Saturday, February 27, 2010

Out And About-Freezer Cooking Edition

While you're roaming around in the blogosphere this weekend, enjoy these worth-while reads! If you've ever wondered how to pull off a freezer cooking day or do Once A Month Cooking, these links are for you! You can read about my small cooking day plans for next week here.

Crystal shares how she plans for a big freezer cooking day at Money Saving Mom. This is how I generally go about planning my cooking days.

If your excuse is that you don't like casseroles, Jessica from Life As Mom shares how to make freezer cooking work for you.(Guest post at Money Saving Mom.)

If you're low on time, Erin shares some freezer cooking shortcuts at $5 Dinners.

The Once A Month Mom site has oodles of wonderful freezer recipes as well as complete monthly menus to help you pull off you own OAMC spree!

Have a great weekend!

Mini-Freezer Cooking Plans

Fish Mama and Money Saving Mom are again hosting Freezer Cooking Days during this weekend and Monday and Tuesday of next week.

All of my freezer meals have been used up from my Freezer Cooking Marathon in November and most everything else I've stashed in there since then has been depleted too.

After the Eat from The Pantry Challenge in January and being that this is now the end of February, my pantry and freezer shelves are looking a bit bare.

I really wanted to get a few things back in the freezer since it makes my life so much easier to have either a whole dinner or dinner components all ready!

So I looked through what I have on hand and decided to plan a small Freezer Cooking Day for next week. I'll probably do most of it on Tuesday but I might do some on Monday too.

Last weekend, I made a batch of freezer meatballs and froze several meal-sized portions of cooked brown rice.  The week before had me cooking a big pot of white beans and freezing several baggies.

This will be mostly a baking day since those are the ingredients I have in stock. I'll do whatever I can and just add other main dishes and stuff at a later date.

My plan for this Cooking Day is:

  • One batch whole wheat bread
  • One batch whole wheat pitas
  • Two batches French bread (One batch made into ham and cheese bread by layering meat and cheese on the dough before rolling into a loaf. )
  • Carrot cake to take when visiting family next weekend.
  • Cook and chop one bag of chicken leg quarters for future casseroles, soups, etc. 
  • Freeze broth from chicken.
We'll see how this goes but it should be totally doable. It will be nice to have some baked goods at the ready again! I'll be blogging about my freezer cooking on Tuesday.

**To read more freezer cooking plans or to link up with your own list, visit Money Saving Mom!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Making Your Home A Haven: Paper Pile Progress

How's that for alliteration?

Or for fun, try saying it 5 times in a row, really fast.

Paper pile progress. Paper pile progress.

Anyways... I am so easily distracted!

This week's Making Your Home A Haven challenge was to get rid of some paper piles in our homes by filing, shredding and pitching.

"Hello, I'm Mary Ann. I'm a piler. Especially when it comes to paper."

I can't just throw it away. Oh no. I must stack it and pile it. When it becomes too much, I then throw everything in the junk room office/sewing room and close the door. There the piles grow and multiply until one day it takes me one whole day or more to deal with it.

Apparently, I like to do things the hard way.

This week, I tackled some of the paper piles. I say some, because I'm sure there's more lurking about.

On Tuesday evening, I cleaned off my hutch which is a hot spot for clutter and paper. I also spent a long while shredding the pile of stuff that's been stacked on the shredder for a long time.

The clean empty space was wonderful!

On Thursday, I gathered up several piles of paper from around the house, piled them up and took a  picture to show you.
After the photo shoot, I got to work! I pulled a trashcan over so I could fill it.

Then I sorted.

Most went into the trash.

Some went into the "To shred" pile. (Anything with our names, address, or personal information.)

A little was sorted into categories to file.

My husband helped me with some of the sorting. It took a LONG time. There was a lot of paper there. I was also making pitas at the same time.

When we were done sorting, I started to shred. Our shredder which has not been working the best lately, all but stopped working. So I bagged up the rest of the "To shred" documents and set them aside to shred when our shredder starts working again or we get a new one. Whichever happens first.

Note that I did not throw them back in the dungeon where they could continue to grow and multiply.

See, I'm making progress!

What was left was to file the rest of the papers. Which I did. The filing cabinets need to be reorganized but that will be a project for another time. I also got most of our tax information organized.

I'm so glad I got this dreaded chore out of the way. Such a good feeling!

Next week's challenge: Do an outside chore that we've been putting off.  Not that I know anything about that.:-)

**Thanks to Monica for hosting the Making Your Home A Haven challenge!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Homemade Pita Pockets

 Freshly baked pita pockets.
Today I made pita pockets!

I've made pita pockets twice before, years ago. If I remember right, they weren't that great. Of course, that was in the days before I could cook or at least, cook well consistently.   

Practice and determination makes all the difference in cooking, folks. I am living proof!

Anyways, back to my pitas. I love pitas. They are so good stuffed with all kinds of yummy.

Back when I was single , my sister and I used to enjoy eating at a little restaurant called Sprouts. They had this huge array of fresh salad fixings and you could choose whatever you wanted in your pita. I would sometimes meet my sister at her office and we would walk about a block to Sprouts for lunch. Their soups were fantastic, too.

I've been meaning to make pita bread for a while but finally got to it today. I used this recipe for whole wheat pitas from Tammy's Recipes. I used freshly ground hard white wheat and then rolled them out in unbleached white flour. They turned out really soft and moist.

Pitas are not difficult to make but do require a few steps and space. What I really liked about this recipe was the complete and detailed instructions and the fact that it's a pretty small recipe and only made eight , which was so much easier and quicker to deal with than a bigger batch!

Pita pockets should have a hollow middle that creates a "pocket" when cut. We filled some with egg salad for lunch. Of the two I used, only one had a really nice hollow middle. The other, I had to carefully work all the way open using my fingers and a knife. From what I understand, a lighter touch when handling the dough creates a nice hollow center. This takes practice, I think!

Whether these all open perfectly or not, they are still delicious. Pitas also make great crusts for quick pizzas!

What kinds of good stuff have you been baking lately?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Homekeeper's Journal

Here’s What’s happening …..

In My Kitchen ….baked some cookies, froze a batch of meatballs. Making plans for a small-scale freezer cooking day next week.

What I’m Reading …the second half of the book of Mark. I really need to get to the library for other books! Any suggestions for books to read? Christian fiction is good as is anything on healthy, natural and frugal living. As far as fiction goes, I prefer the lighter reading, not anything too heavy or scary.:-)

What I Have Been Learning …keeping up with "trouble spots" in my home by doing  a little bit of cleaning in that area every couple of days really does work! I now have an open space to fold laundry or set baked items to cool. Yeah!

What I’ve Been Noticing ….little signs of spring. Saw my first daffodil of the year this week. Lots of robins flocking about.

On The Back Burner of My Mind ….planning my garden. I finally ordered my seeds this week. This will be a learning experience for sure!

In The Deepest Darkest Recesses ….lots of emotions, thoughts and feelings swirling around. Can't put it all into words!

**Thanks to Sylvia for hosting the Homekeeper's Journal!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This past weekend we attended a FREE Sale that was advertised on Craig's List.

A yard sale where everything is FREE?

Oh yeah!

A family was moving and decided to get rid of a room full of stuff by offering it for free. They did ask that no one be greedy but only take what you could really use because there were a number of folks attending. I thought this was completely fair!

Most was kid's stuff: toys, clothes and some baby supplies, so not too much that we needed. But I did find two pairs of pants for my nephew and two cute frames I know I'll be able to use.

Several years ago, a church in our neighborhood did a back to school event where they had a "yard sale" but at no charge. They had the goods divided up into several sections of clothing, housewares, school supplies, toys, etc. and gave each person a pre-specified amount of  tickets that could be used to "purchase" items from that area.

I think having a FREE Sale is such a  neat idea and would be a great way to get rid of stuff in a short amount of time as well as blessing others with your generosity.

Baking Pan Basket

Because of space limitations, not all of my pans are in the most convenient of locations. And sometimes, I get really tired of taking a whole stack of pans out of my cabinet, finding the one I want and then putting them all back.

While puttering around a few months ago, I came up with the idea to put a basket for pans on top of the refrigerator.

This basket holds only a small selection of pans, but is a variety of the ones that are used the most.

What's in the basket?

  • muffin pan
  • cooling rack
  • 5 bread pans
  • 8 inch square Pyrex 
  • small baking/cookie sheet
  • cutting boards 

    This simple little set-up has been such a  time-saver.  It's easy to grab what I need and also to put it back away after washing. It's also cute in a useful way.

    I have learned  that in a small space one needs to practice aesthetic practicality- creating a cute and homey feel while still making the space work for you. Baskets and other pretty containers often make this happen in my home.

    Having my pans within arm's reach works for me!

    **This post is a part of Works For Me Wednesday!

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday: The "Making It Last Until The End Of The Month" Edition!

    It's the end of the month and I'm out of grocery money. So I'm making do with what we have on hand and planning the whole week's menu from that!

    No worries though, we have enough food that  we won't be going hungry! We're a bit low on the veggies and fresh fruit, so we'll be eating up what we do have in stock and then getting a fresh supply next week!

    The fruits and veggies we do have are:
    small amount of fresh spinach
    half bag of frozen corn
    half bag of frozen broccoli
    2 baggies of frozen shredded zucchini
    frozen blueberries
    frozen bananas
    frozen cranberries
    canned pineapple
    canned mandarin oranges

    We'll be eating applesauce and a few smoothies for our fruit this week and then polishing off most of the veggies, too. Lots of carrot sticks coming up!

    Anyone have a good pita bread recipe? I'm planning to make a batch of pita bread this week.

    Freezer meals are marked with a **.

    To Do: freeze cooked rice in meal portions; thaw fish
    Breakfast: leftover waffles, applesauce
    Lunch: chicken rice soup**, crackers
    Supper: eat at church meeting. I'm taking a dessert.

    To Do: start pita bread?; thaw chicken
    Breakfast: leftover oatmeal, yogurt with frozen blueberries
    Lunch: egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
    Supper: baked fish chowder, homemade bread and butter, applesauce

    To Do: make pitas; soak lentils and rice; prepare baked oatmeal
    Breakfast: cornmeal mush with cheese, green smoothies
    Lunch: leftovers
    Supper: Israeli spice chicken, hummus**, homemade pitas

    To Do: thaw bread
    Breakfast: baked oatmeal with raisins, milk
    Lunch: leftovers or pb and honey sandwiches
    Supper: lentil and rice casserole, homemade bread and butter, cheese, carrot sticks

    To Do: make pizza crust(extra to freeze); soak pancake batter
    Breakfast: leftover cornmeal mush with cheese, smoothies
    Lunch: leftovers
    Supper: meatball pizza, steamed broccoli

    To do: plan and prepare food for Sunday
    Breakfast: leftover baked oatmeal, milk
    Lunch: leftovers or salmon melts
    Supper: pancakes, scrambled eggs, applesauce

    What's on your menu this week?

    **Thanks to Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday!

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Out and About

    While you're roaming around in the blogosphere this weekend, enjoy these worth-while reads and fun ideas!


    I want to make one of these cute pinwheel quilts (@ Magnolia Manor.)

    Even though we don't observe Lent, this is a great list of frugal meatless meals (@ The Working Home Keeper.)

    These sewn notecards and envelopes are really sweet. I'm especially excited about  the directions to making my own seals. How fun is that? ( @ Sew Mama Sew!)

    I can't wait to follow these directions to making my blog recipes printer-friendly (@Tidy Mom).

    Are you called? A thought-provoking post (@ The Haut House.)

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Be Sure To Get A Rain Check!

    My frugal tip for today is to always get a  rain check if the store is out of the sale-priced item that you were hoping to buy.

    It can be frustrating to not get the product that is at such a  good price. And very disappointing if you had really good coupons to use in conjunction with the sales, too.

    When I first became a serious bargain hunter, I wasted a lot of time running from store to store and even making several trips to the same store  in one week in hopes to catch the great bargain in stock.

    Nowadays, I'm much calmer. If the sale-priced product is out of stock, I simply ask for a rain check. I keep it in my wallet and use it after the shelves have been re-stocked. Even if they're out of the specific flavor you wanted, you can get a rain check!

    A few things to keep in mind:

    • Ask for the quantity that you want.  Bi-Lo lets you buy as many of the product as you want with a rain check, unless there is a limit posted in the ad. Other stores will mark the quantity that you want on the rain check and only allow that many to be purchased at the special price.
    • Check your coupon expiration dates. If the coupon will expire before the shelves will be re-stocked, ask the cashier or customer service rep. if you will be able to use the expired coupon. Most times, they will allow it and write something akin to " Use expired coupon" on the rain check. Stores vary, though, so be sure and ask!  Be aware that most stores will not triple or super double your coupons after the event is over, even if you got a rain check during that time. Instead, the store's normal coupon policy would apply. 
    • Keep the coupons with your rain checks so you won't lose them. You can staple or paper clip them together if you want.
    • CVS gives rain checks even on items that generate Extra Care Bucks. Just be sure to have the cashier copy the price and product info from the ad. They will print the ECB's for you when you use the rain check. CVS' rain checks do not expire, so you can use it next week or even next year if you'd like! 
    • Walgreens gives rain checks but you will not receive Register Rewards after the sale is over. I much prefer CVS' policies! I try to hit Walgreens early in the week if there is a Register Rewards deal that's especially appealing to me.
    • Sometimes the store will substitute something else for the same price. Last fall, I accidentally grabbed the wrong bags of dog treats, thinking they were the ones on sale. It turned out that they didn't even carry the treats that were featured. So they gave me the ones I had picked up (which were the same brand but a larger bag) for the same price! I don't know who was happier- me or  Cherished Dog!
    • Some sale items may not be available for rain checks. Especially if the ad states "While supplies last" or "No rain checks." Each store is different.
    Asking for (and then using) rain checks saves me money and time!

    **For more frugal tips visit Life As Mom!

    Making Your Home A Haven: Errands

    I'm really loving the Making Your Home A Haven challenge! I'm beginning to see some of the fruits of my labor. I am much more relaxed with regular planning and following a routine. I'm also much more productive. Knowing what I need to do each day and jumping in and getting it done has left more time for other activities that I enjoy.

    This week's focus was errands. Monica encouraged us to find what works for us and build on that.

    Well... I will go ahead and admit that I usually do not like running errands. I do like to get out of the house occasionally though, so running errands is a good way to do that. :-) Also, some things just need to be done and running errands is one of them.

    That being said, I try to keep my errand running as short as possible. But lately, it hasn't been as streamlined as it could be. If you read here much, you'll notice a recurring theme. I love structure and schedule!

    While doing childcare in my home, I would run errands on the days I had no kids. For a long time that day was Thursday, then later it was Friday. During the time I had kids full-time, I did my grocery shopping one evening a week and my husband did most of the other errands for me since I often wasn't able to get to the bank or post office during business hours.

    Now that my schedule is much more open, I find myself just running here and there for quick trips instead of being more planned and intentional with my trips. Not good for optimum productivity!

    It's high time to pull it together and  streamline my errand running a bit more. This week I thought a lot about what day would work the best and how I could make it work better for me.

    Here's what I came up with:

    • Do the bulk of my weekly errand running and grocery shopping one morning a week. Right now I think Thursday will work the best. I've had time to view the sales match-ups, sale ads, Earth Fare releases their weekly coupon on Wednesdays and it's closer to the weekend but not Friday or Saturday which are always so much busier! I am much more productive when I'm at home most of the time and not out running around. Funny how that works, huh?
    • Streamline how many stores I stop at. We are not that far in driving distance from most stores but our town is one of those where it is almost impossible to make several stops without backtracking somehow. If I were to pick 1 grocery store and 1 drugstore to shop at most consistently based on sales, coupon policies and location, I would pick Bi-Lo and CVS. So I will plan on doing most of my shopping at those 2 places. Depending on the deals and what I need that week may mean that I make a quick stop somewhere else too. Also, the occasional post office, library or other stop may be necessary some weeks.
    • Do my errand running when I'm planning to be out anyways. I'm out early almost every weekday morning to run or exercise so I'll plan my trips then so that I don't need to make a second trip out later in the day. My exercise routine is not usually as long on Thursdays so that extra time will be nice to get me home and ready for the rest of my day before it's too late in the morning.
    • Be flexible! Some weeks, I may need to run a few errands on other days, too. We like to visit thrift stores on most Fridays or Saturdays, so we often plan a few other stops while we're out. This is probably the most logical time to stop at Aldi if I need to shop there that week.
     This is what I'm working on. I'm excited to be getting back on a more effective routine for grocery shopping and errands.

    **Thanks to Monica for hosting Making Your Home A Haven!

    ** I'm looking forward to next week's theme/challenge: attacking the paper piles by filing, shredding or tossing them. Ahem! Both  my home and I will benefit from this activity. :-)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Homekeeper's Journal

    Here’s What’s happening …..

    In My Kitchen ….French bread, beef and bean tortilla bake(which I made up with what I had on hand and was delicious!), lasagna soup, beans soaking.
    With My Marriage ….. a little respect on my part goes a long way!
    What I’m Reading …the first half of the book of Mark, thumbing through cookbooks looking for new ideas! I really need to get to the library for more reading material!
    What I Have Been Learning …to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just do my best, even if it's not perfect or the to-do list is not completely crossed off.
    What I’ve Been Noticing ….the bondage and oppression that so many people, including Christians, are under.
    On The Back Burner of My Mind ….buying and starting seeds, summer family reunion in Florida.
    In The Deepest Darkest Recesses ….wondering exactly what special calling God has for me. Wondering if I already know and it's just not clear yet? I know He'll reveal it all at exactly the right time. :-)

    **Thanks to the Christian Homekeeper for hosting Homekeeper's Journal!

    The Spices Of My Life

    While cleaning my kitchen cabinet and purging spices, I made a list of those herbs and spices we use most often.

    Our favorites:

    1) cinnamon
    2) nutmeg
    3) ginger
    4) cumin
    5) red pepper flakes
    6) chili powder
    7) paprika
    8) salt
    9) pepper
    10) basil
    11) oregano
    12) thyme
    13) garlic powder
    14) minced onion
    15) bay leaves
    16) curry powder
    17) dill weed

    We also like lots of garlic! I mostly use fresh garlic at the present time, so it didn't make the list but it is one of our favorite flavors!

    Some spices I only use when I make pickles such as turmeric and mustard seeds.  Ground cloves and sage are two more  that I only use periodically but often enough to keep. I put these spices in the freezer to keep them fresh.

    Some that I threw out because I never use them and they were old:
    • dried rosemary
    • tarragon leaves
    • coriander
    • seasoning salt
    What are your favorite spices and herbs? Please share!

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Kitchen Cabinet Clean-Up

    This kitchen cabinet has been on my list to clean and organize for quite some time now. Since making the change to more real food, my storage needs have changed somewhat. Instead of three kinds of sugar, I now have Sucanat and honey. In place of canola oil, I use olive and coconut oils, both of which are purchased in large containers. I am nowhere close to the perfect real foods kitchen, but I continue to take baby steps towards a more natural lifestyle.

    Other than needing a good cleaning, this cupboard really didn't look that awful.  It just needed to be organized not only to look better but better suit my needs. In my small kitchen, this is the only cabinet for food storage. I try to keep most of my baking supplies here. There is also a small bookshelf in the kitchen that houses fresh non-refrigerated produce, canisters of more baking supplies, and massive containers of vinegar and olive oil. All other food items are stored on a shelf in the laundry room or in the dining room.

    My goals for this project:

    • Clean the cabinet; wiping down shelves and cleaning all grungy jars and bottles.
    • Throw out old stuff or items we no longer use.
    • Reorganize and purge spices and herbs. Some spices were not frequently used and were at least 5 years old. I also wanted to get rid of all the various containers and put them into matching glass jars, of which I had plenty. (I purchased most of these at thrift stores for 10 cents each.)
    • Use the space to store more of my dry goods. Utilize glass jars for whatever I could.
    This job probably took me about an hour and a half to complete. The bulk of the time was spent with the spices: purging those I didn't use, deciding which ones I use most often and transferring those to the glass jars. When I refill spice bottles, I set them on a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet catches the spills and make clean-up so easy! An appropriately sized funnel would also work as would a homemade "funnel" made of paper. I like using the cookie sheet.
     Filling spice jars on cookie sheet for easy clean-up.

    I buy many spices in bulk and store the large containers in the freezer for freshness and longer storage. Some folks prefer to just use the large containers and not mess with small jars. It takes a good amount of time for my small family to go through a large spice container so refilling small jars works better for me.

    Among the items I threw out were baking chocolate(expiration date 2008), seasoning salt that I only used once, Karo syrup that we no longer use and was also old, empty jars and bottles that had never been discarded, old spices and herbs. I also ended up recycling a huge pile of plastic spice bottles. When I did childcare, I would keep these for projects, but I really have no need for them at the moment.

    The dated orange Tupperware containers (a newlywed yard sale find) were put into the donate pile and replaced with various glass jars. I love the clean look of glass versus plastic and it's nice to be able to easily see the contents. Eventually, I'd like to switch everything over to glass as I find more jars.

    A label maker would've been really nice but I didn't have access to one nor did I have any labels on hand, so I  improvised. I took the cheap-o route and used some cute sticky notes, Scotch tape and a permanent marker. My mom gave me a cute set of sticky notes similar to this one for Christmas and I've enjoyed using them! So much more fun than plain yellow.
    A six pack carton holds various jars and bottles of vinegars, liquid smoke, etc. The Glad box stores bread bags and twist ties.

    I can't believe how much more space I have now! I'm actually storing quite a bit more than before, too. Having a clean and organized cabinet works for me!

    And the question of the day: What do you use alum for and why did I have it in my cabinet? (One of the items I've never used; I wonder why I bought it.)

    **This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday- Valentine's Day Edition

    Isn't Valentine's Day fun?  We celebrated by taking a day trip to a nearby town on Friday. The day was spent poking through antique stores and thrift shops. One of our favorite pastimes when spending time together! My sweetie pie took  me out to lunch, which is always a highlight. We hurried home mid-afternoon to beat the snow that was supposed to appear that afternoon. We were home only a little while before it started to snow and it was so beautiful! They had said that only an inch or so was expected for our area but we ended up getting about 4 inches. Most of it was gone by Saturday afternoon, but so pretty and fun while it lasted!

    We celebrated our Valentine's Day with time together and special food. Because of the snow, our church fellowship was postponed to noon instead of the usual mid-morning time. We still had our weekly potluck and just ate first instead of at the end. I cooked our traditional valentine's day steak dinner in the evening. Over the past few years, Andy's grandparents have sent us an Omaha Steaks gift box each year for  Christmas. The first year, we saved the filet mignon for Valentine's Day instead of going out. Evidently we liked it because we've done it every year since! I asked Andy if he wanted something different this year and he assured me that "the usual" was fine with him! So steak dinner it was!

    This week's menu. All freezer meals are marked with **.
    Breakfast- toast, yogurt "parfaits" with strawberries and blueberries, homemade hot cocoa( I cut this recipe in half for the two of us.)
    Lunch- Potluck contribution- Valentine's cookies, plate of salsa rolls, carrot sticks and broccoli
    Supper- filet mignon, twice-baked potatoes, salad; dark chocolate Ferroro Rocher candies for dessert

    To do: thaw beef, bag of cooked beans and pancakes for tomorrow. 
    Breakfast- oatmeal, grapefruit
    Lunch-leftover beefy vegetable soup, crackers, carrot sticks and broccoli
    Supper- eat at church meeting

    To do: soak oatmeal for tomorrow, cook ground beef; save half for tomorrow.
    Breakfast- green smoothies, pancakes**
    Lunch- leftover twice-baked potatoes, salad
    Supper- Beef and bean tortilla bake with sour cream,  tortilla chips with guacamole

    To do: bake French bread, soak white beans.
    Breakfast- oatmeal, grapefruit
    Lunch- leftover tortilla bake
    Supper- Lasagna soup, French bread, carrot salad

    To do: cook white beans, soak brown rice; cook enough rice for 2-3 meals.
    Breakfast- cornmeal mush with cheese, grapefruit
    Lunch- leftover lasagna soup
    Supper- White beans cooked with carrots, celery and onions and served over brown rice

    To do: Thaw chicken. 
    Breakfast-oatmeal, grapefruit
    Lunch- leftover beans and rice
    Supper- lemon-herb chicken, rice, steamed broccoli

    To do: plan and cook food for Sunday, hard-boil eggs.
    Breakfast- cold cereal, milk, fruit
    Lunch- leftovers from week
    Supper- creamed eggs, waffles

    ** Thanks to Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday!

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Making Your Home A Haven: Chores

    This week's theme for Making Your Home A Haven was chores.

    After reading Monica's post last week, I decided to give Flylady's zones and weekly missions a try. From reading through some of Flylady's site, it seemed as though she had already done the thinking and list-making for me.  All I had to do was consistently follow the plan.

     This week's zone was the kitchen so I started off the week by printing off Flylady's detailed kitchen cleaning list. I put it on my fridge in a sheet protector so I could cross off the completed tasks with a dry-erase marker. I plan to do this each week with the detailed list for that week's zone. I'll be able to reuse the lists over and over. As time goes on, I'll add to or subtract from her list to tailor it to my home and needs, but for now it is a great starting place!

    I also worked on the mission for each day. I love these! They don't take long to complete but are those little things you never quite get around to doing, you know?

    I will be honest and tell you that I didn't get everything done on my detailed list, but I did what I could. What a  difference it made!  The oven, stovetop and burners and the trashcans are clean now. Both were in dire need of a cleaning. It makes me feel so good to have these chores completed for a little while!

    I also worked on planning more this week. It is working out so well for me to sit down on Sunday night and work on a basic plan for the week which I tweak and add to throughout the week. I hope to make this a habit. I also prayed over my to-do list and day each morning which seemed to put me in a better frame of mind going into the workday.

    I added Flylady's zones and missions in with my regular cleaning schedule. I'll try this for a while and see how it goes. It was successful for me this week!

    **Thanks to Monica for hosting Making Your Home A Challenge!

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Decluttering the Blog List

    In the spirit of decluttering, I spent a few minutes today editing my Google Reader subscriptions.

    I love to read blogs so when I find one I think I like, it's so easy to subscribe! After a while, I end up with more than I can read and I find there are a few that I just don't enjoy as much anymore. And there is always at least one that is no longer valid; either the blogger has moved to a "new home" and I need to update or the blog is no longer around. When that happens, I go through and edit my subscriptions.

    While I was at it, I also edited my blog list here and moved all the crafty, creative-type blogs to their own list over at The Gingham Cottage.

    By the way, I really *love* reading  blogs through a reader. Google Reader is my favorite so far. I like it a lot better than Bloglines. But both serve the same purpose. I love not having to go to each blog to look for an update. This saves me tons of time every day!

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Homekeeper's Journal

    What's happening in my home?

    In the kitchen... I baked bread yesterday. I also made yogurt in the crockpot. I've been making it that way for over a year. Last week's batch did not turn out; the first time it hasn't worked for me. Thankfully, this week's was fine! I'm draining some of it to make a Greek-style yogurt/yogurt cheese and also to use the whey for soaking. I'd like to make Valentine's cookies or a nice treat tomorrow. I'm not quite sure what yet. These really look good and I have all the ingredients on hand!

    In my marriage... Going well. Not much changes from week to week! Which is primarily a good thing, I guess. :-) We're planning a day trip this weekend for Valentine's day. We're going to a  small town to poke around in antique shops, thrift stores and maybe a museum. This is one of our favorite ways to spend time together. We're both looking forward to it!

    Around the homestead... Need to start making garden plans. Do I want to continue with small flowerbed gardens and containers or do I want to till up a bigger spot in the backyard  this year? I really would like to can my own tomatoes so I know I would need quite a few plants if I was to grow enough. I like the idea of Square Foot Gardening but the start-up cost is prohibitive. Andy would also rather wait until we have our own place for that.

    In the sewing room... A simple heart decoration for Valentine's day. Some mending. Hoping to get in there this afternoon to start making more items to sell. Spring craft shows will be starting soon so I want to increase my inventory.

    In my 'inner man'... More work on becoming a woman of kindness and gentleness. I tend towards sarcasm, so I've had to bit my tongue and refrain from speaking several times! Self-control and self-discipline is alsoa  work in progress.

    Thanks for reading and many thanks to Sylvia for hosting the Homekeeper's Journal!

    10 on the 10th

    I first saw the 10 on the 10th posts over at Carrie's blog. I thought it was a fun idea so I'm joining in this month!

    My theme for today is commonly loved foods that I really don't care all that much about.

    I am not a picky eater. I will eat just about anything. I will try almost everything. The one food I do not like at all is brussel sprouts. I don't think I'm alone in this. Nevertheless, I try a brussel sprout every so often to see if maybe I will stop hating them. I haven't.

    The rule in our home growing up was that we did not have to eat anything we didn't like. But. We didn't get anything else as a substitute, either.  Mom was not about to become a short order cook, fixing this for one person and that for the other. Fortunately, we were all pretty good eaters. Although I was definitely the least picky of all three of us.

    So my brother and sister didn't eat broccoli or spinach or zucchini, like normal kids. I ate pretty much everything.

    But on occasion, I would decide I didn't want to eat something. Split pea soup. An egg sandwich. Something random that I decided that day I was NOT going to eat.

    And Mom would always make me eat it. In fact, I learned to willingly eat split pea soup as a very little girl because I discovered that it tasted so much better fresh and hot vs. cold and congealed. Ewwww! I still shudder to think about it. 

    So I always wondered why the rule didn't apply to me? Why was I made to eat something I didn't want to when the rule clearly stated that I didn't have to? It took me quite a few years to figure that out. In the meantime, life  was so unfair! :-)

    Now I realize that I was refusing food out of stubbornness and maybe even anger at times rather than because I didn't like it. And Mom knew it and therefore, required me to eat the food. Fortunately, I outgrew this trait before I was too old. :-)

    Anyways, this rambling story has a point. I think. I like most foods and will eat anything set before me.

    Which brings me to my 10 on the 10th list. I know you're on the edge of your seat! These are the foods that are on my 'take it or leave it' list. I don't hate them. And I don't love them. And most of the time, if given a choice, I won't eat them.  But, if you invite me to your house, I will happily eat whatever you've prepared! Just so you know...

    10 commonly loved foods that Mary Ann really isn't that crazy about...

    1) corn
    2) French fries: Curly fries are pretty good, though.
    3) buttercream and decorator's icing. Waxy!!!
    4) white chocolate
    5) French toast
    6) fried rice
    7) cherry flavoring or any fake fruit flavoring, for that matter
    8) pork bbq
    9) sweet tea
    10) jelly: Both my husband and I share this weird dislike. We do like apple butter and I like my mom's blackberry jam if for some weird reason, I have a hankering to eat jam on my toast!

    I realize from this list that not only am I a Southern disgrace but also un-American! I mean, who doesn't eat fries? Oh yeah, that would be me. :-)

    So tell me. Are there any foods that you don't like that it seems as though everyone else loves?  Or am I just weird ?!?

    **For more 10 on the 10th lists, visit Life At 7000 Feet.

    Monday, February 08, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday

    We went grocery shopping over the weekend. It's nice to have a better stock of pantry basics after a month of very little grocery shopping.

    During the Eat From The Pantry Challenge, I noticed that the food didn't seem to run out quite as fast. I believe it's because of more careful planning. I wanted to assure that nothing went to waste so I tried to use what I had wisely. I want to continue that aspect of the pantry challenge every week as I plan our meals. Not in a hoarding  or starving way, but rather in being a wise steward and stretching our grocery dollars as far as possible. I will continue to plan our meals from what I have on hand, using creativity  and therefore, minimizing some of our food costs. Of course, I will now be returning to regular shopping trips which will help to build my stockpile as I buy needed items at the lowest prices I can find.

    This week's menu features lots of leftovers from weekend cooking. Freezer meals are marked with **.

    Sunday Super Bowl Sunday!
    To do: soak oats for tomorrow's breakfast.
    Breakfast: toast/corn muffins, apple
    Lunch: My contributions to our Fellowship potluck were Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Roast, gingered carrots
    Supper: Super Bowl Party at home. Sausage dip with tortilla chips(similar to this recipe), wings(which we bought), chocolate-peanut squares

    To do: make yogurt; soak bread dough.
    Breakfast-green smoothies, oatmeal
    Lunch- quesadillas made with leftover sausage dip, leftover wings, raw broccoli and carrot sticks
    Supper-Beef and noodles using leftover beef roast and broth, leftover gingered carrots, leftover corn muffins

    To do: bake bread and sandwich buns.
    Breakfast: Denny's Free Grand Slam Breakfast
    Lunch: leftover pizza, spinach salad
    Supper: Beef sandwiches(leftover beef roast, shredded cheese, homemade buns), carrot salad

    Breakfast: oatmeal, grapefruit
    Lunch: leftover sausage dip and chips, carrot sticks,
    Supper: Baked potatoes with chili**, cheese, sour cream; salad

    To do: bake Valentine's cookies or treats
    Breakfast: green smoothies, egg in a nest
    Lunch: leftovers
    Supper: lentil and rice casserole, homemade bread, salad

    To do: make salsa rolls for tomorrow
    Breakfast: cinnamon buckwheat pancakes**, grapefruit
    Lunch: sandwiches, veggies, chips, cookies
    Supper: Crockpot vegetable beef soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

    To do: plan and prepare food for tomorrow
    Breakfast: oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter toast
    Lunch: Snacks at event. Our contribution will be salsa rolls.
    Supper: Breakfast for dinner- scrambled eggs, toast, smoothies

    **Thanks to Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday!

    Free Breakfast At Denny's

    Denny's will be giving away FREE Grand Slam breakfasts on Tuesday, February 9, 2010. That's tomorrow! The promotion will run from 6am to 2 pm.

    Read more details and find the Denny's nearest you here.

    We're excited to take advantage of this special offer! Yum!

    **While it's fun to eat free or discounted meals, I'd like to leave a friendly reminder to always tip your server. They will still be serving you regardless of what you pay on your way out, so treat them well and leave a decent tip in thanks!**

    Friday, February 05, 2010

    Making Your Home A Haven: Planning

    This week's theme for Making Your Home A Haven was planning. I am a list maker and a planner so I really loved this theme!

    I've been having  a lot of trouble staying on a schedule/routine. It's not like I don't do anything. I just kind of flit around doing this and that and before I know it, the day is over.

    It goes like this... Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to take a shower. While brushing my teeth, I started thinking about the length of my hair. I'm growing it out so it's long enough to donate at least 10 inches. Well, I just had to measure it! So I went and got my measuring tape to measure it. Only 8 1/2 inches and that would be a really short cut for me. While standing by my sewing machine measuring my hair, I  hear and see Cherished Dog by the back door wanting to come back in from his morning business. I go to get him. While getting him, I realize the washer has finished so I transfer the load to the dryer. I see that the clothes on the drying rack are dry so I fold them. I put the clothes away. While in the bedroom, I make the bed. I leave the bedroom and walk down the hallway to the bathroom. My husband sees me and asks, "Haven't you taken your shower yet?" I respond with, " Have you ever read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?" He says, "What's your point"? :-)

    Anyways, back to planning. I get very easily sidetracked these days! I've been making a simple to-do list  almost every day and that helps me a lot. But it hasn't totally become a habit for me yet.

    This week as part of the Making Your Home A Haven challenge, I sat down on Sunday night and wrote out a basic plan for each day of the week. The most complete list was for Monday since that was the next day and I knew more what we were going to be up to.  I also wrote in basic chores for each day similar to the basic cleaning schedule I try to keep!

    This worked well except for the fact that I was sick for the better part of the week. It would have been more productive had I been well. ;-) It took me most of the week to get through Monday's list, but the extra time planning was worth it! A glance at my week told me that my monthly pilgrimage to Costco was planned for this Saturday, so I've taken a few minutes this week to jot down items that I need to buy when I'm there.

    I'm going to work more on planning this next week. Now that I'm feeling better, I should be able to get back on track. Can't wait to get at it!

    I already do pretty well with meal planning. The one area I'm working on here is to make a more detailed plan each week and also listing to-do's for my kitchen tasks for each day. Such as: soak beans, thaw chicken, bake bread. It's a little thing that helps a lot!  I had previously made a weekly dinner menu rotation which has not worked for me at all!  It seemed like a good idea at the time! It was just too complicated for some reason. So I'm focusing on simplifying that and finding what is right for me.

    **Thanks to Monica for hosting Making Your Home A Haven!

    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    A Little Crafting

    I was feeling good enough yesterday to make a cute Valentine decoration for my living room. I love it! Read more details here.

    Cleaning Candle Holders

    Cleaning candle holders and jars has always been a bit frustrating to me. Sometimes I would have success and the next time not so much. Plus I could never remember how I did it the last time.

    A huge advantage to blogging one's daily life is having most of your tips, tricks and recipes in one spot. You have no idea how often I search my own blog to see how something is done! This blog is a great resource to me. :-)

    Last spring I posed this question to my readers: How do you clean your candle holders?
    I must say that sounds a bit like something Elmo might ask his friends.

    I got a number of great responses. Most were in agreement that either freezing the candles or sticking them in the oven or applying heat in some fashion would do the trick.

    It sounded so easy and I was so grateful for their help. However, I didn't follow through with the advice. I let the candle jars pile up and even threw a few out. Gasp!

    I don't procrastinate. Oh no. At least not today. Maybe tomorrow.

    Last night I was getting ready to pitch the lidded jar in the picture. Then I realized it would be really cute repurposed and filled with something. Maybe for a gift?

    So I dug up this post, reread the advice and threw all three jars I had saved into the freezer. This morning, I pulled them out while I was cooking breakfast. I used a dinner knife to loosen the wax and two of them came completely clean! I was baking a pan of baked oatmeal so as soon as that was done, I turned the oven off and set the remaining jar in the oven for a few minutes. (Set candle holders and jars on a baking pan.) The wax melted and came right out.

    I think I did a little dance. 

    During breakfast, I told my husband about my great success. He was happy for me. His response, "I wondered why they were in the freezer."
    I  scrubbed the remaining wax residue out in a sink of hot soapy water and voila! Shiny new-looking candle holders. Don't they look great?

    If I was really ambitious, I would have kept the wax to melt down and pour some new candles. But I'm not.

    Besides,who knows how long would it take me to get around to that!

    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    Homekeeper's Journal

    What's been happening in my home?

    Well, I've been sick for the past week. It started with a cold, that despite my best efforts, just couldn't get rid of. Instead of getting better, it turned into a cough and congestion and then yesterday, I woke up with a fever and body aches. I've been taking Theraflu, resting lots, and drinking plenty of fluids. I'm still pretty wiped out and not feeling completely well, but I'm doing much better. I hope to feel completely better soon! I'd really like to go thrift store shopping on Friday and to the Farmer's Market and Costco on Saturday. We'll see if I'm up to it! 

    In my kitchen... Not much cooking has been going on since I've been sick. The pantry challenge for January is over but I extended it one more week until I can get to the grocery store. We still have plenty to eat; not  as much variety, but plenty. My goal for January was to spend $50 or less and save the rest for bulk purchases. All of my grocery purchases for the month came to a whopping total of $50.55. So I went over by less than a dollar. I'm ok with that! I'm pondering whether or not to do a pantry challenge once a quarter this year. The money saved would be so helpful right now. And it would stretch my frugal cooking skills-something I am continually trying to become better at. Hmmm...something to think about. 

    We've been eating some prepared foods from the freezer this week. Spaghetti, quiche and chicken soup. Yesterday, I cooked a pot of kidney beans. I froze a couple of bags and made Monterey Beans today for us. I added some cooked ground beef that I had on hand and served it with some guacamole I had frozen a few weeks ago. Yum!

    I'm also planning our Super Bowl snacks and Valentine's treats!

    With our marriage... My husband's always pretty sweet but he's been especially good to me while I've been sick. Yesterday, he ran some errands for me including a trip to CVS using lots of coupons and soon-to-expire Extra Care Bucks. I was so proud of him! And especially thankful for the medicine, supplements and ginger ale he brought home for me. :-)

    Around the homestead... We were iced in over the weekend with a little snow and lots of ice and sleet. Cherished Dog loves being out in the snow! It is so cute and a little annoying when he's inside constantly whining at the back door to go out again. Some areas in North and South Carolina lost power at some point during the winter event, but we were grateful that ours stayed on. 

    In the sewing room... I've been inspired to make some Valentine's decorations.  I tried my own fabric version of this cute craft today and it turned out pretty cute. I'll try to post pictures tomorrow. I also have another idea for a Valentine's garland. Maybe I'll work on that tomorrow. I have lots of red fabrics in my scrap bin thta are perfect for Valentine's Day.

    In my "inner man"... Learning to be thankful for and content with 'just enough'. I'm grateful for God's provision and seeing how He continually provides for us.

    **Thanks to Sylvia at The Christian Homekeeper for hosting Homekeeper's Journal!