MiMi-a great name for grandma

A Grandma's spin on crafts, games, recipes & lifestyle

Change of Heart – A Book Review

Would you let your child be saved by a convicted killer?  Some immediately would say yes and some would hesitate due to the “evil” of that person and not wanting them associated with their child.  Jodi Picoult has consistently been one of my favorite authors.  Her books dare you to understand BOTH sides of very controversial issues and once again she has created a very thought provoking book.  Please be aware that my book review of A Change of Heart does include some spoilers.

June Nealon has faced a lot of heartache…more than the average person.  Through this book we meet numerous characters that all have a large impact on her life.  These people bring us face to face with prison life, child illness, organ donation, religion and capital punishment!  Whew!  That’s a book packed with a lot of controversial issues…don’t ya think?

Characters in Change of Heart ~

Following are the characters in Change of Heart.  I have given a brief description of their relation to the story.  I find it helpful to write out the characters as I go until I get fully acquainted with them.

  • June Nealon – mother of Claire and Elizabeth, wife to Jack first, wife to Kurt second
  • Elizabeth Nealon – daughter of June & Jack
  • Kurt Nealon – second husband of June Nealon
  • Claire Nealon – daughter of June & Kurt
  • Dudley – June & Claire’s springer spaniel
  • Shay Bourne – handyman hired by June & Kurt
  • Grace Bourne – Shay’s sister
  • Michael Wright – juror and priest
  • Lucius DuFresne – prisoner at Concord State Prison – murdered his lover, Adam
  • Calloway Reece – prisoner at Concord State Prison – white supremacist
  • Crash Vitale – prisoner at Concord State Prison – self-appointed leader of I-tier
  • Texas Wridell – prisoner at Concord State Prison
  • Pogie Simmons – prisoner at Concord State Prison
  • Joey Kunz – prisoner at Concord State Prison – pedophile
  • Alma – prison nurse
  • Maggie Bloom – ACLU lawyer
  • Oliver – Maggie’s pet rabbit
  • Rabbi Joel Bloom – Maggie’s father
  • Mrs. Bloom – Maggie’s mother
  • Dr. Wu – Clair’es cardiac physician
  • Dr. Christian Gallagher – doctor
  • Judge Haig – Judge that presides over Shay’s second trial
  • Ian Fletcher – Gnostic gospel expert

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The Plot ~

While there are many characters and topics woven into this book, the main plotline is that June loses a child to a horrific murder and the convicted murderer, who sits on death row, wants to donate his heart to her remaining daughter, who is critically ill.  What would you do?

Wow!  My initial thought is heck yes I would do anything to save my child’s life.  However, what do you do when the sick child learns where her potential new heart may be coming from?  Your precious child KNOWS that this is from the man that murdered her sister!  Now that is intense!

State Prison Characters ~

Six cellmates are all curious as the new prisoner, Shay, enters the prison.  Shay has just been convicted of murdering June’s daughter and husband.  He has been sentenced to death, which none of the other prisoners have experienced.  While we don’t want to “care” about these men because of their crimes committed, I found myself caring a bit more than expected about their life.  The author makes you realize that while they have done awful things, they are still human.

Lucius, who killed his partner in a jealous rage, is dying from AIDS and his quirkiness is a bit fun to follow.  Calloway is big and burly yet is determined to keep a wild bird alive that has somehow made its way into his jail cell.  You just realize that they still feel all of the emotions that we feel too!

Death by Hanging ~

As if the main topic isn’t heavy enough, we learn that lethal injection cannot be carried out if he is going to donate his heart.  Shay will still be executed, but in order to preserve his organs, he must be killed by hanging.  Yikes!  I found it intriguing that he was willing to accept deathy by this method (which seems more painful to me!) in order to still remain a donor.  There were a lot of specifics introduced here, but I thought it was important to know because the average person doesn’t know all the fine details that go into a “humane” killing.

The Spiritual Advisor ~

While we are getting acquainted with the prisoners, we are also introduced to Michael who is a priest and becomes Shay’s spiritual advisor.  Small issue though…Michael also was one of the 12 jurors that sentenced Shay to death.  While this was an intriguing twist, I did find it a bit hard to believe that Shay wouldn’t have recognized him.  I believe if I were on trial that I would memorize each juror’s face throughout the hearing.  Nonetheless, it did create a bit of extra drama for the book!

During numerous visits that Michael has with Shay, there are uncanny “coincidences” or “miracles.”  Is it possible that Shay could be the second coming…the messiah…or is he a false prophet?  And how is this man that doesn’t seem to know religion at all, quoting verses from the Gospel of Thomas.  Wait a minute…what even is the Gospel of Thomas??? 🤔  One of my favorite lines from the book is, “People were always finding Jesus in jail…what if He was already here?”

The Attorney ~

Maggie, who becomes his attorney, is completely dedicated to finding a way to convince the state that they should switch the method of death in order to preserve his organs.  She is strongly opposed to capital punishment and thus gets completely invested in Shay’s world.  She is raised Jewish but is now agnostic, trying to argue religious freedom for a man that doesn’t practice religion….hmmmm!

Religious Irony ~

As different characters are introduced, it did not pass by me that several of their names have a Biblical ring to them.  Dr. “Christian” Gallagher and “Grace” Bourne are two of them.  I find this to be entertaining and witty.  An extra little layer to the story at hand.  I like when I’m reading and find myself chuckling silently over something “fun” the author has done.  Lucius is from the Bible as well.

Why Did He Do It? ~

June got a chance to sit face to face with Shay, the murderer of her daughter and husband.  She asked what I would assume is the top question any victim would ask if given the chance.  Why did you do it?  His answer sent her running.  Shay said, “She was better off dead.”  How dare him say that to her?  Or is there more meaning to that than she even realized?  What?  Not giving you the spoiler on this one!

Summary ~

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It had my mind racing.  Google was used several times as I found myself curious to learn more about some of the topics discussed.    I begged others to read it so we could discuss it.  It basically had me hooked!

Things I questioned:

  • Prophets
  • Gospel of Thomas
  • Capital Punishment methods of killing
  • What form of religion is Jodi Picoult
  • Organ Donor

After all of that, it is still being mulled over in my mind.  I’m perplexed by the “miracles” Shay was supposedly responsible for.   Some of these were explained off toward the end, but others are still hanging out there.  I actually think I am going to read this book again to soak it in more…if not the whole book then at least the last 10 chapters.

This book was published several years ago so I’m not sure how I haven’t already read it.  Whether you have read it long ago, recently or getting ready to read…I am in high hopes that you will tell me your thoughts on this very thought-provoking book.  I hope you enjoy Change of Heart – A Book Review.  Let’s chat!

Happy Reading ~






DIY Snowy Luminary

Christmas has come and gone and New Year’s Eve is upon us.  Have you taken your Christmas decor down yet or are you one of those (like me) who love a few extra days of festive glow.  There is just something special about the cozy feelings you get with the strings of lights and warm candles all around.  Well, winter is still here so let’s make a DIY snowy luminary to keep all the warm “feels” through the rest of the winter!

I belong to a Sustainable Craft Challenge Group that challenges us to use a pin we have saved and actually create the craft.  How many pins have you saved that you haven’t gotten back to????  We spend all of that time researching pins and then just let them sit there….so let’s get going!  We also have to use some items that are recyclable, unused, reduces waste, etc.  I don’t know about you but I have a collection of saved items to “use in a craft later.”  Let’s do this! Continue reading

New Year’s Eve Countdown Bags

Traditions are a big part of family events throughout the entire year.  New Year’s Eve is no exception.  Whether you are staying home and celebrating with your kiddos or if you are going out and have a sitter staying home with them, kids still like ringing in the new year like the rest of us.  These New Year’s Eve Countdown Bags are a perfect way for the littles to enjoy the celebration of a new year as well.

There are a nunber of fun options when creating the countdown bags.  I love creating just one bag per each child.  A clock with a movable hand will be affixed to the front and goodies will be hidden inside.  As each hour approaches, the child will move their clock hand to designate the appropriate hour.   The big reveal of course will be when the hand reaches 12!

Making the New Year’s Eve Countdown Bags ~

Supplies ~
  • Lunch sized bags (also known as party paper goody bags)
  • Glue stick
  • Paper fasteners/brads of choice
  • Clock and clock hand (free printout below)

We chose fun metallic party bags for this year’s celebration ~


Instructions ~

Print and cut out the clock face and clock hand provided in this post.  *Links for various clocks are at bottom of post!

Using the glue stick, affix the clock face to the front of the bag.  *Be sure to not paste it too close to the top as you will need space to fold the top of the bag down.

Make a small hole in the end of the clock face.  You can push the brad right through the paper, but if it looks as if it is going to rip, try punching a small hole first with a pointy object.   Put the paper fastener/brad through the hole and then through the middle of the clock.

Reach into the sack and bend the arms of the brad to help secure the clock hand.

Fill the bag with the goodies you have collected.

Fold top of bag over and secure with sticker or make a small hole and tie a pretty ribbon through to hold in place.

How the Bags Work ~

At the top of every hour, the children get to move the clock hand.  Explain to the children that when the hand FINALLY reaches the 12 they will get to open their New Year’s Eve countdown bag.  *If your children are younger and will not make it to midnight, choose another designated time for them to receive their goodies!

Playing games, having dance parties and of course eating lots of yummy food are all, of course, an integral part of the time spent between the moving of the clock hand toward midnight!  Heidi, from OneCreativeMommy.com has some great free printables for New Year’s Eve Bingo.  Click this link to go directly to One Creative Mommy and get the Bingo game boards to print!  Use fun candies for the Bingo markers…and of course, be sure to have extras on hand for those candies that the little ones “sneak” to eat while playing! 😉

Festive Ideas for the Bag Fillers ~

Fill these fun bags with everything from small toys, to little candies to, of course, NOISE MAKERS!!!!  Below are some of the items we have filled our bags with for this year.  *Notice we have chosen some toys to inspire a little quiet time play…sometimes you need just a little break to slow down for breaks ~


Also included are small snack size bags of cookies and teddy grahams.  Individually wrapped candies and Nutrigrain bites.  You might even want to consider adding a juice box or favorite drink pouch!

New Year’s Eve Food Ideas ~

Fun ideas for festive food are galore on Pinterest, in recipe books and probably even in your recipe box!  Munchies can range from simple to more difficult as far as preparations go.  Remember that when you are adding in all the fun of games and dance parties, whatever food you choose to serve will be loved.  Yes, I, Mimi, am saying that….shocking right?  The gal who loves everything theme oriented.

My point is….it’s been a very busy last couple of months.  With that being said, we are ready for a good mix of simple and festive!  We plan on mixing simple recipes with a few of our favorite more time consuming ones.  For example, popcorn is simple right?  Our family loves popcorn so that will be on the menu!  However, we definitely need one or two fun foods.  Below are a couple of links for you to check out that have great ideas…from sweet to savory.

Adventures in Familyhood has some great ideas for food ideas.  Check out these awesome food ideas from Adventuresinfamilyhood.com in this link!  As far as savory goes, I have to say one of my favorites are the Crescent Dippers by Pillsbury…rolled out in numbers so you can make dippers in the year you are celebrating.  Use this link for the instructions on making New Year’s Eve Crescent Dippers by Pillsbury!  Another website that has loads of fun finger foods is from Brightcolormom.com.  Click here to see all of the fun ideas Michelle from Brightcolormom.com has in store for your New Year’s Eve celebration!

Choose Your Clock Face ~

I created several clock faces for you.  If you choose the monster or penguin, you will have to be a bit more careful cutting out the clock hands.  In order for those clock faces to fit on the bags I had to make them and the clock hands a bit smaller.  However, they are super cute and worth a little extra work!  I have provided a small pic so you can see which green link you want to choose….or you can print them all!

New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock – Blue

New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock – Purple

New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock – Monster

New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock – Penguin

There you have it friends!  Have fun putting these adorable New Year’s Eve countdown bags together…Come back and let me know what fun ideas you fill yours with!

Happy New Year’s to you my friends ~



Classic Broccoli Salad

As you search through salad ideas, many “specialty” salads are more seasonal.  Then you get lucky and find that one “specialty” salad that just seems to be good for all seasons and all holidays.  THIS is that salad!  Have you tried classic broccoli salad?  If not, let me tell you that this is one of the MOST requested salads at our friends and family get togethers.

This salad can be made ahead….BONUS!  I remember going to end of season sports banquets and I always looked forward to this side.  Yes, I have loved it for a very long time!  It is a delicious mixture of only a few ingredients that is topped with a creamy dressing that completes it perfectly.  I just described to you an easy salad that is also yummy…it’s perfect!

With the holidays right around the corner, it is the perfect addition to your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day menu.  As mentioned earlier, it can be made ahead and these are the best recipes when there is so many other things going on as well that makes it hard to spend all day in the kitchen.

Ingredients ~

For Salad ~

2 large bunches broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup to 1 cup raisins (I go with the larger amount)

12-18 strips bacon, cooked crisp

1 small onion, diced

1 cup or more of sunflower seeds

For Dressing ~

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. vinegar

* I double the dressing recipe because we like it covered in dressing.

* You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar…both work fine!

Instructions ~

Break or cut broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces.  You can chop stems and add them in as well.

Fry bacon until crisp.  Crumble when cooled.  *You can buy the premade bacon and toss in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes for a quick prep on the bacon.

Mix broccoli, raisins and finely-chopped onion and toss.

In separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar together until well combined and sugar crystals have dissolved.  Pour over broccoli mixture and refrigerate.  It is best if it marinates at least 2 hours.

*** I add the bacon when serving.  This keeps the bacon from getting soft.  This is not a necessary step, it is just how we prefer it.

Occasions for Classic Broccoli Salad ~

As mentioned earlier, this is the perfect salad for Christmas.  The green color adds to the festive look on your table.  Also, since it can be made ahead, it makes meal prep that much easier for the busy Christmas season.

It’s a perfect salad for Valentine’s Day by switching up the raisins for dried cranberries.  I like to bring in the color of the holiday into foods that I serve for that extra fun touch.

Definitely a great dish for Easter…just because salads are always good with Easter ham and all the other yummy sides that go with your Easter meal.

For all of the summer holidays….again it is a big hit.  It is crowd approved and nice that you can make ahead, throw it in a cooler to keep it chilled and have it ready to serve!  Seriously, it is a PERFECT salad for any time of the year!  This Iced sald serving bowl is perfect for all of the occasions too!  The stainless steel serving bowl sits in a larger acrylic bowl that holds the ice and keeps your salad chilled for hours!


Do I Need to Blanch the Broccoli? ~

No!  Cut the broccoli pieces from fresh broccoli…no extra work needed here!  The broccoli will soften a bit on its own as it marinates in the dressing.  Of course, you can blanch it if you wish, but there is really no need.

Healthier Substitutions ~

You can substitute greek yogurt for mayonnaise to make the salad a bit healthier.  You can also use mayonnaise with olive oil in it to save a few calories without changing the creaminess of the dressing.

Using pre-cooked bacon has less fat and calories than pan-fried bacon.  As mentioned above, I use this a lot and it does not alter the tast.  DO NOT use the little bacon bits that you find in a jar….please!

As many salads go, this is one that is not necessarily high on the “healthy” list.  However, it is an easy way to get broccoli and raisins (or dried cranberries) in your diet for those more finicky!

Other Salad Recipes Using Same Dressing ~

This dressing is a common dressing for many of what I call the “old-time salad recipes.”  Another family favorite of ours is made by mixing bite-sized pieces of Longhorn Colby Cheese, bacon pieces, diced onion, broccoli florets, cauliflower pieces and diced green onion topped with this creamy dressing!  Give it a try too!

This Classic Pea Salad by Bellyfull.net is another delcious salad recipe that uses the same dressing.  As Amy from BellyFull states in her post linked here, it is another old fashioned recipe that receives great accolades every time she serves it!

Do you already make this salad and maybe have some variations?  I would love to hear about them!  If you haven’t made it, be sure to make it soon….your family will be thankful you did!

Year ‘Round Meals to Pair with Classic Broccoli Salad ~

Have you tried making the hamburger bowls yet?  If not, check out this fun way and unique way to serve hamburgers…Hamburger Bowls!

This salad would also complement these amazing Poor Man Smoked Burnt Ends!


Happy Cooking ~


Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

If you are anything like me, you are always working with different cookie recipes….all year long….but incessantly during the holidays!   We always love our tried and true recipes over the holidays ~ iced Christmas cookies, lemon bars, skillet cookies, homemade fudge, snowball cookies, and nut cups are some of our favorites!  However, we also love to add new recipes into the mix.  The Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies are one of the additions this year….and they are amazing!

Don’t you just love the aroma that fills the whole house when you are doing holiday baking?  You can close your eyes and it takes you back in time….helps you to remember all the years of Christmas past.  I always loved when my kids were small how their little faces would light up with all the festive goodies.  Now we get to watch our precious grandchildren experiencing all the same “feels.”

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cookies Ingredients ~

For the Cookies ~

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

6 tsp red food coloring

2 tsp cocoa powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar/sanding sugar/coarse sugar (your preference)

For the Filling ~

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions ~

Preheat oven to 300°.  Prepare baking sheet by lightly spraying with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

Mix the butter, brown sugar, egg yok, salt and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.  Add in the food coloring and blend until just mixed (don’t overmix).  Add flour and cocoa powder until soft dough is formed.

Roll tablespoon size dough balls (or use cookie scoop) and then roll in sugar before placing on baking sheet.  Use back of spoon or cookie scoop, gently make a small indentation in each ball of dough.

Bake for 8 minutes.

While first batch is baking, mix softened cream cheese, egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth.

Remove cookies from oven and make another indentation a bit deeper to form a good well in the cookie.  Pour cream cheese mixture into the well of each cookie.  Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until filling is set.

(This handy gadget above is one of my favorites from Pampered Chef!  Check out Rose’s website for this and more awesome kitchen gadgets!

Let cool before serving.

Tips ~

→Using sanding sugar or course sugar to roll cookies in gives a bit more of a “sparkly” finished texture.  These sugars don’t melt as much in heat.  For an extra festive touch, use colored sugars.


→Using a cookie scoop ensure same size dough balls which helps to ensure that the cooking time needed is the same for all cookies.

→Be careful when making indentations to not push too hard.  You do not want it to go completely through the cookie.  You need to have enough cookie dough underneath to hold the form of the cookie.

→Do not over bake these cookies.  Cook just long enough that the filling is set.

→Let cookies cool 10 minutes before moving to serving platter.

→Be sure to refrigerate leftovers!

Occasions for Serving ~

Of course, Christmas is a perfect time to serve these little cookies that not only look festive but taste absolutely delicious.  However, don’t store this recipe just under Chrismtas baking.  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  These will make the perfect touch to any Valentine’s Day spread!

Do you throw an Oscars Red Carpet party?  Oh my goodness, how perfect will these be for that night?  Any red carpet night deserves some red velvet cheesecake cookies.  Don’t forget birthday parties and anniversaries.  These little gems are perfect for numerous occasions!

Are You a Red Velvet Fanatic? ~

While these cookies definitely need to be on your baking list, there are so many other delicious  red velvet recipes out there.  I am a huge Southern Living fan and this post on Southern LIving with 22 red velvet recipes definitely deserves to be looked at!  There are so many wonderfully decadent recipes in this link!

For now, there are still definitely enough days to make these delicious cookies for this year’s Christmas and/or New Year’s celebrations.  I know there will be more batches made in our household along with our traditional favorites!  What are some of your tried and true recipes?  Would love to hear about them!

Happy Baking My Friends ~




Secret Santa with Gizmo

We have all heard of Secret Santa.  There are so many different situations that Secret Santa is used…in the workplace, at church, family gatherings, clubs, schools…basically where there is a group of people there is potential for this fun activity!  However, as is the norm with Mimi (that’s me 😉), I like to change it up a bit!  Let me tell you a little more about Secret Santa with Gizmo!

Gizmo is the little blue snowflake I brought to life last year.  If you haven’t read about him, you can read all about cute little Gizmo right here!

Gizmo appears to spread holiday cheer.  He helps count down to Christmas!  You never know when he is going to show up…and that is part of the fun!  This is similar to Secret Santa….you never know when festive items will appear throughout the month of December. Gizmo donned his Santa hat and is ready to be Santa’s helper!

Secret Santa Ideas ~

The fun thing about these 2 pairing up is that they can visit adults and/or children!    Some of these ideas will be catered more toward adults and some more toward children….some can be enjoyed by anyone at any age!

DIY Hot Cocoa Gift Kit ~ 

These cute hot cocoa sets can be enjoyed by people of all ages!  Easy to put together, adorable to set out and tasty to enjoy….for the win!  Ziploc Hot Cocoa Snowman is a perfect gift idea!   ⬅️⬅️Use this link to get the specifics or the Pinterest link below⬇️.

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Christmas Cookie Exchange With Wine Pairing

It’s hard to think about the holidays and NOT think about all of the delicious seasonal cookies and treats.  When you scour Pinterest alone you see tons of Christmas cookie recipes….but who has time to bake all of them?  This is where a Christmas Cookie Exchange with a wine pairing (cookie and wine pairing…who knew?) came to life!

I have been to a couple of different cookie swaps, but it has been a VERY long time ago.  The decision was made to host my own holiday cookie exchange, but I wanted to make it a little different.  Holding the party at the beginning of December was important to me as I wanted to plan a casual night for my friends before heading into the hectic season.  This allowed for some great girl time and hopefully some ideas for each of them of cookies they may want to recreate throughout the month.

What is a Cookie Exchange/Swap? ~

Getting technical, cookie swaps date back to the 17th Century.  Alexandra Simon wrote an interesting article, The History of Christmas Cookie Swaps Explained for Grunge.com.  It’s a pretty short but fun read all about Cookie Swaps…even down to the “official date” being December 22, according to National Today.

Basically, you ask all of your guests to make a designated number of cookies to bring to the party.  Everyone then takes a certain number of each person’s cookies and creates their own variety of treats to take home and enjoy with their friends and family.  You can ask them to bring their own plate/platter to transport their cookies home or you can provide a “to go” box for them.  I found fun little tins with holiday themed lids.

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Ninja Themed Birthday Party

Birthdays deserve to be a BIG celebration. Deciding on the theme is the starting point to planning the perfect party for your special kiddo!  Max always chooses a theme that makes DIY creating a lot of fun….this year was no exception.  He LOVES karate so a Ninja Themed Birthday Party won for birthday #5 for our little man.  Once the idea was settled upon, his mama’s  creative gears started turning.   After a few sleepless nights (because she CANNOT turn that brain off when she is planning) Neon Ninja came to life!

From the birthday cake…to the fun activities…to the party favors…to the food….every part of the ninja party was planned in detail!  Our family is rather large, so many of these details are planned with both the kiddos AND the adults attending in  mind.  I must take this time to say that Lauren’s parties always have a large turnout because they are always so much fun!

The Cake ~

Lauren orders all of her cakes and cookies from Becky’s Cakes n’ Caboodles.  She sends all of her crazy ideas and Becky ALWAYS rises to the occasion.

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Stir Fry Chicken & Veggies

Stir fry is such a versatile dish that you can easily cater to the tastebuds of whoever you are entertaining.  There are hardly any veggies or meat options that won’t pair well for this dish.  Chicken and beef seem to be the standard, however pork and seafood are both great options as well.  One of our favorites though is stir fry chicken & veggies.

The other awesome thing about stir fry is that you can make it as easy or intricate as you wish.  Easy would consist of frozen veggies and store bought sauces, which does indeed make a quick but wonderful meal.  However, this stir fry recipe is a little more on the time consuming side…and well worth the time put into it!

Prep Work ~

The prep is definitely what consumes most of your time when making this recipe.  However, you can do it in advance and store in the refrigerator if you wish.    The main thing you want to consider when prepping your veggies is that some vegetables cook through quicker than others.  Therefore, cut the thicker vegetables, such as carrots and celery a bit smaller.

I personally love that this recipe calls for sliced cabbage.  It is a vegetable that gets overlooked a lot (at least in our family) yet it is packed with so many wonderful nutrients.  In fact, we cook cabbage and potatoes every year as a New Year’s tradition and find ourselves saying, “I love cabbage, why don’t we cook it more throughout the year?”

Cooking Meat & Veggies Separately ~

Cooking the Chicken ~

It really does make a difference if you cook the meat separately from the veggies and add them together at the end.  Many recipes don’t call for this, but if you are taking the time to follow this recipe, don’t ignore this step!

I prefer to cook the meat first.  We prefer crispy edges on our meat, so you will see from the picture that it is cooked longer.  You can obviously cook it to your liking.  Obviously, the longer you cook it the crunchier it becomes.  If you prefer a chewier chicken, then cook less time making sure to cook it completely through.

While the meat is cooking you can prepare the delicious sauce.  Mix all the ingredients up in a small bowl and set aside for later!

Cooking the Veggies ~

Move the cooked chicken to a separate bowl and get ready for those vegetables!  I prefer to add the veggies that take a bit longer to cook in first.  Then just start layering all of the other veggies.  There is something about the beauty of a bunch of veggies all mixed together….doesn’t it make you feel healthy just looking at it?  Yum!  And let’s not forget about that wonderful aroma!

While those veggies are cooking, you need to cook your rice noodles in a separate pan.  Not all stir fry recipes call for noodles to be mixed in, but this is another reason I love this particular recipe so much!

Combining the Meat, Veggies, Noodles and Sauce ~

Once your veggies are cooked, you can add the meat back in and top them off with this yummy, yummy sauce.  Seriously, you are going to love this sauce!  In fact, we are typically very heavy seasoners, but only salt and pepper were used during the cooking process as the sauce brings out all the seasoning you will need.

Necessities for Good Stir Fry ~

*Some of the links below are affiliate links.  This means that as an Amazon affiliate, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize your purchase.

First off,  you need a good wok to cook in.  We own a couple of different ones (because we love stir fry that much!), however, the cast iron is our favorite.  They just seem to cook very evenly and retain heat very well!

However, not everyone likes cooking with cast iron….mostly because the clean up is a little more involved.  Therefore, we love ones like this as well.  I love that this one comes with so many important utensils that are used when cooking in a wok.   Not to mention that beautiful wooden lid!  Be sure to pay attention to size as well… there is a range of sizes available for you to find what suits your family best.

You will find through other cooking posts of mine that I use generic brands when possible.  I find it important to save money where you can, however, sometimes you just need a specific name brand condiment or spice that is perfect for your recipe.  This Sambal Oelek Chili Paste is one of those times.  This little jar packs flavor and heat.  Not the super hot heat (as I am not a spicy flavor girl as most of my family is), but a good flavorful heat.

Summing It Up ~

As you can see, there are several steps to this recipe:

  • Prepping the chicken and veggies
  • Cooking the chicken
  • Making the sauce
  • Cooking the veggies
  • Preparing the noodles
  • Mixing it all together and warming through

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is a more intricate recipe.  Not a hard recipe…..just more time consuming….AND OH SO WORTH THE TIME SPENT!  (*Tip:  Wash your dishes as you go because this does utilize several different bowls and pans.)  This chicken & veggie stir fry is an absolutely delicious meal that everyone is sure to enjoy!

Happy Cooking ~








33 FAVORITE Books for Kids

How do I know these are favorite books for kids you might ask?  Well…we attended a baby shower for my niece, Olivia.  She lives in a different state than all of the attendees of the shower.  Therefore, gifts were mailed directly to her home.  (That could get a little crazy getting all those gifts home, right?)  However, what is a baby shower without gifts to open?  Sooo….everyone brought their favorite children’s book for her to open at the shower.

Now, while I believe it is common to request books in lieu of cards these days, for this particular shower, people really threw their hearts into sharing their all time favorite books.  Books they read to their own children and/or books that were read to them as a child.  I  believe that since these were the “gifts” that Olivia opened, we all watched with anticipation as each book was unwrapped.  It was truly heart warming to listen to each story of why these 33 FAVORITE books for kids made the list!

33 FAVORITE books for kids ~

I am taking the time to share a link for each one.  You, of course, can also find many of these books in some of your local stores.  Even if you like to purchase your books at perhaps a local bookstore (I am a HUGE fan of bookstores!) or some other shop, you can at least learn a bit about each book listed in the link before heading out to shop!

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In this book, it is school picture day and Juno Valentine is having a fashion emergency!  We probably all have at least one crazy  memory from picture day, right?  😉 Follow along Juno’s adventures as she decides just how she should dress for this big day!  ***(This book was indeed perfect, as my beautiful niece is an amazing fashion designer of women’s wear.  Please check out her amazing website here!  )

Learn ways to celebrate ALL the things that make you happy each day whether big or small!  A snuggly book that has adorable illustrations!

A cute book with 10 bears that slowly decrease in number.  Not only is this a great bedtime story, but one that easily introduces subtraction.  That’s a win-win in my book!

A wonderful board book that shows kids being kind in many different situations.  It helps teach kids that kindness goes a long way in building good friendships!

A super cute book that is sure to bring laughter!  Big Foot (the Sasquatch) is naked because well, that’s just how Sasquatch’s live!  In this rhyming adventure, he explains to the ranger why he shouldn’t wear clothes!

A long time favorite of many!  Little Sal is out picking blueberries while a baby bear is too.  Will each little one go home with the correct mama?

A heartfelt book written by Dolly Parton about a little girl in need of a warm winter coat.  She is teased by her friends for being poor?  What does this sweet girl learn in the end?

The classic edition of a Christmas favorite of so many!  The illustrations in this edition are simply beautiful!  It also was a repeat gift so that pretty much sums it up that it is a necessity in every child’s library!

A fun way for young ones to learn about baby animals.  A set of 16 colorful flashcards with pictures and textures!

Enjoy the beautiful illustrations of children and animals.  Through acts of kindness, kids learn that not only are we loved, but we also matter!



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