Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday's Meal

The following recipe is one of my favorites. It freezes beautifully and is a nice change from just plan old chili. We serve it with tortilla chips and a generous dollop of queso and it is delicioso. Enjoy!

Taco Soup

1 lb of ground turkey (or you could use beef, chicken or pork)
1 chopped onion
2 tsp of minced garlic
1 pkg of taco season
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of corn
1 15 oz can of pinto beans
1 15 oz can of kidney beans
1 cup of water

Of course you can substitute an equal part of prepared dried beans, but for ease I just use canned.
Brown your meat along with the onion and garlic. Place you meat mixture in a dutch oven (or whatever you use to cook soup in) along with all the other ingredients and simmer over low medium heat for approx 40 minutes.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dress your family in handmade clothes

I like to sew...have I told you that? I have a lot of fabric and probably even more patterns. I need new clothes (skinny clothes, woohoo!) and the kids do too. So, I plan to dress my family in handmade (I would have said corduroy but someone already said that). It's a labor of love, it's not cheaper by any means to dress your family in handmade and it certainly is time and labor intensive to do so. So, why do it...why go through the process even? For me uniqueness of handmade and being able to customize stuff is priceless. I get an immense thrill and sense of accomplishment knowing I made that!
Last night I went to Joann's Fabrics and picked up a few more patterns. I couldn't resist. When you can fit into the normal size pattern range the options are so unlimited, it's so much fun to imagine a great new to sew it up. So that's what I'm doing today. Sewing...sewing up a new wardrobe.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Small house blues

We've lived in our home for 8 years. We never thought we'd be here this long, we thought this was our starter home...or more accurately my dh thought it would be. Something always told me we should have gotten a home w/4 bedroom and a bit bigger. Anyways, the house is 1700 sf, which is not teeny tiny, but small by the standards of where I live and certainly spatially challenging for a family of six. Most of the times I feel okay living here. I've tried to make it a warm and welcoming home, we've painted and have beautiful hardwoods throughout the downstairs. But, today is one of those days when I have the small house blues. Everything seems too small and cluttered. I admit we have way way way too much stuff. I try, I really do, but even as much as I purge it doesn't seem to make that much of a difference. I've gotten rid of gads of stuff, but I still feel like we need to get rid of 50% more of it. I can't seem to find the time to do it either, and then there's the "what if I need that syndrome". It's my frugality, I can't imagine getting rid of something and then having to buy it all over again when I need it. I just can't wrap my brain around that and I know it's an issue. I'm working hard on that though. I make a point to get rid of something(s) every week or so on freecycle. I try and not think of the end use...just that the stuff is keeping me from achieving my bliss and therefore needs to go.
The constant cleaning is a drag too. I don't mean I don't want to clean my house. I actually don't mind that...what bothers me is that I'm the only soul doing it most of the time. I have to be honest and admit it, my kids are slobs. I've tried every trick to engage and encourage them to pick up after themselves and take pride in their environment. It hasn't worked...I think I must be talking to myself. I find it so odd that someone can be drinking from a cup, finish and just drop it on the floor. UGH! Why would you do that? Anyway...I better stop now, because this is turning into a self pitying rant. I'm just feeling a little small home blues today...I guess I better go clean something.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Thrifting

I don't know if I'm a throw back to another era, but I'm extremely frugal. I can sniff out a bargain and create something from nothing better than anyone I know. I love the idea of finding something that is flawed or considered trash and turning it into a treasure. I'm like an idiot savant if I must say so myself, I can look at something and see the hidden potential in it. I can envision it as something fabulous. Well, my home is decorated in early American thrift store and I think it's time for a little polish to some of my rooms. I mean there's a fine art between your place looking like you bought everything at a thrift store and looking like bohemian chic...I'm going for bohemian chic. So, while I'm on vacation I plan to give my home a little makeover and polish. So we're heading out to 2 of my favorite thrift stores today. They are a virtual treasure trove, but like all thrift stores they are smelly and full of stuff nobody would want. You have to take your time and really look. The perfect thing will find you. What am I looking for? Vases, cool pictures and frames, lamps, fabric, kitchen ware and anything that catches my fancy...oh and a mid century looking buffet. Wish me luck! I love the thrill of the hunt. Stay tuned for pictures.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On motherhood and sleep.

I don't subscribe to experts. At least I try not to. I really try and follow my instinct in regards to mothering and parenting (there is a difference in my opinion). Well today I was reading an article in the paper about how children are over scheduled (I agree) and aren't getting enough sleep. It went on to say that babies need to sleep 90 mins for every 1 hour of wake time, particularly in the first 6 mos. That moms were just going to have to learn to stay home so the baby could sleep. Whoa Nelly! The moms I know would go nuts if they had to stay home every day. I'm not saying you should spend every moment going going, but you have a life too and just because you had a baby doesn't mean you plan to stop living it. Who is this woman and did she stay trapped in her own home watching over a sleeping baby? My point is I hate (I know that's harsh), but I hate when experts tell mom's how to mother. I believe you know your baby. You are their steward and you know what's best for your individual child and hence family. All this pressure to do it this way...the right way. It makes me crazy! Feed the baby when the baby is hungry, put the baby to sleep when the baby is sleepy, take the baby outside and let the sun shine on his little face. Laugh with the baby, play with the baby, love the baby. Don't succumb to the guilt that the expert advice can lead to. Trust your heart and your instinct. You are the expert!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

To do list

I go on vacation next week and I've made myself this long to do list. It seems crazy. I won't accomplish half of it, plus we're going to run down to the beach for a few days and tromp around Wilmington too. Why do I do this to myself? So here are some of the things I'm hoping to accomplish but probably won't get to.
1. Clean out the garage (this entails wading through countless things we don't need, but can't seem to throw away)
2. Repaint the 1/2 bath. (I might be able to get this done...but I haven't found a color I like)
3. Clean out the mb closet (what a chore. Dh thinks the floor is the 5th get my point)
4. Organize my sewing space/fabric (the space is organized the fabric is NOT!)
5. Go through the kids closets and purge/donate
6. Go through the kids toys and purge/donate (this has got to be done if I do nothing else...the toys are taking over the living room)
7. Transfer all the cds and dvds to albums and get rid of the cases.
8. Rearrange the Masterbedroom
9. Make recipe book
10. Relax!!
See what I mean...I'll never get it all done. But I guess this list is where I need to start, lol.

Speaking of fabric...I think I'm going to have to take a break from fabric shopping. I have an insane amount and I was noticing in MV (the system we use to track our spending) all my spending money is going to places like Joann's, Hancocks, Carolina Sew and Vac, Elegant Stitches, Ebay, Paypal vendors...hmmm...perhaps I might have a fabric addiction, is there a 12 step program for that?

Monday, March 24, 2008

A photo opportunity and a recipe to share

I've fallen in love with my camera. It's funny because lately I had been thinking it was a mistake not to save up for the slr...maybe one day, but I need to start on a smaller scale. My camera is underused so I'm making a point to use it. I started by taking the manual with me everywhere and reading about all the cool features it has. Then I got on some review sites and checked out what others had to say about it (they love it) and helpful tips to get the best pictures. Now I'm tucking it in my purse everywhere I go (I really need to make a case for it) and taking more picture and even uploading them to my computer. I love the pictures I see on some of the blogs, but I don't have that type of camera and I'm okay with that right now. I have a camera that's just right for me and I'm going to take the opportunity to learn to use it to it's fullest. I'm excited to embark on a new project. See a theme? I love having a project. gotta eat right?
Something simple...soup. We've had weird weather lately. It seemed like Spring was here, but all of a sudden it's cold again. Frost on the windows and gloves on the hands. So, I'm thinking soup, soups good.

Black bean soup
2 (15 oz) cans of black beans or 2 cups of prepared black beans (you know dry beans you've cooked)
1 (15 oz) can of stewed tomatoes
1 can of chicken broth (or of course you can make your own. I'd use 12 oz in that case, which is 1.5 cups)
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp lime juice

Combine all the ingredients( except lime juice) in a large pan and simmer until cooked through. Add lime juice after soup is cooked. This would be a great dish for the crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours. Dress it up w/smoked chicken or serve it over rice w/ a nice salad. Yummo! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A 2fer...something simple and something sweet

Since I neglected Mom's Monday Meal, I thought I'd give you a bonus.
First off is a simple crockpot meal. I grew up in TX and I love bbq. In Texas it's all about the beef. But living on the east coast now, they seem fond of the pork. Along with that strange concoction of sauce they soak it in made with vinegar. Strange! Anyhow, this recipe combines the East Coast w/the Texas flavor, it uses pork, but w/a more traditionally Texas style sauce (or KC or's sweet and thick rather than bitter and watery...can you tell I just don't get the whole Carolina bbq thing)?

Texas Style Pork Ribs

2- 3lbs of Country style pork ribs (these are more meaty than say your babybacks or spareribs)
Season salt to taste
Season pepper to the taste
1 Lg bottle of your favorite bbq sauce (you can make your own...but I don't bother to, I mean Sweet Baby Ray's has already done it for me and better than I ever could so I just use his recipe.)

Place your seasoned ribs in your hold on, you can braise the ribs before hand in your broiler, but again this is about simplicity. The reason you'd do that would be primarily for color...well you're going to cover the meat up with sauce so I don't braise the ribs, I just toss them in the crockpot, ok...back to the pot.
Cook them on high for 2 hrs. Then open the lid and add your sauce to coat all your ribs and continue cooking on high for another 4 hrs or until done. The meat will be so tender it will literally fall off the bone. Simple and Delicious.

Now for the sweet. I love my bread machine. I know it's an affront to a those of you who are purist about bread making, but I know me and if I had to make bread by hand, I wouldn't...but I use my bread machine fact I have 2 of them.
So this is a little sweet treat that you can prepare the dough in your bread machine and then pop it into your oven for the final product. Can you say heaven?

Cinnamon Rolls
1 cup whole milk
1 envelope (2.25 tsp) of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 tbsp of sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup of melted unsalted butter
5 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp of salt

Now if you make this in your bread machine, remember to follow the manufacturers instructions and add all the liquids first and then the dry ingredients w/the yeast being last. Make a well in the dry ingredients for your yeast to go in. Mix it all up on the dough cycle. If your mixing it up in your stand mixer you can add them as listed.

Now for the filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp of cinnamon
1 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup of raisins (optional)

The icing
2 cups of confectioners' sugar
1-3 tbsp of milk

The following is if you are not using the bread machine. If you're using the bread machine your dough is already going.

Heat milk over medium heat until it begins to boil, remove and let stand until cooled to room temp.
Sprinkle the yeast into the warm water (100-110 degrees so you don't kill your yeast) in a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp of sugar and let stand until it gets foamy, approx 5 mins. Beat in the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar, eggs and butter. Now add in your cooled milk. Gradually add in the flour and the salt, be sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl, you will be forming a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining flour into your dough, add more flour is your dough is too sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth and soft(about 10 mins).
Grease a large bowl and place your dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size (about and hour or so). If you've made the dough in your bread machine, do the above with the dough you have made.
Now coat 2 9 inch round pans w/ cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Prepare your filling by mixing the ingredients together (leaving out the raisin and nuts, you'll sprinkle those on top) in a medium bowl. Now punch down your dough and roll it out on to a floured surface. You'll make a rectangle about 18 X 12, spread your filling on the dough, sprinkle with the nuts and raisins. Starting at one of your long sides roll it like a jelly roll, pinch your seams closed. Cut crosswise, you should get 12-14 portions. Place them cut side down in your pan. Cover with plastic and let rise again for 30 mins. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Uncover your pans and bake the rolls until they are golden and bubbly...30-40 mins. Let cool before icing.
Make your icing while rolls cool some, use a bit more milk if icing isn't smooth enough, Drizzle icing on top and serve warm.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My birthday girl

I'm usually don't post more than once/day. But I couldn't resist posting a candid action shot of my girl in her birthday shirt (it's hard to catch her in a pose...she's gogogo!)I whipped up a cupcake shirt for her. I did the embroidery on the front using my ellure. It's a great little machine and terribly underused, but remember I said I was going to try new techniques and challenge myself so I'm learning to use the ellure so there should be plenty of embroidery in the future. It's far from perfect...I think It's too low. I marked it higher, but got nervous that it was too high and moved it down, should have left it alone. Also I learned what you should do if your thread breaks while you're doing embroidery...after the fact. I had to handstitch a few fill in stitches, but that's ok, live and learn right? she is, my big girl in all her pinkness and cupcake sweetness!

I missed the Monday meal...but I was working on something really cool!

I'll be sure to add a great meal tomorrow. I had a busy day yesterday. It was O's 3rd Birthday. And I also begun a fun and worthwhile rehab project on a sewing machine for the girls I volunteer with.
I'm in the Junior League (I know...who would have guessed it) and I've been teaching a group of girls in my placement how to sew. It's been such a blast and the interest has grown and we no longer have enough machines for everyone to sew on so it's taking us ages to finish stuff. Well, I've decided to donate my extra 401 to them and also posted on freecycle for some machines. I got a wonderful response from a lady that had her grandmothers machine. DH went and picked it up last week. It's an Alden Deluxe ZZ machine. She said her gm loved it and once sold it, bought something else, hated the new machine and then bought the Alden back from the lady she had sold it to . Alden is an American company that distributed Japanese Class 15 clones, it's all metal and in the cabinet I swear it weighs about 70lbs! was filthy...on the outside...the inside was a bit dirty, but certainly not the worst I've seen (that distinction belongs to my pfaff 260...ugh that was awful). I got out my GoJo, alcohol and dawn soap and cleaned off the outside. It's a wonderful turquoise color. I vacuumed, cleaned and oiled the inside. Replaced the belt and the bobbin tire. I thought I was set...not so fast! It wouldn't go. I had to rewire the kneepedal! Ugh. Anyways, I've run it for a bit and tested out the stitch. Very nice! I'm so excited for these girls to have this machine. They are so excited to learn to sew and so proud of their projects.
I feel so fortunate to be able to be able to make the slightest difference to these girls. They've had very difficult lives. Last week one of them told me about when she lived in the mission (a homeless shelter) and how they never had enough food. I was so sad that I couldn't really think how to respond to that. It's really just a crap shoot really. I'm not any different from them. I just happened to be born in to a middle class family, had the importance of education emphasized to me, encouraged to go to college and just had the advantages of that upbringing...but for the grace of God go I.
Anyway, just want to share my vintage machine adventure. And for any of you out there looking for a great workhorse machine don't overlook that forlorn looking machine in the corner of a thrift store, garage sale or your grandmother's attic. You just might find a wonderful machine that will give you years of pleasure.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The downside of skinny

Ok...skinny might be too strong of a word, but the downside of weight loss is that it's costing me a ton! I've given away 7 large green trashbags of too big clothes. I've been haunting thrift stores trying to keep from being naked. Now I've noticed that my sewing patterns are all too big. I've spent a fortune on these. Sure I can buy more. Of course I can...but you see my point. Being skinny is so expensive,lol. Alright, secretly (not so secretly) I'm thrilled to have this problem. When I think of the health implications of being overweight it's worth every penny I might spend clothing my thinner healthy body.
Now for the fun challenge. If you know me at all you'd know I'm frugal...frugal to the core. I can't see going out and buying a whole new collection of patterns to fit before I reach my goal weight, but I would like to use some of the ones I have. So I broke out Power Sewing and Sewing for Plus Sizes, read up on grading techniques and that's my next sewing challenge to myself. I think it'll teach me a lot about fitting and it'll save me on patternease since I won't be "drafting" a pattern from the ground up. I think this could be fun! I'll let you know how it goes and maybe post a picture or two.

Monday, March 10, 2008

As promised...Mom's Monday Meal

This recipes is something simple and savory for the crockpot or slow cooker. I love the slowcooker. I love that you toss a bunch of stuff in there, turn it on low and before you know it you've got a delicious hot meal that you didn't spend all day slaving over. Who wouldn't love that?

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken A Go Go

1 whole chicken (or you can use breast or whatever parts you have)
1 can of Cheddar cheese soup
2 can of any other variety of soup you like (cream of broccoli, chicken, mushroom...)
1/2 cup of heavy cream (you can use milk too, but I'd use a bit less)
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 small chopped onion (you can cook the onions before if you like, but I don't)
Season with salt and pepper to taste (for an extra kick you can try season salt, season pepper or whatever spices you like)

For a bit more nutritional value you can add a bag of mixed veggies the last 30mins to 1 hr. of cooking

Spray slow cooker w/cooking spray. Place chicken inside. In a separate bowl mix your soups and cream together, pour it over your chicken. Add seasoning, onions, and garlic powder. Cook on high for approximately 6 hours. Don't lift lid while cooking.
Serve over rice or egg noodles for a delicious one pot feast.

*Please note that you need to know your slow cooker. I have a newer one and it is pretty hot compared to my older one, so I tend to cook things on low for longer and check it.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Freezer Cooking Revisited

So...last week I mentioned I wanted a return to basics. So to that end I've planned out my menus for the next 2 weeks. I've been planning my menus for the last couple of years and it really does help, not only in terms of budget but in eating out. I also used to cook meals in bulk to freeze and have on hand. I had gotten away from it, but I started back up last week and have made this part of my routine. Hoping to shake up my old menu routine I decided to do an online search for some freezer friendly recipes. Allrecipes yielded some great options. I also found tons of site that supported this type cooking as a way to feed your family healthfully. So I think I'll share a new recipe each Monday, tune in tomorrow to see what the offering is.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Homemade Home Project

That's my name for what I'm about to do. It'll be a process, a project, a way of living from here to eternity...I hope. For the last month I've been using an online program called mvelopes to help me budget. We have a nice income, but I really feel that we spend impulsively and needlessly and need to be more cognizant of our finances. Well, it's a big wake up call. I knew we spent a ton of money eating out. But jeez we spend a ton! So I started thinking about why that is and what kind of life I want for my family. The why happens when there's poor planning, I'm tired, I'm sick or just don't want to cook and because I know that we have the money and I can just "pick up something". But that money could be going to savings or a fun trip...anything else. Our chest freezer is jammed full of food, yet this week we ate takeout 3 times for dinner and once for lunch and that's not including the fact that A. eats out for lunch every day at work. So, I tweaked my housework schedule to include not only meal planning (that was already on there), but preparing 2-3 freezer meals/week. That way I'll have a store and when I don't feel like cooking or have a busy day I can pop something out of the freezer and into the oven. Today I made 3 meals. One for tonights dinner and 2 to freeze. I'm also going to use my crockpot more. I use it a few times/month now, but I want to use it a few times a week.
Now, why homemade home project you's because I want to get back to basics. I want to nurture my family with less processed, commercialized, prepackaged crap. I want them to know that I take pride in the food and things I make for them. I want them to know that every time I take my hands to prepare something for them that It's like a hug and a kiss. I'm not just talking about cooking either. I'm pledging to make our home a place that nutures them at all times, that is gentle and welcoming...where their creativity and happiness dwell. I want our homemade home to be the place that is always dear in their hearts and stays with them as they are out in the world now and forever. That's my project, that's my pledge. To use my love, skills and care to continue to create the kind of home I want for my family.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bummer...they all fall down

So last week everyone in my home was ill. Kids home from school, dh home from work, you know the whole "we're sick" scenario. Well I thought I had avoided it. Then Sunday at work my throat became very itchy. Now I have post nasal drainage, a head ache and feel overall achy. Yep, you guessed it...they got me! I'm sick too. There goes all my plans for sewing, house cleaning, cooking and generally being Suzy Homemaker. Suzy is sick! She's going to bed!