Friday, December 30, 2011

Organizing; the entry closet

We moved into our house about three months ago and while we are "moved in" there is still loads of organizing to do.  Many things were just put in the same area they had been in our old house, now the layout of this house needs to be taken into consideration and things put where they really belong.  Somethings were just thrown into drawers/closets/shelves where they belong but not really organized.  My plan is to try to get to one area a week and while I'm at it I'll blog about it so you can see what solutions I've figured out, and also so you can make suggestions!

This week is the entry closet.  It is an odd size, being quite narrow and deep. This is what it looked like right after moving in.

 I took everything out first and moved several things to other places, liket the disposable wipes/diapers/pull-ups.  Those things were all in our front closet at our last house, and it made sense to have them there since it was next to the bathroom with the changing table in it, now we just find ourselves frustrated to go get them when we need them.  Moving these things allowed me to put my boys' boots on those little white shelves in the closet.  The shelves are pulled a bit forward allowing me to use some of the space in the back for storing things we don't get into often like the tripod.  I also put a small plastic basket on top of the shelves, that will be our "get rid of" bin; I'll drop those things off regularly at a goodwill or something in the area.

Since we already have several panels of hooks like we used in our bathroom we decided to use those in this closet hoping these would work better. They should allow us to hang everything we need to without getting too cramped in there.  I'm not quite sure about my diaper bag, it will either go on the upper shelf or on one of the hooks.

I'm linking to Organizing Junkie and Making your home sing Monday.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Take them a meal!

Having had 7 babies I've been on the receiving end of meal deliveries many times, I've also enjoyed being able to bless others in this way.  Up until now though I really did not realize what a blessing meals are to those suffering the loss of a loved one (though it really is no surprise!).  Friends in my old home town sprang into action and delivered meals to my dad's house where the family was gathered.  It was such a blessing not to have to think about meals, and the generous portions allowed for ample leftovers to be eaten as lunch the next day!

I was doubly blessed to have new friends in our new home town to spring into action as well and deliver meals to my husband and children at home.  What a blessing to know they were being cared for while I had to be away.  If ever in doubt of what you can do for a family going through tough times, take them a meal!  It will be helpful. They will feel loved.  You will bless them!  

Just a couple of weeks ago I was introduced to a great side called Take them a meal.  It is a site for scheduling and coordinating the delivery of meals to families.  What a great idea!  I loved being able to go to the site and pick the date that worked for me to take a friend a meal.  I also loved being able to see what meals others were bringing so that I could be sure to bring them something different.  There are also tips and recipes on this site!  

Being out of town makes helping friends and loved ones difficult.  It comes up often enough that this experience got me thinking about how I could care for others that I would like to bless in this way, but I'm too far away to bring them a meal.  Some options I thought of would be ordering (and paying for over the phone or through a web site) a pizza or some other meal to be delivered.  That got me thinking about other meal delivery services like schwans.  Either just going on their site and ordering meals, or a gift card could be a real blessing.  Know someone else in town?  Ask them to pick up a frozen lasagna or something to be delivered to the family.  I can't tell you what a blessing it is to see that frozen lasagna and bread in my freezer waiting to help me out next week as we get back to "normal."

Most of all though I was so blessed to know my friends and loved ones were praying for us.  Hearing their stories of my dad, how they will miss him, was such a blessing.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cooking for a crowd: Baked Oatmeal


Check out my "Family Feasts for $75 a week" giveaway

Four days a week our family has baked oatmeal for breakfast. It is healthy and inexpensive, and most of us like it. In a large family those first two are oh so very important! We serve it with bananas or fresh berries when they are in season. Sometimes I'll mix frozen berries in. We always have maple syrup on it. This recipe is very easy to play with.




The night before I start it soaking (aids in digestion).

3 cups of rolled oats
2 cups milk (I use coconut milk since we are dairy free right now)
1 Tbs. vinegar, lemon juice, or yogurt the acid helps break down enzymes

In the morning add in
1/2 cup of butter or coconut oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
spices to taste (I usually just put a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in but sometimes ginger too)

Put it all in a 9x13 greased pan. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Serve with maple syrup over it.

 

I mix the baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and spices together in a small the night before

*though I often mix several containers at once that way I only need to get those ingredients out once every week or two! This is enough for two weeks!

Generally we have some left overs, but who wants to eat leftover baked oatmeal? We've started saving the leftovers and mixing them together on day 4. Its Twice Baked Oatmeal! Just crumble up the leftovers and add in an egg or two mix it up, put in a pan and bake (at 350 for about 30 minutes).

I'm thinking that Orange Cranberry baked oatmeal sounds yummy for Christmas time. We tried pumpkin in November. Use what you have or what is in season to mix this up a bit!

I'm linking to A delightful home.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pantry Challenge and a giveaway!

Well, its the last week of December.  Is your refrigerator full of leftovers? Your budget on empty? It seems that no matter how well we plan, things come up and December seems to be the month that busts our budgets. January is the month for setting goals and getting back on track! This week leading up to January and the new year I'll be doing a pantry challenge (trying to cook with what I have and buying as little as possible this week). Keep reading for the challenge that will start next week and the giveaway!
With my fridge full of not only Christmas leftovers, but a weeks worth of leftovers from wonderful meals that some awesome friends have been delivering this week we may not have to cook all week!

Our Menu for the week (I've filled in some of the meals, and I'll update the rest throughout the week)

Monday-
Breakfast- Pie/Christmas desert (this is a tradition in our house, the morning after the big holiday we feast on leftover desert!)
Lunch- Christmas Leftovers/sandwiches
Dinner-Christmas Leftovers

Tuesday-
Breakfast- We still have plenty of left over Christmas goodies/breakfast!
Lunch- Yep, still left overs!
Dinner- 

Wednesday-
Breakfast- Umm, I think we over did the goodies!  We're still working on them!
Lunch-
Dinner- Sausages, vegetables (found in the freezer, I'll steam them), bread

Thursday-
Breakfast- Baked Oatmeal
Lunch-
Dinner-Pasta and meatballs and salad

 

Friday-
Breakfast-
Lunch-
Dinner-

Saturday-
Breakfast- Pancakes
Lunch-
Dinner- Family Movie Night! Homemade Pizza with whatever toppings we have around, salad.  I'll make homemade microwave carmel corn tonight too!


Last year I was given the book Family Feasts for $75 a Week and really enjoyed it. I learned some great new tips for keeping my budget down and some wonderful new recipes as well. So...
For the challenge I'm going to try to stick as close to $75 a week as I can for our family of 9 in the month of January. I'll blog about my weekly shopping and my menu plan to keep myself accountable ;)

I'm wondering if anyone wants to join me in this challenge? Would you be interested in doing a link up if I put one up?

Now for the giveaway- I get to give away a copy of the Family Feasts for $75 a Week!  Mary Ostyn is going to give a copy of her book to one of you!
-Be a follower of this blog by google friend connect. (1 entry, leave 1 comment)
-Facebook about this challenge and giveaway (1 entry, leave 1 comment)
-Tweet this challenge and giveaway (1 entry, leave 1 comment)
-Blog about this challenge and giveaway (3 entries, leave 3 comments)

I'll draw the winner on Saturday morning.

I'm linking to Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It almost wasn't Christmas

Shocked, numb at times, and grieving; this past week was spent with family preparing for my Dad's memorial service.  Most of the time it was easy to forget that Christmas was upon us, but I had this sweet little red headed travel companion (Mr. R) that was wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  As we made our way back home on Christmas Eve I slowly started to switch gears to Christmas..... read more.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas review and giveaway!

My friend Mrs. Davidson at Quiet times for Kids send me her new family devotional "The Twelve Days of Christmas" yesterday.  Though I was excited to see a new study from her I was wishing it had come earlier so that we could use it this year, but then  I was so excited to read that it is designed to be done Dec. 25th through Jan. 6th!!!!!
12 Days of Christmas is
designed for Dec 25 - Jan 6


During the hustle and bustle of Christmas time sometimes Christ gets lost, or maybe we just get so busy that we don't feel that enough focus was on Christ.  Honestly, this year that is what happened to us.  We've had such a crazy few months and Christmas just seemed to sneak up on me.  Sure we decorated, baked, shopped and had some family fun, but I just felt that our focus was not where it should be.  I got so excited reading through this study, knowing that we could still redeem the season, and Mrs. Davidson had done all of the hard work for me!

This study is a mix of scripture, early church history, poems and even activity/celebration ideas!  I love that there are also pages to be done individually to encourage individual reflection.  I'm looking forward to doing this study as a family and I'm excited that I get to pass this on to one of you as well!

That's right, Mrs. Davidson is sponsoring a giveaway of The Twelve Days of Christmas study.   She has also given me a coupon code for half of of this study!  Just enter 'halfoff12days' at checkout!

Here is how you can win this study:

Be a follower of this blog via Google Friend Connect (1 entry; leave 1 comment)
Go to Quiet Times For Kids and tell me what other study you are interested in (1 entry; leave 1 comment)
Facebook this giveaway (1 entry; leave 1 comment)
Blog about this giveaway (3 entries; leave 3 comments)

We'll have the drawing at noon on December 24th. Merry Christmas!

Family time

My husband is off of work this week.  Christmas is around the corner.  Our plans?  Nothing big, or so it seems.  We will complete our daily jobs around here, work on some projects around the house, run some errands.  Most of all though we are going to enjoy a slower pace (waking at 7 instead of 5!), take time to serve others, do extra baking, mostly just enjoy this time together.



These are the times of making memories with our children.  Growing bonds between us and them, and also between siblings.  To enjoy some long held family traditions, and discover some new ones too!  These things happen throughout the year, but is seems that this time of year there is a higher concentration of traditions, memories and family time.  I love these times and I hope you are enjoying them too!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Starbucks giveaway winner!

The winner of the Starbucks giveaway is astrid vargas.  Congratulations!  Please contact me with the address you would like it mailed to and I'll get it to you ASAP.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stuffing stockings on a budget

**Check out my Starbucks giveaway!**

I love to give my children gifts; and at Christmas I love stuffing their stockings. I have a couple of problems though, I HATE clutter and I'm on a budget. What to do? Many stocking stuffers I see advertised in stores are just junk, which means clutter and a waste of my money. We've been trying to simplify our lives a bit (that means Christmas too!), and the stocking stuffers are reflecting that. Here are a few ideas that have been working for us.
Breakfast in the stocking- You know all of the candy and junk you put in their stockings become breakfast, right? I've started putting foods that are still treats, but somewhat healthy, in their stockings. Juice boxes and fruit leathers are hits. Most of my kids love Cuties (the tiny little oranges). Maybe some yogurt covered rasens? Since these things are rarely seen around our house the kids are excited about them!

Light sticks- These are a huge hit and a fun way to go to bed on Christmas. They can often be found in the bargain toy area in large stores.

Make something- Is there something you can make that your kids have been wanting/needing? I'm planning to make baby doll bibs for my little girls. My older kids have been asking me to make chapstick when I make hard lotion. I'll be surprising them with their own tubes of chocolate peppermint chapstick!

Coupons- Is there something your kids have been wanting you to do with them? An activity they just can't get enough of? A chore they would love to get out of? Make up coupons to be rediemed by them. Our kids have loved this.

Need- Is there something your child is needing? Would they be excited to receive it? Why not put it in the stocking or put it under the tree? Can you take something that they need that would otherwise be plane and boring and spruce it up a bit so that they will be excited about it?

Gift cards- A $5 or $10 gift card can go a long way for a child (both monitarily AND emotionally) when paired with some special time either as a family or with mom or dad. Our kids love family trips to starbucks. We rarely go to McD's and such so a gift card to someplace like that and then getting to go with just mom or dad has really brought some big smiles!

 

Baby- The baby really does not need anything in his stocking this year, but I've been known to put a new cloth diaper in a baby's stocking. For an older baby I may get some of those fun yogurt drops or some other finger food treat. A book or a small toy with that little treat will be enough to make the little guy feel included, but costs very little.

Buy used- Make sure you are checking out thrift stores, garage sales, e-bay and even Amazon throughout the year for some gifts and stocking stuffers. Often new or like new things can be found at a much lower price. Stocking stuffers often go into the stocking better opened anyways so your kids may not know or (in our case) even care that the item is used!

Some of these ideas are just for fun, others are focused at getting (and keeping) our children's hearts through thoughtful gifts that can help build relationships. What ideas do you have for stuffing stockings this year?

I'm linking to Raising Homemakers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Starbucks giveaway-CLOSED

Congratulations to Astrid Vargas the winner of the giveaway!

About six years ago I accidentally got my family addicted to Starbucks...

I had to give up dairy for my baby who was nursing and had dairy problems. This was an act of love. I love dairy, but I love my babies even more! To get myself through that time and get a "dairy fix" I would go to Starbucks to get a SOY peppermint Mocha. My kids would ask for a taste, soon they were asking for their own. My then two year old was soon able to order his own "short, decaf, peppermint mocha" Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins thought he was so cute and soon started sending him and his siblings their own gift cards!
*This picture was taken about six years ago, when our addiction started!

 

Starbucks has become a special place for our family. Sometimes we go as a family and enjoy a treat. Sometimes we go visit my cousin there at work (when we are in town visiting!), and sometimes we will take one or two children that just need some special time with mommy or daddy (we even go on quick dates there sometimes when we have someone over visiting that does not mind us ducking out for a bit!). We've enjoyed getting to know some of the barristas as well. While we enjoy the yummy treats, I think it is the relationship part that we enjoy most. It is fun to have the neighborhood coffee shop to stop in at, and usually they make an effort to get to know us and even our children. More than that though it is just so relaxing to sit with one of our kids, sip on a hot drink and visit. I've even started keeping the VIA (instant) starbucks at home so that I can make up a quick drink to share with a child or two for a warm cozy time together!

This year I once again have a baby with dairy issues, so I'm finding myself at Starbucks more often again. It has been a struggle to give up dairy, but it is so very worth it for my little guy. He is happier and is no longer having tummy issues. I can also tell that he is recovering slowly as when I slip up he no longer seems to react! I'll be adding dairy to my diet slowly over the next weeks/months, but I hope to be able to have just a bit of all of my favorites for Christmas!

During this time of rushing and business I thought I'd give away a Starbucks gift card ($10) and a package of the Christmas Blend VIA to one of my readers. The hope is that it will give someone a chance to slowdown a bit and enjoy some special time with a loved one. I'll give you a few ways to enter this giveaway.

1. Be a follower of this blog (1 entry;leave one comment)
2. Facebook this giveaway (1 entry; leave one comment)
3. Tweet this giveaway (1 entry; leave one comment)
4. Blog about this giveaway with a link back here (3 entries; leave 3 comments)

*This is NOT a sponsored giveaway. I just thought I'd pass on a fun gift to someone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Soap making and hard lotion AND a winner!

Hope, you are the winner of the Peppermint giveaway (please contact me so I can get your box out to you)! Hope had asked if I had any problems with kids wanting to eat the peppermint/chocolat soaps and lotions. I have. Just the lotion though, and the great thing about this lotion is that though it is NOT intended to be consumed all ingredients are safe to be consumed (in fact we do use some in our cooking/baking!).

By popular demand I'll post about soap and hard lotion making.... I feel like I'm putting together a clip show since I was not able to take pictures when I made soap on Friday. Sorry.

Soap making has been something I was interested in trying for a while, but using lye was a bit intimidating. The Homestead Blessings DVD on soap making by the West Ladies made it look so simple that I was feeling ready to give it a try after watching it about a year ago.

I didn't actually get my nerve up to try it until I saw this post on making soap in a crock pot! That is the recipe I use and she has great pictures to go along with it so I'll send you over there for instructions since I truly could not do it better (I did find that an immersion blender did not seem to be optional, but instead a necessity). It is a recipe for coffee soap but you can easily change it (like I do) to just about any scent by using a different liquid (juice, tea, or water) and essential oils. I've made lavender, citrus, and now peppermint. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions though, I'd be happy to answer them. Remember though that I'm new at this, so I'm no expert!

SOAP MAKING IS NOT A CHILD FRIENDLY CRAFT. I only make soap when my little ones are napping or there is another adult around.

Hard Lotion is a much simpler activity and one that my 11 year old manages nearly on her own. I busy myself in the kitchen while she is making it so I'm available to help and check her progress. My camera was not working so I did not manage to get pictures of her actually making it.

To make chocolate peppermint hard lotion- Simply melt in equal amounts coconut oil, beeswax, and cocoa butter. We used our soap crockpot on high stirring ocationally. While its melting prepare your molds. We used muffin tins and muffin cup liners. While we were making our second batch we made lip balm since it is the same recipe. We just purchased empty tubes off of Amazon. Pour the mixture into the waiting molds, and let them cool. Its that easy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cooking for a crowd- Apple Rolls


For the holidays I love to have special breakfasts to serve to my family. One of our favorites is Apple Rolls. They are like cinnamon rolls, only they have apples and apple butter inside!
I start off by making my own apple butter. I make this once a year and when its gone, its gone. My kids search the cupboards carefully when I announce we are out of it, just incase I missed a jar. They love it! I got the original recipe from crockpot365, but changed it around to work for my family, including super sizing it!

Apple Butter
30 - 40 pounds of apples (I find apples on sale, this time it was organic juice quality apples for $.50 a pound!)
4-6 Tablespoons of vanilla
- Quarter, core, and peel all of those apples. Just work on them through the day, and throw them in the Turkey roaster.
-Cook at 250 degrees for 8-10 hours (over night)
-Mash them up a bit then add

3-5 cups of sugar; brown and/or white (I use 3, but it depends on what you like and what type of apples you use)
cinnamon (to taste, I don't measure but I think it was more than a Tablespoon)
Cloves (again, I don't measure but I think a teaspoon or two would be good)

Cook this for 6 more hours. Check it from time to time taste it and add spices/sugar if needed. Make sure it is all well mashed up. Now for storing it you'll need to either freeze it, or find canning instructions.

I always set aside a large bowl/jar to use to make apple rolls with.

Here is the original recipe that will make two pans. I like to double it in my bosch mixer and freeze 2-3 pans for holiday mornings or to bless a friend in need with.

 

Apple rolls
6- 61/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat though)
2 Tablespoons yeast
2 cups milk
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Filling
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped, peeled apple
3/4 cup apple butter

1. In a medium sauce pan heat and stir milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar. Let cool, then add yeast (if it is too hot it will kill the yeast!). Put in large mixing bowl, add 3 cups flour, egg and salt and mix well. Add 1 cup flour at a time until it makes a soft dough. Place dough in a lightly greased very large bowl, turning once, cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size 45-60 minutes.
2. For filling, melt butter; stir in brown sugar, chopped apples, and apple butter. Set aside.
3. Punch down dough. Divide dough in half. Roll out one half in a rectangle, place half of the filling on it and spread over the dough. Roll the dough up, seal dough and cut. Place rolls in 9x13 greased pan.
4. Cover and let rise until nearly double in size (30-40 min.). Bake at 350 30 minutes.
Frosting or icing is nice on these is nice. Sometimes I use a cream cheese frosting, this time I used an icing made with real maple syrup. Yum! Enjoy!

I'm linking to Life in a shoe this week.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cooking for a crowd: maple ribs, chicken...whatever!

Be sure to enter my giveaway!


I've been making this dinner quite a bit this past year. It is simple and goes over well with the whole family. It is also very flexible. The recipe was originally for country style ribs but I recently made with chicken thighs. I'm guessing it would work with beef too.
Maple ribs, chicken...whatever!

Several pounds of whatever meat you want to use
1-2 cups maple syrup
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 chopped onion
2 tsp cinnamon (I never measure though)
1 tsp all spice (ditto)
1 tsp ginger (ditto again)

Put all of the meat in the crock pot. Mix all of the other ingredients together and pour over the meat. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Remove the juices from the crock pot and make a gravy out of it. See, isn't that easy?

I serve this with mashed sweet potatoes (coconut milk is great mixed in with these) and a salad. So simple, making mom happy. Dad loves the meat. The kids love how sweet the maple syrup makes this meal!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Taking care of mom: The holidays

Be sure to enter my giveaway!
Check out my other Taking care of Mom posts.

The holidays can be such a stressful time, and mom often takes the brunt of that with shopping, decorating, baking, cooking, cleaning, gifts, travel, parties, preparing for guests, etc. One could easily get burnt out and come to dread the holiday season, however with a bit of extra thought and planning you can sail right through the holidays with loads of cheer and joy! Here are a few things that I've found helpful.
1. Remember what we are celebrating! Keep the focus on the gift of Jesus and glorifying Him in all you do. This holiday is not about gifts, it is a big birthday party to celebrate the life of our savior!

2. Do what you (or your family) enjoy. This will look different for everyone. I love to bake, cook, and sew so that is what I do. If you don't like doing those things you are not going to have fun and will just be stressed if you think these are things you must do to have a "Merry Christmas." You may have other talents and interests, go with those!

3. Set limits! Too much of a good thing is not fun. Set limits on gifts. Set limits on activities. Set limits on treats. Think talk with your husband and kids about what is most important to you this season, after that don't stress about the rest. These limits free you up to say "no" to those extras that come along. On the flip side if you've limited your planned activities you can also be freed to say "yes" to those extras that come along knowing that you've planned the important things well.

4. Delegate. Now that my kids are getting older there are things they are able to help with. They may not turn out exactly as I would like, but the point of doing these things is not perfection, it is the family time. Its about building relationships. Last year my daughter designed and baked our gingerbread house, what a great experience for her and a wonderful way to bless our family!

What have you done to simplify christmas and/or keep the focus on Christ?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peppermint give away!

We've been making some peppermint goodies around here the last couple of weeks. I thought it would be fun to share some as a "thank you" for reading the blog and I figure winning would bring some extra Christmas cheer to someone!

I'm giving away a round bar of homemade peppermint soap and a chocolate peppermint hard lotion that my daughter and I made.

Just be a follower of this blog and leave a comment below and you'll be entered to win. Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas to you!