Sweet, Simple Earring Display

Olivia got her ears pierced in the spring.  I was her reward for stopping the dreaded thumb-sucking habit.  For the standard 6-months (and then some) we held to the rule of not changing the studs that were put in.  But my smart little lady knew at some point, there were other earrings in the world, and she couldn't wait to get her hands on them!

I took her shopping at Claire's and, like any good mom would, got suckered into the buy 2, get 1 free deal.  So of course, instead of one small pack of earrings, we walked out with a slew of new jewels.

I need to spoil her a little every now and then right?
Consider it back to school shopping!

With twelve new pairs of earrings, on top of things she'd acquired from the According to L stash in my office, we needed a place to keep all these beauties.  Her jewelry box was already too full of Disney Princess lip glosses (another long story!)  The simple idea of an frame to display everything in their newly redecorated room was the obvious choice.

The process to create one is super easy, and just takes a few key supplies.

  • a picture frame (size is up to you, I got a 10 x 10 frame)
  • plastic embroidery mesh
  • E6000 glue
Take your frame, remove the glass, matting and backing.  Cut your mesh to size, allowing for room to glue down - this is where your trusty tube of E6000 comes in.  If you don't already own some, get some.  It works like a miracle on so many things, and a little can go along way!  Press your mesh securely into the glue and allow to dry for several hours before moving - if you can leave it sit overnight, even better!

I had intended to add this frame to the wall display I had going, but the length of the stud earrings really wasn't too great for hanging on a wall.  Right now, it leans neatly on some shelves I have hung with "look-but-don't-touch" items in the girls' room, but a plate display rack, or even a wide hook would work well too!

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Date Night

Don't worry, this isn't a bad rip-off of the Steve Carell and Tina Fey flick (but if you haven't seen, you really should, it's VERY funny!)

This is about dating your spouse.  Full disclosure, this isn't something I am an expert on, but I also know that I like to think I know the right thing to do when it comes to keeping yourself a healthy mother and healthy wife.

In our home, weekends are precious.  Nate works a full, daytime job, so even though he's home for dinners and bedtime stories, we don't really get a ton of quality time during the week.  Plus, the girls are able to stay up later, delaying our downtime.  We either have to stay up until 11 to actually hang out and see each other for a decent amount of time, or push it off and stay up ridiculously late on the weekend, which is also foolish, because our kids don't know about "sleeping in on the weekends" yet!

Sidebar:  If I ever complain about having to bang on my kid's door to wake them, slap me.

Those weekends I mentioned, those are usually consumed with family time.  Don't get me wrong, I love being able to run errands, eat lunch at Potbelly's, hold hands in the car (awww), but I'm still doing that all with kids in tow.   Even though I'm with my husband, I'm still playing Mommy.

Let's get real here.
We all need to feel like a wife from time to time.
We need to feel pretty,
and sexy,
and not worried if we have extra wipes and crackers in our purse "just in case."

Especially sexy.
Remember when you were "young" and dating.  Life was exciting.
And it still can be, but it's a lot harder to find the time.
And the right dress that fits.
And a clean bra that matches the dress that fits.

That all aside, even without the dress and the clean underwear (because he doesn't really care anyway) you need to be a wife and ONLY a wife from time to time.
I know money may be tight and sitters may be hard to find, but make it cheap and ask a friend for a trade.  I can promise, she needs the trade just as much as you do!

Pick a local joint and sit at the bar, because a high chair would never fit there!
Order something super spicy, that your kids would never eat and enjoy every, hot, well-intended bite all to yourself.
Take to your husband about things, other than kids.  Uninterrupted, no less!
Even if it's only an hour, take the time.
And don't feel guilty about it either.
As much as your kids love 100% of your waking attention, what they don't know they love more is a happy MOM who got to be a woman and wife too.

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Happy Hump Day everyone! Did we survive last week? I know my kid managed to scream for 40 minutes about wearing a life jacket on a boat. Mean parents, keeping her alive and all. Jerks. Sadly, I didn't snap a photo of that (I was too busy looking at my friend's 4-day-old son and keeping the Baby Fever at bay)
I did get to snap this gem:

I asked her to go potty after nap.
99% of the time, a trip to the potty is a an easy task because there is a Skittle at the end of it.
Today, however, this request was highly offensive.
And yes, she took a nap in her slippers.

Other greats you all shared this week:

@cniznick I got her a surprise and her brother wants to look at it. 
@watsonmollykTold him he couldn't go to Grandma's house tonight, she lives 6 hours away. He had a #meltdown and of course I took pics.
thegrantlife I asked him if he wanted to play with his light up car. Ay dios.
mojo_mama Morgan throwing a fit (a few weeks ago) when my parents left our house and didn't take her with them! 

All you need to do to play along:

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Bubble Flute

I'm a honest girl, right?
I mean, that's why you like me.  I tell it how it is, and I'm funny and charming while I do it too.
And I'm modest.
But I digress.

I've seen pins out on Pinterest with paper party straws turned into cute little bubble wands.
I happen to have straws I bought for Avery's FIRST birthday, and never used, and more than enough washi tape on hand to mummy wrap both children.
Come to think of it, that might be a good craft post.
Again, I digress.

The girls wanted to play in the front yard, and I wanted to read my US Weekly with minimal interruptions, so I thought "Hey!  I'm finally going to make those things!"

Here's where my honesty comes in.

The wands were really fun for about a 47 seconds, until Avery tried to DRINK the bubble solution.
I mean, in her defense, all we've ever done is told her NOT to blow bubbles in her milk/lemonade/straw, so this was definitely counter-intuitive!

Second, the paper straws are absolutely adorable (as photo props).  When it comes to actually having long lasting power in liquid... I feel there's a reason that the bubble wands that come in bubble jars are plastic for a reason!

The ends got mushy after a while.
I didn't really get to read my magazine because I was too busy trying to keep Avery from ingesting more soap.
It wasn't a total win, but certainly something that was worth a try.

And besides, I had the stuff just laying around.  Might as well use it!

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Better-Than-Takeout Sweet & Sour Chicken with Fried Rice

If I had to pick one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, while it would be hard to pass up ever eating pizza again, I think I'd have to go with Chinese food.  Something about egg rolls and rice and that cookie at the end.  Take-out gets expensive, and you never know how much oil and fat is really going into things.  Making dishes at home is obviously a healthier route, and easier than you think!  You don't even need a hibachi grill and Benihana knife skills! (Though their knife holster is really awesome!)

What you're seeing is the first time I have ever made anything like sweet and sour chicken, or fried rice.  It was so delicious we barely had leftovers (which I ate at 10:30 the next day for "lunch.")  If I can do it, so can you.

For the chicken:

  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed into 2-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 c canola oil
The sweet and sour sauce takes:
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 c distilled white vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Prep a 9 x 12 baking dish (or dish of your preference) with tin foil and non-stick cooking spray.  The foil is optional, but dishes are one of my least favorite duties, I prefer the disposable option over soaking and scrubbing.
  2. Using two shallow dishes (round cake pans work perfectly), put the cornstarch in one and scramble the two eggs into the other.  Working in batches of 4-5 pieces, toss the chicken in the corn starch and then into the egg mix.
  3. Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok.  Cook the chicken until browned on all sides, only a few minutes.  They will continue to cook in the oven, so you don't want to dry out the chicken.
  4. While the chicken is browning, whisk together all the sauce ingredients.  Transfer the browned chicken into the baking dish and pour the sauce over evenly, giving a little toss.  The sauce is incredibly thin, but don't panic.  As it bakes, it will reduce and become the thick, delicious sauce that hugs every bite that you've come to know and love.
  5. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes, tossing chicken every 15 minutes.  Again, don't panic.  It wasn't until the last 15 minutes or so that the sauce really thickened into something I was expecting.  Let the oven do it's thing, everything will be fine.
  6. Serve with white or fried rice.
Vegetable fried rice is incredibly easy, and being that it is the benchmark I use to gauge whether or not a take-out place gets my business, I cannot believe I haven't made it before!

Gather up:

  • 2 cups of cooked white rice (easy to make ahead of time and keep in the fridge until you want to use it)
  • 1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 c frozen peas and carrots, thawed (I could only find the medley variety, so I picked out the green beans, but was too lazy to dig out the corn as well.  You could leave it all in and let it ride - go nuts.)
  • 1 c onion, chopped (white or yellow)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4-1/3 c soy sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Start by heating the oil over medium-high heat (I used the same chicken pan - to make sure you can toss and mix everything, use a big pan, the bigger the better).  Add the vegetables, onions and garlic and allow to soften, about 3 minutes.  Push to one side of pan.
  2. Lower the heat, and add the eggs.  Cook to scramble, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.
  3. Add the rice and soy sauce and toss all together.  All the rice to heat through and start to caramelize over the heat.  This is where I have a range of soy sauce.  Depending on the color you're getting and your preference of salt, you can tweak how much you add in.  Start slow and work from there.
  4. Serve hot and sit back and wait for the compliments!

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Anyone else in two-year old hell with me?

I mean, I love Avery.  She's amazingly sweet, and thoughtful, but she is also a terror with mood swings as high as the sky.
In an effort to curb my frustration, I've started taking pictures of her and posting them to Instagram with the hashtag: #reasonsmytoddleriscrying

It's incredibly therapeutic.
I'm able to calm myself and focus on the absolute absurdity of her tantrum, rather than trying to talk her out of her irrational rant.

Some of my favorite gems will include, but are not limited to, and in no particular order

So let's start a little Instagram club where we all get to share our misery laughs amongst friends.
Every week, I'll highlight amazing photos here on my blog, as well on Instagram, sharing the misery laughs for everyone to enjoy!
Don't have a kid?  Just follow along and be grateful for the free birth control.
You're welcome.

All you need to do to play:

  • Follow my Instagram feed @accordingtol
  • Tag your photo with @accordingtol and #reasonsmytoddleriscrying
  • Have fun with it!
Oh, and this isn't just limited to toddlers!  I've found that kids of all ages can throw tantrums.  Make light of it, because sooner or later, those little moody boogers will move out and you'll be left with just your own tantrums.  
They're not nearly as fun!

Very excited to see what you all have going on in your homes - misery loves company!
I mean laughter (right?!)

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Taco Wontons

Wontons and egg rolls are delicious.  That crispy, tender roll filled with meat and cheese and all sorts of delicious flavors.  Plus, it's a food that the kids love too, so I'm not stuck making two meals for two sets of eaters.

The Asian versions are great, but I'm not shy when it comes to mixing flavors and cuisines.
{Jalepeno Cream Cheese Wontons}
{Cheese Frogs}
{Sausage Stars}

And now, Taco Night can get in on the wonton action!

A little seasoned beef, shredded cheese, sour cream and your favorite salsa - you've got Taco Tuesday made new again!

  • 1/2 lb ground beef, browned and seasoned with Taco seasoning according to packet or preference
  • 1/2 c shredded cheese
  • 1 cup favorite salsa (I used this poblano corn variety)
  • 8-10 egg roll wrappers
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten, with a splash of water)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.   Grab your ingredients and prepare your assembly line.  Align your wonton wrapper as a "diamond" and scoop 1 Tbsp meat, 1 pinch cheese and a dap of salsa into the center of your wrapper (going corner to corner)

Start the "burrito roll" using water and your finger to seal the seams and edges.  Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet.  Continue until all of your wrappers are filled.  Brush your egg wash on the tops of each roll - this will give them a crunchy texture and super golden color in the oven.

If you wanted to deep fry these babies, you certainly can.  Leave out the egg wash and add 2-3 rolls to the oil at a time to make sure they cook evenly.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until they are evenly gold and gorgeous.  Cool slightly before serving and top with sour cream and more of your tasty salsa.  Perfect for a game-day snack or quick weeknight dinner!

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Five Tips to Make Your Vacation Great

** Guest poster Kendall has visited 26 countries on 6 continents.  As the former Director of Communications for Orbitz, Kendall has seen her fair share of families in travel and has a few tips in her back pocket to make the rest of your summer road trips painless.**

It's great to get away from home with the family, but traveling with children can sometimes be a challenge. There are many different personalities and preferences at play, and we all know that more kids means more things to pack. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your kids (and you!) have a great vacation.  Find more tips {here} and {here}.

1. Pack Smart

The unfortunate fact is, sometimes our checked luggage gets lost. Make a list of all the things you can't do without on the trip, such as diapers, bottles, changes of clothes, a hair brush, toothbrushes, snacks, and your child’s favorite toy. Having these comforts will keep a delayed flight or lost luggage from derailing your good time and significantly lower your stress level.

2. Pick The Right Destination

Finding a family friendly place to stay is one of the most important parts of a fun and relaxing vacation. Take a look at all-inclusive resorts with plenty of activities for kids of different ages. I used Gogobot to find a great list of Orlando hotels that offered the right amenities for my family. A hotel with an indoor waterpark, a Dude ranch where the kids can learn to ride horses and build campfires, a warm and cozy ski lodge, or a tropical resort with pools, arcades, and live entertainment gives the kids plenty of activities to keep them entertained and give mom and dad a chance to get a little time to themselves.

3. Take Lots of Pictures

Before you start your vacation, arm your kids with some disposable cameras to capture the memories. They'll have fun documenting the trip and finding new things to take pictures of. When you get home, work together on a vacation scrapbook to help everyone remember what a great time they had and to bond as a family. This will also give you an idea of what their favorite parts were for the next family trip.

4. Bring Entertainment

A portable DVD player or an iPad will help kids from getting bored and restless during long flights or car rides. Bring a few of their favorite movies and a set of headphones so they don't disturb the people around them. If you have multiple kids, consider a headphone splitter so they can watch a movie together.

5. Schedule Around Nap Time

If you're traveling with a baby, time of day makes all the difference. Try to schedule short flights around your baby's usual naptime, and longer flights in the morning or evening during your baby's bedtime. This will make traveling less stressful for your child and more relaxing for you.

The best way to have a memorable and stress free vacation is to plan ahead. A little preparation now will mean a lot less hassle and a lot more fun in the future! Have fun and safe travels!

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Amazing 5-Minute Scarf Hanger

Nate and I share a master closet.  And I'm using the term "master" very loosely.  It's not nearly big enough to fit all of our things, let alone fit all of our things in an organized fashion.  Being that I am not willing to adopt a nudist mentality in order to downsize our stuff, we need to get creative.

This hanger is really wonderful and so simple, I can't believe it's taken me this long to make one!  The materials are incredibly cheap, and in most cases, you already have them on hand!

You'll need:

  • a plastic hanger
  • plastic shower-curtain rings (scored these from the Dollar Tree)
  • plastic zip ties (another Dollar Tree win)
  • scissors

Start by laying out your hanger and rings.  You could make two rows of rings if you wanted it, but I didn't because
A. I don't have that many scarves,
B. They will lay on top of each other, making it bulky and hard to sift through and
C. It will get really heavy!

Attach the rings horizontally first, then to the hanger.  My tip when attaching is have the "end" sticking outside of the ring.  That way, when you trim them down, the sharp edge will be less likely to snag.  A little nail file will fix any major cutting potential.

Once you've got your row, do the same to attach everything to the hanger.  As you can see, I started with only three ties in my attachment processes, but once I started hanging scarves, I could tell the weight needed more support and added a tie to every ring.

In the same time it takes to make a bag of microwave popcorn, you've got a neat little rack perfect to keep your dressed and organized!

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So What Wednesday {guest post}

This post is also Shannon's GUEST POST for the week, in preparation for little James Weston's arrival.  We should all be so lucky to have a little bundle coming our world so soon! (Except for I like having 8-straight-hours of sleep at night.)

So What Wednesday

This week, I'll say SO WHAT:

  • The hubs and I are hitting the produce section pretty hard these days and trying to eat more than cheese and chicken.  Luckily my kids LOVE fruits and vegetables, so this is really a win win.
  • I made green beans for dinner.  They were topped with bacon.  I couldn't help it!
  • I've also been hitting the yoga mat hard and remember why I love it so much.  I get a good, sweaty workout and I'm not running (which I hate!)
  • That being said, I only go to our gym for classes because of the free childcare.  I'd love to try another studio, but I don't think the girls would stay quiet for the 60-minute class!
  • Yes.  I hate running.  I try.  I know it's good cardio.  I know there are other cardio options, but I really don't find the same "high" that others do. 
  • I let the girls play in the backyard while I'm inside making lunch/dinner/watching TV with the windows open.  We have a fence and I call out for a "body count" about every 7 minutes.  They've been fine so far!
  • I wore a skirt to work.  The "so what" comes in because I hadn't shaved my legs in about 2 weeks.  #happytobeblonde
  • I want Nate to get a better job so we can afford to charter the Honor yacht like on Below Deck.
new and not on Shannon's post today
  • I want a little (or a lot) of hail to come our way this summer because a new roof would sure be nice.  Oh the things grown-ups dream about.
  • Super excited to get my baby fix here in August.  That new baby smell, there's nothing like it.
  • I wanted to let the girls paint their own book shelves for their bed (the IKEA spice rack variety) but my need to have things clean and cute - I may have "helped" more than I should have.
Thanks for hearing me out.  Stop over and tell me what you're saying SO WHAT to this week!

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BBQ Cheddar-Stuffed Burgers

Summer is all about grilling.  August is upon us and soon the trees will start to change color and the winds will drive us back indoors to stand over stoves and hot ovens to prepare meals.  I need to soak in as much summer as I can before we hibernate for 8 months!

A cheeseburger is good, but a burger with cheese mixed IN is even better!  The addition of the BBQ sauce gives a sweet, tangy plus much needed moisture for lean ground beef.  Add a side of light cole slaw and you've got a great way to end a hot day.  Oh, the Summer Shandy beer is optional, but highly recommended!

Gather up:

Mix all of your ingredients together, but don't over mix.  You want to keep the integrity of the beef and cheese crumbles without breaking them down too much.  

Divide the mix into 4 equal parts and start forming your patties.  This step is critical.  Because you're adding goodies and moisture, the patties will have a tendency to fall apart on the grill.  If you struggle to keep your burgers together, you may opt to cook these on a grill pan indoors (which defeats being a Child of Summer) or laying down a layer of tin  foil on your grill.  My patties were on the softer side, but I managed to keep all four intact with a little love and holding my breath when I was flipping them!

Make sure that your patties have a little indent in the middle to account for puffing when cooking.  We want a burger patty, not a burger ball when we're all done!

Grill patties over med-high heat until cooked through, about 8 minutes total.  Cheese will ooze and mess up your grill plates, but that's what your steel wool is for.  All in the name of a great dinner! 

Serve these burgers with a side of my light cole slaw, made with minimal low-fat mayo and minimal sugar, this isn't exactly a super healthy side, but better than some!
  • 1 bag cole slaw mix
  • 1/2 cup low-fat (or fat-free) mayo
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
Toss everything together and let sit at least 1 hour before serving!  Enjoy!

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Things I Don't Have Time For

Ever notice how busy you are?  And I don't mean looking at your iCal and seeing that the days are full and you can't find time to have dinner with your best girls, let alone a date with the hubs, and when on earth are you going to fit in that wax and pedi?

I mean mentally and emotionally BUSY. A mind and heart constantly working on overload to find balance and calm and peace.
You work, either for love or money.
You do laundry, because eventually the world will need to see you in something without Cheetos or ketchup residue.
You make the bed, because it reveals some semblance of order and care to your "sanctuary" which normally serves as a napping post and snacking blanket to the under 5 set.
The mundane are necessary and yet, they are all consuming and "simple" things take a toll on patience and sanity.

So with the "every day" here's what I don't have time for:

Keeping up with the Jones
I see gorgeous homes, with their clutter-free countertops, neatly organized mudrooms and fluffy white bedrooms.  This is not me.  We LIVE in our house.  There are some days I would give a left pinky to have a maid come and deep clean the house but, I cannot ignore that this house serves a bigger purpose.  We eat meals, and play games, and make projects and MAKE A MESS.  I would be a liar if I didn't say there weren't moments when the clutter drives me over the edge and I go on a cleaning rampage, taking no prisoners.  This house will never be a page from a Pottery Barn catalogue. I won't be a blogger with impeccable photos of their craft room and kitchen spaces. I will continue to be real, invest in Clorox wipes and try to keep the mess to a dull roar.

Portion Control and Water
Health and weight are two topics in the forefront of just about every woman's mind.  I love my US Weekly, but I hate the articles who have celebrities saying they look the way they do by eating quinoa and breastfeeding.  They leave out the trainer, chef, nanny and 22-year old metabolism.  Giving such a blanket "solution" is unfair.  Some women can eat lettuce and run 10 miles every day and not move the needle on the scale and others can eat pizza and beer and still, not see that needle move (for better or worse).  I am trying to be more self aware.  More health, less junk.  More yoga, less stress.  Run if that makes you feel good.  Do jumping jacks, run stairs.  The point is - find what you dread doing, and once it's done, your body feels so good you want to bottle it so you can remind yourself what it will be like the next time you try to talk yourself out of that workout. I feel like I'm trying to do better, so I am actually better.  That's all I have time to focus on.

Judgmental Opinions
This may come as a shock to many, but I really don't care what you do.  I have a lot of opinions and thoughts on what I do in my own life.  I am introspective and critical, and while I can talk smack from time to time, I really really don't care what you do.  Safety and health aside, I could care less if you and your same-sex-partner speak only Latin to your home schooled, raw-vegan-breastfed 12-year old.  In the grand scheme of things, makes no difference to me.  What I would have time for would be judgement coming back at me.  I love those who have a strong viewpoint, but it's YOURS.  Not mine.  It's sad to admit that I take this bit of advice from RHONJ:  I may not love it, but I have to respect it.

Focusing 100% Elsewhere
Working part-time, I do get to play mommy a lot more than your classic 9-to-5 gal.  I can do art projects and go to the park and just hang out with my kids.  I also know that I cannot give 100% of myself to these little critters 100% of the time.  I need to have some downtime.  Maybe I will regret this once they're too busy for me.  In fact, I'm sure I'll always look back and want more.  However, at the same time, I need to make sure that I am the happiest, best mom I can be for them.  If that means, taking an interuption-free-hour in my bedroom with Project Runway, I don't think I should apologize for that.  I am lucky to be a mom and have these girls in my life.  I complain, but I wouldn't change anything for a minute.  Thirty-seconds maybe, for a glimpse of quiet, but in the long-run:  never. I don't have time for the mommy-guilt that says "I shouldn't want a moment for me."  We all deserve to poop without an audience (can I get an AMEN!)

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Habanero-Pepper Jack Bacon Dip

If you know only a few things about me, one should be that I love snacks and that I love to make them!  Especially dips!  If it comes to a pot luck and I'm able to pick my dish, it's going to be an appetizer and more than likely, it'll be a dip.  (Even more probably that it would be {this} bacon blue cheese dip)

* I received free samples of Nibblers.  All opinions and recipe are my own.

Crystal Farms has a new product out that you should check out.  These cute little packets of cheese are only a buck a piece, perfectly sized for snacks or lunch bags, and come in awesome flavors that tiny taste buds, and the adult-sized cravings will love!

After tasting the subtle spice to the Habanero variety, I knew this would be great with the bacon in my standard blue cheese dip.  When it comes to cheese and bacon, you can really never go wrong!  Don't be scared with the word "habanero."  It's a subtle heat that blends really well with the creaminess of the yogurt and the salt from the bacon. Serve it up with celery or your other favorite dipping vegetable (again, going for health, or relative health!)

Because the hubs and I are trying to watch the waistline before we pack on the winter weight, I used greek yogurt instead of sour cream, but the choice is purely yours.

Take 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt, and mix in 4 slices of crumbled bacon along with 2 chopped green onions and 2 - 1.5 oz packets of Crystal Farms Habanero Seasoned Pepper Jack Cheese Nibblers.  Stir until well combined and chill a few hours before serving.  You can eat this right away, but allowing the spice from the cheese and meld with the yogurt makes for a super tasty treat that is well worth the wait!

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