January 28, 2013

Happy Homemaker Monday January 28

Hi and welcome to Happy Homemaker Monday! Thanks to Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for hosting this every Monday. See her blog for more Happy Homemaker posts.

The Weather
It has been so cold here! We had mornings in the single digits, but by Wednesday we are supposed to hit 50 degrees. Yeah! Time to wash the car! Welcome to New England, where you will hear "If you don't like the weather, just wait awhile, because it will change."! We are supposed to get a wintry mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain (fun times). School is getting out early, although my kids were getting out early anyway because it is their last day of midterm exams. But, that means no after school activities, which is wonderful because it means less driving!

Right Now
My youngest just came downstairs, ready to go to school after eating breakfast. He did not have a midterm first block (they take two a day), so he got to sleep in, but it means I have to make another trip to school today, sigh. Fortunately that will be the last trip today (see above), otherwise I would be driving two more times. Did I mention that the school is two towns over? Oh yeah, we are talking almost two gallons of gas per trip (thanks to my very fuel inefficient mini van). My oldest has to drive to college for classes today, and I will be worrying about his drive home today.

About the choices and sacrifices we have to make in life. My husband's boss told him about a job opportunity. It would be a promotion. The increase in pay and benefits would amount to what I would probably make if I were to go to work full time. The problem is that it is in North Carolina. The company would sell our house and pay for our move. It all sounds wonderful, and the increase in income (along with the lower cost of living) would certainly help with the college expenses that are coming. But, he is turning it down (he wasn't actually offered the position, he would have had to apply for it). His boss was surprised. But, our oldest is working and attending college locally. He has a girlfriend and is in a band. He has a mental illness, so he is not ready to be on his own yet. Our daughter has one more year of high school to go, and our foster son would not be able to come with us (nor would he want to). Lastly, we both have elderly parents that live near us. And so, we will sacrifice the money and the probable job satisfaction (and warmer climate) for our family.

No changes here:  Gone With the Wind and The New Testament (still in Acts).

On My TV
At this very moment my kids, who had an early dismissal, are watching Hook. We've been watching season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and still have The Artist and Elizabeth from Netflix. We've been rethinking our entertainment options, wondering if paying for the Netflix dvd's is worth the money (especially when it takes us 2 -3 weeks to watch them). We looked into video streaming options (Amazon has a wonderful video series explaining the technology requirements), but found out that our DSL service (which is free for us) has a download speed of 1.5 mbps, and the preferable speed is 5 mbps. We are so far behind! Our two tv's are 20 years old, box shaped, and have one input for cable, one for a vcr, and one output for a vcr. Yeah, that's where we are at right now!

On the Menu
This is a short week, because I start work next Monday (was supposed to start today, surprise!, but I told my boss I couldn't start yet because I wasn't ready. He doesn't understand the preparation that goes into switching from being a SAHM to working 4 days a week. ANYWAY, so today I menu planned for just the next four days, because Fridays will become my grocery day since it will be my day off.

Monday goulash, salad
Tuesday chicken tacos, cheesy rice, corn
Wednesday beef stew, rolls
Thursday pulled chicken bbq sandwiches, macaroni salad

To Do
Already got my groceries, I wanted to beat the snow, which I did, until I realized I forgot the ground beef for the goulash (because for some reason I did not write it on my list), so I had to go back out in it. ANYWAY, what is left is vacuuming, cooking dinner, maybe a load or two of sheets and blankets to wash, and that's about it. Saturday we (this kids and I) managed to clean the whole house, and that will be our routine every Saturday, so I just want to do a little touch up and that is it. It sure feels good.

Just my seminary lessons.

Homemaking Tip
It is tax time! Does that make you excited? The only thing exciting about it is if you are expecting a good refund, the rest can produce fear in the most reasonable adults. This is what I do all year to make tax time practically a breeze.  First, record your income and expenses on your computer! Is there anyone that does not do that? Believe it or not, we still have clients, with businesses no less, that use one-write sheets. All of that adding and subtracting, when the computer can do it for you? Why? Anyway, I use Quicken, have used it for years, and it works just fine. I keep track of two checking accounts, two credit cards, and numerous savings accounts with it. Second, I keep a folder labeled 2013 taxes (for this year, obviously) and throw anything in there I will need to complete my tax return AND to keep in case I get audited. It all goes in together: bank statements, credit card statements (for write offs), receipts, all back up to any checks or money I deposit during the year, check stubs (which I throw out once we get our w-2s), you get the idea. Once I get all of my tax documents, I print out an income statement of sorts, staple all like documents together, and am ready to go to work and complete my return. It takes me maybe 20 minutes to do my return, and that is because I could never remember what box to check so that I didn't get taxed on my withdrawls from my HSA account - but I remember now where that darn box is). When I am done, I print out my copy of the return, put it in the file, and that is it for that year.

Looking Around the House
I see the canned goods needed for tonight's dinner, a large package of toilet paper to be distributed between my bathrooms, and behind me a pile of teenagers glued to the tv.

From My Camera
The weather

On My Prayer List
My kids, my class, my dad, my father in-law, my friend's son.

Bible Verse
Peter healing the lame man outside of the temple:

"And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength."

Acts 3:7

I love this lesson in the New Testament, because of the symbolism of Peter actually taking the man by the hand and lifting him up when he healed him. We talked about what it means to lift others, and how we have to be higher than them in the sense of living righteously, being a good example, letting our light shine, in order to be able to lift another.

Have a great week and stay warm!

January 23, 2013

Vegetarian Bean Soup

The name of this soup, love this, is

Oh! Good! Soup!
(This is not the soup I made, but it looks a lot like it. Photo courtesy of Betty Crocker.)

and comes from the book Fix It and Forget It Lightly on page 194.  I did change it a little, and would like to change it more the next time I make it, and there will be a next time!

This is a healthy soup, and does not call for a lot of seasonings, nor does it have any meat or bouillon, so at first taste I thought it was a little bland, but after a few bites the natural flavors of the ingredients come out, and your tongue begins to appreciate the taste. Having said that, the original recipe calls for hot sauce, but next time I will replace the hot sauce with some salsa. Other than that, and the fact that I did not choose low sodium canned tomatoes, I wouldn't change a thing, unless I do, like maybe adding some thyme.

2 cups mixed, dried beans
2 1/2 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes
red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
several drops hot sauce @ 1 C salsa
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 cup assorted small pasta, cooked (I did not have room for this, and don't think it is necessary, perhaps because my bean mix had some barley in it)

Soak beans 2-6 hours overnight, drain
place beans in slow cooker
cover with 2 1/2 quarts water
cover and cook on high 2 hours
add all remaining ingredients (except pasta, if you are using it)
add water to cover if needed
cook on high 4-6 hours, low 8-10

Instead of having just bread and butter with this, I made a cheese quesadilla. All of the cheese kind of counteracts the healthy aspect of the soup though.

January 21, 2013

Happy Homemaker Monday January 21

Good morning! I have a confession. I am writing this on Sunday night about 9:25 pm. Why? Because I plan on sleeping in tomorrow! My foster son has to be at school at 8 am for swim practice, but the rest of us do not have to be anywhere thanks to the holiday, so my WONDERFUL husband will drive him before going to work (in the opposite direction, no less). Anyway, not all will be written tonight, some I will fill in whenever I sneak downstairs in the morning!

The Weather
Brrr! It is 26 degrees with gray skies. Since my kids are home for the holiday, hopefully I can get my youngest to build a fire. We are supposed to have some snow, I think, but no real accumulation, which is good, because I have to go grocery shopping and take the fire builder to piano tonight.

Right Now
My 16 year old daughter is singing show tunes in the shower, my 14 year old son is in the basement writing in his journal, my 15 year old son is cleaning his room so he can go to a friend's house, and my 19 year old is talking to the cat, my husband is at work, and the dog at cat are lying around as usual.

About the MOUNDS of laundry I have to wash today. (See below.), plus get groceries for the week. Also trying to remember who needs to be in school when because it is midterm week and not everyone has to be there for every exam period. There will be a LOT of driving this week. Ugh. The good thing about midterm week is that my kids are home by 11:30! Well, two of them anyway.

Gone With the Wind, Acts in the New Testament

On My TV
American Idol!, still have The Artist and Elizabeth

On the Menu
I had no ideas, so I got out my Fix It and Forget It Lightly cookbook and planned all of my meals around it. The kids will be rebelling, but that's okay. I only have two weeks left and I am trying to get my house in order, so I don't want to spend lots of time in the kitchen. I also want to start incorporating more beans in our meals for health and frugality.

Monday - pasta with lentil sauce, salad, garlic bread
Tuesday - bean soup, bread and butter
Wednesday - chicken chowder, rolls
Thursday - beef and cabbage casserole
Friday - baked chicken breasts, stuffing, veggies
Saturday - leftovers or pizza or both (or maybe dinner out with my husband???)
Sunday - beef stew, broccoli salad

To Do
Covered that already!

No crafts, but I may make a chocolate chip crumb cake later.

Homemaking Tip
I often wondered how I can expect my family to pick up their things when I don't do the same. While most were away this weekend, I got the kitchen, mudroom, bathroom, and foyer cleaned really well. This is the main hub of our home. I made it a point to put EVERYTHING away, and also leave a note for the returning campers, so that when I came home from church I would not find their stuff all over the place. And it worked. I think it is harder to dump your stuff on the counter without guilt when the counter is completely empty rather than when there is already stuff on it. So I will be making a concerted effort to keep the place neat, because with six people in the house, it can get messy really, really fast. Was there a tip in there?

Looking Around the House
I see clean, shiny counters, my youngest drawing maps at the table where I sit, a little snow from last Wednesday on the deck, my oldest sitting on the couch with his laptop.

From My Camera

The maker and his map

On My Prayer List
My kids, father, friend's son.

Bible Verse
"Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance."

Acts 2:28

This past week I was prayerfully pondering about my seminary class. We had become complacent, no, worse: lazy, silly, and irreverent. I was looking for what we could do to feel the Spirit more, and my answer, which was an idea that popped into my head, was to kneel as we prayed at the start of class. At the beginning of our next class, we did just that, and the difference was amazing. We had great, deep discussions and shared wonderful experiences. I am so grateful to know, from experience, that when we seek the Lord's counsel we will be given it. And that we can trust His counsel: it will always be right, it will always be what we need.

Have a great week!

January 14, 2013

Happy Homemaker Monday January 14

Good morning! Once again I am joining Sandra from Diary of a Stay At Home Mom for Happy Homemaker Monday. See Sandra's blog for more Happy Homemaker Monday posts.

The Weather
Tis foggy today, which is not unusual for our neck of the woods. Our town has the highest elevation in our county, and as one man told me, we live in the clouds (it's not that high, just 800-900 feet above sea level, but I guess the clouds are low around here!). It is, however, WARM! Supposedly only 48 degrees but it feels warmer. It has been a warm winter so far. I know this because I have not had to get out my big, puffy, brown coat. Or maybe it is the scarves. I got about 4 of them for Christmas, plus I have a few, and it is amazing how warm they keep you.

Right Now
I am waiting for my parents to stop by for a visit while their dog gets groomed. (My daughter says that both my sister's and my parents' dogs are spoiled, which is true, but Mom and Dad's dog is a Shih Tzu, so grooming is necessary.) I haven't spoken to my parents in forever, it seems (probably it's been a week) so it is time to catch up. My oldest is making some breakfast - today is his first day of classes for this semester.

That I am tired! But there is no time for a nap today. Glad that I accomplished some things last week - I got both of my pantries cleaned out, plus my bedroom cleaned, which is a major accomplishment because it becomes the catch all for everything in the house.

Gone With the Wind. I will be able to just copy and paste this for the next several weeks! In the New Testament we just discussed the Savior's crucifixion, so it is weighing on my mind.

On My TV
Finished Gone With the Wind, next up from Netflix is The Artist and Elizabeth. And, AMERICAN IDOL starts this week, however Wednesday and Thursday nights are terrible tv watching nights for us, so we will be watching it a week late on the internet, just like Glee.

On the Menu
We didn't get to everything last week (thanks to leftovers), so that makes this week's planning easier, plus the boys will be camping this weekend with the scouts, so no dinners to worry about on Friday or Saturday!

Monday Vegetarian chili for my husband and I, leftovers for the kids
Tuesday Adobe Chicken and rice, corn, salad
Wednesday pasta with sausage, salad
Thursday Steak Um sandwich melts (they are on sale!), cheesy vegetable soup
Friday I'll be fending for myself - easy
Saturday my daughter and I will probably go to Olive Garden
Sunday roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans

To Do
Visit with my parents, grocery shopping, meeting with my foster son and his social worker, dinner, piano lesson for youngest son.

What I am Creating
meals, lesson plans for my seminary class

Homemaking Tip
Last week I talked about it being a good time to clean out the pantry. Another reason why? I have all of these nice and heavy plastic bags from clothing stores (as a result of Christmas shopping) that worked really well for throwing away expired canned goods and other heavy items. Garbage pick up is tomorrow. I hope our toter doesn't break the garbage truck. Obviously the best tip is to go through your pantry regularly, making sure to use up your food stores so as not to waste.

Looking Around the House
The snow is gone! Warmer weather and rain cleared most of it away, and now when I look out at my deck, I see wood once again. I also see a pile of clean plastic storage containers - the result of my pantry cleaning - which means that I now have to go through my cabinets. Later this week...

From the Camera
I do not have any new photos, so here is one of our dog, who is part pug and part chihuahua.

On My Prayer List
My kids, my seminary class, my dad, my girlfriend's son (whose surgery went well, and is now meeting with oncologists, as his tumor was malignant).

Bible Verse
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Christ, with all of the love that is in his heart, asked for forgiveness for the men that were inflicting him with unfathomable pain as they hung him on the cross. It is my hope that I can have that same love for others, so that I can be given that same forgiveness for the many things that I do (and have done) to hurt others, and especially Him, without thinking.

Have a great week!

January 10, 2013

Crock Pot Beef Stew

(photo courtesy of Real Simple magazine)

Beef stew is a life necessity in my mind. My parents used to make it on the stove - Mom would do all the work, then Dad would come in and doctor up the broth. And it was very good.

I made it that way once. On the stove, flouring and browning the meat first, doctoring up the broth. And it was really good.

But I don't have time for that now, because not only does it take time to brown the meat, it also takes time to clean up the stove afterwards.

Don't think I am a whiner, I really don't have time most nights.

So, I am on a quest for the best crock pot recipe for beef stew. Last night I tried one from Real Simple magazine. You can find the original recipe here. I will give it to you here and tell you what I did differently and how I will change it further in the future.

Slow Cooker Classic Beef Stew

4 pounds bottom round, well trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces (I cut mine to 1/2 - 1 inch size. I wanted it to fit in my mouth.)

1 cup flour
1/3 cup olive oil (This is to coat and brown the meat first. I skipped this step entirely and have no regrets.)

2 large onions, diced (I sliced mine into half rings so that the picky ones could easily avoid them - or better yet - give them to me! I also wound up using maybe 1 1/2 onions - it just seemed like too much onion.)

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1 cup red wine (I used the cooking wine, but I think I will just substitute it for beef broth next time.)

1 pound potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces (I cut them to about 1 inch, maybe 1 1/2 inches most.)

1/2 pound baby carrots (about 2 cups)

2 cups beef broth

1 T kosher salt (too much salt for me, especially with the beef broth, I used about half of that)

1 tsp dried thyme leaves (oh yes, I love thyme!)

1 bay leaf

1 cup frozen peas, thawed (oops, forgot these, but why bother thawing them anyway? just add them sooner to the pot)

Coat the beef pieces and brown in oil if you must, otherwise just skip all of that and save yourself the mess (and the added fat and starch), put meat in slow cooker

Then you are supposed to add the onions to the skillet, saute a little and stir in the tomato paste. I just threw the raw onions in the slow cooker and mixed the paste into the rest of the liquids and seasonings.

Add the potatoes and carrots to the slow cooker, and then mix the rest of the ingredients (including the tomato paste) and pour over beef and vegetables.

Mix well, cover and cook on low 7 1/2 hours or on high 4 hours (I started mine late so I took the high road, lol).

If you happen to remember the peas, add them once everything is ready and cook a little while more till the peas are heated.

This was a hit, even with all of the omissions. My husband purposefully went on and on about how much he liked it. (Because I am much pickier than him, and if I don't like a recipe, I won't make it again, and apparently, he wants it again!)

What I will do differently next time:  substitute red wine for beef broth (or some of it, anyway), and use less meat and more vegetables. It really is a meat heavy recipe, but delicious!

Good, Good Goulash

I got this recipe from the cookbook One Bite Won't Kill You. (One of the best things I got from this book was the answer to the question What's for dinner?  The answer?  Yuck, I hate it.  I've used this answer several times. Needless to say my kids hate that answer.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped (does your grocery store EVER have a small green pepper???)
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked & drained
2 cans condensed tomato soup (you know, Campbells)
salt & pepper to taste

saute beef, onion, & green pepper in large skillet over medium heat abt 10 minutes
stir in other ingredients, mix & heat


Now, the disclaimer:  the tomato soup makes a kind of sweet sauce, much like the tomato sauce in a can of Spaghettios.  This is supposed to be kid friendly. To be honest, my two younger kids didn't eat it, but my oldest kid loved it, and the adults are okay with it.

January 7, 2013

Happy Homemaker Monday January 7

Good morning everyone! I am sorry that I did not join last week (what was I doing?) but I did write one for Christmas Eve, see post below. I am thrilled with Sandra's new photo because I love all of the colors in it. I will write more below on why that is important to me. Join Happy Homemaker Monday by going to Sandra's blog.  Oh, and Happy new year!

The Weather
Right now it is about 34 degrees and sunny. We had snow the Saturday after Christmas and it is still on the ground, and still on my deck. Even with the sun it has not been warm enough to melt. We did have a beautiful day on Saturday, I guess it just didn't last long enough. But, the days are getting longer now, so there is hope!

Right Now
I have my grocery list and am ready to buy my week's groceries, just as soon as I am done here. I have a friend dropping by around noon so I need to be back home in time for that, so I had better hurry. (Since I go to three stores, it takes awhile!)

That the hardest part of winter for me is the lack of color. While cleaning up our Christmas decorations, I put everyone's leftover stocking candy in glass jars and they are sitting on my kitchen windowsill; and I am really enjoying the bright colors. I need to infuse a lot of color in my house to keep me cheered up, and so I think I will keep some bright candy in those jars all winter long. Also thinking of other ways to put more color around me - I have to go up into my attic and look at what pillows I have stored up there that I can throw on all of the couches and chairs.

Also thinking that I really let the food dwindle down over the holidays and I have a huge grocery list. Thank goodness my husband fixed the back of my van so I can now open the hatch and load groceries back there!

The New Testament, as always, but I am actually reading another book! We rented Gone With the Wind from Netflix, which I have never seen, and I am enjoying it so much that I bought the kindle book. I am loving it, although it will take me forever since I don't have much time to read it.

On My TV
Gone With the Wind and Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 3. Glee when it comes back again, and looking forward to American Idol!

On the Menu
Monday Good, Good Goulash (yes, that's what it's called - I'll share with you later), salad, bread
Tuesday pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes with gravy, peas
Wednesday pasta with chicken and squash, salad (this is an old Taste of Home recipe - it's time consuming but very good - will share with you later)
Thursday crock pot beef stew, rolls
Friday vegetarian chili
Saturday Adobe Chicken, rice, corn
Sunday baked chicken and stuffing, carrots

Notice my week is filled with comfort food - that's winter for you

To Do
grocery shopping and unloading, visiting (yay!), bathrooms, take youngest to dentist, pick up another from high school after swim team pasta dinner, take youngest to piano. It will be a full night.

What I am Creating
Lessons for my seminary class

Homemaking Tips
It's pantry clean out time! The first of the year seems like a good time to go through my pantry and throw out all old foods. Those beans that have been in there (opened) for forever, spices that are long past their prime. The first of the year is a great time because it's when I am ready to start eating better (sort of!) and a great time to refresh and renew. Is this a tip?

Looking Around the House
Saturday I attempted to clean the main floor. I started with the family room, got it all dusted and arranged to its pre-Christmas tree state, but then I got to the desk that has all of my stuff on it, and had about 3 weeks of bookkeeping to catch up on, so there went the rest of my day. I did manage to vacuum the floor. I left the vacuum out, hoping to get to the rest it at some point, and yesterday I came home to a clean house! My daughter had come home from church early and had a little time so she finished it for me. So, looking around the house I see a clean house, and it is such a wonderful thing to see!

From the Camera
My colorful candy jars:

On My Prayer List
My kids, my dad, my girlfriend's son who just had a malignant brain tumor removed and it is in need of rehab, radiation, and chemotherapy, a friend from church with health issues.

Bible Verse
John 14:15 - "If ye love me, keep my commandments." We talked about this today in seminary class, and how we can trust in the Lord's commandments because He has our best interest at heart. His commandments are for our own good (as opposed to say, one of my commandments to put your dishes in the dishwasher and don't leave them in the sink, which is more for my benefit!) and will make us happy.

Have I told you that in seminary every year the students try to memorize 25 different scripture passages? They are usually 1-3 verses, but some are longer. One of our longest is the ten commandments in Exodus 20:3-17. Yes, I can recite the entire passage, King James version, word for word. The reason I am telling you this is because John 14:15 is one of them. Needless to say it is their favorite, since it is the shortest one!

Have a great week!