Creating an Outdoor Faux Tree Using Old Tomato Cages

Keeping with our family tradition, we spend every Thanksgiving morning setting up our Christmas decorations. Personally, I would do it sooner than Thanksgiving morning. . but my husband refuses 🙂 So Thursday morning we all woke up bright eyed, had a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) and started our day out with tinsel, lights and sounds of Christmas. It was lovely. 
Later that day we joined our families for a Thanksgiving feast. 
Just a few highlights of our day 🙂

Every year I tend to add more and more decorations to our home. This year I got the bright idea of yanking my old tomato cages out of the garden and turning them into trees for my front porch. To tell you the truth, it worked beautifully. The top of the tomato cages fit perfectly inside the pots I already had sitting on my porch! 
Supplies: 
Amazon #affiliate links
Tomato and Plant Support Cage
Rubber Band
Twist Tie
The process to create a faux outdoor tree is quite simple. First, I decided to use an old tomato cage from our summer garden as a frame. If you turn the cage upside down. . tada. . looks like a tree. Simply take the spikes that go into the ground and bind them together with a rubber band. This will create a point at the top. 
Next, I tucked one end of the soft faux garland I purchased from Walmart into the rubber band to hold it in place. Then I just started wrapping around the cage working my way down to the bottom. I ended up using 100 feet of garland to make sure everything was filled in nicely. Looking back, I think a wired garland probably would have worked better than the soft garland just because it would have given the tree more shape. . . live and learn. 
When I reached the bottom I attached the end of the garland to the wire frame using a twist tie (from my bread) and let my kids add small ornaments to the tree. We stuck it in a pot outside and now we have one more Christmas decoration to add to our set up list each year. 
So what do you think? I may have to add some lights to it as well so it can be enjoyed at night time too. But so far. . I like it! 
Do you have any holiday traditions that your family started? I’d love to hear about them. Or just tell me how your Thanksgiving was. What was your favorite part of the day?
<3 Dick and Jane

Christmas Wish List {Zeenie Dollz Review}

Disclosure: This post contains items which were given to me free of charge for a review. 
Zeenie Dollz Review #ad #gotitfree

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! Are any of you out shopping the black Friday sales today? I am NOT a black Friday shopper. It just really is not my thing. Besides, the gifts that I seek after during the holidays normally aren’t the “mainstream” gifts that people are fighting over or those that are really available in traditional shopping centers. I tend to be drawn towards the handmade, non-traditional, boutique or small business products. To sum it all up. . I like things that are “different”.

I thought it might be fun to create a few posts and introduce to you some of the cool new products and toys I have found out there this year. These are products that I think are note-worthy and I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the products as well.

This first item definitely fits the bill and will be making an appearance in our house on Christmas day. This sweet little doll is different from mainstream dolls like it because it is made from a combination of two completely recyclable, non-toxic materials. The packaging is also made of biodegradable plastic which follows suit to the dolls eco-conscious presence.

Zeenie Dollz Review #ad #gotitfree

What I love about these dolls are that they are pairing eco-consciousness with fashion and play. Each of the six available dolls is fashioned after a eco-warrior trait.

The series includes:

Zennia, Mother Earth, The Protector of Our Planet
Evee, Protector of the Skies and Defender against Pollution
Kazumi, Protector of the Polar Regions and Defender against Global Warming
Lina, Protector of the Rainforest and Defender against Deforestation
Sini, Protector of Farmland and Defender of Mistreated and Abused Animals
Yana, Protector of the Oceans and Defender of Marine Conservation

Zeenie Dollz Review #ad #gotitfree

Fun Fact: The Zeenie doll series was created by Hansini Wadhwani who showed her mother a sketch of her idea and was able, with her mothers help, to make her dream into a reality. 

Each doll comes with several accessories, some including a pet helper, a hairbrush, a luggage tag and a bracelet to wear to remember the dolls eco-conscious mission. The 12″ dolls are available online at www.zeeniedollz.com and retail for $39.99. Want even more information on Zeenie Dollz? You can get social with this company at the following locations: 

www.zeeniedollz.com
www.facebook.com/ZeenieDollzLlc
www.twitter.com/Zeeniedollz
www.pinterest.com/zeeniedollz
www.instagram.com/zeeniedollz
www.flickr.com/photos/98118508@N02


I’d like to hear from you.  What do you think of this new toy? 

Do you like the concept behind the doll? What do you think of the look, style, ect? 
Let’s discuss it in the comments. 


<3 Dick and Jane

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Double Layer Peppermint Crunch Fudge {Recipe & Giveaway}

Disclosure: This post contains products that were provided to me free of charge for review through the Good Cook blogger program. 

Doesn’t that look good? Well, it is and you won’t believe how I made it! This delectable double layer fudge was made with only five ingredients and using only my microwave. Can’t believe it? Give it a try yourself! The full recipe is listed down below.

Every year as we start to near the holidays I get the itch to bake and create. I love to create sweet treats and share them with my friends and family. Right now, I have the itch. Last year I made only cookies for my friends, so this year I decided to make individual sized loaves of fudge. Something different, right? As I have been playing around with this recipe in my “test kitchen” I have found that the best way to make the fudge loaves perfectly shaped and free from cut lines is to use the Sweet Creations Mini Loaf Pan from GoodCook.com. You will notice that I used this pan in my recipe below.

Placing a strip of parchment paper into your loaf pans allows for easy removal of the fudge. Just pull up and out.


Double Layer Peppermint Crunch Fudge

Ingredients: 
1 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
2 cups White Chocolate Chips
1/4 tsp. Peppermint Extract
1 Candy Cane – Crushed
1 Can Sweetened Evaporated Milk

Directions: 

Pour one can of sweetened evaporated milk into a microwave safe bowl. Heat the milk for 2 minutes on high. Be sure to watch for it to bubble over. If it starts to, stop and stir before continuing. Be careful, this will be HOT.

Add 1 cup of milk chocolate chips to a bowl and the white chocolate chips to another separate bowl. Once the evaporated milk has been heated, add 1/3 cup heated milk to the bowl of milk chocolate chips and 2/3 heated milk to the white chocolate bowl. Stir both bowls and allow the chocolate chips to melt from the heat of the milk.

If needed, microwave on high for 30 second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted.

Once the chips are melted, add your peppermint extract to the white chocolate chips and stir.

Add a layer of parchment paper to each loaf pans to help with easy removal. Start with your milk chocolate mixture and pour a thin layer into each loaf pan. Smooth the fudge out with the back of a spoon. Next, layer on the white fudge and top with crushed candy canes.

Allow the mixture to set out for a few hours or until it has thickened and cooled.

That’s it. You can now either eat it yourself or share it with your friends. Remember, you do have four loaves 🙂

Now, since you are all my friends I have a special gift for you.

GoodCook.com has graciously offered to give one of my readers their very own 4 loaf pan and a package of holiday inspired parchment paper. As always, entering is easy. You can also save 25% off now at GoodCook.com by using CODE: SWEETLOAF. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Each household is only eligible to win 1 Good Cook prize [CHOSEN AT RANDOM] via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Giveaway is open to the continental USA, must be 18 or older to win. Winner will be selected at random from all eligible entries and will be contacted by email. Winner will have 24 hrs to respond. If original winner does not claim their prize within 24 hrs, it is forfeit and a new winner will be selected promptly.
No purchase necessary to enter or win. Odds of winning are not increased by a purchase.
<3 Dick and Jane

Your Kids Can Change the World {Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids to “Give Back”}

Hi Friends! Here we are on the final countdown to Thanksgiving. It will be here on Thursday. {wow} Although today, instead of talking about Thanksgiving foods, I wanted to talk about giving back. What a great way to start off the week, right?!?

I know that I spoke earlier about wanting to raise children who are hero’s. This is something that I have been wanting to talk about more on this blog because I think that it is important. However, sometimes I struggle to find the right words. After all, I really don’t know all of the answers. So today’s post is as much for me as it is for you. I want to just take a moment and highlight a few amazing kids who are doing amazing things. They are an inspiration to me and my family and I hope they will be an inspiration to you as well. These are the types of children we should be trying to raise. . . one’s who see a need and act upon it. Kids who give back to society and show compassion. Kids who will make the world a better place. Plus, if these kids can take action and do amazing things, why can’t we all?

Today I have compiled a small list of some amazing kids and the causes they have started. Feel free to click through the links provided and visit each cause website individually. All of these kids have done something un-ordinarily special.

Photo Credit: Charity Ball

Ethan King, Charity Ball

When Ethan was 10 years old he traveled with his parents to Mozambique to help repair water wells in the local villages. Like any soccer loving kid would, he took along his soccer ball to help pass the time. One day, after taking out his ball in the hopes of starting up a little game of soccer with the local children, he found himself surrounded by 50 excited children ready to take part in the fun. Ethan realized that his soccer ball, something he took for granted as having, was something that other kids could only dream of having. Upon leaving the village one of the young village boys ran up to him to return his soccer ball. Ethan turned to him and said “No, this is yours. I’ve given it to you.” The village boys ran away full of excitement as if they had won the lottery. This is when Charity Ball was born. This was in 2009. Since then Ethan has made it his mission to make sure kids all of the world have the opportunity to play. Learn more about Ethan’s mission at www.charityball.org.

Photo Credit: Alex’s Lemonade Stand
Alexandra Scott, Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Alexandra was diagnosed with neuroblastoma shortly after her first birthday, a type of childhood cancer. In the year 2000, the day after her fourth birthday, Alex received a stem cell transplant and told her mom “When I get out of the hospital I want to have a lemonade stand.” Alex wanted to raise money to give it to the doctors so they could help other kids like her. After leaving the hospital she did just that and raised over $2,000 to give to her hospital. Throughout the following years, as Alex was battling her cancer, her family continued to hold a lemonade stand in their front yard every year to help raise funds for childhood cancer research. In 2004, at the age of 8, Alex passed away. However, she left behind a legacy and a cause that is still being supported today. Learn more about Alex’s Lemonade Stand at www.AlexsLemonade.org.

These are just a few of the amazing stories out there. There are many more. What I find amazing is not only the child’s dream to help others before themselves, but the parents willingness to stand up and help them make it happen.  How many of your children have said “Hey mom, I want to help that person.” or had a self-less idea that would make a difference in someones life? Did you just say “Oh sweetheart, you have such a good heart.” and then moved on with other things in life or did you support them to make it happen? I must say that I too have pushed my children’s ideas away as “being sweet” and nothing more. From now on, however, I am going to make it a point to support my kids in their “ideas”. I cannot think of any better lesson to be taught than that of human compassion. So this year as we are all enjoying our Thanksgiving feast lets think about what we can do for others. Let your kids decide. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Small acts of kindness can make a difference. 

A few simple ideas of what you can do: 

– Help out at a local soup kitchen. 
– Hand make holiday decorations and deliver them to a children’s hospital or homeless shelter. 
– Collect used blankets from family and friends and deliver them to an animal shelter. 
– Color pictures and mail/deliver them to people who could use a smile. 
Will you be “giving back” this holiday season? Tell us about what you will be doing in the comments and help inspire even more stories like these. 


<3 Dick and Jane

Chicken & Bacon Alfredo Lasagna {Recipe}

Chicken and Bacon Lasagna Recipe
It’s Friday! Whoo Hoo! This has been a busy week and I still don’t feel like I have recouped after last weekends birthday festivities. This weekend is going to be no different. It’s going to be busy! Saturday we are going to be getting our Christmas card photo taken, which is always a blast. . can’t wait to show you the sneak peeks! Then I am also going to be doing a craft show with another blogger friend of mine. We like to try and unload some of the projects that we do on our blogs during the year because seeing that we do at least a project a week we can’t possibly keep all of it. . nobody’s house is that big! 🙂 Roll that all together with a new haircut, children’s birthday party, ect. and then that’s it, the weekends over. It always amazes me. The older I get, the more I have to do and the faster the days fly by. I wish I could just slow them down and enjoy them a little more, right? 
I know that many of you are busy too with the holidays coming up, so just the fact that you are taking a moment to share your day with me is amazing. So, Thank you for that. {Big Hug}
Today I wanted to share with you a tasty new way to make a traditional lasagna. This recipe switches it all up using chicken and bacon as the meat, alfredo sauce instead of marinara and a cottage cheese mixture instead of ricotta. We made this a few nights ago and my husband devoured it. He even ate all of the left overs and told me to add this to his “favorites” list. So if it is good enough for my picky husband than it is definitely worth sharing. I hope you enjoy. 

Chicken & Bacon Alfredo Lasagna
Ingredients: 
1 pkg. lasagna noodles – cooked al dente 
1 oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. cottage cheese
1 pkg. bacon – cooked
3 chicken breasts – cooked and shredded
1 jar alfredo sauce or homemade recipe here
shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions: 
Begin by cooking your chicken, bacon and noodles. I boiled my chicken in water and it was easy to shred. 
Once the ingredients are cooked and ready you can begin by mixing together your cream cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese in a bowl. 
Chicken Bacon Lasagna Recipe
Using a 9×13 glass dish, pour a little bit of Alfredo sauce into the bottom. Layer four lasagna noodles over the top of the sauce. Next, layer your cream mixture, Alfredo sauce, bacon and shredded chicken. Top it again with four more lasagna noodles and repeat process until your dish is full. Top your lasagna with a shredded Parmesan cheese mixture. 
Bake your lasagna at 350 degrees until bubbly and slightly browned. (about 20 minutes)
Allow your lasagna to cool for 5 minutes before serving. 
We plated our dinner up with roasted brussel sprouts and it was amazing. 
For your enjoyment. . a printable recipe card. 
(psst. this is new, so please let me know if you like it and if it is helpful so I know to keep doing it for other recipes or not)
PRINTABLE RECIPE CARD
Alfredo Chicken and Bacon Lasagna Recipe
  In the next couple of weeks I have some amazing posts to share with you. We will be having a giveaway, a peek at some of the things on my children’s holiday wish list and some tempting and tasty treats. So if you are not already following us on Facebook, twitter or pinterest we would love for you to join us. This way it is easier for you to keep up to date on all of our latest posts. You can find links to all of our social media pages on the right hand side bar. Thanks again!!!
Are you a bacon fan? Whats your favorite way to eat your bacon, by itself or in a recipe? 
<3 Dick and Jane

Holiday Pallet Signs {DIY}


Caution: Wood is naturally sharp and splintery. Remember to use caution when working with wood and power tools. 
I love signs, don’t you? Its always nice to have a pretty reminder each day to make right the choices or find inspiration. I have spent tons of time looking for signs to use in my home, but either have found that they are super expensive or just not exactly what I was looking for so I decided to make my own. 
As many of you know I love to repurpose items that are otherwise destined for the garbage dump. It seems like everyday I find wood pallets laying out by the road for pickup. Why someone would throw these out is crazy to me. . there are so many things you can do with them! 

Here is my latest project. 
My pallets, before I started to cut them up. 🙂
Today I decided to cut them up and use the wood to make signs to decorate my home for the holidays. Using a saw, I cut the wood planks just on the inner side of the nails. This saves time and energy trying to remove all of the nails by hand. 
After each of the pieces were cut up, I used an electric sander to smooth down the edges and any rough parts on the wood. Next, I put similar sized wood pieces together and found small pieces to use to hold them together on the backs. The wood was screwed together and ready to paint!
The left over pieces of wood were used to make smaller signs like the “Ho Ho Ho” one and the “Give Thanks” sign. 
To paint the wood I simply used an acrylic paint and paintbrushes. Easy and fun. 
Here are a few of the final pieces. . 
This super easy craft is lots of fun and a great way to add holiday cheer to your home! 
Have any questions or comments about this post? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below. We do our best to respond to each and every comment. Thanks!
<3 Dick and Jane

Chunky Monkey Smoothie {Recipe}

This weekend was my birthday. I had such a great time celebrating with my friends and family. On Saturday night I went out with all of my friends to celebrate with dinner. We had a blast and ended up closing the place down. Then Sunday was family time and we all got together for dinner and cake. This weekend just reminded me of how blessed I really am. I love being social with all of you online, but there is something extra special about spending time with people face to face. You just can’t beat it. 
My kids have been very lucky to have gotten so many sweet treats lately. First Halloween, then my birthday and even more coming up with Thanksgiving and Christmas. So yesterday when they asked for a treat I decided to come up with a little bit of tom foolery. I put together this divine smoothie that tasted just like a milkshake but only had good, body boosting ingredients in it and no added sugar! Looking for a fun treat to share with your kids today? Check this one out. 
Chunky Monkey Smoothie

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 cups Stonyfield Organic Vanilla Yogurt
2 Bananas
2 TBS Organic Peanut Butter
1 TBS Cocoa Powder
2 cups of Ice
Directions: 

This is pretty easy, just add all of your ingredients into a blender and combine. You may want to adjust the ingredient doses if needed to get the desired consistency. 
My kids loved it and so did I! Nothing like a milkshake fake out! 
<3 Dick and Jane

Yogurt Spinach Dip {Recipe}

Disclosure: Some materials used in this post were provided to me free of charge. 
Hi Friends! The holidays are quickly sneaking up on us and since I am already fretting about my extra poundage brought on by Halloween I am not quite ready to fight the cravings that Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to bring on. (Who’s with me?) But what is a girl to do? I secretly have a love obsession with good food. (Raise of hands??) So last week when Stonyfield Organic challenged me to take my most favorite holiday food and make it healthier by using yogurt I think I jumped right out of my seat. . YES! I choose to accept this mission!

Before I get to my recipe re-do let me first tell you about my favorite holiday food and why I love it so. It all started with my mom. My mother loves appetizers. For some reason she always makes an over abundance of appetizers at our family holidays that we are usually too stuffed to actually eat the main course that she prepares. We all normally just have to take our dinners home with us in boxes at the end of the night untouched. So from a young child to this day whenever I think of Thanksgiving I think about my mothers spinach dip. Mmm. To serve it she would always hallow out a loaf of pumpernickel bread and fill it to the top with dip. It was normally the first thing she set out on the table and geesh, I really could never get enough. To this day whenever I go to the grocery store and see freshly made spinach dip in the deli I buy it. . and I eat the entire container myself. Oh yes! How’s that for making your pants no longer button!! <–trust me, I know. 
Luckily, I now have a solution to my holiday obsession. When I was asked to remake my favorite holiday food I chose my beloved spinach dip, which was actually easier to substitute than I thought. Take a look at this chart. This will show you all of the acceptable substitutions available to help make your favorite holiday food better. 
#ad
#ad
Charts provided by Stonyfield and used with their permission. 
So here is how I gave my favorite holiday food a make over. 
#gotitfree
Ingredients: 
3 Containers Stonyfield Greek Plain Yogurt
1 Package Fresh Organic Spinach
1/4 c. Chopped Fresh White Onion
2 Cloves of Minced Garlic
1 tsp. Butter
1 pk. Ranch Dressing Dry Mix
3/4 tsp. Basil 
1/2 tsp. Oregano 
Begin by browning your garlic in butter in a skillet over med-high heat. Once it is slightly browned, toss in your spinach and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to med- low and heat until wilted. Remove the spinach from the heat and cool. 
Meanwhile, mix your greek yogurt, onion, dry dressing, basil and oregano into a large bowl. Once the spinach has cooled, chop it up into smaller pieces and add it to your mixture. Stir. 
Place your spinach dip into the fridge to chill for at least one hour. 
Serve your spinach dip with either bread or veggies and enjoy. 
Now I want to know more about you! What one food would you call your favorite during the holiday season? Are you open to giving it a healthy make over? Tell us about it in the comments. 
Happy Snacking!
<3 Dick and Jane

Clothesline Menu Board {Craft}

How many people have trouble remembering what meal ingredients they bought during the week at the grocery store besides me? Every Monday I spend an hour looking through Pinterest figuring out what I want to make that week. . then I go to the grocery store and buy all of the ingredients. By Tuesday I am standing in front of the cupboards thinking “What on Earth do I have to cook?”. Food gets spoiled, forgotten about and pizza gets ordered. No more! I discovered a need in my life for more organization and designed a cute and fun way to obtain it. I love my new little meal organization method so much that I wanted to share it with you!

Materials

Old Frame
Jute Ribbon
Mini Clothespins
Colorful Tags 
Round Magnets
Hot Glue
Begin by finding an old frame (or buying a new one). I took an old frame that I bought at a garage sale for $1 and painted it in a robins egg blue. After the paint dried I used sandpaper and scratched up the edges to let the natural wood show through. Once you have the frame looking good, flip it over and add large, heavy magnets to each of the four corners. I simply super glued them into place. After that, I glued a string to the back of the frame about 1/4 of the way down from the top. Remember to pull it tight and hold it a moment while the glue hardens. 
Remember that magnets are not to be used around young children, they are dangerous. 
Once the back was set it was pretty much quick and easy work. I started off by sitting down as I normally do every Monday and searched through Pinterest to find what I wanted to prepare during the week. However, once I found a recipe that I was going to prepare, I wrote it down on a tag and clipped it up on my clothesline frame (which was now hanging on my fridge). After each meal is made, I remove that tag from the clothesline showing only the remaining meal options for the week. Now I can visually plan and prepare each meal during the week without having to stand in front of my cupboards or fridge trying to remember what I had purchased to make. 
Being that I am a visual person, this seems to be working well for me. Plus it looks super cute on my fridge. And. . If you aren’t needing a new menu board at the moment, this also works well as a memo board too. (photo above)
Many people ask me, where did I get my supplies?
Frame: Garage sale
Mini clothespins: Michaels Craft Store
Tags: Pick a Plum (There is a link to their store on my sidebar)
Magnets: Michaels Craft Store
Jute Ribbon: Michaels Craft Store
Are you going to re-create this craft? What will you use it for; menu, memos or something else?
<3 Dick and Jane