Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week Recap

Hey, folks. I can hardly believe that it's the last day of June! I hope everyone has had a wonderful week and a great weekend. Mine has been very busy with work, but I've definitely had time to relax and have some fun! I finished reading Wild, I was able to soak up a little more sun, I'm almost exercising as much as I was before I injured my leg, and I've made more bread this past week (to give away, of course!) than I've ever made before. All-in-all, it's been a great low-key week.
The flowers have bloomed and are so gorgeous!

We got cravings for Mexican food on Tuesday and I ordered a delicious fajita quesadilla that did not disappoint.

I got more of my hair chopped off... I'm actually loving it!

I bottled up more homemade vanilla extract... More on this later in the week!
We had enough coupons for a free pizza on Saturday evening. Score! I love it when guests leave these behind in their rental homes.

And of course we upgraded the free cheese pizza to a supreme!

 Any plans for next week? How will you be celebrating on the 4th?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bread Machine Cinnamon Raisin Bread Recipe

I loooove fresh baked bread. Since bread is probably my favorite food group (yes, I'm putting bread in it's own food group), it only made sense that I would someday buy a bread machine so that I can have fresh baked bread without the long process of traditional bread baking. While I still have to wait a few hours for it to do its thing, I don't have to go through the lengthy processes of getting temperatures just right, letting the dough proof, rise, rest, etc.
My new favorite bread to bake is Cinnamon Raisin Bread and I'm going to share the recipe with all of you today (if you don't own a bread maker, you should do yourself a favor and get one). My mom and I both love cinnamon raisin bread and I remember her baking it for us every now and then when I was a little. A slice of this bread (toasted, of course) makes the perfect treat for breakfast or as a snack.


For a 1 lb loaf (medium size on my bread maker)

3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups cold water
3 ounces raisins
1 teaspoon bread machine yeast


Place all dry ingredients in the bread maker. If your bread maker has a yeast dispenser, place the yeast into the yeast dispenser. My bread maker signals when to add the raisins (about 75 minutes into the process). Read your owner's manual to see when you should add dried fruit.

With your finger, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Program your bread maker.

Enjoy and try not to eat it all at once!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Treat-filled Firecracker Craft

Hooray; it's Friday! Time seems to be flying by lately. I can't believe that July is just a few days away. Since July is approaching so soon, I wanted to share a super easy and inexpensive craft to honor the 4th of July. If you happen to have kids on summer break who are already bored and need something to do, this craft would be perfect for an easy afternoon activity. These treat-filled Firecrackers would also be great as party favors at Independence day cookouts.
Here's what you will need:
A paper towel tube cut in half, scissors, tape, scrapbook paper (red, white, and blue), ribbon, and candy or any other kind of filler.

Let's get started:
Begin by wrapping the tube in paper and covering one end of the tube with a circle cut from the scrapbook paper.
Next, fill your "firecracker" with whatever you choose. Candy always works well! Once the goodies are inside, cut another circle from scrapbook paper to cover the other end of the tube.

Cut three pieces of ribbon or cord and tie a knot at one end.

With the scissors, carefully punch a hole in the center of one end (make sure the hole is not too big- it needs to be a snug fit). Being careful not to rip the paper, feed the knot through the hole so that it is secure.

And now you have a treat-filled "firecracker"!

How do you usually celebrate the 4th of July?
My day is usually spent at the beach.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Day Off + Easy Tamale Pie Recipe

Hey, folks! I hope you are all having a lovely week so far. After teaching a high intensity circuit training class yesterday morning, I had the entire day free from any obligations. It was truly amazing! I was able to get three loads of laundry washed and dried, I read more of Wild, and I sat down and watched a movie; yes, I watched a full movie in the middle of the day!

Throughout the day, I made three loaves of bread (two to give away and one to keep) with my bread machine I bought with graduation money. If I remember correctly, I've made 10 loaves of bread so far. Each loaf has turned out great and the machine itself still works like a charm (thank goodness!).

My favorite thing about being home in the evening is being able to make dinner. I love the taste of Mexican food, but I'm not always in the mood to "pretty-up" and go out for dinner... So, when the craving hit me today, I made a super simple dish: Tamale Pie. If you're unfamiliar with Tamale Pie, it's a Mexican-style dish made of a meat mixture baked with cornbread on top. The recipe that inspired me was meant to be cooked in a slow cooker, but I didn't want it to be an all-day process; I just wanted to cook it and be done with it! It tasted great (a million times better than the photo looks!) and it definitely satisfied my craving for Mexican food.


1.25 lbs ground meat (I used 93% lean ground beef)
1/2 small onion, peeled and diced
1 can black beans (15 ounces), rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn (11 ounces), drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green peppers (14.5 ounces), drained
1 can (10 ounces) enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 package (8.5 ounces) corn bread/muffin mix (I used Jiffy brand)
2 eggs


Preheat the oven to 350* F and spray a 13" x 9" baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef and onions together until the meat is cooked through. Drain the mixture and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, cheese, cilantro, salt, chili powder, pepper, and cumin. Mix until well incorporated. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes.

While the mixture is baking, beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl. Add the cornbread/muffin mix and mix well. Spoon the mixture over the meat mixture and continue baking for about 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Monday, June 24, 2013

One Beautiful Thing Monday

When I started this weekly series just last week, I  don't think I realized quite how hard it would be to take note of something truly beautiful each week when I spend most of my time working in a restaurant, cleaning houses, and catching up on sleep... haha! It's certainly a challenge, but something I also look forward to sharing with all of you.

The most notable "beautiful thing" that I witnessed this week made me think about how simple acts of kindness can really make a difference in the lives of others.

On my trip to the grocery store (Thursday), I witnessed a couple at the register with their two kids. They were trying to pay for their groceries, but were short just a few dollars. A look of panic and embarrassment came over the couple, while the children didn't understand what was happening. The man behind them  in line instantly reached into his own wallet and paid the difference without hesitation and without saying a word. The first man thanked the stranger and explained that after a really rough year, his generosity meant the world to him.

Did you see a beautiful thing take place last week?
If so, please share it in the comment box below.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer is here!

It's Fridayyyyyy! And it's officially the first day of summer. Joy! It's been a busy week for me, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's a few photos of what I've been loving this week...
Watermelons are everywhere!

I've been loving watermelon lately; it's a summertime obsession of mine. I don't even feel guilty when I eat almost half of a watermelon as a meal anymore... I feel hydrated and awesome!
When I'm in the northern Outer Banks, I like to stop at Tullio's every now and then. I hadn't been since last summer, and I was ready for a treat on Wednesday!

I planned on getting an Dreamsicle cupcake, but they were sold out! I opted for one of their Carrot Cake cupcakes, which are pretty amazing...

I've been trying to buy fresh produce about twice a week, prepping it right away, and storing it for later. It's been working out great Choosing healthy options is much easier when you don't have to wash, peel, and cut when you want something to eat at that very moment (and basically none of my produce goes to waste when it's ready to eat).
I'm loving this book... it's so good and I really look forward when I can sit down and get some reading done.

Do you have any big plans for the weekend? I have Saturday evening off, so I'm super excited. I'm thinking that it might be time for pizza or cooking dinner on the grill!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Turkey Veggie Muffins

Happy Thursday! It feels like heaven here on the island right now; there is an amazing breeze and the windows are open. No AC needed and no miserable high heat/humidity combo. I love this kind of weather! In fact, I love it just as much as I love an easy grab-and-go snack/meal... this is why these Turkey Veggie Muffins are amazing! They're full of protein and healthy carbs. One is great for a snack and three or so (paired with some veggies) is great for a meal. They're so simple to make and so easy to reheat for later.
1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1 cup oats
1 egg
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Drizzle Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350* F and grease a 12 cup muffin tin (cooking spray works wonders).
In a food processor or by hand, finely chop carrot and celery.
In a medium size bowl, beat egg and combine all ingredients until well incorporated.
Divide mixture among the 12 openings and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through.


Let cool and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

What's your favorite go-to quick meal or snack?

Monday, June 17, 2013

One Beautiful Thing Monday

My friend, Mary Beth, let me borrow a book last month called "Truth In Advertising." I really enjoyed the book and was inspired by two of the characters, Phoebe and Fin, who play a game where they point out one beautiful thing they see each day. Now introducing... One Beautiful Thing Mondays. I plan to share one beautiful thing that I witnessed in the previous week. I'll try to include a picture of the "beautiful thing", but I can imagine taking photos of some things/people may be awkward or inappropriate, so we'll see where it goes.

This week's one beautiful thing took place at the restaurant I work at. So, clearly no photo (as customers probably don't want their server photographing them for personal reasons) for this one. Over the last few years, I noticed that families and groups who come out to dinner no longer converse to one another like they used to. Sadly, smart phones have taken the place of human interaction at the dinner table (in most cases). Last year, I waited on a family of four who literally didn't put their phones down over the course of the entire meal. It was very difficult to wait on someone who couldn't even look me in the eye to order their entree.

Anyway, this brings me back to this week's One Beautiful Thing. While working last night, we had a table of five (three kids and their parents). The kids were so polite (such good manners and well behaved) and everyone was very friendly. Not once did I see a phone at the table or any other tech distraction. The family played games like tic-tac-toe and hangman on the table (the tables are covered in white paper and there are crayons at every table) and drew beautiful pictures of sea creatures. They laughed, smiled, and talked; this family truly seemed to enjoy each other's company and really seemed to connect. It was so refreshing to watch this family (in a non-creepy way) and to see human interaction actually taking place.

To Grandma's House We Go...

Hello, all! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I took a few days off from work this past week to make a quick trip to visit my Grandma and family in Maryland. My grandma is 92 years old, so these visits are precious. My Grandma is an amazing woman. She worked full-time until she was 84 years old and had to retire because of health issues. Though her memory seems to get a bit worse each time I see her, she always has a smile on her face and she always has a positive attitude. It may take her a moment to remember exactly who I am, but when I go to leave, she always hugs me tightly and tells me she loves me, which is the most important part.

I also got to spend more time getting to know this little sweetheart, Vayda. It's so neat to watch her grow up.

While in the city, Chuck and I visited the Baltimore Zoo, which was a ton of fun. We ended up spending four hours at the zoo (we're 5 year olds, don't judge!).

We saw tons of pretty birds...

And I ate some Dippin' Dots (hey, when in Rome)...

And we saw tons of beautiful animals, like this leopard...

And my favorite... elephants!

And some other creatures, whose names I cannot remember...

And this stinkin' cute baby Prairie Dog.

Before we left town, we were told that we had to try the frozen custard at The Cow and it was definitely worth it. I can't believe I didn't hear about this place before!

And, of course, we hit up Ikea on the way home. We stayed in Woodbridge the night before, so hitting up Ikea right as they opened was super convenient. I love looking at all of the display rooms and imagining what my future house might look like. And Chuck likes to try out the sofas!

I hope you all have a great week! Do you have any big plans for the summer? I hope to get some color on my skin and read a few books.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Father's Day Printable

Happy Thursday, everyone! Are you all tired of seeing printables on here yet? I hope not, because Father's Day is right around the corner (just a few days away), so I wanted to share a Father's Day-themed printable I recently made. It reads, "Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy." It's a saying that I've heard for as long as I can remember and I can even recall my early childhood when we had a magnet on the refrigerator that read those words.
My dad and I may not always agree or get along well, but I'm so fortunate to have a father that works hard to provide for his family. I know that he truly loves us and we mean the world to him. I love my dad and I'll always be his little girl :)
This printable would look great on the cover of a homemade card or printed and displayed in a frame. Just right click the image, save it as a picture, and print it; it's that easy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Easy Father's Day Craft Idea

Hello, hello! Father's Day is approaching quickly and I wanted to share a very simple Father's Day craft that anyone can make... and I bet you already have the supplies at home! It takes all of about two minutes to make and it's sure to melt dad's heart!
You will need Scrabble game pieces, a picture frame, glue (super glue or a glue gun), and a photo to put in the frame. Our Scrabble game has been missing pieces for years, so instead of tossing out the game, I saved the letter squares so that I could use them for crafts. If you don't have a Scrabble game that you can take letters from, head to your local thrift store- they most likely have one waiting for you!

The first step is choosing what you want to spell out. "Dad," "Daddy," "Grandpa," or "Father," are obvious choices, but you can spell out whatever you like. Words like "Superman" and "My Hero" would also be great choices; the possibilities are endless.

Next, print a photo and put it in the frame you are using. If you are gifting this to your father, a photo of you and your dad or of grandfather/grandchildren would be ideal, etc. You can print the photo at home with your own printer, or get it printed at a photo center.

Finally, lay out the Scrabble pieces on the frame until you are satisfied with the arrangement and glue them in place.
Though this craft is probably the easiest gift in the world to make, I still think there's something really special about it being a homemade gift from the heart. All of Dad's gifts were store bought this year, but I think this one will make him smile.

What's the best homemade gift you've ever given? What's the best homemade gift you've ever received?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Menu Planner Printable

Hello! I hope you all had a great weekend. I don't know about you, but I love lists and you can find them all over my house. I make them all of the time: lists for things I need to accomplish for the day, things I need to pick up from the grocery store, things I need to remember to buy when I leave the island, etc...
Now that my summer schedule is in full swing, having a weekly menu planner is very helpful (which is why I made this one). I work a lot of nights each week, which means that cooking dinner can only happen a few times each week. However, this means that I put more effort into what I make for lunch, which is now usually my larger meal of the day.
I know that a lot of you are Moms that have full-time jobs and busy schedules, so I hope this printable is useful to you! You can right-click and save it as a picture, or you can download it as a PDF file. If you want to download the file, here it is on Scribd.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Garden Update

Hello, hello! Hope you're all having a great day. I wanted to share some pictures of the garden with you all. We're pretty proud of our homegrown fruits and veggies and can't wait until they're all ready to be picked! I have to admit that I've not done much in the garden other than watering it and picking ripened produce, but it makes me to happy to know what I'm eating... I know that these fruits and veggies are not genetically modified and I know they were not sprayed with pesticides. Hooray for happy eating!

Have you ever had a garden? If so, what was your favorite thing to grow?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My First Grilling Experience + Simple Gnocchi Meal Idea

I want to begin this post by saying that I am no longer afraid of the grill. It no longer makes me squirm in fear (well, sort of) and I will no longer make Chuck have grill duty every time I want grilled food (well, maybe). What I'm trying to say is that I have always been terrified of operating a gas grill. What if when I turn the gas on, there is an explosion and I blow up? What if I press the ignite button and the flames swallow my face? What if I lift the lid when checking on my chicken and I burn my arm? These questions used to haunt me, but not anymore!
I had one lonely piece of chicken that needed to be cooked, so I decided to attempt to grill it. To my surprise, the chicken turned out really well. Grilling is actually super easy and I have no clue as to why I was so afraid before. Fear is such a silly thing sometimes. Anyway, I just had to take a photo of my first solo grilling experience...

After grilling the lonely chicken breast, I quickly brainstormed to decide what I would make for dinner. Remembering that I had a box of dried gnocchi in the pantry, I decided to cook it, drench it in tomato sauce, and add the chicken to it for extra protein. If you're unfamiliar with gnocchi, it's a thick soft dumpling that can be made from various ingredients; mine was made from potatoes.
I began by boiling water for the gnocchi. Once I had a rapid boil, I added the gnocchi and cooked them for about 4 minutes. Gnocchi are so easy to cook; they float to the top of the pan when they are done

I then opened a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and added some sauteed fresh button mushrooms. Garlic salt, pepper, parsley, and Italian seasoning also helped to add some flavor. Making your own pasta sauce this way is so easy and it really allows you to control what goes into your food! Many jarred sauces are full of sodium, preservatives, and sugar. Once the sauce was heated throughout, I added the cooked gnocchi and grilled chicken pieces. It was such a simple meal to prepare and it tasted great!

Have you ever had gnocchi? If so, what's your favorite way to eat it?
I used to really love Olive Garden's Chicken Gnocchi soup.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bacon Honey Dijon Chicken

I eat fairly healthy most days (which is why I'm not always sharing meal recipes... I'm not going to show you steamed veggies everyday...), but sometimes I want to eat a meal that really tastes great and satisfies.

A few nights ago, Chuck and I made Bacon Honey Dijon Chicken for dinner. This was one of those meals; it was full of not-so-healthy ingredients and it was delicious. At least we went to the gym first...

Bacon Honey Dijon Chicken
adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff


1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups sliced fresh button mushrooms
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 bacon strips, cooked and cut into small pieces (you can use turkey bacon)


In a small bowl, combine the first three ingredients and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken in olive oil until cooked through. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and set aside. (Tip from the boyfriend: coat the chicken itself in the olive oil instead of putting the chicken in a pan coated with olive oil. This keeps the chicken from drying out. Also, cover the skillet to brown the chicken for a nice golden color.)

In the same skillet, saute the mushrooms and cooked bacon until the mushrooms are tender. Remove the mixture and set aside. Return the chicken to the skillet and top with cheese, the mushroom and bacon mixture, and the sauce. Keep the skillet covered until the cheese is melted.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Recipe Card Printable

Hey folks, I hope you're all having a lovely day. The weather had been beautiful here on the island. It was cloudy yesterday morning when I took a water aerobics class, but the clouds quickly faded away and we soaked up some sun at the beach yesterday afternoon. Hopefully we will get to do the same today :)
Today, I wanted to share the recipe card I made as part of my graduation announcement (I asked the recipient to share their favorite family recipe with me). I can imagine these recipe cards adding a ton of style to your recipe box and making a great gift for new homeowners at parties and brides at bridal showers (giving them a copy of your favorite recipe and providing the ingredients to go with it.
You can get the recipe card here, on Scribd is a free website that allows you to post documents to share with others. The recipe card is saved as a PDF file, but I created it in MS Publisher. If you'd like for me to email the recipe cards to you in a different file type, just shout out in the comment box below :) I printed the recipe cards on perforated postcard sheets (4 to a page), which was super easy. MS Publisher already had the template for the postcard sheets I bought from Staples, so getting the recipe card to line up on the paper was a breeze!
I hope you enjoy using these recipe cards in your own collection or as gifts. I know I've really loved receiving completed cards and I can't wait to try out all of the great recipes.