Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Adventures

Christmas is NOT about the latest toys or getting a good bargain. My children won't be getting all the latest gadgets and we don't spend a lot of money. They always have a nice, but not "over the top" Christmas. They know that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, spending time together, and sharing with others (trying to keep the TV off as much as possible helps with this).

Surprisingly though, my mom and I have a tradition of shopping on Black Friday. Not so much because we're super eager shoppers trying to get bargains, but because it's so much fun to spend that time together. Usually by lunch time we are giggling together like a couple of school girls.

This year we met at Target a little after 6:00am (no 3:00am shopping for us). We got right in, but the store was PACKED! It was shoulder to shoulder, especially in the electronics section. We decided that nothing was worth that, so we looked around at the other areas of the store. Mom needed a few things for her dogs, so she picked those up and we headed to check out. The check out line snaked all along one whole side of the store! She decided she didn't need those things after all and we left Target (after going around the back of the store to try and get around the people waiting to check out).

We were so worn out after Target that we decided we needed Starbucks. :) I rarely go there (I can't justify spending that kind of money for coffee very often) so it was a special treat and I enjoyed every last drop of my skinny vanilla latte.

We then headed to Wal-Mart. By this time it was around 7:30 so I guess we missed all the crowd. We saw lots of smiling faces and didn't have any trouble finding what we wanted (I wasn't buying a TV or video game system so maybe that's why). Every check out lane was open and we were out of there in record time. I take back all those mean things I've said about shopping at Wal-Mart. :) Unfortunately I can't tell you about the good deals I got there because my kids might read it, but let's just say I'm almost done shopping for them.

Of course, I couldn't shop on Black Friday without hitting CVS. I got Aussie shampoo and conditioner, 2 bottles of Gatorade, Garnier Nutritioniste facial cleansing wipes, Colgate Total toothpaste, Maybelline Mineral Power foundation, Cover Girl powder, Sally Hansen nail polish, Loreal lip gloss, and a Hershey's chocolate bar all for about $9 and I earned over $28 in ECBs for next time.

Did you venture out for Black Friday?
You can find other Black Friday posts at Money Saving Mom.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Southern Pecan Pie

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecan halves or pieces

Ina bowl, slightly beat eggs and sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk and vanilla. Blend well. Add pecans. (I usually save about half the pecans to arrange on top.)

Pour into unbaked 9" pie shell (You can find my pie crust recipe here). Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is puffed in center and is well browned. Let pie cook before cutting. I probably could have let mine brown another 5 minutes or so, but it tasted just fine. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baking Pies

Pecan Pie
Pecan Pie

We're having our Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's tomorrow and I'm taking my "famous" pecan pie. It's so good! I'll also be making broccoli and rice and cheese grits.

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods? I have to admit that I look forward to pecan pie all year. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Laundry System

Laundry on a Clothesline by Steve Raymer
Laundry on a Clothesline

When my children were very young, I didn't really have any sort of a system for laundry. I just did loads when we ran out of clean clothes to wear. :) We were constantly searching through the laundry basket to find some item of clothing. I don't know that I saw the bottom of that basket for years. This, of course, resulted in lots of tension around the house when Peter needed a baseball uniform for the game in half an hour and it was crumpled up on the laundry room floor, or Mike needed his blue dress shirt to wear to work and it was wet and sour because I left it in the washer all night.

I was finally forced to change my ways when we put our first little house on the market. Cindy was a tiny baby and all seven of us were crammed into three bedrooms and 1300 square feet. I cleaned and de-cluttered like a madwoman for a week before the "for sale" sign went up (with lots of help from retrohousewife).

I soon came to realize that often realtors would only give 15 minutes notice (if that) before bringing clients by to see the house. I HAD to stay on top of things. The large laundry room was a great feature of the house and I wanted to show it off. That couldn't happen if they had to climb over a mountain of dirty clothes to even get in the door. :)

That was when I decided to get a system in place to make sure that my laundry stayed done. My goal was to keep the laundry done often enough that there was never a huge pile or laundry forgotten in the washer or dryer.

The first thing I did was to buy a larger laundry basket. Seven people make a lot of laundry and even if I did laundry every day, one of those tiny round baskets wasn't going to work. Next I had a talk with the kids. Everyone but Cindy was big enough to put their laundry in the basket every morning (even two year old Marcia). If their laundry was found anywhere but the basket...early bedtime.

I decided that with the size of our family, I needed to do laundry EVERY day to stay on top of it. I got into a routine of starting a load first thing in the morning (I still do this) and I also realized that I had to fold and put away the clean laundry immediately. No more piling load ofter load on the couch or my bed to fold "later". I had the kids help me listen for the buzz of the dryer and remind me to get the clothes out.

Once I got into the habit of doing laundry every day it was such a relief! It was amazing how it lessened the stress level in our house. No more frantic searching for matching socks, no more clean clothes left to wrinkle. I finally mastered the laundry and it was no longer mastering me!

Each aspect of housekeeping has to be planned and thought about. I guess my plan was hoping that if I ignored Mt. Washmore long enough it would go away. :) If you are in a laundry nightmare, I want to encourage you to learn from my mistakes. Sit down and work out your own laundry system. If you have lots of small children at home, as I did then, your system will of course be different than an empty nest couple or a couple with teenage children.

Let's conquer Mt. Washmore! :)

P.S. We sold the house in only four weeks and got our asking price.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buttermilk Bread

If you've been reading here for long, you know that I love to make bread! There is just something so satisfying about it. The smell of fresh bread makes the whole atmosphere in my house cozy and welcoming. Mike even commented the other day that he lives in a bakery! :)

This bread is one of my favorites. The wheat germ gives it extra nutrition and the honey makes it a beautiful color.

2 Tablespoons dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
3 cups warm 1% buttermilk (it will look curdled when it's warm)
3/4 cup butter or stick margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup honey
3 teaspoons salt
1/2teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
9 to 10 cups all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid), dissolve yeast in warm water. Add buttermilk, butter, honey, salt, baking soda, wheat germ and 4 cups flour; mix well. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a heavily floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. turn onto a floured surface; divide into thirds. Divide each portion into thirds; shape each into a 12 inch rope. Braid three ropes; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Place in a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan onto wire racks. Makes 3 loaves.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hostess Gift Idea

We have hosted Disciple Now weekends in our home several times over the years. The last group we hosted was college age young men. They were so sweet and polite.

They left us with such a sweet gift. They bought one of those Christian spiral flip calendars and each of them picked a day (maybe their birthdays?) and wrote a little thank you note. Now as we go through the year and I turn the pages on the calendar I come across notes that they wrote. It brings a smile to my face over and over and it's something that I will use year round.

This would be a fantastic hostess gift or Christmas gift. You could have your kids write little notes to Grandma for her to find throughout the year. She'll love it and it's inexpensive too! :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Baking Tip

I made banana bread yesterday and my recipe calls for Crisco. I hate cleaning up a greasy measuring cup so I found a different way to measure it. I line the measuring cup with plastic wrap before I fill it with Crisco. Then all I have to do is pull out the plastic wrap, dump the contents in the mixing bowl and voila...a clean measuring cup! :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crock Pot Lasagna

Tonight's supper was lasagna that I made in the slow cooker. It was the first time for me to make this particular recipe. It was really easy and tasted good. I have to admit it's not quite as good as The Pioneer Woman's best lasagna ever, but much easier because it can simmer all day while you're busy. :)

This recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch, Harvest Kitchen.

1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 t. Italian seasoning
8 lasagna noodles, uncooked and broken into thirds
28 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
1/3 c. water
Optional: 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
8 oz. pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine ground beef and Italian seasoning. Arrange half the lasagna noodles in a greased slow cooker. Spread half the ground beef mixture over noodles. top with half each of remaining ingredients. Repeat layering process. Cover and cook for 5 hours on low setting. Serves 10 (well, in my house it serves 6).

Notice the handle (or lack thereof) on the lid of my crock pot. It's been that way for years, but since the crock pot works just fine I limp along without a handle.

Make an easy meal by adding some garlic bread and a salad.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baked Potatoes

I love my slow cooker and today I am making baked potatoes in it. In the morning, just wash your potatoes, pierce them with a fork, wrap in foil and place in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. It's so convenient to make them this way, plus I don't have to heat up the kitchen on an Indian summer day like today.

Tonight I'll make up some taco meat and we'll have that along with shredded cheese and salsa on our baked potatoes.