Friday, May 22, 2015

My Favorite & Not So Favorite Books

I love to read. I mean, seriously, loooooove to read.  Unfortunately, between family, work and life, I don't have nearly as much time as I would like for reading.  But, I try to read a few chapters of a book every night before bed to get my fix.  I have to be careful though, because if a book captures my interest I will stay up into the wee hours of the night devouring it just to see what happens.  A decision I savor in the moment, but regret immediately when I am woken up before dawn by one or both of my little ladies (don't they know mommy was up late reading!?!).  

Anyhow, I recently finished reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and, oh my gosh, how I loved it!   Have you read it?  If not, you should pick it up because it is crazy good!  In general, I don't gravitate towards murder mysteries or thrillers, but there are so many layers to this book that there wasn't one thing I disliked about it.  The character development was great, reading the story through different perspectives was interesting and the way the plot unfolded was incredibly dramatic.  Seriously, this was one of those books that I felt like I needed to talk about it in order to fully process.   

So, I thought I'd suggest that you read it so we can discuss!  Ready? Go! :)

While I'm at it, I thought I'd share with you some of my other favorite (and not so favorite) books in the hopes that you could make recommendations for me?  I have precious little time for reading, so I'd love for you to tell me what books I should pick up and which ones I should steer clear of.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars with Biscoff Cookie Crust {I'm Guest Posting!}

On Friday, I guest posted at Becky's wonderful blog, Your Modern Family, to share this yummy White Chocolate Cheesecake Bar with Biscoff Cookie Crust recipe.  In addition to tasty recipes, Becky has fantastic posts on parenting like Alternatives to Goody Bags at Parties (I couldn't agree more and do the same thing!) and How to Teach Your Kids to do Chores Without Whining.  There is so much great information on her site and I'm thrilled to be sharing my recipe there!

As if white chocolate cheesecake bars don't sound good enough, I thought, why not kick it up ten notches by adding a biscoff cookie crust?  Doesn't that sound just divine?  Trust me, it is!  

Head on over to Your Modern Family to say hi and get the recipe!

Friday, May 15, 2015

DIY Clothespin Photo Display Frame

I started seeing images of Clothespin Photo Display Frames on Pinterest a year or so ago and knew I wanted to make one for our house.   We had a few options on where a frame like this could live, but it would depend on the size of the frame.  And so, the hunt was on.

I didn't want to spend a fortune on this decoration, so I scoured every thrift store around to find an ornate frame that fit the look I was going for.  I had hoped that I'd find a large frame that I could hang in the stairwell landing.  But, after months of searching, I only found one frame and it wasn't big enough for that space.  Boo. :(   (Don't worry though; I have plans for that wall.)  

Luckily, the wall just outside our office / craft room was screaming for some love and the frame I found fit there perfectly.  :)  A little paint and some wire later and the frame was transformed into this beautiful clothespin photo display frame.
DIY Clothespin Photo Display Frame

Here's how I made it:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Shredded Chicken Tacos with Homemade Taco Seasoning

We've been making an effort to move away from packaged processed foods and have been making some of our favorite prepared pantry items at home.  This Shredded Chicken Taco recipe is a result of that effort.  We used to purchase taco seasoning packets for quick and easy weeknight meals but started making our own mix earlier this year and I can't imagine ever going back to store bought packets.  

Here are my top 7* reasons for making Homemade Taco Seasoning (in no particular order):
(1) Making it at home allows you to know exactly what is in your food and means you aren't ingesting anything you can't pronounce.  Well, unless you add an extra syllable to the word paprika, calling it "pap-a-rika", as some people are wont to do.  In that case, you're still ingesting an ingredient  that you can't pronounce.  Sorry, but it's true.
(2) When you make the mix yourself, you control the quality of ingredients, which can have a big impact on flavor.
(3)  Speaking of favor, making it at home means you can adjust the ingredients and/or amounts to suit your taste. 
(4)  Making the mix is way cheaper than buying a packet over time.  
(5)  It takes less than a minute to pull the taco seasoning together.
(6)  You can make it in bulk and keep it in a cool dark place, like a kitchen cabinet or the pantry.  Then, just measure out what you need when you need it. 
(7)  The entire meal of Shredded Chicken Tacos with Homemade Taco Seasoning is so incredibly easy to make and can be pulled together in well under 30 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight meal!

*  Have you noticed that most "Top... " lists are usually in increments of 5?  Why is that?  I decided to be bold today and go against the grain.  So, rather than a Top 5 or Top 10 list, I gave you a Top 7 list.  I'm such a rebel!

Anyway, here is the super easy recipe...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

If You Give a Teacher a Student... (Teacher Appreciation Gift)

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week and, as usual, I picked up gift cards for each of Lovebug and Littlebug's teachers.  While I know that gift cards are the most practical gifts for teachers, I find them to be really impersonal.  So, I like to include something thoughtful (like this, this or this) to convey how much we truly appreciate the fabulous teachers we have been blessed to have in our lives.

This year, I made cards based on the popular children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  Have you read the book?  It is so clever and fun for kids of all ages!

Lovebug's loves this book (check out some of Lovebug's other favorite books here) so it was fitting to create a card based on the same concept.  After lots of thought and many iterations, I ended up with a heartfelt card that, I feel, reflects the role teachers play in their students lives.

I couldn't be happier with how the cards turned out and our teachers loved them!!
If you give a teacher a student

Here's how I made them...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Three Layer Lasagna

Lasagna is one of the most requested meals in our house.  In fact, I've made it so much that I'm pretty confident that I could make it blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back.  Actually,  I always grate my own cheese and box graters and blindfolds are probably a really bad idea.  Well at least for me, given that I regularly grate my knuckles when I have full vision.  

Note: I do not recommend grating your knuckles or attempting to grate anything blindfolded.  Grating your knuckles is not fun, especially when you aren't sure when you last got a tetanus shot.  And I imagine that trying to grate something blindfolded will result in grating your knuckles.  And you don't want to do that (see line two of this paragraph).

Anyway, lasagna is on heavy rotation in our menu planning, we often serve it for dinner guests and it is a regular birthday dinner request.  It's really the perfect meal for almost any occasion and it freezes really well too.  But, most importantly it is the type of food that feeds the soul.  I suppose that's why they call it a comfort food.  :)  

So, next time you are in the mood for something hearty and filling, give this three layer lasagna a try!  You won't be sorry once you taste layer upon layer of pasta, meat sauce and cheese melding together.  SOOO GOOD!
Three Layer Lasagna

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to Clean Disney Mouse Ear Hats

Remember how I told you that we went to Disneyland back in December?  Did I mention that it was the wettest day ever?  Ok, so maybe it wasn't the wettest day on record.  But, there was steady rain throughout the day with the only breaks in the steady drizzle being heavy downpours.  So, we got wet. Really wet.

We ended up purchasing Disneyland ponchos for ourselves and also for our stroller so we could keep it and the contents in it dry, shortly after we entered the park.  Only, our master plan didn't work out so well.  I swear the rain must have been coming down sideways and upside down because our stroller and everything in it were soaked through.   By noon, Littlebug wasn't able to use the stroller any longer.  But, I guess it was for the best because I could keep her warmer and dryer by wearing her in our carrier.  

Anyway, when we got home, I realized that my beloved mouse ear hat had not only gotten soaked but  also really dirty in the rain.  I had tucked them into the stroller when I realized mouse ears and rain don't mix.  But, they fell onto the ground at one point and, like everything else in our stroller, they were dripping wet by the end of the day.   So, I did some research online to figure out how to clean my mouse ears without ruining them.  But, I came up with nothing.  Literally not one tutorial for cleaning Disney mouse ears.  I couldn't believe it!  

I had to do something so I decided to come up with my own method for cleaning them.  I knew that mild soap would probably work best, but what type?  Dish soap?  Laundry detergent?  And then it hit me...  The hat sits on my head and sometimes my hair is damp or wet when I put the ears on.   So, shampoo would be the most logical option.   So, I held my breath and gave it a whirl.

I'm happy to report it worked like a charm!  My ears look like brand new and they smell good too!  
How to clean Disney Mouse Ears

Here's how I did it:

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