Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Garden Update

It has been quite some time since I have updated this blog, I hope to do so a little more regularly. I have been very busy with my YouTube channel, and am having a lot of fun making and editing videos. I do a lot of product reviews, mostly toys, as a fun way to connect with the toy collecting community. This year I also started to incorporate more homemaking type videos on my channel, that I hope to continue developing as well. In the past I have blogged my garden's progress every summer here on this blog, I may still do a bit of that this summer, but to change things up a bit I also decided to do a video garden vlog. I just posted my first garden update, with pictures from my garden throughout this past spring, as well as the plants I purchased, the seeds I will be planting, and my new garden journal. So I thought I would share that with you here as well.

I found this inexpensive planner at the Target Dollar Spot, and decided that it would be perfect to use as a garden journal, I thought that the floral pattern would be pretty for a garden journal. In the video below you can see how I've set up this journal, as well as check out the plants and seeds I'll be planting this spring and summer, as well as clips of my garden this past spring.

I do hope to get out to the garden when our sunshine returns to take more pictures, which I will share here in future garden updates. I hope everyone is enjoying a nice spring, and having fun out in the garden! :)

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Linking to:
Wake Up Wednesday 
Wow Us Wednesday
Be Inspired
Tuesdays with a Twist

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

10 Dinner Ideas and Meal Planning

So I thought I would share a couple of my latest YouTube videos here today. I have been filming some of the dinners that we have had over the month of March. I thought it would be a good idea to be able to see some of the meals that I talk about in my Meal Planning videos.

Below is my 10 Dinner Ideas from march video.

I also thought you might enjoy seeing my latest grocery haul along with my meal plan for the first half of April-

I really enjoy checking out other peoples meal plans and what they buy at the store, it really gives me new ideas, and helps me track down different meal choices, so I was inspired to start making my own meal planning and grocery videos a couple of months ago. I intend to film ten more of our meals from the month of April as well as start filming more of my recipes to share. 

This week I also plan to get out my new garden journal and finish up my garden plans for spring. I picked up seeds this week and am picking up plants this weekend. We have had beautiful sunny weather here this past week and I am so excited to get to work in my garden. I have some new seed varieties and lots of plans for the garden this year that I will be sharing over the next couple of weeks. 

Hope everyone is having a nice start to the spring! :) 

Thanks for stopping by!

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter 2016

Happy Easter! I have spent the last couple of weeks getting the house decorated for Easter, as well as planning out some fun treats and activities for the day. This year I updated some of my Easter decor, last year I decluttered some of the Easter decor I was no longer using, and this year I was able to update my decor with some inexpensive finds at Target's Dollar Spot as well as Targets Easter decor section. I loved all of the fun spring colors in the decor this year. Here is how I have decorated the house.

I put up some pretty foiled egg garland as well as a banner on the mantel. I put out yellow candles and a cute bunny candle holder from Bath and Body Works. I love yellow this time of year.

All of the side tables in the living room have a touch of Easter/

I have also added some Easter touches to my little cubby shelf.

Since a lot of the decor is from Target it all coordinates nicely with pastels and touches of gold.

I have different banners and wreaths on the doors throughout the house.

I always have out seasonal decor in my dining room, I always have fun decorating this room.

I tucked in a few of my whimsical toys and dolls throughout the decor as well which I think is fun.

I found the cutest pastel and pearlescent gumball machine at Toys R Us and thought it would be a fun touch for spring. I plan on leaving it out throughout the spring and summer.

You can check out a video tour of my Easter home on my YouTube channel.

I also found fun Easter treats throughout the last couple of weeks. Krispy Kreme doughnuts always have fun seasonal doughnuts and we have fun seeing what they come up with for each holiday. The Easter doughnuts were cute. :) I also found a dozen different flavors of Peeps, as well as three mystery flavors. I did a fun taste test with all of them, and we plan to rate them together as a family on Easter evening.

I spent the day before Easter making a few fun treats for Easter day. I was inspired by a vlogger called Zoella to make Easter Nests and candy filled crispy rice squares. I decided to use Chow Mein noodles coated in melted chocolate chips. I used two bags of Chow Mein noodles and one bag of semi sweet chocolate chips and one bag of milk chocolate chips. I melted the chocolate in a makeshift double boiler, then poured it over the Chow Mein and mixed until they were all thoroughly coated. I dropped them by large spoonfuls on wax paper and pressed in three jelly beans. I also shaped them to be nest shape. Then let them harden for a few hours. I also used the classic recipe for crispy rice squares, but added a little blue food coloring, as well as a bag of crispy Easter M&M eggs, and topped it with spring colored sprinkles. I love the way they turned out.

My daughter just got back from her spring break mission trip, and my son is still en route back from California where he was meeting his girlfriend's family. My son should be back in time for Easter dinner, it will be strange not celebrating with him in the morning. But I have to get used to having older children now off doing their own things, so its definitely an adjustment!

I am looking forward to church in the morning and have some fun activities planned for my Sunday school class. I am also bringing some of my Easter nests as a treat and some goody bags. I just love having a fun celebration to celebrate Jesus' resurrection! :)

I hope everyone has a nice Easter!

Linking to:
Freedom Fridays
Flaunt it Friday

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I love celebrating St. Patrick's Day every year, it is such a fun spring holiday. Today the sun is shining bright and the sky is blue, I love it when the sun pours through the windows! I have one of my corned beefs in the pot on the stove cooking away, and my lime St. Patrick's cake in the oven. After the cake is out, I'll put in the Irish soda bread, then put the second corned beef in the oven roaster. I have put out my decorations for St. Patrick's Day, so I thought I would share a few pictures.

I set out all of my decorations from years past, as well as some of my new decorations.

This year I only decorated the dining room, since Easter is only a week away I'll have to swap out my St. Pats decor tomorrow and get ready for Easter since it is so early this year. Even though Easter is so soon this year I still wanted to decorate for St. Pat's day since our whole family loves this holiday so much.

I have also recorded a short video tour of my St. Patrick's decor for my YouTube channel which you can see below.

Here are links to some of my previous year's St. Patrick's Posts as well-

Here is a blog post about the recipe I use for Irish Soda Bread-

Here is a link to my St. Patrick's Day Layered Parfaits-

As well as a link to my Lime Jell-O Cake recipe

We will be spending the rest of the day preparing our dinner as well as watching some of our favorite St. Patrick's Day movies. I will also be helping my kids get packed for their spring break adventures, my daughter is going on a mission trip with her college group to Washington, and my son is meeting his girlfriend's family in California and Arizona, so they will be off for a big adventure this Saturday, and gone for a whole week. I am definitely not used to them being gone for so long, and I am definitely praying they will be safe as well as have a great trip. I will be spending most of next week working on my spring projects that I hope to wrap up before Easter! 

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick's Day! 

Thank for stopping by! 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cheesy Chicken Hash Brown Casserole

About half way through January I got back on track with meal planning, and as a result my grocery budget has really trimmed up quite a bit. One of my favorite recipes from last month was my Cheesy Chicken Hash Brown Casserole, so I thought I would share my recipe.

I first tasted a version of this cheesy hash brown casserole at my great grandpa's funeral years ago. A large portion of my family on my mother's side is Mormon, so we travel to Ogden, Utah for the funeral. It was the first Mormon funeral I had been to, and the church community provides a beautiful potluck style of meal after the funeral. One of the classic dishes, I have come to find, is a cheesy hash brown type casserole as a side dish, which is even sometimes called "funeral potatoes". Anyway, I loved the casserole and learned the recipe, and have made it for potlucks at church many times. I decided to turn this casserole into a main dish by adding a good portion of chopped steamed chicken tenderloins. By the way, this is a double recipe for a large sized casserole, I like to make a big casserole since I am often feeding 5-6 adults/teens at each meal, and I like leftovers for lunch.

Here are the ingredients-
about 8 chicken tenderloins cooked and chopped
2 standard sized bags of frozen hash browns slightly thawed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 stick of butter
1 large onion chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
2 cups (roughly) grated cheddar or cheddar blend
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder (less or more as desired)
1 1/2- 2 cups of cornflakes for topping.

Gather your ingredients, be sure your hash browns have sat out for at least half an hour before you prep this casserole, they need to be slightly thawed out so they will break apart and not be in a big frozen clump. Chop your onion and saute it in 4 tablespoons of butter, saute your onions in a large pot that will be big enough to stir together all the ingredients later. This is a lot of butter but it is part of the recipe and will be stirred in with everything else. When the onions have softened and are translucent but not browned take it off the burner and add hash browns, chicken, both cans of soup, one cup of milk (you may need a 1/4 cup more if casserole seems to need it) and 1 cup sour cream along with about 1 cup of shredded cheese (you may want a bit more). Then add between half a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of garlic powder depending on your preference, then salt and pepper to taste, you don't need much salt because the cheese and soup mix are salty. When casserole is thoroughly mixed transfer to a large greased baking pan, a lasagna sized pan would do well for this size recipe.

Top casserole with another cup of grated cheese lightly cover with foil and bake at 375 F. for about 45 minutes to an hour. Casserole is cooked through when potatoes are cooked through. While casserole is baking make the crunchy topping. Apparently there is often quite a debate about whether or not cheesy hash brown casserole should have at topping or not, I have made it with a topping and without, and I like it both ways. Since this was a main dish dinner casserole I though a topping would be nice. So I melted the other 4 tablespoons of butter and put about 2 cups of classic corn flakes in a ziplock sandwich bag, I slightly crunched up the cornflakes, then transfered them to a small mixing bowl and tossed with melted butter.

When casserole is close to done remove foil, and top with crunchy topping and return to oven to bake until golden and crispy, about another 15-20 minutes, checking frequently so topping doesn't burn. Because of the potatoes and cheese this casserole will be very hot, so it is nice to let it cool for a bit, especially for children.

I like to serve this casserole with a nice serving of steamed broccoli. The whole family loved it and it made for excellent leftovers as well! 

If you would like to check out my latest meal plan and grocery haul check out this video below from my YouTube channel.

I am excited this week as my garden has been showing signs that Spring has arrived, the crocus are blooming and other flowers are starting to bud as well. My backyard birds have been very active at the feeders which I always enjoy, we even had a large hawk land in the yard last week! As soon as our spring rains let up I will be eager to prep my veggie beds and plant some more spring flowers.

I hope everyone is having a nice week! Thanks for stopping by! :)

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesday
Be Inspired Link Party
Wise Women Link Up
Tuesdays with a Twist
Wake Up Wednesday

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Spring Cleaning 2016

This week I have started my spring cleaning. I always like to start about six weeks out from Easter so everything in my home is cleaned and ready for my big Easter family gathering and egg hunt. Plus, getting ready for spring is always so motivating to me with the spring bulbs popping up everywhere and more sunny days.

Last year I did a 40 bags in 40 days declutter-

My declutter project last year really helped out and made the house easier to keep clean. However at the end of last spring I had gallbladder removal surgery and was out of commission for nearly a month, then unable to really get back to full strength for the gardening season, so sadly my garden is really in a state and needs a lot of work this spring. Which is definitely a high priority since I love working out in my garden. This year I hope to have a good full year of gardening!

Last year I also meant to tackle the garage but only got part way through, since the garage is a main part of our storage system (we don't have much in the way of closet storage in our house) when it is disorganized it tends to have a ripple effect on the whole house. So even with all the decluttering that went on last year I really need to get things back in order. So I'm really motivated to tackle the garage this year. 

Also this past year, perhaps because of a weird side effect of the stress of surgery plus having my youngest graduate and entering into a new phase of life, I spent too much of last year doing "retail therapy" which has definitely added clutter! So I am really motivated to tackle my spring cleaning goals. 

I stocked up on fresh cleaning supplies and made a room by room plan, and have already begun some of my spring cleaning projects. Here is a video I made for my YouTube channel discussing some of my favorite cleaning products, I also shared a detailed list of all of my spring cleaning projects and goals.

Today I am looking forward to cooking a big pot of chicken stew, then baking some Valentine treats for church tomorrow. I am looking forward to a nice Valentine's Day tomorrow. Also I am looking forward to taking part in The Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend. Last year I took part in the count for the first time and really loved it. Here is my post from last year about the Bird Count. Click the image below to learn more about this year's bird count. 

So that it what I am up to around here, I hope everyone has a nice Valentine's Day. 

Thanks for stopping by! 

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valentine Decorations and Potato Sausage Kale Soup

It has been nearly a month since I have last updated my blog. January flew by faster than I could believe. I will try to update my blog more frequently, but since I have found myself busy with many different projects, I may not be able to update as frequently as I have written in the past. I still have many posts I would love to share, and hopefully will get back to more frequent posts in the future. I have been fairly active on my YouTube channel- April's Home doing product reviews, and sharing some of the different things I purchase as well as meal plans and seasonal home tours, so you can catch me over there a couple times a week as well. I have been having a really fun time learning how to edit video. 

I am excited that spring is just around the corner,  Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, as did our zoo's local hedgehog. However there is also a tradition that if the day is 'fair and bright, winter will take another flight", and around here is was a pretty sunny day, so we'll see if we have that early spring that was predicted. While the rest of the US has had blizzards and storms, we have had an extremely mild winter, I have even had the windows and doors open to cool down the house on multiple days! I wouldn't mind a nice small little snowy day at least once this year, but over all, I love the start to the gardening season and am looking forward to getting back out in the garden. 

Around the house I have been getting ready for Valentine's Day, I love decorating for all of the little holidays this time of year. The main area of our home that I have decorated is the dining room. I have found many fun little pink red and gold decorations to set around the bookshelves.

I made a cute new little seating area in the dining room with a little mirrored glass table I found on clearance after Christmas, along with some seasonal pillows on the chairs. It is a nice spot to sit and look through a book.

My side table is full of fun Valentine touches, with both some old favorite decorations as well as some new ones.

I have also put out on display some vintage reproduction Valentines that remind me of the ones I would cut out as a child. I found many of my new Valentine decorations at Target's dollar spot, they had so many cute decorations this year for very affordable prices, it was fun to pick them all out.

I have also added Valentine decor to the living room this year. I even included the dogs, I found them each a Valentine rope tug toy and some very cute miniature Valentine colored mini milk bones which they have been enjoying. My husband brought me my first bouquet of pink tulips of the spring, he knows that tulips are my favorite and I always think it is so sweet that he surprises me with flowers. :)

In the living room I have also replaced my large train print with this really interesting wooden cubby with metal and number details,  it looks like an old post sorting shelf or something, I have enjoyed bringing in some wooden elements to my living room for a change.

The other wooden decor item I have brought into the living room is this giant letter M (our initial) that I found after Christmas as well, I fell in love with it, and knew it would be perfect for the large space above my fireplace. I've also included some pretty pink candles and lights to the mantel, which will also work for my Easter decor.

Here are some of the other little things in the living room, candy dishes and little wooden signs and things, as well as the fun plaid heart pillow, another after Christmas clearance item that I thought would work well for Valentine's decor.

This past Christmas was the first time I really decorated our Master bedroom for Christmas as much as I did, so I decided to decorate our room for Valentine's Day as well, and found some fun pink decorations to make a nice display.

I really love Valentine's Day, not just the romantic parts of Valentine's Day, but just honoring the concept of love, and remembering to love our neighbor. :)

You can see a video of our Valentine decor home tour below-

In addition to all of the Valentine decorating I have been doing, I have been sticking to writing out and planning my dinner meal plan in two week sections. I have found that I am able to budget my grocery expenses a lot more efficiently, as well as serving healthier dinners. Last month one of my favorite meals was this Potato, Sausage, and Kale soup which we enjoyed with rustic French bread. 

Here is my simple recipe for my Potato, Sausage and kale Soup

In a large soup pot saute a bunch of chopped celery and one chopped onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until softened and slightly translucent. Then add a 48 oz box of Chicken broth and bring to a simmer. While the broth is simmering clean and chop about 12 nice boiling potatoes a good red or gold variety, I leave on about half the potato peel for color and texture, you can leave on as much of the peel as desired. Add the chopped potato to the soup pot and continue to simmer. I also add at this point a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper to taste, as well as a few cups of water to make sure the potatoes are covered and that there will be plenty of broth. In a separate skillet brown a pound of regular ground sausage like Jimmy Deans. When the sausage is cooked through and browned drain thoroughly and add to the soup pot. Simmer on medium low heat until the potatoes are cooked though. About 30 minutes before the soup is done clean a bunch of Kale, I like the curly variety, remove any of the tough stems. I like to pull off the leave and rip into smallish pieces, then add to the soup. Then add about a half cup of cream, perhaps a little bit more if needed until the soup looks slightly creamy. Check seasoning, add a bit more salt or pepper if needed. Serve when the kale is softened and cooked to your liking and the potatoes, onion and celery are all cooked through. I like to serve this soup with a crusty rustic french bread topped with a little butter.

We enjoyed this soup while watching a family movie. Our new tradition for Monday nights is to watch an old classic movie, during January we watched some old Cary Grant movies as well as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, it has been fun sharing these old movies with the kids. Our goal is to continue watching one new classic a week for the whole year and by the end of the year we will have seen quite a good selection of classic movies. So far that is my favorite resolution of the year! :)

I hope everyone is doing well, thanks for stopping by!

Linking to:
Tuesdays With A Twist 
Be Inspired
Try A New Recipe Tuesday 
Wow Us Wednesday 
Wake up Wednesday
Wise Woman Link Up