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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My 5-Minute Decluttering Trick

A couple papers from the mail that need to be dealt with.  A broken toy on the kitchen counter.  A wall hanging that just hasn't found the perfect spot yet.  We all have these little bits of life that clutter our homes.

I don't know about you, but cluttered surfaces drive me crazy!  After looking around my home and seeing all of these little bits of things that didn't belong, I came up with a solution to clear the clutter: a "deal with it" box.
I grab an empty box from the recycling and take five minutes to walk around and grab everything that doesn't belong.  I'm not worried about finding a home for things, or taking care of them.  I am simply removing them from all the spaces they hide in plain sight.

And a crazy thing happens.  As I'm gathering things, I find a few to put away.  I end up taking care of some of those loose ends that have been sitting out "until I get to them".

Yes, some things are still in the box at the end of the day.  But by clearing off the extra clutter from the surfaces in my home, I'm greeted with a calmer, less stressful house, and I'm motivated to keep it that way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #8: For The Home

That's an 8x10 frame, in case you can't tell the size from the picture.

I'm cheating a little bit, because this isn't for my home, but it is for someone's home, and I made it within these two weeks, so I figure that counts.  For Iron Craft Challenge #7, I did the design for this cross stitch, but as usual, I changed it up once I actually started making it.

I really like how it turned out, although for future wedding gifts (because I'll be using this one again), hopefully I'll start with more time so that I can add some little flowers or embellishments of some sort to the empty spaces.  Still, with such a short time frame, I think it looks nice!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekly Goals: April 26-May 2

Can you believe that before this week, I had never rolled out a pie crust?  I made this chocolate-chip-filled hand pie with the scraps.  It was delicious!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Get things organized for our garage sale.  Does adding more stuff to the pile count?  I only have a few days to price everything!
  • Make a list of kid clothes to purchase at garage sales this summer. Done!
  • Finish my wedding cross stitch. Done!
This Week's Goals:
  • Price everything for the garage sale.
  • Figure out May birthday presents, especially Hannah's and our niece Jenna's.  Living in a small town is forcing me to be on a stricter schedule for figuring these things out so I have time to get what I need if it's not available here.
  • Do the May church newsletter.
So I have a few big things to work on this week.  Here's hoping for a productive week!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Books I've Read: April 2015

Did anyone notice that I didn't have a post about books in March?  No?  Well, that's because I didn't actually finish any books in March.  April was not much better.  I'm just in one of those busy seasons of life, I guess.  I do need to be more intentional with my free time, though.  I find myself wasting bits of my day on the Internet far more frequently than I need to.'s the book I read most of in March, and finally finished this week.

This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo.  (Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books)  I've been on a real food kick for a few years now, so I'm always interested to read what's actually in some of the things that are called food nowadays.  The author says that he's trying to present an unbiased neutral explanation of ingredients, and I think for the most part, he actually succeeds, although some of the things he makes jokes about could be seen as negative if people chose to take it that way.    I liked the breakdown though.

There were two sections to the book: This is what you put in your mouth, and this is what you don't put in your mouth (skin care, make up, cleaners, play doh, etc.).  For each product, there's a list of ingredients and what their purpose is, whether it's flavor, preservative, color, smell, or whatever.  Some of them also have a little anecdote about why he chose to find out about that specific product, or something fun/cool/frustrating that happened while he was trying to find out about it.

Overall, I liked this book.  It was fun to read what was in some of this stuff, and the author has an easy, conversational way of writing.  But.  It obviously didn't hold my interest very well, because even though it would have been easy to pick it up and read the couple pages about the next product, I just didn't.  I got through most of the book in two days, and then finally got around to the rest a month and a half later.

Total books read this month: 1. Total books read this year: 4.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Quick Ninja Turtles Birthday Card...

I made this quick Ninja Turtle card for our nephew's birthday (which was last week, but better late than never, right?).

I did a Google search for "Ninja Turtles face black and white" and found a few options.  I printed them off, colored them in , and cut them out.  A bit of glue later, and bam! Birthday card!  It's always a winning project when you raid the kids' craft cupboard for supplies.

This was a really simple card, which you could replicate with pretty much any character you can find on the Internet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Freezer Cooking Makes For A Relaxing Return From Vacation

When you get back from vacation, the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time in the kitchen prepping for a meal, am I right?  I know that's the case for me.  So before we headed to my parents' house for a few days this week, I made sure I had a few things ready in the freezer.
First up, I made pizza crusts.  We had chicken bacon ranch pizza planned for dinner yesterday, the day we were driving back, and I wasn't sure if we would get home around lunch time or right before dinner.  By having the pizza crusts ready to go and the chicken already cooked from last week, I was able to pull out the ingredients and have dinner on the table in about half an hour (and that includes cooking time!)

By the way, look for a frozen pizza tutorial from me sometime soon!  I'm pretty excited about that one...
I had some extra muffins in the freezer from the last batch that didn't get eaten.  I've also started making a double batch of oatmeal pancakes each time we have them, because they're so handy to pull out of the freezer in place of bread for Hannah!  So we had a mixture of those items for breakfast this morning.  Easy!
And finally, for lunch today we had bean burgers from the freezer (are you sensing a pattern here?) and sweet potato fries.  Because the burgers were already made up, this meal came together quickly too.

All this left me time yesterday and this morning to unpack, throw a load of laundry in, and get everything back to normal.  That's a relaxing return from a vacation!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Menu Plan April 16-30

I'm a few days behind posting this, but I figured I would do it anyways.  I always think it's helpful to see other people's, so hopefully mine helps someone else!

Thursday, April 16
Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner: Sausage Spinach Skillet
Snack #1: Apples
Snack #2: Energy Bites

Friday, April 17
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
Lunch: BLTs, Apples
Dinner: Pinto Bean and Ground Turkey Taco Salads
Snack #1: Pears
Snack #2: Yogurt and Granola

Saturday, April 18
Breakfast: Gluten Free Chocolate Banana Muffins
Lunch: Homemade Lunchables for the kids, Leftovers
Dinner: Leftover Taco Salads
Snack #1: Apples
Snack #2: Bananas

Sunday, April 19
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: At my parents' house
Snack #1: Applesauce
Snack #2: At my parents' house

Monday, April 20
All day at my parents' house

Tuesday, April 21
Breakfast: At my parents' house
Lunch: At my parents' house
Dinner: Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizzas
Snack #1: At my parents' house
Snack #2: Canned mixed fruit

Wednesday, April 22
Breakfast: Muffins from the freezer
Lunch: Black Bean Burgers from the freezer
Dinner: Chicken Fajita Soup
Snack #1: Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows
Snack #2: Apples

Thursday, April 23
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Leftover Soup/Soups from the freezer
Dinner: Chicken Quesadillas
Snack #1: Canned Peaches
Snack #2: Popcorn

Friday, April 24
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Stuffed Peppers
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix
Snack #2: Grapes/Berries

Saturday, April 25
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pears
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Wedding Reception for church members
Snack #1: Grapes/Berries
Snack #2: Popcorn

Sunday, April 26
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Dinner: Salad with Steak, Yellow Peppers, Mushrooms, and Onions
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix
Snack #2: Apples

Monday, April 27
Breakfast: Eggs, Sweet Potatoes, and Bacon
Lunch: Mini Pepper Nachos with Pinto Beans
Dinner: Chicken Pepper Bake
Snack #1: Yogurt
Snack #2: 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Tuesday, April 28
Breakfast: Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Lunch: Pinto Bean and Ground Turkey Chili
Dinner: Grill Out Hot Dogs and Brats, Fruit
Snack #1: Apples
Snack #2: Energy Bites

Wednesday, April 29
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Leftover Chili
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes, Cinnamon Apples
Snack #1: Popcorn
Snack #2: Bananas

Thursday, April 30
Breakfast: Yogurt and Granola 
Lunch: Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Chicken Fried Rice
Snack #1: Energy Bites
Snack #2: Canned Pears

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weekly Goals: April 19-25

The weather has been gorgeous this week.  One afternoon Matthew asked if we could have a picnic for dinner.  So we did. With pancakes.  

Last Week's Goals:
  • Get everyone healthy!  I think we're mostly there.
  • Get most of my cross stitch done for a wedding gift for the end of this month.  I got the big part done.  The rest should go faster.
This Week's Goals:
  • Get things organized for our garage sale.  City wide sales start on the 30th, and we need to clear out the garage and get things priced.
  • Make a list of kid clothes to purchase at garage sales this summer.
  • Finish my wedding cross stitch.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #7: D Is For...

In this case, D is for Design.  I designed another cross stitch, using this site here, which makes it really easy!  You can do one of their fonts, and patch it together on the printable graph paper, or just print out the graph paper and design your own.

I did a combination of the two, and designed a wall hanging based on 1 Corinthians 13 for an upcoming wedding gift.  However, it's going to turn out way too huge if I do all of the lines, so I picked 6, which you can kind of see marked on the sides in the picture.  I do think it would be cool to make the whole thing at some point though.  I'll post the finished project once it's done...stay tuned!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekly Goals: April 12-18

Perhaps we are tempting fate, but I washed all of the winter gear this week.  I have a small pile of hats and mittens that need to be mended before next year, but otherwise we've switched to spring.

Last Week's Goals:
  • Finish writing my guest post for another blog. Done!
  • Finish my Bob's Red Mill review post. Done!
  • Catch up on my magazines. I read a few, and I think I'm going to cancel a couple of my subscriptions.
This Week's Goals:
  • Get everyone healthy! We've got a cold making its rounds, I think Hannah is getting her 2 year molars, and Elizabeth is having some tummy issues that are hopefully mostly resolved now.
  • Get most of my cross stitch done for a wedding gift for the end of this month.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Homemade Rice-a-Roni: Garlic Butter Rice

This is a quick and easy side dish that pairs well with many flavors.  With a simple list of ingredients, it comes together quickly to fill out the meal!

  • 2/3 cup dry brown rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. salt (optional)
Combine rice, broth, 2 cups water, and garlic cloves in large pot.  If using homemade chicken broth, add 1 tsp. salt.  Cook as directed on rice package, adding additional water if needed.  Once rice is tender, remove from heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes to soak up any remaining liquid.  Add butter and stir to mix in.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Flour Review

Earlier this month, I got 2 big boxes of happiness delivered to my door.  Okay, not really, but I did get 2 big boxes of baking goods, and for me, baking = happiness, so it's kind of the same thing.  

First things first.  Here's a bit of information about Bob's Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour:
  • Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour is unbleached and unbromated white flour that is milled from premium wheat grown right here in the United States. 
  • A favorite among professional bakers, this versatile flour is great for baking bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, quick breads, pie crusts, pizza crusts, and more. 
  • Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour is Certified Organic, non-GMO, and does not contain any fillers, additives, or preservatives. 

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods is a miller of stone-ground whole grains and a leader in nutritious, organic and gluten-free foods. Their mission to promote “whole grains for every meal of the day” is backed by a diverse line featuring over 400 products including whole grains, flours, cereals, baking mixes, beans, seeds and more. Bob’s Red Mill is based in Milwaukie, Oregon and is proud to be an employee-owned company.  Side note: I lived in Milwaukie, Oregon, when I was about 5 years old.  Cool for me to know that Bob's Red Mill is based there!

The big event coming up was Matthew's fourth birthday, so of course, the first thing I baked was a cake, using some of the Bob's Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Organic Flour and some Bob's Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour.

In the past, I've just stuck with all-purpose flour for cakes, because it makes the fluffiest cakes, and that's just been easy.  Whole wheat flour tends to be denser, and this was, a little bit, but not as much as I expected.  The cake was still very moist and delicious. 

I also made some puppy chow so Hannah could have a gluten-free treat.  Bob's Red Mill does have a line of gluten-free flours and products, but we didn't get any of those this time around, so I just stuck with what we had on hand.
I'm so happy that everyone enjoyed the birthday cake, because it means I can continue to use the wheat flour in my recipe.

Matthew also requested pizza for his birthday dinner, so I tried some of the same wheat flour for the crust.  I used half Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Organic Flour as well, and it tasted great and rose just as well as it always does.  Another success!
Finally, I put the Bob's Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Organic Flour to the test in my favorite sandwich bread recipe, which normally calls for half all-purpose and half whole wheat.  I wanted to see how it would turn out with all whole wheat.

The picture got lost somewhere (yay technology!), but it turned out great! We will definitely be doing that again!

Overall, I was really pleased with the quality and texture of all of the baked goods we made with these products.  If you want to try some of these flours for yourself, go here to get a coupon!

Disclosure: I received Bob's Red Mill products and coupons from Moms Meet in exchange for this blog post.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weekly Goals: April 5-11

Happy Easter!  I'm a few days late in posting, because Sunday was full of church services and family time.  We were supposed to travel to my parents' house Monday, but they are sick, so we are rescheduling that visit.  So instead, we had a quiet day at home to just relax!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Finish the April church newsletter and put together all the bulletins for Holy Week.  Done!
  • Write a guest post for another blog.  All pictures are taken and the ideas are in my head, but I didn't get this done yet.  I plan to put it all together soon!
This Week's Goals:
  • Finish writing my guest post for another blog.
  • Finish my Bob's Red Mill review blog post.
  • Catch up on my magazines.  I've got a big stack that I'm hoping to flip through, and also a couple subscriptions I think I'm going to cancel.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Menu Plan April 1-15

After taking a month or so off from sharing my menu plans, they're back on the blog!  And after going waaaaay over budget last month, mostly from impulse snack purchases, it's our family goal this month to get back on track.  So in addition to the three meals, I've planned out two snacks for each day so we can keep better track of our money there.  It actually wasn't much more work than the original menu plan, because we generally do one fruit and one oat-based snack, with a few variations.  It's more just keeping an accurate count of what we need to buy (and maybe not choosing the grocery store as our destination for family walks so often...)

Wednesday, April 1
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Stuffed Peppers
Snack #1: Leftover sweets (my parents brought a pie and we have a bit of birthday cake left, plus Easter candy)
Snack #2: Apples and oranges (finishing up fruit from the last grocery trip)

Thursday, April 2
Breakfast: Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Tacos
Snack #1: Celery/Peanut Butter/Craisins
Snack #2: Apples and Oranges

Friday, April 3
Breakfast: Eggs and Bacon
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Tacos
Snack #1: Carrot Sticks and Ranch
Snack #2: Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows

Saturday, April 4
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pears
Lunch: BLTs, Apples, Peas
Dinner: Pizza with Black Olives, Mushrooms, Ham, and Spinach
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: Yogurt

Sunday, April 5
Breakfast: Easter Breakfast at church (I'm bringing Gluten Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins, so I know Hannah will have something to eat)
Lunch: Eating out to reward children for making it through 3 services
Dinner: Sausage Spinach Skillet (gluten free noodles)
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix (craisins, chocolate chips, cereal, graham crackers)
Snack #2: Popcorn

Monday, April 6 - Tuesday, April 7
Traveling to Winona to visit my parents

Wednesday, April 8
Breakfast: Chocolate Banana Muffins (using all oat flour)
Lunch: Mini Pepper Black Bean Nachos
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: Yogurt and Homemade Granola

Thursday, April 9
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Black Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Southern Chicken Stew, Biscuits
Snack #1: Apples
Snack #2: Energy Bites

Friday, April 10
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Grilled Cheese on Honey Oat Bread and Tomato Soup
Dinner: White Chili
Snack #1: Grapes
Snack #2: Yogurt and Homemade Granola

Saturday, April 11
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peaches
Lunch: Leftovers from past couple dinners
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Biscuits
Snack #1: Canned Fruit Cocktail
Snack #2: Popcorn 

Sunday, April 12
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Ham and Bean Soup and Biscuits
Dinner: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix
Snack #2: Energy Bites

Monday, April 13
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Crockpot Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions over Rice
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes, Cinnamon Apples
Snack #1: Canned Peaches
Snack #2: Apples

Tuesday, April 14
Breakfast: Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Leftover Italian Sausage
Dinner: Crockpot Mexican Chicken Soup
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Wednesday, April 15
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner: Leftover Mexican Chicken Soup
Snack #1: Canned Pears
Snack #2: Applesauce