Wednesday, December 31, 2014

God Grant Me The Serenity....

It has been a hell of a year.  It started out great, finished up mediocre, with the middle being a bit to be desired.  Is that vague or cryptic enough for you??? Lol!

To put it in a nutshell, I am not going to miss 2014.  There was family drama, health scares, continued health concerns, and a heaping amount of stress.

Throughout all the ups and downs, I learned a lot about people in my life.  I also learned I am stronger than I ever thought.  The strength I relied a lot upon is my faith.  My spiritual life is very important to me.  My favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer.  I have always loved it and I repeated it over and over this year.

I was also reminded that during the darkest moments there is always light.  It may be a bit dim at times, but it is there.  With light comes hope, and with hope the difficult becomes tolerable.

My wish for 2015 is happiness, health and hope for good things to come!  I leave you with these words to find peace or comfort:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Happy New Year !

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Learning Scarf

I have been knitting for about two years now.  My very first project was the ruffle scarf with the Sashay yarn from Red Heart.  Now technically it wasn't true knitting, but it enabled me to get comfortable with working two needles and binding off.

Then I moved on to a wash cloth.  I have made a ton of these.  While making this cute little project, I discovered I am a very tight tense knitter.  Knitting is supposed to be relaxing, but I would get so nervous about making a mistake that I was too tense. 

After wash cloth number ten, I think I loosened up a bit ;)  My most current project was a scarf for my youngest. He was with me at JoAnn Fabrics and picked out a blue variegated yarn in a bulky weight.  If you asked me two years ago what bulky weight meant, I would have told you a few pounds around my  After a phone call with a friend, I started to understand the different weights of yarn and what they would be used for.

I originally set out to make him a ribbed scarf.  Unfortunately, I can not knit and purl in the same row.  I get so mixed up and the yarn winds up looking very very strange.  So I went back to my old basic knit stitch and completed the project.

So why was this a learning scarf?  Well, I learned to join two balls of yarn, and I learned to weave in my tails.  It doesn't sound like much, but it was.  I feel very accomplished and proud. 

My next learning scarf will be for my older son.  He picked out a black and red striped yarn, which I will practice my purling on.  (I really don't like to purl!)  I will do a basic stockinette stitch and see how it turns out.

I hope you take this little bit of inspiration and apply it to your life.  Teach yourself something new, try something out of your comfort zone, and enjoy it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cookie Decorating Time!

Do you like to frost cut-outs?  Do you not have time for royal icing and flooding??  Want a great tip?  Let the kids do it!

If I am making cookies for a gift or to take to a party, I spend the time to make royal icing and flood the cookies.  This is time consuming and can be a process, depending on how elaborate the decorations get.  However for sugar cookies for family, I let the kids help.  They are so excited to unleash their creativity, and it's one less task for me.

Here's how I set it up.  I take a can of vanilla frosting, add 1/8 tsp. of an extract (I used Almond but cinnamon, anise, vanilla, lemon are all yummy), divide it up, and color with food dye.  Then I get out all my sprinkles, sugars, little candies, chocolate chips, etc.  I set it up on the table and let them loose.

Have fun, let the kids have fun, and enjoy the time together! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe

Christmas is a week away!  Are you ready?  I finished my cookies today, shopping is done, so I could say I am.  Well except for last minute things, of course.

I spent yesterday making dough and today baking it off.  I like to do my cut-outs this way.  The dough has ample time to refrigerate, and I don't stress trying to carve out three hours to make cookies.  I can prep the dough in about 20 minutes or so, and spend 30 minutes the next day to bake.

Onto the cookies.  I don't like a crispy cookie.  I like my chocolate chip cookies ooey and gooey.  I like my cut-outs tender, and I definitely like my gingerbread with a soft texture.  The tricky part about this is a getting a dough firm enough to hold up to cutting out and decorating without falling apart, yet maintaining a soft texture.

This recipe is perfect!  It is a softer dough, so the refrigeration part of the dough is key. I keep refrigerating my scraps in between baking as well.  The colder the dough the easier it is to roll and cut.  Also keeping the dough cold will help the cookies to maintain their shape when baking.

I cut out my gingerbread into little men.  These will be going to school with Adam along with sugar cookies for decorating on Monday with his class.  However, feel free to cut your dough into other shapes like trees, stars, stockings, etc.

Once the cookies are cooled completely, decorate any which way you desire.  Grab a can of frosting, candies, sprinkles, and let the kids go crazy. 

I used a 4 inch cutter for the first batch and it yielded about 20 cookies.  The second batch I used a 3 inch cutter and it yielded 3 dozen.

recipe (Adapted from Taste of Home)

1/2 c. softened butter
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. molasses
1 egg
2 tbsp. water or milk
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add molasses, water or milk, and egg.  Mix until combined.

In a large bowl, sift together all your dry ingredients and spices.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Once combined, form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a well floured surface roll the dough to about 1/4 " thick.  Cut in desired shape(s).  Place onto a greased cookie sheet or parchment lined sheet about 2 inches apart.  Reroll scraps and repeat.

 Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Allow to cool on pan for two minutes, and finish cooling on a rack.

Freeze undecorated for 3 months.  Decorate as desired and store in an airtight container for a week or so.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lined Simple Apron

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving.  Our was quiet at my mom's, but pretty perfect.  It's the first year the boys went back for seconds and thirds.  They normally eat a holiday hot dog, but this year both boys ate the Thanksgiving dinner.  It only took 9 & 7 years ;)

With the holidays in full swing, I figured some of you may want or need a quick little gift idea. It would be adorable paired with a cookie or brownie in a jar recipe.

I say it's quick because I made it in about two hours.  For me that is terrific.  I'm sure for an experienced sewer it may be an hour project, but I was impressed with my efforts of one evening.


  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • thread
  • fabric pen or pencil for marking
  • iron
  • 2 coordinating fabrics, 1 yard each
  • additional piece of fabric measuring 28" x 12"; this fabric is for the neck strap and waist ties so it can be one of the above fabrics or another coordinating fabric
First wash, dry, and iron the fabric.  The apron will be washed, so you don't want it shrinking afterwards and getting all wonky....yes that is a technical term.

Second, trim any loose threads.  With the smaller piece of fabric cut two 28" x 3" strips (for waist ties) and one 24" x 3" strip for neck strap.  I left you a little bit extra on the supply list in case of error.

Fold the strips with right sides together lengthwise and sew a seam, making a long tube.  With the neck strap you can leave both ends open.  With the waist ties, sew one end closed. 

Turn the straps right side out.  There is no easy way to do this. I use a pencil or knitting needle to help ease the fabric through the tube.  It takes patience! Iron all the pieces and set aside.

Now onto the body of the apron:

Trim pieces to 22" x 36". With right sides together layer front and back of larger rectangles.  Pin in place to avoid shifting.

Measure 6" down from the top and mark with a dot.  Then measure 5" in from the sides and mark with a dot.  Connect the dot to a make a 45 degree angle and draw a line.  This makes the angle on the top of the apron.

Here comes the trickiest part....and it takes a bit of thinking.  You want to position the waist ties and neck straps.  Fit the unfinished end of the ties into what will be the side seam, on the inside of the two pieces of fabric. Pin in place.  You won't be able to see the ties when you are sewing, but when you turn the garment right side out, they will be in place.

I measured by side straps down about 4 inches from the bottom of the 45 degree angle.  You really want to take a few minutes to play with this.  If want them higher or lower you can adjust accordingly.

You also want to place the neck strap in the same way. Pin in place.  This is a bit easier, as I just placed them at each end of the top of the apron. Remember the neck strap will be on the inside of your project as you are sewing.

Now sew together the seems.  I started at one side of the bottom hem and worked by way around, leaving about six inches on the other side of the bottom hem, for turning the project right side out.

Finally, turn the opening at the bottom to make a seam and stitch.  I ran a top stitch along the entire bottom hem to make the seam look intentional.

All these measurements are approximate for an adult.  You may need to lengthen or shorten the neck strap, waist ties, or length of the garment to fit the person who it is for.

I like it because it is lined with a coordinating fabric and gives a very finished look.   Also I used both fabrics on the neck strap, since technically it can be considered reversible, and to give it a fun look.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Breads

Here's an easy recipe for left over pumpkin puree.  I bought the big can of pumpkin puree, but only needed half of it for my pie.  I didn't really want to make two pies (mainly because I would eat them both).  So I used the rest of the pumpkin to make quick mini pumpkin loaves.

This recipe was given to me years ago by a fellow crafter.  I believe she said it was a Weight Watchers recipe.  All I know, is it is delicious and requires little effort.  The original recipe is two ingredients: cake mix and pumpkin.  I added vanilla and cinnamon to mine just to bump up the taste.


1 box of spice cake mix (carrot works too)
15 oz. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.  Pour into desired cooking pan. (Batter will be very thick.)  I used a mini bread loaf pan, but you can use a cupcake pan or bundt pan too. 

Follow package instructions for baking.  For example, cupcakes take approximately 18 to 23 minutes, bundt pan will take 45 minutes or so.

The mini bread loaves took about 24 minutes.  Enjoy warm or freeze for up to 3 months.  Sprinkle with powder sugar to make it extra fancy ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Apple Pie Oatmeal

Do you ever go to bed dreaming about food?  I do.  In fact most of my cravings come at night while watching T.V. with those commercials with the most appetizing foods.  Last night's craving came courtesy of my Words With Friends playing. 

You know how you have to watch those advertisements in between plays?  Most of the time they are annoying, and I don't pay attention.  However, one did catch my eye.  I believe it was a commercial for Ziploc bags and containers.  It featured oatmeal. 

Seeing how much I love oatmeal, I sat right up in bed and watched the whole 30 seconds worth.  Basically it was oatmeal with different toppings that can all be stored in Ziploc. 

Let me back up a bit.  I said I love oatmeal.  I mean I have a true love affair with it.  Whenever we travel, most hotel breakfast buffets include oatmeal.  Mainly because it can be made in vast quantities and disguises itself as the healthy option among all the pastries.  It's always on my plate, or actually in my bowl, for breakfast when we travel.  I also enjoy it weekly at home.

The best oatmeal I ever had was at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.  I joked with my husband that it was probably generic oatmeal that cost pennies, but it was so darn good.  Of course the buffet also offered toppings galore to adorn the piping bowl of goodness.  Every morning I changed it up.  Sometimes I would use just nuts while other mornings I added raisins and cinnamon.

OK, now that I have discussed my love for oatmeal, lets get to the recipe.  Last night I saw an oatmeal topped with some sort of baked apples.  Well this morning I woke up wanting it for breakfast.  So here is my version of apple pie oatmeal inspired by Ziploc.


1 c. prepared oatmeal, from scratch or the little microwave packets
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1 pat of butter, roughly a teaspoon
1 tsp. brown sugar
pinch of apple pie spice or cinnamon

In a small skillet over a medium heat cook the diced apples in a dry pan.  Stirring occasionally for about 3 to 4 minutes.  This just softens them a bit. The apples will still have a bit of texture to them, but that's how I like them.  If you want yours softer just cook them longer.

Meantime prepare your oatmeal and set aside.

After the apples have softened a bit, add the butter, brown sugar, and apple pie spice.  Cook for additional minute stirring to coat.

Top the oatmeal with the apple pie filling mixture.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Snovember To Remember!

Oh boy it's been a tough couple of days.  Everything started off great as can be this week.  We celebrated Brandon's 7th birthday on Sunday with family.  Monday was a normal day, and then Monday night Brandon made a birthday wish.....he wanted a snow day for Tuesday.

Well, we got it and then some.  I think he wished a little too hard.  In Hamburg we had a record snowfall of 84.5 inches (7 ft.) in approximately 48 hours.  Other surrounding areas received the same treatment from Mother Nature.

The problem with all the snowfall is first it's very heavy and regular plows can't push it.  Secondly, there is no place to put it.  City areas are actually trucking it to old parking lots.  Cars have been abandoned for their driver's safety.  The National Guard has been called in to help the efforts. 

This isn't even the biggest problem.  We are set to have the temperatures warm up this weekend.  Now the snow will melt, compact, become even heavier.  This makes for the collapse of roofs and major flooding.  If the storm drains can't handle the melting, water will back up into homes.  Ugh! 

With all this being said, I have to say we live in a great community.  Everyone pitches in to help each other.  Strangers offer food, shelter, clothing, to each other. Checking on neighbors and digging each other out. It really is remarkable! I am so glad to have moved home :)

For our household, Jay has had a few impromptu days off from work, but he has been working tirelessly here clearing snow.  The boys have had four days off of school, and some playtime with neighbors.  I have been able to clear out the freezer and rotate my food supply.  Even though I ran out of bread two days ago, and I am on my last half gallon of almond milk, we are just fine.

Last night after Jay already cleared about 4 ft the day before

I am so thankful for all the people in our community who are helping us.  From the police, to the plow drivers, to the workers who are at Tim Horton's supplying coffee for the first responders.... THANK YOU!

For all my fellow Buffalo peeps, hang in there.  For all my out of town friends, keep us in your thoughts.  We still have a bit to go for normalcy, oh and Thanksgiving is around the corner.  (I don't want to even think of the grocery store madness this week)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Quick Caramel Dessert Sauce

Tomorrow we our going over to my in-laws to spend the afternoon.  I am bringing an apple cake, but wanted a sauce to pour over the top.  Caramel sauce goes perfect with apple anything, but I didn't have heavy cream in the house.  I also did not want to make a trip to the store, seeing it is so cold out.

I rummaged the pantry and found a can of sweetened condensed milk.  OK, I have plan.  Condensed milk, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon equals yummy dessert sauce.


1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a sauce pot over medium heat, simmer sweetened milk with brown sugar, whisking for about five minutes.  Add vanilla and cinnamon, and continue to whisk for another five minutes.  The sauce will thicken slightly but be very pourable. The sauce is very light in color, but the longer you cook it the thicker and darker it will get.  I liked mine a nice blonde shade ;)

 Serve immediately over ice cream, cake, pie, a flip flop.  Well not really of flip flop, but you get my point!

Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pin Cushion Teacups

I am finishing a few items for my last craft shows of the fall season.  One of my latest projects is pin cushion teacups. 

My mom has a huge collection of teacups she no longer wants.  She was going to just sell them, but I persuaded her to let me have them and put a crafty spin on it.  After browsing Pinterest, I found this really cute idea to make them into pin cushions.

Using fabric remnants, batting, and a little tacky glue, VIOLA!  These are perfect for anyone who sews, or just a cute little decoration tucked into a nook.


Tacky glue
needle and thread
craft batting
scrap fabric

  • Simply cute a circle of fabric twice the circumference of the teacup. 
  • Run a basting stitch along the outside of the circle and gather slowly.
  • Fill the gathered material with batting until smooth and firm.
  • Stitch the fabric circle closed and apply a little glue to the inside of the teacup.
  • Nestle the fabric puff into the teacup.
I did not glue the cup to the saucer, but you could if you wanted it all in once piece.  I would use a ceramic or glass glue for that.
The saucer also makes a great place to place bobbins, thimbles, or any other small notion while working on a project!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

This week Brandon is star of the week at school.  There are a lot of November birthdays in his class, so he gets to celebrate his a bit early in the month.  He loves this idea, basically because it extends his celebration to almost three weeks.

Brandon is having an Olaf party this year.  So for his treat at school he chose chocolate chip cookie cups with Frozen decorations.  I was able to find Frozen cupcake rings and snowflake candies on Amazon, yay!  Here's how they turned out.

The cookie cups are easy to do and are a fun alternative to a cupcake. Follow the easy steps below, and impress your friends and family this holiday season.

  • Start with your favorite cookie dough recipe (or a tub of store bought dough, I won't tell)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a muffin pan with cooking spray
  • Press about 2 tablespoons of dough into the muffin cup, pressing on the bottom and up the sides.  Be sure to hollow out the middle a bit to create a well.
  • Bake for 15 minutes and then take a spoon and knock down the center of the cup to re-create the well.  The bottom naturally puffs up during baking.
  • Bake for additional 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown and the cups no longer look soft in the middle
  • Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, this allows the cup to cool and hold its shape
  • Using a sharp knife, carefully lift the cup out and allow to finish cooling on a rack
  • Dollop favorite butter cream recipe in the center of each cookie cup
To make it look extra fancy, pipe the frosting into the cup using a star tip and a pastry bag.  If you don't have a pastry bag, simply using a food storage bag and snip off the end, which makes a perfect hole replicating the round pastry tip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas

Like most bloggers, I have an obscene amount of food, craft, and other useless pictures taking over my camera.  Never knowing what I am going to blog about, I snap random pictures of various things.  Some pictures and ideas never see the light of day, while others manage to make their way to My Little Blogspot.

Today's lucky winner is chicken enchiladas.  I make this so often. I also make a double batch and always throw one into the freezer.  Then on a busy night or when I just forgot about dinner, I pop it in the oven.

This recipe is so easy and will be a go to favorite.  This recipe yields sixteen good size enchiladas, I usually make eight for dinner and then freeze eight.

ingredients (16 enchiladas)

16 oz. cooked shredded chicken breast
16 flour tortilla shells, 8 inch
16 oz. shredded taco cheese
1 large can enchilada sauce, I use Chi Chi's about 26 oz.

1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. adobo chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

*If you don't have these spices, you can use a taco seasoning packet, I prefer low sodium *

  1. In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken with seasonings and about 6 oz. of cheese. Set aside.
  2. Pour about 1/2 c. or so of enchilada sauce onto a plate.
  3. In a baking dish (I use disposable lasagna pans for freezing), pour about 1/4 c. of sauce in the bottom of the dish.
  4. Now we are going to make the assembly line.  Lay out the tortillas, plate of enchilada sauce, chicken, and baking that order.
  5. Take a tortilla and turn it in the sauce to coat both sides. 
  6. Take a few tablespoons of chicken and lay it in the middle of the shell. Fold the side of the tortilla in to meet the middle, and then roll the tortilla up to form a log. 
  7. Lay seem side down in prepared baking dish.
  8. Repeat with the remaining shells and chicken.
You will need to refill the plate with sauce as you go, but leave enough to coat the top of the enchiladas in the baking dish.  Top the finished enchiladas evenly with remaining cheese.

At this point you can wrap with foil and freeze, or bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

When cooking from frozen, allow to bake for about an hour, covered.  Remove the foil the last 20 minutes to brown the cheese.

I serve with salad and rice.  The enchiladas freeze nicely for about four months!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New & Improved Easy Garlic Knots

Sometimes you need to improve on an old classic.  That's what I did a few weeks ago with my garlic knot recipe.  The original was just fine, but after a few years of making them, I could be better.

The tweaks to the recipe were very simple.  I just allowed the dough to rise a second time and it produced a softer and better texture garlic knot.  I also used a little extra garlic butter when brushing them out of the oven, and that never hurt nobody ;)

recipe for the dough

1 c. warm water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 to 3 c. all purpose flour

Simply dissolve the yeast in warm water with honey.  Set aside and allow the yeast to bloom (or wake up a bit) and get foamy.  In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, pour yeast mixture in with olive oil.  Add the flour, about 2 1/2 cups to start, and begin to knead on low (speed 1 or 2).  Add salt and continue to kneed for about 8 to 10 minutes.  If the dough climbs, up the dough hook, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time.  The dough should pull away from the bowl and be soft and smooth, not sticky.

Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours. 

On a floured surface cut the dough into fourths.  Working with one fourth at a time, roll into a rectangle about 12 inches by 5 inches.  Cut the rectangle into 5 or 6 pieces lengthwise. 

Roll each strip into a little flour to remove tackiness, and tie into a knot.  Place onto greased baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover with a towel and allow to double in size, about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray the tops of the knots with cooking spray.  If you want to add cheese, do it now.  Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the knots are baking, melt a stick of butter with 1 tbsp. minced garlic and 1/2 tsp. parsley.  As soon as the knots come out of the brush them liberally with melted butter mixture.  Serve immediately by themselves or with marinara!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day of School Jitters

Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, butterflies in the tummy....yep all those things were present this morning at our house.  While you may think it was the boys, you would be wrong, it was me.  It's not a huge secret that I don't like the first day of school.  I miss my babies so much, and I have a really hard time with the silence.

I don't always deal well with those emotions.  I am a type A, highly sensitive person who likes routine and consistency.  In my head I know that we are embarking on a new routine, and in due time I will be just fine.  It's just those first few days, that really throw me for a loop. 

So how did I do today?  Well, first to stop myself from emotional eating, I kept very busy.  I cleaned like crazy (that would be my go to therapy when I feel out of control), I did laundry, mowed the lawn, and now I am blogging.  I believe the vacuuming and mowing the lawn helped with the silence issue ;)

My emotions have settled a bit as I look at the clock that is reading 2:30 p.m.  Ok, I can do this.... one more hour.  I will be so excited to hear about their first day.  Hopefully dinner conversation tonight is filled with giggles, stories, and perhaps the mention of meeting a new friend or two.

Tomorrow will be better and Friday even better.  To all the other parents who share my jitters, hang in there :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Greek Pasta Salad

I did a small container of tomatoes, basil, and rosemary this year for gardening.  I planted three little tomato plants that consisted of a grape tomato plant, plum tomato plant, and a yellow heirloom plant.  I have tomatoes out my ears. Well, not literally out my ears, that would look really silly. 

I have shared some with neighbors, but the majority of them Jay and I have consumed.  My favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes is with a little salt and pepper.  Jay prefers tomato with feta cheese and dressing, and that my friends is the inspiration for today's recipe.

One of Jay's most favorite salad is a Greek salad.  He will eat it anytime of day.  He has been known to eat it for breakfast.  I decided to put all his favorite Greek salad toppings into a pasta salad.  I made it the other night, and thought for sure it would be a couple of portions.  I was mistaken, he ate it all in one sitting.  I guess it was a success.

recipe (serves 2)

1/2 lb. short cut dried pasta, cooked and cooled (penne, rigatoni, etc.)
1 cup tomatoes, I used a mix of yellow and plum tomatoes sliced and quartered
1/2 c. black olives, sliced
1/4 c. pepperoncini, sliced
1/8 c. sliced red onion
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. prepared Greek dressing, you may use more or less depending how you like your salad dressed

Simply cook pasta and allow to cool.  In a large bowl mix all the sliced veggies with pasta.  Gently add the feta cheese with the dressing and toss until well mixed.  You may want to season with salt & pepper, but be careful feta can be quite salty.

Allow to chill in the refrigerator for several hours.   Serve with pita bread or nice crusty baguette.

This would be great for this coming Labor Day picnics!

Also, here are a few pictures of my littlest playing soccer.  I still need to get pictures of my oldest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

15 Minute Shortcakes

We are busy busy busy with soccer season upon us.  Both boys are playing and with them being in different divisions, it means we have soccer Monday through Saturday.  Fun times!

With our busy schedules, dinners need to be quick and easy, as well as the occasional dessert.  So today's post is a quick shortcake.  Just a disclaimer, my shortcakes here appear a little more brown in color than yours will.  The reason behind that is, Brandon was helping to make them, and decided we needed extra vanilla (which equated to triple the amount).

ingredients (yields 6 to 8 shortcakes)

2 1/4 c. baking mix
1/4 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. melted butter

2 c. sliced strawberries
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. water

whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine sliced strawberries with sugar and water, set aside to form sauce.

In a large bowl combine baking mix, yogurt, vanilla, melted butter, and lemon zest.  Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms (the dough will be tacky).  Drop biscuits by tablespoons onto an ungreased non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Biscuits will be golden brown and no longer tacky.  Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Slice biscuits in half.  Spoon berries over the sliced biscuit and top with whipped cream. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Quilting For The First Time

I have neglected My Little Blogspot, sorry!  I have an excuse though, we were on vacation to the Outer Banks, NC.  The boys enjoyed countless hours swimming in the pool, looking for sea shells in the morning, and of course eating.  We were able to visit a restaurant from one of our favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Ok, so back to business.  I am embarking on a new sewing project, quilting.  My sister-in-law has quilted for years and has even gifted a quilt to each one of my boys.  She is talented and has agreed to share her secrets. 

Now, my attempt will be very simple.  I have chosen four coordinating fabrics. Tracy figured out all the math for me, so all I have to do is start cutting my squares.  I plan on posting step by step pictures, along with her tips as I muddle through this project.

Here's what the fabric looks like and the lovely inspiration.  For my birthday, from a dear friend I received beautiful pillow shams.  Those shams are the starting off point to a bedding transformation!

Good-bye to the blue bedding of the last ten years, and hello green and pink.  I am super excited.....wish me luck ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Outdoor Updates

June was a busy month for us on the outdoor front.  We had an awning put up, a shed constructed, garage screens installed, and with mulching and watering the gardens are looking good. Oh, and last year we added a fence.

I believe our outdoor projects are done for at least two years or so ;)

Here is a before shot of the outdoor space.  When we bought the house, we were happy with all the landscaping that had already been done, along with the stamped concrete patio.  So we were able to use our money on "accessory items".

So here are a few pictures to show the progress.  First the shed.  We were able to match the siding and drip edge.  We picked a style that matched the lines of our house.  With a little painting of the doors, window boxes and shutters, it turned out really nice.

that's the shed all the way in the backyard
here's the close up
We matched the blue accents on our house with the awning, and chose a blue and tan stripe.

Finally, the butterfly garden is in bloom.  It's also attracting various birds which is very satisfying to watch.

What have you all been up to this summer?  Any outdoor projects of your own?  I would love to hear.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Adam's Hawaiian Birthday (part 2) / Puff Pastry Chicken Wing Appetizer Recipe

Yesterday we celebrated Adam's birthday with family.  Everyone came dressed up in their finest Hawaiian gear. 

I kept the menu simple with sliders, pulled BBQ chicken, deviled eggs, baked beans, fruit (compliments of my mom), and pasta salad (compliments of my sister-in-law).  We enjoyed the sweet treats and then Adam opened his presents.

It was a very nice afternoon.

I promised a recipe and I'll tell a quick story on how I came up with it.  First, I had decided on just munchies like chips and cheese balls for appetizers.  Then I was thinking maybe I'll do a hot dip.  After asking Jay, we agreed on Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip.  Well, after over thinking things (as I usually do), I thought to make it easier I would do chicken wing dip in phyllo cups for individual servings.  While shopping for the phyllo cups, I spotted puff pastry cups.  Yes!! This was it, and that is how this recipe was created.

ingredients (yields 24)

1 cup cooked shredded chicken
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. Frank's hot sauce
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 package puff pastry cups, found in the frozen food aisle

Combine cream cheese with hot sauce until smooth.  Fold in chicken and cheddar cheese.  Place into an oven safe dish.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Follow the package directions for baking puff pastry cups for hot appetizer.  In the same oven while the pastry cups are baking, place dish with chicken filling on another rack.  ( This way the filling comes out hot at the same time as the party cups.)

Once pastry cups are baked, remove from the oven along with the filling.  Follow the package instruction for knocking down the center of the cups with a spoon.

Now you have a place for the filling.  Gently spoon in the hot filling. If you have extra filling, feel free to eat with a spoon ;)  That's it, you are done!

This last step is very important.  STAND BACK!  These were gone in only a few minutes.  Enjoy!

So as I wrap up Adam's Hawaiian birthday party,  I have one word..... Mahalo! (thanks, gratitude) Adam had a great day, and thanks to everyone who helped :) 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Aloha! Adam's Hawaiian Birthday (part 1)

My oldest son turned nine a few days ago.  I still have not accepted the fact that he is growing up.  He is half way to being a legal adult....nope not thinking about it.  Every year, I let the children pick their party theme.  This year Adam picked a Hawaiian party.  We will be celebrating with family tomorrow.  Here's how the party planning is shaping up with the sweet treats:

Aloha!  We heard this so many times throughout the day when we were in Hawaii.  It has several different meanings, but basically it's a friendly greeting.  Another meaning of Aloha is embodying a spirit of kindness.  The locals will say a kind and generous person, has the spirit of Aloha.  This is the sentiment that Adam really loved. 

While we were in Hawaii, back in February, Adam said he wanted a Hawaiian birthday party.  He was thinking five months ahead, that's my boy!  His only request was he wanted a Ukulele cake.  OK, I can do that.  I have a guitar pan from when he was five.  We also brought home two ukuleles, so I have a model to go off of.  Adam settled on a red ukulele with pink palm trees on it.  Here is the finished cake.  (It's not my best work, but I still think it came out cute.)

Cake made...check! 

Now his cake is vanilla (his absolute favorite, just like mommy), but we have way too many chocolate lovers in our family to let that flavor go unrepresented.  I decided to make cupcakes with a beachy/Hawaiian theme.  I found this idea on Pinterest and it was too cute to pass up.  I made beach cupcakes with a sunbather. 

The cupcake is chocolate, frosted with blue vanilla frosting to look like water.  I used crushed animal crackers for the sand.  The beach towel is a fruit roll-up, topped with a teddy graham sunbather.  To complete the cupcake a few fish shaped sprinkles in the water and an umbrella. 
Chocolate lovers taken care of...check!

The last sweet element of the party planning is a take home favor.  Adam really wanted our guests to have something to take home as a "thank you".  He asked me this on Thursday....hmmm.  Well, I can whip up sugar cookies.  After perusing my cookie cutters, I found a shape that I could make into a sun.  They are all bagged up, ready to go home with the party goers.

Favors done....check!

Now I need to get some sleep.  I will finish up a few loose ends in the morning.  Check back soon, to see pictures from the party and a great appetizer recipe, Buffalo Chicken Puff Pastry Cups!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yes, I am That Mom!

Summer is upon us, and I am so happy to have my kiddos home with me.  I am that mom who loves summer vacation as much as the kids.  Every September I get depressed when it's time for them to return to school. 

While I enjoy summer time with the kids, and I want them to have fun (and they will), I don't want all their hard work during the year to go out the window.  My kids read all summer and will be doing activity sheets.  I received a little note home from the teachers regarding books called Summer Bridge Activities.  I went to Barnes & Noble, looked them over, and decided it was just the right amount of busy work.  (psst.... I ordered mine from Amazon because it was less expensive)

The books are broken up into simple daily worksheets.  Each worksheet has a sampling of Math and Language Arts.  They came in the mail today, and they are a hit!  The boys loved it.  Brandon even remarked that his teacher would be proud of him for exercising his brain.

I told Adam and Brandon this will be incorporated into their morning chores. Yes, I said morning chores.  During the summer their morning chores are as follows:

  1. Make their beds and tidy their rooms
  2. Brush their teeth after cleaning up breakfast dishes
  3. Practice their respective instruments
  4. Daily worksheet
These things must be accomplished before I hear the words, "Can we go outside to play?"  This way I am not raising my voice in the evening when everyone is tired.

Now, just so no one thinks I am a mean mother whose children have to do school work all summer with no fun, here are a few fun things the boys have to look forward to:

  • Darien Lake (hopefully for July 4th)
  • Summer trip to the Outer Banks, NC
  • Baseball game in Toronto
  • Food Truck night
  • Taste of Buffalo
  • Swimming in various family and friends pools

We plan on enjoying our summer, as I hope you do as well.  So, if you are interested in a little bit of busy work to keep their minds sharp, I do encourage you to check out these books. I don't receive any kind of compensation.  This is just my opinion from one parent to another on a good buy for summer time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Malted Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Summer is officially here!!!!  We are winding down with baseball and school, only to get geared up for soccer and summer fun. 

I have many fond memories of summer.  I spent hours swimming in our pool, sitting at my brother's baseball games, and attending picnics.  One of my fondest summer memories was going to our ice cream shop for chocolate malt milkshakes.  My dad was the only other one in my family who liked them, so I blame him for my addiction to them ;)

Today's recipe is based on that lovely summer memory.  I decided to impart that wonderful chocolate malt flavor into a brownie.  The result is delicious and crowd pleasing.

ingredients  (yields 18 to 24 small squares)

1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 c. malted milk powder (look for it by the chocolate syrup and cocoas)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate baking chunks (find them by the chocolate chips)

frosting ingredients

1 stick softened butter
1/4 c. malted milk powder
2 tbsp. milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. powder sugar
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips (melted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a double boiler, melt milk chocolate chips with the stick of butter, and then set aside to cool slightly. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the cool chocolate mixture and combine. 

Slowly add the remaining dry ingredients.  Lastly fold in the chocolate chunks.

Pour the mixture into a greased quarter sheet pan and level with a knife.  (You can also use a 9 x 9 pan, brownies will be thicker and need to bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.)  Bake for 31 to 34 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool and prepare frosting.

In a mixing bowl cream together butter, malted milk, and sugar.  Slowly add the milk, melted chocolate, and vanilla.  Once combined, beat for about 5 minutes until very smooth and creamy.   Frost the cooled brownies.  Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thai Chicken Inspired Pasta Salad

About three years ago I discovered Panera Bread and it was love at first bite.  (I know a bit corny.)  It is a go to place for our family to grab a quick lunch or dinner.  One of my favorite menu items is the Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy elements in the salad.  So imagine my delight when I found the salad dressing for sale at our grocery store.  

Today's recipe is inspired by the flavors of that salad, but with a pasta salad spin.  I like this salad for summertime because there is no mayonnaise. It's quick to prepare and has a spicy kick, which is also nice along side of your favorite grilled items.

ingredients  (serves 2)

1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
1 cup pasta, cooked and drained
1 ear of grilled corn, cut off the cob
1 cup steamed edamame, removed from pods
1/4 c. sunflower kernels or chopped peanuts
1/4 c. to 1/3 c. Panera Spicy Thai salad dressing

In a large bowl mix all the above ingredients until coated with dressing.  Allow to refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.  Serve as a side dish or an easy lunch.

Remember to tell your guests that it has a bit a heat to it.  The last you want to do is to unexpectedly set someone's mouth on fire.  Also if you prefer the salad a bit spicier, add more dressing. 

The recipe given only serves two, as I use it for lunch.  This can easily serve a crowd by cooking a whole box of pasta, adding more veggies, and of course more grilled chicken.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Quick Apple Hand Pies (Version #2)

I posted Apple Hand Pies in October of 2012.  Since then, I have updated the filling and I think it made them even more delicious.  So what's the update?  I took the filling from my apple caramel cinnamon rolls, put it a pre-made pie crust, and baked them off.  When the pies came out of the oven, I brushed them butter and rolled them in cinnamon sugar!  OH YES!!! Delicious :)

ingredients (yields 8 pies)

2 to 3 medium apples, peeled and diced
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
refrigerated pie crust (for 8 pies you will use both crusts in the package)


1/4 c. cinnamon sugar
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Allow pie crust to set out at room temperature for about 10 minutes.  In a dry skillet over medium heat, cook the apples until golden and tender.  This will take about 5 to7 minutes.

Once the apples are tender add the cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar.  Allow to combine and cook another two minutes.  Set aside apples to cool.

Roll out the pie crust onto a slightly floured surface.  Cut each pie crust into 4 wedges for a total of 8 wedges.  Place a tablespoon or so of apple mixture into the center of the crust.  Fold it over onto itself, forming a triangle.  Crimp the edges with a fork to seal and cut a few slits into the top of the pies. 

Place pies on a non-stick baking sheet.  Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, watching them carefully.  When the pies are golden brown remove them from the oven.  Brush them with the melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  (This part is the same step from the French Toast Scones.)


Monday, May 19, 2014

Outdoor Updates - Butterfly Garden

Hello Everyone!  I hope the weekend treated you well.  Our weekend was uneventful, which in my opinion is just fine.  We managed to get a bit done around the outside of the house, and I have started to lay plans for a butterfly garden.

First, let me just say I love to garden.  I always helped my parents and my grandfather with theirs.  Now that I am on my third house, I think I have refined my ideas of what exactly I want. 

All three house are a bit different.  Our first house had landscaping already in place, but not really to my liking.  We removed some very over sized bushes and trees that were interfering with the concrete walkway.  Then I started to plant my lily patch.  Oh, my poor lily patch!  It was replanted three different times, to accommodate two fence repairs.  When I finally got it done, we moved....ugh.  I would like to report the person who bought our house, loved the lillies and has kept them.  I drive by every so often and look at my hard work.

My second house was an old Victorian with very little room for gardening.  It had no grass in the ten feet of back yard due to a walnut tree.  The soil was so acidic that grass or any other shrub would not grow.  I did have a small patch of landscaping between the drive way and front walk, about 15 feet.  I planted poppies, day lilies, and a hydrangea. 

Now onto my current house.  I hit the jackpot with this one.  It was very  nicely landscaped in the front which also wraps around to the back.  The only sore spot for me was the side of the house by the garage.  There was a bed of hostas there, but I don't like hostas.  Never have and never will.  That was easily rectified this spring with a little digging and removal.  I have planted a double blooming lily on that side with anemone.

While this house is nicely landscaped, I am adding my own touches.  One being a butterfly garden.  I love to watch butterflies, and I have carved out a bit of room in the back to make a nice environment for them.

I started researching this last fall and bought a few plants on clearance at the end of the season.  I bought black eyed Susan's and cone flowers.  This year I have planted lantana and salvia.  I am adding new plants a little at a time in a variety of colors. I have a few more plants to add this year, as host plants for the caterpillars.  The other important piece to a butterfly garden is a water source and resting place.  I bought a shallow glass birdbath stake to serve this purpose.

Right now it doesn't look like much, but I will post pictures throughout the season of the growth.  I am hoping in a few years, I can just sit back and relax and watch the beautiful creatures.  Another bonus of butterfly also attracts hummingbirds.