggie bin in the fridge.

Last week's Chocolate Covered Banana Cake was super yummy!  This is one of my favorite desserts.  I really enjoyed having a homemade treat just before bed.  I found a couple dessert recipes online this week, that I'd like to try, but this week seems like it's going to be a busy week.  I'm not sure if I'll actually get around to making any sweet treats this week. I'll let you know if I end up baking something. 

Don't forget to check out Menu Plan Monday over at for more menu planning ideas and recipes!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Leftover Night: Fried Spaghetti

Growing up, I always enjoyed leftover spaghetti night.  I remember my mom mixing the leftover pasta and meat sauce together before putting it in the refrigerator the night before.  The next night, either she or dad would get out our biggest frying pan and dump in the leftover pasta and sauce.  They would then just heat and stir until it was heated through. 

This is a great way to serve the leftovers if you don't have quite enough leftover sauce for each person to ladle over their individual plates of pasta. 

The pasta will absorb some of the sauce overnight, so you will want to be sure to mix the sauce and spaghetti before storing it overnight. 

I never heard of anyone else frying their leftover spaghetti until I met my husband.  He also reheated his leftover spaghetti and sauce in a frying pan.  Only difference, he melts butter in the pan before adding the pasta and sauce combination.

Since I'm not a huge fan of food cooked in butter (shh!  Don't tell Paula!), I usually prepare our fried spaghetti in 2 frying pans.  One with butter, the other without.  The last time I made this for dinner, I used my electric frying pan and skipped the butter on Joe's spaghetti.  He didn't seem to notice.  If he did, he didn't say anything.  :) 

I tend to cook it a little bit on the long side too, I like it when the pasta gets slightly crispy around the edges of the pan. 

I like to serve this with salad and bread for a quick and easy meal.  It's frugal too, since we aren't wasting our leftovers!  Some leftovers are "forgotten" in the back of the fridge only to be found later resembling some strange science project!  Not this!  This is one leftover meal that we actually look forward to eating either the next day or later in the week! 

I feel like I posted about fried spaghetti before, but I couldn't find the post.  Maybe I dreamt about posting it.  That's a possibility!  But, if I am repeating myself with this post, I apologize.  :) 

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crock Pot Minestrone Soup

Soup was originally scheduled for Thursday night's dinner, but somehow, I managed to be a day behind in this week's menu plan.  I'm kind of glad that it worked out this way, since we woke up to more snow on the ground here in Pennsylvania on Friday morning.  There's nothing like a nice pot of soup cooking on a cold, snowy day!  So warming, so comforting. 

Let's throw it all in the crock pot and call it soup! 

 I really didn't have any idea how I was going to make this pot of soup.  I only knew a few things for sure:
  1. Cabbage would be a key ingredient, since I had a head of cabbage in the fridge that needed to be used. 
  2. This soup would give me a chance to use up some of the homemade vegetable broth I had stored in the freezer.
  3. I planned on using the crock pot, of course. 

Homemade Vegetable Broth

After checking my pantry (and freezer), this is what I threw together for last night's dinner: 

Minestrone Soup

  • 2 c. carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
  • 6 c. cabbage, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 c. vegetable broth, canned or homemade
  • 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15.5 oz. can chick peas
  • 14.5 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes w/garlic
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes w/basil
  • 1 T. parsley
  • 1/2 T. Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 T. Mrs. Dash
  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • cooked pasta
  • 2 c. cooked green beans
  • 1 c. cooked peas

  • add all ingredients to crock pot (except pasta and green beans)
  • stir until well combined
  • cook on high 4-6 hours or cook on low 6-8 hours
  • just before serving, add green beans and peas, stir until combined
  • to serve, add a bit of cooked pasta to your bowl and ladle the soup over the pasta
  • I was really pleased with how this soup turned out.  For a veggie soup, it was amazingly hearty.  The flavor of the soup reminded me of canned Progresso Minestrone, only better!  When I was a kid, that was the only soup I would eat.  I remember my brother and I looking for the chick peas in our bowls as if they were something special!   
  • I usually add garlic to most of my soups.  This time, the only garlic added was the garlic that was already in the can of fire roasted tomatoes.  After opening that can of tomatoes, my kitchen was filled with the garlic-y aroma, so I didn't feel I needed to use any additional garlic. 
  • I'm sure this soup would be great with some shredded cheese sprinkled on top or even a dollop of sour cream.  If you like a little heat added, try adding a couple of dashes of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce.
  • I suggest keeping the pasta separate from the soup.  I continuously make the mistake of adding the cooked pasta (or rice) to a pot of soup and every time, I end up having to add more broth when reheating the leftovers. 
  • Speaking of leftovers - There WILL BE LEFTOVERS!  My 5 quart crock pot was filled to the brim of this tasty soup!  We barely put a dent in this batch of soup!  We'll be having this for dinner again tonight! 
I'll be sharing this recipe with the following linky parties: 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken a la King

Ever since I discovered that I could cook a whole chicken in the crockpot (oh, what you can learn on the internet!), I seem to always have some cooked, diced chicken in the freezer.  Not that I'm complaining!  Having the cooked chicken in the freezer has saved me many times when I had no clue what to make for dinner! 

Last year, I was getting bored with our same old, quick chicken dinners.  I was so happy when I found a recipe for Chicken a la King!  I only ever had Chicken a la King once in my life.  I was in the hospital when I was 13 and this was delivered to my room for lunch.  I took a bite and gave the rest to my dad (he brought me some food from Wendy's!). 

I was a picky eater when I was a kid.  A REALLY picky eater!  There are still a few things that I don't like, but not like when I was 13 years old.  I hated everything then! 

As an adult, I've seen many Chicken a la King recipes.  I never thought to try it since all of the recipes called for mushrooms.  Mushrooms are one of the foods that I didn't like as a kid and still don't like as an adult.  The recipes also called for pimientos.  Now, I'm not really sure if I like pimientos or not, I've never eaten them, but I never have them in the pantry either.  So, those Chicken a la King recipes were never made in my kitchen. 

For some reason, it never occured to me to just leave those 2 items out of the recipe.  Seriously?  I don't know why, since almost every recipe I make is usually tweaked and adapted in some way to fit our tastes or what we have on hand. 

Then, last year, I found a Chicken a la King recipe without the mushrooms and pimientos over at Love From the Kitchen!  I am so glad I did, since it became one of my go-to meals.  I served this for many dinners last winter and we just LOVED it. Over the summer, I forgot about it and when I tried to find the recipe this winter, I thought I lost it!  I figured that I really should share the recipe here on my blog, that way I don't have to worry about losing it again!

Chicken a la King

  • 1 can, condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 3 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
  • 1/2 c. celery, diced
  • 1/2 c. green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 2 c. frozen peas
  • add condensed soup, flour, black pepper and cayenne pepper to the bottom of crock pot and stir until combined
  • mix in the remaining ingredients
  • cook on low for 2-3 hours, until heated through
  • serve over cooked rice or toast points
  • I love the short cooking time of this meal.  It leaves the veggies still a bit crisp.  The crunch of the celery is a good match for the softer chicken and rice. 
  • Need dinner quick?  I'm sure this recipe would work on the stove as well!  I just love the ease of throwing dinner in the crock while Grace is down for a nap. 
  • I've considered doubling this recipe since we enjoy it so much.  After we each have seconds, there's usually only a small amount left for lunch (for one person) the next day. 
  • If you don't like the idea of using the canned soup for the sauce, there are many recipes online for homemade condensed soups.  I eventually want to have a few batches made and in the freezer for recipes like this.  I just haven't gotten around to that project yet! 
  • I gave measurements for the veggies, since a lot of times I prep my veggies for the week ahead of time.  So, I just add in a scoop or two of the vegetables as I'm mixing it up in the crock.  Use whatever combination you like.  (Heck, even add mushrooms and pimientos if you like!)  I don't think you could ruin this recipe at all! 

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Snow Day!

My nieces had the day off of school on Monday.  I haven't seen them since Christmas, so I thought it would be a great day to visit with them.  Since we still have snow on the ground, it was the perfect opportunity to get some pictures of Grace (and her cousins) playing in the snow! 

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

Chipotle Turkey Chili

Last week, Joe and I finally cooked the FREE turkey that was at the bottom of our chest freezer.  We don't usually make turkey too often.  Like a lot of people, we only eat a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.  We've decided that we're going to try to eat more turkey during the winter months. 

I made homemade broth with the turkey carcass and also diced the leftover meat and separated in 2 cup portions for future meals. 

I made a big pot of Turkey Noodle Soup on Tuesday and that turned out to be dinner for two nights in a row.  Perfect for a snowy Tuesday night dinner.  I'm pretty sure Joe enjoyed having a hot bowl of soup on Wednesday too since he worked outside most of the day on Wednesday. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found a recipe for Chipotle Turkey Chili online.  I knew right away that I wanted to make it, since it would be different than any of the other meals I made with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

You can view the original recipe here.  As with most recipes I try, I adapted this either to simplify or to fit our tastes.

Chipotle Turkey Chili


  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. chipotle chilies in Adobo, diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Oregano
  • 1 tsp.  cumin
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • Oil
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 heaping tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. cooked ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups diced, cooked turkey

  • cook celery, bell peppers and onions in hot oil for a few minutes over medium heat.
  • add the cooked ground turkey (mine was still frozen)
  • once the turkey is heated through, add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes along with chipotle chilis in adobo and the spices
  • stir until combined and allow to cook for a few minutes
  • add diced turkey and beans
  • bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover
  • cook until vegetables are tender
The original recipe called for just the diced turkey.  When I make chili using beef, I like to use a combination of ground beef and diced london broil.  I decided that I wanted a similar texture with the turkey.  Having the pre-cooked ground turkey in the freezer made this super-easy! 

I also think that this would be a perfect recipe for the crock-pot, just throw in all the ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

This recipe made a lot of chili and I'm really glad it did!  We LOVED it so much that we didn't mind eating it 3 days in a row!!!  It was soooo good, I couldn't bring myself to put the leftovers in the freezer (even if they would have fit in the freezer) so we just ate it until it was gone!  There is one small container left, perfect for lunch.  We really could have gotten a 4th night's dinner out of this pot of chili, but we ate some pretty hearty portions on the last night since we were trying to finish it up! 

I still have some diced and ground turkey in the freezer, so I have a feeling I'll be making another pot of this yummy chili before the winter is over.....maybe for Super Bowl! 

You can find this recipe linked to the following blog carnivals: 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 17th

Good Morning!  Today is feeling like a great day!  I rarely wake up before Grace in the morning.  Usually because I stay up too late after she goes to bed each night.  I need a reason to drag myself out of bed before she wakes up.  Today is no different. 

My nieces have off from school today, so I invited them over to play with Grace.  She loves company and really loves her cousins so today will be a treat for her!  My sister-in-law will be dropping the girls off on her way to work this morning, so I knew if I wanted to get my menu plan posted today, I would have to do it before all the kids started playing! 

I really do enjoy this quiet time before the baby wakes up.  I really need to force myself out of bed earlier a couple times a week.  I've managed to get so much done in just half an hour!  I've unloaded the dishwasher, put together tonight's dinner in the crock pot, and now I'm working on my menu plan!  But really, the best, most wonderful thing I've accomplished this morning....I went myself....without Grace trying to steal the toilet paper!  TMI?  Sorry!  But I figured all of you mommies out there can relate!

Looking at last week's menu plan, I see that I have a few things that will be carried over to this week.  Things that we just didn't get to.  Last week, turned out to be a leftovers week!   The leftovers from the Turkey Noodle Soup never made it into the freezer.  Instead, we enjoyed it two nights in a row.  The leftover soup was a perfect meal after Joe was stuck working out in the snow all day on Wednesday. 

Last week's Turkey Chili (I will add the link once I get it posted) ended up being dinner for 3 nights last week, too.  It was so tasty!  We both really enjoyed it and didn't mind eating it 3 nights in a row!  I have leftover turkey in the freezer and cannot wait to make up another batch of this was that good! 

Here's what's planned for this week: 

  • Monday:  Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs, buttered egg noodles, veggies
  • Tuesday:  leftovers (Beef Stew)
  • Wednesday:  Applesauce Chicken, rice, veggies
  • Thursday:  Vegetable Soup
  • Friday:  Scalloped Ham & Macaroni
  • Saturday:  leftover buffet
  • Sunday:  Chicken, Rice, Veggies

I'm thinking of making a Chocolate Covered Banana cake for dessert.  Seems like the right thing to do, since I have a few very ripe bananas on my kitchen counter and a big bag of chocolate chips.  It also sounds like a fun project to work on with the kids today!  They love helping out in the kitchen when they are here!  Plus, a nice warm piece of cake will be really yummy after playing in the snow! 

Don't forget to visit Menu Plan Monday over at for more menu ideas and recipes! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 10th

I've mentioned before that I don't always have a lot of success with sticking with my menu plans.  I either forget to thaw something for dinner or end up craving some sort of fast food or take out.  Last week, I stuck to the plan pretty much the entire week!  I'm really pleased with myself! 

Last night, we had a nice turkey dinner.  Turkey, mashed potoes, vegetables.  Grace really enjoyed the turkey!  Right after dinner, I picked apart the rest of the turkey and divided into 2-cup portions for future meals.  We should be able to get 5 more dinners/recipes from that turkey!  I also made a huge pot of turkey broth!  Mmmmm! 

I'll be using some of the diced turkey in a couple of meals this week: 

Here's the plan for this week: 
  • Monday:  Enchiladas
  • Tuesday:  Turkey Noodle Soup, bread, salad
  • Wednesday:  Applesauce Chicken, potatoes, peas 

  • Thursday:  Turkey Chili, corn bread
  • Friday:  Beef Stew, biscuits, salad

  • Saturday:  Chicken, rice, corn
  • Sunday:  Scalloped Macaroni and Ham, biscuits, salad
I'll be trying a couple of new recipes this week (Turkey Chili, Scalloped Macaroni and Ham).  I'll share them here soon! 

Check out Menu Plan Monday at for more menu planning inspiration! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ A Picture A Day: My 365 Project

This year, I decided to start a 365 Photo Project. I've seen this done as a way for a person to see their improvement in photography through an entire year. I'm not ever going to be a good photographer. I just point and shoot...that's good enough for me. Instead, I want to see the gradual change in Grace through the year.

This past year, I haven't taken as many pictures as I could have of Grace. Either she was still in pajamas or her hair or face was messy. Don't get me wrong, I took pictures of her on days like that. I just mostly grabbed the camera for posed shots or when she was being extra silly.

So, this year, I want to capture everything. Even if it's just a picture of her with crusty boogies on her nose! (Yes, the other day, I thought I had a great photo of her, only to upload the picture later to notice that her nose was dirty!)

Here's one of my favorite pictures from this past week (messy hair and all!):

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

Works For Me Wednesday ~ What DOESN'T Work For Me : Toy Storage

It's been a while since I participated in Kristen's Works For Me Wednesday blog carnival.  This week (and every first Wednesday of the month), WFMW has a theme.  The theme for this week is:  What DOESN'T Work For Me. 

It didn't take me long to decide what I wanted to share today:  Toy Storage.  I'm sure many of you can relate to my problem, especially after Christmas, but I'm hoping for some suggestions on how to solve my Toy Storage issues. 

For Grace's first Birthday, my parents bought Grace a KidKraft toy box from CSN Stores.  We love it, but since it's deep, Grace had a tough time reaching some smaller toys that would fall to the bottom of the toy box.  So, I started to look for something to organize and store her smaller toys. 

I thought that this 12-bin organizer from Target would be perfect.  We picked it up when it was on sale and I thought my toy storage problems would be solved! 

It sure looks cute filled with Grace's toys, doesn't it?  Well, it only looks like this for a couple minutes a day.  Usually, during naptime. 

This is how it looks like after our little monster discovers that someone had put her toys away! Notice how she doesn't settle for just the toys being removed from the bins?  She also insists on pulling the bins from the rack! 

I'm sure that the 12-bin organizer will work for us when she's a bit older.  Right now, she's all about emptying everything and having all of her toys OUT where she can see them!  She's only 20 months old, so I'm hoping that this is just a phase.  (Please tell me that this is just a phase!) 

We originally set her toys up in our small dining room since we didn't have a table in that room.  For Christmas, I decided to move our table into the dining room so I relocated Grace's toys to the hallway off of the kitchen.  We have 2 front entrances to our home, this hallway is the front entrance that we NEVER use, so I thought that un-used space would be a perfect spot for Grace's toy box and toy bins.  That last photo, you can see her toys spilling into the kitchen.  Good thing we have another doorway to the kitchen! 

I really like having a table in the dining room now.  The room is so small, though, that all that fits in there is the dining room table and chairs.  It won't work to keep her toys and the table in there. 

After Santa delivered a bunch of new toys, plus all of the wonderful presents given to Grace from her grandparents and her many aunts and uncles, the small hallway isn't going to work for much longer! 

I talked to Joe about turning our small spare bedroom into a playroom for Grace.  We live in a rancher and this small bedroom is the closest bedroom off of the living room.  I think it would be perfect for her toys and hopefully will be easier to keep the mess toys contained in that room and teach her to just bring out one toy at a time.  Currently, we end up with toys everywhere through the house.  Sometimes I find toys in the bathroom!  Not sure how that happens since we keep that door closed all the time for safety reasons! 

The first step in transforming that small room into Grace's playroom will be emptying that room of all the junk and clutter that ends up in there!  After that, Joe wants to insulate the walls before we paint.  I'm hoping that we can get the project done before Grace's birthday in four months.  But in reality, I'm not sure how much we'll get done due to time and money restraints. 

I saw a shelf on the Ikea website that I think I want for the room and I'm hoping to get to Ikea soon to "window shop" for some ideas. 

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to read about them in the comments section! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cranberry Walnut Fudge

I love fudge! It's one of my favorite sweet treats made even better because of the sweet memories that I have of eating fudge through the years.

I think my first memory involving Fudge is when my Mom made a pretty big batch of it one Christmas. That year, we had a group of Christmas Carolers come to the door. We didn't have cookies to offer them since Mom hadn't done any baking yet, but Mom did give them some of her fudge.

My next memory of having fudge would have to be our trips to the Jersey Shore and going to the candy shops on the boardwalk to buy fudge and salt water taffy. They had so many different flavors, but plain chocolate was always my favorite!

Then, I remember staying with my Gram for a week when I was about 11 or 12. My Gram has a huge sweet tooth (I think I inherited it from her)! She taught me how to make a batch of fudge while I was there. It was surprisingly easy. And when we finished eating that batch, she sent me into the kitchen to make more! I never made it again after that (until recently) and I'm not sure why. Since it was such an easy treat to make!

After that, in my late teens, a huge mall opened and they had a fudge shop. They made a huge production of making the fudge and people lined up to watch them! I remember going to the movies with my friend Lisa and stopping to get some fudge to eat during the movie! By that time, my favorite was chocolate peanut butter!

A few years ago, I wanted to do some baking for Christmas. Not being much of a baker, I didn't know what I would need. I sent hubby out to get me some ingredients and he came home with huge bags of chocolate chips! I didn't even put a dent in them and had tons left over. So, that spring I found a recipe on for Easter Basket Fudge that used chocolate chips. I had all the ingredients (surprisingly) but decided to leave off the icing and jelly beans.

Not only was I able to use up all of our chocolate chips before the summer came (I was afraid they would melt in our hot, second floor apartment), I was also able to take a nice, big batch of fudge and chocolate covered strawberries to my parents' house for Easter.

Since then, I like to make fudge during the holidays. It's easy. I usually have all the ingredients. And almost everyone likes it!

Here's how my Mom requests that I make the batch that comes to her house:

Cranberry-Walnut Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup craisins
  • Line 8x8 baking dish with foil.
  • Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in saucepan.
  • Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Stir in marshmallows, morsels, craisins, nuts and vanilla extract.
  • Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.
  • Pour into foil lined pan and refrigerate until firm.
  • Lift from pan; remove foil.
I've also used milk-chocolate morsels for this recipe, but we prefer the semi-sweet chocolate.  Sometimes I add some extra marshmallows add the end of the mixing.  I usually let the 2 cups of marshmallows  that I stir into the milk/sugar mixture melt completely.  Then I add a handful or two near the end, letting them melt a slight bit, but still hold their shape.  I like the way the fudge looks when it's sliced and you can see the craisins, nuts and marshmallows!  Mmmmm! 

The photo shown is from the batch of fudge that Joe and I made this Christmas.  It doesn't look as "pretty" as it normally does, we spread it into a bigger pan this time and that made the fudge thinner.  Then, we tried to cut it too soon, so we could take some to our family's house on Christmas Eve.  It still tasted wonderful!  Just didn't look as nice! 

Note: The original recipe claims to get 48 pieces from batch! No way would a piece that small fill my sweet tooth! I cut into much bigger pieces. I get about 24 pieces of fudge from an 8x8 pan.

This post originally appeared on my other blog.

You can find this post linked at the following blog carnivals: 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ January 3rd

I had planned on posting this earlier today, but it seems that the first Monday of the new year isn't going as planned!  I cannot seem to get myself motivated today.  It's really a good thing I didn't have to deal with getting the kids off to school like so many of you had to do this morning! 

It's been a while since I posted.  Grace's sleep schedule hasn't gotten much better.  She is still teething and wakes up every night to be held and snuggle with me.  Last night, she fussed a couple of times when she lost her pacifier, but didn't wake up fully.  She just rolled over in her crib and fell back to sleep.  As always, if I don't have to deal with the baby, then I have to deal with the dog.  It never fails.  If Grace sleeps through the night, then Remmy wakes me up to let her out at 2 in the morning.  What the heck?  I can't get a break!  LOL! 

I'm so excited to be posting my first menu plan for 2011!  I just wish the meals I have planned for this week were a bit more exciting!  Instead, I'm using January as a bit of a challenge for myself.  In order to "recover" from the over-spending we did while preparing for Christmas and catch up on our bills, I decided that for the entire month, we'll be using what we have in the freezer and pantry.  This will help us keep our spending down for this month.  I wish I could say the money saved from groceries was either going into the savings account or used towards something fun (like new furniture), but no, we really do need to catch up on some bills.  It may not sound like fun, but I'll feel better about it in the long run! 

I'm sure I'll need an ingredient or two to complete some recipes for the month and that's okay by me.  I just hate that we seem to spend so much on groceries SEVERAL times a WEEK!  Especially, when I know we have enough food in the house to feed us for a month...or more! 

I will confess this, Giant had a sale on bone-in split chicken breast last week.  10lbs for $10.  I sent Joe to pick up 20 lbs.  That, in addition  to the rest of the stuff in the freezer should really last us a while.  The only meat we may buy this month is ground beef.  And that's only if there is a decent sale! 

Here's my menu for this week: 

  • Monday:  Leftover spaghetti with All Day Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce, garlic bread
  • Tuesday:  Chicken a la King over rice, asparagus, biscuits 
  • Wednesday:  Navy Bean with Ham Soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Thursday:  Eggs, potatoes, sausage, toast
  • Friday:  Crock Pot Ravioli with meatballs, garlic bread
  • Saturday:  undecided
  • Sunday:  Turkey Dinner, Sweet Potato Casserole, veggies, biscuits
The week between Christmas and the New Year had me in the mood to cook.  It may have been the sale on chicken that I mentioned earlier.  Or it could have been the fact that I have 2 new crock pots!  Joe talked me into getting a crock pot a couple of weeks ago and then my parents gave us one for Christmas!  Woohoo!!!  I love crock pot cooking!

I used one to cook some of the on-sale chicken, then later made broth with the bones and juices.  And the other I used to make the All Day Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce!  I also made a huge crock pot of Navy Bean Soup!  Lots of stuff to fill that freezer and make my pantry/freezer challenge much easier for this month! 

Be sure to check back, I'll be posting a bunch of new recipes this month! 

Click the MPM button at the top of the post to go to this week's Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie! 
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