Tag Archives: Pinterest



It’s Springtime here in Chicagoland … and although it is often referred to as “construction season”, it is also “dandelion season” … again. Both dandelions (and other weeds) and construction seem to be hardy perennials that do extremely well in the Midwest climate.

I say “dandelion season” again, because every year I think I have them under control, only to have them come back with a vengenence each spring.

My husband and I are not what you could call “lawn snobs” by any stretch of the imagination, but having a nice green lawn would be so nice. We don’t hire a landscaping company for lawn care, we cut our own grass. I’m trying to not you chemicals to kill them. My methods thus far have been trying “natural” remedies.

I have tried a homemade recipe using apple cider vinegar, salt and Dawn dishwashing detergent. It does kill the dandelion plant that is visible above ground, but apparently does nothing to get rid of the root. It also kills any grass that is surrounding your dandelion. Guess what? They grew back!

I have tried digging them out by hand. It is backbreaking labor, and is very hard to get the whole root out without it breaking off (to grow back again). I even bought an attachment for a power drill that is supposed to get the whole root out … surprise, surprise … it didn’t. Plus, I have so many in my front lawn; they will have gone to seed before I could possibly dig them all out 🙁

I have tried an organic weed control product that you apply using a spreader, only to find burnt patches in my lawn while the dandelions looked healthy and strong.

This year, I’ve read several articles online about letting the dandelions grow so the bees can get nectar after the long winter. I’ve read about how the bees are dwindling off because their habitat has changed so much over the last couple decades.

My plan for this year is to dig them out of my garden area and flower beds. My husband will mow them down each week before they go to seed. The bees will collect nectar and make wonderful local honey. Our lawn will be mostly green, but with some yellow dots 🙂

How do you handle dandelions and other weeds in your yard?  


Stuffed Shells Freezer Meal

Freezer Meal Ideas

I mentioned in last week’s blog, that I would share my ideas for having some meals in the freezer for those times when your schedule is super busy. You know, those crazy weeks when everything hits the fan all at once. If you try any of my ideas, the hardest thing you have to do is to remember to take it out of the freezer the day before 🙂

When my kids were young, I did a huge freezer cooking day with a friend of mine. It was the kind where you have a month’s worth of meals for your freezer when you are done. We did it over a weekend. Thankfully our husbands helped keep the kids entertained & occupied. We shopped on the first day. It was the one and only time I used a credit card for groceries. It costs a lot to buy ingredients for a months worth of meals, and I usually budget for 2 weeks at a time. We prepped and cooked everything on the second day. It was exhausting, expensive and my family ended up not liking at least half of the meals. I don’t have fond memories of that weekend …

Fast forward … that was then ~ this is now 🙂

With Pinterest becoming so popular in the last few years, I’ve read many (and I mean many) articles and blogs about freezer cooking. There are many different techniques out there, and I’m sure they are great. However, with my not-so-great experience back in the day, I have come up with my own plan that works best for me.

As I mentioned last week, I pretty much only cook for my husband and myself these days. Since we have no need for a whole 9×13 casserole, when I make the recipe, I divide it in half and use two 8×8 pans instead. I use aluminum pans from the dollar store … I cover it with foil and them put the pan in a ziplock freezer bag. I also put the cooking directions in the bag ( paper seems to freeze well 🙂 ) I then have a meal for dinner that night and one to put in the freezer for future use. Sometimes, I’ll double the recipe and have one 8×8 for dinner and the freeze the other 3 🙂

Disclaimer ~ I only make recipes we have tried and liked. I’ve learned that not everything turns out like the picture they show 🙂 I’ve also learned that not all recipes taste good after being frozen … it’s trial and error for me. It’s also easier on the budget doing it this way.

I have also recently starting using my crockpot more often. I confess, my crockpot used to only come out when I hosted a party and wanted to keep something warm on my buffet table. This past year, I have been trying various soup recipes I’ve found online. One of my favorite things to make in my crockpot is homemade chicken stock. I think it tastes so much better than the kind you get at the store. I try to always have a few quarts (mason jars) in my freezer.

I have tried several freezer recipes for the crockpot that I have found on Pinterest. You can check out some of the recipes (not all for the crockpot) I’ve pinned to try. We have liked all the ones I’ve made so far. They have been pretty similar in preparation. You chop everything and measure out all the ingredients, then store them in freezer ziplock storage bags. Write the cooking directions on the bag with a sharpie pen. They suggest laying them flat to freeze to allow for better storage space. Again, you take it out of the freezer the day before to thaw. Then you dump it all into the crockpot and go about your day. Dinner is ready when you are 🙂

I also make a double batches when I make cookies or quick breads. I bake them first. I use the same 8×8 pans or foil loaf pans … wrap them in foil, then store in a ziplock bag. Dessert when you want it or a last minute dish to bring to a potluck type gathering … arrange it on a pretty plate and you are good to go 🙂

So these are a few ideas that work for me … what ideas work for you?
If you want to save some time, Tracy Helps You can do the shopping for you … then you’ll have everything you need on hand for you freezer cooking day. Remember, we are only a phone call or email away 🙂

Meal Planning Calendar

Meal Planning Tips & Menu Ideas

 Generally when I plan my meals, I do it for two weeks at a time. Unfortunately (pretty much since starting my own small business, if I’m being honest), I haven’t been as consistent at meal planning as I once was. I have to figure out a way to make this part of my normal routine once again.

I’ve been researching different meal planning approaches on various blogs and on Pinterest. So far, I’ve determined that there are approximately a million different ideas on the topic … So I’ll make it a million and one by telling you my technique 🙂

My family has changed over the years. My kids have grown ~ one has moved into his own place and the other still lives at home, but isn’t home all that often (and hardly ever eats at home with us). So, I only make plans for me and the hubby 🙂

I’ve decided to make my new meal plan approach to cover a whole month. I print out a blank calendar page and write in the meal for each day. I save them in a binder, and hope to reuse them in the coming years. I usually write in pencil so we can switch things around if we’re not in the mood for what is on the schedule for that day. I try to switch with something in the same week, so I have all the ingredients on hand. Also, I usually only plan dinners on my meal plan.

My schedule (and I use the word loosely) with Tracy Helps You is quite erratic – some days I have multiple clients – some days one – some days none. Each day is different … and I love it, but it does keep me on my toes, so I definitely need a flexible schedule / plan 🙂 My husband works the early shift and is long gone before I even wake up, so I keep a variety of breakfast type foods on hand for fending for yourself. Since I’m only cooking for 2, we often have leftovers for lunches. I also try to always have sandwich fixins’ on hand.

My husband and I have some favorites that are on the menu every week … like Taco Tuesday 🙂 Then I rotate some tried and true staples like spaghetti & meatballs or pork chops with cinnamon apple slices. We go out to eat on date nights and, of course, there are a couple of pizza nights 🙂 Then I fill in the other days with new recipes to try from my Pinterest Board or meals from my freezer that have been prepared in advance. I’ll be talking about freezer meals in next week’s blog post – stayed tuned 🙂

My plan sort of blends my current technique with some ideas that have worked for others. I have taken different points from different sources and come up with a customized plan that fits the needs of my family.

I hope my plan “helps” you … you can use it as a “jumping off” point in customizing your own menu plan or use it “as is” whatever works best for you … it’s all cool 🙂

thankful for social media

Tracy Helps You’s Thankful Thoughts for Today ~ 11/25/14

November 25, 2014 ~ Today I am thankful for social media. Yesterday, I shared my blog post on facebook and twitter. I had blogged about feeling miserable because of cold and sinus issues. I’m feeling better and when I logged on today, I was so touched to see lots of comments saying they hoped I felt better soon. It’s nice to know that people care about you … real live friends and those you only know virtually. Birthdays are fun on facebook too … just sayin’ 🙂

That being said, social media can have a down side too. I hope I’m not alone in this when I say that facebook (and the others) can be real time stealers. Many times, I’ll think to myself, I’ll just check facebook or Pinterest really quick and before you know it, an hour or more will have passed.

I love social media – being able to keep in touch with old friends and making new ones 🙂 However, I’m trying to discipline myself by allowing myself  “X”  amount of time to browse. I actually set a timer … now if I could only sign off when the timer dings … just kidding, I do most of the time 😉

♥ Today I am thankful for social media ♥

Thankful for pumpkin season

Tracy Helps You’s Thankful Thoughts for Today ~ 11/16/14

November 16, 2014 ~ Today I am thankful for pumpkin … everything 🙂 Autumn is my favorite season for lots of reasons … the warm sunny days followed by crisp cool evenings, the spectacular colors of the changing leaves, and of course, pumpkin flavored treats. From Labor Day til Thanksgiving, its pumpkin season … and I’m very thankful!

Pumpkin Spice Latte may be my favorite. This year I found a recipe on Pinterest and made it at home ~ I actually liked it better than you know where. Saving money was nice too! I love pumpkin bread warm from the oven and pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream. Last night, I had pumpkin ice cream drizzled with warm caramel and pecans … yum … and I’m looking forward to a big slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving 🙂

♥ Today I am thankful for pumpkin … everything ♥

Natural Homemade Body Wash

Homemade Natural Body Wash – DIY Tips & Ideas

In the last couple of years or so, I’ve been trying to be more aware of what ingredients are in my health and beauty products. I’ve been researching and learning about many harsh chemicals that are commonly used in many products. Some are actual known carcinogens! While I’m just a newbie at this type of research, I’ve learned enough that I want to try something that won’t harm me … so I’m starting with homemade body wash.

Sadly, some of those yucky chemicals actually produce the effects that I love about liquid body wash … mainly the rich, sudsy lather and the wonderful scent. So I, of course, went to Pinterest in search of the perfect recipe to make some homemade body wash 🙂 I just love Pinterest, don’t you? Do you follow me? However, I have learned that I have to limit my time (I literally set a timer on my phone) or else I could get lost for hours. I can’t tell you how many great blogs I read about making homemade healthy and beauty products. I tried narrowing my search by looking for those that got good reviews concerning lathering. I know it’s goofy, but I just love having rich lather … it feels luxurious to me. Continue reading

Pinterest DIY Dry Mix Recipe Ingredients

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dry Mix Recipes and Tips

This seems to be my week for trying out Pinterest DIY recipes. I hope you follow me on Pinterest 🙂 Yesterday, I made up 3 different recipes for dry mixes … you know, those little individual packets they sell. I made taco seasoning, poultry seasoning, and ranch dressing mix. I think these recipes will be healthier than the packets because I can control the ingredients.

I’ve made the taco seasoning before and love it. I found the recipe for it a long time ago, but I’ve made some minor adjustments to it, customizing it to my personal preferences.

I ran out of poultry seasoning and was shocked at the price for a tiny little container. So I decided to try to find a recipe for it on Pinterest. There were many to choose from. I followed this recipe. Who knows, I may doctor it up for the next time like I did for the taco seasoning.

I also found one for the dry ranch dressing mix. I’ll use this recipe for dips as well as salad dressing. I also found a recipe for baked ranch fried chicken that I’d like to try.

Since I was buying so many different spices, I purchased the inexpensive Aldi brand. They have a non-clumping preservative added to them, but at least my recipes will be low sodium. As I run out of the individual spices, I plan to buy a better quality replacement. My budget couldn’t handle this larger initial purchase. I am also planting an herb garden this summer and plan to dry my own herbs in the fall. I’d like to be able to have sodium and preservative free dry mixes in the future.

🙂 Helpful Tips:

  • I used empty spice containers that I saved for such a time as this.
  • I quadrupled the recipes to have them on hand longer.  

Do you make any DIY type recipes to replace some of the packaged convenience foods that are filled with so many preservatives? I’d love to try your recipe 🙂

Pinterest Pin ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

I love browsing on Pinterest … don’t you? It is full of homemade and DIY ideas. I’m always finding great pins that I want to try. This week, I made this recipe for homemade dishwasher tablets. I hope they work well … I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Since I already make homemade laundry detergent, I already had many of the ingredients on hand. This recipe called for borax, washing soda (or baking soda), Epson salts (or kosher salt), vinegar and lemon essential oil. The only thing I had to buy was the essential oil and ice cube trays.

The recipe is really easy to follow:

  • First … I measured out the borax, washing soda and Epson salts and mixed them together.
  • Then … I added the vinegar, it bubbled and fizzed
  • Then … I added the drops of lemon essential oil. It was challenging to actually count the drops, so I eyeballed it. I love the scent of lemon – it smells clean to me!
  • Then … I mixed it all together, it started clumping together right away.
  • Finally … I spooned the mixture into the ice cube trays, pressed it down firmly and then set it aside to dry thoroughly.
Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Adding the vinegar made it fizz

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

It started clumping together right away

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pressing the mixture into the ice cube tray

The recipe says to let it dry at least 24 hours, then store in an airtight container. I plan to use up my store bought supply before using my homemade ones … I think I have about 5 left. They should be nice and dry by then. The recipe also says to put a drop or two of Dawn on the tablet when you’re putting it in the dishwasher for added grease cutting benefits and to use a splash of vinegar to aid in the rinse cycle. I actually already knew about and use the vinegar with my store bought detergent.

Since I already have all these ingredients out, I think I’ll make up a batch of homemade laundry detergent too. My supply is getting pretty low. Now that I have the lemon essential oil, I think I might add some to the laundry detergent … as I mentioned, I just love the fresh and clean scent of lemon. My batches last my family of 4 for quite awhile; I think I made the last batch in July. Do you make homemade cleaners? What is your favorite?

Are you on Pinterest, follow me 🙂


Pinterest Crockpot Soup Recipe

Monday’s Menu ~ Pinterest Recipe for Crockpot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

One of my goals for 2014 was to learn how to make homemade soups. I chose a few I’d like to learn in an previous post. Yesterday I made a recipe (that wasn’t even on my list) that I found on Pinterest.

My husband and I enjoy going out to eat. We like simple, casual food ~ homey, comfort food, nothing too fancy or gourmet. Olive Garden is one of our favorite places to go.

I was looking for crockpot recipes on Pinterest when I found this one. I made a couple of changes, but only because I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients on hand. I used Italian Seasoning in place of the basil and thyme, and I skipped the apple juice entirely. I also chose to slice the carrots instead of shred them. Otherwise, I pretty much followed the recipe step by step. You can find the original recipe here.

My recipes calls for fresh chopped veggies

Chopping fresh veggies for my homemade soup recipe from Pinterest

Recipe call for healthy beans

Healthy beans are one of the ingredients in my homemade soup recipe.









We had this for dinner last night … I served it with warm from the oven pumpernickel dinner rolls. YUM !

Pasta E Fagioli with warm pumpernickel dinner rolls

My first time making Pasta E Fagioli soup using a copycat recipe from Olive Garden

This recipe makes a big pot of homemade soup … both my husband and I give it a big thumbs up – you should give it a try 🙂

Homemade Chicken Soup

Homemade Soup Keeps You Warm on a Cold Winter Day

There’s nothing like a big bowl of steamy, hot, homemade soup. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. One of my goals is to learn how to make some of my favorite soups. I’m a beginner when it comes to making homemade soup. I have a list of my favorites that I want to learn how to make.

  • Chicken Soup
  • Vegetable Beef
  • Broccoli Cheddar
  • Split Pea
  • Loaded Baked Potato
  • Navy Bean
  • Taco Soup
  • Creamy Pumpkin
  • Chicken Enchilada

I am pleased with my Chicken soup skills … I’ve made it successfully several times. I can’t decide which to try next … it’s between Broccoli Cheddar and Loaded Baked Potato… I’ve been checking out Pinterest for some healthy recipes 🙂

I recently read an article in Midwest Living magazine that intrigued me. It was about throwing a casual Soup Exchange party. Most of us have been to Cookie Exchange parties, usually around the Christmas holidays. This is the same type concept, except it promotes healthy recipes. I thought it might be a fun idea to have one in the midst of this record breaking Chicagoland winter.

So basically, you make your pot of soup at home, and then bring it to the party in quart size containers … one for each guest. So if 6 people are coming, they each bring 6 quarts of their soup with 6 copies of their recipe. One quart of each recipe is warmed up and shared at the party, and each guest goes home with 5 different quarts of soup to put in their freezer. I would suggest noting on the recipe if it freezes well or not. I’ve heard that cream based soups aren’t really freezer friendly. The hostess can provide a bread & cracker assortment and beverages, or make that potluck and assign each guest with something to bring. Enjoy a warm & cozy winter evening with good friends and good food … sounds wonderful to me 🙂

Have you ever been to this kind of party? Do you think you’d enjoy it? What kind of soup would you bring? Leave a comment & share your favorite recipe …