Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Need Help Planning a Disney Trip?

You all know I love, love, love going to Disney World. But I'll be honest, planning a trip to Disney can be hard, especially if it's your first trip. There are so many things you need to think about - when to go, what resort to stay at, where to eat. What exactly are Fast Passes and how do you use them? And of course, everyone wants to get a good deal, right?

Then please, let me direct you to a dear friend of mine who has become a certified Disney travel agent. Her name is Shannon and she loves Disney as much as I do. She knows all the ins and outs of Disney vacations. And she'll be able to get you the best deal on your family fun!
Just click on the button above to go to Shannon's website. She can give you a free quote on any Disney vacation - not just Disney World.

I know Shannon personally and can tell you she has the highest integrity and desire to help others. She will look out for you as if you were her own family. If a Disney trip is in your future, let her do the leg work for you. You don't pay her a cent. She gets paid by Disney. 

So why not let Shannon help you plan your family's perfect Disney vacation? Tell her I sent you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Creamer

I love pumpkin spice lattes. I don't love paying $5 for one, though. I started using pumpkin spice creamer to achieve the same flavor. Then I began to take a closer look at the ingredients and realized I didn't need to be adding all that stuff to my coffee!

So I've been on a quest to make my own creamer.

I've tried several different recipes and have come to the conclusion that simpler is better. Most recipes for homemade pumpkin spice creamer include pureed pumpkin in the ingredients. After trying several incarnations of said recipes, I've come to the conclusion that the pumpkin itself isn't really needed.

I know, I know. It shocked me too. The pumpkin left a residue in the bottom of my coffee cup, but really didn't impart much flavor. What really adds the yummy pumpkin spice taste is the spice.

So here's a very simple recipe I've come up with that satisfies my craving for a pumpkin spice drink without all the chemical ingredients in store bought creamer.

You'll need:

1 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like your coffee
1 1/2 teas pumpkin pie spice
1 teas vanilla extract
additional cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice for garnish, optional

In a small saucepan, gently warm the heavy cream and milk. You don't want this to boil. Stir in the maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.

Store in a glass container and keep in the fridge. I use a salad dressing cruet. I just give it a gentle shake before I pour the creamer into my coffee.
Here's one of my favorite coffee mugs:

Can you guess where this mug came from?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Menu Plan October 27-November 2

It was a gorgeous weekend here in the Deep South.

But can you believe the last week of October is here already? Wow! Soon we'll be gearing up for the Christmas season once more. But before all that starts, our family is hosting another soup party!

Whoo hoo! This is one of my favorite events of the years. We invite several families who all bring a pot of soup for everyone to share. We'll have bread and desserts, too. I love being able to sample different kinds of soup. As we get ready for cold weather, it gives me several great ideas for meals I can serve to my own family.

Now on to this week's menu:

Seafood chowder (a test run)

Greek meatballs, herbed quinoa (didn't get to this last week)

Sausage and veggie calzones, fries

Crockpot ravioli, garlic bread


Soup Party!


For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Menu Plan October 20-26

After a lovely anniversary weekend, this week is going to be busy, busy, busy!

Our church is holding some special meetings through Wednesday, so we'll be at church every evening. On Thursday, a friend from Germany is having a few ladies over for a German food night. I can't wait for that!

Then on Saturday we're getting our family pictures taken. I think the kids were toddlers the last time we had our portraits done. Yeah, it's time to update the family photos!

Now here's what we've got on the menu this week:

Greek meatballs, herbed quinoa

Chicken meatball soup

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

German food night!

Chicken pesto pizza

Beef enchilada soup (crockpot)

Beef bourguignon, noodles

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rustic Mason Jar Craft

I'm not a very crafty person. Most of our home decor I leave up to my husband. He has a great eye for color and design. And I don't.

He also is very detailed and meticulous about things. I'm not. That's why for years he has done all the Christmas present wrapping. He measures the paper out and finds just the right decorative touches to go with it - ribbons, handmade bows, flowers, snowflakes, you name it.

Slight hijack for a funny story: Last Christmas he said he was tired of being the one to wrap all the presents and asked me to do it. I said no problem. All of the presents were wrapped in gift bags - no measuring or planning required. Hubby was appalled! And this year he's back to wrapping the gifts. Heh, heh.

Since I'm not a perfectionist, shabby chic and distressed decor really appeals to me. It's supposed to look a little messy. When I saw this idea for painting mason jars floating around Pinterest, I knew it was something I could do!

Here's what you'll need to make this really easy rustic mason jar:

Quart size mason jar (I used a wide mouth jar)
Acrylic paint in your choice of colors
Foam brush
Clear spray sealer
Jute string or twine
Flowers, fresh or fake

Wipe the jar clean of any dust. Use the foam brush to apply paint to the jar. Allow to dry completely.

Take the sandpaper and rub off the paint from the raised areas of the jar. Then randomly scrape a little paint from all sides, including the mouth. Spray the sealer all over the jar and allow to dry.

Wrap the jute string or twine around the top of the jar and fill with flowers.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Menu Plan October 13-19

On Friday, the 17th, we will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Charles is taking me to my favorite restaurant, The Olive Tree in Villa Rica, Georgia. It's about 45 minutes from our house, but the wonderful food and atmosphere are worth the drive.

This weekend Charles went camping with a friend. He was gone for two nights, and I missed him greatly. Over the years we've grown together in our marriage and I can honestly say when he's gone, I feel like part of me is missing. I'm so thankful for a godly man who loves me and is such a great partner. My life would be so boring without his sense of humor and thoughtful gestures. God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. Love you, babe!

Now on to this week's menu:

Grilled Greek chicken, Parmesan couscous

One pot sausage tortellini, rosemary Parmesan bread

Pork adobo (a friend's recipe) over rice

Oktoberfest stew, pretzel bread

Out to eat for our anniversary

Pizza rolls

Crockpot chicken tacos

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rosemary Parmesan Bread

I really like making homemade bread.

I never thought I would say that. I always believed it was too much work. So for many years, I relied on a bread machine to produce homemade loaves. It was convenient and easy to load up some ingredients and let the machine take care of it.

But after hubby got me a stand mixer, I started to experiment with making my own bread. I started off with easy things like pizza crust. Over time, I've expanded my repertoire of bread recipes so that I hardly use a bread machine any more.

This recipe quickly became a family favorite. It pairs so well with Italian meals like pasta and chicken parmesan. It's a great accompaniment to soup as well. Not only does it make a flavorful grilled cheese sandwich, it's wonderful to use for BLT's. And it's great with real butter spread over it.

You can make this a day ahead of time because it stays moist. It takes about 2 hours to make, so give yourself time. It's worth it!

Here's what you need:

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 TBSP yeast
2 teas sugar
1 TBSP olive oil or melted butter
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teas salt
2 TBSP freshly chopped rosemary or 2 teas dried rosemary
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little more
1 TBSP melted butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes until puffy. Add the olive oil, flour,salt and 1 1/2 TBSP of the rosemary. Mix with a dough hook. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. If it doesn't, sprinkle in a little more flour. Now add the 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese. Continue to mix for about 5 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Punch the dough down and turn onto a floured surface. Shape into a loaf and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle the remaining rosemary over the top, along with some more Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown all over. If there's any butter remaining, brush it over the loaf.
Can you see the flecks of rosemary in the bread? They give the bread such wonderful flavor. And it smells so heavenly while it's baking! My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Menu Plan October 6-12

My favorite month has arrived! I adore October.

I love the changing leaves, the crisp air, the blue skies. Am I the only one who thinks October skies are just bluer than any other month?

I enjoy curling up on the couch under a cozy blanket to watch a movie, sipping some warm apple cider. It's so satisfying to have a yummy soup bubbling away in the crockpot.

Yep, I love October!

This week's menu contains some of our family's favorite recipes, including one of our best loved soups. Here's what I've got planned:

Chicken parmesan casserole, salad

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Italian sausage sandwiches, fries

Crockpot beef tips over rice, green beans

Homemade pizza

Broccoli cheese soup in bread bowls

Crockpot lasagna, garlic bread

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.