Monday, April 30, 2012

Freezer Cooking for a Larger Family

I am guest posting!  I am so excited that Bobbie has included me in her line-up for her maternity leave.  Please check out her wonderful blog over at A Vision to Remember.

With five kids that are all big eaters and only one picky eater (plus Mr. Right), I never felt that I could do the Freezer Cooking.  I was invited to supper swaps, but meals for a family of 4-6 just don't cut it with two teenagers to feed.  I could never justify the cost of paying for two meals in a swap either, so I stayed away.  That didn't mean I didn't want to freezer cook and have a plan, though.
Yes - this is really my freezer!  It has 18 meals here, plus 4 more in the door

Years ago, I had tried Once-A-Month cooking, but my husband told me I could never do it again!  Half of the meals, he hated and refused to eat and he didn't like that it took two whole days of my life away!  That all changed last summer, when a friend and I went to an Amish Auction and got 45 pounds of Asparagus between the two of us!  She sent me a recipe for Asparagus & Potato Fritata from "Fix, Freeze, Feast" by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik and I froze six of the fritatas, praying that my family would eat them.  They loved it, and I decided that I needed to figure out my own version of Freezer Cooking.

Here are the things that I learned about freezer cooking for a larger family:

    • Cook up as many meals as you have time and food for.  On a good day, I will cook 2-3 recipes of 2-4 meals each for a total of 4-8 extra meals. (Keep in mind the meals are for 8 people.)  I try to do this once or twice a week.
    • I freeze meals today, for next month's menu.  Then, I inventory my meals when I sit down to plan the next month's menus.
    • Find the right size of meals for your family.  I find if I make three meals for 4-6 servings, but split it into 2 bags, it is a good size.  This takes some trial and error.  We've been hungry after a meal and had to find things to add to it.
    • Plan to add side dishes.  This was really hard for me - I came from the one pot casserole family.  It is hard for me to add things to a casserole.  We now make a habit of putting out a pickles and bread at every meal, and try to have at least a vegetable and a fruit, too.  This cuts down on the main meal serving size a little and no one walks away hungry.
    • Tell the family they are your taste-testers for the first time on a recipe.  This will help try out new recipes in the freezer.
    • Mark your recipes with exactly how you multiplied it, divided it, and weather you liked it.  I give all recipes either good or excellent, (or "don't like"), but I write things like make 2 meals, or child #1 doesn't like, etc.
    • Freeze meals on a cookie sheet, so they are flat.
I wanted to share my version of Tater Tot Casserole for the Freezer.  Hope you enjoy!

Freezer Tater Tot Casserole

Makes 2 freezer meals with 6-8 servings each.
3 lb. ground turkey or beef
5 cans green beans, drained
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans evaporated milk
2 Gallon bags

Day of cooking:
2 2lb. bags of tator tots (can substitute french fries)

Day of Freezing:

1.   Brown and season meat.  Drain.  Cool and put in marked gallon bags.

2.   Divide 5 cans of beans between the two bags.
3.   Mix 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup and 1 can of evaporated milk.
4.   Pour mixture over ingredients and mix together.
5.   Freeze on a flat sheet for use later.

Cooking Day:
  1. Thaw.
  2. Grease 9x13 pan.  Pour mix into pan and spread out.  Top with tator tots.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.
  3. Enjoy!
This recipe only takes a few minutes to prepare for in the freezer and then get into the oven.  It is a great feeling to have dinner not only planned, but already made.  I will make up a bunch of burger recipes, including this one when I get burger on sale for the following month.

Please stop by and check out the rest of the scraps of my life over at Prairie Scraps.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tea Party Table Decorating

I've tried several times this last week to sit down and write a post or two, but had no patience for the slow Internet service we have here.  I apologize for the impatience, but I've been busy getting things ready for decorating and hosting a table at our church's Ladies Spring Tea.  

I may have done my table a lot different than most of the traditional tables, but I really liked it and I enjoyed being just a little different.  Here's what my table looked like.  I wanted to do burlap, white and glass themed.  I had a burlap sack that I planned to make into a table runner anyway, so this gave me an excuse to make it and get yet another item out of scrap pile!  I picked the bag up for only $3 at a rummage sale.  I bought 4, and wished I could buy more, but just didn't have the budget! I have already sold a table runner at a fall craft show so have made my money back for the 4 sacks.

 This place setting was why I volunteered in the first place.  I bought 8 place settings of the grape plates and cups at a different garage sale about 5 years ago with the intent to do a tea of some sort, but haven't.  I finally got to use them.  I only paid $4 for all 8 settings.  The napkins were linen ones that I picked up at another sale for only $.10 each!  I re-used twine from Christmas gifts my Mom wrapped all her gifts with two years ago.  I folded the napkins with a Flower Basket Fold found at Between Naps on the Porch. (Don't you love blogs?  You can learn so much!)
I made little collars for cans of herbs using leftover burlap and different blue stitches on my sewing machine.  My daughter helped me tie white ribbon with a blue button around the burlap.  We just wanted a hint of blue on the table, since our teapots were white with blue.

I took more twine and tied them around mason jars of all types and sizes.  I filled the bottom with salt and added a tea light.  Even though it was daylight, I think the candles really added to the table.  Oh - the cost of salt was $1.50.

I did buy some of the herbs at $1.49 for 3 of them, but I will used them all.  In the middle of the table, I used a glass bowl upside down with a glass platter to give some height to the candles and plants.  I also set some of the plants on upside down glass bowls and sundae cups that I bought for $.20 each at a thrift store.  The total cost of my table was $11.17, of which, $4.47 I would have spent on the plants anyway!

It was so much fun to see what everyone decorated their tables with and I really enjoyed putting mine together!  I will be sharing soon how I made the table runner, and possibly even listing it in my Etsy Shop soon!

I will be linking to those blogs on the right for sure this week, so check them all out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Healthy Living Continues

I  have been trying to make exercise a habit in my life.  I would love to lose weight, but even more so, I want to live healthy (OK, really I want to lose that inner tube around my middle!).  But this time, I'm trying to make it a life change that I will stick with and not feel like I'm being so tortured!

I have continued to work out on my treadmill 3-4 days a week and then at least one day on the Wii. You can read about my embarrassment HERE.  It's not been all fun and games, but I am continuing on my healthy living journey.

I feel like I am getting a handle on my cardio workouts now, so this week, I decided to add in some muscle toning.  No, I won't be the next body builder, but the thing that bothers me when I'm running on the treadmill is my arms!  I own a set of 4 pound barbells, so I decided to start doing sets of arm exercises after my run.  I'm sure I could do a whole bunch of things with them, but to start, I did presses, curls, and then a backward curl (hard to explain, but supposed to tone that underarm wave!).  I did three sets of 10 each.  It actually wasn't so bad.

What about you?  Do you use barbells or some other resistant training in your weekly healthy living?  Make sure to visit the blogs over in the right column that I love to link up to.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

So, I don't tend to go out of my way to "celebrate" Earth Day, but I thought I'd share with you one thing that I do daily to save energy, save money, and of course, save the earth that God gave us.  I do my very best to hang as many of my clothes to dry on the line.  I would love to get rid of the dryer altogether, but let's face it - with five kids, there is just no way to get everything done in a week, so often I need to finish up clothes in the dryer.

I do about 15 loads a week, so my dryer can't even keep up with it all.   I have a goal each day of getting at least three loads done, and I can usually get those clothes up on the line before lunch to dry.  In fact, I get a load up first thing in the morning, then one after my morning workout and one after my shower.  Sometimes it's downhill from there, but, I do what I can.

I do have my limits - I like my towels to be soft and smelling nice from the dryer.  What about you?  Do you put your laundry up on the line?  What kind of things to do you do to save money, and the earth?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finishing Touches = Finished Album

I tend to start projects and then get side-tracked or something comes up that is more important and can't get them done.  Well, I've been really guilty of this with my albums.  I often work through scrapbooking an album about halfway through before I actually get the  coverset purchased.  In this case, I finished all the pages last year for an album about our two foreign exchange students we had last year, but found the pages didn't fit in the album.  Well, I kept meaning to order the new sleeves and coverset, but of course, there they sat in my bag....waiting.I decided to reward myself for my Creative Memories Party I had a couple of weeks ago by purchasing a coverset I really loved.  This is the Enchanted 12x12 Coverset that I fell in love with in the catalog and thought, why not?   My photo can't possibly do it justice in person.  Let me tell you - it is gorgeous! 

I used a Quick Album kit to make this album and really panicked when I had more pages than would fit into the album.  I couldn't cut any of the pictures from our wonderful times with our new friends.  Then, aha!  I realized that I could use the Side Loading Sleeves to hold the pages that I had made.  The great thing about the Quick Album is that it only took me two hours to complete the entire album.  All the pages are pre-decorated,  I just had to add the pictures and my story! 

So, it's done!  Just a few finishing touches, and I have an album done!  One of those projects that I just never got completed is finally done, and currently being enjoyed by my children!  Be sure to check out the other Quick Albums that are available HERE.  What about you?  How many of your projects are hanging out not finished?  Are you like me with many to go?  Do one today!

Oh, don't forget to check out those blogs I love to link to in the right column of my blog.  FYI - I do make a commission on the sales from the links above, so please consider supporting my direct sales business.  Thanks!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do You Adventure?

Do you adventure?  I mean, do you just go out to find an adventure in your life when you have time off or do you stay home all the time?  I thought everyone checked out new things in thier area, but after talking to a few people that live in the area, we seem to be different than most.  We want to know our surroundings.  Even when we go camping at a new place, we find ourselves getting in the car and just driving around to find what we can find the first night.

Granted that we have just moved, so everything seems to be new to us.  But we are trying to get our bearings by checking out points of interest and more in the area.  Some weekends, we just get in the car and drive.  One of the things that we have been learning here, is to stop and truly enjoy our surroundings, too.  To smell the roses, so to speak.

These pictures were taken on one of our many drives in the area.  We had decided to see Hell's Canyon by driving down to Pittsburgh Landing (a whole different adventure in itself - apparently there are locals that have never gone there!) and on our way back home, got held up on the highway by cowboys!  I took a picture, because it was exciting to all of us that real cowboys were moving cattle down the highway to different pastures! 

As we sat there for a good 20 minutes, I did start to ponder all those other cars waiting with us.  Were they enjoying the view and the experience in the common, mundane task of moving cattle? Or, were they annoyed with the wait?  Did they want to take it all in, or did they just want to get past them as fast as possible?

Here's what I loved - did you notice that the cowboys were on horses?  In a day and age when they probably could just as easily used 4-wheelers to do the same job, they took the laid back, old-fashioned way of riding horse!  How exciting, to take an adventure right on the highway with our kids!  No music playing, no videos, no video games, but a moment of adventure!

What adventure will be finding this week?  What will your family learn from smelling the roses a little?

Don't forget to check out those blogs I love to link up to in the right column....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Back Links Required!

Although at first glance, my blog may seem like I'm a new blogger, I've been doing this for awhile.  Now, I'm not really making too much money, it does bring in a little here and there, and it also gives me a creative outlet.  Because I have recently changed my name on my blog, I'm really trying to make my presence a little more known and get it out there on as many Link parties as I can.

I have discovered something that is very frustrating and feel like I don't really have a voice on it.  These blogs that have made it mandatory to have a back link in the post in order to post in their Link party!  Now, I have tried to give each and every blog I link up to a voice and shout out on my blog by listing them over in my right hand column.  In fact, this time around, I have been working hard to even list it by day I link up on.

This means that each of these blogs get FREE advertising all week long, 24/7!  Yes, it's free to them because I like to frequent their parties and link up my ideas on their blogs so they can make money off of me!  I don't know it just seems like when I am not allowed to link up because of the back link in my post, it seems like a slap in the face.

To further clarify on my point here - I actually have extremely slow Internet service.  There are no other options for Internet here are the prairie!  We seem to have landed in the backwoods, so for me to have several pages open at a time, just to link and back link is nearly impossible to get done!  I often can't even open up some of the regular blogs I like to visit, because they are too big with too many things going on!  Yet, I patiently wait for them to process on my slow Internet and really, these back link parties, take more than most to load!  To get to the end of the process to say that I am not able to link up until I meet their requirements, like I am the criminal here, is very frustrating!

I know, I could just avoid those links.  I can only think of one solution here to my problem, and still be able to link up to blogs that I really do like to visit (for the time being).  I think some of the solutions I could do are:
  1. Take them off my sidebar, so they don't get the FREE press from me.
  2. Put a back link list at the end of my posts clearly stating these are the people that don't want me to advertise for them but please check the links to the right column.
  3. Stop visiting those blogs, ever!
  4. Comment on all those blogs that I don't like it (and not be heard).
I am really torn about this, because I don't want to be negative and give off negativity on this, but it really bothers me!  I would love to hear what you think about this new phenomenon on blogger land?

To start off, be sure to visit those blogs that are easy to visit and link up to in my right column.  Here's my list of blogs I am having difficulty linking up to:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Dress Reveal!

  I gave you a glimpse of my Easter dress sewing when I did a tutorial on How to Cut Out a Pattern here.  Here's the reveal of the our Easter dresses.  I actually made two of these, and also a ruffled skirt (which I didn't get good pictures of, so may share that later down the road.)

As you may know, I'm trying to work through my craft stash that seem to be so large I can't over come them.   I had this material in my stash that I had bought about six months go at Walmart.  It had gone on sale for $.50 a yard, so I just couldn't leave it there!  Well, of course, this has been what contributes to my very large craft stash that I have no place for!

I used a great tutorial over at LBG Studio here.  It has two different versions of the pillowcase dress available including a free printable pattern.  I love the free part, because I'm try to keep from spending any money while using up my stash.  Be sure to show the love over there when you visit.  I also used the version of the pattern with making your own bias tape under the arm and making a side bow to tie it.  The only bad thing about that, was that a 1 1/2 year old struggled with not un-tying the bow and getting caught up in it.  But it sure was cute.

I did the contrasting cuff on both pillow case dresses, and even tried some of my fancy stitches out on the hems and the top stitches.  Boy did that make the hemming easier, because I didn't have to worry weather the edges on the hem were getting caught.  The decorative stitches were so wide that they covered a large area of the hem.  No matter what I did, the hem looked great without ripping it out to perfect it!  Of course, now, when I see people using these stitches, I'm going to think they are hiding things.

Of course, I made matching bows for all the girls hair too!  It is a must when overachieving for Easter!  lol  The great thing about the pillowcase dresses, is that it took about an hour to complete each dress!  I literally started on Thursday before Easter and finished on Friday night. 

I remember my Mom making an Easter dress for me and matching shorts for my brothers.  Unfortunately, being the only girl, they were always blue, but really I know it wasn't easy to achieve!  I don't even attempt the boys! Does your Easter tradition include handmade Easter dresses?

Please check out those blogs that I love to link up to in the right bar.

Here are the ones that Require backlinks (see my explanation here.):

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekly Changes

I'm trying to add one thing each week that makes my life healthier.  This weeks goal is water.  I know, this isn't rocket science!  Everyone knows your supposed to drink at least 8 glass of water a week.  But I struggle with this!  I got really sick from the water when I was in college, so can't bear the taste of water.  I know, it's in my mind, but 20 years later, I still associate a case of cryptosporidium to water!

Like it or not, my goal this week is to drink at least one glass of water before each meal or snack.  I hope this will make me healthier because I'm actually drinking water, and I hope that it will curb my hunger.  I've read recently that often times we think we are hungry, but are actually thirsty.  I've even taking this one step further.  If I want a snack that I "shouldn't" have (like late at night before bedtime), I force myself to drink two whole glasses, and if I still want the snack, it's OK for me to have it.  I find that I don't eat as much that way.

What about you?  Do you drink enough water?  Are you committed to drinking more water?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Busy Shop!

Our Etsy Shop has been quite busy - which is an awesome thing, because we are trying to raise enough money for our 15 year old son to go to Japan on a 4-H awarded exchange trip.  In an effort to fund raise, we have listed everything in our shop to benefit his cause, so please consider supporting him.We've had two different sets of spoon plant markers go out this last week, and have another set on order right now!  It's very exciting for my 15 year old to have things sell.  He's turning into a real entrepreneur!  He wants me to check all the time to see if he has sold anything!

We started out putting up all ready made sets, but have found that people are more interested in getting specific plant names printed on the spoons.  (Either way works for us - we just want people to be happy.)

In an effort to sell some thing locally, we approached a local shop owner of a new ice cream shop in town (who is in the process of putting things up for sale in the shop).  Guess what?  She was excited to either buy our items directly or put them in on consignment.  We decided on the consignment, since we wanted more exposure of our items.  Needless to say, she sold a knife we made within the first two hours!  Yeah!  I think my son is now going to be frequenting our local ice cream shop, just to check it out!  lol

Have you ever approached a local business to feature your items?  Any advice for us as we start out?  I think that I am going to keep up the momentum, even after he leaves for Japan.  I'm having fun too!  (Ok, so I've always had this bug in me too - go figure where he got it from!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Is Risen and other Bird Cards

Happy Easter - He Is Risen
 I went to another Stampin' Up Card Class a few weeks ago and made four cards that were bird oriented.  It thought that today would be a great day to share them, since one was an Easter card.  They are so dimensional and detailed, that I wish I could come up with these ideas, myself.  Oh well, I really enjoy getting together with other ladies and crafting together.

 I, for one am making an effort to send out these beautiful cards.  It seems that a lot of people aren't using them, but I really want to send them and hope that someone else enjoys them too!  Oh - and don't forget to check out my good friend, DeAnn's blog Here.  She shares just a ton of beautiful cards and other projects!

My hairy robin - I just haven't gotten the knack for the water coloring technique and it sort of makes me nervous, although to the average person, they probably wouldn't recognize that it is running out of the lines.

This one was really cute, but fragile after it was cut out!
I love that DeAnn uses so many different textures - and in this one, it's a piece of lacy ribbon behind the picture. 

Hope you had a beautiful and special Resurrection Day with your families!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Cut out a Pattern

I've been sewing since I was seven years old.  I always wanted my Mom to make my doll clothes for me, but she didn't have the patience to teach me at that age.  So one day, to get me off her back, she handed me the pattern, material and pointed to the sewing machine and told me to figure it out.  I'm sure that my sewing took a long time to even be sewing, but through the years, I learned the basics and have enjoyed sewing!  I've even given a pretty good stab at teaching my kids how to sew and they've won many ribbons and even have gone to State Fair.

I think it's great that so many people are learning to sew from the Internet.  God knows I've learned many things myself.  One of the things that I have noticed, though is that many blogs don't teach the correct way to sew.  I'm not trying to make anyone out to be a bad sewer, but it does bother me sometimes that people don't know the basics.  I thought I would share with you one of the most important things when trying to cut out a pattern.  What is a salvage?I don't know about the rest of you, but I always want to make my girls a new dress for Easter Sunday.  Unfortunately, I'm also a procrastinator, so today, I started making the first of three dress for Easter.  (We'll see if I get them done.)

I wanted to use my Scrap Stash, since trying to get rid of that.  This piece of material, I found at Walmart for $.50 a yard and bought the rest of the bolt!  I had no idea what, I'd do with it, but now seems like a good time to try my hand at a pillowcase dress!  The white was in my Scrap Stash, too.  I have no idea where it came from, but it has the stitched eyelets on it.

In order to lay out and cut a pattern, you have to know where the salvage is.  This is the salvage:

The salvage is that edge that is melted so it doesn't unravel on either side of the bolt.  You don't want to include that in your pieces, but it is helpful to figure out which end is up, or in this case the sides.

When a pattern calls for one side on a fold, you place the fold on the opposite side of the salvage.  I hope you can see that salvage going down the middle of the material here.  The rest of the dress pieces will all be cut up in the same direction, you want to be sure not to flip them upside down, or one side of your dress, skirt, or shirt will have the pattern going the wrong direction.

Again, you lay the other pieces out in the same way, using the salvage as your guide.  If your pattern piece has a long arrow going down it, the line of the arrow goes parallel with the salvage.

Here are a few rules when cutting out a pattern:
  • Save material by folding the salvage over for the width of the pattern piece (like in the white material above.)
  • Measure all arrows on patterns to the salvage on both ends of the pattern to be the same distance.  It does matter!
  • Always pin the pattern in all corners and anywhere else that may shift while cutting.
  • Lay out all pieces on the material before you cut!
  • Use the guide in the pattern directions for layouts - they company is usually right!
  • When cutting, keep the material flat on a hard surface, like a table or the floor, and sneak the scissors under it without shifting the material.  (Just like the ladies cut material at the fabric store!)
  • Use the same scissors for only material - mark it clearly!
  • Be sure to cut all notches out - so you can match up seams later.  I cut them away from the pattern, so I don't wreck the pattern and can use it again!
I hope this helps you when cutting out your material.  Stay tuned - I was able to get this pillowcase dress completed today!  Just two more to go!  Check out the blogs I love to link up to!