You Are My Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

My Only Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

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06 December, 2012

Food Review: Vietnamese Pho (pronounced "Fa")

I love Pinterest. I love it. I love it. I love it.

Last Friday night when I got off work, my husband and I, along with my daughter, went shopping at a local mall. I was NOT feeling ANY of the food choices in the Food Court. NOTHING sounds good - and I'm usually the one who can find something to eat somewhere. Yeah, not so much....

Luckily they had a great looking little place in there call "Pholicious". I had no idea what that was, but everyone who was eating there seemed to enjoy it. Needless to say, I learned it was some Asian soup that comes in all sorts of varieties that include chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish ball, and seafood. I chose shrimp as my meat. They serve it with a small platter that has jalapenos, bean sprouts, onion, cilantro, lime, and a sauce that is a mixture of hoisin and sriracha sauce. It. Was. Amazing.

Given that we don't live in the same town as this mall, coming back for more without some planning wasn't likely to happen. I figured since I was a huge Pinterest fanatic, there was BOUND to be some sort of recipe on there for this. There was. I had no idea how POPULAR this stuff is! I was also excited to learn that it's EASY, EASY, EASY to make!!!

My initial attempt was making a Chicken Pho. Delicious. I was sick at the time, and this was perfect. The spice opened up my sinuses... what a GREAT change from Campbells. However, I was left wanting more four days letter when I was STILL sick. Luckily the hubby made a grocery store run for me and I decided to go with a Vegetable Pho this time.

After looking up the recipes for Vegetable Pho, I noted that they mostly included vegetable stock and tofu. NO THANK YOU. I know a lot of people love it, so if you do, go for it. Tofu just isn't my thing. So, I left it out and stuck with the chicken broth, I just didn't put any actual meat in the soup.

In my opinion, Pho is delicious whatever you decide to put in it. I'm going to include the recipe that I used, I just modified the steps to include what I wanted to put in it.


Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
serves 6
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4th tsp salt
6 cups chicken broth
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 baby bok choy, chopped
5 oz chinese noodles (about half a package)
sriracha sauce for serving (optional)
chopped cilantro for serving (optional)
Heat the sesame oil over medium high heat in a large heavy-bottomed stock pot. Add the minced garlic and ginger and briefly saute for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and bok choy, sprinkle with salt, and saute for another three minutes until chicken has turned white but not completely cooked all the way through. (***NOTE: I DID NOT USE THE BOK CHOY IN EITHER OF MY RECIPES, AND IF YOU JUST WANT VEGGIE PHO, COOK THE GINGER AND GARLIC AS DIRECTED, THEN SKIP ADDING CHICKEN AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH)
Add the chicken broth, jalapeno and green onions to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until chicken is done.
Here's my broth for the Veggie Pho... It's delicious and smells WONDERFUL!!!
Add the rice vinegar and soy sauce and stir. You can add a little more salt if you like, but taste first because soy sauce already contains a lot of salt! Add the noodles to the pot and serve with chopped cilantro and sriracha sauce on the side.
Time:45 minutes (***NOTE: I SWEAR IT WENT FASTER THAN 45 MINUTES!!!)
I made a Veggie Bar which lets everyone put their own ingredients in. Everything here, except the noodles, is raw, the hot broth will soften everything once you put it in the bowl. Shown here: Salt and pepper, Srirachi sauce, bella mushrooms, jalapenos, lime wedges, broccoli, onions, bean sprouts and the noodles. 

My bowl..... Pure Heaven! Put noodles on the bottom, add your veggies if you want them, then add the broth - which if you've chosen an option with meat, it will contain the meat. Let sit for just a moment to soften your veggies. 
Also, I noticed that Pholiscious gave us a small cup with what I'm sure was a mix of the srirachi sauce, as well as some hoisin sauce. So, you can add a dash of that too. It's not included on the ingredient list for the recipe I used here, so I thought I would throw that in. 
As for veggies, the possibilities are endless. I would recommend that you try several different things. I really think this soup has some real flexibility with it. 
I really want to thank the people over at for posting this recipe. It will probably be my GO TO when I'm sick when I want a change from my mama's special potato soup that I usually make!
Get cooking! Leave comments and let me know if you liked it, what you changed up, etc!

22 October, 2012

REVIEW: Chicken Fettuccine Carbonara

And here we go again on the venture to find something new to cook - and then tell you good folks how it turned out.

Tonight I went for Chicken. Again, how many different ways can you cook it? We don't have a grill (I know, my husband cries over this every now and again), he doesn't like it baked, I didn't want it pan fried, and I couldn't convince myself to do something in the crockpot - again.

So, back to Pinterest we go.....

I made something similar to this a while ago. Of course, I can't find the recipe. So, EVERYTHING is on Pinterest. One simple search later, and I've got a dozen different variation of Chicken Carbonara. Once I found a pretty picture, I decided I would go for it.

It's more complicated than the ribs, but not so complicated that you don't want to fool with it. The hubby loved it. I loved it. My niece loved it. It was most definitely a winner and we will be making it again.

Photo courtesy of Redneck Recipes
Cook your pasta. At the same time cook your bacon, spoon it out. Cook mushrooms, garlic, and onions, spoon out. Cut up chicken and cook. Pour veggies back in, add cream. Plate pasta, cover with chicken and veggies, top with grated parm and bacon. Serve!

* I did not add the frozen peas.
* I did not add the tomatoes.
* We added green onion to ours as a garnish on the top.

** I also made a bit of a roux with flour and water to thicken the sauce a bit.

This is a really nice meal because it only uses two pots/pans. I like that - less clean up. It also does great as a one item meal. It's like having spaghetti - but better!

If I had ANY complaints, I would have liked a little more sauce. You could probably just add a little extra cream, and then thicken a little more. This recipe only calls for a cup of it and between all the bacon, chicken, and garlic, the cream takes on a dark color and tastes fabulous.

If you are looking for something simply, and FAIRLY quick, I would definitely say this one is a winner!

Original recipe found HERE !!

Happy cooking!


21 October, 2012

REVIEW - Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Chili Sauce

Now, I don't fancy myself a food connoisseur by any means, but I gotta tell ya, as a typical housewife and mom, I get SO sick of fixing the same crap every week. How many times can you fix chicken - and how many different ways can you make it? In between that is cubesteak, pork chops, hamburger, and it all just rotates and rotates.

Lately my husband and I are in a funk. We look at each other with that "what do you want for dinner" face - and it's just blank. There's nothing there. I'm fairly confident that were it not for our eight year old, we probably wouldn't fix dinner at all.

Compound all of this with the fact that I have the MOST IMPOSSIBLE CHILD when it comes to appetite. She's getting better, but this food battle goes right along with the homework battle - some days I'd rather jump off of a bridge than fight it.

Anyways, I'm always looking for something new. I'm blessed to have an incredible husband when it comes to food. Not only does he know a good recipe when he sees one, but he can definitely COOK a good recipe too!

So, with the creation of Pinterest, I've got an entire world full of recipes right at my fingertips - and I don't even have to store cook books! WINNING!

Today I came across this recipe for ribs.I love baby back ribs. I hate fat on ANYTHING. Baby backs don't have that. YAY! I also like a good funky turn on something "normal". Entrance "Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Chili Sauce".

I hate the fact that I have cooked some Paula Deen recipes that wound up being extremely expensive and then tasted so terribly that I wouldn't feed them to my dogs - entrance that Baked Red Snapper with Peppers and Onions thing she does. YUCK!! So I decided that I would start reviewing all these Pinterest recipes so we can all get a heads up on what's good, and what looks pretty but is a far cry from edible.

I wound up with this:

Fall off the bone Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Chili Sauce, Asparagus, and Mac and Cheese
These were super simple to make. Salt and pepper baby back ribs. Put in baking pan. Double cover with foil. Cook at 275 for FOUR HOURS (consider this a crockpot meal). Take out, turn on broiler. Brush with Sweet Chili Sauce (it's in the Asian section of your grocery store). Put under broiler UNCOVERED for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce caramelizes. Viola!

It REALLY DOES fall off the bone. REALLY.

It's not really spicy - unless you get a too crazy with the coarse black pepper like I did. Don't do that. All things in moderation - I went overboard. I admit it. It does have SOME spice, but it kinda hits on the back end. It's not like a buffalo sauce that hits you right from the start.

They are just REALLY good. FYI, the author of the recipe, which is found HERE, says she prefers a specific chili sauce - I couldn't find the one she recommended, so I used Taste Of Asia Sweet Chili Sauce. It was $1.99 at Publix. It wasn't too bad.

I would ask for my husband's review, but he ate almost an entire half of a rack by himself, and I couldn't understand ANYTHING he was saying over the chewing..... I guess that means he liked it! :)

I gotta thank STEAMY KITCHEN for this AWESOME recipe! WOOHOO! We will DEFINITELY be making this again.


21 August, 2012

Stuff Grace Says: "Ohana Means Family"

So, tonight the hubby and I ran to Publix to pick up dinner. I swear Publix makes the BEST Mardi Gras chicken wings ever! They are a little spicy, but I love spicy, so it's all good. I was also able to pick up some good coupons and a few more flyers and coupon books so it was a WIN WIN for the shopping trip!

As luck would have it, my car wouldn't start. Grace and I were involved in an accident in February of this year, and my car has been one frustrating downhill mess after another. My poor hubby finally went and called his mother to ask her if she would take Grace and I home and Todd would follow as soon as we figured out the car's most recent issue.

Todd returned to the car and told us his plan to get us home and take care of the car. Grace immediately pops up and says "I'm not leaving you Toddy". Todd assured her that he would be home just as soon as he could, but Grace wasn't having it. "Todd, Ohana means family, and that means nobody gets left behind, so I'm not leaving you".

I gotta give it to my kid. Apparently I suck at pounding those math skills into her little brain, but I have successfully taught her what it means to be a family, and that family doesn't just mean blood - and she takes it seriously. I couldn't be happier, or more proud of her, that she has taken this to heart. My immediate family is extremely close - and I'm happy that she is carrying on this family tradition.

On that note, I shall finish Teen Mom and hit the bed. It's going to be a long week this week with work and preparing to move! YAY!

Goodnight all!


13 August, 2012

We are glass.... Another installment of "Stuff Gracie Says"

Tonight the hubby whipped up this fabulous "Lime Cilantro Crockpot Chicken". It's totally awesome. If you follow me on Pinterest, you can find it on my "Yummy Stuff" board. Anyways..... While we were eating I turned on the music channels on our tv. We dined while we listened to some great country music (much to my hubby's dismay, though he smiled politely all through dinner).

They were playing some great music that's now considered "classic". It's really friekin' hard to believe that I am now old enough that anything I listened to in highschool is now considered "classic". However, it was neat to be able to tell her "Oh I remember this song. I was in highschool, and Aunt Nikki and I used to listen to this on our way to the county fair and we'd hang out at the cattle barn with all the cute redneck boys!" (Nikki, if you're reading this, you know you just let out a big sigh full of all sorts of memories!)

So, at the end of dinner a song by Thompson Square called "Glass" comes on. Grace plugs her ears and says "I can't listen to this". Of course, being the mom, I ask her why. She says "Because it reminds me of you". Now, I've heard the song, bits and pieces of it anyways, this time was no exception, so I'm going off what little knowledge I have of the song. Since Grace tends to hold on to the memories she has of her dad and I together, most especially the ugly and sad ones, I'm thinking that she's reminded of her DAD and I. So I say "Does this remind you of ME, or your DAD AND I when we were still together". She says, no, it reminds me of YOU AND ME."

My limited memory of the song tells me that it's about two people who are in a relationship and have lots of differences but are trying to work through them. Now I'm perplexed.

Well of course now I have to wait until after dinner finishes to hop on the computer and do some more research to figure out how this might apply to us. I search for the lyrics and find them. I'm nearly in tears by the time you read them. As my mother always says "Out of the mouths of babes...." At least this time she only pointed me to the song.

Yeah, we both carry baggage
We picked up on our way
So if you love me, do it gently
And I will do the same

We may shine, we may shatter
We may be pickin' up the pieces here on after
We are fragile, we are human
We are shaped by the light we let through us
But we break fast 'cause we are glass
'Cause we are glass

It's so true. Grace and I both carry some wounds and baggage from the last three years. We express it differently. It reminds me of after my dad died and my mom told me that we both grieved, but we both did it differently. She grieved as a wife, and I grieved as a daughter. In some therapy I went to after Grace's dad and I split up, the therapist told me that I had to grieve the end of our relationship as a death. I don't think I've ever actually GRIEVED it per say, but I've grieved it in little spurts over the last three years.

Grace grieved it hard. I remember her crying fits and screaming. She was five, and could in no way understand how and why we had to leave. She couldn't see how leaving that environment was the best thing for her father and I, and the best thing for her also. Don't get me wrong, I didn't imagine this would be our life (or her life) when I had her, but this is the way it turned out.

I'll let you look inside me
Through the stains and through the cracks
And in the darkness of this moment
You see the good in that

But try not to judge me
'Cause we've walked down different paths
But it brought us here together
So I won't take that back

We might be all in water
This could be a big mistake
We might burn like gasoline and fire
It's a chance we'll have to take

We may shine, we may shatter
We may be pickin' up the pieces here on after
We are fragile, we are human
And we are shaped by the light we let through us
But we break fast 'cause we are glass
We are glass

Out of all tragedy comes some pretty amazing things. I moved on, got married, got to work at my dream job,  moved to a new place... I can't complain. Grace moved on to start school, meet new people, got brand new family members that she loves, she has some good things in her life too. However, we both carry hurt, anger, frustration, and disappointment.

As a mother it's hard to know you are 50% responsible for ruining your kids biggest dream - having her parents under the same roof, and loving each other until we pass on. Even more disappointing is that her father and I BOTH came from families where our parents were married until the deaths of our fathers. But, you know, my job is make her life as painless as I can. I still stand by my decision to. I don't regret it. Nor will I ever, and given the same proposition, I'd do it again - and still never look back.

I'm sure that Grace may not have been thinking all of these things through when she said the song reminded her of me, but knowing my kid, it wouldn't surprise me if she was. Like me, she has more inner strength than she knows at this point. In this family we get knocked down, but we get up stronger and keep moving. It's all we know to do.

I hope she finds peace with the actions of her father and I. Three years later and at 8 years old I already have to field the questions of "why didn't you..." and "remember when....". They suck. They hurt. They scream "YOU SUCK". But I'm glad she asks, and I'm glad she verbalizes what's in her head. I've seen a couple dozen kids who couldn't get those things out, and their parents had no idea, until they were in rehab with emotional issues and a drug habit. God willing, that won't be my daughter.

Grace and I both grew up some throughout this process. It's made us realize how much alike we are, and how very different we are. This is only the beginning of the differences we will have, and the tragedies we will face together. The love we have for each other will see us through every storm, and we will most definitely weather them all together in a united front - trying to do the one thing I always wanted my parents to do - recognize and respect each other's individualities and love each other anyway. That's not a slam on my parents, but I'm a product of probably the last generation that our parents expected us to conform to a certain set of beliefs and values and not deviate from them.

If I could give anyone any advice who is in the same situation, I'd say protect your kids. You'll feel guilty,  but if you know you did the right thing, then just reinforce the good memories if there are any (and if there aren't, DON'T tell the kids that - at least until they are old enough to understand!), and always try to reassure your kids that it's going to be okay, and it's already okay. They aren't stupid though, and they know when you hurt. It's okay for them to know you hurt - but don't have a nervous breakdown in front of them. Kids need to know that life isn't always rainbows and butterflies. They also need to know that sometimes shit happens, and that you can move beyond it and above it. DON'T TRASH THE OTHER SIDE. Remember, you were the one who made the kid with them. They were obviously good enough for about 10 minutes or so, or in my case 7 and a half years.

You always have to remember that your kids remember what you put in front of them - good, bad, or ugly. There are things that I will kick myself over for probably the rest of my life, but that's all over now. I take all those ugly memories and I try to use them to improve where I'm at now. All that negative shit that went on in my relationship, I try not to repeat them in my marriage. THAT may be the greatest gift I can give Grace at this point.

Red xoxoxoxo

15 July, 2012

The DIY Room Partition


Okay, I've been itching to make do SOMETHING simple and cheap to fix a major issue in my house... CLUTTER! I admit it, I've spent most of my life as a pack rat. I am working on weeding out a large majority of the junk in the form of a garage sale, but given that I still have lots of stuff in storage, I've been waiting to do it all at once. Luckily, it looks like this week will be the week to empty that unit out, and in the next couple of weeks, it will be garage sale central! WOOHOO!

Anyways... I've become addicted to Pinterest lately. It's SOOOO awesome. It's like a woman's dream Google. I found this project that I pulled together at Walmart and less than $20.

My  bonus son will be making his first visit here since his father and I were married a year and a half ago. I have some boxes stacked up in the corner of my SUPER long dining room. OMG, the bonus kid CANNOT come down here and see that mess. What to do! What to do! Enter Pinterest until 4:00AM this morning.......

Read on to see how it all came together....


I measured height and length of my room, and then it was off to Walmart. I REALLY didn't want to spend a TON of money. FACE IT, it's a temporary solution to hide crap and a huge birdcage.

Here is what you need:

No, really, this is it!
 Supplies are as follows:

1.) One Flat Sheet - get the cheap ones, they are "thicker" if that makes sense, and you'll have to look at your measurements to see what size you need to purchase. I had to use a King - while the length was too long, the width was perfect. Any issues in length is easily solved. - $14.99

2.) One roll of EXTRA STRENGTH picture hanging wire (hardware section).- $1.97

3.)  Two hooks - I bought four because I was anticipating hanging a picture from the ceiling, but I may not do that. - $.97

4.) Cafe Hooks (original website said they were at Kmart), or I used plastic multi purpose hanger clips that are essentially plastic clothes pins that I found in the section where the ironing boards are.
 - $2.47

I'm going to include a link to the original website, I modified my supply list. You may want to follow their supply list depending on the size of the partition you are going to need.


You'll want to find a stud in the wall to insert your hooks to. Remember that you'll be stringing a wire all the way across, and then hanging a sheet over it, which will cause tension.

Wrap the wire around the hooks, and tie it off so it won't come loose.

Poor Hubby didn't feel good, but still got up to hang this stuff for me! THANKS HONEY!! :)


Go ahead and throw the sheet up there to make sure you are okay with the height of the wire, as well as the size of the blanket.


I learned two things from this step:

1.) I MUST have matured SOME because in my former life I would have seriously left that hanging
there, wrinkles and all, until my mother came over and ironed it for me.

2.) HOW did women stand around and iron all day - and WHY would you ever iron your sheets?? Thank God I was born in 1978!

You will also want to even out your number of clips
and add more if you need them.
Close up of my clips. They make prettier ones, but these
served my purpose just fine!
* PS!! If your blanket is TOO LONG and you can't sew (like me), I just lopped the extra over the top of the wire. It actually made it a little thicker and gave the clips a little more to hold on to.


Okay, add all your pretties now. It's a "WALL" after all! :) I slid my buffet over (which will be getting repurposed at some point), added some greenery and other accessories. NOW, the junk is hidden, the room doesn't look as LONG, my birdcage isn't sticking out while we eat dinner, and I am very very pleased!! NOW... if I can just get the table finished by Tuesday! :)

Nobody wants to eat staring at all this crap.
Okay, I will change it around a few times, but this is a GREAT start - considering the alternative above!

Now, time to work on some other DIY projects! Stay tuned for more blogs on these projects!

PS - Here is the link to original website and directions: ORIGINAL WEBSITE FOR PARTITION DIRECTIONS


28 June, 2012

Mommy's Log: Summer, Day One, 20120628

Summer, it begins, finally!!

So, finally, I have recooped enough after being violently ill this weekend to actually GET UP, and STAY UP. That means that SUMMER BEGINS TODAY! (Er, well, it does for ME at least). 

Gracie's dad and I have our Summer split in such a way that he has her one week, and I have her the next. I suppose it's good because she gets to have some continuous time with him that he doesn't get throughout the school year, and I get an opportunity to work and take care of things that I usually don't get to do because I'm worrying about childcare. However, it ROYALLY sucks because I REALLY miss her being gone for a whole week!

That being said, I am fortunate enough to have a job where I can take two days out of the week and spend them with Grace - which is GREAT for us, because we really get to have some one on one mommy and daughter time. It really makes up for the time throughout the school year when we are battling over school, homework, getting to bed on time, learning the spelling words... etc....

The Day Begins.....

...... at the bank. Of course, a quick trip to the ATM for some cash before we venture on to our first stop. As we are sitting at the ATM, Grace looks over and asks about the wreck we were involved in back in February. She then mentions that her back is hurting (something she never mentions otherwise), and looks over at me matter of factly while arching her back and says "Mom, I really think I need a deep tissue massage". REALLY GRACE? You'd just have to know her. Personally, I would LOVE a deep tissue massage myself. It's on my list, right next to that trip to Fiji I want. Cash in hand, we proceed to our first "real" stop, which in all it's redneck glory should surprise none of my Rebel family:

If you know me, this doesn't surprise you.

Come on, it's Waffle House. WHO can possibly turn down all that fattening greasy-ness served by waitresses who are missing one or more teeth, and cooked by guys who are clearly just trying to finish out their probation without anymore violations. 

Grace has been going to Waffle House since she was pretty much old enough to eat solid food.  And for a while there, all we had to do was walk in the door and they knew exactly what to throw on the griddle for us. Grace tells me that her dad's new girlfriend won't let them eat at Waffle House because it's "dirty"... I don't know if that's true, but isn't that the whole point? I mean, none of us go to Waffle House for it's 5 star qualities, and it's true that it's usually 3 am and too much alcohol has been involved, but over the years I have learned that Waffle House food is great when you are sober too - and Grace LOVES it! So, I'm all in!

One large chocolate milk....

Post Waffle, well done bacon, and mommy's hashbrowns that were:
scattered, smothered, covered, topped, capped, and peppered on the side
  - and we are ALL smiles!

Mom, Let's See If We Can See Toddy's Car!

My Husband works for a local surgical center, so since it was on the way, Grace asked to see if we could see if my Husband was still at work. Okay, I NEVER turn down an opportunity to see my Husband. Just as we pulled into the parking  lot, we ran smack dab into him! My munchkin has perfect timing!
Grace and Toddy, her "Bonus Dad"

The hubby and I.

My little family.
As I look at these photos, I can't help but think to myself that drugs they put you to sleep with must be REALLY good, because quite frankly I'd be terrified if that was last thing I saw before I went under.... Anyways... I digress......

After quick hugs and kisses, we were on our way and planning to visit some folks we know who own a pet shop close to the surgical center. However they were closed so we were not able to visit the baby skunks Grace wanted to see. 

Library Time!

Our beautiful local library
Put it this way, Grace could have spent ALL day in there. We looked at SO many books.

I find it SO interesting to see her going through the books because she remembers EVERY book ANY of her teachers have ever read in class, or SHE has read in class. I have to tell you, elementary school reading lists have GREATLY improved since I was there!

So we looked at books, movies, I taught her how to use the computerized library catalog, signed her up for the summer reading program, and looked at all the FREE activities our library is offering this summer - WOW!

Yeah, I know, but you might as well be comfy if you are going to take in all those books!

A SMALL sampling of the books available in the reading room.

Grace and I in the Reading Room.
So, this leads me to my "spooky" story of the day......

My father died 11 years ago this year. Poof, suddenly he was gone. TODAY, June 28th, is his birthday, he would have been 69 years young. While I was growing up, my father raced motocross, along with my brother. Dad raced under the number "56", the age his father was when he passed. It was his silent homage to the late, great, Herman Holloway. My brother raced under "156", a variation of our family number. 

My father passed at the age of 58. I chose to stay with the family number of 56, and had it tattooed on me to commemorate him - because, GOD KNOWS, I was forbidden to race ANYTHING! :) My brother chose to change the family number to "58" to commemorate the passing of our father, William Herman Holloway. In turn, he carries the tattoo of the number "58". 

When I was pregnant with Grace, her dad and I took a trip to Savannah. While there we visited a psychic just for fun. I always think it's neat to see what these people come up with. She knew my father was dead. She said he came to me in the color white. NO, she didn't whip out any numbers, but I didn't really expect her to.

Over the last decade, little things pop up here and there that make you certain Daddy is somewhere watching over us, or giving us his version of a wave from wherever he is. Today shocked me. 

I registered Grace for her Summer Reading Marathon Program at the library. All the kids are given their "race" number, just like real marathon runners would tape to their bodies. I caught my breath when she handed Grace her number. My father was an AVID reader, and he would love knowing that the little redheaded grandchild he never got to meet shared that interest with him. I'll just let the picture speak for itself:

Hi Daddy! We Miss You!

Darlin' and Lou Lou catch up with us!

At this point we were joined by my mother and my niece. All four of us girls together is always a good time. They wanted to eat, and sure, why not, I don't turn down good food. We picked up my famished hubby who had just made it home from a fully day of surgery, and drug him with us..... at least someone could take the photos. 

We ended the day with some good food at a local Irish restaurant, and I shall end this blog by sharing some pics of an impromptu lunch/birthday bash for Bill Holloway. Slainte!

We all took a sip of a "Cold Hiney", my dad's favorite.

Grace and Lou Lou.

My mommy and I.

"This is for you William!"

Mom and Lou. This is probably my FAVORITE photo, ever!

The four of us, with the Heinekin. Dad, you're here with us in spirit buddy,
but we'd much prefer you'd been here in person.

Maryellen XOXO

26 June, 2012

What to do with the kid for summer break.....


So, for the FIRST time since becoming a mother I am researching what to do with my little one for the summer. WHO KNEW BEING A MOM WAS SUCH WORK? Seriously, "how did the little pioneer children survive" without their parents having access to Google and Pinterest? (And for the record, that quote is a direct quote from my favorite attorney, I just love it and found it appropriate here.)
So, I'm looking around and so far I have found some really good coupons, some really interesting science experiements because my kid LOVES science, and am considering some close to home vacations.
As we all know, money isn't growing on trees for a lot of us lately. I want to give Grace the full summer experience, but of course, we've got to make the rent, and electric also! So I've been looking into some economical ways for us to REALLY get some enjoyment out of things.
Here's what I have come up with thus far:
1.) Valpak (that annoying package of coupons that comes in the mail) had a coupon B1G1 to see Winter, the dolphin made famous a certain movie - AND a movie in which my BFF played an extra!!  Adult admission is $19.95, and kids my daughter's age get in for $14.95. SCORE! Grace and I are going to take a day and go see this amazing little guy - and I especially hope to get to see those pelicans that attacked Ashley Judd!
2.) Bowling - We have a bowling alley up here that lets kids bowl for free with registration. As soon as I find my coupon, I'll be registering. However, I think that's been misplaced with a massive cleaning spree orchestrated by my wonderful husband.
3.) LIBRARY TIME! - By far, this is our go to for the kids. We live right around the corner from the library, so a run there once a week won't be a bad deal. Plus, like other libraries, our library has lots of things for kids to do during the summer - although, I would like to point out - THEIR HOURS SUCK.
4.) New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center - Given that we live directly across the street from them, it would be a shame not to utilize their services a few times this summer. They have a GREAT slide over there that is HUGE! Plus, when Todd and I get tired of baking, we go get in the kiddie pool and relax in the shaded part of it which is just deep enough for adults to submurge and hang out under one of those sprinkly Palm Tree things that are entertaining for three year olds.
5.) BAKING. Maybe this would be a good time to whip out some of those books on cake pops I got from Grace's book fair at school this year. However, it should be interesting, because I don't have the child that picks something easy to start with. NOPE, in true "I am my mother's daughter" fashion, she will go for the complicated cupcake Chinese Dragon right out of the gate.
6.) ARTS AND CRAFTS - Okay, nothing keeps kids entertained better than painting, drawing, coloring, etc.... PLUS, it's great therapy for me. I see some decorated flower pots, some friendship bracelets, and some wood crafts before the summer is out.
7.) Not so far from home vacations - I've been checking out a few places here and there. I'm keeping these under wraps for the time being until I decide which way I wanna go.
8.) SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS! I found an awesome website: It looks like we will be checking out some of their ideas there. Grace LOVES science. I think this will be both entertaining and educational at the same time.
9.) ONE BIG SURPRISE - yeah, this one is DEFINITELY a secret. She won't know this one until we pull into the parking lot. :)
So, I think that this summer should be packed with stuff to do - hopefully we can start it by visiting the library on Thursday. PLEASE dear LORD, let me feel better by then. I have a whole two more days to get to feeling better. And being sick, DEFINITELY shot this weekend in the foot.
Hopefully this will give you guys some ideas for the summer too, in case you were feeling stumped. I have found that Pinterest is a WEALTH of information on EVERYTHING - including what to do with kids for the summer! Gone are the days where parents just put your butt outside all day and told you to come in for lunch and dinner. BUT, the up side to that is Grace and I will get LOTS of quality time together! :)
We are going to try and post some blogs about our adventures this summer to let you know how it goes!

12 June, 2012

It's What's For Dinner: Vermont Maple Syrup Pork Chops

I have a package of porkchops in the refrigerator that need to be cooked tonight. Luckily I am home today, no kids, and no hubby, so this gives me some time to relax, find a great recipie, and give it whirl.

The hubby and I tire easily of eating the same thing constantly. We try to mix it up as much as we can. We enjoy sauces, and try to eat healthy. I have to admit, my husband is much better at that than I am, then again, my husband is better at most domestic ventures I attempt to undertake!

This looks really yummy because it should have a sweet flavor to it, and we LOVE onions!

Shortly I will venture into the kitchen and while I'm in there emptying the dishwasher, reloading it, and making a mini shopping list, I'll raid the cabinets and see what I'll need for this recipie from the store.

I will update after dinner and let you know how it turned out. If you want to try it as well, you should be able to click on the link under the photo to go to the recipie.

Right now, I think I'm going to copycat my niece and see if I can get back to sleep and stay that way for a couple more hours.... HERE'S HOPING!


27 May, 2012

Captain's Log: Publix Trip 26 May, 2012 1330 Hrs

Captains Log.... Day 942, Still no air conditioning, and no repair man in sight.... Okay, okay, I'm kidding. We are on day three of no air. Repair man comes tomorrow, THANK GOD. Air will be back on in time for the munchkin's return from down South. I woke up this morning to a fabulous rain - and then just as quickly as it came, it was gone again - replaced by a GLARING sun. So, it rained enough to make it humid, BUT the temperature HAS gone down. It's now EIGHTY SIX degrees instead of the balmy EIGHTY SEVEN it HAS been the last two days. Lucky us.

Anyways, I know that a lot of you probably see the Extreme Couponing shows and have heard stories about people paying next to nothing for groceries. Well, it happens. HOWEVER, it doesn't happen all the time. You have to be really dedicated and literally pick up coupons and get on mailing lists and blah, blah, blah, to get that lucky all the time - plus you have to live up north where you can double your coupons. Florida doesn't double - yet another advantage to living in the glorious Sunshine state. However, I'm not ever going to take my Rebel self up there permanently just so I can get my coupons doubled! I'm just sayin'.....

I'm going to be posting photos of my receipts on here, and I'll list out for you what is on each of them. Posting pics will be a new venture for me, so we will see how that goes.


  •  PUBLIX: $318.62 TOTAL; $213.11 SAVED; $105.51 OOP
  •  SAMS: $81.10, no coupons, no savings other than the obvious. 


And now for our first photo:

This was my trip through the line. OOP - $41.12, Savings - $108.86.

We got:

  • 10 - Small bags of Kibbles and Bits Dog Food (BOGO)
  • 1 small container of Publix brand half n half
  • 2 cans Publix Cream of Chicken
  • 1 bakery package of Kaiser Rolls
  • 1 container of Publix Cream Cheese
  • 1 package of whole Portabella mushrooms
  • 2 small roma tomatoes
  • 4 KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce (all free after coupons)
  • 4 KC Masterpiece Marinade (B1 Marindae get 1BBQ sauce free coupon + $1 off Marinade coupon)
  • 1 Publix Cooler Bag (still had to make a stop at Sams)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 Ronzoni Angel Hair Pasta (BOGO)
  • 5 Colgate Toothpaste (about $4.40 for all 5 after coupons)
  • 10 Sabra Hummus (all free after coupons)
  • 1 bag Stacey's Pita Chips (on sale 2/$5, had $1/1 coupon)
Bill gets run up by extras - mainly with the sandwich stuff and ingrediants for the Crockpot Italian Chicken I am making tonight.

Pic Number 2:

OOP - $50.66, Savings $83.59.

We got:

  • 2 bags Tostitos Chips (on sale 2/$5, coupon for free salsa WYB 2 bags)
  • 1 bag Stacey's Pita Chips  (on sale 2/$5, had $1/1 coupon)
  • 1 Garlic Herb Buffalo Wing Mix
  • 1 Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix
  • 1 Blueberry Muffin Mix
  • 10 Sabra Hummus
  • 1 Tostitos Salsa
  • 1 jar Greek Peppers
  • 4 Crystal Light (BOGO)
  • 6 Sweet Baby Rays (BOGO, had $1/3)
  • 2 Spicy Mustard
  • 1 Heinz Ketchup
  • 5 Toothpaste
  • 1 HALF LB Publix Tavern Ham Lunchmeat ($3.98, had $2 off $2 deli purachse - $1.98 OOP)
  • 1 bag Lettuce (Shredded)
  • 1 Olive Oil
  • 1 carton Iced Coffe (had $1/1 blinkie)
  • 1 Magazine
  • 1 Garlic and Rosemary potato seasoning
Okay, this was the hubby's trip, and yes, he picked out some of his own extras. His was a little higher because he had the olive oil and the seasoning packets (which aren't really cheap), and a magazine. Plus he bought me some iced coffee to try. :)

Moving right along - Pic Number 3:

OOP - $.78, Savings $4.59

I got:
  • 2 gallons Publix Sweet Tea (BOGO at $2.59 each - had $2 off $2 deli purchase - OOP $.59)
Remember when I said that some cashiers won't let you use your coupons together if they say only one coupon per customer? Well here's your example. Went back through for my tea. However, when my husband threw his remaining items up there, and she saw what I had left she looked up and said "I'm just going to do all of these together - which resulted in:

Pic Number 4:

OOP = $12.95, Savings $16.07, used 7 of the $2 of $2 deli purchase Publix coupons 

We got:
  • 1/2 lb Pepper Jack Cheese OOP - $1.17
  • 1/2 lb Provolone Cheese OOP - $1.26
  • 1/2 lb Chicken Breast Lunchmeat OOP - $.50
  • 1/2 lb Hard Salami OOP $1.75
  • 1/2 lb Sweet Ham OOP $1.77
  • 1/2 lb Swiss Cheese OOP $1.63
  • 1 Tub Macaroni Salad OOP $.29
  • 1/2 lb Turkey OOP $2.58 - it was Boarshead
Lunchmeat for the week - and so far those cold sandwiches and sweet tea are AWESOME with the heat in the house!


Finally we made a run to Sam's to pick up some meat. We ran into my Husband's fabulous Aunt while there who led us to a knife demonstration and we scored two free knives. I know I said that we usually do Winn Dixie for meat, but honestly, when we get off our butt and actually GO to Sams, they have a MUCH better deal on chicken breast. It was $1.97/lb for members mark chicken breast - and all their chickens must be related to Dolly Parton or Dog The Bounty Hunter's Wife because the breasts are HUGE, so we only need a couple to make a meal for all three of us. 

Pic Number 5 to round out the day:
OOP - $81.10, no coupons, no savings, other than the fact most everything was actually cheaper.

We got:
  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 1 50lb bag of dog food
  • 1 box spicy beef pockets
  • 1 large package of chicken breasts
  • 1 large package of tilapia
  • 1 4lb package of ground chuck
  • 1 copy of 50 Shades Darker (started it last night, already on pg 230 something, less porn so far, more story line, in case you were wondering)
Yeah, okay, I had to have the book. It was $10 cheaper at Sams than it was at the bookstore!

I found that milk is cheaper here, dog food CAN be cheaper if you don't have coupons and want to buy in bulk, AND I'm not so sure that laundry detergent, dish detergent, and dryer sheets aren't cheaper here if you are buying in bulk, and don't have coupons. 


I really posted this blog to show what we were getting for the money. I also posted it to show what average couponing on an average week results in as far as your out of pocket. Some weeks are going to be awesome and you'll spend pennies for TONS of stuff. Some weeks coupons will just suck and your out of pockets will be higher - but if you do it RIGHT - you'll still come home with a few deals. 

This WEEK alone I saved $404.47. YEP!! ALMOST $500.00. So, while I still spent $202.94 this week, our cabinets are full, we are set for the next several weeks, and I've got extra if someone needs it, or if we have family over. 

And I include the following shots of my cabinets so you know I'm not a TOTAL hoarder - and if you think this is bad, you should see my SISTER IN LAW'S laundry room, or the cabinets of some of my friends!

Crackers, Chips, Soda, Rice, Pasta, Mashed Potatoes

So you can appreciate how deep the above cabinet is....
Extra Chips, Crystal Light, the Gevelia  Coffee Stash, Tea,  A1, BBQ sauce, Marinades

Salad Dressing, Tomatoes, popcorn, more BBQ sauce, odds and ends....

Here's all that Hummus we got free - 20 containers! The very pregnant niece got some last night, and I forsee a trip to my Mother in law's house to pawn off a few more containers!

Hope you enjoyed!

24 May, 2012

A New Way To Make Cube Steak! NO FRYING!

The Hubby and I tried this tonight. It really wasn't bad - even the munchkin ate it! 

It seems a little heavy on the salt/gravy side. I'd be interested to hear how you've tried it and modified it. 

However, the meat was falling apart, and it was really great with the Jasmine Rice we paired it with. I would definitely make it again.


You make it in the CROCKPOT. 

Put in the ingredients and WALK AWAY! :)

** We chose to water down the gravy just a tad, but that's because we don't really like our gravies like a paste.

ENJOY!! :)


23 May, 2012


Okay, here is the cheat sheet for my Florida friends. I can't promise you that this works in other states, but it works here. So here ya go....

I get asked lots of times how I do it. I don't really know, I just do. It started out of necessity and hey, anytime I can SAVE money, I'm all about it. Now I'm kind of addicted. NOW I can shop at Publix, I get MORE than enough, I get NAMEBRAND, and I pay LESS than if I bought generic, or didn't buy the stuff at all (so it seems).  I have been able to give my niece some stuff since she just moved out on her own, helped my 20 year old niece who has a baby due NEXT WEEK ((YAY!!!)), given my mom stuff, donated to our church. It's a really nice feeling. And if everyone is down on their luck, we can say "Ya'll come eat at our place" and not have to worry if we can afford it, or wonder if there will be enough to last the rest of the week. 

We used to shop Aldi's, get what we could at Dollar General, or Dollar Tree, and then do our meat at Winn Dixie. Those days are done! We still get some stuff at those places - but it's just because we like their brand, not because we HAVE to. :)

Before you ask, I started this last August. WHY? Because all the peeps at Dispatch were posting their receipts - and I swear, there's ONE dispatcher there that Publix pays to shop EVERY time she goes to the store! Why the hell was I paying for groceries when I could learn to coupon??

Tonight I was able to SAVE $191.36, and paid $16.33. I know lots of people who say "Yeah, but you gotta buy all that stuff you never use". True, sometimes it DOES work out that way, but I REALLY try not to. Sometimes though if money is tight, you can bet I'll take home 15 bottles of Vitamin A or Gas X if it means a $2.00 overage - that's $30.00 in FREE groceries. 

What DID I get?

30 - broiler pans - $.99 had $1.00 coupon - that gave me $.01 overage for each pan.
20 - cans Alpo dog food - $.65 each - Had 4 $1.00/5 and combined that with 2 $1.50 manufacters coupons found on top of cans. 20 cans were $6.00. .33/each can.
14 - bags Pedigree Dentastix - Buy one get one at $3.59 - used $2.00/1 Publix coupon for each bag I bought, combined with 7 $1.00/2. All that came to -$9.87, that's right, $9.87 in FREE groceries. 
Gracie Toy - $2.99, no coupons. 
4 - Aunt Jamima French Sticks and 2 - Aunt Jamima Pancakes - Buy one get one at $2.79, had 3 $1.00/2, total of 5.37 for all.
6 - Doritos Chips - Buy One Get One at $4.29, 3 $1.00/1 when you buy one manufacturers coupon, combined with a buy 2 Doritos get Free Pepsi Max 2L Publix coupon. ($9.87 total)
3 - Pepsi Max 2L FREE - See above Doritos Deal. (SAVED $5.67)
2 - International Delights Pints of Coffee Creamer - had $1.00/2 manufacturer coupon. ($2.00 total)
5- Sun Drop (winds up being $.50 each)
5- Sunkist (FREE)
5- A&W Rootbeer (FREE)
Soda deal was a little tricky.... Had 5 $1.00/1 Sundrop Manufacturer coupons, Had 5 Buy one Sundrop, get 1 Sunkist Free Coupon from a Publix booklet, Had 5 Buy 2 of A&W, Sundrop, Sunkist, and some others, and get one free. They probably SHOULDN'T have taken that last coupon, but they did. 

I did this in two trips at two different stores. My stores are HEAVILY couponed up here, so I was lucky to do this well on the last day of the ad. 

So, all stuff we will use, and all that would have come to over $200.00 when you combine my savings and out of pocket. 


Sunday paper. Online. 

*My personal tips - I buy the Tampa Tribune. I now buy 10 papers (lots of people buy more), but you should always buy at least TWO papers for every person in your household. You must buy them in TWO'S. WHY? Because at Publix you can use ONE coupon for EACH item - EVEN if it's the FREE one. 

EXAMPLE: Item is Buy One Get One Free and costs $2.00. You will use ONE $2.00 coupon for the one you are paying for, and ONE $2.00 coupon for the free one. So, you are MAKING $2.00 for every PAIR of the item you buy, and you can use that $2.00 for meat or something else that doesn't regularly have coupons. 

* I buy the Tampa Tribune because it is cheaper than the St. Pete Times.

* Don't throw your extra papers away. Recycle them. I have used them in my snake cages, the bird cage, rat cages, packing... it's uses are endless. 


I use a cheat website. Well, it's not really a cheat website, I just call it MY personal cheat website. 


Let me say it again..........


They list the ENTIRE Publix Ad for that week and most every coupon that is out there for each item in the sale. They also tell you the good deals, the freebies, etc. I plan my shopping trip out by these lists.

You can also use: They aren't as simplified as My Coupon Expert, but they list everything also.  


* It will take you a little while to build up your stock pile of coupon inserts. If you need some that you don't have, you can buy them from websites, or from ebay, ebay also sells single coupons.

* Online coupons usually let you print one or two prints of a coupon. Remember that copying them is FRAUD. You CAN be prosecuted. I have't seen any coupons for criminal lawyers - reproduce them at your own risk.

* Some cashiers, and some of the people behind you can be real assholes when they see you hop in line with a stack of coupons. They can get over it. They are hatin' because they have to pay for all the stuff in their cart. :p BUT, try to warn people that you have a lot of coupons. Couponers are like smokers, give people a chance to move away from you rather than making them suffer through your saving spree. Cashiers will argue with you. If you are right, stand your ground and don't be afraid to ask for a manager. Don't be a jerk either. 

* I don't clip all my inserts. I leave them whole, group them together, and put them in plastic sleeves. When I do my shopping list I pull the whole insert, go through and pull out the page I need in all that particular insert, clip the coupon, put those pages in the front page of the first insert and put the stack back in it's sleeve.

* Couponing is TIME CONSUMING. I was probably in my office for 1.5 hours last night getting my stuff together - it was only that short of time because I was only getting a few things. Yes, that's right 1.5 isn't a long time. There are people that work couponing like they work a part time job - and yes, those are those people walking out with $600.00 worth of groceries that the store paid them to take home. 

* If you have enough overages and you are due cash BACK (yes, this happens too), some Publix will give you the cash, some don't. You can always ask to put it on a store giftcard - it's not like you won't be spending it there again next week!

* Sales go in 8 week cycles. BUY ENOUGH TO LAST YOU 6-8 WEEKS. That means you may think it's ridiculous to buy 8 jars of spaghetti sauce, but it won't be on sale again for 8 weeks. I use two jars when I make sauce, so I have 4 nights worth of spaghetti sauce to use within the next almost 60 days of dinners. Needless to say, I buy as much as I can.

* Familiarize yourself with YOUR stores coupon policy. Publix accepts competitor coupons - but each Publix will take a different competitor. So, I know at this one I have to use my Target coupons, and at that one I have to use my Save A Lot.

* Pick up all the booklets at Publix. Get them all in 2's. (I walk out with like 20, yes, my husband shakes his head when he goes with me.)

* Pull the blinkie coupons. Get them all in 2's. 

* READ YOUR COUPONS. You have to make sure your size in the item is right. Don't try to save a dollar on the .5 oz if the coupon is for the .9 oz, etc. The coupon won't work and then you've got to dig the item out and take it off your total, or even worse, pay full price for it. 

* READ YOUR COUPONS. Some of them say "4 like coupons" or "1 deal per customer". Cashiers are not stupid. Stores are cracking down on the couponing - and the cashiers. If it says 4, don't try to use 6, you'll have to take them off, or pay full price for them. And ONE DEAL means ONE DEAL. Yes, occasionally you will get a cashier that will let you slide, but usually they don't. Deal with it. Do more than one transaction if you have to. It's about saving money.  Saving money pays the rent and electric, saving time, well, that's great too, but it won't pay the rest of your bills... I'm just sayin'....

* Sign up for products online - USE A JUNK GENERIC EMAIL. maryellencoupons or something really simple. Believe me, you will get a BUNCH of email from these companies, but at least all your coupons will be in one place there, and your regular email won't be so cluttered.  

* You will come up with your own system for shopping, maintaining your coupons, clipping, etc.... It all takes time to find out what works best for you!




When the inserts are expired and you can't use them, take what is left of the inserts and mail them to overseas military families. They can use manufacturer coupons for six months after expiration.

These people make shit money while we "live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post."

Okay, okay, sorry, that's my favorite quote from "A Few Good Men", and I've always wanted to use it somewhere. HOWEVER, it's very true. These people are bustin' their ass for us, for our kids, and for this great country known as the United States Of America. 

Go to this website and get matched with a family who is far from home and could use some extra money. Besides, what better place for them to go that to the home of a hero who is willing to run the risk of losing his own life so HIS children can eat while protecting OURS here in the civilian world.


MQ or MfgQ - Manufacturers Coupon
Pub Q or PQ - Publix Coupon


I hope this helps you and gives you some insight into the coupon madness. Start slow, work your way up. You'll be saving a lot of money before you know it. There are couponing groups on facebook if you need help. 

Creative Couponing is one. This is run by some fellow Manatee High School Alumni, and one of the moderators teaches a class for pennies. I THINK it's $20.00 or something. You'll save that a couple of times over on your first REAL shopping trip. Fork it over, learn the short cuts, and you will be ahead of the game!  You can also post questions, or post coupons you need/want to trade, etc.... Here is the link:

It's a real blast. Grace gets involved and pulls coupons in the stores, helps me check out, etc, etc, etc....

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post away. Likewise, if my fellow couponers take a look at this, please feel free to comment and make suggestions, or correct me, or add to this if needed!