Friday, October 31, 2014

DIY Window Sill Herb Garden


herb garden cover

Love cooking with fresh herbs? Tired of always having to spend money on them only to have half of them go bad before you can use them all? Want to keep a little bit of "green" in your life with the cold weather coming? The answer to all of the questions (even if you have never asked them) is YES!

Yes! Even if you don't usually cook with fresh herbs, there's no time to start like the present. They are easy to use and is one of the simplest ways to elevate your meals. Yes! Fresh herbs in the store sometimes cost just as much as an entire bottle of dried herbs. The flavors really accentuate the dish, but recipes usually never call for the entire package of fresh herbs and before you have the chance to use the rest they have usually gone moldy and spoiled. Yes! By the time we have reached the middle of winter (for some of us the longing for Spring comes much sooner) we are dying to have some kind of living green life to look at. A fresh herb garden is just the ticket to liven up your meals, lighten up your wallet, and help you to last until Spring returns. Follow these simple steps to build your own DIY Window Herb Garden. It's also a great project to let the kids help with!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Care Bears Belly Badge Rock DVD Review & GIVEAWAY!!!

Carebears 2

Disclosure: I received the Care Bears Belly Badge Rock DVD at no cost to facilitate this review.

Just when you thought life couldn't get any sweeter - here come the Care Bears! This time they are shaking it up with 4 all new episodes about friendship and honesty. On this new DVD, released October 28th, you will find these wonderful exciting episodes (along with some brand new songs):
  • "Show of Shyness
  • "Bully Exposed"
  • "Over Bearing"
  • "Untruths & Consequences
Bring on the Belly Badge Rock! It's all music and cheer until Harmony BearTM loses her singing voice before the big show, and Kaylee, a visitor to Care-a-lot, stops playing her instrument because of a bully. Perhaps a bit of Care Bears courage will save the day? Then, when Funshine Bear™ and Grumpy Bear™ realize they have a wild child on the loose, and Wonderheart Bear™ tells a few little lies, the bears discover how important it is to have good manners and always tell the truth! - Taken from Product Description

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review of the Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 Car Seat

Graco Slide 1

Disclosure: I was given the item above at no cost to me in order to facilitate this review. 

 Having four children of my own, I have come across my fair share of  car seats. With my first child, we bought the forward facing car seat, then the booster seat, and finally graduated her to the backless booster. But with the Graco Argos 80 Elite car seat, I now have three car seats in one! This same seat that my child fell in love with will be the same seat he uses through out his car seat years - and I won't be out searching for a new one every time he grows to the next stage. What a way to travel! With family in Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, and even as far as Texas, our family does a lot of traveling. Right away, I was amazed at how much cushion and support this car seat offered to my 2-year-old son, Levi (and I was immediately wishing I had this much cushion on my tush when I traveled)! There seemed to be opportunity for comfort everywhere, right down to the padding on the arm rests, and cloth protection over the harness. The head rests are very sturdy and plush and keeps his head from falling to the side when he falls asleep. There's even extra padding in the seat that can be removed as he grows. This car seat offers all of the comfort and style, without sacrificing any of its safety. With its  5-point harness system, steel reinforced frame, EPS energy- absorbing foam, and certified side-impact testing, I have peace of mind knowing that my child will be safe and protected in this car seat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eva Can Change The World! I See Me Review & Giveaway

Personalized books for kids

I received the above item at no cost in order to facilitate this review. You can find other personalized books for kids at I See Me.

From the moment they are born, we tell our children they are special. We do our best, as parents, to remind them each and every day that their life is important, that it means something, and that they are meant to do great things.  With the new I Can Change The World book, from I See Me, your child will not only get to hear this awesome message, but they will get to see it all play out on the pages of a personalized book made especially for them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

From the moment I first began to cook I had always wanted to make risotto. Just the name itself sounded fancy...and complicated. When I finally got up the nerve to try my hand at this Italian classic, I discovered making a simple risotto is not as hard as it seems, if you are willing to throw in some time, and a few fresh ingredients. Here's my simplified spin on this savory time-honored dish.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Grab an ice cold class of milk for this one! The chocolate chip cookie is probably America's all time favorite cookie. When I think of the desserts our country is known for this classic cookie definitely tops the list. Elevate this perfect treat to another level with another known favorite - pumpkin! Together, they combine to make the perfect cookie recipe for a cool, fall evening.

The best cookies are always planned ahead of time. To cream the butter and sugar to perfection the stick should be good and soft. 

Feel free to preheat your oven to 350 degrees as you mix up your cookie dough. Getting your cookies ready to bake is not a long process. By the time your oven is ready to go, your dough should be ready as well. 

For canned pumpkin you will most likely find "pure pumpkin" and "pumpkin pie filling". Make sure you are simply getting the pure pumpkin and not the pie filling. I really like the taste of the pure pumpkin - plus I get to add my own spices to get the exact flavor I want. 

If you don't want to bake the cookies right away, you can absolutely cover the dough with plastic wrap, place it in the fridge, and bake them later. 

If your kids are like mine, they love to have the cookie jar filled. Put a smile on everyone's face by filling your cookie jar with these Fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

Cookie Jar Tip: Make sure the cookies have cooled completely before you store them. I always throw a slice of bread in my cookie jar - which keeps my cookies soft and chewy. 

Make sure you click the "recipes" tab to find more delicious items to whip up in your kitchen

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Classic Zucchini Bread

I don't know what it is? Maybe it's the fall weather, maybe it's my need to find something to munch on while I'm blogging, but baking breads just seems to be where it's at. I'm always trying to find ways of sneaking vegetables into my kids, and one of my favorite ways to do that is with a slice of Zucchini Bread. This recipe calls for walnuts. If you don't like nuts, or if you have an allergy, please omit them. Trust me, it will still taste amazing!

Baking Tip:
Get all of your ingredients out and on the counter before you begin baking. There's nothing more frustrating than having to stop in the middle of mixing because you can't find a particular spice, or realizing you have to run to the store!

Shredding Zucchini: Make sure you rinse it and cut off both ends, before  you take it to a shredder. I keep all the green skin on. This adds some wonderful color to the bread, and also keeps more of the nutrients from the vegetable. 

Yes. It's called Zucchini Bread, but the "dough" really ends up more like the consistency of a thick cake batter. So, don't let that freak you out when you go to pour it into your loaf pans. 

After you have baked your Zucchini Bread, insert a knife or a toothpick into the center of one of your loaves to make sure it has baked the whole way through. It should come out clean. Allow it to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before you remove it. This bread tastes great warm, or cool. It also freezes great if you want to save a loaf for later (unless you have four hungry kids like mine, and then you're just lucky to have a piece left over at the end of the week).

Go preheat that oven preheated and start gathering your ingredients - It's Classic Zucchini Bread baking time! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review of the Knot Genie

  Knot Genie 1
  Disclosure: I was given the item above to facilitate this review. 

 There's anxiety, panic, and tears coming from the bedroom upstairs. It isn't long before the screaming is heard. "Please, please don't do it!"... No, I'm not talking about the latest scary movie coming out in theaters, I'm talking about the daily horror of brushing my daughter's hair. Every time I come at her with a brush or a comb, no matter if her hair is wet or dry, the result is always the same - tearful pleading that I not brush her hair and let it continue to become a nesting place for small creatures. And of course, as always, I try to be as gentle as I can, but each session of grooming seems to further solidify in her mind the truth she has come to know; brushing your hair will always be a painful experience.

Friday, October 10, 2014

3 Ways for Busy Mom's to Be Involved in Your Child's Schooling

While I college, I researched a paper on parental involvement in school. What I found was not all together shocking. Many parents complain they want to be involved in their child's schooling process but find that many schools make it hard. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum were the school administrators and teachers saying, "We want parents to be involved - but we just don't have parents who want to take the time to be a part of what we're doing in the public school".  Like anything in life, when we find something to be important, we take the time to make it a priority. Numerous studies have shown that when parents are involved in their child's schooling, it not only helps your child succeed academically, but socially and emotionally as well. When parents take the time to be involved in their child's school - it brings great benefit not only to the child, but to the parent, the teachers, the school, and ultimately the community.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Old Fashioned Applesauce

In the mood for some smooth and delicious applesauce? Whip up a batch of my Old Fashioned Applesauce. With only six simple ingredients and only 25 minutes of cooking time - you'll be wondering why you waited so long to make your own - and once you've tasted it - you'll never go back to the jars you buy at the store.

Monday, October 6, 2014

5 Reasons to Eat Family Dinners

1. It Brings Everyone Together. 
If you family is anything like mine, you are busy. Doing laundry, cleaning the house, taking kids to school, going to work, running errands, running kids to after-school and church activities,  running, running, and more running. Despite the busyness in my day, I know that no matter what, dinner time is coming! It's a time when no matter what our schedules have been like, we all will come together to enjoy each other and a good meal. We laugh together about the day and talk about things that are on our hearts. There are so many things in this world grasping for our time and attention - even for the attention of our children. When we all come together to share a meal, the TV goes off, the computer is shut down, and our cellphones stay in the other room. For that time in the day, nothing else captures our attention but each other - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

2. It Encourages You To Eat Healthier.
I love cooking for my family! One of those reasons, is that making a home cooked meal not only taste better, but I like knowing that I'm not putting all of those added preservatives and chemicals that come from eating prepackaged and canned foods into my body - or my families bodies. According to Cornell University, children from families who eat regular meals together are "35% less likely to engage in an eating disorder, 24% more likely to eat healthy foods, and %12 less likely to be obese.* There's something about sitting down together around the dinner table that makes the meal seem to deserve something a little more fancy -something a little finer than just a "meal in a box". I'll be honest, when it's just me - I'm more inclined to take the easy road and throw a box of chicken nuggets in the oven - but when I know my whole family is sitting around the table - it gives me the little extra incentive I need to make the night a little bit "fancier" just for them. Let's face it, in the busy times we live in, anytime your whole family is all together in one place is a special occasion. It's this attitude about our family dinner nights that helps encourage me to cook from scratch - and it always keeps my whole family coming back for more!

3. It Keeps Your Calendar Up-To-Date.
"Mom!" "Don't forget my field trip this Friday." "I have to bring a packed lunch." "Mom!"I'm staying after school on Tuesday for violin." "Honey, I invited R.J. and Jessica over for dinner on Sunday night - you should make your Tortilla soup and cornbread"... With four kids and a husband who loves to socialize it sometimes gets pretty difficult to keep all the activities and events straight. Even though I try to write everything down on our calendar, there are just some things I forget from time to time. Some weeks the days seems to fly by, leaving me thinking I have a week to bake cupcakes for a school fundraiser, only to find out they are needed the next morning. To keep our schedules straight, we use our family dinner time to talk about the week's schedule. No one is more excited about their upcoming birthday parties, school trips, or church events that my own kids - and I can always count on them to remind me, every night at dinner, what events I should be prepared for. Our family meal times not only help me stay on track and not struggle to finish plans at the last minute, but also show my kids that I care and I want to know all about the events and activities they are a part of.

4. It Won't Last Forever.
When my children were first born, I can't tell you the number of times I told myself, "Don't worry, this won't last forever". It sometimes seemed to be the only way I could get through midnight feedings, or those hopeless moments when there was nothing I could do to stop my babies from crying, or when I was awake changing sheets with one eye open because someone had a midnight accident. I asked my kids last night, "What do you like about eating dinner all together as a family?" My 11-year-old daughter immediately replied, "Because it isn't going to be like this forever." There was a little bit of heartache in her voice as she began to talk about how she was excited to go to high school, and go off to college, but that she would miss our nights together around the dinner table. As a parent, I want to soak up all these moments at the dinner table; the funny ones, the heartwarming ones, the ones that turn to deep conversations. Our children want to relish these moments as well. It won't be my carefully planned meals they remember. It won't even be watching Mom rush to get the food on the table because bedtime is quickly approaching. It will be the knowing they are valued and loved because as parents, we chose to make our family a priority, even through something as simple as having dinner together. I want to fill their little hearts with tokens of my love every chance that I get, because I know these opportunities won't last forever. One by one each of my children will grow up, move away, and hopefully start their own family dinners, reflections of love to their families...and that leads me to number five...

5. It's Tradition!
Growing up in a single-parent home, I knew the love of my Mother, but I always doubted the love of my Father, who never really seemed to be around. Even though my Mom had to work hard to make ends meet, and dinners were not always the most lavish meals, she always did her best to make each one feel special. We always ate them together, and through this, I always knew her love for me was true. Without a doubt, every time I fill my own table with dinner dishes, I remember her love for me. It's that same love, that now moves through my heart and is shared with my own children. She set the example; the example that was set for her when she was a child by my Grandma and Granddad, and now the example I set for my own children. Three generations of not only tradition - but also of love. On days that I don't feel like cooking, or times where it just might seem easier to feed the kids and get that extra load of laundry done and put away, I remember the importance of tradition. Someday, I want my children to experience their own family dinner traditions. I want them to experience all of the love they will give and receive through sitting around together at the table. I want them to share in the joys and the stories, the funny moments and the serious ones. I want them to carry on the tradition, not because it's what I did when they were growing up, but because I want my children to pass on that same love that is known, when everything else is put aside, even if its just for a few moments, around the dinner table.

What do you love about family dinners?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Bread with Brown Sugar Crumble

Raisin Bread 1    
 Everyone in my family loves fresh bread! With this recipe, I took my ordinary white bread recipe and turned it up a notch to make it extra special, and extra delicious! This recipe makes two loaves of cinnamon raisin bread. I can never get away with just making one - with a husband and four hungry kids, the first loaf is usually gone before it even has time to cool. Making two loaves gives my family a chance to enjoy a wonderfully warm treat, and the opportunity to enjoy it later in the week as well. Hope you enjoy it!
  Raisin Bread 2

If you don't have a kitchen aid mixer you can still make this fantastic bread - it just means you get a good workout in on the arms with the kneading. If you have kids or grandkids who like to get in on the baking action - give them a turn to knead. They will not only love your raisin bread - but they will love that they were a part of making something so yummy!
  Raisin Bread 3

Don't forget to clean and flour the surface you are rolling your dough out on - that extra flour won't hurt your dough a bit!
  Slide4Try to roll your bread up as tightly as possible - its ok if it doesn't look pretty - you just want to make sure it's all sealed up so none of the cinnamon sugary goodness can't escape. Once you put it back to rise in the bread pan - it will rise to perfection. Slide5
 Plain or toasted, with or without butter, there's no way you can go wrong with this raisin bread. I think you'll enjoy it just as much as Levi! Like this recipe? Check out this recipe and more at

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review of Brylane Home Digital Slow Cooker & GIVE-A-WAY

Slow Cooker Slide 1 Fall is here! And that means it's time to fill your slow cooker with lots of yummy, warm, and delicious meals! There really is nothing greater than throwing dinner in a slow cooker, leaving for the afternoon and coming home to dinner being hot and ready. Whether its stews, chili's, jellies, or even desserts, a slow cooker is a must for any home kitchen. Brylane Home offers a digital slow cooker that not only gets the job done, but makes it so easy for all your crock pot recipes to come out fabulous! I was delighted when they agreed to send me one (at no cost) to review
slow cooker slide 2
Aside from the basic features you will find with the Brylane Home Digital Slow Cooker, you will also find some safety features that make me appreciate this slow cooker even more. This slow cooker contains a polarized plug (meaning one blade is wider than the other blade) which helps to reduce the risk of electric shock when plugging and unplugging the appliance. A lot of cooks find it annoying that the cord to their slow cooker is super short. The cord is longer than the last slow cooker I owned - which allowed me to plug it up in more than one place on my counter - but it's also short enough that keeps the appliance away from the end of the counter where little hands might be reaching up.
The settings are extremely easy to use - it really is just the touch of a button! For my first test run in this slow cooker, I decided to whip up a batch of apple butter (you can click here for the recipe). I cook my apple butter for approximately 24 hours and this slow cooker was the perfect tool for my favorite fall treat. I cook my apple butter in two 12-hour batches, and I was able to utilize the digital timer (which allows you to time your meal anywhere from 30 minutes to 20 hours and 30 minutes). Even after using this slow cooker for a constant 24 hours, it maintained its constant cooking temperature and I did not have to worry about any damage or warping to my kitchen counter.
No matter what your have on the menu this fall, you would be missing out if you didn't add a crock pot recipe or two every week. The Brylane Home Digital Slow Cooker is the perfect tool to get the job done! Whether it's time for a slow cooker upgrade, or time to enjoy the benefits of your first crock pot, the Brylane Home Digital Slow Cooker is one of the best.
Connect: Find out more about this Digital Slow cooker, other Brylane Home products and more, by visiting their website. Be sure to "like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
But it: You can purchase this Digital Slow Cooker from Brylane Home. It is currently on sale at 50% off for 49.99.
Win It: One lucky reader will WIN one of these slow cookers for their own home!
BrylaneHome Slow Cooker Giveaway
This giveaway is open to residents of the US who are 18 years of age or older. Void where prohibited. This giveaway will end at 11:59pm ET on October 18th 2014. Enter using the Giveaway Tools entry form below. Good luck!
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Disclosure:  I (Jennifer) received the item above, at no cost to me, to facilitate this review. Brylane Home is responsible for prize fulfillment.