Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

We have one more family Christmas to attend, but thus far it's been an amazing holiday with the little man (pictures to come). And all.the.food. Oofta. I'm relatively certain no one in the family wants to worry about the next few dinners. That's where this dandy soup comes in. The best part is there's little work involved in this, and the crock pot is clutch yet again.

I've made soups before, just never chicken noodle. I'm scolding myself for waiting so long to make a batch. Chicken noodle soup is ridiculously easy, and tastes a zillion times better than anything you'll ever find in a can at the store. 

After a bite or two Scott even proclaimed the soup was "really good." This is epic, considering Scott really isn't a soup guy. I had to ask two more times throughout the night if he really like the soup, and he confirmed each time that it was good stuff. Wheeee! 

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
2 large cartons of low sodium chicken broth 
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size cubes
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped into bite size pieces
1 12/ cups celery, chopped into bite size pieces
1 large bay leaf (or 2 small leafs)
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning (All purpose seasoning also works well)
Garlic powder, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
A bag of dry pasta noodles - if you're super fancy you can make your own; I choose campanelle noodles and they rocked my face off
Slow Cooker liner - for easy clean up!!
In a medium sized skillet cook chicken with garlic powder and pepper. 
Line slow cooker with slow cooker liner.
Pour both cartons of broth into slow cooker.
Add chopped carrots, celery, chicken, poultry seasoning, and bay leaf to broth.
Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. (If you're like me and you like your veggies just a bit crunchy 3 hours on high or 7 hours on low should do the trick.)
20-30 minutes prior to serving add noodles to broth mix. Cook until noodles are tender.

Each spoonful was heaping with noodles, and chicken, and veggies. Every bite was so satisfying. I was a little bummed I was so full after one bowl full. 
How many times have you done this with canned soup?
This will leave you with tons of leftovers, which is equally as awesome as the first piping hot bowl devoured. The broth will be soaked up by the noodles overnight, which will leave you with more of a chicken and noodles dish rather than a soup, but trust me when I say that's just as delicious as the soup. 

Source: Inspired by Crunchy Frugalista


A Merry Macke Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Mackes!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. 
~Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas


Happy Marcus Monday!

Santa has a little elf who is all geared up and excited to celebrate Christmas tomorrow.
Happy Monday!


9 Months Old!

Happy 9 Months to my Chunky Monkey!
Official Weight: 24 pounds 3 ounces  (97th percentile)
Official Height: 30 inches  (97th percentile)
Teeth: 6 (with a 7th coming soon)
What I've learned in the past month:
~ Nothing is safe from Marcus' sticky little hands. Our coffee table and end tables sit barren.
~ The "drop game" is fun for one person, and it's not Mommy or Daddy.
~ I don't foresee the bouncy lasting too much longer in this house. The big guy seems to think it's more of a restraining device than a toy.
~ Stairs must be blocked off. At.All.Times.
~ My kiddo truly is a tank. If he can't go around, under, or over something, he plows right through.
~ So long pureed foods. Marcus wants to eat all on his own.
~ Cantaloupe is Marcus' favorite food. He will systematically pick out all other foods and toss it to the side of his tray so he's left with a pile of cantaloupe.
~ Marcus LOVES drinking water, especially if it's cold (and in Mommy's glass).
~ The monkey has figured out if he drops his food on the floor Drake will gladly gobble it up.
~ It sounds as if Marcus is responding with actual words. We think we are consistently hearing "hi" and "hey."
~ The word "no" is commonplace in this house. Sometimes Drake and Marcus are confused as to who is being told no. Ha!
~ As independent as the little man thinks he is he still loves napping in Mommy or Daddy's arms.
~ Mommy's favorite time of day is in the morning when the big guy isn't fully awake and just wants to snuggle for a bit.
~ The monkey is always on the go, keeping us on our toes, and we've never been so happy to be so exhausted.
Photo bloopers!
Upper left: Marcus was thrilled Drake joined in the fun.
Upper right: The appeal of the photo shoot is quickly fading.
Lower left: Pouty lip! Someone is fading.
Lower right: That's a wrap! Photo session is officially o.v.e.r.


Snowball Cookies

I did it again. Holiday baking, that is. I'm not sure if it's all the mouth-watering food blogs I religiously follow, or the fact that a blizzard hit the Midwest, and we'll see snow soon. Whatever the case, there was another round of festive treats made in my kitchen. 
While I was putting these cute little creations together, rolling the balls into just the right shape and size, it reminded me of growing up. Waaaaaay back then I didn't mind the snow. On the rare occasion my brother and I were getting along My brother and I would go out to play, packing snow together, creating piles of perfectly coifed balls of sparkling snow, ready for a good old fashioned snowball fight. Making these cookies brought back some memories I happily revisited.

Snowball Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup almonds, finely chopped, divided
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still cool
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
1½ cups powdered sugar, for rolling cookies after baking
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. Mix the flour, 1/2 cup of almonds and the chopped pecans, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Place the remaining chopped almonds in a food processor and process until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds; stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
4. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract, then scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and continue beating at low speed until the dough is cohesive, about 10 more seconds.
5. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands and place on the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will only spread a little bit, so you can place them fairly close together. Bake until the tops are pale golden and the bottoms are just beginning to brown, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
7. Place the powdered sugar in a large zip-top bag. Working with 3 or 4 cookies at a time, place them in the bag of sugar and gently toss to coat them thoroughly. Gently shake off any excess. Allow the cookies to sit for at least an hour, or up to overnight, and then repeat the process. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
These were so easy to whip up. You'll probably have most ingredients on hand. The best part is these little nuggets are really versatile and can be altered to fit your desired tastes. Don't like pecans? Leave 'em out. Love walnuts? Throw 'em in. Not a fan of almond extract? Add more vanilla instead. Want to give it a little punch of nutmeg? Go for it. 

Source: Inspired by Brown Eyed Baker


Homemade Hand Cream

Last night on the news the weatherman referred to the overnight lows, of 35-40 degrees, to be "brutally cold." I literally laughed out loud. Before I know it we will be in legitimately brutally cold weather, flying in on the tail of a blizzard. We will actually have a white Christmas this year. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I'm excited about the snow. All I know is that the white stuff better not interfere with our flight plans. The last thing I need is to be stranded anywhere with a nine month old (who likes to be held still about as much as a sack of snakes). Yikes.

Anywho... That Midwest cold and wind is certain to do one thing while we're back, and that's zap all the moisture from our skin. I can already feel the itchy arms and legs. Eww.

This year I'm bringing a secret weapon for the skin. My mom introduced this to me awhile back. I used it while I was pregnant and huge. I can't say that this lotion prevented any stretch marks, but I'm sure it didn't hurt that I slathered it all over on a daily basis. It's rich and creamy and does wonders for the skin.

Homemade Hand Cream
1 - 15 oz bottle of baby lotion
1 - 8 oz bottle of vitamin E cream
1 - 7.5 oz container of Vaseline
Add lotion, cream, and Vaseline in a large container and mix well, approximately 5-10 minutes, or until a smooth cream is created.
If not mixed thoroughly there will be clumps of Vaseline.
While whipping this up I had a genius idea. This would be a great homemade gift for family and friends. I had five cute little jars that I knew would be perfect for this little project.

I wanted to get the hand cream into the jars without making a hot mess. To do so, I put one corner of a gallon zip lock bag in a very large beer mug glass and spooned the lotion into the bag. Once filled I removed the baggie from the glass, snipped the corner of the baggie and pipped the lotion into the jars.
Here's a little secret that may be the icing on the cake. The lotion, cream, and Vaseline can all be found at any dollar store, for, well, a dollar a piece. And, the batch of lotion is HUGE. There should be enough lotion to last you about forever.

My mom and I both swear by this stuff. It truly is amazing. Put it on just before you hit the hay and let your skin soak up all that goodness. You'll wake up to buttery smooth skin.


Random Acts of Kindness Continues

There has been so much tragedy in the news lately. My heart continues to break for those in Newtown, CT. But, there is still good in the world. There is still hope... There is still a light shining...  

My thirty day challenge to Be Kind, Be Generous, and Be Thankful ended on November 30. I'm still volunteering when I can, donating what is possible, and saying "thank you" and smiling more often - the random acts of kindness never truly ends.

The RAK challenge continues and has made its way to the Midwest.

Mrs. Stevenson, friend and high school classmate of mine, has been keeping up with the Monologues. The RAK challenge sparked an idea. Mrs. Stevenson is a fourth grade teacher in west central Iowa and she implemented the RAK idea in her classroom.

Thirty-three fourth graders participated in their own Random Acts of Kindness. They called it 12 Days of RAK.
image courtesy realmomsguide.sheknows.com
Mrs. Stevenson kept me up-to-date with the happenings of her students as they completed their own challenge . The students had to preform their acts of kindness outside of the school and had to come up with the RAKs all on their own. The students thought in terms of creativity, doing for others, acts had to be done by the student themselves, and it had to make the student feel good.

I simply LOVE what the kids came up with all on their own:
- "I've helped Mom a lot with dishes."
- "I helped my brother with his homework."
- One student would place treats on people's doors, knock, and then run away (this particular student must have been in cahoots with St. Nicholas)!
- A student brought his bus driver a cinnamon roll one morning (lucky bus driver - yumm-o!).
- Another student brought hot chocolate to her priest, who stands outside the school each morning to welcome the students; this particular student also wrote a thank you to their custodian.
- Many students have taken toys and clothing to Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
image courtesy missio.org.uk
Mrs. Stevenson went on to tell me that the students kept track of the RAKs they did and then held discussions. During the discussion of the RAKs one student said "...This doesn't even feel like something we HAVE to do anymore, it just feels like part of our day." How awesome is that?!

As the 12 days was wrapping up Mrs. Stevenson told her class they only had two more days of RAK... They all moaned and groaned. They didn't want the RAK assignment to end!

To each and every one of Mrs. Stevenson's students,
Though I've never met you, you are all an inspiration! Keep up the amazing work. Even the simplest act of kindness can make someone's day a little bit brighter. Your assignment may be over but your RAKs don't have to end! Remember... Be Kind, Be Generous, and Be Thankful
image courtesy freebiefriday.guildcraftinc.com 

To Mrs. Stevenson, and all educators, thank you so much for all you do! 


    A Day of Silence

    Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47 (principal)
    Mary Sherlach, 56 (psychologist)
    Lauren Rousseau, 30 (substitute teacher)
    Victoria Soto, 27 (first grade teacher)
    Anne Marie Murphy, 52
    Rachel Davino, 29
    Anne Marie Murphy, 25
    Charlotte Bacon, 6
    Daniel Barden, 7
    Olivia Engel, 6 
    Josephine Gay, 7
    Dylan Hockley, 6
    Madeleine Hsu, 6
    Catherine Hubbard, 6
    Chase Kowalski, 7
    Jesse Lewis, 6
    Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
    James Mattioli, 6
    Grace McDonnell, 7
    Emilie Parker, 6
    Jack Pinto, 6
    Noah Pozner, 6
    Caroline Previdi, 6
    Jessica Rekos, 6
    Avielle Richman, 6
    Benjamin Wheeler, 6
    Allison Wyatt, 6



    Bloggers Day of Silence

    twas' 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
    when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
    their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
    they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
    they were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
    they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
    "where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
    "this is heaven." declared a small boy. "we're spending Christmas at God's house."
    when what to their wondering eyes did appear,
    but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
    He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
    then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
    and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
    those children all flew into the arms of their King
    and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
    one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
    and as if He could read all the questions she had
    He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
    then He looked down on earth, the world far below
    He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
    then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
    "Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
    "may this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
    "I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
    then He and the children stood up without a sound.
    "come now my children, let me show you around."
    excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
    all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
    and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
    "in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."
    ~author unknown at this time

    My mind is still reeling from the tragedy that hit Newtown, CT. My eyes still sting with tears that refuse to quit falling. My heart is heavy with sorrow.

    I've been hugging the little man tighter, and praying longer; I beg the Good Lord keeps my big guy safe as he grows, and I ask that He give some comfort to those who will have a long road to healing.

    This coming Tuesday, December 18, I'm taking a little time out, a blogging day of silence for all victims, their families, and anyone who has been effected by such a travesty.

    On Tuesday, December 18th, there will be a blogger day of silence. We will post the button and that's it. Please try to not post anything else that day if possible.

    We are also raising money that will go to an organization in the memory of this tragedy. The organization is called The Newtown Family Youth and Family Services. Here is the official description of the support service we are donating to:

    "Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic and youth services bureau dedicated to helping children and families achieve their highest potential. NYFS provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area.


    Please visit THIS PAGE to make your donation.

    We can't imagine how they must be feeling, especially this close to the holidays. We would love for you to spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let's make a difference and use blogging in a positive way. Thank you in advance for participating.

    The Blog World

    p.s. If you would like to, copy-paste and repost any part of this, please do. Share on.


    A Christmas Tag

    Sarah over at Our Journey included me in a Christmas tag, and I couldn't say no. There is so much the celebrate and be thankful during this season, and it's fun to see how others enjoy this time of year.
Here's how we celebrate...

1.) What makes Christmas such a special holiday for you and your family?
    Family is what makes Christmas so special. From playing games, to making doughnuts, to going to Mass, to eating many a meals together, to simply lounging around watching bowl games... I love that we are all together to continue traditions that make this time of year so magical.
    My monkey's Christmas monkey!
    2. Were you told the truth about Santa Clause by your parents, or did you find out another way? Do you plan on telling your kids about Santa (if you have them or plan to have them)?
    I don't remember... I don't think my parents ever actually told me, I'm pretty sure I found out at school. But, I do remember confronting my parents and they simply told me, "If you don't believe you won't have anything in your stocking on Christmas morning." That said, I believe in the Spirit of Santa, and that this time of year is about giving... Not necessarily with gifts, but giving with your time, talents, and heart.
    Santa will visit Marcus. However, I want him to understand the meaning behind St. Nicholas. And, I will also stress that this time of year is about the birth of Christ, and that is the greatest gift of all.

    3.) Real tree or fake tree?
    Growing up I remember having a few real trees. As my brother and I got older our parents got a fake one. I'm sure the upkeep was easier. 
    Now we have a fake tree. But, I'm begging Scott for a real tree... Someday.
    4. Do you open presents on Christmas morning, Christmas Eve, or both?
    Growing up we always opened gifts from our parents of Christmas Eve (a tradition we have continued). We reserved Christmas morning for gifts from Santa, and spent the rest of the day enjoying time as a family.
    5. What is your favorite Christmas movie to watch, and favorite Christmas song to sing or listen to?
    No holiday season is complete without watching A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation at least a half a dozen times.
    Go Tell it on the Mountain, Gloria, and The First Noel, or any Christmas music by Trans Siberian Orchestra or Mannheim Steamroller, cannot be sung or heard enough.
     Now, this wouldn't be a true Christmas tag if, well, people weren't tagged.
    Here are the five bloggers I'm encouraging to tell their Christmas stories:

    Alisa - Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face
    Ann - Hot Coffee Momma
    Ashley - Keeping Up With the Clarks
    Shawna - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
    Tamara - (aspiring) Domestic Goddess

    Ladies, if you participate please leave your link in the comments section so I'm sure to see what your holidays are like! And, head over to Raising Reagan and leave your link there as well, Lanaya started the tag and would like to see your responses as well.


    Christmas Family Photos - Outtakes

    This past weekend I rounded up the little guy and the big guy and I made them get all classy looking. We were in need of some good photos to use for our Christmas cards.

    The cards are heading to the post office today... Fingers crossed they reach their final destinations before Christmas.

    We had a tough time choosing exactly which photos we wanted to use. Here are a few that didn't make our card.
    My dashing little dude. It cracks me up how chubby his cheeks look in some of these (see right center photo)!
    Between the rocky beach and the crashing ocean Marcus had many distractions. Posing and smiling for pictures was not high on his agenda. He wanted to soak in everything the beach environment had to offer.
    Thanks to our photographer, and neighbor Amy, and her husband Rick, and son Colt, we were able to snag a few smiley pictures of the little man.
    Our little family.
    Of all of the pictures taken this one may be my favorite...


    The Dog Dish

    I'm so confused. With ALL the toys Marcus has to play with he opts for the nasty, slobber filled dog dish. I do not understand the appeal.
    It's not often Marcus is allowed access to the dog dishes; our kitchen has marble floors, so we keep that area gated off most of the time. I feel a bit guilty Drake doesn't have easy access to his water. But, if the baby gate is down, and Marcus is awake, things could get wet and messy quite quickly.
    That look of his... He's plotting how he is going to get away with the trouble he is about to embark upon.
    On the rare occasion the baby gate is down Marcus literally bolts for the water bowl. There are several things in our kitchen that Marcus could potentially be drawn to (our Christmas tree, actual toys of his, the cabinets and drawers), but none compare to that gross water.
    Forgive the blur. The little monkey was moving so fast, he knew I was hot on his heels, and he was bound to get his hand in that dish.
    The little dude knows he's not supposed to play with Drake's bowl, but he tries his darnedest to make a few splashes before I can get to him.
    What a stink pot.


    Point Vicente Lighthouse - Take Two

    Back in September we attempted to tour Point Vicente Lighthouse and failed. The lighthouse is only open the second Saturday of each month, and we showed up the second Sunday. Whoops.

    Our second attempt was a success.
    The marine layer was quite thick while we visited and the temperatures were cooler, and for some reason that completed our little outing.
    Near the lighthouse is a building that serves as sort of a museum. Old lights, articles, artifacts fill the small two-room building.
    A smaller lighthouse light.
    Maritime knots. I have a hard time keeping my running shoes tied... I can't even imagine trying to attempt any of those!
    After perusing the little museum we were ready to head into the lighthouse. 
    It was obvious as we neared the lighthouse that it has been around for awhile, and has gracefully weathered the relentless, unforgiving salty air.
    The Kelty backpack was marvelous. Marcus was able to take everything in with a bird's eye view.
    Seventy-four steps lead up to the light.
    The light can be seen over 20 miles out to sea.
    The lens is 185 feet above sea, and flashes a white light two times every 20 seconds.
    Legend has it the lighthouse is haunted by "Lady of the Light;" the shape of a tall serene woman in a flowing gown who paces the tower's walkway.

    According to some, she is the ghost of the first lighthouse keeper's wife, who stumbled from the edge of a cliff one foggy night. Others say the lady waits the return of a lover lost at sea, and still others think she is a heartbroken woman who threw herself from the cliffs when she found herself abandoned by her intended.

    "Lady of the Light" didn't make any appearances while we visited. Bummer

    The lighthouse was plain and lacking any inkling of glamor, but there was just something so awesome about the place.

    We can officially check Point Vicente off the bucket list!