Friday, March 16, 2012

Hiatus!!!

After much thought, I have decided to take a brief hiatus from blogging. It was not an easy decision to make because I am the sort of person that struggles with pleasing everyone and trying to keep track of it all.

It boils down to the fact that I am feeling overwhelmed at the moment and getting the sense that I can not do everything and please everyone. Ever feel like you are being pulled in a thousand directions and just want to take a break from life?

So as much as it saddens me to have to do this, I really think that my soul needs refreshing, that my body needs taking care of and that I need to enjoy myself without feeling like I am letting anyone down or making promises that I inadvertently break.

I do hope you all understand and keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

I will be back soon, until then God bless!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cooking Thursday


cookingthursday
If you want to use the picture, just click here for the original.


Good Morning, here is today's recipe. 

2012_03130024

Makeover Rigatoni with Bacon and Asparagus

1 package (16 ounces) spiral pasta
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and coarsely chopped
8 bacon strips
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, bring 2 cups water to a boil.
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Add asparagus; cover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately place asparagus in ice water.
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Drain and pat dry.
In the same pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. (I baked mine in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. No splattering and it cooks to perfection )
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Crumble bacon and set aside. Saute garlic in butter and oil until tender. Stir in cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Stir in mozzarella cheese until melted. Drain pasta; add to pan. Stir in the salt, asparagus, parsley and reserved bacon. Sprinkle with pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Yield: 8 servings.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Homemaker Monday #11


Happy Homemaker Monday

If you want to save and use the new button, just click here.


The weather:::
Beautiful weather again this weekend.  




On my reading pile:::  
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Frugal Kitchen Tips by Mary Gail Stanley
Lemons and Lavender (book for a review, very excited about this one)  


On my TV:::
Upstairs Downstairs Season 2 - Episode 4
The Forsyte Saga
The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardeners 


On the menu for this week:::
Have to get the new Menu done, so not sure yet what I'm making after Wednesday.


Monday -  Oven Braised Short Ribs w/ baked potatoes 
Tuesday - Makeover Rigatoni with Bacon and Asparagus
Wednesday - Chicken Carbonara Risotto
Thursday - 
Friday - 
Saturday - 
Sunday -  


On my to do list:::
Laundry
Bathrooms
Relax with the kids since we're on Spring Break


What I am sewing, crocheting, knitting or creating:::
Nothing actually.  Have quite a few projects here and there but haven't been able to do anything.


In Homeschooling:::
We are officially on Spring Break this week, so no schooling, just relaxing.   



Looking around the house:::
Washing machine is running, as usual.  The windows are all open, fresh breeze coming in.  Nicholas is playing the new Mario Party 9 on the Wii and Jasmine is still asleep.  AND my washing machine just finished the cycle so I need to go switch it over to the dryer.


From the camera:::
We took the kids to Sea Life this past Saturday.  So much fun and Nicholas always loves the touching tanks, he says the stars feel rough.  





Something fun to share:::
Check out this website called Make Your Own.  You will find tons of recipes for homemade like cleaners, hair products, air fresheners etc.    


On my prayer list:::
Friends and Family


Bible verse, Devotional::: 

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.
– Titus 1:15 (NIV)

Baker Towers Book Review - TLC Tours


Jennifer Haigh's second novel is an intimate portrait of love and family, which will appeal to fans of Anne Tyler and Carol Shields. Stanley Novak is a first-generation Polish immigrant. Seeking a better life, he settles in Bakerton and finds work in the booming local mine. He meets and marries Rose, a shy, beautiful Italian girl. They move to a mine-owned house in an area of town known as Polish Hill, teeming with immigrants from all over Europe, all chasing the American Dream. Five children follow for the Novaks. The Novak children belong to what will someday be known as the Greatest Generation, but for now, they are just trying to find their identities in a vastly changing world. The five children could not be more different. The eldest, George, avoids signing up but is drafted to the Pacific when America joins the war. He comes home determined to leave Bakerton behind, but finds it much more difficult the second time around. Dorothy is a fragile and naive girl, who finds it hard to cope with her desk job in Washington. Joyce, fiercely intelligent, must hold the family together and remains bitterly aware of the life that she could have had. Sandy, the youngest boy, swans through life with his movie-star looks, never taking responsibility for his actions. And Lucy, the youngest, must find her own path in the shadow of her formidable siblings. Haigh gives us a beautiful snapshot of a small town -- of company houses and union squabbles; the boom and bust of the post-war years; the immigrant neighbourhoods of Swedetown, Little Italy and Polish Hill; the miners, undertakers, soldiers, firemen and housewives who populate the town and bring it to life.

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I think ever since I became addicted to Downton Abbey and the whole WW theme surrounding it, I've been on a World War kick, devouring any book, tv series or movie I can get my hands on.

To be honest that is what first caught my eye with this book.  Not just the summary but the beautiful cover.

The novel is centered on the Pennsylvania coal town of Bakerton, and the towers in the title are actually two piles of mine waste, two bigs towers of coal and dirt, always there, always reminding everyone.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this book, following the lives of the Novak children in the aftermath of the death of their father.  We get to see how the characters develop, what they want from life and how they go about getting it.  The boys eventually leave the small town which is something they've been yearning to do all their lives, but the girls in the family end up leaving only to return to the place that pulls at their heart strings.

I think Jennifer Haigh did a phenomenal job with this book, she captivates an era that is still drawing attention to this day and she pulls you right in.



THANK YOU TO TLC BOOK TOURS FOR PROVIDING ME WITH A REVIEW COPY. IF YOU WANT TO CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE TOUR, HERE ARE THE NEXT STOPS:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cooking Thursday


cookingthursday
If you want to use the picture, just click here for the original.


Good Morning, here is today's recipe.

It comes from The Amish Cook at Home cookbook which I'm just loving. It's a simple recipe but pretty filling and my family all enjoyed it :)


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Poor Man’s Steak

1 to 1½ lbs. lean hamburger
1 can (10¾-oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 t. salt
Pepper
¼ t. garlic powder
1 c. dry bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 small onion, chopped
Mix all of the ingredients except for the cream of mushroom soup and shape into a narrow loaf pan. Let set for at least 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Slice into pieces and grill or fry just enough to brown each side.
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Put slices in layers in a roaster pan and spread cream of mushroom soup over it (without adding water).
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Bake for one hour at 325°.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy Homemaker #10


Happy Homemaker Monday

If you want to save and use the new button, just click here.


The weather:::
We've had a beautiful weekend, already sporting shorts and flip flops again.  52 degrees right now and a high of 87 degrees....yeah you heard right....87 degrees.  Good grief.  





On my reading pile:::  
Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clarks
Bible in 1 Year
Joyce Meyer:  Promises for your everyday life


On my TV:::
Upstairs Downstairs Season 2 - Episode 3
The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardeners 


On the menu for this week:::
Monday -  Poor Man's Steak w/ egg noodles 
Tuesday - Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken w/ mashed potatoes
Wednesday - Creamed Chicken Florentine
Thursday - Sirloin Steaks w/ Mushroom sauce, potato wedges
Friday - Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan
Saturday - Chicken Carbonara Risotto
Sunday -  Makeover Rigatoni with Bacon and Asparagus


On my to do list:::
Homeschooling
Laundry
Bathrooms
Change Bed Linens


What I am sewing, crocheting, knitting or creating:::
Been busy getting homemade products made.
Still have my ripple pillow and the quilt to work on so haven't started any other project


In Homeschooling:::
We skipped school on Friday so today we'll be catching up on our work.  Jasmine has to create a newspaper article, and she's happy about that as she loves writing.  Nicholas and I are still working on the planets, moon etc.  


Looking around the house:::
My washing machine is running with the first load of many for the day.  My husband is sitting across from me surrounded by study material as he studies his last day before taking his test for promotion to Master Sergeant tomorrow.  I have a beautiful Hyacinth right next to me on the table.  The kids are on the computer playing a game and my kitchen is desperately needing attention.  


From the camera:::
Homemade Laundry Detergent....if you want to give it a try, be sure to scroll down to yesterday's post.  

Homemade Laundry Detergent


Something fun to share:::
Have you ever heard of the Wisconsin Vegetable Gardeners?  It's this great channel on YouTube, where a husband and wife post weekly videos about gardening in their own home, tips, tricks, even recipes.  It's very cute and I'm enjoying watching them :)


On my prayer list:::
All the families who have been and will be affected by the current crazy tornado weather.
My husband for tomorrow's promotion test, if he can make Master Sergeant then he can extend for another 2 years in the military which will greatly help when it's time for retirement.


Bible verse, Devotional::: 

Proverbs 10:22-26:

22 The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
23 It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.
24 The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

NOTE:  To make this big batch, I spent less than $20.....

So as I said in my previous post, I'm trying to switch to a majority of homemade products.  It won't be easy because for so many years we've grown accustomed to just purchasing what is readily available, but I think it's also become pretty obvious not just to us as a family, that things are getting really expensive and it seems that the more we pay, the less product we get.

I've tried homemade laundry detergent before, but it was the liquid kind and honestly, I just didn't like it.  I also tried one other powdered recipe a long time ago that I didn't much care for either.

The one that I've been using for quite some time now, is the one found at Being Creative.  I use the exact same recipe she does, just that I add Purex Crystals to mine, and it smells amazing.

I have had no issues with this recipe and it makes a super big batch which lasts me almost a year, to be honest.

If you've never tried homemade laundry detergent, the first time you do, you may be a little confused as it really does not produce any bubbles, but that is not a bad thing, because honestly it washes the clothes so well that I can do without bubbles.

One thing some may ask about is how well the soap dissolves in the water.  I use both cold and warm water when I do laundry and I've never had a problem with the soap not dissolving.  What I like to do though, is to first start my washer and get some water in there, then I add the detergent and THEN I add the clothes.

You only need about 1 to 2 tablespoons of this detergent for each load.

I am always surprised at how clean my clothes look and how soft they feel when I take them out of the dryer. I also do throw in my wool dryer balls which help with the softening as well.  So I can safely say, that when it comes to Laundry in my home, we're pretty much on the full Homemade product scale :)

Note:  You can find all of these products in your detergent aisle, save for the Baking Soda which will be in your baking aisle.   However, my base commissary does not carry the Fels-Naptha or the Zote soap bars, so I had to get those at Walmart.  So you can get everything you need at Walmart if you want to just buy everything in one trip.


Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent


4 lb 12 oz box of Borax
4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
3 lb 7 oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap (or Zote)
3 lb container of Oxy Clean, or two of the smaller ones, to make about 3lbs
1 container Purex Crystals


Homemade Laundry Detergent

Start out by grating your soap with a cheese grater.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 This for me is the longest step and takes quite a bit of muscle work.   I did find a shortcut online.  You can pop the soap bar into the microwave and nuke it for about a minute, it will foam up like a marshmallow.  Let it cool down completely and it will turn into a powdery substance.

Combine all the ingredients in a 5 gallon container.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 Store and use however you like.  Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 I have a big see through container with a lid, that I keep in my laundry room.  I just tossed in a little plastic scoop and that's it :).

Homemade Laundry Detergent

If you have a front loading HE washer, this detergent works well but needs to be added to the barrel instead of the dispenser.  My washer is not an HE front loader, so I can't vouch for that, but it seems that a lot of the HE owners that use this detergent haven't had any issues.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

Yes or no?

I will say that for a long time I didn't quite understand the need to have any, when I could just throw in a dryer sheet and call it good.  But since I AM trying to switch to as much homemade stuff as I can, I decided that it was as good a time as any, to get into the Wool Ball making.

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

If you've been using these for a while, you know just how neat they are and if you, like me, have never had them before, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Besides, it's a good way to use up those extra balls of yarn you have laying around the house.

So you may be wondering, what are the pros of using these, and that is a very valid question, so here is what I have found:


  • They are free of chemicals usually found in dryer sheets and laundry softener
  • They help keep items crease free
  • They seem to separate the clothes in the dryer quite well, therefore cutting down the time of drying
  • They are way less expensive than purchasing some
  • Believe it or not, they are pretty sturdy

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

Here's how you make them.

Grab the yarn you want to use, start wrapping it around two of your fingers several times, then pull it off your fingers and wrap the yarn around the opposite way, in other words you want to hold it in place so it won't fall apart.

And this is the fun part, just continue to wrap the yarn around, going all different directions.  Wrap it tightly, or as tightly as you can manage.  I dropped mine countless times *sigh* LOL

You want it to be around the size of a tennis ball.

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

Next, you're going to grab either a crochet hook or an upholstery needle, and you're going to weave the end of the yarn into the ball, I actually went one way and then turned and went back another, just wanted to be sure it was not going to fall apart.

Now grab a pair of pantyhose, I actually had a new pair sitting around which I had totally forgotten about and was not going to need.  Cut one of the legs off.

Take one of the yarn balls and stick it into the sock, all the way to the toes.  Take a piece of embroidery thread and tie a knot just above it.

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

Shove another ball in there and tie another knot after it, continue in that fashion for however many yarn balls you have.

Now you want to throw it in the washer and dryer. You are aiming for the hottest setting both on the wash cycle and the dryer cycle....I just threw mine in with a load I was about to start.

And that's it. They are now ready to use.  Remove them from the stocking and just toss them in whenever you dry a load of clothes :)


Homemade Wool Dryer Balls

The more you use them, the softer they'll become and the more felted they will be. I'm already noticing a difference in my laundry :)

Tomorrow I'll be making a big batch of Homemade Powdered Detergent, and so my journey to using homemade products continues.

I would love to hear from any of you out there who use your own laundry detergent or dryer wool balls.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cooking Thursday


cookingthursday
If you want to use the picture, just click here for the original.




Well, I wish I had a good reason for this post going up a little later than usual, but the truth is, I don't....other than the fact that I thought today was Wednesday LOL

I have my days all mixed up for some reason.

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Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

4 flour tortillas (10 inches)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 large onion, diced
Few dashes of Tabasco
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 green onions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
Provolone and Mozzarella
Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan. Use the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground turkey, onion, tabasco, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and meat is brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add beans and beer, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions, and remove from heat. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans, some sliced green onions,
Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
and sliced provolone and mozzarella. Repeat three times, finishing with a few more slices of cheese.
Bake until cheese melts, 20 to 25 minutes.
Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
Remove side of pan; sprinkle pie with green onions. To serve, slice into wedges.