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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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back on 2014

I'm not one to make goals for the New Year.  I really can't think of a goal I've made that I've ever stuck with.  Maybe I need to be one of those people that claim a word for their new year...commit would be a good one for me.  

This year does seem a little different for me.  Maybe because it's true that the older you are, the more wise you become.  I'm finally becoming wise, or at least wiser than I was.  God taught me a lot about Him, life, others, and myself this year.  This is the first year in a long time that I'm actually excited about starting a new year, clean and fresh, a whole new me.  I learned a lot in 2014.  Some lessons were painful, some lessons were a breath of fresh air, and some lessons were just lessons.

I've learned that there is nothing I can do or say that will make God love me any more or any less.  He loves me for who I am and has chosen ME despite my daily failures.

I've learned that saying yes to everyone and everything isn't healthy.  No should be a word in my vocabulary.

I've learned that being in the popular crowd isn't really as fun as it looks.  In fact, it can be quite lonely and hurtful.

I've learned that there is so much more to life than having all your crap together.

I've learned that God's grace is more than I can ever comprehend.  My good works will never live up to His unending grace.

I've learned that true friends are hard to find.  Cherish the ones you have.

I've learned that a simple life is more fulfilling.  It's exhausting keeping up with the Joneses.

I've learned that my 3 year old son can teach me more about finding joy than a whole group of girlfriends can.  

I've learned that I'm more in love with my husband today than I was when I met him.  There aren't enough words to express how I feel about him.

 I'm ready for 2015.   I'm ready to take these lessons that I learned in 2014 and be a new person in 2015.  I'm ready for new memories, new friendships, new experiences, and a new meaningful life.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Menu Week of December 29 - January 2

Wow!  January 2015 is happening this week!  I'm not sure I'm ready to get in the mood of healthy eating, organization, and making goals.  It was hard enough making a menu for this week.  

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Pancakes (from freezer)
Egg & Cheese Biscuits
Fried Eggs with Whole Wheat Toast
Baked Oatmeal

Leftovers x 2
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Mac & Cheese
Applegate Turkey Hot Dogs

Caesar Salad with Chicken & Homemade Croutons
Chicken Tortilla Soup
 Vegetable Soup 
BBQ Chicken Drumsticks and Mashed Potatoes
BBQ Chicken Pizza

As you can see, chicken will be the choice of meat since it was the only one on sale.  :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone has a beautiful day making new memories or remembering old memories with family and friends while focusing on the real reason we celebrate this special day. Here are some of my favorite Christmas songs....

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Three Awesome Deals Last Week

Everyone knows I love a great deal.  And these three items made me super happy last week!

Kohl's - A new dress shirt for Mike retailed at $68.00 but my total was $12.65 after coupons and codes for free shipping.

LL Bean - A new long sleeve casual shirt for me retailed at $24.95 but my total was $5.26 after coupons and codes for free shipping.

Shaw's - A new lasagna pan retailed at $49.99 but my total was $0.00 after submitting 120 stickers from previous store purchases.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Simpli Safe Home Security System Review

After we purchased our new house, we started checking out home security systems.  I had received several offers in the mail from various companies but all of them had some sort of "fine line" policy.  The "free installation" or "free equipment" wasn't really free.   

We had a previous home security system back in SC and I went back and calculated what we spent on it.  It was close to $1,800 for equipment, installation, monthly service fees, and buying out our contract when we moved.  Signing a two or three year contract wasn't something I wanted to get involved with again.   My brother-in-law had recently purchased his home security system from Simpli Safe so I decided to check them out.  

Simpli Safe allows you to purchase your own customized security system, monitoring is optional but very affordable if you choose it, and there are no lock down contracts to sign.  You can simply stop the monitoring service whenever you like with no penalty charges.  I love the fact that if you happen to move (like we did) you can take your security system with you to your new home!  

 Installation was really simple and their customer service was fabulous.  We had one sign missing from our order and they shipped us a new one immediately along with 5 additional window decals at no charge.  I love that we can order additional sensors at any time if we should build on to our house in the future.  I love the $14.99 monthly monitoring charge...compared to the $34.99 I was paying back in SC.

Right now you can receive an additional 10% all new system orders with free shipping and free returns.  Just use code SAFETY10 at checkout. 

**All opinions expressed here are my own.  I personally bought a Simpli Safe home security system.  They did not pay me for my opinion or time to review their product.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Menu Week of December 22 - 26

I have it so easy this week with only having 7 meals to take care of and 2 of them will be takeout food!  Our other meals will be with relatives or at restaurants.  I might have a hard time going back to cooking full time next week!

Sausage Biscuits

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Baked Spaghetti, Caesar Salad, and Garlic Bread
Chinese Take-Out (our yearly tradition)

Our Weekend Recap

We had a relaxing weekend and got a lot accomplished!  We started our Friday night off  with Bradley playing with a new toy sent to him by some dear friends.  "Bentley" is so cool and this will keep us from having to buy a real dog anytime soon!  Thank you Dana and Jennifer for your sweet gift.  

On Saturday morning, Mike finished the closet in the guest bedroom.  He had to install a shelf and shave off the door because it wouldn't close properly.  We went to the beach that afternoon to get some fresh air.  It was 31 degrees but still gorgeous!  I love the fact that we live 20 minutes from the ocean.  On Saturday night, Mike and Bradley installed a new garbage disposal in the kitchen sink while I watched a movie, Miss Potter.  

Sunday was my favorite day of the weekend! The children sang Joy to the World at church and it was Bradley's first time in a choir to sing on stage.  He was so scared but so cute! I went grocery shopping and Mike finished building Bradley's train table for Christmas.  Let me take a minute to just say how incredible my husband is!  He is a jack of all trades and I'm so very thankful for him.  

I also made some coconut bonbons and vanilla dipped pretzels for the upcoming week.  Let's just say the candy tastes a lot better than it looks.  We ended our weekend with making homemade pizza to go and driving around looking at Christmas lights.  It was a great way to end our weekend!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Genovese Family Christmas Letter 2014

Dear Family & Friends,

Merry Christmas from snowy Maine!  We never dreamed this time last year that we would be living here.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” 

God started making us restless in April.  We weren’t sure what the reason was but we knew He was stirring our hearts for something outside our comfort zone.  Our family started praying and searching for what that next step would be.  Portland, Maine became our heart’s desire and God clearly led the path for us to make the move from SC to Maine in August.  He provided a job for Mike in South Portland, He sold our home in SC within 10 days, He provided moving costs and temporary housing for two months, and He provided us with a house in Gorham, Maine. 

Mike is now working as a branch manager for Scottrade.  This is a new position for him but he loves the challenges and successes of managing a team.  He completed two new licenses for his career and continues to finish his Bachelors degree through Western Governors University.  He has also been very busy doing numerous projects in our new home.  He is quickly realizing that he will be using a snow blower more often than a lawn mower.

Ashley had a busy summer babysitting, getting our house ready to sell, and packing.  She was able to go on a road trip to visit relatives in TN, IL, MD, and CT while heading up to Maine.  Our moving truck was delayed for a week so she was able to clean and paint the house before our belongings arrived.  She is adapting to the new weather here in Maine and learning that boots are more practical than flip flops.

Bradley turned 3 in June and is blowing our minds with his vocabulary.  We now have to talk in code if it’s something we don’t want him to hear.  He is always ready to build something with his Legos and he’s a natural with puzzles.  He loves his new playground at the ocean and his new back yard full of snow.

We continued to be foster parents earlier this year in SC but took a summer break while getting ready for our move to Maine. We don’t know if fostering is something we will continue with in Maine but our hearts are open if that is where God leads. 

As we think about all that has happened within the last 6 months, it’s obvious that Jeremiah 29:11 is truth.  God had plans for us and even though it was something way outside our comfort zone, He provided funds for the move, safety through all the traveling, and hope as we adjust to this new life in Maine.  Our prayer for your family in 2015 is that you will be sensitive to God’s plans for your life.  Be ready, open, and trust that He knows best.

With much love,

Mike, Ashley, & Bradley

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Song For the Day - "Your Grace Still Amazes Me"

We took Bradley to a library event last night where the kids could come in their pajamas, drink hot chocolate, and listen to The Polar Express being read.  We were very excited about this activity and we were going to drive around afterwards to look at Christmas lights.  Bradley ended up misbehaving very badly at the library which resulted in an early bedtime for him last night.  It downright sucked because our entire evening was ruined.  My husband posted this on Facebook last night and it blew me away how he responded to our change of plans for the night. 

Brad had a tough night and earned an early bed time which didn't settle well with him. It hurt me to see him upset but even more so the fact that the discipline robbed us of time together. It was the best thing to do to help him understand consequences but it felt awful. After putting him in bed I went downstairs to the basement to build part of his Christmas present. While working on the present it hit me how God must feel about His children when our sin gets in the way of communicating with Him. If I, an imperfect father, still found a joy in building Brad his Christmas present even while he was in the middle of throwing a fit that was literally hurting me inside, how much more does our Father, God, still love us when when we hurt Him. I can imagine God working behind the scenes in the middle of our every failure already building or orchestrating our next blessing.‪#‎godsgracestillamazesme‬

I'm so thankful that God is teaching us together how to have a real relationship with Him.  Mike's post had me singing this song all morning.  It's such a beautiful song with pure, healing, comforting words.  Please take a moment to listen, worship, and thank God for extending His grace to us over and over again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Broken Pieces

We finished this puzzle last week.  It took us about 10 hours throughout the week to complete.  When I bought Mike the puzzle, I also bought the mat to go underneath the puzzle so it could be transported without breaking.  I went to move the puzzle today and instead of rolling the mat up the way it was designed for, I decided to just carry the puzzle laying in the mat.  And you can see the results....not good.  I seriously just wanted to cry.  I couldn't help but be upset with myself for carrying the puzzle the way I wanted to, and not taking the time to follow the directions.

And of course, God gently reminded me of how stubborn I can be going through life.  I want things done my way. Looking back, if I would have just shown more grace to that person, bridges wouldn't have been burned.  If I had just had more patience, feelings would have never been crushed.  If I had just said no, I would have never found myself in sticky situations.  So many times I'll try to figure it out the hard way and if I had only taken a few extra minutes to ask God for direction, life wouldn't have been so complicated.

Luke 9:23 says Then He said to them all "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me".  It must be a daily commitment to choose love over hate.  To choose patience over frustration.  To choose good over evil.    To choose forgiveness over bitterness.  To choose mercy over revenge.  To choose happiness over depression.  

The beauty of this broken puzzle is that it can easily be fixed.  And so can I.  God isn't finished with me yet.  There will be good days and broken days...but He is with me picking up my broken pieces, continually loving me, and showing me there's so much more to life if I just live His way.

Norwex EnviroCloth Review

Now that our family is on track with eating healthier, it's time to start on another area of our life....household cleaning products.  I was so excited to have a chance to review Norwex Envirocloth!  When I first heard about the cleaning cloth, I wasn't sold on the idea.  What made me a believer in this incredible product was actually USING it!  The first time I wiped my kitchen counter, I was completely sold on the product. 

Norwex focuses on cleaning without chemicals.  Over 80,000 chemicals have been created in the last 50 years.  That's a LOT of chemicals!  An average household will spend $600-$800 a year on chemical products.  Or if you are like me, around $100-$200 thanks to CVS deals and bucks!  

The other day I was cleaning our bathrooms and I was using just an ordinary off-brand bathtub cleaner.  The smell of the chemical was so strong that I instantly had a headache and had to open the windows to air out the house.  That bottle of bathtub cleaner is now in the garbage...which means I just threw away $3.

I was sent the EnviroCloth and the Kids EnviroCloth to try.  These cloths simply lift particles away from the surface and into the cloth.  A regular wet dish towel in the sink can start to stink in just 24 hours.  I just threw a washcloth away last week due to that problem.  That won't happen with Norwex EnviCloth.  The Norwex Microsilver in the cloth goes to work with self-purification properties against mold, fungi, and bacterial odor within 24 hours so it's ready to be used again.  And it's true.  After every use of cleaning, I'll rinse the cloth and hang it over my kitchen spout.  There is no foul smell to the cloth 24, 36, 0r 48 hours later.

While using the EnviroCloth, I never used any cleaners. And I still had fabulous results.  The kitchen counter has seriously never felt so clean.  

Like most kids, Bradley hates having his face washed.  But when using the Kids EnviroCloth, he didn't mind it.  The microfibers are like splitting one single strand of hair 200 times...it's that soft.   Yesterday I asked Bradley to go wash his hands.  He said "can I just use my washcloth?"  Even he can feel the difference in these Norwex cloths!

I love the look of stainless steel but I hate the way every fingerprint can show up on the refrigerator.  Normally I would grab my roll of paper towels and Windex.  Instead I tried just using my damp Norwex Envirocloth.  No words are necessary when you have before and after pictures!

I was blown away with all the products Norwex carries.  I only tried 2 products and fell in love with them.  I can't wait to add more of their great cloths to my collection.....hint for my Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and whatever day you want to give me a gift day!  They have a variety of basic packages available which make great starter kits.

**I was given a sample of Norwex Envirocloths in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Menu Week of December 15-19

Ok, so I made my menu after I went grocery shopping this afternoon.  I DO NOT recommend this ever.  I had no clue what to buy and was just grabbing a hodge podge of items, which totally blew my budget.  UGH!  The only meat that was on sale was beef so we are going to do a couple suppers this week without meat.  

Egg, Ham & Cheese Puffs (from the freezer)
Blueberry Muffins
Homemade Biscuits
Fried Eggs & Whole Wheat Toast

Leftovers x 2
Mac & Cheese & Sliced Apples
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Homemade Cheese Pizza

Cheese Ravioli & Fresh Bread
Mexican Casserole
Rice and Broccoli Casserole
Salisbury Steak over Rice

Our Weekend Recap

The weekend definitely didn't happen the way we had planned.  We were hoping to get some more house projects completed but it just didn't happen.  Bradley was up most of Friday night with wheezing.  A typical cold can easily turn into croup for the little guy.  We've had many emergency room trips because of those late night scary moments when he has trouble breathing.  We took him into the Urgent Care Center on Saturday morning.  He was such a ham and didn't even act sick in the office.  The nurse totally fell for his charm too!

After that we took my car to the dealership to get a state inspection.  In Maine, all cars have to go through an inspection.  Crazy...but it is what it is.  The other thing that is different is you have to have a license plate on both front and back ends of your vehicle.  I went with the chickadee license plate and Mike went with the lobster license plate.  Both of our cars are now officially Mainers.  

Waiting at the car dealership for our car to be inspected.

We had a late lunch at Smiling Hill Farm.  It was our first time eating there at the cafe and the sandwiches were awesome!  Bradley had egg salad, Mike had turkey, and I had a BLT minus the lettuce and tomato.  I know....I shouldn't even call it a BLT but bacon and mayo on fresh white bread is just the way I like it.

We took a quick ride to the ocean so I could show Mike a new spot I found on Friday.  The only problem with it is that the fog horn goes off every 2-3 minuets and it's REALLY loud.  But it's a gorgeous little cove and we even saw one guy scuba diving.  

On Sunday, we went to Texas Roadhouse after church.  Bradley loved cracking the peanuts and ate more peanuts than he did his steak bites.  We made a quick trip to Mike's work to drop off some paperwork and took my car through the car wash.  I had a free coupon and the wash was $17.99!  We went home, crashed, and took a nap.  After a quick cleaning of the house, we ended our night with catching up on some Parenthood episodes.  And I promise to try to start having Mike take some pictures of me next weekend! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Egg, Ham & Cheese Breakfast Puffs

These egg, ham & cheese puffs were a HUGE hit for the boys at breakfast this week.   And they are freezer friendly which is always helpful!  These will be perfect for Mike on those mornings that I want something sweet and he wants something salty.  You can also use switch up the breakfast meat and use bacon or sausage instead of the ham if you prefer.

4 slices of ham
10 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16 oz) container cottage cheese
16 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, saving 1/4 of cheese for sprinkling on top
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles, optional
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Cut ham into small pieces.  Whisk eggs.  Add all ingredients into the egg mixture and whisk until blended.  Pour into greased cupcake tins.  Sprinkle some remaining cheese on top of each puff.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until puffs are golden brown.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another $5 of $10 purchase at Hallmark

I just love these Hallmark coupons rolling in.  Here's another chance to receive $5 off your next purchase of $10 or more at your local Hallmark store.  This coupon is good through December 24th.  Click here to print.

Beef Stew and Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread

We tried two new recipes last night for supper, beef stew and brown butter skillet cornbread.  Both were winners and will be added to our recipe collection!

Beef Stew

3 teaspoons olive oil
1 lb stew meat, visible fat removed
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 cups homemade or store bought beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced (optional)
2 tablespoons corn starch

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in large pot over medium high heat.  Add stew meat and brown on one side for 5 minutes without turning over.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Flip meat over and add 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the chopped onion and garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until onions are golden brown.  Add the remaining ingredients, cover pot with lid, and simmer for 3 hours.  After vegetables and meat are tender, take out 1/2 cup of broth and add 2 tablespoons corn starch.  Whisk until there are no clumps and add broth back to pot.  Simmer for another 30 minutes.

Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread

1 1/2 sticks salted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup ground cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter in cast iron skillet.  Once butter is melted, pour into large mixing bowl.  Whisk in maple syrup.  Then whisk in buttermilk.  Make sure the mixture is cool before whisking in eggs.  Then whisk in cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Pour mixture back into the cast iron skillet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Let cornbread cool in the skillet for 10 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Mud Room Project

I should actually say Mike's Mud Room Project since he did 90% off the work.  All I did was paint and then Mike ended painting another coat after I finished.  Bradley was pretty much the supervisor and told us exactly what we were doing right or doing wrong.  Thanks Mike for all your hard work.  It truly looks fabulous...best project you've ever done!!

The ugly non-functional closet before.

Closet doors removed and Bradley helping measure the space.

Bradley loved "supervising" Mike on this project.

Making sure the boards line up

Almost done... 

Organization makes me so happy!  

Eventually we'll get some baskets to go on the top shelves....I wasn't about to pay $18 a basket for the ones we saw at Lowes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Menu Week of December 8 - 12

I'm trying several new Pinterest recipes this week.  It's supposed to be cold and rainy most of the week so I'm going to try and get some extra baking and meals cooked to put back in the freezer.  I'll let you know if the new recipes are successful!

(I love this recipe because it makes plenty to put back in the freezer)
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Egg & Cheese Puff (using sausage instead of bacon)

Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole
Ham Sandwiches
Hot Turkey & Cheese Melts
Leftovers x 2

Supper with new friends
Cheeseburgers & Baked Beans
Beef Stew
Homemade Pizza

Our Weekend Recap

We had a great weekend!  Our new house is finally beginning to feel like home.  A lot of little projects were accomplished and we had time for relaxing.  My car was fixed, the boys got haircuts, our mudroom is finished (before and after pictures to be posted soon), family room and kitchen floors hand mopped, laundry is all caught up, Christmas letter written, church, puzzles, and movies.  If this is just the start of weekends this Winter, it's going to be a perfect Winter with my family!

Friday night puzzle time - yes, we are that boring family.

Bradley's new way of eating breakfast.  It's been soooo cold here that I don't blame him for wanting to be bundled up all the time.

Hot sandwiches for lunch on Saturday at Amato's before haircuts.

Mike's new snow blower!

I'm pretty sure this makes him an official Mainer now that he owns one of these.

Bradley did his part in shoveling the driveway.

I started working on our Christmas cards.  If you haven't filled out your mailing address through FB, please fill it out here.  It will make sending Christmas cards out so much easier for me this year instead of hunting down addresses.

And Mike trimmed my hair....first time ever.