Homemade Vanilla Cinnamon Coffee Scent for Your Home

OH. MY. COFFEE.

Just the word itself brings me pure and utter happiness. Add in the subtle scent of baked goods wafting through my house all day on top of that? Fuhgeddaboutit. I’m done for.

But to actually have coffee and baked goods sitting around my house all day? Also, fuhgeddaboutit.

So I found a compromise: a vanilla cinnamon coffee scent blend to make the house smell heavenly – without any ill effects to the butt and thigh region. An added bonus? You can fool your guests into thinking you’ve been slaving away with the hand mixer all day.

do not, however, take any responsibility for the foul attitudes that may ensue once it is discovered that there are actually no yummy treats to be eaten.

Ready to make your own? You will need:

1 ceramic mug

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp ground coffee

and just in case you need a visual…

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IMG_20131107_095540

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Mix the vanilla extract, water, cinnamon and coffee in the mug and place the mug-of-goodness on a cookie sheet. Pop the mug and cookie sheet in the oven. After approximately 10-15 minutes you should start to smell the most heavenly scent seeping from your kitchen. You can continue to heat the scent in the oven for up to 1.5 hours.

And if you are having any doubts, let’s just say a certain 3 year old of mine has come to me twice in the past 20 minutes to ask me “when the cookies will be done”.  If it can fool my little sweet-toothed girl, it will fool anybody!

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Flatter Meat Means More Space! Wait… WHAT?

Photo courtesy of lunchinabox.net

Photo courtesy of lunchinabox.net

Okay, so this isn’t going to be mind-blowing. But for those of you who are like me and purchase large quantities of meat to freeze when it’s on sale, this little tidbit might help you out.

Confession: I have been a 30 Day Shopper for quite some time now. What is that? Well, it means I go grocery shopping in 3 different stores for 30 days worth of meals all in ONE day.

That’s just the shopping part. I then have to haul it all inside of the house and put it away. I’m honestly not sure which part I hate most.

Yes I do, all of it.

I’m just not a shopper – but I know a good deal when I see one. And I usually freeze it.

When it comes to buying meat, I’m no fool. I know that the savings is in buying it at a decent sale price in the massive “big-buy” type packaging and breaking it up myself at home.

Over time, though, and with very limited freezer space, I came to hate this method. I was literally shoving ziploc bags of meat into my freezer with a ram bar. Or my shoulder, whatever.

Regardless, my freezer looked like it was on crack and about to vomit out a bag of ground beef at any moment. Ever have a bag of rock hard chicken thighs fall on your toe? Exactly.

And then, AHA! I had my usual “duh” moment. Treat the freezer like a puzzle. Just like my OCD loving husband does when we’re packing a month’s worth of crap into the van for a weekend getaway.

Flatten the meat!

No, no, easy girl. Don’t actually pound it to death. Just lay it flat when piling it into your freezer bags. Or if it’s something you can easily pat down like ground beef, turkey or chicken, flatten it so that it looks like a square or rectangle.

No bulging clumpy bags of meat in my fridge ever again.

flatten meat hands

The best part is that once the meat freezes, you can then put the bags in bins in your freezer upright and fit all sorts of things in there! FYI: bins are great for flat meat, otherwise some of them slip through the shelf cracks. That’s a whole other set of problems…

So, again, not mind-blowing or life-altering stuff here folks. But if you’re a Mega Meat Freezer like myself, you will appreciate this little tip.

Happy Meat Flattening!

Refrigerator Organization Drawers for the Kids

This is NOT my fridge. But it could have been...

This is NOT my fridge. But it could have been…

With a family of 5, my refrigerator is the stuff of nightmares.

We have 5 sets of hands at any given point of the day rummaging through drawers and shelves. Most things get shoved to the back and die a moldy death. Other things get smashed. A few times we’ve even had things topple out and crash onto the floor.

After much trial and error, I realized the problem: All children (and some husbands) suffer from We-have-NOTHING-to-eat-itus.

Even when I’ve just spent $400 at the grocery store that very same morning. And where might this particular disease stem from? From not looking 6 inches past their own noses when they open the fridge door.

So I needed a plan of attack. One that didn’t require me having to run to the fridge every time one of my offspring proclaimed we were food-less so that I could prove them wrong.

My solution? This beauty:

sterilite drawers

This wonderful 3 drawer plastic lifesaver is… well… just that, a lifesaver.

I purchased my drawer unit by Sterilite from Walmart for just over $5 but these handy dandy things are available for purchase in most any similar type stores in your area. (Just make sure you measure, measure, measure before you purchase one of your own to make sure it fits!)

Wondering what I did with this to make it such a lifesaver? I became a momentary genius and stuck all of the kids go-to foods and snacks in each drawer. And then I labeled each drawer. And then holy light poured from my refrigerator.

Using sticky white labels usually made for file folders, I made a label for:

  • yogurt tubes and string cheese
  • applesauce and pudding cups
  • snack sized bags of carrot sticks, berries or any other snack-y type thing that I could bag myself

Feel free to make whatever labels suit your family’s snack preferences, or don’t label at all. You know their grubby little hands will go sifting through all the drawers every time anyway. Mine do. And sometimes my kids do too…

So now, when my kids are hungry for the 33rd time, they know that they can go to their drawers o’ plenty and pick from a vast array of nutritious snacks. It’s all there. In the drawers. The beautiful, wonderful, labeled, leave-mom-alone-I-can-do-it-by-myself drawers.

I’m currently contemplating putting in a second drawer unit for my husband… will post more on that later if he doesn’t divorce me because of it.

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

brownies with candy

Photo courtesy of Allrecipes.com

Yes, I realize it’s only a few days after Halloween… but I’m already sick to death of fighting about candy.

I can no longer fight with myself OR the kids and their incessant requests for “One more piece”. Let’s not even mention finding hidden empty wrappers in their rooms (or mine?).

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun a tad, but when it comes to Halloween candy: I’m OVER it.

I just can’t bring myself to throw it away though… after all, it is chocolate.

If you’re in the same boat, don’t fret. There’s hope yet. You can make Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies!

A pan of these chocolate fudgy treats will bring anyone to their knees! Want to know how to make your own?

You’ll need:

1 box of brownie mix (any brand will do)

A rather large pile of any and all chocolate related Halloween candy that you can steal away from the kids – chopped into smallish sized pieces

A large cookie sheet or foil

A treadmill for after you eat the entire pan…  Kidding!

How to:

Assemble and bake the brownie mix according to the package. When the brownies are finished baking, pull them out of the oven and immediately distribute all of the chopped up candy bars, etc. on top of them. Once the candy is on, quickly put the cookie sheet over the top of the pan to seal in the heat from the just baked brownies. If you do not have a cookie sheet, use a double layer of foil and seal tightly. Do NOT put the pan back into the oven. Turn the oven off. I repeat, turn. it. off.

Let the brownies sit on the counter covered for at least 15-20 minutes until the candy has completely melted. Take the cookie sheet/foil off the pan and with a knife, gently swirl the melted gooey goodness all over the brownies to create a sort of candy “icing”.

You are then left with two choices: Let them cool like a wuss… or devour them in their pure and perfect warmness state. I vote for the latter!

Pineapple Banana Smoothie

pineapple-orange-banana-smoothieSometimes with the colder weather marching in, it’s nice to have a little reminder of the summer days left behind.

And yeah, it might also be nice to get in an extra serving or two of fruits and veggies when you’ve eaten nothing but leftover Halloween candy all day.

Either way, a pineapple banana smoothie may be just what you need to bring back warm memories and whittle your waist! Oh, and guess what? It has spinach in it! Even better? Your kids will never know! This pineapple banana smoothie might even become a lifesaver for those wonderful mornings when no one can get their crap together and you need breakfast on the go. Lord knows we can use all the help we can get in this house!

I used my new Ninja Kitchen System to whip this tangy drink up, but you can also use a traditional household blender as well.

Pineapple Banana Smoothie – with spinach

1 ripe peeled banana

1 cup fresh pineapple

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 container banana or vanilla flavored yogurt

8 – 10 ice cubes

Throw everything into the blender and whip it, whip it good!

Once you have a smooth consistency, pour in a cup, add a straw and enjoy! Oh, and give some to your kids – I GUESS.

Tip: add a little more OJ or a few extra ice cubes depending on your thickness preference.

A Thanksgiving “Things I’m Thankful For” Tablecloth

thankful message

When you have young kids, sometimes the best holiday decorations are the ones that include their involvement in creating them. This can also be quite fun for the rest of the family too!

For Thanksgiving in particular, a great deal of time is usually dedicated to prep, cooking, serving and entertaining guests. This usually results in any type of elaborate table decorating getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list rather quickly.

So why not create a personalized tablecloth of your own that will not only spruce up your table, but also get your family involved and allow you to still spend most of your time doing the most important chore of the day: basting!

To get started, you will need:

1 plain white cotton fabric tablecloth – shape and size to fit your style table

1 plastic disposable tablecloth of similar shape and size

Tape that will not harm your table’s finish (masking, painters)

1 pack of Sharpie Stained Brush Tip Fabric Markers (can be purchased on Amazon, Staples, Walmart, etc.) or any other fabric markers that do not wash off of cotton fabric

How to:

1. Before setting your table for the big turkey dinner, lay the plastic tablecloth down, ensuring that it covers the entire surface of the table.

2. Tape the plastic tablecloth to various spots underneath of the table to make sure that it does not slip or move off of the table – this step is very important as you do not want the fabric markers to bleed through the fabric tablecloth that will be laid over it and ruin your tabletop!

3. Lay the fabric tablecloth over the plastic.

4. Using the fabric markers, write a note or saying of your choosing in the middle of the fabric tablecloth. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but I suppose you could use stencils if you really wanted to.

Some examples of what you could write:

thankful tablecloth 2 jpeg

thankful tablecloth crop jpeg

Whatever fits your family best. You could even freehand a few turkeys or something else Thanksgiving related if you’re feeling really adventurous and artistic.

5. Help your children to use the fabric markers to write a “I’m thankful for” message directly on the tablecloth. Encourage them to draw a small picture, trace their hand and make a hand-turkey, sign their name and also put their age or the year next to it. Make sure it’s not too big, you want to save room for other thankful messages for many Thanksgiving dinners to come! If you have guests joining you, ask them to write a message as well. How fun will it be to look back and see all of the friends and family who celebrated with you over the years. Keep adding new messages every year and watch your white canvas turn into a real work of (meaningful) art.

Be sure to follow all washing instructions on the fabric markers package when cleaning your tablecloth. Most just ask that you wash in cold water and hang to dry.

So there you have it! Your very own personalized Thanksgiving table decoration that you can continue to add to and enjoy!

Creating a Polar Express Adventure Night

polar express 1

The holidays are such a great time of year to create memories and participate in family traditions. In our home, one of our favorite things to do is “Polar Express” night, based off of the movie The Polar Express. The kids go absolutely crazy for it, squealing and jumping up and down at the mere mention of it’s name.

Of course, with 3 kids my motto is always to have fun but to keep it simple. So with that in mind, I came up with a few steps to make the evening of our Polar Express adventure memorable.

Print a train “ticket” and bell tags

You can find these free Polar Express tickets and bell tag printables HERE on the The Crafting Chicks website. It may seem like a cumbersome step, but trust me, these DO matter!

sm-polar-express-photos-copy

Make some silver “sleigh” bells

I purchased a fairly decent bag at the Dollar Store, but you can also purchase them from any local craft place. Be sure to have one per child to avoid a big fight! Print and cut out a bell tag from your free printable sheet (link above) for each bell and attach it with a piece of string or ribbon. Hang the bells with tags on your Christmas tree or have them somewhere handy for later in the evening. If you can manage this without the kids knowing they exist, even better!

silver bellsleigh bell

Snacks for the “train” ride

Prepare a snack and hot cocoa for the “train” ride. Our kiddos are big time popcorn eaters so I usually pop a bag, mix in some red and green m&m’s and any other goodies I’ve got handy, and then brew up a batch of hot chocolate. After all, it’s not the Polar Express without the famous hot choc-o-late!

Photo courtesy of Pams Party & Practical Tips

 

Photo courtesy of Pams Party & Practical Tips

Take a ride on the Polar Express!

After the snacks and cocoa are ready, have the kids line up at the car with their tickets so that they can board the train (whatever make and model yours might be!). If you own a hole puncher, pull it out to punch each ticket. No need to spell out any crazy words like the conductor in the movie. That’s just crazy-pinterest-mama type stuff!! A punch or three will do ya and keep your tiny tots from freezing before they load in. Collect their tickets and hand out the refreshments.

believe ticket

Tour the local Christmas light displays

Your Polar Express ride can be through your neighborhood, a local Christmas light display event or anywhere that you may find decorated homes, yards or buildings. Turn the holiday music up, sip your cocoa and mosey through town while taking in the sights.

christmas lights house 2 christmas lights house

A movie viewing and special bell surprise

When you return home from your “train” ride, head into the house and snuggle down to watch The Polar Express movie. Once it ends (or earlier, if you think you might have a few sleepyheads on your hands), pass out the sleigh bells you’ve made and encourage them to ring the bell. Important: You MUST NOT let on that you can hear it ringing. If you are a Polar Express newbie, make sure you Google the Polar Express sleigh bell so you know what you’re up against!

santa PE scene PE boy with bell

So there you have it, a wonderful evening full of fun, yummy treats and a truly terrific Christmas movie – and most importantly, a night that your children will look forward to each and every holiday season!

Redesigned By M

DIY-er who loves to redesign, repurpose, and reorganize just about everything.

Nicole Chamberlin

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