Fall in a Box

Well, it's that time of year again.  The kids are back in school and summer is winding down.  Autumn is in the air. With all the beautiful fall decorations popping up in blogland as well as in the stores, I had the itch to start our fall decorating. Granted, I don't do a lot of accessorizing for fall. But, I had the itch...so I scratched it.  I went up in the attic and pulled down the "Fall Decorations" box and started going through the items to see what I could put together.
My daughter and I had a mission this week of putting up a fall-themed mantle.  She is passionate about marking the seasons.  She is all about the details of creating a celebratory atmosphere, no matter what the occasion.  I love that about her. Here's what we came up with for now.  It could change as we incorporate some real pumpkins and other elements.
At the center of the mantle is my copper tray find from Goodwill.  I just knew it would come in handy. The pretty little floral arrangement was put together by my sweet mom. I love the rich colors of this beautiful season.
In the "Fall" box, I have a large arrangement of flowers that finally bit the dust and needs to be made into a new creation.  I'm waiting for my sweet floral-arranging mother to come out for a visit next week to take care of this for me.  I did not inherit this ability, I'm sad to say.
The next areas to focus on are my door and entryway. I'm hoping to have those finished by next week. I am pretty pleased with myself, people. Usually, I get my fall decorations up just about the time I should be focusing on Christmas decorations. Have you started decorating for fall yet? Do you go all out and decorate every room of your house or just put some fall touches here and there? I'd love to hear how you mark this glorious season.

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Chicken Ranch Wrap

Well, it's official.  Baseball and Soccer season is upon us.  That means quick to-go meals like the Chicken Ranch Wrap are necessary to keep the kiddos nourished for their practices and games.
When sports practices are scheduled over the dinner hour, it is almost impossible to get a meal prepared, much less served and cleaned up. For evenings like this I have developed the perfect fast food for our family. Enter the Chicken Ranch Wrap.
Here's what you need:  Cooked chicken (leftover rotisserie works well), fresh spinach, shredded cheese, Ranch dressing, bacon bits and tortillas. Barbecue sauce and chopped tomatoes are optional.
Just layer the desired ingredients on your tortilla and wrap it up. These are a cinch to put together and wrap up with foil to put in the cooler. My little soccer player and baseball player prefer these over a fast food burger any day. Hope your family likes them too!


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Removing Melted Plastic from My Cooktop

Please tell me this has happened to you. You're moving along just great getting dinner ready.  You move the rice off the hot burner, you get your chicken that's been marinating and dump it into it's pan,  you turn and set your plastic lid on the hot burner. Happily cooking away, you don't realize it until your husband picks up the lid and says with a raised eyebrow, "Ummmm." Yeah.  That happened to me last night. Just when I was trying to think of what to post about next...this little gem falls right into the proverbial lap. Removing melted plastic from my cooktop wasn't even on my radar for a household tip. But, here it is.
I wish I would have looked up to see that the burner was still hot, although I should have known I had just moved the pan off the hot burner. I wasn't quite sure how to tackle the problem. After doing a little research, I settled in on a mode of attack. Let me just say, there are plenty of other ways to do it...some while the burner is still hot.  But I needed to focus on getting dinner finished so we could eat before 9pm.  First let the burner completely cool.

Get some ice cubes and put them right on the melted plastic.  Let this sit for a couple of minutes. This will cause the melted plastic to shrink up a bit so you can "pop" it off with a straight edge.

Gently use your straight edge (one sided razor blade, or thin metal spatula) to lift off the plastic.
There may be a little residue left.  I did a little bit of gentle "scraping" and then turned the burner on for a couple of minutes to heat up the surface again.  This burned the rest of the plastic and I was able to carefully wipe it away with a wet dishcloth.  Wah-lah! Clean cooktop!
 I'm only sorry that a storage container's lid had to be harmed in the process.  Clearly he wasn't happy about it. Don't be like me... pay attention to which burners are hot.


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Sunny Seed Oatmeal Cookies

Ever had one of those days where you really wanted to bake something, but was out of one of the key ingredients, namely sugar?  That was me on Sunday. I started searching and came across an oatmeal cookie recipe that used only brown sugar. I thought I could tweak it a bit to incorporate my chocolate covered sunflower seeds, and this is how Sunny Seed Oatmeal Cookies were born.
These chewy cookies have a salty sweetness to them that makes your mouth long for more. 
Here's what you need: Oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, butter, egg, salt, baking powder and chocolate covered sunflower seeds.
Here's how you make them:
Start by mixing together the butter and brown sugar, then add in the egg and beat until creamy. 
Add in the oatmeal, flour, salt and baking powder, mixing to combine; then stir in the chocolate sunflower seeds. This dough tastes like heaven, by the way. But don't take my word for it. You simply must try it yourself. :-)
Drop the dough by tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. I used a silicone baking sheet for easier cleanup.(Note: these cookies spread out, so leave plenty of room)
Bake for 10 to 14 minutes at 375 degrees until golden around the edges. Leave on the cookie sheet for a minute then move to cooling rack. 

Sunny Seed Oatmeal Cookies 

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup candy-coated sunflower seeds

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine brown sugar and butter in mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the egg and beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add oatmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chocolate covered sunflower seeds by hand.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown on edges. Let stand 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies. Store in airtight container to maintain freshness.
These cookies got the "thumbs up" from the cookie connoisseur in the family. This kid know his cookies. He wouldn't let me put out a bad recipe for y'all to see.

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Flower Pot Thimble Necklace

After linking up to a party recently, a Flower Pot Thimble Necklace from Quiver Full of Blessings caught my eye and that of my daughter's. We had to try to make it immediately!

Of course, as is always the case, I didn't have all the supplies, but with some scrounging around, we had enough items to improvise and come up with our own version.
Here is what you'll need: sewing pins with colorful heads, green yarn, a thimble, wire cutters, a glue gun, ribbon of your choice, and a jump ring. (neither of the last two made it in the picture...sorry)
Start by carefully snipping the ends of the pins with your wire cutters to make them shorter in the thimble.  Point the tip of the pin down, as you don't want any sharp little projectiles flying through your kitchen landing goodness knows where. You'll have to trust me on this. Truthfully, my wire cutters weren't working well after my second pin, so I ended up using pliers to bend the ends of the pins.
Fill the thimble 1/4 full with hot glue and start placing your pins in the glue.  Keep in mind the thimble will be very hot from the hot glue.
We had to keep moving the pins around to keep them in the position we wanted them until the glue set up. I suppose you could let the glue cool a bit and then put in the pins.
Put a little more hot glue in the thimble and start weaving in the green yarn, pressing into the glue with a toothpick.

We almost stopped here because it was just so cute.  My little helper thought it would make a lovely flower pot for her Polly Pockets or Lego people. But, in the end, we decided to make it into a necklace.
From here, loop the jump ring around the ribbon and begin adhering to the thimble.
Run a bead of hot glue around the outside of the thimble attaching the thin ribbon and securing the jump ring in it's desired place. Cut a piece of ribbon to desired length for necklace. Put the ribbon through the jump ring and tie at the top.
This was such a fun little craft to do.  My daughter absolutely loves it.  And, as she said, "It goes with practically everything!" Make one of these and give it to your favorite seamstress or anyone who loves a touch of whimsy. I just hope I don't need my thimble anytime soon ;-)


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Food for the Soul 3~ Psalm 62:1,2

Wishing you a restful Sunday as you ponder how big God's love for you really is....Blessings to you, my friends.


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Goodwill Hunting...

Today was a great day for thrifting at our local Goodwill store.  My sweet girl and I were actually headed to a different thrift store for some bargain hunting when we spotted a beautiful sign. (Cue the hallelujah chorus...) 50% off Sale at Goodwill.  We immediately pulled into the parking lot with high hopes of a bargain.  I made a beeline for the dishes area and spotted this gorgeous, round copper tray.
It has beautiful patina on it and, at almost 18 inches in diameter, is a great size. I knew it would be perfect for fall decorating.
The other gem I picked up was this adorable Crate and Barrel 3 section serving dish with a little handle.  I made good use of it this evening with a little sweet treat trio from Trader Joe's that my hubby picked up today. In case you're wondering what the goodies are...Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops, Dark Chocolate Covered Powerberries, and Salt Water Taffy.  I love how the colors all coordinated. 

I came out of Goodwill having spent less than ten dollars and that included a little decorative wire cage that my sweet girl got to keep a couple of her stuffed animals in. So, now I am motivated to start pulling out the fall decorations to incorporate my new copper tray.  I love it when just one little piece can be your inspiration. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge.  When do you start decorating for fall?


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Cottage Cheese Pancakes

We are a big cereal-eating family...I mean at least 12 boxes of it are in the house at all times...and there are only four of us.  However, there are some mornings when I know the kids need something a little more substantial.  On mornings like that, I make these Cottage Cheese Pancakes. They are not too sweet, unless you really pour on the sugar, and they have the added protein of the cottage cheese. My mother started making these pancakes for us when I was in high school. It is a tried and true recipe for sure.
When my kids were little, it was hard to convince them they didn't need syrup for these.  I let them use colored sugar to "decorate" their pancakes and that got them hooked. Eventually, I weaned them off the colored stuff and now they settle for the sprinkling of sugar I put on it.
Here's what you need:
cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, milk, flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, blueberries (optional)
Here's how you make them:
Put all ingredients in bowl, in no special order.
Stir to combine. Batter will be somewhat thick.
Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto greased griddle (I use Pam or some butter).
Cook until golden, then flip.
Sprinkle with sugar. This part really makes the pancakes shine.  The little crunch of the sugar when you bite into these is divine.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

1 cup cottage cheese
3 eggs
2 Tbsp. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter, cut up into small pieces
blueberries (optional)

Heat griddle.  In medium mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, milk, flour, cinnamon, salt and cut up butter. Add in blueberries, if desired. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto greased griddle (I use Pam or  butter). Cook until golden and flip.  Remove to plate and sprinkle with sugar.  Makes about 12 pancakes.
I make about half the batter without berries, then add them in for myself.  I just started do this a couple of years ago, and I feel like it takes these to a whole new delicious level... almost like blueberry cheesecake. So, if your family doesn't have an aversion to cooked fruit, I would definitely add in the berries. I hope you enjoy them!


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Put on a Happy Vase!

Need a simple gift for your child to give to his new teacher? Or how about a little pick-me-up for someone who is feeling under the weather? Look no further than this super easy to make Happy Vase.

 As I was cleaning up after dinner the other night, I noticed our jar of Trader Joe's salsa was empty. Now, I had been eyeing this jar for a while as it is just the perfect size for a small vase.  I finally had my chance to make this little craft I had been thinking about for weeks.  When I was at Hobby Lobby purchasing burlap for my candle holder project, I bought a yard of this burlap furniture webbing.  I love the red lines running through it.  Anyway, I wasn't sure what I'd be doing with it, but for a dollar, I couldn't really pass it up.  So, without further ado...here are the directions for making this Happy Vase.
These are the supplies you'll need, along with any stamp or stencil you may want to use in the space between the lines.
You'll start by measuring around your glass jar and cutting your webbing to fit.  Then, if you like, you can stencil a cute saying between the lines.  After doing that you will run a bead of hot glue on the end to adhere the webbing to the jar.
Then, continue gluing in sections, rolling as you go until you reach the end where you will put another line of glue to firmly attach the webbing. 
Next, take a section of jute long enough to circle the jar a few times and wrap around the top finishing up with a knot or bow. You could fashion a tag and attach it to the jute too.
Finally, put some water in with a bunch of daisies or mums and give it to your grateful recipient.  It's sure to put a smile on their face. If not, you could always sing the song and point to your gift...

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy vase;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up, put on a happy vase.

Have a happy face kind of day!


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Slow Cooked Beef Burritos

Slow Cooked Beef Burritos are going to revolutionize dinner for you! Okay, maybe not "revolutionize".  But they will certainly make for a super easy weeknight meal.  And, the leftovers can be remade into a delicious taco salad the next day.
This is truly a "set-it-and-forget-it" meal. My SIL, Donna, and I like to get cookbooks as souvenirs when we travel, especially when we vacation together.  As we cook through the recipes and discuss them over the phone, we feel connected even though we are 1000 miles apart.  This recipe came from our trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming years ago. It is a family favorite.

Here's what you need:  London broil, taco seasoning, chopped onion, white vinegar, can of chopped green chiles, flour tortillas, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream.
Here's how you make it:
Start by spraying your slow cooker or crockpot with Pam and turning it onto the low setting. Next massage the taco seasoning into the London broil.
Now place the meat, onions, green chiles and vinegar into the crockpot.

Let this cook for several hours on low until the London broil falls apart. This smells incredible, by the way.
Remove the meat from cooker, place in a baking pan and shred with two forks. Pour the juices, onions and chiles from the slow cooker into the pan. Mix to combine.
Spoon a generous helping of meat onto warm tortilla and begin piling on the fixings.  Roll it up, take a bite and say " yum". (In your head, of course, because it's rude to talk with your mouth full.)
Slow Cooked Beef Burritos

2 lb. London broil, trimmed of fat
1  (1 1/4 oz) package taco seasoning
Cooking oil spray (Pam)
1 medium chopped onion
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
8 large flour tortillas, warmed
shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese
chopped Roma tomatoes
sour cream

Spray your slow cooker or crockpot with Pam and turn it on to the low setting. Rub the taco seasoning into the meat on both sides and place in the slow cooker.  Add the onion, green chiles and vinegar. Cover and cook for 7-9 hours. Remove the meat from the crockpot and place in a shallow pan. Using two forks shred the meat, then pour the liquid from the crockpot into the pan and stir to combine.  Spoon the beef mixture into the warmed tortillas; top with tomatoes, sour cream, cheese and salsa and roll up. Serve with black beans and rice or a green salad.  (We like to put the black beans and lettuce in the burrito.)
As I mentioned, the leftovers are great for taco salad the next day.  I've also been known to whip up a spicy mexican soup with the leftover meat and juices.  This is such a versatile recipe.  I hope you'll try it soon!