cooking (25) crafts (10) Fitness (1) gardening (3) Home Organization (10) kids (68) school (9) sewing (28)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prayer Bears

A while ago, I heard someone mention "prayer bears" on the christian radio station.  I thought this was a great idea to include kids in prayer.  So what is a prayer bear???  I make these for anyone who requests or needs prayer.  As you can tell, the bear itself isn't perfect.  I just draw a quick bear on paper, cut it out, write the person/people's names on the belly, and put it on my fridge. 

I remember to pray for these people all day long because I am always in front of the fridge :o) 

When the situation is "resolved," I will mail the bear to the individual, along with a note telling them that we had been praying for them.  I am hoping to teach my kids to pray and be compassionate for others and to acknowledge that we are not in control.  Most often, we pray for strength and knowledge.

I am so excited that so many people are learning about the bears, I hope they become infectious!!!  It only takes a second to make one, but it means a lot to the people we are praying for.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Years Resolutions Update. . .Books and Crafts

So I have a goal of reading 2 books a month.  For January, I read "The Snow Angel" by Glenn Beck.  This was an excellent book, and a quick read.  In brief, it is a story of redemption.  It is a fictional story about a girl/woman who was raised by an alcoholic mother and a father who just didn't know how to be a dad.  She then goes on to marry a controlling husband.  It was interesting to read/watch her struggles and growth.  The story has a happy ending but I cried like crazy!!  I was sobbing so hard at times that I couldn't read.  Granted, I am a sap; but I think the story will make most people cry.

Next, I finished Michael Pollan's new book "Food Rules" (illustrated version).  This book was an even quicker read.  Now, I think, for most people, this isn't going to be anything earth shattering; but it was nice to be reminded about some healthy eating habits.  I think there are 83 rules.  One that sticks out in my mind right now is "If you are hungry, ask yourself if you are hungry enough to eat an apple. If you aren't, then don't eat anything.  If you are, then eat an apple." 

My actual books for January were "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  I don't know what it is about this book, but I am having a really hard time finishing it.  It is a good book but I think there is something about her writing style that gets me.  Basically, the message of the book is to focus on the positives in your life; to identify 1000 gifts in your life.

The second book that I had on my intended list  is "The Ambition" by Lee Strobel.  This is a christian fiction book.  It is good and easy read.  From what I can gather so far, the message is to watch your actions/decisions and to make sure that those are the directions that God wants you to go (not doing things for your personal ego and reasoning that that is the direction God wants you to go).  I am not totally buying the christian message of the book right now, but it is a good story.

When I was at the library today, I picked up Gregory Maguire's newer book "Out of Oz."  I have read two of his books in the past.  One I loved and the other I hated.  I figured I'd give him one more chance.  If you haven't heard of him before, he takes a common fairy tale and retells it from a different perspective or tells the story that might have occured before or after the known tale.  For example "Wicked" was the tale "Wizard of Oz" from the wicked witch of the west's perspective, (which, obviously, was also the pre-story to "Wizard of Oz).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mardi Gras. . . For all my northern friends

*Disclaimer* I am still just a northerner, so my southern friends might not want to read this, I am sure that I will botch some stuff up :o)

I don't know about you, but I always thought Mardi Gras was a one-day affair.  Maybe y'all are much smarter than me.  But I make no assumptions.

Mardi Gras is nearly a month long event.  The parades start three weekends before Mardi Gras, this first weekend even includes a kids parade "Little Rascals." Oh, and before I go much further, I can tell you that there are so many parades because each parade is hosted by a different "krewe."  The next two weekends are filled with parades all over the area.   Parades are an expensive business.  The people that ride in the parades pay a lot of money to ride AND they buy all of their "throws." The weekend before  Mardi Gras is crazy--there are parades on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday!  There are parades during the day, there are parades at night. . .
This box is filled with beads.

And not all parades involve nudity.  It is only the parades in the French Quarter that get really gaudy.  And from what I am told, it is all tourists that engage in the crazy behavior.

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Tomorrow, we will be exchanging valentine's with our homeschool friends.  Every year, I have all good intentions to make something cute, and every year I run out of time.  Well, this year is different!!  I saw a cute valentine card using cookies.  Unfortunately, I can't remember which site I saw this on.  I can tell you that the cookie recipe came from "I am Momma - Hear Me Roar."

First of all, these cookies are amazing!  They are buttery and not too sweet.  I rolled them out pretty thin and cooked them a little longer than recommended because I like a crispy cookie.  I am sure they would be soft if you rolled them thicker and cooked them less.  Also, I am not one to add icing to my cookies, but hey, it's Valentine's Day!

To make the cards, I cute 7 inch squares of paper, and folded the corners in to make an enclosed square.  I also have 12 x 1 inch strips and hearts that I cut out of my scraps.  I used raised tape dots to hold it all together. Cutting and folding all of the pieces was a little tedious, but putting it all together is quick.

I put the cookie in a baggie, which I put in the square; wrap the 12 inch strip around the square and adhere with a tape dot; and adhere the heart onto the strip with another tape dot.

Annnnd, funny side story.  As I am putting the cards together, I hear audrey yelling to help her wash her hands.  And this is what I find. . .

That is green food coloring.  It is everywhere.  She is soaking in the bath tub right now.  Most of it is off, but I think she is going to be slightly tinted for a couple days.

Food coloring can't taste good!  She even has it in her molars. . .  This child keeps me on my toes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Freezer Cooking

I had some time today to cook in peace.  Ayden is sleeping.  Audrey and Jack are at a Mardi Gras parade.  So it is just me and my lists of things to do.  I have some sewing projects that also need to get finished, but I spent quite a bit of time sewing yesterday, therefore, cooking sounded like a nice change of pace.

I think this freezer cooking is something that I will incorporate into my regular meal plans once a week.  Today I got on a roll since I had a hot oven and dirty pans.  I made a Vegetable/Ham/Potato Bake.  That is what I made above.  I learned a neat trick.  Line the baking pan with foil so you can pull the whole casserole out and put it into a freezer bag.  When I want to cook it, I just drop that foil bag back in the pan to reheat it.  And both times, the pan stays clean!

I also had 3 pounds ground turkey.  So I made a double batch of turkey/vegetable pasta and a large batch of taco meat (which I add black beans too).

My freezer is a mecca of food right now.  Along with all that I cooked today, I also have three bags of chicken and rice soup and the beef and tater tot casserole.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Laudry Detergent and "Poo-Free" Hair

Making laundry detergent was really quick and easy.  And the cost can't be beat.  Like I said in my previous post, my homemade laundry detergent cost roughly 40 cents a gallon (and you only use 1/2 a cup per load).

Lessons that I learned in making the detergent.
#1 use a food processor to grate the Fels-Naptha soap.  The recipe only calls for 1/3 of the bar, so I cut the bar in thirds and then grated each third separately.  I put the other 2/3s of the soap in two separate baggies so they are ready for me the next time I need to make detergent.
#2 Use a large stock pot to make the detergent.  First, you dissolve the soap in boiling water (6 cups).  You wouldn't think that you would need a large pot, put when I added the washing soda and borax (1/2 a cup of each) the whole pot foamed up quite a bit.  Just be prepared to stir and remove from the heat if needed.
#3 I think it is really important to boil the solution for 15 minutes.  I think this step is critical to make sure that all of the ingredients gel together, as opposed to making chunks when it cools.
#4 After boiling, you will need a container that will hold 2 gallons.  I grabbed a small garbage can, put 2 gallons of water in it and used a sharpie to mark the spot where 2 gallons fills.  Sooo, put 1 qt of hot water in the container (trash can), then pour the hot soap solution in, stir it around.  Lastly, add cold water to the solution until you hit your 2 gallon mark.
#5 What do you do with 2 gallons of soap in a trash can???  I just happened to have to old milk jugs.  I grabbed my large measuring cup and used it to scoop soap out of the trash can and pour into the milk jugs.  I did this over the washing machine so if I spilled any it just went into the washing machine.  Let your soap sit 24 hours and then enjoy!
#6 You will need to shake the solution before using it.
Can I tell you how much I hate having my picture taken???
I was a little more skeptical of this next cheap "home remedy."  Poo-free hair.  Sounds hilarious and it's nutty, so I had to try it.  So the premise is that shampoo is actually bad for our hair.  It causes you to produce more oil and messes with the pH of your hair/scalp.  So what do you use instead?  Baking soda.  From what I have read, you can mess with the proportions of baking soda and water to fit your needs.  I used the basic recommendation: 1 TBS of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of warm water.  If you have psoriasis, they recommend upping the baking soda/lowering the water, to make more of a paste that you would massage into your scalp.  The recipe that I used make a very liquidy solution, which I just poured over my head and gently worked through my hair and rinsed.

*Some people have a problem with knots and tangles using this, so they recommend brushing your hair before getting in the shower.*

Oh, and since I didn't know how this would work, I put 1 TBS of baking soda in a glad container with a 1 cup mark on it and added water when I was in the shower.

For condition, you use 1 TBS of apple cider vinegar dissolved in 1 cup of warm water.  If you are prone to oily hair, only apply this to the ends of your hair.  I was worried about oil, so I just poured it over the ends of my hair and rinsed well. 

What you see in the oh so flattering picture above is me, a day after the poo-free treatment.  I went out with my mom friends last night and a couple people complimented my hair.  I, personally, don't think it looks better than before, but I am going to give it a chance and try this method for a week or so.  My hair looks fine, but it feels a little oily to me.  I might end up not using the vinegar (just use the baking soda and my soy conditioner).  If I do like this method, I will use an old shampoo bottle to keep the solutions in; but for now, I will stick to making up one batch at a time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Home Economics

Leftover Chicken, Beans, and Rice and Chicken Stock To-Be
I am trying to save even more money around the house.  We did pretty good tonight!  The kids and I ate chicken, rice, and green beans.  The total cost of the meal was just over $5 and I have a TON of chicken left over, a good bit of rice, and about a serving of green beans.  I bought the chicken when they were on sale for 69 cents a pound.  I actually bought 3 of them and stocked them away. 

I found a recipe online for "The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot." Now, I wouldn't say this was the best chicken I have ever had because I like it in the stove when it gets nice a crunchy.  But as my mom says, you're not really supposed to eat the skin.  With this recipe, that definitely wasn't a problem.  The chicken was flavorful and moist though, and it was done in the crock pot, so it didn't heat up my kitchen and clean up was pretty easy.  The best part though, is that I am making chicken stock in that same crock pot overnight and will make chicken and rice soup with the leftovers.  All I will have to add is a little more rice and veggies!  (Which cost about $2.)  So I am getting a ton of food out of $7!!!

My second experiment is freezer cooking.  There are so many people out there in blogland using freezer cooking to speed up meal prep.  There are tons of different approaches, but what I am going to do is make a double batch of my meals this week--half of which will get frozen.  Soooo, anyone want to guess how much I spent to make these meals????  $120 (This includes all of my breakfast/lunch/snack items for this week plus the dinners for 2 weeks.)  Now, I did cut costs by including one vegetarian meal and one pasta meal.  Also, I did have some of the ingredients on hand.  The dinners  I will be making are:  Vegetable and Bean Pie, Beef and Potato Casserole, Tuna and Broccoli Casserole, Turkey and Mixed Vegetable Casserole, and Spaghetti with Homemade Meat Sauce.  One meal this week is mom's night out and another will be at a friend's house.

I also plan to make some breakfast rollups that I will freeze to have for last minute breakfasts.

Freezer cooking is a little daunting to me.  These are all recipes that I found online so I can see if I really like this method.  In the future, I would like to incorporate my regular menus into this system just to stock pile some dinners for those nights that I just don't feel like cooking.

My final experiment is homemade laundry detergent.  Don't worry, I am not making my family use washcloths instead of toilet paper.  This is something new and exciting to me, but it's probably common sense to our grandparents.  I, like so many other people have been happy with the deals I get online. . . so much cheaper than grocery stores!  But this is even cheaper (about 40 cents for a gallon)!  And they say it works great.  I am going to use the recipe I found here.  I have quite a few bottles of tide in my stock pile from the last sale at amazon, but I am so excited, I want to make a batch right now!  I will update in the future with my results.  If anyone is interested, I found all of the supplies at walmart, and they cost me $7.  I will be able to make a lot of detergent with this.  The only step in the process that will be a pain in the butt is grating the soap, but I found another site that recommended using the food processor to grate it.