Archive for August, 2012

Amy’s Notebook 08.29.12

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Welcome to my little notebook of ideas to help improve your life. This is a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. I hope you will enjoy this weekly does of loveliness with beautiful links that are individually handpicked just for you!


I love this first day of school photo sign (@ Two Shades of Pink)

This is a great tutorial for sewing a fabric headband (@ Love Stitched)

I am inspired by this tutorial for installing a DIY subway tile backsplash (@ infarrantly creative)

This chili rubbed pork roast looks like an easy weeknight meal (@ The 36th Avenue)

I love these tips for transitioning your summer wardrobe into a fall one (@ Little Miss Momma)

I love this houndstooth pumpkin wreath (@ Tatertots & Jello)

This pop of color in this computer armoire is an inexpensive and fun way to dress up the interior of a cabinet (@ Centsational Girl)

I want to try this recipe for Boston Cream Pie (@ Lark & Lola)

I adore this tepee made from an old maxi dress (@ Awesome Sauce & Asshattery)

I want to try these browned butter salted chocolate chip cookies (@ Bake or Break)

I love this lace detail on these knobs made with paper doilies (@ House Revivals)

I am going to have to remember this recipe for homemade yellow cake mix the next time I run out of my boxed cake mix (@ Brown Eyed Baker)

This Mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes looks like an easy and delicious appetizer for the end of summer (@ Smitten Kitchen)

Creating Your Own Back to School Traditions

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

In less than one week, my two sweet kids will be boarding their bus and heading off to their first day of school.

It is hard to believe that another fun summer is behind us, but if this picture offers any indication, I am just a tiny bit enthusiastic about getting back to our daily routines and having time to work without carving time away from my attention to them.

We truly have much to celebrate and be thankful for in our family – including our school milestones – and I always try to make these days as special as possible with a fun celebration dinner for the kids.

Today I want to share some easy ideas for fun school-year celebrations you’ll enjoy all year long.






Create a School Picture Tradition

I love to see how much my children grow each year and I’m always trying to think of a new way to capture this big moment in their life.

Create a sign that says what year they are going into school or search on Pinterest for free back-to-school printable signs to use for your big day.

To really take your sign to the next level, find a cute picture frame to put your sign in and spray paint it for a pop of color.

You could also hunt for a small chalkboard or create your own chalkboard using chalkboard spray paint and jot down their school year.

Try to capture the big things, like that growth spurt that seemed to happen overnight, and then capture the little things like their fancy new school shoes or their cool character backpack.

Even if you might have missed the moment on the first day of school, there is an opportunity to capture this all year long and no one will be the wiser that it wasn’t your kid’s first day back.

I promise that these pictures will later be a treasure to you and to your kids when they can look back and see how much they have grown and changed.





Create a Celebration Plate Tradition

One of our wedding gifts when we got married was a Celebrate plate that my mom picked up at our local greeting card store.

This tradition was handed down to me because when I was growing up, any time we had a celebration in our family, the special recipient got to eat on the special plate.

You can create your own Celebration plate that you decorate together using a plate from your local Goodwill store and a porcelain paint set that you can find at the craft store.

Use a waterproof marker pen to jot down the date and the exciting occasion you’re celebrating together on the back of your plate for a sweet tradition that can sit sweetly in your family budget.





Create a Fun Decorating Tradition

Our balloon wreath isn’t just for celebrating birthdays anymore.

I now hang this wreath in our doorway anytime there is a celebration to be had in our house including those school year celebrations.

You can make your own balloon wreath by covering a straw wreath with two large packages (of 72) balloons and attaching them with greening pins (in the floral aisle of your craft store).

This wreath can be used for any of life’s little celebrations… big or small!





Create a Fun Meal Tradition

Nothing says celebration like a big plate of your favorite food. In our house, the most requested dish is my spaghetti and meatballs.

When celebrations arise, whether it’s a great report card or the first day back to school, let your children make the dinner selection for the night.

We have had everything in our house requested, from our favorite sub sandwiches to a taco bar night to homemade pizza.

Not only will you not have to plan dinner one night, but the bonus is your kids will eat it and love it!

Whatever you do, I can assure you that your children will long remember and appreciate!

I wish you many celebrations all school year long!

Looking for the perfect recipe for homemade spaghetti & meatballs to celebrate your kids and their first day back? I have you covered with this easy sauce and baked meatballs that rival any Italian restaurant. Double or triple the sauce and meatballs for delicious meals that you can eat all week long! 





Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs

For Sauce:
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For Meatball (this recipe will make enough for a double batch, half to eat and half to freeze):
1/2  cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups grated Romano (or Parmesan)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)
1 pound ground beef
To make sauce: Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Five to ten minutes before serving, add in your meatballs and then serve over a big bowl of your favorite pasta.
To make meatballs: In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey & ground beef, then gently stir to combine. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. When done cooking, drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This will be just as delicious with a lot less mess and fewer calories.
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An Apron Full of Giveaways 08.28.12

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
Dot’s Diner, $64

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

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The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling Header

Looking for an easy steak marinade for your next cookout? These steaks can marinate in a freezer bag while you prepare your side dishes. This recipe elevates any cut of steak so no need to spend money on a filet mignon.

Adding flavor and tenderness to an inexpensive steak is so easy to do with a simple steak marinade.

If I am spending a lot of money on a more expensive cut, like a gorgeous filet mignon, I skip the marinating and allow this cut of meat shine.

The truth is, we don’t often purchase filets though. We, instead, rely heavily on the old, “who has steak on sale this week?” method for selection instead.

One technique that I’ve mastered over the years is thinly cutting my beef to disguise any toughness in texture.

It is why you often see inexpensive cuts, like skirt or flank steak, cut very thin strips for tacos.

Which steak is best for this recipe?

I happened to hit a great sale on NY strip steaks, but normally I would use this recipe on tougher cuts of beef that would benefit from being tenderized.

This recipe is great for cuts of beef like chuck steaks, hanger, skirt, or flank.

Consider any tougher cuts of beef that you might prepare in your slow cooker too.

New York Strip Steaks from Grocery Store

marinated steaks on open grill

Should you marinate a New York strip steak?

I did marinate my New York strip steaks, but this is definitely not necessary! This cut of meat is tender and flavorful without a lot of intervention.

What is the best way to cook New York strip steaks then?

Fancy cuts of meat don’t require a lot.

Since New York strip steaks are so tender, they don’t require anything beyond a pat of butter.

steaks on the grill with vegetables

What cooking method is best for each cut of beef?

I recommend taking a peek at this article on 4 expensive cuts of beef that are big on flavor. This guide should help explain which cooking method is best and help you understand the difference in flavor profiles between different cuts of meat.

For example, how ribeye and New York strip steak differ?

That, and all your burning questions about the difference between filet mignon and top sirloin are worth reading so you can adapt your cooking techniques based around steak sales.

I really think this is an incredible guide for beginner and experienced cooks.

If you use this method to make a medium rare New York strip steak, you will want to cook it to 140 degrees and then allow it to rest before cutting.

Speaking of New York strip steaks, I can’t wait to try this frozen New York strip steak technique in my kitchen soon.

Cooked Filet in Cast Iron Skillet

I don’t want to grill. How do I cook a steak like a restaurant does?

Tired of paying premium prices at your local steakhouse?

One of the best time investments I have made has been learning to make our steak dinners at home.

The trick is starting the steak on the stovetop and then finishing it in the oven.

The best part is that everything can be done in ONE cast iron skillet.

Did someone say LESS DISHES?

Count me in!

Once you master this cast iron skillet method, you can enjoy a weekly steak without the guilt.

I can’t recommend my pan seared oven roasted steak recipe enough.

This is my recommendation for that restaurant experience in your own kitchen.

The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling finished

The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling Plated

What can I marinade my beef in that isn’t made of plastic?

Consider purchasing one of these reusable glass dishes for your marinades.

The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe I tried for a steak marinade.

I am no stranger to marinated steak and the beauty of creating a great steak meal at home. In the past, I have relied on a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil marinade.

I was looking for a fresh marinade recipe and stumbled upon this one.

Honestly, I have never tried a better steak marinade recipe than this one and it is made from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

For the best results, you will want to marinate your steaks for 24 hours.

Simply add steaks to a gallon size bag (I double bag these or use a freezer bag instead) and then add marinade ingredients to the bag. Seal the bag, removing the excess air, and store it in the fridge until it is time to grill.

Now that I have tried this recipe, it is highly likely I will never make my steak any other way again. You won’t believe the flavors in this and none of them overpower the delicious taste of the meat itself.


Best Steak Marinade in Existence  
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Adapted from
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 6
A flavorful steak marinade that will enhance the flavor of any cut of meat you might find on sale at your local supermarket.
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  1. Place the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, basil, parsley, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk well.
  2. Pour marinade over desired type of meat.
  3. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. Grill meat as desired.

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Looking for great grilling side recipes? Check out these easy side ideas!

corn on the cob on the grill recipe corn on the cob on the grill

Grilled brussels sprouts grilled brussel sprouts

three cheese grilled potatoes

quinoa salad in a jar quinoa salads in a jar (with spinach & tomatoes)

Happy grilling!

The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling Header



Three Cheese Grilled Potatoes

Monday, August 27th, 2012

3 Cheese Grilled Potatoes from



Anything that can be thrown into a foil packet and heated on the grill is a winning recipe for me.

It is because of this firm belief in foil packet grilling as the solution to all kitchen clean-up that I couldn’t wait to try these three cheese grilled potatoes for our cookout this weekend.

I was inspired by my best friend to give this recipe a shot.

My husband and kids tend to be of the belief that “potatoes should only be french fries or mashed.”

I find myself hesitating to waste my time and effort on potatoes, but if someone else wants to put in the time and effort…I am totally on board!

Of course, my family absolutely loved these and I couldn’t wait to make them at home for my family.  

The flavor of these can be adjusted to your own personal taste.

I substituted turkey bacon for the regular bacon and added fresh parsley in lieu of fresh chives in mine.

No matter how you top them, make sure to remember to spray the tin foil well with nonstick cooking spray so you can enjoy every delicious bite.

To save grilling time, poke your potatoes with a fork and microwave them for five minutes.

Allow them to cool slightly and then dice for your foil packets.

These are a great make-ahead side dish when entertaining, and can be created and tucked in the refrigerator until your guests arrive.

I hope you enjoy these half as much as we did and special thanks to my best friend for getting us out of our sad fried/mashed potato rut.



Three Cheese Grilled Potatoes  
Recipe Type: Side
Author: Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 4-6
An easy foil-packed grilled potato that is loaded with cheese and bacon. It makes the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat and is a cookout winner!
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cooked turkey bacon
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Wash your potatoes and dry well. Prick each potato several times with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook for 5 minutes on high. Allow the potatoes to cool.
  2. Dice potatoes into 1″ cubes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the diced potatoes, Parmesan cheese, parsley, seasoned salt, and pepper.
  4. Transfer to a double thickness of greased heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square).
  5. Dot with butter.
  6. Fold foil around potato mixture and seal tightly. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully open foil. Sprinkle the bacon cheeses over potato mixture. Grill 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
  8. Open carefully and enjoy with your favorite grilled meats.

Be sure to visit my other post today to find out how to make the perfect steak to go along with your delicious three cheese grilled potatoes. You won’t want to miss this Labor Day steak feast for six created with less than $100 in supplies! 

Other great options for your grill:


The Best Steak Marinade Recipe for Grilling from

Steak Marinade for the Best Grilled Steaks



Corn on the Cob on the Grill from

Grill Corn the Easy Way



Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Grilled Brussels Sprouts




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Back to School ’12

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It’s back to school day today. We have crammed in a whole summer full of fun.  I am going to miss these two little ones!  I hope! everyone is having a great start to their school year and wanted to share with you a few pictures today!

I was a smart mom this year and we did all of our pictures the day before school so we could really focus on getting ready for our day without any interruptions. It also gave us a good practice run in our uniforms before the big day.


An Apron Full of Giveaways 08.21.12

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
Austin Wayne Designs, $35

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

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Insta Meal Plan: Six Meal Ideas For Your Busy Week

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Waffles with Blueberry Syrup (made from berries I had stashed in my freezer).

Roasted Chicken Cooked in Milk with Roasted Green Beans & Baby Roasted Potatoes.

Mongolian Beef with steamed rice & broccoli.

Baked Chicken Enchiladas with blue corn tortilla chips & fresh strawberries

Homemade Pizza with Cheesy Bread & Dipping Sauce.

Chicken Pesto Open-Faced Flatbread Sandwiches with baby carrots and grapes

Nutella S’mores on the fire pit. Nutella plus marshmallows plus graham crackers equals heaven.

I hope you enjoy a peek into what we ate this week! Let’s be friends on Instagram! You will find me under the username momadvice!

Linking to Menu Planning Monday today over at I’m An Organizing Junkie!

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EXPIRED: First 100 MomAdvice Readers Get a FREE Copy of Easy.Homemade!

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Sorry! The free copies are no longer available! Feel free to purchase through the link provided! Thank you!

Have you always wondered how to make your pantry ingredients? Look no further than, “easy. homemade.”  a super smart and fabulous kitchen resource for creating everything from yogurt to pantry mixes with simple and straightforward advice from Mandi Ehman.

This book offers great pictures and recipes for creating basic pantry items that every family needs, but finds themselves purchasing at the grocery store. With simple and straightforward advice, Mandi guides you through the process of creating these items at home, saving your family money at the grocery store.

Mandi has graciously offered our readers the chance to have a free copy of her latest e-book. Head on over the easy.homemade. site and enter MOMADVICE100 into the Discount Code field. Make sure to update your cart after adding the coupon code, and enjoy that zero total!  The first 100 readers will receive a FREE copy of this book! 

The great news is that this book will be available for $0.99 for the first week (and then $3.99), so it’s still a great deal for anyone who misses out on the coupon code!

If you miss this freebie, know that with your purchase you  will receive the full-color ebook with pictures as well as printable recipe cards for all of the recipes and access to the recipes on Plan to Eat!
If you want to purchase, “easy.homemade.” for your Kindle, feel free to use this link! The Kindle version is a mere $.99 this week!



Amy’s Notebook 08.15.12

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Welcome to my little notebook of ideas to help improve your life. This is a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. I hope you will enjoy this weekly does of loveliness with beautiful links that are individually handpicked just for you!


These back-to-school apple waffles would be a great way to start the school year (Random Thoughts of a SuperMom)

I love these faux stainless steel letters for the fridge (@ The Crafted Sparrow)

I love this advice for making the perfect bow (@ The 36th Avenue)

This diamond wall made from Scotch tape looks like a fun & inexpensive way to create an accent wall (@ The Nesting Place)

I love this knitted lines & squares blanket pattern (@ The Purl Bee)

This tip for a baking powder substitute will really come in handy, I am sure! (@ Dine & Dish)

I love these tips for throwing a grilled pizza party (@ The Crafting Chicks)

These DIY paper parasols are a cute way to dress up a drink for a party (@ P.S. Blog)

This s’mores cake would be a cute addition to a camping party (@ One Charming Party)

This chalkboard globe would be a fun desk accessory (@ Ucreate)

I love these tips for hosting a kid’s book club (@ pars caeli)

I want to make some of these mason jar to-go cups (@ fine & feathered)

This diy easy fridge makeover is a cute way to organize those art projects on the fridge (@ How Does She?)

This chocolate chip cookie dough frozen yogurt looks divine (@ Two Peas & Their Pod)

I love this list of seven ways to organize a bookshelf (@ The Art of Doing Stuff)

These bacon tomato pesto sandwiches look like a perfect lunch (@ Smells Like Home)