Friday, September 24, 2010

Jen from Tatertots and Jello

Dear Friends,
Today I'm blogging over at Tatertots & Jello where I will teach you how to make adorable Smores in a Jar.  Jen is over here today showing some of her exciting projects.  Her blog is FULL of inspiration so please stop by to visit her and say hello.
Happy Homemaking.

Hi -- I'm Jen from tatertots & jello and I'm so excited to be here at Nancy's wonderful blog!

I'm a mom of four who loves creating and trying out new things. I created tatertots and jello as a place to let out some of my creative energy and meet new friends!

Some of my loves are refashioning my wardrobe...
I Love decorating for the holidays...

And making things out of burlap...

I also love redecorating my home!

Thanks for letting me stop by and say hi Nancy!!!

Drop by sometime - I would love to meet you all!



Thursday, September 23, 2010

How To - What Foods Work Well for Freezer Meals

Good Morning Friends!

First off before I get going with my subject, I want to let you know I've had a couple of questions about making freezer meals.  I'll be answering them all together in a future post.  I figure there may be several of you who have the same questions. 

If any of you have freezer meal questions, either e-mail them to me or post them as a comment and I'll add them to the list.

Ok.......When looking through your recipes and deciding which ones you would like to double, triple etc. and then freeze, here are some things to think about when selecting the recipes.

Meats bread rice and beans all freeze well.

Butter works better than margarine in freezing.

Porous foods absorb flavors of other ingredients which is why sometimes leftovers taste better the second day.

Lettuce, cabbage, radishes, and cucumbers become mushy although they can be used to make a broth.

Mayonnaise and sour cream tend to separate.

Meringues can become tough.

Gelatin can lose water.

Crumb toppings tend to become soggy.  Often they can be added during the reheating of a frozen dish.

The more moist a recipe is, the better it freezes.

Always test a recipe for freezing before you triple or quadruple it.  Make two of your recipe.  Eat one tonight and freeze the other.  Then in a week or so, try your frozen dish.  Some spices can lose their flavor and some can become stronger during freezing.  If it tastes well after reheating, then add it to your menu.  You don't want to make multiple of a recipe if you find it doesn't freeze well or you don't care for the taste after it has been frozen.

Happy Homemaking and I hope you will soon give freezer batch cooking a try!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Benefits of Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Dear Friends,
I wrote about HOW I do make ahead meals in this post HERE, but today I would like to speak about the benefits of batch cooking.

Some benefits seem obvious, but when you are up to your eyeballs in cooking multiple meals, using your largest pots and pans, you might need a little boost of encouragement as to why you are doing this.

The first benefit is time.  Consider how calm your life would be if you didn't have to worry about shopping, prepping and mixing ingredients into something your family will enjoy.  By combining "like activities" together, you are literally going to save hundreds of hours.

Money is the next benefit.  By knowing you have food ready to eat in the freezer, you are less likely to dine out.

By cooking your meals from real food with out all the preservatives and fillers, you are getting better nutrition.

Ministry.  With having meals on hand, you can easily help those in need.  Someone who has just had a baby or just had surgery would be overjoyed to have a delicious meal that only needed to be put in the oven for heating.

Did you know that cooking in bulk can be a a good steward of our resources?  You are saving water and energy by doing all your cooking and cleaning at once.  Since you have the oven already heated to bake one cake, to bake several eliminates all the preheating time.

Instead of rushing around frantically trying to get dinner on the table, you now have dinner in the oven and can spend quality family time with your children and spouse.  Also consider doing your batch cooking together as a family so that you can visit while chopping vegetables or other prep work.

Less stress and peace of mind.  You know you will be providing your family with good nutritious meals in a now relaxed environment.

I hope this encourages you to try batch cooking on occasion.  Next time, I'm going to speak about what recipes work well for making in batches.

Happy Homemaking,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Law of the Garbage Truck

Hi Friends,
This has been going around the internet so I'm sorry I don't know the original author.
I hope you enjoy it and have a blessed Sunday.

Law of the Garbage Truck

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. He was really friendly.

So I asked, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!" This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."  He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks  take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so...Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.

 Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

 Have a blessed, garbage-free day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Traveling Organization Tip and your Household Notebook

Hi Friends,
First off, I want to tell you I'm entering a busy season of the year so posts will not be every day.  Don't think I'm forgetting you because I'm not.  I'm going to post when I can.

Today's tip is about your household notebook.  I wrote about it in this post HERE and another post HERE.
This time I want to talk about a section of it that you might want to include.  It is about traveling.  (I have my specific page under my son's Boy Scouts tab)

Since my husband and son camp every month with the scouts they have a number of things to gather up for their trips.  I have a generic list in my household notebook that contains the things they need to be sure and bring on their campouts.  Most everything for the campouts kept together in a shed we have and is all in one place.  Still, it behoves them to go over their list and insure that they have everything needed.  There have been times the flashlight has been taken from the shed and used for other things and not found its way back home.

I have another list for traveling that has things I don't want to forget.  I have a cosmetic bag with travel size containers that I can just grab and throw in a suitcase.  Still, since I don't travel often, how awful is it to forget that on the last trip I ran out of deodorant and didn't replace it.  Yuck!  Other important things on the list are contact lens solution for hubby as well as shaving cream.  I also want to be sure to throw in a few vitamins as well as some Tylenol, band aids and other very basic first aid supplies.

Here is my point, when you do things repetitive, like travel, make a generic list and have those lists on hand.  Just a quick glance through the list will let you know if you are forgetting anything and it can save you huge trouble later.  Remember the boy scout motto:  Be prepared!

Happy Homemaking,

Monday, September 13, 2010

How To - 30 Days Towards Saving Money - Part 2

Hi Friends,
Remember when I spoke about saving money in this post HERE.
I was going to record where every penny went during the month of August and analyze my findings.  My goal this past month was to see where we were spending money needlessly in order to cut back and save.  My savings goal was/is to put more money on the principle of our home and get it paid off as soon as possible.

The Results

Recording every penny was an eye opener.  I'll share just a few figures with you.  Groceries for 5 (5 adults as we have three teenagers in our home)  was $404.  I'm pretty frugal in watching prices and stocking up when items are on sale as well as matching coupons to sales.  I also don't cook high dollar meals like steaks except on rare occasions.  I stretch meals with beans and pasta and don't throw away leftovers.

Dining out was $488.  Yikes.  We typically eat out two meals a week, once on Friday night and again after church. 

Another category was clothing, but I should rename this category to "there's always something" category.  "There is always something" we need/want to spend extra money on.  The reason it was clothing during the month of August was because of the kids needing school clothes and shoes.  I haven't spent a penny this month on clothes and will hardly spend anything on clothes until spring now.  That said, "there is always something".  Next month Mike and I are going away for 4 days on a much needed vacation.  Then there is Christmas.  It's always something.

The Solution

We have sat down as a family and discussed numerous things.  A person never knows what is going to happen tomorrow so being in a debt free place is where we want to be.  What if Mike lost his job?  Where would we be then?  So...

1.  The one area we are focusing on is dining out.  It frustrates me to spend money eating out when the food at the restaurant is only as good as my cooking.  If we're going to eat out, I want it to be something that I  can't or don't cook and I want great flavor.  Otherwise, I can just make it at home.  We are cutting back our dining out to only one day a week, after church.  I just hate coming home from church and feeling rushed to get a meal on the table to a hungry group, so that is going to be our dining out time of the week.  So far this month of Sept. we are doing good.

2.  I'm going to help contribute to the income. 

You may have seen on the left hand sidebar that I'm an Independent Scentsy Consultant.  I have signed up with them and am having my business launch party, open house, tomorrow night.  (Wish me luck)!
I've done direct sales one other time when we lived in Florida with a new scrapbooking company.  Unfortunately they were very new and didn't make it off the ground so that ended sadly for me as I enjoyed it. 

This time I chose a company with a product that has been in business and is doing well and I am passionate about.  Scentsy is a flameless candle (it uses a small light bulb) to melt the most yummy fragrant wax in a gorgeous ceramic container.  I'm going to take a moment to tell you that I'm not going to make this blog an advertisement for Scentsy.  I might bring it up from time to time and I'll keep the link on my sidebar, but I promise you I won't more than once a month to let you know about their specials.  I don't want this blog to be a big ad.  The only thing I will say, is that if you are thinking about these as Christmas gifts, would you consider clicking on my link in the sidebar to get to my Scentsy website.  Also, if you are wanting to do a fundraiser for anything, I'd be happy to help you out with that as well.  If you want to be connected to me on my new Scentsy facebook page the link is here at: My Fragrant Home.

I've discussed with Mike that my earnings as a consultant are going towards the principle on the house.  I always believe in tithing and so my top 10% are going to Christian organizations that I benefit from.  We give to the church weekly, but I've been wanting to support other ministries that have benefited me.  Each day, I listen to Christian podcasts,  The Daily Audio Bible, Joyce Meyer, and Homemakers By Choice.  I have gained so much from these and it is time for me to give back.  So each month I'm going to give my top 10% to one of these places that has given to me.

Another reason I chose to do Scentsy is because it allows me to be flexible with my days and times and it is a business I can grow.  I'm going to confess, I'm afraid of the empty nest syndrome.  I really am.  Katie is a senior in high school this year.  My sweet babies are growing up and it won't be long before they are out of the house.  Yikes again!  I want something that I can start out slow and build to keep me active and social and honestly, not feel alone as my kids start their own lives.

Okay... Did any of you keep a record of your expenses this past month?  Let me know if you did.  Also, leave me a comment if you have any money saving tips or any tips on how to deal with preparing for the empty nest syndrome.

Happy Homemaking.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What Baking Soda Can Do for You

Good Morning Friends,
Baking Soda.  It is inexpensive and very versatile.  I've spoken about it before.  It is a great arsenal to have in your cleaning caddy or cupboard at all times.

Use baking soda to help remove baked-on food and odors in utensils, cookware, chopping boards, coffeepots, garbage disposals, freezers, refrigerators, help remove stains on plastic utensils and dishes, remove bathtub rings, clean sinks, counter tops, chrome fixtures, fiberglass shower stalls and plastic laminate.

You can use it in three ways to do the things listed above.  First you can make a paste.  Do this by mixing 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.  You can make a solution by mixing 1/4 cup baking soda to 1 quart water.  Finally you can use it dry.  Sprinkle it straight from the box and rub with a damp sponge or cloth.  Then rinse it off and dry. 

Handy, handy, handy.
Happy Homemaking,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Perfect Casserole Formula

Good Morning Friends,
From time to time I make casseroles. They are good for me to make when I want to disguise leftovers or clean out the refrigerator. I always have just a simple formula in my head that I follow:
  • A cooked meat such as chicken or ground beef
  • A cooked carbohydrate such as pasta or rice
  • A vegetable
  • Can of creamed soup
  • Few spices such as salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • Cheese
I combine ingredients and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. It is really just a mish-mash but I just make sure I make enough for our family of five.
Recently I got the book below and there is a really good casserole recipe in it. It is called "Spicy Pasta and Sausage Bake." I used a link Polish sausage that you can see above. It was a great hit with my family and it is giving me a new base formula. It uses my formula above plus a couple of different things.
  • The pasta is cooked in chicken broth
  • A can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (get the spicy you like) are used instead of a can of creamed soup
  • 1/2 cup heaving cream is added
My casserole formula has changed! I can now hide leftovers more easily once again!
You may know I'm a test cook for America's Test Kitchen who published this book. Most times when I test recipes for them my kitchen is FULL of dirty dishes and it takes me some time to prepare them. This book is simple recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less and my kitchen has not been messy when I've finished. I've been cooking from it all week and have had a happy husband and kids. One plug I've got to put in for America's Test Kitchen. They test their recipes over and over and over a ridiculous amount of times to find the very best way to cook something. If we don't care for a recipe it is because we just don't care for the ingredients. The only food I really don't like to eat is sauerkraut. I can cook it the best possible way but no matter what, my taste buds don't like it. What I'm getting at is that 95% of the recipes here are a huge hit with my family.
Anyway, if you are a casserole maker, try my formula above and let me know what you think.
Happy Homemaking,

Monday, September 6, 2010

How To - Healthy Living - Week 10 - Having a Healthy Holiday

Hi Friends,
I hope you are enjoying your labor day weekend.  We have company this weekend so this will be a short healthy living post. 

Today I want to give you a few tips about eating healthy.  I know many of you are enjoying family and when we are with family, food is present.  Here are some things to think about to help keep us from putting on a pound or two today or any day really.

Spend time playing with the kids.  Throw a frisbee or football and keep active.
Have a glass of water in hand at all times.  When you want to put something in your mouth, just take a sip of this great calorie free drink.
Use a small plate to dish up your food.  We tend to fill our plates, so just use a smaller dessert plate instead.
Go for the grilled food.  Grilling is a healthy form of cooking as the fat drips off the meat.
Be careful of salads laden with mayonnaise or other oils. 
Reach for the watermelon for dessert rather than the baked items.

What other tips will you be using today to eat healthy?  Leave a comment and let me know.
Also, if you have a post related to healthy living, be sure to link it up.

I almost forgot.  I lost another 1 1/2 pounds this week.  Total lost 9.5 pounds.  20.5 to go.

Enjoy your holiday today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Making a Menu Board

Good Morning Friends,
Today I would like to show you something I made. It is my menu board that hangs in my kitchen. It's a dry erase board that is magnetic. I can write the menu for a specific meal on it or sometimes I write the meals for the week. What is handy is the magnets that can hold recipe cards so they are in easy reach when I'm ready for them.
Sometimes the kids will write what they WANT to have for dinner even if it is not in my plans!
The butterflies and letters were cut with the Cricut out of vinyl and I used the Storybook cartridge.
I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Using a Blog Calendar

Dear Friends,
Do you use a blog calendar? I wanted to share mine with you as it is something that just helps me keep my thoughts straight when planning future posts.

I begin by downloading a free printable calendar. I got mine HERE. My preference is the one month on one page format. What I like about this one is that there is room for notes on the same page below the calendar.

I insert holidays and important family days on the calendar. Then I fill in the empty spots with blogging ideas as they come up. If I feature a friend that is typically on Fridays so I would write that information in on whatever Friday I want to schedule someone for.

I don't only think of holidays, I try to think ahead about the season or other events. For instance we are in September and fall is fast approaching along with Halloween.  These are things I want to keep in mind when writing posts.
Sometimes I run across information on the internet that I feel worthy of sharing. I can just schedule it for an empty day.

What do you do to help you schedule your posts?
Happy Homemaking,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Think Pink Raffle for the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Dear How To Homemaker Friends,
On my basket weaving blog, Basketmaster's Weavings, I've been gathering items for a raffle in which all money will go to the Susan G. Komen foundation for the fight against breast cancer.  This all started when I wove the Pink Pot of Hope basket.

Below you can see all the prizes donated and I've put the post from Basketmaster's Weavings here.  Breast cancer is something that has severely touched my family.  I'm putting the PayPal donate button on this blog as well and all donations will enter you into the raffle.  Every penny donated will go to the Susan G. Komen foundation.  Please read through the post below and consider donating to this worthy cause.  Thank you so very much.

Dear Friends,

You've been reading about it for months and I'm excited to say that today is the official start of my “THINK PINK” raffle! As you know, October is Breast Cancer awareness month, so all money donated will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.

One lucky winner is going to get an amazing “THINK PINK” prize package!

The prize package will include:

Pink Pot of Hope basket woven by me

Matching pink set of Stampin' Up supplies from CJ at Tea n' Stitches

Pink Sentsy warmer and fragrance from Naomi at Sentsy

Handwoven scarf from Bety at Deep End of the Loom

Lia Sophia "Pink Flamingo" necklace from Faith
A Beautiful Pink Ribbon Bible, Handmade Pink Journal and Crochet Tote Bag from Julie at A Handwoven Life

A second lucky winner will receive this beautiful Lia Sophia necklace and earing set also from my friend Faith.  I just received this beautiful jewelry for the raffle this morning so I want to take a moment to thank my dear personal friend and fellow basket weaving buddy.  Combined the jewelry is over a $95 value.  Thank you so much Faith.  You are truly special to me.

Raffle entries are $1.00 per “ticket” and can be purchased through PayPal (see "Donate" button in the sidebar)

The drawing will take place October 15, 2010.

Please be generous. This is a cause very near and dear to my heart as I've lost a grandmother and an aunt to breast cancer and my mother and other women in my family are breast cancer survivors. This disease affects many of us.

I would also be very appreciative if you would let others know about my “THINK PINK” raffle. Please write a blog post about this charity event and link back here. How about letting your Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking friends know about this so they can share the news with their friends? The farther we can spread the word, the more money we can raise.

With all your help this can be a wonderful success.

Thank you and God bless.


Update - I just received Julie's donation of a beautiful Pink Ribbon Bible, Handmade Pink Journal and Crochet Tote Bag.  Julie made the journal and tote bag herself and her work is amazing.  What a beautiful addition to our prize package.  Thank you so much Julie!!!  Julie blogs over at A Handwoven Life and has a basket weaving website Deen Homestead Basketry

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To - Skin a Chicken

Eating chicken without skin saves a lot of calories because the fat is right under the skin.  Instead of buying skinless chicken as it is more expensive, just remove the skin yourself.  The skin can be quite slippery, but if you grab it with a paper towel, you can get hold of the skin easier and slide it off.  Super easy.  Super quick.  Super healthy.  Saves money.  You can't beat that!
Happy Homemaking,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How To - A Quick Home Fragrance

Expecting company and want the house to smell great?  Put a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Add some fragrant kitchen items.  Examples include cinnamon sticks, cloves, apple slices, orange or lemon peal, a little vanilla or almond extract.  Let these items simmer in the water until the water is nearly gone.  You can continue to add water as needed.  This is quick and so simple.  When anyone enters your home it will smell delicious.

Happy Homemaking,


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