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October 30, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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The Never-ending Joy of Making New Traditions

As my family grows up, my nest empties of my kids and joyfully refills with grandkids. Our family grows, moves, and constantly changes. From decorating the tree to opening stockings, what we always used to do before, we don’t do anymore. That doesn’t have to be a sad thing. I want my kids to start their own family traditions.  Letting go of the old, means making room for the new.

Some of your traditions will last a lifetime; others will be for a season. This is actually exciting. I’m always on the lookout for new traditions!

What is a tradition?  It’s doing something special repeatedly. The regularity of your tradition instills anticipation, which is half the fun!  Traditions become associated with a certain time of year, holiday, or event. A beloved tradition is one where your family asks, “When are we going to do ______ again” Or, when they express disappointment when it’s missing, “But we always have Swedish Meatballs for Christmas.” Traditions bring predictability and joy in the good times and give you strength through the hard times.

Here are some of our newest traditions:

pumpkin patch at beach house 2 Continue Reading

October 28, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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Winning the Halloween Candy Craze

Little Trick-or-TreatersHalloween brings out the kid in most of us… from dressing up in crazy costumes to eating bite-sized savory treats; we’ve mastered the art of fanciful celebration with childlike abandon!

Our fetish for sweets peaks the month of October. “The week of Halloween alone, Americans buy 90 million pounds of chocolate. That’s enough Hershey’s bars to wrap around the world nearly 3.25 times!” Live Strong

“Americans, on average, consume about 25 pounds of candy each annually.” Boston.com

If we’re not addicted to sugar, our kids probably are. They run to sweets like a dog to the beach. How do we enjoy the holiday with some sense of self-control both for our kids and ourselves?

Give these ideas a try: Continue Reading

October 21, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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Easy Chili

Fall is the perfect time of year to enjoy chili.  I love having it for leftovers on busy sports nights, making  a hearty pot on ‘game day,’ or having it ready to fill kids up before going out Trick-or-Treating.

Easy Chili

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 30 oz. can kidney beans
  • 1 30 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

Directions Continue Reading

September 24, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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How to Create an Amazing Auction Vacation Menu

One of my favorite things to do is love people with food. This year we joined forces with friends to create a vacation auction package get away for one of our favorite charities.  They offered their vacation home and I supplied the meals. Some of our friends got the winning bid so it made it extra fun being their chef!  I invited my daughter and son-in-law along and they helped me in the kitchen and did the clean-up so I could enjoy our company.

friend-dinner-party-picnic-table500x374

Serving the food was fun and easy to do with Dream Dinners. Continue Reading

September 24, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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Our MOPS Centerpiece Miracle

I volunteer at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) as a mentor Mom. Two times a month I sit with a table of wonderful women who are getting a chance to talk to other moms, take a break from their children, make a craft, and learn great tips on how to be a better wife and mom. It is a Christian based international organization, but not a Bible study. It’s really all about helping women adjust to being a mom.

In the spring, at the end of the MOPS meeting year, we all plan a tea party to celebrate! I attended the planning meeting for the tea party and volunteered to make scones, lemon curd, and cucumber sandwiches for about 80 women in our group.  Other mentors like myself offered to decorate, bring china tea pots and cups… other things to make the tea party special for the moms.  One mentor said she could get flowers and I jumped in to say I have friends in the flower business and might be able to get a good price for them.  No one took ownership of the centerpieces.

Early the morning of the tea I got my scones, lemon curd and finger sandwiches all made up and while I was doing so I thought of the centerpieces! Yikes, I had forgotten about the flowers and had not heard if anyone else had arranged them.  I called one of the other mentors, Cindy, and asked if she had heard of anyone doing centerpieces and she said, no, she didn’t think anyone had done them.  I was really disappointed that I had dropped the ball because we wanted to make a special tea party for these deserving moms of preschoolers.

Not even two minutes after I hung up from talking to Cindy, Continue Reading

September 24, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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Apple Weekend

 

Steph making pie

It’s ‘apple time of year!’ At my house, that means ‘Apple Weekend.’ While the kids were growing up we always had apple trees in our backyard. They’d help pick the fruit and then we’d have a weekend cook-out putting up our fruit. We made apple sauce, apple pie, and apple crisp. The weekend would always include a homemade pot of soup too.

I’ve never used a recipe because apples vary so much in sweetness and water content.  It’s my cooking theory, “you’ve just got to taste it!”

apple pie

My Must-have Supplies:

Apple-peeler-corer-slicer (This makes peeling and slicing quick and easy)

Zip Lock Freezer Bags, gallon size

A big, heavy stock pot

toddlers_basket_applesPie Tips:

Adding lemon zest to pies makes them extra delicious.

Use Pillsbury Pie crust and pour the filling right in. Then freeze as many pies as you have room to store.

Applesauce Tips:

Continue Reading

September 23, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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Game Day Tailgating

tailgatingNothing’s more fun and energizing than a game day tailgate party. It’s a perfect supercharged reason to gather with friends and family to eat great food, wear team colors, and fly the flag all the while encouraging our team with a hoot and holler.

Game day tailgating is simple and fun. The host/organizer always brings the grill and a few folding tables, disposable paper products, and eating utensils. Everyone in our group brings their favorites for a delicious potluck smorgasbord.

What’s on the menu? At our potlucks, there are often hotdogs/brats,  BBQ smokies, ribs, slow-cooked BBQ beef, a variety of picnic salads, and baked beans.

It doesn’t matter the time of day, (it could be 10 in the morning) we always have a barbecue. We all show our spirit in different ways, last year, Continue Reading

September 23, 2014
Stephanie Allen

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My Lost Bracelet

We recently bought a cabin and often stay there on the weekends. It’s wonderful and we are so relaxed there; it’s the perfect place to spend quality time with each other and our family.  The only thing I am having trouble adjusting to is….. I can’t remember where anything is!  I know I am out of mayonnaise, but can’t remember if I am out at home or at the cabin….. I know I have a black belt with a silver buckle, but can’t find it at home, must have left it at the cabin.  Where are my favorite jeans, home or the cabin?  That’s what happened to the bracelet.

It’s not just any bracelet; it’s a very special charm bracelet that my husband and kids have been adding charms to my bracelet for years.  Every Mother’s day, Christmas, or birthday I’m given more charms.  They are not regular charms; they are made of precious gems, real silver, and pearls.  I only get one at a time because they are very special.  I can put about 10 charms on the bracelet at a time and can change them for the season or to match an outfit I am going to wear.  I couldn’t find it in my jewelry box at home and assumed I had left it at the cabin.

A few weeks went by before we got back to the cabin and I forgot to look for it there.  I really wanted to wear my bracelet and was missing it. The next weekend, I made a thorough search of the cabin…no bracelet.  I must have it at home or at my office. So, I did a thorough search at home…then the office, even asking my coworkers if they might have seen it.  I am in the habit of taking it off to cook, do dishes, or go for a walk during the day.  No one had seen it.  I started praying,

“God, can you please help me find my bracelet and keep it safe wherever it is!”

Over the months, every once in a while, I would search a coat pocket, an old purse, or clean out a drawer in the bathroom.  I kept praying that I would find it and each time I prayed, God’s calming spirit came over me,

“Don’t worry, it will show up.”

But, eventually, I quit looking.

Months later, I our local Rotary asked me to be the keynote speaker at a large Rotary meeting in our area…my husband’s Rotary meeting!  They wanted me to speak on being a successful woman in business and how Dream Dinners grew.  I had been the speaker at several other events over the years, but speaking to 100+ people who you know is nerve-racking. I was repeatedly practicing my speech, I have memorized speeches before, but this time I couldn’t get it down. Panic started to overtake me, I wouldn’t be good enough… I would embarrass my husband and myself… I wouldn’t do Dream Dinners justice…

I sat in my car ready to cancel my speaking engagement fearing I wouldn’t be good enough. Continue Reading

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