Merry Christmas Fabric Banner

I was so happy for the day after Thanksgiving this year, not only because I was off work but also because we started getting ready for Grace’s FIRST Christmas! I must admit, it was a bit different than what I am use to…since it was 80 degrees and we got our tree from a Home Depot parking lot where they trimmed the tree, put on the tree stand and tied it to your car for you. However, we stepped up our decorations to make up for it 🙂

This year I added a “Merry Christmas” banner. I told you I love these things now!

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I followed this tutorial for the most part. The two differences…I used a different shape and I added letters to the banner.

I used this template for the flags on the banner. Then to add the letters I created a word document, using word art…I picked a font I liked and a size that would fit on my flag and printed each letter. I cut out the letters and traced them backwards on the back side of my fabric (make sure the letter is backwards so the letter is not backwards when you flip the fabric to right side). After I cut out all the letters I used Fabric Glue to attache the letters to the flags.

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Crock Pot Chicken- A Perfect Mid-Week Meal

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I love roasted vegetable that are cooked with a turkey or chicken. They are definitely high up on my favorite food list…but I would never roast a chicken or turkey on my own. I was at shopping at Whole Foods and the butcher convinced me to buy a small (4-5 pound) whole chicken. After keeping in my freezer for quite some time, I finally decided to tackle the bird and prepare a meal with it. Thanks to Pintrest, which taught me you can make a chicken in a crock pot and a cute little old lady patient of mine, that taught me how to prepare a whole chicken….I found a recipe that I love.

What you need: – 4-5# chicken (or just make sure that it will fit in your crock pot)

– 1 orange

– 1 lemon

– 4 cloves garlic

–  carrots, potatoes, celery or whatever vegetables you would like to roast and in whatever quantity you would like/ fits

– 1 teaspoon black pepper

– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-1 teaspoon garlic powder

Steps: 1. Prepare and cut your vegetables and place in the bottom of your crockpot

2. Next combine your spices and rub them into the cavity of the chicken and on the outside skin

3. Add 2 cloves of garlic inside the cavity of your chicken and 2 cloves with the vegetables

4. quarter your lemon and orange and place inside the cavity of the chicken and place chicken on top of vegetables in crockpot

5. Cook on low for about 6 hours or until the internal temp is 165 degrees

You can save your left over chicken carcass and vegetable scraps to make a delicious homemade stock as well. Recipe to come!

Homemade Bread

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Homemade bread fresh out of the oven is one of my favorite foods! Plus it makes your house smell amazing in the process. The only trouble….I am terrible at kneading the dough, getting the bread to rise etc. I finally found a fool-proof way to make delicious bread….just use a KitchenAid Mixer!

What you need:

KitchenAid Mixer or other stand mixer with a bread hook

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– 3 cups flour

– 1 packet active yeast

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– 1/2 cup skim milk

– 1/2 cup water

– 1/4 cup canola oil

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 tablespoon Butter – melted

 

Steps:

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in the mixing bowl and mix on low (setting 2) until mixed (using bread hook)

2.  Combine milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat until 110-120 degrees  Fahrenheit (see your yeast packet for exact temperature)

3. Add milk and water mixture to mixing bowl and beat on high (setting 8 or 10) until dry ingredients are moist and liquid is mixed in…. then add oil and salt.

4. Continue mixing until the dough forms a dough ball – this steps takes a while (about 8-10 minutes) – it seems like it takes forever and that the ball will never form – then out of no where it happen 🙂

5. Take the dough ball and put it in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap – let sit for 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size

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6. Knead the dough on a floured surface and then shape into a rectangle (make sure the length of the rectangle is a bit shorter than your loaf pan. Then roll the dough into a log and place in to your loaf pan.

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7. Let the dough set again covered until it doubles in size – about an hour

8. Once the dough has risen, brush the dough with melted butter and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

The best part about this recipe is that by using the KitchenAid Mixer – it is a very “hands off” recipe requiring very little time that you actually need to be actively doing something and (best of all) everything can be put in the dishwasher when you are done!

Check out this blog for really great step by step pictures.

 

Black Bean Tacos

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This is my favorite “Meatless Monday” recipe or for any day of the week!

Ingredients:
– 1 white Onion- finely chopped
– 2 Large plum tomatoes – seeded and finely diced
– 1 Serrano Chile – seeded and minced
– 1/4 Cup fresh Cilantro – minced
– Limes- 3 Tablespoons of lime juice and extra wedges for garnish
– 1 Avocado – diced
– 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
– 1 Large Red Bell Pepper – diced
– 1 Ear of Corn – cut corn kernels from the ear of corn
– 8-12 Corn Tortillas
– 1/4 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
– 2 cans of Black Beans – drained and reserve liquid
– Feta Cheese – crumbled

Makes about 4 servings

Steps:

– Combine 1/4 cup onion, diced tomatoes, chile, cilantro and lime juice. Then gently mix in avocado and season with salt and pepper

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* I left out the tomatoes when I made it this time

– In a large nonstick frying pan warm 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat – add bell pepper and saute until soften (about 7 minutes). Then add in the corn kernels and saute until they begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Transfer mixture to bowl and set aside.

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–  In the same frying pan warm the other 1 tablespoon of oil and add the remaining onion and the fennel seeds. Saute until the onion is tender (about 5 minutes). Then add beans by the spoonful, mashing and stirring before adding the next spoonful. Thin the bean mixture with the reserved liquid from the canned beans to a course puree.

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– Heat the tortillas over a gas flame or on a griddle for about 20 seconds on each side – until they give off a toasted corn smell.

– Assemble tacos with beans, tomato and avocado mixture, corn and pepper mixture and then top off with feta cheese (seems weird to use feta cheese for tacos but it goes very well with these).

 

Enjoy! These tacos are so flavorful and also hold up great for left overs.

An Honest Review

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When I started preparing for Grace’s arrival I did A TON of research on what bath soap, lotion, laundry detergent, etc I was going to use. I did WAY too much reading online and found one site that claimed that Dreft is the best marketing scam to new moms. When I did more research I found out that it contains enzymes and brighteners…which may not be the best for a newborns skin. You can look at this site for a great comparison of different detergents.

After looking at a bunch of different alternatives I picked out the Honest Company. Initially I started buying just baby items but have since branched out. I realized that if I didn’t want to use the products I was currently using on my newborn, why was I using them myself?

Their Essential Bundle is currently $35.95 for 5 products. When I am buying a bundle, I ALWAYS add laundry detergent and other higher priced items to get the best deal. You can also order an additional 3 items and get 25% the additional items. TIP:  add the higher priced items first then they will be included in the bundle with the set price of 35.95. Also once you sign up check your email – Honest Company often sends out emails with coupon codes that include 20% off.

Use this link to make an account and your first purchase and you can save $10 off your first purchase. This will bring down the cost per item for a bundle to $5.19 – which is a great price for earth and people friendly products.

 

Products I currently use and find AMAZING:

1.  4-IN-1 LAUNDRY PACKS (I also buy the liquid laundry detergent as well- If I am getting a bundle I add one of the 4 in 1 laundry packs and one of the liquid laundry detergent because these are two of their higher priced items at 15.95 and 12.95 respectively so I feel like I am getting a better deal to add both. Plus I do A LOT of laundry these days 🙂

2. Oxy Boost – Great to add to wash machine or I mix 1 pack with hot water to pre soak clothes with stains

3. Shampoo + Body Wash

4. FACE + BODY LOTION

5. Healing Balm – I love this stuff, If I see any red mark on Grace I put this on and it seems to help. I use it as diaper cream, cuticle cream, on dry heels, on rashes and here is a link for additional uses.

6. Organic Breathe Easy Rub – This is an essential oil version of Vicks. I must admit that I use to love the burning smell of Vicks when I had a cold. However, I now prefer putting a drop of eucalyptus essential oil on my hands and taking a deep breath in and then applying this Breathe Easy Rub — It seems less harsh then my prior method and more effective (and a much better option for little ones)

7. Hand Soaps

8. Multi- Surface Cleaner – Cleans counters very well and has a nice light grapefruit scent that is not overpowering.

For Moms – I also use the soothing bottom wash when I don’t have my homemade wipes on hand and while I am nursing I prefer their Organic Nipple Balm instead of a lanolin based one.

And, I of course LOVE their diapers (which are not included in the essential bundle but you can purchase a diaper bundle which includes 6 packs of diapers and 4 packs of wipes). Every girl needs some fancy diapers so I love having some of these on hand 🙂 Plus Grace’s bum looks extra cute wearing a chevron diaper.

When you sign up for bundles you will subscribe to monthly shipments. However, you can push back your shipments for up to 2 months at a time online or you can call and cancel at anytime.

Printing Pictures

After receiving my wedding album I was shocked at the picture quality…the colors were so crisp and the quality was so amazing. They were significantly better than any other picture I had (I made sure to say this in front of my husband to justify the cost).

When I received the rights to my pictures and printed additional pictures on my own, the pictures were still better than any picture I could take but something was different.

Well, I finally found out what was going on. Where you print also makes a difference. Printing at Walgreens and Target is super convenient BUT printing at a professional printing company make a HUGE difference.

Here is a picture of my niece taken by Jennifer Strikes Photography. The picture on the Left is from Walgreens and on the Right Mpix (an online professional quality printing company). Both pictures costs 29 cents but the one from Mpix has much more real colors (especially with skin tones), crisper lines, better contrast, more detail and a higher quality feel. The Mpix picture looks like what I see when I open the original picture on my screen, where the Walgreens picture color looked changed and a lot of the details seemed lost.

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*The top two photographs are pictures of actual photos

Mpix also has an app so you can print pictures from your phone. Check them out and I can you will be happy you did!