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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'm addicted to coupons and every penny counts. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts and will share your success stories with me as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Latest and Greatest in Bradley's World

Oh Bradley!  You are such a determined, independent, stubborn child right now.  I love the fact that you know what you want and are so determined to get it, but the sweet little baby boy is disappearing quickly.  I'm not ready to give up cuddly moments with you yet.  You love the fact that you have stinky feet and can fart and burp about as well as Daddy.  But I miss that squeaky clean baby smell and you letting me put baby lotion on you to make your skin soft.  You are super smart and even think you are smarter than your parents some days.  I'm pretty sure you won't outgrow that stage until you're at least 25 years old.  You have a heart of gold even though you won't admit it and I can only hope and pray that it will remain that way.  I love you forever Bradley Michael Genovese!

I truly believe he thinks we bought this house just because it came with a tire swing.

A sweet moment with Grandma Genovese.

Bradley has an imagination like none other!

There are benefits to helping make Daddy's birthday cake....cake batter!

He was so careful putting all 36 candles on the cake.

Because wearing plastic containers as shoes and a bucket for a hat is just the thing to do!

I'm not sure he has enough stuffed animals.

He was a hard little worker the day we raked leaves.

He loved to be buried in the leaves.

His favorite show right now is Peppa the Pig and he would rather watch it on the tablet than on TV.  And since when did this little guy grow so tall that he takes up half the couch?!

This boy loves the ocean!

And this smile totally melts Mama's heart!

We figured it would be too cold this winter to put the swingset up outside, so Mike set it up in the basement.  As soon as it was set up, Bradley says "Now my friends can come play with me."  He's missing his SC friends so much!

And we have a Whoopie Pie Junkie on our hands.

  I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish but he was determined to have everything just right.

Bradley loves being outside and searching for rocks.

Eating cottage cheese in a fancy dish is his favorite snack!

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This has become one of my favorite soup recipes!  It's super easy to make either on the stove top or in your crock pot.  I have also doubled this recipe and divided it into freezer meals.

1 pound boneless chicken breasts
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 clove garlic
1 cup diced yellow onion
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup wild rice blend
1/2 cup flour
7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper to taste

 Stove Top Directions
Step 1 - Cook rice according to directions on package.  While rice is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery.  Saute until slightly tender.  Add garlic and saute for another minute.  Add chicken broth and season with salt and pepper.  Increase heat to medium high and add chicken breasts.  Bring mixture to boil, cover pot with lid and allow mixture to boil 12-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and let cool for 5 minutes before chopping or shredding.  (whichever you prefer)  Reduce heat to low.  Add cooked rice and chicken.  

Step 2 - In a separate saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes whisking constantly.  While whisking, slowly pour pour milk into butter & flour mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Add milk mixture to large pot and cook about 5 minutes or until soup is thickened.  Stir in heavy cream.  If you need the rice to soften more, just cover pot with lid and simmer on low.  

Crock Pot Directions
Add chicken breasts, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and chicken broth to the crock pot.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Take chicken out and shred or chop.  Add back to crock pot.  Finish with step 2 above.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Menu Week of November 24 - 28

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year!  Not only because of Thanksgiving but it normally means company is in town and I get to cook.  A. LOT.  I'm so excited that Dad and Mama Genovese will be with us for most of the week.  We are going to be eating good all week long!  Was there a double meaning why Mike bought us a treadmill on Saturday?  :)

Buttermilk Pancakes (these were leftover from the freezer)
Scrambled Eggs with Sausage
Homemade Sausage Biscuits
Homemade Blueberry & Raspberry Muffins
Fried Eggs & Whole Wheat Toast

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Leftovers x 3

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Chicken Tacos
Homemade Pizza
TURKEY and all the fixings
Turkey & Gravy over Toast

Hallmark $5 off $15 purchase coupon!

My two favorite things to buy at Hallmark stores this time of the year are wrapping paper and a Christmas ornament.  We try to buy one Hallmark Christmas ornament each year that reminds us of something that happened within the year.  And no one makes Christmas wrapping paper like Hallmark does!  It seriously is the best!  So click here to print your coupon for $5 off your next purchase of $15 or more!  This coupon is valid in store or for your online purchases.  It expires on 12/8/14.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hallmark Hall of Fame - One Christmas Eve

I was given the chance to preview the newest Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "One Christmas Eve".  This movie will air on the Hallmark Channel on November 30 at 8 pm EST.   

Anne Heche stars as a recently divorced Mom who wants give her son and daughter the perfect first Christmas without their Dad.   It ended being the exact opposite from her anticipated plans but it left them with the most memorable Christmas ever with new friends and a story they will never forget.

My personal review is that the movie had so much "bad luck" that it became laughable and annoying at the same time.  There were several scenes where the background music was way off with what was happening in that particular scene.   If you are planning on getting your children a dog for Christmas, you will definitely think twice after watching this movie.  And of course there were several cheesy moments but that is Hallmark's specialty.... along with getting their audience to stop and have a few tenderhearted moments of appreciating the holidays, family, and love.

So mark your calendars for November 30th at 8 pm EST to watch "One Christmas Eve".  It's a family friendly movie that can be enjoyed by children and adults.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Operation Christmas Child 2014

One of my favorite things to do each year is to pack an Operation Christmas Child shoe box.  This is one of those times I wish I was financially able to pack hundreds of shoe boxes for these precious children overseas. 

  There's no comparison from Bradley's room so full of toys that you can't step in the room without stepping on a toy and then these simple shoe boxes filled with a few toys and personal hygiene products.  These children may never know what it's like to be so "rich" in America but you can have a small part in making their world better from just a shoe box.

Bradley and I went to Walmart today and we had so much fun picking out toys and hygiene products to put in the boxes.  Bradley had a hard time realizing that only small toys could fit in the shoe boxes.  He was so sweet picking out toys and stuffed animals, saying "yes, I think the girl will like this" or "yes, the boy will like this car".  I hope he will always have a tender heart for showing the love of Jesus to others.

If you are interested in packing your own shoe box for Operation Christmas Child, click here to see the instructions on how to pack and click here for drop off locations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Groceries Week of November 16-22

Smiling Hill Farm - I spent a total of $27.24 for 2 half gallons of whole milk, one quart of buttermilk, one quart of chocolate milk, one pint of half & half, and one dozen eggs.

I gave Whole Foods another try on Sunday afternoon.  It was still VERY hectic but I went in with a better attitude and the experience was a lot better than the previous ones.  And I bought nuts from the bulk machines...I'm not sure why those are always so intimidating to me.  I had several spices and oils to buy which quickly added up my total bill.  I used several store coupons and a couple manufacturers coupons.  My total was $112.24 and I saved $7.15 in coupons.  

This was a quick trip into Walmart to buy a couple last minute items - my total spent was $20.34.  And this is why quick grocery stops for last minute items are always expensive.

My grand total for groceries this week was $159.82.  A little under $10 over my $150 budget but I was less overwhelmed in the grocery stores this week so that's a score in my book!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Menu Week of November 17-21

So for my birthday last week, one of my presents was 100 Days of Real Food cookbook.  I was so excited about it that I read the entire cookbook in one day, cover to cover.  I've already made a couple of Lisa's recipes and I'm making two more this week.  I love her wholesome, simple recipes!

I took one of the whole chickens I bought last week and cooked it in the crockpot on Sunday.  I'm using that meat for 4 of my meals this week and it fed Bradley and me on Sunday night for supper...so really I got 5 meals out of one chicken!

Bradley doesn't like lettuce so I just made him a plate of all the toppings.  And yes, we LOVE cottage cheese on our salads!

Scrambled Eggs with Whole Wheat Toast
Homemade Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes & Applegate Sausage Links
Whole Wheat Biscuits & Jelly

Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Leftovers x 4

Mixed Green Salad with Chopped Eggs & Shredded Chicken
Baked Spaghetti & Homemade Breadsticks
Veggie Corn Chowder
Chicken Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole (pg 230 in Lisa's cookbook)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Groceries Week of November 9-15

Ok, it's been difficult to get back into grocery shopping.  I have yet to find a grocery store I'm in love with.  I desperately miss my Ingles and Earth Fare!  I chose to shop at Walmart this week. The last two grocery store shopping experiences were so discouraging that I thought it would be better to go someplace that was familiar.  I didn't go to the Walmart very often in SC but at least the stores are all pretty much set up the same way and I can find my way around.  They don't have a huge selection of organic products but I was surprised with the amount they did have.  A little is better than none.  And they had a huge sale on organic chicken which put me in a happy mood.  I'm going to have to tweak my budget back and forth until I can find a good balance.  There are several items up here that are more expensive than back in SC.  Butter, milk, and eggs are the top 3 items that are $2-3 more expensive.  And we use those items the most!

I spent a total of $155.31 and there are two bags of groceries missing from this picture.  I didn't realize until after I had taken the picture and these groceries were put away.

So the one thing that makes me so very happy is that we live about 10 minutes from Smiling Hill Farm.  It's not Happy Cow milk...but it's really, really good!  I  absolutely love having milk come in glass bottles!  It somehow makes the milk colder and taste better....at least I think so.  They make heavy cream and half & half and the little pint bottles are way too cute.  And their Egg Nog is 100 times better than any other Egg Nog out there.  And I'm not an Egg Nog type of girl.  My total was $12.12 but I returned two extra glass bottles.  The one downside is that there is a bottle deposit so it can cost you more to start up with.

My grand total for groceries this week was $167.43.  So I've got some work to do to cut the budget back.  If y'all see any great Amazon sales, please let me know!  I'm thinking Amazon grocery shopping might be more often in my future.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu Week of November 10 - 14

I'm so excited to have a full kitchen with all my appliances and gadgets back!  It's going to be a great week of cooking and baking.  

Scrambled Eggs and Fried Potatoes
Blueberry Muffins
Egg & Sausage Biscuits 

$5 Little Caesar's Pizza 
(bad choice but we were out and had to have something quick and cheap)
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Leftovers x 2

Crustless Broccoli Quiche
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Crock Pot Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, and Carrots
Chicken Teriyaki and Fried Rice

Painting, Moving In, Unpacking, and more Unpacking

We officially moved into our new house one week ago today!  Seeing the moving truck parked outside the house was a beautiful sight!  Unpacking boxes and seeing all of our stuff was like Christmas Day.  We are very happy to have hotel life behind us and to get settled into our new home.  

We closed on the house on the 24th so I had a full week to get most of the rooms cleaned and painted.  Bradley went to stay with PopPop and Mimi for the week which was a huge help!  After painting for 4 days in a row and wearing the same outfit 4 days in a row, I was ready to burn my clothes, throw away the paint brushes and never think about painting again.

Despite my aching muscles and exhaustion, I thought the paint really made the rooms look great and the house felt more like home.  We went with all new colors except for Bradley's room.  We figured he had been through so much change lately, his room could be the one room we could keep the same as much as possible.  His room was the last room I painted and of course it would be the most difficult.  It was super cold and rainy that day which made the paint take much longer to dry.  It was worth the extra hassle when Bradley walked into his room and his face lit up with excitement!

I went bold with my kitchen and painted it Midnight Magic.  My friend, Melissa has the same color in her kitchen and I've always loved it.  And seeing the color reminds me of her which makes me happy.  Have I mentioned how much I miss my SC friends?!?!  Ignore the disaster on the kitchen counters...I have a good excuse for the mess. 

I chose Elegance for the room that we don't know what we are going to do with yet.  For now, until the fireplace is finished, it's become our family room.  It may end up being our dining room or office/reading room.  I also painted the hallway in the same color and eventually our family room will be the same color.  We will have to hire a professional to paint the stairway and the walls leading up to it.  I'm not even going to attempt a ladder or stilts to get those parts painted.

I was super happy with the Bell Tower Stone that I used in both bathrooms and our bedroom.  Once we add white crown molding, those rooms are going to look fantastic.  I'll use the same color in the downstairs guest bedroom. 

So now it's back to unpacking.  Somehow all motivation has left me when it comes to unpacking.  The boxes are very slowly going away.  Anyone want to come and help? I'll provide the coffee and cookies!