Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Breakfast Skillet: a great way to use up garden zucchini and day-old bread

I really love breakfast foods.  Like A Lot.  Garden season is the best because I have all sorts of veggies to use up in my breakfasts, including zucchini!  Yummy!

 This breakfast is a really great way not only to use up zucchini, but also to use up day-old bread.  If you're a bread-maker like I am, then you probably often have extra rolls and breads that need to be used up.  The bread I used this time is oregano bread.  To make oregano bread I add 1 cup of chopped fresh oregano leaves (from my yard) along with some garlic and onion powder into my normal french bread recipe.  It comes out fabulous and it makes 2 loaves, so I often have part of a loaf left the next day.  Any sort of rolls or bread will work great.

I like to start my skillet with bacon grease, but butter works well too.  Melt your bacon grease or butter in a frying pan.  Saute diced zucchini and ham (if desired) in the grease.  You can add other veggies such as onions, mushrooms or peppers in if you'd like too.  When the zucchini is almost tender add day-old bread cubes into the mix and cook until they're golden brown.  Add eggs and scramble.  Top with cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  That's it!

The bread cubes get nice and toasted and absorb the flavor of the bacon grease!  Every time I make this I get compliments on the unexpected flavor of the toasted bread cubes.  The zucchini tastes very delicious with eggs and cheese.  This can be served as an inexpensive dinner as well!  I make it without ham as often as I make it with ham and either way it's great!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chore Time

I haven't had a "formal" chore system since my kids were young.  I just write a few chores on our chalkboard each day and they each pick one.   This system works for us... The problem is there were a lot of deep cleaning chores that just weren't getting done.  This past year has been a little insane, plus I babysit my sister's three kids full time and having a baby in the house again takes up a lot of my time!  I don't remember my kids being so time consuming as babies, but I'm sure they were.  I'm just old and don't remember!  I decided in order to keep up on things around the house I needed to have help!  I have three teenagers so there is no reason they can't be helping out more than one chore a day.  My nephews are 4 and 10 so they can help too.

I made a list of all the chores I needed up help with such as dusting, cleaning off the top of the dryer, wiping down the kitchen cupboards, vacuuming the stairs, etc.  I ended up with 20-something chores.  After I figured out what needed to be done I wrote them down with instructions on index cards.  I organized them by room so someone can grab several from the same room and get to work.  On the back I left a place for a name, date and a spot for me to check it off.  I laminated the cards so we could use them over and over with a dry erase marker, which I keep in the box.  I told the kids that each chore should take about 15 minutes.  I wouldn't check off half-done jobs; I wanted them done well.

Each chore is worth $1 and I give a bonus $1 for every four chores done, so basically they can earn $5 for an hour's worth of work.  This chore system has worked beautifully for us!  The chores are stored in a vintage recipe box which fits in with my decor and the kids know if they want to earn some money that's the way to do it!  I require them to do one chore each week from the box plus they still have their daily chore written on the chalkboard.

When Nina gets bored she's been known to whip out 16 chores in a day and earn $20!   Because they are dated on the back the kids know when they can do a chore.  Each chore only needs to be done weekly and there is a spot for chores that have been finished and signed off.  I never have to dish out more than around $25 a week and since the kids use their money for things I'd probably be paying for anyways like popcorn at the movie, makeup or snow cones I haven't even noticed I'm paying for chores.  Once a week is pay day and everyone is happy!  The kids get money and I get my deep cleaning chores done!  Hooray!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spaghetti Salad

We love going to free outdoor concerts as a family.  Even if they aren't our "normal" type of music, we still enjoy sitting on a blanket, enjoying a picnic dinner and listening to the show.  It's always been our tradition to bring a big bowl of a main dish salad and rolls to these types of events.  My kids were a little nervous about the spaghetti salad, but it ended up being a HUGE hit and everyone had multiple servings.  It's quick and easy to throw together and everyone loves it!  You can adjust the amounts and types of veggies and cheeses to fit your family's likes.  Use up some of those garden tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers!  You could even add pepperoni if you like, but it totally doesn't need it!

Spaghetti Salad

1lb spaghetti noodles, broken & cooked
16 oz Italian salad dressing
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
fresh tomatoes & chopped onions or 1 can of diced tomatoes w/onions
diced celery
chopped cucumber
cubed colby jack cheese
parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)

Mix together salad dressing, seasoning, tomatoes, onions, celery and colby jack cheese in your serving bowl.  Add cooked spaghetti noodle pieces and mix well.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss.  Chill before serving.

my niece, Scarlett & I

My girlies chillin' on the blanket

Caleb & my nephews off exploring during the show

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friends Helping Friends

Over the last month I've had a lot of days where I just haven't even wanted to get out of bed, but staying in bed has not been an option.  For those of you who've been following my family's recent going-ons through facebook, I don't even post 1/4 of the negative things that have been happening and yet the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning was all the nice people in my life.  The stress and worry came second.

That's because for every one bad thing happening, two good things show up unexpectedly to remind me I am loved.  I often say how I should have been a homemaker 60 years ago, but that mentality of friends helping friends, neighbors reaching out and people helping a stranger is alive and well in our time today!  Kind words, neighbors dropping off meals, friends and strangers helping however they can.  It's real!  There are good people everywhere wanting to do what they can to help others. 

I try to live my life in a way that at the end of each day I can think back to someone I provided service for.  If I can't think of anyone I feel like my day was wasted just a little bit even if I got a lot accomplished.  Serving others is very important to me.  It's hard for me to be on the receiving end of service, but it's also very good for me.  God wants us not only to provide service for others, He wants us to have the opportunity to be served.  It's a lesson we all need to learn. 

Because I have seen first hand all the good things people do, even if it's "just a hug" (there's no such thing as just a hug), I want this message not to be a reminder to do service, but I want to remind those strong, amazing homemakers out there to let others serve YOU sometimes!  You don't have to be everything all the time.  It's ok to cry, it's ok to let a friend lend a helping hand, it's ok to accept a meal, it's ok to let someone watch your kids or give you a hug if you're having a hard day.    When someone asks, "What can I do to help you?" really think about the question before throwing out the typical "nothing, I'm fine" answer we moms love to give.

By allowing others to serve you, you are allowing them the blessings of service. You are also allowing your family to feel that humbling tug in their heart that only happens when you are served by someone.  I see the amazement in my kids' eyes when someone drops off brownies or brings dinner.  Nina has been incredibly touched when someone bringing spaghetti left the meat out because Nina is a vegetarian or when a neighbor once brought her treats when I had mentioned on facebook she was struggling.  As much as I want my kids to be strong and independent, I also want them to know what it feels like to be served.  Accepting service doesn't make you weak, it helps you grow stronger so that when you're back on your feet you can turn around and do more for others.  It's a beautiful cycle of friends helping friends.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cookies & Milk Vintage Garden Party

I love hosting parties!  I especially love hosting parties when I can get a group of ladies together for food and socializing!

I don't shop at Walmart often, but I popped in there one day and couldn't resist their mason jar drink dispensers!  They're perfect for summer-time parties!

Of course mis-matched china plates are one of my very favorite things!  Everything tastes better on vintage china!

I couldn't decide between a 1 gallon glass mason jar dispenser or a 2 gallon plastic one, so I grabbed one of each!

Some of my milk bottles took a field trip out of my living room to dress up my bbq grill for the Cookies & Milk Party...  Yes, I do have a shabby chic pink and white bbq grill *grin*

Small white boxes made perfect containers for our cookie exchange.  The Radio Flyer wagon held them perfectly!

These wafer paper milk bottle labels from Fancy Flours are what sparked the whole Cookies & Milk party theme!  Mine don't look quite as perfect as theirs, but I think they still came out fabulously!

Chopped salad was served in milk glass punch cups.  Get it...  MILK glass (trying to keep with the theme.  haha)

A little Josef Originals vintage mouse was right at home with the food.

Milk bottles, plants and books on gardening worked well as centerpieces.

This toy cow was my grandma's when she was young.

I've been playing a lot with succulents in all sorts of containers.  I think these mini succulent gardens in egg cups are quite cute!

All the tables were set up under my cherry tree, next to our newly planted vegetable garden.

A vintage beverage cart and bucket make for a great dirty dish drop-off and trash can.

This plant stand holds the milk and milk bottles perfectly!  I love the height it adds to the drink table.

The milk can drink dispenser comes from Target.  It was a birthday gift this year and I love it!  To keep the milk cold without watering it down I filled baggies with ice cubes, sealed them up and floated them in the milk.  At the end of the night the leftover milk was still cold!

I love mixing china, milk glass and melmac all together for a vintage yet casual food table!

I served lots of veggies to balance out all the cookies we'd be eating later on!  Placing the same colors of veggies in each veggie bowl gave it a very vintage feel.

Cucumber and cheese sandwiches were served on croissants with veggie chips and crackers.  Very girly and very yummy!

The food was all so delicious and it looked adorable!

I enjoyed every bite of it!  The milk bottles were as cute with lemonade or water in them as they were with milk!

Vintage hats are a must for a garden party!  We all had a great time!

I had each person bring 3 dozen cookies for the cookie exchange.  We had quite the variety!

Moon Pies are such a fun vintage style cookie!

We had everything from first time trying it recipes to old family secret recipes!  I found light blue gingham basket liners & pink bags at Target.  People had the option of putting their cookies in boxes or bags.  Either way they looked cute!

The displays each lady did were just perfect for a garden party!

Everyone not only ate their fill of cookies, they also each went home with a variety of cookies to share with their family!

This party was so much fun!  I've always wanted to host a cookie exchange, but they're usually done during the holidays which is such a busy time!  Having a summer cookie exchange was a great excuse to get friends together and have a blast!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

German Pancakes & Buttermilk Maple Syrup for a Crowd

Sunday mornings can be quite crazy around here!  Besides me and Eric and my three kids, we also often have Eric's four boys on the weekends along with my sister's three kids who I babysit full time (including most Sundays).  Cold cereal can be expensive for a crowd that large.  How the heck did I end up with 10 kids???  German Pancakes are a quick and inexpensive breakfast (or even dinner!).  I like to pair it with fruit, like grapes or bananas and yogurt on the side.  German Pancakes are fabulous with regular syrup or jam, but I usually make a delightful homemade syrup when making them, just for fun!

German Pancakes for a Crowd

1/4 c. butter or margarine

12 eggs
2 c. milk
2 c. flour

Turn the oven on to 400.  Place the butter in a 4.8 qt (bigger than a 9x13 pan) baking pan and place in the preheating oven.  Meanwhile mix the remaining ingredients in your blender.  It will be FULL, but it will fit.  I usually start with only 1 cup of milk with the eggs and flour, mix it really well in the blender and then add the last cup of milk and mix it on low just until blended.

Move the pan around to even coat with melted butter, pour the blended mixture on top of the butter and bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes until done.  That's all there is to it!  Cut into squares and serve.

Buttermilk Maple Syrup

Boil together for a few minutes in a med-large saucepan:
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter
2 TBSP molasses
dash salt

Remove from heat and add: 
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp maple flavoring
2 tsp vanilla

Mixture will foam up at first, but will settle as it cools.  Serve warm or at room temperature.   Store leftovers in the fridge.  Will stay good for a week or so.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hosting a Yard Sale Tips & Tricks

I love yard sales!  Yard sale season is my favorite season!  Some of you may be lucky enough to enjoy yard sales all year round, but here in Utah a pesky thing called winter gets in our way.

If you've never had a yard sale before it can be intimidating.  I've bought and sold at yard sales my entire life.  When I'm having a yard sale there are a few things I make sure happen in order to have a successful sale.

1- Get the whole family on board.  I do this by using our yard sale money for a family goal...  It's been a day at an amusement park, a camping trip or something we've been wanting to buy, like a new TV.  I make sure it's something everyone is excited about and announce the goal early.  When the family knows what the money is going for, they're a lot more likely to help out.  About a month before the yard sale date I have everyone start clearing the clutter in their rooms.  I give each person plastic store bags and have them try on clothes to see what doesn't fit, sort through their books and toys and really just hunt for things they don't need or want any more.  They start bringing me bags of unwanted goods and their rooms get cleaner!

Assign the kids times they will be helping at the yard sale, either cashiering or just being a runner for you.  I don't make all my kids stay outside the whole time at our sales, but I do make them each help set up, take down and work a two hour shift.

2- Price your items.  I hate shopping at yard sales where nothing is priced.  You can price everything individually with price tags, (the dollar stores carry tags.) or you can have tables organized into .25, $1, etc.  Whatever you decide, just make sure things are priced!  Even worse than not having things priced are the yard sales where nothing is priced and when you ask how much something is they say, "I don't know" or "I haven't decided" or "I'm not sure what it's worth".  If you can't put a price on something it shouldn't be at your yard sale!  You can buy tags that already have the .25, .50, $1 & $5 printed on them, or you can buy blank ones where you write your own price.  I kinda like the blank ones because I always run out of the amounts I use a lot of on the preprinted tags.  Be sure to price your items at yard sale prices.  If you don't know what yard sale prices are like take a couple Saturdays and go to other yard sales before hosting your own.  You can always tell the yard sales where the people don't shop at sales themselves because of the high prices.  Just because you paid $50 for a shirt, doesn't mean someone will pay $20 for it at a yard sale.

Average prices vary based on where you live, but in my experience typical yard sale pricing ideas are-

shirts, shorts, skirts: .25-$1
jeans, dresses, jackets: $1-$3
baby clothes: .25-$1
shoes & boots: $1-$3
dishes & random household items: .10-$1
books: .10-$1
dvds: .50-$2
knick-knacks: .25-$1
baby swings, strollers, bouncers, high chairs: $3-$10
larger picture frames & mirrors: $1-$5
small appliances: $1-$5
furniture: $5-$50
large appliances: $10-$50

Some of the best yard sales I've been to have had one set price, like .25/ea for everything or fill a bag for $1.  If you have A LOT of stuff to get rid of this may be the way to go!

3- Advertising. About a week before your yard sale create a facebook event for it so your friends and family know it's happening.  If you feel like you'd like more variety at your sale, ask for donations of items that people you know would just be getting rid of.  If you have a friend who's been wanting to do a yard sale, you can team up together.  The more items you have the more likely people are to stop and browse.  If you choose to do a yard sale with another person make sure you have a good system for tracking whose items are whose.

A day before your yard sale advertise your sale on a free online classifieds site, like craigslist or ksl classifieds.  Be very detailed in your dates, starting times and address.  You have no idea how many yard sale listings I see that have been written up in detail with all the amazing things they have for sale and no address.  Without an address no one will find you!  

Saturdays are the typical yard sale day around here.  I know some places do yard sales on Sundays.  Make sure you know what the norm is so you can plan your sale on a day when more people will be out yard sale hunting.  A few years ago I started hosting my yard sales on Friday nights from 5pm-dark and again on Saturday mornings from 7am-1pm.  My Friday nights bring in as much money as my Saturday mornings!  People are always looking for things to do on Friday nights.  I set up in the afternoon and I'm busy all night.  Once it gets dark I turn off my porch light and I've never had anyone bother anything set up even though I live on a busy street.  Then at 7am my sale is already set up and I just hop out of bed and start selling!

4- Signage.  I feel like this needs its own category because it is so important!  One of my biggest yard sale pet peeves is signs you can't read.  People will put up a sign with LOTS of wording on it.  I'm sure it says the address, times and everything they're selling, but no one can read it!  People driving around are driving.  They can not stop and read a sign.  All your sign needs to say is "yard sale" and have an arrow or a large plain address!  If it's a bright color that's even better.  Put an arrow sign at both ends of your street.  Yard sale hunters have an eye for them!  I can spot a yard sale sign a mile away.  If I spot a sign and then passing it all I see is a bunch of dots on a page because there's too much info written on it I probably won't be stopping at your sale.  Be polite and take down your signs at the end of the sale.  Don't let them turn into litter.

Some cities do not allow yard sale signs to be put up, so be aware of that.  To get around that people will park their cars with yard sale signs on them at the ends of streets.  This has become very common and it works as long as you listen to my rant above.  See the itty bitty yard sale sign in the picture.  It was perfect!  A bright green sign and an arrow!  I've found yard sales in crazing winding neighborhoods just by following arrows...nothing else, no words, just arrows.  I'm guessing those people shop at yard sales themselves!

5- Setting up.  If you have tables, that is best, but blankets on the ground work too.  I usually have folding tables for everything except the clothes.  I put the clothes on blankets on the grass.  I typically have tons of clothes so I just sort them into a blanket for kids' clothes, a blanket for ladies clothes and a blanket for men's clothes and price all my clothes at .50/ea.  It's simple and it works.  Make sure you're set up at the time you say you'll be set up.  Be prepared for early birds.  I don't mind them!  They're usually good shoppers.  I just tell them I'm still setting up so more stuff will be coming out.  Have a place to take cash.  You can either have a cash box or just wear an apron.  Make sure you have lots of small change including a roll of quarters and lots of ones!  People shopping first thing in the morning usually have $20s because they just came from the ATM so make sure you've got all the change you need.

6- Customer interaction.  Greet every person who comes to your sale.  Say thank you to each person as they leave whether they bought something or not.  Be willing to barter.  If people totally low-ball you and you can't take an offer that low try to counter offer with something closer to what you need to get out of it.  If people ask if you'll do a bundle offer try to accommodate them.  It encourages them to buy more because you're willing to give them a good deal.  Count back change out loud so there is no confusion with money.

7- Cleaning up.  At the end of your sale you'll have to decide what to do with the leftovers.  I typically clean up all my tables and blankets, move all the items from the sale closer to the street and put a free sign on everything that's left.  It usually cuts my leftovers in half.  Some people like to save their leftovers for another yard sale later in the summer, but most people donate them to a thrift store or to someone else having a yard sale.  I've picked up yard sale leftovers from others in preparation for my own yard sales.  You can advertise your free items online.  By dark I have them all gone whether they're picked up or donated and I'm so glad to be done!!!

If you have any yard sale-ing questions, feel free to ask!