Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Calendar - Week 2

Here's this week's recap:

Day 4 - Make Christmas Goodies with Mom

I forgot to take a picture of him helping me, but I chose a simple one - Pretzel Hugs.  He did okay, but the only part he really enjoyed was setting the hugs on the pretzels, and once I put them in the oven he disappeared.

Day 5 - Buy a Gift to Give Away

We went and bought our Angel Tree gifts, and today we brought them back to church so they could be delivered.  No picture of that, but here's some colored ice he made with Grandma:

Day 6 - Visit Great-Grandpa DG and Great-Grandpa VV
Both Henry and Great-Grandpa were impressed by the three Hubers Lumber hats.

Day 7: Have Grandpa & Grandma H and Grandpa & Grandma VM Over for Supper

This was one of the highlights last year, and this year was no different.  I had Henry make the phone calls to invite them over when we got home at noon (I had arranged the date in advance!), and the calls were short and to the point. :)
 He got to lick out the bowl of whipped cream, which is never disappointing.
And Henry made sure they played down stairs with him after supper.

Day 8: Visit the Nursing Home and Hand out Treats

We had made extra candy cane reindeer and went to pass them out.  Henry did pretty good - only two really wanted us to stay and sit down (which wasn't an option with Henry!).  One guy was pretty interesting, but the last one we stopped by was where we ran into problems.  Henry was ready to go, and I had said this was our last one, but the poor lady was confused and thought we were someone she knew and REALLY wanted Henry to come say hi and sit by her.  Not much I could do about that, though.

Day 9: Make a Snowman Ornament
We actually did this the next day, because Friday we went shopping with Rachel.

This was kind of fun - because I gave up my plan!  I enjoy crafts, but I want them to turn out and therefore have a hard time letting Henry do his own thing.  So instead of making an ornament where I would want them to look "just right," I got out the construction paper and let him paint however he wanted.  He thought it was hilarious that I painted his hand.

Day 10: Make Treats for Friends

We skipped this - we did the snowman painting instead, and we have the candy cane reindeer done.  I had an idea to go with it, but it just wasn't necessary and didn't sound fun at the time.

While we were shopping with Rachel, we drove through Falls Park to look at the lights before heading home.  Henry saw a "raining tree" and we had to park the car so he could get out and look at it closer.  We ended up running all over and he had to touch some lights, and he wanted to roll down a big hill - I was freezing and it was pretty close to the water so I put a nix on that idea.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar, Year 2

I'll never be a dependable blogger - sometimes it just doesn't fit in my life.  So you'll just have to bear with me on the random posts and unannounced breaks.

Henry and I really enjoyed our Advent Calendar and all the activities last year, so I think it will always be one of our traditions.  The activities will change from year to year as I figure out what some favorites are and what isn't that enjoyable.  And while I think something like this would be fun for every family, some of our activities may be "way over the top" for others.  But I have the time and the enjoyment for baking and crafting.

One thing I learned last year was to be flexible.  If Henry wasn't in the mood to do something, trying to convince him it would be fun was never successful.  And that defeats the reason I wanted to do this - to make this a season of fun and serving others so it doesn't become a season wrapped around one day of presents.

On to the calendar.  Here is this year's version:
While I found tons of cute ideas, I needed something simple so that I would actually get it made before December 1.  I had squares of cardstock that I folded over a little to make a pocket in the back, and stuck a piece of paper in it with our activity on it (which makes it easy to switch activities if something unexpected comes up one day).  Then I printed numbers on paper, cut them out and glued them on the fronts of the cards.  Then I taped a piece of twine onto our mantel and used mini clothespins to hang the cards up.  A little effort, but pretty simple (and reusable next year).

Day 1: Put up the Christmas Tree and Decorate:
This went about the same as last year, but I planned for him to have some hot chocolate while I "un-smooshed" the branches (which is where he lost interest last year.  He also decided that he wanted a popcorn string on the tree because of the book, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

It may not have been my best decision, but I agreed and even thought, "Hey, I have a bag of cranberries still setting in the fridge.  And I'm stubborn enough to finish what I started even though I keep wondering why I'm doing it.  So we have cranberry and popcorn garlands on our tree.  For about the only time in my life.

Day 2: Make Candy Cane Reindeer for Great-Grandparents
I thought this would be something he had fun doing.  I thought the eyes, and the noses, and the bells would be fun for him to put on.

He only wanted to be in charge of the glue, which was fine.  I just had to remind myself it was better if I didn't watch.

Day 3: Decorate Wrapping Paper with Finger Paint.

This hasn't happened, maybe in part because I don't want paint all over clothes and he refuses to wear one of Doug's old shirts.  Oh well. 
Instead we played in the fresh-fallen snow and Doug hooked the sled up to the back of the 4-wheeler and we were the crazy neighbors going up and down our road.  We had fun, and thankfully we were about done when the sled broke in half.  It wasn't quite made for that!

Not sure if I'll try to update daily, otherwise I'll have a weekly summary next Saturday.

Do you have any special Christmas traditions?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - August 29

We've been busy around here, filling the (last) dumpster in front of our house.  Anyway, I have been planning and we have been eating, so here's the plan for this week:

Monday: We're going to a benefit supper

Tuesday: Saucy Meatballs, Un-fried French Fries, and Beans from the garden

Wednesday: Chef Salad

Thursday: Southwest Sandwiches and more Beans

Friday: Grilled Steak, Potatoes, and Cabbage

Saturday: Sub Sandwiches and Chips

Sunday: Breakfast - Amish Baked Oatmeal
             Dinner - Doug's parents'

Monday: Breakfast - Sticky Buns
              Dinner - Sandwiches/Leftovers
              Supper - My parents'

Have a good week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Territory

I'm quite comfortable with most aspects of my life.

Obviously I'm not perfect in any part of my life, but mostly content.

I'm even comfortable remodeling, from doing the work to changing a house layout to making decisions about style and color.

But now I've entered new territory.

A place I've never had to challenge myself since we never stayed in a house long enough.


I've spent the past weeks devouring magazines, decorating blogs and books.  And exploring thrift and second-hand stores, since I'm not after perfect and I love vintage and re-purposed pieces.  An area I had to (willingly) give Doug veto power over any piece I re-finish.

I'll have lots of upcoming posts on this, it's just a matter of finding making the time to sit down and do it.  Because I'm going to be looking for more feedback than Doug's "It's fine" responses. :)

Stage One: Bar Seating

I got the idea for this a while ago, and started it not too long after.

It's just the "completing" that I struggle with.

The pattern is from Ana White, called Small Easy Rustic X Benches.  There are so many things from her site that I have on my to do list it's not even funny.

I ended up painting them an off-white and then "dry-brushing" a brown over top to get the rustic look.  I like the effect, and it was much easier than my first (and quickly discarded) plan of painting it brown, and then white, and then sanding to give it the distressed look.  It would have taken a coat of prime, 1-2 coats of brown, 2 coats of white, and then careful sanding.  2 coats of white was enough after the primer, and the dry-brushing went - and dried - quickly.

You can't see the brown very well in the photo, but in person they look good.  Much better than the too-clean off white I considered for about the 10 seconds I had it setting by our counter.

And it was a very cheap project.  Well, anything that doesn't involve anything other than wood, screws, and paint is going to be really cheap for me. ;)  But even full price it would probably have been under $50, and that's including paint that I can use for lots of different projects I have planned.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Plan and How to Use Up Cucumbers

I haven't had much of a plan for meals lately, which is kind of a good sign since we're eating lots from the garden.

We're still well-supplied with cucumbers, tomatoes are ripening about 2 at a time, and I've made and froze a few batches of pesto from my healthy basil plant.  And after being half-eaten by rabbits or birds, my green beans have apparently recovered and flourished and now we'll probably be eating beans every-other night.

This week I actually have a plan:

Monday: Burgers, Grilled Corn, and Beans

Tuesday: Baked Fish, Buttermilk Rolls, and Cucumber Pickles

Wednesday: Sandwiches/Veggies/Use up the produce/Leftovers night

Thursday: Mexican Lasagna

Friday: Tavern, Un-fried French Fries, and Beans or Cucumbers

Saturday: Pizza and Chips (Hopefully I'll get to make the tomato and pesto one I planned to make all last year, but didn't have any garden tomatoes)

Sunday: Breakfast - Sticky Buns
             Lunch - Doug's parents'

If anyone else needs ideas for using up cucumbers, here are some of my favorites:

Pickles - 3-4 cucumbers sliced thin (we like ours peeled) and sprinkled with salt, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and 1Tbsp. vinegar.  Mix and let set for a little while - or serve right away if you remembered to make them as everyone is already on their way to the table.  Keeps just fine in the fridge for quite a while (if there's enough juice).

Cucumber Sandwich - Spread a little mayo on bread (top and bottom unless you want an open sandwich.  But I like bread.), sprinkle with dried dill weed.  Top with (peeled) cucumber slices and sprinkle with salt.  Yum!

Cucumber Tomato Salad - 1 (peeled) cucumber and 1 tomato, diced large.  Sprinkle with salt and stir in 1-2 tsp. Ranch dressing.  This one doesn't keep overnight very well.

I also made Microwave Bread and Butter Pickles and Crisp Freezer Pickles.

I also made Pico de Gallo this week.  When we were in Mexico, I could have lived on this stuff.  I smothered eggs and omelets with it for breakfast, I had it with chips and guacamole for dinner, and if I was lucky they included it in the condiments tray when we were seated for supper.  I started with a small amount, and then decided to make more, but this is the recipe I sort of followed (minus the jalapeno because I'm a very mild kind of girl).

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

While Mom Mowed...

I seriously should have a separate folder for pictures of things that went on while I was busy mowing.

Henry usually hangs out by me, riding bike while I mow the front or in the sandbox while I mow the back.  He'll disappear sometimes, but since he's good about not playing out front by the sidewalk without me, I usually don't worry and just go check on him a few times. 

Because he's almost always just playing in the car and loading it up with tools and the scraps of wood we keep for the fireplace.

Except sometimes he's not.

Sometimes he's enjoying unsupervised time in the house.

This is what I found last week after mowing, and I did have to laugh because I didn't find either of the messes until several hours later.

His bedroom:
He helped himself to about half a block of cheese.  And ate off of every edge.

The office:
My stack of post its was in about a hundred pieces, papers had random "H"s on them, and several post its were stapled.
He also emptied out some of my hanging folders so his toolbox would fit in the drawer.  Because every toolbox needs a drawer, you know.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - July 25

I'm patiently waiting for the tomatoes in the garden to turn red, but we're enjoying the fresh lettuce and cucumbers!

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Stromboli and Broccoli

Tuesday: Chicken Fingers, Stuffing, and Corn on the Cob

Wednesday: Brunch Casserole and Fruit (bumped from last week)

Thursday: Leftover/misc

Friday: Beef Enchiladas

Saturday: Chef Salad or Sandwiches

Sunday: Breakfast- Orange Rolls
             Dinner- BLTs and Chips

Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - July 18

I'm afraid these are going to be pretty haphazard throughout the summer, due to enjoying the outdoors and more informal meals.

Last week, between the county fair and a weekend vacation, we had three suppers at home.  Chef salad, homemade pizza, and the fettuccine alfredo I can make with my eyes closed.  And lots of "pickles" - cucumbers sliced in a vinegar and sugar brine.

This week is subject to change due to garden productivity.  I may need to bump something to use up the lettuce that I'm afraid is going to bolt soon - side salads aren't using it fast enough!  The cucumbers are appearing out of nowhere, and Henry and I shared the first of many red tomatoes Friday before we left.

Monday - Chicken Ranch Tacos and Cucumbers

Tuesday - Brunch Casserole and Fruit

Wednesday - Cobb Salad Wrap

Thursday - BLTs and Cucumbers

Friday - Savory Spiral Rolls and Cucumber-Tomato salad (I don't know the real name - basically diced cucumbers and tomatoes in a ranch dressing)

Saturday - Saucy Parmesan Chicken on the Grill, Roasted Potatoes, and Salad

Sunday -Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls
               Dinner: Doug's parents
               Supper: Veggies/leftovers

Have a good week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Good Reminder for Me

From Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest.

June 25th.


"What shall I say? Father, save me, from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." John 12:27-29 (R.V.)

My attitude as a saint to sorrow and difficulty is not to ask that they may be prevented, but to ask that I may preserve the self God created me to be through every fire of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself in the fire of sorrow, He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to receive ourselves in its fires. If we try and evade sorrow, refuse to lay our account with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be. Sin and sorrow and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness, but it does not always make a man better. Suffering either gives me my self or it destroys my self. You cannot receive your self in success, you lose your head; you cannot receive your self in monotony, you grouse. The way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be so is another matter, but that it is so is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you. If a man has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, he has no time for you. If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.

Text from here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Frugal Wrapping Paper

We do the Dave Ramsey thing.

And Christmas and birthdays don't sneak up on us.

We don't go overboard on gifts and the amount we set aside is on the small side, so I do my best to make the money go as far as possible.

I don't like to spend that money on wrapping paper.  Occasionally I'll buy a pack of Christmas paper for the next year during the after-Christmas clearance sale for $1-2.

For birthdays and the rest of the year, I usually resort to Kraft paper (that brown paper by the packing/shipping supplies) and ribbons.  And not ribbon on rolls, where you get maybe 9 feet for $1.  I use the package of ribbon "scraps" from Hobby Lobby, usually bought when that department has it's 50% off sale for only a couple dollars.

I've recently found another option that's completely free.  (Well, we sort of pay for it initially.)  At work, sometimes our large printer or copier for house plans malfunctions, and the copies are pretty much useless.  So I take home the large pieces of paper, tape it down on our dining room table, and let Henry go to town with the colors or markers.

And then I save them and use it for wrapping paper.

(Although I'm usually not that organized.  I usually pull out a piece 5 minutes before I need to wrap a present and expect Henry to be creative.  There have been times where he made about two lines with one color and was done, but then you just throw on a ribbon.)

Custom wrapping paper made just for the recipient.

What are your cheap wrapping ideas?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - June 20

Things have calmed down, and thankfully I'm no longer worried about having a completely chaotic plan when it comes to meals all supper long.  I try to have at least one meal that can easily be bumped until a week or two later without having ingredients go bad.  Because it seems that at least one thing comes up a week, whether it's an unplanned outing or I spent all afternoon mowing and painting the shed and come in much too late to start what I had planned.  Not that that's happened recently.

Monday: Grilled Cuban Sandwiches and Un-Fried French Fries

Tuesday: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, and Salad

Wednesday:  Easy Cheese Enchiladas

Thursday: Tavern, Pickle Spears, and Chips

Friday: Grilled Chicken, Easy Mac & Cheese, and Cucumber Pickles or Grilled Corn on the Cob (depends if I want to try corn from the grocery store this early in the season...)

Saturday: Caesar Pasta Salad

Sunday: Breakfast - Very French Toast
              Dinner - Doug's parents, and I'm bringing Ho Ho Cake for dessert

Have a great week, and check back on Thursday since I will actually be having another post this week!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - June 13

Here's our plan for this week:

Monday: Chamber golf supper

Tuesday: Black Bean Tortilla Casserole -using up leftovers from our tacos last week (Similar to this recipe, but I don't remember where I found mine)

Wednesday: Mile High Shredded Beef, Coleslaw, and Chips

Thursday: Club Wraps and Carrots

Friday: To my parents'

Saturday: Italian Honey Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, and Corn

Sunday: Breakfast: Cinnamon Bread
              Dinner: Easy Cheese Enchiladas

And blueberries are on sale, so I'll probably be making Lemon Blueberry Muffins today or tomorrow for some quick breakfasts for me.  Or dessert that I call breakfast.  That's my plan for this week, hopefully I follow it as good as I did last week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - June 6

Last week was busy.  Between the holiday, family get-togethers, our city's summer celebration, and a birthday party, we ate one cooked meal at home.  (Another night the "boys" had hot dogs and macaroni, and another we had quick sandwiches before heading out.)

This week looks slow - thankfully.  I could use a little time at home and Henry could use a little down time!

Monday:  Zesty Grilled Ham, Syracuse Salt Potatoes, and Green Beans

Tuesday:  BLTs and Vinegar Cucumbers

Wednesday:  Tacos

Thursday:  Egg Salad Sandwiches and Carrot Sticks

Friday:  Lemon-Herb Grilled Chicken, Salad, and Rolls

Saturday:  Pizza Bites

Sunday: Breakfast - Muffins (kind depends on what fruit goes on sale tomorrow)
              Lunch - Doug's Parents'

Have a good week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Water Troubles

We had a little incident with water in our basement this week.

The good news?  Our major investment in landscaping last year is paying off, since we aren't having water come in from the endless rains this spring.

The bad news?  My washer has a major leak.

Thankfully I had put the load in shortly before Doug came home.  We were eating supper and I heard water running and went to the bathroom expecting to see the faucet left on part-way by a little boy.  Then I went to the basement door and opened it, and thought "Uh-oh" as I heard the sound of a waterfall.

It wasn't a terrible mess, and about half of the water was still in the base drawer of the washer, but still not a lot of fun.

Hopefully I'll have a working machine sometime next week, otherwise back to the laundromat!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 23

As per the recent norm, this week is probably subject to many adjustments. :)

Monday:  Baked Southwest Sandwiches and Snow Peas

Tuesday:  Chicken Ranch Tacos

Wednesday:  Graduation Party

Thursday:  Stromboli, although I'll probably make a Ham, Broccoli, and Cheese one to use up some leftovers

Friday:  Shingling

Saturday:  Shingling  OR Zesty Grilled Ham, Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Sunday:  Breakfast - Butterbraid
              Dinner - Doug's parents'

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Love Photoshop



(He wasn't too sure about the ferris wheel at first)

And some of the other highlights from our visit to the Tulip Festival:

Sitting with Grandpa and Grandma after we all got covered in powdered sugar from our funnel cakes.

He saw some kids across the street hugging the other cup, and he wanted in on the action.

Watching Dad drive our town's float, and catching a golf ball (with Mom's help) from him.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cozumel, Mexico

Earlier this year Doug and I got to get away on a peaceful, relaxing vacation that involved a lot of sitting.

And I got to use my 7-year-old passport for the very first time.  :)  Although we had to renew Doug's since it expired 2 months before our trip (at least his had been used a few times!).
And this is where we spent almost every day.
I didn't take enough books along - apparently I'm not used to having that much uninterrupted time to read!
We saw some Mayan Ruins.
Lots of iguanas.
A few crocodiles.

And even some dolphins, crabs and pelicans.

Around 5:00 we'd be sitting at the snack bar,
watching the sun set as we waited for the dining area to open for supper.

We had a good time, relaxed, and had some time to sit and talk.

I have no desire to be one of those couples who go every year, where 10 days still isn't long enough for them.

But then again, we were the ones sitting in the shade without our own insulated mugs for beer.

How uncool of us.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 16

It's definitely going to be a fairly unscheduled week this week.  Between shingling and the Tulip Festival, I barely know what our schedule is going to be this week.

Monday:  Lettuce and Hot Feta and Artichoke Dip for me and Henry (I have some Feta that needs a purpose)

Tuesday:  Nachos

Wednesday: Chicken Stuffed Shells and Snow Peas  (Shhh - don't tell Doug all the "herbs" actually include spinach...)

Thursday: Turkey Wraps or Tulip Festival

Friday: Tortilla Pizzas or Tulip Festival

Saturday: Chicago Style Pizza and Chips (Yes, bumped again)

Sunday: Breakfast: Banana Muffins
              Dinner: Leftovers/Missed meals

I'm trying to make the transition from "winter" meal planning to "summer" and have been sorting through my recipes to find my throw-together-at-the-last-minute, light, minimal-cooking-required meals.

Anyone have any favorites to share?  I'm also struggling with grilling recipes since I'm not a huge fan of mostly-meat meals.  And this is the first full summer that we've had a grill in many years.

Menu Plan, Um, Thursday

Some weeks I follow my menu plan almost religiously, which is much easier than debating what we should have at 5:00.

Some weeks I barely have a plan to follow.  Between Doug planning to shingle (which hasn't happened yet this week) and the hot weather when Doug doesn't feel like eating and I don't enjoy cooking as much, and my lack of organization at the end of last week, I only had a vague plan.

To maybe give the rest of you a little more inspiration than I've had this week, here's what our week (sort of) looks like:

Monday: Grilled Burgers, Carrot Sticks, Broken Glass Jello Salad (leftovers)

Tuesday: Grilled 7-up Chicken, Snow Peas, and Cornbread Biscuits

Wednesday:  Pizza (delivery because I spent the afternoon mowing and staining our porch and was supposed to leave for a meeting 15 minutes after I finished.) 

Thursday: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas and Corn Pudding (bumped from a few weeks ago)

Friday: Baked Fish, Salt Potatoes, and Salad (bumped from last week)

Saturday:  Chicago Style Pizza and Chips (bumped from last week, but we'll see since we just had pizza...)

Sunday:  Breakfast - French Toast Sticks
               Dinner - Doug's parents'

Hopefully I'll be a little more timely next week!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 2

I made the Oatmeal Cinnamon  Bread Saturday morning before my day disappeared.  It was a hit: in less than 24 hours, the first loaf is gone. 

At least I can tell when Doug really likes something even though he doesn't always tell me. :)

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: Chicken Quesadillas

Tuesday: Pit Beef, Coleslaw, and some kind of bread/rolls

Wednesday: Busy Baked Fish, Syracuse Salt Potatoes, and Peas

Thursday: Pancakes, Sausage Links, and Fruit

Friday: Bacon Ranch Chicken Mac & Cheese (I use sour cream instead of the cream of mushroom soup), and Green Beans

Saturday: Chicago Style Pizza (I just use a jar of sauce, or an easy overnight version I like), and Chips

Sunday: Breakfast - Amish Baked Oatmeal
              Dinner - Leftovers or Egg Salad Sandwiches

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bread Pudding

I remember having bread pudding quite often when I was younger, but as we got older it went the way of the neglected barbies.  Not sure why.  (Maybe my mom can answer this.)

A year (or maybe two?) ago, I randomly had the desire to have bread pudding again and found this recipe.  It is now the reason I throw all bread ends, stray buns, and almost-stale bread in my freezer.

Then when I want bread pudding (or when I have almost-empty bags of bread taking over my freezer), I just take out the bread and let it thaw/dry out overnight - if I've planned ahead.  If it's spontaneous I'll dry it out a little in the oven.

This was about twice as much as I needed.

Tear the bread up into pieces.  If you prefer cubes, go ahead and use a knife - I just enjoy the ease of tearing.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, sugars, salt, and vanilla.  I add about 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

Stir in the bread (and raisins if you like).  And I prefer mine more bread and less pudding, so feel free to adjust as you like - I stir in enough bread to absorb almost all of the liquid.

Pour into a greased pan or casserole dish and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  (Yesterday mine took a little over 40 minutes for the center to get done, but I don't remember if that's typical or not.)

Cook the brown sugar sauce while the pudding is cooking, then set aside.  I like to let it cool off a little - it will get slightly thicker - but you can serve it immediately.  Drizzle over your bowl of bread pudding and enjoy!

Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Sauce

3 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. butter, melted*
1 3/4 c. milk*
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon PLUS extra for sprinkling
8 c. stale, cubed bread
1/2 c. raisins, optional

Brown Sugar Sauce
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. boiling water
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together eggs, butter, milk, sugars, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.  Stir in bread (and raisins).  Pour into greased 2 qt. casserole or 9x9 pan and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

While pudding is baking, make brown sugar sauce.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Whisk in flour until combined.  Stir in brown sugar and mix as well as you can.  Gradually stir in water, stir until smooth. (If you add the water too fast and get little chunks of the flour/butter mixture floating, it's okay - it just takes a little more whisking, but they will blend in.)  Cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and let cool slightly.

Serve bread pudding with brown sugar sauce drizzled on top.  Or poured on.  I won't tell anyone.

*I rarely have heavy cream on hand, so I substitute 1/3 c. melted butter and 3/4 c. milk.  If you prefer, you can add 1 c. heavy cream, reduce the milk to 1 c., and skip the butter.  I've had it both ways and haven't noticed a difference.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - April 25

Here is our plan for this week.  

Monday:  Cheeseburger Pasta and Green Beans

Tuesday:  Reuben Reinvented Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks and Chips

WednesdayBrunch Casserole and Fruit

ThursdayParmesan Crusted Tilapia, Roasted Potatoes, and Peas

Friday:  Chef Salad (or we'll eat out, depending on the budget and when Henry and I get home)

SaturdaySour Cream Chicken Enchiladas and Corn Pudding

Sunday:  Breakfast - Oatmeal Cinnamon Bread - on the list again since I spent Saturday afternoon tearing off shingles instead of baking bread and cleaning the house
              Dinner - Doug's parents'

And Bread Pudding (linked to the inspiration, not my actual recipe).  I'll post the recipe later this week - after I make it - since I don't even follow my own recipe and should write down what I actually do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Strawberries - The Good and The Ugly

Since strawberries were on sale the other week, I couldn't resist them even though Doug refuses to eat strawberry-anything.  Unless it's artificially flavored.

I think it's the seeds.

I had enough strawberries for two recipes. 

Both tasted delicious. 

One turned out ugly.

When I bought the strawberries, strawberry pie was at the top of my list since I don't think I've ever made it before, and it's been forever since I had a piece.  So I found a recipe that didn't require Jell-o.

Actually a combination of the best parts of three different recipes.

And this is what I got:
 Henry tossed out his crust and ate "strawberry soup."

The cooked cornstarch and strawberry mixture had thickened in the pan while I finished cutting up the last strawberries and I had to stir it up before pouring it over top.

And in the fridge it turned completely liquid again.

I don't know what went wrong, but it still tasted like strawberry pie.

(So Mom, there's proof that my attempts in the kitchen aren't always a success!)

Now for the good: Strawberries and Cream Bread. YUM!
Of course Doug wouldn't try it even though it was really good.  So Henry wouldn't try it.

(Until it was over half gone and Grandma had some, and then he loved it.)

Strawberries & Cream Bread -from, and the only change is I added more strawberries

1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. diced strawberries

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.  Cream butter and add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, then add brown sugar.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, then sour cream and vanilla.

Add flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Fold in strawberries.

Pour into a greased 8x4 loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes or until toothpick comes out (mostly) clean.  (Mine didn't come out perfectly clean but my bread wasn't doughy at all.)  Let stand 10 minutes in pan, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday April 18

Here's our plan for this week:

Monday: Cheese Enchiladas

Tuesday: Burgers and Un-fried French Fries (I usually use Zesty Italian dressing)

Wednesday: Broccoli Cheese Soup and Amish Bread

Thursday: Mock Chicken Fried Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Corn

Friday: Turkey Hero and Chips

Saturday: Monthly get-together with my family

Sunday: Breakfast - Oatmeal Cinnamon Bread
              Dinner - Leftovers or Sandwiches

As a side note - I only link to online recipes if we've had it before and had success with it.  So if you ever see anything you'd like a recipe for, just let me know!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How I Cleaned Up My Beauty Routine - Part 2

This weeks shocking confession: I wash my face with oil.  Castor and olive oil to be exact.

I have combination skin and have struggled with acne more in the past 2 years than when I was a teenager.

A little frustrating when you're closer to 30 than 13.

ProActiv did nothing for me.  SkinID sort of helped.  Clinique helped a little.  But all of those require a good chunk of money shelled out regularly.

And now I wash my face with oil.  I don't think the oil cleansing method helped rid my face of acne, but overall it seems like it evened out my skin tone.  My cheeks are soft and no longer have the frustrating issue of an oily face that's dry and flaky because of acne treatments.

My complexion is so much better that I've been comfortable enough to go without foundation for close to two months.  (Granted, it's still not perfect and I occasionally need to use a dab of cover up.)

But the acne toner is what made a huge difference, even before I started using oil to wash my face.  If you give this a try, I'll give you a heads up that it stinks.  Between witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, and tea tree oil, it's best not to breathe too deeply while applying!

Don't worry though, the smell goes away once it (quickly) dries.  I know - I had my mom sniff my cheek one morning without telling her why. :p

This is my skin routine:

'Wash' my face in the shower with an almond-oatmeal scrub mixed with witch hazel
Acne toner

Oil cleansing method
Acne mask (maybe once a week)
Acne toner

I have used lemon juice to spot treat, and I've used it in place of the toner at night if I seem to be having a breakout.  It seems to work sometimes, and other times not so well.

But it's better than the spot treatments that came with ProActiv and SkinID which never worked for me.

I can't believe how effective the natural (and cheap) method is, and I wish I had discovered this years ago!

Someday I plan to make my own deodorant too.  We'll see how that goes. :)

(Again no before/after pictures because after scouring my recent photos, the only photos that would be close enough to show my complexion are blurry shots taken from odd and unusual angles by the 3-year-old.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - April 11

Here's my plan for this week - a few less meals than usual due to some fun outings this week!

Monday: Baked Potatoes (diced ham, steamed broccoli, and cheese for toppings)

Tuesday: To the Circus!

Wednesday: Hot Chicken Salad and Green Beans

Thursday: Gerber Sandwich and Corn Casserole

Friday: Small Group outing - Pizza and Bowling

Saturday:  Grilled Chicken, Lettuce, and Sweet Macaroni Salad

Sunday:  Breakfast - Strawberries and Cream Bread
               Dinner - Doug's parents'

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How I Cleaned Up My Beauty Routine - Part 1

So this is the post where I confess that I've turned into a hippie of sorts. :)

Ok, not really.  But I am going the more natural route.  I have avoided most commercial cleaners for several years, and use baking soda and vinegar for most of my cleaning.  But my most recent purge of chemicals was from my personal hygiene supplies.

About the only thing I still use is my eyeliner and some occasional cover up.

This week I'll explain the changes I made to my hair care, and next week I'll go over my skin care.  (So far all my 'recipes' have come from Crunch Betty since her site is pretty comprehensive and saves me a lot of internet surfing.)

First, this week's shocking confession: I haven't used shampoo in six weeks

Instead I'm using baking soda and vinegar

I haven't had a miraculous change in hair texture like some people seem to have, but my hair is clean, it's chemical free, and it's cheap so I still prefer it over shampoo and conditioner.

I'm still hoping for a change in texture.  Since my hair is thick and coarse, maybe it's just taking longer than the average person for my hair to adjust - it's still quite dry and never really got oily during the transition phase.

I'd post before and after pictures, but the only change is that I've given up trying to style my natural curl/frizz (which hasn't been cooperating for months) and just pull my hair back in a barrette or a pony tail. 

Someday I may try one of the recipes for hair gel made from gelatin (plain of course!) or flax seeds.  I'll let you know if I ever get adventurous. 

Check back next week for my shocking confession on what I wash my face with! :)

(And along the natural route, I explained a while ago that I no longer buy female products.  I would never go back and wish that I knew about this years ago.  For some reason - that I don't understand - it's not common even though the option has been around since the 1930s.  So if you're open to change I recommend checking it out.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - April 4

This week is a continuation of last week - we're going to be eating from the freezer and pantry.  While the timing of this wasn't my choice, it really needs to happen every once in a while to clear out the stockpiles - especially the ones I didn't know I had.

Monday:  Southwest Sandwiches and Green Beans - canned, not fresh :(

Tuesday: Pancakes, Bacon and Fruit

Wednesday:  Midwesterner and Coleslaw (bumped from Doug's birthday due to the fact that I didn't want to "waste" the meal when Doug had a cold and couldn't taste it anyway)

Thursday:  Ultimate Grilled Cheese,  Peas (I don't remember if that's where I got the recipe, but it's the same as the one I used to make my less-fancy version - I use Swiss instead of Gruyere)

Friday:  Freezer Meal

Saturday:  Saucy Parmesan Chicken, Stuffing, and Corn

Sunday: Egg Salad Sandwiches, Carrot sticks

And the best part?  My grocery list consists of 1 gallon of milk, 2 Roma tomatoes, and a loaf of bread.

I should do this more often!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday -3/28

Due to the coming change of season and an almost-depleted grocery fund that needed to last me two weeks, here's my menu plan for this week:

Monday: Ham buns (freezer) and carrot sticks

Tuesday: Crab Cakes and Salad (bumped from last week)

Wednesday: Chicken Tortilla soup (freezer)

Thursday: Cheese & Chicken Enchiladas (freezer)

Friday: Homemade Pizza - probably taco and sweet swine

Saturday: Doug's Birthday - The Midwestern, (it was actually a slight variation of this from another site that I apparently forgot - I top with provolone cheese) with Coleslaw

Sunday: Breakfast - Rolls or Biscuits
             Dinner - I'm bringing dessert for Doug's birthday - Pumpkin Roll
             Supper - Leftovers or sandwiches

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I know there are quite a few blogs out there that do "Menu Plan Mondays," and since I always enjoy getting new ideas I thought I would start sharing mine.

Here's my plan for this week:

Monday: Beef Stroganoff Sandwiches, Peas

Tuesday: Cheese Enchiladas Unwrapped

Wednesday: Shell Casserole, Green Beans

Thursday: Crab & Corn Cakes, Lettuce Salad

Friday: Biscuit-Topped Lemon Chicken (with potatoes and carrots added)

Saturday: Breakfast - Mennonite Pancakes
               Supper - Crock Pot Lasagna, Corn

Sunday: Breakfast - Flaky Biscuits with jelly
             Dinner - Cobb Salad Wraps

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hard Work

Medicine is not fun.

Sometimes you put it off so long you fall asleep...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Planning

I learned menu planning from my mom.

My style has definitely evolved over the years.

First I would come up with 4-5 ideas for the week that I would pick from each night based on what we felt like after coming home from work when we were first married.  It worked for a while.

Slowly that became more of a hassle than knowing what we were going to have that night without having to think about it, and I started scheduling meals for nights.  And my plans still changed around a lot.

And now I'm here, where it's rare when we don't have what I planned for that night.  Less food goes to waste.  I rarely stress at 5:00 pm because I just realized supper should have been in the oven 30 minutes ago and I haven't even started.  I stress less over all with cooking because the decision was made days ago and I don't have to think about it any more.

How do I do it now?  I do my regular planning to give a variety of meals during the week, and making sure I use up any partial containers of ingredients to reduce waste.  But the thing that keeps me on track is having our menu displayed in plain sight, where I can glance at it on my way out the door to work and be reminded of what I have to do while getting dinner or doing dishes.

I printed out a sheet with the days of the week and stuck it in an old frame from some silly "certificate" at work.  Every week I get out the dry-erase marker and write out the plan for the week.  As the days pass and the meals get made, I erase them.  A lot of weeks my board is empty by Sunday, but if not it's easy to see the meals that didn't get made and are then moved to early the next week.

My style may evolve yet, but this is by far the most effective tool I've used yet when it comes to meal planning.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thrifty Notepads

In our family growing up, every last scrap of paper was used.  Clean notebook paper was reserved for school assignments, but lists, notes, messages and the like were scribble on the backs of "scratch paper."  And if you didn't use the whole paper, you tore off the part you used and left the rest for next time.

Even now when my dad has asks for a piece of paper while at our house, he turns down any clean paper and sends me off to get a piece of scratch paper (even if the said clean paper was from mini notepads I discovered at work that are 10+ years old and had no hope of being used).

I have a drawer dedicated to scratch paper.  I open junk mail just to salvage the wasted paper that was only printed on one side, and recycle the rest.  I regularly use them for notes, menu plans, and grocery, shopping, and to-do lists.

But I love new notepads and notebooks.  Our local Hy-Vee had notebooks on sale at the beginning of the school year for .19 and I stocked up on a reasonable number.  But they kept setting them out at the same price.  And even yesterday I couldn't resist getting 5 notebooks for $1.  Let's just say that I probably have enough to get Henry through high school...

Back to using up scrap paper.  My stack of paper was getting large, and I rarely need more than a quarter-page of paper at a time.

So I made notepads.

All you need is paper, chipboard (optional), ModPodge, and a small paintbrush

Step One (Optional): Borrow a paper cutter, guillotine style - I was doing a large stack of paper and would have been there forever with my scrapbooking-style paper cutter

Step Two: Cut paper to desired size - I did quarter page (My tip: when I cut the paper, I keep it lined up so that my top edge has all un-cut edges, which makes them line up nice when you stack them together.)

Step Three (Optional): Cut chipboard to same size for backing (cereal boxes work great) - The chipboard isn't necessary to holding the notepads together, it just might make writing on the last few pages a little nicer

Step Four: Arrange the paper into stacks and clamp it together - leave the side you are going to glue hanging out 1/8-1/4 inch
I had a flower press I made way back in grade school, but some woodworking clamps and a few scrap boards is another easy idea.  And I'm sure there's plenty of other creative ways to squish the ends of your paper together.

Step Five: Apply ModPodge to the exposed edge with a small paint brush - I did 4-5 thin coats, letting it dry a few minutes (or hours when I got busy) in between

Easy Peasy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buttermilk Syrup

Last time I made this, the boys were well into their pancakes before I thought of a picture, and I'm not a true food blogger and didn't haul out my camera to photograph my plate before digging in.

I don't remember where I got this recipe, but it was on a blog linked to FoodGawker. Quite a while ago.

I LOVE this syrup, and Henry did the first time we had it, but the next time we had it for supper and Doug sat down and asked where the regular syrup was before trying this.  So now Henry insists on regular syrup too.

The syrup starts out foamy when you first make it, which tastes great, and then the leftovers turn more into syrup and are delicious in a different way.  I've never been a huge syrup fan (except for the real stuff, which I can't afford due to the large quantities Doug and Henry use), but this?

This I can eat by the spoonful.

Straight out of the fridge.

(When no one's looking.)

Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. sugar
1/3 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, milk, and sugar.  Bring to a boil while stirring.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and soda - it will foam.

The reason for the odd measurement of vanilla is that this it 1/3 of the original recipe, and it still makes about 2 cups.  I happen to have 1/3 tsp. measuring spoon, but if you don't, I think you could use 1/2 tsp. without any worry.  But then I tend to think measurements are just guidelines.

And my FAVORITE pancakes to have this on is: Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes, originally from The Pioneer Woman.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Birthday Party

This year's birthday party was a big change from last year.

Last year we couldn't even have it at our house!

Henry got to help me - I decorated the cake and he decorated a piece of wax paper.  If only the camera could have captured how hard he was working to squeeze out the icing, because his little arms would start shaking as he tried to squirt it out.
I can bake a cake just fine, but I'm not going to pretend I'm awesome at decorating.  I had lofty ideas, but common sense dominated and I am very thankful for the internet and contact paper so we could have our Dinosaur Train cake.
We squeezed all the cousins in at our wrap-around counter top.
And it's a little hard to see, but we had cool curly candles from aunt "Joni in Nicu-agua."

Thank you to our wonderful families who love to come celebrate with us!  (And those who celebrated with us even though you couldn't be there)