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Life is beautiful whether you're soaking in sunshine or caught in a thunderstorm. I take the beauty of life for granted too often. I have a supportive husband who I don't want to live life without, a beautiful son who is always reminding me of the simple things that really matter, and an independent daughter who is teaching me to throw schedules out the window and live in the moment. My day is made when free samples fill my mailbox. I love discovering a new product and sharing it with others. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts and will share your stories with me as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crock-pot Friendly Breakfast Casserole

I made this delicious breakfast casserole for our Christmas morning breakfast.  My favorite part was that it is Crock-pot friendly!  Thanks Moneysavingmom for sharing this great recipe.  We really enjoyed it and think this is the best Crock-pot breakfast casserole by far!

  • 12-15 breakfast sausage links
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 pkg. (2 lbs) potatoes o'brien (hash browns with diced onions and peppers)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Brown sausage links in skillet until cooked through and cut into pieces--set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs together with milk. Add salt and pepper.
  • Stir in cut up sausage, potatoes o'brien, tomato, and cheese.
  • Spray crock pot with cooking spray and pour egg mixture in.
  • Cook on low heat for 6 hours.
  • Optional: Top with sour cream or salsa.
 I like the ground sausage better than the links.  I put everything together in the Crock-pot and left it in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook it.  I woke up at 2 am to start the Crock-Pot and it was ready to eat by 8 am.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Genovese Christmas Letter 2012

Merry Christmas from the Genovese Family!

Ty is now 2 ½ years old and is quite the ladies man.  He is talking more than ever and his favorite phrase is “Bradley did it”.  We are still working on his adoption and will be going to court in January for what we hope will be the final court date before the actual adoption hearing.  We are so grateful to be near the end of this journey and excited for the day we can move on as a family without the “system” keeping us guessing.

Bradley is 18 months old and he is all boy.  He has a high pain tolerance, which is something he definitely didn’t inherit from Mommy. He is always pushing himself to keep up with Ty.  He is at the 95% for height and 85% for weight so keeping him in clothes is quite the challenge.  His mischievous grin and sparkling eyes makes disciplining very difficult.  He has a sweet spirit and very laid back personality.

We were able to open our home to 3 more children this past year.  A 9 year old boy Travis was only with us for 1 week but brought us so much closer together as family.  He loved family activities including basketball and Monopoly.  Dylan who was 11 years old was with our family for a little over 2 months.  His maturity showed in so many ways.  He made us very proud when he called us one weekend and told us he would be mentoring foster children after school on Wednesday’s.  Emma who is 6 years old came to live with us at the end of November.  It was quite a change having a girl living in the house but it’s been a lot of fun.  Girls definitely have a lot more “stuff” than boys do!  The way these children approached the upheaval in their lives with courage has been an inspiration.  We are so thankful for supportive family and friends that love each one of these children.  That support is needed to help us continue this important ministry.

Mike switched careers in January and is now a Private Banker for Wells Fargo.  The stability of this new career has been a blessing especially after spending almost three years building his previous business from scratch.  Mike had surgery for his Crohn’s disease in July.  The power of prayer was very evident to our family during his surgery and recovery as he was in the hospital for 12 days.  We are so appreciative to our family and friends who helped with the boys, prepared meals, and most importantly, prayed for healing of Mike and strength for Ashley.

Ashley continues to work as a ministry assistant at Riverside Baptist Church.  She enjoys the diverse job description and is very thankful for being able to work with great co-workers. As much as she complains about the grocery bill getting higher, she is really enjoying cooking and baking for a larger family.  Ashley also continues to serve on the board of the Greenville County Foster Parent Association where she enjoys being a part of the local fostering community.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Looking back in 2012 we can say that there were things that happened that we didn’t plan and at times didn’t want but through it all we were certain that God had a purpose in all of it.  Our desire for you in 2013 is that your lives will glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which is life’s greatest purpose.

Merry Christmas!
Mike, Ashley, Ty, & Bradley Genovese

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake Recipe

Sometimes there is nothing better than a coffeecake with ice cold milk.  This is a delicious and fairly easy recipe for a cinnamon-streusel coffeecake.  Perfect for breakfast or a late evening snack.  Only comment about this recipe would that it makes a lot of Streusel topping.  Next time I might only put 1/2 the amount on the cake.

Streusel Topping
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspooon unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup salted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole)
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 9 x 13 pan.

Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add the melted butter, stirring until well combined.  Set the topping aside.

Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. 
Set aside.

Make the cake by beating together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add sour cream or yogurt and milk until well combined.  Add the flour to the mixture beating gently to combine.

Pour/spread half the better into the prepared 9x13 pan spreading all the way to the edges. 
Sprinkle the filling evenly on top of the batter. Spread the remaining batter on top of the filling.  Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake.  Sprinkle the topping over the batter.

Bake the cake until dark golden brown around the edges about 60 minutes.
Remove the cake from over and allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes 24 servings.

No Fast Food

Last month we went way over our food budget.  When I say way over, I mean way over!  So for the month of November, I cut out all fast food and takeout.  The only way we could eat out is if we used a gift card.  We did really well and I'm surprised at how easy it actually was.  I only made one trip to Zaxby's for lunch and I ordered off the kids menu to save a couple bucks.  My husband only made one stop at Subway for a $5 sandwich.

We are working ourselves into the month of December and I haven't been to the grocery store in 12 days to buy anything but milk.  We haven't had sliced sandwich bread in the house for over a week.  I can't even tell you how many mornings I wanted a Chick-fil-A breakfast sandwich, or a Panera Bread cinnamon crunch bagel, or my absolute favorite cinnamon roll from The Flour Haven.  There were several days that it would have been so much easier just to grab a deli sub for lunch or KFC for dinner. 

 I forced myself to fix meals from scratch and use up some items in our freezer and pantry.  The other morning I tried a new recipe for bread machine cinnamon rolls and Oh My Gosh, they were incredible!  We made homemade cinnamon donuts one Saturday morning and I couldn't believe how much better they were than Dunkin Donuts.  It's okay to have breakfast for dinner.  It's okay to have a bowl of cereal for lunch. 

In this month long process, I've learned that we waste a lot of money on takeout and prepackaged foods.  All it takes is a little more discipline in planning the menu to save money.  You may have to spend just a few minutes looking up recipes, (google is my new best friend when finding those), but it's completely worth those extra minutes.  If I would just have more patience when cooking rather than expecting to have instant dinner on the table.  And I'm absolutely positive that eating from home is a lot healthier than eating out! 

I'm not sure how much longer I'll last without going to the grocery store but this has been a great experience for me.  And I'm super proud of my husband for sticking with our plan!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My husband's CVS shopping trip

Yep, you heard that right.  My husband went to CVS for me at 8:30 pm last night and took a shopping list, coupons, and ECB's with him.  He is incredibly awesome and no, he's not up for grabs.  He's all mine! 

He came home with a box of Pampers diapers, 9 roll Charmin toilet paper, 3 bags of Doritos, and 6 bags of candy.  The bags of candy are going to be great for filling Christmas mugs to give as presents to the boys daycare teachers.  Mike spent $10.84 out of pocket, saved $63.46 and received $19 back in ECB's.  I'm so proud of him for sticking to the list and for using 24 coupons and ECB's and not being embarrassed about it.  Thanks babe!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Changing my Perspective

Black Friday for me includes staying at home with my boys and getting the house cleaned up from Thanksgiving dinner along with the regular chores for laundry, paying bills, and making room for the Christmas tree.  You can only imagine the mess that 2 toddler boys can make in a matter of minutes.  It's so easy for me to become impatient with them.  Why can't they understand that you are only supposed to play with one toy at a time and then put it away when you're finished with it?  I'm realizing that in order to stay sane, I have to change my perspective.

Instead of yelling them for bringing their toys into the family room and dumping them everywhere, I'm thankful that the boys are only bringing them out here because they want to be where Mommy is.  Whether it's the bedroom, kitchen, or family room, they just want to be with me.  It's a great feeling to be wanted!

Just looking at this pictures makes me overwhelmed.  But instead of feeling overwhelmed, I'm thankful that we have the finances to buy toys for the boys.  I'm thankful that the boys have a nice room when so many other children have to share their room in a group home. 

You would think that after about 100 times of telling them to stop taking the toys off the shelf and not climbing it, one of them would finally listen and obey.  But instead of being exasperated with them, I'm so thankful that my boys are healthy and alive to disobey.  I have several friends that are aching because they have lost a child or their child is in the hospital due to health reasons and isn't able to disobey.

I'm a very blessed Mother with two beautiful boys that God has given me.  Who cares about the extra mess I have to clean up?  I'm just thankful that these boys are in my life and I'm their Mother.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Caramel Covered Grapes....Great Appetizer!

I recently went to a jewelry party where these were served.  At first I was like what are those?  But after my first bite, I was completely surprised with how delicious these were.  It's just like a caramel apple other than it's a grape!  It's a perfect appetizer and they are so poppable delicious!

Green Grapes

After washing the grapes, dip them in caramel and then chopped peanuts.  Poke a toothpick in and place on platter.  I bought a jar of the dry roasted peanuts and then used my baby food chopper to chop the peanuts.  This is an incredibly easy recipe.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Loads of Free Stuff at CVS this week

I almost stopped breathing when I saw all the free stuff at CVS this week.  Yes, I know it's not normal to get excited about the sales ad.  I'm reading the Sunday newspaper and browsing the ads like I always do on Sunday afternoon and when I came to the CVS ad, I couldn't believe it!  An incredible amount of items free after ECB's.  I couldn't wait until Monday to shop, I had to go right away!  I bought 20 items that are free after ECB's.  My local CVS had it very convenient and all the items located on 2 shelves for easy shopping.  The only thing they were out of was the Playdough which would have been a nice stocking stuffer but I'm still super happy with the other items I was able to get.  And I was in and out in about 5 minutes which made it even nicer!  Take a look at my receipt...I've never had one this long at CVS before. So grab a sales ad and make a trip to your local CVS, it will definitely be worth the trip this week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Need any hoodies for Christmas presents?

There is an awesome deal on hoodies at FinishLine.com.  Two hoodies for $35 and free shipping.  If you shop through Ebates, you will receive 5% cash back.  And  if you use coupon code Finish5line you will receive 5% off your purchase which will almost cover the sales tax.  This deal is only valid on select hoodies so make sure you read carefully which ones are on sale and which ones are not.  Another Christmas present down and only 56 more to go!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Potato Soup Recipe (Freezer Friendly)

This potato soup is seriously "Panera Bread delicious"!  The best part about it is that it's Freezer Friendly!  When I freeze potato soup it seems like it is always mushy and the consistency just isn't right.  This recipe is a winner winner chicken dinner!  Not really chicken dinner, but you get my point.  I'm super excited about this new recipe!  A huge thanks to my friend Melissa for allowing me to share this recipe on my blog.  She truly is Betty Crocker Jr.!  Nobody cooks or bakes like Melissa!

30 oz. shredded frozen hashbrowns
32 oz. chicken broth
1 small can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. cream cheese

Pour all ingredients but cream cheese in Crockpot.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours.  About 1 hour before serving, add cream cheese and heat until melted.

To Freeze:  Pour all ingredients except cream cheese into a large (gallon) freezer bag. (I always double bag things that are going in the freezer)  Thaw overnight and cook as to directions above.

Tips:  I took my frozen soup out on Saturday night and it was still pretty solid on Sunday morning.  I dumped the solid brick into the Crockpot and cooked on high.  It was ready by the time we got home from church (4 hours later).  I stirred in a container of the whipped cream cheese and it melted within 60 seconds.  We had a loaf of Asiago Cheese bread from Panera Bread and it was the perfect addition to this delicious soup! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freezer Cooking Meals

I finally did something this morning with a friend that I've been wanting to do for awhile.  Freezer Cooking!  We kept it very simple with each of us making 3 meals each.  We spent a total of 3 hours and I took home 7 meals and 2 bags of rice.  Here's what we made:

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
Beef and Bean Enchiladas
Potato Soup
Baked Spaghetti
Chicken Pot Pie
Pizza Dough

This will be a huge time saver next week when preparing supper!  And it will help me with my spending habits.  I'm not even going to mention the amount of money spent last month on groceries and fast food/restaurant eating.  It makes me sick thinking about all the money that was spent on our bellies!  Once in awhile you almost need one of those "sickening moments" to help get you back on track.  I'm ready to pinch pennies again!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful (5 Piano Guys, 1 piano) - ThePi...

I love these guys!  You can feel their passion for music in the songs.  Every time I listen to them, it makes me want someone to teach me how to play the piano so I can express my feelings through music. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012