Kids Chapter Book Bookshelf

As mentioned in other posts, we have a TON of books.  They are indeed my kryptonite and they occupy space in every room in our house.  When my cousin was giving away an old DVD stand, I saw chapter book organization in my future.  Chapter Book Shelf 1The shallow shelves designed to hold DVDs in their jackets are PERFECT for the copious amounts of chapter books the kids have.  Chapter Book Shelf 2Chapter Book Shelf 5The shelf’s slim design also fit nicely on our third floor where we have a barrel ceiling and dormers. Chapter Book Shelf 3Chapter Book Shelf 4 While this shelf does not hold all of our chapter books, we are a bit more organized than before.  I Even plopped an old can on one of the shelves so the kids have a variety of bookmarks at their finger tips.Chapter Book Shelf 6

E. Claire Dessert – Yum!

Lovingly named after Mary’s first child, you’ll love this dessert. It couldn’t be easier…or more delicious.  Bringing this will make you the hit of any picnic, but don’t count on there being any left to take home.


  • 1 pkg (5.1 oz) vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 1 tub (8 oz) whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 box graham crackers
  • 1 container chocolate frosting

Mix vanilla pudding mix with 3 cups cold milk and let stand until soft-set.  Fold whipped topping into prepared pudding.  Line a 13×9 pan with graham crackers, breaking if needed to fit pan.

Pour ½ of the pudding mixture onto the graham crackers.  Top with another layer of graham crackers.

Pour remaining pudding mixture onto the graham crackers.  Top with a final layer of graham crackers.



Remove lid and foil liner from frosting container, and heat for 20-30 seconds in the microwave or until it pours easily.  Pour over final graham cracker layer and spread to the edges of the pan.

Refrigerate until set.  We have enjoyed it the same day we assembled it, but prefer to make it a day ahead.


Fill your freezer

With the school year budding and extracurricular activities filling our calendars, this is the time of year that we load up our freezers with ready-to-go main courses.  By prepping meat for dinner and bulking up on breakfast items we can ensure healthy, homemade meals in less time.  P.S. Don’t forget to take it out of the freezer the night before you want to eat it.

Turn dinner into “fast food” by using these tips for the freezer:

  • brown ground beef ahead of time for spaghetti or lasagna
  • brown ground beef and add taco seasoning to make taco night a snap
  • before freezing, toss pork chops in a zip-top bag along with any of a variety of marinades
  • marinate a london broil and wrap it up so that it is full of flavor 
  • put boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a zip-top bag with marinade or barbecue sauce before freezing
  • cut a large boneless pork loin into family-sized portions and freeze individually

Impress your kiddos with a “weekend breakfast” on a school day by using these tips:

  • make waffles in bulk and freeze
  • make pancakes in bulk and freeze
  • make muffins in bulk and freeze
  • make quick breads or coffee cakes in bulk and freeze Some families invest in vacuum-sealing systems for their freezer favorites, but we have not found it to be necessary.  With each of us feeding a family of six, it doesn’t take long to cycle through our prepped items, not giving them a chance to suffer any freezer burn.  We utilize zip-top freezer bags, freezer paper, and aluminum foil.

Here’s to getting organized!

Make your freezer even MORE organized with this idea.

Over The Top Chocolate Cake

This unbelievably moist cake is a chocolate lover’s dream.  Bonus?  Since it starts with a cake mix, it is as easy as it is scrumptious.  ENJOY!!


  • 1 Devil’s Food cake mix
  • 1 (small) box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, set aside.  Mix all ingredients together in an electric mixer until blended.  Pour batter into bundt pan.  Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.  This cake holds its own, but a little vanilla ice cream is a delicious complement.

Ball Workout Trio


The exercise ball is a great workout tool that can add endless variety to your workout routine.  The following trio includes an exercise for the upper body, lower body and abdominal muscles as well.

To maximize the benefits of this workout, do 30 repetitions of each exercise and complete the trio for 3 sets.


#1 Tricep Extension

Begin with a tricep extension.  Hold the ball with the palms of your hands overhead – arms extended…..

…..Bend at the elbows, reaching for your shoulder blades (see next photo).  Extend arms and repeat.

              # 2  Abdominal Tuck

Position yourself with your thighs on the ball and your arms planted on the ground in front of you.  Using your abs and maintaining a straight back, tuck your knees toward your chest. Return legs to starting position and repeat.

# 3 Leg Extension

Lying flat on your back, bend your knees and squeeze the ball with both legs.  Extend your knees, lifting your feet toward the ceiling.  Repeat.

Stay fit friends!!

Taco Bar – Perfect for Cinco De Mayo or any other Night

Make your own taco night is a staple at our houses, but you can kick it up a notch for Cinco de Mayo or any other night by adding our Simple Summer Margarita and decorating with our Colorful Mexican Paper Flowers.

We serve:

  • soft flour tortillas and hard corn tortillas
  • ground beef, seasoned with packaged taco seasoning (‘cuz it’s easy)
  • salsa
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • lettuce
  • guacamole
  • refried beans (not pictured)
  • Spanish rice (not pictured)
  • tortilla chips (make a great topper if you choose to go the taco salad route)Our kids love this do-it-yourself meal because they get to play a role in their own meal prep.  Our husbands love it because it is delicious and they can get their fill. We love it because it is fun and it is always a crowd pleaser!

Muy bien!!

Cookbook Makeover

We know that like us, you have recipes of all shapes and sizes floating around your kitchen.  And, like us, you sometimes have trouble finding a certain recipe when you want it.  Here is an easy and inexpensive way to organize your favorites so they will always be right at your fingertips.


  • 3-ring binder (preferably with a clear plastic sleeve on the front)
  • clear page protectors
  • dividers
  • a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper
  • some pretty adhesive letters  First, decide on the sections that you want to have in your cookbook.  We think “Appetizers”, “Side Dishes”, “Main Courses”, “Desserts”, and “Miscellaneous” are all pretty mainstream.  But you may also want to add “Breakfast”, “Cocktails”, “Casseroles”, or a host of other options, depending on what kind of recipes you have.  Sort your recipes into the desired categories.

The recipes that are full page are easy to slip in.  For your recipes on smaller cards, you can put 3-4 in a sleeve. Now for the fun part.  Cut your scrapbook paper to fit into the clear sleeve on the front of your binder.  Apply the adhesive letters to the paper for your title.  “Good Eats”, “Family Faves”, and “The Cook’s Book” are some cute ideas.  Of course, “Recipes” also does the trick!  Get creative or go classic, as long as your recipes are now safely stored in one place.


Great Afternoon Snacks

Many of you have asked what we give our kids for afternoon snacks.  Ask and you shall receive!  BTW – these are perfect snacks for adults, too.Snacks are given to bridge the gap between two meals as opposed to filling a child’s belly.  You can guarantee that if the snack is too big there won’t be much room in that belly for a healthy dinner.

  • Banana Medallions dipped in Sunflower Seeds
  • Cheez Its, Craisins, and Chocolate Animal Crackers
  • Granola Bar or Granola Thin and Small Glass of Milk
  • Frosted Mini Wheats and M&Ms

Sometimes a snack needs to have a little more “oomph” in order to provide enough nutrition and staying power for after school sports or other high energy activities before dinner.

  • Apple Slices with Peanut Butter
  • Mini Pretzels with a Cheese Stick
  • Greek Yogurt

S’mores Salad

If you thought this recipe had anything green in it, think again.  Periodically I have my kids come up with their own recipes for dinner and dessert.  When my son Grant asked if he could prepare dessert one evening, the S’mores Salad was born.  It was such a hit at our house I used it at Girl Scout camp.  The kids loved it and the adults raved about it.S'mores Salad 3


  • Golden Grahams Cereal
  • Milk Chocolate Chips
  • Mini Marshmallows

Dining In – Assemble the ingredients in individual oven safe (or microwave safe) bowls and heat until the chips start to melt a little.

Dining Out – At camp, the campers layered the ingredients in plastic cups and let them rest in the sun.  After lunch each cup had transformed into its own gooey-goodness.S'mores Salad 1

S'mores Salad  2S'mores Salad 5

Baby’s Box O’ Stuff

Now more than ever our family is on the go.  This soccer field, that piano lesson, this dance class, that baseball field, this school assembly, that birthday party, this meeting, that class, and the list goes on.  Elizabeth (aka Baby #5) is toted about town a lot more than her siblings were at 10 months old.

By the time I check, check and double all the loot that is required for the activities the other four are doing, I sometimes arrive at a location and realize I have nothing for the baby.  So, she moves on to my keys, phone, ink pen, etc.  Now I keep this in my van – Lizzy’s Box O’ Stuff.  Box O' StuffIt is nothing more than an old Pampers wipes box containing a few things that if were left behind, no one would really miss and no cash would be lost.  Currently, Lizzy’s box holds the lid from a icing container, 2 plastic spoons, 2 scoops, a children’s fork that doesn’t really pick anything up, a (clean) toothbrush and a dull plastic cookie cutter.Box O' Stuff contentsNow, these items may seem blah to you, but I assure you Elizabeth (and believe it or not, the other kids as well) is fully entertained by the box’s contents.  Our family strives to leave a location better than we found it.  And, while I certainly do not leave a place without collecting my things and strongly frown upon littering, if I were to lose an item from this box, no tears would be shed.

Leave a comment telling us what’s in your Box O’ Stuff!