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Monday, May 2, 2016

Tissue Paper Chocolate Flower Bouquet: An Easy DIY Mother's Day Gift

Wish Mom a Happy Mother's Day with this pretty DIY Tissue Paper Flower Bouquet, with chocolate candy centers and a free printable tag!
I've got a fun last-minute, super simple Mother's Day gift up my sleeve today!  These tissue paper flowers couldn't be cuter and are so easy for the kiddos to make for Mom or another special lady in their life.  

I was inspired by a phrase from a song the kids sing in my church that says, "Dear Mother, all flowers remind me of you".  It's such a sweet and endearing sentiment, so I wanted to use it in tandem with today's fun craft.

It's always such a refreshing, exhilarating sight when the first signs of spring appear, with beautiful flowers popping up everywhere, boasting their gorgeously happy colors. The earth just seems to come to life again after a long, dormant winter.  Mothers and women have a similar way of brightening the world and spreading joy to all with whom they come in contact, especially children.
I've never met a lady who doesn't love flowers...and chocolate.  Both seem to instantly brighten a day and say a very heartfelt, "I care about you!"

So what better way to express appreciation to our dear mothers than this simple tissue paper flower gift with a built-in yummy treat! I treasure those handmade gifts that I receive each year from my kids.  And they're always so proud watching me open them. :)

Here's how to accomplish this project: 


Tissue Paper (any color)
Wrapped Chocolate Candies that work as a flower center (I used Rolo's)
Twigs (I just snipped some from my trees) or thin wooden dowels cut to size
Low Temp. Glue Gun
With four layers of tissue paper together (more layers will yield a poofier, fuller flower), cut a square that measures 6"x 6".  Fold it accordion style.   
Place a staple in the center. Cut both ends so they are rounded.  Now unfold them and start peeling the layers up, one at a time, while fluffing them and giving them nice dimension.  Do the same to the other side.
Hot glue a chocolate candy to the center, then finish by hot gluing a long twig to the underside center in one of the openings.  That's it! 
Display the flowers in a mason jar or pretty vase. 

I cranked out this bouquet in no time flat!   I'm a firm believer that handmade gifts are the best! They're just so personal and thoughtful. 
Aren't they pretty?!  One can't help but smile just looking at them.

Oh how I love being a mother.  My kids bring so much joy to my life.  I told my sweets that all I want this year is dinner that I don't have to make, an uninterrupted nap, and hugs and kisses on command. :) We'll see if they deliver.

Download and print your free tags here.

There are four different color schemes, so hopefully one of them will coordinate with the tissue paper you choose.  I recommend printing it on white cardstock.  **As always, printables are for personal use only.
Attach the tag with some baker's twine or ribbon and give it to a very deserving, amazing Mother in your life!  Or, leave the tag off and use it as a teacher appreciation or other thank you gift!  So many possibilities!

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Indian Butter Chicken

Serve this warm and flavorful, sauce-soaked Chicken Makhani with a side of steamed Basmati rice or Naan for the ultimate delicious meal!  This one will get rave reviews and be requested time and time again!
Every Sunday when I'm planning the week's menu, I ask the kids and my hubby for requests.  I like to give them the option of choosing dinner for a night, and usually by doing so, it guarantees they will eat it (speaking of the kids, of course).  My husband doesn't typically have a preference.  He's pretty easy going and says that everything I make is delicious, so I can't go wrong (he's a very smart guy).  Major brownie points there!

But when he does pitch in a meal idea, it's pretty much always this Indian Butter Chicken.  It's oodles better than takeout or even dining at a restaurant, and, though it's more effort, it's well worth it!    
Though it's not the most appetizing of things to look at, my stomach is growling at the thoughts of how tasty it is!

I'm basically always hungry, but when I don't have the option of eating something homemade (like while our kitchen has been under construction), I'm even hungrier.  Fast food gets old and expensive really fast, so I've been doing my best to still put something yummy and as homemade as possible on the table.  That typically means it comes from the crockpot or the outdoor grill.  I've set up a makeshift kitchen in our laundry room where we've relocated our microwave and toaster for the time being.  We've been really grateful to have the space there, including a counter and a sink, while the dust has been flying.  

Don't be overwhelmed with the long list of ingredients.  It is a more time-intensive meal, but it's not difficult to make!


1 Tbsp. cooking oil (I used olive oil)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. ginger garlic paste
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. garam masala
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. water

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft and translucent.  Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger-garlic paste, 1 tsp. garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in half-and-half and yogurt or sour cream.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.  

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Drain the liquid if there is any.  Reduce heat, and season with 1 tsp. garam masala and cayenne.  Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink. Stir cooked chicken into sauce.

Mix together corn starch and water, then stir into the sauce.  Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.  Remove bay leaf and serve immediately with naan or rice.
This phenomenal chicken was one of the last meals that I made before our kitchen got torn apart for the remodel.  I just had to get my Indian food fix before I couldn't for a long while.

I made some homemade Naan to go with it and we were feeling anxiety just thinking about having to separate ourselves from delicious food such as this for a month.

You'll need to take a trip to your local international grocery store for supplies, but you won't be sorry you went a little out of your way.

So many wonderful taste sensations in every bite!  You will seriously fall in love with this dish!  Beware, you'll want to lick your platter clean!  

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

These soft and decadent cookies boast a perfect combination of raspberry and chocolate flavors and are finished with a delicious fresh raspberry buttercream frosting! 
If I could go ahead and just name off my favorite dessert flavor combos ever they'd definitely be chocolate/mint, lemon/blueberry and chocolate/peanut butter. It's no secret that when I'm craving dessert, more often than not, it's of the chocolate variety.

And if you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I can't help but bust out cookies, cookies, and more cookies!  I hope you're ok with that.  They are by far my most guilty pleasure.

In fact, so many times when I finally convince myself that I'm going to make brownies or cake, I end up coming up with a way to turn it into a cookie.  :)  These Rocky Road Brownie Cookies, Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, and Carrot Cake Cookies are all a testament to that statement.
Next thing you know, I'll be whipping out apple pie cookies.  Hmmm....now that's a thought!  Sounds fantastic!

So the other day when I had a hankering for something sweet, I went to my mixer with every intention of experimenting with raspberry brownies, but somehow these came of it. 

Not that I'm complaining.  These could be called raspberry brownie cookies.  My favorite part is the soft, fudge-like cookie...and the surprise bites with chocolate chunks...and of course the creamy raspberry-infused icing swirled generously on top...oh, and the fresh raspberry garnish that's pressed into the frosting.  Well, basically I love everything about them.  If you tied my hands behind my back and forced me to pick the best moment from my consumption experience, I simply couldn't.  

Chocolate and raspberries were meant to be married and these cookies are proof!  The slight tartness of the berries is perfectly complemented and offset with the gloriously sweet cookie base.  I chose to add berries into the cookie dough, and although it's not totally obvious that they are there, they do give the cookies an added richness and depth of flavor, not to mention additional yumminess!

1/2 c. fresh raspberries, mashed
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chunks

1 c. fresh raspberries, mashed
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For the cookies, mash the raspberries in a small bowl and stir in 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Let sit while you mix together the other ingredients.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add to wet mixture along with the mashed raspberries and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chunks.

Scoop batter by the heaping tablespoonful or with a small cookie scoop onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 8 minutes.  Don't over bake or they cookies will be dry.  Let sit on cookie sheets for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Place in an airtight container until ready to frost.

While baking the cookies, quickly prepare the raspberries for the frosting by mashing the raspberries and stirring in 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Place bowl in the refrigerator so it can emit liquids that will make a nice raspberry syrup type substance.

When ready to make the frosting, cream together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and raspberry mixture from the refrigerator.  Frost cookies immediately or if you'll be piping it on, let frosting sit in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes so it can stiffen a little.  Cover cookies and keep in the refrigerator once frosted.  I recommend waiting to frost them until ready to serve as the frosting is soft and can get melty if left out.

I swirled my icing on with a star decorating tip.
Have you ever dipped raspberries in chocolate or stuffed them with it?  Well, these cookies are just as delightful (even more so in my opinion)!  

Add these to your must-make list of desserts and ASAP!  You won't be sorry!

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bacon-Wrapped Lemon Shrimp Skewers

Ring in the spring and summer grilling season with these irresistible Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers! Quick-marinated to perfection, then barbecued and given a squeeze of fresh lemon, this seafood meal is sure to be a warm weather favorite!

The grill became our best friend a little early this year because we're without a kitchen for about a month.  All for a very good cause.  We're remodeling! We've been making lots of exciting, but also stressful decisions over the past few weeks.  I say stressful because with all the funds we're putting into it, I want and need to be in love with it for a very long time.

My Pinterest "For the Home" board is filled to the brim with paint and cabinet, hardware and backsplash ideas, but since the time is now, I'm feeling the pressure to get it just right. 

Pressure is not the only thing I'm feeling right now.  I'd add a little anxiety to the equation since I'll be without my oven and dishwasher for much too long.  But, there's no better way to make a person appreciate life's luxuries than to take them away.
I'm like a child on Christmas morning with butterflies in the tummy galore!  I can't wait to see how all of the elements come together. 

But for now, we're dining on crockpot and bbq meals each night until our "new" kitchen is finished. I can't wait to give you the big reveal here on the blog!

Don't feel bad for us, though.  I mean, these shrimp skewers with wonderful citrus flavors are not something I'd call "slumming it".  On the contrary...these are on par with dinner at your favorite restaurant.  They're that good, even better, I'd venture to say.

Adapted from Taste of Home

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
21 uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
11 bacon strips, halved
1 medium lemon, cut into small wedges
7 metal or wooden skewers

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.  Add shrimp, seal bag and turn to coat.  Allow to sit for about ten minutes while you prepare the bacon.  In a large skillet over the stove top on medium heat, partially cook bacon (I found it easiest to cook the bacon before cutting it in half).  It shouldn't be crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Remove shrimp from bag and discard the bag with remaining marinade.  Wrap one bacon piece around each shrimp.

On wooden or metal skewers, thread two pieces of bacon-wrapped shrimp, followed by a lemon wedge and then one more piece of bacon-wrapped shrimp.  Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-12 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink, turning occasionally.  Remove from skewers; squeeze lemon wedges over seafood.  Serve immediately.

**Tip: If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for a while first so they won't char on the grill. 

**Tip: Place the pieces very close together on the skewers or they'll be difficult to turn on the grill.

**Tip: The bacon should be slightly pre-cooked because the shrimp cooks at a quicker rate on the grill.  This will prevent the shrimp from getting overcooked before the bacon is fully done.
I thought I'd made enough to feed an army and that we'd certainly have leftovers, but we ended up scarfing down every last bit.  This is perfect served with a side of rice or simple pasta.

The little lemon slice on each skewer is perfect for squeezing over the top of the bacon-wrapped treasures before starting the mouth-popping marathon.  Bacon + marinated shrimp + lemon is the ideal equation for an end result of complete yumminess! 

If you haven't broken out your grill yet, these should be incentive enough to do so!

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Monday, April 18, 2016

How to Get Kids Excited About Gardening

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro Gro-ables. All opinions are 100% mine.
Spring has sprung, which means it's time to start thinking about gardening!  Let the kids jump in on the fun with these mini chalkboard planter pots with popsicle measuring sticks!
Over the past few years my kids have been expressing an interest in starting a garden.  At our old home, we didn't really have a place for it, so I kept putting them off.  This year, even during the winter, the kids begged to plant a garden when the weather turned warm.  Since we have lots of space for it now, I knew I needed to follow through. Plus, it's something I really want to encourage in my children, especially since they're eager to learn.
 Gardening is such a great skill to have. I've always shied away from it because I've had poor luck in the past keeping plants alive.
So when I heard about Miracle-Gro Gro-ables and how easy they are to plant (and that they are guaranteed to grow), I knew this was the perfect way to get our feet wet in the area of gardening.
The kids were so excited when they saw these adorable little seed pods!  
The process couldn't be simpler.  Everything necessary to grow a fruit, herb, or vegetable plant is right inside!
Each individual kit comes with 30 Gro-able pods in one variety. You can select a variety from a list of 4-6 types.  

Even the littlest of plants can provide kids with valuable lessons about gardening.  It's all about giving them a memorable, hands-on experience, and these adorable pods do just that!  That's why Miracle-Gro® started The Gro-ables Projecta movement where kids can plant and watch veggies and herbs grow!  You can join in on the fun by planting your own Gro-ables and sharing your story!
We wanted to start off with an indoor garden since it's still a bit chilly outside.  
So I grabbed some mini pots...
...and gave them a coat of chalkboard spray paint.
Then, since I knew my kids would want to track their growth and compare from plant to plant, I made little measuring sticks with large popsicle sticks (tongue depressors).  I just sat them up against a ruler and drew the tick marks on with a permanent marker.
Then the kids got busy filling their pots with potting mix.
To plant the Gro-ables pods, simply peel off the label and push the pod into the loose potting mix until it's level with the top.  

We labeled each pot with chalk, inserted our measuring sticks and added some water.

The kids are on spring break this week, so this was a perfect activity to occupy them!  They had so much fun, as you can see. :)  
I have a feeling my kids are going to push me to help them plant a garden every year now, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
We placed the pots in the kitchen windowsill where they'll get some nice sunlight.  My son kept checking the progress. :) I had to explain to him that it would take one or two weeks for the seed to sprout or poke through and then a few months for the flowers to bloom.  That will mean that the fruits and veggies will soon be coming.  Then we'll replant them outside in our flower beds once the weather is consistently warm.  
This is such a great way to let kids interact with nature and get excited about eating the fruits of their labors too!  I know my kids are always more willing to try things that they have helped to prepare, and we can't wait to be snacking on fresh veggies and herbs in not too long!
What are your best tips for getting kids excited about gardening?

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Spring Into Nature Giveaway

I'm teamed up with some fun blogging friends to bring you another great giveaway just in time for spring!  

Are you enjoying warmer weather where you are?  We were for a short time and then it snowed over the weekend!  But, the forecast shows higher temps this week, so I'm hoping this means the weather will stop being fickle, and so do my apple trees that have already blossomed. 

One winner will receive a beautiful light weight nature inspired quilt ( value $275) and $100 Cash! ( via Paypal)

The cash prize is provided by Katherine, Maria and some wonderful bloggy friends.

Just log into the entry form using your email address or 
Facebook and get started.

Enter one, or all of the entries. The Giveaway ENDS April 30th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck to you!
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Friday, April 15, 2016

"You're a Star Teacher" Appreciation Gift

Tell a wonderful teacher "Thank you for all you do!" with this Starburst-filled jar and cute printable tag!
 I can't believe the school year's almost over!  Time really flies! My kids are so eager for summer break to arrive.  But I think my son will be a little sad to say goodbye to his kindergarten teacher.  She's been so sweet and good to him.  
I admire teachers for all their hard work and dedication in educating kids.  They are rock stars! So it's nice to show some care and appreciation, even if it is in a small way.  A little treat really sweetens the sentiment too.  :)  I mean, who wouldn't love a jar full of happy-looking yummy Starburst candies?
It's a colorful way to usher in the summer break where sunshine and flip flops are on the horizon!  I'm excited to have the kiddos around more and to take a few trips to see family.

I'm all about simple and thoughtful expressions that are straight from the heart, and this is definitely one of those.  I'm a firm believer that teachers deserve all the thanks they can get!  I'm sure the job is not an easy one. 

Download and print your Star Teacher Tags HERE.

Print the tags on white cardstock, cut out, punch a hole in the top corner, then attach them onto the Starburst-filled jar with baker's twine or ribbon.  That's it!  You can write a "To:" and "From:" or a personal message on the back of the star if you'd like.

***Printables from I Dig Pinterest are for PERSONAL USE ONLY.  They are not made to sell.  If you'd like to post them on the internet, please use one image and credit with a link back to the specific post on I Dig Pinterest. 
This is perfect for teacher appreciation week or any time throughout the year!  I threw in a few glow-in-the-dark stars to continue the "star" theme, but that's totally optional.

I'm pretty sure my kids' teachers are going to love this!

Are you looking forward to summer?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Blue Cheese & Jalapeno-Stuffed Sliders

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MadeWithTheMasters #HeinzBBQ #CollectiveBias

Beef patties packed with a blue cheese, cream cheese, jalapeño, and bacon filling, then grilled to perfection and served between a toasted slider roll with crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes and lots of Heinz BBQ Classic Sweet & Thick!  Is your mouth watering yet? 
I look forward to when the weather finally warms up enough for us to fire up the barbie for the first time after the long winter. There's just something extra yummy about fresh-off-the-grill food!

I love a good burger, especially if it's in mini form, so sliders make a regular appearance around here.  Technically they can fit into the "appetizers" category, so I don't feel as bad when I go back for seconds and thirds.  Tiny food is so much more fun and seems to taste better too, don't you agree?
This school year has flown by! My kids are eager to begin the lazy summer days of swimming, playing outside all day and sipping ice cold lemonade on the green grass.  We've got a few trips to visit grandparents planned as well.  I think I'll enjoy the more laid back schedule and of course lots of time with my kiddos with fewer commitments.

Before you know it, Memorial Day weekend will be here!  We usually make it just a family ordeal and grill up all sorts of goodness from burgers to veggies and pineapple. 

We've made a tradition of stuffing our hamburgers with cheese and other concoctions, because, let's face it, they're a million times better that way.  The savory oozing that comes with every bite is unmatched!
And you know what else makes a burger top notch?  A generous drizzling of Heinz BBQ Classic Sweet & Thick that just drips down the sides and onto your hand as you eat it.  I promise not to judge if you lick yourself clean afterwards.  No napkin required! 

Heinz is an authentic, premium taste that burgers of this calibre require! Its thick composition and rich flavor, paired with an impeccable measure of sweetness make it the perfect sauce!  It helps that it's 100% Natural too!
I'm a believer that a sauce can make or break a dish and this one definitely is a major enabler.  We're talking it pushes these sliders to best burger ever status when combined with the perfectly seasoned meat, phenomenal cheese filling, and toasted rolls. 

I snagged the Heinz BBQ Classic Sweet & Thick as well as the Heinz BBQ Kansas City Sweet & Smoky during my weekly grocery trip to Walmart.  

Did you know that Heinz BBQ Kansas City Sweet & Smoky was crafted with Kansas City Regional Pitmasters – Joe & Mike Pearce, Slap’s BBQ input? So you know you're getting some good stuff!  And, it's made with locally-inspired ingredients!
But, back to the burger...I mean, how can you resist this?  We certainly couldn't.  

Your summer grilling parties will never be the same!  Be prepared to make these in bulk because they'll fly off the platter! 

Makes 10 sliders

For the burgers:
2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 tsp. pepper
Scant 1 tsp. salt

For the filling:
1 jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. blue cheese crumbles
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Dinner rolls/slider buns
Sliced Tomatoes
Heinz BBQ Classic Sweet & Thick

Here's how to put them together:
First make the filling by stirring together the diced jalapeños, cream cheese, blue cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, and bacon crumbles.  Next, in a separate bowl, mix salt and pepper into the ground beef with your hands.  

Form beef into 20 small patties of equal sizes, all about 1/4" thick, and a little larger than your slider rolls (the patties will shrink when grilled).  Spread 1 Tbsp. filling mixture in the center of 10 patties, leaving space around the edges.  Place the other 10 patties over the top of the filled patties and press at the seams to seal.  

 Grill on medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes, turning once.  Cut your rolls in half and place them flat side down onto the grill to toast a few minutes before the stuffed patties are done.  

When patties are cooked through, place them on a slider roll half, drizzle generously with Heinz BBQ Classic Sweet & Thick and finish with lettuce, tomatoes, and slider bun top.  Place a toothpick in each to keep the goodness together, transfer them to a platter and serve immediately.

*Grilling tip: Be sure not to ever put pressure on the patties with your turner or it will release juices that are important to the flavor and leave your patties dry.

Be prepared for a phenomenal experience of the taste buds! 

One thing's for sure...we'll be making these time and time again throughout the coming summer months!

Have you dusted off your grill and fired it up yet?  Check out more delicious ways to use Heinz BBQ Sauce here!

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