Monday, July 7, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Wow! What a wonderful long weekend. We were able to do so much over the long weekend that it really felt like it was several weekends in one. That is something that i really like.

I am fortunate enough to have two holidays for the 4th of July, so my weekend started on Wednesday night. Wednesday night, we had a chance to enjoy dinner at our friend's new restaurant. It started out a little frustrating because my son was tired or otherwise out of sorts and didn't want anything and was nearly brought to tears. It probably didn't help that their children's menu is not written out, but rather is a handful of options or a modification of an item from the main menu. I pulled him aside and told him that he didn't have to eat, but he did need to relax so that we could enjoy our dinner. He wound up sharing some of our food and eventually decided that he would have enjoyed the Lobster Mac N Cheese that I was eating. By then though, it really didn't make sense to order him more food, as he had eaten part of our wedge salad, a few slices of the homemade bread and butter, some of the fries from my daughter's dinner and a 1/3 of my dish. But, at least now, I know that we can go back with less stress or, perhaps we will just try to go there on date nights in the future.

Thursday was a busy day. I started out with my normal workout class, my husband went to the gym to work out, my daughter and I made butterfly cupcakes, my son had a friend over, we ran some errands, went to see Earth to Echo, grilled out and attempted to watch the fireworks from home...which we learned was not a good idea - we could see bits of it but really needed to head some place different to see the full show.

Friday we enjoyed a full day with all of my immediate family. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were up to visit from North Carolina. We did lunch out, spent the afternoon jumping and playing laser tag, mom made dinner for all of us, we played a family game of soccer and some Corn Hole and then watched the fireworks as a family. We all stayed at Mom and Dad's house and spent Saturday morning together as well. The kids love spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa's, especially when all of their cousins are there.

Saturday the family headed out to lunch at the Mellow Mushroom and then we came home and went swimming and enjoyed a relaxed evening at home.

Sunday I fit in all of my errands, including picking up the penny deals at Office Max and getting my groceries. In addition, I fit in several loads of laundry, made dinner and enjoyed a 3 mile walk around the neighborhood with the family.

How was your weekend?

I have a bad habit of never finding time to read all of my magazines, so this weekend I spent a good amount of time reading through the stacks that had accumulated. I think I still have about 10 to go, but I easily read through about 40 magazines. In the process, I pulled out a number of recipes. Knowing that I have a bad habit of accumulating clipped recipes too, I decided that I would start to make those recipes this week and determine which to keep and which to toss. So, despite a pretty busy week of make-up sports, I am trying a number of new recipes. Sunday night dinner was a hit and I am hoping the rest of the week continues to be strong. I will come back and link up recipes for those that are keepers.

Grilled Chicken and Peaches with a Curried Tomato and Shallot Vinaigrette with brown rice
for dessert, I made Chilled Plum Oatmeal Pudding

Chicken Pot Pie Pockets

Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Hot Dogs on the grill

Ginger Soy Tilapia

Prosciutto Mozzarella Pizza

Cheesy Grits with Shrimp

Now that it is summer, the kids are in camp and are packing lunches. Breakfast is generally a bowl of cereal or oatmeal before they head out. For my husband and I, lunch is a quick sandwich, microwave meal, leftovers or something on the go. Breakfast is a banana and a protein shake or bar.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday on I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gift Buying at CafePress

No compensation was provided for this post. In exchange for this post, I will receive a gift card to allow me to purchase a product from CafePress for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.
Have you ever shopped at CafePress? I personally have not, but when looking for a birthday gift for my nephew, happened upon the site. I was looking for a US World Cup shirt and they came up in my search. I didn't wind up buying from them for his birthday, because my son decided he would rather give him a toy.

The selection of items on CafePress is almost overwhelming. Not only do they offer a lot of fun and unique items, you can even go one step further and design your own.

After getting contacted about doing a post for CafePress (be on the lookout, a giveaway for a gift card to CafePress will come when I post a review of the product that I decide to order with the gift card that they are providing), I started exploring their site looking for just the right thing to order. I had already done some exploring when I was looking for a gift for my nephew, but now I was trying to decide whether to get a gift for me or for someone else.

I thought that this shirt might be cute for my husband, who coached my daughter's soccer team this year:

or maybe this wine bag for bringing a hostess gift:

or this shirt for my morning caffeine fix:

or this cute journal:

What would you choose?

No compensation was provided for this post. In exchange for this post, I will receive a gift card to allow me to purchase a product from CafePress for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summertime Favorites

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.

Now that it is full on summer, I am ready to stay out of the kitchen. Who needs to add heat to an already warm day by firing up the oven or stove? I don't know about your household, but at our house the menu takes a shift come summer driven both by the desire to not heat up the kitchen and the desire to enjoy the summer fresh flavor of the vegetables we grow in the garden.

I think the one characteristic that I could call out about many of the favorite summer time meals is the balance of hot and cold.

Think about a BLT, one of my favorite summertime meals (and super fast to prepare with Hormel Fully Cooked Bacon) - you have the warm crunchy toast, the cool mayonnaise, the crisp and cool lettuce, the cool juicy sweet tomato and warm salty bacon. There is something so appealing to me about the blend of hot and cold, not to mention all of the garden fresh flavor of vegetables.

Another favorite is soft tacos made with grilled chicken (no kitchen heat required) - we simply grill our chicken, slice it into thin strips and place it on our tortilla and top it with cool sour cream, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced hot peppers and diced onions and then add a bit of sauce or salsa. Again, a bite that provides the contrast of temperature and the summer fresh flavors of produce from the garden (or farmer's market - I haven't mastered lettuce, it always goes to seed).

We also use our grill to make hamburgers and cheeseburgers, grilled chicken served with baked potatoes and grilled fish served with fresh, cool homemade coleslaw.

Here is some information on summertime recipes that Hormel shared with me:
Crafting Your Summer Recipes
The kids are out of school and summer is on the horizon—ease into your new routine with fresh and simple meals to keep your family full and happy this season!
• Make a cold pasta to help you beat the summer heat—give your
pasta salad a distinct twist with a colorful addition of pesto and
tasty Hormel® bacon: Bacon and Pesto Pasta Salad with
HORMEL® Fully Cooked Bacon and Peloponnese® olives.
• Forget the fast food! For a quick and wholesome snack, pack this
tasty Cobb Salad Lettuce Wrap featuring HORMEL® Chunk
Chicken and HORMEL® Real Bacon Bits.
• Keep it light this summer with a Warm Chicken and Orange Salad. Take this dish—featuring HOUSE OF TSANG® Stir-fry Oil and HOUSE OF TSANG® SAIGON SIZZLE™—from your pantry to your table in just 15 minutes.

The recipes have all been submitted and in just a few weeks, you can check out the HORMEL® Chili Facebook page for the "Savor Your Summer Recipe Contest" winner announcement. Visit to see the winner.

What is your favorite summer-time snack or what recipes do you enjoy cooking with your family during the summer?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product and some of the information for this post.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forever Amish by Kate Lloyd

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
It's funny how my reading seems to go in cycles. Not only the types of books I read, but ultimately it would seem commonalities in story lines too. I recently read Forever Amish by Kate Lloyd. As you can surmise from the title, this is another book in the Amish fiction genre for me - which seems to be the case for many of the books I have read lately. The strange thing is that this is the second book that I have read where an Englischer, as the Amish call them, finds themselves within the Amish community and an attraction blossoms. Each of those characters also had a familial tie to the Amish community, of which they were unaware until this point in their lives.

This book was not the first one in the series, but that did not create any barriers in being able to jump right in and read the story. There is a bit of unknown in who the girl was that reached out to Sally and why she reached out to Sally, but that mystery was not only to the reader, but also to Sally.

I thought that the Bishop made a great observation in talking with Sally when he said "Some Englischers look at us as the perfect society, but we have our share of troubles, trials, and temptations, just like anyone else." I think that is part of what makes the stories in Amish fiction so easy to relate to, even though I do not share many of the practices of the Amish faith...their lifestyle really is just a backdrop, a scene and they are the people that face the same issues, trials, and triumphs that everyone else does.

Kate Lloyd wrote a nice story with characters that felt like family in Forever Amish. It also has a nice love story weaving its way into the story line. At the same time, there is a factor of reality check that makes you appreciate the real differences in the lifestyle the Amish live.

The characters featured in the first two books of the trilogy are characters that were in the background of Forever Amish, so I am interested in reading those two books to better understand the backstory of them and the others that I met in reading Forever Amish.

About the book:

The latest book in the Legacy of Lancaster trilogy, Forever Amish introduces us to a young woman about to uncover a shocking secret and find an invitation to a new way of living. This is a story of forgiveness, legacies, and the ties that bind through generations.

It's the Last Thing She Expects to Find

Sally Bingham needs some time away to sort through the changes in her life and to rethink her upcoming marriage. Despite her ailing father's hesitations, she takes off for a bed and breakfast in Lancaster County for a weekend away. But her best-laid plans leave her in a near collision with a bishop's buggy and in the home of a mysterious Amish woman named Lizzie. Lizzie introduces her to a different perspective on life, a charming farmhand named Armin--- and opens a Pandora's box that will forever change Sally's life.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Author Kate Lloyd is a passionate observer of human relationships. A native of Baltimore, Kate spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, PA, the inspiration for her novels. She is a member of the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society. Kate and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest. Kate studied painting and sculpture in college. She's worked a variety of jobs, including car salesman and restaurateur.

Kate can be found at: website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Read more reviews and learn more about the book at the book tour landing page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

What a great weekend!

First, let me say how much I am enjoying the return of Summer Hours at work. This Friday afternoon, I was able to sneak in a date with my husband while the kids were still at the sports day camp that they attended last week. It wasn't a fancy date, but we were able to catch a movie without having the added costs of a babysitter. We went and saw Jersey Boys. We really like the music and have seen the show twice on stage. The movie stayed fairly consistent with the stage show, obviously with the added luxury of having actual scene changes. Then, Friday evening - after fitting a quick cleaning of the first floor, we went out to a local Japanese Steak House for dinner with friends. After dinner, we returned to our house and visited for a while, while the kids played together.

Saturday was a complete change of pace from weekends of late, we had no sports until mid-afternoon and we only had 1 game. It was great to fit in a trip to the library to check in for the summer reading program and our grocery shopping before we had to head to the field for my daughter's softball game. After the game, we made a quick trip to Kohl's to take advantage of our 30% discount and redeem our $10 Kohl's Cash that was set to expire. Then, it was an early evening of bumper boats, mini golf and go karts. Aside from my daughter swinging her golf club too far, one time hitting my son in the forehead, it was a good evening. We had dinner at the activity center and then headed to our friend's new restaurant to enjoy dessert - Salted Caramel Cheesecake and Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Sunday was another relaxed day. I found time to get caught up on some laundry, get my hair cut, fill a prescription and do some baking. I made Carrot Cake Cookies, French Bread, Rye Bread, and two batches of Caramel Macchiato Biscotti. I had hoped to make some homemade cinnamon rolls too, but ran out of flour. In fact, I used a gluten free flour mix to make the second batch of biscotti and learned that you really need to use a little more fat with gluten free flours to get the right texture and since I hadn't, they were very crumbly - still very tasty, just more breakage than normal. I also discovered as I finished up my jar of yeast, that I should have been refrigerating the jar once I opened it. I clearly haven't done as much baking lately, because I hadn't had the issue before, but my French bread did not rise quite like it should have. Again, still tasty, just not as fluffy as we were used to. The rye bread seemed fine, but it is naturally a denser bread. Regardless, I was glad to have found the time to bake, I have been considering it every morning for the past week and usually find that I can't quite make the recipe and still get to work on time, so I had been reluctantly deciding not to bake each morning.

We have a somewhat busy sports week, but with only one sport in the mix, it is a lot slower than we have been having. Still, the plans mid-week are definitely quick prep options.

Sonora Chicken Pasta


Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak



Homemade Pizza


Now that it is summer, the kids are in camp and are packing lunches. Breakfast is generally a bowl of cereal or oatmeal before they head out. For my husband and I, lunch is a quick sandwich, microwave meal, leftovers or something on the go. Breakfast is a banana and a protein shake or bar.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday on I'm an Organizing Junkie.