Archives for November 2012

Secret Santa Gift Exchanges

How do gift exchanges work in your family? Do you buy one gift for everyone in your family, or do you draw names and do more of a Secret Santa exchange?

We’ve done various types of gift exchanges with each of our families.


In years past, we’ve agreed upon a spending limit for each gift. This is a great way to exercise some creativity and find gifts that the recipient will enjoy for very little money. This is also a great option if you like to have lots of gifts to open on Christmas morning.


Another way we have done presents in our family is to have a higher spending limit, but we only buy one gift for one person. The way we’ve done it in the past is to put names in a hat and draw a name. That is the person for whom you buy the gift. Of course, since we now live in the digital age, that whole process can be digitized. Enter the Secret Santa Supreme – PeapodApps phone app. Now, we can use an app to run our entire secret santa. Each person can enter a wish list. Then the app does the work of randomly assigning each person a secret santa. The app will send an email with the wish list to the person for whom you are buying the gift. Have a few family members that don’t get along? You can tell the app not to match them up!


We’ve had years where the only gifts we bought were for the kids. It’s a great way to spend less. But most of all, the kids seem to be the most fun to buy for and to watch open presents on Christmas morning.

How do you do gift exchanges in your family?

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try it then share it!

Health Benefit of Peppermint Tea: Heartburn Relief

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Have you ever suffered from heartburn? Have you ever used peppermint tea to help ease or prevent symptoms?

Peppermint has long been used to treat a variety of digestive ailments from heartburn to irritable bowel syndrome.

Many people will reach for expensive over-the-counter heartburn medications to try to relieve the burning sensation caused by heartburn. However, that may not be necessary.

Peppermint contains menthol which is known to naturally provide a cooling sensation. In addition, it is known to relax the sphincter that keeps the contents of the stomach from backing up into your esophagus, thereby easing your heartburn symptoms.

As we head into the holidays, where eating until we get digestive upset is a national past time, why not try serving my Peppermint Tea recipe with your next holiday meal? Make it cold and serve it with food, or serve it hot as a soothing after dinner drink.

This is not meant to be medical advice. Please speak with your doctor before attempting to treat any medical condition with peppermint tea.

Costco Thanksgiving Dinner Staples Price List

Are you planning to shop Costco for your Thanksgiving dinner? I’ve got some prices on commonly needed Thanksgiving items so you can plan out your expenses.

**Please note, prices at your Costco may vary. This is intended to be used a guideline.**


Organic Free Range Turkey $2.69/lb


Large Gold Potatoes 15 lbs $7.49

Sweet Potatoes 10 lbs $6.49

Fresh Cranberries 3 lbs $4.79

Bartlett Pears 6 lbs $5.99

Organic Carrots 10 bs $4.99

French Green Bean 2 lbs $4.99

Brussels Sprouts 2 lbs $3.79

Celery Sticks 2.5 lb $3.29


Bybee Food Organic Frozen Green Beans $5.99/5 lbs


Kirkland Organic Eggs $7.59/24 count

Robinson Heavy Whipping Cream $6.69/half gallon

Horizon Organic Half & Half $4.19/64 oz

Kirkland Organic Milk $9.49/3 half gallons


Kirkland Signature Pure Vanilla $6.89/16 oz

Wholesome Sweetners Organic Sugar $10.99/10 lb

Central Milling Organic Unbleached Flour $10.99/20 lbs

Red Star Active Yeast $3.99/2 lb

Sunmaid Organic Raisins $7.99/2 2lb bags

Kirkland Pecans $15.98/2 lbs


Bistro 28 Cranberry Sauce 36 oz $6.79

Full Circle Stuffed Turkey Breast $4.99/lb

Harry’s Roasted Turkey Gravy $7.39/60 oz

Marie Callender’s Corn Bread Mix $5.79/5 lb

Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock $11.89/16 32 oz

Missing a price on an item? Check out my Costco price list to see if you can find it. Enjoy your Thanksgiving shopping!

Tips, Tricks and Recipes to Help You Survive Thanksgiving

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Or does the thought of preparing a big Thanksgiving meal make you break out in hives? Either way, I’ve got some tips, tricks and recipes to help you survive this Thanksgiving.


If your menu includes hot appetizers, here’s an easy solution for Keeping Hot Appetizers Hot.

Making homemade pies? When it comes time to roll out the dough, use an Upcycled Spice Jar as a Flour Shaker.

Don’t risk over browning your pie crust. Six simple steps to make a Pie Crust Shield.

When it comes time to chop the onions, here is a shortcut.

Find out how you can Season Food in a Pinch – a kitchen shortcut to save on prep time.


Every Thanksgiving meal has one thing in common. If you thought I meant turkey, you were wrong! I meant dishes. Every Thanksgiving generates tons of dishes so here are the Secret Shortcuts Everyone Needs to Getting Dishes Done Quickly.

If you will be using crystal or silver to set your table, these tricks using vinegar will get them clean and shiny.

Finally, if you find yourself with a challenging dish, use my method to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans Using Nontoxic Cleaners.


Don’t buy special spice mixes. Instead, make your own Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice and Apple Pie Spice Mix.

This year, make your own Whole Wheat Pie Crust. Whole grain, delicious and simple to make.

Are you in charge of dessert? Make Pumpkin or Apple Cheesecakes in Mason Jars for cute presentation.

No matter what type of dessert you plan to serve, make sure you serve it with Homemade Whipped Cream.

Is someone gluten free at your Thanksgiving table? Try an Apple Pie Fruit Smoothie instead of pie for dessert.

Will you be serving a vegetarian? Pumpkin Cheddar Soup is both satisfying and festive.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Apple Cider Tea Bags: A Tea Taste Test

The apple cider tea bags caught my eye in the grocery store last week.  Can anything rival a hot cup of apple cider on a crisp fall day?

I love apple cider, but I’m trying to cut back on sugar and calories. Could I find the flavor I crave in an Apple Cider Tea Bag?

I decided to put two different brands to the test:

In the first corner: Bigelow Apple Cider Herbal Tea weighing in at $2.75/box of 20 apple cider tea bags.

In the opposing corner: Republic of Tea’s Apple Cider Tea weighing in at a hefty $16.96/tin of 36 apple cider tea bags.

To make the tea, I did what I always do: throw a bag in a mug, fill with hot water and let it steep. The first thing I noticed was the color.

GAK! The Bigelow brews up pink! Decidedly un-apple cider-y in my humble opinion.

Despite my objection to the color, I tried the Bigelow tea first. The Bigelow Apple Cider tea is a delightfully drinkable tea, but it tastes nothing like apple cider. If I just wanted apple tea, I’d drink some of my own Homemade Black Apple Tea.

I have a clear focus. My quest is for an apple cider no-calorie no-sugar tea.

I moved on to the Republic of Tea. The smell was spot-on apple cider. But the taste? Bleech.Watered down apple cider.  Not enough flavor!

Not to be discouraged, I then read the instructions on the Republic of Tea tin. PEEPS! I can not remember the last time I actually read the instructions on how to brew tea. Seriously!

The Republic of Tea Apple Cider Tea’s recommended brew time is 5 – 7 minutes. I never brew my teas for 5 – 7 minutes. I never measure out the water! Apparently I’m too impatient.

I measured out the 6 ounces of water. I waited the entire 7 minutes. I even set the kitchen timer.  However, the results are well worth the wait.

The Republic of Tea Apple Cider Tea is expensive. It’s high maintenance. 7 minutes to brew tea is an eternity. But it really does taste like apple cider. Mind you, it is not sweet like apple cider, but it definitely has all the flavor of apple cider.

THE WINNER: The Republic of Tea Apple Cider!

Since it takes so long to brew, I have been throwing a tea bag into a travel mug, top it with the 6 ounces of measured water and just leave the bag in there and haul the cup along with me on my errands. Fall in a mug!

Do you have a favorite seasonal tea you’d recommend?

Make a Pie Crust Shield for the Perfect Pie Crust

Usually when I make a pie crust, I don’t go through the trouble of making a fancy edge. This is particularly true if I am simply making something like a quiche for dinner.

However, when making a pie for an occasion – such as Thanksgiving or a potluck – then I like to get a little fancy with my pie crust edges. As if I do it all the time. I think they call it “putting on airs”.

That’s me. The poser.

If I have gone through the trouble of making the perfect pie crust, I want to protect my edges from overbrowning. Enter the simple pie crust shield.

Made with aluminum foil, this is an easy way to have your crust get evenly brown without burning.

How to Make a Pie Crust Shield

    1. Tear off a 12 inch piece of aluminum foil
    2. Fold in half
    3. Fold in half again
    4. Cut out a semi-circle three inches in from the edge
    5. Unfold and your circle will fit perfectly along the edge of your crust

That’s it! Simple steps to making a foil pie crust shield and you’ll never have to cry over an overbrowned edge.

The GBG It Works for Me

“The GBG: It Works for Me” is a weekly series all about that thing you’ve started doing that you’d wish you’d known you should be doing all along.

Solutions, quick tips, and shortcuts. Time savers and sanity savers. It’ll all be right here.

Have a solution, tip, or time saver of your own? Let me know by filling out this form, I’ll try then share!

Easy Recipes: 5 Recipes Using Chicken and Tomatoes

I am thrilled to be here today guest posting with Andrea.  I love her site and the resources she provides as I incorporate organic items into our family meal rotation.

As a busy mom of very active boys I am constantly on the hunt for easy recipes to add to my meal plan.

I absolutely love the flavors of chicken and tomatoes used together,  so today I am going to share five of my favorite recipes using these simple ingredients.

easy recipes

Easy Recipes Using Chicken and Tomatoes


  1. Vodka Chicken Pasta– this is a stove top dish that comes together quickly. Serve with a dinner salad and you have a scrumptious meal.
  2. Puerto Rican Stew– my husband is Puerto Rican and I love incorporating authentic food that his family teaches me to cook into our meal rotation. This is one of my favorites and it includes chicken and tomato sauce. You’ll notice this recipe calls for potatoes. I always use organic potatoes when a recipe calls for them due to the research I’ve read about this vegetable and pesticides. Also, you can sub the steamed white rice for brown rice.
  3. Crockpot Crushed Tomato and Chicken Soup– this is so simple and absolutely delicious!
  4. Easy Chicken Nachos– I love using up leftover chicken making dinners like these nachos. We like the organic blue corn chips I find at Target and locally grown fresh tomatoes are awesome!
  5. Chicken Artichoke Tomato Pizza– this is my favorite pizza on the planet and it a knock-off from a local pizzeria. Quick dinner for a busy school or work night. Also another great recipe for using up that leftover chicken.

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

What is your main struggle when getting dinner on the table during the busy school and work week?

I hope you will hop over and check out my mommy resource site Crystal & Co., where I share tons of ideas and solutions to help busy moms just like you and me. If meal planning is something you struggle with, I have an ebook that is available for preorder- How to Meal Plan: A Step by Step Guide for Busy Moms. It will hit the pages of Amazon mid-November.