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Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Break To-Do List

It's Christmas Break time! The company I work for gives us a paid break from December 24 - January 1. I decided to use some vacation time to take off today and January 2-3 so I have a full 2 weeks off this year! I'm so excited!

Every year I put together a list of projects I’d like to complete during the break (you can see 2011 here and 2012 here). This year, with the extra days off, I’m hoping to cross more projects off my list than the previous years. I’ve put together a list of 10 projects I’d like to finish over break. Obviously I’m not going to finish all of them, but I like to give myself options.

Paint the China Hutch

Sew Living Room Throw Pillows

Sell Desk

Paint Coffee Table or Buy/Build New Coffee Table

Replace Medicine Cabinets

Install Living Room Baseboards

Build Bench for Entry or Patio

Update/Expand Gallery Wall

Frost Entry Windows

Decorate Patio

I’m taking the rest of the week off, but I’ll be back next week to (hopefully) show you one of the completed projects! Until then, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peppermint Bark Recipe

Today I’m going to show y'all how to make cheap and easy peppermint bark!  I originally shared this recipe two years ago at Type A Decorating as part of her 25 Days of Christmas Guest Bloggers. It’s been a couple years, so I decided to re-post the recipe here for easy reference.


1 bag of dark chocolate chips (10 oz)
1 bag of white chocolate chips (10 oz)
4 candy canes*
1 capful of peppermint extract

*Note: I used Hersey’s Chocolate Mint Canes because I think the green on the candy canes makes the bark look prettier, but it’s totally up to you.

Unwrap the candy canes and place in a plastic bag. Use a hammer (or anything heavy) to break candy canes into small pieces. 

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper (I used waxed paper).

Empty all of the dark chocolate chips into a large bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat process until the chocolate is melted. It should take about 90 seconds of cooking time. Stir in the peppermint extract. 

Pour the chocolate onto the prepared cookie sheet. Use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate to an even thickness, about an 1/8”. And don’t panic or feel rushed, you’ll have plenty of time to spread the chocolate out.

Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for about 25-30 minutes. The chocolate needs to be firm before you add the next layer or it’ll smear into the white chocolate.

Once the dark chocolate is firm you can begin on the next layer. Empty all of the white chocolate chips into a large bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat process until the chocolate is melted. It should take about 90 seconds of cooking time.

Stir in about half of the candy cane bits. Try to add only the pieces and not the “dust”.

Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator and pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate. Spread the white chocolate carefully and evenly over the dark chocolate. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover the entire dark chocolate layer.

Sprinkle the remaining candy cane bits (and dust) over the entire white chocolate layer. Place the cookie sheet back in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes or until firm.

Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator. Using your hands, break the chocolate into small pieces.

Congrats! You now have peppermint bark!

*If you are not planning to eat or gift the peppermint bark that day, bag everything up and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Pinterest Recipe Week 5 Review

Last Monday I announced that I was going to cook dinner for the whole week based only on recipes that I’ve pinned on Pinterest - aka Pinterest Recipe Week.  Everything turned out pretty good, but not all earned a spot in my recipe binder. Before I crap on any recipes I want to say that these are just our opinions. You might like something we didn’t like or vice versa. That’s what makes food fun; everyone is different.


Korean Beef with Rice and Broccoli (see recipe here)

I was kind of skeptical about this recipe when I picked it because I didn’t think ground beef over rice could be anything special. I was wrong! This recipe was yummy and so easy to make (perfect for those busy week-nights). The sauce totally makes the whole dish and would be delicious with chicken or salmon. Oh, and don’t skip the green onions!


Caprese Stuffed Avocados (see recipe here)

These stuffed avocados were good, but not substantial enough to be a complete meal. At least for us, these would have been a better side dish. I should have known better…Anyway, I think these would be great served with a lightly marinated grilled chicken breast. That being said, I’m going to make these again, as a side dish, before I decide if this recipe is a keeper or not.


7 Layer-Dip Taquitos (see recipe here)

I was so excited to eat these that I forgot to take a picture before I stuffed my face…

I love Mexican food, so of course I loved these. I sprinkled my taquitos with some diced black olives, but I think I’d leave that off next time and add some chopped green onions instead. Oh, and I want to warn you that these taquitos splatter like crazy while they are frying. Abby usually lays by my feet while I cook, but I had to kick her out of the kitchen this time because I was scared she was going to get splattered with hot oil.

Cooking Note: If you spread the toppings over only ¾ of the tortilla, they are easier to rollup and the toppings don’t spill out as much.


Baked Bang Bang Chicken and Sweet Ginger Garlic Green Beans with Rice (see recipe here)

This was good, but not great. There was too much flour in the breading mixture compared to breadcrumbs. I think it would have been better to separate the flour mixture from the breadcrumbs. Then dip the chicken in the eggs, flour mixture, back in the eggs and then the panko breadcrumbs (instead of eggs, flour/breadcrumb mixture, eggs, flour/breadcrumb mixture). Also, if I were to make these again I’d put the sauce in a large bag, add the cooked nuggets, and shake to coat them in the sauce…the drizzle of sauce definitely isn’t enough. I ended up putting a big glob of the sauce on my plate to dip each of the chicken pieces.

Anyway, if you are looking for a good “bang bang” recipe, I’d recommend the Bangin’ Grilled Shrimp Skewers from Skinny Taste.


Cajun Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Pasta with Baguette (see recipe here)

Meh. This was pretty good, but I've had better. I don't think 3 different types of meat is necessary for this recipe (plus it makes this dish expensive to make). The instructions could use some proofreading too...it doesn't say when to add the garlic and it mentions adding the green onions, parmesan cheese, and parsley twice. If you are looking for a good pasta recipe, we like Spicy Sausage Pasta from Emily Bites (it's healthier too).


Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Muffins (see recipe here)

These are delicious! I baked these Monday night and ate one for breakfast every morning throughout the week. I loaded the top of my muffins with the crumb mixture and still had some leftover, so next time I’d add more than ¼ cup to the batter (I’d do at least 1/3 cup).

Stuffed Breakfast Bubble Biscuits (see recipe here)

OMG, these are so goooood! They did take quite a bit of time to put together, but they were worth it. I highly recommend serving them with gravy… I used the grease leftover from the bacon to make gravy (using this recipe). I don’t make breakfast very often, but I’m already looking forward to making these again!


Glazed Donut Strawberry Shortcake (see recipe here)

Obviously these were amazing! How can you go wrong with glazed donuts, strawberries, and fresh whipped cream?! You can’t! Seriously, these are worth every calorie!

So, the recipes that earned a spot in my recipe binder are:
Korean Beef with Rice and Broccoli
7 Layer-Dip Taquitos
Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Muffins
Stuffed Breakfast Bubble Biscuits
Glazed Donut Strawberry Shortcake

Has anyone else tried a recipe they've pinned? Leave any recommendations in the comments section - I'm always looking for new dishes!

You can see these pins and other food related pins here
You can read previous Pinterest Recipe Week reviews here

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our First Christmas Tree

This year we will be celebrating our third Christmas in this house. It’ll also be our first year with a full-size Christmas tree! 

During our first Christmas, Ringo was a little puppy hell-bent on destroying everything in his path, so we opted for a tabletop tree instead. Last year Ringo was 100x better than the year before, but I still worried about him messing with a tree, so we stuck with our tabletop tree.  As a side note, we also got Abby that year, but she’s pure sweetness so we don’t worry about her messing with things. 


While shopping the after-Christmas sales last year I found an amazing tree at an amazing price. I figured Ringo would be well-behaved enough for a full-size tree by then, so I bought it. Seriously, I couldn’t pass up a $250 pre-lit tree for $62.50 (from K-Mart). 

Fast forward 12 months…

I wanted our first year with a full-size tree to be successful so I decided to introduce the new tree to the Ringo in stages. I set the tree up in the living room 2 weeks ago. I didn’t add any decorations because I wanted him to get used to having the tree in the house. He smelled the tree and got excited when I turned the lights on, but that was about it…off to a good start!
Three days later I added the garland. I was worried he’d grab a piece and accidentally pull the whole tree down, but he didn’t mess with it at all. 

This past weekend I decided to start adding ornaments. This is definitely the part I’m most worried about because most of the ornaments are shaped like his ball, so I can see him pulling them off the tree to play. I made sure to put the shatterproof ones towards the bottom just in case. So far the only incident we’ve had was Ringo swinging his rope toy too close to the tree which caused some of the ornaments to go flying (nothing was broken though). 

The white garland and red ornaments are all from after-Christmas sales and the white ornaments are from Savers ($0.99 for the whole box!).  The rest of the ornaments are sentimental ones and ornaments I’ve collected over the years. New items this year are the tree topper and poinsettias (from Michael’s). I still need a tree skirt, but I haven’t found one that I like yet. 

I’m so happy we finally have a full-size tree and I love how it turned out! Cross your fingers everything survives the rest of the month! 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shopping Trip: Savers

I’m bringing back all of my old series this week!

Grab your carts! It’s time for another virtual shopping trip! This time we’re headed to one of my favorite thrift stores: Savers. I shop here almost every week and I buy something pretty much every time I go.

For those of you who have never been to or even heard of Savers, it’s similar to Goodwill. I’d say it’s slightly more organized, but the prices are sometimes a little higher. They don’t do color tag or half off days either. I think the best deal they routinely offer is 25%-off on Fridays. Occasionally they do 50%-off clothing and home goods on holidays, but those days are usually ridiculously crowded.

Anyway, as I already mentioned I stop by almost every week, so today I’m going to take you on my usual route through the store. 

I always start at the clothing racks. I usually just look at shirts, but occasionally I look through the dresses and pants too.

I ended up finding eight shirts worth trying on, so the next stop is the fitting room!

After trying all of them on, I end up only liking two of the eight shirts…better than nothing! Now that we’re done with clothes let’s head to the home goods section and I’ll share my picks from around the rest of the store.

In the fabric section I found about a yard of this Waverly pink and brown zebra fabric for $1.49. There was definitely enough to make at least 1 throw pillow. 

This large mirror was only $14.99, which is a great price for the size. The frame is real wood so you could leave it as-is or paint it.

It’s hard to find a pair of lamps in the thrift store, especially nice ones, so I really liked this pair ($4.99/each). I actually kind of like the finish, but you could always spray paint them a different color.

In the kitchen section I found this brand new fondue pot.  It’s a fun color and it still had the protective plastic on the inside, so it’s a good buy at $9.99 (although it’s not a killer deal). 

The next aisle is full of frames! It’s a great (and cheap) way to start or expand a gallery wall. Most are $1.99 - $2.99. 

This pair of blue and white flower pots reminded me of Linda from Calling It Home. The large one was $4.99 and the smaller one was $2.99.

How cute would these Winnie the Pooh prints look in a nursery?! The frames were cheap plastic, but they could be easily replaced. Just the prints are worth $3.99/each. 

My last stop is always the book section. I love reading and already have a massive collection of books I want to read (that I’ve mostly bought at thrift stores), but I can’t stop myself from looking and buying more. The books range from $1.99 - $2.99, but if you buy 4 books, you get the 5th for free!

OK, so after all of that I’m sure you’re wondering what I ended up buying…
I bought the two shirts that I mentioned above ($4.99/each), a pair of ironstone platters ($2.99/each), and this cherry blossom artwork ($3.99). 

The ironstone platters will join the rest of my collection in my china cabinet and I think I’m going to hang the cherry blossom artwork in the gallery wall in the living room.

OK, let’s hear it – which item is your favorite? Or which item do you think I’m crazy for buying/not buying? Have you ever been to a Savers store?

You can check out the rest of my shopping trip posts here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pinterest Recipe Week #5

It’s time for the fifth installment of Pinterest Recipe Week! You can see the previous four weeks here. For those of you who are new, Pinterest Recipe Week is when I attempt to make a week’s worth of dinners from recipes that I’ve pinned.

Every Sunday I plan out my meals for the upcoming week - I typically plan 5 dinners per week (we usually eat out Friday and Saturday) and this week I’m even adding 2 breakfast recipes and a dessert!

Today I’m sharing my meal plan and next Monday I’ll share my reviews. Let’s hope everything tastes as good as it looks in the pictures!


Stuffed Breakfast Bubble Biscuits 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Muffins


Baked Bang Bang Chicken and Sweet Ginger Garlic Green Beans with Rice

Korean Beef with Rice and Broccoli

Caprese Stuffed Avocados 


Cajun Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Pasta with Baguette 

7 Layer-Dip Taquitos


Glazed Donut Strawberry Shortcake

Don’t forget to check back next Monday to see how everything turned o