Time is what really matters

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I was having a discussion with a co-worker earlier. I told her a story about taking my daughter out for ice cream at Dairy Queen and how much we enjoyed it. This prompted her to tell me about a new custard creation at Sonic and how delicious it was. I told her it sounded intriguing and that I may just have to try that out. Then she jokingly said that my husband and I should do that for our date night.

Here’s where the conversation went from a simple exchange to something a tad more serious. She was cracking up at her “joke”. I looked at her seriously and said “why not?” And she said “Oh you wouldn’t want to go do that for your date night you need to do something much fancier than that!” I repeated my question of why not. She shrugged her shoulders and said “Oh I guess it doesn’t matter for you anymore because you’ve been married for so long.” (We’ve been married 16 almost 17 years by the way…)

I looked seriously at her and took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure if I should attempt to impart some wisdom to this young, single girl or not. I truly think that a lot of people are quite confused about expectations when it comes to so many things in the world today, like love/dating just to name one. My co-worker then gives me a perplexed look because my facial expressions hide nothing so she knew my brain was working overtime.

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“Let me just give you a little wisdom from a married woman who is also incredibly cool. If you truly love and care for someone it doesn’t matter where you are, or what you are doing. All that really matters is that you are together and spending time with the person you love. Whether you are at McDonald’s ordering off the value menu, or at the fanciest restaurant in Memphis … it doesn’t matter. As long as you are together with the person who means more to you than anything else.”

She then tries to argue her point with me by saying, “But if you are going out to the theatre to see a play you don’t want to go to McDonald’s or Sonic before a nice evening out like that!”

So I plead with her to see the error of her ways. “I’m serious here. Whether you are taking your private jet out for the flashiest date in the world, or both at home on the couch or in bed sick as dogs just watching TV. It wouldn’t matter if you are at a park eating PB & J and home made microwave popcorn that you brought to the park with you. All that matters is that you are spending time with the person that you love. That is ALL that matters is the time not the activity or the fanciness of any of it.”

She then looks at me and questions me again with a Really? I reassured her and told her that sometimes it’s nice to go out for a fancy night out, but even then it wouldn’t matter one bit about the fancy place or activity if my love wasn’t there to share it with me.

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Listen, all relationships have their ups and downs. However, it seems like so many marriages are failing in recent times. Divorce rates are through the roof and there are definitely times that a divorce is the right decision. But what if a lot of times divorce wasn’t the right choice? What if a simple adjustment of expectation was really what is necessary. Now I am not saying that adjustment would be a one-sided thing. A marriage is something that takes BOTH people to make it work. I am just really wondering how many marriages could possibly be saved a conversation about what each of you expect from the other person and trying to come to a compromise on some things or at the very least a realization that with a little work you might be able to save your marriage.

I have never once thought that marriage was going to be easy. I can promise you that I have learned that it is even more difficult that I thought it would be. Marriage is NOT a fairy tale and no spouse is perfect (husband or wife). We all have our flaws and that means every single marriage is flawed in one way or another. All we can do is try to communicate with each other and work towards bettering what we have with the person that we love enough to call our other half.

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Sure there are lots of things that make a marriage work or not work, but in the end what it all boils down to is time.

  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Love
  • Devotion
  • Finances
  • Careers
  • Housework
  • Kids
  • Family Obligations

This is a short list of things that come into play on a regular basis in my marriage. Not all inclusive by any means, but it gives you an idea for arguments sake. EVERY single thing on this list comes down to time. Taking the time to be there for someone other than yourself means all the world to others. Spouse’s included.

A person can’t communicate with themselves. All the people involved in a conversation have to take the time to listen and participate in the conversation so that everyone feels like they are being heard and not ignored.

Respect is something that people have to take the time to invest in with other people. Yes it isn’t just given out, but you have to put the time in to earn respect with someone and through that it helps you to gain respect in return.

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Love is shown in so many ways however, every single one of those ways takes time. Even a simple kiss on the forehead or cheek takes time away from something else that you could be doing in that moment. That moment may seem insignificant, however, taking that moment to show your love for one another can be earth shattering at certain times in your lives.

Do you see the point that I am trying to make? I doubt you all need me to continue on point by point through the list explaining it to you.

The bottom line for me is how much every single moment means. I have realized over the last few years that moments matter. Some moments are good, and others are bad. However, they ALL matter. I try to learn from the bad moments both about myself and about the other person involved in the bad moment. I can take those bad moments and try to improve how I handle myself in a similar situation when it comes up again. I can learn how to better interact with people through those bad moments too. Everyone reacts to things differently so if I need to adjust my behavior with certain people to make my experience with them better, then I can try to do that. It’s not me changing who I am, but it is me choosing to adjust. Me taking the time to make that adjustment for others could mean a world of change for myself and for all of the people around me.

We should not expect for everyone else to always live up to our expectations. We can attempt to communicate those expectations to others, however, that doesn’t mean they have to meet those expectations. What we expect from others isn’t always what those people are willing to give back to us. We have to take what is given to us from others and truly accept it for what it is. That may be the best that person can give at this present time. If their best isn’t what you expected, that doesn’t make it any less of a gesture.

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This whole thought on time for me definitely applies to my marriage, but I also believe that is applies to pretty much every aspect of my life.

Time is the greatest gift that we can give to anyone. Don’t put off the gift of your time when it comes to anyone that you love or care about. It’s too important not to lose another moment.

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Memorial Day

I’ve seen several posts that absolutely floored me regarding today’s holiday and what we are NOT supposed to do to honor/celebrate on this day. Odd, I thought today was about honoring the people who died to provide us the freedom to choose how to celebrate or what to say. 

Many people who serve don’t die in service but many times a piece of them does. Many veterans are never the same after returning from combat. Today I honor all of them in the way that my husband and I choose. We are able to do that because of all of their sacrifices. Those sacrifices aren’t just their lives. 

Maybe I’m “wrong”, but I’m pretty sure the multiple family members I have that are currently in service or veterans would tell me there is nothing wrong with how I view this holiday.

Product Review: Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit

I recently purchased a Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit at Home Depot to use while painting my daughter’s room. The kit I bought is a Tinkerbelle kit, however there are several varieties available including Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, and Mickey Mouse. The Tinkerbelle kit includes 2 paint stamps, one flower and one butterfly, and also a stencil that looks like pixie dust.

I chose this kit because the price was right and also it appears very easy to use. The finished room photos look so amazing and the instructions were simple, so I gave it a shot! After painting the entire room, I waited for the walls to dry completely, then I started with the stamps. The kit included the stamps but no instructions on how to properly use them. This concerned me since I had never used painting stamps before. I applied paint to the stamps and checked to make sure there was not an excess of paint in any area of the stamp. I then placed the stamp in the desired location on the wall. I gently pressed on the stamp to make sure that the image was successfully painted onto the wall.

After removing the stamp, I noticed the image did not fully transfer, and the paint was running. I immediately caught the dripping stream of paint running down my freshly painted wall. At first I chalked this up to me being new to stamps and tried it again. Only to still have trouble getting the image to transfer even remotely close to what it should look like according to the package. However, one I had started, I had no choice but to finish continue on to finish the job. Once the stamps were all completed, the finished product looks decent. However, in my opinion, it looks nothing like the example photo included to show the finished stamp.

The stencil was a totally different story. The kit did include directions on the proper use of the stencil. I followed the package instructions word for word. The end result was beautiful and my little girl loves it! It was so simple, she was even able to help me with painting the stencil. My only wish is that another stencil had been included in the package, or a longer stencil. It was a bit frustrating to move the stencil every few minutes. Of course they do sell additional stencils, I just had not purchased additional stencils since I was not sure how it would look on the walls yet.

If I wanted to purchase another Disney Paint Stamps & Stencil Kit, I would not buy it. I would only buy the stencils and forget all about the stamps!

Planning the Perfect Spiderman Birthday Party

Is your little boy crazy about Spiderman? Then why not throw him a Spiderman Birthday party? Here are some tips for making the party fun for the kids yet simple for you.

I always find the best way to start planning for any party is the guest list. Once you know how many people to plan for then you are ready to focus on the rest of the details. After finishing the guest list, it is then time to get the invitations ready. You can either purchase character themed invitations from a local or on-line party supplier or you can make your own invitations using Microsoft Word’s invitation templates. The invitations need to be mailed out two weeks before the party date. This way all of your anticipated guests have plenty of time to make sure they can attend and RSVP. Just a side note, I have noticed that most people do not feel the need to RSVP anymore, so when you send out the invitations, make sure you are prepared for all of those people to attend.

Next, you need to make a decision on a cake. You can order a Spiderman themed cake from any local bakery or supermarket. You can also make your own cake. I find that making my own cake saves me quite a bit of money. There are a couple of options when making your own Spiderman cake. You can purchase a Spiderman shaped cake pan from a specialty baking shop. This choice is a bit more complicated to decorate, however it is well worth the effort once you see the finished cake. You could also make Spiderman cupcakes. There are several ways to do this, here are a few of my favorites. Cupcakes decorated with Spiderman Faces, or web designs, or you can even do web designs and put a Spiderman figure on top.

If you want something different than cake, you can always make crispy treats instead, or in addition to the cake. Rice crispy treats are easy to shape and color. You can make them in to Spidey heads, or even web shapes. If you are not ready for a complex decorating job, you can always get your local bakery to transfer any Spiderman picture onto edible image paper. There is a charge for this, however it is usually very minimal. You could even take a photo of your son dressed up as Spiderman, and then your cake is absolutely one of a kind! The image is easy to place onto any cake. You want to make sure the cake is ordered, pan or supplies are purchased, or the image is able to be turned into an edible one, so start the cake process about the same time that you send out the invitations.

Now comes my favorite part of planning a child’s party, the games and activities! There are so many ways to make the party memorable. Below I am going to list several of my favorite ideas. Depending on the age of the kids that will be attending you party you should choose 2 or 3 activities for them to participate in.

Spiderman coloring pages printed from the web or taken from a coloring book

Pin the spider on Spiderman

Capture the villains! Use silly string as web, and place pictures or action figures of the Spiderman villains around the yard or room. Let the kids shoot the bad guys with “web” If you use action figures, this would make a great party favor, the villain that each child shoots, they get to take home as a favor!

Spider crafts. There are tons of spider crafts out there. Just do a search on the web for Spider crafts and you will get tons of options!

Spiderman dodge ball. The birthday boy is first to be Spiderman, and all the guests are the villains The final villain left standing is next to be Spiderman. You can continue on with this through all of the party guests. Another great idea is to use a ball that looks like Spider man’s head for this game.

A child’s party is not complete without favor bags to send him with the friends that attend. You can purchase a variety of character themed goodies at party supply stores. Some of these stores may even have bags already filled and packed for you, so you don’t have to worry about filling the goody bags. You don’t want to just send home toys though, the kids will want to find something yummy in the bag as well. Spiderman fruit snacks, fruit rolls, or even red and blue candies make great choices for this theme party!

The final week before the party is the time to get all of the final details into place. Pick up all the snack foods, drinks, and other party supplies. You will need cups, plates for food, and also plates for cake and ice cream. Make sure you don’t forget napkins and plastic silverware. You will also need to make sure you chill the drinks ahead of time and have plenty of ice on hand too. You will need to order balloons from the floral department of the grocery store, or from the party supply store near you.

The day of the party everything should be all ready. The cake should be picked up right before the party, or made the day before. All decorations can also be put up right before the party. As the guests arrive you will be calm and collected and be able to enjoy the party along with your child. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of the birthday boy enjoying all the web-slinging action at his party. He will remember it forever, and I am sure you will too!

Product Review: V-Smile

If you want to get your child a video game, but also want them to learn while they play, then a learning game is a great choice for you! There are a wide array of learning game options to choose from these days. I have purchased several of these for my children including the V-Tech versions of this type of toy.

V-Tech’s versions of the learning game toys are called V-Smile and V-Smile Pocket. The V-Smile is the unit that plugs in to your television, and the V-Smile Pocket is the handheld game. There are a wide variety of games for these units, any of the games can be played on both units. This is a great benefit so you don’t have to have separate games for each unit. The games come in all of children’s favorite characters and are very educational. Each game is clearly labeled with what age group will benefit the most from that game. These games teach letters, colors, shapes, numbers, and even phonics and math! The concept of these games is wonderful, but does the product hold up to the hype?

We purchased the V-Smile unit the first Christmas it was on the market. My son wanted a learning game so badly and this one seemed to be the best fit for him. It was used on the home television and had lots of character games he likes. The games were right in his age range for him to have the best opportunity to learn, plus with him being at home with me during the day the stay at home version was fine for him. At first my son was in love with his new toy! He had a blast playing the different games and learning so much from them! Then came the first draw back. This product does not come with an AC adaptor, and it goes through batteries like they are going out of style! I could not keep batteries in the house for this thing! I was never able to find the AC adaptor available in the store. They always seemed to be sold out. And when I tried to order it on-line shipping was almost as much as the adaptor itself, so I wasn’t going to go that route. Then it seemed I was all of the sudden having to checng the batteries a lot more often. Once every few days. Then the unit stopped working all together. I contacted customer service to see if there was a problem with the unit since we had only had this for 3 months. The customer service representative walked me through different things to check for a problem. I was told to reset the unit and then it seemed to be working properly again. My son was so happy to have his game back! Then a few weeks later it happened again. The game would not come on at all. I tried changing the batteries, still would not come on at all.

My son and I were getting very frustrated at this point. I called customer service back and this time no matter how many times we reset it, it still would not work. So they suggested I send the unit back in since it was evidently a faulty one and they would send me a new one right out. I sent it back in and waited for the new unit to arrive. After a few weeks the new unit still had not arrived, my son was getting very impatient waiting for this. So I called customer service to check on the status. I was informed that they had received my unit and that the new one would be arriving in only a few days and they gave me a tracking number. I tracked the package and just as they said it would be arriving in just a few days. The day came and went for the package to arrive. I called customer service back because my sn had waited all day for his package and he was very upset that it had not come as it was scheduled. This time the customer service representative showed no record of them receiveing my faulty unit. However, my replacement unit came the next day, some how it got left behind on the dock instead of being put on to the truck for delivery, just my luck. This second unit worked much better, however my son was really disgusted with it not working and didn’t play it nearly as much since it had been such a hassle the first time around.

Since the new unit we were sent appeared to have no issues, we decided to purchase the handheld version of the V-Smile, the V-Smile Pocket, as soon as it came out. That way my son could use all the games he already had. After purchasing this, we ran into the exact same issues as with the standarad V-Smile. We returned it and got a new one. My son was so disgusted with the whole thing, he didn’t even want them anymore. I took them and sold them on ebay. Both of the new units appeared to work fine, but my son didn’t want to take the risk of them breaking again. So we sold his and bought him a different learning game instead with the money he made from selling the V-Smile units.

I am sure that other people have had better experiences with this product, however our personal experience was a nightmare. It was very hard for a 3-5 year old child to understand why his toy had to be sent back to the company because they made a bad product. The patience of a child that age is very thing and making them wait forever for a new toy just is not feasible. A child’s product should stand up to the test of time. In my opinion the V-Smile does not do that!! My advice if you choose to purchase the V-Smile, be cautious. Keep your receipt, and also all handbooks to all games, and to the unit and any accessories you purchase. Make sure that you contact customer service for any issues. If there are buigs in your unit get them taken care of as quickly as possible, if you wait over a year they will not replace your product. Another suggestion, if any sort of warranty is offered, BUY IT! With this product I have a feeling, you just may need it.

Product Review: Leapster Learning System

Educational games have become just as popular as non-educational games. In some cases they may even be more popular! There is always some new toy to help your child learn colors, shapes, letters, numbers, phonics, and math. Leading the way in this ever growing market of educational toys is Leap Frog. Leap Frog was one of the first companies to combine hand held video games and learning toys into one amazing toy, the Leapster.

The Leapster started out with just one style, silver and triangle shaped. Now you have several options to choose from! You can pick a triangle shaped, or a rectangle shaped. You can choose from the colors silver, pink, and green. You can even choose from the systems now Leapster TV, Leapster L-Max, and the standard Leapster. The wide array of games that Leap Frog has manufactured for the Leapster systems can be played on any and all of the 3 available systems. However, that is only one of the many benefits of choosing the Leapster for your child. I have purchased Leapster;s for all three of my children through out the past several years. The benefits of purchasing this system continue to grow as your child grows. Games are available for children starting at age 3, all the way up to children age 12. The games vary from Video Cartridges, to Arcade style educational games, to Electronic Books, and even Art games. The games are even available in a variety of characters that your child more than likely already knows and loves.

The original Leapster includes Learning with Leap. In the older version of the Leapster this came in cartridge form, however, in the newer version it is not in a cartridge it is automatically included inside the system, no cartridge needed! Leap is one of Leap Frog’s own original characters. This game has so many different ways for your child to learn and grow. Some of these learning games include: 1. Painting pictures. 2. Rabbit River 3. Chicken Coop 4. Shape Shop and 5. Catcher Fields. The picture painting game gives your child a variety of pictures to choose from that they can paint in any way that they like. In Rabbit River, your child helps rabbits get across a river by jumping on logs. Some times these logs have letters or numbers on them that the child has to identify in order to get the rabbit across. In the beginner levels there are no letters or numbers. As the levels get higher your child has to know the sound the letter makes or be able to count by 5s to get the rabbit across. At the Chicken Coop, your child will be able to learn by matching pictures. In the Shape Shop, is a game where you help mice build things with different shapes. Finally in Catcher Fields, you catch different items in a bucket. It may be letters or sounds. There are bonus games for when you do well too! Loads and loads of fun for any child! And all of that is included with the purchase of the original Leapster system. I am not sure which games are included with Leapster TV or with Leapster L-Max. We have not purchased those, only the Leapster. All of the games that we have have different degrees of difficulty as well. Games that my 3 year old can play, can also be played by my 5 year old just by changing the level. Even my 7 year old enjoys playing these games on the higher level as a refresher course! Plus you can expand your Leapster game library by purchasing more games that teach different skills, or that are more difficult. Some of the available titles are Spiderman Electronic Comic Book, Disney Princess Enchanted Learning, Letterpillar, Cosmic Math, Junie B Jones, Batman, and School House Rock and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the available games. Some of these games even allow you to unlock codes where you can go to the Leap Frog web site and download special surprises after you have completed certain levels! My kids have loved going to put in their codes after accomplishing a hard task!

You can also purchase accessories to go with your Leapster. They have Leapster bags or cases to carry your Leapster and your games. The case does not hold as many games as the bag, but both of these come in very handy whenever you are on a long car trip!You can also purchase charging stations. However, I have not had an issue with batteries running out too quickly yet and my kids love to play their Leapsters!

If you are planning to invest in a hand held educational game for your child, a Leapster is definitely the way to go! It is versatile, durable, and fun! My family gives it an A+!

Planning the Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party

Is your little girl as sweet as Strawberry Shortcake? She is? Then a birthday party centered around this sugary sweet character and all of her friends is the perfect choice for your little sweetie! Here are some suggestions from my daughter’s recent party with this theme.

As I have stated in my other party planning articles, always start witht he guest list. It isn’t a party unless you have all of your friends and family there to celebrate with you. Invitations can be purchased at your local store, any store with party supplies will have them. You can also choose to order your invitations on-line. Many on-line party supply sites also carry party packs including many of your party necessities. You can also make your own invitations using any card making software or by using Microsoft Word. YOu can even make Strawberry shapes from construction paper and let your child help you cut them out and decorate them! To give your guests ample time to plan to attend and to RSVP, mail invitations at least two weeks prior to the party date. Even if you do not hear back from everyone on the guest list, still be prepared for all you invite to attend. The simple act of an RSVP seems to be a dying art these days.

This sweet them gives so many options for yummy foods. Since all of the characters are named after foods, the options just go on and on. Of course the main attraction of the food at any birthday partyis the birthday cake. YOu can always order a cake from a local bakery. I have even seen bakeries put a bunch of cupcakes together into the shape of a strawberry and then ice the cupcakes all together as one cake and decorate as a strawberry. It looks almost as good as it tastes! This “cupcake” cake would be easy to do on your own as well. You can also purchase a Strawberry Shortcake cake pan from a baking specialty shop, or on-line. This does require more decorating, but once you see the finished result, it will be well worth the additional effort! Cake plans need to be made at the two week before mark also. Either order the cake from the bakery, or find whatever pans you may need to make the cake of your choice. Do not put off the cake until the last minute, this is one detail you do not want to let slip through your fingers.

After you finish all of the planning for the cake, it is time to have some fun planning the other foods for the party. Here are some of the food ideas I had to choose from when planning our party.

1. Orange Blossom Cookies – I made simple spritz cookies and added a bit of orange extract to the batter. I used a flower shape disc on my cookie press and made these. I even had my daughter add orange sprinkles to the tops of the cookies. You can even use sugar cookie dough for this same thing and roll it out and use flower shaped cookie cutters. These of course are in honor of Strawberry’s friend, Orange Blossom.
2. Strawberry Shortcake – of course this one is the obvious option. You could have this yummy dessert instead of cake or in addition to cake.
3. Blueberry Muffins – I made miniature blueberry muffins, another recipe inspired by one of Strawberry’s friends, Blueberry Muffin.
4. Lemonade – this is always a great party beverage. You could even make a lemonade punch for more pizazz. This came from Strawberry’s twin friends, Lem and Ada.

There are tons of other options as well. All you need to do is do a search for Strawberry Shortcake and Friends and see all the character names to get inspired.

Now it is time to decide on party games. You need to first consider the age of your child and the children that will be attending the party. Make sure to choose age appropriate games and crafts.

1. Strawberry Shortcake coloring pages is great for any age. You can get these out of a coloring book, or print some out from on-line. Just do a search for Free coloring pages and you will find a multitude of sites that offer all different pages with all different characters. Print them out and you are ready to go!
2. Pin the tail on Pupcake – You can draw or purchase, or print out a large picture of Strawberry’s dog Pupcake. Have the kids pint he tail on him just like pin the tail on the donkey.
3. You could decorate cookies or cupcakes or rice crispy treats with the kids. One of Strawberry’s friend’s has her own bakery and this would be fin for older kids!
4. Strawberry crafts – You could make strawberries from construction paper or pipe cleaners or many other materials.
5. Strawberry patch – You could buy or make fake strawberries and hide them in the yard, then have the kids hunt for them. You can give them buckets or baskets to put the strawberries into. These baskets or buckets can double as their goody bags!

Speaking of goody bags, no party is complete without these special packages of special treats to thank your friends for coming to the party! You can find all kinds of neat goodies for the take home bags. Anything candy, cookie, or cake related would be perfect. Candy shaped erasers, and notepads with pictures of sweet treats ont hem would be great for any age. Also you can get small Strawberry Shortcake dolls for a small price, these would also be a good choice to send home with your little guests. Strawberry candies, and even strawberry fruit snacks would make a yummy addition too. You can even purchase ready made goody bags and character themed toys at your local or on-line party supplier.

The final seven days before the party get all the final items ready. Make a trip to the store to get all the final necessities, drinks, plates, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, any other snack foods you may want, and extra ice. If you want balloons make sure to order these at least 3-5 days in advance. You can order them from a florist or party store near you. You will need to pick the cake up the day of the party or make it a day ahead of time.

All of the details will fall right into place come party day! You will love watching your little sweetheart enjoy her party with her friends. Plus all of the adults will thinkt his is the best party ever! They may just all want you to help them plan their next party too! Enjoy your party, I know we enjoyed ours!

Simple Dinner Recipes

Are you always in a pinch at dinner time? Do you constantly find yourself grabbing convenience foods out of the freezer? Is a take-out menu more familiar than your own pantry? If you said yes to any of the above, then maybe it is time for you to find some simple dinner ideas to make meal time easier and less stressful.

We all know it is more expensive to eat out all the time! But, do you realize how pricey it is to purchase convenience foods? Those frozen, ready-made meals that are found at the grocery store are busting many grocery budgets too! Dinner can be simple even without those freezer meals. Of course, I have nights when I order take-out, or grab from my freezer. However, a while back I made a choice. Each week I strive to make more home cooked meals than convenience foods or take-out food. For my family this is not an easy feat! As the mother of three children, it can be very hard to put together a meal that every one wants to eat. To be honest, that alone could drive any cook mad! All the cookbooks in the world can’t help with that problem! I have found that experimenting on my own with ingredients that I know my family enjoys can turn into something wonderfully delicious!

Here are a few ideas from my kitchen. These are all quick meals, and tips for ways to grab from the freezer and still have home cooked food! These of course are just a few of my families favorites.

Tacos are one of the easiest meals to make. You can use whatever meat your family prefers: ground beef, chicken, or turkey. It is so simple to brown the meat, season it and throw the toppings out for everyone to dig in! Did I also mention it is delicious? Well, it is! another bonus for tacos, it is the perfect meal for each person to make just how they want. If you have a picky eater around they can make their own choices as to what goes on their taco. Hard shell, soft shell, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sauce, sour cream, beans, so many choices you just can’t go wrong! I even found a simpler way to make tacos. “Is that even possible?” you say. Yes it is! You don’t even have to stand at the stove cooking this! It is a crock pot version that is absolutely delicious! Just throw thawed meat, a can of refried beans, a cup of salsa or a can of tomatoes and diced chiles, one packet of taco seasoning, and about half a cup of water all into a crock pot. Let it cook all day long. Once you are about ready to eat fill your taco shells with this meat mixture. It will knock your socks off with the flavor! You can even use this meat mixture in any of your favorite Mexican food casseroles. Plus I have a family of five, and we always have taco meat leftover. I throw the leftovers into a freezer safe container and then I toss it into my freezer. What a great home cooked meal in my freezer that is ready whenever I need it!

Next time you think about stopping at your local sandwich shop, keep right on driving and make sandwiches at home instead. We always have lunch meat and bread at our house so this is a really easy one for me. We love throwing together our favorite sandwiches and making a salad or our favorite canned soup. For variety you can grill the sandwiches, toast the bread, or heat the lunch meat. BLTs are one of our favorite sandwich night choices, You could even make sloppy Joe’s instead of flat meat sandwiches. Plus if you aren’t in the mood for typical white bread, just grab some specialty breads at the store when they go on sale, throw them in the freezer so they are there fresh and ready whenever you have sandwich night! I love grabbing deli loafs and burger buns and even white and wheat breads when they are one sale. I have a steady supply in my freezer of breads for just about any occasion. This makes sandwich night a great simple meal and you didn’t even have to stand in line at the sandwich shop and watch someone else make your food.

Casseroles are another wonderful way to make dinner simple. Most casseroles can be thrown together the night before hand. Then you leave them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Once you get home from your busy day, put your dinner into the oven and let it cook while you wind down. You don’t have to worry about chopping any ingredients, or cooking anything. Just put it into the oven and wait. Not to mention, many casseroles can be frozen. So why not double up your recipe the next time you make a casserole. Then your family can eat one right then for dinner, and have an extra to put into the freezer for dinner on another night! We eat lots of casseroles at my house. It is an easy way to slip vegetables in on my picky eater and also a comforting food for the adults too.

Meatloaf seems to strike fear in the heart of many cooks and eaters. It is an easy meal to make, but it is also easy to not make properly. My husband is a big fan of meatloaf, I was not. When I was first cooking for my family I did not want to make meatloaf. Finally one day I started searching for different types of meatloaf recipes. I found tons of recipes that are not your typical meatloaf. Lots of these recipes are crock pot meatloaves, Italian meatloaves, Mexican meatloaves, turkey loaf, chicken loaf, you name the style there is probably a meatloaf out there to fit! I was floored. I always thought meatloaf was boring, but not anymore. My family happens to love the Mexican version that I found. Experiment and find one that your family enjoys. Once you know which one the family likes, make a few and throw them in the freezer. It is so easy to pull one out and throw it into the oven. While the already cooked meatloaf is re-heating in the oven you can open up some canned vegetables or whatever side you like best get it good and ready. This is one meal I do not think I have seen in a family size portion at the local market, but man it tastes so good right out of my freezer! The crock pot versions we tried were good too, but I couldn’t seem to get mine to hold together as well when cooked in the crock pot. Just search in your favorite cook book or on your favorite recipe site and find the meatloaf that sounds the best to you and give it a whirl. I know that you will be pleasantly surprised, I know I was!

Seafood is becoming more and more popular these days. I love to grab a few bags of frozen seafood whenever it goes onto sale at my grocery store. My favorites are frozen tilapia and frozen shrimp. When I buy the frozen shrimp I get the raw shrimp with about 31-40 shrimps in each bag. You simply take this out and cook with it. The shrimp simply gets thrown into a pot of boiling water, cook for 5-10 minutes and they are done. You can add them to a pasta dish with some sauce and it is an instant meal! The tilapia or any other fish can be quickly sauteed in your favorite seasoning and paired with some rice or steamed vegetables and you have a quick and simple meal that is also healthy and fairly figure friendly too!

These are only a few of my tips, but I hope you find them helpful in making your evenings more simple. I know it is such a great feeling being able to sit down and enjoy a meal together with my family. Whether I slaved all day, or only 10 minutes on the meal. Sitting down with my family talking about our days and enjoying dinner is one of my favorite pastimes. Hopefully these hints will help it be one of your favorites times too!

The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN: A Cut Above the Rest

My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. The kids got shipped off to their grandmother’s house for the weekend so we could enjoy some time to ourselves. We wanted to make our dinner out special so we chose to go to The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN.

The Butcher Shop specializes in steaks. However they have lots of options on the menu if steak is not your thing. The evening that my husband and I ate there, we both chose steak to eat. However, we also enjoyed an appetizer,some wine, and a fabulous dessert. We chose the Crab Cake Remoulade for our appetizer. They cost $9, for 2 crab cakes. They were absolutely delicious! One for each of us to eat, and the flavors were so intense yet not overpowering. We each also had a salad that came with our meal. My husband went with the Ceasar salad, and I chose the house salad. They both were very well put together and fresh. For our entrees my husband chose the 14 oz fillet mignon for $29.00, and I chose the Stuffed Fillet for $26. My husband said his fillet was cooked to perfection and was one of the best he had ever eaten. My stuffed fillet, was heavenly! It was stuffed with sauteed portabello mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese and fresh rosemary sprigs and served with Au Jus on the side. We both chose to have a baked potato for our side item. We were able to choose whatever items we wanted to go into our baked potato. My husband had his loaded, and I chose a few of my favorite fillings cheese, sour cream, butter, and bacon. The presentation of our meals was gorgeous, and most importantly they were so flavorful that we really enjoyed them. The Waiter was so helpful. My husband knew exactly what wine he wanted, however, I was unsure. The Waiter brought me one to try and when I didn’t think it was the one for me, he brought me another which I loved and chose as my wine for dinner.

Even though we were almost stuffed, we couldn’t resist asking what was on the dessert menu. The Waiter described each of the dessert items to us. They all sounded divine, however, there was one that stood out. They were offering a special dessert at that time, it was Banana’s Foster. I had never had this before, but heard it was amazing, so we ordered it and enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant while we waited. The Banana’s Foster arrived and it looked exquisite. The Butcher Shop does not light it’s Banana’s Foster, so that was one aspect of eating Banana’s Foster we did not experience. I took a bite and looked over to my husband and asked him “Where is yours?” This dessert was so amazing, I couldn’t believe it! We ate the entire dessert and then enjoyed the atmosphere a little longer while finishing up our wine.

Since it was our anniversary, we asked the Waiter to take our picture so we could remember the night forever. However, even without the picture, I don’t think we will ever forget that night. The food was amazing, the atmosphere romantic, and the service impeccable. The prices are much too high for us to eat at The Butcher Shop on a regular basis, however, I will definitely want to go back there on our next special occasion!

Restaurant Review: Macaroni Grill, Memphis, TN

Just last week I celebrated my birthday. Instead of purchasing me a gift that I may or may not like, my sister decided to take me out to lunch. We hardly ever get time together anymore since both of us have children and stay so busy, so we figured this would be a good opportunity to enjoy some good food and some time together. We chose Macaroni Grill for our lunch destination. It was close to her work and we both like Italian food.

This was not my first time at Macaroni Grill. I have eaten there on several occasions, however I had not been there in several years. When I walked in I was not sure I was in the right place! The restaurant had been completely renovated on the inside. It really looks amazing! I love the way it changed the atmosphere of the restaurant. It makes each table seem more private and cozy instead of being in a wide open dining room. The waitress came by with fresh bread with Italian Butter (olive oil and freshly cracked pepper) and wrote her name on the table so we can ask for her by name if we needed her. She took our drink order and came back with the drinks to see if we were ready to order. We were not quite ready yet, so she gave us a few more minutes. I took my time gazing through the new menu. Lots of delicious dishes to choose from. When we finally made our decisions we could not find our waitress. We saw another Waiter walking by so I stopped him and asked for him to get our waitress. He got her and she quickly came over to take our orders. My sister chose the Chicken Florentine salad for $8.99 and also a bowl of Chicken Toscana soup for $3.99. The soup was good, however she said that the salad was not as good as she thought it was going to be. I chose the Chicken Cannelloni for $7.99. According to the menu description this is a hand-rolled pasta stuffed with oven-roasted chicken, melted cheese and spinach, then baked in an Asiago cream sauce, then it is topped with tomato sauce. It was absolutely delicious! I had my youngest child with me. She is 3 and a half and ordered the children’s spaghetti and meatballs for $4.79. It was a huge portion. It had a ton of pasta and one huge meatball for her. I really think my sister, myself, and my daughter could have split this one dish and had plenty of food for the three of us. My three year old daughter certainly was not able to finish it all, so we took the majority of it home with us.

Since it was my birthday our waitress brought out a delicious dessert with a candle in it. Usually Macaroni Grill has a singing Waiter, waitress, or hostess come over and sing you happy birthday in Italian. However, today they didn’t have any singers available during that shift. This was perfectly fine with me though! My daughter insisted on singing me happy birthday anyways though. The Smothered Chocolate Cake that was brought out was divine! It is a chocolate cake that is covered in a warm chocolate sauce and then sprinkled with nuts. It also had whipped cream at the four corners of the cake. Absolutely wonderful, especially for a chocolate lover like myself. My daughter’s meal came with her own serving of ice cream.

If you have never been to Macaroni Grill, or even if you haven’t been in a while, definitely choose this for your next evening out. On this occasion my waitress could have done better, however, that is hit and miss at times. The food was good, and the atmosphere was great! My daughter even learned some Italian while we were in the restroom. All around it was a great lunch out! Hope you give it a try and enjoy it even more than I did!

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