Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Dec 21...and school fundraisers

In order to raise money for new Smart Boards, my kids' school decided to sell cookbooks. It was a great fundraiser. I am usually anti-school fundraisers. I hate spending money for junk, and let's face it, most of the time the things from fundraisers are junk. I also don't like wasting money, so cookie dough is usually overpriced to me. So, I get to be the anti-social parent that doesn't ever send money for anything. Add in that with three kids in a semi-public school with lots of great field trips all at the same time, there's usually not a lot left over for the fundraisers, anyway.

That's why I was so excited about the cookbooks. I love to cook. It was something the kids could participate in and make a meaningful contribution. I just wish mine wouldn't have all been sick the day the recipe submissions were due! We didn't get any of our favorite family recipes added. I am really hoping they do the cookbook every few years so we can get another chance.

The bad news on this is that while the grandparents were more than happy to send a check for the cookbooks, none of them actually wanted a cookbook. Now, I have three copies! I'm going to be on the lookout for someone to gift one of these lovely cookbooks! There has to be at least a half dozen different macaroni and cheese recipes LOL

I'm going to be looking through the book over the coming weeks trying to find some new favorites and I'll post the recipes here. The cookbooks didn't arrive in time for my grocery shopping trip, so no recipes this week from it.

Monday: Pork Stir Fry
Tuesday: Mustard Tarragon Chicken
Wednesday: Beef Pot Roast
Thursday: Beef Curry
Friday: Turkey roast
Saturday: Spaghetti
Sunday: leftovers

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lookee I found...Cool Christmas idea!

Do you all remember back in the 70s and 80s, you could get these mix and match plates with different clothing items and textures on them. You'd put them together and color them and you'd end up with unique pictures? I remember mine had Barbie. It's been a lot of years and I still remember that being one of my favorite toys of all time.

Well, that idea has been totally updated for today's girl. allows girls to create their own fashions, then ORDER them to wear!

Oh. My.'s like my inner little girl dream come true.

I think it would be the coolest gift idea for a little diva. She can make her own outfit. Very unique and be able to wear it! I know my daughter will spend tons of time just deciding what to do.

It starts with a basic template the kids can personalize. Then you order. That simple. But they can spend a lot of time mixing and customizing that, IMO, it would be well worth it.

As a special treat to my readers, twittermoms is offering a great discount

Get $15 off your first purchase at Fashion Playtes!
Use the code TwitterMom15 at checkout.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Socks are the real enemy

I think the title says it all, don't you?

Show of hands for everyone who hates dealing with socks. I know I hate them.

I have long since given up hope of trapping the monster that eats the socks right out of the dryer. My focus is now on the monster that sneaks them out of the laundry basket and prevents them from making them in to the wash in the first place! I think our sock monster prefers dirty stinky smelly socks to clean ones.

My children keep leaving enticing sock snacks all over the house. I have told them so many times that the kitchen is not the laundry. Their dirty smelly socks are not to be kicked off while they are doing homework at the table. I also have been finding socks stuffed under the couch cushions. You can't see me, but I'm shaking my head.

All the men folk in this house wear the same sized socks. Yes, that includes Ben. I swear we have Sasquatch DNA somewhere in the family. The men tend to have big feet and are really hairy. D was until he shaved his head. As for the girls, Leelee and I wear the same size (that is, if i actually wore socks. I have issues with them). Kari, Lizzy and Millie all share the same size.

If you think about it, socks should be easy in this house: Men socks, women socks and baby socks.

No. Nothing is ever easy.

I've tried the mesh bags and putting like socks together. I've washed the socks in the bag, but that only helps if the socks actually make it to the wash.

Once the socks are washed, they go into a big basket. The dreaded sock basket. I'm sure you all have them. I was talking to one mom who's punishment for her children was to make them fold the sock basket. That's just child abuse, right there!

Our sock basket situation is quickly deteriorating. We can't find any matches. It's never been this bad.

It took me awhile to figure out why things are in this crazy sock state. That's when I realized we've been in this house five years! FIVE YEARS! We used to move about every 2-3 years before settling here. And, each time we moved, I'd match what I could find and toss out the rest of the socks. We'd start fresh in the new place.

I know that sounds so terribly wasteful, but the socks drive me crazy otherwise.

This Christmas, everyone is getting new socks and my gift to myself is throwing out 8 people's worth of mismatched socks.

I am fully aware this is not the best solution, and would greatly appreciate to hear from my readers the solutions they've found to destroying the sock monster!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Dec 14

This Monday is my husband's 39th birthday. I'm sure he's just thrilled that I'm announcing it to the entire world! The kids keep teasing him that now he's officially old. I have reminded the children that official official oldness happens next year when he turns 40.

I know I certainly don't feel my age. And, last time I posted a picture of myself on a forum, someone commented that I looked 12. I keep thinking that's going to come in handy and I'll appreciate my youthful appearance when I'm officially officially old.

This week will also see us very busy. We still haven't gotten around to getting a tree. Not sure when. I'm sort of lobbying for not at all. With the 3 year old, the 8 month old and a cat, the less time the tree is up, the better! Besides, the tree isn't what Christmas is about.

And I also wanted to update on the pantry challenge! I shopped last week just for fresh produce, milk and bread. I spent a whopping $48! And, I don't have to go shopping for anything but bread and milk this week, either...oh and a can of pineapple, but still...$48 for eight people for two weeks is not too shabby! I'll probably spent about $12 this week.

Monday: Hawaiian Meatballs (DH's choice)
Tuesday: Chicken Parm
Wednesday: Beef Stew
Thursday: Pizza
Friday: Church Christmas party (bringing soup and dessert)
Saturday: Lasagna
Sunday: turkey roast

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ruby Pinwheels! Blog Tour!

A few weeks ago, I was presented with the chance to be a stop on the Ruby Pinwheels blog tour. Ruby Pinwheels is a company where organic and natural meet hip and cool. They have eco-friendly and fare trade products ranging from clothes to personal care items.

If you enjoy natural products, they have a very large selection. They have super cute stuff for the holidays.

I love supporting mom businesses. I'm a firm believer that small businesses are going to be the thing that turns this economy around. I really encourage all of you to shop small businesses this holiday season, especially if you are shopping online.

As part of the blog tour, I was given a bottle of Dancing Detangler to try on my girls. Detangler is a big deal in this house, especially with four girls!

First, I want to give props for fast shipment. The turn around time was very quick. I had a question/comment on the item and was also given a quick response. So thumbs up for their customer service!

Back to the detangler. My oldest three girls have some hair issues, and I hate trying to find a detangler that works equally well on all of them. I was also a bit leary of this product because it's all natural. I'm sometimes suspect of all natural products for hair. So I'm going in to this skeptical.

First, we tried it on Leelee. She has thick hair with a bit of wave. Her problem is morning hair. It took a couple spritzes on the underside of her hair and she brushed it out without a fuss. Yay!

Next, we have Lizzy. Her problem is carseat hair. You know, where the hair gets all knotted from riding in the carseat. I didn't carry this around and spritz. I did a preventative layer to see if it would minimize the frizz. The good news is her carseat hair was less than normal.

The biggest test of this was on Danger Girl. Kari has naturally curly hair. In the morning, we call her Medusa. Her hair is *everywhere* and it's big. And when it's humid...*shudder* Her hair has left me, one who always wished for curly hair, praying that I don't have another child with curly hair.

We had to use large amounts of the detangler to get through her morning tangles. Even if she showers and combs her hair out the night before, each morning it's a complete nightmare. While it didn't totally make her hair a dream to brush through, it was a significant improvement. We had a couple low humidity days where all we did was spray the detangler in her hair just to freshen it up a bit. The only thing I really didn't like about it was that it did weigh Kari's hair down, but that probably had more to do with the amount we had to use on her rather than the product itself.

Kari was the only one who commented on the smell. She found it pleasant. The girl who sits next to her in class told her that her hair smelled like grape pie. She's in kindergarten, so who knows what she was trying to say.

I really have to give the ladies at Ruby Pinwheels two thumbs up for their products. I saw so many companies on their website that I hadn't seen before. The selection is very good!

So, go! shop! buy from a small business and buy organic and fare trade!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Pantry and Stash Challenges

I'm all about being frugal wherever I can. I love the idea of a pantry challenge right around Christmas. Use up what you have in the pantry. The end of the year is the perfect time to rotate through food stores. Throughout the year, I tend to stock up on things and well, never use them. I put them in back corners of my pantry and then totally forget about them. We usually buy fresh produce, but I'll buy dented cans of vegetables thinking eventually we'll eat them. I end up with 10 cans of peas or something.

Tonight's dinner was a perfect use it up meal.

I "big family" sized it. You can do the proportions to whatever looks like it will feed your family. D had used one of those infamous cans of peas for his lunch today so I happened to have a freshly opened can of peas to throw in the mix.

Leftover Casserole

2 C of whatever leftover meat you have on hand (I had chopped ham)
1 can cream of whatever soup
various vegetables (I used peas, mushrooms, and green onions)
1/2 C milk
Cooked rice
1 C shredded cheese
2 slices of toasted bread

Mix up the meat, soup, veggies and milk in a bowl. Stir in enough rice to fill up whatever sizes casserole dish will feed your family. Top with shredded cheese. Crumble up the toasted bread on top like bread crumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven til cheese is melted.

I was really surprised at how well received this was. It looked like one of those frightening casseroles from the 1960s recipe books. It probably was in one of those recipe books!

Another thing we've been doing a lot of is baked oatmeal. I love oatmeal on cold winter mornings. Most baked oatmeals call for applesauce. That gets old pretty quickly. My cleaning out the pantry solution is to use jars of baby food. Yes, baby food. Millie has decided she no longer cares for mushed stuff. She wants the real deal. I now have about 60 jars of baby foods in my pantry.

Many of the vegetables are getting used in recipes from Deceptively Delicious. I decided to swap out the applesauce for peaches to get a peaches and cream baked oatmeal! YUMMMY

Baby Food Baked Oatmeal

2 C oats (not instant)
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 C milk
2 T melted butter
3 jars of stage 2 fruit baby food (equivalent of 1 C)

Mix together the oats, brown sugar and baking powder in a casserole dish. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until set.

My other stash challenge going on is to use up my fabric stash. I am growing out of my limited storage. That means I need to actually sew things up. This is being a slow process as everyone has been sick with different things. Last week I had a tooth pulled and was so messed up from those meds it took me a few days to get things back in working order. Then, kids started dropping with a nasty intestinal thing. blech. I think we're healthy now. We'll see how long this actually lasts.

In the meantime, I'm sewing like a mad woman. I have several things cut and ready to go. I just need to keep the little Miss and the Terrorist out of trouble long enough to get it done! I'll be posting pictures of some of my projects in the coming days.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- Dec. 8

This week, I'm still doing the pantry challenge. I do have to stop at the store this week for some basics like TP and milk. But I'm going to use up what we have. We're going to be eating a lot of rice dishes.

Monday: Pork Fried Rice (using tonight's leftovers) and egg drop soup
Tuesday: Hot Dog Fundraiser at the school
Wednesday: Ham and Rice bake
Thursday: Mexican deep dish pizza
Friday: Katsudon
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Pot Roast

We're hopefully going to get a Christmas tree this weekend, probably Saturday. It's going to be busy, so I may just make a soup in the crockpot. That will leave us the time to get the tree up and not worry about dinner.

I made a big discovery tonight. Did you know you could use cake mixes to make cookies? I had no idea.

The basic recipe I found called for
1 box of cake mix
1 egg
1/4 C water
1/3 C oil
chocolate chips

mix with a spoon. bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

They taste like toll house premade dough cookies! I love those cookies but I can never justify the expense. I haven't figured out how these compare in price using a box of cake mix, but I do know they go together faster than cookies from scratch and they are cheaper than buying the powdered cookie mix.

I also found a few other cookies from cake mix recipes. I'm pretty pleased and now just have to make sure I don't eat them all myself!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

hair bows!

I'm just sharing this picture because I'm so excited! Girl number four and I finally get one that will leave a hair bow in!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Considering Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It's really feeling like Christmas down here in the south! Or at least like I'm used to Christmas. It's cold and rainy, just like Oregon.

With the children, we really have tried to step away from over indulging them. They have very loving and wonderful grandparents who can do that!

The sheer volume of toys and gifts that would come in to the house when we had just three children was overwhelming. Around that time, my mom began giving our family a membership to the zoo. It was a fantastic gift. It didn't take up any space and it got us all out of the house.

This year, my mom isn't getting us a zoo membership. The biggest reason is that most of the kids won't use it and it's not fair to the big kids.

Still, I didn't particularly want the kids to get more toys they'd lose interest in. Our solution was magazine subscriptions! The kids love to get mail and getting a magazine suited to their individual interests is something that will make them happy (and get them reading) all year. When Kari turned 4, my mom gave her a subscription to zoo books. Two years later, she's still looking at those magazines and learning. This year, she's getting Highlights!

Another way we are curbing the present overload is getting one large gift for the family to play with. Last year, we got a Wii. Grandma and Grandpa S helped with that one. The kids all received some games, too. This year, the same grandparents contributed towards a new TV. That one was a bit hard to hide from the kids and it's already set up in the living room. We really needed one as the old one was built last century and had a green spot.

The idea of a family gift was one that we discussed with the kids. We asked them if they wanted a bunch of smaller gifts or one large gift for the family. Kari was the only dissenting vote as she wanted ice skating lessons, and let's face it...Kari aka danger girl on ice skates is either going to be very good or very very very bad, as in amputated finger or something bad.

An idea for Christmas I really fell in love with followed this little rhyme:

Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read

How great is that? It makes shopping and idea finding very easy! Based on that little rhyme, my holiday shopping is just about over.

Christmas isn't about gift overload. It's about the birth of Jesus Christ. We've already been given the greatest gift from Him. And, it's our job as parents to show that Love to others and teach our children how to do the same. When Christmas becomes about the presents, it really loses it's meaning. I don't want that for my kids.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Nov 30...sick of leftovers edition

Raise your hand if you're sick of turkey leftovers already!

I really have no inspiration for dinner this week. *sigh* So I'm stealing from people who have already published their recipes for Menu Plan Monday LOL

Monday: turkey broccoli and rice
Tuesday: beef pot pie
Wednesday:turkey chili
Thursday: Meatball Hashbrown bake
Friday: spaghetti
Saturday: leftover buffet
Sunday: Apple Pickin' Pork

This weekend looks to be very busy. We will be going to the Interfaith Nativity Exhibit, the tree lighting at the state capitol, and the holiday open house at the fine arts museum. And that's just the free stuff!

We have to put up our decorations (tree to come later) and I need to finish several sewing and craft projects.

I have a feeling I'm going to be so busy I'm not even going to miss working the Santa photos at the mall this year.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've got PIE hopes!

I'm not sure if I'm stupid or stubborn. After 15 years of ruining just about every pie I came in to contact with, one would think I would have thrown in the towel. I entered the pie contest at the fair, and lost. The pies were pretty, but disgusting.

This year, I decided to try yet again in making a pumpkin pie. I could see the panic on D's face. I didn't buy any pies at all. He was going to be forced to eat the one pie I made.

Thanksgiving morning, I decided to make this Pumpkin Pie recipe I found on epicurious. Not only was it a pie, it was a pie recipe I had never attempted before. With my track record, it wasn't going to end well.

But I'm stubborn and figured one of these years I'd find a pie recipe that looked good and tasted good.

One secret I stumbled upon was to use milk instead of water in the crust. That has made a huge difference in the quality of my pie crusts. I also put my shortening in the freezer, at the suggestion of my grandmother.

Wouldn't you know it, but it made a wonderful flaky crust!

When D distrusts my culinary skills, he'll fill up on something else so he'll only have to eat a few bites. It's nice that he gives me that vote of confidence on Thanksgiving by loading up on dinner.

I convinced him to take a bite of the pie while I was dishing up the kids' plates. The look on his face was priceless! Shock. Total shock. Shock that the pie wasn't just good, it was delicious!

I keep all my holiday recipes in a binder so I don't have to go looking for them each year. D asked that I put this pie recipe into my binder. He wants it for Christmas dinner, too.

So, 15 years and who knows how many pies...I emerge victorious!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Curse of the pie

Will my pretty our curse continue? If it looks good it's gonna taste bad! Hopefully this year I break the curse...pretty and delicious!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Birthday Girl!

Today, Leelee turned 11! Boy has the time just flown by. She is growing in to quite the young lady.

She hopes to be a molecular gastronomist when she grows up. She's brilliant in science and she loves food, so it's the perfect career match. Her favorite school subject is science.

Leelee is my cooking buddy. She is always tasting my food and suggesting what I might add to fix things. The great part is, she's usually right! How many 11 year olds would know something could benefit from ginger or cumin or even cinnamon in a savory dish?

She is my fellow food network junkie. Alton Brown is one of her heroes. Most kids sneak out and watch cartoons. Leelee sneaks out to watch Good Eats. She's also the one pushing us to have pumpkin creme brulee instead of traditional pumpkin pie tomorrow. I mean really...what KID even knows what creme brulee is???

Her birthday cake (homemade from a box...I'm not crazy enough to do a from scratch cake the day before Thanksgiving!) is triple chocolate with dark chocolate icing and milk chocolate shavings. Little sister Lizzy helped make the cake.

I feel so blessed to have such a bright and energetic daughter. And yes, I tell her this all the time. She just rolls her eyes.

My new forest friend

And you can see a bit of my new kitchen color!

To clear it up, I am not creative enough to make this myself. I got it in a swap. Isn't she cute?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Enchanted Forest Ornament swap, apologies

You never know until you try, right?

I now know I pretty much stink at making ornaments that look like an adult made them. Sadly these are gnomes and I think the ones my kids did turned out better. I just pray my swap partner has sympathy for my skills and doesn't laugh too hard at them.

I hope the recipe, the chocolate and herbal tea (sugar cookie flavored!) make up for the awfulness of this project.

Seriously, I needed help with this. I had a picture I was trying this from. I think I need detailed instructions.


I think next time (if there is a next time) I will make a stocking or something. I can make a mean stocking. I rock the hot glue gun.

My kids think these are fabulous, so I guess in the eyes of my kids, I'm still the rock star crafting mama. They have decided that THIS is the project they want to make for their teachers this year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday-Nov 23

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I think everyone will be tossing in a lot of leftover turkey recipes over the next week. We ended up buying a 20 lb bird for 7 of us. We'll be eating turkey til Christmas!

Monday: Taco Rice
Tuesday: Salmon-broccoli cheese pasta
Wednesday: Spaghetti and birthday cake (My oldest girl turns 11)
Thursday: Turkey and all the crazy fixins
Friday: Hot turkey sandwiches
Saturday: Goulash
Sunday: turkey and dumplings

We have a friend who used to be a butcher. He offered to cut our turkey up for us. I am probably going to take him up on that. It will make it easier to cook and we'll have fewer leftovers and we can use the bird over a longer period of time.

I may just go buy another cheap bird and have him show me how to break it down so I can do it myself. Turkey is very economical this time of year. You can even make your own ground turkey breast by putting it raw through a meat grinder or your food processor.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas is coming early!

I'm at the point in my life where I don't really need more stuff. I am very content with what we have. I love that we strive to "act our wage" as Dave Ramsey says.

When you have the mentality that less is really more it takes a lot of stress out of the holidays. There's no keeping up with the Joneses to contend with. Our closest family members live 900 miles away, so Christmas and Thanksgiving is always just us and the kids. At first there was the temptation to really do up the holidays so they don't feel like they are missing out, but really the kids are just happy they aren't in school! The gifts are just a nice bonus.

Last year, we did a big family gift and the kids got a few smaller gifts. It was perfect. This year, we're doing the same thing. We're actually doing all family gifts and then stockings for the kids. Grandparents have contributed, which is great because it means they don't have to ship things.

The best part for me is that I've asked my sweet husband for his time for Christmas and he's agreed! In fact, he's starting work on my gift during our Thanksgiving break!

Two years ago, he started on a kitchen renovation. D installed the counters and cabinets. Almost an entire year went by. Last February, we got a great deal on flooring and D put in the floors. Then, before Millie was born, I finally picked a paint color and we got the walls primed. She was born in April and here it is November and the walls are still primer white.


For Christmas, he's going to finish painting! And by finish painting, I mean finishing the kitchen, the living room and the kids' rooms. What I'll probably get is just the kitchen finished and the kids' rooms primed. I'm ok with that!

Once the painting is done, we can put down the foot molding and a chair rail. Then I have to sew up some curtains.

I'm sure by the time we get all the projects done around here, it will be time for us to sell LOL

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Three Rs of Raising Kids

Most of our children's days are spent learning the three Rs of school: Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic. However, there are three other Rs that are equally important for children to learn and usually aren't emphasized enough: Reliability, Responsibility and Resourcefulness.

Reliability and Responsibility sound very much alike, but there are subtle and marked differences in what they mean in teaching children.


To be reliable, children need to know we depend on them. When they are asked to do something, they do it and in a timely manner. Consistency plays a heavy part in this. They learn to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Teaching children to be reliable can be as simple as giving them a task and walking away. No micromanaging! This is the hardest part.

Ask your child to do the task every day.

Reliability tasks are different from responsibility tasks because they involve the whole family. These are tasks that are necessary for things to function as a whole.

My 8 year old, every Monday has the task of taking the garbage down to the corner. I can depend on him to do this. He does it (or should!) without being told or without asking. If he doesn't take the garbage down, it gets stinky and he has to deal with the consequences (hosing it out when it does get emptied!)

Other examples of reliability tasks:
setting the table
emptying and loading the dishwasher
cleaning the living room


Responsibility in our home, revolves more around personal accountability. Responsibility means taking care of yourself and your things.

The children are responsible for their homework and making sure it is done. They are responsible for handing me any papers that need signing the night before. I refuse to sign any papers as we are heading out the door.

Failure to be responsible means falling short on things that impact yourself.

You are responsible to yourself. No one else is responsible for you. This includes your actions! Far too often, children engage in the blame game. I'm sure every parent of more than one child knows the blame game. So and so did such and such and one child retaliates and it goes down hill from there. Each person chooses how to react and is responsible for their feelings.

Responsibility tasks include:
Accepting accountability for feelings
Taking care of personal belongings
Personal hygiene/grooming


This is probably the most fun aspect of parenting. I enjoy teaching my children to be resourceful. It means thinking for themselves and finding creative ways to solve problems. The most important questions you can ask your child when teaching resourcefulness is "What do you think?" and "What have you tried?"

Children who are resourceful can turn a cardboard box into a robot, a castle or a stage. Resourceful children are not limited by what they see on television or what the box says. They can be short 50 cards in a deck of uno cards and still figure out how to play a fun game!

Problem solving skills go hand in hand with being resourceful. Duct tape can fix anything. A screwdriver opens up not only locked things but an entire world in figuring out how things work! Give a resourceful child a problem and he or she will find you multiple solutions. They may not always work, but trial and error is an important component of teaching resourcefulness.

A resourceful child will also use resources wisely. And, if she runs out, she will find another way to make it work.

Resourceful tasks take a bit more creativity and more communication. Set problems out for your children and let them figure it out. When we went on vacation this summer, we had a limited number of disposable cameras. The children worked out a plan themselves for dealing with it. The girls swapped cameras every other picture. The boys chose to each take 12 pictures in a row.

My most resourceful child is probably Alex. He is constantly building and creating things. When he runs out of something, he finds a work around. On the downside, he is also my child most likely to try to talk someone else in to doing his work for him!

Teaching these skills to your children can start as soon as they are walking. Start with small tasks of responsibility. Let your toddler pick out her own clothes. It's ok if she doesn't match. She did it herself. Talk to your child about her feelings and let her know they are hers and it's ok to be mad sometimes and verbalize better ways of expressing anger besides throwing the glass of milk on the floor.

As the children get older, add more tasks. The goal being that if all the adults in the house are sick, the house will still function! I have been so impressed with how my children have come together when both D and I have been sick: dinner on the table, dishes done, homework done, etc. It's those days that I realize maybe I'm doing something right after all!

Menu Plan Monday-- Nov 16

This week is the famous "I have to make room in the fridge to defrost that turkey!" edition.

I really can't believe Thanksgiving is next week. It's just too soon!

With the holidays rolling in, I'm starting to pick up in my custom sewing projects. So if you want something sewn and in time for Christmas or Hanukkah (the week before Christmas this year!) then you need to get those orders to me now! This year my little elf helpers are happily sewing adult and kid aprons, dresses up to a size 6, PJ bottoms up to a youth size 12 and tote bags from recycled fabrics.

Anyway, back to the menu ;D

Monday: Chili
Tuesday: Salisbury steak
Wednesday:Deep Dish Meatzza Pizza
Thursday: Curry
Friday: Mac n Cheese ...french onion mac or maybe cauliflower mac
Saturday: spaghetti
Sunday: Tangerine Chicken

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thrifty Thursday--Making Mixes

Whenever I see a boxed mix in the store, my first thought is "Can I do it myself?" After I determine whether or not I can do it myself, my next questions are: "How long will it take" and "How much will it cost?" I don't usually worry about whether or not it will taste the same because 9 times out of 10, making something yourself will generally taste better because you get to control the quality of the ingredients and season it just to your liking.

There are only two packaged mixes I buy on a regular basis: Krusteaz Pancake Mix and Jiffy Cornbread mix. You can make your own pancake mix, but I prefer the texture of Krusteaz and I just have to add water. So, in the long run, it's one of the few items where convenience wins out.

I used to make my own biquick mix and buy the Krusteaz, but then I thought that was silly. I started using the Krusteaz in place of bisquick in recipes! It worked. The taste is a bit sweeter and some times I need to add an extra bit of baking soda or powder.

Here's another secret use for the pancake mix: A runny pancake batter is the perfect batter for onion rings!

Onion rings at the store are very expensive compared to the cost of making them yourself. A large onion, some pancake mix, water and oil and a bit of time. It comes down to about a third of the cost of buying it from the store.

Another mix that used to end up in my shopping cart: Taco Seasoning. You can make a big batch of Taco Seasoning, or you can season as you go. I prefer the season as I go method. I toss in a couple tablespoons of chili powder. a teaspoon of cumin, some paprika, a dash of cayenne, fresh garlic, chopped onions...I just add it in until I like the taste. Many of the packaged seasonings contain high amounts of salt and msg and other preservatives and fillers. You are getting more bang for your buck this way. As you practice adding in the seasonings, you will become more confident in what works.

Just recently, I wanted to make enchiladas for dinner and I didn't have a can of enchilada sauce. I didn't panic. I turned to the internet and found several recipes for enchilada sauce. It was so insanely easy that there's no way I'm spending $1+ on a can of sauce when I can make it for half that. I know, I's only a 50 cent savings, but don't forget...quality of ingredients, controlling the flavor.

Here's my basic Enchilada Sauce recipe

In a sauce pan, heat 2 T vegetable oil. Add in 1 1/2 T flour. Make a thick paste. Add in a large can of tomato sauce. It will thicken up to be more like tomato paste. Season with 2 T chili powder, 1 t cumin, 1 t kosher salt, a dash of cayenne, a clove of minced garlic. If it's too thick, add a bit of water or chicken stock.

Now here's the fun part: Try adding a T of dark cocoa powder!

What are some of the fun sauces/seasoning mixes you've tried?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanksgiving vs the goats...and a baby too!

I recently entered a drawing over at A Southern Fairy Tale and took the challenge to tell my favorite Thanksgiving memory. For the last 11 years Thanksgiving has been completely tied to the memory of my oldest daughter's birth.

It was a rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I was sitting on the couch watching Mr. Rogers when my water broke. I called my husband who was in class (as an undergrad!) and a neighbor to drive me to the dr's office to confirm that my water broke.

At the Dr's, the nurse checked with the magic paper and said my water hadn't broken but she'd go look under the microscope anyway. While we were waiting, the baby moved and I found myself sitting in a very large puddle of water. The nurse came back and said "nope your water hasn't broken" and I pointed out the puddle of water :P Needless to say I was given a pass straight over to the hospital.

I remembered how much the contractions hurt with my first induced labor, and hoping to avoid that, I asked for an epidural. The lady came in and it felt like she was stabbing me in the back and pain went down to my toes. I decided the epidural wasn't worth it and told her to go away.

Hubby and I played some cribbage. We started watching a James Bond movie.

Those pesky contractions started hurting a bit. We were about 2 hours in to it now. I asked for the epidural again. New anesthesiologist. I sat up. They prepped my back. I had a bad contraction and said "I feel the head!"


So they have to finish what they are doing. They get me back down and say "Don't push!" and I'm like "yeah right!"

There's nothing like having an unmedicated birth when you weren't planning on one!

And soon enough my 7 lbs 3 oz daughter entered the world. Angels sang. We were happy. All was well.

I was very anxious to get out of that hospital and home. I did NOT want to spend Thanksgiving eating hospital food. But my pleading went on deaf ears and I was stuck in the hospital on Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving was traditionally hosted by my mother-in-law. At the time, their home didn't have central heat. D pointed out that a one day old baby probably didn't belong in a home with no heat. I pointed out then that he better spend most of the day with me AND bring me a plate of good food.

The plan was going well until the phone rang in my hospital room. It was my FIL. My sister's dog had gotten loose and had (and there's no nice way to say this) eaten their two goats. It was a mess. MIL and SILs were hysterical. There were goat guts everywhere. And D needed to go help.

So I was left abandoned in the hospital with crappy food while my husband went to help with the crime scene clean up.

Even tho is it a rather gross story of Thanksgiving, it has left me quite thankful of the blessings I do have: Family. I had a beautiful daughter and I didn't have to personally deal with the goat mess. And, it's a great story! Leelee has a very dark sense of humor so having her birth story tied up with the vicious murder of two goats by a dog is actually quite fitting. LOL

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday=Nov 9

Worst case scenario for us--Ida changes her track and we have a very soggy Tuesday or Wednesday and lose power for part of the day. That means my plans of crockpotting most of the week will have to go on hold.

So we're going with quick and easy and using the oven this week.

Monday: buttermilk fried chicken
Tuesday: Beef Stew
Wednesday: Zesty Chicken Tortilla Bake
Thursday: goulash
Friday: spaghetti
Saturday: kids choice pizza
Sunday: Sauerbraten

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Noise Annoys

Being a parent is hard. People are always asking me how hard it is to raise a large family.I don't think it's all that different than raising three kids. Once the kids outnumber the adults, it's really more about crowd control. It's not harder, just noisier.

You really learn to tune things out, which is sometimes not always a good thing. You get used to a certain level of noise and when it gets quite, you know something is wrong. We visited friends this summer who have two autistic boys. There were 12 kids in the house between our two families. Needless to say, their autistic boy became overstimulated very quickly. He literally ran circles around the kitchen table flapping his arms. None of the adults paid it any mind. It was really no big deal. He wasn't hurting anything. Compared to the excited girlie shrieks, it wasn't even all that annoying. He was just there, doing his thing.

My kid on the spectrum, however, deals with things differently. He goes off in to his own little world by delving in to the computer. He's learned to tune out everything that is too much for him by hyperfocusing. And, like when mama and daddy tune things out, it's not always a good thing.

We've used the computer and TV as a reward for good behavior. The children get an allotment each day and if they go above and beyond, they can earn more time. Conversely, if they break the rules, they lose their TV and computer time. This has always been the rule at our house. Unfortunately, with so many people in the house, the TV seems like it's always on because it's always someone's turn. The noise level goes up! up! up!

And remember, this mama has ADD and my sensory trigger is noise. This creates an unhappy mama. This then creates a downward spiral of mama's mood as the day goes on. By bedtime mama is ready to pull her hair out. I end up staying up way too late just because it's quiet. On a good night, I'll turn in around midnight. On a bad night, I'll get sucked into the last night when I watched that woman give birth on a webcam.

I get up with the kids and usher everyone off to school. By this point, I'm completely exhausted and left to deal with homeschooling the oldest, parenting the terrorist 3 year old and the 7 month old. As the day goes on my mood sours because I'm tired! DUH! How many tantrums have you seen your toddlers throw because they are overly tired?

So now we're trying to work out some sort of balance. How can mama get the quiet she needs? How can the kids be allowed to be kids? How can mama get some sleep?

The biggest change for us is going to come from dropping the homeschooling. The boy is going back to public school. I'll blog on that more later. Long story short: We had a learning contract and he's in non-compliance. Sometimes following through with consequences means doing things you'd rather not do.

The bright side, is now I get to not only finish weaning my 3 yr old from me (she's not even really nursing, she just asks and pretends) we get to wean her from TV! I think this may even prove more painful LOL But the noise level in the house should go down and I'm really hoping that simple change will make for a happier mama. And maybe less TV will result in a happier 3 year old!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Really? I didn't think I was dumb...

I consider myself a pretty savvy mom. I don't call the doctor over everything. If I call the doctor, he knows it's serious.

But today, not one but two of my kids fake sicked me out. With daddy in bed with a little worse than a man cold and a teething baby, I'm already not sleeping too well. I guess they just got in under the radar.

Leelee managed to fake it this morning. She had an actual temperature and if anything is over 99 degrees they are sending them home from school straight away. No other symptoms. Just the vague "I don't feel good" and she brought me the thermometer. Somehow she got just enough of a fever to stay home. One of those two sick to go to school (because everyone is terrified of swine flu) but too well to stay home.

The school called this afternoon and I knew it couldn't be good news. Ben who had claimed he was sick this morning and did not have a fever was now complaining of sore throat and tummy ache. These were the exact symptoms his friend A has. Great. Friend A has strep.

Meanwhile D is moaning and groaning and sleeping. He got up and played video games then went back to bed. I'm thinking we're going to have to institute the same rule for Daddy as the kids: If you're too sick to go to work or school you're too sick to have the TV and computer!

While I ran to pick up Ben (and Kari because I was not about to drive back to the school for her in an hour), I called the dr's office to try to figure out what medication D can take. Drug interactions and all that stuff. Ran to walmart with my "sick" kids in tow because I'm just that kind of as far as putting the car in park before realizing that I left my debit card at home. By the time I got back home, I found Leelee outside playing and DH snoozing. Thankfully the little terrorist three year old was also out cold so the damage to the house was minimal.

Back to Walmart I ran and picked up some meds. Came home and collapsed. I couldn't help it. Mama fell asleep.

When I woke up, the house was quiet. That's never a good thing, either. It was quiet because my "sick" children were all outside playing.

Somehow Ben managed to fool the school nurse, too.

Amazingly, the minute I ask anyone to do anything around here they are all too sick to move.

I am so done with this.

Everyone is going to school, including D, tomorrow. And for good measure I'm going to send them all to school Saturday, too. Punishment and all that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cool things I've learned

I'm really excited about something I learned last week. It's not earth shattering. It's not even profound. It was just one of those cool tips that won't change my life but will make things easier.

Did you know that storing your PLASTIC WRAP in the FREEZER will prevent it from sticking to itself when you take it off the roll?

I tried it. It works. WOOHOO

I'd love to compile a list of "hey wow! that works!" tips. If you have one, please share it here and I'll make a big post!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Little Blends Winner!

I'm excited to announce the winner of the Little Blends contest :)

It goes to Storm, the Psychotic Housewife!


Pop over to her blog and tell her congrats!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Nov 2

I can't believe it's November already! This year is flying by. This month not only do we get to celebrate Thanksgiving, we also get to celebrate Leelee's 11th birthday.

On the kiddie front, we also have Millie who has decided at the ripe old age of 6 months, that she can pull up on everything and cruise the furniture. She is in that bumps and bruises stage now as she has also decided she can LET GO while she's hold on to things. Christmas is going to extra fun!

On the kitty front, we have one more kitten left to place in a home. Paco is the one always in trouble. Everyone who has looked at the kittens has shied away from Paco. I guess this kitty just looks like trouble LOL

The weather has also cooled off here! It was actually cool enough for Halloween night that we had to wear coats. It's usually in the 80s. This week looks to be in the 70s so for down here, that's practically soup weather!

We aren't having soup this week, but it's nice to think about!

Monday: Beef Stir Fry
Tuesday: Herb Roasted Chicken (crockpot)
Wednesday: taco rice (since we didn't have it last week!)
Thursday: some sort of chicken--ideas appreciated!
Friday: Spaghetti
Saturday: homemade pizzas (kids choice!)
Sunday: Asian Peanut Pork Roast (crockpot)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Necco Wafers...blast from the past candy

When the box arrived full of Necco Wafers, I wasn't sure how my kids would react. We've used Necco Wafers in the past to decorate cakes, cupcakes and gingerbread houses but we rarely just ate them. This was going to be a new treat for all of us.

I went to the Necco website and learned a few interesting things about the company

  • Necco stands for New England Confectionery Company
  • It started in 1847 and is the US's oldest multi-line candy company
  • They also make those fun Conversation Hearts for Valentine's Day
  • Necco Wafers went with Admiral Byrd when he went to the south pole
  • The US gov't requisitioned most of the Wafers in WWII because they shipped easily to the troops
  • Necco Wafers are fat free, don't contain High fructose Corn Syrup and use all natural flavors and colors)
  • In addition to the 7 traditional flavors, they now have a chocolate roll with 4 flavors
We sampled both the chocolate and the traditional flavors.

I've always been a fan because it's a sweet treat and it takes awhile to eat. That means I'm going to make my sugar fix last longer.

The reaction among the kids was mixed, which isn't surprising.

On the chocolate variety, my daughter who hates licorice didn't care for the candy at all. There is something seriously suspect about the opinion of someone who doesn't like licorice. The 12 year old who has texture issues really loved the candies. He came back for more and screamed "I love them!"

The kids really preferred the classic variety, especially after I explained they needed to suck on the candies for awhile and not chomp on them right away. Long lasting sweetness is much better on their teeth!

I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween candy! We are totally candied out here already.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

French's Recipe Contest

This so isn't a cooking blog, but I know lately it seems that way! I do love to cook and I also love entering cooking contests. On the heels of my third place finish in the Spam cookoff at our fair, I decided to enter the French's Cookoff with a recipe that I'd actually eat! My recipe is for French Bread Cheeseburger Pizza. It's pretty darn tasty and always a hit with the kids. Please go vote for my recipe by visiting the link!

One reason my kids love this recipe is they get to help in the kitchen. When we were making this last night for dinner, my three year old held the cheese grater. It was a pretty big deal to her and she just grinned and told everyone how she helped make dinner. How can you go wrong with a recipe when you're kids get to help out?

French Bread Cheeseburger Pizza


1/2 cup FRENCH'S® Classic Yellow® Mustard

1 loaf of french bread

1/2 cup ketchup

1 lb ground beef

2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 small onion, chopped

12 sliced pickles for garnish


Preheat oven's broiler. In a large skillet, brown hamburger. Drain off any fat. Add the chopped onion. Turn off heat. Add in French's mustard and ketchup and stir to coat ground beef. To prepare french bread, cut in half. Scoop out some of the inside of the bread to make a "gutter." Spoon meat filling into gutter. Sprinkle on cheese and garnish with pickles. Place the french bread halves under the broiler and broil til cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

bonus recipe--corn dog muffins

I've been looking for an excuse to try these Corn Dog Muffins from Once a Month Mom. I discovered this website by following @onceamonthmom on twitter. I am absolutely loving her recipes. I wish I had the capacity in my freezer to do more freezer cooking.

I didn't have an after school snack ready for the kids today so this was the perfect excuse!

My 8 yo helped make these and I'm pretty sure he could make them by himself, aside from pulling them out of the oven. Very easy recipe. And instead of butter, Ben gets to use his favorite condiment of Ketchup, which is always a good thing for him.

Corn Dog Muffins


  • 1 Jiffy Cornbread Box Mix
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 hot dogs, quartered or diced


Dice up the hot dogs. Mix the Jiffy mix, milk, and egg. Stir in the hot dogs. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool.

Freezing Directions:

Once cool place in gallon freezer bag and freeze. To serve: reheat in microwave for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.

Menu Plan Monday--Oct 26

Today is Lizzy's third birthday. I can't believe she's three already. I'm really looking forward to the terrible twos to be OVER. I'm a bit afraid that the terrible twos will turn into the terrifying threes. :P

She loves to help me in the kitchen and has ruined quite a few dishes for me. She'll add random ingredients like water and salt when my back is turned. The biggest disaster so far is when I was in the bathroom and she decided she wanted eggs. So, she cracked a half dozen eggs into a fry pan...the one her dad used to make breakfast in before he left for work. It was dirty so the eggs had to go down the drain. I'm a bit reluctant to admit she didn't get any shells in it either...I don't want to go encouraging her or anything!

Lizzy hasn't expressed any desire for a particular meal for her birthday other than "chicken" but all meat is chicken right now (except for hamburger).

Monday: Lizzy's bday meal (some sort of chicken)
Tuesday: chicken stir fry
Wednesday: Chilli @ the church
Thursday: taco rice
Friday: pancakes
Saturday: pizza
Sunday: Shredded Beef and carmelized onion enchiladas

Friday, October 23, 2009

A freebie from Little Blends

I'm a big fan of getting kids to eat their veggies. I mean, what parent isn't? While my kids are generally very good about eating vegetables, it hasn't always been the case.

My oldest has texture issues. He really doesn't like mushy foods. That means most cooked vegetables, he won't eat. Give him raw veggies and he'll chow down. But not all veggies are edible in raw form, so he eats a lot of the same things.

I'm also not above "hiding" vegetables. I do it, not so much to sneak nutrition in to my kids, but to say to them "Hey, you just ate squash and it wasn't so bad!" or when they claim they've never eaten it before to let them know they had eaten it and liked it. Once they get over that fear of the unknown, they are much more likely to try the vegetable again.

Little Blends is a yogurt that does the work of finding the right balance between fruits and veggies and sweetness to entire kids into eating something that might otherwise be rejected. The real bonus to me with Little Blends is not so much what it has but what it's lacking: There's no added hormones, no artificial ingredients or flavors and no high-fructose corn syrup. For those of you who like to read labels (I know I do!) Little Blends also have 25 percent the recommended daily value of protein, 20 percent daily value of calcium, 20 percent of Vitamin A, plus D, Iron and probiotics. They also contain DHA and omega-3s which help with brain development.

Yogurt is a super food in general, but Little Blends have made super super food by pumping it full of extras.

The folks over at Little Blends would love for you to try their product for FREE!

One of my lucky readers will get this lovely prize package of an insulated Thermos snack jar, a Little Blends spoon and a coupon for a free four pack of Little Blends yogurt!

To enter, visit Little Blends and comment below with which flavor you plan to buy with the coupon comment. Be sure to include your EMAIL address so I know how to contact you if you win! You can get an extra entry for following my blog. Please let me know in a separate comment if you're a follower.

The last day to enter is Oct. 31. I'll use to pick a winner!

**disclaimer** The folks at Little Blends provided me with free products in exchange for my comments on their product **

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mustard Tarragon Roast Chicken review

Last night I had a bit more time for dinner and I wanted to make something that was a bit more fancy...or at least fool my family into thinking I had spent a lot more time on dinner than I had. After the week of craziness at the fair, I felt they deserved a few nights of better foods.

I'm always looking for new ways to cook chicken. It's a staple. I didn't really want to BBQ and I didn't want another casserole. I think we're all casseroled out right now.

I was using Stumble and found this recipe for Mustard Tarragon Roast Chicken. It calls for noodles, but my husband is rather anti-noodle. Instead I made him eat a sautee of summer squash on the side. Squash is always a nice substitute for noodles. The kids like squash with sauces because it covers up the taste.

This went together very quickly but tastes like you spent a lot longer on it. I imagine it could be adapted to a crockpot meal quite easily for those extra busy days.

Mustard Tarragon Roast Chicken


  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 12-ounce package egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine


  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the garlic, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes.
  3. During the last 15 minutes of roasting, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Add the parsley and the remaining oil and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken to individual plates. Place the pan containing the drippings over medium-high heat. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine reduces slightly, about 5 minutes. Divide the noodles among the plates and spoon the sauce over the top.

Recipe Review: Southwest Tortilla Wraps

I really love The Psychotic Housewife's blog. She always has something going on and is posting delicious fast recipes. Tonight's dinner was taken from her menu this week, but naturally I had to tweak it a little bit to stretch it out for 7 eaters. I added rice and my own seasonings. It's amazing how much rice and beans will stretch out a pound of hamburger.

This recipe was a big hit with the kids. It came together very quickly, which was good because I got home late tonight. DH liked it as well and it should pack well for his lunch tomorrow. My stretching made enough for 12 wraps. DH ate two and the 12 yo ate three and there were 2 left for lunch.

This will definitely go in to our stretch a meal file!

Southwest Tortilla Wraps

16 oz corn (frozen or canned)
12 oz diced tomatoes (I used 3 chopped fresh tomoatoes)
1 can (or equivilant) kidney beans
1/2 pound ground beef (I used 1 lb)
taco seasoning (or try a mixture of cumin and chili powder)
8-10 burrito size tortillas
shredded cheese as desired
1 C cooked rice--my stretch it further step

Cook ground beef, drain, stir in taco seasoning.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while continuing the recipe.

Mix corn, tomatoes, and beans with ground beef in a large mixing bowl.

Spoon mixture as desired into tortillas. Sprinkle small amount of shredded cheese on top of mixture, close with toothpicks. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Top with dollop of sour cream if desired before serving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teaching Tuesday--Traditions

Traditions may not seem like they have much if anything to do with teaching, but it's through traditions that we teach our children the values we want them to pass on to the next generation.

I grew up in a family with very few traditions. My mom was a single parent until I was 16 and spent much of her time working and going to school. Still, each holiday season my mom made the time to bake cookies. We were dirt poor and my mom is a wonderful baker, so she gave of her talent to people for the holidays in the form of plates of cookies. I believe her record one year was 80 DOZEN cookies. She would start baking at Thanksgiving and would go til just a few days before Christmas. We were expressly not allowed to eat any of the cookies. Mom did give us permission to eat the broken and burnt ones.

What I learned from my mom wasn't just that "it's the thought that counts" but more along the lines of "you don't have to have a lot to give a lot" and a knife can scrape off burnt parts and a glass of chocolate milk can cover up a lot of burnt cookie taste.

Once I got married, I wanted to continue the cookie tradition. This is when I learned that I'm not my mom and I don't have to try to be! I don't bake well. My husband does not listen to the "don't eat those!" and will sneak cookies behind my back or just plain eat the cookie dough I have chilled in the fridge. It was time we established our own family traditions because mine weren't working!

I married in to a wonderful tradition that we've continued with our children. Christmas Eve they are allowed to open one gift. It's always PJs. My mother-in-law started this tradition with her children out of vanity necessity. Her boys always wore out their PJs and she wanted to have them in nice PJs for Christmas morning pictures.

Another family tradition of ours started quite by accident. One holiday, we wanted to give the children a lesson on serving others. They had been fighting more than usual, so D and I decided they needed to learn to serve each other. Into a hat each of our names went and we each drew someone in turn. During the week prior to Christmas, we were to do secret acts of service for the person whose name we drew. And, each person needed to make something special for that person, as well.We were to be Secret Service Santas! It was a huge success. It made such an impact that the next Christmas, the children came to us and wanted to know when they were going to draw Secret Service Santa names again! They came to us so excited for the acts of service they had planned. One of my little ones even asked if it were ok to do service for someone else in the family in addition to their special person. It was one of those moments where, as a parent, you know you've done a good job.

Our traditions don't just revolve around the holidays. Each child is taken to lunch with either mom or dad on his or her birthday. Any restaurant. I would be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to be out of the McD's and BK stage with some of the kids! This year, Leelee has requested Olive Garden. It totally makes up for having to suffer through years of chicken nuggets.

Of course, we also have our traditions of entering at the fair and our futile attempts at gardening each year. These are meant to teach our children that even if you fail, you can still have fun and eventually you may succeed! I'm still waiting for the gardening success. Instead, I guess I have to pretend that these traditions we're creating with our children are little seeds we've planted. Eventually, they will sprout and carry on, bringing love and nourishment and encouragement to our children. (That seriously didn't sound nearly as sappy in my head).

Menu Plan Monday--Oct 19

Now that fair week is done, it's back to the grind.

Here's this week's menu:

Monday: Beef Pot Roast
Tuesday: Baked Chicken
Wednesday: Dijon Pork Chops
Thursday: Southwest stuffed tortilla wraps
Friday: Spaghetti
Saturday: Leftover topped pizzas

I know it's not that exciting, but I have to ease back in to things gently. LOL

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We are big winners!

Since last the fair blog was updated, we added several more ribbons!

The pie was a massive flop. I have this curse: if a pie looks great, it tastes horrible. If it looks horrible, it tastes good. As you could see from the picture I posted, the pie was beautiful. Naturally, it was completely inedible. I tried it and didn't at all blame the judges for not awarding us a ribbon.

The next day, we did quite a bit better. We took two ribbons in sewing: third place in dressy clothes ages 2-6 and second place in school clothes ages 7-12.

Saturday, I managed to pull a third place win in casseroles using Psychotic Housewife's Mexican Bake recipe. Yes, it's that good! I hadn't actually planned on winning (I never do) and told the family they'd be eating the leftovers for dinner that night. As luck would have it, the dish was wildly popular at the fair and everyone wanted a taste. There was nothing to bring home.

Leelee and I also entered chicken recipes but we didn't do so well. It was unseasonably cold (in the low 50s) and the building where the event is held is not heated. By the time the judges got to my dish, it was ice cold. Ice cold chicken soup is not a good thing. Leelee made a hawaiian BBQ chicken quesadilla that was wonderful, but she wasn't lucky enough to place either. Still, we had fun and that was the most important part!

While I was making dinner tonight, the phone rang and it was the director of the Creative Living Center (this is the area of the fair where all the cooking and crafts take place). She said that our family had won an award and wanted us to be at the fair tonight to receive it! At first I thought she meant that I had won one of the drawings. This year, when you entered a cooking event, you received a ticket to enter to win some Royal Prestige cookware. I was desperate to win that, but was a bit confused why the whole family needed to be there. That's when I realized we had won something else.

Our family had actually won the Family Traditions award! This award is given to the family who wins the most ribbon points in a minimum of three categories. I was quite surprised to find out that our family, even though we didn't win first in anything, had earned this one! We received a blue ribbon, a lovely plaque and some prize money! Certainly I didn't expect our family to win anything. The CLC director made a comment about me being at all the events with the baby on my hip and being quite sure that's exactly how I must be at home. She said she remembered cooking and doing everything with a baby on her hip, too.

After we received this award, they did the drawing for the cookware. And guess what?

I won that, too!

It's actually a 7 pc set of royal prestige stainless steel bake ware. I was needing to replace mine anyway, so this was perfect.

I'm not normally a person who wins things, but wow... if we had lottery here, I'd be inclined to go buy a ticket!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red hot cheesey apple pie

My pie entry for the fair
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

a shout out & thank you! & laundry

I participated in an apron swap and my partner was Mary Grace She sent me the most amazing reversible apron. It's gorgeous. It was so gorgeous I put it on promptly and made dinner and spilled all sorts of things on it and now it's in my laundry. My laundry is uhh...well, let's not talk about my laundry right now.

I welcome any and all laundry advice, however. Managing laundry for eight people is no easy task and one I avoid at all costs. This means I usually end up with an email from my husband that reads:

"Dearest Wife:

My feet need socks. Matching ones would be nice, but not necessary since I've been wearing mismatched socks for a week now.

Your Patient Husband"

So uhh, yeah, me and laundry...not on friendly terms.

ANYWAY, back to the awesome apron package. She also sent me the cutest little pumpkin figurine. I've been using it to decorate my table settings at the fair cooking contests. I also love how she sent me a tiny candle and,...CHOCOLATE. Dark chocolate even. My favorite. And some candy bracelets. The kids found those and I had to pry their grubby little paws off them. I *heart* me some candy bracelets.

I'll post a picture of it soon! As soon as it's washed.

Pictures from the Fair

We are further suspending normal blog activities to share our fair experiences. Please bear with us til Saturday when all the fair fun will be done for another year!

Last night was the youth sewing and yeast baking. I do not feel bad at all for not placing. The person who took second place, IMO, should have taken first. It was the most incredible loaf of bread I have ever eaten. My apple bread paled in comparison. I also noted that the judges prefer blueberries. Every time someone has entered something with blueberries, they've placed first or second.

Leelee entered her recycled skirt in for the youth sewing. She used an old bedsheet with a funky pattern to make a three tiered skirt. She tends to be accident prone, so I really didn't want her using my serger. I taught her how to do a French seam. It wasn't pretty but she gave it her best shot. Some of the sewing by the other children was absolutely amazing. I was rather surprised to see that Leelee placed second!

and here's Kari with her award for cupcakes :)

Tonight is Pie Day. This is one of the biggest events of the cooking contests. I pretty much stink at pies but I like to try this one each year because it's a challenge for me. Tonight I've decided to make an apple pie with a coconut macaroon top crust. One of my favorite flavor combination is probably going to be lost on the judges: I love apples with cheese.There's a chain of fast food places in Colorado that sells a tostada with apple pie filling, cheese and cinnamon red hots. It's delicious. But it's a bit scary sounding. I'm afraid the judges will probably not like that particular twist in a pie. I'm taking just as big of a risk with the coconut topped pie. Who knows how many times I may change my mind today!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Seriously Spam? Winning recipes

As we were driving to the fairgrounds for our entries tonight, I told D it would be very ironic if I placed in Spam. I pour my heart and soul into dishes and keep losing. And, I put very little thought or effort into my Spam recipe. I didn't even try it. I hate Spam. I think it smells like catfood.

Needless to say, we were visited by the irony fairy as not only did Leelee place third with her Orange BBQ Spam Stir Fry, I placed third with my Spam Ravioli!

I know when I promised winning recipes, I certainly wasn't expecting the first round of recipes to be Spam!

Leelee's Orange BBQ Spam Stir Fry

1 can less salt Spam, diced
1 bag stir fry vegetables
1/2 C orange marmalde
1/2 C hoisin sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 T hot sauce
1 C chicken stock
brown rice

In a large skillet, stir fry the spam and veggies. In a large bowl, mix together the marmalade, hoisin, soy and hot sauces. Add in the chicken stock. Pour over the spam and veggie mix and heat through. Serve over brown rice.

Spam Ravioli
1 can less salt Spam
2 T tomato paste
1 T romano cheese
2 T chopped parsley
1 package wonton wrappers
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Boil a large pot of water.

In a food processor, combine Spam, tomato paste, cheese and parsley until smooth. Place 1 T of mixture in a wonton wrapper and seal the edges.

Drop ravioli in to the boiling water. Ravioli are done when they rise to the top.

Pour warm spaghetti sauce over the top and serve.

Menu Plan Monday-Oct 12

Fair week is in full swing. So far, we've only had one win. I expect that to change tonight with the Great American Spam cookoff.

Our entries this year: Spam stir fry (Leelee), Spamball marinara subs (ben), and Alex's tribute to iCarly Spam Spaghetti Tacos. The kids have talked me into entering as well. I'll be making Spam Ravioli.

The kids will be forced to eat their creations for dinner tonight. Hubby and I are enjoying some rare frozen dinners LOL

The Menu

Monday: Spam-a-lot
Tuesday: Baked Pork and Apples
Wedneday: pie day at the fair, crockpot chicken
Thursday: taco bake (entry for the Casserole contest)
Friday: pizza leftovers
Saturday: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (entry for the chicken contest)
Sunday: beef roast, potatoes

For those wondering about our Pizza leftovers night, I make pizza dough and we take whatever leftover meats we have and dump it on a pizza crust and add cheese. It's pretty fun for the kids. They get to make their own pizzas and i get rid of the leftovers!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday's Fair update

As usual, the little old ladies at the fair think my cooking sucks. I made an amazing biscuit and still didn't win.

The good news is Kari, 6, took third place in cupcake decorating. She's pretty excited. This was Lizzy's first year competing. She could barely see over the table. We thought she might win with a sympathy vote.

Monday, we are entering four recipes in to the Spam cookoff.

If we actually win any cooking contests, I'll post the recipes. I'm not sure if you all want to sample my loser recipes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Redifining Girly with Pigtail Pals

My oldest daughter's first full sentence came at about 18 months. We were at the store getting clothes and she said "NO mama! I want pink one!" If there was ever a girly girl, it was Leelee. Even at a small age, she loved pink, kitties, ponies, babies and by age 4 was going through several outfits a day asking us "Am I fashionable?" Even now at almost 11, she loves clothes, make up and all the traditional girlie stuff (she does, however, have a secret dark sense humor!)

Contrast this with my second daughter. When she got her first baby doll, she threw it across the room and screamed "Let's wrestle!" She is more concerned with playing and getting dirty than she is anything fashionable. Bathing, in her opinion, is completely optional. Kari has been to the ER for injuries more than any of the other kids combined...and she's only six! When she was a toddler, we called her the evil demon monkey child because she climbed everything. It didn't matter how high, she'd get in to it. If you want to find Kari you look in two places: in the dirt or in a tree.

It has always been easy to find clothes for Leelee. She loves quirky yet stylish clothes. She is sure of who she is and that's great!

But what about Kari? Where were her orange and yellow clothes? Where were the clothes showing that girls didn't have to be stuck in pink, purple and barbies? Where were the clothes showing girls digging in the dirt for dinosaurs or climbing mountains or driving race cars?

Until a few months ago, there weren't many options. Then came Pigtail Pals.

Pigtail Pals is dedicated to "redefining girly" by showing "girls that they may be bold, adventurous and heroic just like the boys!"

In the face of all the pop princess divas, Pigtail Pals is opening the door for a new kind of message: Girls can be whatever they want! Girls are shown in a positive way in typically male dominated fields.

As a mom of four girls, this is a message that has been taught in schools and preached by parents, but until now, has been absent from wardrobes. If you walk into any major clothing store, the girls clothes are plastered with pictures of pop divas, princesses and kitties. Completely lacking are the clothes showing girls with dinosaurs, trains, fire trucks, and race cars. And it's just not fair!

My girls deserve to have clothes they like, even if it isn't pink and purple fluff. Heck, my three year old loves trains but have you ever tried to find little girl panties with Thomas? They just don't exist! So, she wears boys unders and we deal with it.

That's why companies like Pigtail Pals, mom owned invented and operated, are so important. They are giving voice to those girls who aren't content, even in childhood, to be boxed in to stereotypes.

I want to encourage you to check out Pigtail Pals and see the great things this small business is doing for girls.

And, if you're concerned about the economy, remember that small businesses like this one are what is going to turn things around. If you support small local businesses you are helping in big ways!

**as per the FTC stuff: I haven't received any free products. I haven't received any compensation. I just think this company rocks!**

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ways to use up Halloween Candy

hey, check out these great ideas from my guest post over at 3 Boys & a Dog!


How not to lose your marbles over dinner

As a mom of six kids, people usually ask me question that begin with "How do you have the time to..." With smaller families and busier schedules, it's hard to imagine finding enough hours in the day for larger families to accomplish much of anything! Like anything, it's all about how you manage and plan your time.

Over at Twittermoms, Samsung is sponsoring a sweepstakes for a new refrigerator, and let's face it, unless you've recently remodeled with an unlimited budget, we all want a new fridge! My fridge didn't get updated when we did our renovations earlier this year, so I'm desperate for any chance to get a new one!

This brings us to our Teach It Tuesday...How do I, as an insanely busy mom of 6 kids, get dinner ready quickly without losing my marbles?

Step number one is always know the location of your marbles.

That is to say, get a look at the big picture for the week. Where do you have to go? What do you have to do? Then plan a dinner around that!

It really doesn't take that long to sit down and plan your menu out each week. A menu doesn't have to be set in stone. It gives you an idea of what meals you can serve during the week. When you go to the grocery store, you know what food you need. This means you aren't staring at the refrigerator wondering "What can I make?"

I always plan with a schedule in mind. Wednesday night is our most chaotic night. The kids and D get home around 4:30. They have to leave at 6 for activities. During that hour and a half, we have to get all the homework done and cook dinner. D has to make any parent calls, so he's pretty much unavailable to help. It's a complete three ring circus. If I'm not careful, instead of being the ringmaster, I'll end up the lion roaring at everyone and pacing around in my cage. Every Wednesday night, we have something quick and easy. By Quick and Easy, I mean something I can whip up in about 15 minutes.

Step two is use your marbles slowly.

If you are concerned about time in the morning to put everything in the crockpot, get everything ready the night before after life has slowed down a bit and keep it in your refrigerator until you are ready to go! This is why having a removable crock is one of the most important features of a slow cookers.

Utilizing your slow cooker helps you give your family a hearty meal with the illusion that you put a lot more effort in to it than you did.

The best part about them is they are dump and go. You drop the food in. You turn it on (some even feature a delay timer!). When you get home, dinner is D-O-N-E!

The most important part about that scenario is that you actually turn the crock pot ON. I've left the house one too many time times thinking dinner is going to be wonderful when I get home, only to be missing those yummy smells when I walk in the door because I never turned the crock pot on.

This brings me to step three: Have extra marbles.

Having a disaster plan is important in every aspect of life management and dinner planning is no exception. Whenever we have leftovers, even if it's just one serving, I use my vacuum sealer and place it in the freezer. This is an instant frozen dinner. The kids get to have all the fun of picking out what they want to eat without standing in the frozen foods aisle waiting for them while the clock is ticking away. You also don't lose valuable time waiting for fast food or the pizza man.

Disaster plan dinners also include those meals where you always have on hand. Around our house it's pancakes or from scratch mac n cheese (it doesn't take that much time!) These meals are also great for those nights you try a new recipe and it fails miserably.

Dinner is one of those things that is really intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, really isn't all that bad. It can be an amazing time for the family.

The final step is to share your marbles.

Sharing always makes life easier and happier for everyone. Meals made together and eaten together make for quality time together as a family. Allowing your children into the kitchen to help with dinner teaches them important skills ranging from math to following directions to gaining confidence. Who doesn't want their kids to learn those things? And best of all, everyone still has plenty of marbles left at the end of the day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- Oct 5

This is the start of the crazy week for us. The fair starts Friday.

In order to make my life easier, I'm cooking for dinner also what I'm entering at the fair :)

Monday: Chicken Soup
Tuesday: beef stew
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: burgers
Friday: Spicey Orange BBQ stir fry
Saturday: pancakes
Sunday: pork roast

And don't worry, I'll be sharing any prize winning recipes :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Makin' Noodles

We're running a few days behind this week, but that's not totally unusual. The fair starts next weekend and we spent time this week getting our entries together!

One big problem with entering the fair is I live in the land of deep fried butter and fried chicken and I come from the land of organic kale and baked free range organic baked chicken. Many of those healthy ingredients I'm used to, just aren't readily available here at a price I'm willing to pay. For example one of our favorite meals pre-move was yakisoba. It was very inexpensive at $1.25 for a pack of noodles and the seasonings that serve 4. Here, a similar pack of noodles that serves 2, sells for $3 at a certain mass retailer.

The choices when it comes to whole grains pastas are very limited. The only solution was to learn to make my own. And, the lack of a pasta maker on freecycle meant I needed to learn to make my own by hand!

To be honest, I was incredibly intimidated, but I figured what harm would it do? What was the worst that could happen? It could be totally nasty and gummy and I'd waste a whole lot of food...

The good news is that I hit it out of the park on the first try thanks to this recipe for Homemade Whole Wheat pasta (without a machine!)

I opted to make lasagna. This is something that D normally hates. He hates all pasta anyway. The kids will eat just about anything. I had a back up meal for Mr. Picky ready to go in the fridge and with lasagna, I figured the kids would inhale and then tell me it was gross later.

The best tip from this recipe was to roll up the pasta like a jellyroll then slice. My pasta was even! It was thin. It wasn't gummy. And, the shocker of them all...D actually liked it! The kids have not cared for much in the way of whole wheat pasta, but it proved my point that dishes prepared from scratch usually taste better than their store bought counterparts.

The lasagna recipe is one I got from my friend Lyn.

Lyn's Lasagna

1.5 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg
1/4 romano or parmesan cheese
2 C mozarella cheese
2 C cheddar cheese

1 recipe for Whole Wheat pasta noodles, cooked.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, brown the ground beef. Add the diced onion and cook til onions are tender.

Mix egg, romano and cottage cheese together and set aside.

Mix together mozarella and cheddar cheeses and set aside.

Spread a spoonful of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish. Layer Lasagna noodles, followed by 1/3 of the cottage cheese mix, then 1/3 of the meat mixture. Top with several spoonfuls of the spaghetti sauce and 1C of the cheese mixture. Repeat with remaining noodles, cheeses, meats and sauces. On the top layer smother with sauce and cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cheeses are bubbly and gooey.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A very Frugal Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the spooky fun of it and it's a great excuse to watch one of my favorite movies. And, let's not forget the candy and the costumes!

When I was a kid, each Halloween we'd go over to a now ex-relative's house when it was time to pick a costume. She had this old trunk that, I swear was older than she was and at the time, I thought she was older than the trees! The trunk had that musty smell that old trunks seem to have. It must have been a mixture of mold and moth balls. I have, thankfully, never smelled anything like it since. The trunk was brought out early to air out so we didn't smell old and dead, unless that's the look we were going for.

The trunk was full of magic: Costumes and vintage clothing. We got to dig through the trunk and decide what we wanted to be for Halloween. I remember one year, I was a southern belle ... with a full hoop skirt.

As a kid, I never had a store bought costume.

Once I had kids, I was shocked by the quality of costumes in the stores. If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you usually end up with a costume that falls apart. It's like throwing money away and I hate throwing my money away.

One of the best ways to get good costumes is to buy a year ahead. Hit the stores for the after Halloween sales. The costumes go on sale for 90 percent off at some stores! I pick up Halloween decorations the same way. Online retailers will also drop their costume prices significantly. The closer it gets to Christmas, the lower the prices get. Heck, I give my kids costumes FOR Christmas presents, so it's a great way to get ahead on the shopping, too.

Fall consignment sales also offer a bounty of costumes at rock bottom prices.

Freecycle is always available for getting things for You need to be open to whatever anyone might be giving away. We picked up a fabulous mummy costume several years ago from a local freecycler. The boy didn't really want to be a mummy, but the costume was cool enough he changed his mind.

Thinking outside the box, you can also hit your local thrift stores to create your own look or see if they have costumes ready made. Thrift store shopping is great for finding just the right vintage look.

Never underestimate what you can do with a hot glue gun and some creative thinking. Various animal ears can be made with cheap dollar store headbands and craft foam. Add in some homemade face paint, hot glue more fun foam or felt to solid colored sweats to create "fur" and you're ready to go!

This year, we're using and re-purposing from our own special trunk of dress up clothes. Our favorite cheerleader is now going to be a zombie cheerleader. She's going to be hanging out with her pet roadkill bunny. Along side of those two: a cow girl (cowboy hat from the dollar store, jeans, and a thrift store pair of cowboy boots). And, the mummy costume is being pulled out for another year (it really is a great costume!)

Unlike the costume trunk from my childhood, the one at our house is open year round. Dress up clothes foster creativity. Around here, the dress up clothes are used so much that I could probably justify paying full retail, but I just can't do it. LOL