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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, June 30, 2015

Bean & Cheese Enchiladas with Homemade Refried Beans and Enchilada Sauce!



I love so much about this recipe.  It's cheap, simple, very filling, and you can actually make everything homemade if you want.  I've yet to conquer making homemade tortilla wraps or mozzarella cheese but one day I want to give it a try.

Homemade Refried Beans
1 pound dry pinto beans
1 medium sweet onion, cut in half
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoons chili powder 
black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a crockpot and fill with water.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Remove onion and extra water.  Mash beans with potato masher or fork.  If beans seem dry, you can add some warm milk for extra creaminess.  Feel free to add more cumin or chili powder depending on how spicy you like your beans.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock

Saute diced onion in olive oil.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer in saucepan on low for 10 minutes.

Bean & Cheese Enchiladas
re-fried beans
16 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
one package of whole wheat wraps
 enchilada sauce 

(This recipe makes eight bean & cheese enchiladas)

Spoon refried beans into whole wheat wraps.  Sprinkle with cheese. 

Roll wraps and place in greased baking dish.

Cover with enchilada sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
 

 Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Weekend Recap

Another weekend flew by and I can't believe it was the last weekend in June!  Goodbye June...hello July!  We were very relaxed on Saturday morning with going to some yard sales and then coming home to read books.  Bradley had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon and he had a blast with all the games they played.  

Reading the new books we bought at a yard sale.
 
 My best deal at a yard sale....brand new lamp for $10.  The guest bedroom finally has light when you flip the switch!  There are no ceiling lights in that room but the switch is hooked up to an outlet.  Lamps are crazy expensive so I was waiting to find the right one at a yard sale or consignment store.

 
Baseball with water balloons was Bradley's favorite game at the birthday party!


It was rainy and chilly on Sunday which made perfect baking and cooking weather.  I made a big pot of chili and two batches of cookies.  Bradley played outside in the rain puddles for awhile and then two of his friends came over while their parents went to a wedding.  Those three get along so well and they stayed super busy with play-doh, kinetic sand, the bounce house, coloring and crafts, and we couldn't end the night without popcorn and Frozen.

 We had the perfect rain puddles in our driveway!

 This child loves getting wet.

 Peanut butter cookies!

 I love how play-doh keeps the kids entertained for hours.  It was always my favorite thing to to when I was a kid too!

 We set the bounce house up downstairs since it was raining outside.  This was probably one of the best purchases I've ever made.  It's always been a hit with kids and it's held up well.

 Even Mike got in on the fun of making crafts!

 His creation had us all rolling in laughter!

 All it takes is popcorn and Frozen to make three kids very happy.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Called for Life by Kent & Amber Brantly with David Thomas Book Review

I have anxiously waited a month to receive this book.  It finally came in the mail yesterday and I finished reading it this morning.  I couldn't put it down!  My emotions are all over the place right now after reading and understanding Kent's experience of being infected with Ebola and surviving such a deadly virus.. 

 I still remember reading articles online and watching the news of Kent arriving in Atlanta...the first Ebola patient to arrive in the United States.  I remember the fear, frustration, nervousness, and lack of sympathy I had towards Kent.  I just knew we would have an Ebola outbreak in the United States and it would all be because we allowed him to come infected into the United States.

Called for Life was humbling for me to read.  It convicted me of my faults of not loving my neighbor.  It allowed me to see Kent and Amber as faithful servants of God who remained focused on Him despite their circumstances.

I love how the book goes back and forth from Kent's thoughts to Amber's thoughts so you understand what each one of them are going through.  I was the most emotional reading Amber's story especially when she wrote "It was overwhelming enough living with the possibility that Kent could die without me ever being able to see or touch him again.". 

Reading about Kent's compassion he had on the people of Liberia was humbling.  He showed Jesus to them despite their deathly sickness.  I love this paragraph that he wrote "Jesus healed many people who did not follow Him.  I believe I am called to do the same.  His healing was not predicted on their acceptance of His message.  Jesus healed because He had compassion on people.  And I seek to have that same kind of compassion on my patients.".  I also loved Kent's statement when he knew he might not overcome Ebola.  He says "I know that God can save me.  I know He can.  But even if He doesn't, I don't want to deny Him.  I want to be faithful."

I have a whole new perspective of Kent and Amber Brantly after reading this book.  Called for Life reminds us of the risk, the honor, and the joy to be known when God and others are served without reservation.  This book has opened my eyes to see my need for loving others like Jesus did.  Like Kent and Amber Brantly did.

Called for Life will be on sale July 21st.  You can pre-order your book here.

*Disclosure - I received a complimentary copy of Called for Life from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Barnyard Bedtime Stories at Smiling Hill Farm

We went to our first Barnyard Bedtime Stories at Smiling Hill Farm last night.  Smiling Hill holds Barnyard Bedtime stories every Wednesday night from 6:30 - 7:00 pm.  They have different animals on display each week for the kids to get up close and personal with.  Blankets, lawn chairs, and snacks are encouraged and you can also stop in the Smiling Hill Farm store to purchase ice cream.  They have at least 30 flavors to choose from and  Mississippi Mud is my personal favorite!

We have our ice cream and we are ready to listen to the story!

Having some fun before the story started.

Bradley loved the baby goats!

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bradley's Graduation

I can't even begin to say enough positive things about the Early Childhood Enrichment Program offered at Gorham Arts Alliance.  Bradley has thrived being in the 2 hours/2 days a week program.  He has found the beauty in art, loves music, and has excelled in his letters and numbers in the last 6 months.  I hope he never loses his excitement to learn new things and a love for school.  Thank you Sarah for being a phenomenal teacher and for loving Bradley like he was your own!






Cast Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookie



 I recently had some Melt Organic Buttery Sticks sent to me to try so I wanted to see if I could tell a difference in using those rather than using real butter.  And of course Pinterest led me to the perfect recipe to try out so with a couple of changes made, this chocolate chip caramel cookie turned out perfectly delicious.

Ingredients
1 cup Melt Organic Buttery Sticks, softened
1 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup packed organic brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup homemade caramel

Directions
Mix the softened butter and sugars together until creamed.  Add the vanilla, maple syrup, and eggs and mix until smooth.  Add the flour and baking soda and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  

Using Melt Organic Buttery Sticks, grease the bottom and sides of your cast iron skillet.  Press half of the dough mixture into the cast iron skillet.  Pour 1/2 cup homemade caramel on top.  Cover with remaining cookie dough.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Homemade Caramel Sauce 

Ingredients
4 tablespoons Melt Organic Buttery Stick
1 cup firmly packed organic brown sugar
1/2 cup half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Whisk butter, brown sugar, and half & half into medium saucepan over medium low heat for 5 minutes.  Add vanilla and whisk for another minute.



Friday, June 19, 2015

Father's Day 2015

 From the mouth of Bradley....


What is something Daddy always says to you? 
 "Stay close" 

What makes Daddy happy?
 "When I give him a kiss and hug."


 What makes Daddy sad? 
"When I don't give him a kiss or hug."



How old is Daddy?
"He's 4 like me."
 
 

 What is Daddy really good at?
"Working on stuff"


 

Where does Daddy work?
"In a big town."
 


What do you and Daddy do together?
"I help Daddy clean and work."


What is Daddy's favorite food? 
"hamburger"
 

What is Daddy not very good at?
"He's not good at jumping very high or climbing rocks."

 What do you love about Daddy?
"When he comes home and gives me lollipops."

"Happy Father's Day.  I love you.  Hugs and kisses make you smile."
Love, Bradley

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hallmark Life is Good Collection Review & Giveaway

I'm a huge fan of Hallmark and I'm a huge fan of Life is Good products.  Hallmark has some fantastic Father's Day gifts available from the Life is Good product line.  I was so excited to have a chance to review some of the awesome gifts they have for Father's Day.

Dad Grill Life is Good Towel - this is one awesome hand towel for when Mike is grilling! This towel is super thick and soft and I love the hanger for easy hanging on the grill.  This towel retails at $16.95 and you can purchase it here.

Dad Mower Cast Iron Bottle Opener - okay, this bottle opener is SOLID.  I'm pretty sure you could knock a person out with it.  This bottle opener would be a great gift to go with a 6 pack of glass bottled soda!  The bottle opener retails at $14.95 and you can purchase it here.


Dad Leather Coozie Can Sleeve - Wow!  This is probably the nicest coozie can sleeve Mike will ever own.  It's genuine leather with a nice thick layer of insulation inside to keep his drink super cold.  This coozie can sleeve retails at $19.99 and you can purchase it here.

Coolest Dad Ever Frame - How gorgeous is this picture frame?  This picture frame is made out of beautiful wood and can easily stand alone or can be hung on the wall.  The frame retails at $16.95 and you can purchase it here.

Be sure to check out all the other items in the Life is Good collection that Hallmark has to offer.

And now for the best part.....the Giveaway!  Hallmark is so awesome to provide one of my readers with their own Coolest Dad Ever Frame AND the Dad Mower Cast Iron Bottle Opener.  All you need to do is leave a comment on this post on why your dad or husband is the coolest Dad ever.  This giveaway will end on Saturday, June 13th and winner will be notified by email.  Good luck!!
 

Color in Thank You Cards for Kids by TinyPrints

These cards came at the perfect timing since we just finished up Bradley's birthday!  He is going to have so much fun "writing" thank you notes.  I love how TinyPrints has made these color in thank you cards child friendly which helps encourage the child to write or color thank you notes.


There are 17 different card options to choose from and you can personalize them as little or as much as you want with your child's name and/or photo. Right now, you can receive $20 off an order of $40 or more when using this link.

**Thanks to TinyPrints Insiders for sending me this complimentary color in thank you card pack to try and review!  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

This might just be my new favorite pasta salad recipe!  I have a feeling this is going to become one of our favorite meals this summer.  

Ingredients
One box of large pasta shells
1 package of bacon
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped spring onion
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 packet of Ranch dressing & seasoning mix

Directions
Cook pasta according to box directions. Rinse in cold water and drain.  Fry bacon extra crispy.  Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, and ranch seasoning mix into a small bowl.  Add vegetables and cheese into a large bowl.  Add pasta and bacon.  Add the sour cream & mayonnaise mixture and combine until all the pasta is coated.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Options:  This is a very versatile recipe allowing you to add in your favorite veggies or take out anything you don't like.  You can also change up the pasta by using your favorite shape.   My 4 year old son absolutely loves this recipe and it's a great way to get him to eat some veggies without him realizing it...since he's hit the phase of "I hate vegetables."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bradley's Art Birthday Party

My little baby turned 4 years old on Saturday!  He's been into everything art related lately so it was a must to have an art themed birthday party this year.  I had so much fun planning and prepping for this party and everything turned out beautifully.  Of course, out of all the activities we had, Bradley says his favorite thing about the party was blowing out the candles.  Next year, we'll skip all the party planning and just have candles and cake!

We had the party outside and I'm so thankful for perfect weather!  There was a welcome station with aprons for all the children and crayons in a jar guessing game.  The child guessing the closest amount went home with a package of funky paintbrushes.
 

I loved how perfect the giant art easel turned out.  Mike took two old doors and covered them with art paper.  The kids had a variety of paintbrushes and paint colors to make their own art creation.  My only disappointment was not taking a picture at the end.  They did an awesome job and it looked beautiful!






We had a flubber making station!  There were two kids per container and I pre-measured all the ingredients so making the flubber was super easy for the kids.


 Mike did another awesome job making the pinata!  I bought a clear paint can from the craft store and he made a trap door at the bottom of it.  We taped string to the trap door and the kids each had their own string to pull at the same time for it to drop all the candy.


 
The next activity was exploding sidewalk art.  I pre-made all the bags the night before so the kids just had to add the baking soda bomb, shake the bag, and throw it on the ground.



The birthday cake was just a basic four layer chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.  For the paint dripping affect, I melted the colored frosting just enough for it to easily drip down the side of the cake.  I kept party costs down by just sticking with cake/cupcakes, ice cream, and drinks.  The Hawaiian punch worked out perfectly for this party theme with the four colors.

 

 The party favors are always my favorite to make and I LOVED this year's favors.  Each child took home a Melissa & Doug doodle pad with crayons, stickers, stamps, glitter glue, scissors, and paintbrushes.



 A huge thanks to my friend Melissa for making Bradley's adorable shirt!  
You are amazing, Melissa!!