Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Could You Survive on $1.25 a Day?

"Survive125 is a game brought to you by 58:, a global initiative to end extreme poverty by living out Isaiah 58. And Compassion is part of the 58: Alliance.

In Survive125, you are asked to make the daily decisions nearly 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty face every day. In doing so their struggle becomes yours.

58: is an unprecedented global alliance of Christians, churches and world-class poverty-fighting organizations working together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime."

Play Survive125 and see how you would do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another Travel Tip

I shared my vast and  profound {cough, snort, guffaw} traveling-with-small-children knowledge back in the fall. 

This past weekend I accidentally found another great tip and thought I'd share it with you.  We had the privilege to attend a home school convention on the other side of our state and The Reader had prepared a list of the states prior to leaving so he could play the License Plate game.  Problem was....he left the list at home.

I pulled out my daily planning calendar, which has maps of the country and world in the back of it, and handed it back to The Reader.  He put a check in a state every time he saw a license plate from that state....AND he worked on his geography and state location at the same time.  Double win.

No more lists for us - I'll bring copies of the map of the U.S. from now on.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pinterest Practice

I heard about Pinterest a long time before I checked it out.
This is exactly what happened to me.  I think I received an invite back in the early fall and since then I've pinned over 760 things!  Oh my!

Recently I decided to stop Pinning (okay, not *stop* per se) and starting doing something with all those Pins.  I'm going back through and re-organizing my Pins and Boards, deleting some and actually doing some of them.

I am in desperate simplify-clean-up-use-up mode of my pantry and freezer both to maximize our grocery money and to make room for freezer food for when baby comes.  I'll post more about this later.

Thought I would share my thoughts of some of the recipes we've tried.  Some of these were either tried or searched for based on items I had on hand.

 The pinner said "Crock Pot Cube Steak that will melt in your mouth".  I followed the directions for The Post It Place's Crock Pot Cube Steak and Gravy.  My family wasn't impressed at all.  We have never had cube steak (I think, maybe, possibly, my mom used to make it when I was younger but I don't recall exactly) but it was really thin gravy and the meat was dry, despite being submerged in the gravy.  And the flavor of the onion soup (again, something we never use/eat) was way overpowering.  IF I was going to make it again (and that would be a big IF), I would use only half a package of onion soup mix and mix it in with the soups and water before putting in the crock pot. 
Glazed Doughnut Muffins...the muffins themselves were dry, much more like a donut, which would be fine if the cake to glaze ratio was smaller. The tops with glaze were delightful, think they would be better in a mini muffin. Mine only made 10 muffins.
 "According to many pinners-THE BEST white chicken enchilada recipe ever!!" These were good and had good flavor. I used 4 large burrito-sized tortillas (because that is what I had on hand) which made the filling a bit dry...might mix some of the sauce in with the filling or just use smaller (less filled) tortillas.  I also had one child who didn't like the chunks of green chiles, and if I'm being honest I didn't care for the texture of them myself - love the flavor, just not the chunks - so I might chop those up better next time.  Will definitely try again.
Chicken Crescent Roll Casserole - hubby loved it, none of the boys asked for seconds.  I think I did two things wrong with this recipe.  First I used canned chicken and with all the mixing the texture of the chicken became quite pate-like.  One of the boys commented on the texture of the filling and I agreed.  Next time I'll try cubed chicken, and maybe even wait to add it at the end.  The other problem I encountered was I used all the "gravy" and it was too soupy.  Next time I'll only add 2/3 of the sauce or less.
 Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n' Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar we tried this around Christmas time and no one really liked it that well, the Oreos tasted really weird and took forever to bake. I ended up throwing half of it out because no one wanted anymore.  It didn't taste like chocolate chip cookies, brownies, or Oreos. 
One Pot Mac & Cheese - Tried this today after church, it was pretty good but not as cheesy as I prefer.  Several of the comments suggest taking out the egg, adding a can of cheddar cheese soup, or using Velveeta.  I cooked on low 4 hours (my crock tends to run on the cooler side) and the pasta was neither crunchy nor mushy.  The pasta itself was perfect - just could have been cheesier.  This recipe served our family of 5 with seconds for most.
Homemade Chicken & Dumplings - fool-proof and oh so yummy! Hubby said it was better than my mom's and way better than Cracker Barrel.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup - this was a treat to find and a treat to taste!  We even went one step further and tried the Super Special Chocolate Milk recipe on the same blog page.  That was delicious (although I'd leave out the vanilla next time).
Best Brownies (this picture is not from the original website, not sure where it came from) - these were SO super fudgy (I only baked 22 minutes) and rich.  I am a chocoholic and these were too rich for even me.  I cut the pan into 9 squares and then cut those into half each.  Super rich.  The frosting was difficult to get smooth.  I actually ended up doubling the frosting recipe because the first recipe wouldn't spread at all.  With the second batch I melted the butter (instead of just using soft butter), then mixed up all the ingredients except the powdered sugar.  After I added the powdered sugar I warmed up the whole mixture in the microwave and that worked better.

If you'd like to see what other treats and projects I've got on my Pinterest board, come check it out.  If you are new to Pinterest, check out Jill's thoughts before joining - there are so many bad links on Pinterest it drives me batty.  I try to correct them on my own Pins as soon as I find them because it's so frustrating.

What new things have you tried on Pinterest lately?  And did you like them or leave them?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Candy Bar Bouquets

I mentioned I'm a little behind in posting things since the, you know....camera misplacement thing-y.  For Valentine's Day the boys and I decided to replicate an idea we spotted in the grocery store - candy bar bouquets.  These puppies sell for over $15.00!  We made all three of ours for less than that.  One for Mr. Steady, one for my dad, and one for his wife.
 I picked up simple glass vases at the Dollar Tree, hot glued candy bars onto wooden skewers, filled the vase with mini versions of each candy, topped that with tissue paper fluffs, and then inserted the skewered candy bars.
 Bada-bing, bada-boom.....Happy Valentine's Day!  Or Happy Birthday!  Or Happy I-Was-Just-Thinking-of-You day!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Dessert: Three Ways

I was asked to bring dessert for our family get-together Sunday for Father's Day.  I had lots of ideas but everyone likes something different.  I wanted to make my dad's favorite, coconut cream pie, but I also wanted to make something to make Mr. Steady feel special.  When I asked what dessert he would like, he responded with Boston Cream Pie.  I also remembered that The Reader had requested a piece of banana cream pie recently.  So I did what any woman who loves the men in her life would do - made something for each of them.

I pulled out my tiny jar collection - most are 4 oz but some are bigger.  Many of these jars came from my mom's stash, whom she inherited from her mom.  Apparently my grandpa would take puddings and desserts in his lunchbox in these.  

I baked a yellow cake from scratch, halving the recipe.  Then I used my handy cake-leveler and cut the cake in half.  I have cleared my kitchen tremendously of useless gadgets and tools but this is one single-use tool I keep and use quite often. 
Then I used a 2 1/2 inch circle cutter and made cake rounds.

Next I made a batch of vanilla pudding....or maybe I made a batch of pastry cream.  I have no idea what the difference is except some chef thought pastry cream sounded more sophisticated.

I separated the pudding into three bowls.  Into the first I added shredded sweetened coconut.  

Next I took 4 small jars, lined the inside with pie crust and blind baked them for about 7-8 minutes.  Then I filled the crust with the coconut cream pudding and chilled.

In the next 4 jars I layered crushed graham crackers, pudding, and bananas.

And in the last 4 jars I layered the yellow cake, vanilla pudding, and finished it off with chocolate ganache.

Just prior to serving I topped the coconut cream pie-lets {smile} with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

 That jar in the back is my favorite - I love the shape of it - and it was one of my grandma's.

This is how Mr. Steady began his special day.  He had requested a pitcher of lemonade all to himself (because the boys had made 2 pitchers of lemonade the week before and by the time Mr. Steady got home, it was all gone).  We rimmed his glass with sugar and stuck in a curly straw, tee hee!  I said all he needed was some sand and a palm tree.  So The Thinker brought in the radio and put on some Caribbean music, then he Googled a beach scene and set up the monitor in front of Mr. Steady.  That's about as "beachy" as our budget allows for this year!  

I am so thankful for my dad and my honey - they are both wonderful fathers!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kairos Cookies

I certainly did not intend to go so long between blog posts. Time has just gotten away from me. I lost my camera for a while, then I accidentally erased every picture on the camera when I did find it. So some of these pictures are months old but I wanted to blog about these things for posterity's sake.

Mr. Steady served on a Kairos Prison Ministry team this spring. Every team member is asked to bring 200 dozen cookies to the weekend. No, that is not a typo. Yes, that is 200 DOZEN cookies. There were 50 men on the team and they ended up with over 12,000 DOZEN.

 My good friend, Lisa, offered to host a cookie baking day to help out.  We baked 98 dozen cookies in short order!  Thanks so much, Lisa, Nat, Amber, Bonnie, Sheila, Arlene for spending the day with us...and Carla and Daisy for sending dough!  Thanks for organizing it, Lisa!  The inmates were certainly impressed and blessed by all those cookies!