Favorite Thing Friday: Easy Crock Pot Recipes

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I am not a cook, but recent recipe finds on Pinterest have allowed me to serve hot and yummy meals. The best part is all of them require very little effort.

For years, my crock pot sat useless on my counter. This is mainly because everything that came out of it sucked. I had pretty much given up on the thing, until Pinterest came to the rescue. After finding a number of crock pot recipes in the Food & Drink section, I followed the image links and read what people had to say about each recipe. Thanks to blogs and comment sections, I learned what was worth trying and what to leave alone. Plus, I learned a lot about how to cook in a crock pot.

As someone with a stressful, full-time job, the ability to toss a few things in a pot and come home to a warm meal is pure gold. Having tested almost a dozen recipes, these are my Top 5 favorite crock pot recipes (so far).

1. Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

Four ingredients are all you need for this recipe. It’s so simple, it’s almost unbelievable how good it tastes!

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Click on the image for the recipe!

I highly recommend using Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.

2. Crock Pot Italian Chicken

Follow the recipe on the pin description, rather than the link. I’ve made this a few times and it’s fantastic every single time. The only tricky part is making sure the cream cheese is soft enough to blend into the other ingredients, (microwaving it is okay!).

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Click on the image to see the pin.

Rich and creamy, this simple meal is tasty over pasta or rice.

3. Slow Cooker Red Beans and Sausage

I was intrigued by using sausage in a chili-esque dish instead of beef or chicken. Sausage offers a new take on an old dish and I really like it!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I made a few adjustments to this recipe in that I cut down the amount of beans and added chili flavored tomatoes instead of garlic roasted. The recipe calls to serve it over rice, but I decided to serve it with soft tortillas instead.  This chili wraps up nicely into a little burrito.

4. Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I will never go back to boxed Mac ‘n Cheese after trying this recipe. What’s not to love about creamy, tasty, and easy?!

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Click on the image for the recipe.

The only modification I made was adding chunks of cooked kielbasa sausage. The result is a hearty, home-cooked meal.

5. Crock Pot Chicken and Potatoes

Simple, simple, simple! Three ingredients and some water pulls together a filling and flavorful meal.

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Click on the image for the recipe.

I used baby red potatoes as they are my favorite. I also adjusted the layering suggested in the recipe. To keep the chicken moist, I added a bit more water and buried the chicken within the potatoes instead of on top.

Happy eating!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Are You Sure?

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There are days where I question the choices I’ve made. Truth be told, days like this are becoming more frequent. It’s like every element of my life is playing a little game with me called, “Are you sure?”

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps, its a mid-life crisis attacking a bit early. Or maybe, I am just ready for a change. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit. My very organized self likes a schedule and gets a little thrill when everything works out as planned. This aspect of my personality was a mild quirk when I was younger, but after 14 years of teaching, it’s become a full-blown neurosis. I’m starting to realize this is making life a lot less fun.

Although, this feeling of “life doubt” could also be tied to what I consider a noticeably missing piece of my existence. Travel. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I traveled extensively overseas. I saved and planned for it, because it was such an important part of my life. However, the last three years have been tough. Between budgets constraints and family concerns, I haven’t really gone anywhere. The fact that my bucket list has largely gone ignored is starting to bug me.

Then, there’s the undeniable fact that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. Working 10-12 hours a day at a job that is getting increasingly more stressful and frustrating is starting to wear me down. As much as I love the art of teaching, it’s getting difficult to love where I work. I don’t know if it’s just one of those challenging years or if I’m reaching a point of total burn out. Thankfully, my students aren’t picking up my general feeling of frustration (I know this because they constantly tell me they like how positive it is in my classroom). At the same time, I am perusing job postings for possibilities that lie beyond my current station.

With all of this going on in my head, it’s surprising to me that I remain a total optimist. A little funk never wiped the smile off my face and it probably never will.

My family and my writing keep my fire burning. As my novel reaches the final stages of becoming a polished piece of work, I find myself excited to take the next steps. When it comes to the game of “Are you sure?,” this is the one thing where I know the answer is a definite “Yes!”

After a crappy day at work, I love escaping into my dreamworld where my novel finds its way into print. I can wander into lines of poetry and fuss over plot holes while drinking my Muse Juice (Cafe Mocha). When all else fails, there is the beautiful dream of being able to write (and maybe knit a little) all day long. Lucky for me, my husband and furkids are cool with joining me on this journey.

Of course, the game of “Are you sure?” has the added bonus of motivating real change. Besides reconsidering my job situation, there have also been a number of discussions regarding a change of location. We’re thinking the Pacific Northwest might be a nice change of scenery within the next few years. A road trip to scope it out is in the planning stages. Am I sure about moving? Not really, but I’m excited to explore the possibility of something new.

Aside from considering major life changes, I’ve started stuffing money aside for a trip to Amsterdam. My bucket list is in dire need of a check mark and my soul craves the touch of a new experience.

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Sunset

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The active weather of late has made the sky an interesting thing to watch. Between the presence of large, puffy clouds and the wind kicking up all kinds of dust, the sunsets have been absolutely beautiful. The interplay of light and shadow put on quite a show this week and I was happily enjoying a front row seat on my patio.

From pale blues, pinks, and purples …

to dazzling yellow, coral, and indigo …

The sky is a canvas, the sun a painter.

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With beauty like this greeting me at the end of each day, I can’t help but smile, breathe, and be inspired.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Simon’s Cat “Washed Up”

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Simon’s Cat is still one of my favorite things. A new cartoon was recently posted on the Simon’s Cat youtube channel and it is just too cute. I especially liked it because one of my cats is always in the laundry basket. Whether it’s empty or full of clean clothes, it’s her favorite place to take a nap.

 

In fact, my little fuzzball is all curled up in the laundry basket right now!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: The Barbie Shelf

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It’s funny how poking around Pinterest can inspire the most unexpected projects. While cruising through the “Everything” category, I saw a pin for a beautiful doll – Lisette from the Barbie Fashion Model Collection. I let out a sigh and smiled. That very doll is in my curio cabinet, tucked away in her box. I haven’t seen her in years.

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Lisette, Barbie Fashion Model Collection
(Image: barbiecollector.com)

A little spark inside of me was rekindled when I lifted the lid off the long stashed away box. There she was in all her glory. Mint green satin and black velvet with a touch of rhinestone sparkle caught my eye more than ten years ago and it did once again.

That little spark lead to pulling all of my dolls out of the cabinet. I just had to see them again and remember what I loved about each and every one. I’ve been collecting Barbie dolls since I was a kid, but in recent years it’s fallen by the wayside. It’s not a cheap hobby (which was a concern) and quite frankly I wasn’t impressed with Mattel’s offerings. I’m a picky collector who likes to be wowed!

All of my dolls are just as beautiful as I remember. Although, I pulled out a few that I totally forgot were part of the collection. I have dolls tucked in one cabinet, one shelf, and two closets. Boxes are bound to be hidden and that makes it hard to enjoy the full scope of a collection. The concept of “the forgotten doll” was the inspiration for a little project that kept me busy for days. Never again, did I want to forget what dolls I had, nor did I want to lose out on enjoying their beauty.

To solve my “forgotten doll” problem, I turned back to Pinterest. I created a board, The Barbie Shelf, to catalog my collection with the help of the Mattel’s Barbie Collector website. For three days, I pulled out every box from every shelf  to say hello and “pin” her to my Barbie Shelf board.

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Click image to see the entire collection on Pinterest!

Not only was it fun to see all of my dolls again, but each doll has a memory. I remember who gave me certain dolls or I remember where I worked to save up for another. Over 20 years of my life is documented in my Barbie collection. From vintage style to the fashions of the 90s, these dolls represent a history I cherish.

Creating a catalog also helped me answer a burning question: How many dolls are in my collection? To my shock, the magic number is 84, (two of the pins are fashion ensembles). At one time, I know I had over a hundred, but the lack of space to store them forced me to purge some of my collection. I don’t have any regrets about the dolls I let go as I know they are in the hands of someone who will love them as much as I did. I kept the ones that meant the most to me and that’s good enough for me!

My little jaunt into Barbie heaven inspired me to dig up the dolls I played with as a child. I kept a select few and like the others, I hadn’t seen them in years. I pulled out my old Barbie carrying case and jumped head first into my early childhood. I had so much fun, I decided to create a Pinterest board cataloging those dolls as well, (Barbie Toy Chest). The funny thing is I remember the name of each and every doll, even if the dress is missing. I know them by their hair and face. The memories of playing with them are priceless.

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Click image to see more dolls. Maybe they were part of your childhood, too!

Revisiting so many wonderful memories turned that little spark into a flame. I’m excited about Barbie collecting again and I’m anxious to make new memories. To get started, I created a Barbie Wish List board on Pinterest. I’m combing through the Barbie Collectibles archives to pin images of dolls I’d love to have in my collection. It’s been so fun to revisit dolls I remember wanting 10 years ago and catching up on dolls I’ve missed.

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Click image to see what else I’m wishing for (hint, hint, Mom!)

To celebrate both the nostalgia of my Barbie Shelf and my newly rekindled excitement, I’ve decided to buy a doll with my next paycheck. I don’t know which one yet, but I know she’ll be gorgeous. And she’ll be the doll I’ll always remember as being the one that reminded me how fun it is to collect Barbie.

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c.b.w. 2014