Top Posts of 2014

Whether you’ve been with me from the beginning or are relatively new, thank you for reading here. My blog readers rock! Even after blogging for seven years, I’m still an avid blog reader myself, and I’m glad that some of the blogs I read predate my own blogging. I’m a very loyal fan, so I thoroughly appreciate you taking the time to read and engage here at MoneywiseMoms.

Google can tell me which of MoneywiseMoms’ posts were the most popular with my blog readers, so I looked them up. Then I wrote out a little about how the post came to be (one is pretty embarrassing). Here are the Top Posts of 2014:

Beginner Crockpot Meals |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

There’s a good reason that 5 Beginner Crockpot Meals is so popular. People want to eat! Good thing these old standbys are so delicious. My goal with this post was to help the many people I hear say, “Oh, I have a crockpot but it’s still in the box.” I really do use these recipes all. the. time. Like every Tuesday, which is “Taco Tuesday” in my house, there’s a hunk of meat in there with a jar of salsa. And I called that a “recipe.” You’re welcome.

 

Minecraft Valentines |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

A lot of times I come up with blog posts because I realize I’m spending an inordinate amount of time searching online for something. I think, “I bet I’m not the only one…” and that’s usually true. I like feeling like I’m not the only one. KWIM? So last year when we were searching for our geeky DIY Valentines, one of the kids’ requests was Minecraft. Turns out, there’s a whole bunch out there, but they’re in every corner of the internet. All I did was round them up for you into a neat little post called Minecraft Valentines: 9 Easy Printables. Valentines Day is coming up again, so keep it in mind.

 

Easy Tilapia Recipes |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

I have a noble reason and a silly reason for writing 7 Easy Tilapia Recipes. I am passionate about feeding my family and helping you feed yours, and I really think tilapia is an easy way to get your kids into fish. So I shared the easy recipes that we eat regularly. But…the second reason is because there’s a very UGLY photo of raw fish circulating on Pinterest from an old post I wrote years ago, and I wanted to make this new, shiny, better, “Pinterest-worthy” post to make that one go away. Do you know anything about the internet? It doesn’t go away. Not when it’s embarassing photos of your teen (warn them!) and not when it’s an ugly naked photo of fish.

 

Chicken Tomato Pasta Recipe |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

This Chicken Tomato Pasta DCB Recipe was so popular that I went ahead and adapted it into a non-Deep Covered Baker recipe, Turkey Parmesan Pasta. Looking for more Deep Covered Baker recipes? I’ve shared a bunch that use the microwave, plus I have a DCB Pinterest board. I just don’t want people to buy this cool piece of time-saving cookware from Pampered Chef and never use it.

 

School Lunch Roundup |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

I make my kids’ lunches, times three, almost every day of the school year (that’s 500+), so I like mixing things up a bit. I am NOT a cut-food-into-shapes/Bento Box/theme food mom. I still keep it simple, so you won’t find anything tricky here. This School Lunch Roundup has no lunchmeat (and no peanuts because we have allergies), uses all real foods, and is (of course) frugal.

 

Allergy Cupcakes |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
I am so so glad that this Dairy-Free Egg-Free Cake post was popular and was shared all over Pinterest, reaching more and more families. As a food allergy family, we’ve had so many times where we can’t participate in a school or party function. This recipe isn’t any harder than a typical cake recipe, but it tastes so good that no one will miss anything. I really appreciated the many readers who tried it and took the time to come back and post a comment saying it was a success!

 

Baked Potato Bar |Top Posts of 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
Yes, my Baked Potato Bar was a sponsored post, but I try very hard to incorporate sponsors into things I would do anyway. Recipes are a perfect fit! In this case, I was challenged to come up with a “bar” to feed a crowd. Since we do that often around here, it was no problem. The Baked Potato Bar was a huge hit on Pinterest and is perfect to feed a sports team of kids, a houseful of friends on Game Day, or as a low-key dinner (my kids just love it). Also–fun fact!–I was at a friend’s house and saw this serving tray a few months before this post, so I knew where to borrow the perfect photo-worthy piece when the time came.

Those are this year’s top posts. Thanks for your help in sharing them! If you’re not yet, please follow me on Facebook and Pinterest.

 

Linked up to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now.

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

Since my mom was here when we put up our Christmas Tree this year, I spent some time showing off and reflecting on a lot of the ornaments we’ve collected over the years. We’ve been married 20 years now, so there are SO MANY ornaments, many of them collected well before we had kids. We have lots of silly ones–a set of Lego ornaments, superheroes wearing Santa hats, and a set of Playmobil ornaments. But there’s also a bunch that are very sentimental. Here’s a little tour of my favorite Christmas ornaments:

Childhood Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Ornaments from Childhood
Back when my mom retired and downsized her home, my two sisters and I split up the most meaningful ornaments from our childhood to take to our own families. I imagine there was originally a set of twelve of these fake-fruit baskets, but they just say ’70’s to me and were so memorable as some of the ornaments that we brought out year after year, so I had to have one. We also had a set of Wizard of Oz ornaments, which was one of our favorite movies growing up, so we split them between us. These are so fragile, over 30 years old now!

Homemade Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Homemade Ornaments
Some ornaments are from the lean years when we first got married. I made a lot of crafty ornaments and sewed some from fabric scraps. I especially like these angels made from twist paper and a wooden bead. Since then, my kids have contributed a bunch of homemade ornaments during their preschool years.

Teacher Christmas Ornaments | MoneywiseMoms

Teacher Ornaments

Pre-kids, I was an elementary school teacher, and one of the gifts I received often were ornaments. I have only held onto a few as mementos of that part of my life, this adorable teddy bear flying a paper airplane, and a sparkly gingerbread man with my name on it. It still weirds out my kids that I was a school teacher. They don’t even believe me when I show them my scrapbook albums of those years!

Dad Photo Christmas Ornament | MoneywiseMoms

Photo Ornaments
I love the handful of photo ornaments we have on the tree, seeing my kids’ faces as toddlers and as they’ve grown. My absolute favorite is this pewter ornament from Shutterfly that shows the only photo I have of my dad with all three kids. It’s a wonderful way to capture his memory.

Niagara Falls Christmas Ornament | MoneywiseMoms

New Traditions
Not that we need (or have room!) for more ornaments, but this year on a family vacation to Niagara Falls, my kids suggested that a great souvenir of our special trip would be a tree ornament that would bring back those memories. Great idea! I loved spending our souvenir budget this way instead of little knick knacks.

What are some of your favorite Christmas ornaments?

 

Shared at Saturday Sharefest at SITS Girls

Busch Gardens Christmas Town

Disclosure: As a Busch Gardens Ambassador through MomCentral, I was given free admission passes for our family but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are 100% mine.

Busch Gardens Christmas Town | MoneywiseMoms

It’s not too late to enjoy a visit to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Williamsburg! The park is open 2-10pm daily through December 31st (closing at 9pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, plus closed on Christmas Day). We have been trying to visit but have had so many obstacles thrown our way (first, my mom’s hospitalization and now two of three kids are sick). We want to go this weekend, assuming everyone is healthy, and here’s what we’re excited to see at Christmas Town.

Choose from five fabulous live shows. We’re planning to see Scrooge No More! since my kids now know the Christmas Carol story, and I’m excited about the musical dance show Deck the Halls. I get cold really easily, so heading indoor for a show will be a great way to warm up.

Ice Palace at Busch Gardens Christmas Town

My kids just love penguins, and since the National Zoo doesn’t have any, this is our chance to see them. Find the Ice Palace: A Penguin Paradise in the France section of the park, and spend some time with the two species of penguins visiting for the holiday season: African Penguins from the Columbus Zoo and Magellanic Penguins from SeaWorld San Antonio.

Polar Pathway at Busch Gardens Christmas Town | MoneywiseMoms

Dress everyone warm so you can walk the Polar Pathway and take in the millions of lights around the park. The decorations are just gorgeous, especially the waterfall on Escape from Pompeii. Most of the roller coasters and water rides are closed because of the cold weather, but a lot of the kid rides (like the Carousel and Little Gliders) are open. My kids are excited that thrill rides Verbolten and Nacht Tower are open. See the list of rides for more info. I’m excited to ride the Sky Ride overlooking all the lights and the Train to see all the holiday decorations.

Busch Gardens Christmas Town admission is $32/person for ages 3 and up, which includes unlimited visits. Or, you can buy a one-day pass online for just $27.

Follow along at #ChristmasTown with Busch Gardens on Twitter and Instagram.

Italian Pesto Rice {with Minute® Rice}

Thank you to Minute® Rice for sponsoring this recipe post.
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Oh, the holiday parties and sweets! It’s so hard to eat healthy during this festive season. For a holiday party we’re attending next week, we’re bringing this delicious Italian Pesto Rice. This healthy, savory dish is a nice contrast to all the indulgences we’re eating right now.

Italian Pesto Rice | #MinuteHoliday | MoneywiseMoms

I was happy to work with Minute® Rice because I’m passionate about helping moms get healthy dinners on the table, and this shortcut makes it faster and easier. One of the biggest hassles of “eating brown” is how darn long it takes to make brown rice! Who has 45-60 minutes to wait? Give Minute® Rice Brown Rice a try. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare and has the same nutritional value as regular long-cooking brown rice. My kids love the fluffy texture.

Italian Pesto Rice | #MinuteHoliday | MoneywiseMoms

With Minute® Rice on hand, you can have a whole-grain side ready in just 10 minutes. Or, use Minute® Rice Brown Rice as the base for any number of great recipes. Find over 400 easy recipe ideas at the Minute® Rice website. This Italian Pesto Rice comes together so quickly! While the rice is cooking–for 5 minutes, then sitting for 5 minutes–prep the other ingredients. Then, stir it all together for a flavorful, robust rice dish that’s great on its own or a heartier meal when you add chicken or Italian sausage on top.

Italian Pesto Rice | #MinuteHoliday | MoneywiseMoms

 

Italian Pesto Rice
Serves: 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Minute® Rice Brown Rice, uncooked
  • 3/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare rice according to box directions.
  2. While rice is cooking, slice tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
  3. Add basil pesto to cooked rice, stir well to combine.
  4. Add tomatoes and cheese to rice. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  5. Add chopped basil leaves for a stronger flavor (we like this but the kids don't).

I like to serve Italian Pesto Rice warm with some extra protein, but we’ve also enjoyed it as a vegetarian lunch served cold. Either way, it’s yummy!

Italian Pesto Rice | #MinuteHoliday | MoneywiseMoms

There are so many ways to include Minute® Rice in your busy weeknight meals. I’m going to see how the kids like the new Minute® Rice Multi-Grain Medley, which includes brown, Thai red, and wild rice along with quinoa for a completely gluten-free whole grain side.

Minute Rice Varieties | Italian Pesto Rice Recipe | MoneywiseMoms

Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at JoLynneShane, Tis the Season at Krystal’s Kitsch, On Display Thursday at Average But Inspired, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, SITS Girls linky and Wow Me Wednesday at Ginger Snap Crafts.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Minute® Rice.

My Wish For You {Peace}

Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah tonight or Christmas next week, or both, or neither, I have a wish for you.

Peace - My Wish For You - MoneywiseMoms

Peace

I wish you peace during this busy month. May you find quiet moments to be still, to reflect on what’s most important to you, and to get the rest you need.

Peace

I wish you peace from strife in your daily life, from illness and stress, and from outside pressures. Let your heart and soul lead you in your priorities and help you to say “no” to all else.

Peace

I wish you peace with your finances. Let this coming year be the one you grab the reins and take charge. You can do amazing things.

Peace

I wish you peace with your children. No matter what their age, there are struggles, so hold on to the quiet times and hug as much as you can.

Peace

The world seems especially troubling these last couple of days. I wish us all peace.

Proactiv Plus Review {Skin Over 40}

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for Proacitv+. I received samples of Proactiv+ to facilitate my review and a thank you item for participating.

Proactiv Plus Review | Skin Over 40 | MoneywiseMoms

I was lucky as a teenager; I didn’t have bad acne like my two sisters (who inherited it from my dad). My skin wasn’t clear, but it wasn’t painful or anything worse than a typical teenage case. So imagine my surprise as acne has come back to me after I turned 40! My gynecologist says it’s one of the many pre-menopausal symptoms that come with hormonal changes, and I definitely see an increase around the same time each month. I especially hate the big, painful bumps on my chin.

Another spot with breakouts is around my hairline. I don’t think this is hormones, but the hair products I use building up along the same spot where I use facial moisturizer and sunscreen. Those pimples are small but painful, too. Over the past five weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to try out the Proactiv Plus 3-Step System.

Proactiv Plus Review | Skin Over 40 | MoneywiseMoms

Trying Proactiv Plus

When I first opened the box, I thought the bottles were kind of small! But even after five weeks, there is a lot of product left, so I can just keep the routine going. It really only takes a little of each product during each application.

If you’ve read MoneywiseMoms, you know I’m a make-it-simpler kind of gal. I don’t have time to do anything that takes too much time. I was very happy to find that the three-step routine was quick and easy. It was just 1) wash with the Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, which I found very gentle, 2) smooth on the Pore Targeting Treatment, which I concentrated in my T-zone, and 3) moisturize with the Complexion Perfecting Hydrator lotion.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a “Before” photo for you! I took some, but in the hub-bub that was my mom going to the hospital, etc., I lost them. 

I had read that those with sensitive or dry skin might see redness while first using Proactiv Plus, but I didn’t have that problem. I did have one day where my face was very red, but I had been outside in the cold & wind all day, so I just assumed it was that. Overall, I felt like my skin was very supple and smooth during the whole process.

Proactiv Plus Review | Skin Over 40 | MoneywiseMoms

My Results

My favorite product was the Complexion Perfecting Hydrator lotion. I couldn’t believe how smooth and soft my cheeks felt. Even now with the winter dryness, which usually makes me itchy, my face is so soft. It’s easier to apply makeup, which I would normally skip on days if I’m having flaky, dry skin. I’m very impressed with how this has worked on my sensitive skin.

I also noticed a big difference around my hairline. I didn’t change my haircare routine, but the pimples were gone! I have been truly surprised; I worried that my already-dry skin would be irritated by the ingredients to control acne, but instead, I’m more moisturized than ever. I think the combo of gentle exfoliation and thick lotion has been really effective on my face.

Check out the Proactiv+ System to learn more, and connect with Proactiv+ on Facebook and Twitter.

Ridiculously Easy Holiday Appetizers

We have a family tradition that started when my husband was a kid, and we’ve continued it with our own children. All day on December 24th, we spend the day cooking and enjoying appetizers and desserts (instead of a planned meal). Each family member gets to pick a new recipe to try, and along with our usual favorites (my kids love pigs-in-a-blanket), we have a very relaxed day of playing board games, watching movies and eating finger foods and treats. It’s super fun!

Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

Whether you’re heading to a holiday party this week or are looking for some fun recipes for Christmas Eve like we are, these Ridiculously Easy Holiday Appetizers will hit the spot. Each recipe is made with only 3 ingredients, saving you time and stress so you can enjoy the holidays with your guests and family or bring an amazing dish to a party or potluck.

 

Easy Sausage Balls from My Blessed Life | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

These Easy Sausage Balls from My Blessed Life are quick to prep with Bisquick, bulk sausage and shredded cheddar. These are on our to-make list this year. My kids will just love them!

 

Blue Cheese Appetizer from Half Baked Harvest | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

Just three ingredients–a tube of biscuits, blue cheese, and butter–makes this amazing Blue Cheese Appetizer from Half Baked Harvest. Even if you’re not a home cook, you can show up at any holiday party and amaze!

 

Raspberry Brie Bites from The Sweets Life | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

Raspberry Brie Bites from The Sweets Life are an amazing combo of tangy and sweet. Just set out frozen fillo dough shells with bites of brie and a dollop of raspberry jam. Easy peasy, but they look so elegant.

 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs from Frugal Fanatic | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

Sweet and Sour Meatballs from Frugal Fanatic cook for just a few hours in the crockpot, with just frozen meatballs, ketchup and grape jelly.

 

Chili Cheese Dip from Raining Hot Coupons | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

A hearty, gooey dip is perfect for tortilla chips. This Chili Cheese Dip from Raining Hot Coupons is just three layers of cream cheese, canned chili and shredded cheese.

Black Bean Dip from Major Hoff Takes a Wife | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

If you’d prefer a non-cheese dip, try the Black Bean Dip from Major Hoff Takes a Wife. Just warm your favorite salsa combined with black refried beans and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

 

Baked Ham and Cheese Rollups from The Comfort of Cooking | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

Celebrate the lack of school lunches with Baked Ham and Cheese Roll-ups from The Comfort of Cooking. Layer pre-made pizza dough with your favorite type of ham and sliced cheese, then bake.

 

Crockpot Buffalo Ranch Chicken Drumsticks from The Frugal Girls | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms
Who likes wings? These Crockpot Buffalo Ranch Chicken Drumsticks from The Frugal Girls are even better because you get more meat! Slow cook them along with a bottle of hot sauce and a packet of ranch seasoning for a crowd-pleaser.

 

Stuffed Mushrooms from A Nutritionist Eats | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

My family loves stuffed mushrooms, but they take a lot of work. That’s why this recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms from A Nutritionist Eats is so great–just three ingredients!

 

Pickle Rollups from Pip & Ebby | Easy Holiday Appetizers | MoneywiseMoms

My kids love these Pickle Rollups from Pip & Ebby, though we use spicy salami instead of corned beef. The cream cheese glues them together.

 

What are your favorite easy holiday appetizers?

BJs Wholesale for the Holidays {GC Giveaway}

BJs Wholesale Club for the Holidays and GC Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms

Christmas is just two weeks away! If you’re scrambling for the perfect food, decor and more for your holidays, head to your local BJ’s Wholesale Club. Right now, everyone can shop at BJ’s because they’re offering a FREE 60-day Trial Membership when you activate by December 31st. It’s the perfect time to sign up, so you can get all your holiday shopping done–for entertaining, gift giving, and decorating.

BJs Wholesale Trial Membership - perfect for holiday shopping - MoneywiseMoms

I attended a blogger event at my local BJ’s Wholesale Club, and I was so impressed with how easy it was to pull together this beautiful table setting. Those are disposable plates and silverware! They’re plastic but super strong and a great way to serve a crowd with elegance. This was a cute and easy idea: use a gift tag as a napkin ring–adorable!

Holiday Table Setting | BJs Wholesale Club for the Holidays and GC Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms

And I loved this centerpiece, which can also be used to hold dips or other foods. I had noticed it as we toured the store, as it struck me as a perfect hostess gift if you’re heading to a party this season. Here, it’s set up with LED tealights, a wonderful way to safely have candles around the kids.

Holiday Table Centerpiece | BJs Wholesale Club for the Holidays and GC Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms

We were treated to several appetizers–one of which will be making an appearance at my Christmas Eve appetizer extravaganza–the bacon-wrapped sirloin bites. Yum! We also tried the cheesecake sampler, with 16 pre-cut slices. But the BEST dessert was this wonderful coconut cake, which thankfully is available year-round, so you can enjoy it after the season as well.

Coconut Cake |  BJs Wholesale Club for the Holidays and GC Giveaway | MoneywiseMoms

Giveaway Time!

Let’s reduce your stress a bit! One lucky MoneywiseMoms winner will win a $25 Gift Card to BJ’s Wholesale Club. Along with your FREE membership, you can get a bit of last-minute holiday shopping done. Giveaway ends Sunday, December 14th, so I can mail you your gift card in time, along with some extra goodies from BJ’s Wholesale.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
  Disclosure: I was invited to a blogger event at my local BJ’s Wholesale Club, and I received a gift card.

RSVP for #HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party $550 Prizes

#HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party 12-16
#HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party 12-16 12pmET

Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know I do, and I’m excited to co-host a party where we’ll be talking about celebrating the holidays! On Tuesday, December 16th at 12:00 pm ET, please join me for the #HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party where we’ll discuss delicious holiday recipes, decorating, entertaining, and giving you a chance to win prizes.

December is such a busy month! Between holiday baking, doing a Christmas Cookies exchange with my Moms of Multiples Club, and entertaining family, I need all the help I can get. I’m excited about the Holiday In-store Solution Center at Price Chopper. It’s a convenient stop for holiday essentials. Hope you will join me for this fun chat to help you save time & money, plus you have a chance to be one of the prize winners!

Join me and RSVP for the #HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

 

DATE:  Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TIME:  12:00 to 1:00 pm ET

PRIZES:  5 – (1) $100 Price Chopper Gift Cards

EARLY BIRD PRIZE:  1 – $50 Price Chopper Gift Card

HOSTS: @PriceChopper@dawnchats@Mammamoiselle@MoneywiseMoms,

@MommaDandDaBoyz@_Karen

RULES:  #HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party Official Rules

RSVP & PARTY GRID:  #HolidayAdvantEdge Twitter Party Page

PLEASE RETWEET:

How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party – sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page!

TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page!

TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible!

TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win!

TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that options checked when you RSVP for the party!

TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns – they are slower paced and easier to follow!

TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendar to find more fun parties to attend!

Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!