Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Picture Memories

Over the years I have really whittled down my shopping list.  I have realized that buying a gift for everyone in my amazingly large family is completely unnecessary!  My sisters and I won't even be buying for one another or each others children this year.  It just gets to be too much.  With furlough days, gas prices and other economic downfalls we all could use a little break.

I do however like to do little things for the people who have really helped me or made a difference in my year.  We all have that handful of family, friends and neighbors who we just couldn't live without...the people who put the skip in your step and the smile on your face during a bad day.  For those people and others I have decided to do a handmade Christmas.  From now until Christmas I will be giving you ideas that are inexpensive and yet thoughtful.

My first gift idea is one that you can do online.  It isn't completely handmade but it is VERY personal and something to be treasured forever!  At the photo shop of they have so many wonderful things that you can make with pictures that you download onto their site.  I think it would be so great to make a book with pictures of your families entire year together.  Trips you have taken, special events, camping, etc.  You can even add a few lines under pictures to remember a funny thing that happened or just an over cap of the day.

For about $35.00 you can have a gift for that special person on your gift giving list.  It is a gift that will touch their hearts and let them remember the year and all of the wonderful memories you have had as a family.  A preservation of your fun year together...I can't think of anything better. Sweet gifting-J

More handmade ideas to follow.  Let the holiday season begin.  Sweet gifts-J

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

Well the Christmas season has officially begun.  Black Friday is over, shopping is nearly finished, my house is decorated (except for the tree) and even my Christmas card picture has been picked...

You didn't think we would forget Jack did you??

I always love this time of year, the baking...the crafting...the wrapping...the lights...the smell of pine...the shopping and the compassion for others.  It is a wonderful time of year when people seem to think about others before themselves.  

I'm excited because I will be having two different series going on during the month of December.  The first is Handmade Christmas...ideas for making inexpensive and yet adorable gifts for those on your list.  The Second is a Christmas Cookie series, where I will be giving you recipes for my favorite Christmas cookies of all time.

Well I had better go...I have a lot of other posts to get busy on!  Please remember to enter my giveaway for a ticket to Ladies Night...Christmas, Crafts and Company.   Let Christmas season begin...Sweet December (almost)-J

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Madness

So I am already off to Klamath Falls with my mom, sister and bestest friend.  We left at 5:00 a.m. this morning...yes you read that correct...5 a.m.!  It's Black Friday you have to be over there in time to get a good deal or two.  We usually just take it all in with the attitude that there are going to be huge lines, cat fights and impatient people.  My motto on this day is to grin and shop until you are either out of money or can't take it anymore (we will see which comes first). 

My mom, sister and I have been doing this for years with a lot of resistance from my father.  There have been years when we are pushing snow with the front bumper on the way over and only have enough room for the three of us on the way back.  My dad can never quite figure out how we get everything packed in there but I tell you if there is a will (and a deal) there is a way.  We can buy almost anything and figure out how to get it home (just ask my daddio).

This year I am excited because my good friend is joining us in the madness.  I'm not sure of where we will put her or her purchases but we don't think about that until later.  It's that kind of day.  So for all of you smart readers who have decided to forgo the Black Friday craziness and stay home instead...good for you.  For the rest of you braving the insane shopping day with me...I will wave as I sprint by with cart in hand, yelling for people to get out my way and hoping for the last deal in Walmart (I'm crazy like that...just kidding).

Be sure to tune in the next few weeks because I have a new series coming.  Happy Black Friday!!! Sweet deals-J

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Being Thankful today and everyday

So today is the BIG day!  Can't you smell the aroma of pumpkin pie, turkey and stuffing billowing from the kitchen?  Today is a day when your taste buds get a chance to dance with so many yummy tastes and your nose is on sweet smell overload.  Good gracious Thanksgiving is a culinary wonder I love it so much!

My 14 days of Thankfulness are sadly ending but I wanted to take a moment to remember that there are so many things to be thankful for each and everyday.  Life can be filled with struggles but there is always something to be thankful for!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!  Sweet Thanks-J

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giveaway-Ladies Night Ticket

I am a proud mama of a 6th grader and anyone who lives where I do knows that it is the year of FUNDRAISING (sigh)!!  The parents and teachers (thank you) work hard all year doing handfuls of different projects to raise enough money to send our sweet babies on a four day adventure throughout Oregon.  We have had a chocolate sale, sold raffle tickets, did concessions at a soccer tournament, sold planners, planned a Harvest Carnival and had many meetings...all in the name of love for our children!  They are worth it and so is the trip!!

So our next fundraiser is kind of my baby...and because this blog is now my baby as well I decided that one of my lucky readers (you have to live in Lakeview or be willing to travel here to win...sorry) will get a free ticket to...Ladies Night...Christmas, Crafts and Company from 6:30-8:30 on Wednesday December 7th at the Gathering Place!!!  All proceeds will benefit the 6th grade field trip in the spring which makes it all even cooler.

What are you going to win?  Well two fun-filled hours of amazing food and desserts to start.  There will also be a Hot Cocoa Bar where you can let your chocolate imagination run wild!  Sounds pretty yummy so far!!  Craft stations will surround you with opportunities to paint wood Christmas ornaments, stamp gift tags and to decorate delicious cookies for you to take home.  If that wasn't enough...everyone will be entered to win exciting door prizes that will be given away throughout the night. 

All you have to do to win is to leave a message on this post (if you leave it under anonymous then please leave your name) or on my face book post telling me your favorite holiday memory.  You have from now until Sunday December 4th at noon because the winner will be announced on Monday, December 5th.

It will be a great opportunity to get out of the house, jump into the Christmas spirit and support some amazing kids.  If you would like to purchase a ticket they are available for $20.00 at Back Yard Floral, Style Closet and A Country Home Floral or you could always call or email me too!  We are only selling 65 tickets and some are already taken, so act fast.  Good Luck to all!  Sweet fundraiser-J

Being Thankful-Day 1

The last 2 weeks have gone by way to quickly and we are now nestled into the eve of Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow most of us will spend time with loved ones, eat too much and maybe sneak in a nap while watching the big game.  I have always loved the feeling that Thanksgiving provides.  The feeling of love and being overly full to the point of unbuttoning your pants can not be duplicated any other day of the year.  To me it is a priceless day with fond memories and leftover turkey in the fridge (I can taste the turkey enchiladas already).  I love getting up, making breakfast for the kids and then laying around in our P.J.'s and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade until Santa makes his entrance.  My kids may not be as excited about it as they used to be but I am all about tradition.

Day 1-I am thankful for tradition and the feeling that Thanksgiving casts upon is a once in a year feeling that I adore.  Sweet Thanksgiving-J

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Second Time Around-Venison Taquitos

Yesterday I showed you a quick and easy crock pot recipe using deer/elk meat to make a delicious French Dip.  Today I am going to show you what I made with the leftover meat tonight and it may even be more amazing than the first recipe.

Second Time Around Venison Taquitos are fabulous and because the meat is cooked and ready to go it only takes a few steps to have dinner on the table.  Don't you just love dinners like that?  I gush over meals that are delicious and on my table in less than 30 minutes.  I may be a little crazy about things like that but you can't tell me that it doesn't make you smile...even if it is just a little!  Mom's are just programmed that way.

I start out with 4 oz. of cream cheese in a large bowl that I have microwaved for about 30 seconds to soften.  To that I add the leftover shredded venison (about 2 cups), 1/4 cup of salsa, 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used a Mexican mix), 2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice (I used 1 medium sized lime), 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.  See...EASY. 

I then roll about a an 2-3 tablespoons of filling onto each tortilla.  I used flour but you could definitely use corn tortillas.  I like to microwave the tortillas for a few seconds before I use them so that they will roll up easy and not crack...

Place rolled up taquitos seam side down on cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Then spray tops lightly with additional cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Once all of the taquitos are rolled up you pop them in the oven at 425° for about 15 minutes or until crisp and ends start to brown.  Serve with some fresh guacamole...we are talking perfection!  Sweet leftovers-J

Being Thankful-Day 2

The last few days I have had tears in my eyes as I blog about the wonderful people that I am thankful I am going to take a less emotional approach (my tears could use a break).  One of my favorite things to do is plan a "Ladies Night".  Invite a handful of sweet girls and get out of the house for a few hours.  All ladies could use a break from the everyday stress that life brings.  I always feel like a "Ladies Night" is the perfect remedy because you aren't gone from your obligations for too long but get to breathe a little freedom at the same time.  I am so grateful to have such wonderful friends and sisters who like to join me.  We eat a little, talk a lot and laugh until we cry.  It is fabulous!!

Day 2-I am thankful for time spent with the ladies...a little break is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.  Sweet nights-J

Monday, November 21, 2011

Venison-French Dip Sandwich

I know that not everyone eats deer and elk meat but where I am from most of us do.  In fact I cook with it at least once a week (if we are lucky enough to draw tags and get one).  As a young stay at home mom with a limited budget and a freezer full of meat I needed to find a lot of ways to cook venison, it was a necessity!

In honor of the recent hunting season and the fact that I have some in the freezer...I will be posting a few recipes with venison for those out there who want to try making it someway other than fried (although it is amazing).  I like cooking with deer/elk meat for a number of reasons, first of all it is in the freezer (no shopping needed), it is a VERY lean meat and if cooked correctly it is scrumptious.

My first recipe is a crock pot French Dip.  It is so stinking easy!  The thing I love the most about it (other than the fact that it is ready when you walk in the door after a long day) is that the leftovers can be made into wonderful Second Time Around recipes.  Just wait and tune in to see what I make with the extra meat!!

For this recipe I used a Hind Quarter Roast.  It is going to cook all day and so it will be tender...I promise you!!  Now for the hard part (sarcasm).  Take the roast and season the outside with a liberal amount of kosher salt and pepper, be sure to really rub it into the meat.  After you have it seasoned you could brown it on the stove or do like I do and just pop it in the crock pot.  Browning it will give another layer of flavor but lets be honest at 7:00 in the morning between running one child to school and drying my hair...I don't have time.  It will taste great either way.  Then to the crock pot I add a package of Onion Soup Mix and a 32 oz. box of beef broth, set the crock pot on low and walk away...all day. 

When you get home the house will smell wonderful and dinner is nearly ready.  To serve I preheat the oven to 375° and use two forks to shred the meat...

Once the meat is ready I then open my rolls on a cookie sheet.  I spread a thin layer of mayonaise on one side of the bun and sprinkle it with garlic salt.  To the other side of the bun I add a generous amount of meat and a slice cheese (I used provolone but you can use whatever your family likes).

Now it is time to pop it into the oven.  This won't take a lot of time, we are just melting cheese and toasting bread here, so be sure to keep an eye on it.  Remove sandwiches from oven when ready, cut in half and serve with some of the au ju remaining in the crock pot for dip.  Raise your sandwich, toast to your family and eat!

See I told you that was easy and I promise you that it will be a go to meal.  One could definitely substitute a beef roast in place of the deer/elk.  Just remember the best is yet to come...don't forget to store the leftover meat because the Second Time Around recipe is even better than the first.  Sweet dishes-J

Being Thankful-Day 3

Today I want to remember someone who touched my family more than anyone ever has...someone that I am so thankful for.  She was the most unselfish and helpful person that I have ever known.  When I was a young mother she was my lifesaver.  Grandma Pearl was not my true biological grandmother but she NEVER treated me any different then if I was.  Her heart was bigger than the universe and the mark that she left on her friends and family is one of perfection.  I would like to take all of the credit for my children and their wonderful souls but to be completely truthful Grandma Pearl had a lot to do with it.  My children will always remember and cherish the time that she took with them, the wisdom she taught them, the kindness in her heart and the love that she felt for everyone. 

Day 3-I am thankful for all that my grandma Pearl did for me and for the lasting affect she will forever have on my children...she was amazing.  Sweet grandma-J

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 4

I have always loved the warmth of wood heat, there is just something about it that can warm you from the inside out.  It has been a while since I have been warmed by wood heat in my own home and I am loving it so very much.  I don't love the mess and pile of dust that it creates but the heat is worth the untidiness!  My favorite place to be right now is in the recliner next to the stove, curled up in my FAVORITE blanket (that my grandma Pearl made) and reading a magazine or cook book.  I have to fight Tater for the spot because I think this may be his favorite spot too (smart kid)!!  I am loving the coziness that my wood stove is blessing our home with!

Day 4-I am thankful for the unending warmth that my wood stove is bringing to my life and home.  It makes me feel toasty in and out!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 5

Yesterday I told you how thankful I am for my grandparents because they are pretty darn amazing!!!  There are also two other AMAZING people who I love more than anything and thank God for parents!  I am thankful for my mom & dad for many reasons.  First of all they are great role models.  Both of them live with integrity in their heart each and every day.  They are also awesome grandparents!  My children are so lucky to have such loving and caring people in their corners no matter what.  I always hope that someday my kids will feel about me the way that I feel about my parents.  If Taters and Tales do...well then I have succeeded as a parent...just like I feel my parents have.  They are EVERYTHING that wonderful parents should be...caring, nurturing, understanding, strong, loving, wise and the best Grandma Football and Papa B in the entire universe.

Day 5-I am thankful for my parents.  They are wonderful people, parents and grandparents.  My sisters, our children and I are very lucky to call them our own.  Sweet parents-J

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beef Stew over Noodles

It is comfort food weather in Lakeview and what better comfort food than a nice steaming plate of Beef Stew over tender egg noodles?  Comfort food to me is a meal that can take you back to a memory or place in time.  A dish that fills your stomach and your soul.  When I think of foods that comfort me I am always transported to my mom's kitchen and the many meals that she served our family when I was young.  I hope that when my children grow up they will have as fond of memories about me in the kitchen as I do about my sweet mama.

I love to take a recipe and put my own twist on it.  As a child I never remember eating beef stew over egg noodles but I think that it adds another dimension and texture to an already hearty meal.  Most of the time I make my stew in a crock pot but lately I have been in a little bit of a funk when it comes to organization.  I am ready for the June that has her meals planned and shopping done before the week starts to return from wherever she has been because I miss her!  I'm afraid I may have left her in Vegas and if that is the case then my poor kids may never eat a square meal again. 

To make the stew you will need 1 pound of stew meat, 1/2 of an onion (chopped), 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (minced), 8oz. package of sliced mushrooms, 1 large carrots (sliced), 1/2 cup frozen peas, 2 packages of brown gravy and beef broth...

I began making the stew with a pound of stew meat that I purchased at the store.  I cut the meat into smaller chunks because I like for all of the items in my stew to be a smaller size.  I then put 1/4 cup of flour and a 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag and added the beef chunks shaking to coat...

Once coated add the meat to about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil that has been heated over medium high heat in a large pot or skillet.  Brown the meat on all sides and remove from pan (it doesn't need to be cooked through).  To the same pan add a little more extra virgin olive oil if needed and 1/2 of a large onion that has been chopped, sprinkle with kosher salt and cook onions until they are translucent...

Add the cooked onions to the meat and set aside.  Now is the time when you get personalize your stew to your liking.  At this point I added a carton of sliced mushrooms to the pan with a tablespoon of butter and cooked until tender.  Once tender I added 2 garlic cloves (but you could use one) that were minced and cooked for a minute longer.  I then added the mushrooms to the onions and meat...

For added body and nutritiousness I added carrots (again to the same pan) that I had sliced thinly and let them cook for a few minutes.  You still want them to have a bite.  Now it is time to put it all together!!!  So exciting!!!  Add the plate of meat, onions and mushrooms along with 2 package's of brown gravy mix and 3 cups of beef broth to the pot with the carrots.  Let it simmer on the stove for 25 minutes to an hour.  If it thickens up too much just add a little more beef broth.  About 20 minutes before I was ready to serve I cooked my egg noodles according to package instructions and added about 1/2 cup of frozen peas to the stew mixture.  

This is the point that I like to take a quick taste to see if it needs any additional salt or pepper.  Please note that sometimes the brown gravy packets can be a little salty, so don't add any extra salt until you know if it needs it.  Between the brown gravy packets and the flour on meat the stew should thicken up nicely.  Serve with a side salad or a corn muffin like I have here and be in comfort food heaven!!  Sweet stew-J

NOTE:  After eating my family and I decided that although the noodles were good...serving it over mashed potatoes would be even more fabulous.  Just a thought.  Enjoy.

Being Thankful-Day 6

I am from a HUMONGOUS family.  My dad is one of 9 brothers and sisters and I am one of 68 grand/great grand children in the family (I told you it was humongous).  My grandparents have created quite the legacy.  In February they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary with a dinner and many fun stories, surrounded by their family and closest friends.  They are an amazing couple who have seen their share of good and bad times but have always stayed true and in love with one another.  Our family is so lucky to have such an amazing foundation.  They are the core, strength, wisdom, peacemakers and role models of our family.  I love them both BIG HUGE GIANT BUNCHES and am so glad that I am not only their granddaughter but their friend.

Day 6-I am thankful for my grandparents and all that they do everyday for our family.  They are two of the most amazing people I know.  Sweet Papa & Mamu-J

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Decor.

As you may have noticed from reading my profile and blog...I have an obsession with decorating my home, especially for the holidays.  Thanksgiving is no exception!  I love the autumn colors and rustic feel that Fall brings.  I get inspiration everywhere, my mind is ALWAYS reeling.  Sometimes I see something and it percolates like good coffee for months before I can get it from a thought in my brain to an actual finished product.  I always have projects going...most of the time too many.

This year I didn't make anything new for Thanksgiving (I just didn't have the time) but I have a handful of cute items that I get out every year to enjoy.

Last year I made this pendant banner with burlap triangles that I hot glued to jute rope.  I used a stencil and black craft paint for the letters, just be sure to put something under the burlap because the paint will go through the material.  For the pumpkin I used a cookie cutter for the outline and more craft paint.  Easy, very inexpensive and so cute...

This is Teddy the Turkey, I made him many years ago and this year he is greeting all who enter our home...

I like to take a garland of leaves and put around the house here and there to add a little bit of the outdoors.  Here is one that I put above my bookshelf with my Halloween decorations and will leave up until Thanksgiving is over...

My buffet table is my favorite place to decorate!  It is a blank canvas that can be transformed into a holiday extravaganza with just a few touches.  The plate is one that I got a few years back at a silent auction (I put it on a old crate to add height), I left my candy corn candle holders up from Halloween, changed the ribbon out on the candlestick with the mini pumpkin and then added a turkey that I painted years back to finish the desired look...

I have not had a mantel in my home before and I am loving having one!  I have a few basic items that I leave on there (the mirror, candlesticks and stars) and then I just add a few extra touches.  For Thanksgiving I have added two wooden pumpkins to the candle holders and a painted pilgrim couple...simple and yet sweet...

Here is a peek at my dining room table.  I use a long runner that I made out of some fabric and then an old wood box that was 1/2 off at the local antique shop all year long and then just change things out for the holidays.  As you can see for Thanksgiving the box is filled with gourds, a bottle of candy corn and a darling little ceramic turkey...

Finally here are my VERY FAVORITE Thanksgiving decorations of ALL time.  I made these precious little turkeys with the outline of my children's hands when they were 3 & 5.  I enjoy getting them out each year and looking at how small their little fingers once were (so sad)...

So there you have it...Thanksgiving decor at the Lightle's.  I hope that I have given you a little inspiration just as so many people have given me.  Sweet gobbles-J

Being Thankful-Day 7

I have been wanting to start a blog for a VERY long time and have been putting it off.  A few weeks ago I decided that it didn't matter if I didn't have the perfect camera or even a computer of my was important to I bit the bullet.  I must say that I am so glad that I did.  I love having an outlet for all of the creative craziness in my brain and I love sharing ideas with all of my readers.  I get inspiration from so many people and is my hope to be that inspiration to someone else.  I am so grateful that so many of you have reached out and took a moment of your precious time to read my blog and leave a comment or even just to compliment me on the street.  It feels great to know that I have such a great audience.  It has been a great experience.

Day 7-I am thankful for the creative outlet that my blog provides and all of the amazing readers that are making it so worthwhile.  Sweet readers-J

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Housewarming Dinner Basket

A very sweet friend of mine just bought a beautiful new home with her finance' and her two adorable girls.  Anyone who has moved knows how hard it is!  You spend weeks packing and preparing...then there is the actual move and unloading.  Trying to figure out where everything is going to go and finding the perfect spot for things can take some major time.  Believe me I just moved a few months can be brutal!  Living out of boxes becomes a way of life and not a good one. 

Moving can also be expensive, even if you are just moving a few blocks away.  The kitchen is still packed, you are exhausted and yet everyone is hungry...running to a local fast food restaurant works for a few days but that can get old quick and really add up!

So tonight I delivered dinner to my friend as a housewarming gift and much need break from trying to figure out meal time.  It will be quick and yet homemade.  A meal that they can prepare buffet style or they can take a moment and sit in their new dining room as a family.

I decided on Italian because it is always wonderful and tasty.  Luckily I had some homemade marinara sauce (I will share recipe soon) in the freezer (but you could use a jar of your favorite sauce) that made it easy for me.  I let it thaw out and then transferred it to a mason jar decorated with burlap and fabric...

One needs pasta for spaghetti, so I added a box of them.  Spaghetti just isn't the same without a yummy piece (or 3) of garlic bread.  I included everything she would need to make a delicious bread.  1 loaf of store bought french bread (but you could make your own) and 1 stick of butter and mixed with 2 Tablespoons of homemade Garlic Bread Seasoning...
To make the seasoning all you will need is:

2/3 cup powdered Parmesan Cheese
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons parsley

Combine the ingredients in a jar and shake.  Combine 2 Tablespoons of seasoning with 1 stick of softened butter/margarine and spread onto a loaf of French bread.  Wrap in foil and heat in a 400° oven until bread is toasted and butter/garlic mixture is melted (about 8 minutes).  So yummy.

I packaged everything sweetly with a set of fall dish towels and a colander...

Dinner is served!  Congratulations to by friend on the new home, family and many wonderful things that you have in your future!! 

This would also be a great idea for someone who just had a baby or maybe a family who lost a loved one.  The possibilities are endless!  Sweet friendship-J

Being Thankful-Day 8

I have always had animals all of my life but never an animal that has touched my heart quite like Jack.  I think the fact that he came to me during a rough patch in life and the fact that I think he is a cutest little puppy in the whole world helps.  He makes the kids laugh when they want to cry and brings a smile to our faces everyday when we get home.  I always teased my younger sister because she has always been what I thought was "Overly in Love" with her animals.  Well I am taking it ALL back now and frankly it is hard to imagine that I once felt that way.  He has taken over our home and hearts.  He begs at the table, barks at you when he wants to play, gets on every piece of furniture, has no concept of personal space and pretty much runs the house.  I NEVER thought I could feel this way about a little dog (especially one who can be quite obnoxious)...but I do and I'm glad I do.

Day 8-I am thankful for my dog Jack...he breathes a new life into our home.  Sweet puppy-J

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 9

As you already know I am a mom of two pretty amazing kids.  I am always thankful for them but I am also thankful that they each have their own way of looking at life.  For being from the same two people and raised in the same environment they could not be more different.  And I wouldn't have it any other way!  Tate is very quiet and calm, when we are alone in the house we could go for hours without a sound.  When I am alone with Taylea there is music playing, dancing, phone calls, questions and NO rest.  Neither spirit is better than the other...they are both magnificent.  In fact between the two they give me balance and a chance to see life in more ways than I ever would have been able to on my own.  I love that!

Day 9-I am thankful for my children and the different personalities and outlooks they bring to my life.  Sweet kids-J

Monday, November 14, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 10

To me it is the little things in life that make all of the difference in my day.  Like when I drive up to my favorite local restaurant to get my daily Diet Coke and I get the prime parking spot or when I take my puppy out in the freezing cold and he does his business in 1.5 seconds and doesn't lolly-gag around FOREVER.  When a bill comes in the mail and is less than I expected it to be.  When my children get the wood in for the night without being asked or complaining.  When I start my car and my favorite song is the radio.  When I check everything off of my daily to do list before I go to bed.  When I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my kids and only half makes it to the cookie sheet because we ate too much cookie dough.  Those little things can be taken for granted. 

Day 10-I am thankful for the little things in my life...for those things that could go unnoticed but I don't let them.  Sweet

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 11

Sunday is my most favorite day of week, especially during football season.  I usually try to work really hard during the week and on Saturday...then Sunday can be used for relaxation and time spent with people I love.  Most of my Sundays are spent at my mama's.  We watch football, look through recipe books and I almost always take a good long nap.  I'm not sure why but I can take a nap at parents house so easily and I love it.  Their house is always warm, with smells of something freshly baked and the sounds of football game in the background...I love napping there!  There truly is no place like home and even though I have my own home (which I love), my mom & dad's is still a place I love to visit and rest my tired little head.

Day 11-I am thankful for football Sunday's with my mom and the nap that I love to take on her comfy relaxing.  Sweet Sunday-J

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 12

It is Saturday and I am making my Christmas shopping can that possibly be?  Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Christmas is only 43 days away.  I know...CRAZY!  Don't get me wrong I love Christmas and everything that comes with it.  I'm just not ready for it!  It seems like we only blinked and it was the 4th of July.  This year has been a huge blur and I hate to feel that way.  Luckily memories last a lifetime and I am grateful to have wonderful people in my life to share them with.

Day 12-I am thankful for memories because without them I would have missed 2011 with the blink of my eyes...I will hold those moments in my heart forever.  Sweet memories-J

Friday, November 11, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 13

Many of you are home today enjoying the holiday and a much needed day off.  Although I am one of the lucky ones who works on this day (but enjoys the day off after Thanksgiving) I want to take a minute to be thankful for all of the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces.  Veterans Day is a reminder of all of the many sacrifices that so many have given for our country.  A day to be thankful for the freedom that we enjoy each and everyday.  Take a moment to remember and honor those who have so unselfishly given themselves for the good ol' USA.

Day 13-I am thankful for the freedom that the Veterans of this country have given is a truly amazing sacrifice.  Sweet USA-J

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Being Thankful-Day 14

We are only 2 weeks away from Thanksgiving which is so hard to wrap my brain around.  This year has flown by and we are nearly to the end of 2011.  For me it has been a year filled with its share of struggle but I believe that only adds character and strength to someones soul.  I am always thankful for many things in my life but this time of year I like to really make a conscious effort to be THANKFUL for my many blessings....after all it is Thanksgiving. 

I know life is getting hectic for many people with the holidays fast approaching.  Shopping, parties, baking, planning, school activities, the snow and so many other things can overwhelm us even more this time of year.  So I challenge you for the next two weeks to take a moment to reflect and tell me what you are thankful for!  I am going to post everyday for 14 days of Thankfulness and I would love for you to join me

Day 14-I am thankful for surviving my flight to Vegas...engine failure on the runway and not in the air was a huge blessing!!  Sweet blessings-J

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vegas give away winner!!

Well I am back from my trip to Vegas and exhausted!  Having a few days off was amazing but now back to reality and 5 inches of SNOW!  I feel like time is flying by way to quickly...Thanksgiving is only 15 days away.  That means Christmas is in only...never mind I am not even going there. 

My mom, sisters and I had a blast.  We rode the roller coaster at the NY NY, went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, watched the Bellagio water show and walked our little legs off.  We also ate some DELICIOUS food!  Which brings me to my giveaway.  We saw many, many wonderful little chocolate shops/bakeries but then we saw this one...

It was beyond fabulous and I knew immediately that the giveaway item had to come from here.  I only wish I could have boxed up one of these bad boys but it wouldn't have made it home.

I knew that I needed to bring something that was yummy but would survive the plane ride.  So I decided on my favorite chocolate treat (selfish, I know)...chocolate covered pretzels!  Sweet + Salty = YUMMY GOODNESS!!

They are not just any old chocolate covered pretzel, they are JEAN PHILIPPE'S chocolate covered pretzels and there is a difference! 

So the winner of my very first ever blog giveaway and the out of this world chocolate covered pretzels is...drum roll please...Katie McNeley!!!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered, keep tuning in for some awesome holiday recipes, ideas and more giveaways!!  Sweet giveaway-J

Monday, November 7, 2011

Quick and Easy Caramel Corn

First of all I want to say that this recipe was adapted from one that I got over at the blog Our Best Bites, those ladies are pretty darn talented and if you haven't visited their site yet I highly recommend it!

My grandma Anna Mae makes the most incredible Caramel & Molasses popcorn balls in the world every year for Halloween.  I mean they are amazing!  So dang amazing in fact that my family is known to drive hundreds of miles to come home and get one...yep I told you...AMAZING!  So when I think of Halloween I always seem to think of caramel popcorn, again it is just the way my crazy mind works.  When planning the Halloween party I wanted to find a recipe that I could make my own and that wouldn't take a lot of time (lets face it mom's never have enough time).  This one definitely hit the spot.

It just takes a few simple ingredients, a microwave safe bowl or glass pitcher, a microwave and an oven if you so choose.  I happen to like my caramel corn in the oven for a little while but for those of you that like it a little oven will be needed!  Pretty cool!!

I first popped 12 cups of popcorn (about 1/2 cup of kernels) in my air popcorn popper.  You could definitely use microwave popcorn in its place, I would just try to find a low sodium variety.

You then combine 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of Corn Syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 stick of butter (the real thing) in a microwave safe bowl or pitcher.  Microwave for 45 seconds and stir to combine.  Then microwave for 2 minutes, stir and then microwave again for 2 minutes.  Hard stuff...I know. :)

When the carmel has finished microwaving for the whole 4 minutes and 45 seconds take it out and add ½ tsp. of baking soda and 1 ½ tsp. of vanilla.  The baking soda may try to clump up so be sure to get it stirred in well.  The mixture will foam a little and look like this...

It is now ready to pour over the pop corn.  Be sure to have it in a large bowl because you will need the room.  Stir well and pour out onto a foil lined and greased cookie sheet.  Once on the cookie sheet and spread out I sprinkled about 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt over it to make it extra wonderful.  It is at this point that you can decide what you want to do.  You could just leave it out at room temperature for an hour or two and keep the stickiness or pop it into the oven at 225° for an hour, being sure to stir every 15 minutes.  Either way is fantastically yummy.  Sweet life-J

The Vegas Giveaway Winner will be announced on Wednesday!!!! Tune in to see who it is!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Meet my family...

Right now I think most of my readers know me pretty darn good but for the few out there who don't here is a post just for you.

This is me...

I LOVE being a mom.  Don't get me children drive me up a wall on a regular basis but I do think that it is the best and most rewarding job in the entire world.  If you have read my recent posts you can tell that I can be a little obsessive about certain things...craft projects, candy corn, making lists, sharpie markers, Diet Coke, ironing, decorating my home and the list could go on and on and on but that is good for now.

This is Tater (Tate)...

He is my first born.  Man I love this kid (I say kid but he is bigger than me), he is so sweet and kind.  Someday a girl out there is going to get a pretty awesome catch if I do say so myself.  He loves NASCAR, golf, football, baseball and his sister..hehe, maybe not in that particular order. 

This is Tales (Taylea)...

She puts the excite in exciting!  She does not know a stranger and can make friends with someone new in about 1.2 seconds.  She is passionate about life and her mama loves her BIG bunches.  She loves hanging out with friends, talking to friends, texting friends and being a friend.

We can't forget about Jack...

He is our adorable 9 month old Yorkie puppy that my sister and her husband gave to us (thank you).  We love him more than ice cream sundaes topped with hot fudge, sprinkles and whipped cream! 

So this is my family...the ones who put up with me in the kitchen all hours of the day and night, baking, taking pictures, crafting, decorating and someone where in midst of all of that being their mom.  Thank you so much for reading.  Sweet loves-J

Friday, November 4, 2011

Frightful Food

Well I am finally ready to post the actual food portion of my Halloween dinner.  I get so wrapped up in the planning and desserts that the food just took a back seat.  I can't help brain just works that way. 

When I was planning the menu I knew that it would not be complete without Mummified Dogs dipped in blood.  I mean they are a necessity right?  Maybe not but they are super simple and give the desired affect.  I just took a package of hot dogs and a can of Pillsbury pizza dough.  I cut the dough in long strips using a pizza cutter and started wrapping.

I (my mom & official helper) wrapped them right before I put them in the oven but you could definitely make them a few hours ahead of time and pop them in the refrigerator.  Once the oven was preheated to 400° I baked them for about 8-10 minutes or until the dogs are heated through and the bread is golden brown.  Serve with a side of blood (aka ketchup) and those bad boys are ready to eat.

I then made Spider Eggs.  They are deviled eggs with olives cut to look like spiders.  I boil my eggs for 10 minutes and then remove from heat for another 5 minutes with a lid on.  Note:  When making deviled eggs I always try to use eggs that I have had for a little while, the more fresh the eggs are the harder they are to peel once boiled.  I then made my deviled eggs...

To assemble them I put one half of the olive in the middle of the egg yolk mixture and four strips on each side to make a spider like this.

Scary huh??

The wormy apples were super duper easy.  I had planned on putting a whole through each apple slice and threading a gummy worm through the hole but I ran out of time. (see picture above)

The witches fingers were way too fun. String Cheese, green pepper and cream cheese are all you will need.  First I took each piece of string cheese and carved knuckle marks for the fingers and then I carved an area for the fingernail to go, it should look like this.
Then I cut in half and seeded my green pepper.  From there I cut strips and then cut the strips into triangles, like this.

To stick the fingernail to the finger I use a small amount of cream cheese and then the witches finger is finished.  I made these the night before the party so that they were all ready. 

It was a great time, with great parents and even greater kids.  They were so cute all dressed up and ready to get on the trick or treat trail.  Sweet times-J

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Sweeties

My pre-trick or treating party to help with my ailing Halloween Empty Nest Syndrome was a huge success and the best part about it...I didn't have to walk from house to house in the freezing cold.  When dinner was done I put on my P.J.'s and enjoyed a little Monday Night Football!  I guess there are a few perks to having children who think they are to old to dress up!

To get ready for the party I prepped most of the menu on the day before because that makes things so much easier (especially when you are working all day).  I made the Carmel Corn and Oreo Mummy Pops on Sunday afternoon and then packaged them in the evening.  I will post the Carmel Corn recipe soon but here is a peak at the crunchy and carmely corn all cozy in the cute candy corn cellophane bags that I found last year after Halloween on clearance at Michael's (score). 

Speaking of candy corn...since we are such good friends now I am going to admit something that I have only told a chosen few... I have an obsession with candy corn!!  I don't like the taste of it but I think that candy corn is the CUTEST candy in the ENTIRE world!  I buy bags and bags of it and put it ALL over my home this time of year!  I have an entire table dedicated to candy corn decorations and even bought more this last weekend.  If there was a Candy Corn Anonymous (CCA) I would totally have be there every Wednesday night and say, "Hi, my name is June and I am addicted to candy corn".  Well now that you know that about me I will move on...

The Oreo Mummy Pops were super simple.  I found the idea on one of my favorite blogs Your Home Based Mom last year and just could not get it out of my crazy head until I made them.  All you need are Double Stuffed Oreos (trust me...I bought the regular), White Chocolate Bark (you can find it in the same section as the chocolate chips), sucker sticks and candy eyes (you can find both the sticks and eyes at Michael's).  First insert one stick into each Oreo and set aside.  Once all of the pops have their sticks you can melt the white chocolate bark.  You could use a double boiler for this process but I used the microwave.  I start at a minute and stir before I add another 30 seconds until it is melted.  I like to let it set for a minute before I start dipping.  Dip each Oreo completely in the white chocolate so that they look like this.

Once they are all dipped and the chocolate is set I put some of the melted white chocolate into a gallon Ziploc bag and cut a bottom corner off of the bag.  I then took the bag and ran the chocolate back and forth so that they look like this.  Note:  If you try to do this right after you dip the entire Oreo then the chocolate will just run together and make a big hot mess.

While the chocolate is still soft put two of the candy eyes on each Oreo and they will look like this.
                                                    Exuse my camera sucks!
Once completely cooled and dried I put each pop into a clear cellophane bag and tied with ribbon.  Now isn't that the sweetest mummy you have ever seen?

Here are a few of the cuties that came to the dinner.  I am so glad that my friends let me steal borrow them for a little while.  My suggestion if you want to steal borrow children from their parents is to offer free dinner...they are more than happy to lend their tike's.  For those of you wanting to see pictures of the other items on the must remember that dessert is always first in my book but they are coming soon.  Sweet wishes-J

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegas Bound Giveaway

Tomorrow I am heading to Vegas with my most favorite ladies in the entire world!  My mom, sisters (Jamus and Amus...I love nicknames) and I are celebrating my mom's 61st birthday in Sin City.  So in celebration of our exciting trip to Vegas, my mom being another year younger and my blog being a week old...I decided to do a give away (generous, I know).

I think that a good blog has to have give aways!  It is a must!  Besides I love giving fun things away to people I think are super duper cool!  The item is a SURPRISE because I don't even know what it is yet.  I want it to be authentic, so it will be directly from Vegas Baby!

While I am spending quality time with my family and making memories you can enter to win.  All you have to do is leave me a comment and tell me where your favorite vacation spot is.  You can either leave a comment on this post or on Sweet Taters and Tales face book page.  You can also enter to win just by liking my Sweet Taters and Tales face book page or becoming a follower of my blog.  See that was easy!!  Everyone can enter, the more the merrier!!

I will be posting about my Halloween Party while I am gone (hopefully...I am still getting the hang of this blog thing).  Have a wonderful week!  Sweet vaca-J