Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking for freezer recipes!

I'm looking for recipes that I can throw the ingredients into a freezer bag/container, freeze, then dump into my crock-pot. I've found a few, but am looking for a few more. Does anyone have some that they have tried and liked and are willing to share?


Friday, April 27, 2012

So thankful that some things are habits!



Yesterday was nutty here in my home. Our church has a small music group (music, marching, dancing, instruments, general controlled chaos) for little ones that my children LOVE, so I try to make it as often as possible. However, my cleaning routine Monday had kind of slipped, so I really wanted to clean our little home yesterday as well. Sweetheart took the morning off of work so that he could run sound for a rehearsal for a children's program, and so things were really "out of normal."

Oh, well! Enter routines and get-it-done-as-quick-as-you-can! We needed to leave for "music" (as princess calls it) by 9:20. I managed to dust and vacuum our bedroom, the little ones' bedroom and living room/dining room, as well as get breakfast dishes washed, dried, and put away, and their lunch ready to put in the microwave as soon as we got home (we get home late for lunch when we go to music, so I try to have it as ready as possible) all before we left.

Music was fun (as always) but buddy fell asleep on the way home. Got home, changed diapers quickly, heated lunch, fed them, put buddy down for a nap.

While he was napping, I did lunch dishes and scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen - apartment clean!

After Sweetheart got home from work, we had a quick dinner of leftovers, then went to the house we are preparing to move to so we could measure some things. The little ones had so much fun exploring (inside and outside), then we had DQ (special treat) on our way home... we didn't get home until 9:00 (usual bedtime - and we haven't started baths yet!) Quick baths, snacks, and little ones were in bed by 10:15.

Yikes! I had dishes piled in the kitchen, clean laundry piled on my bed, and still needed to do my Pilates exercise! So, deep breath and plunged in to dishes, filled the drainer with clean dishes, while they dried, I folded laundry, putting ours away and layering the little ones laundry in a basket (I organize by drawers, that way, I only have to open each drawer ONCE when putting their laundry away). Back to the kitchen to finish the dishes. Got those done by 11:30, 15 minutes of Pilates, in the shower by 11:45... bed by 12:15! 

Not too bad, I thought!

My clean kitchen!
I LOVE waking up to a clean kitchen! My tip: I keep a plastic dishpan under my sink. If dishes are used AFTER I clean up the kitchen, they are put in the dishpan under the sink until the next round of dishes. That gives me a spot to easily find dirty dishes, yet keep my kitchen looking clean and welcoming in the meantime!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crock-Pot Recipe!!!

Okay, when I first read this recipe, I wasn't all that sure of it. But I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, since it came from a trusted source. I'm SO GLAD I did!! It has become a favorite!


Spaghetti Pork Chops


24 Ounces Tomato Sauce
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) Tomato Soup, Undiluted
1 teaspoon Celery Seed
½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Dried Seasonings: Bay Leaves, Oregano,

6 Pork Chops
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

In crock-pot, combine tomato sauce, tomato soup, and all seasonings.

In a skillet, brown pork chops on all sides in oil.
    *They will not turn “brown,” they will turn white. Just make sure that you cannot see any
      raw meat on the exterior of the pork chop. They will cook through in the sauce.

Place pork chops in spaghetti sauce and make sure they are covered in sauce.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Boil spaghetti noodles until tender. Top with pork chops and sauce.

* I know this one sounds odd, but PLEASE try it! Sweetheart and I really
enjoy this dish. The pork chops come out fork-tender and juicy!

Taste of Home Slow Cooke Cookbook

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Waffled" Cinnamon Rolls

In my search for a new, fun breakfast-style treat to share with my Sunday School class, I came across this:

Waffled Cinnamon Rolls

Refrigerated Cinnamon Rolls (Pillsbury-style, etc)
Waffle Iron (I have a Belgian Waffle iron, it's deeper than a regular one)
Non-stick cooking spray

Heat waffle iron
Spray with cooking spray
Place 4 cinnamon rolls on iron, close, pressing SLIGHTLY.
Cook for 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

Remove, spread icing on top. Serve warm.

SUPER-YUMMY!!!! This would be great as a breakfast or a dessert!

http://ahensnest.com - where I found the recipe!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lacing Cards

As promised, here's the blog post on the lacing cards I made for my little ones.

The how-to I followed is: www.ehow.com/how but I altered it slightly to make them, I feel, a little sturdier.

You will need:
* A picture to use (I found a free image on the web and centered it on the page before printing it)
* A cereal, instant oatmeal box, or something of a similar weight.
* Glue
* Single hole punch
* Yarn - about 24-30 inches
* Scissors
* Crayons, markers, colored pencils if your picture needs colored
(I LOVE my Reeve's colored pencils - found them at an art/education store and use them for EVERYTHING!)
* Clear Shipping/Packing tape

1. Color image, if needed or desired. I didn't cut the 8 1/2 x 11 page... I folded it! I folded it the width of the instant oatmeal box. I like folding it so that the glue doesn't wrinkle the top layer (image).


2. Trim cereal/oatmeal box to the size of the folded paper.

3. I only use glue on the folded edges. If you scroll back up to the second photo of step 1, I put the glue on the right and left folded panels. I glue it to the picture side of the box, the back of the lacing card is blank cardboard.


4. While the glue is drying, take the yarn and tie a "loop knot" as close to the end as you can get it. (Double over the end of the yarn, make a simple slipknot). You should have a small "loop" of yarn on each end. Put a large drop of glue on your fingertip, then work the glue into the yarn knots on each end. This stiffens the knot and makes it a bit easier for my toddler to thread it through the punched holes.

5. "Laminating" the card is the step that I added. I feel it adds a bit of sturdiness to the card and makes it so that my toddlers cannot pull the image off the cardboard! 

** Cut a strip of packing tape about 1 1/2 inches longer than one side of your lacing card. Center the card, image side down, against the sticky side of the tape.

** Carefully cut straight up (from the bottom of the image) to the corner of the card on each side. Fold the tape over the bottom edge (the bottom of the image) up over side of the card. 

** Now cut the tape straight to the corner to remove the overhanging tape. Repeat on other side.

Rotate the card 180 degrees and repeat the ** steps to the opposite side of the card.

Now, it's easy! Take another strip of tape, make sure the strips overlap slightly over the image and wrap the edges of the tape over the back. Repeat until image is covered. 

6. Using a hole punch, evenly space holes around edges of card. 

And, you're finished!


(I had to borrow the single hole punch and didn't have it this morning when I made the lamb one, so here's a previous one!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Homemade Fudgesicles

... or a close proximity thereof.

Need:
9 oz. Cool Whip
3.9 oz. box Chocolate Instant Pudding (I use Chocolate Fudge)
1 3/4 cups milk

3 oz. plastic bathroom cups
popsicle sticks (these were expensive, I used plastic spoons - worked great!)
Sandwich size zip-lock style baggies

Mix pudding and milk, allow to set up.
Add Cool Whip (I use my electric mixer to really get it fluffy)
Fill cups, insert sticks or spoons.
** I use my mini-muffin pan to get the cups to stand up straight

Put in freezer for a few hours until firm.
Put in individual baggies and leave in freezer until ready to enjoy!

** Makes over 24

This came from Pinterest, but I can't find the link to the original source. Sorry!

From Sweetheart's aunt: 
Yummy! I've done something similar...lay graham crackers out in a 13x9. Layer the pudding cool whip mix. Lay graham crackers on top. Freeze. Once frozen thaw just enough to be able to cut into ice cream sandwiches and place in baggies for future treats.
 
** This sounds yummy, too, and I will have to make these soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Something a bit different...


Raspberry Applesauce Jello Salad


3 cups (24 ounces) unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 cup Orange Juice
2 boxes (3 oz. each) Raspberry Jello – or any other flavor you want
1 1/2 cups Lemon-Lime Soda (Sprite, 7up, etc)

In a saucepan, heat applesauce and orange juice until boiling.
Remove from heat and stir in Jello until dissolved.

SLOWLY add soda. **This step WILL foam on you!

Pour into a 6 cup mold coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until firm.


Tips and Tricks:
I use a measuring cup to transfer the mixture into the jello mold.
No cooking spray? No problem - just use a paper towel to spread a little bit of vegetable oil into the mold.

Flipping over the mold is always the nerve-racking part. Place your plate over the mold and hold the plate and mold together tightly. QUICKLY flip over and allow the molded salad to settle onto the plate - gently tap the mold to encourage the salad to let go.

Actually, half the time, I just pour this one into a gorgeous crystal serving bowl and let it firm in the bowl and serve it straight from the bowl... it's easier and less nerve-racking that way! Either way, it's a beautiful and yummy salad!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mindless mornings...

... are my favorite kind! No, this doesn't mean that I get to do nothing, it means that I have things ready so that I don't have to actually "think" for a bit, I just have to get out of bed. I'm not a morning person, regardless of what I appear to be... mornings are not my best time, but my routines and preparation make being a "morning person" easy to fake! :)

So, what does my "mindless morning" look like?

1 - clothes are picked out (even weekdays) and set aside... no thinking, just get dressed!

2 - Sweetheart's lunch is ready to pack. Non-refrigerated items are right next to the lunchbox, cold items are ready, in the front of the fridge to grab and put in the lunchbox.

3 - Kitchen is clean and things were put away the night before, so I don't have to think about where to find things to make myself a mug of hot chocolate or cappuccino ... water is put in the electric tea-kettle and off I go!

By the time I get to the kitchen and get my morning treat made, I am awake enough to function.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Keeping my home clean...

... is a constant battle! With 2 precious toddlers, things get sticky and crumbs seem to get everywhere no matter how much I clean! This is also prime allergy season for Sweetheart (and Buddy too, it seems), so that means the less dust our home has in it, the easier time they have. With the early onset of spring, ants have also come calling earlier than they have in the past, and the crumb trails my little Hansel and Gretel leave are prime ant bait... beginning to see why people think I'm a "neat freak?"

Anyway... I timed myself yesterday with a stopwatch (so I could "stop" and "start" when I wasn't actually cleaning) so I could find out how long it actually takes me to clean my home and bless my family. I dusted both bedrooms and living room, swept all three rooms, wiped down bathroom, swept and mopped kitchen and entryway in ... less than 30 minutes!!!

Next time you clean, I challenge you to find out how long it takes you to actually clean rather than how long you think it takes... I was surprised to find out it only took me 30 minutes to clean my 2-bedroom apartment home!

I actually "clean" twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. However, I cheat a bit. Mondays, I clean the bathroom (scrub shower, mop, etc) and only sweep the kitchen. On Thursdays, the bathroom just gets a wipe-down and I run a damp rag along the baseboards to pick up the yuckies and I sweep/mop the kitchen and clean the microwave and clean out the fridge. Both days, I dust/sweep the carpeted rooms. I clean the kitchen on Thursdays because Fridays are my grocery shopping days, and it's a lot easier to clean an emptier fridge/pantry than a bulging one!

The other upside to my cleaning twice a week - even though I try not to miss it, if I do, it's not the end of the world. LIFE HAPPENS and with my morning and evening routines, life can happen and I don't feel overwhelmed when I can catch back up.

I hope you have a great day!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Diaper Bag

So... moms of infants and toddlers, what have you found a necessity for your diaper bags?

Every time I use my diaper bag, I re-stock it before putting it away. This way, if there is an emergency, my diaper bag is ready to go and I just have to grab blankies/lovies and my little ones are set for a little while.

The contents of my diaper bag:

8 diapers (that's 4 hours worth - 1 per child per hour)

package of baby wipes... both for diapering and for wiping sticky fingers/faces

meal time supplies: hair clips for princess, bib for buddy, cups for both, plastic placemats, (Placemats - I use the wal-mart brand, but this is the idea)

a small bag of toys for each child

a small first-aid kit (band-aid plus antibiotic - I use these ONLY for the diaper bag because they are so expensive, but worth the convenience when on-the-go; thermometer, hand sanitizer, afterbite for kids, chap-stick)

a few sandwich baggies to hold diapers in case we're not close to a trash can

small package of tissues

a small nylon clip strap (found it in the camping section of wal-mart) in case a high chair is missing a seat belt (happens often)

Princess' tommiguard harness (Tommiguard) because it's not a matter of IF she will run, it's just a matter of WHEN. I tell my little princess that she has to wear it because she is too precious for mommy to lose! (need to get another one for buddy!)

2 Crayola Juice Box Holders (Juice Box Holder) with juice boxes. Okay, before I had toddlers, I saw these in the stores and thought "GIMMICK!!!!" That was until I handed my son his first juice box and he immediately squeezed it, creating a juice "fountain." I bought 2 my next trip to Wal-mart!

a few  individually wrapped Shout wipes (for instant stain treatment)

a snack (this is the only reason I purchase the small cartons of goldfish, small to-go cookies, etc - they're just too expensive to use all the time, but super-convenient for the diaper bag!)

Closed-you can see there's still room in the top for last-minute additions!
Open... the small black bag is the "meal kit," the 2 red bags are the bags of toys
First aid and essentials (shout wipes, baggies, etc)
To show size of bag
First aid and essentials
Juice boxes - fit in the side pockets nicely!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Recipe

Once again, I am in debt to my sis for sharing this yummy variation on grilled cheese sandwiches.


Pepperoni Pizza Grilled Cheese

Heat skillet to medium heat on stove.
Butter 2 slices of bread for each sandwich.
Place one slice, butter side down, in skillet.
Layer with one slice of mozzarella cheese.
Cover with pepperoni slices (takes about 9 per sandwich).
Place second slice of bread, butter side up.

Grill as you would for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Double yummy!

Doesn't take much longer than standard grilled cheese, but has a completely different flavor! 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No more cereal crumbs!

My sister shared this tip with me some time back (mysecondcupofcoffee). I like cereal, but do not like crumbs from the bottom of the bag in my bowl, nor do I like wasting cereal to avoid the crumbs. Sis suggested pouring the cereal into a colander, shaking it a bit to get rid of the small crumbs, THEN pouring it into your bowl for milk and eating! It works REALLY well and I never would have thought of doing it!

Anyway... happy cereal-crumb-free breakfasting!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time-Saving Recipe

Friends,

Time-saving recipes are another thing that I really enjoy finding and trying. Life is busy, but family meals are important to me. If I can save time making a meal, there is more time to enjoy it as a family!

 Here's one of my favorite "fix-it-and-forget it" recipes! If you like south-western flavors, I think you'll like this! (Warning: If you don't like spicy foods, this one has a bit of a kick from the fire-roasted tomatoes).


Tex-Mex Chicken

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 packets taco seasoning
1 can (8 oz) green chilies *
1 can (15 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can (15 oz) mexicorn or canned corn, drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained **
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained **
1 can (15 oz) red beans, rinsed and drained **

* I left out the chilies and it tasted great!
** This seemed like a lot of beans, so I just picked two

1. Layer ingredients in a crock pot in the order given. Empty one packet of
taco seasoning directly onto the chicken and add the second packet
after all the remaining ingredients have been added.
2. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
3. Stir, shredding chicken as you mix ingredients.
4. Serve over rice or in tortillas (we prefer tortillas).

Instant hit - we loved it the first time I made it!
You can serve it with sour cream, salsa, etc.

This easily makes enough for 6-8 people. (We usually only eat 1/3 of it in a meal.)
* Sweetheart loves eating the leftovers with tortilla chips, too.

Once you try it, I'd love to hear what you thought!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stress-Free Sunday Mornings

Growing up, there was always something special about Sunday mornings. Before we kids would wake up, dad would load the vinyl record player with a stack of praise and worship music and we would wake up to praise and worship music setting the mood for Sunday mornings. (There were sometimes doughnuts for breakfast, too - a special Sunday morning treat!) In fact, Sunday mornings were so un-stressed that I often had time to sit at the piano and play hymns and choruses before we left for church!

Sunday mornings never seemed rushed or stressed when I was growing up and I'm trying very hard to re-create that environment for my children. I don't want them dreading waking up on Sundays because it's stressful, I want them to remember happy memories of Sundays, not a stressed-out mommy who's always scrambling to find socks, shoes, church money, etc.

So, preparation for us is done on Saturdays! (And no, it doesn't take me all afternoon - just a few minutes!)

First, I check fingernails and toenails and trim them as needed (this often happens on Friday evening at bathtime).

Second, I check Sunday's weather and decide what to dress my children (and myself!) in. Children's clothes, down to socks, are hung up on the hook on the back of their bedroom door (socks go in pockets or are clipped to hangers). My clothes are hung in the center of the closet, where they will be easy to get on Sunday morning.

Third, their backpacks are packed with the necessary items for nursery class (diapers and wipes, extra clothes if potty-training, etc). Those are hung in the center of their closet, along with their jackets/coats if needed. My purse is checked and re-stocked for Sunday morning with my Bible and sermon notes notebook.

Fourth, the "afternoon bag" is packed if we are going to grandma's. This holds extra diapers, an extra outfit (or two, or three, depending on child's needs) and a change of clothes for Sweetheart and myself, including play shoes. This is placed near the door, ready to add any medications, special blankies and lovies (necessities for nap)in the morning just before we head out.

There's no staying up late on Saturday nights for us... we have the opportunity to worship with our church family on Sunday morning, and we want to be rested and ready!

** This actually took me longer to TYPE than it takes me to do! **

Sunday morning:
I try to get up at least 1 1/2 hours before we have to leave. I usually start some praise music for everyone to get up to. While the little ones are eating breakfast, I get "dressed" (hair, make-up, underclothes, nylons, etc) to the point I am ready to put on my blouse/skirt or dress, then put my pj's on. (My little ones are still slightly messy eaters and they're still eating breakfast!)

After breakfast, the little ones are allowed to watch a Veggie Tale dvd or one of their music videos (videos of kids singing kids songs) while I do the breakfast dishes. I finish packing the afternoon bag, get them dressed to shoes, and we count out church money (which is put in an envelope in their church bag if they are with us for service.) I then quickly dress myself (which I can do super-quick because it's already selected), and we are OUT THE DOOR 45 minutes BEFORE Sunday School begins. Church is currently 30 minutes away, but that 15 minutes gives Sweetheart and I time to walk into church, check our little ones into their classes and make it to our class on time.

Sweetheart is a great help in all this, but on the Sunday mornings he is in the tech booth (he helps with the sound/light system) I have to do it on my own because he has to be there early. I can still do this on my own and be church on time! :)

What tips/tricks do YOU employ with your family to not only be at church on time, but prepared to worship?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Free (or cheap) Chip Clips!

Hi, friends!

I found this idea on Pinterest and thought I'd try it. Well, I LOVE it!

I don't know about your house, but those "chip clips" always seem to be missing around here and it always seems expensive to purchase more. Well, the idea is to take those plastic hangers that skirts and pants come with when you purchase them, saw off the "clip" part, and off you go! Sweetheart sawed the first few off for me and decided that it wasn't worth the effort, but I loved how much tighter they seemed to grip. So, I decided to try removing the clips myself ... and I found that if I score both sides very well with the small saw, I can snap them off! Much easier than trying to "saw" through the whole hanger.

Oh, if this seems like too much of a hassle for you, my other solution is to purchase a bag of plastic clothespins... you get a whole bag for a few bucks - much less expensive per "chip clip!"

Happy savings!
Vicki

http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=317786.0

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

No more yucky microwaves!!!

My favorite way to clean my microwave is so easy and doesn't take very long, so I'm sharing my method with all of you!

Take 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup lemon juice (You don't have to actually MEASURE this, just eyeball it), put it in a 2 cup container (so it doesn't boil over and make a bigger mess). Put it in the microwave and boil it until you have a good rolling boil (usually takes mine about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes), Stop microwave (DO NOT OPEN THE MICROWAVE) and allow to set for 15-20 minutes (or longer, if you don't get to it right away, it's not a crisis). Open the microwave, remove lemon juice/water, and wipe clean with hot water (you may possibly need a bit of dish soap, but shouldn't need any harsh cleaners).

I don't know HOW it works ... something in the lemon juice steam, I suppose, but it works and my microwave is clean without chemicals in my microwave!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An easy, sweet treat

Sweetheart and I met and started dating in 1995. (That's a LONG time!) Anyway, he just recently shared one of his favorite childhood treats with me and I (and our two little ones) LOVE it!

Ingredients: 1 box of graham crackers (honey flavor, not the cinnamon) and 1 tub of chocolate icing.

Break 1 graham in half (so you have a square), spread a layer of icing, top with other half... eat! YUMMY!

Ok, so it's not the healthiest snack or treat out there, but it feeds a chocolate craving in a flash!

My first reaction to these was "we've been together for HOW LONG and you're JUST NOW telling me about these????"

Monday, April 2, 2012

Avoiding a crisis

Those who really know me know that I REALLY don't like moments of crisis that are preventable... those little annoyances that cause last-minute hiccups to my day. I especially don't like things that require last-minute runs to the store because I just ran out of something that I NEED (toothpaste, deodorant, dish soap, etc). So, a few months ago, I started doing something a little different. Over a few grocery shopping trips, I stocked 1 extra of everything (from contact solution to dish soap and dishwashing gloves). Now, when I run out of something, I get the unopened one from its home and WRITE IT ON MY LIST!!! Then, next shopping trip, I purchase the new one of whatever and NO MORE CRISIS over cosmetics!

Personally, I don't look at stocking one extra of things like toothpaste, deodorant, dish soap, etc as "hoarding," I look at it as "crisis prevention" and I'm a lot calmer now because I'm not stressing about making something "stretch" until next shopping trip!

Bonus note: I also stock an extra toothbrush (or two) and a few disposable razors for unexpected overnight guests (we've had them when major power outages knocked out power). I always want to be ready to welcome guests, even when they aren't prepared to be guests!