February Favorites!

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Can you believe that February is already over and that we are into March?  It is seriously mind-boggling how quickly time passes these days.

Anyways, I wanted to share a few items that I have been LOVING in the month of February.  I am forever watching monthly favorite videos on YouTube, so finally I am sharing my own faves.

Here we go—

  1. Baby Magic Hair & Body Wash
    Where has this been all of my daughter’s life, and why have I never tried it until now?  This baby shampoo smells SO good, and literally, my daughter smells heavenly ALL day.  I was pretty adamant about using hypoallergenic soaps only for my daughter, but when we ran out one night and cracked this bottle open, I knew there was no going back.
  2. Kenra Platinum Blow Dry Spray
    I recently just started using the thermal protection spray as part of my hair routine, and I am hooked.  Not only does this spray protect your hair from your blow dryer’s heat, it speeds up the dry time. WHAT? I have the thickest hair and it truly does cut down a few minutes of time I’m spending drying my hair.  Plus it smells like coconuts and pineapple.
  3. Ball Sip & Straw Lids
    Does any one else can in the summer time and have a million and one extra mason jars around the house?  Or is that just me?  I found these awesome lids that fit on top of any size mason jar with a regular canning ring.  The straws are big and perfect for smoothie drinking.
  4. Thieves Oil
    I am definitely an essential oil newbie and novice, but I am totally loving Thieves Oil.  This oil helps protect your immune system, is awesome to use for cleaning, and can help other ailments.  It also smells deliciously like clove.
  5. Suspicion Board Game
    My husband and I are always on the lookout for new games to play with our friends.  We got this game for Christmas and have played it so many times in the past few months.  I would compare the game to Clue, but it is updated and more in depth.  There is a lot more thought that goes into playing Suspicion, and it is SO fun.
  6. Bombshell LipSense and Pearl Gloss
    Have any of you tried LipSense yet?  The lipstick that stays on for up to 18 hours and is gluten free, wax free, lead free, not tested on animals and is 98% natural? Um, it is a GAME CHANGER.  I only have to put lipstick on in the morning and it lasts all day through multiple cups of coffee and meals.  Bombshell is one of my favorite colors because it can be layered with bright colors to tone them down or worn alone for a pretty natural look.  I am also loving the Pearl Gloss that LipSense offers.  It makes the lip colors iridescent and beautiful.
  7. Wacky Cake
    I have a whole blog post dedicated to this cake, but I made it multiple times in February for events because of how simple and delicious it really is.

 

What are you loving right now?  Leave a comment so I can check out your favorite products.
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July Meal Plan

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Meal plan hanging on my fridge. 

Wow!  It has been a long time.

These past few months have been crazy with a first birthday party, 5th wedding anniversary, family visits, and general life busyness.  With all of these fun, yet chaotic events,  I decided I really needed to get my life schedule in order.

I’ve been a working mom for almost a year now and still have no idea what I’m doing.  Does it get any better?  Moms of multiple children–HOW DO YOU DO IT?  Our laundry room is filled with mountains of dirty clothes, there is dust an inch thick on the bookcases, the floors get the spot mop treatment instead of a soak down, and we are lucky if dinner is more than a steamed bag of vegetables and grilled chicken.

Enter the monthly meal plan.  I’ve tried meal planning so many times during our marriage and have always failed.  My sisters are the master meal planners and have gourmet dinners 6 nights a week.  This month I decided to make a monthly meal plan and stick to it.  I also took inventory of my pantry and did a big grocery haul at the beginning of the month.  So far so good!  I made a Pinterest board “July Meal Plan” and printed off a freebie July calendar and got to work.  I scoured numerous trusted Pinterest boards and websites to come up with an array of recipes.  I really scored big using Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  If you haven’t checked out her site, you definitely should!  She has so, so many awesome dishes.

Here is what I’ve made so far:

Crock pot Creamy Ranch Chicken–This was an easy throw together crock pot dish that made plenty of leftovers for us!

Chicken Gyros with Soft Wrap Bread–Make the bread!  I know it seems like extra work, but it was delicious.

Buttermilk Waffles — These waffles were easy to make.  I substituted half of the white flour for whole wheat and I couldn’t even tell.  We had some leftovers and I put them in the freezer for later.

Crock Pot Beef Stew and Soft Pretzels–This has been one of my favorite meals so far.  The beef stew is a little bit of work up front (waking up 30 minutes earlier to get it done), but it was so worth it.  There are no words to describe these soft pretzels.  Buttery, chewy, deliciousness–make them.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce–This is a staple in our house.  The Pioneer Woman knows what she is doing!

PIZZA!–I’ve declared every Friday night to be pizza night.  This month I’m trying out this whole wheat recipe.  It was pretty good.  Next time I think I will roll it out thinner and pre-bake it to get a crisper crust.

Korean Beef with Rice–I make this fairly often but usually use a different recipe.  This dish had a thinner sauce and was pretty spicy.  We enjoyed it.

I’ve also made my mom’s lasagna recipe and we had a few leftover nights.

I must say, it has been really nice to go home, know exactly what we are having for dinner and that all of the ingredients are in my pantry.  I’ve already started planning for August.  You can check out my August Meal Plan board for some inspiration.

If you have any suggestions for recipe ideas, please pass them along!

Working mamas–if you have any tips and tricks on maintaining a household while working, I’d love to hear them.

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How to Score BIG at Yard Sales!

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My sister’s haul from this past weekend.

What is it about the warm weather that gets me all fired up for yard sales?  The spring breeze, the birds chirping in the air, people’s used items all over their front lawn—ah, summer is coming!

Seriously though, yard sales are the best.  I used to hate them and would hide in my room when my mom would host our annual yard sale.  I thought the idea of selling your used goods to others was so embarrassing.

I started coming around to the idea of buying others’ used treasures when I was getting married and wanted a candy buffet and needed glass jars in excess. Going to yard sales is definitely a treasure hunt.

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Candy buffet from my wedding with glass containers from yard sales!

If you want to score some awesome buys at your local yard sales, here are 6 tips to help you win big!

1. Go with an open mind.

If you go to a yard sale with a detailed list of items you need, you are most likely going to go home disappointed and frustrated.  You might have an idea of what you would like to get, but be open to the idea of browsing! Don’t stop looking if you initially don’t see what you want.  This past weekend I was hoping to find my daughter some play clothes in the next few sizes, but ended up finding a West Bend Deluxe Bread and Dough Maker for $10, which is great since I make bread and dough frequently.  Be willing to just look through the items for sale and you’ll never know what you will find.

2. Go frequently.

If you go to a yard sale once a summer you probably won’t find anything great.  Pull out those newspapers, look on town websites and schedule out your weekends.  Even if you just stop at a sale for 5 minutes, your odds of finding a deal increase drastically.  I’m pretty sure that my grandma-in-law goes to every single yard sale in town all year long.  BUT, she is always finding something amazing.

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We went to so many yard sales to find these candle holders for my sister’s wedding!

3. Find those neighborhood sales.

There are a few larger development neighborhoods in my town that host a yard sale all on the same day.   These sales are definitely popular and very busy.  Try to get to the sales right when they start and move quickly from sale to sale.  I also try to start at a house near the end of the development in order to find the first deals.  These yard sales are fun because you can typically walk from house to house which eliminates getting in and out of the car so much.  I also think that the sellers put more effort into what they are selling because they know a lot of people will be attending the sales.  There always seems to be higher quality items and more of a selection to choose from.

4. Look through the bins.

Why is it that at most yard sales people just put out bins of items instead of displaying them on tables?  Don’t they realize that if people don’t see the items they probably won’t buy them?  Lucky for you, most people don’t dig through the bins.  Take your time and look through all of the items.  There always seems to be a lucky buy at the bottom.

5. Make a deal.

If you are buying an item, try to negotiate the price down, within reason!  Obviously if you are purchasing a shirt marked at $.25, it might just be tacky to get it for $.05.  But if you have found a dresser for $50, try to offer them $35.  Most people are just trying to get the items out of their house and will come down to the price you are offering.  Don’t be too shy to ask.  You can really get a great deal by just negotiating.

6. Know what you are buying.

Have you ever noticed that some sellers price their items crazy high?  I think that they actually want to keep the items, but are trying to reason with themselves about doing so.  Some items aren’t worth buying if they are over priced, broken without being able to be repaired, or too used or worn.  I always take my cell phone with me so that if I find an item I am unsure about I can search it online to check other prices or deals.  This has saved me from overspending quite a few times.  I have also scored big by purchasing a valuable good for a low cost.  Be smart about your buys.

Find those yard sales this summer and save some serious money!  Keep me updated about your big wins.signature

Piano Makeover Part 1

I’ve had an obsession with painted pianos for a while.  I think they are so modern and updated with such charm! But here’s where my obsession ends: actually going through the process of painting my piano.

Growing up, piano lessons were a requirement in my house.  Once you entered the 2nd grade, the lessons started.  I totally dreaded practicing and the 20 minutes on the timer seemed like hours.  And the recitals–AH!  In some of the home videos of the concerts you can see my hands shaking the entire time I am playing.  But somewhere around the age of 17 my views of playing the piano drastically changed.  I loved each minute of lessons and practice, and my fears of performing started to fade. My grandma always attended each recital and was such an encouragement through those times.

If I think about one of the best pianists, my grandma comes to mind.  She never uses music and always plays from her heart.  Even though she can’t remember what happened yesterday, she can remember every single recital song she ever played.  It truly is remarkable. When I would be at her house and a song would come on the radio that she liked, she would say, “Missy, go and pick that out on the piano!”  I would struggle to make my fingers match up with the tune, and she would come right over and play the entire song with ease.  Why didn’t that skill get passed down to me?  It is such a gift.

So fast forward a few years, my husband bought me a used, well loved piano, and it has been such a treasure in my house.  Every day of my pregnancy I played the piano, and now my daughter is so fascinated with all music.  Although I am so thankful to have this instrument in my house, I was never a fan of the color and the bench and legs are pretty worn.  I have decided to paint my piano with a chalk paint, and I’m pretty sure if I told my grandma she would pass out.  Her early 1900’s grand piano is beautiful and should never be painted.  However, my few decades old spinet piano needs some TLC.

Here is a before photo of my piano:PianoOnce I finish the painting, I will be sure to update!

Have you ever used chalk paint?  Any tips and tricks?

 

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Bread baking is good for the soul.

Bread
What is it about getting your hands and counters (and all other surfaces) covered with flour that is so rewarding?  This weekend I made my grandma’s Italian Bread recipe and it was good for my soul.  Although it is a simple recipe with minimal ingredients, it is a timely task.  I had a few free hours on Sunday and decided to crack open the bread section in my grandma’s cookbook and knead out some stress.

Cup after cup of flour went into the whirring mixer and a beautiful dough emerged, ready to knead. This bread has to be kneaded four times with a resting period in between each.  My grandma always laid out spoons on her counter to keep track of which kneading she was completing.  Something so simple–yet so needed!  I would have been lost without the spoons.

I popped the loaves in the oven and waited impatiently while the heavenly scent filled my house.

What I love about this recipe is that it makes four loaves of bread–plenty to share!  After the bread came out of the oven, my husband and I delivered two warm loaves to our parents and took two loaves to our small group dinner.

Why is that the most basic of ingredients can brighten someone’s day? Growing up my grandma made bread all of the time.  We loved getting the phone call that she had fresh bread waiting on her counter for us to come and get.  We cherished each slice and anticipated the next loaf from her oven.

Even though bread making isn’t a dump and bake type recipe, I’m hoping to make it more often and share it with those around me.

Is there a recipe that you love to make and share with others?

Italian Bread

Makes 4 loaves

Ingredients:

8 cups flour (sometimes I mix whole wheat and white, like I did in the picture)

1 T. salt

3 T. sugar

3 T. cooking oil (I used vegetable)

2 pkg. dry yeast dissolved in 3 cups warm water

Method:

Mix salt, sugar and oil into yeast-water mixture.  Start beating in flour until all 8 cups are used.  Cover.  Let rise 4 times, for 10 minutes each time.  Punch down and knead each time.  Once 40 minutes has passed and you have punched and kneaded every 10 minutes, divide the dough into 4 equal portions.  Roll each portion with a rolling pin and roll up jelly-roll fashion.  Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet, brush tops with oil, and cut diagonal lines on the top.  Let rise for 1 hour.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  This is optional, but I do brush the loaves with melted butter once they are done baking to keep them soft!

Here are the tools I love for baking this type of bread:

USA Sheet Pan  

The USA Sheet pans are made in the USA (obviously) and are the best!  They are affordable and durable and very non-stick.  The owners are amazing people, too.

Bench Scraper

I’m not sure how you roll out anything in flour without a bench scraper.  These make clean up SO easy.

French Rolling Pin

I’m partial to french rolling pins.  I like that they have no handles and that you can put as much pressure on the dough as you see fit.  Much easier to manage, in my opinion.

Kitchen Aid Mixer

I think this goes without say.  🙂

 

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Cookbook Obsession!

I’ll admit it.  I am totally obsessed with cookbooks, and my collection is outgrowing the shelves on my bookshelves.

My family laughs when they see numerous cookbooks on my Christmas list.  I love flipping through the pages of any style cookbook and reading the ingredient lists and looking at the final product pictures.  I’ve been known to spend hours going through stacks of these recipe books, reading and detailing each page.  Now, I hate to say it, but I will: sometimes I never make anything out of the cookbooks I have.  EEK!

There’s just something total relaxing and heart warming about pouring over the books of collected recipes from different individuals who have spent so much time perfecting these dishes and probably even making them numerous times for their own families.

I DEFINITELY did not get this obsession from my grandma.  She has a few cookbooks but really only made anything out of one.  On the day of her wedding, her mother gave her a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and it pretty much became her Bible.  It scares me to turn the pages of this book because they are so fragile and well loved that they often disintegrate in your fingers.  I’m pretty sure she has the majority of the recipes in this heavy cookbook memorized and perfected.

I’m trying to utilize my own cookbooks like my grandma did her Better Homes and Garden book.  The cookbook I am starting to make multiple recipes out of is the Pioneer Woman’s latest, Dinnertime.  I received this book from my in-laws, of course off my Christmas list.

If you have not checked out the Pioneer Woman’s blog, you definitely should.  She is witty and practical and has SO many delicious (and easy) recipes.   Her cookbooks are all beautifully laid out with pictures of each step of the recipe.  She has personal notes about each dish and even great pairing recipes.  I’ve made many of the dishes and my husband has enjoyed them all.

If you are looking for a new trusty standard cookbook to turn to or a gift for a dear friend, I 100% recommend this book.  I know it will become a family favorite in your household.signature

Wacky Cake Recipe

My husband and I are pretty competitive, even if I don’t often admit it.  This weekend we decided to have a bake-off and let the members of our small group decide the winner.  My husband made a yummy fruit pizza with an array of fresh fruit toppings, and I went with my grandma’s simply delicious Wacky Cake.

My grandma states in her cookbook (how awesome is it that she complied our favorite recipes into a cookbook?) that she received this recipe from a recipe club she was a part of when her kids were little, and made it often.  I remember making this cake with her so many times when I was young, and in fact, this was one of the first recipes I made by myself.  It’s that simple!

Recipe
Wacky Cake recipe from my grandma’s cookbook.
This cake is a depression-era cake meaning no eggs or milk.  I love that!  You also make it in the baking pan–win for no bowl cleanup. My grandma added a powdered sugar icing on top when it was warm.  Although you don’t have to ice this cake, please do.  I gave the recipe to a friend for her bridal shower and she didn’t follow the icing instructions and iced it with a canned chocolate frosting.  For the love of everything, do NOT ice with a canned frosting.  Ick.

Here’s how it starts (don’t mind my fantastic photography skills):

You mix all of the dry ingredients together in an 8×8 baking pan.
Cake 3

Dig out three wells, one large, one medium and one small.
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Add the wet ingredients into the different sized wells and pour on the cup of water and mix all together.Cake1Please note the flour mess.  This is essential in baking.  Who keeps a clean kitchen when baking, anyways?

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Bake for the appropriate amount of time and it is finished!
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BUT, my grandma always poured over the top a simple powdered sugar icing while it was hot and let it soak into the cake.  DELICIOUS!  I love the fact that you serve this cake warm and don’t have to wait for it to cool to ice.
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Do me a favor and make this cake tonight!  You definitely won’t regret your decision.

Oh, and I won the bake-off!  It was a major hit. Me 1,584 1, Husband 1,584.
Wacky Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3T. cocoa powder
1T. white vinegar
1 cup cold water
1t. baking soda
1/2t. salt
6T. vegetable oil
1t. vanilla
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Into an un-greased 8×8 baking dish, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, soda and salt.
Carve out three wells into the mixture.  In the largest well pour the oil; medium well pour the vinegar; smallest well pour the vanilla.
Pour the cup of cold water over the top and stir until combined.
Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.
Quick Powdered Sugar Icing
2 cups powdered sugar
2 T. melted butter
1t. vanilla
milk–to make spreading consistency
Directions:
Mix together the sugar, butter, vanilla and milk until well combined and smooth.
Pour over the hot cake and serve while warm!
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