Treasures & Tips to Health & Happiness

little tid bits that add a touch of happiness to your life

Sugar & Spice


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Toys, Toys, and more Toys!

Posted by dawnlefler on July 24, 2009 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

If you have little ones, you may be able to relate....

How on EARTH do two little girls have so many toys??  Oh, wait; it's probably in part my fault!  I think I am over compensating for what I didn't have when I was a kid!  Not that I didn't have toys.  I had plenty of toys and games and puzzles, but there was always something that someone else had that I didn't have and I wanted it!  So, I guess that's how it starts!  Well, with so many toys comes the "Mommy, I can't find the_____ that goes with the _____!"  (fill in the blanks with whatever toys you like, I've heard them all!)  I respond with "Well, if you put your toys away where they belong you would know just where everything is."  (duh, right?) 

After several attempts to find Mr. Potato Head's glasses, the baby doll's bottle with orange juice (not the one with milk, oh heaven's no!), the baby triceratops (no, the other baby one, not that one)... you get the idea... I decided that I had enough!  So I am throwing out every single toy and now they must use their imaginations if they want to play!  OK, maybe not because now I am envisioning my kitchen cupboards constantly being emptied and running out of printer paper real fast!! That is not the solution I am looking for! 

Here's what we I did...  I bought a toy bin organizer and a few additional bins in different sizes.  

With my computer and printer I made labels for the bins with the words and the pictures for what is to be stored inside.  I adhered stuck the labels to the bins with clear packaging tape.  PERFECT!  Everything has a home!  And the girls have no problem knowing what goes where.

Now, when it comes to cleaning up after play dates or when more than just my kids are making the mess, I run into quite a bit of whining and complaining... "BUUUUUUT Mommy!  I didn't make the mess all by myself!"  To avoid a meltdown (by me), I have a giant rope bucket that I just have them put all the toys in and then we can sort them together.  It sure is a lot better than me ending up running all over the house picking things up and putting them away and I don't hear "Mommy!  I can't find....." nearly as often! 

Helpful Hints for in the Kitchen

Posted by dawnlefler on July 20, 2009 at 11:47 AM Comments comments (0)

Plan Ahead:

I can't stress how much time and money planning your meals in advance can save! When you are considering your meals for the week, think about how you can prepare the ingredients for more than one meal at a time. For example, if you are having steaks one night, grill an extra one to slice for fajitas another night. Better yet, have grilled chicken another night and grill extra chicken so you can have chicken & steak fajitas! This will take no extra time the night you do the grilling and will save time on the night for fajitas.

Need Something Special?

If you have to buy a special ingredient for a dish, but don't need to use all of it for the dish (i.e. buttermilk), plan to make something else that week that uses that ingredient too. This works well for items that could spoil within the week. Not so important for those that won't spoil right away (i.e. balsamic vinegar).

Make time for substitutions!

Many proteins can be substituted for each other in different recipes. For example, ground turkey or chicken can be substituted for ground beef (and vice versa). Boneless, skinless chicken breast can be substituted for pork chops or cutlets. Switching it up will add variety to your monthly menu!


Some recipes call for specific spices, don't worry so much about following recipes word for word, and experiment with different flavors. If you bought the Asian 5 spice for the Lettuce Wrap recipe, try adding it in different stir fry/Asian style recipes.

Spice Shelf Life:

Whole spices----2 to 5 years

Ground spices---6 months to 2 years

Leafy herbs-------3 months to 2 years

dehydrated vegetables---6 months

Write the date of purchase on the spice label; then check them once a year and replace as needed.

When using spices while cooking on the stovetop, allow them to sit open for a few minutes after use so that any moisture that got inside can dry before you close them and put them back in the cabinet.

Storing items:

Store sour cream containers upside-down in your refrigerator. This prolongs the shelf life by at least two weeks; and if you buy the larger size (which is usually less expensive per ounce) you can save two ways! Don't worry; the upside-down containers won't leak.

Pickey Eaters

Posted by dawnlefler on July 20, 2009 at 11:39 AM Comments comments (0)

Do you have a little one who refuses to eat anything but pizza? If you really want your cherub to eat other things, don't give up. Keep trying to give 'em a little of what you are eating first, before even making something else. If your angel knows that there is a grilled cheese sitting right there, of course the peanut's not going to eat grilled chicken and broccoli! Eventually the bebe might just try it... Ranch or Ketchup always helps too! lol!

Here's another idea... if your munchkin will eat pizza, try making your own and let 'em help. You can get the ready made crust, or you can make your own (see my Pizza Crust recipe in the Miscellaneous section). You can get a low sodium sauce (if you want) or I've even used fat free ranch dressing as a pizza sauce when I make it with chicken. You can try different veggies... Chopped broccoli, peas, whatever tickles your fancy! I always buy the frozen bags that way I can take out just what I need. Try cutting up grilled chicken or using ground turkey. They also make a turkey pepperoni, but that is a little more expensive and less healthy. The key is having the tot help to make it. Show 'em all the ingredients and taste them while you are putting it together, show  how different things taste and feel and do not worry about a mess. If you are having fun cooking together and getting to taste different things as you go, your little one will probably be more interested in tasting the finished product too!

Menu Planning Back on Track!

Posted by dawnlefler on July 19, 2009 at 5:23 PM Comments comments (0)

As you may know, on June 20th I announced that I would be taking a break for a bit on posting new recipes, with that also came no new menu plan for the month of July.  :dry:  Have no fear!  I have fixed the June menu, so that it is read-able and posted a menu plan for August!  I am slowly getting into the swing of things, so for now, enjoy the menu plan!  I will ALWAYS promptly respond to questions, comments & orders.  Enjoy the rest of the summer! 

Menu Plan Monday: June 8-14

Posted by dawnlefler on June 7, 2009 at 5:48 PM Comments comments (0)

So, I am not sure where I have been all this time, but did you know that Home Depot has a Kids Workshop the first Saturday of every month?  By George they do and it is so cool! Daddy took Mia (4) and the neighbor boy (7) to it yesterday and I was truly amazed at what they came home with! Not only did they get to make a project, but they got a nice workshop apron with a pin for the project that they completed! Best of all… it’s FREE!! Check it out, here’s the link: Home Depot Kids Workshop

To recap last week, I was on the road Tuesday & Wednesday. On Thursday, I was invited to meet with a Mom’s group and talk about traveling with children and how many of the items in my store can help make it easier/less stressful when traveling. I truly enjoyed meeting with them and hope to keep in touch with them in the future!

The week ahead involves me hitting the road once again. This time it’s Tuesday through Friday, so once again, its Daddy’s turn to work it out in the kitchen!! You may recall last week’s menu being inspired by a recipe that I discovered on $5 dinners, well I made the breadsticks on Wednesday and they were such a hit, that I made the dough again on Friday; only this time I made them into clover style rolls! I posted my enhanced version of the recipe on my website, so you should be able to find it here, if not, check here!


Here’s our meal plan for this week…

Monday: Mexican Pasta Casserole & side salad

Tuesday - Friday: Leftovers or whatever Dad wants to cook up!

Saturday: Grilled chicken, veggies, rice & side salad

Sunday: Pasta w/veggies & sausage with a side salad

Have a fantabulous week!


Menu Plan Monday – June 1-7

Posted by dawnlefler on May 31, 2009 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Here we are, week 2 of three weeks of travel for mommy! It’s a short trip this week, I’m only going to be gone for one night. Last week everyone survived even without me here to make dinner every night! I am proud of daddy for maintaining my organized chaos while I was out! Oddly enough, the wonderful casseroles that I had made and froze a couple of weeks ago are resting exactly where I left them, in the freezer… hmmmm… well… There are two good things about that: 1.) They will freeze up to 3+ months and 2.) I can make one tomorrow and leave them with leftovers for Tuesday!! :D

Since I came up with June’s menu calendar early on in May, I need to rethink the weekly menu due to travel plans (that were not in the original menu thought!). I was inspired for this week’s menu by Erin’s Pasta & Spices give away on her blog (I also subscribe via email, highly recommended, she’s wonderful!). Want to post your weekly menu or get more ideas for your meals? Join Menu Plan Monday at I’m An Organizing Junkie!


  • Monday – Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
  • Tuesday – Mommy’s travel day, so it’s fending for yourselves! I’ll be eating on the road, probably fast food. :(
  • Wednesday – If I am home early enough from my travels, we’ll have Spaghetti & Meatballs with Homemade Italian Breadsticks (another recipe from Erin’s $5 Dinners)! If not, we’ll flip flop Wed & Thurs.
  • Thursday – Chicken Quesadillas
  • Friday – Crispy Orange Chicken
  • Saturday – Cheeseburger Casserole
  • Sunday – Free for all! Whatever’s in the fridge or we’ll get take-out

Menu Plan Monday - Week 3 (May 25-31)

Posted by dawnlefler on May 24, 2009 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)


I am so clueless as to where the month of May has gone... where the year has gone for that matter!!  So this week marks the beginning of a "new beginning" for me and my family!  Here's the short of it... I worked for 11 years for a company and was laid off in March.  Loving the ability to focus on my girls and the home, but needing to still have an income.  Opportunity knocked and I answered.  I'll be working from home (eventually) but first I need to get some training out of the way.  For the next three weeks, I will be going through various trainings to help me be a success at this new venture, so wish me luck!! 


The menu for this week is really up in the air!  Since it is up to Daddy to do the meal preparation while I am out, I can only provide him with the tools, he has to choose to use them!!

  • Monday - Grilling out Chicken & Cheese Burgers, homemade coleslaw, oven-baked sweet-potato fries  Happy Memorial Day!
  • Tuesday - Mexican Pasta Casserole
  • Wednesday - Chicken Divan Casserole
  • Thursday - Grill out Hot Dogs, coleslaw (if any is left), chips, veggie of some sort
  • Friday - left over smorgasbord!
  • Saturday - Baked chicken breast, rice pilaf, broccoli & side salad (can you tell I'm back home again??) :wink:
  • Sunday - Lasagna (maybe seafood lasagna) garlic bread & side salad

Here's to another fan-tabulous week!

Menu Plan Monday (Week 2)

Posted by dawnlefler on May 17, 2009 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (4)

So, here we are at week 2 of my weekly menu planning.  I am really trying to follow the same monthly calendar that I have posted, but I am finding that I am needing to be a bit more creative here lately!  I have recently started a new career that will require a bit of travel in the upcoming weeks.  To make sure that the family still has the yummy (read nutritious not McDonald's) meals that they would when I am home, I am making meals to freeze!  Of course, that also meant that I needed to have a quick "101" course on how to prepare and heat them with daddy!  It also meant printing very explicit directions and lables just incase he forgets the lesson on preparing them!

With that being said, I am altering my weekly menu to flow with the ingredients that I need to make the freezer meals (I'd be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity to save myself some time!)

Monday:  Chicken Louis Sandwiches (glorified chicken salad sandwiches)

Tuesday:  Pasta Alfredo with Chicken & Broccoli

Wednesday:  Tacos

Thursday:  Steak Salads

Friday:  Sloppy Joes

Saturday:  Chicken Wellington w/rice stuffing

Sunday:  Mexican Shepherds Pie (I think...)

Cheers to another fabulous week!


Menu Plan Monday.... hmmmm???

Posted by dawnlefler on May 12, 2009 at 9:27 AM Comments comments (0)

So, I have been at this website since January 2009 as part of my unspoken New Year's Resolution to make my life less stressful and hopefully do the same for others!  I am happy to say that it has grown into something.... not quite sure what that something is, but it's something and I am loving every minute of it!!

Late yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon a cute website called "I'm an organizing junkie".  I thought with a name like that it must be up my alley!  So today, I have taken a bit of time to dive into it and see what it's all about and would you believe I ran across over 300 fabulous people who blog about their weekly meals on Monday's??  Where in the world have I been all this time?!?!  So, here is my first blog on Menu Plan Monday (so it's Tuesday, oh well, better late than not at all, right?).  Even though you can find over 16 weeks worth of meal ideas on my Mealtime Calendar, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you what we're doing this week!

Monday:  Leftovers

Tuesday:  Grilled BBQ Chicken, coleslaw, corn on the cob

Wednesday: Leftovers (again) :dry:

Thursday: Oven-Fried Talipia, rice, steamed veggies, side salad

Friday:  Enchiladas, rice & beans, side salad

Saturday: Teriyaki Chicken, rice, side salad

Sunday: South of the border steaks, sweet potato fries, veggie of some sort, side salad

(Dearest Daddy started night classes again this week, so that changed up what I had originally thought out for the week - hence leftovers twice in one week!)

So, here's to a fabulous week!

Home Organization


What does Mother's Day mean to me?

Posted by dawnlefler on May 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM Comments comments (0)

First things first, I hope all the Mom's out there get two things for Mother's day:

#1 A bottle of your favorite wine! Why?

  • Because a daily glass of wine may increase the blood's level of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids (according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) a.k.a. Healthier arteries!
  • Having a drink now can lower your risk for hip fracture later by as much as 20%.
  • Having one glass of wine regularly can decrease the risk of fatty liver disease by half! (That's wine, not vodka or beer. Beer & liquor actually increase your odds).
  • Improve your body's sensitivity to insulin (according to Diabetologia), which reduces odds for developing Type 2 diabetes.

#2 A box of chocolates! Why? The chemicals in dark chocolate may reduce your cance risks by helping ward off the cell changes that can lead to tumors (according to Sally Scroggs, R.D., from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Prevention Center).

So, any Dad's out there reading this, take note and go shopping for a Happy & Healthy Mom's day gift!

Now on to what Mother's day means to me. Mother's Day is just around the corner and that means I need to get crackin' on the gifts for Grandma and Grammy! The girls had their pictures taken last week, so of course I will incorporate their beautiful faces into the gifts! That's the best way that I can think of to say "Thank you! Thank you for helping to make us (the girls? parents) who we are... The proud parents of your beautiful grandbabies!"


Every day I look at their faces and I am simply amazed that I am their mother. I gave them life and made such beautiful little girls! Then, I get scared to death!! :ohmy: Will I be able to protect them and provide for them the nurturing that they need to grow into strong, beautiful, independent women??

Although my life experiences have helped to mold me into the woman that I am, I don't want to even begin to think that my girls will need to go through the same things in order to be strong & independent. Am I strong enough to use my own experiences to help them, so they don't have to experience firsthand? What if I am not here (heaven forbid) when they need me the most? (Not trying to turn this morbid, so we'll move along).

Reality check, of course I am strong enough to use my life experiences to help my girls grow! That's what the experiences were for, for me to use to help others. I have shared my experiences (good and bad) to help others and to touch the lives of others. Heck, I assume I have touched your life in some way or another (you've read this far, haven't you?)! :wink: