Meal Plan Monday - January 30












Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Oatmeal
Cinnamon & Spice Oatmeal Muffins
Toast, Bananas, Orange Slices

Toddler-Style Lunch
Mac & Cheese, Peas, Applesauce
Turkey & Cheese Sandwich, Raisins, Pretzels
Cheese Quesadillas, Carrot Sticks, Apple Slices
Pasta Salad w/veggies, Orange Slices
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Baked Chicken Lasagna Rolls, Peas, Garlic Bread

Tuesday:
    Glazed Ham, Mile High Biscuits, Carrots, Scalloped Potato, Applesauce

Wednesday:
    Ham and Potato Soup, Cornbread Cake*

Thursday:
    Corn Chowder, Leftover Biscuits

Friday:
    Spaghetti, Tossed Salad

Saturday:
    Leftover Night

Sunday:
    Vegetable Fried Rice



(*) Indicates new-to-us recipe

$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday
  

Make Your Own Cookie Cutters {templates}



My team is in the Superbowl this year {Go, Pats!!} and so of course I've been thinking football.  Or to be more specific, football food.  And since I have a sweet tooth, I've been thinking about all those football-inspired sweets.  

I thought I was going to make football-shaped whoopie pies, but I just recently discovered The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and thought this would be the perfect time to try cookies. 

And what does a girl do when she doesn't have any football cookie cutters?  Makes her own, of course!








1.  Save the plastic covers from food containers.





2.  Look for images online or draw your own and cut them out.












3.  Trace the shape onto the plastic cover and cut out.












3.  Cut the shapes out of the dough using a paring knife or a craft knife.








Thanks to Haniela's Food & Photography for the inspiration behind this project.



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Meal Plan Monday - January 23

 Last week we tried Classic Minestrone.  I loved this recipe...everything goes right in the crockpot for a delicious dinner at the end of the day.  It is also a very hearty meatless meal.  I had no complaints from my husband about having a meatless meal for dinner.

Since the boys don't like to try new foods, I decided to use "wagon wheel" pasta instead of the shell pasta.  This little trick worked; the boys were thrilled that they got to eat "wheels" for supper. :)



Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Oatmeal
Toast, Bananas
Blueberry Pancakes

Toddler-Style Lunch
Chicken Nuggets, Peas, Yogurt w/Grape Nuts Cereal {sprinkled on top}
1/4 Turkey & Cheese Sandwich, Fruit & Grain Bar, Carrot Sticks
Turkey Pinwheels, Apple Slices, Corn, Raisins
Seasoned Rice, Carrot Sticks, Applesauce, Chex Mix
Cheese Quesadilla Wedge, Tomato Soup, Apple Slices
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Savory Pork Chops, Peas, Stuffing, Applesauce

Tuesday:
    Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potato, Leftover Stuffing, Corn

Wednesday:
    Chicken Noodle Soup {w/homemade chicken broth* from roasted chicken}, Mile High Biscuits

Thursday:
    Honey Barbecue Meatloaf*, Smashed Cauliflower*, Peas

Friday:
    Chicken Ranch Wraps

Saturday:
    Cheeseburger Macaroni*

Sunday:
    Sandwiches, Slow Cooked Bean Medley


(*) Indicates new-to-us recipe

$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Recipe: Heart-Shaped Red Velvet Whoopie Pies With Vanilla Creme Filling



Whether you think they originated in Maine or Pennsylvania or whether you call them whoopie pies or moon pies, there is no denying the fact that there is something special about this treat.

We have come a long way from the classic whoopie pie.  Did you know that there is such a thing as a whoopie pie pan?  I came across them last fall and instantly wanted one {or two}.  And then I came to my senses and realized that it was a little bit crazy to buy a pan that I would use just once or twice a year.  Not to mention finding a place in my already-crowded kitchen to store them.

And then just a few weeks ago I found Annie's Eats and her Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  With just a template and a pastry bag, shaped whoopie pies can be made.  And I was left wondering.  Why didn't I think of that?


Heart-Shaped Red Velvet Whoopie Pies With Vanilla Creme Filling

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tbs. cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk {or make your own}
1 tbs. liquid red food coloring

For the filling:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 cups marshmallow creme {Marshmallow Fluff}



1.  Prepare the pans: Cut two peices of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter or a template cut from cardstock, trace hearts onto parchment paper.  Place parchment paper upside-down on cookie sheets.

2.  Mix the batter:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract separately, beating well after each addition.  In a small measuring cup mix the buttermilk and red food coloring.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixtures beating after each addition just until incorporated.



3.  Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I used tip #2A from Wilton).  Pipe the batter onto the hearts on the parchment paper, leaving some room for spreading.  Bake for 6-9 minutes until center is set, rotating halfway through.  Cool completely.



4.  To make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and vanilla on medium speed until creamy.  Add half the confectioners' sugar and mix on low just until combined and then mix on high until smooth.  Repeat with remaining confectioners' sugar.  Scrape down sides with rubber spatula and add marshmallow creme.  Tip:  Before adding marshmallow, spray the measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray to help the marshmallow come out more easily.  Mix on medium speed until filling is smooth and creamy about 3 to 4 minutes.



5.  Match up same-sized cakes and with a pastry bag and large tip, pipe filling onto one half of the cakes.  Put the other half of the cakes on top of the filling and press together slightly.



Sources: Cookies adapted from Annie's Eats and Joy of Baking.  Filling recipe from the July/August 2008 issue of Hannaford's fresh magazine




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Organize and Declutter 2012: The Coat Closet - Before and After

I made a small attempt to organize a few years ago when I found these:



We desperately needed something to put our hats, mittens and gloves in and these worked perfectly.  Not to mention the pair were on sale for $5.  Nothing like a sale to get me motivated!  The other bin is our "toy changing station"  which holds batteries and several screwdrivers.  Yes, when you have children with lots of toys, you need a storage container just for batteries! 

The rest of the closet was in dire need of some decluttering and organizing.  As you can see the toys had even taken over the coat closet:



I also found lots of tools in the back of the closet, which may be why I found this in the basement:


An unused, like-new toolbox.  Hmmmmm....


I also found a knitting needle that I had been looking for.  And now I just have to remember where I put the other one....

And here is what the closet looked like after a little bit a lot of sorting and organizing:


The basket was being used for toys, but was a perfect container for all the little shoes we had around the house.  On the first shelf I have flashlights that we use when the power goes out and I left a few games and puzzles in the closet where they are within easy reach if the boys ask for them.

**********

When I first started this project, I knew that I needed to declutter and get organized, but seeing the before and after pictures have made me realize just how bad things had gotten.  I had become so used to seeing things disorganized that I had become desensitized to it. 

As I've been decluttering, it hasn't always been easy to decide to give something away or put it in our yard sale pile, but I have felt so much freedom from cleaning up the clutter that it has been worth it. 

If you are thinking about decluttering, I highly recommend the book Organized SimplicityThe Kindle edition is available for FREE from Amazon {price subject to change at any time}.

Create With Kids: Sponge Painting For Toddlers

What you need:
Paint
Paper
Newspaper
Clothespins
Natural Sponges






Just clip the clothespins to the sponges....











....and paint!









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Meal Plan Monday - January 16

Last week I completely changed our lunch menu for our 3-year old by giving him a variety of different foods in small portions.  Here's a few of the lunches that we had this week:



Our little guy was thrilled to have raisins with his lunch.  He ate everything except a couple of the carrot sticks which he kindly shared with mom.

{Turkey & Cheese Sandwich, Raisins, Applesauce, Carrot Sticks}


He wasn't very excited about the noodles and since it was something new, I didn't push him to eat them.  But when he saw mom eat them he decided to try them and ended up eating half of the noodles. 

Mom was very happy with that since he tends to be a picky eater and it is hard to get him to try new things.

{Noodles with vegetables and a little bit of Italian dressing, Strawberries, Yogurt}




Here's what I've got planned for our lunch this week:

Toddler Style Lunches
Pizza Poppers, Corn, Grapes
1/4 Turkey & Cheese Sandwich,  Peas, Oranges
French Toast Sticks, Applesauce, Cheese Stick
Seasoned Rice w/Veggies, Grapes, Pretzels
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:   Classic Minestrone {crockpot}, Salad, Mile High Biscuits

Tuesday:
    Chili w/Cornbread, Salad

Wednesday:
    Chicken and Corn Wraps

Thursday:
    Crockpot Rotisserie-Style Chicken, Peas

Friday:
    Spaghetti, Salad

Saturday:
    Hamburgers, Corn, Cheese and Bacon Potato Rounds

Sunday:
    Leftover Night


$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Organize and Declutter 2012: Broom Closet Organization - Before And After

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  There was only one word that came to mind when I saw this picture....



Yikes! 


I started this project by clearing off the top shelf and found this:


We won't need any cat treats for a while.  A long while.

Not only do you find things you forgot you had, organizing also makes you look at things more closely than you normally would when you are in a hurry to get things done.  And looking closely at my broom and mop made me realize that they needed to be replaced right away.

And after a little more organizing and decluttering, here's the results:


The DIY cereal box magazine holder holds all our instruction manuals and  I found a plastic storage container in the kitchen that wasn't being used, and it was a perfect solution for storing the cat food. 

I love it when I can repurpose things that I already have!

Can you see the textured walls in the first picture?  Textured walls + cleaning = no fun.  I was able to get some of the stains off the wall using a Dawn and hydrogen peroxide solution and a toothbrush.

But the most exciting part about getting this closet organized is....



I now have a place to hide the vacuum cleaner!

Friday's Fabulous Frugal Finds Jan. 7 - Jan. 13

I am just starting to use coupons again after taking a break in December.  I especially liked using coupons to get FREE colgate this week!

As I mentioned at the end of December, one of my goals for this year is to put together 10 OCC boxes.  I was very excited to find several things in Walmart's Christmas clearance that will make great gifts for the OCC boxes that we are doing this year.


Here's what I found at Walmart this week:



Gift Card Boxes Price: $.37

Penquin Straws Price: $.24

Colgate Toothpaste Price: $.94
  -$1.00 off 1 from 1/8 SS {exp. 2/20/11}
Final Price: FREE

Colgate Toothbrush Price: $.94
  -$1.00 off 2 from 1/8 SS {exp. 2/20/11}
Final Price: $.44 each wyb 2


...and some things for OCC boxes:



Pencils 12 pk. Price: $.24

Candy & Stickers Set Price: $.25

Candy Canes Price: $.37

Stamps 10 pk. Price: $.56

Bouncy Balls 10 pk. Price: $.56

Pez Candy Dispensers Price: $.75

Teddy Bears Price: $.75


Organize and Declutter 2012: Task #2 - Follow A Plan

So I have my list and I have a plan: 


I got busy organizing thinking that I would be able to finish these projects fairly quickly.  But I got a little sidetracked when I decided I needed wanted something different to store all my yarn in.  So why not work on the small little broom closet while I look for something on my next shopping trip? 

I got to work on the broom closet and found some extra space that would be just right for all the instruction manuals that were taking up a whole shelf in the kitchen.  I got the manuals from the kitchen and put them in their new spot...

I was so excited about the extra shelf in the kitchen cabinet {who wouldn't be?} that I left the broom closet and started to organize the kitchen shelves.

And then I discovered some bins at the dollar store that would be just perfect for the bathroom closet.  I was so excited about my find and the money that I saved {$20 - $30} that I just had to start the bathroom closet right away!

So now I have at least four projects started, none finished and little piles of things everywhere.

Don't just write out a plan; follow it.  Don't let yourself get sidetracked.  Following a plan gives focus and a sense of accomplishment as each project can be crossed off the list as it is finished.  And another benefit?  A whole lot less mess and stress.



Are you getting organized this year?  What projects are you working on this week?

Make Your Own Magazine Holders From Cereal Boxes



I just love these magazine holders!  Not only is this a quick and easy project, they are a very inexpensive way to get organized using things that you already have in your home. 


What you need:

ruler
scissors
cereal box
glue runner or spray adhesive
(2) 12x12 peices of decorative paper
   other options: fabric, wrapping paper, paint, pages from old books or sheet music







1.  Cut the flaps from the top of the box.









2.  On one side of the box, make a line 5 in. from the bottom.




   


3.  Using a ruler, make a diagonal line from the line that was just made to the opposite corner of the box.  Flip the box over and make a diagonal line on the back.  Cut along the lines.






4.  Using the cereal box as a guide, trace all four sides of the box onto the back of the decorative paper and cut them out.  Tip:  before tracing the sides, be sure the paper pattern is going in the direction that you want.







5.  I used a glue runner to glue the paper to the box.  The trick to using a glue runner is to place the glue strips right on the edges so that the edge of the paper is tacked down really well.  If you have a spray adhesive, that would work well too.












6.  Add embelishments.  I added some matching ribbon to this magazine holder with the glue runner and used a little white glue on the ends of the ribbon to keep them from fraying.


Thanks to Sew Many Ways for the inspiration for these magazine holders.  You can also make sturdy magazine holders from UPS boxes.


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Organize and Declutter 2012: Organizing Christmas Decorations

Organizing the Christmas decorations was not on the organize and declutter to-do list.  My way of organizing them {put everything in the box, push it all down, close the top and hope that nothing gets broken} was working well for me; everything fit in one box and so far, nothing had gotten broken.

I just barely managed to get everything in the box and stored away again this year when I realized that there were a few things left out and they weren't going to fit in the box.  Since getting organized is one of my goals this year, I figured the Christmas decorations would be a good place to start.

I used some ideas that I found on IHeart Organizing and got to work:






Garlands and lights wrapped around cardboard!  We will not be fighting with tangled lights next year!















Loose ornaments in zipper bags....















...and placed neatly on top.  I also had two small fabric Christmas stocking ornaments that I put some fragile ornaments in.  There will be very little chance of broken or damaged Christmas ornaments this year!








I've been working on several other organize and declutter projects.  Later this week: The broom closet.

Meal Plan Monday - January 9

After a very busy December with two birthdays, a baby shower and three Christmas celebrations, we are finally getting back to our regular routine!

This month I'm focusing on new lunch ideas.  Our three year old is a "grazer" who isn't always excited about eating at the table.  I think giving him more of a variety of foods in smaller portions might help him at mealtime.  For inspiration, I found some toddler lunch ideas at parenting.com.


Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Oatmeal
Toast, Bananas
Blueberry Muffins

Toddler-Style Lunch
1/4 Chicken Sandwich, Strawberries, Yogurt
1/4 Turkey and Cheese Sandwich, Applesauce, Carrot Sticks, Raisins
Vegetable Pasta, Strawberries, Carrot Sticks
Cheese Quesadilla Wedge, Tomato Soup, Carrot Sticks, Apple Slices
Dinner Leftovers, Applesauce, Raisins

Dinner
Monday:
   Sweet & Sour Chicken {crockpot}, Mile High Biscuits, Salad

Tuesday:
    Marinated Chicken, Spanish Rice, Corn

Wednesday:
    Teriyaki Chicken, Slow Cooked Bean Medley, Peas, Mile High Biscuits

Thursday:
     Baked Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Mixed Veggies

Friday:
    Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Noodles, Leftover Biscuits

Saturday:
    Spaghetti

Sunday:
     Leftover Night


$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Recipe: Mint Chocolate Hot Chocolate


I'm not a coffee drinker, but I love a cup of hot chocolate on cold days.  

I thought the Andes baking chips that were left over from the Grasshopper Brownies might make a yummy cup {or two!} of hot chocolate and decided to experiment:



Mint Chocolate Hot Chocolate

Makes: 2 servings

2 cups milk
3 oz. Andes baking chips or chopped Andes mints
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


Directions:




1.  Put milk, Andes baking chips and semi-sweet chocolate in a small saucepan. 

2.  Heat over medium-low heat; stirring occasionally until mixture just comes to a boil.

3.  Remove from heat.  Add whipped cream or marshmallows....









The results: Andes mints in a cup = delicious.









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Happy Birthday From Swag Bucks: 50 FREE Swag Bucks

Swag Bucks sent me a birthday present...50 FREE swag bucks!  To get 50 swag bucks on your birthday, go to the Swag Bucks home page click on "View Account" and make sure that your birth date is included in your personal information.

If you haven't signed up for Swag Bucks, sign up today to start earning!  It is my favorite way to earn money for Christmas shopping!

Create With Kids: Pine Cone Bird Feeders



The boys and I made these pine cone bird feeders to give to their grandparents for Christmas gifts;  they would also make a fun family project for the backyard. 

This project does involve some cooking for older children and/or parents, but younger children can also get involved.  I had lots of help with measuring ingredients and scooping bird seed with a spoon.  By the time we were finished with this project, we had lots of fine motor practice and quite a bit of birdseed on the kitchen floor. :)

Our family collected pine cones for this project this past fall {here in the "Pine Tree State" we have an abundance of free pine cones!}, but I also noticed that our local Dollar Tree sold them in packages of six.  You can also find pine cones at most craft stores.


Pine Cone Bird Feeders

Makes: approx. 5-6 bird feeders

1 cup {250 mL} peanut butter
{be sure to use pb with no salt or sugar--I found this at my local health food store}
1/2 cup {125 mL} vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (125 mL} yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups {375 mL} birdseed
5 - 6 large pine cones
ribbon, string, or yarn

Directions:





1.  Melt peanut butter and shortening in small saucepan.   Add cornmeal; heat and stir for 3 to 4 minutes until well mixed.









2.  Transfer cornmeal mixture to shallow pie plate and roll pine cone in warm mixture using a rubber spatula to gently spread mixture in between the "petals" of the cones.




















3.  Put pine cone in a separate pie plate and spoon birdseed over the pine cone.  Use the tip of the spoon to push the birdseed into the "petals" of the pine cone that are coated with the cornmeal mixture.








4.  Chill on waxed paper-lined baking sheet.  After the bird seed has hardened onto the pine cones, tie ribbon, string or yarn onto the stems of the pine cones for hanging from a sturdy branch.






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Source: Company's Coming: Gifts From The Kitchen

Meal Plan Monday - January 2













Here's what's cooking in my kitchen this week:

Breakfast
Cereal
Waffles
Bananas
Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Lunch
Chicken Nuggets, Carrot Sticks
Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches, Applesauce
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Oranges
Cheese Quesadillas, Tomato Soup
Dinner Leftovers

Dinner
Monday:
    Chicken Stir-Fry

Tuesday:
    Spaghetti, Garlic Bread

Wednesday:
    Marinated Chicken, Shoepeg Corn Casserole, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Thursday:
    Melt In Your Mouth Meatloaf, Peas, Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Friday:
    Pufferbelly Pot Pie

Saturday:
    Chicken Vegetable Soup, Mile High Biscuits

Sunday:
      Leftover Night


$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday 

Organize and Declutter 2012: Task #1 - Make A List


According to Laura from Organizing Junkie, the first step to organizing and decluttering is to make a list

I love making lists; the Christmas list, the grocery list and the to-do list have all helped me save time and money...except when they get lost in our ever-growing mountain of paper {I just found my Christmas list yesterday}.


So I've made a list of the organizing projects I would like to accomplish this year and I'm putting it here on the blog so that I don't end up spending as much time looking for it as I did writing it. 

  1.  Organize the closet in the man cave music room.
  2.  Create a file system for hubby's music sheets.
  3.  Create a space in the music room for crafting.
 {Hubby doesn't know about this project yet, it's a secret surprise!}
  4.  Organize and declutter the coat closet.
  5.  Organize and declutter the hall utility closet.
  6.  Organize and declutter the closet in Jonah's room.
  7.  Organize and declutter the closet in Ethan's room.
  8.  Rearrange Ethan's room so that there is better use of the space.
  9.  Toys, toys, toys!
10.  Paper piles.
11.  Declutter the counter space in the kitchen.
12.  Make a pantry inventory.
13.  Organize the spice cabinet.
14.  Organize the linen closet.
{I love this idea from Martha Stewart and had another "why didn't I think of that?" moment.}
15.  Declutter and organize the space under the stairs.
16.  Organize the laundry space.
17.  Create and organize a space for recycling.
18.  Organize for a yard sale this summer.

It looks like I've got a busy year ahead!  I can't wait to get started and share some of my organizing projects with you!