15 Minute “Doctored-Up” Dirty Rice with Chicken

Dirty rice is one of my favorite meals to make – I love the flavor mix of spice and veggies, rice, and chicken. It reminds me of my time spent living in the South, which is where my love for all things Creole blossomed. I don’t always have time to boil rice and add all the spices and ingredients from scratch, so I came up with a conglomeration of store-bought ingredients  that when cooked together, create a similar taste.

Here is what I used, along with some pre-seasoned chicken my fiancé picked up at the store one day (tasted like it had a BBQ dry rub on it. flavor wasn’t super strong but just enough to compliment the other flavors).

My chicken was already thawed, but if yours isn’t, add an extra 15 minutes to your prep time for approximately 1 lb of chicken to defrost in the microwave. I then sliced my chicken into small, bite size pieces and placed them in a pre-heated skillet with about 1/4 cup cooking oil in it. I covered the skillet and occasionally stirred the meat to ensure it was cooked al the way through.

I added 2 cups water and 1 tbsp. cooking oil to a microwavable dish and microwaved it for 8 minutes (box says 12 but we live at a high altitude so things cook faster) and microwaved the veggies for 4 minutes (again, quicker cooking time).

I strained the chicken and placed it on a paper towel lined plate to soak up some of the oil, and then mixed all the ingredients together in a larger bowl and served it to a very hungry family.

Bon appetite!

Sunday Brunch French Toast

One of my go-to Sunday breakfast/brunch meals is French Toast. And not to toot my own horn, but I make a pretty darn good French Toast (toot toot)! Here is my simple and delicious recipe that I’m sure your family will love the same as mine does!

Start with your normal ingredients: Bread (we use white, but Texas Toast would also be a tasty option), eggs (1 per slice), and milk. Mix eggs and milk together in a bowl. Then comes the magic… add a splash of vanilla extract (I don’t measure but it’s literally just a little splash since it is strong) and a few shakes of cinnamon.

Saturate each slice by flipping it several times. Place bread on a butter-greased frying pan or skillet. Add a pinch a sugar on each side before you flip, letting each side cook to a golden brown.

Place on plate and serve with topping of choice!

While it may not seem like much, the vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar made a huge difference to your taste buds!

 

What am I most grateful for right now?

One of my family’s annual Thanksgiving traditions is to state what we are thankful for that year. Historically, my (step)daughter has said her family or times she was able to make memories with certain people near and dear to her heart. My fiancé usually chimes in with some funny tidbit such as football or the rare times his daughter is quiet. I usually say I am thankful for the opportunities we have had as a family the last year.

This year was different. Cliché, I know, but so very true on a deeply personal level. This past year I watched a friend I have known since middle school get diagnosed with a brain tumor, undergo surgery to have it removed (thankfully, it was benign), and tough out physical and occupational therapy to once again function as an adult. This year, I watched my aunt barely sleep as she waited for pathology results to return on the tumor my cousin had removed from her neck (also benign). This year, I watched an old co-worker watch as her husband battled cancer, just to find out she had the same diagnosis a few months later.

This year I said goodbye to my uncle who passed suddenly after a catastrophic cancer diagnosis just a week earlier. This year I watched someone I went to high school with disappear, just to be found deceased a few weeks later. This year I watched yet another person I went to middle school with pass away unexpectedly, leaving behind a 3-year-old son.

This year I watched family members tear each other apart after a long-buried feud resurfaced. This year I watched my own relationship with my future mother-in-law deteriorate due to actions blinded by selfish ways. This year I watched my best friend’s sanity be shredded by a battle with post-partum depression.

This year was different. This year, for the first time in many, I was so very grateful for my own physical and mental health. This year, I was grateful that I wake up daily with only minor aches and pains, no broken bones, and no surgeries needed. This year, I was grateful that my fiancé and my (step)daughter are healthy, do not require daily medications, and are generally happy. This year, I was grateful for a roof over my head, grateful that I don’t wonder where my next meal will come from, and grateful to be surrounded by those I love and who love me.

This year, I am so very grateful.

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!

10 Tips For Acing A Job Interview

So you wrote a great resume and landed a job interview, congrats! Now what? Now it’s prep time to sell yourself in the interview and show your potential future boss why are exactly what their company is looking for.

10 Tips for Acing A Job Interview

  1. Research the organization
    1. Know the company so you can ask thoughtful questions about its mission, goals, culture, etc
  2. Make sure you ask questions either throughout or at the end of the interview
    1. As a hiring official, if I ask someone if they have questions and they say they do not, I wonder what their investment in the job is
  3. Take a notepad and pen with you
    1. Write down questions as they ask them. This is especially helpful if they ask multi-part questions so you can ensure you answer all parts of it
    2. Take notes on what the job entails and what is expected of you in that role
    3. Write down questions as you think of them so you can ask them when the opportunity arises
  4. Dress professionally
    1. No jeans!
    2. Dress to impress (check back soon for a separate post on tips for dressing the part)
  5. Be early
  6. Be courteous to the secretary or whoever else you speak to before the interview
    1. You are being graded by everyone
    2. Most managers trust the opinions of their secretaries because they see things as they really are
  7. Watch your body language before and during the interview
    1. If you sit in my chair like you are at home on your couch, I’ll take note
  8. Research interview questions ahead of time so you can be prepared for what they ask (check back soon for a separate post on sample interview questions)
  9. Come prepared with solid, concrete examples
    1. One example may provide a solid answer to two or three questions. This is OK, but still be sure to vary your responses
  10. Sell yourself! The interview is the time to show your prospective employer what you are made of

10 Tips For Building A Great Resume

My friend Ashley over at Ashley Clark, Professional Writing Services provided the following 10 tips for building a great resume .(If you need help from a professional, contact her and mentioned The Gypsy Professional for a discounted rate!)

 

How To Build A Great Resume

  1. Make a list of what you do daily, weekly, monthly and go from there
  2. Think “bigger picture” of what your job is. Instead of “filter spreadsheets”, think “compile statistical data”
  3. Any time you can use concrete figures- do so! Examples include “increased sales by 10% annually”, “decreased costs by 3% during first quarter”, “responsible for the recruitment of 10 new advertising partners within 6 months of hire”
  4. Write clearly & concisely without company specific jargon. Industry specific jargon may be OK if you are staying within the same industry
  5. Include only pertinent info. Not every day of your day should be put on paper
  6. Limit the length. A good rule of thumb is 10 years of experience per page. Recruiters don’t want to read a 5 page resume. There are very few exceptions to this, but a federal resume is one of them
  7. Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck! Also, walk away for a bit then come back and review it or have a different set of eyes review it for grammatical and spelling errors
  8. Create an easy to read resume format. Unless you are a graphic designer, your resume should not be a work of art. The recruitment software companies use does not support designs and it will alter your format, making your resume illegible
  9. Use a professional looking font – no comic sans!
  10. Be honest! if you lie on your resume and land an interview, your future employer will be able to tell. Hiring officials are experienced in interviewing and can easily spot discrepancies between what’s on paper and what is delivered verbally

Remember: a resume is intended to get you noticed by a recruiter, the next step is to sell yourself in the interview. Check out my post 10 Tips For Acing A Job Interview