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Oven Space-Saving Recipes for Holiday Side Dishes

Most of us don’t have double ovens in our kitchen, so cooking the holiday dinner and all the side dishes becomes a juggling act for space in the oven.  How do you manage it all?  Crockpot to the Rescue!

Crockpot cooking makes life Simple!
Crockpot cooking makes life Simple!

Check out this roundup of great crockpot side dish ideas and recipes.  With so many options, you may find your next holiday meal tradition!

Pinterest – Here is a link to some GREAT Pinterest recipes. Click Here to view! – This great site has wonderful crockpot side dish ideas. Click here to view! – They have pages and pages of crockpot ideas.  Click here to view!

These are just a few websites that offer some great ideas.  Have fun this holiday season and keep it SIMPLE!

Simple Solutions Diva’s Favorite Homemade Treat – Reindeer Crunch

With four different types of crunchy cereals, combined with pretzels, chocolate candies and white chocolate, this mixture is addictive! Almost makes it hard to give away!

One of my favorite holiday homemade food gifts is Reindeer Crunch!  My sister-in-law gave this as a gift (thanks Debbie!) to us years ago, and it has become a staple as teacher gifts, hostess gifts, and more during the holidays.  Best of all, kids can get involved — or in my case, as teenagers, they take over the job!

You can alter the recipe based on your preferences. We replace the almond and peanut M&M’s with regular M&Ms when giving as gifts, out of concern for allergies.

Here is the recipe as given to me!  Enjoy!

Reindeer Crunch Recipe


3 Cups Each of the Following:

  • Cheerios
  • Corn Chex
  • Wheat Chex
  • Rice Chex
  • Small knot pretzels

1/2 bag Plain Holiday M&M’s, Large Bag (19.20 oz.bag)

1/2 bag Almond Holiday M&M’s, Large Bag

1/2 bag Peanut M&M’s, large Bag

1 1/2 bag Nestle White Chocolate Chips


Mix all ingredients (except white chocolate chips) in a large bowl. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions (To make it easy with kids, I use microwave directions).  Pour melted chocolate chips over the mixture, and gently mix together until all is well coated.  Spread on wax paper to dry.  Break into smaller pieces and enjoy!

Be sure to store in airtight containers, or ziplock bags.

You can re-name the above mixture based on the holiday: Cupid’s Food, Bunny Food, Uncle Sam Mix, Goblin Food!

In The Mood: Finding The Holiday Spirit

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As a transplant from New England, now living in Florida, I find I have to work harder to find the Holiday Spirit.  Let’s face it — with temperatures reaching the 70’s, and not a snow flurry in sight (just rain!), it just doesn’t seem like Christmas.  And somehow, the “snow” in the Mall just doesn’t cut it!

So I have developed a checklist, of sorts, to get me in the mood. It has worked for 16 years, and maybe it will help you find your holiday spirit, too, whether you live in the warmth of the South or the snowy North.

Set a Date –Between traveling for kids’ sports, family commitments, and work events, sometimes you just have to schedule when to start celebrating.  I choose a date to begin my holiday decorating AND a date to finish it.  If you have limited time for decorating, maybe don’t go all out.  If you don’t have everything done by your finish date, so what?  Just get the important stuff out that makes you and your family happy. And don’t feel guilty when your neighbor’s Christmas display is finished on Thanksgiving evening.  You have your own schedule – don’t pressure yourself.

Set It Up (In stages)– I do my holiday decorating in stages. First, the Christmas Village is set up; next the outdoor decorations; and finally the trees.  This is spread out over a week, so I don’t overwhelm myself.   And yes, I did say trees! (So much for simple)  Years ago, I started doing a second tree upstairs by my kids rooms.  About two years ago, I tried to simplify and eliminate the second tree, but guess what?  My kids decided THEY wanted it and now it is their tree to decorate – and they do it all. It makes me feel good to know they have their own traditions already.

Take a Stroll – Nothing perks up your holiday spirit like taking an evening stroll where the holiday lights already shine.  I am lucky enough to live near St. Augustine, Florida, where they begin their “Nights of Lights” the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Almost every building in this beautiful, historic city is lit in tiny, white lights for six weeks and it has a magical feel.   So find a “Night of Lights” near where you live, soak it in, be present in the moment, and feel the holiday spirit.

Set the Music – On the morning of your decorating day, blast the holiday tunes!  Sing along with your favorites and get the rest of the family in on it.  Nothing says holiday spirit like an off-tune rendition of “Jingle Bells”!  Plan for a little holiday music every day through the holidays.  I set up on my iPod several different holiday playlists, each with a different mood.  My personal favorite is the “Jazzy Christmas”, featuring Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Lou Rawls, and more, crooning jazz-styled holiday songs.

Take a Tour – One evening, just prior to Christmas, we fill travel mugs with hot cocoa, don our silly Santa Hats, and pile into the car.  With the holiday music on, we take a tour of holiday lights in the neighborhood.  If it is warm enough, we roll down the windows and blast the music.

And finally:

Put The Devices Down – We all love technology (some of us even have careers based on it!), but a key element of getting the Holiday Spirit is to be present in the moment.  You can’t be present in the moment and still text, tweet, “like”, and post.  Use them to take photos, but post them later.  Tweet about Aunt Millie’s horrendous sweater tomorrow.  You may miss something more important – connection with your family and friends.

Here’s to you finding your Holiday Spirit – Happy Holidays!

Simple Holiday Recipes Board is up on Pinterest

A Round-Up Of The Diva’s Favorite Household Tips



In honor of her LIVE appearances at the 2016 Fall Jacksonville Home + Patio Show, the Diva is sharing her favorite, simple household tips!  Come out and say “Hi” on Sunday, October 2 at 11:30 a.m. – The Diva will be cooking things up on The Jacksonville Magazine Cooking Stage! If you plan to go to the Jacksonville Home + Patio Show, use promo code DIVA to get a discount on your tickets when you buy online! Buy Tickets HERE.

How To Fold A Towel For Easy Stacking: Tired of your towels flopping over when you try to stack them? The Diva makes it easy! Check out the tip – Click Here

How To Get Your Dryer To Dry Faster: Is it taking forever for your clothes to dry? Try this little tip from the Diva – Click Here

What To Do With Dryer Lint: If you do laundry, you know it always produces lint! You can leave the lint (along with old thread) out for the birds to use in their nests! Or check out this simple tip  from the Diva – Click Here 

The Secret Way To Make A Room Smell Great! – Try adding a Febreze Car Vent Clip to your air conditioning vent in a room – rarely do people look up when they enter a room, so it is a great way to make a room smell great, without being too heavy a scent! Available at Pubix, Target, Walmart and more. Or, you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your air conditioning filter when you change it out every month.screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-7-20-36-am

Simple Way to Clean Blinds: Tongs & Microfiber cloths! Wrap a microfiber cloth around each end of tongs, secure them with rubber bands, and you have a simple tool to clean those blinds! Toss the cloths into the wash when done!

How To Clean Large Amount Of Silverware: This is my FAVORITE Simple Holiday Survival Tip! Click Here to see how to go from tarnished to clean, without having to do all that hard polishing! (And you have to watch my Simple Holiday Survival Series before the holidays!)


How To Clean A Wooden Cutting Board: Lay the board on a clean work surface. Sprinkle the cutting board with salt. Using half of a lemon, place cut side down on the board and rub in a circular motion, combining the lemon and salt. The salt gently removes any built up grime, and the lemon naturally sterilizes the wood.

How To Clean Your Hair Dryer: Prevent your hair dryer from blowing up with this SIMPLE tip! Click Here


Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for having me on to share these tips!



The Way To Store Silver To Reduce Tarnish


I live in Florida and was so surprised at how quickly my silver tarnished! Trust me, I am not one who likes to do much silver cleaning (Click HERE to see my tip to clean large amounts of silver without a lot of elbow grease!). At the suggestion of one of my readers, I decided to seek out a solution to the problem! So today’s Simple Holiday Survival Tip focuses on how to store your silver to prevent, or at least reduce, tarnishing!

A little prevention can go a long way!

SSD Tarnish

Make A “No Sew” Scarf

I’ve always fancied myself a seamstress. . .

As a kid, I used to make costumes for my cats, making them get married or go to a ball. I’d spend hours on costumes, and quite a bit of time trying to get them on the cats! Once done, I’d sit back and admire my work, as I applied Bandaids to my face and neck.

But I never really LEARNED to sew. Yes, I could sew on a button (Thanks Grandma!), but I never really learned on a sewing machine. I envied people who could! So over the years, as I tried to create Halloween costumes for myself and eventually my kids, I found I became very adept at using a hot glue gun to seal seams!

Well, with THIS project, you don’t need ANY hot glue, sewing machines, or even needle and thread! Just a yard of fleece fabric, some masking tape and sharp fabric scissors! (MY kind of sewing project!) And look how nice they are:



This makes a great, last minute gift idea, or even better, it could become a community service project for middle school or high school students! Make a few scarves in one day and donate them to a homeless shelter!

A Few Tips:

  1. Fold the yard of fleece in half, line the edges up and cut off the white edging where the print stops.
  2. ssd-scarf-3Use masking tape to mark off the four scarves and to provide a straight line to cut along. Scarves should be 8-10 inches wide – on this project I marked off 9.5 inches.






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