Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater

Had a wife but couldn't keep her.
Put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.

Time for some tasty pumpkin treats!

I was so excited when I found this recipe that I had to make these special Pumpkin Brownies right away! They were delicious! (we had to try them before I even took a picture!) And they came out close to the picture in the magazine. (from Southern Living)

And to show you my lazy housewife side, here's the recipe from the magazine. See the blue lines? Instead of using those 50 ingredients to make the brownie batter, I used a brownie box mix and followed the pumpkin portion. SOOO much easier!

Another pumpkiny-goodness recipe is from my sister-in-law for pumpkin bars - the cream cheese frosting is to salivate and drop dead for! And they're easy enough for me to make more than once =) Here's the recipe (from Taste of Home)

1 can (15oz) pumpkin
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup veg oil
2 cups biscuit mix
2 tsp cinnamon
raisins (optional, I don't use them)

1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese
1/3 cup butter
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner sugar

Beat pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and oil. In separate bowl, combine biscuit mix and cinnamon then add to pumpkin mixture.

Pour into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 min. Done when toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and butter till fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Beat in confectioner sugar till smooth. Spread over bars. Store in fridge.

Sorry, no pic. I can't make more than one recipe a month, week.

And then there's the easiest pumpkin treats - grocery store bakeries have an abundance of pumpkin cakes, muffins, and cookies.

Then there's Starbucks with the PSL - but I make my own at home with a little pumpkin creamer, sugar, and if you like whip cream, give it a spritz then top it off with a dusting of pumpkin pie spice!

I also love to go to Target this time of year - they find all the delectable flavors of the season - in creamers and candy! Mmm mmm!

I even like pumpkin seeds!

Do you love pumpkin? I actually found a couple of people who don't. I had to unfriend them (JK!!) What's your favorite fall flavor? (I must say, Apple is a close second for me.)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate

The first one said, "My it's getting late."
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "We don't care!"
The fourth one said, "Let's run! Let's run!"
The fifth one said, "Isn't Halloween fun?"

Ooo, went the wind.
Out went the light.
Those five little pumpkins
Rolled fast out of sight!

That is my favorite pumpkin, Halloween, fall poem. And this is my favorite season. It has the best flavors and scents - like pumpkin!

Scents make a house homey.
Whether you're hosting a party, showing your house to sell, having some company, or just need a comforting boost - adding a scent to the air will transform your mood and extend a welcoming hug to those who enter. (Was that a bit thick? Oh well!)

A few years ago, I had a neighbor with three daughters whose house was spotless and smelled heavenly no matter when I popped over... she made me sick!

Since my boys are wandering lumps who shed clothes and trash everywhere as they walk through the house, I'm on my own for cleaning and gave up on that perfection. So I totally stole her idea to warm my own house with yummy scents.

Here are some ways to spruce (a nice winter scent! ha!) up the air in your house with pros and cons:
  • Candles - most scented candles don't give much fragrance as they burn, but they do have good scents without burning and they're decorative
  • Wax Tarts - I like these. They're reusable and they give a lot of aroma. **TIP: To remove a cold tart, put the whole thing into the freezer for 3-4 minutes and the wax will slide right off!
  • Plug-Ins - These are great for bathrooms or other stinky rooms and they last a good long time (a month or more)
  • Reed Oil Diffusers - stick you put in oil. Oil is messy and gets on your fingers then your fingers smell strongly of the oil for a long time. This can be a problem with some of the oil plug-ins too, yes I found out the hard way. But these sticks work well. I think they're easier to find refills for now.
  • Bake sweets! - You've probably heard this one before, but the smell of baking is the most inviting smell there is!
My favorite scents:
pumpkin anything!
apple anything
acorn? I have a really inviting candle and it says it's acorn
candy corn
vanilla, the old stand by
most fruits - especially orange & cranberry
coffee anything

Bad scents, to my sensitive nose:
herbs - I just don't like them
autumn anything - just doesn't work
flowers are surprisingly not that sweet...
anything they try to put a scent to that shouldn't have a scent... you know

What are your favorite scents? Any nose-turning ones? Do you have another way to smell it up right?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ah Rats!

Want a cheap pet? 

Meet Wilbur. He's a college-educated lab rat. 

My son, Caleb, got him for free at the end of his psychology clinical program. 

He had two choices: take Wilbur home or send him to the gas chamber. 

Of course, he brought him home. 

At first, I was freaked out. 

Caleb introduced us by telling me to go into his room and see what he got me for Mother's Day. My first thought was that he had a freaking snake. He knows I hate snakes. 

With much trepidation, I stepped into the room and this flash of white flew by. 

My second thought was my son had an infestation, and considering it's three guys living in a basement wasn't outside the realm of possibility.

Then this creature, with its pink eyes, and long icky tail came right up to my feet and begged like a very small, very creepy little dog. 

Caleb was like, pick him up. 

I was like, no way! It's a freaking rat. 

He picked him up and set him on my shoulder, and Wilbur just sat there. 

So, I held him. He snuggled right in like a kitten. 

He's so lovable, you forget his kind were the cause of the plague.  

When you let him run, he comes right back when you call. As a matter of fact, he "checks in". He'll run around a while, then come back like he's making sure he still has someone to protect him from the cat. 

He's turned out to be a wonderful pet. He was free. He's friendly. He lives in a cage that needs cleaned less often than a guinea pig's. He mostly eats rat food, but also enjoys bites of apple, popcorn, peanuts, and whatever other bites of table food you have on hand. We don't give him anything with much salt or sugar because we've come to love this crazy little rat and want to keep him healthy as we can. 

Need a cheap pet that's friendly, space saving, and can eat just about anything?

Get a rat. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Keeping It Cheap

Some things don't have to be real to be good. 

It's Wednesday, and our cheap streak goes on!!

Today, we're going to consider cheap swaps that are not only better for your wallet, but are also the healthier options.

Healthy Swaps!

*Making a cake? 

Ditch the oil. Just mix up the cake mix as directed, sans oil. You'll never miss it. Cakes may be a little less spongy, but they'll also be hundreds of calories lighter. But you will want to avoid overcooking.

*Making chili or tacos? 

Add beans to the burger. I add a can of rinsed black beans and a can of fat free refried beans in my "taco meat".

*Eating out?

Order water instead of the soda to drink. My big family of six can save an average of $12 per check. Another added benefit? My kids have grown to prefer water to sugary drinks.

There you go! That's just a few cheap swaps that are also the healthier options. You know any good tips? Feel free to share, and we'll gladly steal try them out and share them later!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Being Cheap and Easy

Okay, not quite what I meant, but since I have your attention:

Here are 7 great ways to save money without sweating, or heavy breathing.

Money-Saving, Get-Lucky 7!

At Home:

1. Repurpose old clothes into rags. I probably buy less than four rolls of paper towels a year. Instead I have a "rag bag" of old clothes, sheets, and towels cut into squares I use for cleaning. They're cheap and usable over and over.

2. Rubbing alcohol to clean the bath. I get bottles of rubbing alcohol from the dollar store and put it in spray bottles for quick bathroom clean-ups. It's a disinfectant, so a quick shot on handles and door knobs assure me I'm in a germ free spot- and it cleans mirrors squeaky clean!

3. Save those grocery bags! I don't buy kitchen can liners. I have a grocery bag-sized garbage can under my sink, and I line it with the store bags. When it's full, I carry it to the curb, which gives me plenty of free exercise walking back and forth.


4. Don't buy today what you can get a coupon for tomorrow! Online shopping? Log into the site with your email address, put what you want in the cart, and then walk away. Usually withing twenty-four hours a coupon will arrive via email. Now, go and buy what's in your cart.

5. Got to buy it today? Do an internet search for the site you're buying from. Let's say you're buying jeans form American Eagle, before you buy, search "American Eagle Discounts". Groupon and Retail Me Not are two of my favorite spots for reliable discounts.

6. Ebates! Have you tried this? While online shopping, start at the Ebates site and put in what you need or the store you plan to shop at. If it's a participating store, all you do is follow the link provided, shop, then later get a check in the mail. You can even get more money back by referring friends, such as: Click this link (Ebates) and I get credit. Pretty sweet for me, right?

7. While shopping in stores, keep your internet-linked phone handy. Before making a purchase, scan the product bar code and look at competitors' prices. I needed a printer, so I went to Wal Mart, scanned the bar code (there is an app for that!), and found one listed cheaper at another retailer. I showed the cashier and got a price match.

There you go, how easy is that?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Free For All

I know your time is precious, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

This is my reminder to take some time for yourself and relax.

And this is Chad reminding you to eat your veggies.

Have a fun weekend, everyone!

On behalf of the Really Real Housewives, thanks for stopping by this week, Melissa! You've made our work easier, which is what being really real is all about!

This Free for All Friday post has been brought to you by:

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sneaking Around with Veggies

I have a super-quick tip for you today.

Want to be a clever, covert mom and trick your kids into eating some veggies?  Search ‘sneaky pasta sauce’ and ‘sneaky pizza sauce.’ You’d be surprised what you can hide in there!

Puree veggies and add them into sauces and kids can't even tell they're there. 

Don't have time to cook and puree? 

Baby food is perfectly smooth and ready to use. 

This Wellness Wednesday post has been brought to you by:

Melissa Maygrove!!

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

photo credit: eat via photopin (license)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quick Dinner Tips

We have a guest!

Mai Tai anyone?
We really real housewives thrive best when we're hanging out with friends, chatting up ways to make life simpler.

So, we're excited to have the fabulous Melissa Maygrove stop in and visit this week!

Yes, the whole week!

While she's doing our work, Tara and I will chill and sip some Mai Tai's. 

What? We deserve a break :)

Here's Melissa!

I don’t know about you, but I love anything that makes suppertime easier.

If you’re making a batch of spaghetti sauce (you know, those of you who actually have time to make it from scratch and not just open a jar... *crickets* Oh-kay, we can pretend those people exist.), you can make a double batch and freeze half. Next time you have a spaghetti dinner, you’ll only have to cook the noodles and toast some garlic bread.

Oh, and steam a veggie. Let’s not forget our veggies.
Broccoli or green beans + steamer pot + water = good mother

The same concept works for ground meat. With most meals, getting the meat cooked is half the battle. Am I right?

Many recipes start out with ‘brown one pound of ground beef and drain.’ (And that means ‘brown’ it not ‘gray’ it. I learned THAT, le’metellya. No wonder I didn’t like the taste of ground beef for years. :P) If I’m going to dirty a skillet to cook one pound, why not two? Cook a double batch with salt and pepper and maybe some chopped onion (that you already chopped and froze for times like these), then bag half once it’s cooled, label it, and put it in the freezer. Next time you need some browned ground meat, you simply thaw it and dump it in. Bam! Done. :)

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Signs of Fall

You know Fall has arrived when the bugs come inside...

Spiders are great for eating other bugs. And I love seeing them in a beautiful web...from a distance.

We used to catch the little jumpy ones, then catch other bugs and watch him eat them - yep, I'm one of those boy moms. Did that with praying mantis too - so cool!

A couple of years ago on Oct 1, a tiny spider floated down from the ceiling into the middle of breakfast with my sons - you should've seen those boys jump!! I laughed!

Anyone else got a good bug story for this nice cool weekend?? I <3 Fall!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Surviving Hump Day...

...Let's just hope you did a better job of this than me. You want a wellness tip? Some chick that opened a "Cat Cafe" in D.C. says kittens lower blood pressure. Yeah. You know what lowers my blood pressure? Saving money, so have this app.

What? Were you expecting a real post? I already told you I barely survived today. In fact, the last 15 minutes of school, the kids started shushing each other. "Her hair is getting all crazy. You know that means she's mad." Apparently they gauge their discipline level by how fast my curls are bouncing. I can't make this stuff up.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Survive Labor Day

No one loves a Monday holiday more than me. Of course, that means Tuesday is the new Monday. And nobody wants that.

Here is how you're going to survive Labor Day though. Buy a bag of precooked lean hamburger patties from your local grocery store. I'm in Texas, so HEB has these for about $6/bag and 1 patty is 130 calories. Grab whole wheat buns and microwavable popcorn. (Popcorn has less calories than potato chips. It's just as cheap and other than the 2 minutes in a microwave doesn't take any longer to toss into a bowl than any other snack. Besides, that gives you two minutes to find and wash a bowl). If you really want to be a great hostess, shuck some corn on the cob, sprinkle salt, wrap in aluminum foil and bake. Clean the kitchen while the corn bakes, and if a kid or husband crosses your path, set them to work. The mode is survival. No one escapes today. If you're up to it, toss a salad. (Chopping your own veggis is cheaper, but how much is your time worth? I use the bagged stuff). Voila. You have a labor day meal. And it's semi-healthy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Survive Your Child’s Birthday Party

Our first guest post is by Sherry Ellis. I've known Sherry for a few years now - she even came to my first book release party just before moving from Ohio to Atlanta! She's awesome! And her Mama Diaries posts are adorable and relate-able, so she was a natural for us to have over here with the Housewives. Take a listen...

After fourteen years of planning birthday parties, I’d like to think I know what I’m doing. The reality is that no matter how much planning you do, there are always surprises.

Like when you send out fifteen invitations and thirty kids show up at your house. How does this happen? I asked my fourteen-year-old daughter about this phenomenon after it happened at her thirteenth birthday party. “It’s easy,” she said. “Friends tell friends, and they all show up.”

Right. Easy. Just be sure to order ten boxes of pizza and have a cake that feeds fifty in case this happens to you.

And then there are the unplanned activities. Like when fifteen girls are standing on each other’s shoulders, making a cheerleading pyramid in the middle of your family room. These sorts of things can give you a heart attack. I’d advise having parents complete a health waiver before they drop off their kids. You’ll feel a lot better about the pyramid thing if you do.

Did I mention the messes? You’d probably expect them at the end of the party. But did you know you could have some major ones before it even starts? Like exploding soda bottles. This happened to me on two occasions. One Sprite bottle fell out of the refrigerator on my daughter’s tenth birthday, spraying soda all over the ceiling, walls, and floor – fifteen minutes before the guests were about to arrive. And recently, before my son’s eleventh birthday party, he opened a bottle of Strawberry Fanta, and the darn thing exploded all over him. It got the paper plates, paper napkins, and floor, too. If this happens, arm yourself with a bucket of water, a wash cloth, and a good sense of humor. If anyone comments on the sticky floor or the pink spots on your ceiling, just say it’s part of the festive ambience.

Yes, birthday parties can be a lot of fun. You just have to expect the unexpected. When you’re done cleaning up the remnants of pizza, cake, drinks, wrapping paper, crepe paper, balloons, Legos, and Nerf bullets, sit down, put your legs up, and take a deep breath. You survived. (A box of chocolates wouldn’t hurt, either!)

Sherry Ellis is a freelance writer and award-winning children’s author. Her books include, That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN, That Mama is a Grouch, and Ten Zany Birds. She's also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. Sherry lives with her husband and two children in Atlanta, Georgia. You can learn more about Sherry Ellis on her website, You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

RSVP and bring an app!

What to bring? We all want to bring something everyone will love and gush over. Well, I'm usually not that person. But I do have one super awesome recipe that qualifies as gush-worthy...

This appetizer is NOT easy to make, but it TASTES FABULOSO! I got it from my mother-in-law but I have also seen it online (here). I make it at least once a year and it always gets rave reviews. But I say again, it is definitely a PITA to make, even with my shortcuts. 

Here's the recipe peeps:


BLT Bites!

16-20 cherry tomatoes
1 large jar bacon bits
1/2 Cup mayo
1/3 Cup chopped onions
3 T parmesan cheese
2 T parsley

Clean out the tomatoes. Mix the rest of the ingredients and stuff into the tiny tomatoes. Enjoy!

Bonus Party Planning Tip: For a large event, expect only 1/2 of the invited guests to come, then plan for 3/4. And serve what you like because you'll probably have food leftover!

And come back Friday for our first GUEST POST - by the adorable Mama Diaries blogger and children's book writer, Sherry Ellis!

It's party time!!
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