Saturday, October 31, 2015

You Think You Can Handle MY Chili?!?


So, you think you can handle my chili?!? It has a spicy kick to it, I must warn you! But if you think you can handle it, be my guest and give it a try!
 
My love for chili really started when my (now) ex-husband (who is a culinary school graduate) used to make it for us. Oh man was it good! And he made is spicy! This is when I discovered I love my chili hot! Well, once we got divorced, I found myself craving that yummy chili...but it was all up to me to make it now! I have made chili several times, several ways. I sort of surprised myself that I was able to make it taste so good, even on the first try! Then, I was able to tweak and perfect it each time after that. Now, I think I make the perfect chili! Granted, this is made precisely to my own liking, so my idea of perfection might not be the same as your own. The nice thing about chili is that it is easy to tweak it to your own taste. Add less spices and peppers if you prefer it less spicy. Add more meat or more beans if you like it that way.
 
Now that it is the chilly time of year, it's time for chili! (haha, no pun intended) So let's get started with this recipe I have been bragging about so much! ;) By the way, when I make chili, I MAKE CHILI. Like a lot of it. My family will eat it for a few days and I freeze a bunch of it. So, this recipe makes one huge pot full, probably like 20-30 servings, I kid you not lol. So, if you want to make less, just cut this recipe in half.



Friday, October 30, 2015

HQB's Friday Five ~ Review Products I Love!

Shortly after I started my blog, I also started doing product reviews! This is an addictive thing to get into! I have been able to try some really awesome products, so I thought I would share my
Top 5 Favorites with y'all.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Are you really gonna eat that?!?

 
I know around this time of year especially, everyone is eating a lot of candy. I don't know many people who don't like candy. But if you are health conscious, like me, you might want to keep reading! Too often we don't really think about everything that is in that piece of candy. We just mindlessly pop it into our mouth and enjoy that sugary treat! But is it worth it?
 
Even if you read labels, often times you still have no clue what half of that crap listed even is! All the high fructose corn syrup, sugar and food coloring! And what do all those food coloring numbers mean? Red #40? Yellow #5? Huh? Let's break this down a little so y'all are well informed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Party Fun Beer Koozie!


Well, these days I am a bit older and I'm happy to say my big party days are over lol...but I still will often have evening cookouts and bonfires! I also enjoy having a beer or two during such times as well. So, when I saw these kick-ass beer koozies, I just had to try it!
 
Everyone probably has some koozies laying around their house. They might have a funny saying on them or an image of a palm tree from your last Florida vacation. But they are still pretty boring. Well, I found THIS one that kicks it up a notch! Take a boring koozie to a whole new level with the Cooler Torch! Put your drink inside the koozie and press a button to watch it light up! Yellow, Green, or flashing Red LED lights illuminate your drink! If you are in a dark setting, such as a party or outside at night, it will surely add to the fun! It also came with a small LED flashlight, equipped with a bottle opener at the end. And a little bag to store them both in.
 

This would make a good gift for someone, male or female. There are different color options, but I chose pink. If you know someone who likes to throw parties, I bet they would really love this! And of course, the flashlight comes in handy too! It is small enough for a pocket or purse, but it is super bright. I look forward to using this a lot next summer when cookout season is in full swing!
 
 
 
Disclaimer; I received this product for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

National Chocolate Day!



I think I've said it before, I get a kick out of how there seriously is a "national day" for everything you can think of! National dog day, coffee day, popcorn day, hat day, hugging day, and get this...even a national straw day. Who comes up with this stuff? Well, I don't really know but all I know is that today, October 28th, is National Chocolate Day. Now there are very few of these "national days" that I actually give two hoots about, but I gotta say, National Chocolate Day is one of them! Probably ties in importance with National Coffee Day for me, lol.

Now I do love chocolate, but it's not something I have or even crave all the time. Actually I am very cliché when it comes to chocolate. There is a specific time I crave it every month, and without having a TMI situation, I'll leave it at that. Ok, moving on...so since it is National Chocolate Day, I figured I'd share a couple chocolate based recipes with y'all today!

I'll start off with a super easy one! Not to mention it's healthy too! Chocolate covered bananas! (National Banana Day is August 27th, by the way, lol) These are simple because they only require three ingredients and you already know the two main ones.

Here we go...
 

Chocolate Covered Bananas
(makes 12)



Ingredients:
  • 6 large bananas
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 coconut oil
  • popsicle sticks (12)
  • wax paper
Instructions:
  1. Peel bananas and cut each one in half through the middle.
  2. Insert a popsicle stick into the bottom (flat) portion of the banana.
  3. Put bananas on a tray lined with wax paper and freeze until totally frozen, approx. 4 hours.
  4. Before removing the bananas from the freezer, start making the chocolate coating.
  5. In a microwave-safe dish, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil.
  6. Heat for 30 seconds, then stir. Heat for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat once more if needed. (You don't want to over heat the chocolate, it can burn)
  7. Pour the liquid chocolate into a tall glass and dip each banana until well coated.
  8. After dipping each one, place on its side on the wax paper, then store in the freezer. If you want one right away, let it stay in freezer about 10 minutes, then enjoy! The rest can stay in the freezer until you wish to eat them! They will last quite a while in there, not that I expect them to last very long!
Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
 

Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (organic raw cane sugar is a good option)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Microwave the butter just until it becomes soft, approx. 30 seconds.
  3. Using a mixer and hand-held beater, beat the sugar and the butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and egg, then beat on low speed until well blended. Don't beat too long, 20 seconds at most or the cookies won't come out soft.
  4. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and mix well.
  5. At this point, the consistency should allow you to mold the dough into balls, using your hands. If they seem to stick to your hands too much, add a touch of flour to your hands between making each ball.
  6. Roll out 9-12 balls and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  7. Bake in oven for approx. 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them and watch for them to become puffy and just slightly tanned on top. Don't wait until they are browned like you might with other cookies.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool 20 minutes...unless you can't wait, then just dig right in!

Chocolate Martini


Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 ounces Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounces Cream de Cacao
  • 1/2 ounce Vodka
  • 2 1/2 ounces half-and-half creamer
  • chocolate shavings
  • cocoa powder
  • ice cubes
Instructions:
  1. Put martini glass(es) in freezer for ten minutes.
  2. Put a few ice cubes into a shaker and add all liquid ingredients, shake vigorously for 1 minute.
  3. From any solid chocolate bar, shave off some, as much as is to your liking.
  4. Take your martini glass(es) out of the freezer. Pour some cocoa powder on a plate. With your finger, wet the outside rim of the martini glass and dip it into the cocoa powder.
  5. Pour the drink from the shaker into the martini glass, throw some chocolate shavings on top and enjoy!
*note: if you want an extra chocolaty touch, before pouring the drink, you can use chocolate
syrup to make some lines along the side of the glass.
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cranberry Nut Muffin (healthier) Recipe


It has been confirmed...I am obsessed with muffins! I love making them and unfortunately for my thighs, I like eating them too, lol! But the good thing with muffins is that if your weight and health are of concern, you can make them with healthier options! So don't throw those muffin tins out just yet because you're dieting or trying to eat clean...check out this healthier recipe for cranberry nut muffins; one of my all time favorites!

I used to buy cranberry nut muffins, baked fresh, from my favorite grocery store...Wegman's. (Who else loves Wegman's?!?) But, like a year or so ago, they stopped making that particular kind. Ugh, the devastation was real. Well, I decided to look into recipes to make my own. But if I were going to make my own, I was also going to make them healthy too! That is the best part in making your own; you know exactly what is in them! I tried a few variations before I finally got it right! Crab your apron and let's get started!

 
 

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 cup fat free Greek Yogurt
  • zest of orange
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (I used organic)
  • 2 cups fresh/raw cranberries
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line your muffin tin with cupcake papers.
  3. Put fresh/raw cranberries in a saucepan, along with the brown sugar and orange juice. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until berries become soft and sugar is dissolved. Set Aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients, walnuts and cranberries, whisk together until well blended.
  6. Pour into muffin tin, filling each only 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until they have risen and browned on top a little.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

These are great for a quick breakfast, a snack, or even as a dessert!
 


Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

HQB's Friday Five ~ 5 Reasons Why I Love Target!

Due to the fact I live in a small town, we don't have a Target. Can you believe it? No Target!?! Ugh, I truly hate it! But anytime I find myself in Buffalo or Erie, you can be sure that a stop at Target is essential! I was in Erie, Pa this week and of course, we did a little shopping at Target! So, I figured for this week's HQB's Friday Five, I would address why I love this store so much! So, get ready, here are my 5 top reasons I love Target!

 
 
1. While I was living in Orlando, Florida, I worked at a Target for a while. If you have been following my blog for a while, you might recall my post about what position I had there. Let's just say, it's probably not what you're thinking...a cashier or something along those lines. Read that blog post HERE if you want to find out about my crazy Target job! But anyway, since I worked there, I know the "Target smell". I'm not sure if everyone else notices it, or it's just because I was there all the time...but every Target has the same smell. It's not a bad smell, and I can't really put my finger on it, it's more of an accumulation of scents I guess. But every time I walk through those doors, I have the same thought..."there's that Target smell"...and somehow it is comforting to me! It reminds me of a good time in my life. I was young, just newly married, living in Florida, and was happy <3

2. I LOVE their home décor! They must have an amazing team of interior designers because they have so many neat items! I used to love Pier 1, but they are so pricey that I could never afford anything from there. TJMaxx also has a really nice selection of home décor items too, but they are also a little pricey. Target has similar items but for less! Especially if you hit up their clearance racks, which brings me to my number three reason!




3. Target has amazing clearance! Often found on an end cap, there are always so many things marked down! Just look for those little red stickers! I can't tell you how many times I have gotten an item for 70 or 75% off the original price of something! Finding good deals like that gives me a high lol. The clearance tag itself can tell you a lot. If the price ends in $0.06 or $0.08, the item will get marked down even further. If it ends in $0.04 however, that is the best deal you are going to get! Also, looking at the top right corner of the clearance tag, you should see a number...30, 50, etc. That is the percent off you're getting! Now, I've heard that Target has a specific schedule on when they mark down items. Since I don't have one locally, I haven't been able to prove this to be true, but maybe y'all know better about this! None the less, here is what I was told...
Monday; kid's clothing, baby items, electronics, and stationary items
Tuesday; woman's clothing, domestics, pets, food
Wednesday; Men's clothing, toys, health and beauty, lawn and garden
Thursday; housewares, shoes, lingerie, music, movies, books, décor, luggage, sporting goods
Friday; auto, cosmetics, jewelry, and hardware




4. Target's Dollar Spot!! Oh heck yesss!! Found when you first walk in, there is a section of items that are $1-3. I always find cute and interesting things there! They change it frequently, so it's always something new to check out! I love starting off my Target adventure there! It sounds silly, but it gets me in the shopping mood!!

5. The overall shopping experience is just so much better at Target, than at let's say, Wal-Mart..or KMart. It's cleaner, nicer items, better styles, nicer employees...I could go on and on! My son loves going to Target too, but is never really excited about a trip to Wal-Mart. He always loves to look at their toys, which they do have an amazing selection! They have this kitty piano that my son has been obsessed with since he was like 2 years old lol. Every time we're in Target, he has to play with it! During our last trip, Xander found a huge Ninja Turtle that he thought was cool. I also thought it was cute that they had a place to take selfies! Equipped with a hashtag sign and that white dog that has been a part of their logo for years. Of course, my son and I took advantage of the selfie spot, haha! Ahhh, Target just knows how to make their shoppers happy!




 
 

Watch this video! It basically sums up every trip to Target! LOL!https://www.facebook.com/BuzzFeedVideo/videos/1578407142300162/?fref=nf
 
 
What do YOU love about Target???
 

 
 

A Better Way to Get Rid of Your Unwanted Kid's Items!

For years now, just about every summer, I have a yard sale. As most of you with children know, from the time you are expecting the arrival of your bundle of joy, you start to acquire a lot of stuff! You know, starting with that baby shower haul of gifts...bassinets, swings, diaper bags, toys, clothes, the good old diaper genie and so on! And does it stop there? OMG, no, far from it! They need new clothes and new toys practically constantly. If you don't occasionally get rid of stuff your child(ren) has outgrown, before you know it your house is packed full and you are drowning in kids stuff!


Look familiar? Baby shower explosion!

Me; super huge and preggo with my son
So, probably the most common thing parents do then, is have a yard sale. This requires a lot of work! If you've ever had one, you know! You have to gather everything you're selling, price the items, set up tables, racks, or whatever you are using to display your items. Then you might choose to advertise your sale in the local newspaper (which is pretty costly) and/or make a bunch of signs and hassle with putting them up around your neighborhood. And you have to pray the weather is good! Then of course you have to deal with the parked cars up and down your road, people coming and going, and constantly haggling you on prices..."will you take $1 for this instead of the $2 it's marked?" ...yes, sure, why not, I just want this crap gone! Right?!? This will go on for the typical 1-3 days you hold your sale for. Ugh, that stressed me out just talking about all that! I like going to yard sales, but I don't like having my own lol. Well, guess what...we have other options!


Have you ever checked into store that will buy your items from you? One such store is called Once Upon a Child. This is all you do...gather your items in some boxes. Bring them to the store and give them some time to go through it. Depending on how busy the store is and how many employees they have, it can take as little as 15 minutes! Max time is maybe a hour. You can browse the store while you wait, or come back a little later. The employees will assess your items, and depending on the stores need and the condition of your items, they will either take your items or return them back to you. They will separate the items that they want to buy from you from the ones they're going to pass on. They will then tell you what amount they will offer you for your items. I just recently brought in a couple boxes of clothes, shoes and toys and received $68. They took about 90% of what I brought. The last time I brought a load there, I received $93 for my items! I love this because it saves me from having to have those dreaded back breaking yard sales!




my haul of items..I made $68 from these unwanted items! not bad!

So then, what can you do with what is left over...those items they didn't buy from you? Well, if you still want to avoid having a yard sale, you can donate those items! You can check your local agencies to see where you can donate your items so that people who really need them will get them. Of course there are places like Salvation Army and Goodwill. However, although discounted prices, these places still sell the items. Which is totally fine. But just a reminder, if you want to help those with nothing (maybe someone whose home burnt down, or an abused woman who left everything for the safety of herself and her children) there are agencies in your community that will give your items to families in need, for free. Just throwing that out there! :)
 
 
 
What do you guys do with your unwanted baby/children items? Have you ever sold your items to a store, like Once Upon a Child? or a consignment store? Do you have yard sales? Donate items? Give to family members?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Helping young musicians in Costa Rica!

Unlike some of you, I don't really have one of those large, very close families. I really wish I did, but you can't control what family you are born into, obviously. It's not really that my family lacks in size, there are enough people...but everyone is either geographically spread out, not interested in staying in touch, or have troubled lives so that we aren't really traveling on the same path, if you know what I mean. But I do have a sister, whom I adore. The only problem there is, she and her family, live about 700 miles away from me. We make an annual trip down to Tennessee to visit, and oh how I love those trips! However, I still miss them the other 95% of the year lol.

with my family in Tennessee, minus my nephew Collin (he wasn't with us)
My sister, her husband and their two children moved down there many years ago for better opportunities and better weather. Which if I could I would do the same, so I don't blame them at all! Her 2 kids have now grown up into young adults and I am so proud of them both! But, this blog post is going to focus on my niece, Nayana. She is actually my reason for telling y'all this background information on my family...yes, I have a point to all this, I'll get to it now lol.

Nayana has been playing clarinet for the last 8 years, starting in middle school. She has been hugely successful in her music career! In the past she had been accepted into the Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra, performing various concerts with that group of talented youngsters! Last year, she received the John Philip Sousa Award for her musical excellence! This is awarded to only one high school student per school, per year. It recognizes superior musical talent, loyalty, dependability, effort, and cooperation. You can imagine how proud of her we were for her achievement!
Nayana with her John Philip Sousa Award, 2014
TMEA State Concert Festival
Nayana; second one from left.
Nayana, on the right.
This year, as a college freshman at Middle Tennessee State University, she is continuing to excel in her musical endeavors! She is a music major, no surprise there! She is also minoring is Spanish and Recording Industry, which of course corresponds with her future musical career. She is in MTSU's Symphonic Band, 2nd chair and chamber winds. She recently came to me with some news of an exciting opportunity. She was asked to partake in a trip, along with other music students, to spend 2 weeks in Costa Rica in May 2016. Is this just a vacation to soak up some sun and do site-seeing? Oh no, they plan to do some important work there! The area they plan to visit is very poor. They have some eager to learn students, but without all the proper funds needed to have all the instruments and teachers to help them learn, their music education has been neglected. This is where the selected  MTSU music majors come in! Their wish is to go to this under privileged area, perform for and teach the students there! Nayana explained to me, "I hope the music I play for them will change their lives and give them inspiration to keep growing as a musician, even though they don't have much." I admire her passion to want to help those less fortunate and she told me what an amazing opportunity this is and she was delighted to even be asked to participate! The students they wish to help teach are from elementary through high school age kids. I can imagine these kids will be very thrilled with having some attention and education for their musical needs!
 
 

Nayana has worked a part time job since the day (literally) she turned 16. She is such a hard worker and despite her busy schedule with school, maintaining excellent grades, her band/orchestra practices and performances, she is still working while attending college too! But as most of us know all too well, college is expensive and she bought a car for her daily commute. This trip is in no way paid for through the college, so if the students want to go, they must pay their own way, an estimated $2,500. So, Nayana has set up a GoFundMe account in hopes that she can get some financial support for her trip to Costa Rica! I told her I would be more than happy to share her story, her goals and ambitions, and spread the word about her desire to go help those less fortunate with the art of music! Please feel free to click on the GoFundMe link and if you desire to donate, please do! Any help is appreciated!

GoFundMe Link; https://www.gofundme.com/z54ev53g

Nayana with Dr. Reed Thomas, Director of Band at MTSU; and organizer of this Costa Rica Project.

 
 
 
 
 
 
lots of practice and dedication!


Nayana, second in from the right. MTSU Marching Band members.
 


























 

Where has the Hometown Queen Bee been???

I can't believe it has been nearly a year since I sat in front of this screen as the "Hometown Queen Bee" and wrote a blog po...