Merry Christmas!

Enjoy time with your family today!

Book Review - Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin

Happier at Home book review by Tea in the Morning Too

My sister-in-law gave me this book to read when she was finished with it. At first I thought it was a book about Stay At Home Moms. Far from it! The author does work at home, but is unlike most stay at home moms in my circles. She lives in an apartment in NYC, send her children to school, and gets up at the crack of dawn to write.

The author, Gretchen Rubin, has previously written a book called The Happiness Project that you may consider reading first, as she refers to her first book often in her second book. I haven't read the first book yet, but I plan to add it to my reading list soon.

My reading time is in spurts while I rock my littlest one to sleep for a nap in the afternoon and sometimes in the evening. Happier At Home is easy to read in short periods of time.

The author, Getchen Rubin, is a married mother of 2 young children and an author who lives in an apartment in New York City. She had decided to spend an entire year on happiness projects that would affect specifict areas of her life - as a mother, a wife, in her work life, and her own personal happiness. She wants to fill her home, and then all that revolves around her home, with greater simplicity, comfort and love. She works hard and succeeds to get her family involved with her projects themselves.

She writes with a  light touch towards self help with plenty of research, timely advise and personal tips thrown in.

Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a specific month of the year and area of her life in which she focuses on to increase her happiness.

For example September's theme is Possessions - finding her true personal simplicity. The author and I don't agree on the minimalism concept, but she does have a valid point or two. She thinks that if a whole shelf of clutter makes you happy looking at it, then you shouldn't get rid of any of it. What makes one person happy isn't the same thing that makes another happy - it's an individual matter, no de-cluttering necessary!

The author continues to focus each month on herself and her family - her children, her husband, and then her family as a whole - trying to incorporate ideas and activities to increase the happiness in each area. After focusing mainly on her family, she ventures out to her house, her time, and then her neighborhood and community.

By then end of the book she has learned a lot about herself and what she values - what makes her happiest - and created numerous memories that she can continue to enjoy for a long time.

While this is an interesting book, it's probably not on my top 10 list. It hovers between light reading and a book I feel I should be taking notes from.

I gleaned a few new ideas for myself, so I appreciate the book for that.

One idea is to make an effort to spend one on one time with each child, doing something that they enjoy. I also loved her idea of having a project that you and your husband work on together - they chose Organ Donation.

If you've read the book, let me know what you thought.

Preemie Hats - Donation to the NICU

We started this past Spring donating crocheted hats to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital's NICU in Memphis, TN.

In the Fall we made about 20 pumpkin hats that we took to the hospital ourselves to donate for their little babies in the NICU.

We had a nice thank you note from the hospital with a request for as many Christmas hats as we could crochet for them.

Amid the busyness of the season and practicing for her piano recital, Hannah and I were able to crochet 26 holiday hats to send  to Le Bonheur.

After Christmas, donations to the NICU will drop off dramatically. Consider spending your down time between Christmas and New Year's crocheting a few preemie hats for the NICU babies in your local NICU. A perfect project for a snow day too!

Here's a cute pattern to get you started. Let me know if you have any questions. Please comment on how many you make and where you send them.

They will be very much appreciated, I promise!

Larger sizes of this pattern and many other crochet patterns are available on my Etsy shop LittleMonkeyShop.

Preemie Scarlett Hat
Yarn - Worsted 4: Medium                            

Crochet Hook – Size H


ch – chain

st – stitches

sl st – slip stitch

sc – single crochet

dc – double crochet

hdc – half double crochet


Note: Work hat all in color A except use color B for the row that creates the X in the pattern.


Size: Preemie 4-5 lbs

Head circumference: 11.5” – 12.5”

Hat circumference: 12”

Hat height: 5”


Rnd 1: Magic Ring, ch 3, 10 dc in the ring, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (10dc)

Rnd 2: Ch 3, 2 dc in each dc, join with sl st. (20dc)

Rnd 3: Ch 3, *1 dc in next dc, 2 dc in following dc*, repeat around, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (30dc)

Rnd 4: Ch 3, *2 dc in the first dc, 1 dc in the next 5 dc*, repeat around, join with sl st to top of ch 3.  (35dc)

Rnd 5-6: Ch 3. Dc around, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (35dc)

Rnd 7:  Ch 3. Working in front of the ch 3, dc in the last dc from the previous row (to the rt of the sl st) (X made), *sk dc, dc in next st, dc in skipped dc (X made)*, repeat around, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (18 X)

Rnd 8: Ch 3, dc around, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (35dc)

Rnd 9: Ch 1, hdc around, join. (35hdc) Fasten off and weave in the ends.    

5 Hour Beef Stew

This is one of the easiest and most requested fall and winter dinners I make for my family.


1.5-2 lbs beef stew meat - I usually cut it into bite size pieces

2 cups chopped carrots

3-4 chopped potatoes

1 chopped onion

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 TBL salt

3-4 TBLs Tapioca - if I have it. Otherwise I toss in a little flour

3-4 generous splashes of Worcestershire sauce

Sprinkle of Oregano or Thyme

optional - chopped bell peppers


Do not brown meat. Mix all ingredients together in a large Dutch oven or crock pot. Bake at 250F for 5-6 hours or on high in crock pot for 4-5 hours.


I Want to Make a Snowman!

I saw these snowman posted online and I had to try them out. I knew my almost 2 year old little boy would love one! Plus they would look really cute sitting on my mantle - adding a little seasonal touch to the decoration.

My nine year old daughter agreed to be my assistant. We had everything on hand that we needed accept for the socks. I finally found all white tube socks at the Family Dollar store.


White Tube Socks
Rubber bands
Rice - optional
Polyfill stuffing
Snaps or eyes
Glue gun and glue sticks
Scrap fabric


Cut tube sock in half thru the heel area.

Take the top of the sock and turn it inside out. Put a rubber band around the cut end.

Turn the sock piece back right side out.

If you want the snowman to stand up on it's own, put 1/3 cup rice inside the sock. Then fill the sock with Polyfill and close the top with a rubber band.

Put another rubber band around the upper third of the sock to create a head and body of the snowman.

Use a glue gun to glue on what you have chosen for your eyes and nose. We used black and silver snaps as we had lots of those in our sewing box. Plastic eyes or buttons would work as well. Glue on colorful buttons down the front of your snowman. You will want to coordinate the colors with your fabric piece.

Take the toe piece of the cut sock and turn it inside out. Turn a portion of the cut end inside the sock to form a nice edge.

Place the turned edge over the top of your snowman to create a hat. Use your glue gun to glue the hat on all around the head.
Cut a 1.5" by 12" fabric piece and wrap it around the snowman's neck for a scarf. I folded my fabric piece in half lengthwise and tied a square knot so that only the right side of the fabric showed.

One happy little boy!

Southwest Chicken and Rice

Another Crock Pot family favorite! This dish taste a lot like enchiladas without tortillas.
Serves 8


8 Chicken breast, frozen is fine
2 cans Rotel - tomatoes, chilies, onions
Mexican seasoning blend
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups brown rice
2 cans pinto beans
optional - shredded cheese, avocado, salsa


1. Put chicken breasts in crockpot. Pour cans of Rotel over the top. Sprinkle with Mexican Seasoning blend of your choice.
2. Cook on high for 5-6 hours, less if using fresh chicken breasts. At some point during the day cook your rice and beans.
3. Using two forks, shred the chicken while still in crock pot. Be careful not to burn your hands or arms.
4. Add cream cheese to chicken mixture and cook with lid on until cream cheese is melted. Stir gently.
Dish up over brown rice with beans mixed in or on the side. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and avocado. Chips, guacamole, and salsa make excellent sides.

Smoothies in the Morning

My husband, John, doesn't like eggs, so often it's hard to find  healthy, real, whole foods for him to eat in the morning for breakfast. He does like oatmeal, but he doesn't want it every morning.

Most cereals are off limits because off all the additives they contain. Just look at the ingredients of any so called "Healthy Cereal".

His preference for breakfast is a smoothie of spinach, frozen fruits, water, ground flax seed, chia seeds, and a protein powder mix. That last ingredient is where we fall off the band wagon of whole foods.

When you start your journey into eating all whole foods, give yourself the liberty of choosing one or two not-quite-a-whole-food items to include in your diet. It makes it much easier to start. Then once you're on your way, you can find substitutes for those items.

For the protein powder, you could use any high protein food item - Greek yogurt, peanut butter, cottage cheese.

I have made up some of my own smoothie recipes that I will post about in the future. As I learn, I am loving the smoothie recipes at Simple Green Smoothies.

What's your favorite whole food smoothie recipe?

Southwest Chicken Bake

When I created this dish and made it for the first time, my husband's comment was ....
"Please put this on the keeper list!"
In our family, that means we like it and would like to have it on the dinner table on a regular basis.
It's a good feeling when you know dinner is going to please all 7 people at the table!
And it's a one pot meal!

Southwest Chicken Bake

feeds 7-8 people


8 chicken breasts
2 onions
3-4 peppers, various colors makes it pretty
shredded cheese
Optional: rice, avocado, chips, salsa, beans

Marinade recipe 

 inspired by the Pioneer Woman, but not exact
1/2 cup olive oil
2 TBL Worcestershire sauce
3 tsp minced garlic
1 TBL ground cumin
1 TBL chili powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
Put chicken breast in a baking pan and cover with marinade. Marinade for a few minutes to hours, whatever works for you. I usually start with frozen chicken breasts, so I let them thaw a bit first.

Slice your onions and peppers.
Set your oven on 350F. Arrange your veggies on top of your chicken. Don't throw out the marinade, let your chicken cook in the marinade.

Top with shredded cheese and put in the oven for about an hour.
While the dish is baking, cook up some rice to serve it over.

It's ready!

Serve the Southwest Chicken Bake over a bed of rice and top with a few slices of avocado.
Chips, salsa, and seasoned black beans make great sides.