Monday, July 25, 2011

Meal Plan Monday - July 25th

Sunday - Grilled Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, Mac and Cheese, Ramen Noodle Salad,  Italian Cream Cheese Pie
Monday - Movie, Pizza and Chinese
Tuesday - Meatball Subs, Chips
Wednesday - Fish and Chips, Hush Puppies, Mac and Cheese, Roasted Potatoes (pick up)
Thursday - Tacos or Nachos
Friday -Lemon Chicken Piccata, Angel Hair Pasta,  Salad, Fruit
Saturday - Chef Salads, Fruit

For more great meal plans visit I'm An Organized Junkie.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Porch Make Over Reveal

I posted a couple of weeks ago that my porch was in need of a little make over. I am happy to show off my once again lovely back porch  - where I sit right now with a cup of coffee and Rhett (my adorable French Bulldog) enjoying the peacefulness of this summer morning. 

Here's the before -

 Old, faded cushions, not many pillows, in serious need of pressure washing, not as inviting as I would like.

And the after -
 Everything has been cleaned and washed.  All new cushions and lots of pillows!  I bought the base cushions at Wal-Mart on clearance, but made all the pillows (thanks to a Joann's 50% off sale on all decorator fabrics).  The burlap pillows I stenciled and just stitched together, stuffing with polyfil.  The other pillows are outdoor decorator fabrics and are actually pillow covers, so I can take them off and wash then as needed.  I followed a great tutorial from A Pretty Cool Life. 
 So much brighter and more welcoming.  i love the lanterns of the coffee table.  Found them at IKEA for $4 each.  They hold a small votive candle and look great when lit at night.  I still need a new rug.  I bought one, but decided there was too much white in the pattern and it would be dirty by the end of the first party.  I'm thinking about painting a piece of vinyl linoleum....

The swing area may be my biggest improvement, considering there was a punching bag sitting here just a couple of days ago.  I added several flowers, a lemon and key lime tree and a cute little tile table I picked up at Target on clearance.

I am thrilled with my little porch make over, especially the price.  I did it all for under $300, including $90 for the two citrus trees.
Rhett Butler certainly approves!

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Meal Plan Monday - July 18th

For the most part, we stuck to our meal plan eventhough I wasn't feeling well most of the week.  I am carrying over one recipe this week and I have Bunco and DH and I have our bi-monthly Supper Club this weekend as well.  Why do all the fun things happen the same week? 

Sunday - Grilled Skirt Steak, Baked Potato Casserole, Green Beans, Cucumber Slices
Monday - Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Salad, Garlic Bread (carried over from last week)
Tuesday - Chicken Bacon Sub, Salad, Peaches
Wednesday - Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Strips, Green Beans, Baked Potato Casserole
Thursday - Leftover Buffet
Friday - Bunco
Saturday - Supper Club

For more meal plans, visiti SnowWhite at Finding Joy in My Kitchen who is hosting this week for Laura.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July Counterfeit Challenge

I am REALLY late to the party this month, but I couldn't resist putting a kit together based on one of this month's add-on kits over at Counterfeit Kit Challenge.  I am a sucker for Americana and just LOVE the 4th of July.  However, the real inspiration for my kit was Julie Ann's at Inspiration for Generation C 2.0.  I had been toying around with the idea of not doing the main kit and focusing on the Liberty Shores add -on from PolkaDot Whimsey.  Once I say Julie Ann's take on Liberty Shores, I was hooked. 

Here's my version -

Kit Contents
Patterned Papers-
Doodlebug Boy a Boy Dotted Line
Coredinations Vintage Blue
MOD Primary Stripe
Doodlebug Ladybug Picnic
Li'l Davis White Monogram
Making Memories Watercolor Royal Blue Plaid
Making Memories Watercolor Red Dreamy Dots Dark
Doodlebug Stars and Stripes
Doodlebug Cheerfully Christmas Grid
various red, white and blue scraps from my stash

Cardstock -
2 - White
2 - Blad
2 - Royal Blue
2 - Bright Red

Red and Blue Baker's Twine (I made my own! - tutorial here)
3 patriotic fabric swatches
red and white stitched ribbon
red, white and blue striped ribbon
blue with red polka dot ribbon
chipboard tag and 2 red chipboard stars
6 star buttons
3 mini slide clips
2 Cricut die cuts from the Calendar Cartridge

This is a small kit for me, but I know I will use it.  In fact, I have already ordered my pictures! 

For more great scrapbooking inspiration hop over to the July Linky at the Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meal Plan Monday - July 9th

Sunday - Grilled Hamburgers, Baked Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Cucumbers and Tomatoes from the garden, Watermelon Slices
Monday - Grilled Chicken Salad, Watermelon Slices
Tuesday - Tacos, Natalie's Texas Beans, Salad, Watermelon Slices
Wednesday -Out for dinner
Thursday - Baked Potato Bar
Friday - Leftover Buffet
Saturday - Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Salad and Foccacia

For over 300 menu plans every Mondayh, visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Favorite Canning Resources

I remember helping my grandmother can just about everything growing up.  I always thought it was so hard and was afraid to try it.  However as my grandmother has gotten older and doesn't can as much anymore I found myself missing her jellies and relishes.  So, 3 years ago I took the plunge and bought a Ball Canning Kit at Walmart and made my first jelly.  I found out that if you follow the directions and don't get creative, it is really very simple.  Hard work, but simple. 

I have found the following resources to be invaluable in learning how to can as well as for a wonderful variety of recipes and ideas.

The Ball Blue Book

 In my opinion this is the canning bible.  It has detailed, step by step instructions on how to can and freeze just about anything.  If you read and follow their directions, you will not only can delicious food, but you will do it safely. 

Some of my favorite recipes from this book are Strawberry Jam, Pepper Jelly, Quick Grape Jelly, Bing Cherry Jam, Sweet and Sour Pepper Relish

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

This book has 400 different canning recipes.  It is a great resource for traditional recipes as well as more modern combinations.  The how to portions are not as detailed as that of the Blue Book.  The most useful part for me that I turn to over and over again if the Produce Purchase Guide.  It is a very accurate guide for how much fruit or vegetables you need to get the correct yield for the recipe.  I use this ALL the time. 

Some of my favorite recipes from this book are Peach Jam and Cherries in Syrup. 

Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication - Canning
This magazine is on sale at retail stores until August 9th.  Run out now and get it!  It has some really interesting recipes, many great recipes for gift giving.  It starts with "10 super-simple, no brainer" canning recipes, perfect for the beginner. 

Some of my favorite recipes from this magazine are Tomato Basil Jam and Vidalia Onion and Maple Conserve

If you are interested in learning to can, you can't go wrong with these resources. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Freezer Cooking

It's that time again, time for me to fill my freezer with lots of things for us to eat when school (lacrosse, cheerleading, tennis, gymnastics) starts in August.   I will spend several days in the kitchen cooking all kinds of things to make sure we eat well and don't resort to the drive thru for dinner.  You can see my planning process from last year here, as well as the recipes I made.  Below is my plan for this year.

Disclaimer-- This is a very ambitious plan, composed of many, many recipes and ingredients, spread out over many days. 

Beef Recipes
Beer Chili - DONE
Sloppy Joes - DONE
Taco Meat (just taco seasoning and ground beef) - DONE
Meatballs - DONE
Meatloaf - DONE
Beef Mix (ground beef seasoned with onions and garlic) - DONE
Skirt Steak (1 with Alton Brown's Marinade, 1 with Beer Marinade) - DONE

Poultry Recipes
Crockpot Taco Chicken (just taco seasoning and chicken breasts) - DONE
Crockpot Whole Chicken and Broth (for pot pie and soups) - DONE
Marinated Chicken Breasts
   Basic Marinated - DONE
   Dijon - DONE
   Bottle O'Beer - DONE
   Lemon Pepper - DONE
   Sweet and Sour Catalina Chicken Strips - DONE
   BBQ (using our Restaurant's BBQ sauce) - DONE
Parmesan Chicken Strips - DONE
Chicken Bacon Subs * - DONE
Mediterranean Roast Chicken *
Teriyaki Strips * - DONE

Kentucky Bourbon Pork Chops - DONE
Mozzarella Stuffed Sausage Meatballs (just the meatballs, will make the sauce fresh) - DONE

Side Dishes
Natalie's Beans - DONE
Mac and Cheese
Hashbrown Casserole
Mashed Potatoes
Baked Potato Casserole - DONE
Broccoli Casserole
Lima Beans - DONE

Meal Starters
Northern Beans (for soups) - DONE
Pizza Dough (scroll to bottom of post for crust recipe)
Easy Crockpot Red Sauce - DONE
Chopped Onions - DONE

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Kentucky Sugar Cookies (second recipe in post)
Cowgirl Cookies *
Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Zucchini Whoopie Pies *
Chex Mix
Chocolate Sauce
Ranch Dressing Mix - DONE

Breakfast Burritos
Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
Pancakes - DONE
Apple Granola
   Blueberry Orange
   Pineapple *

* New to us recipes
Here's what the next few days look like -
Day One - Inventory Freezer, select recipes, create master ingredient list, inventory pantry, create grocery lists.  - DONE
Day Two - Shop - I NEVER shop and cook in the same day.  I usually end up at 4 different stores (Costco, Restaurant Depot, Publix and Walmart) and that makes for a very tiring day.  I usually prep the onions, garlic, etc, but I don't assemble anything. - DONE
Day Three - Beef Recipes - these are the most complicated, time consuming recipes, so I do them when I am still fresh and excited about this endeavor...
Day Four - Chicken and Pork Recipes
Day Five - Side Dishes and Breakfast
Day Six - Baking Day and any breakfast items that don't get done the day before - these are the things we can live without.  If I really run out of steam, I can come back later and make these items. 

*** I will use my crockpot daily - for example on Beef Day, I will make Natalie's Beans as they cook a long time and require no attention after I put them in the crockpot, I will do the northern beans another day, the Crockpot Red Sauce another, etc.  This is an attempt to make the best use of my time on cooking days. 

In between all of this I will also be doing my summer canning  and freezing, but that is a topic for another post....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July Decor

Each year I add to our 4th of July porch decor.  This year I made pennant banners and a flag painting.  I have wanted to make pennant banners for a long time and after finding a GREAT tutorial at Your Homebased Mom, I made 6 in just one afternoon.  Leigh Anne created VERY easy to follow directions and I love the results.  I used more fabrics than Leigh Anne did, simply because I had 1/4 yds of a variety of 4th of July fabrics left from another project.  You know, use what you've got and all that!

My second project was a flag painting using my kids hand and feet prints.  They had a great time making this wonderful keepsake.  I lifted this idea too, from Beth at Sewing for Sanity.  I used a 22 x 28 artist canvas for 2 reasons -- first,  I had a pretty large space to full and secondly, my son's feet are pretty big! 

Here are my two artists, usually my son, at 12, is reluctant to participate in my crafting endeavors, but he even let my daughter paint his feet for the project. 

 And finally, a view of our completed porch for the festivities.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mozzarella Stuffed Sausage Balls or Boo Boo Cooks Her First Meal, Start to Finish!

My daughter loves to watch Food Network.  We were watching 30-Minute Meals yesterday and the recipes Rachael Ray was making looked delicious.  Boo Boo asked to make the entire meal for dinner.  We made Mozzarella Stuffed Sausage Balls with Tomato- Basil Sauce, Cacio e Pepe Potatoes and Roast Broccolini.  We made 2 changes - subbing italian sausage and ground pork for the chicken sausage and asparagus for the broccolini and we actually completed the meal in 30 minutes. 

Boo Boo did 80% of the work for the entire meal.  She was so proud of herself, she called her Nanny to invite her to dinner and she even talked her brother in to cutting some hydrangeas from the garden to decorate the table.  It was delicious and we are putting the entire menu into our Family Favorites file.

 Tossing the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.
 Mashing potatoes with chicken broth, milk, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
 Adding pesto to the crushed tomatoes.
All ready to eat!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Back Porch Update Plans

I think I've said it before, but it bears repeating again, I LOVE my back porch.  It is my favorite "room" in my house.  Five years ago we covered our 14 x 36 concrete slab porch and created a space we use from March until December. 


 As much as we love it, the porch is in need of a little update.  Here's what's in store for the porch over the next couple of weeks -

  • New Porch Cushions (already got these on sale!)
  • Spray Paint and Decorate Baker's Rack I inherited from a moving neighbor
  • Paint concrete floor (not sure this will happen this summer, but hoping....)
  • Make and hang drop cloth curtains on one section (stealing this idea)
  • Make new pillows to match new cushions (using this fabric)
  • Stain and seal bar stools and porch swing
  • Remove punching bag and extra wood from another project
  • Clean out bar area
  • Re-do 2 flower beds surrounding east side of porch (one will be an herb garden/cutting flower area)
If I work really hard, I might have most of it done by the July 4th!