Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Here's a great new year's recipe that incorporates that fine old tradition of black-eyed peas and greens. Try it out!

Ham & Greens Pot Pie
  • 4 cups chopped cooked ham 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen seasoning blend (frozen pepper & onion blend) 
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped collard greens
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
  1. Sauté ham in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add chicken broth, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until broth begins to thicken.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, and add seasoning blend and collard greens; return to a boil, and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Stir in black-eyed peas and crushed red pepper; spoon hot mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Mix cornbread mix according to package directions and pour batter evenly over hot filling mixture.
  3. Bake at 425° for 20 to 25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown and set.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I will be out of town for Christmas, so I'm taking Friday and Monday off. May you all have a very merry Christmas. See you on Wednesday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Student Discount

I just finished a photography class through our local community college. The professor gave a great tip: when you buy photo editing software, use your student ID number to get a discount. One one particular program he reccommends, the regular price is $288.00. By using the student discount, it can be bought for $88.00. Not bad! Apparently if you take a class, you are considered a student and are elligible for many other discounts as well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hostess Gift Ideas

Just about all of us will attend a party in the next few weeks. Whether it's someone else's home to celebrate Christmas, or a New Year's party, you will probably find yourself visiting somewhere at least once this season. Your gift shouldn't be large or expensive. Keep it simple and thoughtful with the host's tastes in mind. Here are a few ideas for hostess gifts:
  • A potted plant (Tree-shaped rosemary plants are my favorite!)
  • Homemade apple butter, lemon curd, jam, or other canned homemade goodies.
  • Chocolate truffles
  • Homemade bread
  • Bath kit made with Epsom salts and essential oil ideas from previous posts
  • A bottle of wine
  • A pound of good coffee (try to buy local if you can)
  • A batch of muffins or cinnamon rolls
  • A favorite board game
  • Mulling spices
  • Hot tea sampler
  • A frozen cookie dough log

Friday, December 16, 2011

Adorable Ornaments

My daughter and I made these as little Christmas gifts for her friends. They are surprisingly simple to make and are oh so cute. Try making some today!

Sparkling Lollipop Ornaments:
What you need: modeling clay, Mod Podge, coarse glitter, lollipop sticks
Using 2 colors, flatten clay slightly and layer.
Roll up, poke a lollipop stick into the bottom and let dry overnight.
Brush on the Mod Podge to seal any cracks and sprinkle on the glitter. Let dry. (clay will still be slightly malleable)
Hot glue a string onto the back of lollipop and hang. Remember to tell your child that these are not edible. They look good enough to eat!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easy Recipe

Here's an easy bar recipe that's perfect for Christmas gatherings:

Cherry Pie Bars
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, softened
1 1/4 cups butter
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 tsp. shortening


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar and butter until crumbly. Set aside 1-1/2 cups for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
  • In a small bowl, combine pie filling and extract; carefully spread over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until edges and topping are lightly browned.
  • In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Drizzle over warm bars. Cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Snow globes...sort of

All you need for these clever snowball lights are spray glue, fake snow, and a small round glass globe. I'm in love with these...I want them all over my house! The spray glue and fake snow can be found at Dollar General, Walmart, and Michaels, and the glass globes can be found at Dollar Tree.

To make:
Simply spray the globe with glue and roll in the fake snow. It literally took me less than 1 minute to make one. One word of caution, however: do not do this indoors! Not unless you want to appear to be tarred and feathered!

Monday, December 12, 2011


Here is a gift to me from my sister: a blog entry! Enjoy!

The typical pancake breakfast is far from nutritious however; it does not need to be so. Due to my kid’s affection for pancakes, I’ve come up with a few healthy variations that bring happy shouts of “pancakes for breakfast!!”

  • First off, make them from scratch; it’s quick and easy, I promise. And worth it to forego the preservatives, hydrogenated fat and inferior flavor of mixes.
  • When mixing the batter half to two thirds of the amount of flour called for can be substituted with a mixture of whole-wheat flour, ground flax seed, quick oats or oat bran.
  • Low fat or fat free milk can be substituted for whole milk and for the lactose intolerant soymilk and almond milk work nicely.
  • Throw chopped apples, bananas, nuts, blueberries or mini chocolate chips into the batter.
  • In lieu of syrup we often use apple butter, fruit compotes, jams, sliced fresh fruit or yogurt.
Saturday Morning Pancakes

1 cup flour (I do a mix of 2/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup ground flax seed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 ½ cups quick oatmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cup buttermilk (I use almond milk and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to make “buttermilk”)
¼ cup oil

Sift dry ingredients into bowl and mix in oatmeal thoroughly. Combine eggs, buttermilk and oil then add to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened.

Fry on hot griddle until browned on each side.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making a list....

Happy Friday, everyone! While you're unpacking Christmas decorations and wrapping gifts this weekend, make a list of what you'd like to have or are missing from your collection. Some examples are: greenery, wreaths, lights, wrapping paper, ribbon, etc. Stash the list somewhere for a few weeks and after Christmas when stores are having clearance sales, stock up on the things on your list. I have to do this now since I now have about 30 rolls of wrapping paper from over-buying last year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Card Deal

If you still haven't ordered your photo Christmas cards, you're in luck! is having a deal right now where you receive 20% off of your Christmas card order. You may then use the promo code CARDSFS40 at checkout for an additional 40% off plus free shipping! But don't stop there. Use your ebates account (go to first and go to the snapfish website) for 20% cash back from ebates for your snapfish order! I just ordered my Christmas cards and paid $26.42 for 80 cards & envelopes plus free shipping and will be getting $5 back from ebates. Not bad!

*This deal is good through 12/11

On the road again

Driving a long way for Christmas with the kids? Try finding a book or series on cd at the library and print out coloring or activity sheets related to the story. If you're listening to a true story, print out facts and related material to add to the fun. Some suggestions for books to listen to: Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie series, Dear America series, Lord of the Rings series, and the American Girl series.

Plan a fun and frugal night out with the family by driving through local neighborhoods after dark to enjoy the lights. If there is a drive-through light garden or light show in your area, check that out too. Bring popcorn packed in individual paper bags and hot chocolate in a thermos to make it special.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Make a fun and festive kissing ball for your entryway this year. Soak a florist foam ball is water and poke chrysanthemum flower heads into it for a fancy look. (This will last about 5 days) You can use a Styrofoam ball and artificial flowers for a longer lasting kissing ball. For a green kissing ball, follow the following instructions:

Wrap a ball like the kid's toy ball here with green fabric and hot glue into place.
Hot glue fir clippings in strips around the ball til' covered.

Embellish with berries or a bow and hang. Look out below!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Unexpected Touches

Try changing things up with your Christmas decor by adding flourishes of color to the otherwise mundane areas of your home. Hang a small wreath on the bathroom door, attach ribbons with bells, greenery, or candy to your kitchen cabinets, or hang a bright wreath on the inside of a window. If you have pictures on your fridge, swap the usual ones out for Christmas photos. Tuck pieces of fir and berries into your china cabinet, or frame a few vintage Christmas cards. Get creative and see what you can do!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Support the Local Economy!

The next time you're thinking about going out for a date, think twice about driving far away. Get to know your local area instead! Try passing up the chain restaurants for a local place. While you're out, check out the specialty gift shops in lieu of the big box stores. They often have great sales this time of year and offer unique gifts that you won't find just anywhere. The date will be even less expensive if you're not driving as far (gas) or paying as much for a sitter because you had to drive further! I know a lot of folks who have to drive at least 30 miles from their small town to the next larger city. All this said, you are supporting your local businesses in the process! Here's the cost savings of staying closer to home if you normally drive 30 miles away for a date:

Gas: $4.88 each way=$9.76  (Assuming you get 20 miles/gallon, gas cost $3.25/gallon)
Childcare: $10 (Assuming you pay $10 per hour)
Total savings: $19.76

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hand Scrub Gift Idea

This hand scrub is the best! I just tried out a batch and have decided that I will keep it by my kitchen sink as a permanent fixture. It literally takes 2 minutes to make! Whip up a batch and give to a teacher, neighbor, or friend. Pair with gardening gloves, seeds, and a trowel or watering cant for the gardening enthusiast in your life. Give with a loofah sponge and body lotion for a spa-themed gift. Please bear with my poor photos- I made a batch first thing after waking up today!

What you'll need:
Dish soap
Essential oil

Fill jar that you'll be using with sugar and pour into bowl. Add enough soap to reach desired consistency. Add several drops of essential oil. Stir and scoop into jar.

*Tie with twine or ribbon and top with a handmade tag

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I will be back on Monday with Christmas gift ideas, decorations, recipes, and more. Have a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you are on the road or skies!
*Don't forget to take advantage of photo opportunites this weekend for your Christmas card!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Potato Recipe

Is anyone looking for a sweet potato recipe that isn't swimming in butter and shellacked with sugar? I invented this yummy recipe last week and thought I'd share it just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Moved over pureed sweet potato mush... your more shapely, grown-up cousin has arrived!

Roasted Cranberry Sweet Potatoes
5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2-1 cup whole cranberry sauce (depends on how sweet you like them)

  • Place sweet potatoes on a sprayed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat.
  • Roast in 450* oven for about 40 minutes or til' almost cooked through (still a little firm).
  • Combine cranberry sauce with orange juice and toss with sweet potatoes.
  • Roast 10 minutes longer
  • Devour.
*Add orange zest for extra flavor
*Makes 6-8 servings

Friday, November 18, 2011

Black Friday Preview

For those of you who love the Black Friday bargains, check out this website: for a sneak peek at the sale ads. For everyday deals, look at and Have a fabulous weekend and enjoy plotting your course!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas

  • Have volunteer trees springing up in your yard? Pot up and give saplings (You can start them in the spring for bigger trees or dig up larger saplings in the fall.)
  • Give a bath salt soak made with Epsom salts and essential oil along with a "recipe" of how to make it.
  • Have kids memorize poem or song for parent
  • Give a photo calender and fill in with birthdays & personal messages such as: today is the first day of spring, make dinner reservations your anniversary is tomorrow, the pool opens in a month do sit ups
  • Babysitting "vouchers" for friends
  • Make a homemade castle out of a fridge box (My parents did something similar to this when I was a kid and it was one of my favorite gifts of all time!)
  • If you're giving a large or really exciting gift, tie a long string to the gift and hide it. On the other end of the string, leave a note instructing the recipient to follow the string to find the gift. The excitement builds as they follow the string from room to room or even outside! This is another one of my most memorable gifts- our uncle did this with a trampoline, hidden behind the garage!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Easy Salad Transport

The next time you have to transport a salad, try this handy trick! Layer the ingredients in the bowl in this order for a fresh, wilt-free salad:
  1. Salad dressing
  2. Softer veggies such as peppers, celery, cucumbers, and olives
  3. Crunchy hard veggies such as carrots
  4. Cheese
  5. Lettuce
This will stay fresh and crunchy for 12 hours! Just toss together when you're ready to serve. I tried this last week and it worked beautifully. It's also a great way to pack a lunch. Just pack some large disposable plastic drinking cups to serve the salad once it's tossed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recycled Christmas Gift Ideas

Ok ya'll, until I get my act together and have time to post some new gift ideas, here are some ideas from previous posts. I've put all of the gift idea links in this post so you don't have to hunt! Take a look:
1.) Gifts using essential oils! Check out the link for a quick tutorial on homemade bath salts:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A word about gift cards...

As we all know from giving and receiving, gift cards are the gift that never go out of style. Now is the time to be thinking about getting them for Christmas. November and December are when stores and companies start to offer ways for you to earn gift cards. By taking advantage, you can give a host of gift cards this year without actually buying a single one! For example, last week and this week, CVS has a deal going on where you can earn a $10 gift card for every $30 you spend on participating products. Gift card rewards for daily exercise from some insurance companies, credit card and diaper code point accumulation, and collection of UPCs from select products are other ways to earn gift cards. So keep an eye out for ways to earn those gift cards and save yourself a bundle this Christmas!

What card for whom?
Men: sporting goods stores, outdoor stores, home improvement stores
Women: clothing stores, spas, department stores,
Teens: gas cards, clothing stores, movies, itunes
Kids: toy stores, Target
Good for everyone: restaurant cards, movie cards, cards

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas Prep

Now is the time to start planning your Christmas newsletter (if you write one, of course). Don't get caught the night before you want to mail it trying desperately to think of what the heck you did this year! Procrastinating on this one will suck the Christmas cheer right out of you and your letter. Start thinking now of what you'd like to share, and be ready with your camera for great family shots. The more current the better. By getting a head start, your letter and photos will be much more natural and relevant. Being relieved of this duty when the holiday season begins to get hectic will give you some much-needed breathing room.

*I speak from experience. We have graced several Christmas cards with fake smiles plastered onto our strained faces due to a frustrating last-minute photo shoot. In the dark. With a blinding flash. And a seething dog wearing antlers, thinking murderous thoughts. Trust me, it isn't pretty!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oatmeal Ideas

Today's breakfast: oatmeal with apple crisp
Oatmeal is a super food. Loaded with soluble fiber, protein, and whole grain, we should all be eating it more often. One of its most desirable features is, you guessed it, it's cheap. It only costs a few cents per serving! The problem for me is the consistency. I used to choke it down, knowing how good it was for me, but with these new ideas, it is a much more "palatable" experience. My sis, the dietitian gave a host of oatmeal ideas to me and I'd like to share them with you! These add-ins can make oatmeal a favorite breakfast for kids too:
Peanut butter
Cobbler (use remnants of last night's apple crisp or fruit cobbler)
Cranberry sauce
Maple syrup
Pumpkin (be sure to add some spices with this one)
Cinnamon in a shaker
Seasonal sprinkles
Fresh or frozen berries
Chopped fruit
Raisins or craisens

Liquids to cook your oatmeal in to add extra flavor:
Soy milk
Almond milk

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soap Test

Did you know that most of us are probably using too much laundry detergent? A friend of mine shared this tip with me that she learned from a water testing specialist. Take a washcloth that has been laundered and let it sit in a bowl of tap water for about 5 minutes. When time is up, wring out the cloth and look at the water in the bowl. It will probably have soap in it! Imagine how our skin must feel! Apparently, most of us only need to use half of the suggested amount of laundry detergent that the manufacturer recommends. Try cutting the amount in half and re-test a washcloth. If there are still soap bubbles or residue, try halving the amount again. I've been using half for a while and haven't noticed any change in cleaning power. Not only will your skin thank you, you'll get more for your money too!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is the perfect accompaniment to any Halloween or fall party. I've finally mastered making it myself, so I thought I'd share. Try this with great caution, as you will probably be permanently hooked. And just face it, you might as well make a second batch for everyone else after you've obliterated the first. Good luck, gumshoes!

Kettle Corn
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
Salt to taste

  • Place a large Dutch oven (make sure you have a lid) over medium high heat on your stove top. Add oil and allow to heat for about 1 minute. Place 2-3 kernels into the pot and wait until they pop (yes, they will probably pop out of the pot).
  • Add the remaining kernels and place lid on pot. Wait until you hear a few other kernels pop, then with oven mitts pick up pot and shake. Continue to shake for about 30 seconds every minute of cooking (place back on the burner for the remainder of the time).
  • After the first minute, carefully lift one side of the lid and sprinkle in the sugar. Replace the lid and continue cooking and shaking for about 4-5 minutes, until the span of time between pops lengthens to about 5 seconds.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Wait until all popping has finished, then sprinkle with salt to taste.
*If you are lucky enough to possess a Whirley Pop, make as you would regular popcorn, but add 1/2 of the sugar after corn starts popping and add the rest of the sugar just before popping ends. Be sure to dump the corn out immediately after popping is finished and season with salt.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

Try having a Halloween dress rehearsal with your kids this weekend. Let them don their costumes and take plenty of pictures. You will find out before Halloween if there are missing parts to the costume or if last-minute alterations are needed. By taking pictures now, you don't have to corral the kids for pictures on Halloween when the last thing they want to do is come down from their sugar-induced high to be still for a few photos! Enjoy taking candids instead, knowing you've already gotten some great shots.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Orange Crush

One of my favorite gifts of fall are pumpkins. Small ones, big ones, knobby or smooth, you name it. Try tucking a few into your potted plants to give a shot of color. Stack them for height and scatter smaller ones around a larger pumpkin. A friend allows me to raid the remains of his large, commercial pumpkin patch every year. While the pumpkins I pick are not perfect, they have plenty of "character", so just try to overlook the spots and deformities! Take the fun inside with bowls of small pumpkins
or try placing one atop a cake plate for extra drama. The best part is that the autumn decor will hold you over til' Christmas!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Christmas Giving

Think ahead this year for your charitable Christmas giving. Just like layaway or buying gifts in advance, start setting aside money now for those holiday donations. A great way to involve your children in the spirit of giving at Christmas is to let them help to raise money for the charity of your choice. I know a family whose kids (ages 4 and 6) have decided to earn money to buy a camel for a family in Asia through a charity! Here are some great ways to get your kids started:
  • Collect cans- ask neighbors for their cans and pick them up when you see them outside. 4-5 trash bags of cans will yield $15-$20.
  • Do odd jobs for pay for parents or grandparents
  • Consign clothing or toys
  • As a family, forgo eating out and put that money towards your cause.
  • Offer Christmas cookies for sale to friends and neighbors
  • Babysitting
  • Fall leaf cleanup
  • Pet sitting
  • Have a yard sale (Ask for a donation instead of naming prices- you'll probably earn more this way.)
  • Car wash
  • Snow removal
  • Dog walking

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Recipe

This dip is perfect for your next autumnal gathering. Sweet and creamy with all of the flavors of fall. Best of all, you can make it ahead. It's perfect served with gingersnaps, pears, or apple slices. Try it out at your next tailgate or Halloween party. No one will ever guess it only took 3 minutes to make!

Pumpkin Pie Dip
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (not pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, beating well. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Makes 3 cups (A ton! I usually only do a half recipe)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Container Therapy

For me, everyday chores are made much more pleasant when I have something pretty to look at. I've started storing mundane items in pretty containers and I have to say that this small change has been a definite mood-lifter. My dishwashing detergent pod thingys are actually visually interesting now that I can see those bright blue pudgy little pouches. Laundry detergent is now dignified in its glass jar, and my cookie cutters have graduated from an old plastic Kroger bag to my grandmother's old cookie jar. I can still feel myself reaching inside for an oatmeal cream pie... I know it seems trivial, but just try it. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mulled Cider Sachets

Everyone loves a good cup of mulled apple cider this time of year. Make your own mulling "sachets" for your next brew. It takes only a minute and is well worth it! These little bags of goodness make the perfect hostess gift when paired with a jug of apple cider. Here's what you need:
Whole allspice, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks (3" pieces), citrus peel, 5" piece of cheesecloth, and baking twine.

Place onto cheesecloth: 6 whole allspice, 6 whole cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 3 pieces of citrus peel. Gather ends and tie with twine. Place into pot of apple cider and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bag and toss when you're ready to drink!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yogurt Smackdown

In the left corner we have the strawberry-flavored featherweight six pack and in the right corner we have the heavyweight plain tub-style. While featherweight packs a big caloric punch and a sucker punch to the wallet, it's a knockout for the healthier, more inexpensive heavyweight! Ok, back to my inside voice. While the yogurts both cost $2.49, you get 50% more for your money if you go with the larger size. The plain yogurt also has only 40 calories per serving as opposed to the smaller size's 110 calories. That's 63% less! Even if you add 2 teaspoons of sugar to a serving of the plain, it would still be only 70 calories per serving.

Tips for flavoring plain yogurt: mix in frozen blueberries, fresh fruit, pureed fruit, honey, or a teaspoon or two of jam.

*The price and calorie analysis were calculated on Yoplait plain large size yogurt instead of Kroger brand. I forgot to save the Yoplait container for the picture!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not-so-nutty school lunch ideas

Several friends and family members have mentioned how hard it can be to find nut-free school lunch and snack ideas. Apparently, most schools now do not allow any kind of nut or nut-based products due to food allergies. Not to despair! Here are some great ideas for protein-packed, healthy nutless alternatives.

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sausage muffins- for recipe click here:
  • Chicken Salad, egg salad, tuna salad with Triscuits
  • Cheese sticks
  • Greek yogurt
  • Hummus with veggies or pita chips
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Mini quiches or fritattas
  • Granola- for recipe click here:
  • Graham crackers with cream cheese
  • Homemade Chex mix
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grain cereals (Dry)
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Beef jerky
  • Fruit leather
  • High-protein muffins

Friday, October 7, 2011

Squash Storage

Plastic milk crates are the best for storing winter squash, onions, and sweet potatoes. The holes allow maximum air circulation to prevent rotting and the sturdy design makes them easy to carry. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of using these before!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Garbage Can Rescue

Most of us with outdoor garbage cans have a problem with that noxious liquid that oozes from trash bags. It sloshes! It stinks! Have I effectively grossed you out now? Try this simple tip. It will only take a minute, I promise. Flip your garbage can over and using a power drill, drill holes into the bottom and you're done. No more ooze!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cake Pops

For those of you who haven't yet heard of cake pops, it's only a matter of time. They are a fun treat that is cropping up everywhere: basically cake on a stick. You can make them into characters (Hello Kitty is very "pop"ular) or simply roll them in sprinkles, coconut, or sanding sugar. Any way you do it, they will be a hit. I promise.

You'll need: one cake mix, one tub of frosting, one package of candy coating.
  • Make a standard cake mix according to package directions (any flavor)
  • Once cake is cool, crumble with forks
  • Add about 2/3 of a tub of frosting (any flavor) and gently mix into cake crumbs until incorporated
  • Roll into balls or use a cookie scoop to form balls and chill in the freezer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes.
  • Melt chocolate or vanilla candy coating in microwave or double boiler until melted.
  • Using a fork, dip balls into chocolate and return to lined cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle on any decorations before the chocolate hardens.
  • Once hardened, remove balls from sheet and poke a skewer or lollipop stick into each one, positioning the flatter side of the ball to serve as the back of the cake pop. Stick into styrofoam for easy distribution.
Into the freezer!
Finished product!
*My pops are not elaborate or professional by any means. I had a 3 year old helping with the decorations, but alas my pops would not look any better even if I was the primary decorator!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall is here!

The start of fall is often marked with fun festivals and fairs. Snoop around your area for fun fall activities that are easy on the wallet such as pick-your-own apples, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and farm tours. This is also the time of year for craft shows and church bazaars. These are great for getting ideas for your own Christmas projects!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Get a grip

Are you canning apple butter or the last of your tomatoes this fall? Try using a pair of gardening gloves! They are perfect for gripping hot jars to screw on lids and for pulling the hot jars from the canner. Just be sure to have a pair for kitchen use only- no planting mums for these gloves!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Easy Meal Planner

A friend recently shared this website with me and since it was so helpful, I am obliged to share it with you! (For those of you who are ahead of the curve and already know about this, just humor me!) If you are organizing meals for someone who has suffered an illness, surgery, had a baby, etc. then is the site for you. The site allows you to create and customize an online sign-up sheet for the recipient with important details such as phone numbers, driving directions, and food allergies. It also allows everyone included to share what they will be bringing so there are no repeat meals. The site is user-friendly and includes sample schedules, menus, recipes, and tips. The best part of all is that it is completely free!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lavender Stalks Part 2

I've discovered yet another use for those leftover dried lavender stems! Place a bundle or two into your oven and turn to 200* for a fantastic air freshener. After less than 10 minutes, my house was filled with a fresh lavender fragrance. Ahhh... my nose has found peace!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paint Colors

After painting a room, dip a stir stick in the paint and let it dry. Write the name of the paint color on the stick, drill a hole in the end, and hang on a metal ring. Your paint colors are now portable! The next time you need to accesorize a room, look no further than your neatly organized paint samples. Take them with you to the fabric store or furniture store for a quick reference.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas For Kids

If you're like me, you have no idea what to tell the grandparents when they ask what the kids want for Christmas. Cheap plastic toys? Clothes? DVDs? Whether you are looking for ideas to give your child or someone else's, look no further than: They offer high quality, educational toys with a convenient search tool that allows you to search based on the child's age and gender. Too easy! Even if you'd rather look for a better deal elsewhere, is a great starting point to gather ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Uses for Lemon Curd

I forgot to include how to use your lemon curd! Here are a few ideas in case there is any left...
  • Use as a filling between cake layers
  • Fill mini tart shells and top with fruit
  • Mix with whipped cream or Cool Whip to top strawberry shortcake or other fruity desserts
  • Use as a dip or spread for scones, animal crackers, graham crackers, or cookies
  • Top gingerbread with it- the flavors are perfect together!
  • Spread onto pancakes or to fill crepes
  • Add to cream cheese for a fruit dip
  • Thin with water and use to glaze a cake
  • Swirl into a cheesecake

Lemon Curd

Smooth, creamy, lucious lemon curd. It is truly a delight for the senses! And expensive. A small jar of lemon curd at the grocery store will set you back about $4. Not only will this homemade version only cost around $1 per jar, but the taste and texture will knock the socks off of the store-bought variety. This recipe delivers a creamier consistency and spot-on fresh lemon flavor which causes its gelatinous and sometimes bitter grocery store cousin to pale in comparison. It makes a great gift too! Pair with homemade gingerbread or gingersnaps for the perfect holiday treat.


  • 8 whole Lemons
  • 2-½ cups Granulated White Sugar
  • 2 cups (4 Sticks) Butter Or Margarine
  • 8 whole Large Eggs, Beaten


  • Finely grate the zest of the lemons into a medium saucepan.
  • Squeeze juice from the lemons. (You should have around 1 1/2 cups of juice.)
  • Add lemon juice to the saucepan, along with the sugar.
  • Cut butter into small pieces and add to the pan.
  • Set the pan over low heat, and stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Strain eggs through a fine-mesh sieve into the lemon mixture. (I used a wire colander) 
  • Cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • As the mixture begins to steam, it will thicken, take on a creamy consistency, and coat the back of a spoon.
  • When lemon curd is thick and creamy, remove from the heat.
  • Fill hot *sterilized jars with the lemon curd to within 1/8 inch of rims. Wipe rims clean and top with hot lids. Screw bands onto the jars until finger tight.
  • Place jars in dutch oven or large pot and add water til' just covered. Leave them for ten minutes at a slow bubble(212°F / 100°C). Remove jars immediately and set upright on a clean towel, or wooden surface, away from drafts. Let jars sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Check for proper seals. Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Makes 7 half-pint jars.

*To sterilize jars, place clean jars into your oven for 10 minutes at 250*. Sterilize lids by covering with water in a saucepan and simmering on the stovetop for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


If you're finished drying the lavender blooms from your garden, don't throw away the stalks. The oil found inside of the stalks make flammable (and wonderfully scented) fire-starters! Tie them with ribbon or twine and give to a friend with a fireplace. Pair with a pie iron or s'mores ingredients and skewers for a fun gift.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cover Crops

Don't leave your garden exposed to the elements this winter. Let a cover crop work for you all winter by increasing organic matter, providing weed control, increasing soil microorganisms, reducing soil erosion, and serving as a habitat for beneficial insects. Remember to till your cover crop under before it blooms! If you live in Virginia, plant cover crops anytime between Sept. 30-Nov. 10. Don't live in Virginia? Check out these helpful cover crop charts for your hardiness zone:

For winter cover crops try:
  • crimson clover
  • red clover
  • white clover
  • hairy vetch
  • cereal grains (including rye, wheat, or barley).
*The clovers should be planted 30 to 45 days prior to the first frost.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Think before you toss!

The next time something breaks, think twice before you throw it out. A quick email or better yet, phone call, to the company might yield big results. A friend recently shared that a washer broke on their neighbor's Moen kitchen sink. He called the company to order a new washer (which would have cost only a few dollars). The representative told him that Moen stood by the quality of their products and promptly sent him a brand new sink! I gave a pair of Keen sandals to my husband for Christmas. The shoes recently began coming apart around the straps, so I called the company. After filling out an online warrenty form, they sent an email to me with a promotional code worth $90 to spend on a new pair of Keens on their website. They did this even though the receipt I emailed reflected the sale price of $63 that I originally paid for the shoes! This wonderful customer service will win my business every time, so not only am I happy, but the company will enjoy repeat business from me in the future. Everyone wins! So don't be shy about letting a company know if their product breaks. It may be worth your time and theirs.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Take the sting out

I met a commercial bee-keeper recently and asked her what the secret was to healing a bee sting. I was skeptical when she said to put honey on the sting. After our daughter suffered two yellow-jacket stings on her finger last week, I was able to put it to the test. I promise I didn't let her know how excited I was to try this trick! We weren't home, so by the time we arrived her finger had swollen to twice its normal size. Less than a minute after putting a few drops of honey onto the affected area, the stinging (and crying) stopped, and within an hour, the swelling was gone! So next time you suffer a sting, try honey. It really works!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pencil it in

For you gardeners out there, a little thinking ahead can go a long way. Before your fall calender fills up, take the time to add garden-related tasks. By putting them on your calender now, not only will you remember to do the tasks, but you won't have to keep looking up what to plant and when! For example, for October I'll have:
  • plant bulbs
  • plant spinach and lettuce in cold frame
  • make apple butter
  • plant cover crop in garden
  • plant strawberries
  • store potted plant containers in garage
Putting your area frost date on your calender will help you to remember when to take plants inside too. I don't know about you, but I can use all the help that I can get!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recycled Ice Cream Cones

For a lighter alternative to ice cream, try this!
  • Melt chocolate chips over low heat.
  • Coat the inside of the cones with melted chocolate
  • Fill with whipped cream, fruit, or no-bake cheesecake filling.
Use your imagination and fill them with just about anything. Think of them as tiny cornucopia, just bursting with goodies!
*These are really tasty, so you may want to make a few extra!

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to cook without power

Since many of you may be without power this weekend, (compliments of hurricane Irene) here's a quick rundown on ways to cook without power. I hope you don't have to use this info!

Ways to cook your food:
Fireplace, grill, gas stove top, propane burner, fondue pot, chaffing dish, wood stove, candle warmer

Handy ingredients to have in your pantry:
  • Instant milk powder/canned evaporated milk
  • Jerky
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned beans
  • Canned soups
  • Applesauce
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant coffee
  • Canned tuna or salmon
  • Beans & rice packets
  • Grits
  • Granola
  • Pasta
  • Canned spaghetti sauce
  • Packaged pudding
Meals to make from these ingredients:
  • Bean & rice fajitas with salsa
  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken or tuna salad made from canned meat, seasonings, and mayo packets & canned fruit
  • Salmon cakes with canned veggies
  • Boxed macaroni & cheese with canned veggies
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with homemade trail mix (dried fruit and nuts)
  • Hot dogs and beans
*Don't forget to utilize your garden if you have one- fresh produce will be a welcome addition to your menus!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Be prepared!

After the earthquake yesterday in Virginia of all places, I have been left shaking in my boots. Literally! So in light of hurricane season and recent events, I have been inspired to share some ideas that I have found to be helpful. These tips are great for hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, or winter ice storms.
  • Text instead of call since most phones will be jammed.
  • Give trusted neighbors a key to your house.
  • Keep the gas tank full on your car.
  • Have at least a 3 day supply of food and water on hand, one gallon per person per day.
  • Fill out the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) form to keep your financial bases covered. (For a free printable version, see the operation hope link below).
  • Fill your tub with water to use for flushing the toilet for a power outage.
  • Keep a flash light in every family member's room.
  • Keep cash on hand. No power equals no credit or debit cards.
  • Use a wheeled garbage can for storing your emergency stash. It will keep your things dry and portable!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Facial in a tube

Let me introduce you to Queen Helene. She's the mean green wrinkle-fighting machine! Ok really, she's a cheap masque that you can buy at most any grocery store, drug store, or Walmart. I've been using this stuff for years and it is great for shrinking pores, tightening skin, and clearing up blemish-prone skin. I recently had my first facial and while it was nice, I have to say that good ol' Helene was every bit as effective as the professional facial. Give your face a good exfoliating scrub and try out Queen Helene's Mint Julep Masque. You'll be surprised at how easy it is being green!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Resurrected Tortilla Chips

In an effort to be less wasteful lately, I've been trying hard to think twice before throwing something away. Enter stale tortilla chips. They've been sitting in a crumpled bag in my cabinet for who knows how long. They are almost chewy. Yuck. After several tries, however, I am proud to say that I was able to restore the crunch factor we all know and love! Here's how you do it:
  • Place chips in a single layer on a plate.
  • Microwave for 40-45 seconds.
  • Let cool. *This step is important. If you try to eat them while still warm, they will not be crisp.
Devour. Have a fiesta. Rejoice in knowing that you have repurposed stale food!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Deck 101

For the past week, I've been working on our somewhat weathered deck in an attempt to give it a facelift. As with any do-it-yourself project, it has proved to take much longer than expected. Since there was a layer of dark mold/mildew-looking stuff on the wood, I tried spraying it down with deck wash. It worked, but took several applications to erradicate the stains. After running out of deck wash, I turned to bleach. Not only was the bleach exponentially cheaper, it cleaned the wood with just one application! After painting the stain on myself (oops) as well as the decking, I tried removing it from my arm with a Mr. Clean magic eraser. It worked all right, taking off a layer of my epidermis as well as the stain! So if you're staining your deck, take heed:

  • Use bleach to clean and prep the surface
  • Do NOT use a magic eraser on your skin. You will be cursed with a rash and others will think you are diseased!

Monday, August 15, 2011

CVS Freebies

You can get all three of these items for free at CVS this week. Just scan your CVS card at the kiosk and the coupons for these items will print out. You can redeem them all in one trip- no strings attached!

An Eggcellent Tip...

For fluffier scrambled eggs, add a pinch of baking powder to the eggs before you mix. Don't worry if you still see some white lumps- they'll disappear when you cook the eggs. Lighter, fluffier, and more scrumptious. Give it a a try this week!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Watermelon Magic

I'm not the biggest watermelon fan, I'll admit it. But having been gifted a luscious ruby red melon from my mom, I decided to try the creative approach. Lo and behold, it worked! I actually loved it! It's refreshing, it's smooth, it's icy, it's: watermelon sorbet"ish". Not technically a sorbet, but a wonderful alternative that you must try. It's so simple and easy to make, you have no excuse!

Watermelon Freeze:
  • Place cut watermelon pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze. (Seedless melons make it easier)

  • Process in food processor til' smooth. (It will look chunky and chalky, but trust me it's not!) Let it sit in your serving dishes for a minute or two to get the juiciness back.
  • Eat with reckless abandon!
I added fresh lime juice to mine, which was delightful. And please ignore the condition of the withered lime in my photo. It's all I had left in my produce drawer!

*My thanks to Robert for growing this beauty and restoring my affection for this lovely fruit!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wipe out!

Diaper wipe boxes and cases are so versatile for storing things! I use them for organizing smaller items. Just label with a sharpie and you're done! Here are some of my favorite uses for them:
  • First aid kit
  • Twine/yarn dispenser
  • Crayon storage
  • Storage for seasoning packets (taco seasoning, gravy, etc.)
  • Activity box for road trips
  • Hair bow organizer
  • Nail polish organizer
  • Dry storage box for boat or pool
  • Dryer sheet dispenser (keeps them fresher longer)
  • Plastic bag holder
  • Photo box
  • Piggy bank
  • Small item storage (batteries, game pieces, toiletries)
  • Yard sale cash box
If you really want to get creative, check out this link for inspiration. I never knew about these!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Garlic Peppercorn Sauce

Sounds like a tasty accompaniment to go with supper, right? Well not to the aphids and other insect pests in your garden! My parents had an aphid problem last week, but not after using this spray! In fact, it worked so well getting rid of the aphids that they sprayed their whole garden with it. We don't know if the spray kills the insects or just sends them packing, but either way, your plants will thank you for not spraying them with chemicals!

Garlic Peppercorn Aphid Spray
3 bulbs of garlic (whole heads)
32 peppercorns (You can use hot pepper flakes too, I've heard.)
4 quarts of water

Boil in a dutch oven for 10 minutes. Strain and pour into sprayer. Spray onto plants.
*You may have to reapply after it rains*

Friday, August 5, 2011

Strawberry Pots

Does anyone have a strawberry pot sitting around with no strawberries planted inside? I confess, I am among those of you who do. I have some lovely but useless hen and chick succulents in mine. Soooo, I'm going to yank them, plant them somewhere else, and fill my pot with herbs. I've never done this with herbs so I'll have to give you all a progress report later. The design of the strawberry pot lends itself well to growing herbs because its various holes will segregate each type of herb nicely. When temperatures hover near freezing, I can just take the whole thing inside without having flower pots all over my small kitchen! If I can keep them alive...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Presto Pesto!

Whether you've grown your own basil or are a recipient of someone else's bounty, pesto is the perfect soloution for that lovely green herb. It's a wonderful feeling to add a cube or two of brightly flavored pesto to your recipe in the middle of winter! Using a food processor as your only tool makes the whole process a breeze. So hop to it! Here's the lowdown:
The ingredients...

2 Tbs. chopped walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups basil (leaves, no stems!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of pepper

Finely chop nuts in food processor. Add garlic and pulse to a fine mince. Add basil, parmesan, salt, and pepper & pulse to a paste. Add olive oil gradually in a slow stream with the processor on until incorporated. Fill an ice cube tray with pesto and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze til' solid, pop out and store frozen in freezer bags.

Makes 1 ice cube tray (10-12 cubes)
*Feel free to follow the recipe loosely. Add more olive oil, or other seasonings to taste. Several squeezes of lemon juice are also a nice addition.
The final product!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer time is moving time! Be on the lookout for new neighbors this summer. Here are a few affordable yet thoughtful ideas to help them feel welcome and to help you get to know them too:
  • A welcome mat
  • A small basket with a roll of paper towels, picture hanging kit, notepad with pen, local maps, and menus from local restaurants
  • A loaf of homemade bread or a frozen homemade casserole (be sure to include disposable dishes)
  • A breakfast basket with muffins, juice, a bag of local coffee, and a local newspaper.
  • Produce from your garden
  • A potted plant
  • Bulbs or plants from your yard
*Be sure to include a card with your name and phone number
Even if there are no new neighbors this summer, try to connect with
the old ones too. Try sharing produce from your garden, find a walking
partner, or take a meal to an elderly neighbor.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Golden Egg

While nosing through a new thrift store with my mom and sisters, I came across one of the best golden eggs I've seen in a while: a 50 piece set of English Ironstone that matches my dishes for just $5 total!!! I sang, I danced, I wept, I bought. (For those of you who don't know me, I am a bit obsessed with Ironstone.) It definitely pays to look at everything when you're thrifting! Here are a few of the little treasures in the set, though the pictures doesn't do them justice. My soul is at peace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recycle your egg cartons!

  • Use as packing material for shipping
  • Use as a pallete for holding paint colors
  • Let your little one work on sorting skills by using the holes to sort small objects
  • Use as a fun lunch container for kids
  • Start your seeds in an egg carton
  • Golf ball storage
  • Use as a drawer organizer for jewelry, nuts, bolts, and other small items
  • Place an opened egg carton at the bottom of an empty trash bag to catch spills
  • Store bulbs until spring in a styrofoam carton, stored in a cool dry place