The make-ahead Kitchen byAnnalise Thomas – Review

 Purchase on Amazon –

Skip the hassle of last-minute meals and leftovers and replace them with simple, healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare make-ahead dishes! Your family will love these comfortable meals, new favorites, cozy drinks, and tantalizing desserts–all of them prepared ahead of time so you don’t have to worry! Enjoy simple, soul-filling foods without the chaos of preparing them at the last minute.

With 4 kids, a large extended family, and a passion for feeding others, Annalise Thomas is no stranger to finding ways to simplify life in the kitchen. There is nothing that makes her happier than hearing from someone who was once intimidated in the kitchen “I made this! It was great, and now I’m feeling more confident in trying more homemade recipes!”

Annalise spends her time in the kitchen and exploring the beautiful Olympic Peninsula of Washington, where she lives, with her family. If you want to find her, look in her kitchen, or at one of the many beautiful beaches nearby watching her children play and combing for beach glass!

My Review –

I’ve been looking for a few good easy to prepare ahead-of-time meals and I was super excited to asked to review Annalise’s new cookbook.

We are all so busy these days and let’s face it, it’s not everyday that we have hours to spend in the kitchen cooking dinner. And, there are sometimes when we’d love to open up the freezer and just grab something already made and healthy for us.

If this sounds anything like your life, you will love The Make-Ahead Kitchen! Simple, easy recipes that are not only time-saving but chances are, you’ll have everything you need in your pantry.

Some of the recipes you’ll receive in the cookbook are Cashew Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole, Big Batch Maple-Glazed Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls and then for snack, The Best Fudgy from-scratch Brownies. And let’s not forget Make-ahead Pizza Rolls for those take-it-easy nights.

There are 75 Slow-Cooker, Freezer, and Prepared Meals included in the cookbook. Annalise had done a fabulous job with the book and recipes and gets a high-five and five stars for her efforts!

 Purchase on Amazon –

My Life. One Story at a Time. is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee may be earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free book may have been provided by the source in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of My Life. One Story at a Time. My opinions are my own. This provided in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 55. 

Southern Living

     I think I have finally solved the mystery behind my Southern Living Magazine subscription. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve had it for years and years and I am quite sure that subscription will run almost until the day when they will – hopefully- lay me to rest beneath a huge blooming magnolia tree. Sure, every now and then I cut out a recipe – let’s face it, there is no finicky section – and I love the travel and gardening sections, but the one thing that keeps me turning the pages month after month after month, is the very last page.

     On the very last page of every magazine is a wonderful southern story.  There have been stories on fishing and stories on hunting.  There have been stories on cooking – including the requisite disaster stories (which, hands down I know I can beat) as well as the successes.  There are the stories on gardening. There are the stories on turducten (good luck spellcheck) and the pot of bacon grease that every true southern cook has under the sink or in the fridge.


     The one commonality is that all of the stories are steeped in southern tradition and the best ending a magazine could ever hope for.  And, as I am sitting on my swing on my front porch, sipping my sweet ice tea, they are the reasons that as I close the back magazine cover, I know I am a true southerner. They are also the reason that when the next renewal comes in the mail, I’ll be sending it back with “yes” checked.


First published May 2010

We meet in the middle – Tuesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

It seems my life resembles one country song after another lately. Take for instance, Thursday. I picked out my clothes for a meeting I needed to go to. Since the weather here in the South is normally stifling, I didn’t put my jacket on. Because the weather is so hot, I decided to wear one of the cute thin cotton shells that I have. I tossed the jacket over the dining room chair alongside my brief case and phone – all things I did not want to forget. As it got closer to my designated leaving time, I gathered up the last of my belongings I needed and headed out the door. I grabbed my jacket (or so I thought.)

Fifteen miles later I pulled up in front of the parish office and got out of the car. I reached back in to retrieve my jacket, briefcase and bag only to find no jacket. I was mortified. The cute sleeveless blouse I had chosen to wear under my jacket was a little thin side. In other words you could see through it. After panicking and searching frantically for a jacket that wasn’t going to magically appear, I called hubby.

I was frantically telling him I had left my jacket at home and there was just no way I could sit and conduct a meeting in a room full of men in a see thru shirt, and could he please meet me with my jacket – all in one unbelievably long breath. Of course being such a sweet husband he said yes. I then proceeded to tell him to look on the dining room chair and on my office chair and so on. He then got a little perturbed and told me he would find it but I needed to hang up. What is it with men? Can they not walk and talk at the same time. I wanted to stay on the phone walking him through each room and be there when he located it so I could quit panicking. Okay, so I can be a little OCD at times.

I began heading back down the highway from wince I had come hoping to meet hubby in record time even though we were now encroaching into the work knockoff traffic. He then called me to say he was hung up in traffic (there is only one road up and one road down the bayou so this was not good). I was driving through a little town and began announcing every landmark I was passing in the hope that he would say “I’m almost there.” “I am passing the post office. ” “I am passing the library. ” “The post office?” “The library?” As in we have one of those? Picture me rolling my eyes and wondering if I would actually meet him in our driveway rather than on the road.


We finally met at a small grocer. He was traveling north and as I approached the store I saw him put his blinker on and turn in from the far side. We met with our windows already rolled down. He handed off my jacket and it was “Bye” “Bye” and we were both off again. Reminded me of my favorite Dr. Seuss book, Go  Dog Go. “Hello!” “Hello!” “Do you like my hat?” “No. I do not.” “Goodbye!” “Goodbye!” I managed to get back in plenty of time to begin the meeting on time.

My birthday is coming up soon and I’ve been wanting a laptop. So…Hubby said I could get one. My cousin was in from Georgia so it ended up being the perfect time. I would get to visit and do something fun – like buying a computer at the same time. And, I needed his expertise.

As always, when I arrived at their house on Monday morning, a wonderful meal was waiting for me. I’m a challenge to cook for because I’m so finicky, but, he’s learning. He scrambled eggs and melted smoked gouda cheese on top and then spooned it onto tortillas. He then folded the tortillas and put them back in the pan to toast them. When I tell you, it tasted like a little bit of Heaven, believe me. Some of my favorite ingredients – eggs, cheese, and tortillas. Can’t go wrong in my opinion. Doesn’t that look good?!

photo 1photo 2

And, all of this on a Monday morning. I normally do not schedule anything for a Monday because I am not a Monday person. I normally hang around the house in my pajamas until the grass is dry and then I get dressed and mow grass. Supper is whatever I find frozen, usually gumbo. It’s sort of a non-lazy lazy day. So, to not only be up and about, but in New Orleans at 9:30 in the morning – well it was a miraculous day all around.

I’ve spent most of today attempting to navigate around the Mac. One difference I’ve found is that there are not as many menus available in the programs as there are on the PC. I am finding that quite a challenge. Next up on my list is to try to download a few favorite fonts. I was not at all successful in my twenty thousand tries today. Maybe tomorrow will be the day.

I invite to leave a comment on how your week is going. See you next week!

Green Acres is the place to be…Tuesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

Down here we call it life on the farm.  Two days this past week my phone has rung and it’s been Hubby telling me the tractor broke down – again – and could I come and tow him back. The first time this happened, I got to ride the tractor. That in itself was a feat. His tractor is awaiting the repairman as we speak, so he was using his friend’s tractor to bush hog, and when I tell you I could have used a step-stool, translate that into a LADDER, to climb onto this thing.

     Hubby told me to climb up and all I had to do was steer to keep it behind the truck. I walked to one side, and then to the other side. This was one high tractor! Hubby was beginning to get impatient and asked me if I was climbing up. I’m like, “Yeah! If I can figure out how!” So, Hubby, being the gentleman he is (this is the South), offered to help. I was looking at him and he was looking at me, and then he asks what kind of help did I need. I guess it was akin to, “I was looking back to see if he was looking back to see if I was looking back to see if he was looking back at me…” This, of course, made me start laughing, and when that happens, forget trying to climb on a ten-story tractor, I was lucky I wasn’t sitting on the ground from laughing so hard. The thought of poison ivy, which I already have, kept me standing.

After a good stiff look from Hubby, I managed to curtail some of the giggling and he hoisted me up. My feet didn’t even reach the floor when I was sitting in the seat. He climbed into the truck and proceeded to bounce me all the way back to the front of the back of the property (try to figure that one out.)

     Once, it seems, wasn’t enough. The second time the tractor broke, he was a mile back and this time HE got to ride the tractor. Poor thing. I finally got the whole show going – it took several tries to get the traction that was needed. So, finally, we are on our journey back to the front (of the back) of the property and he’s bouncing around on the tractor. I got a little (okay – a lot) too close to the trees on one side and he was getting whipped around and of course I wasn’t seeing the hand signals telling me to move over away from the trees. I was too busy enjoying the bug free air conditioned, music jamming ride! Poor Hubs. That is one patient man. 

     We made it back to the front (of the back) in one piece. Well, I did. He was a mite worse for the wear. I apologized – profusely – and he just tells me it’s alright, I was doing the best I could. Should I be insulted? 

Green Acres is the place for me. Farm living is the life for me…

Hubby and I were heading out the door for one of many trips we make to Lowes when he is building a house. With the amount we buy, Lowes should come to me, but that’s another story. I passed by the bathroom and Hubby is primping. I stopped to make the comment that he looked “bootiful” and he tells me that if I think he looks good, it must be true – because I’m so picky. Ummm. Didn’t know quite how to take that one, so of course, I texted Jessica for her input. She said picky is good, so I’m all good. Hey! That’s life on the farm!

     My cousin recently decided to start a home cooking business. Kelly loves to cook so it is the perfect business. He forwarded his brochure in progress to me for some input – which means I totally took over! I couldn’t help it. My creative side just took flight. I had designed several brochures at one of my jobs (a long time ago) and I really enjoyed it. I have to say, whoever orders from him will have a culinary delight! 

     Meanwhile, I have been attempting to catch up on my reading. My Kindle crashed and after trying everything known to man, which included wiping my Kindle clean, as in no pdf files, etc. All my books from authors and publishers – gone. Amazon finally said we will send out a new one. That Kindle arrived and guess what? It took two days to download a book. I phoned Amazon and she checked their records and saw this, and sent out another Kindle. I’ve been through so many Kindles the last two weeks, I have forgotten what number I’m on. The one I have now seems to be working, although it takes a while for the downloads to start. Once they do, I can download them pretty quickly. I just haven’t figured out why it takes so long to start. Even with all the problems, if any of you are wondering, I would still buy another Kindle. I have been really satisfied with the product even though I have had a few problems (laughing here.)

     I spent a few days picking trash up out of my yard and throwing it back over the fence where it belonged. Yes, I have officially digressed to the neighbor’s level. I can’t help that they are lazy and instead of picking up trash, they mow over it and instead of blowing it around their own yard, they choose to blow it through the fence into my yard. I just tire of being the nice, normal person and picking it up and throwing it away. Either way, I have to pick it up. At least it’s helping to whittle away my waist as I bend. 

     On Sunday I went to visit a friend and just as I was leaving Hubby called. I grabbed my phone from my bag and when I was finished speaking with him, I thought I put it securely in the outside pocket, which is my habit. Then I tossed my bag on the sofa and went to the ladies room before leaving. I didn’t notice that my phone had fallen out on the sofa. I left and on the way home stopped at Walmart to do a little grocery shopping. I got sidetracked when I noticed the swimming pools that I use for Ryka and Calypso were on sale and they each needed a new one. I headed over to the garden section and bought a few and stowed them in the suburban. 

I then went back into the store and grabbed a buggy, tossed my bag in – that’s what we ladies do – and when I checked the pocket that normally holds my phone, I came up empty. I then searched my entire bag, nothing. Then, panic set in. I retraced my steps to the garden center and asked if they had seen an iPhone (described the case – it’s distinct) and got a couple of looks that seem to say, “Are you kidding? Do you think that I’d give it to you?”  Feeling like that was a dead end, I then headed back to my car and searched it, coming to the conclusion that it must have fallen out of my bag at my friend’s house. I couldn’t call her because I don’t know her number – it’s in my phone.

At this point, I headed back to my friend’s house several miles away, only to find that she had already left for an appointment. So, I got back on the road with a heavy heart because, like most people, the phone is my life-line. My appointments, alarms…let’s just say everything is on the phone.

I was doing some heavy praying during the 14 mile trip back home. And, as always, my prayers were answered. About half-way home, it came to me that I have the find my phone app on my phone and as soon as I got home, I ran to the computer and tracked my phone to my friend’s house. It was there and I’m sure you can feel my relief. If it had been traveling somewhere, I had the option to wipe it clean or set off an alarm. I also could have locked it, but I have the lock set already.

Then, the drama wasn’t over. I had to wait for Hubby to get home so I could use his phone to call her. I finally got my phone back Monday evening. That drama is over – thank goodness.

Monday evening I had book club  That is always a hoot. Seems like we discuss books less and less. There is just too much other drama to catch up on! Last night was an all time good time. We really had good stories to share and laughed until we all had tears in our eyes.

I mentioned last week being part of a “Planner’s Addict” group on Facebook. My sister is also a member and we decided to go to Michael’s before I went to book club. That was so much fun, and there were some great sales going on. I got loads of Washi tape and stickers. I had a friend with me and we met up with my sister at the Lowes and were going to go to Michael’s together.  I am not a shopper so it had been a while since I went to Michael’s so I was all excited. I pulled up to the highway and put my blinker on and imagine my surprise when my sister pulls up along side to head the opposite way. I was a little baffled and told my friend that I didn’t know where my sister was headed. She laughed and asked me when was the last time I went to Michael’s. Seems Michael’s moved about a year ago – told you I am not a shopper!

     That’s my week in review. Feel free to comment on your week! We Southerner’s love to visit.



How to host a successful Cookie Swap

Cookie Swap 2011 009

     Every year for the past eight years, I have hosted a Cookie Swap. This year was no exception.

 Cookie Swap 2011 015


     I thought I’d write about it in the event that someone else may wish to host one, but the mere thought overwhelms them. I am telling you right now – do not let the thought even enter your mind. As long as you have a plan and stick to it, things will work out – or you wing it like I’ve been known to do (or maybe my friends have never caught on! lol)

My sister & I were following each other’s progress


     I always try to send out a “Save-the-date” the first week of October. This, I send my email since everyone who is invited has email. If some of your guests do not have email, then send a little note in the mail or give them a call.

      I also have a spreadsheet that I use each year. It consists of four columns with the headings of: No., Name (which includes name, address, phone, email), Yes/No (attending) and last, Cookie (or treat bringing).


     I use the number column, because at a quick glance, I can keep track of how many people are on my list. This way, if someone has been added/taken off, I know I can add someone and still keep the number within reason for the size of my house.

      Then, I try to mail out the invitation the first week of November with the RSVP date. Sometimes I write something cute and rhyming, and sometimes I use one I have found on the internet. Some years are more of a theme than others are.


     In 2011, I did a Candy land theme where I scattered the board pieces around the table and used the matching plates and napkins. It was really cute. That takes care of the invitation portion.

     With Pinterest, it is so easy to find new appetizers to serve. I started a board named Cookie Swap Ideas so I could quickly pin cookie ideas and appetizer ideas so I could come back later and explore. I also use Evernote. This app proved to be invaluable in many ways. Once I finalized the appetizer list, I clipped the recipes, complete with pictures to Evernote. Evernote syncs the recipes to my phone and Kindle Fire. It made grocery shopping and cooking a breeze. I pulled up the recipe at the market and quickly scanned the ingredients and added those items to my cart.


    Throughout the year, I am always scouting for new cookie recipes and appetizer recipes so with Pinterest and Evernote, it makes finding these recipes a snap. I am already clipping and pinning for next year! It’s never too soon!

      The week before my Cookie Swap, I sit down with the recipes and figure out what can be assembled ahead of time and my baking time frame. It seems that no matter how carefully I organize and schedule, I am still last-minute, and the first guests there generally help with setting everything out. For me, especially this year, it was enjoyable. Judging from the remarks, I think this year was everyone’s favorite so far and I think it was because everyone was helping to get things on the buffet and it made the party – literally – everyone’s party. My sisters and a friend from high school that I was so fortunate to reconnect with last year – were the willing participants in the last-minute rush this year. It was so much fun laughing and talking and rushing around.

A dear friend gave me a cupcake teapot.

     So, you can see that in my case, not having everything ready and waiting on guest is part of the fun – for everyone. So don’t stress out. Cookie Swap is all about fun.


     Let’s talk cookies now. I have read that many cookie swaps have a lot of rules and it works for them. I came up with my own set of “rules” based on my guests. I have friends who cannot bake, and some who make candy. My only die-hard rule is the treat MUST be homemade. Each year, we have a mix of candy, no-bake (for those non-bakers) and baked cookies. No one ever feels left out because everyone puts a lot of effort into their products (we are quite the competitive bunch!)

      After the RSVPs come in, I then email everyone with the number of treats to bring. I keep the number of participants down to a reasonable number and we bake and package six treats for each person coming. I have noticed that many cookie swaps ask that the person bake x amount of cookies and bring them on a platter and then they are distributed among those attending. I wasn’t particularly crazy about that idea (nor my guests) so we package our treats for each individual person. My friends are very creative and the packaging is one of the highlights. We also have the option of using our six cookies for the taste testing contest (more on that later.)

     I provide a huge Christmas gift bag for each guest, which I set up in the living room. As each guest arrives, she distributes the treats among the bags first, and then places their treats on the platters on the table for tasting. Since each guest may leave at a different time, she can just grab her bag on the way out. I find that this method of distribution works great for my cookie swap.

      Let’s see. So far, we have discussed invites, food prep, and cookie distribution. Next on the list is entertainment!

      It has become a tradition (because Hubby loves to be involved) that we have a story. The stories have ranged from Christmas to Candyland to baking, etc. Everyone looks forward each year to see what Jeffery has in store. This year, he did a story that contained Christmas songs and lyrics from Christmas songs. I’ll include it as an example. I am the one who gets to read the story and I must say that trying to establish a speed is difficult. I want to give everyone an equal chance to pick out all of the information, but not too much time – how else would we have a winner. But, it does work each year and it’s a lot of fun.



Word Game Story 2012

(It is easier to view the parts on my other blog. I have it done in different colors – My Life. One Story at a Time.: How to host a successful Cookie Swap

It came upon a midnight clear, when away in a manger a child was born. There were no jingle bellsfrosty the snowman, or Rudolph. But it was a silent night and even more, a holy night.

 The people of that era were deep in despair and had very little hope. They cried out” o come o come Emanuel”. And He did. He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to silence the cry of the poor, to build a city of God, and to bring joy to the world.

 Although He was not born in a beautiful setting like a winter wonderland, He did bring the first white Christmas to the little town of Bethlehem. This was brought about by His birth and sacrificing His life for ours, to free all humankind from sin and e’re pinning. So hark the herald angels singglory to the newborn kingChrist is born in Bethlehem, and the world has never been the same. May God wish ye merry gentlemen a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

      We always have a best tasting treat contest. It is based NOT on how the treat looks, but how it tastes to the palate. This can get pretty intense at times. This year a chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie won the honor. It provoked childhood memories for many of us, a taste of nostalgia. Do you remember as a child, the day the school cafeteria served those scrumptious chocolate oatmeal no-bake treats? I do, and so did many others. It was deserving of a prize this year.

      We have enjoyed many games throughout the years and enjoyed every one. Our last game this year was a new addition. A friend told me of a game that she had played at another cookie swap and it sounded like loads of fun so I added it this year. I asked everyone to bring a wrapped cookie cutter for a “Swap and Steal” game.

      I have to admit at this point, it was kind of a make it up as you go game and it ended up being so much fun that I am going to include it next year. The first round of the game, each person pulled a gift out of the basket as I called her name. The second round was where the fun began.

     As each name was called, you had the chance to keep your chosen gift or “Swap and Steal” someone else’s gift. There was a lot of cheering and yelling of “steal” going on because there was one gift everyone seemed to want – it was a beautiful gift bag! After much hooting and hollering, everyone had a gift of a new cookie cutter.

Games are another place to add loads of fun to the party. Let your imagination go wild: Prettiest Christmas outfit (or hat or shirt, etc.), craziest Christmas outfit, first to RSVP, # of gum balls in the jar (or jelly beans, etc.), best cookie packaging. The ideas are endless!

      Food – what can I say about food? I (and my friends – especially book club friends) DO NOT subscribe to the old adage that you do not try out new recipes for the first time on company. That is EXACTLY when we do it. In the food department – I say do what is comfortable for you. Either stick to tried and true recipes and maybe be adventurous and throw in one new recipe for a thrill.

      Up until this year, I always tried to do a new soup of the year, but not being much of a soup person, I have to admit, that got old. I did, however, discover that the ladies all love my chicken potpie. That has led me to use it several years in a row, but with a new twist each year.

      One year, I used my shell maker (I love gadgets) and made biscuit shells for the sauce (chicken potpie filling). The next year, I used little individual pie shells and last year I used Pepperidge Farms puff pastry shells (my all time fav). This year I used biscuits again, but used an idea I saw on-line. I lined muffin tins with rolled out biscuits. I then filled each one with the sauce and then folded the dough over the top and baked. Have I mentioned how wonderful they tasted? AND, what a hit!

      Also on the menu were little sausages in a cranberry sauce, the old standby of cheese and sausage balls, along with a pizza muffin/dipping sauce (again – on-line), a fantastic warm Caramelized onion and Gruyère cheese dip, an oriental salad, and can’t forget the Shrimp Dip (this is Southern Louisiana after all!)

      For beverages, I have a great Pineapple Punch that is additive – no kidding, cannot have just one glass – ask all who dare! And, this year, I found a Jingle Juice. I just loved the name and the taste wasn’t bad either! It made more than one lady a little too happy! lol (Did not let anyone leave tipsy.)

 christmas decor 006

     Now – for question time. Do you host a Cookie Swap or have you attended one? Have you blogged about it? AND, do you have any questions that I can help with? I invite you to share your experiences, questions, and of course – your FAVORITE treat for the rest of us (cookies, candy…)!

 Leave  a link and I’ll add it to the end of my story for others to read.

Gracie takes a turn on the treadmill

. I’ve been walking on the treadmill.
AND, hanging on for dear life I might add.
       Since the heat down here in the South is so hot it’s makes you want to just sit on the porch with the fan going with a tall glass of iced tea, and nothing much else; I came to the conclusion that this Southern gal wasn’t going to be doing much walking.
       Then, on a trek through the garage, I looked over my shoulder and spotted the treadmill. I began thinking that walking might not be so bad if I turned on the air conditionerand walked in the sweet coolness rather than 1000+ degrees outside.
       Having never used the contraption, it took me a while to figure out that you need a key to turn it on; and you have to plug it in. After I managed to turn the treadmill on, I began to walk, slowly, VERY SLOWLY. Then, I thought, this isn’t so bad, but it sure is boring – and I hate being bored! The first time I used it, I walked a whole ten minutes before I just couldn’t stand theboredom anymore. Then, my mind started to wander and I remembered seeing people on television using their headphones. The light bulb went off and I thought, “Yes! Music!” should help keep me from being bored.
       Yesterday, I managed a whole sixteen minutes – 3 songs on the iPod. AND, I graduated from 2 to 2.5 -that is very slow to slow- in my speed. Today, I walked for twenty minutes at 2.7! And, if that wasn’t enough to brag about, I actually walked with no hands today instead of hanging onto the bars for dear life! It was a little iffy a couple of times as I envisioned myself being hauled off the end as I missed a step.
        I have a habit of hitting random play on the iPod, so it is always a surprise what song comes on next – sort of like having your own radio station. It is amazing that the last song I end up listening to is a Gospel Song, no matter how long I walk. What a way to end my workout and start my day!
       Then, when I got off and started up the steps to the house, I had to back down the steps and get my land legs back. I may never walk outside again. Who ever invented the treadmill, I thank you!
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