Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I Wore to Work - Dinner With the Boss

Dress - Ruby Rox (Goodwill)

Recently, my boss and his wife invited Dave and myself, along with my co-worker and her husband, out to dinner.  We're a small department, so from time to time, my boss likes to get us all together outside of work.  It's a fun time to catch up on what's going on with the kids and enjoy each others company.  Plus my boss and his wife know all the great restaurants in town!

For days leading up to the dinner, I had my mind set on wearing a recent Goodwill find - a red satin dress with pleated skirt.  But at the last minute, I decided to go with my black and white Ruby Rox tuxedo dress.  I just love how the dress fits and the flowing lines.  Plus, my new feathered hair clip really complimented the dress!

And of course, Dave got all dressed up in his suit and hat!

 I'm tasty!

Image source

For dinner, we met at a local steakhouse, The Angus Barn.  As its name implies, the outside of the restaurant looks like a big red barn.  But on the inside, it's a beautiful mix of rustic and country decor.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the fireplace as you enter the restaurant.  The mantel was filled with beautiful blue and white transferware pieces.  And a shotgun!  Sounds like an odd combination, but it totally fit with the overall decor.

For starters, we had Ostrich Satay with Peanut Sauce.  Yes, ostrich!  It was the same dish the restaurant's Executive Chef Walter Royal prepared when he appeared on Iron Chef America (and beat Iron Chef Cat Cora!).  So what does ostrich taste like?  Sort of like a combination of chicken and beef!  Or a steak without the beef taste.  It was absolutely delicious!  I could have eaten the entire appetizer by myself!  Since I'm not much of a steak girl, I had Three Cheese Ravioli for my main course.  But Dave did enjoy a steak topped with crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce.  And for dessert, Cappuccino Cheesecake.  Yum!

After dinner, we took a tour of the kitchen.  You can reserve a chef's table in the kitchen for $85 per guest.  I think that would be really fun!  Dave thought it sounded really expensive!  We also toured the wine cellar and the two large cellar dining rooms.  For events held in the private cellar dining rooms, the wait staff are dressed in tuxedos and offer silent, white-glove service (service a la russe).

It was a wonderful evening, with great food and a great time with friends!

Mary Ellen 

 Linked at The Pleated Poppy
pleated poppy

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Living On A Dime 50% Off Sale!

The wonderful ladies at Living On A Dime are currently having a half off sale on two of their books!  Now through March 4th, you can pick up the following books for 50% off!

500 Ways I Lived On $500 a Month by Jill Cooper
{available as print copy or e-book}
HALF OFF PRICE $6.48 (through March 4th)

by Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam
{available as e-book only}
HALF OFF PRICE $9.98 (through March 4th)

Don't miss this great sale!

Mary Ellen

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Homemade Sloppy Joes

Homemade Sloppy Joes
with Homemade Sweet Potato Oven Fries

{Reposted from my former blog}

Instead of reaching for a can of Manwich, try this quick and easy homemade Sloppy Joe recipe.  It's sure to be a crowd favorite - especially with the kids!

Homemade Sloppy Joes
{adapted from this recipe}

1lb ground beef {local and grassfed are my preference}
1/2 c diced organic green pepper
1/2 - 1 c diced organic sweet onion
15oz can organic tomato sauce
1/4 c organic ketchup
1/4 c organic barbecue sauce
1 tbsp organic sucanat {or brown sugar}
1 tsp dry mustard
pepper to taste
Brown meat over medium heat, then drain fat.  Add diced onions and green pepper and cook for a few minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sloppy joes are too soupy, uncover until desired consistency.  Serve on whole wheat buns along with homemade oven fries.

Mary Ellen

Monday, February 27, 2012

Early Start to Spring Garden

Ashleigh's Cabbage Plant

My Spring gardening got a much earlier than anticipated start last week.  Ashleigh came home with her latest school project in hand - a cabbage plant.  For the next two months, she has to care for and document the growth of her cabbage plant.  Since my arugula plants had started to bolt, we replaced them with the cabbage plant in our little garden square.  Previously, I tried growing red cabbage one Fall gardening season.  But ended up in a losing battle against cabbage worms.  Hopefully, we'll have better luck this time!

Mary Ellen 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Daytona 500!

Racin' is back, and I'm so excited!  Sunday is the Daytona 500!  So you know exactly where I will be tomorrow afternoon :)  It's going to be a Roush Fenway front row, with Carl Edwards on the pole and Greg Biffle starting second.  Here's where my favorite drivers are lining up:

Defending champion Tony Stewart starts 3rd

Kyle Busch, winner of last week's Budwiser Shootout, will start 14th

Racing his way into the 500 via the Duel, owner-driver Robby Gordon will start 17th

2011 Nationwide Champion and regular Ricky Stenhouse Jr will start 21st

And with his new team Phoenix Racing, Kurt Busch will start 28th

Also of note, Dale Earnhardt Jr will start 5th and Danica Patrick will start 29th.

Anyone else excited about the start of the NASCAR season?

Mary Ellen

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Meal Ideas - Fish & Chips with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Fish Nuggets with Homemade Tartar Sauce

During the Lenten season, our family will be observing meatless (with the exception of fish) Fridays.  A quick meal for a Friday dinner after work, would be fish and chips.  This sort of falls into the convenience/semi-homemade category.  For ease, I like to use the fish nuggets from Trader Joe's.  But one could certainly make these from scratch.  Simply Scratch has a homemade crispy baked fish nuggets recipe that is on my recipes to try list.  To accompany our fish nuggets, I made an easy tartar sauce using a 1/2 cup of mayo and several tablespoons of my jalapeno pepper jelly.     

For the chips, I made a batch of my homemade oven fries.  Peel and dice 5 russet potatoes.  Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and paprika.  Bake on a greased baking sheet at 450 degrees for 20 minutes (flip after 10 minutes). 

Mary Ellen

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giveaway Winner - Dining On A Dime Cookbook!

The winner of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook giveaway is...

Congrats Shani!
I will be contacting you for your mailing address.

A HUGE thank you to all who entered the giveaway!  I'm planning to have more giveaways.  So, look forward to more fun in the future!

Mary Ellen  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I Wore to Work - Speechless Dress & Feathers!

Dress - Speechless (Goodwill)

Today's Goodwill find - a Speechless dress with a champagne colored satin blouse top, ruffled neckline and puffed sleeves.  The bottom, a curve hugging, high waist sheath skirt that literally left my husband speechless! 

Feather Rhinestone Hair Clip - Candie's (Kohl's clearance)

Instead of my usual floral hair clip, I wore this Candie's black feather rhinestone hair clip (it can also be worn as a pin).  I found this clip in the accessories clearance section, marked down to $3.20.  At checkout, I was surprised to find out it was priced even lower - $1.92.  I love it when that happens!

Mary Ellen


Today is the last day to enter the Dining On A Dime Cookbook giveaway!  Click here to enter.


Linked at:  The Pleated Poppy
pleated poppy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrove Tuesday - It's Pancake Day!

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday - also known as Pancake Day.  It's the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the Lenten season.  As a tradition, we have breakfast for dinner on Shrove Tuesday.  With pancakes (of course!) and bacon or sausage and scrambled eggs.  My favorite from scratch pancake recipe is the Pioneer Woman's Lemon Blueberry pancakes.  Using cake flour makes the pancakes so soft and fluffy!  For extra lemon flavor, I substitute lemon flavoring for the vanilla called for in the recipe.  And since the kids aren't fond of blueberries in their pancakes, I make a separate batch with the lemon but sans blueberries.  So good!  Even the batter tastes like a delicious lemon cake batter.  And this year, I'm making the berry butter recently featured on the Pioneer Woman's Food Network show to accompany the pancakes.  Yum!

Mary Ellen  

Spring and Easter Cards, Gifts & Decor

(Note:  This post contains an affiliate ad.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Monday, February 20, 2012


Just when it looked like we weren't going to get any this winter, last night we finally got snow!  Nothing brings out the kid in me like snow!  I just get so happy and giddy at the sight of snow falling.  The snow started falling last night and put a light dusting over the trees, lawns and even stuck to the roadways.  I'm thankful I was able to stay home with the kids, as the freezing snow did cause havoc on the bridges and overpasses in our area this morning.  Alas, the sun is out now and almost all our little snow has melted.  But it was a pretty sight last night!


Be sure to enter my giveaway for a print copy of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook!  Click here for details.

Mary Ellen   

Thursday, February 16, 2012

*GIVEAWAY* & REVIEW - Dining On A Dime Cookbook

*This giveaway is closed*

Dining On A Dime is the work of mother daughter team Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper.  Tawra is a wife and mother of four.  Her family paid off $20,000 in debt in 5 years on an average income of $22,000 per year.  Tawra's mother, Jill, started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 in debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income.  Later, she raised two teenagers on $500 a month after becoming medically disabled.  Did I mention Jill was a single mother, supporting her children on one income?  Amazing!

In Dining On A Dime, Tawra and Jill share the lessons they learned to become frugal stewards of their kitchens and homes.  In addition to money saving and frugal cooking advice, the book is filled with great recipes that are tasty and budget-friendly.  A few of our family's favorites:

Cinnamon Muffins (p 59)
Delicious and great for breakfast on the go

Broccoli & Pasta (p 144)
A tasty vegetarian meal perfect for the upcoming Lenten season

Beef & Taco Bake (p 181)
An easy Mexican inspired dish.  With just 1/2 lb of beef, it's still full of flavor - and filling!

Brownies (p 282)
Simple, moist and delicious!  If you normally have problems removing your brownies from the pan (like me!), you'll definitely want to take note of the tip on page 283.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent (p 401)

But Dining On A Dime is more than just delicious, family pleasing recipes.  The book also contains recipes for homemade cleaning products, homemade personal care items, homemade finger paints and other fun for the kids and an entire section of homemade gift mixes with instructions.  Dining On A Dime is a complete money saving guide for the home!


I'm so thankful to Tawra Kellam of Living On A Dime for giving me an opportunity to review this wonderful cookbook.  I've found that by using the tips offered in the book and including some of the recipes into our weekly meal plan, I've been able to save each week on our grocery spending!  

And now, I'd like to offer you a chance to save money as well!  Tawra has graciously offered to giveaway one print copy of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook to a reader.  The printed book is almost 500 pages with over 1200 recipes and money saving tips.


(1) Leave a comment on this post - that's easy!

(2) For an additional entry, visit the Living On A Dime website and sign up for their FREE email newsletter.  And let me know you did so in the comments.

Please make sure your current email address is in your profile, or leave it with your comment.  The giveaway will end on Wednesday, February 22nd.  A winner will be selected at random and announced on Thursday, February 23rd.  Open to US residents only.

Good luck!

Mary Ellen 

(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of the book in order to write this review.  All thoughts expressed are mine.  This post also contains an affiliate link.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I Wore to Work - Valentine's Day

Dress - City Triangles (Goodwill)
Shoes - Mudd (Goodwill)

For Valentine's Day, I wore this red and white floral City Triangles dress from Goodwill.  The dress is sleeveless, so I did pair it with a sweater to make it more office friendly. 

A red ribbon around the waist, ties at the side.  The dress also has red buttons going down the length of the skirt.

And of course, I wore my red rose hair pin since it was Valentine's Day!

Mary Ellen

Linked at:  The Pleated Poppy

pleated poppy

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 1998

Valentine's Day 1998

On Valentine's Day in 1998, Dave asked me to be his wife.  I said "yes" of course!  And that set the stage for 11 years (and counting!) of marriage and three beautiful children.  I oftentimes forget that our marriage is not conventional in the sense that we're different races.  To us, our marriage is normal - very normal!  It's home, work, the kids, just the beautiful ebb and flow of ordinary, everyday life.  Most people would assume that being an interracial couple would present numerous cultural obstacles that would strain a relationship.  But for us, that hasn't been the case.  We both pretty much grew up in similar "cultures" - both from hardworking, two parent, Christian homes.  The only difference being Dave's family is originally from up North, while my family has deep Southern roots.  We've been very fortunate to find acceptance of our marriage.  Some people express positive support, commenting on how beautiful our children are.  But for most, it's a non-issue.  Which is fine by me!  Because it's a non-issue for us as well.

Richard & Mildred Loving

But life wasn't always easy for interracial couples in this country.  In July 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested during a nighttime raid of their Virginia home.  Their crime, being married - Richard was white and Mildred was black and Native American.  The couple was jailed, convicted of felonies and banished from the state of Virginia.  Exiled to Washington DC, the couple longed to return to their home and families back in Virginia.  With assistance from the ACLU, the couple took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.  In June 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings in their case against the State of Virginia.  As a result of the Supreme Court decision, sixteen states were ordered to overturn their bans on interracial marriage.

Tonight at 9 PM EST, HBO will air a documentary about Richard and Mildred entitled "The Loving Story".  This is one of those times I wish we hadn't canceled our HBO!  A great story of love on this day devoted to love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Mary Ellen      

Monday, February 13, 2012

More Party Hat Paper Treat Cones for Valentine's Day

Book Page Paper Treat Cones with
Damask Hearts

Just when I thought we were done with making Valentine's, the kids came home and informed me they would be exchanging cards in their before school program as well!  So, that meant another trip to Dollar Tree for candy and party hats.  This time, I made a less detailed (read time intensive) version of the cones.  I wrapped the party hats in book pages - this time using pages from a dictionary (Dollar Tree).  On the front, I glued a heart cut from the black and white damask wrapping paper used for Ashleigh's Valentine's box.

Here they are, all wrapped up and ready to go!

Next, I decided to make a little something special for the teachers.  This time instead of book pages, I covered the party hats in the black and white damask wrapping paper.  To get a good fit for the paper, I used an open party hat as my template.

I secured the wrapping paper to the party hats using scotch tape.

Then filled them with yummy chocolate truffles!

While putting together these treat cones for the teachers, I discovered it was easier to fill the cones and tie the tag on by sitting the hat in a drinking glass.  To bad I didn't discover this when I was making the other dozens of treat cones!

Ready for delivery to our special teachers!

According to my lists, we made a record high 91 Valentine's this year!  And I'm happy to say, we're officially DONE!  But there's little rest for the weary.  We have a first grade play to prepare for as well as a third grade social studies project about the mountain region of North Carolina.  I think school keeps me just as busy as it does the kids!
Happy Monday before Valentine's Day!

Mary Ellen

P.S. Find more party paraphernalia with these coupons for
Linked at: Dear Lillie

Dear Lillie's Valentine's Link Party

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Ideas for Kids - Photo Cards

According to his teacher, Clayton is all business at school.  So for his class Valentine's, I wanted something that would show the more playful side of Clay we know at home.  I snapped a photo of Clayton with a few of his Hot Wheels in the shape of a heart.

Using a photo editing program, I added a cute little caption to go along with the car theme.

To print the photos, I uploaded my digital picture to the Walgreens photo website.  I like using Walgreens for my photo printing needs.  Their prices are reasonable and oftentimes, I can find a discount code for prints.  I also like being able to pay and pick up my photos at the nearest Walgreens.  And they're always done on time!  To finish the cards, I added a lollipop to the front. 

Mary Ellen

(Note:  This post contains an affiliate link.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Requiescat in Pace (Rest in Peace) - Whitney Houston

Friday, February 10, 2012

Commenting Issue

I've received several emails about people being unable to comment on posts.  It seems to be related to the new threaded commenting feature with Blogger.  While I love being able to reply to individual comments, I've changed the comment setting from embedded to pop-up window in hopes that will help resolve the issue.  A big thanks to Kim at Cheap Chic Home for helping me sort things out!  Be sure to check out her "Ten Tips to a Better Blog".

Happy Friday y'all!

Mary Ellen

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Ideas for Kids - Book Page Paper Treat Cones

Book Page Paper Treat Cones

Ashleigh LOVES to read!  So, when I was thinking of ideas for Valentine's for her class, I knew I wanted to incorporate book pages somehow.  Then paper cones came to mind.  I had seen them used before as favors for weddings and birthday parties.  So, why not Valentine's Day!

I found several templates online for making paper cones.  But, I decided to go with something a little easier - birthday party hats!  Party hats are really just paper cones, right?  I found party hats in packs of 8 at the Dollar Tree.   


Using glue and foam paint brushes, Ashleigh and I covered the party hats in strips of book pages.  It took a bit of trial and error, but we figured out the best way to cover the hats was with long strips going from the tip down to the base. 

After the glue from the book pages dried, I hot glued ribbon around the bottom to cover up the rough edges.

We found a cute cupid graphic at the Graphics Fairy blog, which we printed, cut out and glued to the fronts of our book page cones.  We used silver glitter glue to line the edges of the cupid image.

Then the fun part, stuffing the cones with candy!

We placed the cones in heart covered treat bags from the Dollar tree and added a heart shaped tag with ribbon.  And now these special treats are all ready for Ashleigh's friends in her 3rd grade class!

That's two class Valentine's down and one more to go! 

Mary Ellen

Linked at:  Dear Lillie

Dear Lillie's Valentine's Link Party