Quick Tip: Make a Deli Basket For Your Refrigerator

Fall Festival October 2015 094

I am often looking for ways to stay better organized and make life easier, so here is a quick tip I want to pass along.

Sandwiches are an easy meal and quick to make but you can make them even quicker! How?  Make yourself a deli basket by using a removable container like one pictured here that you can remove from the refrigerator and place it on your counter for easy access while making sandwiches.  My basket contains deli meats and cheeses.  When you are done, the container slides easily back into the refrigerator.

I purchased this container from the Dollar Tree.  I like that is has a handle for easy handling.  I actually purchased several more and use them to categorize my refrigerator.  I find things in my refrigerator so much easier now and my family no longer needs to rummage around hunting for sandwich fixings.

Extra Tip:  Make pre-measured snack bags containing grapes, baby carrots, etc. and place them in a container labeled “Snacks.”  Your kids will know where to reach for a healthy snack that is just right for them.  This also makes packing lunches easier!

Organize Your Drawers For FREE

Do you have some empty shoe boxes left over from school shopping or from buying new soccer cleats?  Save them!  Are you wondering why?

Because empty shoe boxes = organizing tools!

My husband gave me some of his shoe boxes the other day.  You should have seen the smile on my face!  Am I the only one that gets excited about shoe boxes?

Organizing sometimes requires containers within containers and shoe boxes were just what I needed for this project, which was a messy dresser drawer.  I took my shoe boxes from this…

Empty Boxes for Organizing

to THIS!

Organized Sock and T-shirt Drawer

Kids’ shoe boxes would have worked as well.  Just find whatever fits your drawer size.

My husband is so happy with his newly organized drawer and that makes me happy!


Ringling Art Museum and Gardens Day Trip

Exploring Sarasota, Florida (winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) includes a must-see trip to The Ringling which includes the Ringling Museum of Art, The Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan (House of John), the Historic AsoloTheater, and Bayfront Gardens including Mable Ringling’s rose garden, reported to be the oldest rose garden in Florida.

My day trip occurred on a Monday when the Museum of Art entrance was free to the public.  This also included entry into Bayfront Gardens (which are free and open to the public daily).

As you enter The Ringling Visitor Pavilion, stop on your left for a brief movie recounting the history of the family and property.  Information and maps are available of the grounds. Tours are available for the Ca’ d’Zan and the Circus Museum for a fee and are available for purchase in the Visitor Pavilion.

The property covers 66 acres so be prepared to walk and/or ride the tram around the property.  The buildings are handicap accessible with the exception of the upper floors of the Ca’ d’Zan.  One of the trams is wheelchair accessible.

As we strolled through the rose garden we viewed an abundance of Italian-made statues adorning the walkways.

Italian-made garden statues abound in this beautiful garden setting.

Italian-made garden statues abound in this beautiful garden setting.

We spotted roses with names such as Cherry Parfait, Hot Cocoa, John F. Kennedy, Mable Ringling, Julia Child, Dolly Parton, and even Marilyn Monroe.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespear (Romeo and Juliet)

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)

A small grove called The Midget Garden offers respite from the sun.

A small grove called The Dwarf Garden offers respite from the sun.

In case you work up an appetite there are two eating facilities to choose from as well as picnic tables close to the Dwarf Garden and the playground area for those who want to bring their own meals.  May I suggest a picnic lunch seated at one of the tables located alongside or behind the Ca’ d’Zan overlooking the bay?  Umbrellas are provided!  For an afternoon pick-me-up you might want to stop by Starbucks located on the second floor of the Visitor Pavilion.

Arches grace the outdoor walkway of the Ringling Art Museum.

Arches grace the outdoor walkway of the Ringling Art Museum.

The Art Museum is exceptional!  It is filled with paintings, statues, tapestries, and even a few pieces of furniture.  These are from John Ringling’s private art collection. You won’t be disappointed.

Courtyard of the Art Museum

Courtyard of the Art Museum

The inner courtyard of the museum is home to various statues, both high and low.

Ca' d'Zan (John's House)

Ca’ d’Zan (John’s House)

Ca’ d’Zan (translated to House of John) was designed by Architect Dwight James Baum and is located at the back of the property.  This waterfront mansion has its own dock, accessible from the expansive terrace at the back of the home.  Many politicians and celebrities were entertained there.  The home was built at a cost of $1.5 million dollars and is a reflection of the Ringling’s love of Italy.

Be sure to check out the Secret Garden where John and Mable’s final resting place is located.   I am thankful for the generosity of Mr. and Mrs.Ringling as they bequeathed the property and art collection to the State of Florida.  A visit to their home allowed me to see a little more of the world…through their eyes.

There is so much to explore here that I can’t wait to go back for another visit!

Homesick Texan’s Tamale Pie

This savory dish reminds me of my childhood.  Where I live now, Tex-Mex food is scarce (read non-existent) so I find myself trying to re-create it at home.  While this is not a dish typically served in a Tex-Mex restaurant, it is one set on many tables in my home state of Texas.  Did I mention that I miss Texas?


  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey (or Ground Beef)
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Stalk Celery, Chopped
  • 2 lg. Garlic Cloves, Chopped
  • 1/2 Bell Pepper (or 3 Mini Bell Peppers), Chopped
  • 1/2 c. Black Olives, Chopped
  • 1 10 oz. Can Tomatoes with Chilis
  • 1 c. Frozen Yellow Corn
  • 1 t. Chili Powder
  • 1 t. Sweet or Smoky Paprika
  • 1 T. Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 1/4 c. Monterrey Jack or Cheddar Cheese (or both), Grated
  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/3 c. Milk

Preparation Instructions:

In skillet, brown ground turkey with onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper.  Drain if necessary.

Tamale Pie - Ground Turkey SauteAdd olives, canned tomatoes, corn, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, sugar, and grated cheese.

Freshly grated cheese seems to have more flavor.  This is a mixture of Monterrey Jack and Cheddar.

Freshly grated cheese seems to have more flavor. This is a mixture of Monterrey Jack and Cheddar.

In medium bowl, mix Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix with egg and milk.  Set aside.

Prepare deep dish pie plate by spraying non-stick spray.  Pour meat mixture into the pie dish.

So colorful!

So colorful!

Spoon corn muffin mixture onto the meat mixture.  Gently spread it evenly over the meat.

Tamale Pie - Cornbread ToppingBake in 400 degree oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tamale Pie - BakedCut into wedges and serve!  This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9×13 inch baking dish.

I served this on my fun fiesta-style plates from HEB.  I miss HEB!

I served this on my fun fiesta-style plates from HEB. I miss HEB!





Fourth of July Table Decor

It’s a celebration, Y’all!  America’s turning 239 years old!  Our family is celebrating with ribs, sausage links, potato salad, broccoli salad, watermelon, and sweet iced tea.  We haven’t decided on a dessert yet.  It could be a cookie cake decorated like our flag or an apple or strawberry pie.  Hmmm, decisions…

I love decorating for holidays but I haven’t really collected things to decorate for the 4th of July in a while.  I decided to give myself a $5 spending limit and look for something that inspired me from a thrift store.  I broke my budget…big time.  I came across an adorable teddy bear in a patriotic dress and she became my inspiration for this holiday tablescape.  She cost $6.99.

Teddy Bear Inspiration!

Teddy Bear Inspiration!

I figure I can look for more outfits for my new (old) bear and fit her into other holiday table decor.  Still thrifting, I found the striped “vase” with muted colors and decided to put a few sparklers inside and a greenery ball on top of it.  I don’t care how old I get, I still love sparklers!

Chair DIY Ringling June 2015 183


I checked out the linens department and found these navy/cream napkins with stars on them.  How perfect are they?  I kept looking and discovered a couple of yards of striped fabric to use as a table runner.

4th of July Tablescape Plate and Napkin

A small basket holds the iron star found at a flea market last summer, along with a bell (Let freedom ring!) and a greenery ball for a punch of color.  The blue/white polka dot fabric is a scarf I already had.

4th of July Tablescape Basket Contents

I added a picture of my mom and dad in their honor and because I miss them.  Isn’t that picture adorable?  They were newlyweds.

Buffet Style

Buffet Style!

I also found this candle holder and thought it would make a cute napkin holder if I wanted to serve buffet style.  I just love playing around with these things!

I hope you and your family enjoy the celebration of our GREAT country – The United States of America!

In God We Trust!  One Nation Under God!  Indivisible!  God bless America!

What Should I Do After High School? Five Steps to Help You Decide

Are you unsure of what the next step is after High School?  Not sure whether to go to college or not?  Not sure what to major in if you do?  Try the five steps below to help you gain some insight about yourself and to explore the possibilities that are awaiting you.

Step 1:  List

List 10 things that interest you.  Which one interests you the most?

Step 2:  Evaluate

List what you think your strengths and God-given talents are.  Ask parents,           grandparents, family members, or close friends what they see as your greatest strengths and gifts.  Compare.  You may be surprised at what others see in you!

Step 3:  Research

Consider which jobs relate to your interests and ask yourself these questions:

Would I prefer working indoors or outdoors?  Would I prefer working with a set schedule or set my own hours?  Am I a morning person or a night owl? After you have answered these questions do some research.

For a peek at U. S. News & World Reports The 100 Best Jobs click http://www.money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs.

The United States Department of Labor puts out an Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Check out what they list as the fastest growing and new jobs http://www.bls.gov/ooh/.

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Step 4:  Explore

Discuss with others and explore how to achieve your dream job.  There are so many options available!

Did you know that gap years are popular in Europe and Australia?  It’s catching on in the United States.  Taking a gap year before college can be advantageous in many ways. Click http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2010/07/20/8-things-to-know-about-a-gap-year to learn more about what a gap year is. There are companies that can help you plan your gap year.  Follow http://www.americangap.org/planning.php to see an example of one.

Step 5:  Set Goals.

What steps need to be taken in order to reach my goal?  What do I see myself doing in five years?  Ten years?  Write it down!  You are more likely to achieve goals that you have written down.

Try not to feel overwhelmed.  Life is a journey, not a race.  There are things to be learned from every experience.  Draw wisdom from them and make a commitment to be a lifetime learner.  You won’t regret it.

As a Christian, I encourage you to pray about what God wants you to do.  In the words of that great lady, Corrie Ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  May God bless you on your journey!

Jeremiah 29-11


Tarpon Springs, Florida Day Trip

If there is one thing I’ve learned living the soccer life, it’s to explore the city where you live and its surrounding areas.  Treat your current living situation as if it is temporary (because sometimes it is) and live like a tourist!

My daughter and I recently went on a day trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida while my husband was away coaching a soccer game.  Since it is located one and a half hours from where we live, this was the perfect spot to go and explore without finding overnight accommodations.  With supposedly the highest percentage of Greek Americans than any city in the U.S. our spirits were high (well, mine were) as we looked forward to immersing ourselves in the closest thing that we were going to see of Greek culture.

We proceeded through town, passing some lovely antique stores that looked promising to explore, but put those aside for another day.  Upon arriving at the Sponge Docks we parked ($3) and proceeded to walk down Dodecanese Blvd.  Along here we found various souvenir-type shops with several of them selling sponges….of ALL shapes and sizes.

Ornamental Sponges

Ornamental Sponges

Tarpon Springs Sponges 2

As always, there were some “interesting” souvenirs offered up to those whose money was burning a hole in his/her pocket.

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

While browsing through one of these stores called Spongeorama we entered their Sponge Diving Museum (FREE) in the back of the store.  The museum gives some interesting history on the sponge industry but  is in urgent need of some cleaning and updating.  The store offers a free 20 minute video that also tells about the history.  We skipped the video and continued to explore.

Tarpon Springs - Sponge Bicycle


Yia Yia

Yia Yia

Walking along the dock area we found a couple of sponge diving boats that were tied up.

Sponge Diving Boat

Sponge Diving Boat

There are a couple of cruise line companies available to take you out for a sponge-diving demonstration, dolphin watching, and even a lunch or dinner cruise.  We weren’t ready to try out our “sea” legs yet so we continued walking.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Diver Statue

We passed a few Greek restaurants when suddenly I spotted it…the very place where I knew I could find what I was really looking for.

Hellas Bakery

Hellas Bakery

It was mid-afternoon and time for a coffee break and a sweet treat.

Tarpon Springs Bakery Goodies

It all looked so delicious!  I decided to try their Greek coffee and… now let me see…



There it was – the baklava!  I couldn’t resist it.  The thought of that honey and nuts was what I was craving.  We decided to enjoy it outside at a table.  The coffee had a lot of dregs in the bottom.  They were supposed to be there.  That was something I didn’t know about Greek coffee.  Don’t drink what’s in the bottom of the cup!  Now I know!  The baklava, however, was exquisite.

During the early evening tables were set up by restaurants along the street which had been blocked off.  We had a seat on a bench and enjoyed watching a group of brave souls who were partaking of a free lesson in Greek dancing.  This was followed by a live band playing Greek music while diners enjoyed what looked to be a scrumptious meal with good conversation and laughter.

Tarpon Springs - Greek Bouzouki

Greek Bouzouki

We closed the day out by sharing a Greek Spaghetti meal called Makaronada at Costas Restaurant.  A popular appetizer enjoyed by several in the restaurant was Saganaki – or flaming cheese.  It was a sight to behold!  Maybe we’ll try that next time.  Opa!



Super Affordable Front Door Decor for Spring

Spring Door Decor

Spring Door Decor

I love to shop Thrift Stores, Goodwill, and Dollar Tree to come up with inexpensive, yet beautiful decorations for my home.  This arrangement cost me around $7 to make using a few things I already had plus a few non-budget breaking finds.

Paris Can – $2.99 from Goodwill

Pussy Willow Stalk – $1 from Dollar Tree

3 White Hydrangea Blooms – $3 from Dollar Tree

2 Ivy Plants – Free, I already had these on hand.  Look at thrift stores to find similar items, which is where I got these a while back.

I stuffed the bottom of the can with newspaper since it is deep.  I then placed some floral foam that I had left over from another arrangement (bought at Dollar Tree some time ago) on top of the newspaper.

I have noticed that many arrangements have a triangle formation so that is what I was shooting for.  I think it could have used one more hydrangea bloom at the bottom but when I went back to Dollar Tree I couldn’t find another one.  Maybe I’ll find something else to put there…a bow, a bird perhaps.  I’ll keep looking!

Don’t be afraid to try creating something.  You might be surprised to find a talent you didn’t know you had.

Happy Spring!

Easter With Mom

Easter came and went, as it tends to do.  I wasn’t prepared for the flooding of grief that I felt.  Yes, I know that we have hope because of Christ’s resurrection.  Yes, I know my mother is in Heaven having a much better time than we are having here on Earth. Yes, I believe that I will see her again one day.   And yet…

But then, during Easter weekend Mom made her presence known to me.  She was in the smell of the eggs boiling on the stove, the crinkle of the newspaper being laid down to dye the eggs.  She was even in the crackle of the candy bags as I opened them and prepared Easter baskets.  She was there telling me that ham is always good for an Easter meal and to make sure to get pictures of everyone in their Easter clothes.

I read a quote that resonated with me soon after the death of both of my parents in the same year.  “There is no experience quite as stunning as when there is nothing where something has always been.  To try and imagine the thing itself, not the hole left behind…especially when that thing has the first face you probably ever saw, spoke the first words you ever heard, and whose touch has comforted and guided and corrected and made you safe since the beginning of time.”  Alexander Levy, The Orphaned Child.

I was stunned when she died.  I am still stunned. It has been one year.  They didn’t tell me how much it would hurt.  They didn’t tell me that I would belong to a new society, the part of society that knows grief and pain.  This society is its own entity.  You only belong to it when you have been through sorrow and grief.  Those who have not experienced it will not understand.  It feels to me like a secret society where only its members can give a nod of understanding to its fellow members.  It is a society to which you have no desire to become a member and yet it is thrust upon you.

There is comfort, though, in the knowledge that my mom will live on…through me, through my children, through our traditions, through our stories.  I want her to know…that I will be expecting her next Easter as well.

Easter circa 1968.  Mom was taking the picture, of course.

Easter circa 1968. Mom was taking the picture, of course. Pictured are: Dad (Pastor Marion Martin), Bobby, Garry, Julie, and Barry. I loved getting a new Easter dress, hat, gloves, and a purse.

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful heart.  Jeremiah 31:25


Banana Walnut Pancakes

My husband woke up with a hankering for pancakes on Saturday.  I, being the thoroughly (and sometimes not) prepared housewife that I am, did not have the usual ingredients on hand when I prepare them from scratch.  So, wanting to make him happy I scrambled around seeing what ingredients I did have and this is the recipe I came up with.

Pancakes 016

Good heavenly days, these were amazing!  I think the Greek vanilla yogurt gave the pancake just the right amount of vanilla essence that pushed the flavor over the top!


  • 2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/4 cup Greek Vanilla Yogurt (plus a little of the liquid that collects on top of yogurt for moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • Caramel Sundae Syrup


  1. Mix together Bisquick, almond milk, yogurt plus liquid, and egg.
  2. Prepare pancakes in non-stick pan or griddle.
  3. Top with sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, and caramel sundae syrup

Buen Provecho!