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,..my 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.

Yikes.

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.

So...

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.

Reliability

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

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

Resourcefulness

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 know...it'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!"

yeah.

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 internet...like 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 mom...got 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!

Yay!

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)