Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Family Pictures

While everyone in my family was together for Christmas, we got our family picture taken at Portrait Innovations. This was our first family portrait since my sister and I both got married in 2004.We were all pretty pleased with how they turned out!

Stretching Maple Syrup

You know how you do certain things and never even think twice about it? This is one of those tips.

My family visited last week and I served pancakes with real maple syrup for breakfast one morning. One of our baby steps to a healthier diet included switching to real maple syrup.

I probably don't need to tell you how expensive real maple syrup is. We have been purchasing it at Costco in a large container which is a better price than the regular grocery or health food store, but still...it is costly.

We try to just use less on our pancakes but how do you do this when you're pouring out of a large container?

My husband's solution: Instead of pulling the seal completely off the top just tear or poke a small hole in the top instead. It makes it much easier to control the pouring and less comes out.

I hadn't even thought about it until my sister commented on what a good idea it was since they always have trouble with pouring too much. It's so simple but it really does work!

Some other ideas for making the maple syrup last longer or more frugal options for drowning your pancakes:

1) Use less.

2) Pour syrup into a small container or pitcher. Small containers will often help us to be more mindful of our consumption because it's obviously not an endless supply.

3) Use honey instead.

4) Spread pancakes with peanut butter and jam. We especially like apple butter.

5) Make a fruit syrup by cooking and thickening fresh or frozen fruit. My mom would make fruit syrup for us and it was a great treat! Stephanie makes a syrup that is very similar. This is especially frugal if you have fruit on hand! Strawberry, peach, blackberry and blueberry were always our favorites! Raspberry would be delicious, too, but not as much of a frugal option where I live.

6) FishMama sprinkles powdered sugar on her children's pancakes.

7) Pancakes made with fruit such as Banana Oat Pancakes may be sweet enough that they do not need syrup.

8) Make your own syrup. This will not be the same as real maple syrup but is an option. I use to do this all the time before switching to natural, unrefined sweeteners. I think it would still work with Sucanat or Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals but I haven't tried it yet.

9) Dip pancakes and waffles in the syrup instead of pouring it on the plate. This would especially work well for many young children who like to dip foods. This would eliminate the puddles of syrup left on the plate after the pancakes are eaten. Use small ramekins or little "dipping bowls".

How do you like to eat your pancakes and waffles?

**This post is part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat From The Pantry Challenge: My Plan

For the month of January, I'm joining in with Life as Mom and Money Saving Mom for their Eat From The Pantry Challenge.

Today Money Saving Mom is asking those of us participating to link up with our goals and plans.

I've never done this before, at least not to this extent, so I'm really not sure what to expect. I would like to do this for the whole month, but am definitely shooting for 2 weeks and then seeing where I stand food-wise.

My "Eat From The Pantry Challenge" plan will go something like this:
  • Plan meals from my freezer, pantry and refrigerator with very few new purchases. I still have around 10 meals left from my Freezer Cooking Day in November as well as a good amount of meat, veggies and grains so I will focus on using those things up. 
  • Spend no more than $50 on groceries for the whole month. This will be mainly fresh veggies and fruit, eggs and dairy products. I'm not sure if I'll be able to reach this goal but I'm aiming high. 
  • Save the remaining money and put it aside for bulk grocery purchases throughout the year. I was already planning to set aside $50 each month during 2010 to enable me to purchase more items in bulk such as grain, grass-fed beef,  local in-season fruits and veggies to can and freeze, coconut oil and other hard-to-find items that I cannot find at good prices locally, and maybe even help with some of the costs of garden plants and seeds.  We want to order a 1/4 beef this spring so that is a large sum of money coming up rather quickly. Saving  more money this month would surely help towards that purchase! A 1/4 cow would last us for about a year!
  • Be creative and stretch what we have to feed us for a month. I thrive on creating dishes out of what I have on hand and I love to try new recipes so this is the part of the challenge that I'm looking forward to the most!
  • I'll be posting each week on how it's going, what we're eating along with some recipes, and how much I've spent that week on groceries.
 Edited to Add: I went through and listed all the food in my house to help me with the challenge. If interested, you can see my pantry inventory list here
    Want to join me? Read all about it here!

    Sunday, December 27, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday

    Christmas is past and it's time to get back into the swing of things around here. November and December were very very hectic months for me and I feel as though life is finally settling down a bit.

    We had a houseful of family here for the week of Christmas.Our tiny cottage was jam-packed. But we had a wonderful time together. My parents and brother were here from Oregon and my sister and family visited from Upstate South Carolina. It is rare that we are all together so it was fun and we had our family picture taken(or made as they say down here in the South) while everyone was here.

    We had wonderful food to eat. My sister and I prepared a yummy appetizer dinner for Christmas Eve and then we had a delicious ham dinner on Christmas Day. I baked 2 small hams and we ate one and then nibbled on the other for leftovers. We'll still be eating off the 2nd ham this week. Yum!!!

    Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom are hosting an Eating From The Pantry Challenge in January and I plan to join in. I may only do it for 2 weeks or maybe the whole month. I'll have to see how it goes. I have plenty of food stocked up in my refrigerator, pantry and freezer so it only makes sense to take a little break from shopping and use up a lot of that yummy food! I'll probably still buy some things like dairy, eggs and fresh produce as needed. The challenge begins January 1st.

    Another fun twist is that I'm cutting eggs out of my diet for at least a month to see if I can clear up a pesky rash that keeps hanging around. I have no idea what is causing it. I've already changed to an all-natural soap and a different laundry detergent with really no improvement to speak of so far. Certain jeans have been a likely suspect(maybe the dye?)  so I've stopped wearing those. It could be caused by just about anything. In the past 3-4 years, I've had multiple "mystery outbreaks" of hives or rashes and have not been able to pinpoint the cause. Some come and go quickly and others, like this one, stick around for awhile. I had various allergic reactions to different foods, soaps, detergents, etc. as a child and teenager and it appears that it's returning again. I've noticed that this rash is noticeably worse on some days than others so it's likely that it is food-related.  After eggs, milk and wheat will be the next major food groups that I will eliminate, if needed. And after that, if needed, perhaps some allergy testing!

    Anyways, that's probably more than you wanted to know about my rash!!! I wrote all that to say that I will not be eating eggs for a little while.

    Here's our menu for the week. The menu items in italics are what I'll be eating if the other contains eggs and anything with ** indicates a prepared item from my freezer.

    B- Leftover biscuits, oatmeal, clementines
    L- Fellowship potluck- veggie plate and leftover pumpkin pie
    S- Ham and vegetables

    Ham and Vegetables: In crockpot: ham bone with a little meat still on, 3 potatoes, 3 carrots and 2 stalks of celery, half of an onion, all diced. Cover with water and cook on low most of the day. During last hour of cooking, I added 2 cups frozen mixed veggies. Remove ham bone; chop meat and return ham to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste and serve! This is a nice variation to ham and beans and can be made really any way you want it with what you have on hand. Can also be made in a pan on the stove.

    B-Peanut butter toast, fruit smoothie(banana, pineapple, frozen blueberries and cranberries)
    L- Ham and vegetables, homemade bread
    S- Church meeting- plate of cookies

    B-Orange Juice Millet, sliced apples
    L-Ham sandwiches, veggies and dip
    S-Homemade pizza(crust is premade**),steamed broccoli

    B- Muffins**, toast, smoothies
    L- Leftovers
    S-Stir-fry with chicken**, mixed veggies** and rice**

    B-Oatmeal, fruit
    L-Hummus**, tortilla chips, veggies, sliced apples
    S- Baked Fish Chowder(new recipe), homemade bread, fresh veggies

    B- Pancakes**, leftover oatmeal, fruit
    L-Traditional New Year's lasagna, (made without eggs for yours truly) salad, garlic bread
    S- Football Snacks while watching the Rose Bowl: Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes.
    Go Ducks!!!

    B-Cold cereal, fruit
    S-Tomato soup, ham bundles( Sooo good!!! I'll be using this egg-free dough instead and making them as crescents.)

    What are you eating this week? 

    **For more menu plan inspiration, head on over to Organizing Junkie!

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Christmas Survey

    1.) Have you started your Christmas shopping?

    Yes and it is all finished except for a few stocking stuffers.

    2.) Tell me about one of your special traditions.

    Andy and I bake our Christmas goodies together every year. Even though this takes place in November, another special tradition is packing our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

    3.) When do you put up your Tree?
    Usually somewhere in the first or second week of December.

    4.) Are you a Black Friday shopper?

    Not usually. I sometimes go with my sister or sister-in-law since they love it. I wouldn't go by myself though.
    5.) Do you Travel at Christmas or Stay home?

    Both. This year we're staying home and my whole family will be here visiting. Since neither of our families lives nearby, we often travel for the holidays.

    6.) What is your funniest Christmas memory?

    Not sure if this is the funniest, but most certainly one of the most memorable! The Christmas that I was eight years old, our family went out to eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. This was a great treat to us since we rarely ate out in those days. I was not feeling well that day but seemed to be well enough to go eat. By the time we were done eating, I was not feeling well at  all. The restaurant was very crowded and as we walked out, I threw up right between tables where people were eating their Christmas dinners! Mom took me to the restroom to clean me up where I threw up again. A very nice lady followed us to help out; she was so kind and very concerned for me. It was quite embarrassing and I remember very clearly now that one lady said, "Oh gross!' as I was throwing up near her table! Well, no wonder!!! What I remember the most though is that I cried and cried on the way home and Mom and my sister tried to console me that it was ok. But what I was most upset about was that I was wearing a brand-new coat I had gotten for Christmas-my first brand-new coat ever- and I was afraid the vomit stains wouldn't come out! As soon as we got home, Mom washed my coat for me so I could see that it would look as good as new! And it did. Apparently I was quite proud of that new coat!!!

    7.) What is your favorite Christmas Movie of All time?

    All three Santa Clause movies, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

    8.) Do you do your own Christmas Baking? What’s your favorite treat?

    Yes. Our very favorites are Chocolate-Peanut Squares, Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels and Chocolate-Mint Cookies. Recipes and directions for all can be found here.

    9.) Fake or Real Tree?

    Real. We cut our own at a local tree farm.

    10.) What day (as a Mom) does the actual panic set in to get it all done?

    Don't know. Not a Mom. :-)
    11.) Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve?

    Not usually. We're not often home on Christmas Eve!

    12.) What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas?

    Holiday baking, driving to see the Christmas lights, picking out gifts for all the nieces and nephews.

    13.) What Christmas craft do you like the best?

    I don't really do a lot of Christmas crafts, per se. I do enjoy making many of my own gifts most years. I didn't make many this year, thus the reason for being done with my Christmas list so early!!!

    14.) Christmas music? Yes or No. And if yes, What is your favorite song?
    Yes, yes, yes. We love Christmas music. I don't really have one favorite. Two favorite albums are Veggie Tales Singing Christmas Tree and Denver and The Mile High Orchestra's Timeless Christmas. I do love Michael W. Smith's song Welcome To Our World and also Jingle Bell Rock  for some odd reason- maybe because Cherished Dog's name is Rock and it just cracks me up!

    15.) When do you plan to finish all your shopping?

    Either this weekend or early next week.

    Any blogger is welcome to participate in this meme, even if you haven’t been tagged yet. Just simply copy and paste the questions into your blog, and then answer them. Then tag 5 or more of your favorite blogs, and leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.

    When you post your blog, please spread some Christmas cheer, and leave a link back to Heather's Top Ten Christmas Blog, and the blog that you were tagged by (I wasn't tagged, but I found this at In This Season.)

    Any bloggers who read this are tagged to do this survey if they'd like!

    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    New Stuff In My Shop

    There's a new batch of fun stuff in my shop tonight!

    Here's a  sampling of what you'll see:

    Cute little wallets

    Drawstring purses

    Be checking back the rest of the week as I'll be listing more each day.

    **I will refund shipping to you if you're local and would like to arrange your own delivery. 

    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    My First 5K !!!

     Welcome to the Reindeer Romp! Isn't that a fun name for a run?!?
    I'm excited to announce that I ran my first 5K this past weekend! It was so much fun and I met my personal goal of running the entire thing.

    Before the run!

    I wasn't concerned with my time but I surprised myself by running the entire 5K in a few minutes less time than I have done before in my regular routine! According to my time which started as I crossed the start line, I finished in 37:47.  According to their time which started with the gunshot, my time was 38:29. I was almost at the back of the pack to start so it took a bit for me to cross the start line. I finished about  middle of the pack.

    After the run!

    To run a 5K was one of my personal goals for 2009 and I am so happy to have accomplished this. For a while it didn't look like I would be able to do it, but I did! It has not been easy at all but over time I have built up some stamina and more endurance. It's exciting to look back at when I first started and to see how far I've come! God is so good!

    I'm definitely planning to continue running. Don't think a marathon is part of my future at this point, but you never know!

    We'd like to thank BB&T and Piedmont Medical Center for making it possible for this reindeer to romp!!!