Frugal Novice

Make Mornings Easier


Our mornings are always busy. Between getting the kids ready, making lunches, taking the dogs out, making breakfast, and finally getting ourselves ready, we end up rushing around most weekdays. We’ve talked about shifting tasks around so that there’s less to do in the morning, and here are some great ideas for things you can do to make your mornings less stressful – we’ll be trying some of them ourselves!

Check out What to Do in the Evenings to Make Your Mornings Easier

by Tend Editor at Mode

Sofia the First Cookies


I mentioned earlier this month that we’ve started something new in our house – we’re scheduling dates with each of our kids using this chart. We rotate months so that Brian and I each get one-on-one time with the kids, and we also get time together as a family doing a specific activity.

For January I had a date with J, Brian had a date with C, and E got to pick a family activity for us to all do together. She chose – very specifically, I might add – that we would all make Sofia the First cookies. We don’t own Sofia the First cookie cutters, so we had to get creative. I also wanted to keep things simple, because this has been a busy month for us and I just didn’t have the energy to do anything too time-intensive.

Right off the bat I knew we’d need to make these cookies purple. Sofia’s dress is purple, and E is all about purple right now. We found a great sugar cookie recipe on and followed it pretty directly, only modifying it to add a bit of purple food coloring.


Next, we had to figure out how to make these cookies look Sofia the First-ish. We don’t own princess-themed cookie cutters, but guess what kind of cookie cutters work perfectly for a Sofia theme? Easter cookie cutters! Our set included a rabbit face and profile (who doesn’t love Clover the rabbit on Sofia, right? You’ve got to include him! Blue Ribbon Bunny was a favorite episode of E’s for several weeks), a butterfly (these have been present in many Sofia episodes, specifically Princess Butterfly) and two different flowers (Sofia and friends spend lots of time in the garden – we mentioned Vivian’s enchanted garden at her new castle, seen in All the Sprite Moves and E agreed flowers were perfect to include.



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Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam 3DS Game Review


My husband is the ultimate Nintendo fan, with a collection including hundreds of games dating back to his childhood and the NES era.  Since he has had experience playing Mario games for decades, he eagerly agreed to review the advance copy we received of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, which releases today. Thanks for guest posting, Brian!



Hi everyone! As Christi mentioned, I’ve been playing Mario games most of my life, and always get excited for the latest game release. When I think of Mario games, I divide them into several categories; some are platformers, like the classic Super Mario Bros. – your character’s main goal is to get to the end of each level. Some are party games, like the aptly named Mario Party, which include party games and challenges that are fun to play with your family and friends (this is a favorite of our family on game nights!). And some are RPG (role playing games)-based, which means there’s an emphasis on character development and more tactic-based battles.


Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam falls into the latter category, and to me it’s a great fusion of the Paper Mario games and Mario & Luigi game series. Like most Mario games it starts out with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach, and you play as Mario to rescue her.

This time, though, you’re dealing with double the trouble, thanks to Luigi unleashing Paper Mario characters into the 3D world.


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Raspberry Lime Sorbet: Mini Chef Mondays


Hi all! If you saw my post last week, you know we’re already thinking about Valentine’s Day around here. This week’s recipe is another great sweet treat perfect for February 14 – and beyond. I’ve got to give credit for the idea to Brian – when I was brainstorming for this week’s post, he immediately thought raspberry sorbet would be perfect. I decided to add lime in to the mix because I think the two flavors are great together. And this raspberry lime sorbet just has four ingredients!

Sorbet is a perfect dessert to pair with a Valentine’s Day meal, which can often be heavy. It’s light and bright, and this combination of raspberry and lime is sure to wake up your taste buds!

Raspberry Lime Sorbet


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice



  1. Get out a large pot, and add your raspberries. Be sure you buy more than 4 cups if your little helper plans to eat a few a ton.
  2. Add the sugar, water, and lime juice, then stir.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries have softened a bit.
  4. Use your immersion blender to mix everything up until it’s a smooth liquid. If you don’t like seeds, you’ll want to run this mixture through a fine strainer, but we don’t mind them at all, so we keep them in.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, pour it into your ice cream maker and let it run for about 45 minutes.
  6. Let the sorbet set up in the freezer for 3 hours or overnight, then serve!

Step-By-Step Photo Instructions:

Get your raspberries ready – and while I’m thinking of it, if you’ve got a little helper like I do, you might want to get a good step stool for the kitchen. We found ours at IKEA, but there are some on Amazon too that are nice. E loves being up at counter height to help out!


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Homemade Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Dipping Sauce


Back when Brian and I were still newly married, making homemade soft pretzels was one of our first forays outside of our cooking comfort zone. We hadn’t really ever cooked with yeast before, and for some reason the idea of making pretzels from scratch seemed like it would be a challenge. A fun challenge, though – and we decided to go for it. We were successful on our first attempt, and pretty pleased with ourselves. The pretzels were really good! And then we didn’t make again them for another seven years. Crazy, right? Life just sometimes gets in the way of pretzel-making, friends. Then one day a few months back we were at Central Market – because when we visit Fort Worth, we have to stop at Central Market; it’s essential, y’all – and we bought a mix for making pretzels. The mix was decent, but we remembered how much better the pretzels were from scratch, so we got back in the kitchen just a couple of days later to make a homemade batch of pretzels. SO. MUCH. BETTER. The best part? It really is an easy process, albeit one with several steps. Once you make the dough (recipe below!) you’ll want to divide it into eight fairly even pieces. We’re slightly perfectionistic, apparently, and we like to get out our food scale to make it pretty accurate, but you can totally just eyeball it.


Then, as you can see above, we roll the dough out into a long rope, 24? long. We set out the tape measure to make sure we’re getting the dough to the right length, because you want an ample amount to work with for the twist and we like the pretzels to be fairly uniform. Continue Reading…

Wolfgang Puck’s Homemade Potato Chips and Blue Cheese Dip Recipe


Thanks to Wolfgang Puck for sharing this great recipe for y’all! This would be a perfect snack for a Super Bowl party, don’t you think? By the way, this and many more recipes can be found as video lessons presented by Wolfgang in his new cooking school,

Wolfgang Puck’s Homemade Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

Serves 12

Making your own potato chips fresh at home will really impress your guests. It’s incredibly easy with a thermostat-controlled deep fryer. I find a mandoline is the fastest, easiest way to get uniform thin slices. A quickly made blue-cheese dip is the perfect accompaniment.


Potato Chips:

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking (Idaho) potatoes
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • kosher salt

Blue Cheese Dip:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 pound blue cheese crumbled
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

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Burt’s Bees New Lipsticks Give You 100% Natural Beauty


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Burt’s Bees for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’ve loved Burt’s Bees lip balm for years; it’s a staple in my purse. My husband uses it, and my kids do too. In fact, Burt’s Bees has been a brand we love for a long time. I feel good about the natural ingredients used in its products, and that’s hard to find nowadays. They stay true to a simple – and great – idea: what you put on your body should be made from ingredients you can spell and pronounce.

They have more than 150 products for almost every part of your lips, hair and skin, with a mission is to make people lives better everyday, naturally. We’ve used their baby products on all three of our kids, all because they’re a brand we truly trust. I love knowing that Burt’s Bees is natural at its core, and that gives me confidence in using their products for myself and for my whole family.

And now there’s another product from Burt’s Bees I can love: new Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Lipsticks deliver luscious, bold color you’ll love, along with naturally moisturizing ingredients that love your lips in return.

The lipsticks have a smooth, satin finish and 14 versatile shades. They soften and condition lips all day long, thanks to a natural formula featuring Beeswax, Moringa Oil and Raspberry Seed Oil. They provide a creamy and lightweight coverage that doesn’t feel heavy like many other lipsticks. And they’re 100% natural, which makes me feel good about wearing it all day.

Burt’s Bees lipsticks are available at Target, and I went to ours to pick up a few shades for myself. I decided to get two very different colors and see what I thought of each. I purchased this darker red shade, called Scarlet Soaked:

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Chocolate & Sprinkle-Coated Shortbread Cookies – Mini Chef Mondays


If you’ve walked in Target lately you’ve probably noticed the overabundance of pink in the store right now (which my daughter thinks is perfection, by the way. You can never have too much pink!), and although Valentine’s Day is still over a month away it’s definitely been on my mind. We don’t do a lot for the holiday, but we’ll plan valentines for classmates, something little to do for each of the kids, and Brian and I usually do something small for each other, too.

In thinking about Valentine’s Day, I was brainstorming some fun dessert ideas for the inevitable class parties and thought these chocolate & sprinkle coated shortbread cookies would be really perfect. They’re pretty adorable, they’re delicious, and they’re not messy to eat like cupcakes. They’re also really easy – and fairly quick – to make, which earns HUGE points in my book!

I typically have one of the kiddos help me with my Mini Chef Mondays posts, but this was a very busy weekend and I’ll admit that I made these cookies at about 12:15 this morning. SO, I’ve included a collage of my kiddos with the cookies, because they’ll end up being the primary consumers!



  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips


  1. Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together.
  2. Add in the salt and mix well.
  3. Mix in the flour until everything is well-combined.
  4. Add water sparingly until your dough starts to come together.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Roll your dough out to about 1/2″ thick, and use cookie cutters to achieve your desired shape – hearts are perfect for Valentine’s Day!
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until your cookies are golden.
  8. Once the cookies have cooled, dip them in chocolate, adding sprinkles if you’d like!


As always, I am hosting Mini Chef Mondays along with 11 fabulous bloggers!

Be sure to check out each of their Mini Chef posts as well. We would love it if you would share your Mini Chef posts with us each week, too! Follow along socially and join in on the fun by using our hashtag #MiniChefMondays to share creations your mini chef created in the kitchen. Additionally, if you have a kid-friendly recipe that kids can easily recreate link up! Don’t have a blog? Share the URL of your instagram photo in our linky below.

  1. Easy Fruit Salad Recipe for Valentine’s Day // Courtney’s Sweets
  2. Red Velvet Waffles // Momma Lew
  3. Homemade Cherry Banana Ice Cream // Baby Loving Mama
  4. Peanut Butter Cheesecake Overnight Oats // We’re Parents
  5. Chocolate & Sprinkle Coated Shortbread Cookies // Frugal Novice
  6. Best Lactation Cookies Recipe // Eating Richly
  7. Brown Bag Microwave Popcorn // Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps
  8. Chicken & Broccoli Quesadilla // Step Stool Chef
  9. Farro with Roasted Vegetables // Vegging at the Shore
  10. Chocolate Strawberry Puppy Chow // Mom’s Messy Miracles
  11. Healthy Ambrosia Salad // O’Boy! Organic
  12. Cinnamon Sugar Dessert Preussens // Can’t Google Everything

Roasted Garlic Stuffed Pasta Shells


Italian food has a special place in our family. Every Christmas we forego turkey and ham, and instead we make homemade pasta. It’s a tradition we love, and I hope one day the kids will cherish those memories of making pasta together, and of the sauce simmering on the stove all day.

We don’t just eat Italian food at the holidays, of course. It makes its way to our table at least once a week, because it’s something our entire family eats well. It’s a treat having a meal each week that we know our kids will eat well without complaint. Family meals around the dinner table are a vital part of our week, and  our kids know that our tradition at these meals is to have them each share the best part of their day and the worst. We get more insight into their days, and they get the opportunity to share, uninterrupted, with the family.

I’m always looking for new ideas to incorporate into our dinners beyond just pasta and sauce (which we do have on a regular basis, since the kids love it so much), and last night I tried a new recipe that was a big hit – roasted garlic stuffed pasta shells.


These are delicious and have a surprise burst of flavor with a hidden clove of roasted garlic. Your family – and guests – will love them! They’re easy, too – here’s how to make your own:

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Single Moms Can Find Love


One of my best friends found herself unexpectedly single with a young daughter a couple of years ago. She had amazing strength and built a life for her and her daughter, and she met a great man online who she is now married to. It’s really been inspiring to see her rise up and move forward with her life in a positive way, and I’m so happy that she’s happy!

Today I’ve got a guest post from a single mom named Karen, who wanted to share a few words for any other single moms that might be out there:

When my husband left me and I was 4 months pregnant, I didn’t even think I could love someone again. At that moment, I didn’t want to hear anything about men, a dating site or a love story with happy ending. My baby was my whole world.

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Keep Your Family Connected With This Simple {&Free!} Tool!


Each year I choose a word that’s a theme, if you will, for my year. And after the insanely busy end of 2015, it was crystal clear that my word for 2016 would be connect. My kids are growing up way too quickly, and it’s crucial to me that we connect as a family. We do this at family dinners most nights of the week, focusing on each other and each sharing the best and worst parts of our day (if you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it – it’s a great way to learn about the highs and lows of your child’s – or spouse’s – day, and our kids typically can’t wait for their turn to share).

We get a lot of time together as our group of five, and I love it. Game nights, movie nights, bike rides around the neighborhood – or even just all doing separate things in the same room – we spend a lot of quality time as a family.

One-on-one time, however, can be harder to come by. I first thought about this as each of my children ended up grocery shopping with me on various weekends. It was a rare chance to have extended time with just one of our three kids, and I loved the opportunity for conversation with each of them (and oh my, how topics differ from child to child!).

An idea was born from these shopping trips, and I decided I’d implement it in 2016 as a resolution of sorts – a way to have intentional time with each child. I created a chart that allows for purposeful time for my husband and I with each of our children throughout the year. In January, I get a date night with our oldest; my husband gets one with our middle son, and our daughter gets to choose a family activity for us to enjoy together. In February, the names rotate. I get a date night with our daughter, my oldest son is paired with my husband, and our middle son gets to pick the family activity. Each child has a special role for the month, and each parent gets one-on-one time with a child.

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Spicy Shredded Beef Quesadillas: Mini Chef Mondays


Happy 2016, everyone! I’m writing this on Sunday evening, and am not quite sure how our Monday will go – it’s the first Monday back after two weeks off of school for the kids, and it’s hard getting back into routine. We’re organized, at least, so hopefully we’ll get out the door on time, and with no tears from any of the 5 of us. :)

This week’s Mini Chef Monday recipe is one that uses leftovers, so it piggybacks off of the simplest Crock Pot recipe ever. We modified a Pioneer Woman recipe to make it even easier than Ree’s, and we think it’s pretty great.

Put about 1.5 pounds of stew meat in your Crock Pot, then follow that with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and a carton of beef stock. If the meat isn’t fully covered, add a little water, too. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8. Drain most of the liquid, pull out the peppers, and chop up the meat to serve on sandwiches, over grits, or however you like.

Our leftover recipe uses the meat and gives us spicy shredded beef quesadillas. These are SO good, and also nice and simple. You could dress them up with all sorts of things, of course, but we just have tortillas (buttered, because, um, butter), beef, shredded cheese, and caramelized onions (the sweetness really cuts the spiciness nicely). Cook these in a skillet over medium heat until the cheese is melted and both tortillas are golden and crispy. Sooooo good! Here’s the process step by step:

Butter one side of two tortillas; we do this and then face the buttered sides together so then E can put all the toppings on them while they’re still on the plate rather than over the heat of the stove.



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