Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Italian Pasta Salad

This is my go-to salad for family barbecues and church functions.  Its simple, easy, and always a crowd pleaser.

1  16 oz box of Garden Style Rotini
1  16 oz bottle of Low Fat Italian Dressing
1  2.25 oz can of sliced olives
3/4 pound strawberries, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Boil pasta until al dente.  While pasta is boiling, slice strawberries, tomato, and red onion.  When rotini is cooked, drain and run under cold water.  Place drained rotini in large salad bowl.  Add strawberries, tomato, red onion, and olives.  Toss.  Add 1/2-3/4 of the bottle of Italian Dressing. Add parmesan. Toss again.  Top lightly with parmesan cheese.  Serves 10.

Weight Watchers PPV 6.

Monday, October 29, 2012

DIY Cake Plate

For quite some time I have been looking for the perfect cake plate.  The ones I've found have been too pricey or not quite what I'm looking for. I don't really want a cake plate to put a cake on, but for decoration. This is why I couldn't justify $30-$50. I was excited when I happened upon some candle stick holders and plates at our dollar store. I knew with a little bit of epoxy and spray paint that I could have the cake plate I've been wanting at a price I could justify.  This project cost me $5.00. (And I still have spray paint left over for more projects!)

First, mark the center on the back of the plate.  That way when you attach the candle stick holder it is in the right position.

Next, fill the candle stick holder with epoxy.  I used some epoxy that my husband had picked up at work, but I would suggest that you use Loctite five minute set epoxy that is available at Home Depot or Walmart.
 Attach candle stick holder to the bottom of the plate.  Let epoxy set. 
After epoxy is set, spray paint cake plate desired color.  Or if you chose a plate and candle stick holder that are already the color you would like, enjoy your new cake plate!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Benefits of Outdoor Play

As the days are starting to get colder, my boys are mourning the loss of their outdoor play time. My boys love to be outside. In fact, some days its all I can do to keep them inside long enough to do their chores. During the warmer months my boys will usually spend about an hour outside before lunch, and then another 1-2 hours outside in the afternoon. Then in the evening, we are usually outside as a family for another hour or so. I am the kind of a mom that goes outside with my kids.  We play together, or they play while I do yard work. 
I recently read an article about the importance of outdoor play.(I would link the article up, but I cannot remember the source since I read it while in a hospital waiting room!)  The article suggested that there was new research linking the amount of time a child spends outside to higher IQ.  This piqued my interest and I began doing a little research on the benefits of outdoor play.
  • Being outdoors stimulates the synthesis of Vitamin D (just remember to put on sunscreen after the first five minutes outdoors!)
  • Outdoor play has been linked to improved attention spans and self-control
  • Vigorous activity outside has been linked to lower stress levels
  • Children who spend time outside are said to have greater creativity
  • According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, outdoor play in childhood helps decrease risks for Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease
  • Kids have the opportunity to socialize with other kids outdoors.  I know this is true for my boys because almost every time we step outside, we soon have neighbor kids playing in our yard.
  • Encourages development of gross motor skills.  When kids are running, jumping, digging, and riding bikes, they have an opportunity to develop and refine these skills. It also helps them develop coordination.
  • Helps children develop perceptual abilities
  • Helps them learn about the world around them through real life experiences. 
Most nights my kids come inside full of sand and giggles.  Although it can be frustrating to clean up after them, I am thankful that they've had the experience of being outside and enjoying life. I am thankful that they aren't spending their time in front of the television, computer, or gaming device.

So if you are able, get outside and enjoy some time with your little ones! Its so important for their development, and you may even find yourself enjoying it as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Confetti Couscous

This has to be one of my most favorite recipes. I wasn't introduced to couscous until college, when I had a roommate that was crazy about it. She convinced me to try it and since then I've been hooked. This recipe came about after I sampled a side dish made with couscous in one of my cooking classes.  I changed it up to add vegetables I liked, and I added in chicken as a protein to make it a complete meal.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does!

1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box couscous (I used Near East Original Plain Couscous)
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 chicken breasts cut in 1-inch cubes

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken and cook until chicken is well done, about 7-10 minutes.  While chicken is cooking, follow package directions to cook couscous, adding in 1tsp olive oil (package calls for 1 Tbsp, but I prefer 1 tsp) and chicken bouillon cube. When chicken is done, add 1 tsp olive oil to pan and the green pepper, red pepper, onion, carrot, and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes until vegetables start to soften. Fold in couscous until well blended.  Add in garlic powder, onion powder, ground red pepper and salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 6. Weight Watchers PPV 9.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Banner Tutorial

Banners are a quick, easy, and fairly inexpensive way to dress up any space.  I'm the type of person who doesn't like to have too much clutter. Each year I like to decorate for autumn and for Halloween, but I don't like having to change out boxes of decorations.  This year, to simplify, I got rid of a lot of my old decorations, and opted to go with something more simple.  For Halloween, I chose to do a banner and spider decoration on the door.  That way, when Halloween is over, I can easily pack away the banner and spider and bring out the Harvest style wreath for Thanksgiving. These banners are so easy to make that I may even try doing another one for Thanksgiving.

For this project you will need:
  • rotary cutter, mat, and ruler or scissors
  • 3 different fabrics.  I used two fat quarters and some burlap
  • two yards of ribbon or bias tape for the top of the banner
  • assorted embellishments of your choice

First off, I took my burlap and cut it into a strip that was 11 inches by the WOF (width of fabric).  Next, I took my two fat quarters, folded them in half and cut them into 11 inch strips.

From the 11 inch strips you will cut your triangles.  The tops of my triangles measured 7 inches.  To start with, I measured over 3 1/2 inches on the bottom of my fabric and marked it.  From here all you have to do is take your ruler and and angle it back to the edge of your fabric and cut.  Now take your ruler, measure over 7 inches on the top, angle it back to your 3 1/2 inch mark and cut.  Your fabric should now look like this.

From now on, all you will have to do is measure over 7 inches and angle your ruler from your last cutting point.  You can see how the ruler is angled in the above picture.

You will need to cut four triangles from one fabric, and three triangles from the other two fabrics.

Now lay out your triangles in alternating order.  You will take your two yards of ribbon or bias tape and pin it to the top of your triangles. I left about one to two inches of ribbon overage on each side.  This is so I had something to hang it by.

Sew the ribbon to the triangles.  I used a 3.0 stitch length.  Now you are ready to add any embellishments you want.  I chose to sew some ribbons onto the burlap to dress it up a bit.  I also tied extra ribbons on the banner in between triangles.

Now hang and enjoy!


  • Your fabric will fray, especially the burlap.  If you don't want a frayed look, you can help prevent this by using pinking shears to cut the triangles (on cotton fabric). For the burlap you can use a spray adhesive or lightly modge podge the edges. Let it dry before sewing!