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Monday, March 21, 2016

NEW URL!

Hey ya'll!  If you've come to visit Olivia Makes A Life, I've got some exciting news!

You can now click here to visit the site!

oliviamakesalife.com

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chicken Pesto Salad


As I've mentioned before, I live in Western Pa.  I am located in a small rural area that leaves much to be desired in restaurant choices. 

Sure, we have McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Wendys.  A Perkins, Ruby Tuesday, and Ponderosa.  

But, there are not many of my favorite restaurants in my area.  Some of my faves include Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Texas Roadhouse, etc.  Those are nowhere to be found.  To be exact any of those restaurants are at least an hour and a half away.

We do have a few hidden gems.  I personally really like the Italian Oven.  From what I can tell there are only 2 of these restaurants.  One is in DuBois, PA and the other in Johnstown, PA (like where the famous flood happened.)

Many times my friend and I will go to lunch here and they have a salad that is divine!  It is a chicken pesto salad.  It's lettuce, pesto, chicken, some veggies, and the best part--penne pasta!  I love pasta and salad, so the combination won me over!  The first time I ate it I ordered it on a whim not really knowing what it would be like.  Now I barely look at the menu because I already know what I'm going to eat. 

Though the restaurant isn't terribly priced, we don't go there often just because we are trying to be super duper frugal.  So I decided to do my own copycat version for lunch today, and it turned out AWESOME!

Also, Aldi has pesto now!  It's in a little jar by the pasta and as is tasty as can be!


 Here we go.

The salad uses a basic iceberg lettuce mix that you can get pre-bagged in the store.  I had this on hand and used it as my lettuce base but romaine would be excellent to.

So lay down your lettuce base--however much or little you want.


Then, spoon a little pesto over the lettuce.  I am slightly heavy handed here since I love the pesto, but if you are watching your calorie intake, I would recommend only using the 2 tablespoon serving size.  ( I actually put the pasta down first then the pesto-but either way, it's delish!)


After your pesto is situated, throw on some naked penne pasta!

It's that easy!  The restaurant version added chicken, tomatoes, and cucumbers, but I didn't have any of those things with me, so I had a bare bones salad.  And you know what?  It was still just as good as the restaurant.  




I added a hard boiled egg to mine for some protein and topped it with zesty Italian dressing.  It was lunch time heaven.  I gobbled it up and I got up to date on the social media happenings since this morning.

Give this a try and let me know what you think!  Are pasta and salad your thing?

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Make Up Monday-Easy Lip Exfoliator


I was reading Shape magazine this weekend, and it had an article talking about the new lip colors for spring.  Spoiler alert-pastels.  It's so original, right?

Any way, the key to having your lip color look fabulous is to have ultra smooth lips.

Today I'm going to share my all natural, super easy lip exfoliator.  I can almost guarantee that you have these items in your pantry!

Here we go!

Ingredients:

  • sugar
  • olive oil or coconut oil

That easy!  Put a little sugar in a custard cup then slowly add in oil.  I prefer for the mixture to be fairly dry.

To use:
  • wet your lips 
  • rub the mixture over them
  • rinse off
  • apply moisturizers
Don't go gentle.  Be a little rough on your lips to really slough the dead skin off.  I always rinse with warm water then apply a moisturizer like coconut oil.  If your mixture has a lot of oil in it, you may not need to moisturize afterwards.

There you go.  Super easy, 2 ingredient lip exfoliator.  
Note: You could also use baking soda.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Simple Quesadilla


Weeknight dinner alert!

What do you make when you are short on time and didn't thaw anything from the freezer?

Bean and cheese quesadillas! 

Quesadillas turn up pretty often in our house since they are easy to make and my husband loves them.  What's even better is that they are pretty individual.  You can make them all the same, or everyone can make their own with different ingredients.

Last week was busy!  I arrived home one night and didn't have anything thawed out, so I had to figure something out fast. 

Enter the quesadilla.

Usually we have quesadillas with chicken, but I didn't have any thawed, so I added in the black beans for protein.  

We've used a myriad of ingredients such as: olives, sauteed onions, salsa, green onions, etc.  We've even made buffalo chicken quesadillas!

So if it's 5:30 pm, and you're hungry, get to work.  You'll be feasting in 5 minutes!

First, heat a little bit of olive oil in your skillet over a medium-low heat.


Next, lay a tortilla down and start topping it with your ingredients.


Once you have everything on your tortilla, cover it with another one.  Let the tortillas crisp up a bit-typically 1-2 minutes.  Use a spatula to peek at the bottom side to keep it from getting burnt.  After the underside is golden brown, turn the tortilla over to brown the other side.


Remove from the heat and cut into triangles.


I usually cut this into 6 pieces and use my pizza slicer to cut it with ease!

For these specific quesadillas I used sharp cheddar cheese, black beans, and hot sauce.

Spanish rice recipe to follow!

Comment and tell me your go to quick meal!  I'm always looking for new dinner ideas!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Strawberry Banana Smoothie Recipe



For our third installment of smoothie recipes, I bring you strawberry banana.  If you missed our first 2 flavors, mixed berry and strawberry, you can check them out here and here.

I know that strawberry banana is a smoothie classic and many people (my husband included) love it, but it's not for me mainly because I have a long standing hatred of bananas.  When I was giving students smoothie flavor options for our lab, I didn't include this flavor originally, but several specifically asked if we could add it to the mix.

So I hope all you strawberry banana lovers enjoy this recipe!
Blend. Drink. Enjoy.  




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

4-H Funding in Pennsylvania


4-H funding is in danger in Pennsylvania.

Today after a test in class, several students of mine who are highly involved in 4-H alerted me to the fact that 4-H funding is in trouble.  Governor Tom Wolf would like to cut $50.5 million dollars in funding.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with 4-H, it is an agricultural program that teaches participants skills including, but not limited to: 
  • time management
  • speaking
  • social
  • responsibilities in caring for animals 
The 4-H website lists their goals as:
  • To increase a member’s knowledge in a variety of project areas, while teaching life-skills such as decision-making, public speaking, and leadership.
  • These goals can be accomplished through communicating in a group, working cooperatively and being responsible. Members can learn through experience, preparing, designing and evaluating their projects.
The program is highly reliant on participants working together to achieve successful state fairs, shows, and other various programs.

This program needs to be funded.  It teaches more than just "raising animals."  It teaches valuable skills that participants will use their whole lives such as those listed above.

I asked several of my students to write down what they have learned from 4-H and how they intend to use it in their lives.

Here is what one student had to say:
"It teaches you responsibility because you must take care of your animals, you must feed them at least twice a day, clean their pens or stalls at least once and bathe them a couple times a week.  And if you want them to look really nice you can brush them..."  ~Janelle

She goes on to say that she has had the opportunity to meet many new people and travel to several states due to her involvement in 4-H.


So I ask you to please sign the petition to support 4-H funding. Go here to sign!

No Bake Lactation Cookies



I've mentioned before that I'm a nursing mother.  I truly enjoy the time with Mr. Mack and am sad to know it will end eventually.  

While I'm at school, I pump for him.  Lately, I've been pumping barely enough, so I've been trying some different recipes and remedies to try and boost my supply.  Yes, I have enough for my baby right now, but my freezer stash is down to 2 bags, so I'd like to try to get a little extra for a rainy, I mean, extremely hungry day.

Enter Booby Bites.  I've tried different lactation cookies before, mainly oatmeal, but how many oatmeal raisin cookies can a lady eat?  I wanted to try something new this time, so I found this booby bites recipe on Pinterest.

While the recipe looks great and is wonderfully simple, I had some problems with it.  Primarily I loathe coconut.  Also, when I went to actually make these, I was out of honey and didn't have an chocolate chips.  So of course, I improvised.  

Here is what I ended up doing.



I ordered the Brewers Yeast from Amazon.  Who doesn't love Prime 2 day shipping?  I had the flax seed from a bulk store in the area, and the agave was from Aldi.  (Remember, I didn't have any honey.  Plus, I don't really like honey.)  The rest are fairly common ingredients that I keep stocked in my house.


I started with the dry ingredients as the post said to do.



Then added in the rest and mixed it up.  This is how it came out.


I refrigerated it for over an hour due to getting side tracked and working on other things.

I used my large cookie dough scoop and then finished forming them into balls with my hands.


I will say that since my version contains a lot of oatmeal, they are pretty packy, but they were a nice break from oatmeal raisin cookies and a lot easier since I didn't have to spend time waiting for different batches to bake.

I hope you enjoy these if you try them out.  Comment and let me know what you think and if you make any other alterations to the recipe!


Olivia Makes A Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associations Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you choose to purchase an item from one of my Amazon link, I will receive a very small compensation of which I will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Furminator Review


Tis dog shedding season!  Hair!  Hair everywhere.  Floating through the air.  Laying on the steps.  Sneaking onto plates.  Wait!  How did it get there?  Ev-ry-where.  Ew.

So what's a girl to do?

Buy a Furminator!  

The Furminator came highly recommended to us by our groomer.  We happened to mention one day Red was there that he was shedding uncontrollably.  She gave him a quick brush down, and the amount of hair that came off of him was almost unbelievable.  So we decided to buy one.

The Furminator is a type of brush that also gets to the undercoat of the dog.  The description on Amazon claims that it can reduce shedding up to 90%.  I will say that it is rather pricey, but after using it, I believe it is worth it.

It is very simple to use.  You must use it when your dog is completely dry.  You just brush your dog like normal and take short strokes.  When the brush is full, you can use a little button on it to eject the hair.  I believe the instructions recommended brushing your dog at least twice a week for approximately 10 minutes at a time.  It also suggested using it more during heavy times of shedding.

I used the Furminator on Red the other day for only 5 minutes, and these were the results.  Hopefully the dust pan will give you an idea of how large the pile of hair actually was, and Red isn't even at his worst shedding point yet.  Remember this was only 5 minutes of brushing-not the recommended 10!  Also, those are 12 inches square tiles.

That's more hair than I lose in a year!


I try to brush him outside and gather the hair or let it fly away, but I brushed him inside so I could collect it all to show you.  I do brush him inside during the winter and try to do it on a hard flooring surface.  I recommend using the vacuum to suck it up because the broom will sometimes stir it up, and it will fly around!

So I would say as long as you're going to use it, it is worth it to invest in the Furminator.

Here is a guide to determine what size and type of brush to buy.  We have an 85 lb black lab and bought the large brush for short hair dogs.



There's also a handy vacuum attachment that I'm considering buying!

Moral of the story is buy the Furminator.  You will thank me and so will your carpets and flooring and clothes and food and bedding.  You get the picture!

Olivia Makes A Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associations Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you choose to purchase an item from one of my Amazon link, I will receive a very small compensation of which I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, February 29, 2016

3 More Things Successful People Do to Make Their Mornings Easier



Last week, I bestowed my wisdom to the masses with 3 Things Successful People Do to Make Their Mornings Easier.  

Were these earth shattering tips that no one has ever thought of before?  No.  That said, they are useful tips.

Like I mentioned in that post, until we truly start doing these things, it doesn't hurt to be reminded of them.

Today I am going to share with you 3 more things successful people do to make their mornings easier.  I hope you can apply these to your life if they fit your situation!

Tip #1:

  • Set your coffee pot or at least get it ready the night before.  We are a Keruig family.  My husband drinks a Groves Square cappuccino every morning, and I use my refillable K Cup to brew coffee.  While there's not a lot to prep for us, we do make sure the reservoir is filled at night, and many times I will get my K Cups cleaned out and filled with fresh grounds, so I can just pop it in and not have to worry about cleaning it in the morning.

If you are not Keruig people, no sweat.  You can still get your coffee pot ready to brew by filling the reservoir and setting it up.  If you have a fancy pot, set that timer so you can wake to the smell of your lustrous blend!  If your pot doesn't have a timer, you could get a manual one and set it or just have the pot ready so all you have to do is turn it on once you wake up!

Tip #2:

  • Get your briefcase, bag, or whatever you take with you ready the night before.  Any school teachers out there?  Think about how many bags you take to school with you.  I actually bought a Vera Bradley Get Carried Away tote which is intended to have enough room for a weekend getaway to carry all my crap to school!  I try to get it ready at night, so I can just grab it in the morning and get out the door.  If your bag is packed the night before or you at least lay out whatever items you are taking with you, this will help you not forget things and save time in the morning.
Tip #3:

  • Get gas the night before.  Who has fallen trap to the almost empty gas tank?  Me.  I can pretty much promise you that if plan to get gas in the morning, something will happen that will cause you to run late and not have time to stop for gas.  Maybe breaking your coffee carafe, or the dog throwing up, or who knows what.  Just stop and get gas before you go home.  Is it inconvenient?  Maybe, maybe not but do it anyway.  When I know I have to get gas in the morning, I literally don't sleep very well because I keep that in the back of my mind and dwell on it.  Just get gas the night before and your morning will be easier!
So what do you do to make your morning easier?  Comment and let me know!

Olivia Makes A Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associations Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you choose to purchase an item from one of my Amazon links, I will receive a very small compensation of which I will be eternally grateful.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chicken Bake in the Crock Pot


Raise yo' hand if you have seen this post and image on Pinterest!



It's THE awesomely easy (remember that's the only type of recipes I make) chicken bake.  

Throw it all in a pan, top with Italian dressing seasoning and butter, then shove it in the oven for dinner.  So easy.  BUT it takes an hour to cook, and I don't usually have an hour between when I get home and when we eat dinner.  Hmm, what to do?  

Well,  we could eat dinner a little bit later, but I'm usually half starved and would end up eating 3/4 of a bag of Doritos if I had to wait.  My second solution is to put it in the crock pot!  Yum! 

If you missed my review of the crock pot cook book Fix-It and Forget-It, check it out here.

I love my crock pot mainly because it eliminates the need for me to cook right after I get home.  Plus, it's easy clean up.  So while this recipe is typically baked in the oven, I decided to try to adapt it to my crock pot a few weeks ago.  

Sorry for my glarey pictures.  You understand the concept!

It's very simple.  All you have to do is: dice your potatoes and butter, then butterfly your chicken breast.  (I only use one chicken breast to feed the 2 of us).  Then put the potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot.  Pour a TINY bit of the juice from the beans over them to keep everything from going dry.  Sprinkle the potatoes with the seasoning and put a few pats of butter on them.  



Place your chicken on top and sprinkle with seasoning and include the butter.  


Then finish it off with the beans.  Pour the rest of the seasoning over them and the rest of the butter.


Turn the crock pot on low and enjoy the heavenly smells if you happen to be home while is cooking!

It's just as delicious in the crock pot and even more tender.  So go ahead and give it a try.

Here is the recipe.  Enjoy!

Note: if you are not super duper health conscientious, use a little more butter! : )

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Simple Strawberry Smoothie Recipe




Remember this post I wrote last week about smoothies?

Well, it's time to share another simple smoothie recipe that you can whip up in the morning and get going with your day.

Today's recipe is a classic-plain strawberry.  Although it's not super fancy, it is super tasty.  You can add different ingredients to jazz it up such as honey, cinnamon, or even a few tablespoons of rolled oats, but I like to stick to the quick and simple, so here it is.




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Friday, February 26, 2016

How I Clean My House




House work.  Ugh.  With a child, dog, and husband, housework is basically never ending.

I heard a kid in school today talking about how he didn't need to learn how to do laundry.  Though I was just passing through, I bestowed upon him my wisdom that he may change his attitude when all his clothes all are bleached.

Laundry is never ending.  Dishes are never ending.  Housework is never ending.

It is.  Let's just all agree on that.  No matter how clean your house is, something will happen, probably that same day, and it will be dirty/messy again.

So even though I feel that housework will always be around, unless I get rich and hire a maid, I still fight the uphill battle.

Today I want to share how I clean my house, or at least try to.  I came up with this cleaning schedule several months ago and try to stick to it.  I may miss a day here or there, but the house generally stays somewhat presentable.  Also, when I follow this schedule, I don't have to spend my weekends cleaning!  I keep up with it throughout the week and have the weekend for fun-or to catch up on chores that might have fallen by the way side.

A little about my family and house.  In my household there is my husband, myself, and Mack.  We also have a 2 year old black lab that loses his weight in hair every year.  Our house is a 2 story older home.  We have a large living room with laminate floor, tile in our kitchen and bathroom, and carpet in the bedrooms.  So hopefully that gives you a general idea of what I have to clean on a regular basis.

Chores that I find important and should be done at least once a week are vacuuming, sweeping the hard flooring, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, changing the sheets, etc.  Chores that I find important but believe need to be done daily or almost daily would be the dishes, laundry, and general picking up.  Because these items are done so frequently, I do not list them on my cleaning chart.

I looked through many posts on Pinterest that have cleaning schedules, but none of them were a complete fit for me.  

I came up with this chart, and it works for me.  I hung it on my refrigerator as a reminder to both myself and my husband of what will hopefully get done during each day of the week.



Things to consider:  
-We have a dog that sheds enormous amounts of hair!  That said, I find it necessary to vacuum at least twice a week.
-If you're wondering about "Furminate Red," the Furminator is the type of brush we use on Red.  It's amazing.  I'll do a review about it later on so you can decide for yourself and see the proof!
-Also, our trash pick up is Thursday.  We try to get it ready the night before to keep from rushing or forgetting in the morning.

I hope this schedule aids you while figuring out just what works for you and your family.

You can download this calendar here!
It is in Google Doc form.  As long as you double click on the days, you should be able to type in your own chores or to do list.  You can print this out as your general cleaning schedule or edit it every week to stay organized.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mother's Milk Tea Review


The joys of breastfeeding...

When I started nursing Mack, I never really thought that I would be a person who enjoys nursing.  I mean it hurts likes crazy when you start out.  How could that even be enjoyable, right?

Well fast forward 6 months, and I am now a mother that not only enjoys nursing but is slightly sad that her time with her sweet babe will be ending somewhat soonish.  I plan to nurse Mack until he is at least a year old and may go a bit longer, but either way, time is fleeting.  I so enjoy nursing my son.  We have arrived at the part of the relationship where we are each comfortable with each other and enjoy our time together.  I love seeing him nurse and spending the extra cuddle time with my bug.


Though my nursing relationship will end eventually, it's already somewhat interrupted because I have gone back to work.  *enter sad face emoji*  Obviously work is a fact of life for many people, myself included.  Yes, my husband and I have bills to pay, so it's off to school I go.  Don't get me wrong; I love teaching!  I really do like being in the classroom, and let's be honest, the days when your child won't stop crying and is being a hellion can make the classroom look like a breeze.  But I do miss him, and I miss nursing him while I'm at school

Right now our nursing schedule is morning, after dinner, and right before bed.  He takes two 5 ounce bottles during the day, so it is up to me to get those bottles pumped while I'm away from him. 

Usually I can get the bottles pumped, but not always.  Especially lately.  School is super hectic, and I learned quickly that teaching Family and Consumer Science is even more fast paced than I ever would have thought.  I try to pump twice during the day.  Usually I'll get enough from these bottles, but sometimes I'll have to pump a little at home to add in.  If it's a super busy, I'll pump in the car on the way to pick up Mack.

Lately, I have not been getting the 10 ounces I need just from my sessions at school, so I decided to start drinking Mother's Milk Tea again.  I  have used it on and off since I started back to subbing in November, but I try not to drink it every day because it is slightly pricey-although it is less pricey than other galactogogues.  

When I drink even just one cup of Mother's Milk Tea, I notice that I usually pump an extra ounce during my first session the next day and an extra ounce or so in my next session!  Two ounces doesn't sound like a lot, but my pumping mamas know two ounces of liquid gold is a big deal.  It starts to put my mind at ease!

I read a lot of reviews before I purchased the tea and some said that it smelled and tasted gross.  That somewhat deterred me, but I decided to give it a shot.  My opinion is that the taste and smell are not terrible but not great.  Since drinking semi-regularly, I have found that I am used to the taste and actually don't mind it now.  It does have a black licorice smell to it, but I believe that can be attributed to the anise in it.



Though I'm super-duper frugal, I am willing to spend money on the tea.
Here's why I justify the costs:
  • The tea really does work for me.  I notice a significant (usually 2 ounce) increase in milk supply within a day-or sometimes sooner if I drink it in the morning.
  • As a result of drinking the tea, I can provide enough milk for my babe while I'm gone.
  • By providing breast milk, I don't have to pay for formula.  Even though I have to pay for the tea, it's still cheaper than buying formula.

Please note that while I breastfeed my child, I do not condone formula shaming at all!  Just feed the baby, right?  We actually give Mack a bottle of formula when he wakes during the night, so I can get back to bed and get some sleep. I need sleep.  It's quite dangerous to be a zombie when keeping tabs on high school students cooking.   

Also, know that I bought the tea with my own money and have not been compensated at all for this review.  It is 100% my own opinion and experience. 

Olivia Makes A Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associations Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you choose to purchase an item from one of my Amazon link, I will receive a very small compensation of which I will be eternally grateful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How I Pray for my Husband


I am a firm believer that praying for your husband is important.  I think if you ask anyone who has a solid prayer life they will tell you that prayer makes a difference.  While I don't claim to necessarily have a solid prayer life, I do believe that it is important for me to pray for my husband.

A few years back, several of the women (married or not) in our Sunday school class were passing around The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.  If you are beginning to pray for your husband or future spouse, I would recommend getting this book!  It has wonderful personal accounts on how prayer has changed marriages for the good. 




Stormie Omartian has written various books about the power of prayer.  Whether it be the power of a praying wife, mother, husband, etc., she offers great insight as to why you should pray for someone, how to pray for someone, and recognizing prejudices that may affect your heart of prayer.  This is a woman to look up to.  She clearly knows the difference a prayer warrior can make and has committed her life to being one and helping others learn to be one.

In the book, Omaritan writes about 31 areas of life in which to pray for your husband.  (The previous edition I read only had 30 areas listed.)  Obviously there are more than 31 ways to pray for your husband, but I think it's a good start.  Conveniently enough, there are very often 31 days in a month!  


After reading the book, I decided to make note cards to help me to remember to pray for my husband everyday.  I took each chapter of her book and listed the area of life, a summary of what the chapter said, and a verse that coincides with this prayer.  Fun fact about me: I LOVE fonts.  So I fancied the cards up a bit with some fun fonts and printed them out on blank 3x5 cards.  I cut numbers from my Cricut to put on the reverse side, but that is totally optional.  Finally, I used a single whole punch in the top left corner and put them together with a ring.

Ok, I have my cards.  Great.  Now I need to do the actual praying.  What to do.  What. To. Do.

This is the strategy that works for me.  I keep my cards in a cupboard in my bathroom that I get in every single day; that way I see them, flip to the next day, and take a moment to pray.  I would like to expand my prayer time and have recently tried to pray for part of my lunch time, but a little prayer goes a long way.  It's the thought and sincerity that counts not how long the prayer is.

So pray on even if you're not getting along-especially if you're not getting along, because prayer changes lives including yours.

Here is a PDF download of my prayer cards!  Download, print, and pray!  Click here!

This makes a great wedding or shower gift.  Spread the love and pray!

Olivia Makes A Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associations Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you choose to purchase an item from one of my Amazon link, I will receive a very small compensation of which I will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fix-It and Forget-It Review


Crock pot, oh how I love thee!

Who doesn't love a good crock pot meal?  Throw it all in a pot in the morning and have supper ready when you walk through the door.  That's what I'm talking about.

Side note: Crock pots are excellent shower/wedding gifts!  That's where I got mine!  Thanks Miss Langham!

I usually have about a half hour between when I get home and when Josh gets home.  Even though he's not the type of person to demand dinner right away, we both like to eat early.  

I am into easy, easy recipes.  See my super easy chicken stuffing casserole here.  I could definitely give Rachael Ray a run for her money with a 30 minute meal.  We're pretty plain Jane in our house.  Many times I'll make grilled chicken/steak and veggies or even eggs.  I like dinner to be quick and uncomplicated.  The only thing that is better than that is having dinner ready when I walk in the door.


Enter Fix-It and Forget-It.  I bought this cookbook shortly after we got married.  I was still in college and working, so I didn't have a lot of time or energy to make dinner in the evening.  I love my crock pot and have found plenty of awesome recipes from this book!

Like many cookbooks, Fix-It and Forget-It is split into several categories.  

  • appetizers, snacks, and spreads
  • breakfast foods
  • breads
  • soups, stews, and chilis
  • main dishes
  • bean main dishes
  • vegetables
  • desserts
  • beverages
So as you can see, there are plenty of recipes and categories to pick from depending on your mood for dinner.

Fact about me:  I'm the type of person that buys cookbooks or gets cooking magazines and then never cooks anything from them.  Yeah, money out the door.  But this book is different.  I have made many different recipes from a crock pot chocolate lava cake to Strogranoff, and I continue to try new things.  If you want to adopt the crock pot lifestyle or even make your life a little more simple one or two nights a week, this is the book for you.  

Not only does the book offer a variety of categories, but each category is filled with many recipes.  The soups, stews, and chilis section contains the most recipes because those are prime crock pot meals.  I would like to note that many times there will be more than one recipe listed for the same type of meal.  For example, I am sharing my favorite vegetable soup recipe from the book, but there are also several different recipes and variations listed.  Everyone has a different take on dinner.  Why not try them all and pick your favorite?

Long story short, this is a purchase that was definitely worth it for our household.

To close, I will leave you with one of my fave recipes from the book.  I've even made this and put it in the freezer for later.  It's versatile and easy!


You can download a FREE 4x6 card of the recipe here!

BONUS TIP:if you are making a meal but will not be home to turn the crock pot on at the right time, get a manual timer and set it!


Monday, February 22, 2016

3 Things Successful People Do to Make Their Mornings Easier



Ok, this post is not really rocket science or anything, but it is useful advice.

Raise your hand if you love the feeling of being rushed in the morning!

Yeah, that's what I thought.  I don't think I know anyone that actually likes being rushed in the morning, but I know a lot of people who are rushed in the morning-myself included.  My husband hates being rushed so much that he gets up at least one hour and fifteen minutes before he has to be out the door.  He's a guy, read-doesn't take that long to get ready, but he still sets his alarm earlier than mine.  Let's face it, once his goes off, I'm up too.

I am going to share 3 tips to be successful in having a less stressful morning.  You may have heard these before, but until you actually put them into action, they bear repeating.

Tip #1:

  • Lay your clothes out the night before.  Yes, we have heard this before, but it's so true.  I would suggest picking out at least 2 outfits for the next day just in case you wake up in a different mood than what you previously thought.  It is NOT enough just to mentally think of what you are going to wear the next day.  I fall into this trap all the time.  I'll have a mental picture of what I want to wear ahead of time, but then it never looks right.  Even if you decide an outfit doesn't look right, you will have the other one to switch to.  Just do it.  Seriously, it will make your morning so mindless that you might have time to make a second cup of coffee before you leave!

Tip #2:
  • Pack your lunch the night before.  This is so super duper time saving; I can't even believe it.  Unless you are one of the fortunate people like my husband that can go home for lunch, PACK YOUR LUNCH!  For real.  If you do it the night ahead, you can scrounge around or think in depth about what you want.  You don't have to scramble and settle for whatever may or may not be in the refrigerator.  Many times I'll take salads to school as my lunch, and I'll make up 2 at a time, so then I only have to grab a few snacks the next night to have my lunch finished.
Tip #3:
  • Make a to do list before you go to bed of anything you need to do the next day.  You know when you're lying in bed thinking of all the things you need to do in the morning, next day, or day after.  Then you think to yourself "Don't forget to wash the bottles, feed the dog, buy sparkly nails polish..."  You know the feeling.  Then you may be the type of person who starts stressing out about not forgetting to do these things.  Simple solution.  Keep a notepad and pen in your room by your bed and write all these ideas down so you won't forget them.  While I'm a semi-fan of the technological phone to do list since people pretty much always have their phone with them, I do try to limit my screen time before bed because I do honestly sleep better if I'm not all hyped on on blue emitted light and social media scandals, but if that works for you, make a list in your phone.  If not just write it down the old fashioned way!

I hope these tips help you in your morning planning.  Even if you've heard them before, it never hurts to have a little reinforcement.  

Comment and tell me how you prepare for the morning bustle!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chicken Stuffing Casserole


When Mack was born, some of our friends brought us dinner one night when they came to meet the little mister.

It was complete comfort food, and we devoured it.  It was so good.

They provided a basic casserole with chicken, veggies, and stuffing.

Fast forward 6 months and one of my co-workers gave birth to a little girl last week.  I wanted to do something nice for her because I can remember how hectic those first few weeks really are.  So I got the recipe from Tara and whipped it up one Saturday morning.  

It is so easy and tasty!  It's like a fancy fake out, because it takes virtually no time to put together.  It's the thought and the food that counts, right?  Not the length of time it takes to prepare it.


The ingredients are simple: canned chicken-although I'm sure you could use fresh diced chicken breast, cream of chicken soup, milk, frozen mixed veggies, and boxed stuffing.

I really like casseroles because they basically are a complete dinner in one dish.  Casseroles eliminate the need to make sides dishes etc.  One thing I don't like about casseroles is that many times you have to cook the items that go in them ahead of time.  I think of casseroles as being time saving, but when you have to cook all the items ahead, they are not.   This one is so simple.  The only ingredient you have to cook ahead is the stuffing.  Stove top for the win. 

So I started the water for the stuffing and got to mixing everything else together. 


First, I put the cream of chicken in a bowl and slowly added milk to it until it got to casserole consistency.  There really isn't an exact measurement. I added about 1/4 cup at a time and mixed it through.  I estimate that I added close to a cup.

After that was mixed through, I threw my frozen veggies and canned chicken and mixed it again.


I finished making the stuffing once the water boiled and scattered it over the top.



I didn't bake it since I was taking it to her, but I would estimate to put it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Enjoy!


You can also download a FREE 3x5 card of the recipe here!