4 Ingredient Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

I don’t know about you, but my crockpot is probably my favorite kitchen item. It just makes cooking SO EASY! Here is one of the easiest recipes in my arsenal of crockpot recipes,

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs frozen chicken breasts
  • 12 oz hot wing sauce (I like Frank’s, but any brand will do)
  • 1 package rank dip mix
  • 2 tbsp. butter (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Place frozen chicken, hot sauce, and rank dip mix in crockpot
  2. Cook on low 6 hours
  3. Using 2 forks, shred chicken (I took the chicken out of the crockpot to do this for easier logistics).
  4. Return to crockpot, add butter, and simmer cook another hour on low
  5. Place on buns and add cheese if desired

And that’s it! An easy, delicious dinner that’s prepared in a few simple steps.

 

 

Unique Christmas Wrapping Ideas

One of my favorite things about gift giving is presenting a gift to someone in a unique package. Christmas allows me to replicate this over and over again on a larger scale – making it my favorite holiday of the year! I’m always looking for new & interesting ways to wrap gifts, and here are some of my tried & true gems:

  1. Call me old-fashioned, but I love sending and receiving traditional Christmas cards (ones that aren’t photos). In the past, I’ve wrapped a foam board in Christmas fabric and pinned cards to it to double as décor (idea came from here). This year, I’d like to create décor using cards in the shape of a tree on the wall (like this one). But I always save the cards to create future gift tags (an example is here).
  2. Years ago, I bought a large roll of brown craft paper and started stenciling my own designs onto it. I did themes (snowmen, Santa, Christmas trees, etc) and used coordinating bows to complete the job. Since then, I have moved into not only doing stencil designs but also creating polka dots, lines, chevrons, lace, stenciled letters, you name it!
  3. Toilet paper roll and cellophane (this idea uses rolled coins, but it’s the same concept). I know, sounds crazy – but it’s a great wrapping idea for kids’ small toys! I did this one year for my nieces and nephews and they loved it!
  4. Burlap bags with a stenciled design. Or burlap wrapped around a gift with a ribbon bow on it. Burlap bags can be bought or made.
  5. Decorative accents on wrapped gifts. I love adding things such as twine & ribbon, bells, pinecones, twigs, berries, flowers, greenery, etc.
  6. Cloth. I’ve gone to Goodwill and gotten curtains and tablecloths and then painted words or designs on them (inspiration generated from this post).
  7. Ditch the traditional box or bag idea and wrap gifts inside another gift. Like a coffee mug filled with candy or a fuzzy glove filled with nail polish and nail files. Cellophane is also a great option to let the recipient see what they are getting before it’s opened. Baskets are another great idea – they don’t require additional wrapping.
  8. Money tree! I once took a glittery Dollar Store decorative tree and tied folded bills to it with ribbon and gave it as a gift.
  9. Wire edge ribbons. They are beautiful, easy, and can be re-used over and over!
  10. The Dollar Store has some great wrapping paper and bags (I prefer to not spend a lot of money on things that get tossed). I also save any bags or wire edged ribbon I get and re-use them.
  11. Shop clearance after holidays to stock up for next year!

I hope some of these ideas help you this holiday season. Happy Wrapping!

 

50 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Tween Girls

Shopping for tweens is difficult in and of itself, but finding stocker stuffers they will actually like can be almost impossible. Here are 50 stocking stuffer ideas to help you fill your tween’s stocking:

  1. Fun socks
  2. Nail polish
  3. Hair ties
  4. Bobby pins
  5. Headbands
  6. Lip balm
  7. Hairbrushes
  8. Nail art decals
  9. Gift cards (Starbucks, Justice, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, Target, etc)
  10. Money
  11. Candy
  12. Necklaces
  13. Earrings
  14. Rings
  15. Bracelets
  16. Tumbler
  17. Water Bottle
  18. Keychain
  19. Nail file
  20. Artificial nails
  21. Hair chalk
  22. Lotion
  23. Soap
  24. Ear buds
  25. CDs
  26. Terrarium kit
  27. Rubik’s Cube
  28. Books
  29. Notecards
  30. Gel pens
  31. Markers
  32. Adult coloring books
  33. Henna kit
  34. Journal
  35. Phone case
  36. Sunglasses
  37. Hand sanitizer
  38. Washi tape
  39. Coin purse
  40. Dreamcatcher
  41. Body Mist
  42. Hat
  43. Scarf
  44. Gloves
  45. Slippers
  46. Flip flops
  47. Wireless mouse
  48. Selfie stick
  49. Phone charger
  50. Makeup brushes

15 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls (as told by a tween!)

It’s that time of year! Tis to season to try and figure out what to get the pre-teen girl in your life for Christmas. Thankfully, I just so happen to have a tween living under my roof, and she volunteered some ideas to help everyone else out.

  1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

A fresh twist on an old classic! This camera comes in a variety of colors and film packs can be bought on Amazon or at Walmart.

 

2. Henna Tattoo Kit

With parental OK, tweens can create their own henna tattoo designs. Don’t worry – these designs don’t last as long as the real hennas. They wash off in a few days.

 

3. Inflatable Air Chair

Think lighter and more affordable version of the futon chair. Available in 3 colors

 

4. Reversible Sequin “Mermaid” Pillow

Fun sequin pillow available in 26 colors!

 

5. Color Changing Bluetooth Speaker

Color changes to the beat of the music. Rechargeable battery so you don’t have to keep purchasing AAs.

 

6. DIY Bath Bomb Kit

Who doesn’t like a little fizz in their tub?

 

7. DIY Lip Balm Kit

To keep with the DIY theme, check out kits that allow her to make her own lip balm.

 

8. DIY Spa Kit

Also consider more comprehensive kits that will allow her to make face masks and other spa essentials from your kitchen ingredients.

 

9. Bluetooth Microphone

2+1 microphone and speaker. Download any karaoke app and make it a party!

 

10. Mermaid Tail Blanket

Any mermaid-loving girl will enjoy this cozy gift – available in 14 fun colors

 

11. Lava Lamp

They’re baaaack! And available in lots of fun colors

 

12. Converse Shoes

My kid likes the high top ones, but the traditional chucks are in style as well. Multiple colors (metallic, glitter, designs) are available to choose from.

 

13. Cell Phone Cases

SO many cell phone case options are available on Amazon.  And it’s easy to search by phone model to find the right one.

 

14. Cell Phone Fisheye Lens

For the special effects Instagram loving kid in your life, consider a fisheye lens. This attachment gives the illusion of being in a fishbowl.

 

15. Squishies

Yup, that’s their actual name. They remind me of cute stress balls. They come in several sizes and can be bought individually or in packs.

 

Happy Shopping!

Easy Crepes

(forgot to snap a pic of Hazel’s creation, so borrowing this one from Bit of the Good Stuff – check out her vegan recipe here)

 

Happy Sunday Morning! Chef Boy-At-Hazel was at it again this morning with her version of crepes. Inspired by a recipe she found on Facebook (I tracked down the original recipe here)

She didn’t make chocolate ones but instead melted some milk chocolate and spread that along with cinnamon on this morning’s breakfast. She has also used fresh fruit in the past, preferably strawberries, but we were out this morning 🙁

Crepes are easy, delicious, and kid-friendly and I highly recommend them as for a morning treat!

How I Confronted my Mother-in-law

I did it.

I did the one thing a lot of women wished they could do – I confronted my future MIL on how inconsiderate and selfish she was being regarding one specific situation, and it produced a domino effect. While it felt good to tell her how I felt, it did some damage to my relationship with my SO’s family, my MIL and my SO.

The backstory: We used to live 7 hours driving from them. I had planned to go visit for a long weekend and drop my (step)daughter off for a few weeks during the summer. The night before we were supposed to leave, my future MIL told my 11-year-old that she would not be home at the time we were expected to arrive the next day and to instruct me I was to unload her bags at their house and drive my (step)daughter to her aunts (whose home I had only ever been to once). There was no direct communication to me or my SO about this. This trip had been planned for, no joke, 6 months with a specific arrival time. I was pissed.

What I said: I told my SO before I sent the text (I know, I know – texting is the worst way to confront people but this family lives via texting) what I was saying and he agreed with it as he was just as pissed as I was. I told her I was pissed about this news and that she was ignorant (ouch) about the reality of the situation of me driving 7 hours. I also said we had planned this for months and she was wrong to have scheduled a hair appointment at the exact time her granddaughter was being dropped off.

What went done:  She proceeded to curse at me via text and then more heated words were exchanged between the two of us. The kind of things you mean but don’t actually ever say out loud – the words that drive a knife into your gut.

The aftermath: My MIL cancelled her hair appointment and my SO drove the 7 hour one way drive to meet with his parents. He said he didn’t want me to go as it was equivalent to “sending the lamb into the lions den”. I stayed with my family while my SO dropped his daughter off and had more words with his mother and father. My FIL stood up for me and told my MIL she had been wrong (he didn’t know about the situation until the confrontation happened). My SO also told his mother she was wrong in how she handled the situation.

The above is the cliff note version of the actual events that occurred. When I look back in retrospect, I can admit I feel bad I told her she was ignorant. I wish I had had enough emotional intelligence and less anger at that moment in time to talk with her in a more appropriate manner about how her decisions and actions were affecting me. It’s been 5 months since that incident occurred, and some members of my SO’s family are just now beginning to talk to me again. While I can say the ones who stopped speaking to me were not ones I was close with, it is a constant reminder of the riff I created. My MIL is slowly getting over her hurt feelings, and I have learned that logic that may be inherent to me, may not even be on some people’s peripherals.

A positive that came to light during this time was the realization that my SO is willing to stand up for me. And THAT is something I am deeply grateful for. I now know he is not afraid to stick up for decisions he believes in. I also learned that some members of his family also stand up for what is right versus siding with someone because they are family – like my father in law. My FIL actually told his son that he was happy I had the guts to “put Mom in her place”.

Obviously the dynamics of my SO’s family is probably complex enough to dedicate an entire blog to, I’ll spare you the dramatics.

Me plus 3

When I first met my now fiancé, he was a single dad raising a young daughter. He had just recently gotten sole custody and was still trying to find the right blend of work and home time. Since this was a second go-round for the both of us, we made a pact early on that we would either make it work or move on and not waste each other’s time. Seriously, who has time for games at 30?

So I became insta-mom, and let me tell you what a journey that has been! Being a (step)parent (the term I affectionately call it when one bio-parent isn’t around and you are it) has, by far, been the most rewarding yet challenging job I have ever had.  Not only did I become a mama to a little girl, I also became a mama to a four-legged son named Floyd (as in Pink Floyd). I traded in traveling, professional, work long hours to enjoy happy hours single life for family dinners, bed times, and dog parks. I absolutely do not regret becoming involved with a man who had a child, but I have learned some very hard, and at time emotional, lessons along the way…

  • You and bio-parent will have different parenting styles. They have been there since day one and you joined the party late. Communication and compromise are so important. Agree to disagree and be OK with it.
  • Your in-laws won’t always be your friend. They are trusting you with precious cargo and that cargo will always priority #1. I’ll tell you about my relationship with my future MIL later
  • it takes time. New relationships require time to learn about each others nuances. Throw a child into that it can get sticky. You have to learn about two new people and two new roles. Don’t give up when things get rough (and they will), just keep talking!
  • Family time is important. Doing things together, especially new things as a party of 3, helped us bond and grow closer. Don’t think of it as adding a third wheel to a party of two – that will make someone (possibly you) feel left out.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There will be arguments, fights, tears, hurt feelings, and wounded egos but it will get better! In time the pieces will flow together and you will feel the synergy of your newly formed family take hold. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. There are plenty of happily blended families out there making it work day after day. And we are here to support one another.

 

Bacon, Cream Cheese, Cheddar Chicken

(photo cred: Julia’s Album)

So, my 12-year-old (step)daughter is a budding chef. She has taken an active interest in scouring Pinterest for recipes and putting her own twist on things. I received this text from her earlier this week:

“hi. I’m makin dinner tonight”

“cool. whatcha making?”

“its a surprise! can you pick up cream cheese on your way home?”

Now, I don’t know about you, but when my child uses the word “surprise”, I get nervous. I get more nervous when she requests a random item like cream cheese. But I am being supportive of her budding culinary career, so I stopped and got the cream cheese, not knowing what I was going home to.

I was pleasantly surprised (and so was her dad) when we finally got to enjoy her finished product! Hazel found this Bacon, Cream Cheese, Cheddar Chicken recipe on Julia’s Album. Instead of cheddar, she used American (her fav) and it still turned out yummy. I would highly recommend this easy & delicious weeknight meal!