Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I love history and I'm not sure exactly why, but the Titanic story has always intrigued me. I've read a few different books about it and watched several TV documentaries as well. I guess you could call me a Titanic enthusiast (is that even the right word to use for a tragedy though?)

When I found out there was a Titanic Museum just a few hours away in Pigeon Forge, TN, I jumped at the chance to take my family there to learn even more and see the amazing artifacts recovered from the site of the sinking.

You weren't allowed to take photos inside the museum which I think is only appropriate as it is a somber place and you don't want flashes going off constantly or people blocking the items on display.

Upon our arrival, we were each provided with a "Boarding Pass" with information about an actual passenger aboard Titanic. They had a great audio tour for adults with more information than you can even imagine about the Titanic. There was also a little "scavenger hunt" audio tour for the kids which they loved!

The beginning of the tour, you can sense the excitement as you learn about the design and construction of such a massive ship!

You then follow along in the galleries and learn about some passengers as you view pieces of history. Some (or many) of which you may not have ever heard about before! There are two artifacts right near the start of the tour - one was a deck chair and the other is this suitcase / trunk. As I looked at it I thought about how some people packed their entire life into a trunk and boarded Titanic to come to America.

*** This photo is a scan of a postcard I purchased in 
the gift shop of the Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge ***

Did you know about the Laroche family traveling from France to Haiti who weren't even supposed to be on Titanic? They had First Class passage booked on another ship that wouldn't allow children to dine with their parents and so they switched their tickets to travel Second Class on Titanic instead. The pregnant wife and 2 daughters survived, the father did not.

Obviously that was just one of many tragic stories about that fateful crossing. Of the total 2,223 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic only 706 survived the disaster.

Passenger Chart from:

There are photos from Father Browne (who traveled on Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown) on display and it gives you a sense of what life was like for the passengers on the ship during the first part of it's journey across the sea. Seeing his photo of a child playing on the deck will make you choke up.

Photo Credit: Father Browne,

This must be one of the best known pictures taken on the “Titanic”. The six year old Robert Douglas Spedden whipping his spinning top, watched by his father Frederic, has attracted the attention of other passengers. 

The museum has a replica First Class Stateroom which looks so luxurious and puts even the nicest cruise ship "suites" to shame! You could also get a feel for the sheer size of the ship when you went into a hallway with a mirror at each end giving the illusion of the endless corridors passengers walked to get to their rooms.

The world's only full scale replica of the Grand Staircase (built from original blueprints at a cost of over $1 million) is also within the museum and where I think I first started to get really emotional. At first feeling overwhelmed at it's beauty and staring in awe for a few moments. As I slowly ascended the stairs however, the joy changed to sadness as I thought about those that walked those steps for the last time the night Titanic sank.

*** This photo is a scan of a postcard I purchased in
the gift shop of the Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge ***

There were three parts of the museum that will stay with me forever, the staircase being the first. The second was a display that consisted of a replica staircase going to the Second or Third Class levels of the ship. The display shows rushing water coming down those steps. You can't help but feel some of the terror those passengers did that fateful night.

The final part that will stay with me forever is after you go through the replica bridge. You go out into the "icy night" and can touch an iceberg. You can also (if you choose) put your hand in the icy (28 degree) water. It will very literally send a chill down your spine. You truly get the sense of what it would have been like in those final moments before the ship sank...

*** This photo is a scan of a postcard I purchased in
the gift shop of the Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge ***

As I stated above, photos were not permitted to take photographs inside the museum so I was very pleasantly surprised when we got to the room with THE violin that they were allowing photographs!

When I call it "THE" violin - I mean it literally... THE violin.. the one that belonged to Bandmaster Wallace Hartley. THE violin that played the last song ever heard by those passengers before the ship sank... They said when talking about it that it very likely wasn't a valuable violin for the time - it was likely the least expensive one you could buy back then...

We were told that after the band finished playing, he wrapped his violin in clothes and put it in this case and then STRAPPED the case to his body. He most likely knew he wasn't going to survive and he wanted his most prized possession to stay with him.

And now it is nearly priceless (the postcard I purchased with a photo of the violin states it's valued at $1.7 million) and tells the story of the man who played it, the band that played "til the end" and of those souls who heard it play before they met their tragic end.

*** This photo is a scan of a postcard I purchased in
the gift shop of the Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge ***

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! The violin will only be on display there until September after which it will go back to Europe and I'm not sure if you'll ever be able to see it in public again,

In the violin room is where we were able to search the survivor list to see if we (the name on our Boarding Passes) survived the wreck. I'm happy to report that all but my husband survived (which was true of many of the surviving families on the actual Titanic).

Our family won't soon forget our incredible experience at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge - but we made sure to get some souvenirs from the gift shop along with our photos that were taken along our tour in the museum!

This is well worth going to see. Homeschoolers for sure should go and any Titanic enthusiast of course should go. History is what it is and man learned a tragic lesson that no matter how "mighty" of a ship they build, nothing is unsinkable...

Later Taters!

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DELICIOUS Black Bean Brownies!

You heard me correctly - BLACK BEAN BROWNIES!!!

Did you know that 1 can of black beans contains only 1/2 gram of fat while providing you with 6 grams of dietary fiber and 7 grams of protein??? Beans are pretty awesome!

BUT, how do you get your family to actually EAT them? My trick is hiding it in YUMMY things!

Our family LOVES these and I love that I get them to eat a little healthier without them even realizing it!


2 15 oz. cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
6 Large Eggs
1 stick of UNSALTED Butter, melted
1 1/2 Cups of Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Cup of Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup of  Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease an 9x13 baking dish (I use pam spray and it usually slides right out after it cools).
3. Place beans in food processor or blender with eggs  and blend until smooth.
4. Add all other ingredients to your mixer bowl.
5. Add bean/egg mix to bowl and blend well.
6. Add half the chocolate chips into the batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish (get it as even as you can - it's not exactly "easy" to spread).
8. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.
10. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into pieces and devouring.
11. Repeat all of the above because there will be NO leftovers ;)

These taste very very rich. There is no need to utilize milk chocolate chips to these as I believe that puts them way over the top. Next time we plan to try it with peanut butter chips though (for at least half of the chips) and I'll let you know how it turns out!

Hey - I never said these were HEALTHY - I said they were healthIER... LOL

Later Taters!

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Rescuers of the LOST Sippy

Every mom has been there - your child "lost" their sippy. But WHERE is it? In the car or house somewhere usually. I've found them under rear seats of vehicles, wedged under carseats, in cubby bins in the playroom, in the toybox, behind the toilet, in the tub, under beds, in closets, in dresser drawers & even in the recycling bin!

Well, after a certain amount of time (which varies depending on exactly WHAT was in that cup), you begin to think a) that you'll NEVER find it & b) that when / if you DO find it, it's gonna be tossed in the trash because there are just some smells you DO NOT want to smell & the thought of a child drinking from a once-moldy cup is just NASTY!!!

So, at exactly what point does the "search & rescue" mission become a "recovery" effort?

I'll tell you when...

1. water filled sippy - about a week (as long as it was filtered or bottled water) - regular tap water you might have 5 days tops... anything beyond that and it'll be slimy (probably not moldy but why chance it?)
2. juice (or diluted juice sippy) - 4 days max (shorter if it's in a hot car) before mold will set in
3. the dreaded MILK filled sippy - 24 hours indoors (12 in a car during COLD weather, 6 during hot)... milk will become curdled which is just as gross to me as mold

Anything beyond the above timeframes, and I'll be tossing that sippy & sneakily replacing it with an IDENTICAL one to be purchased when the child who lost it isn't looking!

This one for example... has been sitting in our trunk organizer (which was in the HOT van then brought into the house)... I'm not even sure HOW long honestly... but way past the "window" to save it...

It still has MILK in it (or what WAS milk anyway)... EWWWWWWW!!!!

It went in the trash can after I took photos both for this blog post and to ensure I get an IDENTICAL one from the store tonight...

How long after a sippy was lost have you found it (& where was it hiding?)?

Later Taters!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink: Chicken Parisienne - CROCK POT MEAL

"On Wednesdays, we wear pink."

Did you get the reference? It's one of the teenager's favorite movies so I've seen it a time or 10...

There IS a bit of truth in it for our family - Wednesday nights are dance class for the preschooler! She's still new to dance, but loves taking Ballet and Tap with Ms. Claire.

So Wednesday nights are hectic (that's putting it quite MILDLY)...the last bus drops off at 4 and we have to be out the door to ballet by 5:15!!! That includes getting changed for class and hair up in a bun before we run out the door too!!!

It's the PERFECT night to have a crock pot meal! The easier, the better on a weeknight (or ANY night) - am I right?

Of course, that means REMEMBERING to throw the food in the crock pot in the morning right? Well, with this recipe, you can remember around LUNCH TIME and still have a delicious dinner!!! SAY WHAT?? Keep reading!



  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 can (10.75 oz) cream of chicken soup (just the stuff in the can - don't add milk or water or anything else with it)
  • 1 8oz can sliced mushrooms, drained (you can also sub fresh sliced mushrooms)
  • 2/3 cup white wine (I mainly use my favorite Moscato)
  • 1 cup sour cream (added during last 30 minutes)
(Not Pictured: Sour Cream - But don't forget it!!!)


  1. Add all ingredients except sour cream to crock pot and mix well.
  2. Put crock on LOW for 6 to 8 hours OR on HIGH 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours - remember I said you can forget til lunchtime and still have a crock pot meal?
  3. When there are 30 minutes left on the timer (or up to 1 hour if you're cooking it on low), add in the sour cream and mix really well.
  4. Start pot of water for rice (or noodles) at the same time you add the sour cream and the timing will be perfect where it's all done together!
We serve this over rice [I cheat and buy the 10 minute brown rice], but you can also serve it over egg noodles. You can sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley on top for color if you want or leave it plain - our kids don't like "the green stuff".

Of course, we don't make this EVERY week, but we always do a crock pot meal on Wednesdays and as the kids get older and involved in more activities, I see us using the crock pot even MORE.

How often do you make a crock pot meal? What is your favorite?

Later Taters!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Do you love the taste of cookie dough, but don't want to risk salmonella?

Well, here you have it folks, cookie dough you can eat by the SPOONFUL!!! (or bowlful - I won't tell I promise - no judgement from me!)

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

It truly tastes as amazing as it looks! My teenage daughter and I made a triple batch because PMS is coming and we're gonna be prepared! LOL!

NOTE: Seeing as there is no ingredient to allow for the cookies to RISE (i.e. baking soda or baking powder) I would think this "cookie dough" shouldn't actually be baked into cookies... but you could try that if you want some eggless cookies also I guess? And, there is a LOT of sugar in this do NOT for diabetics either!!!

Later Taters!

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Monster Be Gone Spray!

Every child goes through a phase where they are afraid of any sounds they hear when they're in bed after dark.

When you have 4 kids all 6 and under and ONE gets scared, they freak the rest of them out by panicking. Add to that the lovely nightmares our 3 year old has been having and you can see why this became a necessity in our house!

I searched for what to put in a "Monster Spray" and came up with the best essential oil to help sleep is Lavender.

I picked up two cheapie spray bottles from WalMart (found them near the travel sized items in Health & Beauty) and labeled them with Sharpie.

We HAD to have two bottles because apparently DIFFERENT monsters live in GIRLS rooms versus BOYS rooms - WHO KNEW? So yeah, we have two bottles in our house!

Cute huh? I'm definitely not making millions off my artistic skills folks... I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Then I added WARM tap water to the bottles about 2/3 the way and added about 10 drops of my favorite Lavender Essential Oil to it. After I put the lid on, I gave it a really good shake to mix it up.

Every night before bed, I give it another good shake and we "hunt" for monsters under their beds and around their rooms and they tell me where to spray it. "Oh mommy! There's one by the closet - GET 'EM!"  They think it's fun and I'm thrilled that they go to bed easier than before we made it!

NOTE: Because this is essential oils (though well diluted), keep the bottle out of the reach of children between uses and do not spray directly on the kids themselves (no matter how many times they beg you - you don't even wanna know why I feel I have to say that).

Try this out for yourself and let me know how your "Monster Spray" experience goes!

Later Taters!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Saving For Vacation - Dimes for Disney!

I have been blessed in my life to have been to Walt Disney World in Florida three times. I went once when my younger brother was a baby, once when I was about in 2nd grade (give or take) and again as my "senior" trip in high school.

I now know how hard my dad worked to take our family on those two trips and how much that senior trip must also have cost my parents! (many belated "thank you's" are in order here)

My husband didn't have the same opportunities for family vacations as I did. He's never once in his 35 years been to Disney. My oldest daughter had the opportunity to go with my parents and my sister and her kids when I was heavily pregnant with her sister in 2011.

My younger 4 children have not yet been to Disney. It seems like a family vacation for a large family (or any family really nowadays) is too far out of reach.

We (my husband and I) have decided that "enough is enough" and we have set a date to go.

The problem we now face is how best to "save" to get there... sure money going into a savings account each month is great, but where is the tangible "we've saved $$$ for our trip"? It's hard to show the young kids a number on a computer screen showing a dollar amount in a bank account.

It is easy, however, to have something come up and end up spending the vacation money on it.

I have found an INGENIOUS way for our family to start saving and have it be more visual for the kids.
NOTE: I cannot take full credit for this idea. I WISH I knew who to credit for the idea - my sister shared it on Facebook or liked it or something and I cannot find the post again and when I search online I can't find the original source. If you know who came up with this idea, please let me know so I can properly link to them!
We took two 2-liter soda bottles and I printed fun labels for them with a picture of the castle and "Dimes For Disney" on them. They look ADORABLE right?

The font name is "Waltograph" and is available HERE.

Ok so, we have been adding dimes here and there when we use cash (which honestly isn't often - which I'm hoping to remedy in the future, but that's a whole other blog post).

In the meantime, I've decided that anytime we sell something on a yard sale page, the funds will go towards Disney. If it's $25 or less we'll get the amount in DIMES and add to our stash a few a day per child til they're all in there. If it's over $25 it'll go right into the savings account that we're also adding to monthly for our trip.

This way we have some "visual" savings going (sources estimate a 2-liter bottle will hold approximately $700 in dimes - which I hope to confirm once we fill one up!) and some "behind the scenes" savings in the bank.

The best part of this savings method is the kids get to participate in the process, learn the value of money AND we will be less inclined to "spend" our dimes if something comes up between now and our vacation!

Here is where we stand so far (with another 4 and a half rolls on hand to add some each day from selling an old dresser the girls had)... not too shabby, right?

What is YOUR favorite way to save for a family vacation & where is your favorite vacation spot??

Later Taters!

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