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Monday Musings: The story of our Little Free Library

2 Oct

It took us a couple of years, but we were finally able to open our Little Free Library yesterday!

Yesterday, October 1, 2017, we officially opened our very own Little Free Library. It was a project two years in the making and it means a great deal to us. Inside our library I have placed a binder which tells the history of our library along with some photos of the process from 2015 to now. I thought I’d share it here as well, for those who are not local and can’t just take a drive by to check it out in person.

In 2013, a friend gave us an article about a local Little Free Library from the Providence Journal. You can read that article here.

“If anyone would want to do this, it would be you and your family,” they said.

That following winter, we were in Providence with my brother for brunch, and we went looking for the Little Free Library we’d read about in the article, and found it.

We went exploring and found the Little Free Library from the article.

We decided that we too, wanted to have a Little Free Library. We began considering what sort of material to use for ours, but it seemed a bit beyond us, and buying a ready-made one was cost prohibitive for us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer of 2015, Chloe Rigg contacted me to do a story for the Cranston Herald about the Little Free Library she and her husband Jim had opened at their home in Cranston. You can read that story here.

I loved visiting with Jim and Chloe Rigg and learning about their Little Free Library. I even found a cookbook inside, that I still have today.

When I told Jim and Chloe Rigg that our family had really wanted to do a Little Free Library too, he offered to help us. He’d use his leftover scraps to create a kit for us. The girls and I could come to their house one Sunday and make it with him, step by step. He had the girls send him some design ideas for our library. A treehouse design, incorporating a fairy garden was soon in the works.

On September 20, 2015, we spent the day at the Rigg house, creating our library together with Jim.

Jim Rigg spent the entire day with us in his garage, walking us through every step of building our library and explaining what we were doing and why.

It was our intention to put it up the following spring, but it was that spring that we ended up unexpectedly having to start our kitchen renovations, and it delayed our ability to get the library up and finished. This summer, we finished up the bulk of the kitchen work and in September we were able to change our focus back to finishing up the Little Free Library project.

Now, exactly two years later, almost to the day, we are ready to open our Little Free Library.

Sadly, Jim Rigg passed away unexpectedly, just four months after we spent the day with him. We were devastated to receive that news, and we attended his memorial service that January of 2016.

We have dedicated our Little Free Library to Jim and his memory. Without him, it would not be possible and we know he would be so proud to see it open for business now.

We were incredibly sad to hear that Jim Rigg had passed away soon after our day spent together. We will think of him every day as we run our own Little Free Library. We made a plaque for ours, to honor him and the dedication he showed us out of the goodness of his heart.

We are forever grateful for Jim’s time and dedication and for the impact he has had on us and our memories from the making of our own Little Free Library and we can’t wait to see what stories we will have to share from this new endeavor.

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Fun Friday: To warm your heart and soul

10 Feb
We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we're warm and safe and all together.

We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we’re warm and safe and all together.

Today (Thursday, as I type this) was our first snow day of the school year, and tomorrow (Friday) will be our second. We had quite a storm today, with about a foot of snow falling throughout the day. It was cold and windy and snowy, but inside we had a lazy day for much of the day, and we were warm, safe and together, which is really what matters on a day like today.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some recipes with you for some nice, warm, delicious treats, since it’s so cold and snowy here. Even if it’s not snowy where you are, there’s nothing like something warm and delicious to warm your heart and soul in the winter months.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

Early in the day we had crepes, which is one of our favorite special breakfasts. They are labor intensive, so we don’t do them often, but they’re so delicious when we do. They can be made gluten free, so we make both kinds. My husband does the majority of the cooking for these, but today I did the hot bananas with the maple-brown sugar sauce and Elizabeth made the scrambled eggs, so he had some help. We put out many filling options for our crepes: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or a Hershey’s chocolate spread, bananas, and today the maple-brown sugar bananas. Everyone can fill them as they wish.

The recipe we use is the same for both gluten free and not, but we use gluten free all-purpose flour for our gluten free crepes, specifically Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Flour. This is the recipe we use:

Thanks to the New Betty Crocker Cookbook!

Thanks to the “New Betty Crocker Cookbook!”

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Tonight, my youngest daughter requested homemade chocolate pudding, which is a relatively new recipe for us, but I have posted it on the blog before. You can find it here. She’s had a sore throat and cough, and prefers the pudding to be warm, which would soothe her throat. I didn’t have a sore throat myself, but that pudding sounded good to me too, especially on a day like today, so I obliged. Another warm and soothing recipe that I make often in the winter months is homemade hot chocolate. Although I didn’t make it today, I will re-share it here anyway, since it’s been a long time since I originally posted it. It’s an absolute favorite for my family.

Finally, I had some great new articles in this week’s paper to share with you too, and they will warm your heart and soul also. You can find my latest feature from this week’s Providence Journal here, about Rachel’s Sugar Shop in Cranston. She’s got lots of great Valentine’s Day treats on deck, and she does amazing wedding, birthday and all kinds of occasion cakes, so stop by and see her if you’re local.

I have lots of stories in this week’s Cranston Herald, but this one about a family who immigrated to the United States is one of my favorites, especially with all that is in the news currently about immigration to America. I also loved doing this one about Janet Tanury, the owner of Botticelli’s, which is a local store whose tagline is “Generous clothing for the curvaceous woman.” Janet is working hard to make plus-size shopping a whole new experience for women of all ages, especially when it comes to formal wear, and her shop is wonderful, as is she. If you have a prom or formal event on the horizon, stop in and visit her in North Providence, RI or visit her website here. She’s hosting a special prom shopping event on President’s Day from 10-5pm.

You can view all of this week’s Cranston Herald stories by visiting their website, and there you will see all of my work for this week. It’s certainly been a busy one!

newspaper-1     newspaper-2  newspaper-3

newspaper-4   newspaper-5   newspaper-7                  newspaper-6

 

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and a new recipe

25 Jan
Last time around, we utilized our crock pot three times in one week!

Last time around, we utilized our crock pot three times in one week!

It’s hard to believe another whole month has passed! It seems like I was just posting Christmas cookie recipes, but yet here we are in the final stretch of January!

It’s been a couple of weeks, and I have our Two Weeks of Meals for you, but I also have a new crock pot recipe for you that we tried out in the last round of meals. It was new, so I didn’t post the recipe last time, until we tried it. I promised to post it if it was good, and sure enough, it got all thumbs up from all five of us. It’s rare to find one thing that all of us like, especially with a picky eater and another eater who will eat very little meat, and this was beef to boot, so that’s a feat in itself.

The recipe we tried out is called Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef, and you can find it on the Recipe Critic’s site by clicking here. It was quick to prepare, easy because it was cooking while we were gone, and delicious! We used stew meat instead of flank steak and it was delicious.

Be sure to visit the Recipe Critic's site to try out her slow cooker Mongolian Beef recipe!

Be sure to visit the Recipe Critic’s site to try out her slow cooker Mongolian Beef recipe!

Without further ado, here is our two weeks of meals for you and links to the recipes I have posted in years past. I hope it helps you to plan your own budget-friendly meals for the next couple of weeks!

Saturday: Marinated London Broil with mushrooms and onions, with vegetables and red potatoes with fresh rosemary and olive oil

Sunday: Chicken stuffed with herbed cream cheese and broccoli with rice pilaf

Monday: Chicken Marsala over white rice

Tuesday: Pasta with tuna sauce

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Pork chops and homemade applesauce with broccoli and cauliflower

Friday: Homemade Pizzas (Hawaiian, Margherita, and BBQ chicken) and salad

Saturday: BBQ chicken breasts on the bone, on the grill and sugar snap peas

Sunday: Chicken Parmesan and pasta with salad

Monday: Beef Stir Fry with sweet and sour sauce and Asian vegetable mix

Tuesday: Ravioli with shrimp and tomatoes in a garlic and oil sauce

Wednesday: Pastena Soup and salad

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner

Friday: Nachos

I’m in love.

1 Feb

It’s February, and I’m in love.

My heart pitter-patters and I think about the new object of my affection constantly. What will we do together next? What new things will we try? For years I hoped and prayed I’d find love like this again. It had been so long since my last love affair.

I wasn’t even planning for this, and it has taken me completely by surprise, which I guess is the best kind of love.

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That’s right, I’m in love with my new Stir Fry pan from Pampered Chef. Now I’m not a Pampered Chef consultant, and I don’t pretend to even play one on TV, but I.LOVE.THIS.PAN.

And I’m pretty sure my husband does too.

You see, years and years (and years) ago, my husband and I had received a beautiful piece of cookware from his grandmother. It was a nice, deep Teflon saute pan and it had a glass cover for the top and two handles for the side. I loved that pan. We used it constantly and it was the perfect size for all our meals, even as our family expanded from two, to three, to four, and finally to five hungry mouths to feed. We could saute, cook, simmer. You name it, we cooked it in that pan.

And then, one day, try as we would to deny the obvious, we realized our pan was getting old and scratched and we thought we were seeing evidence of little bits of Teflon coming off.

Clearly, you’re not supposed to use Teflon as an added ingredient in your recipes.

We had to say good bye to our pan.

I missed that pan every.single.day.

Don’t get me wrong, we had other pans. We even had two cast iron pans that we loved, but it wasn’t the same. We had to use both pans at once to make some of our saucier meals because one wasn’t deep enough to hold everything. My stir fry meals toppled over the sides of just one pan, our sauces bubbled over. We didn’t have a true matching cover to go with our pans.

I was sad.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t!

A few weeks ago, my very good-I’ve-known-her-almost-as-long-as-I’ve-known-my-husband-friend Marcia asked me if I would host a new kind of Pampered Chef party. She’s been a consultant for years and years now, and there was a new kind of party she wanted to try: a virtual party on Facebook. Would I try it?

Sure thing! I love Facebook because it’s where I get to see lots of family and friends from all over the country, all over the world! And, it’s where I get a lot of great recipes! I invited hundreds of people. Literally. I can fit a good 10-12 in my living room, but this let me be unlimited. I didn’t have to worry about space or weather or distance. I had all kinds of out of state friends on my list.

The party would last one hour and be completely virtual. No ingredients to buy, no house to clean, no makeup to put on. I could sit in my bed under my electric blanket and play along with the games, talk to my guests and watch the videos of all the great new tools that I would suddenly have to have.

As many parties as I’ve had in the past, it never even occurred to me to check out the January hostess benefits, or even to ask. Suddenly though, as I had my party, the orders started coming in. Notification after notification arrived in my email inbox. As my youngest daughter partied in my bed along with me, part playing along and part watching iCarly on the TV, I decided we’d better check things out on the hostess benefits page of my party website.

Sure enough, January was DOUBLE hostess benefits month!

Who knew?

Well, probably lots of people, but I was happily surprised!! Suddenly, even my daughter was paying attention to them and we looked at the videos and photos popping up throughout the party with new eyes.

Granted, I have lots and lots of Pampered Chef tools. I have been creating a collection of great pieces since before my wedding when I had my first party as a newly engaged young 20-something, and I use them all the time.

When all was said and done, I had earned……

Wait for it…..

$530 to spend outright, plus five half price items and one 60% off item, and I received two booking credits for people who had agreed to also have virtual parties after participating in mine, so I’d get really great discounts if I saved a few things from my list and ordered from their parties too.

I was amazed and I was so ready to shop. Normally I don’t have this much to spend.

Or should I say, I have NEVER had this much to spend.

I had a running wish list as the party had progressed, but it was full of little things. With this much money to spend, I could now afford many of those little things and then some really big, expensive things.

And that’s when it happened.

As I turned the pages of my paper catalog now in hand, I saw my newest love: the Executive Chef Stir-fry Skillet. The words Executive Chef made my heart stop for a mere second and I took in a breath as I looked at the pan. I think I even heard angels sing.

It was definitely love at first sight. It was a pan which was not Teflon, but rather a baked on non-stick aluminum. It had handles on both sides, it was ever so deep. It could even go in an oven of up to 400 degrees. What fun we would have together! I pictured all of our recipes being made right in that pan. Cranberry chicken, Chicken Marsala and any one of our favorite stir fry recipes, all bubbly and steaming and yet not bubbling right over.

After placing my hostess order, I planned out our next two weeks of meals, which conveniently coincided with the arrival of my shopping spree. I planned out all of the above and then some. Cranberry Chicken was up first, per request from one kid. Chicken Marsala was up another time, per request of another kid. Shepherd’s Pie, Taco Bake, Lasagna.

I began to daydream of cooking two pounds of ground beef at once in a pan with two cans of creamed corn mixed in for our Shepherd’s Pie, or being able to saute 15 chicken tenderloins in the pan with two cups of cranberries and two cups of water all at once for our Cranberry Chicken recipe.

Sure enough, when my order arrived and I unpacked it all, reminiscent of a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, my pan was all I’d hoped for and more. That very first night, I rejoiced as I happily made our Cranberry Chicken, and beamed as everyone commented how great it came out. My meat browned evenly, there was plenty of room for everything and it all tasted delicious. I think it tasted even better than usual in my new pan!

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I’d highly recommend any Pampered Chef party and any of their products to any of my friends and family, always. However, I must say, this new virtual party was fantastic! It was such fun “seeing” everyone that I wouldn’t get to see at my own in-house party. It was fun watching the videos and seeing some new must-have products, but most of all, it was fun falling in love-with a stir fry pan- all over again.

Happy February!

 

 

 

#crosscountryadventure2015: Not rain, sleet, snow or hail….

7 Jul
Nothing like getting the camper unhooked in raw, rainy weather.

Nothing like getting the camper unhooked in raw, rainy weather.

Not rain, snow, sleet or hail….

I love spring break. The weather is warm and spring-like with bright skies and cool breezes, as the green buds on the trees glow in the sunlight and the flowers are in bloom.

Unless you’re planning a first-ever-in-your-new-camper camping trip.

In which case it rains for two days straight, followed by colder than normal temperatures in which you experience torrential downpours, high winds reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, and snow, sleet, hail and rain.

In April.

Specifically the tail end of April.

According to my husband, there’s truly nothing like the experience of backing a camper into a campsite for the first time, other than doing it in the midst of torrential downpours, and getting tire-spinning-need-four-wheel-drive-to-get-out stuck in the mud.

Other than pulling it out in the midst of a hailstorm the next day.

I seriously expected the world to suddenly turn to black and white and a witch to ride by on her bicycle any moment.

It was that crazy.

But, we did it. Or more specifically, HE did it.

We’d put off our first trip at the start of the week because of the two days of rain and high winds. The weather was so crazy that an entire tree in our neighborhood ripped out of the ground and fell across the roof of an empty house, so it seemed like we’d made a good decision in pushing it back a day or so, but as we looked at the extended forecast it seemed like it was now or never. The weather wasn’t going to improve a whole lot and if we didn’t go now, we weren’t going to get to go at all. We were losing our week.

So we made a reservation for one night at a campground in Mystic CT., just a little under an hour from home. It was just far enough to be able to be away but yet close enough that if anything happened or we forgot something super important, we weren’t that far away.

The first time hooking it all up to leave took some time, but we loaded in and went straight from our house to our kids’ elementary school where Don practiced backing up without hitting the school building, over and over again.

After four or five successful back-ins, we were good to go and we headed to Mystic. One wrong turn courtesy of the campsite’s directions and we were suddenly driving our truck and the 30 foot camper right through the center of little historic Mystic, Connecticut. Not really what we’d intended, but it was a quick and dirty tour of Mystic Seaport and the surrounding area for the kids. People were opening car doors left and right, crossing streets without looking, and there was even a historic drawbridge thrown in there for good measure.

The kids wanted to stay longer. Apparently our white-knuckled pass through wasn’t good enough.

We promised them we’d take them back there another day, in a regular car, not in a caravan as long as our house.

We were thankful that campfire cooking wasn't our only option.

We were thankful that campfire cooking wasn’t our only option.

Other than the crazy weather, the overnight itself was thankfully uneventful, and we had a lot of fun. We had a slight issue with figuring out how to light the camper’s pilot light, which proved to be stressful at first, but once we got it, the problem was solved. The dog adjusted just fine, and was surprisingly well behaved, after having been out in the camper with us all week long as we’d done our prep work and clean-up. We had thought of our meals ahead of time: turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs, sautéed zucchini and squash, potato salad and baked beans for dinner that first night, and pancakes with sausage for breakfast that next day. I had a basket of boxes chips, crackers and cookies as snacks and a big bag of cereal on hand, just in case anyone got up early before breakfast and got hungry. That happens at home pretty regularly, so I tried to think of everyone’s eating habits and address them ahead of time.

Because of the rain, we couldn’t really go out, but we were somewhat exhausted anyway, so we were happy to stay in. The kids hung out all together in one bed, watching an old show on one of their tablets, and we hung out, tinkering around the camper. I had brought about a dozen hand-painted canvases with me that the three of them had completed in an art class. The work was so beautiful and I’d hoped to be able to use some of it to decorate the camper, making it more of our own space. Our regular house isn’t large, and there’s not a ton of display space there either, so between the two spaces, I hoped to showcase their talents and brighten up the camper at the same time. Many of the pieces would work very well with the color scheme we had chosen. I also wanted the kids to choose some pieces for their “rooms” so that they could personalize their own spaces, especially our oldest, as she was going to be sleeping in the common area. I wanted her to have a chance to make some of that space her own as well, just as they could the bunk house. I’d purchased two big packs of medium sized Command strips and they were great for adhering the artwork to the walls.

We all went to sleep at the same time and we were all up in plenty of time in the morning to get everything cleaned up and packed up and ready to go by check out. Other than the 32 degree temps and the hail, even that went well. We had snow flurries at home when it was time to back the camper back into the driveway, but all in all, we had a successful trip. We’d meant to work out any kinks, and we did. We experienced more types of weather in 24 hours than we ever would on the summer trip, but it was a trial-by-fire type of trip overall, the kind of thing you just can’t make up.

An adventure.

A fun memory and a good story for our kids to tell when they get older.

And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Adventure is all part of the fun!

Adventure is all part of the fun!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Honey Sesame Chicken

11 Mar
This was a great meal to come home to! Thanks My Soup for You!

This was a great meal to come home to! Thanks My Soup for You!

Last week, thanks to my local Macaroni Kid and their awesome giveaways, I won tickets to the Home Show that was taking place nearby. I was very excited, and we opted to go to the show on Sunday afternoon after church and after lunch. We’d be getting home just in time for dinner.

Nothing’s worse than coming home at dinner time and trying to decide what to make for dinner. On the flip side though, nothing’s better than coming home to dinner already cooked for you while you were out!

Therefore, when we planned our meal menu for the next two weeks, one of the slots was filled with a new recipe for Honey Sesame Chicken, thanks to a blog post I’d seen earlier that week on my friend Paula’s blog, My Soup for You. I knew when I saw it, that it was one I wanted to try too, and being a crock pot meal it fit in great with our Sunday afternoon schedule.

Paula had gotten the inspiration for her meal from the Kitchen Whisperer, and she tweaked it to fit her needs. I followed Paula’s recipe almost to a “T,” only changing a few things, which I note in the recipe below with asterisks. Thanks to Paula for sharing her variation of the Kitchen Whisperer’s recipe with us! It made our Sunday afternoon stress-free and relaxing, and we had a delicious dinner!

Here is Paula’s recipe, just as she has it on her blog, My Soup for You:

Honey Sesame Chicken
2 lbs chicken – I used thighs   ***We used two pounds of chicken tenderloins.***
1/2 cup honey – original called for a full cup but I didn’t have enough   ***We used a full cup.***
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp grated ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp ketchup
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper  ***We were out of this.***
3 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp water
Green onions and sesame seeds to garnish  ***The grocery store didn’t have any green onions on Saturday.***

1. Place the chicken in a 5 quart slow cooker that you have sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Combine honey – cayenne (no water, cornstarch or garnishes yet!) and pour over the chicken.
3. Cook on high for 2-3 hours.
4. When done, take the chicken out and leave the sauce in the pan.
5. Combine corn starch and water and make a slurry.
6. Pour that in the slow cooker with the sauce and mix. Cook for another ten minutes on high until it thickens slightly.
7. Chop up your chicken and put it back in the sauce. I also added about two cups of broccoli florets.
8. Serve with rice and garnishes.

 

It’s summertime!!!

18 Jun
It's here! It's finally here!

It’s here! It’s finally here!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JUNE 24, 2013:

Yay!!

Yahooo!!!

Woot, woot!!!!!

Today is our last day of school. Tomorrow is our first day of summer vacation.

At times during this school year, I seriously did not know if I’d make it through to the end of the year. But I did,  we did, and now it’s summer!

I.love.summer.

Today I will make the same type of disclosure statements to you that I made last summer.

I promise that my posts may not always be on time.

I promise that I won’t be sharing them on Facebook at 6:30 in the morning each day.

I promise that they may not always be on the same posting schedule as they are during the school year, so there may not be three a week.

I promise that I am putting my family first and spending lots and lots of time with them.

I promise to sleep late, wear sunscreen and eat supper on the beach. Often.

And I promise that if we do anything super-cool, or eat anything super-delicious I will share it with you so that you can do it too!

Enjoy your summer, enjoy your family, and remember that summer will be over in the blink of an eye.

Make the most of it!