Friday, December 31, 2010

A Trader Joe's Fandango: My New Cookbook!

Remember when my sweet thoughtful Mom bought me this cookbook last year?

Well she did it again!

Looky Looky what I got for Christmas! I am SO excited.

Ingredients from my favorite place in the world?

Simple, easy recipes?


Meals that have been thematically planned around every season/holiday?

Double Check.

Can't wait to get cooking!

Here are a few that caught my fancy:

  • Chicken Chile and Super Chili Dip (part of the Super-Bowl-themed menu)
  • Bananas Foster Baby Cakes (part of the Mardi-Gras-themed menu)
  • Bow Tie Pasta with Ham (for an Oscar night Party... get it... bow ties?! Oh my word... I LOVE themed food!)
  • The St Patrick's Day Menu of Cider-Glazed Corned Beef and Cheesy Mashed Potatoes. I've been wanting to tackle Corned Beef on St. Patty's Day for a few years. I think this is my year.
  • Heart of Darkness Chocolate Torte. Need I say more?
  • Bountiful Berry Tart (from the Spring-themed Menu)
  • TJ's Tortilla Soup (Cinco de Mayo Menu)

Those are just a few of the new recipes I'm excited to try! :0)

Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To You (Although It's Been Said Many Times, Many Ways)

Merry Christmas!

What a fun Christmas morning we had celebrating Jesus' birth! There were presents, traditions new and old, and merry-making a-plenty!

It seems that Bennett's Christmas presents every year have a theme. When he was 1 it was Thomas, when he was 2 it was Lightening McQueen, last year was dinosaurs and this year was all about Star Wars!

Mallie got her first doll house...

... and a princess bean bag chair.
Princesses need thrones after all.

And they need pretty fingernails too!

I know this Princess is certainly happy to have such a studly knight in shining hoodie (that's hooded sweatshirt for those of you who are no longer hip).

For breakfast we had sausage egg casserole and this DELICIOUS Christmas Coffeecake. I am definitely making this coffeecake a Christmas morning tradition. So festive and scrumptious!
I prepared the batter the night before, stuck it in the fridge and just popped it in the oven in the morning.

Here it is after we hacked into it.

During breakfast, we read through the Christmas story and reflected on the meaning behind Christmas.
Then we spent the rest of the morning playing, playing, playing with our new toys! And crying, crying, crying when nap time came.
Now everyone is fast asleep, and I'm drinking my third cup of coffee and reveling in the beauty and peace of this wonderful, chilly day.
Merry Christmas to all my wonderful friends and family! I hope your heart was touched by the miraculous truth of our Savior's birth.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas: A Pictoral Guide

Like all of you, I have been busy, busy BUSY during this month o' Christmas. But it has been a good kind of busy... a joyous, merry, can't-find any one's shoes, don't have time to blog or do laundry, sticky-fingers from candy canes, hustle-and-bustle-kind-of-busy.

We've been baking up a storm, listening to Christmas music, learning about Jesus' birthday, picking out our tree, going to Christmas Pageants, decorating the house, driving around looking at Christmas lights, drinking cocoa, reading Christmas books, eating candy canes, singing "We Three Kings" a million times :-), sending out Christmas cards and loving this wonderful season. Here are a few pictures of the Christmas season so far...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Use Up That Leftover Pumpkin: My Favorite Homemade Face Mask

Friends, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me your ears... er... faces!

I have a wonderful, easy recipe to share with you for a fantabulous face mask. If you are anything like me, you have accumulated a dozen cans of pumpkin that are now taking up space in your pantry. The solution?

Pumpkin Pineapple Face Mask!

Did you know that pumpkin is FABULOUS for your skin? Pumpkin and pineapple both are full of enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids. When applied to the skin, they literally eat away all the dead skin cells on your face, leaving you with more radiant, smooth, youthful-looking skin!

There are a LOT of expensive masks out there that claim to be full of alpha hydroxy acid, but most of those products are diluted and ineffective after all the processing they've been though. This mask is full of pure, effective ingredients that cost a fraction of the price of one of those store-bought masks and have better results!!!
Here's how you make it:

You'll need:
  • oats

  • honey

  • 1/4 c. canned pumpkin

  • 1/4 c. chopped pineapple (I use the frozen from Trader Joe's)

  • heavy whipping cream, milk or water

In a blender or food processor (I used my magic bullet!) combine a handful of oats, a big spoonful of honey, pumpkin, pineapple and a small bit of your liquid. I use heavy cream or milk because they are full of anti-oxidants that are so great for your skin. But you can also use a little filtered water. You don't want much, just enough liquid so the mixture is blend-able.

That's it. Blend it all together and you're ready to use it.

To use, generously apply the mixture to your clean face. Leave the mask on for at least 20 minutes, so those little Alpha Hydroxies have time to work! You may feel some tingling, and this is good... it's a sign that the mask is working.

Refrigerate the unused portion of your mask and use within 10 days. I use this mask 2 times a week.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lemon Garlic Chicken: Another Awesome New Recipe to Try

Hello My Pretties,
Just thought I'd pass on a delish recipe I made for dinner tonight. It was SO quick and easy and took me like 10 minutes to make!

Here's the recipe.

Also, I made a few small changes... I used bone-in chicken breasts and drumsticks (so no thighs). And I added about 2 tablespoons of butter on top of the chicken as it roasted. I thought it just needed a little bit more moisture in the pan. You could also add a bit of olive oil instead.

It was so succulent and scrumptious and any other "s" word you can come up with that means delicious! :0)


Any way you say it, it was good!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trader Joe's Product O' the Whenever: Nitrate Free Hot Dogs

For dinner tonight I made these baked corn dogs, and I must say they turned out pretty gal darn tasty.

I love that they were baked instead of friend because:
a. it's healthier, of course...
b. it's much less time consuming to just pop all the corn dogs in the oven, rather than having to stand in front of scalding oil, frying them individually and fearing oil burns.
Here's a cut-open view of the delicious corn-doggy goodness.

For the hot dog portion of our recipe, I used my new favorite hot dogs... Trader Joe's Nitrate free!!!
You may be asking... What are nitrates? Well, I don't mean to get all hippie-earth-mother on you, but nitrates are pretty scary and they are in almost ALL processed meats. It is very important to watch your family's intake of this toxic chemical! Nitrites are preservatives used in the processing of hot dogs, lunch meat, breakfast meat, etc. Nitrites are known carcinogens, and are especially known to bring on cancers of the oral cavity, urinary system and bladder, esophagus, stomach and cancer of the brain.

Seriously... can you believe this chemical is in our meat?! Well have no fear because good old TJ's makes an array of wonderful nitrate-free bacon, lunch meat and hot dogs! These hot dogs are delicious and nutritious without all the added garbage in most hot dogs.
Thank you, Trader Joe, for allowing me to pursue my love of processed meat without fear of brain tumors or oral cancer. This is yet another reason why I love you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Domestic DIY: Spicy, Fall Air Freshener

Hey Peeps... I just learned a scary fact.

I recently read that air fresheners are among the top three most toxic chemicals in your home.

Yep, air fresheners are right up there with oven cleaner and drain cleaner. Yikes!

Being a girl with a strong olfactory sense and a love for fragrances, this was quite disturbing to me. One of my favorite things is to come home and be greeted by a delicious, seasonal scent; cinnamon in the fall, coconut in the summer and crisp, woodsy scents in the winter.

So I've been trying to figure out a way to fragrance my home and still get rid of all those icky toxins. The solution?

Essential oils!

While fake-o fragrances are harmful to your body, essential oils, in addition to smelling amazing, are actually good for you when you inhale them!

A while ago, I purchased an oil warmer at Bath and Body Works. They have some really cute ones. (Don't buy their oil though, as it is also full of ickies).

Instead blend 2 or 3 delicious essential oils together to create your own unique home fragrance.

For fall I chose clove, cinnamon and orange essential oils. To burn just place 5 or 6 drops of each oil in the top of your warmer. Then add water to fill the top portion of the warmer (this is to keep the oil from burning). Now in the lower section of the warmer, add a tea light (unfragranced) and light it.

And now, a bit about each of the oils in my favorite fall scent...

Cinnamon Leaf Oil:
This oil is germicidal, antiseptic and anti fungal. It is a physical and emotional stimulant and gets the blood and mind in motion. It is considered an aphrodisiac as well as an antidepressant. Aroma in a room reduces drowsiness, irritability, pain and frequency of headaches. Makes a warming balm to relax tight muscles, ease joint pain & menstrual cramps and increase circulation.

Clove Oil:
Clove Oil contains antiseptic properties, best used in a diffuser or vaporizer to help purify the air during cold and flu season. Kills parasites, is antibiotic, antioxidant and antiseptic.

Sweet Orange Oil:
Orange essential oil is refreshing and invigorating fresh orange sweet aroma. Its scent and properties are energizing and invigorating and may be helpful in reducing fatigue. Used as a room freshener, orange contains antiseptic qualities. It's scent may calm and soothe the nerves. Orange essence helps refresh the mind and raise the spirits.

A few other delish scents for fall:
Vanilla Absolute
Vanilla is calming, comforting, and dispels anger, frustration, and tensions. Its relaxing influence can help during menstruation. It is recommended to use in massage blends, particularly when there is tension in the female reproductive system. (AKA... feeling PMS-ish, Ladies? Burn some vanilla!)

Inhaling this scent is said to be stimulating and helpful in clearing your head. Used in a compress, lotion or massage oil, it's heating action relieves pain from arthritis, sore muscles, menstrual cramps and headache. Ginger stimulates both appetite and poor blood circulation and helps relieve nausea and motion sickness. Reduces drowsiness and irritability, increases concentration and mental energy.

So in summary, burning these oils purifies the air, especially during cold and flu season. It also helps enhance your mood and calms you down while fighting off drowsiness and fatigue (don't we all need that, Mamas?). Plus your house will smell like a freshly baked loaf of pumpkin bread!!!

My favorite place to buy essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs. Great prices and awesome quality!

In closing,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Mo-month of Silence: The Mommy Time Warp


It has been over a month since I've posted anything on this here blog.


A friend mentioned the other day that she missed reading my blog posts, and I thought, "Oh yeah, it's been like a week or two since I've posted. I should get on that."

But a MONTH?

Does anyone else just feel like time is flying by? Like it's Thanksgiving, and I still haven't gotten to that Fourth of July craft yet?

I often have moments where an entire week (or month, apparently) is gone and I have no idea where it went.

I can't speak for other Mamas, but for me, I am learning that this is just how life is in this season of mothering young kids. And that's okay.
Some days it feels like all I can be is Mommy to two kids and wife to McPreachy. That's it. I get so into Mommy-mode that I don't realize how fast life is going by outside our sparkling clean somewhat clean, peaceful somewhat chaotic home.

We had a great speaker at our MOPS group the other night who reminded us that it's okay if certain things in our life are chaotic, forgotten or not done as well as we would like. It's just a season. And during this season, our most important job is to love, respect and honor our husbands and love, care for, nurture, guide and play with our kiddos. That's it.

Such a simple lesson... why can't I learn it?

So that's all I have for you right now by way of an update.

I'm a Mama giving it my all, trying to balance the most important things while ditching some of the lesser-important things (can we say pine cone Christmas trees and edible, homemade Cornucopias?)

Balance and Consistency are two things I'm not very good at.

But I'm working on it...

...and I am SO sorry if I forgot to call you on your birthday. You know who you are.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Au' Natural: A Few of My Favorite Home-Remedies

I haven't posted on my blog for weeks, and the main reason is that we've been hit hard by the cold and flu bug in the last month.

So, I thought I'd take a minute to share a few of our favorite natural remedies at our house. I am by NO MEANS an expert on all things au' natural, but I am becoming more interested in doing things as natural as possible for my kiddos. There are a lot of scary chemicals in our everyday household medicines and products, and I'm just definitely more conscious of what I'm putting into my kids' bodies. So of course I give my kids Tylenol or antibiotics if they really need them, but I'm also trying to use natural products first to see if we can bring about healing via God's creation!

So here are a few of my favorites that I've stocked up on for cold and flu season this year.

*Hylands Cough Syrup for Kids (I take it too!) - I'm scared to death of over-the-counter cough syrup, so I LOVE this natural one from Hylands! And Bennett loves it too... it tastes amazing!

*Black Elderberry Syrup - We are loving this awesome immune -system booster. Read about it here and learn how to save money by making it yourself.

*Essential Oils - Lately I have been learning more and more about essential oils and their miraculous ability to heal everything from respiratory problems to digestive problems. I am coveting this amazing essential oil diffuser. Basically it creates a fine mist of your essential oil into your home. You can vary the oil you are diffusing depending on the issues you are dealing with. For instance, if you diffuse an essential oil like "Theives" into your home during cold and flu season, it will boost your immune system and make you less susceptible to sickness, all the while cleansing your home from impurities and making your house smell amazing!

Another awesome way to promote healing from a cold/flu is to add 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and 5 drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of boiling water, cover the bowl with a bath towel and stick your head under the towel, breathing in the steam for as long as possible. These oils are anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and the steam will help loosen up your nasal passages. Do this twice a week until symptoms subside.

Also, I can attest to the amazing power of essential oils when it comes to skin problems. Last month I was having some real skin issues. After trying everything I could get my hands on from the drugstore, things just kept getting worse. Then I simply started treating it with rose and lavender essential oil and BOOM... problem solved! Basically my favorite method for treating any kind of breakouts or skin issues is to first steam your face with 5 drops each of lavender and rose absolute (expensive, but worth it) essential oils. Steam using the same method described above with these oils instead. Then you can apply these oils topically to your skin as well by adding one drop each to a palmful of grape seed or sweet almond oil and massaging into your face. Keep this up until your problems are gone.

Make sure you buy good quality essential oils that are undiluted. Also make sure that you research the oils you are using before you start so that you are using them safely. You can learn more about different essential oils and how to use them safely here.

*Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath - I was recently given a sample of this all natural, old school remedy for colds and flu, and after using it, I'm a believer. Soaking in this blend of ground mustard seeds and detoxifying essential oils draws impurities out of your body and promotes healing. And it smells delicious and herbal, not at all condiment-esque like the name suggests. Learn more and order it here.

Now don't worry, folks. I haven't become a crazy, Birkenstock-wearing hippie. I still shave my legs. I still wear makeup. I still eat Cheetos.

I'm just making an effort to use more natural, God-made remedies when possible to save money, stay healthy and make our home a more natural one.

If anyone has any other home remedies they swear by, I'm all ears. Please share!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Frugal Frannie's Revenge: Brown-Bag Microwave Popcorn

We've been Duped , people.
We've been tricked by Pop Secret and Jolly Time, and even... dare I say it... Orville Redenbacher.

They have tricked us into buying expensive, little baggies filled with popcorn kernels and imitation butter-flavor. I used to think this was the only way to make microwave popcorn.

But now I know different, and I just can't keep silent.

I feel like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, when he wakes up in that weird, womb-like pod, only to discover that everything he knew about life was a big hoax.

Well, I'm sorry to be the ones to tell you this, my darlings. But everything you knew about popcorn was a big haox.
Are you ready for the (Pop) secret? Here it is...
You don't need to buy microwave popcorn to make microwave popcorn!

All you need is a brown paper bag and popcorn kernels.
It's cheap. It's simple. It's healthy.

It's going to blow the lid off the entire microwave-popcorn industry.
Here's what you do:

Get your brown paper bag...
...and take a picture with it.
Next you will need some corn for popping. I used 1/3 a cup, which seemed to be the perfect amount for my brown bag.
Just pour the kernels in your brown bag...

Fold it over a few times.
Make a pretty sharp fold in the bag so it won't come undone.

Now place the bag o' corn in your microwaveMicrowave for about 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Make sure you listen carefully and stop the cooking when the popping slows down and is sporadic. And.... this is the end result! Don't you feel proud that you stuck it to the man and did it yourself?!Now, I will admit, the popcorn doesn't taste very delicious as-is. But the fun part is, this is where you can customize it to your heart's content. Now of course the way I like my popcorn is with melted butter and lots of salt! Mmmm! This is the way to do it for a special occasion!

But in order to make it a little more healthy for everyday snacking, I like to top it with canola oil spray (or olive oil spray if you have an olive oil spritzer!) and salt. You need a slight amount of fat on the popcorn or the salt won't stick. So I like to just spray the popcorn with canola oil while it's still in the bag, then add salt and shake it up. This is the best way to lightly coat it with fla-vah!

I hope all my fellow Frugal Frannies out there enjoy this delectable snack!

Monday, September 27, 2010

FALL-ing in Love With This Season: Favorite Fall Traditions

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times... I LOVE traditions!

I'm obsessed. It's a sickness, really.

I'm also obsessed with the fall. It is most-definitely, without a doubt my favorite season. So what happens when these two obsessions collide, you may ask?

Magic, my friends.

Pure, autumnal magic.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorite fall traditions:

Decorating for Fall

This is actually on the agenda for today. We usually decorate in the last week of September. We put all our fall/harvesty stuff out along with a few Halloween things I have. Then after Halloween, I put away the Halloween stuff and bring out a few Thanksgiving things I have. But all my non-specific fall decor stays up from late September though December 1st!

Here are a few pics of last year's decorations.

Apple Picking

This will be our 3rd year taking the kids apple picking, and Bennett LOVES it! Before we go, I really like watching this Johnny Appleseed video. I love this fall-ish, educational tradition!

Making Fall Goodies!

A few of our favorites are pumpkin bread, homemade applesauce, caramel apples, pumpkin cookies, molasses cookies, hot apple cider, apple pie... and many more! There are lots of apple recipes here because we have a LOT of apples to use up after apple picking! The spicy, warm, delicious tastes of this season cannot be beat!

Some new recipes I'm looking forward to trying are:

*Monster Munch

*Candy Corn Cupcakes

* Chocolate Owls
*Pecan Pie Muffins

*Tuscan Style Potato Soup

*Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Bread

*Maple-Walnut Chicken
*Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

Charlie Brown Movies!

A fun family tradition is definitely watching Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin in October and A Charlie brown Thanksgiving and The Charlie Brown Mayflower Voyage in November. These remind me of growing up, and I love the nostalgic feeling I get watching them with my own kids. Also, the Mayflower video is very educational!!! I think these will be our Family Movie Night picks for October and November.

Pumpkin Patch

Visiting the Pumpkin Patch has become one of our favorite October activities. I especially love photographing the kids among the pumpkins. Look how tiny Mallie Gal was last year... sniff.

We also love the "How Tall This Fall" photo ops... such a great way of documenting the kids through the years. I'm thinking it would be really fun to put all these pictures together in a coffee-table book one day. Here's Bennett last year...


Of course no Halloween/Harvest season would be complete without pumpkin carving! We do ours on Halloween morning accompanied by some Pumpkin Pancakes! I loved seeing Bennett's face as he stuck his hands into the slimy goo inside the pumpkin. We like to read The Pumpkin Patch Parable before we carve our pumpkins. It brings a spiritual focus to this fun tradition.

Thankfulness Tree

This was a new tradition last November, and it really was an awesome way to cultivate grateful hearts during the Thanksgiving season. I drew a plain fall tree on butcher paper, and then every day we each wrote down things we were thankful for on leaf cutouts. Then we taped them to the paper. By the end of the month, our "tree" was full of thankfulness!