Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Foothills Parkway

After two days at Dollywood, I was ready for something less touristy to do on our way out of town. I wanted to see some scenery!

Our GPS took us on the Foothills Parkway coming out of Gatlinburg. It was a beautiful day and the foliage was gorgeous!

There were places to pull over all along the parkway and we stopped at every single one. I took lots of pictures. It was all so beautiful!

As you can see, not all of the leaves have turned yet,but it was still lovely with lots of vibrant color!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dollywood Vacation

A few months ago, Andy's parents asked if we would like for them to take us on a weekend vacation. Of course, we said yes!

We decided on Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN for our destination and chose to go the last weekend in October. We were so excited for the trip and weren't disappointed at all!

Andy loves Southern Gospel music so we were happy to be able to go during Dollywood's National Southern Gospel Festival and Harvest Celebration  and attend a number of concerts throughout the park. Our favorites included Legacy Five, The Mark Dubbeld Family, The Kingdom Heirs and The Smoky Mountain String Band. We also enjoyed a bird show that featured Challenger the Bald Eagle, a 50's show and the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame.

The weather was super chilly the two days we were there but at least it was sunny! Thankfully, some of the events were indoors.

Dollywood includes an amusement park but we both really don't care for rides! I did go on one ride with my father-in-law--one he referred to as a "sissy ride". It wasn't bad but reminded me again that I just don't like roller coasters and such! I seek thrills in other places--like thrift stores.

The park was beautifully decorated for fall with pumpkins, scarecrows , mums and the cutest flower pot people!

We had such a  wonderful weekend and thank  Mom and Dad for inviting us!

Southern Gospel Hall of Fame

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

October Freezer Cooking: Take 2

The first day, I cooked ground beef, made burger patties and assembled crockpot meals. On the second day, I did everything else that was left on my list.

Not quite as organized but I plowed through it anyways! I had to cook some meal components for the casseroles I was making and then assemble casseroles, which do take longer than crockpot meals in a bag!

My list:
My plan of attack:
  • Bake brown rice.
  • Bake bacon. (In the oven at the same time as rice.)
  • Shred cheese.
  • Assemble Breakfast-in-a-hurry.
  • Assemble Cheesy Beef and Rice.
  • Bag up rest of brown rice.
  • Leave the house for a few hours.
  • Assemble Spinach and Cheese Casseroles.
  • Make Gingery Pork and Mushrooms. (Ended up making this for dinner that night!So absolutely yummy!)
I'm happy to have so many  frozen entrees and sides in the freezer to eat this month (and some of next)!

The only picture I took on day 2--I was in a rush!

Do you do freezer cooking? What are your favorite recipes to freeze?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October Freezer Cooking: Take 1

In September, I did one grocery shopping trip for the month with some serious planning which included a freezer cooking session. It worked so well and saved us money so I did it all again for October!

This month, I split my freezer cooking list into two 2-3 hour sessions rather working non-stop for 5-6 hours like I did last month. Both work and are efficient but a shorter time slot was better for me this time. I made a plan, worked the plan, cleaned up the kitchen and left for work! Then the next morning I did it again!

We are relying on crockpot or easy make-ahead oven meals for dinner these days. Between September and October, I've tried a pile of Crockpot Freezer Meals that I've found via Pinterest. These are fabulous! Most require no prior cooking (except browning ground beef ) so they are extremely fast to put together. And so easy to put in the crockpot on serving day!

I doubled up on a couple of the recipes that we had already tried. I bought two packages of chicken and we got a good deal on a big package of sausages so I made two of the Thai Chicken and the Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions. This will give me a head start on next month since we probably won't need them this month.
Ingredients for Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce

Most of my 1st cooking session for October was assembling crockpot freezer meals.

Session 1 list:

My Plan Of Attack:
  1. Cook 7# ground beef. Drain and let cool.
  2. Assemble Thai Chicken.
  3. Make burger patties.
  4. Chop/slice peppers and onions. 
  5. Assemble Pepper Steak.
  6. Assemble Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions.
  7. Assemble White Chicken Chili.
  8. Assemble Cheeseburger Soup. 
  9. Bag and label ground beef for Beef and Veggies(3), Taco Soup (1), Cheesy Beef and Rice, Southwestern Lentils(1/2#) and and extra 1/2#. 
  10. Clean up kitchen; fill up the freezer!

I've done lots of freezer cooking over the years. It has saved me hours of time and hundreds of dollars! I've simplified my methods a lot over time and making crockpot freezer meals definitely simplifies freezer cooking day. Making crockpot meals to freeze is a fast way to make a bunch of freezer meals! In fact, this post about crockpot freezer meals promises 20 meals in 2 hours. I could get into that!
Finished meals!

Tomorrow: October Freezer Cooking: Take 2!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

How To Clean Recycled Glass Jars

I've been reorganizing my sewing supplies and wanted to display them in glass jars.

Have you seen the price of cute jars in the store? I have and it's out of my price range--especially for a no spend month.

Lucky for me, I've been saving recycled glass jars for this very purpose for a while. With a little cleaning and paint or fabric on the lids, I'll have cute and free storage jars.

The problem with pickle and salsa jars is that they tend to stink, even after washing. I've been washing them with a baking soda and water mixture according to these instructions. Some of them are really persistent with the smell so I poured some vinegar into those jars and let them set overnight. That seemed to do the trick.

For the labels, I've had the best success with pouring hot vinegar and using citrus (lemon) oil to rub the glue off. It takes a bit but most of it comes off pretty easily. I have a couple very sticky labels that will take more effort.

Hopefully soon, I'll be able to show the finished product!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

No Spend September Update

Well, September is over. The "No Spend Month" went great! I had hoped to update a few more times throughout the month but being sick with a virus and being out of commission for 3-4 days and then not feeling totally well for over a week threw me off course a little!

We will continue the "No Spend Challenge" in some ways in October, since with my new job's pay schedule, my first paycheck won't arrive until November. We won't be quite as strict as we were in September but still careful--not because we are broke--but to be able to minimize the withdrawals from our savings account. We live debt-free (except for the mortgage) so we pay in cash as much as possible. To us, it makes more sense to stop any unnecessary spending when the income has slowed rather than using credit cards or using up savings when we don't have to.

I will share my thoughts concerning "No Spend September".
  • Not spending simplified my life tremendously. I don't classify myself as a "big spender" but the desire for acquiring more and looking for good deals can hit anyone. We didn't drive places as much.  I didn't have as many decision to make. We grocery shopped at the beginning of the month and after that, I needed very little.
  • We ate out a couple of times without cost by using some FREE coupons that were available. We'd been given a Krispy Kreme gift card and we've stopped there for a doughnut a few times too.
  • Being sick stretched our food budget! Not my favorite way of saving money but my appetite was off for about 10 days so I certainly didn't eat as much!
  • Planning our meals out at the beginning of the month and freezing 11+ meals was AWESOME. I'm doing that for October as well.
  • We did dip into savings for a few non-negotiable items. But not much and they were categories we couldn't skip.Once my income starts back up, that will be taken care of.
  • I cut my own hair and it was fun!
  • Having already made the decision to not spend for unnecessary items made it really easy to say "no" to school fundraisers (we didn't know the children who stopped by)  and other spending/ giving opportunities. I'm not talking about tithing or giving financially at the Holy Spirit's leading--that is different. 
  • We got more books and videos from the library this month. 
  • I wanted to buy a potted mum and pumpkin for the front porch! Will see what I can do in October. :-)
  • Keeping things clean and neat costs very little. 
  • We didn't feel deprived at all! Which shows we can live on less and be just fine. 
Here's to a  frugal October as well!

Happy October 1st!