Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And here I thought the stress would end after the holidays...

....and the house should be cleaned too, right?  I dunno, I guess life has been a few steps ahead of me lately.  I suppose it's normal to be in a bit of a slump this time of year...  The snow just won't go away- as soon as you think it's over, there it is the next morning.  It's getting a little frustrating.  I JUST WANT TO GO OUTSIDE.

Spring will be here soon enough...  according to, at least.

In the meantime, I've had even more crafty A.D.D. than usual.  I'm still trying to finish the embroidery that should have only taken a couple of days, but the idea of this craft sale I'm doing with my "wife" (best friend of many years) has me a little flighty with my crafting.  I'm doing my market bags and produce bags...  and maybe a few other things.

There are three sizes...  this picture shows (from left to right) 
a small bag and two medium ones. produce bags!
I cannot stress enough just how much I love these things.
They're so tiny, but they stretch and hold SO much!
(I apologize for the slightly blurry picture, this was the best out of ten or so)

I'm debating whether or not to sell the pattern for the bags...  they're crocheted.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pasta...

...Oh, yeah.  That's what I'm talkin' about.  It's really good stuff and is crazy easy to tweak if you space out putting things in the crock pot like I've done.  I'll give you the *real* recipe first...

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Pasta
printable version of this recipe (with images)
printable version of this recipe (without images)

1 lb chicken breast, chopped
1 (11 1/2 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup hot sauce for buffalo wings (I like the Archer Farms brand from Target, which has no HFCS)
6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup blue cheese salad dressing
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 cups penne

Season chicken with salt and pepper and put it in the slow cooker. Add the chicken soup
and hot sauce and stir. Cook on LOW 4-6 hours or HIGH 2-3. Stir in cheese, salad
dressing and sour cream and turn off the slow cooker. Boil pasta according to package
instructions, drain well and add to the chicken sauce mixture. Stir well and serve with
salad and plenty of crusty bread.

After making this once, I realized that it's just a *little* too spicy for my younger kids, so now I don't mix the pasta into the sauce, but I top it with the sauce.

I have also made it on the stove top, sauteing the chicken, then adding the the soup and buffalo sauce.  Allow it to simmer for a few minutes, just until it's hot and add the other ingredients.  I've even used canned chicken in a pinch.

It *always* turns out tasty.

Let me know what you think if you try it!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Homemade natural cleaners...

...I've been sharing about making these on my personal Facebook page over the past few months.  When I first started making them I was a little unsure about how well they would work, but I knew I wanted to use natural cleaners and buying them at the store was breaking the bank.  After using them for a few months, I've grown to love them.  It's also helpful that you can make so many different cleaners with only a few ingredients!

What you'll need:

  • Borax
  • Arm & Hammer washing soda
  • bar soap of your choice
  • white vinegar
  • rubbing alcohol
  • filtered or distilled water
  • essential oil of you choice, citrus scents work well (optional)
from left to right, top to bottom: water, borax, washing soda,
rubbing alcohol, vinegar, bar soap, all natural essential oil

What you can make with these few ingredients:

  • dishwasher detergent
  • dishwasher rinse aid
  • general cleaner
  • glass cleaner
  • laundry detergent
  • fabric softener
  • mop water
from left to right: vinegar, fabric softener, laundry detergent,
glass cleaner, general cleaner

You *will* get a lot for you money!  I promise! let's get on with how to make them...

Dishwasher Detergent
Mix equal parts borax and washing soda.  Make sure you mix them well and get out all of the lumps of washing soda - I do this in a zipper freezer bag.  Use about 1 Tbsp per load.

Dishwasher Rinse Aid
Fill the rinse aid thingie in your dishwasher with vinegar.  It's like magic.

General (Almost) All-purpose Cleaner
Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half purified water.  Give it a shake to mix it all up.  The vinegar disinfects and the smell goes away quickly.

Glass Cleaner
Fill a spray bottle halfway with rubbing alcohol, add one Tbsp. vinegar and fill it up the rest of the way with purified water.  Shake it up.  

Laundry Detergent
Mix one cup borax and one cup washing soda.  Using a fine cheese grater, grate a bar of soap into the mixture.  Use about 1/8 c. for each load of laundry...  do it like this:  Start your washer with HOT water (you can change it to the temp you want in a minute).  Add your detergent directly under the water while it's starting to fill.  Give it a couple of seconds so the detergent will dissolve a little bit.  Change the water temp if you like.  Proceed as usual.
NOTE: When you grate your soap, do it *slowly* and *carefully*  ...I cannot stress enough that you need to pay attention while you're doing this.  I grated off part of a knuckle the first time I did this.  It was a lot easier the second time, since I knew I had to take it slowly.  

Fabric Softener
Mix equal parts water and vinegar.  Add a few drops of essential oil, if you like - only enough so that you can just barely smell it through the vinegar.  The amount that you add will depend on the scent that you choose.  Now, you can either add it during the rinse cycle, or you can keep in in a tub and leave some cotton fabric squares soaking in it.  When you need a fabric softener sheet, just wring out a sheet and toss it in the dryer with your wet clothes.  The vinegar helps to break down any leftover detergent residue and deodorizes as well.  

Mop Water
You can add a splash of vinegar to hot water when mopping most types of flooring.  This is actually how most flooring companies recommend that you clean hardwood floors.

...I have gotten all of my ingredients at stores like Walmart or the dollar store.  I also picked up all of my spray bottles, tubs, measuring cups and the cheese grater at the dollar store.  You can expect to spend around $15-20 on everything the first time you make it all.  After that, it'll only be a few dollars at a time to keep individual ingredients stocked.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A gift for my readers...

...Menu planner printables! (click on the link below the picture to print....  please let me know if you're having any issues printing these, thanks!)


(use these with my menu planner tutorial)

Also, please note that this is *not* my artwork...  this is all stuff that I got off of sites offering images for free, such as and others that I can't remember at the moment.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Apparently, I can't write while I'm listening to music that I love...

....because I want to start writing the lyrics!  So, rather than a post about my menu planner, you're going to get Regina Spektor lyrics instead.  That's cool, right?

No, I'm kidding....  but if you really want to sing along, here's the playlist I'm listening to:

Anyway, earlier tonight I realized that I didn't take any meat or anything out for dinner....  after posting this dilemma on Facebook ("Hmm...What to make for dinner tonight....?"), I got a few suggestions from some friends and a comment from my mom, "What's on your menu board?!?!?"


So, I went to my kitchen and grabbed it.  I filled out what we ate last night and went to work at filling it out for the rest of the week.  (Thanks for keeping me on track, Mom!)

Here's what it is: 
  • a 8 1/2" x 11" picture frame from the dollar store
  • a dry-erase marker
  • a piece of paper to fit your frame with the days of the week printed on it (I cut some scrapbook paper to fit and avoided using color ink that way)
  • some ribbon or string to hang the marker from the frame and to hang the frame if you like - I used hemp for mine
  • staples to secure the string for the marker to the frame
I think you can figure it out from there.  It literally took about five minutes in all.  Here's how you do it:
  1. Cut the paper to fit your frame and print the days of the week on it.
  2. Take the back off of the frame and clean the glass on the inside.  Let it dry.
  3. Fit the paper into the frame and put the back on the frame.
  4. Cut your ribbon or string to the desired length and tie it around the cap of the dry-erase marker (you can glue it if you please)
  5. CAREFULLY staple the other end of the ribbon or string to the *back of the upper right corner* of the frame
  6. You could be done now if you wanted to be, or you could tie a loop of ribbon or string to the back of the frame ( I just tied mine to the little metal hangie thing that was already on the frame)
  7. Hang it up in you kitchen or dining room
  8. Write your menu on it!
I totally made that more steps than it needed to be just to make it look like it was more work than it really was.

This is what mine looks like...
...but I made four or five inserts because I have decorating ADD.

I'm going to try to put together a few different styles of meal planners to share with you, my readers.  Hopefully I'll have them up in the next couple of days...  If I don't, please bug me about them 'cause I probably just spaced it out due to the chaos that comes with motherhood.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

February's inspiration...

...from my inspiration jar is "Exercise/get moving 3x a week."  Not a bad one.  I'm not sure if I put this on the list of things I was going to put in the jar, but it's one that I need to make a point of following through with.  I'm going to start today by lengthening the walk home from Rye's bus stop this afternoon- instead of the two blocks home, we'll walk a few extra blocks.  I'll make it at least twenty minutes and get the kids involved, too.

I'm also working on changing my eating habits, adding LOTS more veggies and upping my proteins with lots of good, organic, cage-free eggs (they're TWO DOZEN for $5.99 at Costco!  Cheap!) and Greek yogurt.

Another change I'm making this month is omitting the use of grocery bags...  this one is going to take teamwork with my fiance, but it was kind of his idea so it shouldn't take too much prodding, right?  We already have a whole bunch of reusable shopping bags, and I'm making some that are smaller and lighter weight produce bags (with these patterns).  Now to remember to bring them IN the store!  I remembered to bring them with me the other day, but then forgot them in the car...  if I had been alone, or even had another adult with me, I would have gone out and gotten them, but I wasn't going to with the kids with me.  Next time.

Some of this month's inspiration...
(yeah, I know I misspelled "exercise")

February is going to be a good month.  Garden planning, seed starting and hopefully starting to compost (depending on the weather), lots more changes!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm not one of "those girls"....

...who goes and pays too much money to get her nails done.  If you're the type, I'm not judging...  it's just a waste of money for someone like me who gets her hands dirty A LOT.  That, and since I had my kids I just don't get to paint like I used to, so I give myself a few minutes every week or so to remind myself of how to use a paintbrush.  

Anyway, like lots of other ladies, I do my nails and get excited about the pretty colors....  try to show my fiance (expecting *some* reaction...  really, anything would be nice)...  and nothing.  Then it hit me the other night.  He doesn't care because what I'm showing him doesn't interest him ::duh::, so if I want him to react, I have to show him something that he'll find interesting!    

(please ignore the messy edges, I still had some cleaning up to do)

When I showed him, I told him that my nails disappeared (a joke he likes to make when he's wearing camo- "You can't see me!").  He chuckled, then informed me that it was the wrong kind of camo...  can I do the kind with leaves, he asked.  I told him sure, if I had the tools...  maybe this means I'll get one of those neat nail stamp plates?

Yeah, probably not.

...and now for something completely different...

It was my Rye's 6th birthday yesterday!!!  I can't believe how much she's grown up in the last year...  she really is turning into quite the little lady.  

I love this girl!