Summer Fun

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.                   

“I’m sooo bored.”  

“Mom, there’s nothing to do.”

“Can we go to the zoo?  Can we go to the park?  Can we go to the movies?”  

            Oh my goodness child, it’s only the second week of summer break and you’re bored?!  It’s going to be a loooong summer.  I’m sure there are more than a few parents right now thinking this exact same thing.  Luckily, I started preparing for the “summer boredom blues” a few months back.  Each time I went to the store, I picked up a craft item like popsicle sticks, coloring books, and Play-Doh to name a few.  I also looked on Pinterest and found some great ideas to keep the kids busy.  Instead of doing my meal plan for this week, I thought I’d share a few ways to help keep those summer boredom blues away. 


Noodle Time! ~ I love this idea! Not only is it cheap, (Walmart has pool noodles for $1.88 and a pack of balloons for $1.) but also it will help get some of the pent up energy out of the kids.  Grab a couple pool swim noodles and a blow up a few balloons and let the kids whack away. 

Bug Hunt ~ If you have boys, they will especially love this game!  Draw a few bugs on a piece of paper (or grab some bug stickers at the Dollar Store).  Then take a magnifying glass, and go out in the backyard and see how many of each bug you can find.  You can also put birds, snakes, or even squirrels on the list. 

Play-Doh ~ What kid doesn’t like playing with Play-Doh?  I did pick up a few packs at the Dollar Store, but I do plan on making my own, too.  (See recipe below.)  It’s so easy to make and the kids will have fun helping you. 

Sidewalk Chalk ~ If you’re feeling really crafty you can make your own or you can grab some at the store for your budding artists.  

Bath Paints ~ I have to try this!  Mix shaving cream and food coloring, throw the kids in the tub, give them some brushes, and see the wonderful masterpieces they create.  I LOVE this idea!

Colored Pasta ~ Looking for a fun food craft?  Have the kids help you dye pasta for dinner!  You need food coloring, pasta, baggies, and vinegar.  Divide pasta into bags put about a teaspoon of vinegar into each bag with a few drops of food coloring, close bag and shake to distribute food coloring, then open bag to dry.  Cook your pasta as usual.

Bubbles ~ Kids loves bubbles and so it seems that we’re always running out.  In a pinch, you can make your own and keep the kids entertained for pennies!

Have fun this summer with your kids!  It doesn’t take a lot of money to keep them entertained.  :)


Rainbow Glitter Play-Doh  (adapted from Family Fun magazine)


  •  2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups water, tinted with food coloring (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • Plastic gloves (optional)
  • Airtight containers
  • Coordinating colored glitter


1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture holds together, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside until the dough is cool enough to touch, about 5 minutes.  Turn the clay onto a waxed-paper-lined countertop and knead it for 2 to 3 minutes.  Roll the dough in color coordinating glitter.

3. Once the dough is completely cool, pack it in the spice jars or in airtight containers.





Meal Planning Monday ~ Potato Possibilities


          The humble potato is a Coupon Queen and Meal Planner’s dream dinner ingredient!  Not only are potatoes versatile, but they are also inexpensive, even when they aren’t on sale.  You can have your potatoes mashed, baked, boiled, fried, and even grilled!  Don’t limit your family to just the basic Russet variety, but try some red skins, Yukon Golds, and sweet potatoes!  Now as much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat them every single day.  However, I do have a them on the menu a few times a week because they are cheap, delicious, and nutritious (especially if you eat the skins). 

            Sometimes we can fall into a rut with our side dishes and potatoes are no exception.  So this week I am going to give you some different ways to make spuds that your family will love.  A special thanks to my Facebook recipe group, “Try It Out” for your potato ideas!

 Parmesan Potatoes ~ These potatoes are AWESOME!!  This recipe is so easy and delicious it has become my new favorite way to make them.  See the recipe at the end of this post.  A special thanks to Chris Dudley for introducing me to this one!

Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls ~ Okay, these are NOT healthy in the least bit because they’re fried, but are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.  I may try oven frying them – coating them with butter cooking spray and baking them in the oven.  (Thanks to Patty Cable for this recipe!)

Boiled Red Skin Potatoes ~ I love these (or Yukon Golds) tossed with butter and fresh parsley.  Since we had such a mild winter, my parsley plants didn’t die, but have turned into parsley bushes!  We’ll be eating these on a regular basis this summer.

Freezer Smashed Potatoes ~ When the 5-pound bags of Russet potatoes go on sale at my local Kroger for $1.99, I use Heather Tenney’s (my friend and mentor) recipe for Freezer Smashed Potatoes.

Hash Brown Casserole ~ I really love Cracker Barrel’s grilled chicken tenderloins with green beans and hash brown casserole.  The recipe below is closest I’ve found to my restaurant favorite.  (Thanks again to Patty!)

Fried Potatoes ~ If I have leftover boiled potatoes from last night’s dinner, I slice and fry them up with a little butter and onion for breakfast to go with my eggs and turkey bacon.

Twice Baked Potatoes ~ These are easy to make and you can vary the add-ins based on what your family likes.  Make this recipe lighter by omitting the bacon and using reduced fat cheese.


Parmesan Potatoes

  • ½ Stick of Butter
  • 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  •  1-2 Tbs of dried parsley
  • 4 – 6 Small Russet potatoes, washed (unpeeled) 

            Melt butter in the microwave and pour into the bottom of a glass baking dish.  Blend the parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley together then sprinkle the mixture over the butter.  Take your skin-on potatoes (washed) and cut them in half length-wise.  Put them face down in the butter.  Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes. 


Hash Brown Casserole

10.25 condensed can cream of chicken
8 ounce Colby cheese grated
½ cup melted butter
1 small onion minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 lb. bag frozen shredded hash browns

            Spray 13 X 9 X 2 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray: set aside.  In a bowl, combine soup, cheese, butter, onion, salt, and pepper.  Gently fold potatoes into mixture and spread evenly into pan.  Heat at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through or top is brown.



Meal Planning Monday ~ Garden Fresh

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Well I did it!  I planted my garden!  I decided to grow lettuce, carrots, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, green peppers, and squash.  (Yes, that’s it!)  I haven’t had a garden in years due to being pregnant or just having a baby in the late spring/ early summer, so I decided to go all out this year.  I love having a garden for two main reasons.  First, I like knowing exactly where my food is coming from.  Second, my kids helped plant the veggies and they can watch them grow.  There’s nothing better than seeing joy on your children’s faces when they realize they helped to grow something.

I thought for this week’s meal plan I would share with you some garden-fresh recipes.

Chicken Bruschetta ~ There’s nothing better than grilled chicken topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil from your garden!

Honey Balsamic Carrots ~ These make a delicious side that the whole family will love!

Caprese Salad ~ Grab some tomatoes off the vine and basil, throw in some mozzarella cheese and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar…amazing!

Cucumber and Onion Salad ~ I really wanted to grow onions this year but ran out of room, so maybe next year.

Squash and Onions with Brown Sugar ~ I turned my nose up a little when I first read the recipe but it is really good.

Coleslaw ~ The best coleslaw is made with cabbage fresh picked from the garden!

Salad ~ Fresh lettuce from your garden, topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers.  You can’t get any fresher than that!


Cucumber Onion Salad (from Paula Deen)


  • 1 pound cucumbers (about 2 cucumbers), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large serving bowl, toss together the cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onion, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste.  Let the salad stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Lazy Days


          As I write this week’s post, I am feeling L-A-Z-Y…  I had a super busy week and honestly, I am just plain tired!  Between my work schedule and even the fun stuff – Girls Night at church, painting class, and a big family gathering – I didn’t get enough rest this past week.  So I have given myself permission to be lazy for a few days!

            So, what does this mean for my meal plan?  Am I just going to throw it out the window and order pizza and Chinese carryout for the next three days?  Of course not!  I have a few freezer meals I can fall back on for times like these – banana chocolate chip pancakes and pumpkin muffins for breakfast, and turkey chili or chicken and wild rice for dinner.  I also have a stash of “Lazy Day Recipes” for meals, appetizers, and desserts that I put in rotation on my meal planning calendar.  I thought I would share some of them with you for your lazy days when you want a nice hot meal or a dessert/ appetizer to take to a party but can only muster up a minor amount of energy.         


~ Turkey & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes.  I buy a package or two of the Oscar Meyer Carving Board turkey (or roast beef) and put in on the stovetop or in the microwave with a can or two of gravy.  Serve over instant mashed potatoes or rice and a veggie on the side.

~ Chicken Fried Rice.  I use leftover cooked chicken breast meat, the frozen brown rice and veggie steamer blends, and some extra frozen broccoli cooked in the microwave.  It’s ready in less than ten minutes.

~ Grilled chicken and steak.  Sometimes I make my husband cook, I mean grill, when I’m feeling lazy.  I’ll take a can of whole white potatoes, put them on a skewer with some veggies, and brush with Italian dressing for Nick to toss on the barbeque with our meat.

~ Grown Up Grilled Cheese.  I will use rye bread or a good hearty wheat bread with a nice slice or two of sharp cheddar cheese, adding some ham for Nick.  I almost always have a few servings of homemade tomato or chicken soup in the freezer that I heat up on the stove to round out my meal.

~ Bean Dip.  This is a great appetizer that everyone loves and is SO lazy.  All you need is one can of refried beans and one cup of salsa.  Mix and heat thoroughly on the stove top or in the microwave.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips.

~ Warm Italiano Spread.  I found this recipe on and it’s one of my favorites.  It looks and tastes impressive, but is extremely simple to make.  I serve it with the Black Pepper Trisuits.

~ Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake (or cupcakes).  With only a few ingredients and store bought frosting, I’m always a little surprised by the compliments galore I always get for this cake.


Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake (Adapted from “The Cake Doctor” cookbook by Anne Bryne)

1 Box of Chocolate Cake (or Devil’s Food) with Pudding in the Mix

1 can (21 oz.) of Cherry Pie Filling

2 Large Eggs

1 teaspoon of Almond Extract

1 small jar of maraschino cherries

1 Can of Dark Chocolate Frosting


            Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease pan(s) with butter flavored cooking spray.  Place cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl.  Beat on low for one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for two minutes more at medium speed.  Pour batter into pan(s) and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  ** You can make this as a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake, as a two-layer 8-9 inch round cake, or as cupcakes.  Use the cooking times on the cake mix box for the pan you are using.  **

            Once the cake is finished baking and has cooled, frost with the store bought frosting.  If I am making cupcakes, I will place a cherry on top of the frosted tops.  If I am making a layer cake, I cut the cherries in half and place them between the layers before frosting.  I then whip up the frosting in my mixer – which makes it fluffier and increases its volume, ensuring I will have enough frosting for the entire layer cake.  Sit back and enjoy the compliments!