January 30, 2014

Taste This: Deep Dish Pizza Casserole

     This recipe was given to me by a friend who never really followed it exactly so I was very pleasantly surprised when I followed it and my whole family loved it. We made a couple of adjustments and now it's a regular meal around here. I'm not sure where my friend got this from so if you recognize it please let me know.

We usually do just sausage, but the mini pepperonis are a great addition too.

Serves 4-6 // total time 25 minutes

2-12 oz boxes mac'n'cheese (I use the family size Velveeta)
28 oz pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 lb ground beef
5 oz cooked pork sausage (optional)
mini pepperonis (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare mac'n'cheese as directed on package.

2. While cooking pasta, start to brown beef. Drain beef and stir in pizza sauce.

3. Add both mac'n'cheese and beef with sauce to 9 x 13" casserole dish and mix.

4. Add mozzarella cheese to cover.

5. Sprinkle optional sausage crumble and mini pepperonis over top to taste.

6. Bake for 13 minutes or until cheese is melted.

In the comments: what are some regular meals around your house?

January 29, 2014

Clutter Buster: The Dreaded Hall Closet

     For a long time I was like a lot of people with towels, sheets, and blankets bursting out of my hall closet. We live in a small apartment so we have our bedroom closets, the kitchen pantry, coat closet, and this wonderful 'linen' closet. First let me tell you what I did with all of the things mentioned above to get them out of my hair so I could really utilize this space.
     Each family member has a color coded washcloth and towel and we each get our own hook on the bathroom wall (plus one for a guest-one who is fairly permanent). I wash these once a week or as necessary and they don't take up precious closet real estate. I dwindled down our sheet supply and for a while was keeping it under our mattresses. I still may do this with our king size sheets, but when they are under the kid's beds it puts them at an angle so those will be staying in the closet. All of our blankets are in a chest that was previously being used as a toy box for our son. When the lid became unsafe, we detached the hinges and it is now in our bedroom closet holding our extra blankets.

     I used to make paper scrapbooks - which meant A LOT of  "craft crap" as my husband calls it had nowhere to go. When I went digital and realized how little I could bring it down to I was extremely excited to have a home for it. What I have left is really only some papers and stickers. The stickers are used in my letter writing or as rewards for my son so they are kept in my 'snail mail' bin. The papers are in the lovely Project Life box on top of the cross stitching drawer set or cut into 4x6 pieces and stored in the small bins below.

     A lot of what takes up the lower portion of the closet are current projects and items that did not fit in the shadowboxes I had on hand so are waiting for the display case we are currently searching for. Behind all those burp rags and crib sheets are some wooden salad bowls I will be turning into toadstool photo props for this spring and summer. The bag on the bottom there are some shells my grandmother brought back from her first trip to Florida that I intend on buying a deeper shadowbox for. The suitcase has my baptism blanket, my ceramic baby shoe, and my grandmother's first baby shoes which will all be going in the display case. The current projects bin contains books needing mending, clothes needed alterations, and a couple of projects in the works for friends and family.
     Most people think of containers and baskets and bins when they think of organizing. When I think of organizing, I think of not having stuff we don't need or want to display. I have done a lot of purging over the past couple of weeks and plan to attack some other things stored out in the garage next. My hope is to have everything we love on display or in use.

In the comments: what do you keep in your hall closet? Do you have multiple sheet sets for the beds in your home? Do you regularly purge things in your home?

January 28, 2014

Snap of the Week: 003

Caught dough-handed! I love how this turned out because he had no idea he was being watched until he saw the light on the camera.

In the comments: do you use your camera's self timer?

January 27, 2014

Weekly Obsession: Pen Pals

     My new obsession this past week was definitely writing letters and finding new pen pals. One of my goals this year was to write at least one letter every week and I started going through my address book and the first person I wrote to was my grandmother on my father's side. I don't see her as often as I'd like and she seemed like the perfect candidate. Then I realized I would run out of people to write to pretty quickly and decided to look for a pen pal or two.
     I found a wonderful community of snail mail lovers through the #penpalswanted hashtag on instagram and was able to find a number of lovely ladies to write to. I am still looking for more pen pals if anyone is interested. Would love to write to someone in Alaska, Hawaii or Canada. But anyone is welcome to shoot me a message - find me here.

My second letter on its way to New York.

     I've found one problem with my new obsession. So far I have been able to avoid the washi tape addiction sweeping the crafting world. Until Friday that is, when I decided to buy some to decorate my envelopes and letters. I think I'm in trouble. My goal is to use up the 3 rolls I have before I buy more, but I am scared that I may fail at that.

In the comments: have you ever had a pen pal? Would you like to? Do you have a washi tape problem?

January 23, 2014

Taste This: Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

     I have had a major craving for something with peanut butter in it lately. I normally would make peanut butter pie but we didn't have the ingredients for pie and no money to go pick up what we would have needed. So I found this beauty on Pinterest and gave it a shot. My son helped me mix everything together and I finished them up while he was at grandma's. Try this recipe out, you can find it over at Donna's Premier Lodging in Ohio. The cookies themselves don't taste so great alone - sort of salty (if you're the type who taste tests or like me had to eat the odd cookie out), but add the filling and they're heaven. I now have people asking to give me the ingredients to make these.

In the comments: what is something you normally crave?

January 22, 2014

Clutter Buster: Holiday Decorations & the Closet Under the Stairs

     One of the main reasons I wanted to move from the apartment above the unit we are in now and into this one - was this ridiculously useful closet under the stairs. When you have cats, young children, and lots of breakable things to store - this is so perfect. I don't have a before picture for you - but imagine bunches and bunches of McDonald's fry boxes full of decorations stacked on a pallet in the garage, the cat box in the bathroom with a gate blocking it off (hopefully because that scoop is a very attractive thing to a toddler) stinking up the place, a little boy waving a broom around and a garbage can in the pantry where the child can constantly dig in it. Now, imagine my joy when we moved.

The gated off area.

     I am not a big fan of bins and boxes but these particular bins serve their purpose. I feel that everything should have a home and one of my favorite quotes is "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

     Each bin is labeled with a month and filled with decorations appropriately. During the year as I am packing things back into their bins I purge and write a list of things I would like to acquire instead. If it doesn't fit in the bin, it doesn't get brought into the home. I have one large bin for our artificial Christmas tree, two bins full of various Christmas decor, and one ornament bin to hold all those precious Christmas memories for display on the tree.

     Also in this closet and away from little fingers is the litter box and scoop, cat food and water, vacuum, broom and dustpan, our swiffer mop, my step stool because he is learning to climb onto the counters now, the hose for cleaning the fish tank, a bag of plastic bags (which I hope to find a solution for soon) and the garbage which our two year old can reach to throw things away but not to dig through.

In the comments: if you have children - how do you keep things like the cat box or garbage out of their reach? And how do you store your holiday decor?

January 21, 2014

Snap of the Week: 002

Little girl enjoying her floor time. Mommy practicing not using a flash.

In the comments: are most of your photos with or without a flash? What kind of camera do you use?

January 20, 2014

Weekly Obsession: 2014 Planner

     This weeks obsession has been trying to work out a planner that works for me after the original plan feel through. I have some serious issues when to comes to things like this and was looking for something that I could replace a page easily and decided I would try to create my own. Still trying to find a way to bind the pages that I am fond of, but the pages are working well... so far. I included blog planning, goal planning, my husband's work schedule, an activity of the day (trying to be supermom here), meal planning, and a space for every hour from 7 am until 7 pm which is the general time my toddler is awake. On the back side I added a "tasks of the week" and hopefully this will help me stay on track. I will let you know how these work out for me in the following weeks. Things are about to get crazy around here with my husband going through CNA training and I am stressing out all ready. So glad I don't have to plan in a work schedule of my own right now.

In the comments: how do you remember your daily tasks & appointments? Pen to paper or digital on your phone or computer?

January 16, 2014

Taste This: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

     My husband loves chicken cordon bleu but I was never really a fan because I have always been a little unsure about swiss cheese. But this recipe - is definitely getting added to our list of regular meals. It took me a bit to hunt down the origin but I finally found it at That's Some Good Cookin'. We did have a couple of issues with the sauce thickening at first but it turned out just right. It's not the prettiest dish but taste overcomes.

In the comments: what is a food or recipe you were surprised to have liked?

January 15, 2014

Clutter Buster: Bathroom Sink

     One of my major pet peeves when it comes to my own home is all that clutter on the bathroom sink. We live in a small apartment with a towel bar above the toilet. I've always thought that was the worse spot for a towel bar. Plus it means I can't get above the toilet storage. For the first two months we lived here, I had a cheapo over the sink shelf from WalMart sitting on my bathroom sink with things on top of it as well as below.

This is a lovely picture of my son showing me his teeth, but you get the point - things cluttered up easily.

     I try to wipe down all flat surfaces before bed every night, and wiping the sink down of my husband's beard hair (no man I've known other than my grandfather cleans up after shaving very well) is made into a 15-20 minute task because of having to remove all of the items, wipe things down, and then putting everything back. Now enters my $1.50 Goodwill find, a hanging shelf that was intended to go by the door for keys, incoming mail, gloves and other entryway items. I definitely love it's current purpose more.

Look at that wonderfulness.

     Loving the clean counters and everything being where my toddler can no longer reach. And now my nightly bathroom quick clean only takes me the five minutes tops that it should.

In the comments: how often do you clean the surfaces in your own bathroom (no judgement here)? Do you like to keep things on the counter?

January 14, 2014

Snap of the Week: 001

Every Tuesday I will be posting my favorite photo from the previous week. No lengthy posts here.

Sibling love: big brother helping little sister dance to the music.

In the comments: do your littles get along well? Or did you get along with your siblings when you were little?

January 13, 2014

Weekly Obsession: Shadowboxes

This new weekly post is inspired by Mitch & Scott of Superfruit (from my favorite band ever by the way, but that's an obsession for another week). I will be sharing my weekly obsession from the previous week every Monday.

     Last week's obsession would have to be shadowboxes. The thing that got me started on shadowboxes was figuring out what to do with my kid's precious little pieces of life that I don't want to get rid of. Because I do digital photo books I wasn't able to include things like a lock of hair or a tooth in their baby books. I am so happy that I went with this option because I love being able to look at them every day.

Included in Deklyn's box: my favorite set of pajamas, his hat from the hospital, his favorite pacifier, lock of hair from his first haircut, sign from his hospital bassinet, hospital bracelets, pieces of my favorite shirts, and my favorite receiving blanket.
Included in my husband's box: something his mother made him, a couple of things from his grandparents, a reward from a county fair, and other little memories.

     From there it grew. I knew we had a lot of memories just sitting in boxes in our garage getting moved around from place to place and one of my goals this year is to get them on display. If I cannot use or display it - I will be throwing it out as part of my other goal for the year which is to continue decluttering and simplifying.

Included in Aoife's box: my favorite set of pajamas, her hat from the hospital, sign from her hospital bassinet, something from her gender reveal party and her hospital bracelets.
Included in my box: my academic letter, graduation tassle, lucky rabbit foot, a couple things that belonged to my grandfather, necklaces from old boyfriends (because a memory is a memory) and LOTS of other little trinkets.

     On a trip to Michael's I was able to pick up 6 - 11x14 shadowboxes for a total of $30 plus tax because of a 50% sale. I gifted two, used two, and have two back-ups. I also bought a frame for the family photo we will have taken in the spring for half off. And because frames get broken if not hung up in this house, I hung it up empty. Motivation right?

Yes, I did draw a placeholder for the frame.

In the comments: Do you have a special way of displaying things that you cannot include in your photo books?

January 2, 2014

2014 Digital Project Life Blog Circle: Title Page

     Welcome to another stop in the 2014 Project Life Blog Circle. If you have been following along then you would have come from over at Jenny's Blog. This blog circle was created out of a group of people who found each other on Facebook looking for some motivation and a way to show off their work.
     I am a wife, stay-at-home mom, photographer, and digital memory keeper/project lifer. Memory keeping is definitely a huge part of my life, an addiction you could say. I have two wonderful children. We seriously don't know how we got this lucky. I also have the pleasure of being servant to two pretty kitties.
     My intention is to create a family yearbook every year for my family as well as going back through my old photos and some old family photos to put them in books as well. I am in the process of creating baby books for both of my children which I will share later. I am completely addicted to the idea of having tons of bound books created by me around my home. They also make great gifts so I have a million different ideas running around in my head. Hopefully this blog circle will help me to stay motivated and bring some of those ideas to life.
     In order to make this as simple as possible so I can actually get it done I will not be giving myself any rules as to what time frame goes on a layout. I will use a different color scheme, pattern, etc for different months but I will not say that one month gets a certain number of pages - it will be whatever I fill. I just have to try and keep it under 400 pages for the year because I plan to print through Blurb.
     Make sure you head on over to the next stop, Bee Tree Studios: Project Life 2014 Blog Circle + Free Cards!, when you are finished here.

Supplies Used:
Background by DigiTee Designs - http://digiteedesigns.blogspot.com/
Cards modified from DĂșnia Designs - http://www.mscraps.com/shop/duniadesigns
Pattern by Harper Finch - http://imharperfinch.blogspot.com/