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We are dealing with a bit of upheaval in these parts and I’m bone weary.

But I got some pretty yarn. And I’m still finding time to write lists and dream and take pictures.

And we’re all currently sharing a room and a closet (though thankfully not a bed) while the new carpeting is put down. It’s warm and cozy but I can promise you any romantic Laura Ingalls Wilder notion that I may have once maintained, it is gone.

Kitchen

I feel like the universe is telling me it’s time to redo the kitchen.

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On Thursday, our cooktop snapped.  It was a crazy evening where we had 30 minutes to do homework, eat dinner, and get ready for soccer.  I had made dinner in the crockpot because I knew it was going to be a crazy evening so I have no idea when or how it happened.  We noticed it after we got home from freezing our patooties off at soccer.  (It’s officially October with temperatures anywhere from 75° to 20°. )

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Yesterday, our dishwasher started on fire.  Thankfully we caught it in the smoking and sparking phase.  I held the extinguisher at the ready while Jesse ran downstairs to turn off the power and for half a second I thought, “Maybe we should just let it burn.” But…that seemed a little extreme, even if I do feel betrayed by kitchen right now.

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One of my girlfriends jokingly told me that if the toaster goes I really do need to redo the kitchen.

If only the universe was giving me the funds.

Pictures sourced from House Beautiful 

a stupid sense of accomplishment

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You know those moments when you feel ridiculously proud of yourself for some tiny little thing that really isn’t much of anything?  Well that happened today and I feel the need to share it.

So about a month ago, we bought a piano sight unseen.

I sent my dad (who plays the piano) and my brother to make sure it was okay and pick it up and move it for me (I’m such a nice relative to have).

It was a good piano that just needed a little love and some so they brought it back.

What I didn’t know until they brought it back was “a little love” meant there was evidence that a mouse had at one time made a little home in the back (thankfully my dad checked to make sure it wasn’t STILL residing there and that it hadn’t done any damage besides the mess).   Just to be on the safe side we decided to vacuum it before bringing it into the house.

But whenever I tried to use the wand it just wouldn’t work.  I pulled it apart and for the life of me couldn’t see any blockage, but any time I connected it to the hose, all the suction just disappeared.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.

For a month, any time I wanted to use an attachment, I’d have to pull the wand completely off and attach it to the hose.  (Hoses are so CUMBERSOME.)  And again I’d look at try to see exactly WHAT the problem was but…I could see straight through the thing.  It was like the wand was phantom suction sucker.

I wasn’t going to buy a new vacuum just because I had to wrestle with the stupid hose anytime I wanted to use an attachment, so every time I’d repeat the process.  Try with the wand, take the wand out and inspect it only to see not a single reason for it not to work, attach the attachment to the hose, unhook the attachment, reattach the wand so that the vacuum worked when I wasn’t using an attachment.

So today, I decided to wash my cushion slipcovers and since the cushions were off I decided to vacuum the sofa.  (Are you completely annoyed with this long story about a broken vacuum wand?!? I can pretty much promise it’s going to be anti-climactic.)  And once again, I tried the wand.  Still no suction.  So I took it off and looked inside for the 5 or 6th time this month and…

There was a clear plastic cap from some product or another about an inch from the bottom of the wand.

It was as if was created to lodge itself into that wand and fool me into thinking there wasn’t anything blocking the air flow.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I used a small dowel and popped that baby into my hand and then proceeded to vacuum my couch with an attachment attached to the wand and not the squirmy hose.

(That story probably didn’t justify the 400+ words I spent on it.  Or any, maybe? And it probably didn’t justify a picture either, but damn if I don’t feel pretty awesome right now.)

Wolfie

Starting with a sidenote:  Old pictures really can do a number on you, can’t they?  I’d forgotten that humidifier (and how dry that old house was).  I’d forgotten how Violet would love to roll it out and stick her face above the fan so that the damp air would blow right on her.  I’d forgotten how she would carry all those stuffed animals one by one and stack them and arrange them on whatever flat surface was closest to her.  And then start the process all over again when she moved to a new location.  I forgot that she really was that little once and how I loved those jammie jumper things (especially in the winter) and almost always had her in one because they were cozy, warm, and easy to launder.  I forgot how long, and hard, and exhausting those days were because looking back they seem so short, and magical, and fast.

Wolfie's First Picture
Wolfie’s First Known Picture

Wolfie was a gift from a woman named Diane.   You know those people who get put in your life for a very specific time and for a very specific purpose?  That was Diane.  She had recently moved to the area and we happened to join a local volunteer organization around the same time.  She had a grand baby about the same age as Violet, but lived far enough away that she didn’t get to see him often.  I didn’t know her well but I think she knew I needed someone so we had lunch or coffee occasionally.  I knew she missed her grand baby and loved having the opportunity to see another little one the same age but still I was surprised when she brought a gift at coffee for Violet’s first birthday.  (Which goes to show you how much of a new mother I was…how fun to buy for babies!!)

And then there was Wolfie.  After months of trying to get her to connect with dolls, blankets, other stuffed  animals, it was instantaneous.  He was her lovey.  I’m not sure the alchemy involved.  I just know that she went down for a nap with him that afternoon and has loved him ever since. (Abram was the same way.  We tried and tried to find a security object for him only to have Violet pick out a stuffed raccoon that he connected with immediately.)

Diane moved closer to her grandbabies .  We sent Christmas cards a few times but lost touch.

Wolfie, however, has remained constant.

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He’s had surgery to reattach his tail a few times (and currently needs it again as he has developed a bit of a hole), he’s been left in hotels and shipped home, he’s been rescued off a plane by a VERY kind flight attendant when he was forgotten, and he’s been searched for often when stuffed in a toddler hiding place and left behind.  (Jesse and I became quite the pros at finding Wolfie at the end of the day).  Once when he was lost on a stroller/playground adventure, my friend took the very first picture on the left and made up a reward poster which we distributed through the neighborhood.  (He was turned into the area elementary school about a week later.)

He’s gone to doctor appointments and dentist appointments (especially when teeth needed to be extracted), he’s traveled out of the country as many times as I have (which seems a little unfair, actually), his tail  has been rendered flat from Violet running her thumb and forefinger down either side as she goes to sleep and she blames his floppy head on her “squishing the life out of his neck when I hold him” which is in evidence in the pictures above.  He is loved, and special, and so very, very real.

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Beginning with the End in Mind

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I jumped on the bandwagon and read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

First, I unlock the door and announce to my house, “I’m home!” Picking up the pair of shoes I wore yesterday and left out in the entranceway, I  say, “Thank you very much for your hard work, ” and put them away in the shoe cupboard.  Then I take off the shoes I wore today and place them neatly in the entranceway.  Heading to the kitchen, I put the kettle on and go to my bedroom.  There I lay my handbag gently on the soft sheepskin rug and take off my outdoor clothes.  I put my jacket and dress on a hanger, say, “Good job!” and hang them temporarily from the closet doorknob.  I put my tights in a laundry basket that fits into the bottom right corner of my closet, open a drawer, select the clothes I feel like wearing inside, and get dressed.  I greet the waist high potted plant by the window and stroke it’s leaves.

Froufrou overload.  I spent a great deal of time trying to keep my eyes from rolling to the back of my head. It started to go bad for me right in the first chapter when she talks about how once people start this life changing method of tidying – lives are completely changed.  One person was so changed they even got a divorce.  It’s not that I don’t think a divorce is ever necessary and it may have been the right thing for the person to do, I just don’t know that it should be a selling feature of your method.  I was just so happy getting rid of all my extra stuff, I threw my husband out too!

A nit-picky little disagreement I mentioned on instagram.  No way that there isn’t going to be some wardrobe cycling in the standard sized closet of standard Wisconsinite couple.

My biggest complaint was the permeating idea of affluence which probably makes sense when you think about the audience of home organization books, but was still overwhelming.  I think it’s a little arrogant to assume that people can afford to surround themselves and clothe themselves only in things that “spark joy”.  Ideal, perhaps, but also unlikely.

Anyway, all of this to say, while I’m not crazy about all of the book there are definitely ideas worth incorporating (visualizing the life you want to live, organizing by type and not room, and doing it all in one sweep).  I’ll fold clothes all fancy if it helps keep my t-shirts more organized and while I’ve never been one for keeping a bunch of mindless paperwork around, I’ll go through and toss out more (though some of the things she deems unnecessary, I use and will keep).

So I’m spending some time thinking about what I want life to look like and how our family home can reflect that.  Of all the things she speaks to, I think that is the one thing I will definitely be taking away from this book.  It’s always a good idea to begin with the end in mind.

The Planner

Since I’ve spent two weeks talking about my planner and stickers and all that nonsense, I thought I’d actually share it and how I have it set up.

And before I go any further, I must admit: yes, it is an Erin Condren planner.  I am one of those bloggers who has succumbed to both the Whitney English and the Erin Condren at one time or another.  Considering I’ve never gone digital, it’s not a surprise that I’ve tried or at least thought about trying every paper planning method out there.
   

(this would NOT be my choice of quote but designing my own cover adds processing time and I was too impatient.)
Because this isn’t my first Erin Condren planner, I thought I’d give a quick pro/con list. 
Pros:  1) It serves all the purposes I have in a planner – agenda, meal planner, to-do list organizer, ideas jotter-downer – so I’m not carrying multiple notebooks at any given time. 2) I have a full 18 months (or 12) at my fingertips. 3) It’s not so heavy that I can’t have it with me at all times.
Cons: 1) It’s cutesy (but I’m a 7 year old girl covering mine with stickers so that isn’t the BIGGEST thing in the world to me).  2) It’s weekly spread is divided into narrow days which are further divided into morning, day, and evening which isn’t my favorite break down.  3) It’s expensive & shipping is expensive. 4) Carrying a EC planner can feel almost cultish at times – there are whole etsy shops devoted to EC products.  (And I’m guilty of buying some of them)
Okay, so here’s my breakdown:

After the cover I have my daily page which helps me stay on task and make sure I get the household things done that I want to get done.  On the back of that sheet is my weekly cleaning schedule/checklist.  I need to do some editing on that because I’m noticing my weeks aren’t breaking down quite how I have them on this sheet, but for now I’m making it work.  (To make these, I purchased a template on etsy and adjusted them in Adobe Elements.  I printed it out and laminated it so I could check things off with a dry erase marker.  They are attached to the spiral with sticky do-dads that you can order from Erin Condren.  In my old planner I used this tutorial so I didn’t have to buy anything but it was super fiddly.)

Because I always have my planner with me and was using up the notes section for grocery lists/meal planning, I purchased the menu planner add-on from EC.  As you can see the front is the weekly meal plan and the back is a shopping list.  I just write things down using a fine tip sharpie and it wipes off with a wipe.

Once you get past those first main sheets you have your monthly and weekly spread.  You can see good examples of those on the EC website or just by googling it. I haven’t finished filling my info in so there really isn’t much to look at.  You also have a few EC sticker sheets for doctor appointments and what not.

The next series of sheets are ones I made using the “Notes” section in the back of the planner.

I made a quick and dirty “spreadsheet” for those monthly jobs that I want to accomplish but always seem to forget about on one page and my goals for 2015 on another.

Yes, it’s February and I’m already thinking Christmas.  I like to have all of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the holidays without fighting the crazy crowds and I also enjoy making gifts for family.  That means I need to reference what I’ve already purchased (and where I stashed it) and what I need to purchase.  The next page is something new I’m trying – a handy meal list so when I try a new recipe that everyone likes, I can write it down (and where I found it) so we can have it again.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had one-off good dinners but forget where I found the recipe.
One of our goals this year is to really get a good idea of what we spend our money on each year.  I tend not to be very good at tracking the incidentals and random expenses so this page is to help me with that for next year’s budgeting.  And because my planner wouldn’t be complete without a list of house projects I’d like to tackle, I added that as well.

In the back, I laminated and sticky do-dadded (very technical term) my reading challenge list so that I always knew where it was (I lose things) and also so I could have it for handy reference when I was at the library or bookstore. Behind that is a folder (with the included perpetual calendar insert for birthdays/special dates).

Finally, we have the other side of the folder with more EC stickers and a zipping plastic pouch with my stickers so they aren’t floating around everywhere.

Are you still a paper planner user?  Or have you made the switch to digital?  What do you like best about your system?  Tell me.  I could talk planners all day.

**This planner was purchased fully out of my own pocket and links are NOT affiliate links.  I just wanted to share my opinion and set up.**

5/52

I sat down yesterday to edit, upload, and order my pictures for the month of January.  I even did the layouts for the family yearbook.  Since I’ve been terrible about keeping up with it, I did January of 2014 as well.  This should come as no surprise, but it’s easier when I bite it off in chunks.  (I have to thank my friend Dani for the month by month suggestion.  She’s kind of a genius.)
I have four projects on the needles right now.  I frogged & restarted the Follow Your Arrow 2 shawl a couple of times with a couple of different yarns until I realized that metal needles just weren’t working.  So I purchased Knit Picks interchangeable needles.  Whoever said the right tools make all the difference wasn’t lying.  The wooden needle has made it much easier and I’m almost finished with Clue 1.  I wish I would have bought a set of interchangeable earlier.  I have so many circulars, this would have been a more economical option by far (learn from my mistakes). I’m also working on a shawl in the Henslowe pattern.  Originally it was going to be for Violet’s First Eucharist but the yarn is a little too creamy.  The pattern is gorgeous and the shawl is turning out beautifully so I’ll have to find something to wear with it.  I’ve also got a striped cowl and some socks.  I always used to be a serial monogamist when it came to knitting, but I’m liking the variation in projects.
I’m looking through these daily pictures and chuckling – they are by no means great photographs, largely unedited, and a complete hodge podge but they are definitely what life looks like here – unmade beds and all.
My new planner arrived about a half hour before I was to leave for a First Eucharist parent’s meeting yesterday.  Because I knew I wouldn’t tear myself away, I left it on the table for when I got back and  then spent the meeting trying really hard to focus on what Father was saying and not how I was going to organize it all.  But I was so excited when I could finally get home and start sticker-ing.  
My nerdy-ness knows no bounds.

A Little Christmas Cheer

I’m not sure why but I’ve just had a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  It could be that we traded our Thanksgiving weekend tradition of tree hunting, carol blasting, me grumbling Jesse needs to put more lights on the tree for a family vacation and a pre-lit artificial tree.  It could be that we have no snow and green grass.  It could be that I’m just feeling a little grinch-y this year.
Whatever the reason, our tree has been sitting in our front room undecorated for about three weeks.  I’d flip the lights on every morning and flip them off at night before bed, but other than that and the garlands we hung the week before Thanksgiving – our house has been pretty devoid of decorations and I haven’t felt any pressing need to change that.
Until my children came to me this morning with their hearts set on decorating and being I’m not the grinch-iest of grinches or the scrooge-iest of scrooges, I cranked the carols and agreed.  We put out our nativities.  We hung ornaments and stockings.  I put out the ceramic tree (like this one) my mom gifted me when I was feeling nostalgic for the one she had made (and lost in one of their plethora of moves) and started to feel the smallest twinge of anticipation.

I’m looking forward to the happy chaos of my family (and three dogs) descending on my parents’ little house followed by Jesse’s family annual Christmas Eve bash. I’m excited to dress up and attend a Christmas Mass with my children and husband and remember what it is exactly we are celebrating.  I’m still not brimming with Christmas cheer, but I am feeling a lot less humbug. 

 

I guess it’s really hard to feel blah about Christmas when your kids are decidedly un-blah about Christmas.  Particularly when you ask them what they want and you get answers like “a robot that does all my chores” (Abram) or “a magic wand that helps me memorize my spelling words” (Violet).  I’m so grateful for their creativity.  

And their contagious joy.  I just finished their shopping and there will not be spelling word memorizing magic wands or robots that pick up toys and put away laundry under the tree, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy.  And that makes me happy.  And a lot more happy about this Christmas season than I was at the beginning of the day.

A Season of Waiting

I don’t think there is another season so perfect for creating family traditions as the season of Advent.  Over the last few years, we have created an advent calendar filled with little (and big) ways to celebrate the season.  Some things on our calendar are can’t miss family traditions, some are new things, some are  needed “chores” of the season that we want to reframe and make enjoyable for the whole family.  All of them are things that make Christmas special.
                   banner purchased from Paisley Sprouts

This year I made out my list, scheduled activities appropriately, and stuffed envelopes with small cards sharing the activity of the day.  I’ll hang these with a garland on the mantle.  Here (in no particular order) are the things that made our list: 
– string the popcorn/cranberry garland 
– decorate the Christmas tree
– set out nativity
– enjoy a classic Christmas movie with snacks
– visit the holiday lights village
– buy & donate a child’s gift
– camp out in front of the Christmas tree
– bake Christmas cookies
– purchase & donate a wish list item for a local charity
– write a letter (or draw a picture) for a loved one
– attend the Christmas parade
– donate toys/clothing you are no longer using
– read a Christmas story together
– celebrate parent date night & shop for sibling gift
– make a list of all the things you are grateful for this season
– see Santa
– enjoy an ice cream sundae bar
– go for a walk as a family & warm up at home with hot chocolate
– pick out your gift exchange present
– spa night – after school hair cuts followed by bubble baths, manicures & pedicures
– attend Christmas program
– wrap presents for teachers & gift exchanges
– family game night
– have a pancake dinner
– celebrate

You can see last year’s list here.

I’d love to hear about your family traditions for this time (or any time!!) of year.

The Many Systems of School Paper Storage

Papers. Everywhere.

If you have school aged children you know what I’m talking about. Homework, art projects, and the daily reading, exercise logs that all need somewhere to go. I’ve developed some really good systems for “keepsake” storage which I’ll get into at the bottom of the post, but I was really struggling with the graded homework and the papers that needed regular access (spelling words, Book-It charts, etc) so this weekend I decided it was time to find a way to get those papers off my counters – while keeping them accessible to the kids.

I started by getting a couple of manila folders and labeling them. It isn’t pinterest worthy, but it works.

Then I scrounged up this basket that was holding all those totes and bring-your-own grocery bags by the door (I moved those to an empty cupboard in the kitchen) and hung it underneath their daily checklist.

Ta-da. Quick and easy to grab and put back. Off my counters. Major win.

Now to deal with the homework.

Last year, I put all that paper in green hanging files in the bottom drawer of my desk but it ended up taking up a lot of room that I didn’t really have, so I was thrilled when I found these great expandable files from Russell + Hazel.

I love them because they match the binders I use for bill paying and household management. I keep them in the basket on the side of my desk. Easy to get to, but not in the way.

Finally: the keepsakes.

I bought two of these file boxes from Target when Violet and Abram were in preschool. Their big artwork doesn’t fit in them (I have underbed storage containers for those projects), but it keeps a good majority. At the end of every year, we sort through their “homework” files and pick out a few pieces that they want to add to their keepsake bins and we toss the rest.

My favorite part of this? The lids open up with an additional storage area. We’ve been having all of their teachers sign a copy of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” that we will give them when they graduate. (Thank you, pinterest, for the great idea) I love that I don’t have to scrounge around for the book, but know exactly where to find it.

Okay, so here’s what I want to know…how do YOU keep track of all the paper that comes home?

**I’m participating in the write 31 day blogging challenge by sharing my adventures in creating a beautiful and useful home. You can read more about that here. For updates and sneak peeks, please find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I’m @ohkatiejoy).**

Grandma's China

Actually, it’s my great-great Grandma’s china. And since it has been in my possession it has sat safely wrapped and stored.

Until today. Because having my great-great grandmother’s china in boxes in the basement while a china cabinet sits empty in my dining room is a real waste. I’m still having visions of 100 year old china fragments lying everywhere, but I’m hoping that will pass (and the kids will continue to stay out of the dining room).

The teacups have been lost and replaced with mismatched ones at some point in history.

A few pieces are chipped, some have been broken and mended. A few are from a different pattern. In searching for some information I learned that the stamp on the back refers to the manufacturer and the plate style but I couldn’t find the pattern information. After another couple hours digging online, I found the pattern. The internet can be so amazingly handy.

As an added bonus, I had this leftover teacup that didn’t have a hook in the cabinet. I’ve been trying to find a few things to place on these wonky little shelves at the end of my kitchen cabinets because I’m not a decorator and little knick knacks aren’t things I think about so wonky little shelves sit empty for two years and look even wonkier.

Anyway, I put this teacup with an old recipe (I need a little frame for it) on one of them and am calling it good. They’re still wonky shelves, but now they are wonky shelves that make me think of having my Grandma in my kitchen.

**I’m participating in the write 31 day blogging challenge by sharing my adventures in creating a beautiful and useful home. You can read more about that here. For updates and sneak peeks, please find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I’m @ohkatiejoy).**

Useful & Beautiful

I wasn’t sure about joining The Nester’s 31-day-challenge this year. I tossed around a few ideas but nothing really caught my attention. Then I decided I’d just skip it and focus on house projects that have been nagging at me for the past two years. Enter my internet girl crush, Jules, and her blog, Pancakes and French Fries. She startedThe William Morris Project ages ago and it’s been a long time favorite feature of mine – she tackles creating a more intentional home with humor, honesty, and a heavy dose of reality. After talking to Jules (and her warning that it would kick my butt), I decided that blogging about thirty-one days of making my home more useful and beautiful was the accountability I needed.

williammorris


Some of the projects I’m hoping to tackle:

Day 1: – Purge/organize master closet
Day 2: – Purge/organize pantry
Day 3: – Unpack grandma’s china
Day 4: – Remove wall decal from hall
Day 5: – Replace broken bookcase in family room
Day 6: – Create a homework/paper/school stuff storage solution
Day 7: – Update the Master List
Day 8: – Purge/organize family desk area & Locate/organize important papers

– Create a momma’s tool box
– Purge/organize laundry room cupboard
– Purge/organize utility room (I’m breaking this down into multiple/smaller projects)
– tools
– seasonal decor
– household items
– Rewire parking meter lamp
– Have vanity/bench repaired/refinished
– Get curtains/rods for living room/front room
– Paint basement
– Sand/paint Violet’s nightstand
– Paint 1/2 bathroom
– Purge/organize garage shelving
– Replace knob on my side table.
– Add shelving system to spare room/craft room
– Purge/organize kitchen junk drawer(s)
– Reorganize medicine storage
– Purge/organize craft supply
– Scrape and replace caulk in MBR shower
– Scrape and replace caulk around kitchen sink
– Organize/purge/add shelving to cleaning closet
– Organize pictures
– Put pictures in/hang large collage frame
– Move clock/touch up paint in front room
– Replace or repaint mailbox post
– Replace Abram’s broken light fixture
– Scrape star stickers off guest bedroom/craft room ceiling
– Change over entry-way bins from fall to winter gear
– Purge/organize kids’ bathroom closets
– Purge/organize MBR undersink storage
– Purge/organize make-up/skin care drawer
– Purge organize upstairs hall closet
– Adapt upstairs hall closet to linen closetI know I listed more than 31 things.

 

Some days, if I’m lucky, I might tackle two projects. Some of these will be finished outside the 31 day window. But if there is one thing I’ve learned about keeping a home is that “useful and beautiful” is a constantly changing definition so the updating and changing of the list is continual. This is a good place to start, for now. Hope you’ll join me!!

Homemade Vapor Rub

One of my childhood memories is getting out of a really hot shower and having my mom rub Vicks all over my chest before wrapping a big fluffy towel around my middle and sticking me in footie pajamas straight from the dryer. I don’t remember how sick I was, or how old I was, but I remember feeling loved, cherished, and less miserable.

And up until recently, my recipe for a nasty cough, a case of the sniffles, or just a general ugh was a hot shower, that blue jar, and pajamas. But then I started learning about essential oils and how easy it was to use them. And more importantly how I could make my own vapor rub without petroleum products. I made my first batch following this recipe in February and have since made it a few more times tweaking it toward our own family “tastes”.

With cold and flu season just around the corner, I knew it was time to make some more and I posted a very messy picture of my kitchen on instagram. A few of my friends had questions, so I thought I’d share my recipe here.

You’ll need:

A double boiler or (like me) a glass pyrex in a larger pan
1/2 cup {organic} sweet almond oil oil (coconut oil gives it a thicker consistency in the tin but melts down on application so we use that if I don’t have almond oil)
2 Tablespoons Beeswax (either grate some up or use pastilles)
Essential oils (eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lavender)
Containers (I use these tins in either the 2oz or 4oz size and lip balm tubes for baby foot applications but a jelly jar would work great)

Directions

Melt your beeswax and oil in the double boiler.
Remove from heat.

Add essential oils:

Full strength:
Add 25 drops eucalyptus
Add 20 drops peppermint
Add 10 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Baby strength:
Add 10 drops eucalyptus
Add 5 drops peppermint
Add 5 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Pour into containers, let set. Cover. Store in a cool, dry place. Rub on chest or feet when necessary.

Another perk: I feel a lot less greasy the next morning than when I used the store bought stuff.

As for which oils I use: As you can see I have both Young Living and Mountain Rose Herbs bottles on my {messy} counter. I started ordering from Young Living a little over a year ago and I’m quite happy with them but I’m also happy with Mountain Rose Herbs – I get my beeswax and a few of my oils from them in addition to containers. I have some friends who are huge fans of DoTerra and while I haven’t tried them, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid of recommending them. I’m a little skittish of purchasing essential oils off the shelf at a grocery store, but if you have a brand that you use and trust, I say give it a try.

**I am not a doctor and am not qualified to treat illness or prescribe medications. Please see your doctor for any medical questions.**

Monday Madness

I can’t believe it’s Monday again already. Our to-do list was overly adventurous this weekend (I wanted to reorganize/purge the garage and utility room and get the whole house before school organized) and not everything got completed. I’m going to be super busy this week finalizing all the pre-school organizations but the good news:

1) I have the kid’s responsibility charts completed.

2) All school supplies, school shoes, school clothes are purchased and organized and ready to go.

3) My responsibility chart and daily schedule are starting to take shape in my mind. The blog might start to get quiet in September as I’ll be taking two classes towards my MLIS.

4) I have tuition paid, books ordered, and syllabi reviewed for those two classes.

5) This time of year is my absolute favorite. Back to school is a natural “reset” and I’m just humming with new plans and goals. Throw in new notebooks, pens, and pencils – I’m in heaven.

As soon as I finish up here, I’m going to tackle a 10 minute purge. Basically, if you’ve never done one before – you grab a bag or box and walk through your house and toss anything within eye line that you don’t find useful or beautiful. I don’t go through drawers and I ignore the little knick-knack that I don’t want to keep but don’t want to toss. Instead I just focus on the piles of random nonsense that we all seem to end up having – magazines, catalogs, that toy no one plays with and have no idea how we acquired. I was doing them about once a month but got out of the habit but think it’s time to reinstate them.

Then it’s grocery store, kitchen cleaning, and cleaning/sorting/lining a few cabinets.

What are you looking forward to this Monday?

A Daily Checklist for the Kids

This summer is flying by and I really want to kick back and relax and enjoy the last few weeks before my babies head back to school. But I also know that the prep work I do today will make that transition come September a whole lot easier. With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing different ways to make routine/chore charts.

One of my favorite ideas was Jessica’s The Morning High Five (and all her other high fives) but because I wanted the full day on one sheet of paper, I gave up the fun little handprint and created my own form. (The daily five concept might be stretched when I say your “daily five morning, daily five afternoon, daily five evening” but I wanted something for the printable that wasn’t my kiddos names, so pretend.)

With one of my children being a pre-reader, I made one using mostly clipart. (Anything to help along that independence – especially on school mornings!!)

My kiddos like to check things off once they’ve done them (and I’m the same way) so I laminated them before clipping them to their boards and attached a 3M Command hook for hanging a dry erase marker. This also allows me to write in/update their chore of the week without having to print a new form. (I use this list to help me assign chores but I know there is a list attributed to Maria Montessori on Pinterest as well. Basically, if they show interest in me doing it – I start teaching them and once I get comfortable with them doing it, I add it to their rotating list)

If you are interested in these printables, let me know if you’d like the clip art or word version and I’ll send a pdf to your email!

Road Trip Activity Binders (a link round-up)

We just got back from a week long vacation. The hardest part is the 10+ hour ride getting there and back. We like to break up the ride some but no matter how you slice it getting ready for a 10 hour road trip with a seven and five year old can be tricky. I’m willing to do some maneuvering when at the end I’m burying my toes into Lake Michigan sand. One of the must have essentials on every trip is each kid’s entertainment backpack and binder.

The backpack contains the iPad (and headphones), a brand new coloring book (that they pick out and I save) and crayons, a new notebook with a few pre-drawn doodles that they can color in, a few books, and their binder.

In their binders, I like to put classic road trip games and a few surprises as well. Here are links to the sites I use:

Coloring sheets

Made by Joel (my favorites)
Crayola
Dabbles and Babbles (she has some great coloring pages if you look around a bit – her robots and monsters are awesome)

Worksheets (math, handwriting, school refreshers)

Dad’s worksheets – Violet did these as time trials last year at school, so I thought I’d add them as refreshers.
Worksheet Universe – they have lots of great activity sheets for younger kids (preschool-first grade)
Paging Supermom – an overabundance of awesome
Handwriting Worksheets

Games/Mazes

Mr. Printables – great mazes
I Spy (travel), Slug Bug, and Alphabet Search
The License Plate Game
Paper/Pencil Games (like hangman, tic-tac-toe, dots & boxes)

I like to put everything but the coloring sheets in page protectors and give them each a dry erase marker. To keep the coloring sheets tidy, I use a plastic envelope that’s made for 3 ring binders. I’ll also put stickers and other odds and ends (a coupon for an hour of radio control for example) in there as well.

We’ve had a lot of success with them. Violet even spent one evening “just working on math problems” when she needed a little down time (in this she is NOTHING like her mother). What are some of your road trip tricks? Do you have games or activities you can share with me?

DIY Laundry

I’ve got two laundry DIY’s to share with you. A super, easy laundry soap and so your dryer doesn’t feel left out – felted dryer balls.

You can search the internet and find hundreds (if not thousands) of laundry detergent recipes. I’ve tried a few different powdered versions, but have ultimately settled on the following recipe as what works best for us.

1 – 5.5oz bar Fels Naptha
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda (NOT baking soda)

I grate the Fels Naptha using a cheese grater and that has worked for me. I know some people like to grate it and then pulse it a few times in the food processor to make sure they get it nice and fine so it breaks down faster in the wash.

Mix all the ingredients really well in your chosen container.

I add two tablespoons directly to the drum (not in the detergent space) of my front loading washer and then load my clothes. I’ve found it’s not as sudsy as many commercial detergents, but works just as well.

A few other laundry hints:
For stains around the collar, I make a paste of water and borax and scrub lightly with an old toothbrush, they come right out. For dirty knees, food stains, etc (I have kids), I wet my bar of Fels Naptha and lightly rub it over the stain. Super quick and easy and I don’t need to buy a special stain remover.

Last fall, I went out and bought some yarn to make felted slippers. After a few months, I realized I wasn’t all that interested in making the slippers but I still had the yarn so I decided to make dryer balls with them. Dryer balls help cut down on dry time and also limit your need for fabric softener/dryer sheets. I add few drops of lavender essential oil to them once a week (about every 15 washes) and our laundry comes out beautifully and smells great. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

-yarn for felting (100% wool is always a good choice for this. You’ll want to stay away from anything labeled washable or superwash)
-scissors
-a yarn needle or crochet hook
-an old pair of nylons

First, you’ll want to wrap your yarn around your fingers 10 or so times like this:

Then you’ll want remove the yarn from your fingers and wrap it around the middle:

Once you’ve done that, you’ll just keep wrapping the yarn around until it’s about the size of a baseball. Then you’ll want to take the tail, and tuck it in. I found the easiest way to do that is either tuck it through a few layers using either a yarn needle or crochet hook and then cut off any extra.

After you’ve made your ball, you’ll want to push it down into the toe of a cut off nylon leg. You can then either knot it off or tie it using some acrylic yarn (not the wool you’ve used, or that will felt and you won’t be able to get it untied). I do about five or six balls per nylon.

After you have them all knotted, you’ll want to wash them in hot water with a cold rinse cycle and then dry them at the hottest setting. (I make them on the days I wash towels since I’m already doing multiple loads in those temperatures). I usually run them through the wash/dryer twice before untying them, cutting them out of the nylons.

When you’re done they’ll look like this:

You’ll be able to use them over and over again and they’ll just continue to get more and more felted.

Happy laundry day!

A Conversation with Abram

I was just talking this morning about how I love my night time conversations with the kids. Tonight I got to tuck Abram in again and I decided I would take the moment to prep him for taking the worm he brought home from preschool and putting it in the garden tomorrow:

Me: Abram, I know you want to keep wormy in his cup, but he won’t be happy there. He needs room to dig and tunnel. That’s why your teacher told you we should put him in the ground.

Abram: But Wormy wouldn’t stay in our garden. He’d go all around the town. And then go out into the road. And get SMOOSHED. And then I would be sad because some car would SQUISH him and I never get to see him again. (Cue tears)

Me: Maybe we could put him into the part of the garden with the fence. Then he’d have to stay in the garden.

Abram (not to be outsmarted by mom logic): No, mom. Worms like to jump. They can’t jump as high as skyscrapers, but he could probably jump out of the garden fence. Or smoosh himself really small and sneak through the fence. And then I’d never see him again (more tears).

So the question remains: how exactly does one house a worm?!?

Game Night

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The game situation in our house was completely out of control. We had them stashed all over – kids’ bedrooms, kitchen junk drawers, living room end table, basement craft center – EVERY. WHERE. Boxes were broken, pieces willy nilly, and any time we wanted to sit down and play – we had to look in fifteen different places to find the game and then go hunting to make sure all the pieces were where they should be.

So I decided to take advantage of the snow day on Friday and round them all up, sort them out, discard the boxes that were destroyed, and make a game cabinet. As we add to our collection, I might migrate it to a larger cabinet, but for now this one works just fine.

I used and labeled ziploc bags to store pieces and cards and then corralled them all in a plastic container I picked up at Target ages ago to store toys (that have since been donated). I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Here are some of our favorite family games:

Spot It– super fun, fast, and the whole family can play

Blokus– my parents introduced the kids to this a few weeks back and after a whole lot of begging, I went out and bought it. We’ve had a lot of fun playing – especially because the 4 year old is just as capable of winning as the 40 year old but it’s not a game of chance.

Othello – we haven’t played with this one with kids yet, but Jesse and I have been known to let this settle who is doing the night’s dishes.

Guess Who? – the kids play this one A. LOT.

Farkle – this is another one that the adults tend to play while the kids are out doing other things. It’s very easy to learn and is a good mix of luck and knowing when to quit.

IQ Twist – This single person game is perfect for long car rides. Or if you are like my sister and I – timed competitions.

And spoons. I love a good game of spoons, though you need to pick your competitors carefully. People have been known to get injured.

Do you have a family favorite?

31 Day Bonus Post:: Discussion Topic List

I had a few requests to compile all the discussion topics into one form so I thought I’d make a “bonus” 31 day post for reference.

Here are all 31 discussion topics for your perusal.

1. Tell each person at the table what you like most about them.
2. If you could wake up tomorrow with any superpower, what would it be and why?
3. Would you give money to a homeless person if there is chance they could use it to by drugs/alcohol?
4. What is something you’d like (to start) to learn how to do in the next year?
5. What is one of your favorite characters in a book/movie? What do you like about them?
6. If you could have picked your own name, what would you have chosen?
7. What would a perfect day look like? What would you do? Who would spend it with?
8. Share a favorite memory.
9. Name three things you’d like to have on a deserted island. (Remember – there’s no electricity for charging things on a deserted island!!)
10. Share something you’re afraid of.
11. If you could invite anyone to dinner (alive or dead) who would you choose? What would you want to talk to them about?
12. What do you think is the best part of being an adult? A kid?
13. What is something we could do as a family to make the world a little better?
14. If you could take a vacation anywhere – where would you want to go? What would you like to do?
15. Name one virtue and one limitation you have.
16. If you could speak an animal language for one day which animal would you choose?
17. What do you think is the proper etiquette for cell phone usage – at home, with friends, at a restaurant, in other public places?
18. Name an imaginary creature or extinct animal you would bring to life if you could.
19. If you had to spend all weekend (both day and night) in a store – which store would it be?
20. Should the school principal be allowed to randomly search lockers/backpacks?
21. Fill in the blank: I wish…
22. Name three places you’d never go. Three places you’d love to go.
23. You see someone being picked on or bullied but you don’t know them well. How do you handle that situation?
24. Name all the pets you’ve had.
25. What is your favorite way to relax?
26. If you could pick one item you currently have and it would never break, wear out, or get lost which would you choose?
27. If you could convince all of your friends to share your opinion about one thing – what would it be?
28. Which of the following would you pick to be: really strong, really fast, or really tall?
29. What is something you’ve accomplished that when you began doing it, you thought would be impossible to do?
30. What is your favorite thing to have for dinner? (This one does double duty as research!!)
31. What are three things that make our family great?

Day 30:: Not Tot’s Chili

My dad’s chili is legendary.  It really truly is – he’s won cook-offs and everything. This recipe is not for my dad’s chili (because he doesn’t write one down) But now that I live 2-1/2 hours away, I had to learn how to make my own.

 

The Recipe

1 lb ground pork sausage (I either use spicy or mild, depending on my audience)
1 lb ground beef
8-12 cloves garlic minced (I like garlic, we use closer to that 12 number)
2 chopped onions
2 chopped green peppers
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded if you’re a wimp like me)
2 T chili powder (don’t be shy, heap it in there)
2 T brown sugar (packed in tight)
1 T ground cumin
3 T tomato paste (a little more than a half a little can)
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
2 bay leaves
2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
2 (15oz) cans dark kidney beans, drained

1- Heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add in the ground sausage (remove casings if necessary) and beef and set them to browning for a minute or two.
2- Add in the garlic, onions, and peppers. Let that cook until the meat is well browned and the peppers/onions are soft. Stir it all up.
3- Add everything from the chili powder-bay leaves and cook for a minute or two getting it all well and stirred in.
4- Add the tomatoes (the best way I’ve found to coarsely chop those bad boys is make your three year old wash his hands REALLY well and then set him to town squashing) and beans.
5- Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes before serving. Remove bay leaves (or if you are like us and a bay leaf in your dish means you doing dishes – add them to the Misters bowl) and serve with grated cheese, saltines, and/or sour cream.

Leftovers are AWESOME.

And I know some people put noodles in their chili but that just makes it goulash, so I don’t. If you’re one of those weirdo’s you can certainly do that with this recipe, just don’t tell me about it.

The Discussion

What is your favorite thing to have for dinner? (This one does double duty as research!!)

The Daily Tip

Family dinners are a great time to practice gratitude and thankfulness. In our family, we have a prayer board and each week we offer up a different prayer of thanksgiving. If you are interested in doing this, all you need is a google search to get some suggestions. If prayer isn’t something you’re comfortable with, just go around the table and share some daily blessings.

Day 20:: Ranch-Pesto Chicken

Easy and good. The chicken absolutely falls apart after a day in the crockpot. I serve it up over roasted spaghetti squash and it’s my favorite dinner. EVER.

The Recipe

– 1 lb chicken breast
– 1 T ranch dressing mix
– 6 oz jarred pesto (or homemade)

1. Add chicken, ranch dressing and pesto to crockpot.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

The Discussion

Should the school principal be allowed to randomly search lockers/backpacks?

The Daily Tip

I’ve recently started collecting cookbooks but not knowing where to begin, I asked everyone I knew for good ideas. Here are some of my favorites {and my favorite recipe}:

Stop and Smell the Rosemary {Oregano Shrimp}

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier {Whiskey Glazed Carrots}

Time for Dinner {Creamy Chicken with Shallots}

Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead & Freeze Cookbook {Bacon & Spinach Quiche}

If you’re a person strapped for time, but want healthy and economical meals, I can’t recommend NYM’s freezer cookbook enough. Lots and lots of good things and brilliant meal plan/shopping list help.

Day 19:: French Toast Casserole

I’m a breakfast lover. Sweet, savory – I don’t discriminate. But this sweet french toast casserole is an absolute favorite. I love to make it up the night before and serve to guests (I look so talented in a kitchen) but I’ve certainly been known to whip it up the morning of just for a family treat. Topped with melty butter and warm maple syrup, it’s an absolutely decadent way to enjoy morning.

The Recipe

Butter, For Greasing
1 loaf Crusty French Bread
8 whole Eggs
2 1/2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

Topping

1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 stick Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
Warm Syrup, For Serving
1 cup fresh berries (raspberries are my favorite), For Serving

To do:

-For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store in the fridge until needed (overnight preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away—delicious no matter what!

-For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

-When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture (my favorite).

Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with berries.

Recipe found adapted from The Pioneer Woman

The Discussion

If you had to spend all weekend (both day and night) in any store – which store would it be?

The Daily Tip

When I really started to get into cooking, I realized just how many great blogs out there have to do with food and I’ve definitely cultivated a few favorites (this recipe is from one of them) and I thought I would share them with you. I’m always looking for new food blog recommendations, so please don’t hesitate to share yours with me as well.

The Pioneer Woman
Iowa Girl Eats
A Thought for Food
Smitten Kitchen
Life as Mom (recent find, but oh, how I love her)

Day 18:: Shrimp & Black Bean “Salad”

Shrimp is quick, full of lean protein, and yummy. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to throw this together (minus the cilantro – if anyone has tips on keeping cilantro good when you get it home from the store, I’m all ears – but that’s a two second stop at the grocery store) and my kids love it mixed up with rice so I can stretch it even further.

The Recipe

-1 Tbsp chili powder
-1/2 tsp garlic salt
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking spray
-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, divided (optional-if I have one, I use it – if I don’t , it’s not the end of the world)
-1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
-3/4 cup bottled salsa
-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

To do:
-Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
-Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp; toss to coat.
-Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice.
-Remove shrimp from pan. Add corn to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in salsa, cilantro, and beans; cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Serve shrimp over bean mixture.

Recipe modified from Cooking Light

The Discussion

Name an imaginary creature or extinct animal you would bring to life if you could.

The Daily Tip

Music is one of my favorite ways to set the mood in our house and dinner time is no exception. Because it can be a little crazy – the Mister just getting home from work, everyone wanting to talk at once, getting the food on on the table – I tend to lean toward more mellow and relaxed music. I know I’m a late adopter, but Pandora has been great for this – I use Mumford & Sons, City & Colour, Iron & Wine, or The Civil Wars as my “station” – if it gets too hectic, I do turn it off, simply because I tend to get “sound claustrophobic” but most of the time I find it helps mellow us out. And I just bought this speaker for the Mister – and I can’t imagine life without it (makes a great Christmas gift).

Day 17:: Chinese Chicken Salad

Back when the Mister and I first got together we ate out. A lot. Like every night for three months (which may have had something to do with the ridiculous twenty pound gain that happened after I met him) and Applebee’s was a favorite. Specifically this salad which is crazy tasty.

This make at home version is definitely not the exact same thing – but it has a similar taste and it’s quick to throw together – especially if you plan ahead. I often do the chopping and dressing making the night before and just leave it in the fridge until it’s time to make dinner the next day. Then I marinade the chicken, cook it up, add the chow mein noodles, and drizzle on the dressing. Yum.

The Recipe

-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-3 Tbsp soy sauce
-2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
-salt and pepper
-1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded
-4 cups shredded red cabbage
-2 cups snow peas
-1 cup shredded carrot (I use a box grater and love it)
-1/2 cup chow mein noodles
-1/4 cup sliced almonds

DRESSING:
-1/4 cup olive oil
-3 Tbsp honey
-2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (I use jarred, minced that I found natural food section because we use ginger often and it can be a pain to grate.)
-1 Tbsp soy sauce
-1 clove garlic minced

To do:

– Combine chicken breasts, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar in a ziplock bag and let marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade, and season with salt and paper. Then slice into small pieces

– While chicken is marinating, mix all the dressing ingredients together until combined. You will probably want to shake to mix again before serving, as it does tend to separate.

– Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until done. Remove and let rest.

– While chicken is cooking, toss together Romaine, cabbage, peas, carrots chow mein noodles and almonds until combined.

– Add chicken and toss with desire amount of dressing until combined.

Recipe modified from Gimme Some Oven

The Discussion

What do you think is the proper etiquette for cell phone usage – at home, with friends, at a restaurant, in other public places?

The Daily Tip

The Recipe Binder is certainly not a new idea and after all my talk of Paprika you’d think I didn’t have one. But I do. Last year I went through all the handwritten recipes in my box and organized them into a binder with page inserts. This keeps them “splatter free” when I’m using them. Eventually I’ll enter them all into Paprika, pack away a few treasures (the one for my Grandma’s cranberry salad), and toss the rest, but for now a 3 ring binder, removable double sided tape, and cardstock are one of my favorite cookbooks ever.

Day 16:: Ritz Casserole

Writing a blog is kind of like ruling your own little universe, you go away for a week but you can certainly make it seem like you weren’t gone at all through the magic of scheduling. I’m hoping to be caught up before November 1st kicks in, but as I said, I’m focusing on the things that are most important right now and that’s studying and playing and knitting like a crazy woman for my baby new nephew that I can’t wait to meet!

Speaking of babies: this is my go to bring-a-meal-to-a-new-mom casserole. It’s buttery and cheesy and and the best kind of comfort food. And it has broccoli – so it’s totally health food.

The Recipe

-1 lb. fresh broccoli broken in small pieces and steamed for 2 minutes.
-3 cups cooked chicken breasts – Break up in small pieces
-3 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese divided
-2 tubes Ritz Crackers
-1/2 stick melted butter
-1 tablespoon poppy seeds

SAUCE:
-1/3 cup Butter- melted
-1/4 cups Cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup COLD Water
-1/3 cup Chicken Broth
-1/4 tsp. Salt
-1/4 tsp Pepper
-2 Cups Milk
-1 1/2 cups of the above Cheddar Cheese

To do:

-In greased 13×9 pan, layer the broccoli and chicken, then set aside. In saucepan over medium heat you’ll make your sauce: combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk. Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

-Melt 1/2 stick of butter, and add the poppy seeds, and stir well. Crush Ritz crackers (not too small!) in a medium sized bowl and pour butter/poppy seed mixture over mixing gently. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot & bubbly.

Recipe modified from Get Off Your Butt and Bake

The Discussion

If you could speak an animal language for one day which animal would you choose?

The Daily Tip

I shocked the Mister last week when he saw the price tag of our organic, pastured chicken and I don’t blame him. It’s not cheap. But a Sunday dinner went into this casserole, chicken noodle soup, and was also used to make chicken stock so I stretched that money and felt good about the sustainable meat we’ve consumed. Also knowing that my kids quite often refuse to eat leftovers but will eat a “re-imagined” dish, cooking one main meat on Sunday and utilizing it throughout the week makes good use of our food dollars and my time in the kitchen.

Day 15:: Taco Tuesday {Round-Up}

Our family is a traditional beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese on a shell family. Having five Tuesdays in the month of October and having Taco Tuesday as a theme is bad planning on my part. I could, of course, stretch our horizons to something besides the traditional taco, but it’s the meal the Mister makes and I’m not quite ready to give up the night off from the kitchen. I thought the best way to solve this problem was to give you some variability without having to give me any – here’s a roundup of taco recipes I would try if I was the one in the kitchen on a Tuesday.

The Recipe(s)

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Taco Cup(cakes)

Grilled Chicken & Lime for Tacos

White Bean & Spinach Tacos

Kalua Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Fish Tacos

Crockpot Chicken Taco Bowls

The Discussion

Name one virtue and one limitation you have

The Daily Tip

With our kids at six and four, table manners are starting to be something we work on pretty consistently. One fun way that we incorporate “fancy” manners is to have a “fancy” dinner every once and awhile. The dinner itself doesn’t need to be anything special, but using the “good” fabric napkins, drinking water from wine glasses, and eating in the dining room all set the scene and make our kids feel special. And we aren’t above a little bribery challenge/reward…good behavior at a “fancy” meal at home has been known to lead to a “fancy” meal out.

Day 14:: Beans & Toast

Whenever I mention I’m going to make this, I get eyebrows. I’ve even had one friend ask me if I run a prison. And I guess I can see why – it certainly isn’t a five course meal – but that’s the appeal. It’s tasty and hearty and simple.

I also have no picture because I had an absolutely horrible weekend that involved me wallowing, making this for dinner, taking a Xanax stashed for just such days, and pulling the covers back up over my head. (Every one is okay, I’m healthy, just some stuff that happens from time to time). My family devoured it so I couldn’t even take a picture of cold leftovers for blog land. As sales pitches go, that should go further than any badly lighted iPhone picture I’d share anyway.

The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-a loaf of crusty bread (I use a french loaf)
-olive oil
-garlic
-a few sage leaves
-1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
-1 15-oz can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
-salt & pepper to taste

Here’s what to do:

For toast:
-preheat oven to 350°
-warm olive oil and a 2 minced cloves of garlic oil over low heat until fragrant
-brush over slices of toast
-toast until crusty and golden

For topping:
-heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add 2 cloves minced garlic and sage until garlic begins to brown
-add tomatoes, beans, salt & pepper and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.

Serve.

The Discussion

If you could take a vacation anywhere – where would you want to go? What would you like to do?

The Daily Tip

Making your own beans is extremely simple, very affordable, and limits the amount of BPA that you’d otherwise be subject to using canned beans. Here’s how I prepare a pot of beans:

1. Sort & rinse your beans making sure to remove any small stones or debris. 2. Soak your beans in water and a generous pinch of baking soda overnight. 3. Cover them with water (by a few inches) in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute. 4. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for one hour.

Day 13:: Roasted Chicken

I love Sunday style dinners and a roast chicken is amazingly easy to do and it leaves options for great leftover meals. I say spend the extra money and buy an organic, pastured chicken and make stock to really stretch your dollar.


The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-Whole roasting chicken
-1 Bay leaf
-Lemon
-Olive oil or butter

Here’s what to do:

-Preheat the oven to 325°
-Rinse out the inside of the chicken (I know recent convention says not to do this, but I just have to) and then pat dry.
-Place 1/2 lemon and bay leaf inside the body cavity.
-Brush melted butter or olive oil over the chicken.
-Roast until meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 165°

Serve.

The Discussion

What is something we could do as a family to make the world a little better?

The Daily Tip

My husband is the one who introduced me to the concept of meat thermometer and I shake my head at how many years I went cooking without one. It’s a less than $10 purchase that keeps my pork from being overdone and my fears of salmonella at bay. Every well stocked kitchen needs one.

Day 12:: Frittata

If you’re looking for a mix and match recipe – this is good stuff. I’ve made it with sundried tomatoes and bacon, asparagus instead of spinach – just whatever I happen to have around. It isn’t the Mister’s favorite (he’s not a fan of any kind of “egg bake”) but the kids eat it up and I love that I have an easy 20 minute dinner that’s healthy and tasty.

The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-1 medium onion (I used yellow because that’s what I had)
-minced garlic to taste (I used four cloves – my family likes garlic)
-2 Tablespoons butter
-1 package of mushrooms sliced (I used portabella)
-A couple heavy handfuls of baby spinach ripped/slice into pieces (I used 3/4 of a bag)
-8 eggs – beaten
-salt
-pepper
-shredded cheese (I used parmesan)

Here’s what to do:

In an oven safe skillet add butter, onion, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until onion is translucent – not browned.

While those are cooking, beat eggs in a medium bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When onions are translucent, add mushrooms and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Then add baby spinach and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.

Pour egg mixture over everything and stir until well mixed. Let sit until eggs are just about set.

Sprinkle cheese on top. Put rack on second highest setting and broil until cheese is melted and egg has finished cooking.

Serve.

The Discussion

What is the best part of being an adult? A kid?

The Daily Tip

I don’t know about you but my kiddos used to come home FAMISHED after school and ready to eat the whole house down but then they’d barely touch their dinner. To protect against this, I have a snack in the car at pick up time – usually a handful of crackers and a cheese stick or a little container of dried fruit with sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Then they aren’t so hungry when they get home and I can keep them from filling up on snacks before dinner. (And this is probably common sense to 90% of parents out there, but if you’re like me most of parenting is hand/forehead so I’m looking out for you too!!)

Day 11:: The Day When Your Plans Go to Hell

I started off so well. I had posts scheduled and planned and I loved that each day had it’s own little theme…Then the Mister got sick and the kiddos got sick and I had the weirdest random episode that had me on a combination of medicines that kept me awake but made me sleepy and crabby.

Add a giant recipe/cooking fail for today with no backup plan and we’ve had a couple of nights picking up food, making sandwiches, and just accepting that life isn’t ever going to go as planned which means I don’t have a meal made especially for this post. I DO however have a recipe for a great seafood dipping sauce that is a holiday staple in my husband’s family. (No pretty picture though) It’s especially wonderful with oysters or shrimp.

The Recipe

Calvary Sauce (two ways):

Version One:
Start with a high quality, ready-made cocktail sauce
Add miracle whip until rich pink color
Stir in fresh lemon juice

Version Two:
Start with ketchup, adding in a generous amount of horseradish
Add miracle whip
Fresh lemon juice

Note: I am not at all a fan of miracle whip or horseradish or even cocktail sauce but something about them all together is so good. I LOVE this dipping sauce. Don’t hesitate to play with the amounts to get it to your taste.

**I am not being compensated for my links to Silver Springs in anyway, but these are the products I use**

The Discussion

If you could invite anyone to dinner (alive or dead) who would you choose? What would you want to talk to them about?

The Daily Tip

When it comes to meal planning, I (obviously) don’t have it all figured out. But one thing that really does work for me is the planning notebook. It’s just a small little notebook that I can easily throw in my purse but in it: I have the list of foods to always buy organic, smart and sustainable fish choices for my area, as well as the week’s meal plan and the items I need to make those meals. I don’t ever write out a full grocery list because I’m lazy and I like to pick up things (like fruit) when it looks good and it’s on sale. It’s a less than a dollar purchase that has made my life so much easier because I’m not scrounging for a loose piece of paper floating around in my bag or worrying about whether or not I should spend the extra money on organic berries (yes, I should) or onions (not necessarily). I highly recommend one.

Day 10: BLT Sandwiches

These are a great follow up to the taco because they use up any leftover lettuce or tomato we may have and they’re quick. We often have them before a soccer practice evening or when we have lots to do. I stand at the stove, the Mister mans the toast station, and the kids can add their own lettuce and tomato. Granted we aren’t all “sitting down together” because they don’t all get done at the same time and they are best when the bacon is hot (in my opinion) but we’re still all talking and hanging out which is nice to do before a busy night.

The Recipe

-large leaf lettuce (we always have iceberg on hand after tacos, otherwise I like a butter lettuce)
-tomato slices
-bacon – we use ones minus nitrates (if you can find it by the slab and cut it off yourself even better)

I think you can probably figure these on your own but here’s how we do them one at time:
1. Slice tomato, wash and remove leaves of lettuce
2. Fry enough bacon for one sandwich while making toast
3. Put it all together and add butter, mayo, or miracle whip to your taste. I eat mine “dry” and love it.
4. Expect requests for seconds.

The Discussion

Share something of which you’re afraid.

The Daily Tip

Growing up, both of my parents worked outside the home but that didn’t mean we were going out to eat or picking up take out. Some of my favorite dinners were quick & simple fair – fried egg sandwiches (I try and weasel one out of my dad every time I go home to visit), crackers & cheese served with a side of carrot and celery sticks, chips and cheese and a side of salsa. Low key nights at our house were awesome – especially when they landed on my dish night. I try to keep that in mind when I don’t have the energy or time to do a “big” meal.

Day 9:: Mix’n Match Pot Pie

Pot pie is my favorite, favorite, favorite comfort food ever. And let’s be honest – those freezer versions will do in a pinch but nothing hits the spot like one you made yourself. I love this recipe, because depending on what leftover meat you have around you can build a pot pie to fit your needs.

The Recipe

-1 cup chopped onion or leeks
-1 cup sliced celery, sliced fresh mushrooms or chopped trimmed and cored fennel bulb
-1 cup chopped sweet red, green or yellow sweet pepper
-2 tablespoons butter or margarine
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, oregano, rosemary or basil, crushed, or 1 teaspoon curry powder or poultry seasoning
-1/4 teaspoon salt or garlic salt
-1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, white pepper or cayenne
-1 cup chicken, beef or vegetable broth
-3/4 cup milk, half-and-half, light cream or whole milk
-2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken, turkey, beef, pork, ham or potatoes
-1 cup frozen peas, frozen baby sweet peas, frozen peas and carrots, frozen mixed vegetables or frozen whole kernel corn
-1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, cook onion, celery, and sweet pepper in hot butter over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the flour, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add chicken broth and milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in cooked chicken, frozen peas and, if you like, parsley.

2. Pour mixture into a deep-dish (such as a 11x7x2-inch baking dish [2-quart rectangular], an 8x8x2-inch baking dish [2-quart square], a 2-quart souffle dish or casserole) or six single-serving dishes (such as six 10- to 14-ounce au gratin dishes, individual ramekins, casserole dishes or 5-3/4-inch disposable foil pot pie pans).

3. Immediately place crust over filling – cutting slits to release steam.

4. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes for deep-dish (20 to 25 minutes for single-serving dishes) or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 20 minutes for deep-dish (10 minutes for single-serving dishes) before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Hint: I can’t make a pie crust to save my life but I can buy one with the best of them. I’m also not afraid to use fresh carrots or peas if that’s what I have on hand. Make it with what you have on hand, that’s the benefit of this meal.

The Discussion

Name three things you’d like to have on a deserted island. (Remember – there’s no electricity for charging things on a deserted island!!)

The Daily Tip

Cooking multiple meals at once is a great way to prepare for busy nights and this meal is super easy to double. Make one right away and let the other cool in the fridge then wrap tightly and place in the freezer. Take it out to thaw the day before and you’ve a go to meal. You can find lots of other great freezer meals here or just do a pinterest or google search.

Day 8:: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadilla

While we celebrate Taco Tuesday each week, the recipe doesn’t change much and since I promised 31 recipes, I thought I’d consider it’s use of tortilla’s in the recipe a loophole and bit and share with you this easy dinner or delicious snack.

 

The Recipe

-4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
-2-3 sweet potatoes – chunked and roasted
-1 can black beans – drained & well rinsed
-1 bunch finely chopped green onions
-1 1/2 cup shredded Colby jack cheese

1. Preheat oven 425 degrees.
2. Place a tortilla on the baking sheet. Scatter the sweet potato chunks on the tortilla, and then fill the spaces between those sweet potato chunks with the black beans. Sprinkle the green onions and cheese. Top with the other piece of tortilla and press it gently. Bake for 6- 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top piece tortilla is golden brown. Cut into wedges & serve. Makes 2 quesadillas, serves 4.

Recipe adapted from here.

The Discussion

Share a favorite memory.

The Daily Tip

Sweet potato is quickly becoming one of my favorite veggies and it’s typically a “clean 15” vegetable with low pesticide content. More and more I am trying to buy organic, but at times it just isn’t the budget to buy EVERY fruit and vegetable from the organic section. Based on pesticide content here are some foods you should always buy organic: 1) celery 2) peaches 3) strawberries 4) apples 5) blueberries 6) nectarines 7) bell peppers 8) cherries 9) spinach kale & collards 10) potatoes 11) imported grapes 12) lettuce Here are the “clean 15” – conventionally grown with low pesticide usage 1) onions 2) avocados 3) sweet corn 4) pineapples 5) mangoes 6) sweet peas 7) asparagus 8) kiwi 9) cabbage 10) eggplant 11) cantaloupe 12) watermelon 13) grapefruit 14) sweet potato 15) sweet onions

Source

Day 7:: Peanut Stir-Fry

In the last couple of years I’ve really tried to start incorporating more meatless meals into my repertoire and adopting a “Meatless Monday” was a good way to force me out of my regular planning routine. I’m not strictly vegetarian (for example, I use chicken broth in this recipe) on Meatless Mondays, but you could certainly give that a try and substitute vegetable broth. (Picture note: it’s getting that time in Wisco where the sun goes down earlier and earlier. Since I’m not making these dinners at breakfast time, and I’m using my camera phone, the color quality on these will probably be less than ideal. I’m sorry, but since I’m not a food blogger and these are meals our family is eating, I’m just shrugging my shoulders and hope you will too.)

The Recipe

-2 tsp peanut oil
-2 cup(s) uncooked onion(s), chopped (about 1 large onion)
-2 cup(s) uncooked bok choy, chopped
-2 cup(s) uncooked carrot(s), chopped (about 2 medium carrots)
-1 medium green pepper(s), chopped
-1 medium sweet red pepper(s), chopped
-8 oz fresh mushroom(s), thinly sliced
-2 cup(s) uncooked broccoli, florets
-2 cup(s) uncooked asparagus, cut into 2-inch peices (about 1/2 pound asparagus)
-1/4 cup(s) low sodium soy sauce
-2 tsp cornstarch
-1/4 cup(s) canned chicken broth, reduced-sodium
-8 Tbsp peanuts, dry roasted, chopped
-4 cup(s) cooked brown rice, kept hot

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add onion, bok choy, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and asparagus; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add soy sauce and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.

Whisk cornstarch into broth in a small cup and add to pan; simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.

Spoon stir-fry onto rice on individual plates and top each serving with peanuts. Yields about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 tablespoon of peanuts and 1/2 cup of rice per serving.

Recipe found here.

The Discussion

What would a perfect day look like? What would you do? Who would spend it with?

The Daily Tip

Switching from Uncle Ben’s white boil-in-a-bag to organic brown rice took some adjusting – the whole measuring water and rice and keeping my fingers crossed that I’d have enough of one but not too much was just plain annoying. So I started boiling it like I boil pasta. I fill a pot about 3/4 full with water and when it starts to boil, I dump my rice in. I add a little water if I need to, but mostly I just leave it alone until it’s nice and soft the way we like it. If there is water left over (there usually is), I just drain it off using a fine mesh strainer. Perfect rice – every time.

Day 6:: Pork Chops & Apples

Pork chops and apples? Yes, please. Serve it up with this salad or a butternut squash soup and green beans and you’ve a perfect Sunday dinner.

The Recipe

-2 tablespoons butter
-6 pork chops
-4 apples
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a large baking dish. Slice apples and place in the bottom of the dish sprinkling cinnamon and sugar over them. In a pan, melt the butter and brown pork on both sides. Place pork chops over the apples and put in the oven until internal temperature measures 145°.

The Discussion

If you could have picked your own name, what would you have chosen?

The Daily Tip

When we first started doing regular family dinners, we’d almost always have someone jumping up to fill their water glass. Because we wanted to make dinner a special time where we could share and relax together without interruptions, we started adding a glass pitcher to the center of the table. When I have lemon or lime to add, the kids feel even more special.

Day 5:: Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats

The idea of all sitting down to breakfast during the mid-week probably seems crazy BUT with this recipe, you do the work the night before and wake up to tasty, filling, great-start to your day oatmeal. So the next time you know you’re going to be having one of those nights where sitting down at dinner is going to be next to impossible – start your day with some family time instead.

The Recipe:

Here’s what you need:

-1 cup steel cut oats
-4 cups water
-1/2 cup milk
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 tablespoon butter
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1 teaspoon cinnamon

Here’s what to do:

Spray crockpot lightly with non-stick spray, add all ingredients. Cook for 8 hours on low (or warm depending on how high powered your crock pot is). Serve with additional milk, brown sugar, and dried fruit to taste.

The Discussion

What is one of your favorite characters in a book/movie? What do you like about them?

The Daily Tip

The single biggest change I made that made family meals easier? Google. I know this is not rocket science or even news but it took me awhile to learn. Taking the 15 minutes to see what needs to be used up, doing a recipe search for those ingredients, and building a meal plan around that? Saved us money, time, and so much food waste. I am by no means great at this (I’m one day away from throwing out a bag of broccoli slaw as I write this) but even small changes add up.

Day 4:: Salmon & Cabbage Salad

My husband detests salmon. In fact, he’s not a fan of most fish unless it’s covered in Kraft tartar sauce (which is completely contrary to my definition of healthy eating) so when I made this, I figured it was a win that he ate what I put on his plate. What I never expected is that a month later he would be asking me why I never made that salmon dish again. Add to that my kids ate it without complaint (though my picky kiddo only ate the salad) and we’ve got a genuine family staple. It really is that good.

The Recipe

Dressing:
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. honey (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Salad:
1 small-medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves (about 1½-2 cups), roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated/shredded

For the Salmon:
1-1/2 lbs. boneless salmon fillets
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

To do:

1) Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2) Make the dressing: combine lime juice, oils, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic,  and cilantro in a liquid measuring cup or jar. Whisk well to blend fully. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3) Make the salad: combine the cabbage, green onions, red pepper, spinach, and carrot in a medium bowl and toss until evenly mixed. Dress with about half of the dressing, toss well, and then add more dressing to taste as desired.
4) Prepare the salmon: Lay a large piece of aluminum foil flat on a work surface and fold the edges up slightly. Lay the salmon pieces skin side down on one half of the foil. Combine the lime juice, soy sauce, garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. Sprinkle the ginger rounds over the fillets and season with salt and pepper. Fold the empty half of the foil over the salmon and fold the edges over to seal the packet completely. Transfer to the heated oven to bake. Let cook an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 160˚ F. (Cooking time will vary depending on your cooking method and the thickness of the fillets. Remove smaller fillets as needed when fully cooked through, to avoid overcooking while waiting on the larger pieces to finish.)

Serve the warm salmon over a bed of the cabbage salad.

Adapted from: Annie’s Eats

The Discussion

What is something you’d like (to start) to learn how to do in the next year?

The Daily Tip

Am I the only one who thinks figuring out fish shopping is impossible? It’s recommended that we eat three servings each week, but every where you look seems to be controversy of what kind is okay, what kind isn’t okay and each and every article seems to have differing opinions! To complicate matters, what is recommended in some areas is discouraged in others. Well, three cheers for the lovely people at Monterey Bay Aquarium who created a downloadable pocket guide depending on your area. Even better? They have an app for your phone. Never again do you have to feel a prick of conscience while enjoying fish. Unless of course, you are buying off their avoid list – in which case, shame on you!

Day 3:: Quick & Simple Chix Skillet

I love to spend the day in the kitchen putting things together but with two young kids and a household to run, I very rarely have time for a big elaborate meal. So simple, tasty fare always gets plus points in my recipe book add to the fact that this cuts down on dishes (one skillet!!) and this meal is a favorite. Add a side of brown rice or noodles and you’ve got a filling meal in no time.

The Recipe

-1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breast cut into 1″ pieces
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
-1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
-2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (or a can, drained)
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
-salt & pepper

Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place it over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken and cook until done.

Remove the chicken to a plate, covering to keep it warm. Add the garlic to the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Put the chicken back in the pan and stir. Sprinkle with the cheese just before serving.

Found here.

The Discussion

Would you give money to a homeless person if there is chance they could use it to by drugs/alcohol?

The Daily Tip

Controversial topics (like the above) at a family dinner can give your children a safe place to talk out issues and provide you an opportunity to understand their worldview and opinions. It’s always good to establish a few table rules. Here are some good examples:

1) Everyone has to listen to others’ opinions without interruption.
2) Personal attacks, insults, and rudeness are not allowed.
3) Right answers may not exist or at least may not materialize during the course of the conversation. That’s okay. We can agree to disagree.
4) The topic can be “tabled” by any member of the family if the discussion gets to heated or out of control.

These rules apply to parents too!

Day 2:: Let’s Talk Turkey

If my daughter could have one meal every night for a year, she tells me it would be this one. It isn’t the prettiest meal I’ve ever made but it’s goooooood. We serve it up over rice but I’ve used noodles in a pinch – or even just as a hearty “stew”. I love it because it’s flexible, affordable, and tasty. Throwing a few things in a crock set to low and having dinner waiting for me at the end of the day doesn’t hurt either.

The Recipe

-2 turkey thighs (remove skin & bones)
-1 bag of frozen pearl onions or 2 small onions roughly chopped
-1 can diced tomatoes with italian seasonings
-1 large can cannellini or baked beans (if cannellini, drain and rinse)
optional: 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
optional: sliced mushrooms

To do:

Put it all in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Tip: You can debone & de-skin the thighs before, but I usually do it half way through. It’s easier, but not so easy all that you end up with little pieces of bone left over. Otherwise, at the end is really easy – just make sure you get out all the little bone bits.

Another tip: If you have plain diced tomatoes – you can just add 1/2 teaspoon each (or to taste) of dried oregano, parsley, basil

The Discussion

If you could wake up tomorrow with any superpower, what would it be and why?

The Daily Tip

It’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started cooking on a regular basis and most times I still like to have a recipe in front of me. With blogs, pinterest, magazines, and my own family cookbooks it’s very easy for my recipe file to get out of control. Of course, there’s an app for that: Paprika.

It’s a little pricey – especially if you use it on multiple platforms (you have to purchase it separately for each one) – but it’s simple to use and has made my iPad the best cookbook I have in my home. I love that I can store recipes under multiple categories, rate them, and often save ones I find online with a click of a button. Other features include menu planning and a grocery list feature, but I still opt for pen and paper. I’m sure there are definitely others out there (and maybe cheaper) but having an e-recipe file has made life a LOT simpler in my kitchen.