Fun Friday: Apple Crisp Pizza from The Girl Who Ate Everything

9 Oct
Apple desserts are wonderful in the autumn months!

Apple desserts are wonderful in the autumn months! This was a new one for us!

I love the fall almost as much as the summer. Fall is probably my second most favorite season in New England. I love the crisp air and the gorgeous array of colors, and most of all I love all of the foods and the “pick your own” opportunities for apples and pumpkins.

Even if you can’t pick your own fruits, you can still bake lots of amazing things with the fall fruits. The other night I made a Swedish Apple Pie, which is an all-time favorite of mine, and recently I tried a new dessert, an Apple Crisp Pizza. This new recipe was from a blog called The Girl Who Ate Everything. It was shared on Facebook, which is how I saw it first. I later saw it on another blog as well, and they’d seen it on the same blog. We all must love the idea of apples and caramel and pizza!

You too can have a pizza for dessert!

You too can have a pizza for dessert!

The recipe is super-easy and didn’t take much time at all. I shaped my crust sort of like a pie with a fluted edge, hoping to keep all the fruit from falling out, which seemed to work well and looked very pretty. I also used my round Pampered Chef pizza stone, which worked very well too. I figured if I was making a pizza, I should use my pizza stone!

If you’d like to make this same dessert at your house this fall, visit The Girl Who Ate Everything over at her blog and you’ll find her recipe ready and waiting for you!

Happy Fall Y’All!

Congratulations to Karen!

7 Oct
Congratulations to Karen on her new book!

Congratulations to Karen on her new book!

A couple of years ago I participated in the monologue show, “Listen to Your Mother” here in Providence. As a cast, we came together not knowing each other, and left as a close-knit group of friends. In the years since, we have stayed connected online and sometimes we’ve been lucky to connect again in person as well. We’ve been able to share in each other’s ups and downs, which is the great thing about friendships.

Today I’m excited to congratulate our friend and castmate, Karen Haskell. Karen recently let us all know that she has a new chapbook coming out, “Sixty Years.” A chapbook is a small collection of poetry, and Karen is a poet. Her performance at our show was a collection of poems.

When I asked Karen about her book, she described it to me in this way:

“Sixty Years” is a short story in verse. It tells the story of a married couple against the backdrop of World War II.  The poems alternate point of view between husband and wife who struggle with missed opportunities, loss, and what exactly love means in the aftermath of loss.

It looks and sounds amazing to me and I’m so proud of Karen and excited for her!

If you’re interested in Karen’s new chapbook, you can find it here. The publisher is now taking pre-orders of the book, and you can purchase yours today!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals…almost

30 Sep

Last week I saw the funniest post on Facebook, shared by a friend but originally from Modern Mommy Madness, and it reminded me of our weekly scrambles to get our meals planned and prepped. It made me laugh out loud, literally, and I instantly shared it on Facebook myself. We try very hard to stick to a budget and we try very hard to make a meal plan for two weeks at a time so that we can stick to that budget, but some weeks it is just so hard, and we’re just barely pulling some sort of meal together.  This graphic put the reality check right out there, and I loved it.

I'm pretty sure we all can relate. Don't you think so? My personal favorite is Friday's meal.

I’m pretty sure we all can relate. Don’t you think so? My personal favorite is Friday’s meal. Thanks to Modern Mommy Madness for keeping it real.

So this week, instead of two weeks of meal ideas for you, I’ve got ten. By the time we got our meal plan together and shopped for it, we were down to ten days instead of 14. I’d say I’d share with you the other four, but I barely remember what we ate last night, nevermind ten days ago. I think I do remember a lasagna and a shepherd’s pie in there somewhere, a chicken pot pie made an appearance as well, but for now, we have ten meals. The kids have been helping with the meal planning, putting in their favorite meal requests, which has helped us come up with two weeks of meals every time. Hopefully this list will help to jump-start your own meal planning for the next couple of weeks!

  1. Oven roasted chicken dinner, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce
  2. Fajitas
  3. California chicken (chicken sandwiches with melted cheese, avocado, and sprouts if desired)
  4. Homemade pizzas (we did Hawaiian, plain cheese with sauce, and BBQ chicken this time)
  5. Ravioli
  6. Sloppy Joes
  7. Chicken and Broccoli quiche (recipe here)
  8. Chicken and Mushrooms in white wine sauce (recipe here)
  9. Sweet and Sour Meatballs with egg noodles (recipe here)
  10. Pastene “soup” and Meatball sandwiches

Carrot Cake Muffins

24 Sep
Breakfast, snack or dessert? All of the above!

Breakfast, snack or dessert? All of the above!

Good morning!

My blogging schedule is so off this school year, but I’m getting posts in whenever I can for you, and I know you’ll think this one was definitely worth the wait!

Today’s is one that’s been on my editorial calendar since the spring when a friend of mine shared photos of these Carrot Cake Muffins on Facebook. I asked her for the recipe right away and she sent me this one from, a favorite site of mine when looking for new recipes.

I knew right away my kids would like these, especially if I added a little icing made with confectioner’s sugar. I mean really, what’s not to love??

My favorite thing about them is that I’m sneaking in a little bit of vegetables that normally they might not all eat. I have since made these multiple times. One afternoon I only had time to make the muffins, not the icing, and left that recipe out for my oldest to do on her own at home. It worked out perfectly.

I love anything that can double or triple in its job, and these muffins do just that. They can be a breakfast, an after school or late night snack, or even a dessert. Although we’ve always had them with the icing, I’m sure they’d be delicious without it also. Most times when I’ve made this in the afternoon, I bag up the leftovers into bags of two muffins each, and that’s a breakfast or a lunchbox snack for the next day too.

You can click here for the muffin recipe from, and below is the Powdered Sugar Icing recipe that we use each time.

Powdered Sugar Icing (taken from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook tenth edition, copyright 1989)

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Milk or orange juice (We usually do milk.)

Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk or juice. Stir in milk or juice, one teaspoon at a time, till of drizzling consistency.

Makes 1/2 cup or enough to drizzle over one 10-inch tube cake.

Let cake stand two hours before slicing.  (We do let our muffins cool first, but not for two hours.)


By popular demand: Answers to some of your allowance program questions

11 Sep

5aEarlier this week I used my Monday Musings post to share some details about our new system for managing the kids’ allowance each week.

I’ve had some questions and I thought it’d be best to answer them here, since if one person is asking, most likely other people have the same questions and just haven’t asked yet.

The first question I got appeared as a comment and I answered as a reply to the comment, but I’m going to put the question and answer here as well.

  1. Q: Are all of the chores worth the same amount of money or are harder jobs paid more?
    A.: I purposely made all of our chores worth the same amount of money. My goal first and foremost was to make sure that this was easy for me to manage, and keeping everything to one dollar per job was easiest for me. I didn’t want to do less than a dollar and have to deal with change, but I also didn’t want to have to remember which jobs paid which amount. Everything, across the board, is worth one dollar. Additionally, I only make so much money per month on average, and my checks pay for more than just the kids’ allowance each month. I had to keep our payouts affordable so that it didn’t interfere with the other things I needed to pay out each month. If I started to make jobs worth $2.00 for example, that’s now times three kids every month. Instead of filling those higher paying job pockets with three dollars each time, I’d now be putting in six dollars per job each time. At the end of the month, the kids would be making more money than me.
  2. Q: Do all three kids do all the same jobs?
    A: Yes. Again, to keep it simple to manage and to also keep it equitable, everyone’s jobs are exactly the same all week and all three kids each have one chance per month or per filling of the pockets to get to do any of the extra jobs. Once they’ve taken their turn, they put their clip on the pocket and someone else does that job later in the month. This allows everyone to share in all of the responsibilities all month long.
  3. Q: Why monthly?
    A: I get paid once per month, and therefore that’s when I set up the allowances for the following month. However, the kids get paid by the week. It’s just laid out a month in advance.
  4. Q: Can you give us a list of the jobs for each section?
    A: I can, but I hesitated to do so initially, only because everyone’s household runs differently and everyone’s needs are different-both as parents and as kids and what they need to learn or what they need help with remembering to do, which for us is a big part of why we do allowance. For example, many people insist that their kids make their own breakfasts or lunches each day. However, at our house, because of our tiny kitchen, our morning shower schedule and routine, and our nightly schedules, that would make me crazy. Therefore, that’s a Challenge job at our house and each kid can choose to do it for one week out of the month. It gives me a little break in the mornings, yet doesn’t overcrowd my already space-challenged kitchen, and doesn’t interfere with any other carefully choreographed schedules in the morning or at night. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know my kids will know how to make their lunches and breakfasts, and how to pack a healthy lunch for themselves. That’s my goal. That and keeping whatever is left of my sanity.

    That said, here is the list of what I chose for our chores. It addresses things we need/want them to do to help out, things we need/want them to learn and know how to do when they leave our house as young adults, and things that some one of them might struggle with remembering to do. It also rewards them for some of the things that may come easy to one of them that they always did without being told, but that the others might not have done regularly or easily.

    3a“HELP WANTED!” CHORES: These are the six weekly chores and these pockets are to be emptied and refilled every week, so each child has the potential to earn $6.00 per week minimum.
    1) Feed the dog on your designated nights of the week.
    2) Clear your place at the table after meals.
    3) Organize your school supplies after school and at night before bed for the next day.
    4) Put away your folded laundry.
    5) Do your bathroom jobs by 4pm on Saturday evening.
    6) Make your bed every day.
    FYI: I did tell them that if after 4pm on Saturday night they see one of the other kids’ bathroom jobs not done, they are welcome to do it and take the dollar. They’ve had the whole week to get it done, and I’d much rather have a clean bathroom than not. I also rotate the bathroom jobs every year so no one is stuck on toilets for five years in a row. Each child has two jobs in the bathroom per week–sink/counter tops washed, mirrors washed, toilet cleaned, floor dry and wet mopped, laundry emptied and trash emptied.)

    “#FREEMONEY$” CHORES: These pockets are filled monthly and everyone has one chance per month to do them, assuming the opportunity exists (Example: snow shoveling opportunities don’t happen every month, but when they do, they are plentiful. Additionally, I’m flexible and I’d let all three work together to do the snow, the leaves and the car washing, for example, if they wanted to.)
    1) Dishes washed (we don’t have a functioning dishwasher)
    2) Help rake the leaves
    3) Windows washed
    4) Wash a car
    5) Help shovel snow
    6) Wash the kitchen floor
    7) Vacuum the floor
    8) Dust the furniture
    9) Help fold the laundry
    10) Help out in the kitchen with meal preparations

    “@CHALLENGES” CHORES: Everyone has one chance per month to do these chores also.
    1) Make your own breakfast for a week
    2) Make your own lunch for a week
    3) Clean up the playroom/office–a “big cleaning”
    4) Extra pocket for any extra jobs

    Hopefully this will be helpful to everyone who was looking for a starting point for their own allowance and chore systems. There are lots of “chore chart” resources out there that list chores by age-appropriateness which might also prove helpful to you as well. Remember to be flexible. There may be bumps in the road or changes that need to be made, just as with any new system.

Monday Musings: Allowance…do we or don’t we?

8 Sep
Do your kids earn an allowance?

Do your kids earn an allowance?

I’m sure that’s a question every parent asks themselves at some point during their parenting journey.

“Do we give our kids allowance? If so, how much? If not, why not?”

I also know for sure that there are many schools of thought on the issue. Some people believe that a family works together as a team, and no one person on the team gets paid for pitching in to get the household jobs done. Other people believe that hard work earns rewards, whether it’s house work, yard work or school work. Yet other people don’t believe their kids should have chores at all, that their school work is work enough, and their focus should be on that and that alone.

It’s all good, I’m sure, and whatever works for one family may not work for another.

As parents, we too asked ourselves those same questions as our kids were young. We definitely knew we didn’t pay them for grades on their report cards or school work. When our kids were very small, they didn’t do much in the way of chores, but as they grew older, they were more capable of helping out around the house and cleaning up after themselves. We began to question the idea of allowance in order to encourage them to consistently get certain jobs around the house done. Early on, we went with the philosophy that we were all a team and pitched in together and everything just gets done. We mostly subscribed to that philosophy because we were not financially in a position to pay anyone anything extra, and when you have a large family, you don’t want to institute something you can’t afford. Three kids times four or five weeks of allowance a month adds up quickly and there wasn’t enough to spare, for quite a few years in a row.

But as our financial situation changed over time, so did our philosophy. We had some money to spare and our kids were all big enough to manage household chores. More importantly, we had always stayed true to the “We buy you what you need, you need to save your money for the things you want,” philosophy. It was tough though, because our kids were willing to save their money, they just had no way to earn it. A once-a-year birthday gift might garner them $25 or $50 from a family member or two, but other than that, they wanted to save for things that were “wants” and yet they had no flow of income. They were too young to go out and get a real job.

We also felt strongly that a large part of life lessons and experiences revolve around saving money, setting goals, having money, not having money because you spent it on something previously that you now wish you hadn’t, or better yet, the sense of pride of having set a goal, saved for a period of time, sacrificed not purchasing smaller items, and then walking away with a big-ticket item you bought yourself. Without a flow of income, our kids couldn’t learn any of those types of life lessons.

And so, a couple of years back, we instituted a set of weekly chores and each month I’d cash my paycheck, dole out the next month’s worth of allowance and place it in four weekly piles in an envelope. At the end of the week, if the kids had done their chores they could take their allowance. If they hadn’t, it stayed in the envelope. It was a little bit hard to track though. I couldn’t easily keep track of who had done what, who hadn’t done what, and it was hard to “dock their pay” for not doing jobs. Yet, some kids went over and above helping out with extra-big jobs, and I had no way to compensate them when I really wanted to, just as I would an employee that worked overtime. I also had extra jobs I’d love to see them take the initiative on, but I knew that wouldn’t just happen on their own. Additionally, on many occasions, I’d see a random $5.00-one week’s pay for one child- still sitting in the envelope when I opened it to fill it the next month, and yet no one knew whose it was or who didn’t remember to take their allowance during the month prior. I’d put it back in the envelope for the next month, but I always felt badly that someone lost out on their weekly allowance.

I can't take credit for this, as it was passed along to me and the rest of the Facebook nation this past summer.

I can’t take credit for this, as it was passed along to me and the rest of the Facebook nation this past summer.

This past summer, I saw an allowance idea pass me by on Facebook, and it stopped me in my tracks. I have posted it here on the left, and if it’s yours, please feel free to credit yourself in the comments. When I got it and saved it, I had no idea where it had originated.

I shared it as well, and my husband saw it and commented on it. We loved the idea of taking the money and splitting it up by jobs, and I loved some of the jobs I saw on there. The photo got my wheels turning, as I began to think of how I could change our own allowance system in order to make it more efficient and more exciting. It was summertime, my downtime, and if I was going to start a new system, now was the time to do it.

I knew I needed something that was easy to manage, something that would allow me to see who had done what and when, and who had taken their money and who hadn’t, and I also needed a way to encourage some extra work, as well as a way to reward those who go over and above when helping out. Additionally, I wanted to throw a couple of things in there that would help to remind the kids of things one of them might struggle with on a daily basis. They’re all too old for a sticker chart, but no one is ever too old to earn a dollar if they remember to do a particular thing before school in the morning or before bed at night, and it is worth more than a dollar to me if it makes the morning rush less of a rush.

As I drove around town in August, my idea began to formulate in my head. I knew I could very easily go to the local Lakeshore Learning Store and get library book pockets, the kind that used to be inside of library books to house the library card you’d sign your books out with. I also knew I could get a pack of alphabet letters. I had a nice, empty linen closet door right outside their bedrooms, right next to the main bathroom in our house, which is essentially theirs, and solely their job to clean each week. I began to think of my marketing and advertising hooks. I came up with the idea of “Help Wanted” as a title and I liked it a lot. I stopped at Laksehore one day and I was thrilled to see so many colorful options for alphabets and library card pockets. I love pretty things, and nothing helps to motivate kids more than a bright, colorful space (filled with money). I picked out a set of each and a set of adhesive squares to cut up for adhering my letters to the door without taking off any paint. The pockets were self-adhesive. I had some white labels at home that I could use to label the pockets. At the dollar store I grabbed a set of several hundred colored paperclips and I was happy to see that each of my kids’ favorite colors were represented in the pack. Ultra-convenient.

Just before I cashed my August paycheck, I set up our new allowance system, piquing everyone's interest here at home.

Just before I cashed my August paycheck, I set up our new allowance system, piquing everyone’s interest here at home.

One August day, just before school started, and just before I cashed my check, I began to set up my door. The kids helped me punch out letters, but they had no idea what they would be spelling out, at first. I put my “Help Wanted” sign at the top and started by putting my six pockets there for the kids’ weekly chores. Those pockets would be filled (and hopefully emptied) once per week. They were instantly excited.

Then, I added a new section. The alphabet set had an “#” sign, so I thought that was incredibly cute and I used it for my next section: “#Freemoney$” which I hoped would encourage some extra jobs to be done and would let the kids work extra hard if they were saving for something big. I included things that were only seasonal, things I knew wouldn’t take place every week, but I also included things I knew they could truly do at least one time each month. These pockets were filled once to start, but would only be re-filled once they were emptied. The snow shoveling job won’t be done for a long, long time, but yet the leaf raking job might get done next month.

The kids were really on board now, and the pockets weren’t even filled with money yet, nor would they be for another whole week until I got paid myself. This would let them really get pumped up before the money went in, and then they’d have another week until they could take money out; they’d have to complete their weekly jobs first. Looking at my door display however, they saw jobs that weren’t there that they thought I could add on as challenges. There was an “@” sign in the alphabet pack too, so we set up an “@Challenges” section and added in those jobs too. To me, they were similar to the Free money jobs, but I wanted the kids to be invested and involved so I let them create this extra section themselves.


I had to admit, I was in love with my allowance system display and I couldn't wait to see if it worked or not. The kids thought for sure that they were about to be rich.

I had to admit, I was in love with my allowance system display and I couldn’t wait to see if it worked or not. The kids thought for sure that they were about to be rich.

The following week, I cashed my check, counted out $3 per pocket-one dollar per child per pocket- and figured out how much extra I needed to refill the Help Wanted section each week, and then I began to fill the pockets.

In order to address the issue I’d previously had with never knowing who had taken their allowance and whose was still left in the envelope at the end of the month, I used the paperclips. Each child had a color: pink, green or purple. Their color was on their dollar for every job. If they did their job that week consistently, at the end of the week they could take their dollar out of the pocket, remove their paperclip and leave it back on the pocket for me to use the following week when I refilled the jobs. If they did one of the free money or challenge jobs that month they could also remove those dollars and leave their clips. I had worked it so that if they did a particular job that week (like dusting, vacuuming or washing windows for example) they then had to do a different one the following week so that everyone had a turn to earn a dollar doing each job once a month. This would alleviate any arguing as to who had to dust last time or who got off easy by only having to wash the dog’s nose marks off the windows and door; everyone would easily be able to see who’s clip was on the pocket and who still had options to earn an extra dollar.

I'd call the first week a success! I hope that it continues on just as successfully!

I’d call the first week a success! I hope that it continues on just as successfully!

At the end of the first week, they couldn’t wait to take their earned money out of their pockets. Although one of the weekly jobs was putting away their baskets of laundry, only one child’s laundry had come through in the first week, so only she got her dollar, but the next two kids’ baskets will come through in the second week and they’ll get to take theirs, assuming they actually do put it away. If they don’t, the money will sit there until they do, and then they’re welcome to take it.

It’s only been a week, but I love this new system. Once it is set up, it’s easy to see who has earned what, and who can take what, who can’t take a portion of their money that week, and who forgot to pay themselves. It’s easy for someone to set an earning goal and then find ways to meet that goal by doing extra work around the house, and it’s a nice feeling to know that every so often someone will willingly wash a car, wash the floor or help out with raking leaves or shoveling snow. In teaching terms, it’s easy to give no credit, partial credit, full credit and extra credit. I even have one pocket left in case I think of an extra job. Last week we had little cousins in from out of town and I knew they’d be awestruck to see a closet door full of dollars, so I put their names on a post-it note on the extra pocket, and put in a dollar for each of them to take home, as a bonus from us.

As I said above, not everyone’s philosophy for allowance is the same, but for our family allowance is a vital part of learning financial literacy, and it works for us. I am hopeful that this new system will continue to motivate and reward our kids for a job well done, and I hope that it will alleviate some of the management issues we had previously. Our kids know too, if I don’t work for any reason, I don’t get paid, which means they don’t get paid either, since my job pays their allowance and all their extra-curricular activities. We talked about that at the start, and they know that if something should happen and I lose my income and they lose theirs, their weekly jobs still get done, because ultimately we are truly a team and we do all pitch in to get the jobs done. That’s what being a family is all about.




Product Review: Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack

3 Sep
Having the skewers up off the flames was a huge benefit to this kabob set.

Having the skewers up off the flames was a huge benefit to this kabob set.

Good morning to you all!

Here at our house, we have almost made it all the way through all of the first week of school craziness! We did all the last minute shopping and appointments for the dentist, eye doctor, orthodontist and whatever else needed checking before school started last week, and now we have just about finished up this first week for all of the kids. It was a busy couple of weeks, and Don’s school district started a whole week before our kids did, so it’s been a tiny bit hectic!

Thankfully, we have some great go-to meals that are fast and easy to prepare, and they’re great for this time of year. Kabobs are one of our favorite things to do in the summer especially, because we love the mix of meat and grilled veggies, and they’re fun to eat! You can marinate them or just cook them as is, and either way they are fantastic!

Recently I had the opportunity to try out another Cave Tools product, and since we loved their BBQ set over the summer, we couldn’t wait to see what their Kabob Skewers Rack had in store for us! Prior to getting the Kabob Skewers Rack, we would use wooden skewers whenever we do kabobs, and it’s frustrating to have the meat sliding off the stick as we’re trying to cook them, and it’s hard to slide the meat off the stick once it’s cooked on there. Additionally, it’s very hard to get them evenly cooked, as they sit right on top of the grill grates.

Dishwasher safe!

Dishwasher safe!

This very affordable Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack had features and benefits that would ease our kabob cooking frustrations and we were anxious to try it out. I was thrilled to find out that it’s completely dishwasher safe, and it comes with a Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee. I love companies that stand behind their products. I also love companies that include recipes with their products and this product came with 25 recipes to try!

Don was anxious to try out the rack on the grill, and he was really pleased with the fact that the meat was not directly on the grill grates, thanks to the rack that keeps them just the right distance off the grates yet provides a great finished cooked product. He said it was the best, most evenly cooked meat he’s ever done on the grill, thanks to the rack.

The set comes with five flat skewers, which is perfect for our family of five, since everything seems to always come in a four-pack, everywhere we go. The skewers each have a little disc on them which can be used to slide your meat right off the skewer and onto the plate. That was ultra convenient!

Each skewer also has a locking mechanism to keep it in place, which was great and tricky at the same time. It was great because the skewers didn’t slide around or come off of the rack while cooking, but a little bit tricky because they get hot and to unlock them to turn them for one of the eight cooking positions was a little bit tough. However, with a set of tongs and a potholder, it can be done, and the even grilling made it worth it.

If I could make one recommendation about the product it would be that we wished it came with some sort of dish or tray that the rack would fit onto for setting up the kabobs and carrying them out of the house and to the grill. We ended up finding a Pyrex glass dish that was the perfect size so that the handles of the rack fit on the handles of the dish and the chicken juice could drip down into the Pyrex without the food sitting in it or having anything dripping onto the floor as we carried the food outside.

At such a busy time of year, this set made a quick meal even better, and I can see us getting a lot of use out of the Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack in the future. So far, we are big fans of the Cave Tools products! I hope that you’ll check out their site to see all that they have to offer. If you are a fan of using Amazon to order your products, you can find the Cave Tools Kabob Skewers Rack there as well!

Enjoy the rest of the week and this upcoming long weekend!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 666 other followers