Sunday, December 29, 2013

Starting the new year off right.

2013 was a year of new beginnings for me.  I started this blog mid 2013.  I met lots of new people.  I made lots of new recipes.  I started new workouts.  I learned that although I don't love working out and having to eat healthier, I do love how I feel when I do both. 

2014 is going to be the year to work on me.  My kids are getting more independent and so I will have more time to be healthier, to devote to my well being, as well as setting a good example for my children.  I have already checked out local gyms and classes and know where I will be joining once I get daycare situations situated and the kids are back in school.  I will do more exercising, I will eat healthier.  More lean protein, more healthy veggies and fruits.  Less sugar, less fat.  But I will teach my family that there is balance in everything, including healthy eating.  We can snack, we can eat unhealthy foods, but we must balance it out so the healthy is the main part of our daily routine.  This recipe is a great example of that.  It is a yummy snack, full of peanut butter and chocolate but it is on the healthier end of the snack spectrum.  Lower in sugar, fat and calories.  High in protein, potassium and fiber.

Banana oat protein peanut butter cookies

1 mashed banana (the more ripe, the better)
3/4 cup of oats
1/4 cup of your favorite chocolate chips.  I like Ghiardelli dark chips.
2 tbsp protein peanut/almond butter (I get mine at my local nutrition store).  You can use regular low sugar peanut butter, or sunflower butter, too. 
 I like this brand because it is super high in protein, no sodium, no sugar added and full of flavor.  It comes in some fantastic flavors, too! 
Preheat the oven to 350*.  Mash the banana fully, then mix in the oats.  (I let my 5 year old do the mixing.)

Add the almond butter and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.  This recipe will about 6-8 cookies.  I use the scoop and drop method, scooping some batter with a spoon, then dropping it on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  The cookies do not spread when baked, so they will look exactly how you put them on the pan when they are finished.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool and enjoy. 
I ended up making a batch for me, and then a nut free batch for my son who has nut allergies.  We used his favorite sunflower butter. He loves these cookies and they are completely safe for him. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More adventures of Ollie the Elf!

This week Ollie was pretty busy observing the family.  We found him reading his biographies one morning.
 He had taken Barbie's car for a dream cruise one night.

Goofing off with my Moustache pen.  When you press it down, the pen says "well, hello there".

And this morning we found him just hanging around in the kitchen. 
Silly little elf!

Gummy Bear Vinaigrette

I know, what a weird name for a salad dressing.  But yes, it really has gummy bears in it.  And it is yummy.  I mean truly yummy.  I have made it three times in the last two weeks.  I love salads anyways, but this dressing has me craving salads non stop.  It is my new favorite and I doubt I'll be buying salad dressings any time soon. 

1 box of gummy bears (or any other non sugar coated gummy candy.....I used gummy lifesavers the last time I made this.)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp mustard (yellow, dijon or brown, whatever floats your boat)
1 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 pinch each of salt and pepper
lettuce, cucumbers, and your other assorted favorite salad ingredients.

Put your gummy bears in a small saucepan and cover with water, just so the gummys are all under water.

 Use a medium heat and melt them completely. When completely melted, take off heat and let them cool to room temp.

Now in a whisk jar or in a measuring cup with a spout side, mix together the gummy bear liquid, the mustard, the vinegar, the salt and pepper and the oj.  Whisk it together completely and then slowly add in the oil.  Grapeseed oil is flavor-less, so thats usually what I use.
Now make your favorite salad and top with your vinaigrette.  Here is my salad that has lettuce, cucumbers, apple sausages, feta and gummy bear dressing. 


Christmas Crack

Here is the one recipe that I get requests for year round, from strangers and friends.  Whenever I have a get together, at least one person always asks "will you make your Christmas crack?".  It is a holiday favorite, but yes, can be changed up for a year round treat.  I learned the recipe a few years back and have been making it ever since.  I arrange my kitchen to be a Christmas crack assembly line and have been known to make 25-30 batches a season for my friends and family.  Sweet, salty, crispy, and melty.  So much deliciousness in one bite. 

1 stick of butter.  I use unsalted, but salted is fine, too. 
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1 sleeve (or more, depending on the size of your baking sheet) of saltine crackers.  I use the original, they have just the right amount of salt when used along with the unsalted butter.
2 cups of chocolate chips
2-3 crushed candy canes

Line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Now line the saltines, end to end, side to side, on the baking sheet so the whole thing is filled.  You may have to break the crackers in half to fill in the small areas on the edges.  Pre-heat the oven to 350*.

On a low heat, melt the butter and the brown sugar together, stirring constantly.  Let them melt together until smooth.  When it starts bubbling up, take it off the heat immediately. 

Pour over the crackers, trying to make sure most of the crackers are covered.  You can use a spatula to spread it a little more evenly. 

Put the pan in the oven for 3-5 minutes tops until the sugar/butter mixture is bubbling.  Now spread it a little more with the spatula, making sure it is covering all the crackers.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the crackers and put the tray back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes until the chocolate is extremely glossy and starting to melt. 
Take the pan out of the oven and using a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over all of the crackers.  When the chocolate is completely covering them all, sprinkle the crushed peppermints over the top.  Now put the whole tray into the fridge for atleast an hour to set. 

I also made a batch of Christmas Crack using white chocolate and candy sprinkles.  You can mix it up using different crackers (try graham crackers for more of a sweet treat, use ritz for a little softer, saltier treat) or different candy toppings.  Crushed peanut butter cups, M&M's, candy sprinkles, colored sugar, melted Werther's caramels are all great toppings. 
Once the crack has been in the fridge for over an hour and the chocolate is set, peel it from the tin foil and "crack" it into pieces.  You will have a sweet and salty toffee/chocolate treat.  Put it in a tupperware type covered container and leave it in the fridge, it will be good for atleast a few days...... if it lasts that long!!! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ollie the Elf

I got two different emails last night asking for some elf ideas.  I'm sorry I'm so behind the ball!  Our elf is named Ollie.  He arrived 3 years ago and has been a lot of fun for my family.  Ollie doesn't cause trouble or make a mess.  He isn't mean or disrespectful.  He does love fun, dressing up, and experiencing new things.  Each night Ollie visits Santa and each morning he is back at our house with a little message in our advent calendar and a new hiding spot.  Normally his messages are supportive, cheering the kids on in their daily activities.  He'll write a note telling my kids they did a good job cleaning their rooms or their homework.  He'll remind them of important stuff going on, and he cheers them on if they have a test or a show.  He also leaves little prizes.  Usually it's an activity.  He'll slip a movie in the calendar and tell us to make cocoa and have a movie night, or last night he put slips of construction paper in there so we can make some paper rings to decorate our tree with. Anyways, here are some of the things we have caught Ollie doing when we woke up in the morning.


I will continue to add more as the season continues.  I hope your elves are as kind as ours is!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Random acts of kindness and life's blessings

This will be a month of random acts of kindness posts.  We just passed the month of being thankful, and we all have so much to be thankful for.  But this month I want to remember the things that we are thankful for and remember that others do not have it as good as us.  My family is not perfect in any way.  We have our issues, we have a broken car, we have a teeny house, we have only one regular paycheck.  But we also have our health.  We have one working car that gets my Husband to work.  We have a warm home, with a roof over our heads, and that home is full of laughter and love.  I have three beautiful, smart, funny, kind children.  I have my faith and a church that is like a second family to me.  I have friends who will have my back at any moment, who are there in the good times and bad.  I have family who loves me and supports me in most anything I do (aside from the tattoos, sorry,  There are some days when it is very hard to look past the broken cars and deaths in the family, and bills that arrive in the mailbox.  But no matter how down I may get some days, I am grateful for everything I have in this life. I am so very blessed.  And I realize how good I have it.  I have learned not to take anything for granted. 

 So as a way to show my appreciation for these blessings, I am always trying to do kind things to others. It doesnt need to be a huge gesture to make someone's day. Some days all it takes a smile and a compliment. When I have someone do a random act of kindness to me, I always try to pay it forward within the next day or two. A few months ago, I had ordered some clothes for my kids from a woman who owns a small in home business. She ended up sending me the wrong items. So I contacted her and she was so upset about the mistake. Luckily, the package that should have been mine, was returned to her and she was going to ship it out the next day. So I ended up having her give me the address of the person who had ordered the items I received, and I shipped them to the correct address on the same day. When the seller tried to pay me for the shipping costs, I told her not to send me money, but to pay it forward. When I received the package of items I had bought from her, not only was my original order in there, but she had stuffed the package full of more items for my kids, including clothes, small toys, stickers and tattoos. Her generosity was unexpected, but so sweet. My kids were ecstatic, and it was like Christmas time for them. She contacted me to say thank you over and over again for paying to ship out the other package. It was no big deal to me, only a few dollars, and I knew how badly she felt, so paying for shipping was the least I could do to help her out. So as a way to pay it forward for all of the extras I received in the mail, I posted on my Facebook page, a gentle reminder about paying random acts of kindness forward. I got quite a few posts that day about people who went out and paid for strangers coffees, bought small gift cards and handed them out to random people, or people who would go out of their way to hold a door open for quite a few people. It doesnt have to be a grand gesture to make someones day a bit brighter. All of these random acts of kindness warmed my heart, and it was all because of this little chain of events, starting with receiving the wrong item in the mail. Well, I never expected it, but the next morning, my Husband went to Dunkin Donuts, ordered quite a few items for the family, and someone paid for our whole order anonymously. 

 My Grandmother always taught me "God doesn't sleep". I always thought of it as a bad thing as a kid. He'd be watching me if I ever thought about stealing. He'd be listening if I told a lie. But as I've gotten older, I've learned that it really means that he is watching all of the bad and the good. And our rewards will come for the good that we do. It is so easy to be kind. And being generous isnt something that only people with a lot of money can be. We can all be generous in our own way. So I have compiled a list of over 80 random acts of kindness. I posted over on my Facebook page that if anyone wanted to get involved that they could message me their email address. I emailed this list to everyone who wanted to join in. Most of the things on this list are free, or take very little money. But there are some things that cost money. I told everyone who messaged me to pick one or all of the items and put their heart into it. Spreading joy is something that everyone will get something out of. It teaches the children to be kind. It makes our hearts feel good to know that we helped someone in even a small way. It makes others feel good when a stranger is nice to them. Plus, hopefully, the kindness will be paid forward, and then forward, and then forward. So here is my list. I'd love for you all to get involved in some small way. Rake a yard of leaves. Pick a gift for a child in need. Donate an old coat to the homeless. Say thank you to a Veteran. It doesn't take much, but the rewards will make you feel amazing. 

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas
1. Gather books around your house and donate them to a library or shelter
2. Make carepacks for homeless, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deoderant, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, handwarmers, a blanket, socks, gloves, hats, granola bars, bottles of water. Put the items in a reusable shopping bag and deliver them with a nice card.
3. Help someone clean, organize, or with a big project for free. Got a friend who mentioned they need to rake their leaves? Show up on their doorstep with a rake. Have a friend who is bombarded with laundry? Go grab a load or two and bring it back clean, dry, and folded.
4. Help out a new Mom. Show up at the door with a magazine, a cup of coffee or tea, some bubble bath and an hour or two of free time. Watch the baby so they can pamper themselves or take a nap.
5. Volunteer at a shelter/SPCA.
6. Hold the door open for someone with a smile
7. Pay the tab for the person behind you. At a coffee shop, a bakery, a gas station.
8. Bring old blankets or linens to your local pet shelter for dog beds.
9. Volunteer to read or play board games with the residents at a senior living area or nursing home.
10. Drop in at the police or fire department to say thank you. Bring some baked goods or a hot meal.
11. Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. Make sure you tell them how appreciated they are.
12. Pick up trash
13. Most stores have a tree with cards on it for people who are in need this holiday season. Grab a card or two and spoil someone this holiday season.
14. Donate all of your old coats to a local drop off or shelter.
15. Grab a small giftcard or two and pass them out to random people you see.
16. Tape a couple of quarters onto a card and leave them on the toy vending machines at the entrance of stores. Leave a note on the card saying "To whomever finds this. Have fun!"
17. Send flowers to someone who did something nice for you.
18. Collect canned food for a food bank.
19. Cook a meal for a busy friend and drop it off to them.
20. Donate blood at a local red cross/hospital.
21. Gather all your old clothes and donate them to a clothing bank or shelter.
22. Buy tickets to the movies or a show and donate them to a non profit.
23. Help someone load or unload their groceries.
24. Shovel snow for a neighbor (or mow their lawn)
25. Thank your mail carrier. Leave a really nice card or homemade gift. Make them a meal or a snack.
26. Call your parents and thank them for all they did.
27. Praise a child. It makes a huge difference to them!
28. Say something nice to someone. Mention their cute outfit or shoes. Tell them they look nice today. It will boost their day!
29. Know someone who is struggling financially? Mail them or hand them a grocery gift card. That's one less thing that they will have to worry about paying for.
30. Have a yardsale, donate the money to a local cause.
31. Make some homemade ornaments. Drop them at random doorsteps with a little card.
32. Cut out coupons and leave them on the items at grocery store for customers to find.
33. Leave money in a public place for someone to find. Tape a note to it with "Lucky you! Enjoy!" written on it.
34. Shop for someone who is homebound or sick.
35. Give a homeless person a giftcard to a restaurant.
36. Put quarters in parking meters
37. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
38. Leave a nice comment on a blog that you read.
39. Donate your expertise. Are you a cook? Teach a cooking class at a women's shelter or nursing home or school. Know how to paint? Bring some artists tools to a senior center and teach them to create something. An auto mechanic? Teach a group of teenagers how to change a flat tire and change the oil.
40. Deliver coffee to someone.
41. Adopt a soldier. Send a care package with a nice letter thanking them for their service.
42. Invite someone new to your house for dinner.
43. Bring treats in to the office to thank your co-workers.
44. Drop a fruit basket off at a Drs office
45. Sign up for Big Brothers/Big Sisters
46. Donate stuffed animals to your local Police or Fire departments for children who may be scared in time of an emergency.
47. Long hair? Get a haircut and donate it to a Locks for Love organization.
48. Pay a toll for the person behind you.
49. Pay a debt for someone.
50. Offer the exact change to the person in front of you in line.
51. Write down your favorite recipes and hand them to a friend who loves to cook (or who is afraid to try cooking!)
52. Drop off boxes of crayons, pencils, packs of paper, Staples or Target giftcards to teachers in your area.
53. Leave a generous tip for your helpful waiter or waitress. They really do work hard for their money!
54. Do you have a favorite book? Pass it to someone who will enjoy it.
55. Bring a stack of magazines to someone who is sick.
56. Buy a gas card and hand it to someone at the gas station.
57. Collect hotel toiletries and drop them off to a Ronald McDonald house.
58. Bring cans to the local homeless shelter for a donation
59. Buy scratch tickets. Hand them to random people throughout the day. Wish them all good luck!
60. Make someone's holiday extra special. Know a single Mom who is struggling? Someone who lost a family member this year? Did someone lose their job? Buy some gifts that you think the family would appreciate. Wrap them, and leave a bag on their doorstep with a note that says "To the _______ family. Love, Santa" (or an elf, or Rudolph, or maybe just 'someone who cares')
61. Bring your full service gas station attendant some hand warmers and a hot coffee. Give them a few bucks as a tip for washing those windows.
62. Drop off bags of items to your church. Clothing, canned goods, grocery store gift cards, toys, baked goods. They always have families that are in need who come to them. Let them pass your random act of kindness on to someone who needs a boost.
63. Do you have old business suits? Nice shoes? Drop them at a shelter. Those people need nice clothes for job interviews. You'll give them a great start at a new life.
64. Pay someone's layaway off
65. Leave a gift certificate with a note on it "Surprise and congratulations! You are the recipient of a random act of kindness" where someone will find it, on a store shelf, on the floor near the register, on the counter at a coffee shop.
66. Do you knit? Craft? Make something special for someone. Blankets or hats for homeless or elderly. Booties or beanies for babies. Sweaters, scarves, mittens. Paint a picture for someone who suffered a loss this year. Write a poem for someone who needs some cheer.
67. Deliver flags to Veteran's graves. Plant flowers on a grave that looks neglected.
68. Write or send an email to a company who provides a service or makes a product that you love. Let them know how much you value their company.
69. Order a pizza to be delivered anonymously to someone who would appreciate a free lunch. A nurse's station, the office at your children's school, your babysitter, your bank, your best friend. Leave a note "Thank you for all you do. Love, one of your customers (or clients, or friend, or someone who cares)
70. Be spontaneous! Plan a special getaway for your family. Go to an amusement park, the movies, a parade, a hotel for the night. Tell them on the way that you are going to do as many random acts of kindness as you all can..... holding doors for people, smiling, saying hello, thank you, you're welcome, letting people go before you in line.
71. Start fundraising! Have a cause that is close to your heart? Finding a cure for cancer or MS, Saving animals, Helping natural disaster victims, help a local family who lost their jobs or home or a loved one. Locate the cause online and see what you can do to help. Form a fundraising committee, start a walk to raise funds, join a relay for life or something similar.
72. Wash a friends car!
73. Have a friend who you had a falling out with? Make amends.
74. Love to take photographs? Offer your services. Call local hospitals, homeless shelters for families. Ask if there are families who would like a family photo taken. Do a free photo shoot, then print out the good ones for the family to cherish.
75. Volunteer at a food bank. Help them shelve and organize food. Bring them your old paper and plastic and reusable bags. Bring them food. Sweep, dust, help them with their community garden.
76. Contact Habitat for Humanity and help build a house for a family in need!
77. Become an organ donor.
78. Leave quarters and laundry detergent at the laundromat for someone to find.
79. Bring a box of tissues, some orange juice, some cough drops, some ginger ale, and some chicken soup to a friend who has a cold.
80. Host a cookie swap! Invite a bunch of friends to join you.
81. Host a toy drive. A family in need, an orphanage, or the local charity need help this holiday season. Have people drop off a new, unwrapped toy and deliver them a week or two before Christmas.
82. Bring a hot coffee to a community bus driver, or your kids' bus driver!
83. Leave a dollar or two taped to the vending machine at the hospital, mall, or work.
84. See someone eating alone in a restaurant? Invite them to sit with you. You might just meet a new friend.
85. Make your own RAOK. Im sure there is lots that I have missed!!! With every random act, leave a note letting the person know that you would like to pass on some kindness. Hopefully they will pass it on, too!
"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." ~Mother Theresa
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." ~Aesop
"Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty." ~Anne Herbert
"Do ordinary things with extraordinary love." ~Mother Theresa
Now your job..... Pick 1 or all of these items. Make little cards. Write on each card "You are the recipient of a random act of kindness. I''m thinking of you today and wanted you to know! Please spread the kindness." and add a quote from above, or find another RAOK quote that you love. Bring the cards with you on your adventure and hand them out (or tape them to) with your random act of kindness. Post on my facebook page or on my blog ( or ) what random acts of kindness you did and if it maybe set off a domino effect. If so inclined, you can add onto the note that you leave with the RAOK so that we may get some people reporting random acts of kindness that they received. Of course this can be done anonymously, too, but I'm hoping that there will be lots of messages sent to my page, telling me how those random acts of kindness have made someone's day and then passed on to someone new. It will be interesting to track this and report back to my followers!!!
Thank you so much for getting involved with this. I truly believe that a little kindness can go a long way and it can not only make someone's day, but it could possibly change the world. ~Heather from