Friday, November 29, 2013

What I Love About Christmas

I have always loved Christmas. The decorations. The love. The food. It’s just a joyous time of year. But can I tell you a secret?

Lean in really close…

I HATE shopping. I know I’m a girl and I’m supposed to enjoy it. But I don’t.

I don’t even like shopping during the regular part of the year, and it’s even worse at Christmas. The stores are packed with people, and even though this is the time of year when everyone is making a big deal about giving and caring – shoppers get nasty. You spend ten minutes trying to get down the canned food isle only to have someone behind you reach around to grab the last can of cranberry sauce. You stand in checkout lines for what seems like hours on end just to purchase that one gift you couldn’t find the first time you went to the store. It’s just not fun.

So last year, I made the decision to start doing all of my Christmas shopping online. The mailman and I became quite close friends during the days leading up to Christmas as he dropped off all my packages – and let me tell you – he was so much more friendly than any checkout attendant.

No lines.

No wait.

Front door service.

I liked it!

Turns out, I’m not the only one that does this. In fact, most businesses have picked up on it and are starting to post their Black Friday specials on their website – pretty cool huh?

One other thing I’ve learned is that books make great Christmas gifts! I love books – so maybe I’m biased. But you can give me a book any time and I’ll be thrilled (they are much preferred to clothes I will never wear or pretty trinkets my kids will break).

Plus, you can wrap them to go under the tree or stuff them in a stocking. They give you options. And, of course, one of those options is to buy them for yourself to read during the holiday season. I like to think of it as the two for you one for me theory. After all, if you order over $35 worth on Amazon you get free shipping. So tacking on that extra one is frugal.

Finding the right books can still be hard, which is why I wanted to let you know about the Clean Reads Holiday Book Sale going on over at They have over 30 paperback books listed that are on sale Black Friday through Cyber Monday – racking up over $100 in savings. AND they are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. I’m personally fond of the romance novels, but they have multiple genres (fiction and non) listed. Check it out at: And I just found out that Amazon is offering an extra 30% off paperback books now through December 1st - awesome timing.

What about you? How do you do your Christmas shopping?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Thanksgiving Menu

Do you have any foods that you traditionally eat each holiday? Obviously for Thanksgiving we have turkey with all the fixings, but I wanted to take a moment to share our exact menu with you - recipes and all. First, I have to tell you that I LOVE I get all of my recipes there and don't know what I'd do with out it. So a lot of these will just be links - in which case you can click the title of the dish to be taken to the recipe.

Hart House Thanksgiving Menu:

Easy Herb Roasted Turkey

I make this almost exactly as written. I do put it in an oven bag vs a roaster with a lid though. I found this recipe a few years back and it is simply amazing. It comes out as a mouth watering dish that is to die for. If you're not happy with your current turkey cooking method, I highly recommend giving it a try. Plus, it's crazy simple.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

I don't think a Thanksgiving meal can be complete without mashed potatoes and gravy - but they are also crazy simple. There are enough things to cook on the stove, that I use instant mashed potatoes and heat them in the microwave as a time/space saver. I do make my own gravy though. I boil the turkey neck and use that broth (and meat) for the gravy base - adding in any extra juice off the turkey if needed. Then I thicken in up with cornstarch. Pretty simple, but really good.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Again, I make this almost exactly as written. The only thing I change is that I use regular margarine (not the fat free stuff). I'll be honest, this is the only sweet potato casserole recipe that I've ever used, but everyone always loves it.

Campbell's Green Bean Casserole

Okay, This is just your basic Green Bean Casserole - but why mess with perfection (especially when I won't be eating it)?

Cranberry Sauce

In the past, I've always bought the canned, jellied cranberry sauce, but I made my own a few weeks ago with this recipe - and it was SOOO GOOD. So I'm making it on my own from now on... although, I may still buy one can of jellied for the kids. They aren't too fond of the whole cranberries in this recipe. I will say that I cooked mine on the stove vs. the microwave method recommended here, but that's the only change I made.


I dislike stuffing, but for the sake of my family I buy a box or two and mix it up. Nothing special, but they insist on appreciate it.

Deviled Eggs

I don't think I can really give you my deviled eggs recipe - as it's very much to taste. Obviously you hard boil the eggs and cut them in half. Mixing the yolks with other ingredients until you're satisfied. We use Miracle Whip, mustard, pickle juice, salt, pepper, and paprika if that helps at all.

Pumpkin Pie

I insist that everyone must eat pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (except for my old roommate, Nita B. - but she's special so that's okay). It's one of my favorite parts of the meal. I use canned pumpkin and follow the recipe on the can - the only thing I change is that I use half the recommended cloves.

Pecan Pie

I have the best mother-in-law in the world, and she makes these for us with fresh Texas pecans. Yeah... she's awesome. She'll also bring some sort of sweet veggie salad - which are surprisingly good and crazy healthy. I really need to learn how to make them...

And that's it. Pretty simple really, but oh so yummy.

What's on your menu this Thanksgiving? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

{Christmas DVD Giveaway} Coming Home For Christmas

I love Christmas movies... well, okay - I love pretty much all things Christmas. But Christmas music and Christmas movies are two things that I never get tired of. Mr. Amazing... not so much. But he loves me and lets me splurge during the holiday season (though I'm not suppose to listen to Christmas music when he's home before Thanksgiving or after New Years). 

So when I found out that I had the chance to review the Christmas movie, "Coming Home For Christmas" I jumped at it! You know those Christmas movie marathons they run on Lifetime or the Hallmark channels? This movie would have been a great fit with those. It was Christmasy and fun - the only two things required for a Christmas movie. I even got Mr. Amazing to watch it with me before he loaned it to his mom. 

Oh! Did I mention that they also gave me a copy to give away?

They DID!

If you love Christmas movies, leave a comment below telling me what your all-time favorite Christmas movie is and I'll enter you to win the free copy of this DVD! 

The above is a required entry - you can win bonus entries by sharing about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. Just leave an additional comment for each entry with the link to your post and I'll pick the winner using a random number generator based off the number of comments.

Be sure to either leave your e-mail address or come back and check to see who won on December 6th. 


After their parents separate, two estranged sisters who haven't been on speaking terms reunite in hopes that having a family Christmas all together for the first time in years will bring their Mom and Dad close again. They plan to do this in their old family home... the only problem is someone else lives there now.

The DVD includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print!

Who is Norman Rockwell?  Rockwell was famous for his famous American culture illustrations and artwork. He was born in the late 1800’s and died in the mid 1900’s. 

Director: Vanessa Parise
Cast: George Canyon (Christmas Miracle, Dawn Rider, Man of Steel), Aaron Pritchett, Britt McKillip (Dead Like Me), Carly McKillip (Hot Rod)

Soundtrack also available featuring holiday songs performed by George Canyon