Convert a Hanging Basket to Holiday Basket

Craft Wednesday

I am no green thumb. ¬†In fact, I’m¬†usually the first one to kill a plant, hard as I try to keep the flowers and plants alive. ¬†I am especially bad and keeping the perennials maintained through the winter so I have pretty flowers and plants in my yard come spring time.

Outside our bedroom door, we have a pretty view of our backyard and the sting of lights set to a timer that we keep on year ’round. ¬†I call them my happy lights. ¬†I love walking back and having the sparkly lights brighten my space. ¬†I usually have a hanging basket in the summer time that miraculously blooms flowers (that I may have to update throughout the season. ¬†You can probably read between the lines there and assume that means replace the dead flowers with new ones).

It becomes an eyesore come wintertime. ¬†With the high hopes that I can’t kill fake plants, I thought this would be the best place to make a holiday arrangement. ¬†With lights, of course!

Here is what you need to collect:

  • Hanging basket or planter
  • Christmas greens, 5-6 pieces, depending on size of planter
  • Other accessories such as berries, pine cones
  • Battery operated lights (I had LED on hand)


First, I removed all the dead leaves and branches from my basket. ¬†As luck would have it, it wasn’t the entire planter! ¬†Then, I pulled any hanging branches towards the middle to give me room to add my faux holiday greens on the sides to create the illusion of bulk.











I used a mixed variety of greenery to give a look of depth.

Once I inserted the stems into the dirt, it was time to fluff the branches. ¬†This really bulked up the look and made the planter look so full. ¬†Plus don’t forget some perennials that I didn’t manage to kill are hibernating in the middle to come to life come spring! ¬†I used this centerpiece to also build upon, so it’s a mix of faux and some really greenery.












See how in this first close up you can see some real leaves from a plant that must be super hardy to live in my planter? ¬†I think it’s a pretty mix. ¬†Spend some time after inserting all the pieces to ¬†look at it from all different angles and make sure you like the way each branch is laying, how the light cords appear, etc. ¬†I’m sure after I took these pictures, I’ve moved some branches or cords around.










So the weather almost didn’t hold out for me this year to get a great photo with the lights all on. ¬†It has turned gray and cold. I tried my best to capture this night photo with my happy lights. ¬†¬†I love¬†to see the colorful basket outside my bedroom sliding doors every time I walk by.


Oven Cleaning

Tip Tuesday – Using at home and natural products to clean your oven

Everyone is getting their kitchen cleaned for the holidays, right!? It’s not just me!? Especially the oven. ¬†And who wants be judged on how their oven looks? ¬†Even though we know the odds of someone walking over and pulling the door open to look at our oven is almost null?

Well, I am still feeling the need to have the oven clean anyway. ¬†And I have a way to clean the oven that doesn’t require running to the store to buy an expensive cleaning product that smells to no end or makes you suffer with breathing in whatever chemicals are in the product. ¬†

Years ago, I used the self cleaning button on my over. ¬†Never again!! ¬†I may have sensitivities, but it drove me out of the house for hours with the biggest headache. ¬†I have no idea what made me react that way, and I don’t plan to spend anytime investigating why.¬†

So I went on the search for safe products.  And sure enough, I found out that I had them right in my home already.  So I put my wireless headphones, turned on the Hallmark Channel and started cleaning.

Would you be surprised to know that all I used was baking soda and a vinegar water solution?

That’s it.  

So on the outside, doesn’t look too scary, right?


But this is what lurks inside…



I quickly gathered my products and tools:

What I used:

I started with sprinkling baking soda on all the surfaces. Then spraying with the cleaning spray.



While that did its little chemical magic, I took a coffee break.


Then I grabbed a little stool and got to work with the scraper.


This tool is the best! ¬†If you don’t have one, follow the links above listed in the bullets. ¬†This scraper gets that baked on mess off with a little elbow grease and a lot of help from the baking soda and vinegar bubbling action. ¬†You will do a lot of wiping off the blade onto paper towels. ¬†Then wiping up the loose bits with a sponge. ¬†But soon, very soon, you will see beautiful results!


It took a couple of passes, but eventually, I got up all the baked on bits!

I did the same for the inside.



So clean!!  I know, if you are looking super duper close, it will look like I left behind streaks.  Unfortunately, those streaks are on the INSIDE of the glass.  After a short Google & Pinterest search and the mention of screwdrivers or shoving a coat hanger with a rag attached up in between the windows, I declared this as a victory and put out the thought of taking apart my oven door!

So, about this homemade citrus vinegar and water solution?

Here is how I prepare my solution:


Save cleaned orange peels and place in large glass jar. ¬†Add vinegar to cover orange peels. ¬†Add a sprig of herb like rosemary if you prefer (this was actually the first time I did. ¬†It’s just for the smell). ¬†Seal tight with the lid and place on shelf for about 2 weeks. Solution will darken in color as it absorbs the citrus.

To make your solution for a spray bottle, I use a funnel and add 1 part water : 1 part vinegar solution.











Oh, and the punch line to all of this? We aren’t even using the oven for Christmas Dinner! My husband will be smoking a bone in pork roast. But my oven will look pretty!

Beer Advent Calendar – 12 Beers of Christmas

We all have that special someone that just loves counting down the days until Christmas, right? ¬†Well, my big guy (husband) isn’t much into chocolate. ¬†But he loves his beer! ¬†He does so many special things for me through out the year and the season, that I decided he needed some extra cheer in celebrating the season. ¬†He puts up the tree and all the lights, he gets a beer advent calendar. ¬†Sounds like a good deal to me.

Here is how I did it, and how you can do it to get ready by December 13th, so your favorite someone can start celebrating ’12 Beers of Christmas’.

Gather these materials:

  • 12 Beers
  • Recycled wine box (with partitions still in box)
  • Wrapping paper
  • Ribbon
  • Box knife
  • Packing tape
  • Card stock paper
  • Sharpie or number stickers

First, start collecting different types of bottles of beer. ¬†Think local, think seasonal and think international! This is the basic expense of the project.¬†It’s fun to mix up the 12 beer selection with cans, 12 oz bottles and some 22 oz bottles. Look for the stores that sell single bottles. ¬†And careful about taking one from a six pack. ¬†I was informed at one store that the price would be hefty to break up a six pack. ¬†So be thrifty. ¬†Hit your local specialty grocery stores or bottle shops/tap houses for great selections. ¬†And it’s OK if you sneak one that just happens to be your preference. ¬†I won’t tell! (Just like you won’t tell that I slipped in a ‘Not Your Father’s¬†Rootbeer‘ – have you tried this with ice cream for a float – oh my!).

Next, you need a sturdy box already partitioned into 12 slots. ¬†I asked while at Trader Joe’s if their boxes of two buck Chuck (well, now $3.99) were available and they asked me how many I wanted and were happy to send me on my way with a few; free of charge.



I found my paper at Hobby Lobby. ¬†Any holiday paper will do, but I liked the simplicity of this butcher paper look. ¬†It seemed a little more masculine! But I couldn’t resist a simple gold sparkly tulle to wrap around the box!

After you get the box home, you will need to use a box knife and trim up the box to accommodate your biggest bottle. ¬†Next, you will need to reinforce the individual slots to the cardboard sides. ¬†Look at the provided space divider and pull it forward so it is more centered as it’s laying down, but more importantly so it lines up so when you cover each beer slot, you have room to tape the square over and have it extend past the bottle.



Use packing tape to go through all 12 slots and tape corners and edges to allow for the weight of the beer while the box lays on it’s side. ¬†Remember, this box is used to hold upright bottles!

Now you can measure the square covering for the 12 days.  Measure twice, cut once (my dad would be proud of this one).

numbers-ready put-on-numbers

Carefully attach each square with tape so it is all lined up (I get a little OCD on this.  Sometimes I have to let it go). I did this by laying a large piece of packing tape across the back, folding it and then placing it centered in the square.


Now you are ready to fill it with your beer!  How fun.

Creamy Pesto Pasta Chicken Bake

Creamy Pesto Pasta Chicken Bake is a CROWD PLEASER!  I make this dish for so many reasons: for my tennis post-match parties, for making batches to put in the freezer when a family needs a meal delivered, or just to have some freezer ready meals for upcoming busy weeks. This recipe will make 2 full meals for a family of 4. (This is just one of the two meals this recipe makes!).

I love this dish as it can be altered in so many ways to accommodate those with special dietary needs or preferences. ¬†Gluten free? ¬†Replace the pasta with noodles such as Trade Joe’s Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli¬†, Trade Joe’s Brown Rice¬†Fusilli¬†or any of your personal favorite GF noodles. ¬†Vegetarian? ¬†Simple, don’t add the chicken or replace it with your protein rich substitute. ¬†Intolerance to store bought taste of Alfredo Sauce? ¬†I’ve got you covered on that with this simple and fast homemade Alfredo sauce.

Serving a large crowd?  Mix everything together, place in large crockpot, place on low/warm setting until ready to serve at your party.

Putting the Dish Together

Gather noodles, prepared chicken cubes, cheese, spinach, diced tomatoes, sauces (Alfredo and pesto), and milk.  I guess if this were a fancy cooking show, this would be your Mise en place!

While your noodles are cooking (and possibly while you are preparing your chicken and homemade Alfredo sauce!), start mixing all the other ingredients in a large bowl or stock pot.  Once noodles are drained, add to the mixture. Mix until noodles and chicken are well coated.


When you add chicken and noodles and need to start mixing, you need a seriously large bowl so you can mix without overturning your meal on the counter!

Here is my beloved bowl that was the largest from a Costco set.  I placed a large drinking glass to show you the size of the bowl.  Unfortunately, after this photo, my bowl tumbled off the counter as it was drying and is no longer with me.

I use a large stock pot to mix everything in with success!


Here is an alternate way I portioned out my meals. ¬†2 larger pans for my family and a gift for a family of ours. ¬†My good friend was going back to work full time after working from home with her two young kids. ¬†I thought this would be a nice “first day back to work” meal that even dad could pop in the oven for their weeknight family meal. ¬†The smaller is a bread loaf that I made for my neighbor. ¬†We just take great care of each other and this was my gesture of saying thanks and I’m grateful for her. Mix and match pans to accommodate your meals.


This pan served my family of 4, and there was even left overs for lunches the next day.


Creamy Pesto Pasta Chicken Bake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A crowd pleasing casserole.



1 package penne or fusilli noodles Cooked and cubed Family Style packaged Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts or one Rotisserie chicken 4 cups Shredded Italian Cheese 1 can Fire Roasted Diced tomatoes 3 cups baby spinach, chopped 2 cups Alfredo Sauce (try this homemade) 1 cup pesto sauce 3/4 cup milk 1/4 Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top


  1. Cook noodles according to directions.
  2. If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, prepare chicken with seasonings and cook through. Once cooled, cube into bite sizes. If using store bought Rotisserie, begin trimming meat and cutting into bite sizes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a very large bowl or stock pot (not on burner), start adding the cheese, diced tomatoes, spinach, Alfredo, pesto sauce and milk.
  4. Once chicken and noodles are cooked, add to mixture. Mix to coat chicken and noodles.At this time decide how to portion out the meals. This mixture will fill two 8 x 8 baking dishes (foil is perfect for freezing).
  5. If baking, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350¬į for 35- 40 minutes.
  6. If freezing, sprinkle with cheese, cover in foil and freeze up to 3 months.
  7. TO USE FROM FROZEN: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking. Keep covered and bake for 45 – 50 minutes for 350¬į.

Drunken Pumpkin Pie Cocktail ~ Four Ways!

It’s Thirsty Thursday!

A few years ago while at the liquor store – because here in the OR, hard liquor is only sold in liquor stores¬†– don’t ask… Anyway, we came across this pumpkin liqueur that we had to try. ¬†It’s like a preloaded egg nog drink, just pumpkinny for the fall holidays when you’re not quite ho ho ho ready.

pumpkin-pie-cocktailIt’s a thicker sipping drink, ¬†so I thought what¬†of different ways of enjoying this festive fall cocktails. ¬†It is 12.5% alcohol, so go easy. ¬†It’s also a reason why I came up with a few different variations. You can enjoy this¬†4 ways! On with making your choice of The Drunken Pumpkin…options

 1.  On the Rocks!

This is just the straight out of the bottle style.  Enjoy the full flavor of this liqueur!

Fill a low ball glass with ice, shake bottle of liqueur and pour. Top with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.

2.  With Vanilla Vodka

OK, this is punched up with a kick!  Go easy on this one.

Fill a low ball glass with ice.  Shake bottle and pour 1/3 cup Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur into glass.  Add  1 shot of Vanilla Vodka. Top with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.

3. With Cream Soda

This will add a touch of vanilla sweetness that will blend with the richness of the liqueur.

Fill a low ball glass with ice. ¬†Add 1/4 cup of Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur. ¬†Add 2 ounces of Cream Soda. ¬†I really enjoy this Virgil’s. ¬†No preservatives and no corn syrup! Top with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.

4. With Vanilla Iced Coffee

Of course coffee and pumpkin go together, right?

Fill a low ball glass with ice.  Add 1/4 cup Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur.  Add 2-3 ounces of any iced coffee, flavored if you prefer.  Top with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.


Cheers, everyone!

Drunken Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

A rich and creamy fall or winter cocktail.



Pumpkin Pie cream Liqueur (Such as Fulton’s Harvest)
Vanilla Vodka
Whipped Cream
Nutmeg or Pumpkin Pie Spice


  1. Add ice to a low ball glass.
  2. Add Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur.
  3. Float an ounce of vanilla vodka.
  4. Top with whipped cream.
  5. Sprinkle with nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice.

Easy does it! The liqueur is already 12.5% alcohol. And we are adding a shot of vodka here. Drink safely!

Erasable Menu Frame Craft

Custom Weekly Menu Frame

How often do you hear, “Mom! ¬†What’s for dinner?”. ¬†Daily? ¬†Here is fun craft you can do (even with the kids!!) to display your weekly menu. ¬†And potentially not here those famous words. ¬†Now, the kids know where to look. ¬†Or if they forget and ask, I just point!

Grab these items, or add them to your next shopping list!

  • 5 x 7 Frame
  • Craft paper – one background, one solid color
  • Number stickers (or a sharpie if you like your handwriting!)
  • Round large hole punch (an alternate would be to just cut a square)
  • Adhesive squares or glue stick
  • Scissors or paper trimmer
  • Bistro Pen (it will wipe easily from the glass)

Disassemble frame.  Use backing to use as your template as the size to cut your background paper.  Use a steady hand and scissors or use a paper trimmer.  Once paper is cut, place in frame to make sure it fits properly.  Keep it inside frame as template.

Gather your materials

Punch out the circles with solid paper (or cut squares). ¬†Apply stickers or hand write M-T-W-T-F. Now cut your solid paper slightly smaller in width as your “day of the week” circle (or square). ¬† ¬†Line this up on top of the glass on the frame. ¬†Play around with the layout and trim as needed. ¬†Don’t forget to leave room at the top for your Family Menu title!


Once your layout looks all peachy keen, remove the glass, but keep the background paper still in frame (you may need to put the glass behind the paper then attach the back so the paper stays tight with the frame or you might not get your solid papers lined up properly.  Now, start applying the solid weekly strips to background paper.

Now for the title. ¬†I have used Microsoft Publisher for years and am very comfortable with the formatting. ¬†Use any publication at your fingertips! ¬†I love fonts (I mean, I even have a board on Pinterest called ‘font freak’ if that tells you anything!). ¬†Play around with a few that are your style. A few I like are or ¬† ¬†I also print out a few in different sizes so I have one sheet with 3-4 variations. ¬†That way, when I go to look for the one that fits, I am only printing once and I’m pretty guaranteed one is a winner! ¬†No back and forth to the computer resizing and printing and cutting…

Find fonts the compliment each other for the Menu title

Find fonts the compliment each other for the Menu title

Apply the title (left side, centered, right side, oh the choices!) and assemble the frame. ¬†Your done! ¬†I like to put my left over paper in a paper tote labeled ‘Scrap Paper’ because I always seem to find projects where I just need a little bit of colored paper.

One last option is to purchase a book or plate stand. ¬†This adds another layer of fun and adds to your decor. ¬†Plus, it gives you something to hide the bistro pen behind ūüėČ



Grab that Bistro pen and plan away!  Happy meal planning!




Homemade Verde Enchilada Sauce

My family loves ‘Taco Tuesday’. ¬†We use this term loosely around here and it’s safe to assume it just means it’s anything Mexican food night! ¬†One of our favorite dishes is Verde Enchiladas. For years I would throw a can of green enchilada sauce into the grocery cart and call it good.

In the recent year, I’ve been really challenging myself to look closer into labels and ingredients. ¬†Then comparing those to recipes and asking myself what it would take to make the same product at home. ¬†My mind has been blown. ¬†So much simpler, so much easier, so much healthier. ¬†And oh so much more rewarding.

Off to the store I went with a list of ingredients I collected from a variety of different recipes. ¬†First on the list was a tomatillo. ¬†First item on my agenda when I entered the produce department was to seek out the produce guy and quietly ask “excuse me, I’m looking for a tomatillo?” ¬†He happily took me over to the green section of the department by peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. ¬†Nestled in there were these little foreign looking objects that look like they are covered in… paper leaves?

Behold...the tomatillo

Behold…the tomatillo


I needed between a pound and a pound and a half. ¬†After a few times making this, I know 14-16 will get the job done. ¬†Off they go into my basket. Luckily these guys are nestled by the peppers, so I pick a peck of peppers…just mostly the mild ones. ¬†I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to heat in my food, so I stick to the mild peppers. ¬†You can make this as mild or as spicy as you like. ¬†I like the flavors of Anaheim, poblano and pick smaller jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Then I find a nice bunch of organic cilantro if my plant at home isn’t cooperating. ¬†(Ok, still working on that green thumb of mine). ¬†The rest, I usually have in good supply at home: garlic, cumin and chicken stock.

Now your back at home and ready to start making your sauce!

Peel away all the husks and you’re left with a little sticky green looking tomato! ¬†Wash those up and chop them in half.

Remove stem and innards of remaining peppers. ¬†Play around with a variety of peppers according to what’s in season and your heat level preference. ¬†I’m pretty low on the heat level scale, so I gravitate to the milder peppers, but if you like heat go for the peppers with heat. ¬†Just don’t invite me for dinner!

Place all the peppers and tomatillos on a oiled baking sheet. ¬†Toss in your peeled garlic. ¬†(I like to give my garlic a good crack with the flat edge of my knife to start to release it’s awesome aroma).


Roast for 20-30 minutes until skin is wrinkled and slightly charred.  An alternate is to broil them on low for the last 10 minutes.  Remove and cool.

Now you’re¬†ready to make this an official sauce! ¬†Place contents of baking pan into a blender, Vitamix or food processor. ¬†Add 1/4 cup cilantro and 1/2 TBSP cumin. ¬†Add 1/2 – 2 cups chicken stock. ¬†Blend until smooth.


This goes great in a pan of chicken or pork enchiladas.  Keep following me and watch out for an upcoming post (my Recipe/menu Monday) for a quick and easy weekday version of Skillet Enchiladas with Verde Enchilada Sauce!

Homemade Verde Sauce

A delicious homemade version of your favorite green enchilada sauce.



  • 1 1/2 pound tomatillos
  • 1-2 Anaheim or poblano peppers (both fairly mild)
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers (medium to hot, depending on age. If you like heat, look for more reddish peppers and white lines)
  • 1-2 Serrano peppers (medium to hot)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 TBSP cumin
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock


  1. Preheat oven to 350¬į.
  2. Remove husks from tomatillos. Rinse and cut in half.
  3. Cut and remove stems and innards of all other peppers.
  4. Place tomatillos and peppers on baking sheet skin side up. Drizzle sheet with oil.
  5. Peel garlic and add to baking sheet.
  6. Roast for 20-30 minutes until skin is wrinkled and slightly charred. An alternate is to broil them on low for the last 10 minutes.
  7. Remove and let cool.
  8. Add peppers and garlic to food processor, blender or Vitamix.
  9. Add cilantro, cumin and chicken stock. Add salt and pepper according to taste based on how salted your stock is.
  10. Blend until well mixed.