December 15, 2014

Cute, Cheap, & Easy Holiday Gift

Last year I had come across this idea for Dip Mix Ornaments on Pinterest and knew that this is what I wanted to do for gifts for my coworkers. It is so cute, cheap, and easy!  You are really going to be blown away when I break down the cost of this whole project.

What I did was buy Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing & Seasoning Mix from Costco. I didn't want to just dump ranch mix into the ornaments so I added a little dried dill weed, chopped dried onions, and dried parsley. All of which I already had in my pantry. How Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee of me?

I'll be honest with you I didn't measure how much of the additional spices I added. I was torn between filling them all the way or not. If I had decided to fill them, I would have had to buy a lot more mix. I ended up only using about 1 1/2 containers of the ranch mix.

I bought these cute gift tags at the craft store and used some washi tape to jazz them up. I wrote the recipe for making both ranch dressing and dip mix on the back. Each ornament has approximately 6 tbsp of mix. To make 16 oz of dip or 16 oz of dressing only 3 tbsp of the mix is needed.

Approximate price breakdown of this project:
13 ornaments $0.44/each (I got these on clearance after Christmas last year at Walmart) = $5.72
2 containers of ranch mix $7.99 (from my local Costco) = $15.98
Additional spices = $0
Craft supplies (white gel marker, gift tags, washi tape, and string all 20% off with coupon at Michaels) = $10

Total $31.70 or $2.44 a person!


December 12, 2014

I Heart Breakfast Casseroles

I really love breakfast casseroles because you can make them ahead of time and just pop it in the oven. They also reheat well and are delicious as leftovers. For the past few years I've made a breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. While the casserole bakes in the oven you are free to open up gifts.

In the past, the Jimmy Dean Breakfast Casserole was my go to recipe. I have been substituting the bread with the low carb bread we like. The best low carb bread I've had is Sammi's Bakery Low Carb 7 Grain Fiber, it doesn't have to be thawed, has the same texture of regular bread, and tastes really good. The worst low carb bread that I've had is Julian Bakery Coconut Paleo Bread, yuck. I digress.

I found a couple of new breakfast casseroles and adapted them a little bit because I can never just follow a recipe which drives my husband crazy. The first recipe below is the one I made over the weekend to test out on my husband and it was a winner (not low carb though). I made the second recipe for a pot luck breakfast at work today. It was good, but not as good as the other.

Cheesy Biscuit Breakfast Casserole (1/2 Recipe)
4 refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, quartered
1/2 roll breakfast sausage

1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup baby spinach, cooked
4 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz (1/2 block) Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder

1. Grease an 8in square baking dish.
2. Place the quartered biscuits in the bottom of the dish.
3. Brown the sausage then sprinkle over the biscuits. Using the grease from the sausage, saute the spinach and onions until the onions are slightly caramelized. Once cooked, spoon over the biscuits/sausage.
4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, cream, garlic powder, and mustard powder then pour into the baking dish.
5. Sprinkle the cubed Velveeta over the top then bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Zesty Breakfast Casserole
10 eggs
1 pkg shredded cheddar cheese
6 hash brown patties
1 roll breakfast sausage
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup RO-TEL

1. Cook the hash browns as directed then place them in a single layer in the bottom of a 9x11 baking dish.
2. While the hash browns are crisping, brown the sausage then set aside.
3. In a large bowl mix together eggs, sour cream, and RO-TEL. Add in cooked sausage and the cheese.
4. Pour the mixture over the hash browns and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.


November 18, 2014

The Foundry Christmas Store

I try to give back all throughout the year, but I try to give a little extra especially around the holidays. Last year, I blogged about the Helping Up Mission which is something I first became interested in when I was in grad school.

This year, through a coworker of mine I will be helping The Foundry's Christmas Store. My coworker's church will be donating to their Christmas Store event and asked others in the department if we were interested in contributing too. This is the first I've heard of The Foundry, per their website:

"The Foundry is a church in Baltimore City.  We exist to see lives, neighborhoods, and the city transformed by the hope of Jesus and we are committed to making Baltimore an even greater place to live, work, and play. The Foundry is a community of people, coming together to pour ourselves out for our city.

We believe that church is not something to go to – it is something we are. We are modeled after the way Jesus lived – we want to serve people without reserve and without judgment, we want to love each other the way Jesus loved his friends and followers, and we want to help people experience God.

There are no secret handshakes, and no perfect people are allowed. If you are interested in God but not so sure about church, we invite you to check out the Foundry. We strive to create a safe environment where we can explore hard questions about God and faith, connect with one another, and act by serving the city together.

We meet on Sundays at 9:30 & 11 am at Tabrizi's"

It doesn't seem like The Foundry is the place to go to if you are seeking the traditional church or service, but the message is still the same- "to serve the people without reserve and without judgement" and I like that.

In the past I've participated in both Adopt-A-Family and Salvation Army Angel Tree. With those, you bought a gift that you thought the family/kids would like and wrapped it. I have no doubt in my mind that those families were grateful for the generosity of others, but I wondered, what if they didn't like what someone had bought them? Do the parents feel as if they couldn't provide for their children?

Much like them, The Foundry's Christmas Store is different than the other programs. The Christmas Store will be open weekends in December for people in particular parents to come to and shop for Christmas gifts for their families at a deep, deep discount. The items in the store are all donated and brand new. The Christmas Store allows them to actually do the shopping, buying, and picking out the gifts. I really think that this is an awesome thing.

I've bought a bunch of toys for the store, but if this seems like something you want to participate in here's how:

  • Donate new toys to The Foundry between now and December 7th. Toys, books, and games should be brand new and can be dropped off at he Foundry’s services on Sunday or at The Foundry office during the week.
  • Volunteer to work in The Christmas Store.
  • Refer Families to The Christmas Store


November 15, 2014

Our Trip to Austin, Texas

My husband and I just returned from our trip to Austin, Texas! Our reason for going to Austin was for the Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas. I got the Mr. tickets to the race last year for Christmas. We stayed at a great place we found on Airbnb for a ridiculously amazing price. All of the area hotels were at least $300/night. If you haven't heard of Airbnb, I definitely suggest checking it out. We had previously used it when we went to Sonoma, California.

Austin in October/November isn't as warm as I had hoped but it sure did beat the weather Baltimore was having :) The race was super fun, watching the race on TV really doesn't do how fast the cars are going justice. Formula 1 is truly an international sport. I was really surprised to see so many people from other countries! I was also surprised at how diverse the fan base is.
Not only did we go for the race, we also went for the food! Oh, the food! Here, there are a lot of food trucks. In Austin, there were a lot of food trailers. The trailers typically are always located in the same spot. It was cool that some of the trailers had joined up with a bar and some were on their own property and then created a cool space for dining adjacent to the trailer.

Some highlights:

Detroit style pizza. I had never heard of Detroit style pizza, but it's a real thing! The husband said it was the best pizza he's ever had. That's saying a lot being that he is a pizza aficionado and grew up on Chicago Deep Dish in Illinois.
Detroit Style Pizza from VIA 313, The Rocket (near) and The Cadillac (far)
Tacos, tacos, tacos! I'm pretty sure we had tacos every day we were in Austin and I honestly don't have a problem with that. Another great taco place was Bomb Tacos located inside Bar 96 which just so happens to be a Ravens bar! They had a good selection of local craft beer that went well with the tacos.
Egg, chorizo, and cactus breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural
BBQ, because duh! A must in Texas.
BBQ turkey, brisket, and pulled pork from The Salt Lick
A few minutes from where we were staying was this adorably awesome restaurant called Sawyer & Co. that had a 50's diner style feel to it. It had a diner counter with stools and all! I would describe this as Tex-Mex meets Southern Comfort food which are probably two of my favorites. EVER.
Fried Pickles
Trailer Park Bene
Ham, swiss, and mushroom omelette with cheese grits and biscuit


October 22, 2014

Dachshund Finds: Big Lots Edition

Who knew that Big Lots would be a place that has so many awesome Dachshund Finds? I certainly didn't! I recently went there with my husband and mother in law who was furniture shopping. Every aisle I went down seemed to have another Dachshund Find waiting for me to discover! Let me tell you, it was really hard not to buy every single one of these ;)

Set of 2 Light Up Dachshunds: $40
Inflatable Holiday Dachshund: $40 
Inflatable Halloweenie Dachshund: $40
Set of 2 Dachshund Puppy Gift Bags: $4


October 15, 2014

Nurse Contracts Ebola: Who is to blame?

After reading this article on Reuters, I felt the need to weigh in on what is happening with the nurse diagnosed with the Ebola virus here in the U.S.

As a nurse, it really angers me that the hospital administration was so quick to point the finger at the nurses taking care of the patient. Everyday, the finger is pointed at the nurse as to why a medication wasn't given on time, why this order didn't get carried through, why a lab wasn't drawn, etc. There are so many contributing factors to how/why something like this happens and many other individuals involved. It is not acceptable to put the sole blame on nursing.

Some questions that come to my mind are:

  • What was staffing like for this nurse? I know that personally, when I was having a crazy, busy, day I'd use shortcuts to maximize my productivity. Of course, I never did anything that would have caused danger to my patients, but still, was she so busy that she didn't have time to decontaminate equipment/herself properly?
  • Did she have enough support from her manager, charge nurse, infection control department, clinical educator? Were they readily available if she had questions about the process of donning/doffing PPE (personal protective equipment)?
  • Did the nurse feel comfortable questioning the process if she noticed it was not being followed? Did she feel comfortable asking for help if unsure of how to manage this patient?
  • Did the hospital provide adequate, annual training on infection prevention and protective measures? How did they assess competency?
  • Did the hospital have the appropriate PPE stocked? Nurses are some of the most creative people on the planet. We can make something out of nothing. Maybe the nurses had to make do with what they did have. 
  • Did housekeeping/environmental services follow protocol for cleaning an isolation room?  Was waste properly discarded?
The nurse(s) who took care of the patient in Texas with Ebola need to be thanked and appreciated not blamed and criticized. I'm sure when word got around that there was a patient with Ebola on the floor, many staff members probably did not want to care for that patient, some probably even refused.

Also, noted in the article that the nurse has a dog that she adores and a dog of someone in Europe who had Ebola was euthanized as a precaution. So sad. As a fellow nurse and dog mom, I wish all the best to the nurse in Texas and her dog too. 


October 10, 2014

October Dachshund Finds

Here are a few Dachshund Finds that I've spotted so far this month, enjoy!

Dachshund boys outfit: price was under $15 not sure of the exact price, sizes 18M-4T, found at the Columbia Costco 
Lighted Tinsel Dachshund: $39.99, seen at the Target in Columbia
Women's Dachshund Pajama Set: $39.97, Nordstrom Rack in Columbia


October 6, 2014

I Like Our Guys

Part of being a Baltimorean is having a strong passion for our sports teams. I can remember going to the games at Memorial Stadium with my Nannie and Great Aunt who were long time season ticket holders and I remember being at the game when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's most consecutive games played record. Ahhh, such fond memories.
I've always been an Orioles fan although some years to a lesser extent (lifelong Orioles fans you know what I'm talking about)... but lately it's hard not to talk about my excitement/pride for what this team has done.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to the ALDS/ALCS/World Series home games. The first game just so happened to be on my husband's birthday and he received the best gift of all when the Orioles beat the Tigers. That 8th inning was definitely one to remember. 

I have been to many, many, games at Camden Yards and I have never seen or heard the Orioles fans as crazy excited as they were. I think the crowd at the second game on Friday was much louder and pumped up than the first game! The Orioles fan are truly some of the best, we definitely show up for our team win or lose, good seasons and bad.

I haven't been able to stop watching the replays of the best plays of the ALDS series. I get goosebumps when I heard play calling by the announcers and seeing the players celebrate almost brings tears to my eyes. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing the O's play this Friday at home against the Royals in the first of the ALCS games. I couldn't be prouder of our city, our fans, and our guys!


September 6, 2014

Etsy Dachshund Finds

Today is my dachshund Cooper's birthday! I thought I'd celebrate by posting about some recent Etsy dachshund finds! I loveeee Etsy and especially because it is a treasure trove for the dachshund obsessed such as myself.

Aren't these adorable?! They are dachshund nail stickers that come in a variety of colors. 
Sold by: Craftlockian, $3 for 50 (what a deal!)

This is actually my second candle from this shop. The scent is driftwood. The first one I got was Milk & Honey. The candles smell great without being overpowering and last a good while.
Sold by: The Waxy Dachshund Candle Co, $12 for a 10oz jar


August 15, 2014

Product Review: Jamberry Nails

My lack of blog posts has been partly due to work being extremely busy. After working 15+ hours like I did earlier this week, the last thing I want to spend a lot of time doing is painting my nails! I previously reviewed Sally Hansen's Insta-Dri Nail Color which has changed my life.

I've been hearing a lot about Jamberry Nails and was curious what it was all about. Basically they are nail decals that you apply using a bit of heat and they are supposed to last longer than a traditional manicure with nail polish.

A sheet of nails (20 decals) costs $15. Before I committed to buying a sheet, I wanted to first try it out to see if it even worked! Fortunately, a former coworker was hosting an online Jamberry Nail party and the consultant, Christina was offering to send anyone a free sample!

I did quite a bit of research on the best way to apply the decals online before I actually did it myself. The website offered some helpful advice, but the YouTube videos of non-Jamberry Nail employees were better.

The suggested supplies needed are:
A source of heat
Orange stick
Cuticle pusher
Nail file

I only had a few of the suggested supplies, but my nails turned out fine. I found the decals a little difficult to peel off the sheet, so I used some tweezers to do that and I also used the tweezers to hold the decal while I was warming it up with my hair dryer. The orange stick is supposed to be used to smooth out the decal as you are applying it to your nail, but I used a finger on my opposite hand and that worked out fine. I actually would suggest you use cuticle scissors like I did to cut the edge of the decal instead of using the nail file. The nail file didn't work out for me.

Getting everything set up
Decal is on my ring finger
I just removed my decals after almost two weeks of applying them. A group of my friends got together for steamed crabs and I thought picking crabs would be a true test to see if the decals were as durable as they were advertised to be and they were! No peeling or anything! Some other comments about the decals is that the sheets are all the same color or same design. I wish there were some way to mix and match. The decals do come in different sizes, but they may not cover the entire width of the nail. It is hard to tell, but still.

If you are interested in trying Jamberry Nails, feel free to visit the website of the consultant I referred to earlier at or check out


August 13, 2014

IKEA Dachshund Finds!

The Mr. and I have visited IKEA twice over the past two weekends. First we bought a new king size bed and second we bought some new night stands! Cooper approves of the new bed. Plenty of room for him to lay length wise which previously would have forced me to sleep on my side on the edge of the bed :)

Like I said when I wrote my first Dachshund Finds post, it seems as if Dachshunds are so trendy right now! But it still surprises and excites me when I come across a Dachshund related item.

I've included the Swedish product name.
Dachshund stuffed animal (SMASLUG): $4.99 found at the College Park IKEA
Framed Picasso Animals Reprint (OLULNDA): $39.99 found at the College Park IKEA


July 24, 2014

Product Review: Quest Bars

I admit I haven't been staying strong on the Keto diet, but I'm going to try to do it again. It's just that sometimes those parmesan rosemary truffle oil fries speak to me! EAT ME! they say and I listen... I've found this great tasting low carb product that I think will help me stay true to the diet.

My husband has tried to get me to drink these awful tasting protein drinks and try so many different types of protein bars. I think my palate is really sensitive to sweeteners because most of them taste absolutely gross except for Quest Bars! They are the best tasting protein bars I've ever had and to make them even better, most bars have 4g net carbs or less. In addition to being low carb, they are high fiber, high protein, low sugar, and gluten free! There are so many different flavors to choose from. We bought a variety pack from (12 for $27.98) so we could try out all the flavors and decide which ones we liked best before committing to ordering a whole box of one flavor.

The only other places I've seen Quest Bars are at Smoothie King and my gym, Lifetime Fitness. I have read that some people buy them at Whole Foods, but I did not see them at the Harbor East location when I was there last. Leave me a comment if you've been able to find these any where else!

The variety pack has 1 bar in each of the following flavors:
Banana Nut Muffin
Peanut Butter&Jelly
Peanut Butter Supreme
Lemon Cream Pie
Mixed Berry Bliss
Coconut Cashew
Strawberry Cheesecake
Chocolate Brownie
Cinnamon Roll
Apple Pie
Vanilla Almond Crunch
Chocolate Peanut Butter

So far, I've tried banana nut muffin, peanut butter & jelly, and coconut cashew. My husband has had cinnamon roll, cookies & creme, and chocolate chip cookie dough (the latter two are not part of the variety pack). Out of the three I've tried, the coconut cashew has been my favorite.

Unlike other protein bars, I did not notice any funny aftertaste. The texture of the bars are a little like taffy. A little chewy and slightly gritty. Some of the bars actually have bits of almonds, cashew, coconut, etc. which I think helps with that. I've seen on Instagram that some people have been warming the bars up and topping them with things like whipped cream and low carb ice cream. Yum!


July 18, 2014

Days Like This

I typically don't make plans to do anything during the week because I'm an old lady who gets grumpy if I'm not in bed by a certain time (nurse problems), but since I took today off last night my husband and our friends, Cat & Joe went to another delicious dinner at The Food Market (if you don't already know it's my favorite) then saw Ben Folds perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last night. Rock this bitch!

I'm also taking off Monday so I have a list of things I would like to do. One of those things is, crafting.

I really love crafting and I've been thinking up this idea for a succulent wreath for awhile now. Michael's has 25% off your purchase including sale items coupon that expires tomorrow so I took that opportunity to buy my supplies. The succulent picks ended up being 70% off anyway, score!

This was super easy to make and it cost less than $15! I did use a coupon and I already I really love how it turned out.

I took the succulents off of the stem which made it easier to place them exactly where I wanted. 

It is amazing what taking a day or two off of work can do for a person! I really enjoy low stress days like this where there aren't any "have to" things.


July 11, 2014

Craving Now: New Orleans


Lisbeth Eats' blog post on beignets is to blame for what I'm craving now! Reading her post on beignets reminded me of some of the delicious food I had in New Orleans. I went a little over a year ago for a family wedding. Obviously, Cafe Du Monde was a must and it is good to know that I can just drive to Fed Hill to satisfy my craving for beignets. It also reminded me that I had a box of beignet mix I brought back in my cupboard. I've been trying to eat low carb, but...
The most delicious thing I ate while in New Orleans was the chargrilled oysters from ACME Oyster House. The wait to get a table at this place was easily over an hour, but to me it was totally worth it and I am seriously contemplating buying a ticket to fly down there to eat it ASAP! I have had chargrilled oysters at places locally, but they didn't even come close to stacking up to the oysters I had at ACME.


July 4, 2014

Korshi Sushi & Korean Buffet

**Update 4/27/15 Korshi has closed and has been closed for some time now**

For what seems like many months there was a Coming Soon sign where Nichi Bei Kai used to be. There was speculation that it was going to become a sushi/Korean buffet. The same day I read Melodi's comment on HowChow my husband had also driven past Wegmans and saw signs that said Korshi was Now Open.

Melodi mentioned that it had received mixed reviews (only 3 reviews so far) on Yelp. No where on the signs did it mention Korean BBQ. I think that might be why some people have been disappointed.  The signs say, Sushi and Korean Buffet.

We walked in and were seated right away. Our waitress said that their soda machine was broken so they only had water or hot tea. No big deal there.

We went right up to the buffet and was surprised by how many different buffet items they had. There were at least 15 different sushi rolls to choose from and the same amount of Korean offerings. At the end of the sushi buffet table were lots of banchan like kimchi, bean sprouts, and pickled radish. I'm sure the food will vary from day to day but some of the Korean offerings last night included fried rice, miso soup, spicy rice noodles, japchae, fried mackerel, stir fry tofu, fish katsu, chicken teriyaki, bbq ribs, sweet/spicy fried chicken wings, baked salmon, stuffed mussels, and chicken alfredo. One of these things is not like the other....

Like one of the Yelp reviewers said, there was no dessert just fresh fruit which was fine with me since I never save room for dessert anyway. I suggested to my husband that they should get their desserts from Shilla Bakery. I love that place.

For dinner it was $18.95. The place gets points for variety and taste. Also, the service was good. Our glasses were never left empty and our finished plates never sat on our table for longer than a few seconds. If I had to rate it on 4 stars, I'd give it a 2.5. For me, it was lacking a bit on those authentic Korean dishes that I'm used to at Kimco Seafood's sushi/Korean buffet.


July 1, 2014

My Favorite Baltimore Restaurant + A Dachshund Find

My girlfriends from high school and I usually try to get together for dinner when Baltimore Restaurant Week is going on. The timing didn't work out for the Winter Restaurant Week so a few months ago we planned on meeting up for dinner & drinks. I was tasked with choosing where we'd go. I'd been reading and hearing a lot about The Food Market so I went online and made a reservation (highly suggested). A few weeks before going to dinner with my friends my husband and I had gone to Woodberry Kitchen for my birthday dinner and yes, the food is as delicious as everyone says it is. But The Food Market though... there's just something about it.

After dinner & drinks with the girls I knew I had to bring my husband here. I couldn't wait to get home to tell him about the best meal I've had in a long time in a Baltimore restaurant. I told him that I liked it better than Woodberry and you should have seen the look on his face. Pure shock and skepticism. I told him that the food would speak for itself. My husband and I went to The Food Market this past weekend and I know he hated to admit it, but he said that "this is hands down the best single dish I've ever had."

Just like their website says, "The Food Market focuses on approachable, serious comfort food, in a smartly designed industrial-modern space." Maybe comfort food is just the food that I prefer? Or maybe it is how effortless the dishes seem to be executed/prepared and are so freaking delicious? I dunno... I really can't put my finger on it.

What we ordered:

Amish pretzels with beer cheese fondue appetizer, not pictured are the buffalo fried pickles with scrambled Gorgonzola and hot sauce.
My husband wanted to stick a straw in the cheese and drink it haha.
I ordered the Roseda steak frites with onion butter, Parmesan truffle fries, and fresh zucchini
I ordered this when I came with my girlfriends and had to get it again it was that good. I usually like my steak well done (don't judge) but this is the only place that I will order it medium.

Not pictured is my husband's scallops with english pea risotto, cherry tomatoes, and according to my him the best sauce ever. I don't like scallops, but I tried a bite and I have to say they were delicious. They were smokey, perfectly seasoned, and cooked just right.

My husband called them "the steak of the sea" lol.

Also not pictured is our dessert which was coconut creme brulee with fresh pineapple and strawberry. You know the sugary crust on top is done right when you need to use your spoon to break through. It tasted like a pina colada and took me back to our honeymoon in Maui.
After dinner, we both decided that we need to do some walking. The last time I walked around the main street in Hampden was many years ago when I was a kid. A few stores past The Food Market was this charming store called Trohv. They have really cool things for the home, it kinda reminded me of Sweet Elizabeth Jane in downtown Ellicott City. Love those type of stores! While browsing, I came across this Dachshund Find that I and the husband knew I needed to have.
It's a 1/1 piece of mixed media Dachshund art. I'll have to check it and update with the artists' name.