Sunday, March 23, 2014

A New Floor!

We are at the end of our spring break.  We start back to school tomorrow.  Unlike many of our friends, we stayed home.  We completed a major redo of the family room..or rather Mark did.  I am always amazed at how he can tackle big projects with little to none previous experience.  He decided that hiring someone to do our floor would be out of our price range, so he decided to do it himself.  Mark had helped install one other floor, but that was with two other men.  This time he would be on his own, since I know nothing about installing floors.

Previously, the room had Berber carpet.  It was 15+ years old, stained, and dirty.  It had started to come up around the edges.  Time for it to go!  

We gave our old couch, and two chairs to my dad.  

The white rectangle in front of the fireplace is the door to the cabinet on the left.  Mark took off the door when he was trying to decide if the carpet went underneath the cabinet (it did) and whether he should cut it off or take the the entire cabinet out.  He opted to cut off the carpet underneath the cabinet.

Don't cha love it!  It's so pretty and shiny that it makes our other floor look old.  We have new furniture now.  Maybe I will add a picture of that at a later date.

Freezer Cooking pt. 2

In the previous post I reported how I cook 3 pounds of ground turkey to make freezer meals.  Today's post is similar, only I used 5 pounds of chicken breasts.  I usually buy either the 3 pound bag or the 5 pound bag of frozen boneless chicken breasts.  My crock pot is a 6 quart one and the breasts from the 5 pound bag just barely fit when still frozen.  After thawing, they sink down into the crock pot and fit with no trouble.  This time I seasoned my chicken with a taco seasoning.  You can use packets or make your own (check pinterest).  I use two packets or equivalent homemade seasoning mix.

You could do the same procedure using other seasonings, of course.  I like to cook my chicken from frozen for about 5 hours.  Some people don't like to cook chicken from frozen and prefer to let it thaw first.  I haven't had a problem with the way that I do it, but you will need to  make your own decision.

Here are the recipes that I used:

Again, disposable aluminum pans are da bomb!  Sometimes I can find pans that come with cardboardish lids, but a lot of the time if they come with lids, the lids are plastic.  In those cases, I use regular aluminum foil.  Tip:  Write directions for thawing/cooking on the aluminum sheet BEFORE you put it over the pan.  

All of my freezer cooking should help a lot now that soccer season has started.  I figure the whole family will be able to eat together on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays.  The other days we will either have leftovers or something quick and easy.  We also eat a lot of sandwiches!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Freezer Cooking pt. 1

Last summer I filled our freezer with ready to cook meals and I am so glad that I did.  I have cooked for the freezer for several  years now, but it has mostly been of the type of doubling one casserole or cooking an extra batch of taco meat.  This time I cooked on a larger scale.

We are out on spring break this week, and we are not going anywhere on vacation, so it is the perfect time to do some more batch cooking.  I did a few on fall break, but not any at Christmas, so our inventory is pretty low.

I try to cook three recipes at a time.  I divide my recipes into categories:  Mexican chicken, plain chicken, Mexican ground turkey, Italian ground turkey, plain ground turkey, breakfast, and desserts.  This way most of the three recipes have similar ingredients and I can cook a big pot of the meat and season it the same for all three recipes.  I cook my chicken in a crock pot, sometimes overnight if I want to get started early the next day.  I cook my ground turkey (we don't eat red meat) in a big electric skillet, three pounds at a time.  I have heard that some people cook their ground turkey/beef in a crock pot, but I haven't tried it.

Most Mexican dishes that my kids like are pretty much the same:  seasoned meat, a starch (tortilla wraps, noodles, rice, bread crust,) and cheese.  They usually don't go for much else.  Realistically, I could cook three batches of the same recipe, but I like a little bit of variety.  They don't seem to care, as long as there is sour cream available.

Here are the recipes that I used today:

Easy Taco Bake
Taco Pasta
Cheddar Beef Enchiladas (This was originally from Allrecipes, but I can't seem to find it now.  There are several others that you can use.)

If you are interested, here is my Freezer Meals pinterest board.  I haven't tried everything on the board, but there are some good ideas.

The Easy Taco Bake didn't make as much as I had hoped.  This was a new recipe for me.  I decided to cook it for supper tonight as a taste test.  My family of four can get by on half of a casserole (8 x 8 dish).  We are not a big fan of leftovers, and this seems to be just enough.  Sometimes I can get two small dishes from one recipe.  Other times I have to double the recipe.  I try to use disposable dishes.  I figure if I don't have a lot of time to cook dinner; I don't have a lot of time to clean the kitchen!

Another bonus to freezer cooking is that I have food on hand to take to families in need (financially, new baby, surgery, etc.)  Add a salad, bread, and a quick dessert and it is good to go.

See all of those dirty dishes?  Using this method, I only have to clean the kitchen once.  One electric skillet can cook three pounds of ground turkey as well as it can cook one pound.  I can cut up all of my onions at the same time and be left with only one dirty cutting board, and so forth.  I encourage you to give it a try!  It is not as hard as you might think.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Family Reading Time

We started Family Reading Time this week and I already love it.  It is a 30 minute period of time in which all of us read a book, including me.  The kids received ipad minis for Christmas, and it seems like they never watch tv or read anymore.  I know that they read at school and sometimes at home, but when Ellen informed me that she was in danger of not reaching her reading goal this quarter, I knew I had to do something.

I love to read.  Always have.  I want my kids to be readers.  There is a lot of research out there about how beneficial daily reading can be for children.  Both of them like reading, but when faced with the choice between the ipad and a book; well, the book just doesn't make the cut.  Once I made it a rule that they had to read for a half-hour, they obediently picked up a book and re-discovered how much they love reading.

It's great for me too, because I have to take time to slow down and pick up a book.  Quiet time is a luxury that I sometimes don't have.  It is so nice to take a moment to just sit and read.  I'm thinking about doing something similar at school.  We have some time in the morning for the kids to read after they have finished morning work, but it doesn't work well.  I'm part of the problem with my rushing around trying to take care of things and constantly interrupting to ask for field trip money, homework, whether they plan to order lunch, etc.  If I settled down for a few minutes and the kids saw that it was important to me, maybe they would come to value it more.

So, blog readers (the slim number that you are!) get off the internet for a few minutes and spend some time reading.  You will feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

School Projects

My kids are in the fourth and second grade this year.  They are at the age where apparently school projects are the norm, at least at our school.  I'm not sure how people who don't have a stash of scrapbook supplies manage without getting frustrated.  Like today, John came home and said that he had to make a leprechaun trap.  Fine, I have no problem with the assignment.  The problem is that today is Tuesday and the project is due on Thursday.  Two nights, both of which we have other things scheduled, a cub scout pack meeting and Wednesday Night Church.  I wish we had known about it over the weekend.  We had a snow day yesterday, and had I known about the project, John could have been doing something besides playing Minecraft.


We decided not to go to the pack meeting because Mark was going to be so late getting home and we would be 20 minutes late to an hour long event, and also because John wasn't getting any awards.  I'll get caught up with the many emails that our leader sends out.  The leprechaun trap is finished, thanks to a cruise through Pinterest and a raid of my scrapbooking supplies.  It's pretty simple, but it's finished, and John is happy with the result.  I'm tellin' ya, check out Pinterest for school project ideas instead of spending time racking your brain for an original idea.

***Update:  John forgot his leprechaun trap and left it at home.  AGGGHHH!  His teacher graciously allowed him to show it the next day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kangaroos at the Zoo!

We are on Fall Break!  Yay!  Many of our friends are going to the beach or Disney World or somewhere else out of town.  We are enjoying a stay-cation at home.  Whew!  No packing to do and I don't have to worry about the 'ole Explorer breaking down on the highway.

The new kangaroo exhibit opened at the zoo about a month ago.  It is a walkabout, which means that guests can walk on a path through the exhibit and pet the kangaroos if one happens to come onto the path.  We were lucky enough to find that one little girl kangaroo had found a sunny spot on the path and seemed to content to let visitors pet her.  She was so soft!

I'm not sure what we will get into today.  The kids want to get the fall decorations out, so I suppose that we will.  Mark is at the dentist now, but this afternoon he wants to go play frisbee golf (which none of us have ever done).  The weather promises to be beautiful this week!  Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Just Venting....Bible Bowl

Today we went to Bible Bowl in Cookeville.  Both of our kids participated.  That means that for the past three months they have studied questions about I Corinthians and Galatians.  I say they studied the questions, because they didn't spend much time studying the actual book.  They tried to memorize the answers to sample questions, but even after three months, they couldn't tell me what those two books of the Bible were about.  They must not have remembered very many answers because they didn't get many correct today at the competition.  I told myself and them that the numbers didn't really matter.  In my own mind, however, I'm thinking that if the numbers don't matter, and they didn't learn much of anything, what was the point?  If my children spend three months studying something, I want them to understand it on "game day."

I see a parallel with an problem that I've observed among some Christians.  They concentrate so much on the words of the Bible and following them to the letter, that they forget about what the words actually mean. They don't practice the spirit of Christianity...loving God, loving your neighbor, spreading the Gospel, etc. That brings to mind something else from Bible that Jesus talked about....Pharisees...and Jesus had a lot to say about that "brood of vipers."   **Shudder** I hope I can somehow instill into my children a love of the Bible and not just for the words, but for what it teaches.