January 23, 2013

Simple Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes that I make a few times throughout the year when I have the time.  
It's one of those dishes that can warm up a cold house during the winter months.

Recipe List

1 - box of lasagna noodles
3 - jars of spaghetti sauce
3 cups - shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pkg of Italian sausage or ground hamburger
1 - 18 oz container of ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 - egg
1 - tablespoon of dry parsley
1 - teaspoon of nutmeg

In a medium bowl mix together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, dry parsley and nutmeg.

In a cooking pan lightly brown sliced sausage on both sides and add to spaghetti sauce.

In greased glass pan spread 2 1/2 cups of sauce on the bottom of pan.  
lay down noodles to cover first layer and spread with half the ricotta mixture.  
Sprinkle with shredded cheese and spread with two cups of sauce and sausage.
Repeat one more time to complete lasagna.  

Cover with foil and place in pre-heated oven at 350
Cook for one hour or until the noodles are tender.  
When fully cooked remove foil sprinkle with the remainder of cheese and cook for 15 minutes for cheese to melt.

November 26, 2012

Rugelach & Red Velvet Cookies

Rugelach Cookies


11/2 cups - all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. - salt
1/2 cup - sugar
1/3 - butter soften
1 - egg

Inside Mixture

1/4 cup - sugar
3 tbs - melted butter
1 cup - semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup - chopped walnuts
1/2 cup - dried cranberries
raspberry spread

In a bowl combine flour and salt and set aside. In another bowl beat together sugar and butter on medium speed until fluffy now include egg until blended.  Slowly add flour mixture until dough is firm.  
Cut dough in half and roll out into two rectangle shapes.  It is easier if you roll between wax paper.

For the inside mix together sugar, melted butter, chocolate chips, walnuts and cranberries. 
 Before sprinkling the mixture over top of dough, spread raspberry preserved spread or jam, then top with mixture.
Very carefully roll starting from the ends with wax paper to make a round pinwheel. 
 As you see below in the picture.
Cut a few inches apart and place on a greased cookie sheet.  

If you like sprinkle with some of the mixture on top of the cookie.

Bake for 10 to 14 mins at 350.

Red Velvet Crinkles

1 - box of red velvet cake mix
1/2 cup - vegetable oil
2 - eggs
1 tsp. - vanilla
1/2 cup - powder sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 

In a bowl mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Once done make small round balls out of the dough and roll in powder sugar.

Place the balls on a cookie sheet a few inches apart and place in oven for around 10 mins. for baking.

October 10, 2012

Easy Pumpkin Bars

The recipe is so easy that you don't have to do much to put it together.  
For one you only need three ingredients and a can of  cream cheese frosting.


1 - Box of spice cake mix
1- 4 oz package of pumpkin Jello pudding
2 - Cups of milk

1 - Can of cream cheese frosting

Heat oven to 350 

Grease a 13x13 cookie sheet that has edges
one hint:   line the cookie sheet with wax paper and spray with non-stick spray.  
It makes it easy to remove the baked bars from pan.

Mix together 2 cups of milk with the 4 oz pumpkin jello package.  
Make sure not to beat or make into pudding, you want a water like mixture.
Add the box of spice cake mix until well blended.

Pour the batter mixture on the pan and spread out evenly.
Yes, it will cover the whole pan.  It does not look like it at first.

Place in oven at 350 and bake for 20-30 minutes until it is lightly brown or a tooth pick comes out clean.

Spread on frosting after the cake is completely cooled and cut into square.

Happy Baking,
R.C. Givens

September 28, 2012

Doing Disneyland With Fibromyalgia or Chronic Pain

Yes, it is possible for one not to want to do Disneyland when they have a chronic illness and even cringe at the thought of pain they might suffer during that visit.  But I am here to tell you that it is okay.  Since the time my daughter was born, I knew that one day I would have to visit that magic kingdom all kids love.  I'd hope later then sooner in my mind.

As the years went on my daughter choose a big birthday party instead of Disneyland.  Until this year, even I myself felt a little bad that we did not take her sooner then her 8th birthday.  But with that in mind I would like to share my experience and helpful hints that might ease the anxiety and thoughts of pain before your visit.

I started planning this trip a few months back before her birthday, so I could look at the best options and cost for our family.  We decided since it was her 8th birthday and first time visit.  We would make it a family vacation for a few days.  Our choice was to go through Southern California AAA travel agency.  We are members and they have good discounts on hotels and tickets.  Plus if you book months in advance you can make payment installments and have the trip paid in full before the time comes.  Our package included 4 days/3 nights stay and two day hopper passes for each person in our party.  After looking at all the hotels and weighing the pros's and con's we picked California Grand Hotel, which is on the property of California Adventure theme park.  Yes, it is on the pricey side, but with their own entrance access from the hotel to California Adventure and easy access to downtown Disney that is closer to the parks made it a good fit.  Not to mention when you are tired you can retreat back to your room to rest.  I also requested for a room close to the elevator.  Since they only have three in the hotel of the 600 guest rooms making some rooms a far hike.  Below are pics of the hotel and room for ideas on how it looks.

Middle of hotel lobby

Hotel's front entrance

Our room (The bed and pillows were very comfy.)


With the hotel booked and out of the way,  I was able to focus on how I would manage my fatigue and pain during this trip.  What came up was I needed a plan that would help me to enjoy this time with my family without worrying about my illness.  So my solution was to rent a mobile scooter for the day well at the theme parks.  When I looked into the cost for a one day rental through Disneyland parks it was $50.00 to rent plus $20.00 for deposit that you would get back at the end of your visit making it a total of $70.00.  Keep in mind you could not use these mobile scooters outside of the parks.  With a help of a friend I was referred to Deckert Surgical supply.  Their rentals were $40.00 a day and they delivered the scooter to your hotel at no extra cost or security deposit.  We went with Deckert I was very pleased with there service and they delivered the scooter whatever time I needed it and picked it back up the next day.  Let me tell you at first I worried what other people might think since I look perfectly healthy on the outside.  But I was glad I rented it, because at the end of the day my body was thanking me for not over doing it.

Hotel entrance from Down Town Disney

Part of Down Town Disney

Cars land area in California Adventure

I also planned on what I might bring in case I needed extra care during the trip.  I packed instant ice packs, pain meds, comfy clothes and shoes.  Since we were splurging on hotel and mobile scooter rental we had to look at cutting cost when it came to extra spending money.  The hotel rooms came with little mini refrigerators.  One of our cost cutting was food, I packed items like cereal, bananas, grapes, Horizon 1% milk boxes that didn't need to be refrigerated, peanut butter, bread, juices, water and tons of snacks that would last those few days we where their.  I even made sandwiches ahead of time packed in the cooler for the drive so we would not have to stop for lunch.  Each day we would take snacks and water into the parks with us in a backpack.  The supplies came in handy and kept our food expense cost down when we were not eating out.


I think what helped the most during this trip was not sweating the small stuff.  It is a vacation and it does not matter what time you get out the door or when you'll do lunch or dinner.  We played everything by ear when it came to having fun.  When we got burnt out at the parks we headed back to the room for some much needed R&R by hanging out at the pool area and grounds.  It also helps to be honest with the ones you are traveling with to let them know in advance, if I am not doing to well during our stay please don't take it personal when I want to take a break and rest.  Me and my spouse got great quality time with our daughter when the other needed a break.  Which helped to keep us both happy.  I have to say in the end this trip ended up being the best trips I ever took to Disneyland in my life.

A few words of encouragement
Traveling alone can make a person stressed and having a chronic illness adds pressure.  So keep in mind think happy thoughts and meditate on what helps you get through the day.  Everything does not have to be prefect and enjoy the time you have.  For me it was getting up early and having quite time to pray before my family woke up.  Giving me extra peace and calmness to help me focus on the day ahead.  I write this to inspire others with chronic pain or illness that it is possible to overcome the impossible when it comes to travel.  Life is to short not to enjoy it and take chances even when you don't feel you can do it.

Happy Travels
R.C. Givens





August 16, 2012

San Diego Spots to Visit

All my life I have lived in "Sunny San Diego" home to many great historic sites and sports. 
With so much to do, you can never get bored here!

Summer always gives us a great opportunity to explore and enjoy what this city has to offer.
From the restaurant's, farmers markets, to just plan out door fun you have a lot to choose from.
Follow along as I share some of our favorite spots.

First on the list historic Balboa Park, this ones our favorite places to check out on Sunday's after church. 
We love to walk around the pond area and check out the art work.  
One of the coolest things we like to do is head over to Whole foods to pick up sandwich's before we get to the park.  

Looking for great desserts, hop on over to Extraordinary Desserts off of 5th in downtown San Diego.  
This place has a great selection of homemade desserts and tea's.  They even carry gluten free items. 

 Next up Coronado Island, close to down town San Diego.  Two ways to get there is the ferry boat taxi or drive straight over the bridge.

The Island has great things to see and good food choices for a romantic evening.
Surround by the beach and bay you will enjoy the beauty and sites.

The hotel Del is a must for all that visit San Diego it sits right on the beach with cute little shops and restaurant's with in the hotel.  We like to visit Spreckels Sweets & Treats known as the candy shop.
My favorite item there is the dark sea salt chocolate, yes I do have to say it's good.

Our final adventure is Liberty Station located in the heart of Point Loma
 There you can find small shops, a few restaurant's and Wine Steals.

Love this place Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe.  They have the best sandwiches.

And across the way you will find Shelter Island that is right on the bay.  

Here's a list of other great spots to visit:

Seaport Village
Historic Old Town
La Jolla Cove
Point Loma Lighthouse
Del Mar Beaches
Sea World
Lego Land

Planning a trip do San Diego and have questions regarding a place.  
I will be happy to answer those questions. 
Email me at rgc2310@gmail.com

Happy Travels

August 06, 2012

"50th" Birthday 70's, 80's & 90's Old School Theme

 Planning my Brother's "50th" old school party was one of the funniest parties I got to work on in awhile.

The invites is what set the tone for this party, being that he was turning "50" he wanted to incorporate his favorite thing music.  I purchased postcard invites through vista print on-line, which they make it easy to upload graphics and design what you want.  Vista print has great sales you just have to look for them.  These invites cost around $40.00 dollars, which included return envelopes and RSVP cards that I also made.  

I was the lucky one in charge of the invites, decor and some baking.  
As some know all that I love to do on a budget.  I have to say I did spend a little more on this party then I normally do.  But I still got some great deals and ideas that didn't cost much.  

The centerpieces where made with styrofoam rounds, black & gold tissue paper, pre-cut music notes and glitter. I also hand made the little records in the middle with black and gold paper using a gold paint pin to write.  The Reserved table signs where left over invites.

This cute sign I purchased at Party City for $9.99.  They now sell different style of signs with lettering included.

Keeping it simple over the cake table I used music notes and crepe paper streamers.

Now for the fun part, photo booths is the new rave for parties and weddings.  They can be very costly if you have a company come in for the night.  To bring some fun to the party I decided to create a photo back ground like the ones you might see back in the day when you where in high school.  By making a balloon arch over the top and using a tall cardboard back drop covered with black paper and white table clothes for curtains.  My brother had an old collection of LP covers from the late 70's & 80's that we used.  
Next to the back drop we placed a card table with lots of fun stuff to put on.  I made a sign above the table that said take an item and strike a pose.  Please return back to the table when done.  
He also hired a photographer for the night who took pictures during the party and at the photo area.  
Which ended up being why cheaper then what the booth would of cost.

Let's just say people loved it and we got are money's worth.

Last but not least my brother wanted a cupcake display full of some outrages flavors.  
All I have to say is thank goodness for my mom and sister who are the top baker's in the family.  Displayed above was my pineapple delight, cherry cola & lemon drops cupcakes.  
Which I will be posting recipes for on another post.

If you have questions on this post please email me at rgc2310@gmail.com or follow me on facebook at 
The Sweet and Simple Sisters.

Thanks for checking me out.

June 26, 2012

4th of July Party Ideas

Summer is here and it's the best time of the year to firer up that grill. 
 One of our favorite events is "4th of July" and each year we host a small get together with family.
To motivate those that like to make a special party to remember without the hard work and cost.  
I have complied past, present and future party ideas for you.

Now a days its the cost of living that is effecting us the most when it comes to spending money.
When I am out and about I keep my eye out for things that will fit in my budget when it comes to parties.
I have a rule of thumb if you are hosting an event like backyard BBQ's, 4th of July or any other holiday. 
You should not be in charge of all the work or cost. 
Example:  I will normally provide the meat, drinks and paper products and ask my guest if they would kindly bring a side dish, condiments or dessert to share. 
Most of the time they are more willing to help out.

With that in mind lets get this party started!


Ideas on food are to keep it simple, so you are able to enjoy your guest.
Here are some suggestions:

Baby back ribs, corn and bake potatoes all are a hit when it comes to a simple BBQ.

Host a build your own "Hot Dog Bar" it would not be 4th of July without hot dogs.
Grill hot dogs, hot links, or even polish sausages.  Buy different assorted hot dog buns and use assorted toppings like relish, onions, jalapenos, shredded cheese, chili beans, bacon, tomatoes, the toppings are endless once you get to thinking what your crowd likes.

If you are a meat eater and having a very small group why not try cooking a tri-tip on the grill for tortas. 
 We love Morton's tri-tip from Costco.  I put that bad boy on the grill about half hour before the guest arrive so I can let it simmer in a pan on the top level of the grill once I have seared both sides. 
We serve it up with torta bread, you can use hamburger buns or any other roll if you like or tortillas.  
Grill a few veggies, add some salsa on the side and call it a day.

Feeding a large crowd try cooking up chicken or a meat that will shred in a crockpot to make bbq sandwiches.  It goes a long way and I find in the past that the cost is not that expensive.  
I don't make any special sauce I just add a good quality bbq sauce from the store.  Add the sauce once it starts cooking and buy an extra bottle to place out on the table for guest during serving time. 
Make a coleslaw or grill onions and you are ready to go.

Let's Talk Drinks

I don't know about you but I find more soda cans and water bottles get wasted at parties. 
I have started using beverage dispenser for all drinks at my parties.  
Our guest favorite drinks at this time is cherry limeade, which I purchase at walmart for only .89 cent.  I buy a few bottles.  Use a beverage dispenser for water with fresh cut cucumbers or lemon slices.  
I have also found that people love lemonade on a hot day.  If you have to have soda I suggest liters, place a few out with the other items mention.


Let's get to the fun part, you do not have to spend a lot of money to dress up a party.
Shop the dollar sections at target, dollar tree or walmart that carry specilty items at low cost during the holidays.  Use old items with new for keeping cost down or borrow friends items to dress up your tables.

This candle holder was not much cost, I used an old spaghetti sauce jar ,  beads  I already had and throw in the .99 cent necklaces for a 4th of July look.

This mason jar came in handy and everything in it was under a dollar.

If you have a farmers market in your town I suggest heading out to pick up some flowers.   These flowers where only $4.00 I added items I found in the dollar section at target.  Note I used a flag bandanna that I got at walmart for a $1.00 just gripped it together with a rubber band at the top of the glass jar tucking in the corners under the rubber band for the bubble effect. 

Want to dress up your utensils just drop them in a pail or mason jar and add your own style.

Be sure to come back on Friday,  I will be sharing some "4th of July" goodie ideas and recipes.
I can't wait to share them with you.

Happy Summer,