Monday, February 28, 2011

Blog Party!

I've never participated in a blog party fact I'd never even HEARD of such a thing until a few days ago! But when my friend Lynnette over at Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground announced her blog party recently, it sounded too fun to miss! Oh, and there are some FAB prizes up for grabs as well...I know we all love prizes!! :)

The party starts tomorrow! So if you want to play along, check out Lynnette's Announcing-Thoughts of Spring Blog Party post or click the button at the top of my left-hand side bar. I'm looking forward to meeting new blogging friends, aren't you?!

Menu Plan and Just for Fun...My Top 8 Fave Kitchen Appliances!

It's Monday again, so time for a new weekly menu! And since just posting a list of meals might be kinda boring, I'm also going to share my SUPER-EXCITING line up of cool kitchen tools! Woo hoo!!!

Okay, to be perfectly honest, super-exciting MIGHT be just a tiny bit of an exaggeration. ;) But if you, like me, cook for a LOT of hungry people (and often), you just might find this helpful!

I have to say that last week's dinner times went SO MUCH more smoothly with a meal plan. I knew they would, since that's worked so well for us before. I should have been doing this for the past 5 months. Doh! Why is it that when things get hectic, we let go of those routines that help us keep our sanity?

Or maybe that's just me...

We had a couple days where we were out and didn't use our planned dinner, so I have 2 dishes carrying over this week. So without further ado, here is this week's plan:

Menu February 28-March 6
Monday--Beef and veggie soup, garlic bread
Tuesday--Aztec chicken (crock pot)
Wednesday--Beef stroganoff over egg noodles, green salad (freezer meal)
Thursday--Pork roast, baked sweet potatoes, green veggie
Friday--Fried chicken strips, french fries, green beans, birthday cake (Josiah's 3rd!)
Saturday--Spaghetti w/meat sauce, salad (make quadruple batch of meat sauce to freeze)
Sunday--Home made macaroni and cheese, veggies, salad

Just for fun, I'm going to show you all my fave kitchen servants, er appliances. When you're trying to home school, keep track of preschoolers and toddlers, keep a house clean, and cook most meals from scratch, you can use all the help you can get! I can't afford to hire someone to cook for us, so investing in some hard-working, time-saving appliances is the next best thing!

First on my trusty crock pot! This is definitely the busy mother's kitchen friend! I think this is also my oldest appliance, received as a wedding gift almost 13 years ago. It's not as pretty as it used to be, but it still works as well as ever!

Sadly the crock pot will only make enough for one meal with our family size, so several years ago we added an 18 qt. roaster oven. This is my go-to tool for making quadruple batches of spaghetti sauce, chili, etc. or for roasting 2 chickens at a time. Since I love the convenience of cooking in large quantities for the freezer, this has become a favorite!

Okay, y'all, here is my hands-down favorite appliance EVER! My Vitamix blender! Yes, this was a big splurge cost-wise, but so so so so so worth every penny! I use this all. the. time. for great smoothies, home made hummus, baby food, and many other things. I also have the dry container, which I use to grind wheat berries into flour and grind coffee beans. This thing gets a LOT of use!!

My other splurge Bosch Universal Plus. This is an upgrade from my old Kitchen Aid stand mixer which I loved, but we outgrew its capacity. I can make enough dough for 6 loaves of whole wheat bread at once in this thing, and I also use it a ton for large batches of cookie dough, pizza dough, etc. LOVE this!

Okay, so this isn't really a big time-saving device, but since I love a good cup of coffee in the morning, I HAD to include my coffee maker. It's nothing fancy, one of the cheaper options from Walmart actually, but it gets the job done!

My boys and I get a big kick out of this...remind you of any evil guys from the Dark Side?

"Luke, I am your father's coffee maker..."

(Okay, or maybe we're just kinda dorky around here!)

I used to own a full-sized food processor and NEVER used it...I couldn't stand cleaning all. those. parts. A few years ago, I got this little gem...I really only use it to chop onions, green peppers, and carrots, but trust me, that's more than enough to earn it a spot on my favorites list. I'm one of those who cries, no WEEPS, when trying to dice onions. There's a time and place for getting all teary-eyed, but dinner prep time is NOT the most convenient time for that! That's what sappy commercials with babies and puppies are there for.

LOVE this electric griddle! This was a gift 2 Christmases ago (thank you Grandmommy and Granddaddy!) and I honestly don't know how I lived without this for so long. Can we say quintuple batches of pancakes for 6 hungry kids? Well, now we can! :) I used to make 3 (oddly shaped) pancakes at a time in my biggest I make 8 perfectly round ones in the same amount of time! This is also fab for making everyone's grilled cheese sandwich at the same time.

Last but not least on the handy kitchen helper list is our latest addition...a rice cooker. I'm awful (HORRIBLE, I tell you!) about remembering to start the rice at the right time when cooking it on the stove. I can't tell you how many times I've scrapped a dinner plan just because I didn't get the rice going! With this baby, I can put it all together earlier in the day when I'm prepping other things, and just set the timer for when I want rice. And if it's done early, it has a "keep warm" setting so I don't have to worry about it burning to the bottom of the pan. Very handy!

So now you know who's REALLY doing the work in my kitchen! :)

Now I'm curious...what are YOUR favorite kitchen helpers? I'd love to know what works for y'all, and I might just have to add them to my kitchen wish list!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oh, The Irony!

This is our third winter living in a snowy climate, but only our first where disposal of said snow is actually up to us. We've purchased 3 snow shovels (well, mostly because the boys LOSE them, grrr!) and we really only clear the sidewalk that leads from the porch to the driveway--which is all of about 25 ft. long--and the area immediately in front of the garage doors. The 1200 ft. long driveway is done by a hired snow plow.

Any time it snows, one or more of the boys is assigned the job of shoveling that little sidewalk. We're about guaranteed to hear any or all of the following:

"Aww, it's too cold!"

"It's too hard!"

"I did it last time!"

"Why doesn't ____________(Joshua, Jonathan, Jordan--fill in the blank) EVER have to do ANYTHING?!?!"

But grudgingly or otherwise, they do make sure the job gets done.

So imagine my surprise when they chose to use all of their outside time this week to do THIS:

What you are looking at here is a snow maze. Yes, the boys who think they will die if they have to lift a shovel full of snow off of the sidewalk have, of their own free will, shoveled a 2-acre maze into our front and side yards. Go figure.

Jonathan and Joey walking the maze. I'm told there's an easy, medium, and difficult way out.

All I know is next time my sidewalk needs shoveling, I'd better not hear ANY complaints!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Home Made Play Dough

I've been very lazy lately (okay, so ever since we both moved and found out I was pregnant in the same month) about keeping my preschoolers constructively busy while the older 3 boys do their school work. I do have a decent arsenal of educational activities for the younger set, but unfortunately those activities are tucked away in a closet somewhere.

At least I'm assuming they are. I guess I should take some time to go track those things down...

So a few days ago when my blogging buddy Annalia wrote this post about pulling out (and organizing!) her kids' play dough, I was inspired. Joseph and Josiah LOVE play dough, and poor deprived little Joanna has NEVER even had the opportunity to try it out!

So I made some for them!

"This is FUN, Mommy!"

"Mmmmm, tasty!" (I don't really recommend this...)

I think I surprised him with the camera!

"Look what I made!"

I make our play dough. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure the purple play dough in the photos above is left over from a Christmas present and is not home made.) It is super easy-peasy to make, and only takes a few minutes. Best of all, the kiddos can help to make it, if you and they are so inclined! Our recipe is in this post from a couple years ago, along with instructions and pictures. Boy, I'd forgotten how little Jordan and Joey were then.

If you try out our play dough recipe, please come back and let me know if you liked it! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I've been making a point this week to set aside an hour during nap time each day to sew. I figure it's good for my sanity to do something I enjoy AND slowly but surely have something to show for it as well. Not that I don't enjoy teaching my children and keeping up with household tasks, of course, but it's nice to do something that's both fun and completely not required. No pressure! :)

It's also a good thing to use up some of my quickly-growing fabric stash. My husband has finally noticed that more fabric is coming into this house than is turning into finished products. So if taking time to complete projects will make him happy, well, then it's a sacrifice (he he he) I'm totally willing to make!

Here is my disappearing 9-patch progress so far...obviously the "disappearing" part hasn't happened yet:

It looks solid in the picture, but it's really just nine 9-patch blocks so far...I'm just slapping them up on the wall as I complete each one, then I'll cut them up and rearrange them later. I'm finding that I can make 3 blocks in each hour-long sewing session. This includes time spent redirecting my home schoolers who are supposed to be doing their reading, as well as wrangling the occasional little one who decides naps are optional.

Here is the back third or so of (what will soon be) my super-fabulous craft room! It's in our finished basement, and is open to the play room, which makes it very convenient to use while the children play. I have grand plans for this space!!!

I made myself a makeshift "design wall" over the weekend, which I am loving so far. I had a big piece of flannel yardage that I'd bought to line some Christmas stockings, then didn't use it after all. Yes, it's just stapled to the wall, with the extra hanging down the side. :) I want to use it for a bit and decide 1) if this is the size I want and 2) if this is where I want it to live permanently. Once I know what I want, I'm going to use molding of some sort to make a frame around the permanent version, so it looks more decorative and "meant to be there."

I'll post more pictures of the quilt-in-progress when I have all the patches done and rearranged. I'm hoping it won't take longer than a week or so to get to that point!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kitty Love

Joanna loves anything she can cuddle. She is constantly dragging around some stuffed animal or another, or her little baby doll. She stops regularly to give her lovies sweet little kisses. (She puts her little mouth on their faces and says "Mwah!"--so cute!) She then brings them to all of us in turn and expects us to give them kisses as well. It's really adorable to watch her big brothers humor her by kissing her babies!!

She is especially thrilled to get to cuddle with one of the real kitties any chance she gets! It's a good thing we have a very tolerant cat. Isn't this just precious?

(This last one is my fave!!)

The boys were never like this...they enjoy their (rather large) collection of stuffed animals as well, but are much more likely to divide them into armies and have battles with them! Yep, boys and girls are definitely different!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Because They Have to Eat...

One of the many things I really enjoy doing for my family is cooking homemade, healthy meals. I love making our tried-and-true favorites, as well as regularly trying out new recipes that I find in cookbooks, magazines, online, and even occasionally on TV.

Except when I'm pregnant.

Now, often what "sounds good" to me varies wildly from day to day, and more often than not when dinner time rolls around I'm scrambling to figure out what to feed all these hungry people around me. I try to get dinner going (or at least figured out) during nap time, but lately I've been finding myself using that down time to surf Facebook, sew something, or even clean. (Yes, I've been on a big cleaning kick lately--go figure. And it's WAY too early to be nesting!)

Oddly enough when my husband comes home in the evening and asks what's for dinner, he doesn't appreciate when I answer "I have no idea, but I got a lot of fabric cut and washed all the windows in the living room."

Something or other about priorities, I think. Another thing pregnancy hormones mess with big time...

So, because people around here have to eat, I've got to step it up and cook more. And because I never know what's going to sound good, I can't just wing it--I've got to have a plan. I'm going to make and post a weekly meal plan, and do my best to stick to it!

I've come up with 4 things I'm going to work into each weekly plan--
1. Once a week make something double for the freezer
2. Once a week make a crock pot meal
3. Once a week have a meal that was previously prepared from the freezer
4. Once a week do something super easy, quick, and cheap (think spaghetti, etc.)

So without further ado...

Week of February 21-27:
Monday--Bean soup (using a leftover ham bone)--extra to freeze
Tuesday--Chicken and lentils
Wednesday--Lasagna--from the freezer
Thursday--Beef and veggie soup
Friday--Aztec chicken with rice--crock pot meal
Saturday--homemade pizza--super easy, quick, and cheap
Sunday--Tuna casserole

So there you have it. Now that I've written it out for all the world (okay, so maybe the whole world doesn't read my little blog) to see, I just HAVE to stick with it, right? I hope will make my husband and children, as well as all their tummies, MUCH happier!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Fun

Today we matched our record high for February 18th in our town--62 degrees. After SO many day in the teens and 20s, it was so nice to be able to be outside without freezing our hineys off! While the boys gleefully ran around in the snow and played with their bikes, etc., I celebrated the warmth by, um, cleaning out the chicken coop.

Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. It's more fun when you compare it to cleaning it when it's 19 degrees outside, though. It's all how you look at it!

So, here's what 62 degrees looks like in our neck of the woods...

Looks toasty, huh?

We can finally see some grass again! After having snow on the ground solidly from December 26th until now, seeing even a small bit of grass gives me hope that spring will indeed come! Some day, anyway...

The chickens finally got to come outside! They pretty much refused to leave the doorway when there was snow on the ground, but now that there's a small snow-free area of grass/gravel in front of the coop, they were all willing to come out and explore a bit.

Miss Princess watching her brothers play while clutching a teddy bear...she always has to have something to hug!

After dinner and chores we all sat around the table for a family game night. Our game of choice was Apples to Apples, which we like because it can be played by just about any age. It doesn't require any real skill or knowledge, except being able to read the cards.

Joanna looks so tiny in her little chair!

Jonathan and Joshua plotting something or other. That's pretty much what they do.

Snacks consisted of popcorn... and chow mein noodles. Yep, I've got some weird kids.

In addition to being tasty, chow mein noodles make a handy art medium. See the face?

Happy Josiah, boogers and all. Just keepin' it real, folks!

Joseph gets some help reading his cards from Daddy.

Joanna was all about the popcorn. And stealing Jon's cards when he wasn't looking.

More plotting, I'm sure. Secret plotting. One day these two are going to take over the world!

Tomorrow we have grand plans to grab our binoculars, dig out our birds of New York guidebook, and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. I'll let y'all know if we see anything exciting!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Quilt Project...

I'm doing what I told myself I'd stop doing--starting a new project before finishing the current one. I finally got the back to Josiah's quilt pieced, after realizing that the original backing fabric I had purchased wasn't going to be big enough alone. Apparently I'm not as good at math as I thought I was. His quilt is sandwiched together and basted...all ready for quilting.

So of course it makes perfect sense that I spent my last couple hours of sewing time cutting up these:

Yes, this fabric is girly to the extreme. I purchased this (and a whole lot of other girly stuff) last February when Joanna was only a couple months old. What can I say, though? After having 5 children in just under 9 years and not being able to buy a single pink flowery thing for ANY of them, I was bound to go a bit overboard when my first girl finally came along!

I've been putting off using this because I couldn't decide which item on my mile-long list of Designs I Want To Try Someday to actually make with it. One of the items on my list is a disappearing nine patch, so when my friend Shana posted a picture of the beautiful disappearing nine patch she is making on Face Book recently, I was inspired to go ahead and cross that item off my list.

My stack of fat quarters yielded the pile of 5" squares above, as well as these strips and rectangle scraps, which will someday be used for something else. Oh, the possibilities!! In case you're wondering, the fabric pattern is Birdie by Me & My Sister for Moda. I love the pinks, greens, and chocolate brown!

I'm thinking I'll go ahead and piece my squares, then while I mull over how exactly to arrange them for the final quilt, I'll go back and finish Josiah's. And I'll try not to even LOOK at all the other fabrics in my stash that are calling my name until these are done!!
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