Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DIY Fridge Magnet Wall (No Fridge Required)

Living in a small house with a toddler like I do has its obvious limitations; space, clutter, frustration. It also has some limitations that come up out of no where and need to be faced along the way. For instance, my kitchen is one place that the munchkin isn't allowed to play in no matter what because it has become the safe haven for the cat when he's inside (he's an 18 year old and he's grumpy one. He requires a place to hide from tail pulling and the baby attempting to pet him while in reality shes playing basketball with his brain.)

The kitchen also serves as a mud room, storage for any cleaners that we need around the house, recycling center, the on again off again sewing center, the craft center, the list literally just goes on and on and on. For obvious reasons the bathroom is off limits too. And as far as my bedroom, I'd prefer the walking space not become a graveyard for toys that I'll never be able to find again (I'm speaking from experience here...I have yet to find the little lambs from the mobile on her swing and the last time I saw them she was headed straight for my room.) So that basically leaves her bedroom and the living room for her to play and explore in.

From visiting with other friends of mine that have more space for munchkins to roam I learn different things that Hannah likes. For instance, I found out one night over at my sister in law's house that Hannah LOVES fridge magnets. Ever since that night I thought about it from time to time. What could I possibly do??? The kitchen really isn't a safe place for her, and I'm not willing to compromise her safety over a bunch of magnets. Well, I've learned over the past few months to think these matters over and have become rather creative with placing her things so that we get the most amount of play space possible.

And then it occurred to me! Cookie sheets!!!! Those are magnetic! Our entertainment center in the living room happens to be my old computer cabinet complete with a file cabinet that conveniently swings out just far enough. It also just so happens to have the perfect amount of space for my idea! A trip to Walmart and we're in business.

Here's what I got:

2 Small Mainstays cookie sheets ($0.96 each)
1 Package of magnetic numbers ($1.27)
1 Package of Command hanging velcro sheets. (around $5.00 I believe.)

Once I got home the set up process was maybe 3 or so minutes, and most of that was chasing the baby down to get my velcro strips back.

Here's what I did:

-Holding the pan horizontally place one velcro strip in each of the two top corners.

-Now (without removing the paper strip from the back of it) connect a second strip to the one that you've just placed.

-Remove the paper strips and firmly press the cookie sheet into place on your flat surface.

-Repeat this process for the second cookie sheet.

-Place the magnets on the cookie sheets

-Let your munchkin have at it! Enjoy the wonders of cheap yet effective entertainment! I know I am.

I will tell you that my munchkin has already figured out that the cookie sheets do come undone from the cabinet if you pull hard enough. This made me very very glad that I chose to use the velcro mounts instead of something that was just double sided. You just pick up the cookie sheet and put it right back where it was.

I can't help but love simple and cheap solutions. What DIY projects have you done that made you smile? I'd love to know! =)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What do babies and baked spaghetti have in common??

They're both on my mind!

Its funny how a year can fly by so fast. You make so many memories along the way, but looking back you only immediately see the handful of major events, good and bad alike.  Looking back on the past year I can't help but smile. A year ago today was my last day of being just a person. Albeit a person with a REALLLLY big belly. Now I'm a mom, and quite honestly, I've never been a fan of titles or labels until I got this one. My baby girl is turning a year old tomorrow. And, before you ask, yes, I am one of "those" moms who gets all sentimental about my baby growing up. I can't help it.

It's so insane that one day they're just brought into this world, so tiny and helpless. I could never have anticipated such a mixture of feelings, I was SO happy and at the same time I was so incredibly scared. (Thank goodness for good old fashioned maternal instinct, seriously.) Now, just a quick year later, she's so close to walking that I'm ready with a camera every time she tries to let go of the couch, she likes to do as many things on her own as is possible (including try to climb up her daddy like he's a mountain) and she's even let a couple 'mama' and 'dada's slip out along the way (which I cannot for the life of me get her to repeat). So being one of those sentimental moms I naturally hugged and cuddled my baby girl today while we were watching Sesame Street and I just reminisced. I'm in love with what the past year has given me and what it's meant to me.

It's not the best picture in the world, I know, but this is me a year ago. And then there's my baby girl about a day old.

Now she's my happy-go-lucky adventure baby!

She's grown up so much, it really is crazy to me. Although I miss the little itty bitty baby that she was a year ago that I got to hold endlessly and comfort, I'm so in love with the little girl that she is right now. She honestly makes me laugh so hard it hurts sometimes. I wouldn't change my life for the anything.

But anyways, I'm done thinking back for the moment. On to the food!!

With a very curious mobile baby and a very busy husband that is hungry the moment he gets home, I've been working on organizing some quick, easy, budget friendly dinners. And actually, I'm really happy to say that it's been working! One of the hubsters favorites right now is baked spaghetti. He's got a thing for cheese so this hits the spot for him. I also make low budget garlic bread to go along with it. This recipe, for us, yields about  9 servings. Which means that hubby takes it for lunch if he wants, snacks on it when he gets home or when he's playing his video games. Bam! He's in love! It's a really good anytime meal for him

Here's what I did!

Baked Spaghetti:

You'll Need:

1 lb. spaghetti noodles
1- 66 oz jar of spaghetti sauce of your choice. (There's a little bonus with that, I'll tell you later!)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Baking pan

What to do:

Cook spaghetti normally. Drain & set aside in large mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat up your spaghetti sauce.
I only had Prego traditional sauce in the house, and to be honest with you I think it tastes a little bland... But with some basil, oregano, onion powder, minced garlic and a touch of salt it tastes pretty good! If I had an extra tomato to dice up & toss in there I would have done it in a heart beat!

Add mozzarella cheese to mixing bowl and add a few handfuls of parmesan cheese also.

Spoon in your spaghetti sauce.
Your only going to want to spoon in about 3/4 of the sauce. You don't want to put too much into the mix because it will end up looking like you just threw regular spaghetti into the oven for funsies. The bonus with this (told you there was one!) is that the extra 1/4 of sauce that's left over you can freeze, and after you make 4 meals you don't have to do anything but defrost what you already have! That's a HUGE bonus for me. 

Mix it all together! Mix mix mix mix mix mix mix!!!!

When your done mixing pour your gloriously cheesy noodles into your baking pan.

If your a big fan of cheese like we are here, top the entire pan with more cheese!

Put the pan into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes on the middle rack.
I put my camera down somewhere and had to go find it once I pulled the pan out of the oven, so this is what I came back to...

Budget Friendly Garlic Bread

You'll Need:

6 slices of bread (I used regular white bread)
6 tablespoons Margarine
Garlic powder
Cookie Sheet

What to do:

Preheat oven to 400.
I usually just bake this towards the end of the spaghetti being done so they both come out of the oven at the same time. 

Melt the margarine in the microwave.

Lay out the bread on a cookie sheet.

Spread about a tablespoon of margarine on each piece of bread, covering as much of the surface as possible.

Sprinkle on a light layer of garlic powder to each piece.

Sprinkle on the oregano and basil.

Bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown.

And there you have it! The entire dinner is super easy and really tasty! It's also a really refreshing twist on the normal. I think next time I make this I'll cut some meatballs into quarters and toss them in the mix. I hope you enjoy! I'll be off celebrating my baby girls birthday! =)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Have You Any Reese's Cups?

Ok.... I have a confession to make. My name is Denise, and I'm totally in love with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Well, almost anything with chocolate and peanut butter really, but more so Reese's than anything else. Not the big cup ones, I hate those, they taste funky and should be used for target practice. I'm talkin about the regular peanut butter cups. OH. MY. GOSH. ...If you could combine Phil Collins - Can't Stop Loving You and Bryan Adams - Please Forgive Me, you'd be feeling the warm cozy feeling that I get when I get a hold of the delicious goodness that is a Reese's cup! It's literally THAT good to me.

But sadly, I have no Reese's cups in my house. Nor is there a store close enough for me to validate driving there to get one. I've tried convincing the hubby to let me have a vending machine full of them in the house! He said no...(party pooper.) But the other night I really wanted something with peanut butter and chocolate. And believe you me, I sat for a good 30 minutes on my couch before deciding against going to the store... (Its a personal war with myself every time. I always lose. Epic fail.) I did, however, happen to find in my pantry some semi-sweet chocolate chips and some peanut butter, and in my fridge I found a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls. Score!!! (Can you totally picture me looking into my fridge saying that? If you can, you know me all too well! lol) But anyways, this recipe is an awesome quick, easy and cheap snack for any midnight cravings, girls night in, movie night with the family, sleepless nights with the baby. The possibilities are endless really.

So here's what I did!

- Set the oven to 350.

- Get a cookie sheet & spray it with Pam

- Take the crescent rolls out, separate them all onto the cookie sheet

- Spread a nice layer of peanut butter onto the roll. (You don't want to put too much on there, just use your best judgement. You don't want the peanut butter oozing out while its in the oven. If I had to guess I'd say I made about a 1/2 cm layer.)

- Sprinkle one some chocolate chips!

- Roll it all up! Just like baking a normal crescent roll. If your scared some of the ooey goodness might come oozing out while its in the oven then just fold the sides up.

Are you drooling at this???? I understand!

- Bake as long as the crescent roll package says to. Everything will follow suit with your perfectly baked rolls.
*Try to occupy your time as you wait impatiently because you can smell the amazingness in the kitchen.

- When you take them out of the oven let them sit for 5 or so minutes.

- Serve while hot. (Trust me on this!)

Oh, and by the way, sharing is permitted! No matter how much you want to guard the plate and wage war on any other hands attempting to invade!

Happy snacking! =)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I’m on an official mission!!!

Oh yes! I said it! I’m in an attempt to cut my ties with as many store bought products as I can. I want to put in that little bit of extra effort and time and make things at home that are ultimately just as good if not better AND when all is said and done, I want to save money as well! Do you make anything at home instead of buying it already made? I’m seriously interested! I want to know! Tell me in a comment! I’ll love you for it!

Here’s what I’m already making at home:
  •          Laundry soap (I've posted the instructions for that on here.)
  •          Baby wipes (I can get just shy of 4 times the wipes for about the same price.)
  •          Body wash (I’m still perfecting this, so it’ll be a while before I post this)
  •          Diaper Genie refills
  •          Taco Seasoning
  •      Fabric Softener

I had to do all of my laundry with a wash board (for slightly longer than will ever entertain me…) while I waited for the washing machine to be replaced. I know that might be horribly useless information to the masses, but when I was faced with the prospect of that becoming a reality for me it was the collective information of about 5 blogs that gave me the information and (as ridiculous as this sounds) the confidence to believe that I could actually manage the task and not abandon my family in doing so. That being said, that post will be coming around eventually. 

I’m also working on a bunch of low budget dinner recipes!!!! Super yummy stuff!

SO! I know that the baby wipes and the Diaper Genie refills aren’t gonna be the epicly amazing creations that you’re DYING to read about, but they are accomplishments! Don’t you ever get that overwhelming sense of self-accomplishment? Oh. My. GOSH! It’s totally my drug!

Baby Wipes! They totally feed my addiction!! My version of the wipes is adapted from Homemade Mamas .

Here's what you need:

1 roll of VIVA paper towels (a single large sheet roll costs about $1.57, if they're available I would recommend the select-a-size version though, it'll save you about 20 minutes.)
2 tbsp Baby wash (I use the lavender scented)
Baby oil (I use the lavender scented)
2 cups water (boiled and brought back to room temperature.)
A good kitchen knife. 
A plastic container (large enough to fit 1/2 a roll of paper towel in.) ((I got a set of two square containers from Walmart for $2. I want to say they are about 8 inches tall.))

Here's what to do:

Cut your roll of paper towel in half. (This doesn't have to be absolutely exact, a close guess will do.)

I was a little OCD with cutting the frayed edges off. Oh well lol. 


Remove the cardboard center from the paper towel. You can do this by running your finger in between the cardboard and the paper towel and pulling back on the cardboard. Repeat this two or three times and you should be able on the third try to pinch the cardboard in half and pull it free from the paper towel. (You might end up taking one or two sheets with you, its ok though, if your really worried about them you can pull them off of the cardboard and stuff them down to the bottom of the center of the roll.)


In the plastic container mix the room temperature water, 2 tbsp of baby wash and 1 tbsp of baby oil together.

Place the paper towel roll into to plastic container (cut side down) and put the lid on.

Let it sit there until all of the liquid is absorbed into the paper towels. 

Then flip the closed container over and let it sit there for about 10 minutes or until the entire roll is thoroughly saturated.

Once that is done take the paper towel out of the container and tear the sheets at the perforated line. (If you have the select-a-size sheets you are done with this step. If you have the larger sheets you will also need to cut  each sheet in half with a pair of scissors. I know that sounds crazy but the larger sheets are just too big to justify using.)

This is one of the larger sheets cut in half. In my opinion that huge sheet would just be a waste.

Neatly place the sheets back into the plastic container. Be sure to leave the lid on tightly when your not using the wipes to ensure they don't dry out.

And now you have your very own homemade baby wipes! Do you feel the sense of self accomplishment??? Oh man I love it!


And while we're on the subject of baby things, since this one isn't really all that miraculous, it just got me out of a bit of a bind.

I have a Diaper Genie, I got really really lucky and I picked it up at a kids consignment shop in town for $5! It even had a Yankee Candle air freshener inside. Total bonus! lol. So anyways, it's not a crazy necessity, I know, but it does wonders for keeping my kitchen from stinking too horribly. The refills that get put in them is basically thin plastic that you tie off at the bottom close the container and feed diapers through the top until its full. Then you cut the plastic & tie it off again and start all over.

All you need is a refill shell and a regular kitchen trash bag.

You tuck the top edges of the trash bag down into the rim of the refill shell.

And then just stuff the rest of the trash bag in there.

Put the refill shell into the diaper genie and push the trash bag just past the spring loaded board to get it started.

After that use your genie normally!

Woot for two-for-one post!! =P

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Promises of Lasagna

WHOO! What a crazy week. It’s totally not been my week. The power went out at least three times this week for who knows what reasons. I’ve managed to do something to my shoulder that I’m not sure how to make it stop hurting. And my little baby girl has a stuffy nose & has been a hand full.  It’s funny how even when a little baby doesn’t feel so great they still want to play with all of their toys and smile and laugh. Sometimes I wish I had that mentality. She’s got a funny way of reminding me that maybe I’m taking things just a little too seriously. Things like that are so invaluable.

BUT! Aside from all of that, I did manage to get a good deal of things done this week too. I did some awesome home made projects that I’ll no doubt be posting on here. I also made some great tasting dinners...

A promise is a promise and as promised (did I say promise enough?) I made Lasagna Cups per the request of one of my lovely readers. (You’re all lovely, btw. Don't want you feeling left out, I love you very much!). So, I found this recipe while I was floating around on Pinterest. It's safe to say that I'm addicted to that place. If you'd like an invite to there let me know, I'll gladly send you one! =) Just leave me your email address here or you can email me and I’ll send you the invite as soon as possible. 

But anyways, my recipe is an adaptation from Can You Stay For Dinner. This recipe should make about 18 lasagna cups.

What you’ll need:

-1 lb of ground beef
  large onion, finely chopped. (It should measure out to a little over a cup.)
-2 cloves minced garlic (I used the pre-minced garlic in a jar. If you do this is comes out to 1 teaspoon.)
-16 oz (2 small cans) tomato sauce  (You can also use a regular sized can of crush tomatoes, it’d give you a thicker sauce as opposed to the meatier sauce that I had using the canned sauce.)
-Dried oregano
-Dried basil
- Ricotta Cheese (I regretfully didn’t look at the actual oz size of the container. I imagine that it was about 16 oz.
-36 small square wanton wrappers. (I found them in the produce section. I know, I never knew you could find them in a grocery store either.)
-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- A 12 cup muffin pan

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large skillet over medium heat cook the beef and onions. Season with salt & pepper for about 10 minutes or until the beef is fully cooked. Be sure to finely crumble the meat. (I also added a dash of onion & garlic powder here too, go figure right?)

Immediately after the meat is cooked add the minced garlic, and stir well. (Did I mention how much I love the pre-minced garlic?? Such convenience!)

Then add the tomato sauce & a few shakes of oregano. Stir well again!. 
(I personally think that you can add the last two steps together without it making some huge difference, but I didn't try it this time so I don't really know.)

Bring it all to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

After the time is up remove the pan from heat & set aside.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, a pinch or two of salt, pepper, a couple shakes of oregano & basil.

Mix well and set aside.

Coat the 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Place one of the wanton wrappers into each of the 12 cups. Press it firmly into the bottom of the cup & up the sides.

Using no more than half of the ricotta mixture, divide it among the 12 cups. Gently spread it to make sure it covers the bottom evenly.

Using no more than half the meat sauce, spoon it in evenly over the ricotta filled cups.

Sprinkle in a pinch or two of mozzarella over the meat sauce.

Gently press another wanton wrapper on top of the mozzarella layer.

Repeat the process by distributing more ricotta, meat sauce and finally the rest of the shredded mozzarella.

Sprinkle a bit of oregano & basil on top of each cup if desired.

Bake for 10-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the wontons start to brown a bit. After  10 minutes pass be sure to keep a close eye on them, they can burn fairly quickly.

Let the cups cool for about 5 or so minutes. Remove from the pan & set aside to bake the last 6.
(If you have two muffin pans you can cook all 18 at once & I slightly envy you.)