Top Menu Plans of 2012

Good by 2012 and hello 2013! Happy New Year! The past year I created a weekly menu plan almost every week for my family and to share with you! It was a huge hit and here are the top 10 Menu plans of 2012.

#1 Back To School Menu & Lunch Box fun

FYI- for all you regular visitors. I've had problems all year, on and off with the linky tool that I was using for all of my blog hops and link ups such as this one. My frustration level was finally reached and I canceled my linky acct and am now trying out a new one. UNFORTUNATELY all the link ups I had all year went away with the plan I was on. I will miss looking at all of the goodies linked up on older post. So if you don't see a linky on post for 2012 you will know why. I'm now trying out inlinkz which got rave reviews from my other blogger friends. Check it out for your own blog hops. 

#8 My 1st Menu Plan of 2012

#9 March Menu Plan & Recipes
#10 October Menu Plan & Recipes
I hope you click on the Top 10 list and check out all the recipes and menu plans! Some of the photos above belong to other blogs and were featured on my menu plans.

I've linked up at OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.


Shopping ALDI for seasonal items

When was the last time you shopped at an ALDI store? We have one about 20 minutes away that I go to a few times a month. The store always has unbelievable savings!  I do have to say that I love ALDI for their seasonal items which made it easy for me to purchase most all of the ingredients for my holiday recipes. How about you?

This year I was able to get just about everything on my holiday grocery list at ALDI. I had a huge list of baking staples that I needed to pick up to make my holiday goodies. Here are some pictures of items that I placed in my cart as well as some of the ways I used them.
1-Almond bark, gingerbread marshmallows and graham crackers to make my Graham Cracker Gingerbread Bark.

 2-Veggies for my veggie trays. ALDI always has the best produce section with great prices. While I was there I picked up a 10 lb bag of potatoes for $.99! The potatoes were not on my holiday shopping list but I could not pass up on this deal! 

3-Here I am filling my cart with my holiday list of items. ALDI isn't all generic items. I was able to get my Hershey M & Ms and Hershey Kisses for two of my recipes.

4-Here are two of eight bags of groceries that I purchased! I stuck to my holiday list but because of the great prices, I did pick up a few items not on my list like mini bagels, potatoes, award winning wines and all the ingredients to make a pot of chili for dinner.

5-I always stock up on baking staples at ALDI! Best prices and yes, they always have what I need for baking.

6-I always have a Hot Cocoa station at my Christmas Open House. I purchased the whipped topping, peppermint chocolate covered sticks, marshmallows and all the ingredients to make my hot cocoa mix at ALDI which includes coffee creamer, powdered milk and powdered sugar.

7-I love the toys and household items for sale at ALDI. I remember back 20 some years ago shopping at ALDI with my Grandma and always loved looking at all the non food items! 

8-Seasonal goodies were all over the store. We love the Savoritz Pita Bite Crackers and use them with my cheeseballs. I also pick up a variety of the seasonal cheeses like Specially Selected Smoked Gouda, Havarti, Brie and Goat Cheese. They had a yummy Belmont Petite Cheesecake Sampler that I might be back to pick up for our New Year dinner!

9-Ingredients to make my Peanut Butter Hershey Kiss cookies.

10- Cocktail Wieners & Meatballs-Ground beef or turkey, cocktail wieners, BBQ sauce and grape jelly,

 11- I picked up German Santa's to add to the goodie bags for kids.

12-ALDI had all the ingredients for my pinwheels which included white flour tortilla shells, taco seasoning, cream cheese, shredded cheese, green chilis and veggies. I did pick up the green shells at another store. Maybe ALDI will look into carrying a larger line of tortilla shells.

13- I got the ingredients for my Christmas fudge and I actually bought the peanut brittle! Why make it when you can but it at ALDI?

14-I found all of the ingredients for my egg less egg nog which included milk, vanilla, vanilla instant pudding and spices.

15- Each year I try and new recipe for my Open house. I found most of the ingredients for my Christmas Crack which included peanut butter, potato chips and chocolate chips.

I love shopping at ALDI because I can count on them to have what I need. I was able to pick up 98% of my holiday groceries at their store. This included the basic items like flour, sugar and oil along with speciality items like award winning wines, Hershey M & Ms and Kisses. They also had all the paper products that I needed in seasonal designs. ALDI saved me time and money this year which I am grateful for.

Here are a few holiday tips from ALDI:

Keep it Simple. When planning your holiday party or family dinner, don’t overthink it. Remember, “Less is More” when designing your menu and d├ęcor. If you try to do too much, you’ll end up unable to enjoy the event you’ve worked so hard to put together. Keep your shopping experience simple and stress free by shopping at ALDI. From award-winning wines and holiday baking essentials to gifts and all the trimmings for your holiday dinner, ALDI has everything you need at prices up to 50 percent* less than traditional grocers.

Somewhat Homemade. Combine traditional homemade recipes with pre-made items for a holiday spread that is sure to please. Dress up your Appleton Farms Spiral Sliced ½ Ham from ALDI with an apple cider and balsamic glaze. Or, place bite size portions of L’oven Fresh Dutch Apple and Pecan Pies and Belmont Cheesecake Samplers into mini martini glasses for a chic dessert table display.

The Perfect Table. Let the food be the star by using white or clear plates, bowls and serving dishes. Use napkins or table runners with seasonal colors and designs to add to the holiday mood. Seasonal flowers or plants such as poinsettias from ALDI can add a pop of color to your table as well. Consider renting linens rather than purchasing if you don’t think you’ll use them often. Rentals are typically inexpensive and there’s no cleaning or ironing involved! Pre-set your dining room table a few days in advance so you know you’ll have everything you need on the day of your event.

I do have to admit that one of the coolest things about ALDI is that you have to pay $.25 to use the shopping cart. Way back in the day when I had baby twin girls I went to the store and realized that I didn't have a quarter. Some older gentleman gave me his cart instead of returning it for his quarter. I have never forgotten that generosity and I always give my cart away to someone. Most of the time they try and hand me their quarter but I tell them to keep it and pass the cart on to someone else.

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for ALDI. I received a gift certificate to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.


Let's Fight Holiday Fat with Exercise, Recipe & Tips To Help Keep You On Track

Tis the Season for crazy routines, jolly parties filled with tasty and oh so tempting drinks and treats as well as a house full of goodies to share with friends and family. How have you faired this holiday season?
I personally went into this holiday season with high hopes of continuing my daily exercise, avoiding all sweets that popped into my vision field and kept up with my regular work and sleep routines. I found that these were not easy task to do on my own with the hustle and bustle this season. How about you? Did you keep your regular workout routines? Did you over indulge too many times? There is still time to get help.

On my own, as I said, I did have my struggles this holiday season. I did reach out for help and found the  Let's Fight Holiday Fat website. The site was personalized toward my size and gave me a set calorie goal as well as exercises to complete. The calorie goal allowed me to be aware of what I was eating and to eat smaller portions of the tempting favorites at holiday parties. The exercise routines were easy enough to work out at home since I didn't have time to hit the gym daily. 

I also made it a point to try and to feature skinny mini recipes on my blog this holiday season. For the most part, these recipes were mini forms of tasty recipes which allowed a little bit of indulgence instead of an all out fat smorgasbord disaster. One of my favorite skinny mini recipes was the Almond Apricot Snowballs. This was a sure hit with my blog readers and racked up a lot of visits this month. I also offered water and healthy veggie trays at my holiday open house along with some of the not so healthy items. I was thrilled to see people taking, eating and drinking the lighter, no fat options. I loved having the veggies handy so I could nibble guilt free right along with my guest. 

Almond-Apricot Snowballs
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour 560 mL
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 250 mL
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch 45 mL
  • ¼ tsp salt 1 mL
  • ¾ cup canola oil 175 mL
  • 2 Tbsp water 30 mL
  • 1 tsp almond extract 5 mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, chopped 125 mL
  • ½ cup finely chopped dried apricots 125 mL
  • 1¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, for rolling 425 mL

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt until completely combined. Add canola oil and beat until well combined Add water, almond and vanilla extract. Mix. Stir in almonds and dried apricots. 
  3. Scoop batter with small ice cream scooper, melon baller or spoon, making all same size. Place them on ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. 
  4. Bake cookies about 12 to 15 minutes or until just set. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to wire rack until just warm. 
  5. Pour confectioners’ sugar into bowl. While cookies are still warm, but not hot, roll in confectioners’ sugar. It will adhere slightly to cookies, making them look like snowballs. Return cookies to wire rack and when totally cooled, roll in confectioners’ sugar again. Store in air-tight container for up to five days.Yield: 36 snowballs.
The Let's Fight Holiday Fat website was the most helpful to me with the exercise options. I loved being able to watch how to actually do some of the exercises. Not only did they tell me to do a burpee but they showed me how to do it. I know when I started I didn't do them as pretty as the girl demonstrating but I tried to stay at true form and got better the more that I did. 

Busy Mom and Let's Fight Holiday Fat spokesperson, Samantha Harris shared tips on 'Surviving the Season' which I totally loved. Here are the tips:

1-Make healthy low-fat food choices. Swap out the high fat ingredients in your favorite holiday recipe for healthier options.

2-Snack Often. Have healthy snacks at hand to help keep you from reaching for holiday goodies. Apples, low-fat string cheese and baby carrots are low-fat and easy to pack! Have a sweet tooth? Try a small peppermint candy (fat-free!) to satisfy your temptation. 

3-Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Finding small ways to fit in physical activity can help maintain your weight and energy throughout the season. Going holiday shopping? Park the car in the farthest spot from the store entrance. Cooking? Work your legs with squats while waiting for the water to boil.

4-Plan Ahead. Going to a holiday party? Eat a low-fat snack at home to help you stay on track and avoid over-indulging in unhealthy choices. 

5-Keep Stress Levels Low. Eating healthy and being physically active can play a big part in keeping holiday stress at bay. Keeping stress levels low also may help prevent weight gain. Try to find a time in a busy day to take a few minutes for exercise, deep breathing, or eat a healthy, low-fat snack.

So for this season, I found it necessary to reach out and get help! The Let's Fight Holiday Fat website gave me a focus and guided me throughout this holiday season. The cool thing about finding this site is that I now have a go to place for the new year, too! Since I'm already registered, I'm all set to keep using this free website. If you check out my healthier lifestyle post you will learn that I've been on a healthier lifestyle journey since April and have lost over 60 pounds! I've used various resources to be where I am today. I am excited to keep using The Let's Fight Holiday Fat website to keep me on my journey to an even healthier 2013.  I also downloaded their app for my iPhone so that I could take the website with me no matter when I traveled this season!

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for alli. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

HOTTEST Cookies on my blog in 2012 & Pinterest blog hop

The hottest cookies on my blog this year were the tasty Soft Brown Sugar Cookies you see below! They are wonderful and I hope that all of you who clicked on them actually baked them! 

For the weekly Pinterest Party I am featured my most clicked post this year, yes the tasty Soft Brown Sugar cookies and most followed Pinterest board. That board is my Best Ever Cookbooks. It is a must follow board. You'll find yummy cookbooks and recipes made from those cookbook.

HOW TO JOIN THE LINKY Party (all optional)

1) Pin this Party Post to Pinterest- Please! 

2) Link up your most clicked on post, most followed Pinterest board, etc.

3) Add your Pinterest name to the linky.

4) In turn pin a few things on the linky.

Please follow my boards on Pinterest- SusieQTpies Scraps of Life and cohost  Crystal and Company and  3 Boys and a Dog. We do follow back.


Norton Spot takes on Android Madware

Norton Spot takes on Android Madware! Do you have an android phone? Are you protected?

In my household, 4 out of 5 cell phone users have an iPhone. The last hold out has an android phone. I'm not sure if she will ever do the switch over. So for now, I have one teen on her own in the android world. I never though much about this until I heard that madware was on the rise for android phone users. Do you know anything about madware? 

We learned that madware is aggressive mobile advertising which include apps that continuously update your phone with push notifications, create unauthorized desktop shortcuts and secretly collects your personal information. Creepy? Yes very and this made me really concerned for my teen and her phone. Supposedly this madware is only on android phones and not something my daughter nor I were aware of. Knowing this, my teen and I reviewed Norton™ Spot which is an ad blocker, detector, killer and stopper of this madware.

Here are a few things we learned about madware:
  • It collects your phone number
  • Collections your local information and location
  • Displays ads on your notification bar
  • Modifies your web browser bookmarks
  • Sends text message ads
  • It deliberately hides from ad detectors
My teen went to Google Play and quickly installed the Norton Spot on her phone within minutes. Norton Spot scanned her phone and identified apps that had issues on her phone. Once the problem areas were identified she was given the option to keep the app or remove it. 
She really like that this app sorted the apps by potential annoyance levels. 

We are thrilled to report that her phone was clean for now but did have a few apps with minor annoyance level. Norton Spot madware blocker will stay on the phone to keep her phone and personal information safe by reporting was is on the phone and it will give her options to keep the app or remove it.

So what do you think about this? Do you add apps from developers that you do not know? I personally felt comforted after my daughter installed Norton Spot on her phone and allowed it to check for madware. We both like how it explained and ranked the annoyance levels of ads as well as giving her the option to remove them. Will you check out Norton Spot? 

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Norton. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.


11 Festive Holiday Drinks {Hot & Cold}

Holiday drinks are so fun to serve and drink. Do you prefer your holiday drinks hot or cold? Hot suites me best but I won't turn down a fun, cold festive drink! Cheers!
Here are some of my personal favorite drinks as well as drinks from some of my favorite blogs who linked up in my Holiday Hop of Goodies and added to my Christmas Crafts & Recipes Board on Pinterest.

2-Egg Free Egg Nog- the best!
4-Elf on the Shelf Hot Cocoa & a Christmas Movie 
6-Hot Vanilla Night Cap with bonus cookie recipe
8-A Christmas Favourite from Downunder: Mango Cocktails

Bonus Creamy Hot Cocoa- the best!


Rudolph Reindeer Reinbeer

What do you buy for the guy that has everything? Holiday crafting and holiday shopping for the hard to buy guy just got easy! Make some Reinbeer Reindeer.

Ruduloph Reindeer Reinbeer

brown pipe cleaners
wiggly eyes
red marker
6 pack of beer or root beer

1-Twist the pipe cleaners around the top of the bottle. Shape like antlers.
2-Add on the wiggly eyes
3-Draw on a red nose.

That easy! Cheers!


Give the Gift of a Great Future Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Are you familiar with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA)? This year marks their 2nd annual BGCA Give the Gift of a Great Future Holiday Campaign. 
Stop over and check out the BGCA website to learn more about their annual Give the Gift of a Great Future Holiday Campaign. I'm curious as to how many of you are familiar with BGCA and to what extent. Unfortunately we do not have a local club to support. I use my blog, though, to share information about the BGCA and support them via their online website. I hope that you find this information useful.

Right now you can log into BGCA and participate in their Give the Gift of a Great Future Holiday Campaign. You can play the free Giving Game to easily donate a gift to a club this season. I played and won! My win gave $1 to the Club Membership Fund. Let me know what you win!
Along with this game, you can vote in the Kids Give Back photo contest. The winning photo/club will get $2,500 for their club! Very cool!

As a parent, I know the importance of teaching kids the value of giving to others. BGCA created a list of tips to give new ideas on teaching this to our kids. I love the list because there are a lot of tips on there that can be done as a family. 

  • Tip #1 is about talking to your kids about giving. Over the years, we have learned to involved our daughters in decision making choices such as this one. Including kids in this process will teach them to be givers today and in the future. 
  • Tip #5 encourages you to teach your kids to do something fun- like cooking or an art project for those around them. Kids love to create projects. This is a great way to help them focus their creativity and talents to a specific project or need. 
  • TIP #9 It's o.k. to offer incentives to your kids if you are asking them to do extra and help with a cause. I'm not sure I totally agree with this tip but in some cases like a long term project I can see it being beneficial to the older kids. What do you think?
Do you have any tips to share on teaching the value of giving to others? I'd love to hear your ideas, too! 

Follow any of the above links for this one at the BGCA website to get more info on their holiday campaign and to participate in their online giving.

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.


Cottonelle “Name It” Contest

Have you checked out the Cottonelle  “Name It” Contest on Facebook? Last month I had a giveaway of the Cottonelle Care Routine. This routine is using Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care Toilet Paper and Fresh Care Flushable Wipes. The "Name It" Contest is based on this care routine in the bathroom. Cottonelle wants to know what you would call this routine. Some of the entries in my contest last month were:

  • Adventurous Dance 
  • Energize Awesome
  • Charming Plus
  • Sweet Relief
  • Dream Regimen
What would you call your bathroom care routine? Cottonelle wants us to leave the bathroom feeling refreshed. I personally love the combo. My husband and I have been fans of the Fresh Care Flushable Wipes products for years. The wipes are wonderful at home and to take on the road.

Below is the "Name It" widget. Spin the wheel and see what name comes up. Do you think this is a good name for the Cottonelle Care Routione? Stop over to their Facebook page and share your Care Routine name at the ‘Name It’ Page. It is a contest and you can win prizes!

Visit for more on Cottonelle toilet paper,
flushable wipes, coupons, and more.

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cottonelle. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

Weekly Menu and Recipe Menu Blog Hop

Welcome back to another Monday! Just a reminder that you can link up recipes in my linky. I don't require just menus like other link ups! So share your food!

Do you cook differently depending on the season? I know that from Fall to the end of Winter I use my crock pot a lot to cook soup. I do not use it much in the Spring or Summer months. How about you? How do you cook differently?

Monday-We are trying out Kaylee from Couponing & Cooking's Fresh Takes Pasta Bake

Tuesday-Apple Stuffed French Toast, bacon and The Southern Mom Cooks Tropicana Orange Banana Yogurt Smoothie
Wednesday-Daughter requested Stir Fry before she gets on her bottom braces. She wanted a meal full of veggies and protein (such a smart girl) because she knows her mouth is going to be sore for several days. Beef and Snow Pea Stir Fry, "Veggie Fried Rice" (not fried but so tasty) and Crab Rangoons

Thursday-Ham & Bean Soup in the Crock Pot

Friday- Eat out. The kids are in a play and this weekend is the performance. Check out my Recipe Box for menu choices. 

Have a super weekend! Remember link up menus & recipes. I will pick to to try next week and feature you on my menu plan!

Check out menu plans & recipes from  3 Boys and A Dog, Crystal and Company and OrgJunkie.
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