Another graduate, somewhere, is preparing to walk down the aisle to receive their long sought-after diploma. Friends and family are trying to figure out the best way to recognize their achievement, or a way to put some finishing touches on a celebration or gift in their honor. I remember, after my sister’s graduation, when she was preparing to leave for college, she couldn’t help but be nervous. I mean, college is a big step. Life on your own for the first time since birth. I wanted to give her a little something at her dinner the night before she left for school, and I hate just sticking money inside of a card. This was the resulting ‘brain-child.’ She truly got a tickle out of it, especially after having seen all of the fire extinguishers in the dorm room whose displays had read them same. This is a quick and easy graduate gift, perfect for the high school graduate preparing to head off to college. It’s easy to make ahead, or even throw together last minute if you’re scrambling for some creative way to display a monetary gift. This would also be cute to give to the college graduate preparing for a move into their first home or apartment. Who doesn’t love a gift that gives them a good laugh? Especially when preparing for such a tremendous transition as embarking on the next chapter in life.
‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift
- A typed up ‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ header, printed on 81/2 x 11 computer paper
- Either an 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 picture frame
- 2 bills in whatever monetary increments you choose
- Tape your two bills, evenly spaced apart, to the ‘Break In Case of’ sheet.
- Put the finished paper into the frame, and secure the back of the picture frame into place.
- Give to a wonderful graduate with a sense of humor.
I originally discovered this in a Taste of Home list of easy grill meals. After briefly scanning the ingredients and directions, I knew I had to try it, and it was love at first bite. Creamy, cheesy, bacon-y…what better elements to build a mouth-watering side-dish for any meal? These potatoes are delicious, and equally easy to prepare and cook. We love having them any evening we grill out. They’re great for just our family’s dinner, or I can easily double the recipe, making a second batch, to feed a larger crowd. I’ve also found that these make a great, easy side-dish for camping meals. Even better, use this recipe as a guideline and get creative in your kitchen, or backyard. These potatoes have plenty of potential possibilities. Try adding broccoli. We also make, and love, a sweet potato version based off of this recipe. Whether you decide to stick to the original, or spice your potato packet up a little, you can’t go wrong with these cheese potatoes.
Grilled Three-Cheese Potatoes
- 3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chives, minced
- 1/2 tsp seasoning salt, or plain salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cooked, crumbled bacon, or 1/2 cup cooked, diced ham
- 1/2 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.
- Transfer contents to a double thickness of greased, heavy-duty aluminum foil (about 18 inches square).
- Dot with butter.
- Fold foil around potato mixture and seal tightly.
- Grill, covered, over medium heat for 15-18 minutes on each side or until potatoes are tender.
- Carefully (very carefully because the escaping steam can burn you) open the foil packet.
- Sprinkle the bacon, or ham, and cheeses over the potato mixture.
- Reseal and grill for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
- Carefully open and let all steam escape.
I try to stock up on meat when it goes on sale, and lucky for me, pork chops go on sale often. When I’ve forgotten to plan ahead and am wracking my brain for something simple to make, I know I’ve always got some pork chops handy. I love being able to just pull them out, let them thaw, and know that whatever recipe I choose to use, it will be relatively quick and easy. Originally, my favorite way to fix pork chops had always been to bread them, fry them, and serve them with gravy and caramelized onions. However, these tender, juicy chops have now been dubbed the ‘best ever’ in our house, and in many other houses. Give them a try for yourself and see what all the fuss is about.
Crispy, Baked Italian Ranch Pork Chops
- bottled Ranch dressing
- 3 cups dry Italian bread crumbs
- 1 package (0.6 oz) dry Italian dressing mix
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 6 pork chops
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with aluminum foil.
- In a shallow bowl, or plate, pour a layer of ranch dressing.
- In a separate bowl, combine bread crumbs, Italian dressing mix, Parmesan, and garlic powder.
- One at a time, dip a pork chop in the ranch dressing, turning to evenly coating both sides.
- Next, put the chop into the bread crumb mixture, coating well on both sides.
- Place coated chops onto the prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the insides are no longer pink.
My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.
Mexican Chicken Spaghetti
- 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
- 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
- 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
- In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
- Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
- Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
- Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.
This experiment is easy to do and is not time consuming, but the message for children, and even for adults, is priceless. The results are eye-opening. These are pictures of an at-home version of Emoto’s Rice experiment.
I apologize for not taking any before pictures, but these pictures are after the rice has sat in it’s airtight container for 4 months. These started as two empty tupper ware containers. I cooked about a cup of white rice, and put about 1/2 cup in each. Filtered water was added to fill it to the top. Then the lids were secured and taped to ensure it would remain air tight. Both the jars contain rice from the exact same batch and went into their containers with the exact same water at the exact same time. Even the containers used and the tape is identical. The ONLY difference are the words written and taped on top of the containers. When I taped the ‘LOVE’ the boys were asked to think ‘I love you’ and picture anything that they identified with love. I had them each say it aloud once. The exact same thing, but this time utilizing the word ‘HATE’ was done with the second container. Now, after 4 months the ‘love’ rice smells slightly sweet, and is still pure white. It looks and smells like it’s still fresh enough to eat. The ‘hate’ rice has turned completely brown and smells rancid. It just looks rotten. Everything was exactly the same about these two containers, yet there is clearly a HUGE difference in the rice in each.
It was amazing to see the actual power of our words and thoughts, and their impact on the things around us. It was a powerful message for my kids! Again nothing was put into these other than rice, and sterilized water. The only other ingredient was the thought behind each word. Then they sat and let those thoughts work on them. Looking at our tangible evidence, the conclusion we drew is that there is real power in words. Use them carefully.
With all my boys, it’s hard to get out for a manicure or pedicure, but I still love how silky smooth my hands and feet feel afterwards. To get those same results, without always having to arrange for multiple sitters and leaving the house, I’ve turned to making my own scrubs at home. There’s no reason my hands and feet should suffer just because I’ve had four kids. That being said, I love a good sugar scrub, especially in the Summer, for my flip flop feet. There’s nothing like smooth, scented feet as I sit poolside. I also enjoy experimenting with new scents and combinations, and when I stumbled upon this version from The Idea Room, I knew I had to make it immediately! It sounded that refreshing, and I just couldn’t wait, literally. The results were everything I was hoping for in a light, refreshing scent, but with all the dead-skin exfoliating power I am used to. Give your feet and/or hands a good scrub down with this, and then rinse. Not only will the delicious scent linger, but everything will be so smooth. It’s perfect for letting those feet or hands make their official debut out in the summer sun!
Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tbsp shredded coconut
- 6-8 drops of Lime essential oil
- In a microwave, or on a stove-top, melt coconut oil.
- Remove from heat and mix in the sugar, stirring until fully incorporated.
- Add the coconut and the Lime oil.
- Mix together.
- Use! This recipe only makes 1 cup of sugar scrub, but could easily be doubled to stockpile some, or even to make to give as gifts.
It’s that time of year again. Time for hot grills, good friends, picnic foods…it’s cookout time! I discovered this potato salad last summer, when I was searching for an alternative to my go-to mustard based recipe. I had been assigned to bring it as a dish, and I just wanted something a little different. Most likely due to the fact that I’d already been to two cookouts in the last 24 hours and didn’t want to eat the exact same thing again. I was a bit shocked, and saddened, to discover that there is such a thing as too much potato salad. I couldn’t have asked for more from this version. Although the recipe makes enough for roughly 4-6 people, depending on serving size, the ingredients easily doubled to make enough for a larger party. I was equally pleased to see that not only did my family love it, but so did everyone else. Who said change was a bad thing? Now, as you get ready to host or attend, a cookout (or cookouts) in the coming weeks of Summer, give this side a try. It’s a rich, creamy potato salad with all the tastes and textures of an actually loaded baked potato. This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next soiree, and I assure you that you will be asked for the recipe. Repeatedly.
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
- 4-5 large Russet potatoes
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
- 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- salt & pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonaise and sour cream until evenly combined.
- Stir in 1/2 of the green onions (1/4 cup), the cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Let this sit in the fridge to chill while you prepare the potatoes.
- Wash, peel, and then cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
- Put cut potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, and boil until just fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t over boil, or potatoes with mush and become loaded mashed potatoes.
- When potatoes are done, drain, and let cool.
- Put potatoes in a large bowl and combine with the sour cream mixture.
- Stir, or fold, in about 3/4 of the crumbled bacon.
- Top with remaining green onions and crumbled bacon.
- Serve chilled.
I grew up eating my Mom and Grandma’s meatloaf, and it was one of my absolute favorite dinners. All these years it’s remained one of my favorite ‘comfort foods’. When I began cooking for my own family, it took me 3 years of watching my Grandma lovingly prepare my favorite dish before I was able to properly ‘eyeball’ the ingredients to replicate that same great taste. Now, every single one of my kids looks forward to that one night a month when meatloaf’s on the menu. However, recently I’ve really been trying to experiment with new twists on some of our old favorites, just to keep things interesting. A good friend swore by this cheeseburger-flavored version, so I decided to swap it with my traditional meatloaf in our monthly menu. Warning: This is not your Grandma’s meatloaf! This cheesy little monster of a meatloaf will leave you wanting to lick every last drop off your plate. While I still love, and will continue to make my more traditional version, this recipe is a new family favorite that has already been added to our rotating regular recipes.
Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, toasted
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp mustard
- 1/3 cup French fried onions
- 2 slices of sandwich bread*
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef and the next 8 ingredients, mixing well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands ‘dirty’ and give everything a good squishing until evenly combined and a uniform consistency is reached.
- Place both pieces of bread into a meatloaf pan so that they evenly cover the bottom.
- Form meat mixture into a loaf shape and transfer to the meatloaf pan. You want it sitting directly on top of the bread.
- In a small bowl, combine mustard and ketchup.
- Evenly spread the ketchup mixture onto the top of the meatloaf.
- Bake 40 minutes. Top with the French fried onions and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the inside is no longer pink.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the pan and discard the grease ‘toast’. Slice the meatloaf and serve.
* This is the best meatloaf tip I’ve ever discovered. Instead of your meatloaf sitting and cooking in it’s own grease, or having to use a broiler pan, simply let the slices of bread absorb every last drop of fat that cooks out. It’s that simple. After cooking, simply discard and you’re left with a mess-free loaf that’s ready to be sliced and served.
Although I haven’t mentioned it before, in order to earn some extra money, usually for crafts, or fun money for the family, I babysit during the day. Even though I love my boys, and wouldn’t trade a single one, I do consider myself extremely blessed that during the week everyday is now filled with a splash of pink. The beautiful baby girl I watch has given me a wonderful opportunity to experiment with all things girly, which up until 9 months ago was foreign territory for me. I can’t believe how much she’s grown in the 10 months I’ve had her in my life. That being said, her 1st birthday is approaching fast, and with a ‘Princess’ theme for THE Birthday Princess, I knew these necklaces would make the perfect party favors for her special day. They couldn’t have been any easier, and I thought the results were just adorable. Each necklace represents a different Disney Princess, and in order they are: Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Cinderelle, Tianna, Aurora, and Ariel. I love the simplicity and the how the different colors capture the essence of each character’s unique color-scheme. I opted out of making necklaces representing Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle, but if those are your favorite Princesses, I have listed below the ideal colors to create necklaces for them.
Disney Princess Necklaces
- 3/4 inch wooden beads
- 5/8 inch wide white ribbon
- wooden skewers
- paint brush
- acryllic paints
- Thread wooden beads onto skewer. I found up to four would work and allow enough room for drying without sticking to one another.
- Paint beads desired color. It helps if you use only one color on beads on the same skewer. While most colors only require one coat, lighter ones such as yellow and white, may require two coats.
- Set skewer on top of a bowl, with beads over the center of the bowl, and allow beads to dry.
- Measure ribbon around neck and add 2 inches to the desired length. Cut. Repeat for the desired number of necklaces.
- To prevent fraying, use a match or candle, and very carefully melt each end of the ribbon.
- When the beads are dry, thread them onto the ribbon into the order shown above.
Pocahontas: 2 tan, 2 brown, 1 turqoise
Belle: 3 light yellow, 2 dark yellow
Mulan: 2 light blue, 2 dark pink, 1 purple
Jasmine: 3 turquoise, 2 gold
Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!
Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs
- 5-6 bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
- In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
- Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
- Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
- Preheat your grill to high heat.
- Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
- Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
- Lightly oil the grill grate.
- Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
- Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.