Friday, April 27, 2012

Just Pinned

It's been a little while since we've done a Just Pinned day!  We should do them more often, because they are so much fun!   

I don't want anymore babies...for now, but if I could have this nursery, then YES!  Let's have a baby!

GORGEOUS!!!  Monica and I are both crushing on grey...or is it gray?

Another gorgeous grey bedroom.  Love it!

 I'm wanting these BOOTS!  They are only $42.99!  They've been in my cart for awhile...maybe I should just get them already?!

Are you kidding me?  I think i'll be making this Chunky Avocado Salsa this weekend.

Isn't this true?!  Haha!  I know I am!

How cute are these felt flowers?  I need to make a few for the wreath i'm working on. 

What are you crushing on this week on Pinterest?  Let us know!  To follow us on Pinterest just click on the Pinterest link on the top right of our page.  

Have a HAPPY Friday, and a safe weekend!!

Love, Erica*

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Strawberry Nut Bread

I got this recipe from my good friend, Candis.  She said she got it from her Great Grandma's recipe box.  How cool is that?  She never steers me wrong when it comes to recipes to try.  So, I was excited to try this one.  It was fabulous, of course.  I kept one loaf for my family, and took the other one to the in laws.  I love baking, because you usually always have extra to give to someone else.  Love serving others!

So so true!

Strawberry Nut Bread
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp lemon extract
4 eggs
3 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c. strawberry jam (I used my MIL's homemade kind.  YUM!)
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. chopped walnuts (I didn't use nuts, because my kids and husband hate them.)  :o(

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9x5 bread pans, and set aside.

In your mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon extract until light and fluffy.  Add in one egg at a time, mixing well after each one.  In a separate bowl sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda.  In another bowl mix together jam, and sour cream.  Add the dry mixture and jam mixture alternately into the butter mix.  Mix until well combines.  Fold in your nuts, and spoon into bread pans.

Bake for 50-55 minutes.  And then...ENJOY!

The weekend is almost here!  So excited to get my garden planted this weekend.  

Have a happy Wednesday!

Love, Erica

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Did It. :)

I did it! On Saturday I ran the Wickedly Fast Half Marathon in Olathe Kansas. It was so much fun. Seriously, everything about it. I loved the energy, the people, the course, everything. It is something I definitely will do again. I've learned that 13 miles is doable, not easy, but doable.

We got up very early and headed to Garmin Headquarters in Olathe Kansas. I said goodbye to my sleepy family and met up with my group of ladies from K-ville. I had butterflies in my stomach but was excited too. The energy and support of all my friends was amazing.

Here we are pre-race. Everyone was so excited. Six of these gals did the full marathon (Amazing!) and the rest of us did the half. We have trained together and cheered each other on. (Photo by Joe Schurtz)

Photo by Joe Schurtz

After our group photo we split up and lined up at the starting line. There were so many people! My goal was to finish between 2:20 and 2:25, so I lined up around those pacers with two of my friends (Leslie and Melissa). My heart swelled as we listened to the National Anthem. How lucky am I to be able to do this and live in such a great country. At 7:00 the gun went off and we got started.

Miles 1-6 were just exciting. I pretty much stuck with Melissa and Leslie. We chatted and observed. It was fun. About mile six Melissa went ahead and Leslie and I chatted for another mile. At mile seven it was time for me to zone. I put my music in and just ran. The next six miles weren't easy but they weren't terrible either. It went by fast and pretty soon I was at mile 12. I think the last mile was the hardest, my body was tired and it was all mental. It really is a fight. Body says stop, mind says no.

I finished at 2:24. I saw a group of friends at the finish line (thanks for cheering for me) and then I saw my family. I kept looking for them in the crowd and then there they were, Aaron and my kiddos, holding up a sign. Thank you. :)

Looking pretty awesome! :)

This whole time training, I kept saying, I don't love running yet. I made a goal and didn't want to quit. After this race, I love running. I trained this 33 year old, carried three babies in my womb, not so tiny body to run 13.1 miles. I did it. I did it.

Now onto the next thing. I'm 40 lbs. down and 25 to go. Wish me luck. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Menu Monday

Hey all! Happy Monday! My Mondays are just plain nuts! We are just climbing out of a busy weekend and into a very busy week. This week my girlie Maggs turns 6! Seriously. :) Anyway, here is the menu for the week!

Monica's Menu
I'm going to start trying out a couple of vegetarian dishes each week. Just sayin'. :)

Vegetarian Meatloaf. (Hee hee, if that's not an oxymoron, I don't know what is. I'll let you know how it turns out.)
Tasty Chicken

Shredded Beef Tacos

Hawaiian Meatballs over Rice

Maggie's Birthday! Dinner Out!

Cheese Quesadillas

Veggie Lasagna

Erica's Menu
I have a couple of carryovers.  :o)

Chicken Divan (recipe to come)

Mac and Cheese and Hot dogs

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Crockpot Cheesy Chicken


Dutch Oven Fried Chicken and Potatoes (I'm making Jason cook.)

Dr. Pepper Pork (A recipe from a friend.  I will post it.  She says it's YUM!)

Have a happy Monday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Caramel Glazed Apple Bread

Nothing smells better than apple bread baking in your oven.  My home smelled so lovely for quite awhile!  It tasted just as good too.  Top it with the caramel glaze, and it was a match made in heaven.  Seriously!

And it's beautiful!  I was excited to give the other loaf away, and I hope they were happy with it.

Apple Bread
1 1/2 cups shredded, peeled green baking apples (2 large)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups All purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Caramel Glaze
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 (8×4-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray or shortening.

In large bowl, stir together apples, brown sugar, buttermilk, oil and eggs. Stir in remaining bread ingredients just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into pans.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on cooling rack. Loosen sides of loaves from pans, remove from pans.  Cool completely on wire racks, about 1 hour.

In 1-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in 1/4 cup brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; reduce heat to low. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling; remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.

Gradually stir powdered sugar into glaze mixture. Place saucepan of glaze in bowl of cold water. Beat with spoon until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. If glaze becomes too stiff, stir in additional milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, or heat over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle glaze over loaves.


Source-Pass the Sushi

And I wanted to show off the new member of our family.  Meet Miss Sophie!!

Isn't she sweet?!  We sure love her!

Happy Thursday! Wait what?!  It's Thursday?  CRAZY!

Love, Erica

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tasty Granola

Last Summer on our vacation to Yellowstone, my sister-in-law brought a delicious granola. I have always loved granola and probably had a bowl or two or three. It was pretty tasty. She was nice enough to pass on the recipe and now I'm passing it on to you.

What I love about granola is the fact that it is so versatile. You can really add whatever nut and dried fruits you want. Plus, you can always add a little chocolate (wink, wink) to give make it even better.

Tasty Granola
8 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups raisins or sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.

Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl.

Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 30 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Make sure you keep an eye on your granola. It can go from perfectly toasted to burnt pretty quickly. Don't say, call your sister and forget all about it. Ahem. Mine got a little toasty, but the hubs said it was perfect, so all is good. Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing in an airtight container.
In reading the reviews for the recipe, there were a lot of great ideas to make it low-fat or lower the sugar content. I loved the idea to swap 1/2 cup oil for applesauce. I didn't feel like the granola was greasy or heavy but I may try this next time.
Source: All recipes
Hope you are having a great week! Mine has been nuts! Ha Ha! No pun intended. :) Happy Wednesday!
Love, Monica

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm glad the is still cool enough to get away with doing a soup every now and then.  Soup is my all time favorite.  It's so easy to throw together and the results are almost always DELISH!  We added this one to our favorite soup list.  It had great flavor and was the perfect meal to end the day with. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp Taco seasoning
1-12 oz. beer or 12 oz. chicken broth (I used the broth.  Curious as to what the beer does to it.  If you use it, let me know.)
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 can diced tomatoes with chili peppers
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can chicken broth
1 can mexican corn
1 lb chicken

(The cans are all standard sized cans.)

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Put all your ingredients in the crockpot, and stir to combine.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Pour into bowls and top with crumbled tortilla chips, cheese, and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Source-Melissa W.

It's a rainy day here today.  I hope it stays like this all day.  I love dark rainy days!  Have a fabulous Tuesday!

Love, Erica*

Monday, April 16, 2012

Menu Monday

Erica's Menu

Baked Ziti

Taco Casserole

Old Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole  (My husband HATES Tuna casserole, but I found this one and it had great reviews, so I think i'm gonna give it a go.  I'll let you know how it turns out!)

Oven Ham and Swiss Melts

Grab and Growl Night!!!  (In other words, it's clean out the fridge night.) :o)

Crockpot Cheesy Chicken

Ham Fried Rice and Sweet and Sour Chicken

Have a great week! 

Love, Monica and Erica

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Springtime Carrot Cupcakes

I know Erica just did Carrot Cupcakes but they looked so good and we live so far apart. I would much rather sit in her kitchen and enjoy one together but alas I had to make some myself. Good thing I have a group of gals to share with. I did mix her recipe with Martha's (you know, Stewart) to make my own. They were delish. I heart carrot cake, big time. Topped with an amazing Cream Cheese frosting, and well, you may be close to heaven.

I wanted to do something fun and Springy, so I whipped up a batch of royal frosting, pulled out my piping bag, flower nail, and tips and went to town. I had forgotten how much I love to make flowers. They turned out beautiful and was the perfect touch for my cuppies.

Anyway, I know you're craving some carrot cake. So get on it! You won't regret it, well, unless you have 3 or more, then, you might regret it. :)

Carrot Cupcakes
2½ cups all-purpose flour

1¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled
1½ cups sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup Buttermilk
1½ cups vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with liners, set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

With a food processor, or just with a grater, shred all your carrots, and just place them on top of the flour mixture. (I have a cheap-o food processor, so I had big chunks. I decided to throw mine in my super blender (Blendtec) with a bit of the oil and break them down a big more. I guess shred them as small as you'd like.)

In your mixer add sugars, eggs, and buttermilk and mix until well combined. Slowly pour in your oil and mix until light in color. Add your carrots then your dry ingredients and mix until the flour is just incorporated.

Fill your cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 20-24 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes in the pans and then remove. Cool completely before icing.

Martha's Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. Butter (2 sticks) room temp.

12 oz. Cream Cheese room temp.
1 lb. (4 cups) powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until they are light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Add vanilla and mix. Now get a spoon and taste. Heaven. :) This recipe makes a lot. It will usually frost 24 cupcakes with some leftover.

If you have any questions about the Flower toppers. You can comment or email and I'll try to lead you in the right direction. Have a wonderful Thursday!

Love, Monica

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Menu Tuesday

Another week gone.  Another week of dinners.  Justice's soccer season has started, and she has her first game on Thursday.  We are all pretty excited to see her play.  She's a pretty awesome goalie!  So my menu this week is short and sweet...for the most part.  I love easy meals on busy weeks.

Tinfoil dinners

Breakfast for dinner.  Bacon, Egg, and Waffles

Ham and Cheese Bagels and sliced apples  (Just slab on some cream cheese on both sides of bagel, top with ham and your favorite cheese and bake on 350 open faced until it's all good and melty.  One of my kids' favorites!)

Pizzadillas...recipe coming!

Nachos, I have no gourmet recipe for these.  I use tortilla chips and buy that yummy fluorescent yellow colored cheese and top it with that, olives, jalapenos, avocados, green onions, and sour cream.  *DROOL*

Crockpot Roast with Mashed Taters and Gravy...Will post a recipe for this soon!

We are trying to get better at posting links and such.  Hope you are all happy with our new look.  We sure are!  Happy Tuesday!

Love, Erica*

Monday, April 9, 2012


If you are looking for The Giant Blog of Cooking, Crafting, and Other Fun Activities, you have come to the right place. Erica and I have been tossing around the idea to change the name of our blog for awhile. The last one was, well, just plain long. We were often referred to as "The Giant Blog". Who wants to be referred to as Giant? :)

Deciding a name was more a humorous adventure, we both would occasionally throw out a name and usually laugh. They varied from cheesy, to dumb, to just plain funny. One day I was thinking of something that means something to both of us and House 344 came to me. I told Erica and she loved it. Erica and I moved around a lot as children. There was only one place in our life that provided complete stability and that was House 344. That was our Grandma's house. When we walked into that home whether we were small or grown, we were always greeted with a warm hug and a "How's my girl?"

Cheesy? Maybe. But meaningful to us. Every child needs that place, and House 344 was that place for us. We learned many valuable lessons in that home and between Grandma and Auntie learned all the basics of cooking and keeping a home. So welcome to House 344. From the beginning we wanted this blog to be a way for Erica and I to share what we love and that will continue.

We have started taking sponsors and will give more detail about that later. The blog design was done by Candis Schow of CandC Paperie. We love it! I've been digging grey and yellow, oh and chevrons! I told her what I wanted and we got it. Love it! Thanks Candis. We'll be doing a more indepth feature soon.

Anyway, we just wanted to give you a heads up on the all the changes. We love doing this little blog and appreciate all of our followers and all of the positive feedback. Have a very Happy Monday!

Love, Monica

Friday, April 6, 2012

Springtime Chocolate Cupcakes

If you need a fun treat for your Easter Sunday, these cupcakes are easy and quick to throw together. I used my favorite One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes and Buttecream frosting.

After frosting them I dipped them in crushed Oreos then topped them with a carrots shaped from a Starburst. I used Sour Punch Straws cut up for the stems.

I love using candy for shaping different cupcake decorations. You can get a lot of inspiration from these books by Alan Richardson and Karen Tack. I love looking at the pictures in these books. They are amazing!

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the cocoa, flour, sugar, soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix till combined scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Scoop batter in liners and fill one-half to two-thirds full. (Be careful here!) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until top of cupcake springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely before frosting. Makes approx. 18 cupcakes.

Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening (If I use shortening, I use the Crisco Butter Flavored Sticks, sometimes I use all butter)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Salt
4 c. powdered sugar
3-5 Tbls. Milk (Your preferred consistency)
Beat the butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and then powdered sugar. Mix until well combined. Add in milk 1 Tbsp at a time until your reach the thickness that you want. Easy Peasy! 

Mmmm! We hope you have a very Happy Easter!
Love, Monica

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Digi Day

I've told you about these before but I wanted to remind you about the Photoshop Friday Tutorials at You can subscribe for a deal where you automatically get a class each Friday or you can buy them individually. Each class comes with a template, a video lesson, a PDF guide, and 6 examples from the Creative Team using the method being taught. You really get your moneys worth. You can purchase past episodes too. They are a great way to dip your toes into Photoshop techniques without having to take a whole class. She also has episodes on some photo editing techniques if that is your fancy. :)

Here are some of the past courses. Cute stuff. :)

Reversed Out Journaling Technique

Sepia Tone Photos

Match Your Journaling and Title

I've been collecting these and have been very excited but too busy to play. I finally got a chance to do a lesson and loved it. I love Jessica's classes. She is fun to listen to and I just love learning how to use Photoshop. Kinda nerdy, but awesome. Your jealous, admit it. :)

I did the Converting a Photo to Black and White. I think my layout turned out beautifully. :)

Convert a Photo to Black and White

And here is mine:

Love it. The papers are from Echo Parks Bohemian Bliss Kit. Love these colors! Full Credits Here.

Happy Tuesday!

Love, Monica

Monday, April 2, 2012

Menu Monday

Hey, Everyone!  It's April!  I can't believe it.  This year is flying.  I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.  Ours was lazy and lovely!

This week is my daughter's spring break.  Hopefully I can keep her busy enough that she isn't bored out of her mind. 

Onto my menu...

Erica's Menu


Tuesday-Meatloaf and Au Gratin Potatoes (I will post the recipe for these potatoes this week.  They are yum!)

Wednesday-Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Thursday-Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup (Another post i'm working on.)

Friday-Homemade Pizza

Saturday-Grilled Hotdogs

Sunday-Easter Dinner

Monica's Menu

Salsa Chicken

Grilled Pesto Chicken Packets

Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Hotdogs with Taters (Old family, weird, but beloved recipe)

Easter Dinner

Have a wonderful week and a Happy Easter. I love Easter for so many reasons. Can't wait. :)
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