Friday, November 30, 2018

How Getting a New Camera Changed Our Picture Game

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something on here, at no extra cost you, I may earn a small commission. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 



One of the things that I have always loved doing with my family has been getting my kids' pictures
 taken each year.

When my first child was born, I took him to our local Walmart picture studio for every month of his first year... except for that one month because I was mad about how that previous month went.

I never really went overboard with the price, because at the time, I could get a picture package for a single picture from anywhere between $5.99- $9.99. (Did I mention this began almost 9 years ago?) Here and there, we'd purchase a bigger package for special occasions, but mostly, we stuck around with the cheaper one because my husband and I were freshly out of college and our jobs, at the time, didn't pay well.
He's cute, but why did they tilt him like this?

When my second born came into the world, we tried to get her pictures done, but somewhere along the line, Walmart's studio left the building. But not to worry though, because grandma two and a half hours away had a picture studio that offered a similar package and their pictures were done very well and the experience was 100x better than Walmart's was.


Unfortunately, that meant that there were pictures that we just couldn't let go of because we needed singles photos of each child and we also wanted family pictures with them. This meant that we could only purchase a package once or twice a year because a $200-$300 portrait package just isn't in our "amount we want to spend on anything" budget.


When my last child blessed us with his presence, I did a terrible job of keeping up with pictures. I know how my youngest sister must feel now, being the hidden child. The child that there was no record of... ok... My youngest isn't really a hidden child because we took many pictures from our phones, but the chances of getting those printed and handed out has dropped to like a mere 10-15% chance of doing it.

So, about once a year, we began getting pictures taken of the kids to pass out a Christmas gifts- Surprise! You're getting a coffee mug with my kid's faces on it every year until the day you die... Well, we do make picture books and notepads, too.

Unfortunately, for us, the picture place closed so we tried to do another portrait place over in . Shaumburg. The pictures were cute, but the we didn't get much for our buck.



So this year, I decided I would try to take our own pictures. My daughter had a fall tea party and one of the things that I thought would be fun to do was to set up a picture station. I bought a plain white table cloth and taped it to one of our walls and then taped some fall decorations on to it as a photo drop. The idea was cute and if you squeezed everyone together, you might be able to get a good photo without the kitchen or the tan wall being in the picture, but the picture quality wasn't professional with my camera phone and my camera was slow in making some shots.


As you can see, the picture isn't focused well and it appears to be a little grainy. It's still alright because when I look back at older photos with older phones, those pictures are almost always blurry or just awful.


I also noticed that the camera on my phone doesn't focus on what I want it to. So when I went to Starved Rock and Matthiessen to hike, I told my husband that I would like a new camera. A good one. A professional one.



At first, he told me that it wasn't something that we could really do, especially since we have our phones to take good pictures with, but I think that after taking pictures of the outdoor scenery and seeing how the photos didn't do the colors and details of the outdoors justice, he began to mull the idea over.




I would leave little hints about how my blog could use some more professional looking photos and how we didn't really have any pictures to hand out at Christmas, this year, and then one day, I got an email from him while he was on his break at work.

He sent me several pictures of cameras with all of the details about what they came with and all the specs and wrote, "Would you like this as an early Christmas present?" After much debate and talking about the expense and telling him that I would be ok with something smaller, he said, "If we're going to get a camera, we're going to do it right."

Who can argue with that logic?


So now, we have a camera.  The camera above and it came with ALL of that fancy stuff. It's one where I have to turn the lens to zoom it in and our and focus with it. One that gives me a manual option- options that I should remember from my photography class I took 12 years ago... hahahahahaha- it also gives options for outdoors, sports, different lens and their attachments. I can take photos, good photos. I need to practice.




She really is that pale. This is a few days after she got over the flu.





I'm still getting the hang of it, but I think that this is going to be one of the best purchases we make, this year. So be prepared for more pictures, because I'm going to be taking them!

Closing Questions for you!

  1. Is anything stopping you from taking awesome photos?
  2. What tips, if you have any, would you give for someone who is a newbie at taking pictures?
  3. What are your must have photography items?
  4. If you edit your photos, what are the best free or low cost programs to use?
  5. What kind of pictures do you like to take? (Please keep them clean as this is a family friendly site. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Let Mom Experience the Holidays, Too!





As an adult, I have this new respect for my mom and my grandma who worked in the kitchen the whole day on Thanksgiving and even on Christmas to make sure that everyone had a favorite dish to eat on Thanksgiving. For one thing, food is EXPENSIVE and for another thing, it can take a long time to make those dishes.

Now that I'm hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, I realize how time consuming it really is. I felt that I missed most of the Christmas cheer and celebration, last year, so this year, I vowed that it wouldn't happen again.

How Do You Give Yourself Extra Time?


  • Prepare Dishes ahead of time- Prepare any dish that you can the night before. A few weeks ago, I posted 7 different Easy to Make Thanksgiving dishes. Almost every single one of those can be prepared the night before. Then, about 30-40 minutes before the meal is to be served, slip those in the oven (If that's where they go) and voila, you have most of your morning to do what you want to do. 

Related- How to Have an Easy Thanksgiving with These Easy-to-Make Side Dishes


  • Do take out- If your family is happy with ordering out there may still be restaurants open that day, but before deciding to do that, check around your area to see if any of them do offer that. 
  • Don't prepare so much food- I know this seems silly because Thanksgiving-especially- is about being thankful, but also the food spread. If you can find just a few dishes that everyone likes, do that instead.
  • Potluck style- You're already offering your house as a place to gather. Make the turkey and have guests or other family members prepare a dish. As your kids get older, involve them in the cooking.
  • Already Prepared Food- Not everything needs to be homemade. If you can throw some frozen vegetables in the microwave and you want to, do it! Buy that pie that's already made! 
  • Take Turns to Host- If you always host and you don't mind giving up the title to someone else, ask someone else to take over from time to time. If you feel guilty, bring a dish to pass.
  • Use Fake Dishes- Did you know that you can buy fake china? I discovered some Premium Plastic Plates at Sam's Club a few years ago. They look like the real thing, but you don't have to wash them. Just recycle them. I know this can be wasteful, but it really does save you time and you don't have to worry about whether or not you have enough dishes or silverware to serve your guests. 

Prepare Your Food Station Ahead of Time

There's nothing more frustrating than figuring everything out at the last minute. Figure out your game plan! What will you do when it's time to eat? Do you have a place for the food to go?


  • Make room for food- We have a dining room. We try to fit the main dishes in the middle of the table, but it doesn't fit all of it. We end up putting a card table to a side with less foot traffic and put desserts and side dishes on it. If there isn't enough room, put the dessert in the fridge or some other place that's safe from animals and people bumping into it. 
  • Move things around- If you are having guests, the house can get easily crowded. If you can, temporarily move your furniture around so that there is ease of moving around. 
  • Ask Someone to Set the Table- We use our dining room table for everything including socializing. It's difficult to play games or talk when you're doing it over empty dishes. I usually put out a nice tablecloth, maybe some pretty centerpieces, and then leave the rest of the table open. When I know the food is just about ready, I ask my kids to help set the table. Since we have family and friends, I really don't care too much about how it looks after because they still love me for me.
If you have a plan, you don't have to hurriedly scramble things together and keep your wits about you.  


What to Do With the Extra Time that You Get?

Do what you love to do with your family.

Examples:


  • Play board games- My kids are just getting to the age where they can enjoy and understand some of my favorite board games. We're not quite ready to play Monopoly yet, (maybe Monopoly isn't the game to play on a day when you're supposed to be thankful) but Battleship is pretty easy to play. 
  • Make Crafts- Construction paper is really one of my favorite things to use for crafts. You can make hand turkeys or pilgrim hats. Last year, I cut out a tree trunk and then a base for leaves. Then with red, yellow, and orange construction paper, I cut out tear drop shaped leave and each of us wrote five things we were thankful for, then taped them to the tree for a thankful tree.








































We made Turkey puppets, this year. We have Peg Leg Joe, Princess Turkey, Bat Turkey with a cold beak, and Turkey Robin.
  • Watch Movies- It doesn't have to be a Thanksgiving movie or a Christmas movie, just find a movie that you, the kids, and the rest of the family enjoys and pop it in. 
    • Pop some popcorn and add some M&Ms for a special treat.
    • Snuggle up with warm blankets.
    • Drink some hot cocoa! My favorite is Land O' Lakes Hot Cocoa. 
  • Play Some Games with the Adults- It's ok to NOT do everything with your kids. If they are busy watching their own movie or playing without killing each other, play some card games or other games that you don't get to do normally. Moms and Dads- you spend so much time with your kids, it's ok to have adult time. Some of my favorite, and sometimes not appropriate games to play are:
    • Cards Against Humanity- not suitable for children or playing with your grandparents, unless they're dirty minded or politically incorrect.
    • Apples to Apples- This is family friendly. There is a judge who either gives you a word or a description and everyone else who is playing either plays the word or description that they think fits that word best and the judge picks which one is best. 
    • Risk- Like Monopoly, this can cause your family to be estranged. 
    • Scrabble- This is a game that your kids can play if they aren't competitive. It teaches them how to read, spell, and learn new words for their vocabulary. 
Eat!


If you made a turkey or ham, it's going to be done cooking between 3-5 hours. (perhaps more if it's very large). It's going to need some time to cool, so after you take it out of the oven, throw in your other side dishes that were prepared ahead of time. I know some recipes give different times and temps. What I usually do is find the middle ground and adjust the time accordingly. As long as you're not preparing other meat items, what we're mostly looking for is that the dish is warmed through.


Have your kids set the table and then have everyone sit down and eat.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. Remember, this is the time to be Thankful, although we should always be grateful for what we have, but relax. Take it easy and enjoy the ones you love!

Don't let the busyness of these holidays ruin your quality time and enjoyment of the day!



Monday, November 19, 2018

The Wild Kratts Live 2.0- A Paw-some Review

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases you make can earn me a small commission at no extra cost for you. Although I coincidentally won some free tickets to this show, I was not paid or sponsored to write this post. All opinions are my own. 




With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to share with everyone something that happened to me that I was really Thankful for.

I got this wonderful opportunity and won some tickets to go see the Wild Kratts Live 2.0. I'd like to give a shout out to my friend Jessica, because without her, I wouldn't have seen the link to enter the give-a-way- Thank you Jessica!

If you've been following my blog, you know that my son has this amazing memory. He's knowledgeable in all the things that interest him and I've been asked by every one of his teachers where he gets his knowledge. They have even told me, "Your son could have taught this class today. You must read to him all the time." It's usually then that I smirk or chuckle, because truth be told, I read to my kids, but not every day and really, most of the things that they've learned about, they've actually learned from watching television.

When it comes to animal knowledge, my kids have learned most of what they know because of the Wild Kratts. (Thanks Netflix and Amazon Prime!)  So I was ecstatic when I got that tag on Facebook saying that I won the tickets.

To be honest, I had looked into purchasing tickets for this show closer to where I live, but I had no idea what it offered. I didn't know if there would be live animals and if it would just be like what you see when watching talk shows and a zoo keeper or other animal handler brings animals on stage or if it would be totally theatrical. With the cost per person, I was afraid to take the risk to buy tickets for a family of five and then have my kids be totally disappointed. So I held off on purchasing any.

Let me tell you this, My kids were so excited when I finally told them what we were going to see. I had kept it a secret from them until we were standing right in front of the theater.



My oldest is ever dramatic, just like me. So, I knew they'd be excited, but I didn't know if they would be interested in the show once it had started. I was very nervous because my youngest is only four and when we had taken him to his first movie in the theater several months before, he had swung from the bars that were in front of our seat separating our seats from the group below us. I didn't want him running up and down the aisles. Thankfully, that didn't happen. 

Once we got to the show, we realized that it was going to play along with the actual tv series. In order to understand what we saw, you'll need to understand what the tv series is like. 

The Wild Kratt's television series

If you've never watched the Wild Kratts, you can view a few of their seasons for free on Amazon Prime Video or you could watch them on PBS. The Wild Kratts starts every episode with the two, very real, Kratt brothers Martin and Chris. They each talk about different topics like "Why do moose look so weird?" and then talk about other animals who look funny and explain why they do. This little snippet is about two minutes long and they say, "Imagine what it would be like if we had faces like a walrus. What if?!?!" then they strike a pose and they turn into their cartoon versions of themselves. 

The Wild Kratt's crew includes Martin and Chris Kratt, Jimmy Z, Aviva, and Koki. Each crew member has an important part to play in the crew. Aviva is the inventor behind the creature suits, Koki does pretty much everything, and Jimmy Z is the tech operator who is basically the modern day Shaggy from Scooby Doo. It is Chris and Martin's job to research animals to find out why they are unique. With Aviva's creature power suits, Chris and Martin are able to transform into any animal and use their unique creature powers to save the day. So, in the Walrus episode, Chris and Martin transform into a walrus and with their tusks and special whiskers, they are able to find something hidden under the seabed floor that they wouldn't have been able to find if they were human. 

Unfortunately, in every episode there is some villain who tries to stand in their way. They have Chef Gourmand who likes to only cook and serve rare animals, Donita who is a fashion designer who only fashions her looks with animals and Dabio who is her not-so-bright sidekick, and Zach Varmatech who is an evil tech inventor that uses real animals to power his inventions and has his Zachbots capture the poor animals. It's up to the Wild Kratts to save the day.


The Wild Kratt's Live 2.0 

The show that we saw began, to my surprise, with the REAL Martin and Chris Kratt. I didn't know if it would really be them, or if we would see actors. So this was the first surprise. 



I hope I never forget the looks on my kid's face when they walked out on stage. The joy and wonder that showed on them made everything worth while.

From the moment the two men started talking, my youngest was literally on the edge of his seat. His focus was on that stage and his face was right next to the boy in the seat in front of him. I had to keep moving him back so that poor boy had some space.

The Kratt brothers welcomed us and talked about how cool animals were. They asked the audience what their favorite animals were and everyone would answer all at once. My kids don't usually interact with the television, so I was surprised when they interacted with the Kratt's prompts.

Then it happened, the Kratt brothers asked, "What if WE could become these creatures? Should we use our creature power suits?" The audience said, "Yes!" The brothers then asked, "Which one should we become? I heard the cheetah. We'll try that first!"

The energy of the room was raised and excited "yays" rang throughout the theater. The Kratt brothers began to show us their creature power disks. Chris's was organized while Martin's were found randomly in his pack and one disk was even in his shoe. It was during the time that he was searching for the disk in his shoe, that Martin clumsily knocked all of Chris's and his power disks through the air and lost them all in the grass.

So, naturally, the brothers needed to shrink down to miniaturized size to find these disks. This is where the live show and the cartoon show combined.

I don't want to give away the show, but from here, the Kratts looked for the power disks and as they found them, they changed into some helpful creatures.



They battled and hid from some Zackbots and in the end, they found all the disks they had been looking for.

Conclusion 

The show involved the whole audience and even though some parts were slow because of the costume changes, my kids were still interested and engaged the whole time.

I highly recommend going to see this show if you have younger kids. My oldest is almost 9 and he was still very entertained. It didn't see to be too young for him. I'd say that the show is for kids ages four to ten.

We really enjoyed the show, even the adults. It was interesting and funny. It had a great mix between live and cartoon. It incorporated many of the same things the tv show has including the miniaturizer and Zackbots. A screen dropped down to give us information on different animals as well as show us the cartoon version of Koki, Aviva and Jimmy Z. So all of our favorites were there.


One thing that I wish I would have known is that the show offers VIP tickets. Since we won our tickets, I didn't know this. Each VIP ticket gets to do a meet and greet with Martin and Chris and that would have been something that we would have really enjoyed doing. Now I know for next time!


Since we saw the show in a town four hours away, I called my kids off of school and stayed at my parent's house since they were only an hour away from there. I was comfortable with this because I felt that it was an educational field trip of sorts and it didn't disappoint. 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to post about this show. The tickets that I won were totally coincidental and ALL opinions are my own. I am not getting paid to write this post.







Friday, November 16, 2018

Thanksgiving Shopping List

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I made you a list that you can download and print for free for easy to make Thanksgiving side dishes. To see the recipes and instructions, you can visit this blog post about How to Have An EASY Thanksgiving With 7 Easy-to-Make Side Dishes. For the free printable click here


Have a wonderful, easy, and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Have an EASY Thanksgiving With 7 Easy-to-Make Side Dishes





Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (political things put aside) to celebrate each year with your family and friends. When I was younger, we would all go over to my Grandma's and we'd eat until we were too stuffed to move.

Now, as an adult with my own home and dining room, I like to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. The very first year we were in our home, we invited my husband's and my side of the family to come celebrate with us. I don't remember the number for sure, but I think we had 18 people to feed. We had our long dining room table and added a long folding table at the end and we fit snuggly, but we still fit!

We haven't had as many people come since that first one, but we still have a pretty big turn out and with that comes a lot of food and each person has that one special thing that they like to eat for Thanksgiving.

As a parent with young kids, hosting Thanksgiving can be a bit chaotic, but bringing your kids to another person's house can give you more anxiety than hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so I just choose to host it.

So how do you make it work for you? If you are hosting a multi-family Thanksgiving, cooking can be expensive and overwhelming. This is what we do in our family.

POTLUCK Style!!!

Usually, my mother-in-law will make the turkey, and I will make a ham. From there, we make a list of the dishes that we would like to have and we divide the list in half- or if there are more people joining us, we ask them the chip in by bringing a dish or two to pass.

If this appeals to you or if you are just looking for dishes to make even though you are cooking for your family by yourself, here's a list of our easy-to-make dishes that never seem to fail us.

You're going to notice a trend and that trend is, if it isn't easy to make, it's not making this list. 

Breakfast Pizza- What some people forget when it comes to big holidays is that we still need to eat earlier on in the day unless you're going to eat everything around noon, but we usually do our Thanksgiving dinner around 4 or 5 in the afternoon because some of our loved ones still work that day. An easy way to feed everyone is to make this Breakfast Pizza. It's super delicious and very easy to make. 
Click Breakfast Pizza for recipe. 

Green Stuff- Ok, the name sounds really weird and it's not very descriptive, but growing up, my grandma made this Jello salad (made with cottage cheese and Jello) that was absolutely delicious. It's not quite a dessert so we sometimes ate it with the food or we sometimes saved it for dessert time. This is a dish that you can and SHOULD make the night before so it has time to set. 

Click Green Stuff for recipe. 

It's super easy to make and you can make it several ways. For instance, in the pictures, I made it with strawberry jello instead of lime. 


Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise-  Since we just introduced a dish that should be made the night before, here is another one. 

This dish was a complete accident when I came up with it, but the accident turned into a marvelous creation. If you like Jello Pretzel dessert, you'll probably like this too. With everything blended together, it gives a rich, smooth taste with your favorite jello taste and the fruits added make it somewhat healthyish, right?

It's not a pie or a sea foam salad, but it's still absolutely delicious and easy to pass around your table.

Click Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise for the recipe

Corn Bread Casserole- With very few ingredients and even fewer instructions, this is the perfect side dish to add to your Thanksgiving meal. Cornbread is such a great comfort food and having it mixed with these other ingredients, your taste buds will be sure to love you. 


Click Cornbread Casserole for recipe. 

Green Bean Casserole-  This dish is probably my favorite in the side dish category. The dessert category is a whole 'nother thing. Before I moved on my own, my mom always made this casserole and I always thought that it must have been really difficult to make since it tasted so good. I was completely wrong. I kind of feel like maybe my mom had this smart idea to make cooking seem hard so that we felt thankful for her and to show our gratitude, we did the dishes. Who am I kidding, the dish washer did that for us. 
Click Green Bean Casserole for recipe

Candied Sweet Potatoes-  As long as I can remember, I have always loved sweet potatoes. My mom, who didn't cook often, would make this dish every Thanksgiving meal and if it didn't get made, I protested. 

Sweet potatoes, which are already sweet, hence the name, become even sweeter with this recipe. The ooey, gooey marshmallows add a great flavor and texture and the pecans can be optional- When I make it, I add them to one side so those who don't like the nutty flavor and texture can enjoy the potatoes without them. 

Click Candied Sweet Potatoes for the recipe.
Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes-  When I asked my brothers-in-law what side dish they wanted and had to have for Thanksgiving, mashed potatoes was the number one answer. Although I leave my mother-in-law in charge of potatoes and she makes hers a little differently, you still can't go wrong with this recipe. 
Click Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes for recipe. 
Conclusion

There are SOOOO many more dishes that you can make for Thanksgiving, but this is the easy list. Everything else that gets made for our family goes up in difficulty and I leave those dishes to my mother-in-law because she has the recipe and if it isn't easy, I don't want to make it. 

Thanksgiving is a time to feel thankful and I know that for me, it's hard to get into that mindset when I spend the whole day in the kitchen while the rest of the family is somewhere else in the house. 

You can prepare many of these dishes the night before and warm them up in the oven usually about a 30-45 minutes before the meal is to start. 

Just remember, that when making these dishes, make sure that you have time to prepare them and also have fun with your family.

Because these are so easy, don't stress out and enjoy the day.

If you want desserts, order a pie or something else that is already pre-made and only needs to sit on the counter to thaw.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and to be with family. If you're too stressed out, you're doing it wrong, so do it right. Enlist some help! Have your kids set the table. Include them so that the feel responsible and like they had a part in making this celebration. 

Most importantly, Have FUN!!!!!

Also, because I'm so grateful for every single one of you, I've made this FREE Thanksgiving checklist just for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes




Mashed potatoes is definitely one of those dishes that is considered a comfort food. You can't even go to KFC or Popeye's without being asked if you'd like some mashed potatoes with that and that's fine with me.

I love mashed potatoes, but unfortunately for me, my husband and kids don't like them, so Thanksgiving is the only time I get to really have them unless we've gone out to a restaurant and I can get my own single serve side of them. It's really a sad thing, but it makes Thanksgiving that much better.

Related- Things I had to Give Up When I Became a Family

If you really want to go easy, I suggest you find yourself a good, flavorful box of instant mashed potatoes, but if you want the real deal, here's a recipe just for you!

Ingredients

More pictures to come


  • 3 pounds of brown potatoes- peeled
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 2 tbs of garlic salt

Instructions


  • Grab a big large pot of water and boil it.
  • Peel and dice potatoes- it's easier to cook all the way if cut into smaller pieces.
  • Carefully add potatoes to the large pot of water and boil for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. 
  • Once tender, drain potatoes and place back into the pan.
  • Mash potatoes with a masher or a hand mixer. 
  • Melt butter and add to the potatoes with remaining ingredients. 
  • Blend well, transfer to a nicer dish, and serve
If potatoes are clumpy and dry, add a little more milk until smooth and creamy. Not too much or the potatoes will be runny.

What's your favorite side dish?



Candied Sweet Potatoes




I said before that green bean casserole was my favorite Thanksgiving dish, but that has to be a lie because I absolutely love Candied Sweet Potatoes. Perhaps they can tie, although, I really do love me some regular mashed potatoes.

Since sweet potatoes are already sweet, there really isn't a need to doctor them up, but when you make it this way, it just really enhances the flavor. It takes a regular side dish and makes it into a dessert and really, who doesn't love dessert. (Keep your hands down you naysayer!)

My motto for Thanksgiving is "If it isn't easy, I'm not making it" and this is certainly, a very easy dish to make.

Ingredients


  • 4 16oz cans of sweet potatoes (drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups margarine or 2 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups of marshmallow


Better pictures to come
Instructions

  • In microwave safe bowl, melt butter then mix with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 2 cups marshmallows, stir. 
  • Pour mixture over the sweet potatoes. If you wish for smaller bites, you can mash them, but I usually don't and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • Carefully pull sweet potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle remaining marshmallows over it and put back in the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes or until marshmallows begin to turn golden. 
Pull out and wait a few minutes before serving. It's super easy and delicious!

Have you tried your sweet potatoes, this way? Did you love it or was it just not for you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Breakfast Pizza








I grew up in the Northwest part of Illinois where I was lucky enough to learn of this magnificent thing called a breakfast pizza. Since moving to the Eastern part of Illinois, there aren't really any Casey's (the gas station who introduced me to it) around here, I've missed out on ordering something truly magnificent.

I've had to learn to make some of my favorite dishes since moving here four years ago, and breakfast pizza was one of those things that I had to try for myself.

Since I already make my own homemade pizza (thanks pa-in-law for teaching me!), I started out with making my own dough. Since I've had kids, it isn't always practical doing that, so I've had to improvise from time to time if I want to make something really quick instead of waiting for the pizza crust to rise only to beat it and wait for it to rise again and a great alternative is actually the frozen/refrigerated dough in the biscuit aisle at the nearest store.

Ingredients


  • 1 refrigerated pizza crust
  • Jimmy Dean Sausage
  • Green Pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tsp milk
  • 1-2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Instructions


  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Spray a pizza pan with cooking spray
  • Unroll pizza crust onto pan. Stretch it as much as you can over the pan without ripping it. Fold over edges to create a crust barrier.
  • Place small sausage dobs strategically on pizza. If you're going to use green pepper, cut into small slices and place as much as you want throughout. Do the same for mushrooms. If you wish to add bacon, I cooked mine and then crumbled it over the pizza.
  • Crack the 2 eggs into a small container, add the milk and beat them until they are pretty well mixed. Pour egg concoction over the pizza.
  • Add the amount of cheese that makes you feel happy.
  • Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. It always takes less time in my oven, so you may want to check it around 10 minutes. 
  • Enjoy!

This pizza is really great for those nights when you kind of want pizza, but also kind of want breakfast. It's also great for the holidays when you're looking for something easy to make for breakfast, but don't want to fill up too much before you have your big feast. 

So whether you have left over ingredients from an omelet that you don't want to spend the time carefully making or if you are just looking for something different than cereal or pancakes, try breakfast pizza!

Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise



This recipe was an accident that turned into something quite amazing. Has that every happened to you? I actually haven't thought of a clever name for it yet, so I'm totally up for suggestions.

Have you ever had that Jello Pretzel dessert that's pretty common at potlucks? The reason why it's so popular is because it's AMAZING and super easy to make.

This is how this Jello surprise came about. I wanted to make the Jello Pretzel dessert as a side dish for Thanksgiving two years ago, but I forgot to buy pretzels and didn't want to go out late at night to buy just one thing. Instead, I decided that I could make a graham cracker crust and it would be just as tasty, right?

Well, it was very tasty, but also very different! When I poured the Jello onto my crust, I forgot to have the jello set a little and the crust and the Jello mixed together. It was different from what I expected and I was upset, but it ended up becoming a great hit.

So they next year, I decided to try it again to see if it was a fluke. I mixed all of the ingredients together and cooled it off and the texture was pretty darn good and it has actually ended up being one of my husband's favorite dishes. If you've ever had a sea foam salad, the texture is a little similar, but the taste is amazing!

Ingredients


  • 2 packages of crushed graham crackers. (I always crush my own from a box with rolling pin)
  • 2 3oz packages strawberry jello.
  • 1 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 8oz tub of cool whip
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries


Instructions

  • In a mixer, mix together cream cheese, cool whip and sugar. Set aside. 
  • Crush graham crackers. 
  • Boil 2 cups of water and then mix in Jello. Once Jello is mixed, add a cup of cool water and stir. 
  • Carefully mix all ingredients except strawberries together with a mixing spoon until smooth. Fold in strawberries. 
  • Refrigerate until jello has set. Make this the night before in order to ensure this has time to set.
This is a very versatile dish. I've made it with cherry jello and cherries, but my husband's favorite is the strawberry. 

What do you think? Is this something that you think you'd make? Do you have any interesting names to give this?


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Green Bean Casserole


Green Bean Casserole is probably the most known Thanksgiving dish. I remember when I had cable (probably when I still lived with my parents) seeing the Campbell's commercials with the winter scene and this family has made the green bean casserole that is perfectly paired with French's french onion chips. I want to say there is a little snowman outside looking in and when he comes in, he eats a bite and turns into a little boy- ok, I actually think that's for an actual soup commercial.

What I'm trying to say is that green bean casserole is a great comfort food and would be an obvious choice to make along side a turkey or ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas- even Easter!

The best part about it is that it's so easy!

I made some, last night, and paired it with a Tuscan pasta and garlic bread. I made a smaller batch than I do with the holidays and since I was short on time, I put it into the microwave to save time. Surprisingly, it came out alright. I did bake it in the oven for 7 minutes to make the french onion chips crispy, but if you're short on time, you could do the same.

Ingredients


3 14.5 oz cans of cut green beans, drained
1 10.5 can of cream of mushroom condensed soup
3/4 cup milk
1.5 cups of french fried onion chips.

Just double for large groups


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine all of the ingredients except the french onion chips. Place in a medium casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. If you have a smaller dish that it fits in the microwave and you're short on time, you can place it in there and sensor reheat.
3. Remove from oven and carefully stir.
4. Sprinkle french onion chips on top of the casserole so it evenly covers the mixture and bake for 5 extra minutes.

Voila! You will have a delicious dish in a short amount of time! The hardest part about this dish is making sure it makes it all around the table. It's great to reheat too, IF you have extra's the next day.



Friday, November 2, 2018

The Day My Faith Was Questioned

A few days ago, I felt like my faith in God was being tested, but I realized that it wasn't being tested so much as others were questioning it.

Christianity is a touchy subject. Although there are rights and wrongs regarding it, there are many who believe that the rules all changed when Jesus died for us on the cross, while others still hold firm to the Old Testament.

There are those who believe that once Jesus died on the cross, all of the old rules in the Old Testament got thrown out the window because Jesus said that he was the new Covenant.

   Jeremeiah 31:31-34 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the one that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more. 

The Bible goes on and speaks of the new covenant in both the Old and New Testament.

Matthew 26:26-28 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 

I'm not a theologian and I'm not going to tell you what you should believe.  This all happened after I saw a friend say on Facebook how he was keeping his kids home from school and going to a different place because he didn't want his kids to celebrate in the Halloween festivities.

That's ok, no problem. He's their dad and he has every right to do that. I know of other families who do the same thing. He believes that celebrating Halloween is asking for trouble and acknowledging that it's ok to sin. I understand that and I see why he believes that way.

As you've seen from my post the other day, I think it's fine to go trick-or-treating and many of my other Christian friends do the same. Some of them are even pastors. I won't speak for them, but to me, trick-or-treating is just a fun little thing to do. We don't place any emphasis on it as a holiday to bring back the dead or to worship the devil. In fact, that's the furthest thing in my mind.

My kids aren't allowed to dress demonically and be scary. If we are to be a vampire or a witch, we're just goofy. My kids don't even know that there is negative connotation to those things. Yes, we've watch Hocus Pocus, but they aren't rooting for the witches, they're rooting for the family. To us, it's just innocent play.

My friend didn't stop at saying that he was taking his kids to do something else. He went on to say (and I'm paraphrasing) "I don't know how Christian schools can be ok with celebrating Halloween. By doing anything with Halloween, you are participating and accepting the whole holiday."

My family and I had already went trick-or-treating days before and it felt like this was a personal attack. It felt like he was attacking the church who does trunk-or-treating.

We had some discussion and I thought that we were ok in the end. We agreed to disagree on some matters. Then something happened. Another person joined in on this conversation and shamed me and all of those others who partook in the conversation. That person said that we had little faith and that we needed to pray that it was strong like theirs.

That made my stomach lurch and my heart pound enough to make me sick to my stomach and angry! I wanted to say something right then and there, but decided it wasn't the time to say anything.

For once in my life, I practiced patience and not speaking with a loose tongue.

This is what I have to say about it, today:

John 14:5 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  
About a woman caught in adultery, John 8: 6-7 This they said, tempting him that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her."
Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'"
13. "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"
14. "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Jesus was questioned and hated by the Pharisees because he did not look or behave like one. Instead, Jesus hung out with the sinners in order to show God's love and Mercy. We are called to be Christlike and Christ did extraordinary things. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.

  Mark 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" and they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  

Many of what I written is up for interpretation and some of it can be used as arguments for other things, but this is what I believe: Christ died for my sins and he called me to go out and make disciples in his image. That image was love. He says to love thy neighbor and not hate thy enemy.

Trunk-or-treating is a way for the Church to evangelize to those who wouldn't partake in church otherwise. It's a chance to do what Jesus did and mingle with the sinners so that they may be saved.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoptions as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
Romans 8: 38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

It's not up to someone else to tell me how big my faith is. The only person who will hold me accountable is God. Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

As Christians, perhaps our resources would be better spent going out and making disciples instead of telling each other what we are doing wrong.

I'm not angry anymore about what was said to me and the others. I don't believe it was done with malice and truly, I think their heart was in the right place, but better words could have been used. I forgive them and I hope that they can forgive me as well because I realize that I was still questioning what they believe when really, our end goal is to get into heaven and help save those who don't even know they need saving.

 I can let everything that was said really bum me out and feel bad about myself and my faith. I can hide under a rock and never speak about my faith again or do things because they may not be acceptable, but I realized something; No matter what someone says, my faith in God isn't small. My discipline may need some help, but my faith doesn't and shouldn't be questioned. I know who my Lord and Savior is and when it comes time to be judged, I hope that God will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness." Then on that day, I will hear, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

About Me

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Hello! My name is Brittany and I'm a writer, obviously. As a stay-at-home mom, there are many things that I have to figure out in order to run a house that appears to be more sane than insane. It's not easy to be a parent and I hope that this blog is able to encourage other moms out there to live life happily and to understand that there can be mishaps along the way, but those mishaps don't define you and anything can be overcome with perseverance and will.

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