Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hopping on the Homeschool Bandwagon, sort of!

After a lot of internal debate and a seemingly endless supply of Pinterest posts about it, I have decided to jump in the homeschooling bandwagon, sort of. I will begin homeschool preschool for my two kiddos next week. Jackson will be 4 in a little over a week and Brooklyn is 2 and a half. We debated back and forth about sending him to 4K this year even though his birthday was past the deadline. I am sure we could have "push" him in and he would have done fine. After a lot of research and talking to a few people, we decided it would be better for him to be one of the older ones in his class instead of the baby of his class. He is very smart and I'm sure he would have done fine, but I am happy with our (okay, mostly my) decision. I also want to wait until we have a house bought so we know what school district they will attend. I would hate to start him in 4K this year and move next year.

I did decide I would start a more structured homeschooling schedule this fall with both of them. We have been doing a lot of projects and they love it. It is usually one of the only times during the day where the two of them play nice together. We have also been checking out activity packs from the library and they are wonderful. They consist of a few books  about a central theme and a few activities/games to do at home. I also started making worksheets for Jackson to practice writing his name and he is really good at those. After talking with Jackson and listing to him shriek in excitement about "school" and start rambling a mile a minute about it, I got the feeling he was into it.

Since I am still at home with them everyday, it will be easy to work with them on a daily basis with this. Once I go back to work, depending on my work schedule it might not be as easy. In that case, we will figure something out. But until then, we will start with our themed weeks. I can not stress how much I LOVE Pinterest. I decided that starting a board for each themed week would work well. You can find my board HERE about our first week, Ocean/Fish themed week. We are lucky to have a state of the art fish hatchery in our little town that just had a multimillion dollar renovation so that will be our field trip for the week. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fill the Freezer/Pantry - {Week 1}

Ever since we acquired a [large] chest freezer last fall, I have been working on trying to fill it. I love the idea of freezer cooking but haven't gotten up to that yet. I have been working on making extras of this and that and freezing those. It has worked marginally. Since I am already cooking for 4 adults and 2 toddlers I am usually doubling most recipes so we have leftovers for lunches. So I have been working on freezing mostly baked goods. Last week I made several loaves of zucchini bread and muffins and froze those. My mission for September is to work on filling my pantry and freezer with homemade mixes and staples that we use. I have began making a lot more of our favorites from scratch and it is great. Not only does is save us money, but it limits the ingredients and what we are putting into our body. 

Here is what is on my to-do list for the first week of September:  I think I might skip the cookie dough too this week as my mom ordered 3 boxes of cookie dough from the neighbor boy selling it for his football team and we now have 2 boxes of oatmeal raisin and 1 box of peanut butter chocolate chip in the freezer. [click links for recipes]
I already made the burritos. I made some chicken, bean, salsa, and cheese burritos for my husbands lunches and some Denver omelet burritos for breakfast. I flash freeze my burritos on cookie sheets them individually wrap them in plastic wrap and store in plastic shoe boxes in the freezer. This time I got fancy and made sticky labels to put on the burritos that listed what was in them. I also made the pancake syrup. We had it for breakfast yesterday. I was too stuffed up from my allergies to actually taste it but my kiddos loved it and my husband said it was "different" but it tasted really good when mixed with the butter on the pancakes. I also made the stuffing seasoning mixes, but haven't portioned out and cut up the bread yet.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Think I Can, I Think I Can.....

Since I posted last, I have been in a canning frenzy. I do have to admit, after going on and on about how I could actually can strawberry jam. After careful review, I intact made strawberry sauce that was suppose to be strawberry jam. As a first attempt, I will take it. It is still edible (I think!) and we will be using it tonight on this amazing no-bake cheesecake I whipped up for the family. I am also guessing this sauce will taste amazing on some vanilla ice cream. If you are interested in checking out the wonderful recipe for the no-bake cheesecake you can visit HERE. The recipe states it is blueberry cheesecake but we have made it with cherry topping and strawberry topping and it is equally delicious. It is super easy and way better than that named brand stuff you can buy out of a box and make. Once I figure out where my darling children hid the camera [I just have to remind myself that either one of them could have been twins!] I will be able to post some more pics.

Back to canning.... I am so happy I am learning to can. Thursday I will be attending a class on how to can tomatoes and make salsa. I was hoping to hold out on canning any of our tomatoes until after the class. Well yesterday morning we went to check the garden and we ended up with 30 POUNDS of tomatoes that were ripe and ready to be used. Eek! Luckily Sunday my mom and I had headed up to Fleet Farm and got stocked up on canning supplies. We are pretty set on jars, I did pick up some half pint jars as we didn't have any and I would like to make some things for gifts for the holidays. My mom and brother have been picking jars up for the last few years at rummage sales and this is the first time that anything from their garden has been canned, so there were probably close to 10 dozen jars in the pole building ready to be used, way to go guys! We also picked up some Mrs. Wages sauce mixes. These things are awesome. They are perfect for a newbie like me. We decided that pasta sauce and chili base would be our most used items so we stocked up on those and I got a salsa one to try out.

I am pretty sure I have read the Blue Ball canning guide cover to cover at least twice in the past month. Yesterday was a marathon day of canning for me and I would have to say the results were good. I was a bit relieved when we went to the garden this morning and there was only about 5 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Between yesterday and today, this is what I made:
  • Pasta Sauce - 4 quarts, 5 pints
  • Chili Base Sauce - 10 pints
  • Salsa - Medium - 6 pints [plus a little extra left in the fridge for snacking]
  • Mountain Dew Jelly - 7 half pints 
Not too bad for two days work! I only had two jars that didn't seal. A jar of chili base and a jar of jelly. I noticed a small chip in the lip of the jar that the chili base was in so I am guessing that is the reason that one didn't seal. I am not sure about the jelly.  I am prepared for another marathon day of canning tomorrow as I know there are a lot that are going to be ripe tomorrow. I also roasted 15 cups of  homemade creamed corn and froze that.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I can CAN!

I have wanted to learn how to can for awhile now. Thanks to Pinterest I have become enamored with the idea of making as much as I can from scratch. I have always loved to bake and cook, but nothing like I do now. I bake several days a week. Breads, cookies, candy, bars, cakes, and whatever else I find on Pinterest that looks good! I love to bake for my family, especially making my kids homemade versions of their favorite treats.

I have butter and cream cheese out right now to make some amazingly delicious raspberry cheesecake cookies. These are my husbands favorite cookies right now. Very similar to the ones they have/had at Subway. I have also started doubling most cookie dough recipes and freezing my dough in my mini muffin tins to make dough disks and keep them in the freezer so we can have fresh baked HOMEMADE cookies whenever the mood strikes us. I will try to take pics and post about it tonight or tomorrow!

Anyways.... back to canning! Next week I am planning on attending a canning class at our local library to learn how to can tomatoes and pickles. Last night I decided to bite the bullet and tried canning, like real cook and process in a water bath canning. I poured over the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (a.k.a. the canning Bible) and decided to make strawberry jam. Last month my mom and I went to a u-pick strawberry patch and came home with 27 POUNDS of strawberries. Yikes. We made several batches of freezer jam and froze the rest of the berries whole. The freezer jam is delicious and wonderful. It was my first time ever making freezer jam and it turned out pretty good. I got majorly freaked out by all the sugar needed in the recipes so we adjusted it a bit.

I did not take any pictures last night while canning. I was too nervous to even think about it. I waited until the kiddos went to bed and got to work in the kitchen. All-in-all it went pretty well. I made 4 pints of strawberry jam. All 4 jars sealed properly and are now resting comfortably in our cupboard. Yay me. I am definitely going to try a few more recipes this weekend to get my feet a little wetter. We have a TON of tomato plants and I am guessing next week we will have a TON of tomatoes ready to be canned.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and I look forward to sharing my canning adventures.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Easy Homemade Banana Bread

My kids LOVE bananas. They eat them pretty much everyday. It is nothing for the two of them to devour an entire bunch of bananas in a 24 hour time period. That being said, it is rare that our bananas get ripe enough for banana bread. I love banana bread. A few weeks ago my mom and I were talking with my uncle and he was saying how much he loved banana bread and what a great seller it was at the local bake sales. I hadn't had banana bread in awhile, and I knew I had some bananas waiting in the freezer. It was cold that weekend (60's in July, go figure) so I set out to use up those freezer bananas. I had a standard banana bread recipe I used, but that cookbook was still in our storage unit. I also had a recipe I found from Pinterest that used a box of yellow cake mix, egg, and bananas. Tasty, but I didn't have any boxed cake mixes in the cupboard. So I pulled out my mom's trusty old community cookbook and found the lone banana bread recipe in there. It was divine. I am pretty sure it is the best banana bread I have every tasted, let alone made. 


I love the simplicity of this recipe. No random ingredients you have to run to the store for. They are all standard pantry items.  My favorite part is that you just dump everything into the bowl, and mix. 

You don't have to mix wet ingredients separate from dry ingredients. No alternating layers of banana and dry ingredients. I think the secret to this recipe is the melted butter instead of oil. It gives it so much flavor and keeps it so moist. I am now obsessed with this banana bread and have made it 3 or 4 times in a 2 week time frame. Last weekend I made it for our Sunday breakfast and between the hubs, kids, and I we polished of an entire loaf for breakfast, oops! It has fruit in it so its good for you, right?! Once the batter is in the loaf pan, I like to top it with some white sanding sugar. It is like the big chunky sugar that the bakeries use on top of their muffins. It gives it such a wonderfully sweet and crunchy top. Here is a picture of the sugar I used. I was able to get it at Walmart by the sprinkles and such in the baking aisle. I have also used the Wilton brand sanding sugar from Walmart and that is in the crafts department by the caking baking supplies.

I usually can't wait, and dig right into it, fresh out of the oven. I think my kids love this bread, almost as much as they love bananas. Jackson likes to call it "the yummy banana bread." I am sure if I let them, they would each easily eat half the loaf in one sitting. I normally only allow them each 2 pieces, which I think is plenty. 

A beautiful golden color with specs of those delicious sugar crystals forming that wonderful crunchy crust. I couldn't wait and literally took this out of the oven, turned it out of the loaf pan, and sliced off a few pieces for myself to devour right away. Yummy. I hope you try this, and I am sure you will love it as much as we do. I am sure the kiddos will be so happy when they wake up from their nap and find some fresh banana bread to tear into. 

I didn't take any pictures of it this time, since I did it on Thursday, but I found the coolest tip on Pinterest on how to turn yellow bananas into banana bread bananas in a matter of minutes. You just bake your bananas in the oven (skins on) and they turn brown in about 10 minutes. There are a million different directions online - ranging from 200 degrees up to 350 degrees. If I remember right, I baked mine at around 300 for 10-12 minutes. Perfectly brown on the outside, and mushy and banana bread ready on  the inside. I love this trick because it means I can make this amazing banana bread whenever I want. I don't have to wait and hope that my kids don't eat all their bananas so I can make bread.

Easy Homemade Banana Bread

3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 ½ c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
¼ c. melted butter

Mix all the ingredients together. Put in greased 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


I finally decided to break down and enter the blogging world! This will be a hodgepodge of crafts, baking, cooking, kids, family, and so much more. I will give you a brief overview of who I am and what I am all about...

I am a Wisconsin girl, born and raised. [GO PACK GO!] I have been married to the love of my life, Josh for four years. Together we have two beautiful children. I have always wanted to be a mother and they fill my heart with joy every day. They also test my limits and push my buttons. They are sweet and wonderful, naughty and devious, but I wouldn't trade them for all the tea in China. Jackson is 3 and Brooklyn is 2. I am sure they will make an appearance on here from time to time.

I have always loved to craft, bake, and cook. As long as I can remember I could be found in the kitchen creating some new concoction. I am OBSESSED with Pinterest and could (and do on occasion) spend hours upon hours there.

Thank you for stopping by and I am excited to share my world with the world.