31 May 2010

Meal Plan Monday - Garden Fresh!


It's that time of year...where a lot of our food is going to come straight from the garden. I LOVE IT!!!

So far we've been enjoying lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and carrots. I'm getting rather impatient with our brussel sprouts. I'm ready for them to start producing something we can eat! If you're turning your nose up at brussel sprouts, then you need to give Kelly's Roasted Brussel Sprouts recipe a try. It's delicious!

Our first beef should be ready this Friday. I'm pumped!

So, here's what we're eating this week...
Monday: Memorial Day Cookout with my in-laws, which should include our first fresh squash of the season!
Tuesday: Chicken Pie (we never got around to this last week)
Wednesday: Sausage, Peppers, & Pasta (we're in a rut & eat this often, but it's SO good!)
Thursday: BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Friday: Pizza Night!

Check out lots of other meal plans at OrgJunkie

30 May 2010

Decorating Bug - Decorating with Pictures

I planned to follow up my first "Decorating Bug" post by writing about our bedroom updates. They are taking longer than I expected (due to my sewing laziness), so I'm moving on to some things I've actually finished.

I am not really into art. In fact, we have no "art" up in our house with the exception of three prints in our kitchen to coordinate with our orange walls. They're cute & funky, but I made them from a gift bag I found at Home Goods. Cheap art - just my style!

Even though I don't decorate with art, I do decorate with photos. I LOVE pictures of people. Each time I look at a picture, I think of who is in the picture, the love I have for them, the fun times we've had, etc. All those happy feelings come to me. Also, it's pretty cheap to decorate with pictures. That definitely makes me happy!

When decorating with pictures, I (sort of) follow two rules: 
(1) Monochromatic frames. Almost all the frames in my house are black. If all the frames are the same color, then they all coordinate, no matter the size or style. 
(2) Black & White prints. Don't get me wrong, we have some color prints in our house, but I love B&W. They seem to capture the emotion so much better than color. It's also easier to group B&W (in my opinion) because there are no competing colors to distract you. 

Above the couch in our living room was a huge blank wall. I had a hard time figuring out what to put there, but after finding some inspiration on a blog and following the two rules above, I came up with this.

 Our room is a bit wonky because that wall is opposite the fireplace, but it's not centered with the fireplace, so my couch & fireplace don't line up. That drives my anal-retentive self batty, so I have to follow The Nester's mantra, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." These frames aren't centered on the wall, but they are centered (mostly) over the couch. They are also a bit too high, but that's because a certain toddler would stand on the couch and destroy them if they were any lower. Even with all the imperfections, I still LOVE them!

That should be the point of all home decorating - use what makes you happy!

29 May 2010

Favorite Things - KITCHEN EDITION (part 2)

More of my favorite kitchen stuff...I'm not sure how I would function without Pampered Chef or Tupperware products. Before you even have a chance to ask....No, I don't sell either of these. Yes, I know they can be pricey. They are worth every penny!

I must admit that even though my kitchen if FILLED with many of these wonderful products, I've gotten most either for FREE or a big discount by hosting parties. Some people find these gatherings obnoxious and pushy, but I love having my friends over for a girls night and with both of these, we always get to eat! It's also vital to have good consultants to work with, so make sure you find someone you like, trust, and will host a good, interactive show. 

I'll start with my favorite 5 Pampered Chef Products, in no particular order.
(1) Batter Bowls - I have both sizes. They are strong and have withstood much abuse by my toddler and me. They have a spout for pouring, a handle, and a lid - all quite useful. Super easy to clean.

(2) Mix & Scrape - These are great for mixing, but so are many similar products. What sells me on this every time is that is will scrape a bowl of batter clean. I'm talking about NOTHING left in the bowl. I must admit sometimes I don't use this to its full potential...like when dumping brownie batter. Yum! They also don't stain, even though it's completely white. Trust me, I've used this with tomato sauce, saffron, pickle mix...basically anything that should stain. It always comes out completely clean. I have 2 of the small sizes, but I want a big one.

(3) Mix & Chop - Seriously, how did I ever brown hamburger or sausage before this product came into my life? This will break up meat faster and better than just using a regular spatula or wooden spoon. When we're out of town & I have to cook without one, I get extremely frustrated.

(4) Salad Chopper- Well, I actually don't use these for salads. I use these for meat, mainly chicken. They will chop up chicken in no time! I'm a sucker for kitchen shears anyway, so these double-bladed scissors do the job in a hurry with no mess on my hands.

(5) Non-stick cookware (TPC Executive Cookware) - Maybe I saved the best for last. This cookware has changed my life! Well, sort of. Their non-stick cookware is actually double dipped in the non-stick material, where most non-stick is just sprayed on (sort of like hairspray). This makes it last a lot long and cook a lot more evenly than other. I never have to soak & scrub dishes anymore because everything just slides right off. The rims are dripless, so if I have to pour something out into another dish, it doesn't drip down the side and make a mess! I am fortunate enough to have the 5 & 7-piece sets. I got these at an amazing price (60% off!) by hosting a show during a month when they were the host special. Then my parents actually paid for them and gave them to me for my birthday - wahoo!

I could probably add another 10-15 items, but I wouldn't want to bore you. =)

I have discovered a recent love for Tupperware. I'll just share my top three favorite Tupperware items, because I have a feeling I'm starting to lose you (if you even made it this far!).
1) Modular Mates - I cannot say ENOUGH about these. They make my kitchen cabinets so pretty & organized. I got a set half-off last time I hosted a party. But I need more! I mainly store my baking items in them, but I have a bag of whole wheat flour that is very sad not to be in an air-tight container.

I got these spice holders off Craigslist! Obviously I could use some more of these too.

On the left is a Potato holder. I'm not sure if this is actually considered a MM, but I love it & had to share. I've heard of people using it as a snack container too - little hands would LOVE to pull out their treat through that hole. And that's the Super Cereal Storer...I was very sad they ran out of red lids. :(

2) Marinating Dish (Season-Serv Container) - This is one cool product that I discovered at my MIL's house. It's liquid-tight, so marinades don't spill out. It has ridges on the bottom & top so you can flip and the marinade can still get under your meat.
3) Midets - These little containers have had many uses over the years. When I used to work and I had to take my lunch to school (former teacher), I would put any extras like dips, dressings, toppings in these. Now, they are the perfect holder for raisins/Craisins for my Little Man.

Again, I could add a ton more products that I love, but I doubt too many of you actually made it this far! 

Please feel free to share what you love in your kitchen! I'm always on the lookout for new products to help me out!

28 May 2010

Things that I LOVE!

This is my first time participating in Kelly's "Show Us Your Life" series, but today's topic was just too great to pass up - "Things that you love & make you happy". Here are a few of mine...

My little family. I love being wife & mommy to these two!

Our entire family. We are both so lucky to have AWESOME parents and siblings. We love spending time with both sides of our family.

Wolfpack Football. The crowds, the cheers, and one new little fan.

Girlfriends. I'm not sure how any lady survives without girlfriends to chat, shop, & eat with!

Our home. It's definitely not just a house anymore, it's our home. One that's comfortable, inviting, and full of love! 
I know this pic is B&W, but there are black shutters, a red front door, as well as a new storm door in that picture. I really need to show you our updates!

Summertime. Fun splashing at the pool, delicious grilled food, fresh veggies & canning pots, and late evenings on the deck.

The beach. Nothing better than sand in your toes, the sun browning your skin, and reading a good book with the ocean in the background.

God's word. I'm definitely copying Kelly on this, but His word gives me such hope and encouragement. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite verses: "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

26 May 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...KITCHEN EDITION: Small Appliances (part 1)

I love when I get suggestions from other ladies about their favorite items around their house. People usually don't rave unless it's truly deserved and I have come across lots of "gems" by sharing this way. So, I thought I'd start a "Favorite Things" series about some of my favorite things around the house from a wife/mother/homemaker perspective.

I knew immediately that I must start in the kitchen. That's where I spend so much time anyway and probably anyone who reads this blog does too. I have SO many kitchen favorites that I've broken this down into three installments. So, here are a few of my favorite Small Appliances...

1) Food Processor - I use my food processor for a variety of purposes. I use it a TON while I'm canning in the summer, it purees tomatoes and apples in a flash. I also use it to grate my own cheese. (Did you know that the pre-grated stuff in the grocery store is covered in corn starch? Yuck!) I will grate large quantities and then freeze it. Grated cheese freezes great. Whole blocks...not so much. Take my word for it.

My food processor is not some pretty piece of machinery like this: 

Nope, mine looks like this: 

It was my mom's and I'm pretty sure it's older than me. But it works great and was FREE!

2) Waffle Maker - We received a waffle maker as a wedding present. It's gotten quite a work out in it's life and continues to do so. Aside from making waffles on a Saturday morning, I make big batches of waffles and freeze them for a quick breakfast. I love this waffle maker because it makes four good size waffles at once, so one round on the waffle maker is good for anywhere from 2-4 breakfasts!

3) Bread Machine - I've already told you about my bread machine. I continue to love it and still can't believe I only paid $7 for it! I just love, love, love that dough cycle.

4) Keurig Coffee Maker - This has changed my coffee life. I used to either make a pot of coffee, just to throw most of it out or just not make any, even though I wanted some because I didn't want to waste so much. Now, we can have a cup whenever we want. It's definitely worth it to splurge for one that keeps the water hot rather than the less expensive models that take 3-5 minutes per cup to make.

5) Griddle - While I love my waffle maker, the griddle gets equal time in the pancake department. I can make 8 pancakes at one time. That makes pancake cooking quick & easy! I have also discovered it is the BEST for making sliders (mini-burgers). They cook without drying out and the little buns toast up great. A delicious (unhealthy) meal in minutes! I have one like this that folds in half (great storage saving) and the griddle plates pop out for easy cleaning.

6) George Foreman Grill - My favorite use for the Foreman Grill is grilled sandwiches, like grilled cheese or any other panini-like sandwich. It's PERFECT for this use, even without any butter on the bread. I'm telling you, you have to try it. I sometimes cook meat in this too, it cooks up quick in this without drying out. I actually own a Hamilton Beach version, but it works equally great.

So, what are YOUR favorite Kitchen Things? Feel free to share - I'm always on the lookout for more kitchen stuff!

24 May 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: Crazy Pasta Bake (frozen leftovers of penne pasta, hamburger, and my homemade pasta sauce...defrosted and combined it with some spinach from the garden, another jar of pasta sauce, feta, mozzarella, and a sprinkle of parm. Stuck it in the oven for about 25 minutes...so delicious!!!)

Tuesday: Chicken Pie, Roasted Carrots fresh out of the garden, and Green Beans (only 2 cans left from last summer! Good thing we'll have fresh beans in less than a month)

Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin on the grill (is there anything better than the grill this time of year!?!?!), fresh broccoli from the garden, and rice

Thursday: Grilled Chicken Salad (eating lettuce from the garden...my favorite, Romaine, didn't survive the early heat we had, but we do have some red leaf lettuce that will do. I just couldn't bring myself to buy that overpriced, green stuff resembling Romaine at the grocery store).

Friday: PIZZA! Probably my favorite night of the week. I'll be attempting pizza dough from the breadmaker again. This worked pretty well last time, so hopefully we'll have another success.

Along with our family meal plan this week, I'm hosting our weekly "Brunch Bunch" playdate/mommy talk this week, where I'll serve homemade Cinnamon Rolls. I'm also making two large lasagna's for my hubby's work Friday. Speaking of my hubby, he's been asking for Crescent Rolls lately. I've stopped buying the crescents in the can, so I'm going to attempt making these "Butterhorns" without the chocolate (well...I may make a few with chocolate for me!).

Lots of cooking in my near future!

Check out other meal plans over at OrgJunkie.

23 May 2010

And then there were two.

Remember the three cows?

Now there are only two. We'll see #3 again on the grill very soon!

That probably sounds a little mean, but supplying our beef is their purpose. They've enjoyed a happy little life grazing in the pasture and occasionally chasing the donkey. Much better than a life lived in CAFOs. 

 I've heard that beef like this blows beef from a grocery store out of the water. I'm excited to taste for myself. If it's anything like home grown vegetables versus store-bought, then there's absolutely no comparison.

22 May 2010

I've been bitten! (Part 1)

by the Decorating Bug! Does that ever happen to you? It sort of comes & goes with me. Sometimes I'm content with how our house is looking, but then sometimes I just want to shuffle some things around. Shuffling is fine - it's FREE! But the shuffling leads me to think about other things I might want to get done that are not free. Here's what happened to me one night recently...

I order Little Man's Big Boy Bedding. It's premature because I'm not pulling him out of his crib until necessary, but it went on sale at PBK. So, I had to buy it. Isn't it so cute?!?! Yet boyish. I'm a sucker for madras plaid. I only bought the shams and quilt. There are so many colors in the quilt that I'll be able to pair a solid easily with it.  I'm expecting this will last for quite a while in a "Big Boy" room.

Well that came in the mail and I put it on our bed. Remember my bedding dilemma? I was still having it. I thought the colors in this quilt would tie in with our wall color and I'd much rather use it than let it sit in a closet until Little Man transitions. Yeah, that lasted a day. Even though I love that bedding, it was way too juvenile for our master bedroom. I still wanted to use it, so I moved it to the guest room and switched out all the accessories in there. It's looking good already and I know it will look awesome when I'm actually ready to paint and decorate for the "Big Boy" Room.

That left me with a bare bed in our room. What to do? I'll tell you all about it and show you some pictures during Part 2...

16 May 2010

Strawberry Jam


I'm excited - how about you? My little man has eaten a TON of strawberries. He literally ate over a pound on the way home from the strawberry patch BY HIMSELF Thursday. The kid loves fruit - I'm not complaining! 

I have been making strawberry jam with the 20lbs of strawberries we've acquired in the last couple of weeks. I plan on making more too, because after I give some away as gifts and eat it with PB or Nutella, there's just not a lot left to last the rest of the year. And we have an entire YEAR until strawberry season rolls around again.

I've been making all my jam with Ball's No Sugar Needed Pectin.

One batch I made completely sugar free. It's pretty good with PB, but I wouldn't want it by itself on buttered toast. The other 4 batches I've made a "low-sugar" version, using between 2-3 cups of sugar. That's still quite a bit of sugar, but much better than the 7 cups that would typically go in there. I've gotten rave reviews on the low-sugar version, so I'll keep on making it that way.

I gave a jar to each of the ladies in my MOPS Care Group at our meeting the Friday before Mother's Day. 

I wanted to make sure they all had a SWEET Mother's Day!

03 May 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Been a while since I participated in MPM, but as my pantry, fridge, and freezer dwindle, it's definitely needed! We have a weird week and really only need meals planned for 3 days - yay!

Monday - BBQ Pork Sandwiches (cooking 3 HUGE boneless pork chops with BBQ sauce in the crockpot and will shred tonight)
Tuesday - Beef Stir-Fry with Rice
Wednesday - Sausage, Peppers & Pasta (using my last package of the Italian Sausage I got on sale, so it will be our last one for a while...too bad because it's SO YUMMY!!!)

I also made some Pimiento Cheese, so we'll be eating on that throughout the week too.

Check out the other Meal Plans at OrgJunkie!