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Bittersweet

While pregnant with my daughter, a friend of mine arranged for two of her friends to give me baby clothes.  I went to visit with one of her friends while she sorted baby clothes.  I asked her if it was nice to give all these clothes away and free up much-needed closet space.  Her response:  It was bittersweet.  I didn’t really understand what she meant until recently.

We have a son and a daughter and decided that our family is complete.  So I began the task of sorting baby clothes.  And with sorting came giving away and selling baby clothes and baby equipment that we no longer have a need for.  So slowly, over the past couple of weeks, baby items moved from our hometo many other homes.

Last week I sold my son’s crib bedding and 0-3 month clothes.  I almost cried handing these things over.  And now I understand that this experience really is bittersweet.

It’s bitter because my kids will never be a baby again.  They’re growing up (they seem to do this quickly).    We’re closing the door on one phase of our life but looking forward to many new adventures.   So it’s time to look ahead and make memories that will last a lifetime.

I think I’ll take some time to just enjoy my children the way they are.  And look forward to the sweet things ahead for Punkin and Baby Girl.

(Next week, I’ll be posting my knitting swatches and a couple of more recipes.  So keep reading)!

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Crab Apples for the Squirrels?

Runaway squirrel that ate the crab apple.

Two crab apple trees live in our backyard.  Pretty pink flowers adorn the trees for a couple of weeks in spring and fade as the blossoms give way to the fruit.  After that, they revert to an ordinary tree with small fruit on them.

A couple of years ago I made crab apple jelly.  Although the process isn’t difficult, it wasn’t really worth the effort (in my opinion) because I simply didn’t like the taste of it.  As I recall, it was way too sweet.

And if you’ve read any previous posts, you also know that I’m a gardener.  This year, my garden has failed to be productive.  (I only have one tiny green tomato on one plant-and I have five plants).  But my crab apple trees have, once again, supplied a surplus of useless apples.

Before I continue, allow me to explain this to you:  I’ve recently discovered the school of thought that believes we should grow veggies in our front yards.  And that watering a lawn is much wasted water.  (I’ve come to agree with this statement although that isn’t possible here because of a homeowner’s association.)  So back to my original thought.

The crab apple trees, in my mind, are useless (other than the bit of shade they provide in our west-facing backyard.)  I have no use for the fruit and they are aesthetically pleasing  for just  a couple of weeks in spring.  One tree has so many suckers coming out of the ground that I’ve been thinking it’s time for that tree to meet a final resting place.   In short, if the trees aren’t producing an edible fruit, I feel they should be replaced with trees that can perform that duty.

Branch that Little Squirrel sat on consuming delicious crab apple.

It wasn’t until a couple of mornings ago when a rustle of the tree branches caught my attention.  I thought a bird was hidden behind the leaves but after a minute, I realized a squirrel jumped on that branch.  Wondering if could get a picture of him in the tree, I  got my camera and approached the tree slowly.  When I finally got close enough to snap that picture, I found him partaking of the fruit of the tree.  Yes, he was eating a crab apple!  I snapped the picture (but my camera has this annoying delay before taking the picture) and failed to get the awesome picture of this squirrel in the tree eating a crab apple.

I was able to catch the squirrel in motion in a neighbor’s tree so I would always remember the squirrel that ate the crab apple tree and taught me something about nature. I find the tree to be useless.  But God created this tree to bear fruit.  And although the fruit is virtually useless to me, it does serve a purpose and helps feed the little critters lingering around my backyard.

What critters do you find in your backyard?   I’d love to know!!

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Homemade Diaper Wipes

Making homemade diaper wipes is so easy (and much less expensive).   I began making these about six months ago and it works so well for me, that I won’t buy already made diaper wipes.  You only need a few supplies:

  • Paper Towels (Viva works well, but I’ve found that almost any brand will work.  I’ve been using Scott Naturals)
  • Knife and Knife Sharpener
  • 1 Tablespoon of your favorite baby wash or shampoo
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon baby oil
  • 1  cup of water
  • Container to store the wipes (an old diaper wipes box works well

First, sharpen a knife.  Then begin cutting a roll of paper towels in half.  Halfway through cutting (or as necessary) re-sharpen the knife and finish cutting the paper towel roll.  Then, remove the cardboard tube from the center.  You can use a pair of pliers and yank it out.  If you find another way to remove the tube, try it.  It doesn’t matter how it’s removed as long as it gets out of there and the paper towels aren’t wasted.  (I just my hands and kind of fold the tube in half and pull it out that way).

Then, mix the soap and oil into the water (because my kid’s have sensitive skin, I use plain water on my wipes.  For some reason, they were getting diaper rashes from the soap and the oil).  Pour the water over the wipes.  Add a little more water if necessary to thoroughly wet the paper towels.

Put them in your chosen container and there you have it!   Use your homemade wipes for anything you would use a store-bought wipe.  Now, it’s your turn!  Tell me how you like using homemade diaper wipes!

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My Recent Crochet Projects

I love to crochet!  It’s something I’ve done since I was 11 years old.  I always crocheted using a double crochet stitch to make blankets.   But recently I discovered the joy of using a pattern.  It’s amazing what can be created using a pattern.  So far, I’ve made winter hats, a small purse, and a wide-brimmed summer hat.

I love to crochet but one of my goals for this year is to learn to knit.  So stay tuned as I learn to knit.  Next time, I hope to show you my very first knitting sample.  I’d also love to know what you’re knitting or crocheting right now!

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Ho-Bo Dinners

I had no idea what a Ho-Bo Dinner was until a couple of years ago.  We had dinner at a friend’s house and she served these.  These can be made two ways.  First, you can create individual foil packets for each person or you can put all ingredients into a casserole pan covered with foil.   I love to make these on cold nights, so this makes the perfect winter dinner.  Here’s what you need to do:

Ingredients:

Ground Beef or Turkey (made into patties or Chicken breasts

Veggies:  (You really could use what you have on hand but here are some suggestions)

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (white or sweet or both)
  • Onion
  • Peppers (any color)
  • Zucchini

Mrs. Dash, Salt, Pepper

Finely chop all veggies.  (Or if you’re like me, chop them into whatever size time will allow).  Next, make your ground beef or ground turkey into patties and season with spices.

Now it’s time to decide whether your prefer to make individual packets for each member of your family or if you would rather put them in a casserole pan.  (I’ve done it both ways and enjoy them either way).

If you’re going to make packets, cut a piece of foil for each family member (make sure it is large enough to contain the meat and veggies.  Next, spray the foil with cooking spray.  Then put your meat on the bottom and put your veggies on top.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash (if you don’t have Mrs. Dash, use whatever spices you like).

If you choose to use a pan, just put all the meat on the bottom of the pan and top with the veggies.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash.  Then cover the whole pan with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.  Check for doneness.  It may take up to 1 1/2 hours to be completely ready.  I like to serve this with homemade applesauce.   Enjoy!

What are you making for dinner tonight?

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Refried Beans and Burritos for the Freezer

My husband likes refried beans (I personally cannot stand any kind of bean-with the exception of a  green bean).  He recently discovered a quick, easy way to make his own refried beans.  Today he opened a can of refried beans that are about to expire and he said that his homemade beans are much better than the canned stuff!

Here’s what he uses:

Pinto Beans (he uses canned beans)

Spices:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt-pinch or two

Begin heating beans in medium size saucepan.  Add spices (all to taste-try 1/2 teaspoon of each at a time).  Mash the beans while cooking.  Cook until thick and bubbly.

Once the beans are thick enough, remove from heat.

Spread a layer of beans, cheese, and (if desired) meat on a flour tortilla.  (It helps to heat the tortilla in the microwave first for about 20 seconds).   Then, fold your tortilla burrito style.  Now you’ve got your burrito.

Take your leftover beans and cheese and make as many burritos as your ingredients allow.  Allow the burritos to cool, wrap in plastic wrap  and foil, and freeze.   Reheat in the microwave until warm (about a minute or two-be sure to check every 30 seconds or so).

These homemade burritos have replaced the pricey, not-so-tasty frozen burritos sold in stores.  Enjoy!

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What’s for Dinner?? Pasta with Veggies and Garlic Sauce

Oh, that nagging feeling!  What are we going to have for dinner tonight?  Despite a house full of food, you can’t figure it out.  Or you’re too tired.   So here’s a simple easy meal to get on the table quickly.  (I haven’t tried to freeze this but it cooks so fast, I don’t think I would even try).

Ingredients:

  • Pasta:  I use Penne but you could use what you have on hand
  • Olive Oil:  3-4 Tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you could use garlic cloves but I find the powder much easier)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste, if desired
  • Veggies:  I try to use frozen California veggies (the broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix) but often use what is in my fridge at the moment

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.  If using pre-cooked, frozen veggies, put them in the pasta water during the last couple of minutes of cooking to heat through.   (If cooking your own veggies, steam them.)  Drain.

Heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add garlic powder (or cloves).  Whisk garlic powder to combine.    Add more garlic powder, if desired.

When pasta and veggies are done, combine with sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (we use the grated stuff in the container but you could use fresh).

Mmmmm….Delicious!!

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Freezer Meals: Easy Pizza Casserole

If you have children, you know how picky they can be!  But I always know my kid’s love pasta…and pizza.  So why not put them together?  This isn’t a new creation for me-there are tons of recipes online.  But here is a quick and easy meal for tonight (and make an extra one for the freezer while you’re at it)!

Ingredients:

1 pound Ground Beef (Ground Turkey could be substituted here)

1/2-1 pound Ground Sausage (optional)

16 ounce Rotini Pasta

1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce (Homemade sauce works well, too)

8-16 ounces of Cheese (preferably mozzarella but if  I don’t have it on hand I use Cheddar)

Pepperoni  (as much or little as you like)

Fillings:

  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Olives
  • Any other veggies or toppings you like on your pizza

Directions:

If freezing the casserole:  Line an 11×7 or  13×9 casserole pan with foil and then with plastic wrap (frozen pasta can take on the taste of metal)

If cooking right away:  Line the pan with foil, optional.  (It helps with clean-up).

Cook pasta according to package directions (cook past slightly undercooked for the freezer so it isn’t mushy when it thaws).   Meanwhile, saute peppers and onions.  When tender, cook ground beef and ground sausage until no longer pink.  Drain meat and pasta.

Begin to assemble the casserole.  I just put everything into a pan (I use ).  I mix the meat, pasta, fillings, and sauce together.  I sprinkle the casserole with cheese on top but you could also mix it in (it is less expensive to put it only on top).

To cook immediately:  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

To Freeze:  Allow casserole to cool (I put it in the refrigerator for a little while).  Freeze in pan.  Once solid, remove from pan and finish wrapping with plastic wrap and foil.

To Thaw:  Take casserole out of freezer night before serving.  Remove plastic wrap right away (before thawing) and put it in designated cooking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Can I Really Freeze Breakfast Meals?

On a quest to save money in our household, I have read many books over the past few months.  One of the money-saving tips I found that leads to a great savings is cooking from scratch and making your own freezer meals.  With two kiddos (almost 4 and 14 months old) dinnertime seems to be a little crazy lately.  (It’s almost like a radar screen:  Mom is in the kitchen making dinner, let’s throw a tantrum!).

Over the course of the next several posts, I want to share with you some easy meals you can freeze.  Today, we’ll focus on breakfast (perhaps the easiest of each day’s meals). Even as a stay-at-home mom, I find that keeping breakfast in the freezer helps our day go more smoothly.  I have more time to accomplish my cleaning chores for each day (a post for another time) and to play Chutes and Ladders with my son.

Freezing breakfast is so easy because you can freeze just anything you can think of.  Here are some ideas for your freezer:

  • Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Waffles
  • Muffins
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Baked Oatmeal (One Batch of this yields enough for three pans for my family)
  • Farmer’s Casserole (I haven’t tried to freeze eggs yet, but I know that Quiche can be frozen.  Let me know if you try)

You can serve each of these with yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, etc.  I also serve cold cereal, toast, and fruit twice a week.  Your meal plan for breakfast could look like this:

  • Sunday:           Eggs, French Toast
  • Monday:         Cereal, Toast, Fruit
  • Tuesday:         Cinnamon Rolls, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
  • Wednesday:   Yogurt with berries, Muffins
  • Thursday:        Cold Cereal, Toast, Fruit
  • Friday:             Pancakes, Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Saturday:        Waffles, Potatoes, Scrambled Eggs

Now I’d like to know what you freeze for breakfast!  Stay tuned for the next freezer meal post!

 

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Garden Update

My garden and I have two things in common right now.  We don’t like the very hot weather we’ve had.   We had several days of 100 degree plus temperatures last month.  And my tomatoes and peppers (along with the rest of the garden) went on strike.

Very hot temperatures cause plants to shut down.  So once the weather moderated, the plants began to recover.  But I still have only a single tomato growing on one plant (I have five plants).

Can you see it?  It’s very tiny!

                 These potato tops seem to be growing.  But I don’t know if there are any potatoes yet!

              And my zucchini isn’t growing very well.  It’s been like this for the past several weeks.

Have you harvested anything from your garden?

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