Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Menu Binder ~ part 2

The master list is now finished and put in the front of a brand new green binder. I even used a cool font. It feels good to have a plan, but now comes actually being able to implement that plan.

My goal in doing this project in the first place was to not have to cook. I know that sounds strange. But for me, it was necessary. Pregnancy is really hard on me. And between keeping up on homeschooling, house work, and everything else that is important, cooking seemed to be the one thing that kept falling to the wayside over and over. It is easy for me to say that I can keep up with it... but honestly, I really couldn't. It became obvious to me by the food I had to throw away that the current plan was not working at all. Wasted food makes me crazy... so a new plan was in order. One that anyone; baby sitter, my son, or even my non-cooking husband could pick up and be able to make our family favorites with ease.

So the next step in the making a menu binder comes writing down all your recipes. If you are like me at all, many of your family favorites have never been written down... they are just all held in your head. So this step took some time. But it has been worth it already.

I separated the sections of page protectors in my binder with tabs that mark the weeks. Each week has all the recipes I need including favorite side dishes and optional seasonal dishes.

Each recipe has it's own page. It just makes it easier. Plus, that way, if you ever decided to move things around, you wouldn't have to reprint recipes.

Next comes making the grocery lists...



Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitchen Envy

It isn't often that I envy other peoples kitchens. After all, mind is kinda strange. My Pyrex collection alone can throw people off as to what I am actually going for with a style. Almost none of the match. And my pantry? Well, many of my wonderful jars are as old as me and even then, my mom got them used from deli's around where we lived. I like the old stuff... but not retro... almost a "funky farm house" kind of feel.

And then I saw this:

Oh my mighty heavens! I love this! It is JUST my style and I can so rarely say that... and she shares my love for all things Pyrex! Which while not quite so rare, is often not quite the same as mine. I have found only a couple eclectic collections like mine. More people prefer to have a matching set, or get ones that at least have a color theme. Not me. I have green, red, blue, brown... they are all there... and so does she! I am in love!

The whole kitchen remodel is pretty stinkin' fantastic actually. You can see the rest of her wonderful pictures (as well as 'befores') here:

BlueBirdBaby kitchen tour



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Menu Binder ~ Part 1

There have been several parts to this project. The first one was coming up with 30 recipes that we all loved. I planned for 5 days a week because there is always a night where we eat out and there is usually a left over night. We can always adjust later if we need to, but for now, 5 days a week, for 6 wks was the goal.

I have said it before, but I wanted to reiterate... I mostly make menus for the grocery lists. There is no set plan of meals on a specific day unless something is going to go bad before the week is out. We choose off the menu what we want to eat that night, and because I have bought for the whole week I know I have everything on hand to make any recipe we have chosen. Then we check the item off the list and the next night we pick something else.

Ok, so step 1. Get together 30 meals that you all enjoy. Then make a set of 30 boxes and start adding in the recipe names in them. For this, I used sheet of paper and 30 post it notes (small ones, like you use for page tags). Then I could move around the notes as I make the menu as perfect for us as possible. For example. At one point, I had 4 chicken dishes in one week. That is just too much meat to buy or to eat in a week. So I moved two of them to mostly veggie weeks, and it balanced out the menu a lot, and because of how I had the recipe names on post it notes, I was just able to pick them up and move them... easy! Like this:

The pink ones are substitutes for the seasonal dishes that I want to make. For most of the time, you want a set of recipes that you can go through, no matter what time of year it is. But sometimes, it is easier to have seasonal recipes on the menu plan already than to sub them after you have made the grocery list for everything else. Esp when you are adding things that you most likely will get for free... like recipes that require lots of zucchini or tomatoes in August. So when finding recipes, I looked at the ones that were more specific to the summer and the fall, and added them too. For example: I can make a roast beef Au Jus sandwich anytime of year... but this time of year, when zucchini is plentiful, I often will make a summer veggie and provolone panini sandwich instead. So I added that to the menu as an 'or' item. I also added that to the grocery list (highlighted for ease)... but that part is later. Pick your substitute items, and add them into the boxes along with your staple year round recipes.

I spent the next hour moving around those little tabs. I wanted a nice round menu that would keep the budget down, and also give us variety. My friends do this different ways. My friend Sarah chooses different nights to have themes (her menu binder was featured here). For example, Monday night is always Crock Pot night. It is a good way to balance the menu without having to move tiny little tabs around for an hour. *blush*

Once you have all your meals in boxes, then make a table on Word or Excel and print it out. This is your 'master list'.

My master list is as follows:

Week 1:

Au Jus Sandwiches or Panini

Fried Rice or Comfort Rice

Potato Chicken w/ Mashed Potatoes

Pasta Alfredo w/ Shrimp

Potato O'gratin w/ feta and pesto

Week 2:

Homemade Pizza

Pasta E Fajioli Soup

*Crock Pot* Pot Roast w/ New Potatoes

Leek & Potato Soup

Teriyaki Chicken w/ Rice Pilaf

Week 3:

Beef Stew

BBQ Chicken Legs w/Ratatouille

Shepherd's Pie

Portabella Mushroom Bake

Ham & Lime Pasta

Week 4:

Chicken or Tofu Curry w/Rice and Mixed Greens

Hamburger Gravy w/Mashed Potatoes

Leek & Sausage Pasta or Pepper & Bacon Pasta

Stir Fry w/ Rice or Rice Noodles

Tacos or Taco Salad

Week 5:


Italian Salad w/Soup

Roast chicken w/New Potatoes

Ravioli w/Winter Squash

*crock pot* Pork Chops & Apples w/Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Week 6:


Dinner Salad w/Grilled Cheese

Pad Thai

Split Pea Soup w/bacon


To be continued.....



Saturday, August 28, 2010

First Belly Picture

I am working hard to get together the first installment of 'how to make a 6 week menu plan' but it is really slow going. I can tell you, that ours is being implemented and working great! So it's kind of exciting. I have thoughts of just posting what we are doing so you all can copy it... what do you think of that? I could even do it a week at a time... let me know your thoughts. Most of the recipes are on here already anyhow.

For now, I will leave you with my choice of belly pics for the middle trimester. 16 wks, 4th baby... apparently you show early. And of course, the token bowl of wild blackberries, cus it is that season.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What we have been up to lately...

We have been out. A lot. Without my camera. Why ever not? You say... well, the camera bag is heavy and I have been dealing with neck and shoulder injuries, and when I JUST take the camera (which I would do before when the bag was just too heavy) it hits me in my new big belly as I walk... which is pretty much no fun at all. So here is some of the stuff we have been doing... via phone pictures. lol!

Our trip to NW Trek was great this time. I don't think we have ever been in the summer. All the bears were sleeping in the sun, the elk were prancing around, shining their horns on trees and in the river, the moose were even out, showing off their stuff. It was a great trip (and would have been wonderful on film!).

A bachelor herd of Big Horn Sheep... Just laying next to the road.

Cyan up close to a Caribou yearling. He was pretty little, but still impressive that he was so close!

And my biggest project lately has been this:

This is a 6 wk rotating menu plan, complete with options for seasonal eating, grocery lists, and recipes for each and every single item on the list. I will lay out the entire plan as soon as I get the kinks worked out, but for now, you just get the teaser (which I doubt you can even read, because it was also taken with my phone. Muahahaha!)

Feel free to read about my love of binders here, here, and here to wet your appetite.



In my kitchen, at 7:45pm on a Tuesday

Making dishonest blueberry jam. If you haven't tried it yet, I can not recommend it enough. It is like a taste of heaven!

Happy canning!



Monday, August 23, 2010

My favorite garden tool - the Stirrup or Dutch Hoe

Aptly named because it looks like a stirrup on the end of a stick, the stirrup, or Dutch hoe is by far and away, my favorite garden tool. It can slip between rows and pull weeds right out of the ground. And those it doesn't pull out, it cuts off at ground level, leaving the growing parts of the plant venerable to the elements.

My technique for using it lately has been to weed early in the morning on a day that promises to be warm (hot is better) and then leave the weeds until evening. Then I go back out, and simply rake the shriveled greenery up and stick it in the compost! Easy!

It is wonderful for getting between rows of veggies too. Here, my basil had some little fluffy intruders, and I decided to try to get them out without leaning over the beds (a smart choice considering my neck isn't all the way up to par yet). I dug them up with the stirrup hoe and pulled them all out at once, dropping them with my pile from the pathways.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Southwest Washington Fair

We decided to take the trek down to where we used to live and hit the fair! Mostly we hung out at the animal barns (my favorite part) but I did let the girly go with friends to the rides after lunch. Logan and I ate fair food and walked through the booths while we waited for our thrill seeker to come back. I don't think there is anywhere else where you can buy lunch, chickens, quilts, and ammo all in the same place. lol! It wasn't too warm, so it wasn't too crowded, which was perfect for me.

I asked Cyan what her favorite part was when we were done, and as always, she loved the horse barns. This dark fellow above is named Rocket... he is a 21 year old gelding and was SO sweet! The kids stood with him for quite a while.

Logan liked petting the cows. I learned that there is a new raw milk dairy coming in down around Hwy 6 (which is RIGHT where I used to live). They were promoting their new location by giving out pencils with erasers that looked like ice cream cones. Logan loved that!

This was the biggest rooster I have ever seen. I'd be surprised if he was under 25lbs. He was HUGE! He was in a turkey cage and he nearly filled it. Amazing! (For reference, those are full sized hens behind him, each being between 7 - 11 lbs.)



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Look what we found in the garden!

A Praying Mantis! I had never seen one in the wild before. They are not common here in Washington. But I was super excited that my yard had attracted such a cool beneficial critter. :)



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spontaneous Gratitude for a Frustrating Day

Lately I have been dealing with some pretty serious neck problems. I think that packing the car for camping by myself was not the best idea. I know it had to get done, but after being in my morning sickness cloud for the last 2 months, I really wasn't up to cleaning and packing a van for a big trip all on my own. The next morning I woke with a horrible pain in my neck and it has waxed and waned for the last week.

I am frustrated.

It is hard enough being under the weather for a worthy reason like making a baby, but to be under the weather for something stupid you did is just so irritating!

My chores are now limited to anything I can do without lifting anything over 10#. I hope that is let up soon, but I tried when I started to feel better, and I was back in bed again all day today. :( So back to the limits it is. And it really has me down.

I decided that today was a Spontaneous Gratitude type of day.

Today I am grateful for:

A tiny Sungold tomato that I was able to pick (along with 4 others) for my snack today. And being able to eat them.

Beautiful sunflowers that have taken over my garden, and the bees they bring with them.

The fenceline next to my house with the hundreds of almost ready blackberries, just waiting to be turned into cobbler and jam.

My cat, sleeping in the bird bath.

These sweet wind chimes on my front poarch that sing to me all day long right now.

And the bounty that became deep fried squash for dinner.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Don's squad had our first annual camping trip and I so enjoyed our little break from reality this weekend. The camp site we got didn't have running water, power, or even cell service... and I LOVED it! The kids and I spent the days playing in the near by streams, picking flowers, playing card games and building fires. The first night was terribly cold and Don went in to town (about 20 minutes) and got us all 30* sleeping bags. The next night we slept like babies!

The days were warm, but not terribly hot, and the evenings were perfectly cool for a nice big fire. It was s'mores, berry picking, and hot tea all 'round, and it was wonderful! (Although I have to admit, it's nice to be back to my house with the hot running water. Oh how I missed thee!)


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dear Cedar Waxwing...

Dear resident Cedar Waxwing family,

I understand the attraction of the berries from the bush in the back of my yard, but I have a feeling that you haven't been noticing your ranks diminishing. I have. I believe I have found the cause. See my tiny grey cat, despite bell that we attached to her collar to avoid this very trait, has been picking you off one by one and bringing you to our patio for lunch. This does not speak well to your intelligence or agility.... (or perhaps it speaks to the agility of my cat, but either way,) I thought that a missive to let you know what was happening was in order.

Six of your buddies have become a meal for the cat in the lst 4 days. And every time one of your buddies disappears I hope and pray that you will not come back, at least for a while. But each evening I hear you, frolicking around the bush. With furry death beneath enjoying the dinner time show.

Although the pull of the berries is strong, please, wise up, and get out of my yard... before your entire family becomes a meal for my precocious feline.

Thank you!

Love Val

(Picture is not mine, link is here.)



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Portabella potato bake

This is the type of fall fare that people write songs about. Warm and gooey right out of the oven, this dish takes less than 30 minutes and looks like it takes hours. And it is delicious!


Portabella Potato Bake

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 lbs new potatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if desired
2 portabella mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lg onion, cut into wedges
1 large handful of basil, roughly chopped
2 Tbs of pesto
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

In a very large oven proof pan, coat potatoes in olive oil and agitate until the potatoes start to get soft. Add in the onions and the mushrooms. When the onions start to go clear, add in the rest of the ingredients except for the mozzarella. Toss until the texture is to your liking and the pesto has coated everything. Add salt to taste at this point.

Take off the burner and add the mozzarella cheese over the top of the entire pan. Put in the oven under broil until the cheese is nicely golden brown.

Serves 6 as an entree.

This dish is very versatile as well... I can imagine that you could add in summer squash, zucchini, or egg plant and still get a wonderful meal! It is the perfect dish for this time of the year as the evenings start getting that nip in the air but the days are still nice enough to eat outside. If you find a variation you like, please, pass it on to me. I would love to try it!



Nostalgia is such a funny thing. It hits you at strange times... and all of a sudden, you are looking back into time. Your stomach gets all knotty (but not necessarily in a bad way) and you feel as though you need to find some evidence that what you are feeling ever really was the way it was.

Our family has come so far. And yet, even in the worst of times, we have had so much. When we first had Cyan and Alex our lives were so amazingly different than they are today. And they grew so fast!

Then when we had Logan, things started to settle into a rhythm that has become our life for the last 3 years.

It is often really daunting for me to have anything rock the 'settled' boat.

I just wonder sometimes what this new little surprise person is going to bring to our family. I am hopeful (esp now that I don't feel like crud all the time!) but I see it as our first big adventure in a long time. I feel at this moment, that this baby is just evidence of us still moving ahead, slowly, but surely, into the life we have created. It is a strange feeling, mixed with sensations of being overwhelmed, moments of panic, and lots of moments of 'normal'. But it finally is feeling like it could be really good.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Renaissance Fair 2010

Yesterday we spent the day at the Midsummer Renaissance Fair. It was AMAZING! When we first got there we quickly made our way down to the Joust competition... and even though we were a bit late, we got front row seats! I was SO upset I didn't bring my camera. They did different tests of skill on horseback and actually had a joust at the end where one guy actually got knocked off his horse. Another guy fell off his horse, but I think that was dramatised... the other one got knocked backwards, flying. I don't know if that was planned or not, but it sure was exciting! We sat with on the side of Mary, Queen of Scott's yelling "Hes-za!", eating giant pickles from a vendor that rolled by, and getting dirt flung at us by horses racing across the jousting field. It was pretty much the best thing ever!

Cyan and Logan were dressed for the part. Logan was a knight and Cyan a lady... they had tons of fun acting with Robin Hood, petting the Jousting horses, and eating medieval fare for lunch (giant turkey leg anyone?)

This trip fits right into everything we are doing in homeschooling right now. We actually JUST finished a class on Robin Hood last week, so getting to see him 'in the flesh' was quite a treat for the kids. Cyan really enjoyed being able to say things like "Look mom! That lady is making a Celtic Broach!" It was a WONDERFUL day and I just wish I had more pictures... we may just have to go back. ;)


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