Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weekly Menu

Getting this done late! I was sick over the weekend and then Brian came down with it hard yesterday. He didn't feel like dinner and the kiddo and I had a bucket of popcorn at the movies (Rio) - so dinner was breakfast burritos! Love those kind of nights!

Breakfast Burritos

Orange sweet&sour shrimp over rice
Spinach and orange salad

BBQ pulled pork sammies
fruit salad

Orange-spiced chicken
veggie kabobs

Grilled Pizza


I'm looking for something fun to make for the 4th of July.... not sure yet. I also need to buy some Popsicle molds!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lego Head

Yesterday was AJ's 8th Birthday party. It was an extremely busy day as we had the last day of our Fine Arts Camp, the party and then the first performance of "Under God's Sea in 3D". AJ asked to do a lego party so two days ago I started looking for some ideas. There are a TON of great cake ideas out there that don't look too hard to pull off, but I wanted to do cupcakes. Square and rectangle cupcakes are not easy though, so I needed something that wasn't a Lego Brick.

I came across an image of these Lego heads that were soooo cute!! However, they were made with cake balls and I've done those before and they are a lot of work. So I started to look for another way to do these. I saw another site that said they could be done with marshmallows. YES!!! So that's how I ended up doing these little guys. I used them as cupcake toppers instead of just pops, they were a huge hit!!

These cute guys start with just a few supplies:
Large marshmallows, lollipop sticks, candy melts, black food coloring, a paintbrush, sharp knife, circle cutter and some cornstarch or powdered sugar.

First cut the marshmallow in thirds, using one half for the top of the head was just too tall.
Use the powdered sugar or cornstarch to help the sticky marshmallow not stick to the metal knife or circle cutter. I used the bottom of one of my decorating tips to cut out the center.
Do not plan on doing anything else like answering the phone or the door for awhile, this is a really sticky process!!
Use the sticky bottom of the cut marshmallow to attach it to a large marshmallow, center it as best you can.
Get your little army all lined up and ready to be impaled. This is great for taking out your frustration on all the little guys that have ended up under your feet for years! My son swears that he doesn't leave them for me to step on - so they must have their own vendetta against me!
Next you get to drown them! Place the candy melts into your microwave and follow the directions to get them  melted down and ready for dipping - be careful not to overdo it.

Now, drown your little heads making sure to give them a good coat and get rid of most of the excess so that they will be nice and smooth.
Set them up in a drying rack to dry thoroughly. A block of Styrofoam or floral foam would work great for this. I had to search to find something that would work since I hadn't thought that far ahead!
Next comes the fun part. Their faces! I had AJ go and collect up a bunch of his guys to give me a few examples to work with. I know they make markers that are for edibles that probably would have worked, I didn't find any though. So I bought a jar of black food coloring and a new micro-small paintbrush (wash before using!) These will go into my decorating box with my bags and tips.
Get creative, and have some fun!! I don't like raw marshmallows and these actually were really really good! I made lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and cut the sticks in half before inserting them as toppers. I think that packaging them individually as lollipops would have been cute party favors!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eating out

Have you noticed the blogs lately about staying in and not eating out? I think I've read three different blog posts in just the last couple of days, one even issuing a challenge to not eat out for 30 days. This is a great idea, especially if 1) you are trying to lose weight 2) you are trying to save money or 3) it's become a bad habit to "just go out" or "pick up something" because you haven't planned ahead. Personally though, I would never accept this type of challenge!!

I cook most nights and we go out to eat occasionally - more than some - less than others. Sometimes fast food, sometimes a nice sit down place. For us, going out is a treat - something we plan for and something we enjoy doing as a family. It is worked into our budget and we try to save money by looking for those places with free kids meals, coupons, gift certificates, etc.

I always know when Brian comes home from a deployment that he is going to want certain home cooked meals as well as eating out at some favorite spots.  I bought certificates from right before he came home $2 for a $25 certificate. Your bill has to be $35 to use it, but for the three of us at dinner - that's hardly a problem.

Sometimes I like to go out just because it's nice to have choices and have someone else be the chef, waitress, dishwasher besides yours truly. So, as long as you're not struggling with the one or all of the three reasons for not going out above, don't let someone look down on you because you like a nice night out. Plan it out, budget it, and enjoy it guilt free!!

Because no matter what recipe you try - they will never taste exactly like Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay biscuits!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A boy's Hope Chest

I had a hope chest growing up. This one in fact. It's a concept that sounds outdated, but in reality is extremely practical. It was a gift for my 13th birthday along with a list of what it was soon to be filled with. Now, I didn't sit around at night embroidering linens by the light of an oil lamp and dreaming of my future husband, but I did spend many hours filling my hope chest preparing for the day I would move out of my parents home. I kept the list with me and every time my mom and I went to a yard sale, thrift store, or just found a great sale, we would try to check off something on the list. By the time I was ready to move out of my parents house and into an apartment - my hope chest had turned into a hope shed!

I'm already thinking about starting AJ's hope chest. A hope chest for a boy? Why not! It seems like people are getting married later and later these days, most likely he will be moving out and into a dorm or apartment and will need to have practical things to set these up. Even if he does get married right away, what are the chances that the girl would have a hope chest, it being such an antiquated idea these days. If they both have one, their lives begin together that much easier. Choices!

So what goes into a hope chest? Especially one for a boy. Certainly not the embroidered linens and rag rugs from long ago. :0) The great thing about starting early is that you have time to save money, shop well and don't have to settle for the dollar store items that you'd find in most dorms. Knives and pots can be expensive, buying them a piece at a time means better quality and they don't have to match!

Here is a basic list that I'll be working on for AJ now, I'm sure it will grow and change as time goes on. You can also add items as interests develop, such as baking items, bbq tools, a chess set. Fancier gadgets can be added now or later. A rice cooker or garlic press aren't essential when starting out. This is just the basics, if I could think of something else that could be used I left it off the list for now (ie. a whisk, a fork will do just fine for now). Most are practical items, but be sure to include a few sentimental items as well, your boy may not appreciate it right away - but someday maybe his wife will!

1qt, 2qt, 4 qt saucepans with lids
4 qt dutch oven
6" and 12" skillet
Pizza pan/stone
Cookie sheet
Baking pan, 8x8 and 9x13
pie dish (can be used as a small shallow baking dish)
metal colander (also can be used as a steamer)
Knives - chef's, chopping, paring, serrated bread
2 cutting boards
can opener
pizza cutter
ice cream scoop
spatulas, scrappers
wooden spoons
flipper spatula
2 cup glass measuring cup
set of measuring cups
set of measuring spoons
coffee maker
toaster oven
hot pads/oven mitts
assorted dish cloths and kitchen towels
Utensils, bread knifes, teaspoons, tablespoons, forks, etc. at least 4 each
cups - 4
glasses - 4
bowls - 4
dinner plates and bread plates -4 each


Larger Items
trash can
dust buster
tool chest with basic tools (hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, measuring tape, wrench, assorted nails and screws, etc.)

Sentimental Items
Family Pictures
Family cookbook
Baby blanket
Family Bible/Genealogy
treasured Christmas ornaments

This list is in no way complete, but it's a good working basic list to start with. Add to it as needed and I'm sure by the time your young man is ready to move out into the world he'll be appreciative of the head start he's got!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is that a deadline I hear approaching?

I've recently discovered that I am NOT good without a project in mind and a deadline to meet. I seem to just wander aimlessly through my life and not really accomplishing anything. I think that may also be why I can't live without my lists. It's a way of recording several small projects with a deadline. Usually a few things on my list don't get done and get moved to the next list, but that's okay - at least they are out there and identified. I'm a deadline junkie, I need that rush to get something done!

I walked into my craft room the other day. I have a project I need to work on for a friend, but with family visiting right now it's too much to get into. I just kind of stood there, glancing around and had really no idea what to do. I can always think of a million things I want to do, but without a specific need or project in mind, it seems like an indulgent waste of time. I don't have a swap lined up, I don't have a card that needs to get made, I'm not ready to plan AJ's birthday yet although I really need to. I had nothing to motivate me to get it done NOW. I need a deadline! Something I'm working to beat. I want to win.

So I find a cleaning challenge (31 days to clean) and friends to keep me accountable, or invite friends and family over - that's always motivating! I join a book club to keep me on track. I'll go online and find a swap to join or class to take. Soon I'll have deadlines to meet and once again all will be right in my world.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Well, here I go, starting again. It's like New Years... again.

Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them? For how long? I do every year and I don't think I've ever made it out of January. Now, I never go about it the "right way" with a clear and defined resolution. One I can easily define, the steps broken down into manageable and realistic goals and obstacles envisioned and solutions planned. Nope, my resolutions are "lose weight" and "get healthy".

The trouble is, I know what I need to do. I just don't like to do it. I have a condition called Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). One of the symptoms is that I am "pre-diabetic" and it is nearly impossible for me to lose weight without very specific factors being in place. It's what I like to call the perfect triad. I have to have all three things in place and if one of them is not working or non-existent, then I feel like I'm just wasting my time.

The first of the three in the perfect triad is my diet. I should avoid carbs for the most part. I love carbs. No, I LOVE love love love carbs. Anything with sugar is my friend and I would rather have fresh baked bread than pretty much anything else. Beyond Bread is like a crack house for an recovering addict - I just don't go. I fantasize of going. I don't overeat, I just don't eat the right foods. I can get all my calories for a day in carbs quite easily. So, I need to watch those, eat breakfast and stay away from my trigger foods.

The second part is exercise. I hate it. I have never gotten the "endorphin high" I hear about and I think it's a big fat lie. The only reason I see for running is if there is a man with a chain saw and a hockey mask behind me - even then, how fast can he be? He's gotta carry that big heavy chain saw! I am also hot by nature and don't see any reason to make myself any hotter, I live in Tucson. and sweating sucks.

The third and final part of the trifecta is the medicine. I need to take metformin which is a drug for people with type 2 diabetes and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of people with PCOS. Metformin is an evil, vile drug that my body hates with all of it's being. It makes me nauseous, and gives my gastrointestinal tract a workout that, in itself, should cause me to lose weight. Lots and lots of weight. It isn't at all particular about when or where it decides to take it's fiendishness out on my body. I've started and stopped this drug so many times in the last 15 years I couldn't even begin to tally it.

All of that said.....

Once again, I am making a resolution to start to "get healthy" and "lose weight". This time I will be writing down my goal, breaking it into smaller steps and working the plan. The perfect triad is in place. That and the strength of prayer are all I have. Pray for me or wish me luck, I'll let you know periodically how it's going!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TV time

Well, the kiddo is off at camp for a few days and so hubby and I have the TV all to ourselves. Sometimes watching the same shows, sometimes not. I don't usually like just sitting and watching TV, it just feels unproductive and lazy. I usually am working on something; lists for things I need to do, writing in journal or to a friend, FB and e-mail, sometimes stitching (I've tried the crochet/knitting things but I can't concentrate). Are you able to sit and watch in contentment or do you feel the need to keep busy doing something else?

I'd decided I hadn't been practicing enough and that I needed to start again - so this seems like a good time to begin!! ...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lemon heavenly goodness

That's what my husband wants to re-name these Lemon Pull-Aparts. Oh my goodness, they are just scrumptious. I got them off of a blog and I can't find who's blog it is! I've done searches on all the ones I read and even did a couple of google searches and still can't find who to give credit to.

But these are too good not to share!! So, if this recipe belongs to you or came off of your blog - please let me know so I can give you credit, link back to your blog and just basically profess my everlasting gratitude for this recipe!!

One note on the lemon zest - don't skip this part!! You need the lemon zesty sugar. This isn't pretty lemon zest in long curly ribbons, if you have one use a microplane - you want this to be grated small like the sugar so it all mixes in well.

Lemon Pull-Aparts
12 Rhodes dinner rolls, thawed but still cold
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice (I used half of the lemon)

Cut rolls in half and place in a greased 9×13″ pan. Drizzle with the melted butter. Mix lemon zest and sugar together in a small bowl. Sprinkle HALF of the lemon sugar mixture over the rolls. Cover and let raise till doubled. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture on top. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from pan. Combine glaze ingredients. Drizzle over rolls while still warm.

These did not last long at all - not the entire day anyway and that was just for the three of us. Yes, they are that good.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekly Menu

Well, last weeks menu ended up all over the place! I did okay the first half of the week, but then we got to fish taco night (which I was really looking forward to!) and two things happened. The first was I didn't have any cabbage/cole slaw which is what I like on my fish tacos and I wasn't going shopping. Second, I got a surprise delivery to sample and evaluate a family style frozen meal. Yea, dinner! 

On Thursday I had to clean my fridge/freezer for my cleaning challenge. Wow. No, really - wow. The fridge was no big deal since I had tackled that beast before Brian came home from his deployment so I just needed to toss, organize and wipe out. The freezer I had passed over. Mistake, big mistake, HUGE. There were things at the bottom that I cannot claim were even once upon a time viable. I cleared out everything, threw away what I couldn't identify or justify, and went to town. Now, the cleaning challenge suggested using baking soda in water as a mixture for this task. I'm all for being green and natural and non-toxic, but there are times when that just isn't going to cut it. This needed heavy duty artillery in the form of good old PineSol. I got it cleaned, rinsed and everything put away without too much damage. I did find a few things that made me question my previous system (or lack thereof) for freezing and using frozen items. Although, I was quite pleased that the Pumpkin Bread from Xmas '09 thawed beautifully and was delicious.

We did end up at Arby's on Thursday night after going to the Planetarium. Due to what I found in the freezer Friday and Saturday night dinners were altered to use up some other finds that Indiana Jones would have not been surprised to find. Me, on the other hand.... yeah, I'll be developing a system for retrieving frozen items in a more timely manner.

So, it's a new week and I need to feed the family...

Italian filled shells - manicotti style

Fish Tacos (I'll be going shopping so should have everything this time!)

Carnita Enchiladas 

Grilled Pizza (gotta get this in there somewhere!)

A chicken dinner... fried? grilled? baked? Crock'd? I don't know this one yet, still looking for a new recipe to try out. Got a good one I can try???

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Basic Idea?

Why I Hate “New, Unique” Money Tips

I read this article (click above) off of a FB post from The Happy Housewife. At first reading I completely agreed - stick to the basics, they are basics for a reason, no need to re-invent good financial advise. Then I read through it again and realized.... he got the basic premise wrong! How can you write an article about sticking with the basics and then not get the basics right?

The basic idea is this article is:
"Spend less than you earn — invest the difference. That’s all you need to know. The rest is developing the mindset and skills to make these things happen."

It sounded great when you read it right? Here's why it's wrong - the correct mindset: Earn, save, spend what you have to and then invest the difference. Did you catch that extra little bit? Do you know why those four little letters are the most important part?

Most everyone has the same nature. We get money, we spend money and then if there is money left over we think great!! and save it, invest it, or treat ourselves. Then the next month comes along and back in that little part of your mind you remember you had money leftover last month. So this month you earn, you spend and maybe you splurge a bit more and there is a little less money left over at the end of the month. If you are waiting until after the spending part of the formula before you are saving/investing your money you are doing it all wrong!

If you want to get out of debt, if you want to save money for an emergency fund or vacation, if you want to invest in your future - you do it first, NOT LAST. It is too easy to not have money leftover at the end of the month, especially if an emergency or such comes up. Instead, when those earnings come in, you first take out a set amount for giving, an amount to save, an amount to invest - whatever is left is what you get to spend.

And yes, then the equation is really simple and basic - spend less than what you have. If after that there is money leftover... call me and let me know how you did it, and then save it for a rainy day.

Child Labor

I love that AJ is getting old enough to be my minion. Sounds horrible doesn't it - but what is the point of having a child if not for some free labor? Well, scratch that. The labor is no where even close to being free! It's actually the most expensive labor ever if you factor in that to get it we are completely responsible for clothing, feeding, schooling and raising said little minion. There is also the fact that he has learned that for a little extra effort, Mom is willing to pay!

I am working on the 31 day cleaning challenge and skipped day three because Brian was having surgery and I knew I would not be doing much. I carried it over into day four and got AJ to help me complete both tasks. As he's wiping down the lower cabinets for me, he reminds me of a project he helped me with last year that I paid him to do and of course, the money that he earns working for Nonni when we visit.

Thankfully, I remembered that he is able to take money for a general store at the camp he is leaving for on Monday. I was going to give him an envelope with $5 anyway - but he doesn't know that! So I explained that for his help this weekend doing chores and helping with Dad he'd get $5 to take with him to camp. Most Excited Kid Ever! :0) I guess it's time to start doing an allowance for him instead of just handing over our loose change.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why did I do it???

I'm crazy. I know this. My family all knows this. My friends know this (most are too kind to actually say it).

I was loitering around FB and saw a post by a friend from high school about a new book club that is starting up. It's for the Classics and they are starting with The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I think that last year they released a movie based on the book, I haven't seen it - but it put the book on my radar screen as something I was interested in. I don't know if I've actually read the book, or if I just know a lot about it from pieces of info picked up here and there. I know several people who are in the group and I don't want to miss out - So I joined.

I know. I know! I wasn't going to! I mean, it's not like I have the book sitting on my shelf. Oh, wait - I have a kindle ... and most of the classics are free downloads..... Yep, got it.

Now, I'm also reading The Girl Who Played with Fire and have another book in that series still. Then a friend lent me The Hunger Games and I really want to get into that series. I'm also currently doing 31 days to clean which is kind of like a bible study mixed into a cleaning guide for your house. Oh, and I'm reading the Prairie Girl's Guide to life, a book on art journaling, countless blogs and fanfiction. My head is soon to explode. I don't have any problems skipping from book to book and am able to pick right up where I left off - so it doesn't bother me to have more than a few books going at a time. But even I must admit - this is getting a little crazy.

So, what are you reading?

Is it any good? Can I borrow it?  ..... help me, I can't stop......

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pincushion storage

You remember the jar from the feta cheese I showed you a few posts back?
Well, you know me and containers... I couldn't throw the cute little bugger out. So it became this...
After sewing the pincushion I had a bunch of little pieces of fabric left and still needed to fill up the jar with something cute. So I decided to make fabric beads. You don't need many materials to turn this....
into this....
I'm not going to go into a step-by-step. Google "fabric beads" and there are tons of directions out there. I added a bit of glittery glue over the top of them to give them a bit of shine. Here is the finished project in my craft room. Keep an eye out for cute little jars of your own!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No Soliciting Sign

I've been wanting to put a sign on our front door for ages now. I don't know what it is about this time of year, but it seems like we are getting more and more solicitors going door to door. Now, I really don't mind the little kids for their school or scouts - but let's face it, either my kid is selling it too or I know someone who's kid is and I'm gonna buy from them, so that they then buy from my kid! And I really don't mind the evangelicals who are brave enough to go door to door to get the word out about Jesus. I say "Hallelujah, we are all saved here so we'll meet again soon"...

I really don't like businesses that go door to door though, and the biggest reason is because my hubby and I are SUCKERS!! We'll buy meat off a truck if the price sounds good, we've owned a Rainbow vacuum, we were those Amway people for a few years, we have an alarm system, our windows are new, had a set of Encyclopedia's we never used, bought a life insurance/investment plan.... you get the idea, SUCKERS!! So the only way I know how to avoid spending money on yet another thing (besides turning off the tv, hiding and pretending no one is home) - is to hang a sign.

I had this piece of wood, already painted - I think it was part of a kit for shelving or something. See the groove already made for another piece to slide into...
Then I went online and tried to find what I wanted on the sign. Some were kinda rude and I didn't want that - so the easiest one I found was a simple "No Soliciting Please". I sketched it out in cute writing onto graph paper.
I then had to figure out how to fill up the empty spaces in the corners - I didn't want it too "matchy" so I decided to do the same design in two ways. I wanted a flower and some swirls - but since I don't do my own swirls well, I stamped the design onto paper.
My mom would now use carbon paper to trace her design onto the wood - I however, don't own any, so I made my own. Scribble on the back of your design with a pencil using a heavy hand and laying down a lot of graphite. Then use a blunt object to trace your design on the front and the graphite on the back with transfer to the wood. I then go over it a little darker to catch more of the details.
Now, it's time to paint! I just used regular acrylic craft paint and gave everything two coats. Even added a little lady bug and bee as an after thought. :0) It then got a coat of polyurethane to protect it and I screwed two hooks into the top to hang it.
And we are ready to not have to hide and tip-toe around any longer!!