Thursday, March 5, 2015

Five on Friday.....

I'm excited to be linking up with my friend Amy from Love Made My Home today!  My 5 are all centered around the home as we have been cooped up for the last month with February being bitterly cold in our neck of the woods.  The beans are all bouncing off the walls and this mama is ready to dig in the dirt!


Each Monday I plan out meals for the week and write them on our chalkboard that sits in our kitchen.  I make my list for exactly what we need for that week and head to the grocery.  So come Sunday the fridge looks pretty bare.  The good part about this plan is that we don't waste much food.  If you must know, I always feel guilty when I see food go to waste.  I try to teach the beans the importance of where their food comes from and how lucky they are to have it.  So with black bananas staring me down, I decided to make a loaf of...

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/4 cup butter
8oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups regular flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups ripe smashed bananas 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy and slowly add the sugar until fluffy.  Then add the eggs one at a time.  In a separate bowl combine the flours, baking soda, powder, and salt.  Sift into the butter mixture alternating the flour mixture with the buttermilk.  Stir in bananas, chocolate chips and vanilla.  Pour into 2 buttered loaf pans.  Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let stand in the pan for 10 minutes before removing.  Once out let the loaves cool for 30 minutes.  YUMMY!

I also think a lot about where our food comes from.  Sure the beans eat processed foods but I try to limit it as much as possible.  Our new favorite snack is one that is not only easy to make but works well because it only requires 3 ingredients that we always have on hand.

Sun Butter Honey Oat Bites

We have a nut allergy in our home so I changed this recipe from peanut butter to sunbutter and I was thrilled at how delicious it tasted!   
{Inspired by the peanut butter version found on Pinterest}

1/2 cup of sunbutter
1/4 cup of honey
about 1 cup of oats 
(a little more of mixture seems to wet)

~Grease a 9 by 9 pan
~Heat sunbutter and honey in the microwave for 45 seconds and stir 
~Pour in oats and stir again
~Press into pan and put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes to let set
~Cut into squares

Two~Crafting with Beans {character board}

Did I mention that we've been cooped up?!!?  The perfect time to take a trip to Michaels to buy some bits for a new project.  I've had this old sign for a long time and kept it because I knew it would come in handy one day.  The beans and I decided to turn this into our character board.

We picked up wooden hearts and stars at the craft store.  As well as magnetic strips and letters.  I wanted them to have a hand in making the pieces for their board.  The beans painted the pieces and added their names to the newly sprayed sign.

When they make good choices, show good character, and do their chores I tell them to add a star or heart to their board.   It's been such a fantastic way to highlight their positive behaviors throughout the day and a great motivator as well.


I wish I could say that I finished my girls' room but I'm not quite there yet.  In the meantime, I've been adding some finishing touches to my little man's room.  My pop found a vintage airplane calendar for my son so I was able to use some of those photos in his new gallery wall.  


And because I still have a ton of fabric from my old curtains I hand sewed a few hearts that hung in the house during the month of February.  Thinking I will use them as ornaments for Christmas this year.


Last on the list are  2 items I would like to purchase for our garden this year.  I have an infatuation with garden obelisks.  The problem is every obelisk that I like is only made and shipped within the UK.  You all sure know how to make them over there!   Wooden obelisks with round finials are my favorite.

So after a lot of searching I found this one here   The price is right though I will probably end up painting it and maybe just maybe adding my own round finial to the top!  

The last piece for the garden would be a potting bench.  I like the idea of having one for all my "stuff" as well as using it to create vignettes during the cold winter months here in Chicago.  This picture (a bit fuzzy) was from a Christmas walk I went on with my mom and sisters.

I found this simple straightforward version from here

And there you have it!
 I wanted to take a moment and thank you all for being so outstanding.  This journey has connected me with so many extraordinary folks from across the globe!  You inspire me daily!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!  

*I've been informed that my comments have stopped reaching people's email inboxes.  I'm not sure why so if anyone has any advice on that please feel free to share.


  1. This was a great way to share what's been going on in your life lately!! Your baking projects sound delicious. I know you're family enjoyed them. I really like how you reused the old sign and let the beans redecorate it. What a great project! Your son's room is coming along and I'm loving that obelisk - it's gorgeous!! I'd love to have one, too.....maybe I can convince Wonderful Hubby to make me one. He's planning to retire the middle of next month!! I WILL get a post ready this weekend. I've been in hibernation mode and haven't posted for a long time. Gotta get back to it. Enjoy your weekend! Hope your weather warms up soon!!

  2. I've seen a few wooden obelisks in the new 'hood here and I'm so tempted to knock on my neighbors' doors and ask them where they got them from. It is on my garden wish list too. The rose garden had several metal obelisks but they were really expensive. I prefer the wooden ones though. I've never been able to grocery shop just once a week. In three days, we went through a bin of spinach, two pounds of strawberries, a whole pineapple, and so on and we are officially out of fruit and veggies. So back to the store tomorrow. At least we are eating well. The character board is a great idea for young kids. I hope you have a great weekend.

  3. I really love banana cake or bread. Thanks for the recipe! The garden obelisks look so interesting. Such a nice thing to be put on the flower garden. I think the wooden material is not safe on my climate, cause to hot and humid, so the fire ant and fungus will destroy the wood soon. Happy gardening, friend! and have a great weekend.

  4. Nicole. You are an incredible mother. I can't wait to try the banana bread recipe although I'm the only one who eats sweets in my house. One more month and we can begin to venture into our gardens. Happy weekend lass. Xo

  5. I'm with you Nic I love obelisks...especially painted in French blue! xxxxx

  6. The obelisks are lovely aren't they, yours is going to look wonderful with plants all around it. Love the potting bench too, no doubt you will put it all together beautifully. I've written down the oat bar recipe, it looks just the kind of thing we'd like. Have a great weekend Nicole. CJ xx

  7. Wow! You have been a busy bee. Your baking looks so delicious - I have a sudden yearning for banana bread with chocolate chips! What a gorgeous sign - such a brilliant idea to get the beans to help with its transformation; I'm sure it will be a great motivator. Loving the obelisk and the garden bench too - you make me itch to get back out into the garden. Wishing you a fantastic weekend. x

  8. I did notice today that your comment went straight to my blog but so have a few others so I'm not sure what's going on. I enjoyed seeing what has been going on and how busy you have been - your baking looks scrummy. I liked the boards your beans made too - I did notice Gavin's didn't have quite as many hearts on as his sisters! My husband made me a potting bench like that a few years ago - it is so handy for working on when it is too hot to use the greenhouse bench. Like you I love obelisks and the way they add height in the garden. I had a beautiful one for a Christmas present a couple of years ago - wrought iron with birds and leaves twisting up to the top - I love it. p.s. Love the colour of the walls in the boy's room - and his picture gallery. Have a great weekend my friend. Elaine.

  9. Hello Nicole,

    This gas been there're the winter for hibernating and baking but we can well imagine that you are now more than ready to spread your collective wings outdoors. The oat bakes look truly delicious, a healthy alternative to processed snacks that one often turns to when thinking of what to eat with a cup of tea!

    Obelisks for the garden sound perfect. We used them to great effect in our gardening days. We found the ready made versions were often incredibly expensive and lacked substance, so we had ours made by a neighbour from roofing timbers which we then painted bright blue. Perhaps you could investigate having them made close to home? As a top one can buy interesting door knobs or newel posts which can just screw in. It is such fun to experiment with paint colour outdoors as you are intending to do. You could try painting plant pots too with masonry paint.....they look great!

  10. I love your Five on Friday Nicole! I will have to google sun butter as I've not heard of it. Your bakes look yummy though. Those re-purposed good behaviour name boards are such a good idea! I am on the look out for similar to make name plaques for my kids' bedroom doors. I have just decided that I need an obelisk in my garden, looking at those. I'm imagining one with sweet peas climbing up it! Happy weekend to you xx

  11. Such a many nice things!

    I agree totally about food, we are lucky to have it, and we should not waste it.

    have a good weekend

  12. Good Morning and happy Friday! I will admit, I had not heard of sunbutter! Just googled it; sounds delicious. Thanks so much for the recipes. We buy bulk bags of bananas at the grocery and freeze several. I recently discovered that you can make creamy banana ice cream with just ONE ingredient with frozen bananas! I adore the way you re-purposed the sign; a great way to encourage your beans and I know they had fun being creative during your dreary winter days. You have made me want an obelisk for our yard! The framed airplane calendar prints are perfect for your son's room. Wishing you all a blessed weekend. Mildred

  13. I love your five, Nicole...although I think you cheated a bit and made #5 TWO making it SIX THINGS----lol---
    I an copying that banana bread down- I have a son that could eat banana bread every day of life...and I try to find a different recipe every time for him. lol I, too, hate waste.

    Cute sign for the kids and that airplane picture is wonderful. Hope you have a great weekend. xo Diana

  14. Now you have me hankering to get started on the garden(s). What a fun activity to do with the kiddos too.

  15. That banana bread looks sooooo good.

  16. I love the board idea for your kids. I use a sticker chart which is magnetic, but I love the thought that has gone into yours, they are much more personal. As for inspiration - your entire post inspired me, each of your five things up right under my street from the banana loaf to the potting bench! I'm after one too, an old pair of wooden steps will do it! X

  17. Your little beans are so cute making up this very sweet new sign. I love little motivators like this, I just wish they worked for teens! I throw my black bananas in the freezer and just nuke them when I need them for banana loaf (a fav here). Last night I baked a very moist chocolate-banana cake! It's very moist, but so good! I love those garden obelisks too and have asked my husband to make one from a simple pattern I have ... no go. My son now takes woodworking in highschool, so maybe he'll help me :) Enjoy your weekend!

  18. So much inspiration radiating from your home...truly a home sweet home:) I'd like to try the honey oats bites sometime soon...not sure about the sunbutter(?), perhaps we can just use our ordinary butter?? I do appreciate your sharing with us inspirations of a home:) Thank you Nicole:)

  19. It is so good that you are teaching the beans that. I also taught my kids about food and recycling things. I always use up our bananas too or chopped them up and put them in the freezer for a future smoothie. Love the hearts and the signs you made. The recipes sound so good. I have a question, I cannot eat wheat so would it be the same if I just used all white flour in the banana bread?

  20. I haven't baked for months and your creations are just making me itch to whip out my mixer again :) It's been brutally cold here too.. I'm only hoping that spring is on its way soon! Stay warm!!

  21. Some wonderful and yummy things to be thankful for. I think I might have to try those bars with agave and maybe add a few grain sweetened chocolate chips!

  22. Five great things!!! I have never tried sunbutter, must look out and see if I can spot it, sounds delicious! I really like the sign for the children to use, it is cute how the girls have flowers and so on and your sons is quite plain! The garden obelisks are beautiful aren't they, just the sort of thing that I would love to have - someday! Thank you so much for joining in, great to have you! I hope you have a great weekend!! xx oh, and I am not getting your comments in my inbox, but I do get them on my dashboard for publishing, so that is why I haven't replied. Have you changed your e-mail address is that why perhaps? xx

  23. I always enjoy catching up with what you're creating Nicole! If only I could reach into my monitor and grab some of the chocolate cream crease banana bread. It looks seriously delicious and this is coming from someone who doesn't really like sweets. That character board is such a wonderful teaching tool and I love how you got the beans involved in putting it together as well. And your boy bean's room is coming together really nicely. Being cooped up definitely hasn't dampened any of your creativity my friend :)

    To answer your question, Instagram is fun and can be pretty inspirational but like all other forms of social media, it can be a total black home for your time.

    Have a splendid weekend! We might be seeing an end to the wicked cold in NYC and I hope Chicago land will be thawing out as well.

    Rowena @ rolala loves

  24. I have a friend in Minnesota who used to tell me about the "cabin fever" one experiences in February being cooped up with little ones. I don't know how you do it and still be so creative.

    That garden inspiration pic is wonderful. I would love to have an obelisk in our garden, but I am not sure where I would put it.

    Have a great weekend.

  25. Both recipes look delicious, and I love the character board! What a great way to keep them motivated :)

  26. Wow- look at all your baking. Here is a link from New Zealand Gardener magazine to make an obelisk - I have it on my husbands neve rending to do list:

    Have a fun weekend.

  27. Love all your fives. I'm looking forward to the coming winter months and hunkering down. Love the look and sound of your banana recipe. Have a beautiful weekend lovely xo

  28. My Goodness, Nicole! You are one busy Mama and a creative one too! I love your character board....what a great idea. The Saver and I were looking at the obelisks you posted....very nice. I love your recipes.....especially the peanut butter, oats and honey.....must try....Happy Gardening, Clever Lady!

  29. All those recipes looks yummy, thanks for sharing them!
    The board that your children made with the stars and hearts and all colorful. ... so nice a great idea!

    Have a wonderful weekend!!

    Lluisa xoxo

  30. What a great project for the beans! I do a menu for every night too. Even while we are gone. It sure helps not being food wasteful! I sure will try that bread when we get home! Stay warm, springs around the corner! (fingers crosses)!

  31. Your five were so lovely to see and read Nicole. I have pinned your recipe to try tomorrow, I have never tried a banana cake with cream cheese and I can't wait for the shops to open! :-) As for the obelisks, they are wonderful, and I fell in love with them when I used to watch Geoffrey Hamilton's Paradise Gardens (I think there is an instruction sheet in there to make one). Have a wonderful weekend xx

  32. I love that obelisk! I spend the winter thinking of ways to add to the garden, too. I would love a potting bench. Sigh.... I just use the patio table and then hose it off. Don't tell! ;o)

  33. My goodness, but you and your family have been busy in your home! That chocolate chip banana bread looks so good and so do the sun butter squares. I have not seen sun butter, but it sounds like a good substitute for peanut butter. The little heart ornaments are so pretty. How great that you thought to use the curtain fabric! What a great way to inspire the little ones to do the things that will lead to getting more magnets on their boards and it looks like they had great fun getting it ready to use! I love obelisks too and have long wanted one or more for my yard and gardens. Yours is very nice and you are sure to enjoy it out there. Wishing you all a fabulous weekend!

  34. I got a tuteur a couple of years ago and really like it. Great for annual vines like Morning Glory. We have some bananas turning overripe ... I may just print out your recipe and leave it somewhere conspicuous.

  35. Hi lovely lady! You are simply the sweetest and most fun mother :)

    Your recipes look and sound delicious! Thanks so much for sharing, dear Nicole. Happy weekend! Hugs!

  36. Busy times. I think "Three Dogs In a Garden" had a plan for a DIY obelisk. It might be worth emailing her.

  37. Right, where are the chocolate chips? I am making this cake tomorrow. Jo x

  38. It looks like you're having a nice time. I hope everyone has been feeling better. The recipes sound really delicious! I will save them both. I love the sign you painted with your kids, it came out so cute. Your son's wall looks great too. I hope you're having a great weekend.

  39. Lots going on since you have been cooped up. We need to get out in our gardens. I had an obelisk like you want, but it rotted after a few years and is now gone. I can't have wooden ones as they do not winter well. Can't wait to see what you make.

  40. What a lovely blog you have! Those Honey Oat Bites look delicious - yum! Also love your board. May there be many hearts and stars posted on it :)

  41. Yes, spring is in the air, so up to the garden. I also make a planning for our food, I don't like shopping so once aweek I buy everything needed. The first recipe of Cream cheese choc. chip banana bread sounds delicious, I definitely will try. And the sign you made with your kids, just wonderful......
    Wish you a all a wonderful Sunday!

  42. Wow so many lovely things to stop in and read about! I adore the hearts - such a gorgeous loving and happy reminder. Love the look of all the other indoor and outdoor goodies! Looking forward to seeing how some of them come together! And I have had a quick look into the comments to inbox thing but still cant find an answer... boos! I hope someone else has been able to help! Hope you guys are enjoying the start of spring xxx

  43. I have always wanted a potting bench. I do have a greenhouse (v small) and I tend to kneel in there potting up and on. The cake recipies looks lovely, and we are big fans of the home made flapjack here too. Your blog is lovely.
    Leanne xx

  44. Mmm, now i'm getting hungry ! This looks delicious !

  45. I always love seeing the crafts you do with your kiddos :). And I pinned those oat bars--I need to try those!

  46. I reckon that chocolate/banana bread might translate well into gluten free. I'll give it a go.

    On the obelisk front - many years ago, my neighbour's gardener made her an obelisk and because he didn't have a finial, he put a bright orange ball that attaches to a ballcock in a toilet cistern on top. I could see it from my office window and it drove me insane. Yup - we know how to make stylish obelisks in the UK!

  47. looks like we have lots of common points friend!! I subscribe by email to you blog but nothing happens...
    I did not received your posts!!
    I missed such great posts.
    Keep in touch about garden..

  48. lovely garden and yummy chocolate banana bread!

  49. Your banana bread looks amazing! I would so love a bite right now. Love all the pretty crafts too

  50. Hi Nicole - I can remember those days with the little ones bouncing off the walls! I love your ideas for keeping them engaged and occupied (although I know that is a full time job). The encouragement boards are wonderful with the stars and hearts. The banana bread is going in my recipe file - I love how it uses whole wheat. Your garden inspirations are wonderful. I know you can't wait to get out there. Hope it is soon! xoxo K

  51. My you have been busy even though you're "cooped in/up". You baking looks wonderful and I love, love, love the idea of positive reinforcement for the children. I know when I was a student teacher many years ago (I never actually ended up teaching), I also used positive reinforcements. It worked a charm and I'm sure it works on kids at home too. The children seem to love it so much and moms and teachers can make it all like a great game while reinforcing good behaviors too. Good job!

  52. I love your kids character board, I am sure it totally motivates them, my kids always respond to stuff like that! Those obelisk's are so cool, I could totally make you one! How many times do we have to say "if only we lived closer!!?"

  53. I love the beans character board. What a great keepsake that will be. Your images of obelisks has reminded me that I must get going with a how-to post on my own version of an obelisk.

  54. Those bars sound like something I could sit down and kill an entire pan of. YUM!
    The boards are such a great idea. We used to do a reward system that worked really well, but we got out of the habit. We need somethin' around here again, 'cause it's starting to feel a bit chaotic.

  55. You're such an awesome momma! Teaching your children so many important things. I love your idea for the character boards. Wish I had thought of something like that when my kids were little. They're teenagers now, is it too late?!!!! LOL!!!

  56. Have mercy....I love everything here. Boy...I learn a lot from you! xoxoxo Jen

  57. I made your lovely cream cheese chocolate chip bread & loved every slice,...'delicious! 😀


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