Thursday, June 30, 2011

4th Of July Crafts

Looking for some fun and safe patriotic crafts for the kidlets? Look no further!

In response to my Planning Monday post this week, Lillibeth emailed me with a link to her "Matchless" Fireworks post. The shiny sparklers look really pretty and fun!

We had a very good time making these Salt-Absorbing Fireworks this week from I Can Teach My Child.

I Can Teach My Child also shares this cute Old Glory craft made with popsicle sticks. How cute are these? We're planning to make some tomorrow!

Make your own 4th of July Confetti Popper Rockets from Alphamom. Had these on my list but don't think we'll actually get around to making them for this year. They do look really fun!

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free Hair Products

If you haven't already signed up, Pantene, Aussie and Herbal Essences are all giving away coupons for a FREE full-sized product today when you 'Like' them on Facebook.

I'm always excited to receive coupons for FREE products, either to use for myself or donate.  I like to hold on to these coupons and use them on B1G1 deals at the drugstores or use them to bump my before coupon total up if I have a $ off a certain purchase amount coupon.

**Be patient. The sites are running rather slow.

And for those of you who don't do Facebook because of privacy concerns, Jenny of Southern Savers shares how to create a blank Facebook profile to use for taking advantage of special Facebook offers such as these.

Things I Like To Do On Mondays

I like to take a little time on Monday morning to do a little prep work for the week ahead.

Lately, since we eat so many eggs and they are cheap, I've been boiling a dozen at the beginning of every week. A dozen usually gets us pretty close to through the week when eaten plain, as deviled eggs or as egg salad for lunch or snacks. 

Veggies take a bit of time to prepare for each meal so I like to grab an assortment out of the crisper and chop them up so they're ready. This doesn't usually last us a whole week but gives me a head start.

I've also been washing a head or two of lettuce  to have ready. Depending on the week's menu, I leave some leaves whole for lettuce wraps and chop some for salads.

These small steps make mealtimes a bit easier!

**This post is part of Works For Me Wednesdays over at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Southwestern Lentil Casserole

 I adapted a basic lentil and rice casserole into these Southwestern Lentils. Super easy, tasty, inexpensive to make and utilizes the crockpot!

I've found that occasional lentil and rice type dishes like this are good for helping to offset the meat expense on our current eating plan while still being high in protein and low in carbs!

 Southwestern Lentil Casserole

3 cups water, chicken, beef  or vegetable broth
1/4 -1/2 pound ground beef, crumbled, browned and drained (optional, but I prefer the taste of meat with my lentils)
1 cup lentils
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown rice
1 small- medium onion, chopped
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 can (14-15 ounces) diced tomatoes (If you want more kick, use tomatoes with green chilies.)
1 1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Mix all together in a greased crockpot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Can also be baked in the oven at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Serve with cheese and sour cream if desired. If your diet allows, this would make yummy burritos, too.

Make changes to spices as you wish. Don't think you can really mess it up. I'm still perfecting this and make it different every time. You can play with the liquids to get the consistency you prefer. I prefer it to be a little on the runny side without being soupy but not clumpy thick either. :-)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Planning Monday

On my to-do list:
1) Add some new items to my Etsy shop.
2) Trim bushes in backyard.
3) Mow grass.
4) Pay bills.

Fun for the Kidlets:
Activities for the childcare kids ages 3 months, 1 year and 5 years. Most of these things are for the 5 year old while the babies are sleeping.

5 year old:  
**Salt-absorbing fireworks.
**Simplified version of these 4th of July rockets. Think I'll eliminate the confetti and just do this as a fun little rocket craft. 

1 year old: 
 **Glue and colored salt pictures. Let her spread glue on paper, then sprinkle some colored salt on top for a toddler version of the salt-absorbing fireworks mentioned above!
**Drawing with crayons and markers.

3 month old:
**Lots of tummy time and interaction when awake.

All kidlets:
**Daily walks.
**At least one trip to the playground.
**Stories and songs.

Outdoor activities, weather and time permitting:
**Water play.
**Chalk drawing.

On the menu this week:

Scrambled eggs with veggies (6x)

**Egg salad lettuce wraps, veggies (2x)
**Tuna salad lettuce wraps, veggies (2x)

Supper: All served with either a salad and/or veggie.

1) Italian eggplant bake, salad
2) Sloppy joes-in-a-bowl (with brown rice instead of buns)
3) Meeting: To be decided.
4) Shrimp salad.
5) Dinner and game night with church friends.
6) Beef stir-fry with rice.

**Fruit smoothies (2x)
**Hard-boiled eggs, veggies
**Whatever's left at the end of the week.:-)

**This post is part of Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

To ponder this week: 
" Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing. " Isaiah 40:26.

What's on your mind and to-do list this week?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Funnies

Wishing you a cool weekend!

Disclaimer: This is not OUR Cherished Dog, nor is this our luxurious swimming pool.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yard Sale Treasures

One activity my husband and I really enjoy doing together is going to yard sales on Saturday mornings. With gas prices and our schedules, we typically get out about one Saturday a month during yard sale season. It's so much fun! And we score lots of good deals on things that we would need to purchase anyways.

My husband maps out a route from the yard sale ads and I grab my coin purse and list of items we're looking for. We also like to take breakfast and plenty of water along with us.

Here are the treasures we found today:

  • Bumbo seat** --So excited to have one of these! $14
  • Play tent and tunnel. $3
  • Boppy pillow**-- This one is for Baby Boy's mom. She asked me to look for one for her after I scored a Boppy for my house for $1 at a yard sale a few weeks ago. $3
  • Baby comb and brush. $.25
  • Bibs.** $.10 cents each
  • A small assortment of baby and children's clothing to pass along to family and friends**--Can't pass up good quality items for 25 cents each when I know someone who can use them!
  • Vacuum cleaner. **$5
  • Jewelry box.** $1
  • Wireless internet router. ** $3
  • Hair straightening tool.** What's the proper name for these? I'm not really up on these things! $1.50
  • Gingham fabric.$.50
  • Handmade knitted dishcloths. $1/3
  • Electric skillet.** For cooking while traveling. $2
**means items that were on my list.

  I spent a bit more than I normally would on a yard sale day but I'm willing to pay a little more for nice items that we would buy later anyways. I knew a Bumbo seat would not come cheaply; this is the first one I've seen for under $20! I use my spare change for smaller items then dip into our cash envelopes for clothing, household and childcare items that we are looking for.

What kind of yard sale treasures have you found recently?

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Easy Meals- Part 2

    This list of meals is in response to a friend who sent me an email asking for some quick meal ideas. Be sure and see Part 1 for easy crockpot meals.

    In a pinch or on really busy days, these are some of my go-to meals! They aren't exotic or fancy but yummy, filling and quick! Most are pretty frugal and nutritious, too. 

    **Note: You will notice that many of these ideas don't fit into our current low-carb eating plan. I'll need to come up with a few more low-carb quick meals!

    From the email:

    Here's some of our favorite quick and easy dinners. Some require more planning and more preparation than others.

    I like to cook some things ahead to freeze to make meals much easier on hectic days. A few of these items are ground beef, chopped or shredded chicken, rice, beans (or keep a few cans in your pantry). All of these items can be frozen in 1 or 2 cup portions in Ziploc bags.

    Breakfast for dinner-- Not everyone may like this but we do! Breakfast meats and fruit smoothies are nice additions to most of these ideas.

    **scrambled eggs

    **pancakes or waffles—Make a big batch and freeze the extras for a quick breakfast or dinner another day. Reheat in toaster.

    **Banana oat pancakes-- Our favorite!

    **Breakfast in a Hurry—can be made with or without meat.

    Baked potatoes (crockpot, oven or microwave)--Top with cheese, sour cream, bacon or any leftover meat. We like browned ground beef. Serve with salad or veggie on the side.

    Hamburger patties-- These are handy to pull out and cook really quick. Serve with salad and/or vegetable or on buns as hamburgers. :-)

    Tuna or Salmon Melts-- Mix tuna or salmon with mayo and some spices like making tuna salad. Add chopped celery or onion if desired. Spread mixture on slices of bread or hamburger bun halves. Top with cheese and broil for a few minutes until heated through and light brown and bubbly. I have a tendency to burn what I'm broiling so watch it carefully!:-)

    French bread pizzas- Slice a loaf of French bread or cut in larger hunks. Spread each piece with pizza or spaghetti sauce and top as you would a pizza. Broil and serve with a salad and/or fruit.

    Sausage and pepper stir fry- Slice sausages and dice some sweet peppers(red, yellow or green) and onions. Cook together in skillet. Serve with rice.

    Egg Drop Soup-- Easy and nutritious! Serve with a sandwich. I usually halve this recipe for the two of us.

    Cheese melts or grilled cheese- I think we can all figure out the grilled cheese part! Make cheese melts like tuna melts. Place slices of cheese on slices of bread and broil. This is super simple and easy in a pinch. Serve with a bowl of soup or some fresh veggies. My mom used to make these for Sunday night supper a lot when we were growing up!

    Since we can all benefit from easy meal ideas, please share your favorites in the comments! What do you make or keep on hand for meals when life gets really hectic and busy? 

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Beet Salad

    I made this beet salad using beets from the Farmer's Market. I can't remember what the name of this beet is, but it's red and white striped. Very pretty!

    Edited to add:  Thanks to Kathryn who commented and suggested that this is a Chioggia beet. Couldn't remember what the farmer called them but knew it started with a 'C'. :-)

    I copied this recipe from The Brown Bag Lunch Cookbook a few months ago. One thing that attracted me to this recipe was that it only made one serving since I'm the only one here that likes beets.

    This was not the most photogenic salad but very easy and tasty. And very healthy!

     Beet Salad

    1/2 cup grated raw beets
    1/2 cup grated carrot
    1/2 cup grated apple
    1/2 cup grated cabbage
    2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
    Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Mix everything together and dress with vinaigrette.

    Makes one large serving or 2-4 servings if using as a side dish.

    Enjoy! Beets are very high in folate, a B vitamin!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Storm 2011

    With all the storms that have swept through the Southeast this spring/summer, God has been very merciful to our area. Several times, bad storms/tornadoes were headed right toward us and at the last minute either dissipated or changed directions.

    Saturday night, we experienced pretty heavy rains, strong winds and some hail. And lots of thunder! We never lost power but it did flicker quite often. The rain swirling on the window looked like a carwash!

    We were thankful for God's protection! Several large tree limbs fell in our yard--two just missed our front window. Also a lot of debris  in both the front and back yards and a leak in the master bedroom ceiling. Which we discovered when we went to bed Saturday night. :-(

     Front yard and roof.

     My compost bin is still standing!

    Thankful for God's great protection; it could've been so much worse!

    Planning Monday

    We've had a very full weekend and looking forward to a very busy week ahead as well! Planning is key!

    To Do:

    1) Clean up debris from Saturday night's thunderstorm.

    2) Continue working on some freezer cooking; my plan is to do one item each day so that by the end of the week, I have a nice stack of meal components ready. This list shows just how simple freezer cooking can be! Except for the roast, these are all things I'll be cooking anyways, so I'm just making extra for later!
    • Cook beef roast; slice/shred and freeze in meal portions. In crockpot now.
    • Crockpot spaghetti sauce: freeze in 2-3 cup containers.
    • Bake pan of brown rice: bag in 2 cup portions.
    • Cook extra lentils: freeze in 1-2 cup bags.
    • Brown several pounds ground beef; separate into 2 cup portions. 
    3) Get hair cut. **
    4) Clean trash cans. **

    ** From last week's list.

    What are you up to this week?

    Fun for the Kidlets:
    Activities for the childcare kids ages 2 months, 1 year and 5 years. Most of these things are for the 5 year old while the babies are sleeping.

    All Kids
    **Make Father's Day gifts. It's a surprise! One hint-- it includes paint! With adapting, each child will be able to participate to some capacity.

    5 year old
    **Do this Father's Day letter with 5 year old. Depending on whether he would like to do it! Cute idea.
    **Activity bags. 
    **Free play with art box. He loves making things and I keep a box filled with basic art supplies and a few random recycled items for creating to his heart's content!

    Outside activities for 5 and 1 year old

    Simple seems to be the current food theme at our house! With higher temperatures, I've been serving more cool meals and cooking a lot in the crockpot and grill rather than heating up the oven. My days are very busy so these methods also help me to get yummy nutritious meals on the table without spending hours in the kitchen.

    **scrambled eggs with veggies (5x)
    ** hard-boiled eggs, meat (1x)

    1) leftover buffet using up odds and ends in the fridge
    2) tuna salad lettuce wraps, celery sticks, hard-boiled eggs
    3) leftovers
    4) hard-boiled eggs, cheese, veggies
    5) leftovers
    6) Pack lunch-- cold meat, veggies, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, fruit, yogurt

    Most meals include a vegetable and/or salad.

    1) Sausage, shrimp, pepper, zucchini and onion stir-fry with rice
    2) Lentils cooked with tomatoes, green chilies, and onions (crockpot)
    3) Meeting-- TBD
    4) Spaghetti squash (cooked in crockpot) served with meat sauce
    5) Bunless burgers (grill) with tomatoes, cheese and lettuce
    6) Eat out

    Peaches, bananas, yogurt, fruit smoothies, applesauce

    **This post is part of Menu Plan Monday!

    Have a great week!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Friday Funnies- You Don't Know How To Drive!

    Now that I'm caring for a 2 month old in addition to a one year old, I'm often asked how I run errands and do my grocery shopping.

    My reply? "I don't." 

    Not while they're here, anyways.

    This reminds me of a time several years ago when I had two toddler boys in the house during the week. At the time, my husband was leaving for work at 6: 30 in the morning and because we were a one-car family, unless I had an appointment or something where I needed the car, I was home most days without a car.

    It is a bit of a hassle anyways to load toddlers and carseats to go anywhere so I happily kept them at home where we played and walked around the neighborhood and made regular trips to the park.

    Come to think of it, I was quite productive at home in those days!

    My husband returned home early enough to run errands to the bank or post office if needed.

    Well, I never thought anything about this little set-up until after about 2 years, one of the boys (at about 3 years old) said to me one day:

    Boy: "Mary, you don't know how to drive."
    Me: "Yes, I do. I can drive."
    Boy: "No, you don't."
    Me: "Yes, I know how to drive."
    Boy: "No you don't! You tell Andy go to store!"


    Thursday, June 09, 2011

    Put A Lid On It!

    Quite by accident, I discovered the other night that the lids that belong to the Tupperware snack containers fit on a can of wet dog food.

    Imagine that!

    The lids from mayonnaise jars fit on regular mouth canning jars. I've also read that peanut butter lids fit wide mouth jars, which I tried, but mine did not. Peanut butter lids must vary in size somewhat so yours just might work!

    I love discovering useful bits of info like this!

    Wednesday, June 08, 2011

    Easy Meals- Part 1

     A while ago, I received an email from a friend requesting easy dinner ideas for either the crockpot or otherwise. She's a mom of a two year old with a baby on the way so things need to be extra simple and quick! 
     I decided to divide my response to her into two parts: 1) Crockpot recipes and 2) other easy meals. 
    Because I find the crockpot to be such a wonderful help on busy days, I started with a list of our favorite super easy crockpot meals.
    Rotisserie-style chicken-- our favorite. Leftover chicken makes excellent chicken salad or chicken for sandwiches and casseroles. 

    Baked potatoes-- This really works! Leftover baked potatoes can be shredded and cooked into hash browns or cubed for potato salad. This method also works well for sweet potatoes.

    Chicken breasts covered in BBQ sauce and cooked on low for 4-6 hours.

    Spaghetti sauce--Makes a huge pot and freezes well.  We really like this! I freeze it in 2 cup containers.

    Spaghetti and meatballs-- Pour spaghetti sauce in crockpot; add either bought or homemade meatballs. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve over hot pasta. 

    BBQ Meatballs- Pour BBQ sauce over meatballs and cook on low 2-4 hours. Some people heat the meatballs in the crockpot and then add the sauce right before serving. As long as you don't overcook it, it should be fine either way. Also fully-cooked meatballs won't need as much time as raw.  Use premade meatballs or make a batch of homemade and freeze until ready to use.

    Sausage and sauerkraut-- Empty a package of sauerkraut into crockpot. Cut a package or two of fully cooked sausage or kielbasa and place on top. Cook on high for 2 hours or so. I've never made this myself since one of us doesn't eat kraut but we have this regularly at our fellowships. Very easy!

    Ravioli-- I haven't actually made this but it looks terrific and easy and looks like it'd be great for pregnancy and the new baby days.   

    Lasagna—We love this! You don't want to overcook it, though.

    Lentil and Rice Pilaf-- This makes a LOT! It does freeze well. It cooks a lot faster in my crockpot, so you'll want to watch it the first time you make it. Perhaps this could be halved in a smaller crockpot. This is very tasty, cheap, simple and a great "one-armed" meal to make when you have a little one hanging on!:-)
    Makes 8-10 servings
    Ideal crockpot size: 4 or 5 quart.

    2-5 large onions, depending on taste preference
    2 Tbsp. Olive oil
    6 cups water
    1 ¾ cups dry lentils, sorted, washed and drained
    2 cups brown rice

    Slice onions into ½ inch circles. Place in skillet with olive oil. Saute over medium heat until onions are golden brown.

    Remove about 1 onion's worth from skillet and drain on paper towel.

    Put remaining onions and drippings into crockpot. Combine with water, lentils and brown rice.

    Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Cooked in about 4 hours in mine.)

    Serve hot or cold. Garnish with crisp brown onions.

    Serve as is or top with a basic green salad and a vinaigrette dressing. Surprisingly good with the salad!

    Now it's your turn! What are your favorite easy crockpot meals? Please share in the comments! 

    **Stay tuned for Part 2 which will include a collection of other easy meals! 

    Tuesday, June 07, 2011

    A Year Of Healthy Habits -- Eat More Veggies

    Every month this year, I've been choosing one healthy habit to focus on and add to my routine.

    This month I'm focusing on eating more veggies. Especially raw ones.

     Other than tomatoes, we don't eat many canned vegetables. Not only are they lower in nutrients, we don't think they taste that good!

    We do, however, eat a good amount of frozen veggies. They're easy to prepare and inexpensive to purchase.

    I'm making it my personal challenge this month to add raw veggies to almost all lunches and suppers.

    This is a good time of year to focus on eating well as fresh produce is so prevalent! With the days getting so hot now, I really would prefer a salad to something hot and cooked most days.

    Of course, salads are always a good option as are fresh cut up veggies. I also like adding fresh spinach to fruit smoothies. A banana or canned pineapple will help to mask the flavor. Since we are not eating bread these days, we eat a lot of lettuce wraps for lunches. This is also a great way to sneak in something raw!

    What are your ideas for getting more raw veggies into your diet?

    Simple Pleasures: Gardenias

    So happy to see that the gardenia bushes in our backyard are blooming again. The flowers are so beautiful and the leaves so shiny!

    I'm not much for flowery scents but I do like how these smell!

    When I see gardenias, I always think of my husband's grandmother who passed away a few summers ago. She was quite a gardener. Andy's parents have a gardenia bush in their yard that she started with a gardenia from a corsage.

    These bushes were at the end of their blooming season when we moved here last year. I'm looking forward to enjoying them all season long this year!

    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Italian Eggplant Bake

    Eggplants were on sale for $1 each at my local grocery store this week.

    On our current eating plan, we aren't eating pasta, so I put together this Italian Eggplant Bake to satisfy our craving for yummy, cheesy Italian food.

    It was delicious!

    1 medium-large eggplant, sliced- I didn't peel but you can if you want to.
    1/2 pound ground beef, crumbled and browned
    2- 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
    Garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, to taste
    Shredded cheese- I used a 5-Italian blend from Kraft with a Touch of Philadelphia. I very rarely buy pre-shredded cheese since I don't think it melts or tastes as good as the blocks of cheese I shred myself, but this was free with a coupon and surprisingly very creamy and good! 

    Heat skillet on medium-medium high heat and cook eggplant in a little butter or oil until lightly browned on each side.  Arrange eggplant slices in greased 9 x 13 pan, overlapping or layering if needed.

    Mix ground beef and tomato sauce together adding spices to taste. Jarred spaghetti sauce could also be used in place of tomato sauce and spices.

    Pour sauce over eggplant. I used only about 3/4 of the sauce and refrigerated the rest to use later.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

    Makes about 4 servings.

    Serve with a green salad. And if unlike us, you are eating bread, add a side of garlic bread!

    *Note: I will mention here that the eggplant in this recipe turns out a little on the mushy side. We like it this way but I know some folks have texture issues.

    Planning Monday

    On my to-do list: 

    1) Continue with yard work--trim bushes in front yard and mow grass. 
    2) Plan and implement some freezer cooking. It's been a long time since I spent some time stocking my freezer. Looking forward to it--having foods ready is such a time-saver!
    3) Get hair cut. Again-- long overdue. :-)
    4) Clean trash cans.
    5) Start planning some fun kid activities for the summer.
    6) Bathe dog.

    What's on your to-do list this week?

    On my menu plan:

    * scrambled eggs with veggies (4x)
    * scrambled eggs; sausage links (2x)

    * leftovers from supper or
    * chicken and rice salad-- thrown together using whatever I have on hand kind of  like this beef pilaf salad.
    * hard-boiled eggs, cheese, veggies
    * cucumber slices with cream cheese, tuna, veggies
    * tuna salad lettuce wraps

    Supper: Most meals will also include at least one vegetable and/ or a salad.
    1) Southwestern lentils (crockpot)
    2) Rotisserie-style chicken (crockpot), sweet potatoes
    3) Meeting: Sloppy Joes
    4) Stir-fry, rice
    5) Chicken and veggie skewers (grill), rice
    6) Green salad with shrimp

    Snacks: We don't typically eat fruit with our meals so it makes for a great snack!
    * raspberries, yogurt (2x)
    * fruit smoothies (2x)
    * sliced peaches, small handful of nuts
    * chocolate peanut butter banana smoothies 

    What are your favorite summer foods?

    To ponder: 

    " Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and early loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. bear with each other and forgive whatever  grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. "  Colossians 3: 12-14.

    Blessings to you in the week ahead! 

    ** This post is part of  I'm An Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

    Friday, June 03, 2011

    Friday Funnies

    A couple funnies for your Friday enjoyment:

    Heard a splash the other day and discovered this--compliments of Toddler Girl.

     Have you seen this video yet? It makes me laugh every time!