Monday, May 31, 2010

Linguine with Bacon, Baby Spinach, and Sage

I've mentioned before that I'm married to and gave birth to bacon lovers. I happen to love fresh veggies and herbs, myself. The marriage of the two? A very good thing, indeed! I cut this recipe (well, almost this recipe... I adapted it just a touch!) off of a package of Ronzoni pasta awhile back...

Linguine with Bacon, Baby Spinach, and Sage

1 pkg linguine (or other long pasta- I ended up using Ronzoni Smart Taste thin spaghetti)
1/4lb bacon, cut in small pieces
1 onion, finely diced (I used a red onion because it's what I had.)
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
about 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions- you'll want to follow the "firm" or "al dente" guidelines.
.Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until slightly crispy.

Add onion and saute about five minutes until tender.

Add chicken stock and sage; simmer for a few minutes.

Add baby spinach and cook just until spinach wilts.

.Add salt and pepper. Toss pasta with sauce and serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. (I think it's worth it to use the "good cheese" on something like this, but if you've got the green canned stuff, it will taste fine too.)

Delicioso! The whole fam loved it. This would be a great one to make the same week as Scrambled Eggs with Bacon since each recipe only uses a portion of a pound.

This post is linked to:
Tasty Tuesday

Menu Plan: 5/30- Spinach, Spinach Everywhere!

I scored packages of organic baby spinach** for 50 cents a piece this week (the stuff in my garden needs another month or so) ... hence its triple appearance in the menu plan!

B-Cereal, Apples, Milk
L-Lynn's Baked Blueberry Granola, Hard-boiled Eggs, Juice
D-Linguine w/ Bacon, Baby Spinach, & Fresh Sage (recipe coming tomorrow!)


B-Corn Tortilla w/Egg, Milk
L-PB&J, Applesauce, Water
D-Memorial Day cookout- hot dogs on the grill and yummy sides!


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Noodles, Apples, Milk
D-Pork, Potatoes, Green Beans


B-Berry Muffins, Cheese, Milk
L-Cheesy Potatoes, Green Beans, Juice
D-French Toast, Mandarin Oranges (I just started making Laura's recipe, and it's just as tasty as my old one. It's more frugal, though, since it only requires two eggs.)


B-Berry Muffins, Yogurt, Juice
L-French Toast, Grapes, Milk
D-Pork Fried Rice


B-Oatmeal, Apples, Milk
L-Rice & Beans, Juice
D-Spinach & Chicken White Pizza


B-Eggs Florentine on Toast Points
L-Ramen Noodles (again, for the hubs), Buttered Corn
D-Loaded Nachos

I'm really looking forward to this week's "Pizza & A Movie Night"... I love a good white pizza every now and again!

**Now can I just admit how hard it is for me to spell "spinach" correctly? I'm forever trying to stick an "e" on the end... what word trips you up?**

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seventh Generation Winner!

The winner of the Seventh Generation prize pack is...

Sherry! Congrats!

True Random Number Generator 11Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lessons From the Field

-They cheer excitedly for each other, even when they're not "friends"...

-They all pursue the goal enthusiastically, even when it seems out of reach and there are obstacles in their way...

-They don't roll their eyes at someone's third or fifth attempt to succeed...they just keep on chanting, "Let's go, {...}, let's go..."

-Some of them have fancy equipment and some don't, but they all love their cheap red shirts the best because it shows they're a team...

-They can be seen talking to, laughing with, and helping up the opponent...

-They don't keep score and, no matter how far or how short they fall, they all get to come home in the end...

We could learn a lot from a t-ball team.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

The King

"I am the KING!" my 5 year old son declared as he held his toy up high.

"I am the KING and I will rule this place!!"

My husband (who fancies himself the king of this castle, naturally) raised one ebony brow at me and gave me a crooked smile, "Where does he come up with this?"

I really don't know.

"I am the KING!"

Then Daddy interjected, standing tall...

"Hold on there, buddy... WHO'S the king?"

He thought....


Good answer, buddy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Scrambled Eggs With Bacon

My family loves bacon. They love it. (I can honestly take it or leave it but, since I have a troop of bacon lovers in my home, I definitely make it!) We all adore eggs. Eggs and bacon are a standard breakfast for so many people, but I find that bacon can get pricey. My three children are all young but, between them and my husband, it's pretty easy to kill off a pound of bacon. That's not something our budget can afford to do with great regularity.

How to get that same egg and bacon taste and keep it easy on the wallet?

Scrambled Eggs With Bacon

5-6 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces before cooking (I prefer a sharp knife for this job, but kitchen shears work well too)

10-12 eggs
pepper, to taste

Brown up your bacon bits over medium heat until most fat is rendered.

Drain off about 2/3 of that fat and reserve for later use. (Keep that fat, people! Nothing is yummier for cooking up eggs or for starting your sausage gravy!)

While bacon is cooking, scramble up your eggs and season with a little pepper.

No salt is needed, as the bacon is salty enough.

Pour eggs over bacon pieces and remaining grease and cook through, turning frequently with a spatula.
Because the bits of bacon are scattered throughout your egg, you get to enjoy the flavor throughout the meal. Since eggs are far less expensive than bacon (at least in my neck of the woods), you'll save money by only using a third to a half a pound of meat.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 5/23/10- Making It Easy On Myself

When I find myself feeling tired and worn down-- like this week after losing many precious hours of sleep up with a sick baby last week-- I don't necessarily reach for the easiest recipes to make... I reach for the recipes that are consistently and universally well-received. I have no problem whatsoever with insisting my children eat what I serve... but when I'm exhausted? I just don't feel like fighting those battles. As a result, this week's plan is heavy on the corn, apples, and cheese...

B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Scrambled Eggs w/Bacon, Apple Slices
D-Supper at Bama & Papa's


B-Banana Muffins, Applesauce, Milk
L-Cheese Pizza, Water
D-Ground Turkey Mexican Rice Bake


B-Pancakes, Grapes, Milk
L-Mexican Rice, Milk
D-Pigs in Blankets, Oven Fries, Corn


B-Banana Muffins, Blueberry Smoothies
L-PB&J, Pretzels, Corn, Milk


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Peanut Noodles, Apples, Milk
D-Mushroom Swiss Burgers, Spinach & Cheese Potatoes


B-Oatmeal, Apples, Milk
L-Egg Sandwiches, Yogurt, Juice
D-Ham & Orange Pepper Pizza (the green peppers at my store looked lousy!)


B-Ham & Cheese Crepes (link will take you to Seafood Crepes- I just substitute diced ham)
D-Chicken & Bean Soft Tacos

I'm really looking forward to those crepes! What's the yummiest looking thing on your menu this week?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

How To Write a Good Complaint Letter

I don't want it to sound like I'm forever complaining to companies and businesses because I am not. Quite frankly, I'm not all that picky and I also don't have oodles of extra time on my hands. However, there are certain things that are just unacceptable... like when the laundry detergent stained a whole mess of my children's clothes with purple spots... or when the tabs broke off every.single.diaper in one particular pack... or when the store was out of about 20% of the items on my list. These are things I feel justified in complaining about and, to be honest, most companies would rather you let them know about these situations rather than just go around town bad-mouthing their product.

I don't write tons of complaint letters, but I probably write a few each year. I have amazing success in getting really good responses. I believe that if you approach your criticism in the right manner, most businesses don't mind hearing from you. If you decide you are going to write a letter of complaint to a company, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it brief. The customer service departments reviewing these letter do not have tons of extra time on their hands. You'll make their jobs easier- and happier- if you get right to the point.
  • Remain polite and upfront. There is absolutely no reason to be nasty, vulgar, or rude in your letter. I lead off with "Dear Sir or Madam:" and use proper and polite structure throughout the letter. Even if you're really angry about something, try to remember that the person who will be reading your letter is likely not the person who ticked you off. At the same time, leave out all the flowery, "First of all, I'd really like to thank you for taking time out of your doubtless busy day to sit down and read what I need to say. It really means a lot to me that you are reading my letter and I hope that you will find what I have written to be valuable information..." Be courteous, but not long-winded.
  • Stick to one topic. If you're upset because you were treated really, really shabbily then that's what you should write about. The fact that you noticed the store could have been cleaner doesn't really help drive home your point... it makes you sound overly picky and whiny.
  • Be honest in your "threats". Do not say you'll "never shop there again" or that you'll never buy another of their products unless you truly mean it. In my recent letter to Aldi, I was very honest about the fact that I would continue to shop at their store... but I did mention that it made it hard for me to recommend their business to my friends and family when they were out of stock of so many products. Companies really like good "word of mouth"... finding out that I didn't feel confident recommending them is enough of a threat.
  • Don't exaggerate or make things up to try to score free stuff. I can't emphasize this point enough. Being dishonest in order to gain coupons or free products is never okay. It is unfair to a company to spend time researching an issue that was, in fact, contrived. Just don't do it.

I don't think you should be scared to let a company know what you really think... but that also leads me to my final point...

Write letters about good stuff too. I write probably four praise letters for every letter of complaint. I love to let businesses know about outstanding service I received or how much I adore a particular product of theirs. These letters truly mean something. If you've ever worked in a service industry, you know how precious it is to receive a letter commending you on a job well done. Don't be stingy with your praise.

Write on, my friends!

How about you? Do you take the time to let businesses know what you think about them... good or bad? What response have you received?

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hi, I'm Jessie Leigh. And I'm a Christian.

I'm also Catholic.
Mmm hmm. Catholic. AND Christian. Really, all Catholics are Christian. Believing in Christ is at the very foundation of our faith.

If you're reading this and going, "Well, yeah, JessieLeigh... no kidding. Of course you're a Christian if you're Catholic..." then feel free to stop right here. You don't need to read the rest of this (though you're more than welcome to).

But if you happen to be one of those much beloved friends and acquaintances of mine who has had this conversation with me:

"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes, I'm Catholic."
"But are you a Christian?"

... well, then, I ask that you perhaps stick with me for just a little bit more.

My beliefs may be slightly different from yours. You may think the Catholic church has got a lot of things wrong with it. You may think we're bizarre for worshiping Mary (which we don't, fyi-we honor her as the mother of our King, but I digress...). That's all good. There are so many different denominations within the whole of Christianity that I would have to be a fool to get all upset about those things...

I do not think I am a greater or lesser Christian than a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc, etc... My faith is what it is, and I am happy to defend it while being unwilling to attack other Christians for what may be different about their beliefs...

Perhaps Christianity is even greater than the sum of all her parts.

Using Small Plates

Whenever I post photos of food on here, I think the plate looks abundantly full. That's how it always looks set in front of me too.

It's because I use small plates.

Yep, that's right. The "dinner plates"? Those only get dragged out for company or for prep. We use the smaller "salad plates" for our meals.
I truly believe that part of feeling satisfied is visual... if my plate is full, then I feel full.
Don't think this only applies to me, either... that plate of shrimp rotini was my husband's. He seems happier with a plate brimming with food but, quite frankly, just because he's a man doesn't mean he needs some ginormous amount of food.

Bonus? I can fit more of the small plates in the dishwasher.

And when it comes time for dessert? Well, I serve that up on saucers.
It's all relative, my friends.

What tricks do you use to make your food stretch further?

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken Scarpariello

First of all, you should know that this recipe has a kick to it. It is not for the faint of heart. We are all okay with spicy food in this family, but this one pushes the limit just a tad with both hubby and children. I tell you this so you can scale back on the hot cherry peppers if yours is not a hot-lovin' group. For me? It's perfect. My best friend's husband loves it "as is" too... but you be the judge.

Chicken Scarpariello

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
salt and pepper, to taste (I use approx. 1/4 teaspoon of each- a little less pepper)
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into this strips
3 hot cherry peppers, drained and chopped (these come in a jar in the "pickled veggie" section of your store... you may just want to ask ;))
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock (OR you can leave out the wine and use 1 cup of stock... but the wine gives a nice flavor)
1 tablespoon parsley
1-2 tablespoons hot pepper juice (the liquid from the jar)

Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Toss in chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes, and remove from pan. Add both kinds of peppers and garlic to the pan. Saute for 5 minutes, then add wine and allow to reduce for about one minute. Add the stock and bring to a low boil. Put the chicken back in and add the parsley and hot pepper juice. Toss around and allow to heat through, about 2 minutes.

I love this served with a long pasta, like vermicelli or linguine, but it would be wonderful with rice or a bed of orzo too!

(*Note: This dish actually looks more appetizing than that picture above would have you believe... my lighting was all off and I had to use "auto-balance" so you could even see it. Consequently, it looks a little funky... sorry!)

This post is linked to:
$5 Dinner Challenge
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Plan: 5/16- May's Half Over? Really?!?

I can hardly believe it's the middle of May! When we lived in Indiana, this would mean that the school year was winding down but, now that I'm back in New England, we still another month ahead of us. That's ok, though. Truth? I'm one of those mommies who thrives on the routine the school year provides. I'm really not a "let's-stay-up-late-and-sleep-in-go-with-the-flow-free-spirit" type. ;)

B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Egg in a Hole, Juice
D-Supper at Bama & Papa's-- grilled chicken, oven fries, salad, corn on the cob (my kids are HUGE corn on the cob fans!), and an Easy Bake oven layer cake that we slaved over all afternoon... ;)


B-Cinnamon & Sugar Toast, Yogurt, Juice
L-Grilled Cheese, Apples, Milk
D-Veggie Frittata


B-Oatmeal, Grapes, Milk
L-Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Batter-Dipped Chicken Strips(same method as my batter-dipped sandwiches), Corn Bread, Baked Beans (May I just confess that I prefer the boxed Jiffy-type corn bread to my own homemade? Shameful, I know. Oh yeah... and you people who put actual CORN in your corn bread... what's up with that?? :))


B-PB Toast, Applesauce, Milk
L-Corn Bread, Grapes, Cheese, Juice
D-Spaghetti & Stuffed Breadsticks


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Breadsticks, Apples, Milk
D-Chicken Marsala, Broccoli, Angelhair


B-Scrambled Eggs in Corn Tortilla, Milk
L-Angelhair, Broccoli, Cheese, Water


L-Cream of Tomato Gorgonzola Soup, Garlic Bread

I'm looking most forward to that Cream of Tomato Gorgonzola Soup! I've never tried it, but, really, what's not to like? (I'm guessing hubby won't even try it... but we'll see!)

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Tale of Customer Service...

I drive an hour and a half (total trip) to do most of my grocery shopping. Sound crazy? I don't think it is. We make the trek three towns over to Aldi once a month where I stock up for the next four weeks of meals. It's worth it for us. It helps me stay within my "$200/month for my family of 5" food budget.

I love Aldi. While I enjoy using coupons (and do!), I also enjoy the convenience of not having to bother with them and the simplicity of "one size/one brand". That makes shopping quick and simple.

And so, on May 1st, when we set out for the monthly stock-up trip, I assumed everything would go smoothly, just like always.

I was so disappointed.

My Aldi was out of: baking powder, baking soda, slivered almonds, old fashioned oats, swiss cheese, and yellow onions.

My careful plans were falling apart. I made do, sure. But it was so frustrating to not be able to get all that we needed. I can understand running out of a thing or two, but that seemed excessive.

A couple days later, I emailed Aldi's customer service. I just wanted to let them know. I had no intention of stopping my trips there and I said as much. I wasn't actually angry at anyone, just disappointed; I brag about Aldi all the time and I think my friends and family would be unimpressed if they made the trek only to discover so many gaps in stock!

A week and a half went by and I heard nothing. Until yesterday.

I received a personal phone call from the regional manager of Aldi. She listened to me. She apologized. She offered some explanation, but not an excuse. (Their truck was delayed and they got hit hard on the first of the month since that's when food stamps are issued.) I was satisfied with the call and prepared to say my goodbye. The manager said this:

"I just want you to know that, while the trucking situation obviously impacted us, what is most upsetting is that it impacted our customers. I've given your name to the manager of your store and, next time you're there, please stop to see him. He will bag up every item you were looking for that was out of stock and give them to you free of charge. Is there anything else I can to help restore your confidence in Aldi?"

I almost dropped the phone.

I wasn't prepared for that kind of service.

One more thing to love about Aldi? Truly phenomenal customer service. Talk about going above and beyond.

Aldi is always a frugal part of my month... this past week, it became one of the finer points of my month as well.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday and Finer Things Friday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Choosing Public School in a Faith-Filled Home

This post is something I've felt the need to share for awhile... but I've held back. I am hesitant to address it and, to be honest, that makes me sad. Because I shouldn't be. I am completely confident in the choice we've made for our family. Nonetheless...

It seems like, at least in my corner of the blogosphere, home-schooling is almost the norm. Oh, I know there are plenty of us who send our children to public school out there, but we don't talk about it all that much. It's like the disposable diaper users vs. the cloth diaper-ers. There are plenty of both, but the disposable people don't really speak up about their decision so much...

Before I even get started here, please let me say that this is NOT an anti-home-schooling post. I am in no way trying to judge others for what they deem to be the best choice for their families. It is not my place or my intention to pass judgement on such matters. Rather, I'd like to share with you all why, in a faith-filled, devoted home, we've chosen public school for our children...

Our faith is very important to us. Teaching these beliefs to my children and raising them up in lives that please our Lord is extremely important to me. Being the single-most important female influence in their lives is a responsibility I do not take lightly. Helping all my children learn what goes into keeping a home is also something I aim to do.

I send my children to public school.

Of course I could teach my children their "A, B, C's" and how to tie their shoes and their times tables. We can- and do- tackle all manner of questions and queries that come up in our house. Ours is a home where learning happens in all sorts of situations... while baking, while taking a walk through the neighborhood, when looking out the window at the dark night sky...

That's my job. Because I am their teacher- their FIRST teacher. But, by no means, their only teacher....

I send my children to public school because they need services that I have not studied. I may have been a top-ten student in high school and have my college degree, but that in no way makes me an expert in speech and language or occupational therapy. Can I work on and reinforce the skills at home? You better believe it- and that's my job too- but I am simply not knowledgeable enough to provide my children with what they deserve (the best) on my own.

I send my children to public school so they can learn to fight tough battles early on. Oh, this is a difficult one for me... but, at the end of the day, I think it's best that I work hard to counter the outside forces pulling at my children from an early age. I may not like that I have to constantly build up their self-worth and values to counter the pop-culture that assaults them, but... this, too, is my job.

I send my children to public school so they learn to get along with people whose views are nothing like our own. Is it more fun to have my kids play with their siblings, cousins, friends, or peers from our church or similar-interest groups? Of course! But that's not real life. Real life will require that they learn to deal with (if not like) a vast array of different people. This is something they need to be exposed to... it's my job to make sure they are.

I send my children to public school because there will come a time when their thirst for knowledge will exceed what I am able to provide. They're preschoolers right now. I can handle those academics. But my 5-year old son is already doing basic algebra... he'll be needing that Calculus I've forgotten some day. And, while I speak French and a little Spanish, what if my daughter wants to learn German some day? Shouldn't she have a teacher who can do that for her? It's my job to see those needs met...

I send my children to public school because, quite simply, I feel like I have enough jobs as their mother. I tip my hat to those of you who home-school and do it well... who can truly manage to keep all those balls in the air and provide your children with a wonderful mother AND teacher. That is amazing and inspiring to me.

I think I do a decent job teaching my children our faith, how to keep a home, how to learn and discover in everyday life, how to practice learned skills at home, how to stand strong against peer pressure, how to stay true to yourself while accepting others, and where to find experts in what you want to learn. That keeps me pretty busy. But, well...

That's my job.

How about you? How do you choose to educate your children? What motivates your choice?

*If yours happens to be a faith-filled family choosing public school like mine, let me know! I'd welcome links and guest posts on the topic.

Tasha, from My Homemade Happiness, has shared her thoughts on this topic as well. You can find her post here!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shredded Cheese

I adore cheese. Seriously. Passionately, even. I would give up meat, bread, AND chocolate before cheese.

My family really likes cheese too. (Thank heavens for that!) As a result, I cook with cheese a minimum of four or five times a week. Oftentimes, that means using shredded cheese.

But you know what I never buy?

Shredded cheese.

It's not just the fact that you sometimes have to pay for that convenience... even if shredded and block are the same price, I choose block and shred my own.


I think it tastes better. When you shred your own cheese, it melts more evenly and doesn't have that "gritty" taste to it. I think it's that "anti-caking" stuff the cheese people use to coat their shreds... potato starch and cellulose powder. I just don't need that in with my cheese.

And so, I shred my own. Each and every time. It works for me.

How about you? Do you buy your cheese pre-shredded? Block? Some of each? Do you use a food processor, box grater, or simple plane grater like me?

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Noodles with Marsala Cream Sauce

I love Chicken Marsala. It's one of my favorite suppers. When I don't have the time (or the money) to make that dish, here's a vegetarian quickie that carries the same flavors and comes together in a flash.


1 bag egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 cup sliced, fresh mushrooms (or 1 can)
1 tablespoon butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or approx. 1 cup of your own homemade)
1/3 cup marsala wine (if you choose to use cooking wine, please omit the salt listed later!)
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon parsley
parmesan, for sprinkling

Melt butter in large skillet and saute mushrooms until nicely browned. Remove to bowl for later. Combine soup, wine, and water in large skillet. Heat to boiling, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Add mushrooms. Toss noodles in marsala cream sauce. Sprinkle with salt and herbs and mix gently. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with parmesan at the table.

4 servings

This post is linked to:
$5 Dollar Dinner Challenge
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tue

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 5/9/10 Lots of Italian Yumminess!

Happy Mother's Day! Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays have certainly gotten busy with t-ball and karate in full force. Quick meals are the name of the game. This week, I'm craving some delicious Italian fare...

B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Migas, Fruit (<- This was my original plan. My brother-in-law ended up making a gorgeous brunch for all of us. The menu? Migas, fruit, corn bread, and sausages. Great minds!)
D- Chicken Tetrazzini (in the freezer- I shouldn't have to cook on Mother's Day, but I also don't like other people messing up my kitchen... )


B-Berry Muffins, Applesauce, Milk
L-Noodles, Cheese, Strawberries, Water
D-Amy's Tater Tot Casserole, Corn


B-Berry Muffins, Yogurt, Juice
L-P, B, & J, Apples, Milk
D-Sherry's Italian Meatloaf, Oregano-Buttered Potatoes, Broccoli


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Meatloaf Sandwiches, Broccoli, Milk
D-Chili Dogs, Baked Beans, Pickles, Homemade Lemonade


B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Rice, Diced Hot Dog, Fruit, Water
D-Poor Man's Chicken Parmesan, Broccoli, Capellini


B-Oatmeal, Sliced Apples, Milk
L-Pasta, Yogurt, Turkey, Water
D-Broccoli, Garlic, and Red Pepper White Pizza


B-French Toast, Sausage Links
L-Grilled Cheese, Ramen Noodles (a hubby request), Fruit
D-Pasta Salad with Veggies and Chicken (I snagged two boxes of Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta and two big bottles of Wishbone dressing for a total of 19 cents last week... pasta salads are sounding like a plan!)

We'll be spending plenty of time outdoors this week! Hoping to spend some time in my garden too. How about you? What are you serving up? Have you started a garden or do you plan to?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flowers For Mother's Day

It's true that my favorite kind of flowers to receive are this kind.

But, when the occasion calls for real, live flowers, there's little more beautiful than simple forsythia in a blue glass vase. (Or dandelions in a juice glass...)

Go outside! Comb your yard! What treasures can you find? Beautiful arrangements are so much more than 1-800-blah, blah, blah...

This post is linked to:
Frugal Friday
Finer Things Friday

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When Does Motherhood Begin?

Mother's Day is just a few short days away and that got me thinking...

This will be my sixth Mother's Day as a mommy myself.

Unless, of course, you count the Mother's Day of 2004 when I was already pregnant with my first child...

Or do I count back to when that mother's heart first started its tender beat inside my chest as we hoped and prayed and tried for a child starting well before the Mother's Day of 2003?

What about all those women still on their journey of hope as they await that first child?

Or the women who've tragically lost sweet babies to miscarriage?

How about those mothers whose future children do not even know them yet as they wait somewhere in other countries, not even realizing how deeply a mother yearns for them here?

Was it that final push at 8:05 in the morning that made me a mother or something more...?

Happy Mother's Day to all of you women...

...those of you whose children are grown and on their own.

...those of you whose 'tweens and teens are starting to get taller than you.

...those of you chasing toddlers and preschoolers.

...those of you snuggling your newborns and infants.

...those of you relishing those two pink lines and those flutters and kicks.

...those of you praying for healing after a loss or losses.

...those of you hoping to someday, some way, welcome a child into your home and your heart.

From this mother's heart to yours...

Have a happy, blessed Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Flowers For Mom

A pretty flower on a sunny day. What a great little gift for Mom or Grandma! This simple craft uses basic materials and helps preschoolers practice early cutting skills. Let's get to it!

For materials, you'll need a paper cup, a pipe cleaner, some scraps of colored paper, tape, scissors, glue, and something to decorate the middle. We used these little adhesive sparkly gems because we had them and they're fun (and good for practicing fine motor skills!), but simple stickers, scraps of paper, or anything you can adhere to a waxy surface would work just fine.
Trim the top half of the cup off. I do this part for my children, but you can decide if you think your little one can handle the task.

Have your child snip straight lines from the cut edge down to the base of the cup. Perfection is not important here! Here's what you should wind up with...

Bend each strip down so that it forms a flat, sun-burst like shape. It's starting to look like a flower now!

Let your child decorate the center of the flower however he so chooses.

Tape the pipe cleaner to the back of the flower.

Fold two scraps of colored paper in half and draw a leaf on each. Again, I drew the leaf shape for my children, but you could also let the child do this part.

Have child cut out leaves...

And apply a thorough layer of glue to one "side" of each leaf.

Fold each leaf over the stem of your flower and press well so it is glued from edge to edge.

Enjoy your pretty new creation! You'll note that when I chose the materials for the flower at the beginning of this post, I (in typical adult fashion) went for a green pipe cleaner and green leaves and only one color for the center. I encourage you to allow your children to be creative! My son's pink-stemmed, purple-leaved, multi-colored-centered flower is much more fun than mine!

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cocoa Rolls

Much like a cinnamon roll, but designed for the chocolate lover in your life, these cocoa rolls are yummy and pretty on a plate!



1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup very warm water
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/3 cup melted butter (*I warm the milk & butter together)
1 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
approx. 4 cups flour


1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Chocolate Glaze-

1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
approx. 2 tablespoons milk (*I never measure my milk for glazes or frostings-- a little goes a very long way, so start small and add gradually...)


In small bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, and teaspoon of sugar and set aside to get foamy. In large mixing bowl, mix milk, 1/3 cup sugar, melted butter, salt, and egg; stir well, then add yeast mixture. Add flour gradually until dough is slightly stiff (it will still be a little sticky). You can either turn your dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or let a machine do the work for you... I rely on my KitchenAid stand mixer to do this job. After kneading, transfer to a buttered glass or plastic bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled, punch down and allow to rest 5 minutes. Roll out on floured surface into a rectangle.

Spread dough with the majority (about 6-7 tablespoons) of the melted 1/2 cup filling butter. (Pour the remaining butter into the bottom of a 9"x13" pan to thinly coat.) Sprinkle the buttered dough rectangle with cocoa powder, sugar, and- if desired- nuts.

Roll up jelly-roll fashion and pinch together to seal. Cut into 12 slices (or do yourself a favor and take Amy's advice and FLOSS into 12 slices...) Lay rolls side-by-side in baking pan, cover, and let rise again for about 45 minutes.

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until tops are golden, but rolls remain tender.

While rolls bake, prepare glaze by mixing all ingredients until you have a "thick drizzle" consistency. Transfer glaze to a pastry bag (or my version) and pipe zig-zagging lines over the entire pan of slightly cooled rolls.


*Let me keep it real here- if you have a beloved cinnamon roll recipe in your arsenal, then- by all means- use that one. All you need to do is change up your filling and your glaze.*

Looking for a fresh baked good that's not chocolate-y? Be sure to stop by Phoebe's place where I'm sharing my Mixed Berry Cream Muffin recipe today! Pop around while you're there- Phoebe has some great wisdom to share!

This post is linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Menu Plan Monday: Some Lighter Fare!

It's May! And while that means we still have plenty of chilly days in our future here in Connecticut, it also means that we will likely start enjoying more bright and sunshiney times too. Time to usher in a few "less hearty" meals! This isn't diet fare, my friends, but it won't sit in our guts like a rock either. Perfect for Spring-y days!


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Cocoa Rolls (intrigued? Recipe tomorrow... just in time for Mother's Day!), Sausage Patties, Berries
D- Sunday Supper (Cookout at my parents' house- I brought the pasta salad!)


B-Cinnamon & Sugar Toast, Yogurt, Juice
L-Rice, Hard-Boiled Egg, Applesauce, Milk
D-Monte Cristos, Sliced Tart Apples


B-Oatmeal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Tuna Sandwiches, Cheese, Juice
D-Hawaiian Pork and Peppers over Rice


B-Smoothies, Grapes
L-Rice & Beans, Juice
D-Fish Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Corn


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-P, B, & J, Pretzels, Milk
D-Beefy Pasta Skillet Dish, Green Beans


B-PB Toast, Applesauce, Milk
L-Buttered Noodles, Green Beans, Milk
D-Pepperoni & Mushroom Pizza


B-Homemade Ham "McGriddle" Sandwiches
D-Supper w/ Bama, Papa, and my grandma!

Enjoy this beautiful first week of May and have fun preparing for Mother's Day! I'll have some fun ideas coming up throughout the week, including:

  • Cocoa Rolls- a decadent breakfast treat!
  • Simple Preschool Flower Craft
  • A look at when motherhood begins
  • Frugal Flower bouquets
I hope you'll stop back and see me!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.