12 days of cookies…Day 1 – Sugar Cookies

lil tree

Today is December 1st and therefore marks the official start of the Christmas season. We spent this past weekend decorating the house for Christmas and it looks so bright and merry! I decided to take a different spin this year and do 2 Christmas trees – a small one and a ginormous one. The main tree is in our front room and we can’t see it from the family room which is where we spend most of our time. It is too big to move to the family room so I set up a smaller tree for us to enjoy separately. On the little tree, which has colored lights, we put all the homemade ornaments that the kids have crafted over the years. The main tree, which has white lights, got the store bought ornaments which still hold special memories for us. The best of both worlds.

And so today also begins 12 days of Christmas Cookies. My goal is to incorporate the traditional favorite of the season along with some new recipes that we haven’t tried before. So today’s cookie is traditional – a sugar cookie. This recipe is my go to for the softest yummiest cookies. You can make them for any day and if you change the color of the sugar you can coordinate with any holiday. I make orange and black ones for Halloween and green ones for St. Patrick’s Day. Since this is a Christmas cookie, I went with red and green. I am sure the family is expecting a cookie today so this we be sure to not disappoint.

1st cookie

Chewy Sugar Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons milk
Sprinkles or colored sugar, for decorating


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Add enough of the milk to moisten the dough and make it soft, not wet.

Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and roll in plain or colored sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet or Silpat. No need to flatten, they do that on their own.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

What do I do with all these apples?

photo 1-6

Ok, it’s fall and that means lots and lots of pumpkins and apples. With the pumpkins, I cook them and freeze them but what do you do with the apples??

Make applesauce, of course!

And this isn’t your typical jarred store bought applesauce. If you have never had homemade applesauce, you haven’t had applesauce. Forget bland baby food smushieness. This is a rich, delicious, cinnamony delight!

So, here is the recipe:


8 large apples (whatever you have that you need to move out!), peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup apple juice
2 Tablespoons butter (optional, I leave it out since I am dairy free)

Mix all into a 6-8qt crockpot on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours. Stir and break apart apples as much as you desire the chunkiness (I used a potato masher). It can be served warm or chilled. Yumtastic!

Frugal Findings 7/4/2014…


As most of you who know me IRL, most of my efforts are put forth in taking care of my family and a big part of that is being frugal. Since my dear husband is the only source of income, I think of my frugal offerings as a way to help stretch the money a little further. So, I thought I would let you guys in on some of the ways I make the dollars stretch.

Frugal Fourth of July

Today is the 4th of July and we used to run in our city’s 10k race but with race fees adding up to more than $70 each person to run, we cut that out two years ago. Last year we ran the local 10k race. I ran for free by volunteering to help with registration but we still had to pay for John to run since he couldn’t volunteer during work hours. I think that his race fee was about $30 and that didn’t include a t-shirt. So, in order to be more frugal this year, we just ran by ourselves which cost us exactly zero. We got up at 7am this morning and headed to the local Greenway and ran our own 4th of July run. It was very cool (only 65 degrees this morning) and not crowded at all. We didn’t have any problem finding parking or dealing with crowds. It was a blessing.

Afterward, we headed home for breakfast from the freezer (we are in a pantry challenge but more on that later) of pancakes and bacon. Then we took our son to play airsoft which is $20 for 8 hours of supervised play. He loves it and we consider it his “sport”. I send him with a $5 pizza which he eats all day long and he also carries bottles of water and a soda.

Hubs and I headed to the local water park which we bought a family season pass for. Our daughter decided to stay at home and spend her day playing Mindcraft and reading, so we were by ourselves. To save money, we packed a picnic lunch and ate when we got there. We also carried in some snacks and water. It was so relaxing to spend the afternoon reading on the beach watching the boats goes by. John did splurge and buy me an Italian Ice – not as frugal as we normally would have been but it was a very nice change of pace.

After a few hours of the water park, we headed home to grill burgers and bake french fries (both from the freezer). We finished the night off smores cooked over the firepit that was given to us by our very generous friends. And speaking of free outdoor gifts, I got lucky today and found a park bench for my front yard marked with a large “FREE” sign on it. We loaded it up into the minivan and headed home with it. I will spend tomorrow revamping it so I will post pics of that later.

This is how we have an almost free 4th of July. It was fun and relaxing without costing much at all.

Menu Plan Monday 4/7/2014…


This weekend finished up our Spring Break and it was nice to be back home. We went camping at Skidaway Island, GA for 2 days and then went to Hilton Head Island, SC for 2 days. It was a nice vacation but nothing beats being at home. The kids agree too. They both asked the last day of vacation when we were going to be back home.

Sunday: Grilled Chicken Panini, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Sautéed Zucchini
This is one of the kid’s favorite meals and the last time I made it, Josh missed dinner that night. He was so upset at missing these sandwiches that he asked to have them ASAP so he would get his. 

Monday:  Sloppy Joe Casserole, Leftover vegs from the fridge

 (Crockpot) Salsa Chicken Tacos, Steamed Rice, Greenbeans
We have roller skating for Josh and swimming for Brittany on Tuesday and Thursday nights right now so it will have to be easy dinner for a while.

Wednesday: Chicken and Dumplings (for most of the family) and Matzoh Ball Soup (for me)
I have found that Dumplings upset my stomach but Matzoh Balls don’t – not sure why but I’m glad to figure that out

Thursday: Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread
I can make this early in the day and have it ready before we head out for sports. And it should provide enough leftovers for Josh to have before Airsoft on Friday night.

Friday: Chicken Gyros, Greek Roasted Potatoes
I’ll post this recipe soon, it is super yummy!

Saturday: Grilled Porkchops, Grilled Zucchini, Mac & Cheese
My mom and Mike are coming to visit us this weekend so we will be having a grilled meal that is easy and delicious. 

I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!

Menu Plan Monday 3/25/2013…


This was a quiet weekend for us. John and Josh were supposed to go camping but John came down with a mild flu on Friday and it had him down for the count. In 18 years of marriage, I bet John has only gotten sick (including a cold) only 2-3 times. It seemed weird to see him so taken down by something. He spent almost all day Friday and Saturday resting and trying to get his strength back. But luckily he was feeling better on Sunday when the next thing happened…

We added a new member to our family – a cute 3 year old Guinea Pig named Gloria. Brittany has been asking us for a Guinea Pig for months now (even leaving little brochures and notes in all kinds of places around the house), so we got her one. Gloria came from a free ad posting on Craigslist (which I think I am addicted to). We had to drive about an hour away to get her but she did come with everything she needs including food to last a month or so. Here she is…



We are also began the process of looking for another car for me. We are almost to our savings goal for the car which means that it is time to begin the process. I have mixed feelings about this. I am very attached to my car since she has been with me for 11 years (and about 185,000 miles – she has 205k but we got her at 20k). She does have a few problems that it would be nice to be rid of (doors that don’t always open, windows that roll down and then get stuck,etc) but it is almost like she is part of our family. I have a feeling that it is going to be a lengthy process for me to find just the right ride for me, especially since I don’t really want to give up Betsy.

What do you drive? Do you love it? Does it have a name?

So, here is what we are eating this week…

Sunday: Papa Johns Pizza
I was planning on having Lasagna but getting the Guinea Pig took us past dinner time and the kiddies were hungry. Guess the free Guinea Pig really cost us $20 worth of pizza!

Monday:  Chicken and Rice, Broccoli
We have Cub Scouts tonight so this will be good to pop into the oven before then.

Tuesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Garlic Bread, Salad

Wednesday: Ritz Baked Chicken Nuggets, Honey Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Garlic Sauteed Spinach

Thursday: Sesame Chicken, Steamed Rice, Broccoli
I’ll pick up some frozen potstickers and fortune cookies to round out this meal. Brittany has been asking for Egg Drop Soup, so I might make that too.

Friday: Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti Noodles, Salad
John and I are taking the kids to a Good Friday Concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater thanks to our good friends the Ralphs! I am very excited!

Saturday: Cheeseburgers, Chips, Fruit
We are camping for Easter this year so this is something we will throw on the camping grill. I love the way food tastes outdoors!

I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!


Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Strudel…


Happy Pi Day! (3.14 – get it?)

So, what is the best thing about the ides of March? Pie Day!  Here is a delicious pie that I whipped up using the fresh pumpkin that I still have in multitude in the freezer. It is so delicious! Imagine if Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie married and had a baby and this is what you would get.  The taste of Thanksgiving but with the Spring weather. Perfect!

Go have some pie! Make this one or a cream pie or maybe a berry pie but for heaven’s sake – get yourself some pie!


Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Struesel Topping

Prep Time 
Cook Time 
Servings 8 Difficulty Easy


  • 15 ounces, weight Canned Pumpkin Puree (I used 2 cups of fresh puree)
  • 14 ounces, weight Canned Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoons Ginger
  • ½ teaspoons Nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 whole 9 Inch Unbaked Pie Crust
  • 2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • ¼ cups Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Chilled
  • 1 cup Walnuts, Chopped (I used pecans because I ran out of walnuts)

Preparation Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Put your unbaked pie shell into a pie pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk and eggs. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until blended and smooth.

3. Pour into pie shell.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

5. While pie is in oven, make the topping. In a small bowl, add the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon and mix to combine. Add the chilled butter and blend with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Mix in the chopped nuts. Set aside.

6. When it’s done remove pie from oven and sprinkle with streusel topping.

7. Reduce the heat to 350 F. When oven gets to 350 F, return pie to oven and continue to bake for an additional 40 minutes.

Personalized Housewarming Gift…

Recently, I was invited to a housewarming dinner for a new friend. I wanted to bring something to welcome her and her husband to their new home but was at a loss for what. I wanted the gift to be practical but personal. My budget was limited but I wanted something that she would appreciate. She had mentioned to me earlier that her house numbers are not easily visible from the street. She was concerned that no one would be able to find her house when they came to visit. That gave me the idea for my housewarming gift….

A personalized potted Rosemary plant with their house numbers on it!

personalized pot


I looked on Pinterest to find examples of the kind of look I was going for. I wanted to include the kids in the gift since I think the best way to teach them to care for other people is by example. Brittany volunteered to find the stencil online and print it out for me to use. She had a lot of fun coming up with different fonts and sizes. I had the pot already in my garage and the outdoor paint was purchased months ago at a garage sale. If you don’t already have the pot, you can purchase them inexpensively at yard sales, thrift stores or even Michaels with a coupon. I cut the number stencils our using a razor to get exact lines. I then taped them onto the pot and traced them with a pencil (in case I made any mistakes). Going slowly so it would look good, I hand painted the numbers on with a teeny tiny paintbrush. All together the personalization probably took 30 minutes including finding the stencil online. I purchased a rosemary plant from Home Depot for $6 and planted it in the pot. This way my friend could have fresh rosemary to cook with year round. When I wrote a card to go with the plant, I explained the rosemary was to give their new home flavor and I included a recipe for a family favorite – Rosemary Bread.

This gift turned out great! It came out exactly as I had envisioned it would and now I am thinking of stenciling a pot on my front porch in a similar fashion – maybe even adding our last name or family initial to it. If you are looking for a fun, creative, personalized gift that doesn’t cost much, try making a personalized pot!

Monday Menu Plan on Tuesday 3/12/13…


Yesterday got away from me and I didn’t take the time to post my Monday menu plan. So, here it is, only it is on Tuesday. Well, better late than never…

Our weekend was wonderfully warm and beautiful! John and I got in a long run on Saturday and then proceeded to accidentally sleep through church get up time on Sunday. We had forgotten to reset the bedroom clocks before bed on Saturday night, so when the alarm went off on Sunday morning, it was really an hour behind. The good thing about our church is that it is broadcast online so we didn’t miss out on the sermon but it still wasn’t the same as being there. I especially like to make sure the kids get into their small groups on Sunday and they can’t do that if we are at home in our pjs. But things like that happen and at least we have a backup plan.

What did you do this weekend? Did you remember to set your clocks?

Here is what we are eating this week…

Sunday: Chicken & Dressing Casserole, Steamed Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes
I made an extra one of these and took it to a friend who has a busy week this week. Friendships that include food are always the best kind!

Monday: Frozen Pizza, Salad, Apple Slices
I have a dinner with my ladies bible study group so John and kids ate a quick frozen pizza before Cub Scouts.  

Tuesday: (Crockpot) Salsa Chicken Hard Tacos, Rice, Greenbeans
This is a quick and easy meal for a busy night. We have to go out tonight and find both kids new running shoes. Not fun.

Wednesday: Chicken Penne Bake, Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Sesame Chicken, Steamed Rice, Broccoli
I’ll pick up some frozen potstickers and fortune cookies to round out this meal. Brittany has been asking for Egg Drop Soup, so I might make that too.

Friday: Fried Catfish, Roasted Potatoes, Fried Okra
I didn’t get to buying fish last week so I will try again this week. I’ll buy whatever fish is on sale this week, so it may not be catfish.

Saturday: Unbelievable Grilled Chicken, Roasted Honey Rosemary Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus
We will also grill enough chicken to have it for lunch on salad for the next few days.


I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!


Shelf Life of Food…

I try to clean out the refrigerator on Sunday night, since the garbage comes on Monday morning, and Wednesday night, since Thursday is grocery shopping day. In between these times, I am always trying to use up what we have so that we throw away a minimum of food. I recently read that 25% of groceries are thrown away and not eaten. That is a huge number! For every $100 you spend at the grocery store, you are throwing away $25? No thanks! So, in an effort to get everything that is purchased eaten before it goes bad, here is a handy dandy chart that my brother recently sent to me on the Shelf Life of Food. I was surprised by some things and maybe you will be too. What do you have in your pantry or fridge that needs to be eaten or thrown out?

Kids and Excercise…

skate park

How much exercise do your kids get? Childhood obesity is on the rise in the United States and although I think there are several societal factors that are contributing to this fact, one of the big problems is that kids just aren’t moving. If you really stop and think about it,  most kids are not getting nearly as much exercise as we did when we were kids. I read recently that children should get at least 1 hours of active exercise per day. And that does not include exercising their thumbs on Minecraft. With budget cuts and the increase emphasis on test scores, public schools have cut gym classes to just twice a week, unlike when I was in elementary school and we went to gym every day. And with most family budgets being cut back too, parents cannot afford to put their kids in the same amount of activities that they once did. So, what is a family to do? Get creative!

First and foremost, use what you have. We spend time with the kids outside on most sunny days. We take trips to the local parks and make use of what they have there. A park near us has a skatepark that we take Josh to a few times each week. He spends an hour or two riding his bike or scooter through jumps and bowls. He is having so much fun that he doesn’t realize that he is getting exercise. There is also a track located next to the skatepark where Brittany and I walk while Josh is riding. Most of the time, we will walk about 1 1/2-2 miles while Josh is riding. That is extra movement that Brittany and I are both getting that we wouldn’t be if we had stayed at home. This park also has a gymnasium with a basketball court and indoor track for those rainy days when we can’t get outside.

We also take advantage of the local Greenway for bike riding and running. Typically John and I will run the Greenway 3 times each week and at least one of those, we take the kids on their bikes. If the weather is nice, it is not uncommon for us to be out there with them for 2 hours or more.

Fun exercise is also season dependent.  In the Spring, we spend more time on bicycles and the trampoline but in the summer you will also find the kids swimming for a few hours each day. In the Fall, hiking is fun for our family. The winter is the hardest time to get exercise in for the kids but I have found the best way is to look for pockets in each day where the weather is warm enough to go out and then schedule exercise in that time. Sometimes this might be directly after school or after dinner. Even if it is just a walk after dinner, everything counts.

The key to getting more movement in your child’s day is to make it a priority and schedule it. Make it fun for them and become a participant too. If it is done right, exercise shouldn’t be burden but a fun family activity. Now, go out there and get moving!