Monday, October 31

Happy Halloween

 We love Halloween at our house. We usually decorate the whole house with spooky fun decorations and I make themed food as often as I can get away with it. 

I don't dwell on what some people belief's of what Halloween in the philosophical sense may mean and it's impact on religion. For me it is about the fun, the dressing up and the spookiness behind it. The way communities come together to help our children have a fun filled, safe night to dress up as their favorite characters and eat as much candy as they want! I don't let all the other nonsense affect me or take the fun out of it.  While I do respect people who don't participate in Halloween, I don't understand their stance in holding on to long ago dissipated, mostly forgotten evils.  

I do belief in the creepy, scary and whole ghoulishness behind it though. When I am searching for ideas for a costume I have to laugh at all the nasty tacky costumes out there for woman. I can't imagine dressing up as a Hooter's server or a vampire in a tight mini with sparkles. That's not Halloween, that's vanity and lack of imagination. Face paint is a favorite of mine and my sister and I have come up with some really fantastic "faces" over the years. One year we dressed as witches, think The Wizard of Oz, to hand out candy and no one recognized us! That's Halloween to me.

Spencer's pumpkin this year. Didn't he do great? I love it!

Spencer brought this home from school. Haven't heard this one before. Kind of gross!

Here are a couple of Spencer's past costumes. A ninja and a pirate. I haven't gotten him a costume the last few years as he doesn't understand it at all and it is stressful for him. I can't see forcing him to do something that I want even if he is as cute as can be! This is one of the few times that I wish his special needs allowed him more comprehension. I honestly don't want to change him but I would love to have him willingly participate and have fun with it. It would be so wonderful to have him excited to pick out a costume and want to go trick or treating. Oh well, guess I'll have to dress the pug up instead. He'll do anything for a hotdog!

Do you celebrate Halloween? If so, share some of your traditions or stories with me. I would love to hear them.

Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

Sunday, October 30

Pepper Steak with Rice

I have been working on a family friendly pepper steak recipe for a couple of years now at least. Both my guys are not huge fans of rice while I could eat it most days of the week. I finally found the right combination of ingredients that didn't just taste like brown gravy on rice but real pepper steak. Both my big picky eater AND my little picky eater gave this the stamp of approval. Score!

Also neither of my guys will touch green bell peppers but they are a vital part of this recipe. I cut the strips fairly large so I could still use them for flavoring while cooking but I could also easily remove them before serving. Worked really well!

1 1/2 lb. lean round steak, cut into strips
1 tsp. paprika
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
2 Tbls. butter
1 cup onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup water
 2 Tbls. cornstarch
2 Tbls. soy sauce
3 cups rice, cooked or steamed

Sprinkle steak with paprika and set aside while preparing the other ingredients. Cook steak in garlic and butter until meat is browned. Add onion and green peppers. Continue cooking until vegetables are wilted. Add broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Blend water with cornstarch and soy sauce in a small bowl. Stir into steak mixture. Cook until thickened over low heat stirring frequently. Serve over cooked rice.

We liked this so much I am making it again this week.

Saturday, October 29

Camera Critters ~ Moth at Midnight

Yes, I actually sat in the dark on my deck at midnight waiting for moths to land so I could capture them. This was before I knew snakes were hanging out underneath the deck. *shivers

I linked up with Camera Critters.

Friday, October 28

Beef Macaroni & Cheese ~ Comfort Food

recipe from

I have to apologize for this horrible photo! Some days I take a couple hundred photos and I must have kept the wrong one as I certainly wouldn't have saved this one on purpose! Ouch!

Macaroni and cheese is one of my family's go to for comfort foods. I decided to try this variation from Paula Deen to switch it up a bit. Great flavor and we all had seconds.

1 tsp. each dried basil, cumin & oregano
salt & pepper
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped green bell pepper (I didn't add one as my guys won't eat them)
2 Tbls. vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 lb. box elbow macaroni
2-3 cups grated cheddar cheese

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a skillet; add the peppers, onion and garlic. Saute until soft.

Add the ground beef and saute until browned. Add the tomatoes, salt & pepper to taste, basil, cumin and oregano.

In a large bowl, combine the macaroni and beef mixture.

Spread into 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top with the cheese and bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

I hope you try this despite my photo!

Happy Friday friends!

Thursday, October 27

Thursday Challenge ~ Pale Orange Lily

Two of my favorite things: Flowers and the color orange

The temps are really dropping here in Wisconsin and I am already starting to feel my Winter whining wanting to kick in. Long ago Winter and I were great friends. We are no longer on speaking terms...

What is your favorite season? 

I linked up with Spun with Tears.

Also thank you to all my new followers! Can't wait to get to know you. I will be making sure I am following everyone back later tonight. 

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, October 26

Wordless Wednesday ~ I Sure Do Love This Boy

My Spencer. So innocent yet at the age of 9. His smiles and laughter make my world a much brighter place with them in it. He has taught me so much. Made me a better person; continues to help me see the things in life through his eyes I would certainly have missed had he not shown me.

He also likes to run around naked, steal my pens and randomly call people on my phone. Notorious stealer of toothbrushes too.

His hugs make any bad day instantly better. Yep, being his mommy is the greatest feeling in the world.

By the way, John is our photographer today. I added some Lightroom 3 actions but he did the hard part. Didn't he do a great job?!

I linked up with Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 25

Holiday Pumpkin Crunch

 recipe from

Mmmm...pumpkin. How I love thee. I wanted to try something different this year from the traditional pumpkin recipes I usually steer towards. I highly recommend this!

1 (15 oz) can fresh pumpkin
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup chopped pecans
2 sticks butter, cut into pieces

1 (8 oz.) pkg. softened cream cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin, evaporated milk, cinnamon and sugar until well combined. Add eggs and mix well.

Pour mixture into 9 x 13 baking dish prepared with non stick spray. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over entire top. Sprinkle pecans evenly over cake mix and top with butter pieces.

Bake at 350 for 50 - 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Prepare frosting while cake is cooling. 

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, whip cream cheese until light. Add in whipping cream and continue to whip until fully combined and thickened. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon. Whip until smooth.

To serve: Scoop out a slice of the pumpkin crunch and top with a dollop of cream cheese frosting or frost the entire pumpkin crunch.

It is recommended that you cool the crunch before frosting and serving but I delivered some of this to a couple of friends when it was still warm with these instructions; they didn't listen and told me it is great warm too! Ha! Love my friends.

Monday, October 24

Macro Monday ~ Purple Thistle

We had a wonderful weekend here (although John worked too hard). Monday always seems to sneak up on us so quickly! 

We've been watching Terra Nova on Monday nights. Not sure what to make of it yet. Anyone else watching it?

Hope everyone has a great day and thanks so much for stopping by!

I linked up with Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, October 23

Sweet & Sour Crockpot Meatballs

These mouthfuls of goodness are great for game day, parties or potlucks. They can be kept on low for most of the day without drying out (make sure and leave the cover on!) and are bound to be a big hit for all ages too. 

Serve with a slotted spoon or toothpicks. 

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 (12oz.) bottle of chili sauce
2 tsp. lemon juice
9 oz. grape jelly
1 egg, beaten
1 large onion, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together chili sauce, lemon juice and grape jelly until most of the lumps (jelly) are smooth. Pour into crockpot and simmer on low heat until warm.

While sauce is warming, combine beef, egg, onion, salt & pepper in mixing bowl. Mix well and form into 1 inch balls. Brown on all sides in skillet. Drain. With slotted spoon, transfer to crockpot.

Gently mix meatballs in sauce just until covered. Keep on low for around 2 hours minimum before serving.

NOTE: If you do leave this warming for the day, which I do often, just make sure to stir them every once in a  while and to leave the crockpot cover on!

Also, prepackaged meatballs work just fine for this recipe too. Follow whisking instructions and then add thawed meatballs to sauce. Heat until meatballs are warmed through.

These are always a big hit when I make them for get-togethers. Great flavor!

Saturday, October 22

Camera Critters ~ Canada Goose

On Labor Day Weekend, we had a cookout at a local park with my friend Carolyn's family. This park has a beautiful pond running through it where a multitude of birds were biding their time before flying south for the winter. I have always admired the Canada Goose and was thrilled to have a opportunity to photograph them. I sat down and waited for them to realize I was non threatening and they rewarded me with these shots. 

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

I linked up with Camera Critters.

Friday, October 21

Spanish Rice ~ A Family Favorite

When I ask John if he has any ideas for meals, he answers with this one most often. Another one of my mom's recipes that I carried on. Whenever I make my brothers a birthday meal, this is what they pick. 

It's not your traditional Spanish rice recipe. My mom named it that and I can't think of it any other way. 

Super easy and great for busy weeknights. 

Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
1 lb. ground beef
3 cups white rice
dash of garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
grated medium cheddar cheese (I use at least a cup)

Brown and drain hamburger. Add hamburger, spaghetti sauce, paste, garlic powder and salt and pepper to medium saucepan. Heat on low. 

While sauce warms, cook rice according to package. Mix sauce and rice together well. Add desired amount of shredded cheese and stir until melted. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with warm garlic bread.

My mom's original recipe did not include the cheese but my guys love their cheese! Also she included one chopped green bell pepper. Again, my guys dislike it that way, so I leave it out but it is so good if you want to add it in. Cook the pepper with the ground beef if you do.

Happy Friday and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 20

Thankful Thursday ~ Amazing Kids

Today I am thankful for all the amazing kids in my life. I am so blessed to know them.  

My nephew, Sam. 

My nephew, Henry.

 My Best Friend's boys, J & B.

Last but never least, my amazing Spencer.

Wednesday, October 19

Meatball Sub Sandwiches

I am not a fan of the majority of fast food restaurants or chain restaurants for that matter but I do love Subway. Unfortunately like many chains, due to the economy, they have lowered their standards and raised their prices. I got the idea to try and make a homemade meatball sub (is it overkill to call it a "sub sandwich?). These were really yummy and a fair comparison.

1 lb. ground beef (I always use 80/20)
3/4 cups plain bread crumbs
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbls. grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste
1 (15 oz.) jar of spaghetti sauce
4 slices of Provolone cheese
shredded mozzarella
Hoagie or sub buns

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, gently mix the ground beef (by hand), bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, pressed garlic, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Shape into 12 meatballs and place in baking dish.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, cut sub buns in half lengthwise and remove some of the bread from the inside to make room for the meatballs. Brush buns with olive oil, inside and out. Season insides with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Slip cookie sheet of prepared sub buns into the oven the last few minutes of the meatballs cooking time.

While the bread toasts, warm spaghetti sauce. When the meatballs are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the sauce. Stir slightly to mix. Then spoon the meatballs onto the sub buns and top with Provolone cheese slices. Top with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

Return to oven for 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese.

Cool slightly and serve. 

Tuesday, October 18

I Am In Love with A Rebel

with a Canon Rebel, that is. John completely rocked my world yesterday by bringing me home my first DSLR. It is an early birthday gift. One that caused me to cry a little (ok, a lot) and then smile like a fool. I still am smiling like a fool actually! He is so absolutely wonderful and after I hugged him a zillion times, I ran out the door to take my new baby for a test run. I was shaking with excitement and still managed some of my best shots yet. This camera is amazing...

I got my guys to come outside with me for a few minutes to play in the leaves. While my background isn't the best (street, mailboxes, cars) the shots themselves are my dream come true. Finally a camera that can capture my always energetic Spencer. With such vibrant color and texture. Yay!

I did very little to these photos other than the obvious ones I used Photoshop actions for. I changed my F-stop speed and raised my ISO and clicked. I truly LOVE this Rebel!

I can't even find the words to thank John for helping me realize my dream. Isn't he the best ever?

Ironically, my blogging friend, Melissa (at The Mommyhood Chronicles) mentioned the other day to me that her husband was getting her a new camera and how excited she was. I thought to myself, "Wow, lucky her!". Lucky me too!

Fleck ~ Play Everywhere!

      While this is a sponsored post, all views are 100% my own.

I recently had the opportunity to review, Fleck: Grow Your Own World, created by Self Aware Games. I have been an avid online gamer for many years and this newest mulit-player social game where you could grow a garden and then visit a neighbor to combat zombies (yes, how cool is that?) intrigued me from the start. 

Upon simply creating a username and password, I learned this game had taken social gaming to a whole new level by incorporating Google Maps into the very game itself. Type in the name of a U.S (parts of Canada and Mexico are in the works) city and town and you traveled there in a blink of an eye. Landmarks too! 

The developers of this flash game didn't hold back in the graphics department in any way. The characters can be customized with hairstyles and clothing of your choice. You can also choose the city you want to call home. The weather even changes as the weather in the town you choose does in real time. They thought of so many small details, it is amazing!

The marketplace has many items to decorate your establishment along with combat weapons and extra little pick me ups that depending on your game play can really make a difference.

One of the game integrations I found very fun and helpful is the ability to chat with fellow players via the chat feature. Any questions you have or zombie attacks you need assistance with are answered by friendly fellow gamers. Speaking of zombie attacks, this is an integral part of the game and one I found refreshingly non violent despite it's "cause." The zombies shoot goo at you as you fire back with a fire powered lazer gun. The vain part of me has to mention the warfare type suits you wear while saving the world from these zombies are too cute and totally in sync with the Sci-Fi fanatic I am.

I have mentioned that game travel coincides with Google Maps but the creators also incorporated other social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Yelp. I was continually finding new aspects of the game that made me say, Wow!". While they these applications are available, they are not a mandatory part of the game play itself, only they if you wish to use them (which I did).

 Look at how creative you can be using decorations! Oh and those zombies I spoke of...

 I am visiting a friend's Quizno's through the games real world maps.

I would highly recommend this unique, interesting and totally fun game to anyone looking for a new experience in multi-player social gaming. Appropriate for most ages and definitely will keep you coming back for more.

Fleck: Grow Your Own World, by Self Aware Games is available in for PC browsers and downloadable for your iPad. Join the fun!

Monday, October 17

Macro Monday ~ Yellow and Red Sunflower

Top photo is the center of this yellow and red sunflower (below). 
Taken in my best friend, Tammy's flower garden.

I linked up with Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, October 16

Cheesy Chicken Roll-ups

I found this on the back of a bag of Banquet Chicken Tenders and had to try it. Perfect finger food for game day! Also simple enough that the kids can help out too.

1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 slices shaved honey ham, folded in half (I used thin sliced lunch meat)
4 thin slices mild cheddar cheese, halved 
8 frozen Banquet Original Chicken Breast Tenders

Preheat oven to 375. Spray baking sheet with no stick cooking spray.

Unroll crescent dough and separate into 8 triangles. Place 1 slice ham, 1 piece cheese and 1 tender crosswise over pointed end of each triangle. 

Roll dough over to enclose chicken. Place seam side down on baking sheet.

Bake 14-16 minutes or until dough is golden brown.

John and I used Ranch dressing to dip these in, Spencer used ketchup.

 On a side note, I received two awards this weekend from some blogging friends!!! Totally made my day. Will post about it soon!

Saturday, October 15

Camera Critters ~ Macro Bee

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Thanks so much for stopping by. I love meeting new blogging friends so leave me a comment with your blog link.

I linked up with Camera Critters.

Friday, October 14

Tuna Casserole

This is not your run of the mill tuna casserole. You see, my two guys like boxed meals, a lot. I don't. I had to try find something healthier yet flavorful in order to impress them. I threw some extra ingredients into a basic casserole recipe and the result was a huge success. They both loved it! 

1 (12 oz) package of egg noodles
2 (10.75 oz) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 (6 oz) cans tuna, drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
heaping Tbls. sour cream
dash of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Boil noodles and chopped onion. Drain. Add soup, tuna, shredded cheese, sour cream and garlic powder. Stir until all cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Smile, it's Friday!

Thursday, October 13


Thursday Challenge Theme ~ Thankful

I am so thankful for my little man and my big man. That they have each other. That Spencer has someone to hold his hand and kiss his boo boos. That John has someone to show him the world from a child's view. I am thankful that they both are mine...

I used the Photoshop Action, Magic Sunset. Then used a soft brush to add some blue back into the sky.

I also linked up with Spun with Tears.

Wednesday, October 12

Wordless Wednesday ~ Tranquility

The day, water, sun, moon, night - I do not have to purchase these things with money.

Tuesday, October 11

Chili Cheese Enchiladas

recipe from

The nights in Wisconsin are really starting to cool down now that Fall has started. Along with the cooler temps comes more oven based meals. I really think it's the food that gets me through the winters here. The older I get, the less snow and I get along.

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3/4 cup bottled salsa
1/3 cup (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (4 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, divided
12 (6 in.) tortillas
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 325

Heat a large non stick skillet, coated with cooking spray, over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion; cook until meat is cooked through. Drain. 

Stir in cumin, oregano, chili powder and garlic. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Stir in salsa and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted.

Warm tortillas according to package. Spread 1/3 cup enchilada sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon 1/3 cup of mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up. 

Arrange enchiladas, seams down, cross wise in pan. Pour remaining enchilada sauce evenly over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Have a great day!

Monday, October 10

Macro Monday ~ Marsh Milkweed

The image below is my SOOC (straight out of the camera) capture. I love the soft pink tones but thought these little beauties needed some more "pop". I used an action called Little Perk in Photoshop and then the dodge tool to darken and further blur the background. What do you think?

I linked up with Lisa's Chaos.

Sunday, October 9

Camera Critters ~ Al Pugcino

Our 2 year old pug, Dexter. I used Photoshop to replace the color (with black and white) of everything but the sky and the window reflection.

I linked up with Camera Critters. 

Saturday, October 8

Easy Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

recipe from

It had been one of those busy days where before I knew it, it was late afternoon and I hadn't thought about dinner yet. Clair from Mummy Deals posted this recipe on her facebook wall moments after I realized this and I had everything on hand so...thanks Clair!

So easy yet tastes like you spent a lot of time on it!

preferred amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar pasta sauce (I used Newman's Own Alfredo)
1 cup shredded cheese (I used medium cheddar)
1/2 cup dry Parmesan cheese

Add chicken breasts to crockpot and cover with pasta sauce. 
Cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 3-4 hours.
Last 1/2 hour, add cheeses

I used the left over sauce from the crockpot with this mashed potato recipe: My Favorite Mashed Potatoes

My picky eater asked for thirds! 

Friday, October 7

Photo Friday ~ Box Elder

This is a root of a large Box Elder tree growing in my backyard. Morning dew (taken around 7:30 a.m.) makes the outdoors so crisp in color. I added a tiny bit of contrast to these in Photoshop, nature did the rest.

I linked up with Photo Friday.