Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolution Recap

Last January, I declared that my New Year's Resolution would be to USE IT UP.  To finally use the piles of laundry detergent, lotion, soap, and other consumables that I have been collecting over the years.  Looking back, I think I did pretty well.

I started out the year by cleaning out the bathroom closet, disposing of old medications and other things that were just past their "good use" days.  We also took boxes and boxes of miscellaneous things to Goodwill.  About a month into the year, I realized that I am just not a lotion person, so I kept the two bottles that I actually use and took the others (about 15 bottles or so, if I remember correctly), to work to be used by women living in a residential addiction program.  I started using up the fancy shower gels and such that I'd been saving.  I have no idea what I was saving them for - it's not like a shower is ever going to be a special occasion!  

Then, somewhere along the line, my resolution shifted.  My hubby has been waiting to be laid off for about three years, and sometime in late summer/early fall he got the word that he will definitely be out of a job by the end of June, 2012.  He's hoping that Unemployment will pay for school, so he's not looking for a job for the time being.  So, my priority has shifted from "use it up" to "stock up on stuff that keeps when you find it on an awesome sale".  Thanks to my Kindle with Special Offers, I got a great deal on shampoo and soap products from Amazon.  I also found a deal on my favorite laundry "soap", Econuts, so I have accumulated a three year supply of that.

So, essentially, I've eliminated a lot of excess things while building up a good supply of other things that I know we'll use over time.  I think, in the spirit of my resolution, it's all good. 

Handmade Holidays

We were craftier than normal this Christmas.  Most of it was done very last minute, but all of it turned out pretty well.  Here's some of what we did:

Sequined gift tags (except none of them were actually used as gift tags, because my three-year-old made four of them and declared that they were ALL HERS).

Felted soap

Salted Caramels

Preschooler art magnets

My daughter's garland (super simple, made from ribbon and aluminum foil)

My garland (got the idea here)

Felt Christmas tree ornaments

Thanks to the magic of Pinterest, I had about 103,000 ideas for this Christmas.  Most of which didn't pan out, but I can start early on next year!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season full of grace and love.  Thank you so much for reading my blog over the years.  Here's to a fabulous new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Garden Planning

My first garden catalog appeared in the mail this week.  I was a bit surprised I hadn't gotten any sooner, but this is the only one that matters to me - Territorial Seed. It's the only company I order seeds from (though I do usually end up picking up a packet or two of something at the grocery store or Home Depot every season).  I don't order their plants, though I am considering buying an olive tree this year, just because I have three empty half-barrels in my yard and I think it would be fun to play around with curing my own olives.

This is the time of year when I start feeling completely ambitious about the garden - you know, when it's pouring down rain for days on end and I don't actually have to go outside and do any of the work!  So here I sit, poring over the catalog, thinking about how much food we'll be able to harvest, how this will be the year I finally get into year-round gardening, and all that.  Usually, by July, all those plans have crumbled to dust, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming anew the following winter.

The other day, a link on Pinterest led me to these plans for building your own cold frame from a sheet of plywood, some plexiglass, and some hardware.  I'm seriously considering it this year.  We love salad and I think it would help get us a lot closer to growing our own lettuce year-round.  Of course, what I'd *really* like is a greenhouse, but since I can't get my hubby to lower his expectations on that little purchase, and I don't have $2,500 laying around, I'll improvise. I haven't used a power tool in a long time, but I did take shop class once upon a time.  I can always ask hubby if I need help with something, too.

So here I sit, dreaming.  In a couple of weeks, it'll be time to start the onions and leeks.  I have a perfect sunny window with a wide windowsill for this - the only plant-friendly space in my house.  Is it strange that I have no houseplants except for during seed-starting season???  Everything dies in here.  Even the cacti.  Maybe I'll start a little herb garden in that window this spring.  My daughter would love it.  Of course, she'd probably eat everything I plant, but really, that's ok.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas week to-do list

My brain is refusing to accept the fact that Christmas is now less than a week away.  There is so much still to do!  Thought I'd better get it all written down in one place, someplace that can't be recycled by my husband (as so many of my lists are) or erased by my daughter (who thinks the white boards are her personal art studios).  So here we go!

 - Bake cookies for the neighbors (we made the dough yesterday)
 - Decide on appetizers for Christmas Eve (I need to take two)
 - Grocery shop
 - Make meatballs
 - Make spaetzle
 - Make appetizers, whatever they are

 - Finish ornaments for all the kids (I'm making 10 of them for all the nieces and nephews and my daughter - fortunately they're all identical, and fairly easy. I'm about half done now)
 - Make the gifts for my work friends
 - Make the gifts for my parents and inlaws from my daughter (I'll blog about these later - I'm hoping they're going to be amazingly cute)
 - Inventory what's come in and what's still in transit (I ordered almost everything from Amazon)
  - Buy the last gift from my mom for my daughter
 - Wrap, wrap, wrap!
- If there's time, finish up a felt tic-tac-toe set for my daughter.  This is just a little extra I thought would be fun, but if I don't get it done, she can get it any time. 
- Have my daughter decorate gift tags for the gifts (I bought tree-print scrapbooking paper, and I'm going to cut it into tree shapes and let her glue on sequins.

 - Address and label Christmas cards

I think that's about it.  Just a couple of things, right?  My daughter just turned three, and I think this is going to be our most magical Christmas yet.  She's so excited about Santa Claus that she's been known to get up in the middle of the night and ask what time he's coming on Christmas Eve.  I can't wait to watch the magic unfold!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan December 12 - 16

Life has gotten a little crazy lately, and we've gotten away from a menu for a week or two.  Every time I do that, we end up eating out a lot more, which proves to me the value of my menu planning efforts. 

Here's the plan for this week:

Today:  Hamburger casserole
Tomorrow:  Spanakopita pie (using up leftover spakakopita filling from my daughter's birthday party)
Wednesday:  "Little Smokie" chili (using up leftover Little Smokies from the party) and cornbread
Thursday:  Bulgogi and sesame rice
Friday:  chicken corn chowder

Have a great week, everyone!  And remember to visit for more great menu ideas!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December Grocery Challenge

The other day I was putting away a pile of groceries that had been accumulating on my kitchen floor, when suddenly I realized WHY I hadn't been eager to put them away - my pantry is FULL!  I've been doing a lot of stockpiling lately, since the grocery store I frequent just finished a remodel and was having some fabulous "grand reopening" specials.  I took full advantage of them - let's just say I have enough Annie's mac and cheese to last my daughter about six months! 

Compounding that, my freezers are so packed that things fall out if I open the door.  Not only have I stocked up on some great meat bargains lately, but much of our garden harvest went straight into the freezer. 

December is an expensive month for us.  Not only do we have Christmas and New Year's Eve and all that they entail, but also my daughter's birthday is this week, and this year we provided food for a special birthday party for my dad. And so, with all this in mind, I decided to embark on a grocery challenge for the month. 

This month, I will limit my grocery shopping for family eating to just fresh food - produce, dairy, eggs, lunch meat.  No "dinner" meat, no frozen food, no pantry food.  We have four loaves of bread in the freezer, which should be enough for sandwiches for the month.  As I write this, I am realizing that my darling daughter may mutiny on me if she doesn't have chicken strips, so I may have to pick up a bag of those if I can find a good deal on them.  Otherwise, the only other food I will buy will be for gatherings and gifts.  Much of what we will need can come from the pantry, but I may need to do some restocking on specific staples if, say, the homemade hot buttered rum mix uses up all the brown sugar (which may, in fact, happen). 

And now, it's time to start thinking creatively about meals, and how best to use all this abundance!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Preschooler Chores

The wonderful thing about toddlers and preschoolers is that they take great pleasure and pride in being helpful.  At our house, we've decided to capitalize on this by giving our daughter, who will turn three next week (yikes!), several chores to do, both daily and weekly. 

Daily chores:
1.  Feed the cat
2.  Clear her dishes from the table, putting leftover milk in the fridge, and plates/bowls in the sink.
3.  Pick up toys and put books on her bookshelves (this doesn't quite happen every day, but two - three times a week at least).

Weekly chores:
1.  Help me scan groceries (we have a computerized pantry inventory system and use a barcode scanner to log nonperishables in and out).  This is one of her favorite activities in the whole world.
2.  Put away her laundry (I hang up her shirts and dresses, but she puts away everything that goes in drawers).

Sometimes chore:
1.  Sort silverware from the dishwasher into the drawer.  This is a sometimes chore because my husband usually unloads the dishwasher before he goes to work. long before we get up in the morning.  But, when I have occasion to unload, I let her sort silverware if she's around.

We also try to include her in other chores as we're doing them, if we can find small pieces of tasks that she can handle.  She's been doing them for several months now, and it works out well. 

I'm not sure how long this helpful phase will last, but hopefully by the time that happens, we'll have set up some good habits to keep her responsible and helpful as she grows older.

Menu Plan November 28 - December 3

I'm finding it very hard to believe that December is already upon us!  Hope all my US readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had two wonderful celebrations with family, one Friday and one Saturday, then spent most of the weekend cleaning and organizing our house.  I spent about two hours just re-organizing my spice cupboard - it always amazes me how quickly that can get out of control!

Here's the plan for this week:

Today:  Teriyaki chicken and sesame rice
Tuesday:  Kielbasa and kidney beans
Wednesday:  Meatloaf
Thursday:  leftovers
Friday:  coconut curry chicken (recipe I ran across in an old magazine this weekend)

Have a great week!  And remember to visit for tons of menu ideas!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Garlicky sauteed shrimp

I keep reading about how we all should be eating more seafood.  That's fine with me - I love most fish and a few forms of shellfish, but in this house, the only things we all agree on are tuna and shrimp.  So, every six weeks or so, when I can get shrimp on sale for less than $6 a pound, I buy a pound and bring it home for Sunday dinner.

Today I discovered, quite by accident, that the shrimp they sell in the meat department at the grocery store I frequent is the same shrimp that you can buy quick-frozen in the freezer case.  Since they only had shrimp with heads on it in the meat case, and I didn't have the time or desire to mess around with that, I got a frozen bag and went with it.

The guy in the meat department told me to run it under cold water for five to ten minutes to thaw it.  The guy in the meat department obviously doesn't live in this town, or he'd know how expensive it would be to just let the water run for five or ten minutes!  So, instead, I put it in a big bowl and filled it up with cold water.  I put my pasta water on to boil and by the time it was hot, the shrimp was perfectly thawed. 

Garlicky Sauteed Shrimp

2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
juice from 1/4 large lemon
1 T. butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan over low heat, warm the garlic in the olive oil for five minutes.

Turn the heat up to high, wait two minutes (or until the garlic starts sizzling), and add your shrimp, keeping them in a single layer if you can.  Let cook about two minutes, then add the wine and lemon juice.  Flip the shrimp over and cook an additional two to three minutes, or until cooked through. 

Remove the shrimp from the pan and add the butter, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking the sauce until it reduces by half.  Put the shrimp back in the pan, stirring quickly to coat with the sauce.  Serve immediately.  We like this with buttered parmesan noodles, crusty bread, and a green salad.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chicken and Bows

After having this on my menu plan weekly for almost a month, I finally got around to making it.  It just sounded so GOOD - like creamy, rich, comfort food, perfect for a chilly fall evening.  And I was right - it was.  I tweaked the recipe a bit (since I'm incapable of NOT tweaking a recipe), so here's what I came up with.

Chicken and bows
Adapted from Taste of Home

8 ounces bow tie pasta
2 T. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup milk
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving it fairly al dente.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet or dutch oven.  Add the bell pepper and onion and saute until soft.  Add garlic, chicken, soup, peas, milk and thyme.  Bring just to a boil, and simmer 5 - 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and the peas are heated through.  Stir in cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add cooked pasta, stir to combine, and serve.

Menu Plan November 21 - 25

First of all, I have to tell you, I finally made chicken and bows!  Since I'm completely unable to leave any recipe well enough alone, I made some modifications and was quite pleased with the results.  Only thing I didn't like was the bows - I bought some of that Barilla Plus pasta, which never quite gets to a soft enough texture for our taste.  So next time I'll make it with good old fashioned unhealthy white pasta, and I'm sure it will be much better.  I need to post the revised recipe before I forget what I did!

And now, on to this week.  This will be a short menu week for us, as we have Thanksgiving dinners on BOTH Thursday and Friday.  Have to love that!

Monday:  Pasta e Fagioli (I already have the sausage cooked, and I'll use orzo pasta, so this should come together very quickly).

Tuesday:  Taco salad

Wednesday:  cranberry chicken (just like my cranberry pork, but with chicken tenderloins instead)

Thursday:  Dinner with hubby's family.  I'm taking spinach dip and an orange ambrosia-type jello salad.

Friday:  Dinner with my family.  I'm taking a veggie tray, jello, and my daughter's birthday cake.  possibly more if my mom needs help, but that's all I know for now!

I may flip-flop Monday and Tuesday.  We'll see how it goes.

To those of you in the US (and those abroad who celebrate US holidays), have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.  To those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving this week, have a great week!  Ah, what the heck, you be safe too.  :-)  And remember to visit Menu Plan Monday at for lots of great menu ideas!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Toddler craft - Puffy Paint

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Pinterest.  About five minutes after that, I was completely addicted.  So many ideas, so little time (and money!).  I've found some great ideas for crafting with my daughter, though, and this was one I couldn't wait to try out. 

I found it at Get Your Mess On, but I've since seen it at least four more places around the internet, so I have no idea where it originated. 

Puffy Paint:

For each color:
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
squirt of tempera paint (or a splash of tempera paint powder) - as much as you need to get the color you want.

First, gather your supplies (and your adorable assistant!).  Here in the Pacific Northwest, I found the squirt bottles at Bi-Mart for $2 each.  JoAnn Fabric and Craft had some smaller ones in a two-pack for $2, but I wanted the option for bigger bottles so I bought these (I think they're 12 ounce). 

I began by mixing the salt, flour, and water together, whisking well to get out all the lumps.  Then we poured in the color,

Stirred, stirred, stirred,

Put the paint in the bottles using a funnel (during which my daughter, who has never seen the Wizard of Oz, kept shouting "it's MELTING!  It's MELTING!"  Where do they come up with this stuff???), and presto!  Puffy paint!

We discovered about two minutes (and half a bottle of blue) into the project that it's a less-than-perfect idea to let the two-year-old control the paint bottle without supervision.  Once we got that down, though, we had a great time.  Makes a great fingerpaint with awesome texture!

Menu Plan November 14 - 18 (and a question for you!)

We did pretty well at sticking to our menu last week.  I had the opportunity to go to work early on Friday, so we went shopping and had dinner out (with a coupon) that day, but other than that, we ate at home.  I did make potstickers from the freezer one day because I just couldn't get up the energy to make dinner once I got home.  That's what that freezer convenience food is for! 

This week, we have a pretty routine schedule, though I do get off early again on Friday.  Here's the plan:

Monday:  Spaghetti (made with Italian sausage instead of ground beef - yum!)
Tuesday:  Broccoli Beef
Wednesday:  mushroom pork chops
Thursday:  If I say Chicken and Bows will you laugh at me?
Friday:  One-dish twice baked potatoes

Now, a question for you, my readers.  I have four HUGE kale plants in my garden, and I'm at a loss as to what to do with them.  Seemed like such a good idea when I planted them...  I'm thinking about Zuppa Toscana, but  I'm open to any and all ideas...thoughts?

Have a great week, and remember to visit Menu Plan Monday for more menu ideas than you can shake a stick at! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Freezing Green Onions

We've reached that point in the year where I really need to get some things out of the garden.  We've had several frosty mornings, and the onions are looking especially limp.  I don't want to waste all that fresh oniony goodness, though, so I decided to chop and freeze some of the green tops (I'll also chop the bottoms and freeze them separately).  Here's how I do it.

First, wash and chop your green onions. Then, place them in a freezer-safe container of a convenient size.  I used some silicone cupcake molds (I hate baking in them, so I might as well use them for something, right?).  Add enough water to each just to cover, and put them in the freezer until they're solid.

Take them out of the freezer and remove them from the cups (that's the nice thing about silicone - you can just flip it right out).  Voila!  Little green onion hockey pucks.

Put into a freezer container and freeze until ready to use.  I've kept these for six months or more.  You can use them as is in soups, stews, and other saucy things where a couple extra tablespoons of water won't matter, or you can thaw them out before you use them.  They do get a little slimy so I wouldn't use them in a salad or anything, but they're good in just about any cooked dish.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Menu Plan November 7 - 11

We ended up doing REALLY well on our revised menu plan last week.  This will teach me to actually sit down and think about my week before I plan a menu, LOL! 

Here's the plan for this week:

Today:  Spanish Rice Casserole - I have leftover rice and turkey in the freezer, so this will go together pretty quickly once everything's thawed.

Tuesday:  Scalloped potatoes and ham - I don't have all three cheeses at the moment, so this will be made with parmesan and cheddar

Wednesday:  Chicken and Bows (sound familiar?)

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Chicken Cacciatore

Don't forget to visit Menu Plan Monday for tons of fabulous menu ideas!

Apple Bread

Our apple tree was especially prolific this year, and after sharing a couple of boxes full with my mom, I've had plenty left for canning, freezing, and baking.  Once I got tired of making apple crisp (hubby's favorite), I went searching for a good apple bread recipe.  I found one here, but wanted to make it a little bit healthier, so I tweaked it a bit. 
Whole Grain Apple Bread
makes two loaves

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or cake spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups apples, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans (optional, but they are really good!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, applesauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, spices, soda, and salt, mixing until just combined.  Fold in apples and pecans. 

Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 70 minutes at 325, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack.  Let cool completely before slicing or it will fall apart a bit.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Steak and Pepper Sandwiches

At my house, I call these cheesesteaks.  I realize, though, that in some parts of the country that will get me run out of town, so, for blogging purposes, steak and pepper sandwiches they are.

At my grocery store, I'm able to buy "thin sliced beef steaks".  That's the meat I use, because it's quick and easy (and versatile!).  It comes in big flat "steaks" about the size of my hand, and I slice it cross-wise into thin strips.  You could also use thinly sliced round steak.  If you go that route, put the meat in the freezer for a half hour or so before hand to make it easier to get nice, thin slices.

Steak and Pepper Sandwiches
Serves 4

1 T. canola oil
1 medium green pepper, sliced
1 medium red pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced thin
12 ounces thinly sliced beef
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (you could also substitute 1 clove minced garlic, just put it in a few minutes before the meat is done)

8 slices cheese (hubby likes cheddar, I like provolone)
4 hoagie, French, or bolillo rolls, split
condiments:  mayo, mustard, ranch dressing, sliced pepperoncini, etc.

In a stir fry pan or large skillet over high heat, saute the peppers and onions until they just start to get soft.

 Add the beef, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and cook until the meat is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, put the rolls cut-side up on a baking sheet.  Lay two slices of cheese on one half of each roll.  Broil two to three minutes, or until the cheese side is bubbly and the dry side is toasted.  Spread with your choice of condiments, top with the meat and pepper mixture, and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I love fall.

Especially those frosty cold mornings just begging for a bulky sweater and a steaming hot cup of cocoa.

Pork and Potato Casserole with Mushrooms and Caraway

I made this up on the fly today because I had some ground pork that needed to be used up (it was the sole victim of the freezer not being closed all the way - we got lucky!).  This is the "convenience food" version because I was a little short on time.  I'm sure in the future I'll work on a full-blown "from scratch" version with white sauce and sauteed mushrooms.

Didn't think to take a picture until we'd already dished it up!
Pork and Potato Casserole with Mushrooms and Caraway

Serves 4 - 6

4 medium potatoes, diced (and peeled if you prefer).
1/2 - 1 pound ground pork
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1/4 cup french fried onions (such as Durkee)

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan.  Cover with water and cook until just tender.  Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, brown the pork with the chopped onion.  When the meat is just browned, add the garlic, salt and poultry seasoning.  Continue to cook until you can just smell the garlic. 

Add meat mixture to the mixing bowl.  Then add the mushrooms, soups, and caraway seed.  Stir to combine and pour into a 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle the french fried onions over the top and bake an addition five minutes. 

This week's menu, revisited

Something happened to my menu this week.  It was shot before the week even got started - probably because I rushed through it just to get something down on paper without really thinking about it.  And then things happened to make it go even more haywire!

We were supposed to have pizza Sunday and Monday.  Then I burned the pizza.  Then we were supposed to have takeout on Monday so we could get to trick-or-treating that much faster, but since we'd just wasted $12 on the pizza we couldn't eat, I decided I should cook instead.  So I threw some chili in the crockpot in a hurry on the way to visit my parents on Monday morning.  Which was fine, except I was digging through the freezer trying to find the Soyrizo (which I still haven't found, even though I saw it on Sunday), and something blocked the freezer door from closing all the way.

So Monday afternoon my husband called to tell me that the freezer was open and thawing.  Fortunately, the only thing that was REALLY thawed was a package of ground pork.  So I needed to come up with something to do with that this week!  I guess it's true, the only thing constant in life is change, and menus are no exception, LOL!

Here's my revised menu for this week -

Monday:  crock pot chili

Tuesday:  creamed tuna on toast (oh, yeah, it was supposed to be on biscuits.  I got a great deal on canned biscuits over the weekend, so I was going to use those, but by the time I found them (still sitting in a grocery bag on my dining room floor, sigh) and realized I couldn't use them, it was too late to make biscuits from scratch, so we had toast.

Tonight:  pork and potato casserole with caraway

Tomorrow:  cheesesteak sandwiches

Friday:  tacos (avocados were on sale at Safeway and when I asked my daughter if she wanted one for lunch today, she informed me that not only did she want one for lunch, we needed to buy extras for tacos. Since we have almost everything we need for those anyway, I was happy to oblige).

Maybe next week I'll have more menu success, LOL!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Menu Plan October 31 - November 4

I just looked at last week's menu, and I can't actually remember what we ate!  We did eat a few things off the menu, but not everything, and I'm at a loss as to what we ate on what days.  On to another week...

This week is great because I have to work from home on Wednesday, so I only have one day that I work till 6:00.  Wish that day wasn't Halloween, but we do what we have to, right? 

Here's the plan:

Monday:  Take out (not sure what yet, probably burgers.  It was supposed to be leftover pizza, but we totally burned the pizza last night, so that was a complete waste of two meals and $12.  I was so bummed!).

Tuesday:  Creamed tuna on biscuits

Wednesday:  Chicken and bows (why yes, I AM determined to make this recipe!)

Thursday:  Cheesesteak sandwiches

Friday:  Teriyaki chicken (I'll post a recipe for this as soon as I dig it out of my files.  Super easy and really good!)

Have a great week, everyone!  And please visit for tons of great menu ideas!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Menu Plan October 24 - 28

We did ok last week, but didn't entirely follow our menu.  I was sick all week and most days the last thing I wanted to do was cook!  We did end up at Taco Bell one night and we had leftovers another, but our other three meals were from the menu.

Here's what I have planned for this week:

Monday:  roast chicken and potatoes
Tuesday:  leftover pizza (from tonight)
Wednesday:  Turkey roast (precooked from Costco - just heat and eat)
Thursday:  Chicken and bows (from last week's menu - we didn't get to it)
Friday:  if I can get to the Asian food store this week, we'll have pad Thai.

Have a great week, everyone - and don't forget to visit Menu Plan Monday on for tons of great ideas!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

past menu plans

Since I'm consolidating my blogs, I don't want to lose the menus that I posted over on the other one.  So here's a quick list.  Fortunately, I wasn't very good about keeping up with menu planning, so there aren't all that many of them!

June 13 - 18

  • Last night, I made Pad Thai.  I overcooked the noodles somehow (never had that happen before!), but other than that, it was great!
  • Tonight, we're having taco salad.
  • Tomorrow, it'll be crock pot roast beef.
  • Wednesday, roasted Cornish game hens.
  • Thursday, should be leftover night but we'll see if we have any!
  • Friday, lemon pepper chicken.

June 21 - 25

June 28 - July 2
  • Monday, we had leftover pizza and salad.
  • Tonight, we had grilled chicken and creamed peas and potatoes.  I don't usually grill on weeknights, but there wasn't any room in my fridge for a pan of chicken to be put in the oven, so we improvised.  Oh, and the peas and potatoes were from our garden.  AWESOME.
  • Tomorrow night, we're having spaghetti.
  • Thursday night, we're having baked turkey cutlets.  I just need to figure out what I'm going to do to them to give them some flavor!
  • Friday doesn't need to be make-ahead, since we're both taking the day off, so it'll probably be jambalaya or tuna helper.  We'll see. 

July 5 - 9
  • Monday, we had grilled steak, corn, and chard.  Since it was a holiday I was able to cook at dinner time!
  • Tonight, we'll have burgers (leftover, just heat and eat) and potato salad
  • Tomorrow, we'll have fried ham and baked potatoes (not make ahead, but the ham slices I bought will fry up in about five minutes once the skillet is hot)
  • Thursday, we may finally eat that turkey I've had on the menu for several weeks!
  • Friday, we'll have taco salad. 

September 19 - 23, 2010
  • Tonight, I made buttermilk chicken, with mashed potatoes and sauteed summer squash.  One of my favorite meals ever, and yes, it can be made ahead (but I didn't).  I'll post instructions soon!
  • Tomorrow, we'll be having cranberry pork chops.  How have I never posted this recipe on either blog?  Must remedy that...
  • Wednesday, teriyaki chicken.
  • Thursday, something meatless.  Hubby has promised we can start having meatless meals once a week to save money.  I'm not sure what yet, I need to do some recipe hunting!
  • Friday, we're babysitting our nieces and nephews, so I think we'll just be picking up a pizza or making something super quick at their house.    

September 27 - October 1
  •  Monday, we ended up with leftovers because - get this - I FORGOT to make dinner!  Craziness, I tell you!
  • Tuesday, we had turkey tenderloin baked in creamy mushroom sauce. 
  • Wednesday, we had lemon chicken.
  • Tonight, it's baked chicken taquitoes (this is my new favorite recipe!).
  • Friday, it's meatless night, and I have no idea what that will be yet, but I'd better get on it!
October 10 - 16
  • Sunday:  Creamed tuna on biscuits
  • Monday:  Chorizo black bean soup 
  • Tuesday:  Cordon bleu casserole (this recipe, served with noodles) 
  • Wednesday: Jambalaya with kielbasa (from a box, though I'm thinking about trying to bake it instead of stove-top, so it'll be more make-ahead.  I'll let you know how it goes)
  • Thursday:  leftovers
  • Friday:  Chicken paprikash over baked potatoes
  • Saturday:  We'll be out of town for a birthday party that day, so we'll grab dinner on the road. 

January 2 - 7
  • Sunday:  We had taco salad
  • Today:  Chicken and Dumplings
  • Tuesday:  Stuffed peppers 
  • Wednesday:  Chicken Paprikash over baked potatoes
  • Thursday:  Baked pork chops and parmesan noodles, if I get to the meat market.  Otherwise, spaghetti.
  • Friday:  Tuna casserole 
January 9 - 14
  • Sunday:  Pad Thai 
  • Monday:  Pineapple Chicken
  • Tuesday:  Spaghetti
  • Wednesday:  Potato and ham soup - or maybe scalloped potatoes and ham.  We'll see what I feel like making...
  • Thursday:  Meatloaf
  • Friday:  Something involving kielbasa...I need to explore some recipes.  Anyone have a suggestion? 
January 16 - 21
  • Sunday:  chicken fried steak
  •  Monday:  chicken and dumplings (I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe - if you happen to be a member of their website, it's the February 2005 version)
  • Tuesday:  tacos
  • Wednesday: Buffalo chicken spaghetti (we haven't ever had this, but it sounds AMAZING!)
  • Thursday: Spanish rice casserole (I'm going to make this one meatless by adding extra beans in place of the turkey)
  • Friday: Jambalaya (made from the Zatarains mix) 
January 23 - 28
  • Sunday:  We went out to Chevy's (loving their cheap guacamole Sundays!)
  • Monday:  Buttermilk Chicken 
  • Tuesday:  hamburger casserole
  • Wednesday:  chicken enchiladas 
  • Thursday:  spaghetti
  • Friday:  bean/rice casserole (the one I didn't make last week!). 
 February 7 - 11
  • Monday:  Bulgogi and sesame rice 
  • Tuesday:  Tacos
  • Wednesday:  Pork chops (haven't figured out just how I'm fixing them yet)
  • Thursday:  Spaghetti
  • Friday:  Pineapple chicken 
May 9 - 12
  • Monday:  hamburger casserole
  • Tuesday: baked chicken
  • Wednesday:  ravioli alfredo
  • Thursday:  pulled pork sandwiches (going to cook the meat in the crock pot)
  • Friday we have plans, so I don't have to cook! 
July 18 - 21
  • Monday:  meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes, green beans from our CSA box
  • Tuesday:  manicotti (I use this recipe from the back of the Ronzoni manicotti box and add some cooked ground beef), green salad, and cheesecake (happy 8th anniversary to us!)
  • Wednesday:  Baked chicken with roasted broccoli and cauliflower
  • Thursday:  Kielbasa and kidney beans
 October 3 - 7

Homemade Chicken Bake

Whenever I have the opportunity to eat a meal at Costco (which isn't often, since I'm a horribly compulsive grocery shopper and therefore forbidden to have my own card), I always go for the "Chicken Bake".  Basically a calzone, it's chickeny, bacony, cheesy good.  A month or two ago my mom took me shopping there, and I discovered Chicken Bake in the freezer section.  I immediately snatched up a box for eating at home.

Last week we ate the last of our Chicken Bakes, but, when asked what my daughter wanted to eat for dinners this week, that was her request.  "CHICKEN BAKE!!!"  Strange, because she didn't seem all that enamored of it when we had them for lunch, but of course I was happy to oblige and figure out a way to make them myself.

There are no measurements in the assembly because, in my typical pizza fashion, I just sprinkled things on till it looked right.

Homemade Chicken Bake
makes 4 large calzones

2 tubes pizza crust in a can (could also substitute homemade pizza dough - I was in a hurry so I used the prebought).
Caeser dressing, ranch dressing, or alfredo sauce
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 pound bacon, diced and fried
2 green onions, chopped
shredded parmesan cheese
shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Divide each pizza crust in half.  Roll out into a rectangle, about 6 inches by 8 inches.  You want to be looking at it the long way, not the tall way (i.e. "landscape", not "portrait", if we were talking about printing).

Spread dressing or sauce over crust, stopping about 1/2 inch from the edges.

Spread toppings in a 4-inch-wide strip down the middle of the crust, stopping about 1 inch from the top and bottom.  Keep a little extra parmesan cheese for the top. 

Fold left and right edges over; pinch the ends together and tuck under.  Place seam side down on your baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining three pieces of crust.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Spread a little bit of additional dressing or sauce on top, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake an additional 5 - 8 minutes until cheese is melted and brown.

Excellent served with salad on the side.

If you want to make this in the morning, just assemble it and put it in the fridge until time to make dinner.  Add an additional 5 minutes to your initial baking time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meatball Casserole

I haven't actually made this - I saw it on an old episode of "Oliver's Twist" and I loved the idea. Don't want to forget it, so I thought I'd post it!

Quick tomato sauce:

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans crushed tomatoes (I'm guessing he used the smaller cans, not the 28 ounce).
1 handful fresh basil

Saute the onion in some olive oil until soft.  Add garlic and cook until you can smell it (careful not to burn it!).  Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in fresh basil and let it wilt.

For the casserole:

1 batch Italian-style meatballs (use your favorite recipe)
sliced fresh mozzarella
shredded parmesan cheese

Spoon the tomato sauce into the bottom of a medium-size casserole dish.  Cover the sauce with meatballs, then top with sliced fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly and meatballs are cooked through.  Serve with pasta on the side.

Cranberry Pork Chops

It appears that I have somehow missed posting this, one of my favorite pork recipes of all time, on either of my blogs.  Time to remedy that situation!

This recipe can be made ahead or done at the last minute.  If you don't want to deal with cooking the cranberry sauce, feel free to substitute a can of whole berry cranberry sauce for the cranberries, juice, and sugar.

Cranberry Pork Chops
serves 4

4 thick-cut pork chops, either bone in or boneless
1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, picked over for bad berries and rinsed
1/2 cup orange or apple juice
3/4 cup sugar
Salt and pepper

Place the pork chops in a 9x13 baking dish (or an 8x8 if they'll fit).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until soft, about five minutes.  Add berries, juice, and sugar, stirring until combined.  Lower the heat to medium and, stirring frequently, simmer until the berries have burst and sauce is thickened, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Pour sauce over the pork chops.  At this point, if you're making it in the morning, you can stick it in the fridge until it's time to bake it.  Start it out in a cold oven and add five or so minutes to your cooking time.

Bake at 350 degrees until cooked through - 30-35 minutes for boneless chops, 40 - 45 for bone in.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Menu October 17 - 21

First of all, an announcement.  Some of you know I started a second blog a while back, My Make-Ahead Meals.  Focusing a blog on one single facet of my cooking was an interesting experiment for a while, but I'm not posting enough in either place to make it worth keeping two blogs up, so I'm shutting that blog down.  I'll gradually post the recipes and tips from there over here, and then I'll pull it entirely.

That said, on to menu planning!

The last two weeks I've tried something new with our menu plan.  I have a small dry erase board on our fridge that I have used in the past to keep lists, notes, etc. on (we also have a large board on the fridge that we use for the grocery list, instructions for my husband when he's cooking dinner, and other important items).  The small board has now officially become our menu board.  This morning at breakfast, I pulled the board off the fridge and asked my husband and daughter what they want to eat this week.  Here's what we came up with:

Monday:  The board says spaghetti, but we didn't eat the pork chops I thawed for tonight's dinner, so we're having that instead.  We'll have spaghetti next week.  Not sure how I'm going to prepare them yet, but I'm looking at this recipe.  It's pretty similar to what we're having Tuesday, though, so I may go a different route. 

Tuesday:  cube steak and potatoes. That was my husband's contribution, and one of his favorite meals.  I dip it in milk and seasoned flour, then pan fry it, and serve it with garlic mashed potatoes and salad.

Wednesday:  chicken bake.  This will be a riff on the chicken bakes they sell at Costco - we just finished a box of them and apparently they were memorable to my two-year-old because she definitely wants them!  I'll make them like calzones, with alfredo sauce (though I think the official Chicken Bake might use caesar dressing), grilled chicken, bacon, green onions, and Italian blend cheese.  We'll probably have them with salad. 

Thursday:  creamed tuna.  Just because I'm still relishing the fact that, now that I get home an hour earlier three nights a week, biscuits can be a weeknight meal item once again.  I even bought buttermilk, so we'll be having the good ones!

Friday:  chicken and bows.  This is a new one for us, but it sounds delicious and I'm looking forward to trying it!  I'll be making it with a quick white sauce flavored with chicken broth instead of the cream of chicken soup, as I'm trying to steer away from those at the moment.

Feeling stuck with the same old boring meals?  Head on over to Meal Plan Monday at www.orgjunkie.com and browse through thousands of menu suggestions from bloggers all over the internet!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The making of a "superherio" cape

My daughter is in "Superherio" mode these days.  No, not a superhero, a SUPERHERIO.  It cracks me up every time she says it!  Anyway, last night I decided that every superherio needs a proper cape, so I broke out the play silks that I never quite got around to dying and told her that we could make her one. 

I picked a big square - I think it's 24x24 (purchased from Dharma Trading Co.).  I've done Kool-aid dying before, and knew that it was quick and easy, which fit the bill for this morning - we were able to squeeze it in between breakfast and a visit to the butcher shop.  I followed the general directions here, but didn't follow them exactly.

First, I washed the scarf in a little Woolite-type detergent.  Once it was well rinsed, I got started on the colors.  Since I was just doing one scarf, I put about three cups of water in a saucepan, added a generous "glug" of white vinegar (probably 1/4 cup or so), and stirred in the Kool-aid packets.  For pink, I used a packet of pink lemonade flavor and half a packet of strawberry.  I heated it up on the stove until it was just steaming, then poured it into a bowl.  Because she wanted two colors, I folded the scarf into a triangle, then put a rubber band in the middle, at the point.  This gave the blocks of color a diagonal shape.

We dipped one end, up to the rubber band, in the dye, and I set the timer for 10 minutes while my daughter poked and stirred the scarf. 

For the orange dye, I followed the same directions as the pink, but used two full packets of orange Kool-Aid.  When the pink end was done, I pulled it out, running my fingers down it to squeeze out some of the excess dye.  Then I put that end into a zip-top bag, so it wouldn't stain my counters or floor while we did the orange end.  My kitchen may be lived in, but it's not THAT lived in, LOL!

Same procedure as the pink.  If you're doing two colors, I recommend you do the darker color first, so that if the middle ends up in the second color, it won't be as noticeable. 

After 10 minutes of soaking, I squeezed out the orange end and put it in the bag, taking care not to let the two sides touch. 

I sealed all but about an inch of the bag, and popped it in the microwave on high for two minutes.  That sealed in the color.  I always double-check by rinsing out the scarf afterward, but I've never had any color leakage after the microwave treatment.  Then I removed the rubber band, and we hung it out on the line to dry.

Then we ran to the butcher shop, and, by the time we got home 20 minutes later, it was dry and ready to go!  

Superherio Caitlyn - off to save the world!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Kiddie Kraft FAIL

Last week, I was perusing the latest issue of Family Fun magazine, which naturally is chock-full of Valentine's Day crafts.  We're going to see half of Caitlyn's cousins on Saturday, so I thought it would be fun for her to make some valentines for them.  My eye landed on these adorable yarn hearts.  Three ingredients - cornstarch, water, yarn.  What could be simpler?

So yesterday I picked up some yarn and heart-shaped cookie cutters at the grocery store.  Today, we got the stuff out to start.  We had to run a quick errand, so before we left, I mixed up the glue.  We were gone for 20 minutes, and by the time we got home, the glue was a solid, gelatinous mess.  So I stirred in the hot water, as they instructed.  Seems to me, based on my knowledge of cornstarch, that it should have smoothed right out.  Instead, we ended up with a clumpy, watery mess.  But I decided to forge ahead and make the best of it.

Went to get the yarn.  No yarn.  Where the heck is the yarn? I  know I bought it, I remember her scanning the has to be around here somewhere!  I still have no idea where it is, so I went and got some different yarn from my stash.  No problem.

Sat my daughter down, put her smock on, and showed her how to dip the yarn, squishing it around to get the glue all over it, then how to scrape it off (since, remember, we have a gloppy clumpy lumpy mess instead of nice smooth glue).  I helped her put the first piece in the cookie cutter and stood back to watch her do the second one.

If there's one thing I've learned about my daughter through our crafting, it's that she has little regard for process.  Maybe that's a two-year-old thing, I don't know.  But she has no interest in following steps and instead is eager to just do her own thing.  Sometimes that works great.  For this project, not so much!  She dipped just the very tip of the yarn in the glue, and then put it in the cutter.  So I showed her again.  And then she asked to watch WonderPets. 

Since she obviously had no interest in this particular project, I cleaned up her hands and let her go watch WonderPets.  Since we had one partly done, I went ahead and finished it. 

At least she'll have a Valentine decoration to hang up in her room, right?  And tomorrow, we'll paint...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemade Playdough

Here at our house, we still have our arts and crafts on.  Last week, Caitlyn got to try out watercolor paints for the first time.  She had a little trouble with the order - water...paint...paper...water...paint...paper...and consequently had some vibrantly colored water and some very wet, not very colored paper, but she loved it anyway.  She now asks to paint almost every day.  I really need to get some watercolor paper for her, because I'm still looking for my regular brushes and those teeny tiny little brushes that come with the paint sets will rip through a piece of regular paper in no time flat.

Yesterday, we made homemade playdough!  That's a brand new thing for Caitlyn - she's had bread dough to play with before, but never really figured out what to do with it, other than copying whatever I was doing.  But yesterday I was able to show her a few things.  We used a recipe from First Art, roughly equivalent to the "Nature's Playdough" recipe found here (I used food coloring but I like their ideas for natural dye!).  Caitlyn loved dumping the ingredients in the pan (helping me cook is one of her favorite activities), and then went off to play while I cooked it.  We made two batches, one green, and one blue, and cooking it took roughly 20 minutes from start to kneading.  It smelled pretty bad, so I kneaded in some lavender essential oil, which helped some.  Then we let it cool off for half an hour or so.

They were, in a word. vibrant.  I didn't measure the food coloring - I just dumped.  Wowza!

I gave her just a few tools to start out with - a rolling pin (aka a leftover piece of dowel from one of her daddy's projects), my garlic press, and a little spoon/knife combination (got it free when I bought kiwis one time - it's a nifty little tool).  She pretty much just stabbed it with the knife, until I showed her how to make "hair" with the garlic press.  Then it was on!

She happily made blue-green hair for about 45 minutes, which is something just short of a miracle for my busy girl.  The only other thing that holds her attention that long is the WonderPets...

I have a hunch this will become a regular plaything in my kitchen.  And I am perfectly fine with that!  Safe, fun, and easily replaced once it dries out.

My next acquisition will be a few yards of PUL to use as a drop cloth/table cover for messier projects, and I'm also on the hunt for a local source of powdered tempera paint.  I have a couple of art supply stores to call today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Experimental Alphabet

Caitlyn is really starting to explore letters and numbers, so I decided it was time to get a magnetic alphabet set.  Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that meets my requirements yet (no batteries required, and good reviews on Amazon).  So, while I keep looking, I came up with a temporary solution.  And hey, if it's successful, it may just be a permanent solution!

Armed with my usual plethora of coupons, I headed to the fabric/craft store to see what I could find that might work.  In the art foam aisle, I found a huge box of letters and numbers of all different colors.  Then, I found a roll of self-adhesive magnet material, and I was good to go.

I simply picked out the letters and numbers I wanted, cut the magnet strip to fit on the back, stuck it all together, and it was done!  Easy as pie. 

Pardon my dirty door!

The whole thing cost me less than $10, and I have enough material to make several more sets as letters get lost.

Note:  This is not a good project if your little one likes to put things in their mouths.  The magnet pieces are very small and, while they have a good sticky back, they could still be peeled off.  We're fortunate that Caitlyn is very good about that. 

Friday, January 07, 2011

Kiddee Krafts #1

Ok, ok, I'm not really going to title this series "Kiddee Krafts".  Sheesh.  How cheesy is that???

My daughter and I did our first project today.  It didn't exactly turn out the way I planned.  See, I thought we were going to have pretty much the whole morning at our leisure, and we could hang out and make cotton ball collages.  Instead, we had to make a quick trip to the grocery store because we were out of milk.  Then, I realized it was almost 10:00, and that it was Friday, and that Preschool Storytime at the library (three blocks away) was about to start.  Normally, that's no big deal, because we usually go to Baby Storytime (Caitlyn is seriously not ready to actually sit through a book with the preschoolers), but Baby Storytime has been canceled since Thanksgiving, and won't start up again till February, and we hadn't been in the library since mid-November.  So I gave Caitlyn the choice - library or art project - and she enthusiastically picked the library.  Mainly because she loves the library and has made friends with all the staff (I swear she thinks she owns the place), and because she had NO idea what an art project is! 

So I figured, no problem, we'd just do the project tomorrow.  After all, it's a whole weekend with no plans, so we'll have lots of time.  But as soon as we got home, Caitlyn started asking about the project.  "Project Mommy, Project!  Do project!"  I looked at my watch.  11:00.  Hour till lunch time.  No problem.  Except...I still had to make dinner (I make dinner in the mornings and my husband puts it in the oven while I'm at work).  So, here we go again, together time that isn't "together". Ah, well, best laid plans, right?

I set her up next to me at the kitchen counter, with a paper bowl of glue, some cotton balls, and some paper.  I showed her how to dip the cotton in the glue and she took it from there - a natural. 

(Note to the concerned - don't freak out - she can't reach those knives.  I'm not sure what I'll do when she can, but we're all safe for the time being!) 

I was making tuna casserole for dinner, so I had to open the cupboard in front of her to get the noodles out.  I have lots of jars of noodles up there, all different shapes and colors.  She started reaching for the macaroni, so I got it down and let her have some of that, too.  Voila - mixed media!

She ended up just basically laying the macaroni out without any glue, so I glued it all down for her when she was done.  I wasn't sure how much she enjoyed it, but when I got home from work, she grabbed the cotton balls and begged me to do another one with her.  We had a little time before dinner, so I obliged.  She wanted me to do this one, though, so I dipped everything in the glue and let her show me where to put it.  Finally, the "together" time I intended!  

When we were done, we took this morning's creation into her room, and I let her pick out a place of honor on her wall.  She wanted to put it right under her bookshelves, where she can see it from wherever she is in the room.  I think it's the perfect place.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Activities for the toddler set

Now that my daughter is two, she's definitely showing signs that she's ready to start taking on some new activities.  In the house, she's frequently coloring, or "cooking dinner" (which is cheese crackers, 99% of the time) in her play kitchen.  Outside, she's constantly playing in our gravel pathway, picking out specific rocks and excitedly bringing them to me to show me how beautiful they are.

At the same time that she's making new discoveries, I'm feeling like the time we spend together isn't "together" enough.  So often she's playing while I'm making dinner, checking email, folding laundry, and doing countless other tasks that keep the household running.  It's really starting to bug me, so I've decided that, starting this week, I'm going to do something about it. 

I recently bought a couple of great books full of ideas for activities - The Toddler Busy Book has a TON of great ideas for all different kinds of activities - crafts, songs, things to do in the car, it's a real gem.  First Art:  Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos has a wonderful array of art projects, most of which use simple items easily found at home or in grocery or craft stores.  I've been spending my evenings reading through them, picking out some things that I think we'll enjoy doing together.

So, starting tomorrow, my daughter and I are going to take time out at least twice a week and do some kind of activity together.  If it's on a weekend, I'll do everything in my power to get my husband to join in (not always easy - he's not really a joiner).  It may be an art project.  We may cook something together.  Maybe we'll discover a new song.  If it's not raining, we can go on a walk in our neighborhood.  If I can figure out how to adjust her tricycle to fit her, she can go on a ride.  Simple stuff.  We'll just do it together.

Tomorrow, we're going to make cotton ball collages.  I picked up some scrapbook paper at the craft store today - I'm planning to hang it on her wall when we're done, so I wanted something a little more decorative than the traditional construction paper.  I think she'll really enjoy playing with the glue - especially when she discovers you can peel it off your hands once it dries!

I already told her we'd make cheese crackers from scratch this weekend.  She's been talking about it all day!

I'll be posting here about our activities from time to time, so I have a record for my memory, which certainly isn't what it used to be.  I'm looking forward to fun and adventures!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Six things

Just saw a great idea on Nailing Jello to a Tree's facebook page:  make a list of six things to do today.  Just six.  Then do them.  Sounds simple enough to me!  Here are mine:

1.  Take the cat to the vet for his checkup - done!
2.  Scan recipes from three cookbooks
3.  Take the "giveaway" boxes to Goodwill - done!
4.  Put gas in the car - done!
5.  Fold at least two basket's worth of laundry - done AND put away!
6.  Update my daughter's blog - I'm woefully behind. - done!

I'll check back and let you know how I did!

Sunday, January 02, 2011


And so another year has come and gone...Happy New Year!

I looked back at last year's resolutions - in a nutshell, I resolved to read the entire Bible, menu plan each week, and get my compost pile in operational order.  I finished the first, made a good effort at the second, and gave up on the third - we ended up dumping the whole pile out at my father-in-law's property and started over. 

This year, instead of a resolution, I've decided on a theme - USE IT UP. 

I spent a good chunk of my afternoon today cleaning out my bathroom closet.  The closet holds a series of small storage boxes, each with a different type of item.  Things like medication, first aid supplies. tooth care, lotions, soap and bath gel, etc.  Well, these boxes are FULL.  I threw out all the old, expired, nasty stuff, and we are starting over fresh (and yes, even after that, the boxes are still full). 

I also did a lot of laundry today, and noticed how much detergent, soap, and general cleaning supplies I have out there. 

My pantry is in a similar state - lots of odd little ingredients that sounded good at the time, but I never used. 

Basically, I get bored easily and like to try new stuff.  Lots of times I get things for free or at an ultra discount, so I figure "what the heck?  It's not costing me much/anything."  And then the stuff sits around and never gets used. 

So this year, I will be making a concerted effort to use that stuff.  All those little sample packages/hotel bottles of shampoo and hand lotion.  The seven different kinds of laundry detergent that is currently living in my laundry room.  All that shaving gel.

Also, this year, when I go shopping, I will ask myself three questions:

1.  Do I need it?
2.  Will I use it soon?
3.  Can I make it at home for less money?

Hopefully if I am honest with myself, I will be bringing home a lot less STUFF in 2011.  This will help with both the clutter and the budget, as we're looking ahead to major financial upheaval. 

Happy 2011, everyone - hope it's a good one!