Friday, June 29, 2012

Cooking - Homemade Soft Pretzels

I have had a snack of
homemade soft pretzels 
on my to do list for months!!

I (we) finally got around to making them
this week.

We have taken two weeks off from school
to get organized and for a visit from grammy.
I didn't decide this til Monday morning as we
were gathering around the kitchen table
getting ready to start school.
When I told the kids,
you would have thought it was 
Christmas or I told them we were 
going to Disney World (if they knew what that was)
or something...
There were hugs and hollering 
and Thank You's galore!
(weren't they the ones bugging me
to start their new books just 1 month ago??)

I told them we would do some arts 
and crafts (none of which have occurred yet).
But it also gave us the opportunity to 
make these pretzels!

When it comes to recipes,
to me they are typically just guidelines
or suggestions.
I usually tweak a little to make them
my own.

 I googled soft pretzel recipe
and came upon one called

With a name like that - we had to try it!

I followed the recipe almost exactly,
I tweaked the flour a little
and did a combo of 
white and wheat flour.

We also didn't go the salt covered route,
we covered them with cinnamon sugar.

Ok - so I didn't follow it "exactly"
just mostly.

I did follow the cooking directions,
but I think they were a little overdone,
so next time I won't cook them quite as long.

But I didn't hear ANY complaints 
as all 6 were being scarfed down!!
(yours truly included!)

A pictorial review

I waited until after the littles had gone down for
naps before the big boys and I started the dough.

We marked the bowl to approximate where the
top of the dough was to see how much it rose.

Then we examined the results after the dough rose.

Then Ms. Priss got to punch it down!

Then I portioned out the dough into
6 pieces and everyone got to work
rolling out and shaping their dough!

Four were the traditional pretzel shape,
then I let the big boys make something of their own.

The results!!!


We will definitely be making these again.
I am not sure I will allow all the "help" 
on the front end.
But they enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Organizing This House - The Game Plan

When we moved into a rental,
we knew we weren't going to be here long.
So we haven't completely unpacked.
There are still TONS of boxes 
shoved in closets & the garage.

We have all but decided
we are going to stay in this house for another year.
The price is right and we aren't really 
sure what we are going to do in another year.

So since we are staying a little longer,
I am going to attempt to organize the 
boxes and stuff a little more

My desire for order comes and goes.
Sometimes I seriously just feel so defeated
I don't really care.
Then I get aggravated (or motivated) and try to do something
about it.
But I am "frugal" and don't want to go spend
a bunch of money for storage solutions.
But you will often hear from professional organizers that

Everything needs a place.

With that in mind...
I am going to try and find a place for everything!
And it is easier for EVERYONE
if you know where everything goes!
Stuff is constantly getting misplaced
because it doesn't have a home.

I am going to use this blog as my motivation
to keep this desire for order going!
This will be a feature
that I hopefully will be able to keep going.

Another motivation,
is totally financial too...
there is a TON of stuff that we need to get rid of.
We got rid of a lot of items before we moved...
A LOT!!!
But not enough,
we moved a lot of unneeded items 
because I just couldn't go through and 
get rid of it all 
while managing 4 kids 
and trying to keep the house spotless
while we tried to sell.
So a lot of items got shipped so I could
deal with it here...
Well - its time to deal with it!

Once we have gone through one box at a time
and pulled out what we are not keeping
and repacked what we are...

We will figure out what to do with it:
Garage sale

And to be honest - 
there are a few things that I am just having a hard
time getting rid of.
Like the infant car seat that all 4 have been in...
I was planning on selling that
and the bases
and the stroller
all as a set.
But I think I want to keep the single stroller
a little longer.
Its is a nice stroller and in great shape.

(This is a big problem for me, ask my husband!)

So I have developed somewhat of a game plan
for organization...

The Game Plan:

* Clean & organize boys' closet
* Clean & organize Ms. Priss' closet
* Clean & organize Mr. T's closet
* Re-purpose downstairs closet
*Organize downstairs playroom
* Organize laundry room/pantry
*Clean & Organize Small Master Closet
* Clean & Organize Large Master Closet
* Reorganize Upstairs Loft/Game Room

The problem I have is budget.
I have tons of great solutions and great ideas,
but they all cost more money than I am willing to put into each project.
So my goals has always been to figure out what to do
then find a way to do it as cheaply as possible!

I am not scared of work,
I am not scared of DIY,
we are very much DIY-ers in this house!

My biggest "problem" - 

Wish me luck!

In the meantime - I need ideas on how to label these
fabric bins...

I would like them to be changeable, but not easily.
I have velcro & a laminator but 
Mr. T will rearrange them for us,
so not keen on that idea.

What other ideas do you have?
Budget & kid friendly 
but will look good in a main
living area.

Thanks in advance!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Sports Season Has Begun...

The summer season of sports has started around here.
And it is gonna be HOT!!!

R's flag football games are going to be
on Friday evenings supposedly as things are getting cooler.
But the hottest part of the day down here is at 6pm!!

Daddy is coaching R's flag football
J's baseball.

Since there are only 3 flag football teams, 
one team gets to play 2 games per night
twice during the season.

Our first night we played twice.
Ms. Priss decided she wanted to go to the game
in her dress-up costume,
then proceeded to plop down on the ground
and dig in the dirt!
Whatever, she was out of my hair 
and I could watch the game.
That was until I turned around
and saw her and J
Mr. T in dirt! 
Literally head to toe,
they were filthy!

Since Mr. T was not using his stroller,
another family on our team had a sleeping toddler
and I offered to let him sleep in the stroller so daddy
didn't have to hold him.
That was fine until Mr. T realized
some strange child was sleeping in HIS spot in HIS stroller!!!

Who are you and why are you sleeping in my seat???

I did get to catch a few plays of the two games R played.
They won the first game and lost the second...
blame it on tiredness.  ;)

We left the Y at about 8:30pm...
we arrived back at the Y the following morning for two 8am games.
Ms. Priss & J's games.

I stayed with Ms. Priss, while daddy coached J.
The absolute BEST part of Ms. Priss' game...

Its hard to see this, but there are 3 children on the 
field on Ms. Priss' team...(her team is in orange)
You will notice that there is one child in orange by
 themself in the middle of the picture,
then there are two other children in orange
being "talked to" by their parents...
then the entire yellow team is looking on.

What was going on, you ask?
Well none of the BOYS on Ms. Priss' team
wanted to play!
They were too busy crying!!
Ms. Priss is the ONLY girl on her team
and she is the ONLY one that was actually playing!
She even scored a goal BY HERSELF!
Totally 5 on 1 
She scored in the other teams goal,
but I don't care - she led the charge and scored a goal!
There were 5 players on our team there
(the number needed to play)
but the other 4 - all boys
refused to play...
so they called the game since Ms. Priss was the 
only one playing and it was 
5 on 1.

I was so stinking proud of her!!!

Whoo Hoo!!

You Go Girl!!!

Here is yet another picture of parents pleading with their sons
to play soccer...

My girl is standing in the middle of the field ready to play!!


After they called the game,
we ventured over to catch the last inning of J's game.
Daddy is having to remind himself what its like to 
coach kids who have never played baseball before.
Quite a few have no idea 
- how to hold a bat
- how to throw a ball
- how to run the bases
- where the bases are
- when to run the bases

So J decided to show them how it is done!

Duck daddy - this one is coming straight at you!

Apparently daddy had to get out of the way for his next hit too!

Then J was literally pushing the kid in front of him
around the bases!

And he insisted on sliding into home!

We knew we needed to buy J some new 
and we finally went on Sunday...
we got him a pair 3 sizes LARGER than the ones
he was wearing!
How in the world did I get them on his feet twice every week???
Poor thing...I felt so bad...
but I could still get them on him...
and he didn't complain!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: Crossing Values by Carrie Daws

I was recently provided with a book to read,
in exchange for my honest review.

My first ever book review!
I am so excited.
I have a couple of books on my "to do" list.
I had been looking forward to this one.
It was fiction
not a "self help" 
or guidance book.

This was my first experience with a 
"Christian" fiction book.
But the summary on the back looked very interesting:

For years, Amber traipsed around the northwest avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refused to let anyone get close to her.
As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, she takes a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she’s ever known.
Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. Feeling like she’s entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, she watches for cracks in the fa├žade.
Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.
Or could she be wrong?  Could they be genuine?
Could Faye understand the trauma from her past or Peter think of her as more than just the winter office help? Could this family really hold the key to what she’s seeking?

Crossing Values by Carrie Daws

My Thoughts:

Thankfully it was a quick read.  I needed one of those!
I still can't decide about this book.
It was a bit surreal for me.
I realize it was fiction,
but I couldn't put myself into the book.
And I had a hard time believing the 
events and timeline and the 
whole premise of the book.
Yes, I realize it is "fiction".
Halfway through I knew I didn't love it,
but in the end, there is a reference to a sequel.
I found myself intrigued about the sequel.
I would be interested in reading the sequel,
if it happened upon my doorstep,
but I am not sure I will hunt it out.

I commend Ms. Daws, a fellow homeschooling momma,
 on writing and publishing a book.
Well done and good luck on this journey!

 Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What's For Dinner??

I try my hardest to feed my family on a budget,
sort of,
we have a budget,
but I really have NO idea how to use it!
I have the nifty Quicken software
and I have put what we normally spend on groceries
under the grocery category.
Then what? 
I have no idea of knowing how much groceries are
going to actually cost when I check out
at the store.
I usually stay within a certain range.
But how in the world am I supposed to know how
much I am actually going to spend
until I am there?

I am sure there are ways to do this,
but I already spend about 6 hours (at least)
on the entire shopping experience:
menu planning
list making
actual shopping
post shopping prep:
fresh greens
snack packs

I already carry around a big ole binder with me
do I really need/want to add a calculator into the mix?
And walk around the store with a calculator
adding things up as I go?
Not really!

When we lived in NC, I could budget by doing my
shopping on-line first.
I would make my list,
then I would sit with my coupon binder
and do my menu planning based on what
was on sale that week.

Then I printed it off
took it into the store and did my shopping.
I knew EXACTLY how much I was going to spend.

Now - not so much...
due to this monopoly that this ONE grocery store has down
here and they have mega stores here.

I have had to change things a bit.

I could do our menu more simply,
more processed foods,
more cheaply 
more bland...
BUT - 
I choose to be a little creative.

This past shopping experience 
I shopped for:

Taco Salad with homemade tortilla bowls (see below)
Sausage & Kale Pasta (we love!!)
Mel's Stuffed Manicotti*
Kielbasa, Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage
Mel's Beef with Broccoli*

(we have not tried the ones with the * beside them -
I will let you know what we think)

these will hopefully produce enough leftovers
to cover a couple of dinners too...
as these kids get bigger, 
they are definitely eating more.
Every once in a while I will get a glimpse
into our future...
and there will be no leftovers
when I thought there should be PLENTY leftover!!

Side note on the Sausage & Kale Pasta -
this is a HUGE hit in our house!  HUGE!
So much so that apparently daddy and I are
now fighting over the leftovers!
There was 1 serving left,
I was so looking forward to those for lunch
the next day.
Things were crazy and I didn't get around to making
daddy's lunch for him.
So he made it himself and took MY leftovers
Yes, MY!  (haha)
What a disappointment when I went to the
fridge at lunchtime the next day
and couldn't find them.
I already use an entire box of pasta,
and entire bunch of kale
and a pound of sausage.
I don't think I have a big enough pot
to double this recipe!

So far this week we have tried two new things:

Homemade tortilla shell bowls
Scratch made blueberry muffins

Homemade tortilla bowls
They were ADORABLE,
but kinda hard to eat
for everyone!

I popped the corn tortillas in the microwave
to soften them up and make them pliable.
Then pressed them in between an upside down muffin pan.

Bake at 325° for about 10 minutes (check often though)
And this is what you get.

Unfortunately while Mr. T was trying to figure out 
exactly how he was supposed to eat this thing...
he dumped the entire contents of his bowl
in his lap!

 That morning I decided to try some homemade
blueberry muffins, with whole blueberries.
These were VERY time consuming and somewhat
labor intensive.
But I really like them!
So did J,
the rest of the family, not so much.
I did not use the sugar topping it recommended.

But they looked pretty!

Mel's Best Blueberry Muffins

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Adventure

We had so much fun on our Father's Day adventure,
we decided to do something a bit crazier
Tuesday night.
We finished dinner early
and decided on a bike ride.
I commented that I wish we had further to ride than
just our neighborhood.
Then remembered that there is a gravel road that
runs beside the highway outside of our neighborhood.
My father-in-law lives 1.6 miles south of us,
on the same side of the highway.
So I suggested we take this
gravel road and see how far it takes us.
It was a LONG and BUMPY
ride, but we got there!!

We did make it on to pavement at one point,
stumbled upon another critter...

No he is not trying to touch it - 
he is giving it bunny ears...
(insert eye roll from mommy here)

Unfortunately, by the time we got there 
we realized it was going to be too dark to ride back.
So daddy and papa grande loaded
all the bikes in the back of papa grande's truck
and then daddy went back and
got the suburban to pick us up in!

Since the babies are in the trailer,
we kept trying to decide if they enjoyed the ride
or not.
Ms. Priss was TIRED from a long day
and a little extra cranky and weepy.
As we were making the 2 min car ride
home, she started just 
She was so upset that we were
leaving our bikes at Papa Grande's!
She had not seen daddy leave
to take them back to the house
and get the car she was riding in...
and she was NOT convinced that the
bikes were already back at the house...
It was too funny,
but makes me think she likes our 
bike rides!

And you can tell by the lack of pictures of this 
I didn't take my phone with me!
I am not sure we will do that particular trek again,
but we have discovered that 
all of the bikes and the trailer will fit
in the back of the truck so we can 
load up and go on another path.
The hardest part of that though...
not the bikes,
the carseats!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Father's Day Adventure

We are finally and slowly leaving 
the baby phase in this house.
We have been in this 
for the past 8+ years straight...

Leaving the baby days behind us is 
I would have more (most days).

But while leaving this one
phase behind us,
it is opening us to all sorts of new
I am REALLY looking forward to that!!

For Father's Day we wanted to do something fun.
I considered whisking daddy away for a quick
trip to the beach, 
but there was a little thing called a 
that prevented an overnight trip.

So instead I started looking for something 
a little closer to home.

We started off the morning with getting daddy some of 
his favorite foods:
(seriously don't ask)

Then we packed a lunch and hit the road for a little 

We wound up at the

What an AMAZING adventure!!
We borrowed a backpack carrier,
strapped Mr. T on and headed in.

This is how we started...

We waited around a little for the tour to start

Here is where we were headed:
(This is the "Natural Bridge")

We got to see a couple of critters:

(and NO, I did not get this close to these things!
I was actually using a REAL camera with ZOOM)

When the tour started we walked a little ways to 
a holding area...
while we listened to the do's and don'ts 
of the tour.

We got to stand here at the top of the path
listening to the rules
the three oldest are staring down this "path".
This little lecture gave them time to decide
that none of them wanted to see what was down

After standing there long enough,
 Ms. Priss decided she was NOT
going in THERE!!!

Daddy gave me Mr. T 
and then he carried Ms. Priss the whole way.

Ms. Priss has a death grip on daddy!

Shortly after we entered the cavern,
we realized that switching Mr. T to my back
was a good idea.
If you haven't figured it out yet,
daddy is a big boy and has rather 
broad shoulders.
He and Mr. T would NOT have fit
through quite a few spots.

The decent:

Once we got in there and got all of them to realize
we were not walking them into the dungeon of death!,
they decided it was pretty stinking cool!!
Mr. T was constantly in my ear saying
I think he liked it!


Oh look - her feet did actually hit the 
ground once or twice while we were in there!

They all look a little wet and soggy don't they?
The humidity was at 99% in there,
but it was a balmy 70°-ish.

After I took this picture,
we put Mr. T back on daddy's back.
My shoulders were getting a bit sore 
from carrying his 25+ lb self around for over an hour...
the cavern gets really tight again on the way out
and daddy had to almost crawl out
with Mr. T on his back!

We enjoyed our little adventure
and we are looking forward to more!

After our cave adventure,
we pulled out lunch
and since it was Father's Day
daddy had picked out dessert.

My children got to taste Twinkies 
(or Cloud Cakes)
for the first time EVER!

 Mr. T didn't care for it...
Nor did Ms. Priss.

Mr. T actually put it down and 
decided he would rather have grapes!
Whoo hoo!!

We closed the day with 
2 lbs of homemade fried calamari 
with a garlic aioli sauce
5 lbs of crab legs!

And not a bit was left!
(notice no veggies, daddy's choice - 
said he didn't have to because it was Father's Day!)

Happy Father's Day to My Husband!!