Thursday, May 31, 2012

Creamy Chicken Rotini

Another quick weeknight meal for you!  This creamy chicken rotini is healthy but quick and inexpensive.  Feeds a family of 4 with plenty left for lunches.  I also think that served cold over a bed of lettuce this would be an awesome pasta salad.

Cube two chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat with 2 tablespoon of butter, until lightly browned.  Add 1 large diced tomato and continue to saute until tomatoes are soft.
Add 1 container of Philadelphia Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme.  So tasty!  This was my first time using the Philly Cooking Cremes and I will say it took a lot of the fuss out of seasoning and making the white sauce.  This was the perfect consistency and flavor without any tweaking.

Disclaimer: while I haven't been paid or compensated for any product recommendation here on the blog (I just like to talk about the things I love and find useful), I have been a long-time member of both Kraft First Taste and House Party.  Through them I do get samples and coupons for different products in exchange for giving them product feedback and hosting parties for my friends.  The Philly Cooking Creme is one product that I have previously gotten coupons to get a free sample but have not been able to find it locally until now.
Add about 4 cups cooked garden rotini.  I like this instead of the plain rotini because it adds a slight bit of extra veggies (especially for my son who will eat green noodles but no other green in his food right now) and it adds extra color to a dish.
Stir well and continue cooking over low heat about 5 minutes or until everything is heated through.  I topped  it with some shaved Asiago and served with a nice salad.  My crew ate very quietly - always a sign of a popular dish in my house!

My First Feature and a Thank You!

I am sooooo excited and honored to join the list of featured projects at Michelle's Tasty Creations!  Please go take a look at all the wonderful projects and recipes shared at Michelle's Creative Thursday Link Parties - lots of great ideas and fun blogs to discover there.  Thanks so much to Michelle for featuring my glass vase project inspired by my great-grandpa!

A big welcome and thank you to my followers!  I am so pleased to meet each of you and hope you enjoy the blog.  If you are a regular visitor but are not sure how to follow beyond bookmarking my page, there are several ways you can join.  Check out the options in the right column - connect with Google Friends, Google+, Blogger, use Linky Followers (its free and simple way to follow the blogs you love), subscribe through the RSS feed buttons or the email option to get updates right in your email box.  If you have a Twitter or Pinterest account, you can follow me there too - the Twitter link is at the top of the left column of the blog.  When you follow me using any of those options, you help me out a ton by showing others that I have regular followers, showing me how you prefer to visit the site and get your content, and you also help me see what topics you all want to see the most so I can make sure I continue posting comment you enjoy.

I am so very happy that you have visited and commented and enjoyed what I have shared.  I hope you'll stick around and continue sharing my adventures - I'm just getting started!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Recipe for the Kids Today - Popsicles!

An easy treat for the kids - these were a huge hit with the kids around the pool last weekend.  A great way to cool off and give them a little nourishment when they are too busy to take the time to eat much.

You need 1 can of strawberry banana nectar - its in a little pop can size container with a pop top.  I usually find it in the juice section on a bottom shelf near the pineapple juice or in the Mexican specialty section.  Very cheap and a great secret add-in to any punch.  You'll also need about 2 cups of orange juice, about 4 cups of sugar-free apple juice, popsicle sticks, and .5 oz plastic cups (the bathroom size mini cups).

Combine the nectar and 2 juices in a large pitcher and mix.  Next take a large baking sheet and line up the cups on the sheet.  Carefully pour the juice into the cups filling to 1/4 inch below the rim.  Place a popsicle stick in each cup.  Stick the baking sheet into the freezer for at least 3 hours or until popsicles are frozen solid.  They will slide right out of the cups.  Makes about 35-40 popsicles.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Herbed Egg Salad Sandwiches

Need a cool meal for hot summer days?  Try this easy herbed egg salad for sandwiches.
Start with 10 hard boiled eggs.  The best way I have had success with making hard boiled eggs without the yolks getting that green film on the outside is to place your uncooked eggs in cold water in a large pot.  Bring the water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Shut the burner off and just walk away.  Let the eggs sit for about 10 minutes as the water cools down.  Then drain the pot and submerge the eggs in cold water for 5 minutes.  This leaves the yolks cooked but not dry and they are a nice bright yellow color.
Peel your eggs and dice - I like to leave mine in fairly large chunks (thumbnail size) so they don't completely break down when the salad is stirred.
Add 1/2 cup of mayo or miracle whip (whatever is your favorite), 1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, and your seasonings.  I don't tend to measure my herbs and spices but add until it looks good and depending on what is on hand.  For this particular dish I've got ground black pepper, a pinch of salt, dried oregano, caraway seed. And for fresh chives, chive blossom petals, and lemon thyme.
Mix carefully.  I use a rubber spatula to keep the eggs from getting too smooshed.  It also helps if you kinda mix the dressings at the top a little and then fold the mixture by scooping from the bottom.

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Remember

Today, its not about this...

Its about this...
Thank you to all who serve and have served.
We owe a debt we can never repay.
God Bless!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Story Of "Taps"

Please take time to remember what Memorial Day is all about.  Visit a cemetery, hang your flags, explain what it really means to your children, thank a veteran - or an active military person.  Honor those who serve.

I was sent this story about the song "Taps" when my brother was a Marine, on his way home from Iraq.  I don't know where it came from but it is a great history lesson for the kids.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The view from my kitchen window...

I love that country song "My Front Porch Looking In"...  It so describes how I feel about my family and life with them.  There's a lot of love, a little crazy, a lot laughter and fun, and a little drama (OK a lot) - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  Although for me, I change it a little to "From My Kitchen"...because that is really where most of life happens.  I particularly love it when I'm in the kitchen by myself and they are outside doing their own things.  When I'm in the kitchen watching the horses and wildlife out in the field, kids playing on the porch, listening to my daughter chatter at the dogs and cat, watching my hubby play a little game of football or soccer or whatever with the kids, talking out the window to my horse as he nickers back to me to come play, listening to the kids out at the fence plotting and planning with the neighbor boys, hearing the tractors working the fields and all the other calming country sounds...

It's those "real" moments when they think I'm busy with dinner or cleaning when I hear and see the most cherished bits of them.  Like this moment when my husband was tired and hot after a long day at work and I sent him to the porch with a nice cold beverage to sit in the shade and breeze while dinner cooked.  That little munchkin headed out to crawl in his daddy's lap for "Daddy 'nuggle me" time.  And I snuck pictures of them through the open window while they were in deep discussion and I was pretending to bang around the pots and pans...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce in 20 Minutes - Tastes Like You Slaved All Day

While I love making spaghetti sauce from scratch, I usually end up using what I canned or froze well before the next season's tomatoes are ready.  Here's my trick for putting my personal twist on store-bought spaghetti sauce.  You can use this sauce for spaghetti or any other kind of pasta dish.

Start with about a pound of ground meat - use what you like.  I've used sausage, beef, turkey, venison, chicken...  Brown your meat (be sure to season with salt and pepper.  Add about 1/4 cup of diced onion if you like but its not necessary.  Drain grease if needed.  Add a jar of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce (its best if you use a chunky style), a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with the liquid, and about a 1/4 cup of water.  Bring up to a boil.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More Spring Garden Pics - Snowballs, Columbines and "Edibles" Planters

I do so love to wander the garden in the evening and take stock in what is going on.  Spring has some of my favorite flowers, including my magnificent snowball bushes and the cheery columbines that line the driveway side of my house.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Inspiration from Great-Grandpa #1

My great-grandfather grew up during the Great Depression.  Like pretty much everyone who lived through that time, he learned to be resourceful and re-purpose pretty much everything.  He had a knack for turning everyday objects into the most fun and unique playthings and pretty little accessories around the house.
In their retirement, he and my great-grandma raised roses (that's a whole long post in itself for another day) and being the generous hearts they were, they gave away hundreds and thousands of bouquets from their own backyard roses to folks in need of a little cheer.  They delivered them to friends, family and strangers.  People in the hospital, folks receiving the Meals-On-Wheels they helped deliver, people they read about in the local paper who were going through hard times.  You could always count on a beautiful bouquet with your favorite rose tucked in for your birthday especially.  They had so many roses that they had an extra refrigerator in their breezeway to hold all the fresh-cut flowers during the peak season.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Garage Sale Fun

Lucky girl that I was this weekend I had time after planting at the daycare to hit the citywide garage sales for a couple of hours and I found lots of fun little things for a steal!  Starting with the blue school desk for $2 - we debated painting it but decided is has charm the way it is and my daughter wants to use it on the porch for the summer for sketching in the shade while she overlooks the field.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I think its important to be involved in our communities and I try to be involved when I can.  Saturday morning I spent a couple of hours with a group of moms from our daycare planting new flower beds to help improve the "curb appeal".  This particular daycare is a former elementary school that the daycare and before-and-after school programs were moved into during consolidations.  While the daycare does fall under the school district, it is a self-funding program so the small "wants" of the program are not typically covered by the district's budget.

Instead, we all pitched together divisions of our perennials and a load of free rock from a local farmer. The daycare did buy mulch and landscape cloth from its small budget.  A few hours of labor and the finished product is something that already has gotten the attention of the families and community.

We hope this little project will help make the program more attractive to families looking for a fun summer camp option for their kids as well.  The school-age group of kids will be planting a veggie garden and we donated several kinds of herbs for their area as well.  Just a small way to help the program and make the community a little more beautiful too.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Walking Team and Skating Update

In case you are curious about the walking team thing...  Yes, I'm still doing it...  And somehow, I got nominated as team captain...  Huh?

I was not expecting that.  I am by far not one of the best walkers on our team.  I am not one of the most motivated walkers on the team.  In fact, I had considered not even doing it.

However, as with most things, I hate doing anything halfway.  Especially if I am supposed to be a leader.  So I've got no choice but to kick my butt in gear.

We have 3 teams of 8 people.  My team is currently last and has been since day one.  This makes my job harder.  Not only do I have to kick my own butt but now I have to kick other people's too.  Great.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Tour of My Fairy Garden

Gardens are always a work in progress...remember when I showed you what a mess the fairy garden was the other day?  Well here are some pictures after I had a couple of hours of peace and quiet working on it on Mother's Day...

Still needs a heavy dose of mulch - that truckload is coming soon...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back on the Soapbox...Bullies and Problems with School Administration

For those of you who might be struggling with bullies and problems with getting the schools to be proactive in addressing these problems, I wanted to give you an update with what happened with my daughter.  While we were not able to get the exact result we were looking for, I think we reached a point that for now we are satisfied and she feels vindicated.  When she was initially suspended from the bus, it was clear that things didn't add up but the suspension was put into affect immediately so it had to be served while we were trying to straighten the mess out and gather the facts.

The response we got from administrators was not appropriate or satisfactory on any level - basically, they thought it was no big deal as "bus suspensions don't go on the child's record like a school suspension", "its almost the end of the school year", "these kids have to ride the same bus so they can't be kept apart", and mysteriously the video of the incident was mistakenly erased before those higher up the chain could review it.  Although the supervisor agreed that the video did not show my daughter making physical contact with anyone, her entire body wasn't visible the entire time and they had two children backing each other up with this story so they assumed she was the one lying.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creating a Personal "Zen" Spot at Work

Work spaces can be soooo boring and blah - especially if you have a cubicle.  I have a cubicle.  In a hallway.  Granted - this cubicle is a vast improvement upon others I've had over the years and the surrounding spaces are quite nice.  But working in a cubicle can have its own stresses beyond that of your work - there's the excess noise from those around you, lack of privacy, everyone can overhear and critique every phone call or conversation, the tendency for people to yell across the walls, etc.  

About a year ago I decided to create a little area in the corner of my cubicle that would bring me a feeling of relaxation to help de-stress.  I also wanted something to provide a sort of white noise that would be pleasant.  I was scouring the sales and found this cute little tabletop fountain on sale.  I happened to have a 20% off coupon that was good even on sales items so I got this little gem for less than $7.  

I scored some of the $3 houseplants at Walmart when they were marked half off and re-potted some but left the little palm in its original cheery container.  The little zen garden tray I found at Dollar Tree just last week for $1.  It came with the tray, sand, rake and rocks.  The ribbon on the wall says "Who I Am Makes A Difference!" and was given to me by a former boss.  Just to the left of that are pictures of my kids.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sugared-Almond Hand and Foot Scrub

A fun little gift to make for girlfriends, sisters and moms.  I found these cute little square containers at the pharmacy and the round ones in the travel-sized beauty section at Walmart.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Olive-Lovers Sandwich

This is one of the recipes you can whip together for a crowd or an easy, pleasing meal when your crew doesn't want to slow down to sit.  My gang absolutely loves this sandwich.  I started it as sort of a streamlined muffaletta but its turned into a creature of its own.

You'll need a good french loaf (we get the kind with everything topping or sesame seeds on top), 1/4 lb. hard salami, 1/2 lb. sliced deli ham (don't spring for the expensive stuff on this - the cheap cooked ham tastes just as good because of all the other flavors), 1/4 lb. each of two of your favorite sliced cheeses (we like provolone and colby jack but whatever most kinds of cheese are good on this one!), 1 small can sliced ripe olives, a good handful or two of sliced green olives, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic salt and pepper.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day and the Tussie Mussie's Full of Flowers

My Mother's Day started with the rare chance to sleep in a little while the hubby dealt with getting the kids settled in with a morning snack and cartoons for a bit, then I enjoyed a lovely breakfast in bed cooked by my handsome hubby while I lazed with my coffee and the latest Countryside Journal...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adorable Tussie Mussie's Mom will Love

These cute little tussie mussie's are made from the fronts of greeting cards and a little ribbon.  Fill them with flowers or Mom's favorite candy for a sweet little gift she'll love.  Very easy for the kids to make too.

Take your decorative scissors and trim along the two long edges of your card.

Then trim your short sides at an angle so that one long side becomes shorter than the other.

Place a strip of double-sided tape along one of the short sides.  Roll into a cone shape.  Use a hole punch to make a string hole near the top edge.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Handmade Mother's Day Cards

I was sooo excited to find this floral packing tape at the drugstore the other day (I know, I don't get out much, right?).  

I love to save the fronts of beautiful cards and keep on hand scraps from other projects.  They come in handy for the kids to use in their crafts but also for making handmade cards for special occasions.  I keep a shoe box handy with all my generic cards, colored scrap paper, envelopes, blank bookmarks, stickers, ribbon scraps, 3D stickers, etc.  Then when I am headed out the door and suddenly remember I forgot to stop for a card (this happens to me a lot...), all the supplies are ready to pull one together.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another "Un" Recipe - Unstuffed Cabbage

If I were a chef I might call it "a deconstructed cabbage roll" or some other fancy term.  What it boiled down to - is a much faster version of a wonderful comfort food.  One I would never have the time to make on a weeknight.

Start with about 2 pounds of ground meat (1 like to use a mix of 1 lb ground turkey and 1 lb ground beef or sausage) and 1 large diced onion.  Add salt and pepper and brown well over medium-high heat.  Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes with the juice, 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (a nice chunky one is my favorite in this), 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water.  Cover and simmer on high about 10 minutes or until the rice starts to soften.

Kraft First Taste is Offering You a Chance to Win $1000!

Remember last week when I showed you a picture of these pork chops baking away with Kraft's new Chili Lime Fresh Take breadcrumb and cheese coating?  Those were awesome pork chops and I will definitely be making those again and trying the other flavors of the Fresh Take blends.  In fact, we tried the Savory Four Cheese a few nights later for burgers and that was great too!  Kraft wants to know how you feel about their new product and they are offering you a chance to win $1,000 gift card to for taking their online survey so Click Here Now!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Blackened Chicken Leg

Need another easy, inexpensive dinner recipe? Try these juicy chicken legs. Buy a value pack of chicken leg quarters. Place on your broiler rack. Season well with seasoning salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Broil 5 minutes on each side then pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes to allow the middle to finish cooking.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Make This Heart-Felt Arrangement for Mother's Day!

Thank you all for bearing with me this week - lots of goodies on the way!  Here is a great arrangement to make for Mother's Day, a wedding centerpiece or other special occasion.  I actually made this for my sister-in-law's family when her grandmother passed away.  Unfortunately, I only have the one picture.

You'll need a dozen roses (I used 6 deep red and 6 bright pink), a dozen carnations, one package of compact-headed button flowers or straw flowers, 3-5 large flat leaves of whatever green you like (to cover the back and sides).  Our local farm market has roses by the stem usually for $9.99 a dozen and single stem carnations by the stem for super cheap (oh, your not supposed to use the word cheap right? ummm...I mean an excellent price if you are on a limited  You also need 2 blocks of floral foam, about 5 long wooden skewers, and I found a dish at floral supply shop that was a low flat dish the perfect size to stand a floral block vertically and had stakes on the bottom to hold the block in place.  You can also accessorize with a cute little bird like my dove, butterflies, or the jeweled picks that are pretty widely available now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Asiago Goat Cheese Toast

Life finally seems to be settling back down so I found the time to sneak you a little snack. This asiago goat cheese toast is gooey, crispy, nutty and tangy at the same time. Take a loaf of sesame seed french bread and slice like you would for bruschetta. Spread a very thin layer of butter on each slice. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese (I like Zingerman's spread) and top with a layer of freshly shredded asiago cheese. Stick it in the oven at 425 for about 10 minutes until the top is lightly toasted and melty. This one was a big hit with the Mr. too. Great with a nice salad or as we had it with steak tips and gravy over mashed potatoes. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jumping on the Soapbox...Bullies

I detest bullies.  I've been bullied.  By kids as a kid.  By adults as a kid.  By adults as an adult.  I've worked really hard to teach my assertive, opinionated kids to make sure they have balance by having empathy and consideration for others and consider all sides of an issue.  I've been careful to let my kids learn to manage conflict on their own - I know they will have to deal with mean kids and teachers they don't necessarily like the most.  Luckily, by far, our experiences have been positive.  However, this is now the second time I've had to intervene to ensure that adults in authority positions within the school system give my child fair treatment and apply the rules and policies equally among students.

I have found that the vast majority of teachers are excellent at understanding the dynamics between individual children and how their personalities play into the incidences that may occur in school.  However, I have also found a few individuals in authority positions on a power trip who are inflexible and unwilling to admit that they may have made a mistake in how they interpreted a situation.  And in those cases, it has taken a dedication on the part of my husband and myself to make sure that all information is brought to light.  And we have uncovered information that should have been communicated much earlier in the incidences to help us, as parents, and others involved to prevent the bigger problems that occurred when the children had reached their breaking point.  We've also encountered officials who are not fully aware of the child and parents rights within the system and try to block us from accessing information about our child.