Thank You

Today I want to say a special thank you to all those who have served & are serving to protect this amazing country we live in.  We appreciate all you do and are willing to lay down so we can live in a free country and enjoy the quality of life we do.  We remember those who lost their lives, and are eternally thankful.  And pray for those that are still with us that have served or are serving.  Thank you so much!

*being the Pop art lover I am I had to use Jasper Johns' "American Flag" for today's post.

Baked Chicken Spaghetti

This is a great dish to make for a large crowd.  It's easy to do, makes a lot of food, & appeals to a large range of taste pallets.  It also is a great dish to freeze & have ready for a quick dinner.  You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry, so let's get cookin'!
2 cups cooked chicken, in bite size pieces
3 cups dry thin spaghetti
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups medium cheddar cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Break spaghetti into thirds so that you have 3 inch sections.  Cook speghetti until al dente (slightly firm).  Rinse with cold water & set aside.

In medium saute pan melt butter, add onions, red peppers, green peppers, garlic & mushrooms.  Sprinkle with pepper to your tasting. Cook for 10 minutes, set aside.
In a bowl combine the sour cream, 1 1/2 cups cheddar, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cottage cheese, Paprika, and salt.  Add in the spaghetti noodles, pepper & onion mixture, & chicken.  Mix until everything is combined.  Pour into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Top with remaining cup of cheddar & 1/2 cup of Parmesan.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly & delicious looking.  Enjoy!

Spring, Welcome to the Rockies

I think I can officially say that Spring is here!
We have actually had warm weather & sunny days.  And NO snow... finally!
Flowers are blooming, a sure sign of Spring.
Trees are finally blossoming & getting leaves.
Deer are scampering all over the place nibbling on green grass.  This particular deer seems to be yelling at someone, he's probably sick of me taking pictures of him.  But the best sign that it's Spring is babies!
Not from me (don't even think it), but from our horses.  This little guy was born yesterday.
Baby colts are one of my most favorite things in the world.
This one is especially sweet.  I got to be the first person to handle him, I love that.  This is the only time in a horses life that you can stick your fingers in their mouths without getting your digits chomped off.  Just like a human baby a horse baby will suck on your fingers.  Don't ask me why, but I love doing this.  (sidenote: these are not my hands, they're my father's)
I love colt tails, they are so stinkin' cute!  The first few days of a colt's life we spend as much time petting them, picking up their feet, & sticking our fingers in their mouth as we can.  
This is called imprinting, & it makes a horse very easy to train & break out if you do this starting the first day of their lives.  When we go to breakout (ride for the first time) our horses they rarely even buck because we imprint them from day one.  Plus who doesn't want to pet a baby horse.  After all this he gets a little tuckered out.
And lays down for a snooze... so sweet... now his mama gets a break.  I'm so happy Spring is here!

Penny Pinchers Forum

Yesterday a friend of my stopped by.  She has two little boys & works full time.  Her heart's desire is to stay home with her boys.  Her husband works, so they do have another income.  Nonetheless, quitting her job & only having half their current income is a scary prospect.  Yet she knows that being home with her sons during these precious & fleeting years before school starts is more important.  She asked me "How do you do it?  How do you have a house, a car, food on the table all with one income?"

My first answer is probably not what she was dying to hear.  I said, "Well, it never will make sense on paper, but somehow it just works.  The Lord provides & each month you just manage to make it."

Then I moved on to more practical advice.  I know she not the only one trying to make money work, so I'll share a few things that I said:
1. Buy groceries in bulk (hello Costco!) & try to do one trip for the whole month.  Obviously a few things you'll have to buy throughout the month, but keep it to a minimum.  Put the quantities you'll need for the next week or two in your fridge/cupboard.  Tightly store the remaining dry goods & freeze what others you can.  I freeze the other portions of cheese, milk, tortillas, lunch meat, bread etc.  Then try to use what you have for the whole month (this may require you planning a month's worth of meals ahead of time).  Wait until you're pantry is bare before going to the grocery store again.

2. Don't buy pre-made or processed foods.  Instead of buying frozen chicken strips learn how to make your own.  Rather than frozen pizza make it homemade.  I've started making oodles of pancakes & then freezing them, in the morning I just throw them in the microwave for a few seconds.  This is much cheaper than pre-made frozen waffles from the store.
3. Buy clothes on clearance (or second hand)- never pay full price!  Also, buy seasonal clothes a year ahead of time.  I always hit clearance racks in January & February for the following winter seasons jackets, snow pants, boots & Christmas dresses.  I do the same for Easter dresses.  This year all four of my children's special Easter outfits totaled $30.

4. Don't buy "stuff".  In our culture we have a bad habit of buying stuff we don't really need.  Of course every once in a while you need to treat yourself & your family, but just be conscience of what you buy.  For instance ask yourself, does your child really need another t-shirt?  I know it's only $1.50, but do they really need it?  You'll save a lot of money by not buying stuff.

5. Use cash!  Avoid the credit card.  The balance will creep up on you & before you know it $250 of your monthly budget is going towards your credit card bill.  When you do use your credit card ask yourself "Do I want to pay interest on this?"  Is a McDonald's Happy Meal really worth paying 9% interest on?!  (Factoid: most credit card purchases in the U.S. are spent at McDonalds)

6. Get creative!  Use what you already have to decorate your home.  Hit garage sales & Craig's List for big items you may want/need.  Find a new way to use cream of mushroom soup.  You've got to stretch your imagination to stretch your dollar.
Being a homemaker is one of the hardest jobs around, but it also is defiantly the most rewarding.  You never get days off, or sleep, or showers, but you do get the privilege of being with your kiddos during some of the most precious years of their lives.  I wouldn't trade it for the world!
I know so many of you are great at pinching pennies & living well.  In the comments section give your thoughts on how you make it work.  I'd love to give my friend some more ideas on how to stretch her dollar so she can stay home with her little ones... I know she wants to so badly.  Plus, we all can use new ways to save money, so comment away!

Sour Cream Pancakes

It's the weekend, & around these parts that means pancake time.  This is my new favorite way to make pancakes.  They are rich, flavorful & hearty.  Four of these babies fill me right up!  They're perfect for my pascal of kiddos because I only have to make one batch.  Each kid eats about 3 pancakes & can't fit any more into their bellies.  Unlike traditional pancakes where each kid eats about ten & I'm standing over the stove flipping flapjacks for five hours out of my Saturday.  Try em, you'll like em!
1 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
dash of cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
Mix sour cream, flour sugar, cinnamon, baking soda & salt until combined (don't mix too much, you don't want to overwork them).  In separate bowl whisk eggs & vanilla together.  Pour eggs into the sour cream mixture & stir gently until mostly combined.  Gently stir in the milk until its in batter form (don't worry about getting all the little lumps out).  Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Pour in about a tablespoon of oil & coat the pan (I do this before each pan-full of pancakes to make the edges crispy & super good).  Now pour in batter to make 4 inch pancakes (about 1/4 cup at a time).  Cook for about one minute or until little bubbles start appearing & then flip & cook for 30 seconds-1 minute.  Enjoy!  Makes about 16 four inch pancakes.

Mac & Cheese: Kid Style

I love homemade mac & cheese.  My Grandma use to make it all the time for me & I would gobble it up!  Poor kids these days don't know that mac & cheese doesn't always come from a box, & they're really missing out.  Homemade mac & cheese is one of the all time comfort foods.  I have many variations of mac & cheese, but they generally appease to adults.  So I had to come up with a kid friendly version for my little ones.  I'll share the rich & flavorful adult mac & cheeses at a later date.  But for now here is one that little tummies will enjoy (& big tummies too)...
4 cups dry macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half & half or cream
1 cup American cheese (the real stuff, not the singles wrapped in plastic- that won't work)
3/4 cup cheddar
1/4 Parmesan
1 tsp salt (plus maybe some more to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes (until it's barely soft).  You want it to have some firmness because it will cook more in the oven.  Rinse throughly in cold water & set aside.
Warm up your milk & half & half in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes or until milk is luke warm.
In medium pot melt butter over medium-low heat.  Sprinkle in flour & whisk together constantly for 5 minutes.      This is your rue & the important thing about rue is to let it cook enough that the flour taste gets out, but not let it burn.  So keep your eye on it & stir.  The rue will get bubbly & frothy & turn brown- perfect.  Slowly pour in mild & whisk it together.  Whisk often until it becomes thick.
Reduce heat to low.  At a 1/2 cup at a time add in the cheeses.  Whisk until incorporated between each addition.  Add in the salt.  Now taste it, if it's a little blah add a pinch of salt & taste.  Keep doing this until it taste good & you want to drink up the cheese sauce.
Mix the macaroni & cheese sauce together until every noodle is coated.  Pour into a 9 x 13 pan or any other baking dish.  If desired sprinkle the top with a little bit of cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly (but not too long, you don't want it to dry out).  Serve to little ones in big bowls.

*If you're in a hurry cook macaroni for the full time (about 8 minutes) until it is tender.  Mix the cheese sauce & macaroni together & serve immediately.

Happy Moms Day

Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful & amazing moms out there.  Job well done!  Today enjoy your children & that special role that you hold, mom.  
Our moms are the first person we ever fall in love with.  The bond between a mother & her child is unique & amazing.  Hope all mothers feel loved & cherished today.  (p.s. this is my most favorite piece by Mary Cassatt)
And a special shout out to my mom.  So blessed to have a mother like you.  Thank you for the amazing example you gave me on how to be a mom.  And thank you for putting me in that sweet t-shirt to show off my chubby forearms.  I love you!

Gift Ideas for Mom

If your scrambling around to figure out a gift for that special Mom in your life check out CB2.  It is a division of Crate & Barrel, the much more contemporary division.  They have great dishes at an affordable price.  & some at a not so affordable price if you want to splurge.  (Click on the pictures to go directly to that item.)
For my friends birthday recently I got her a set of these great mugs.  They are not only awesome looking they are unique & practical.
For Mother's Day I got my mom this great creamer.  She has a set of square dinner & bread plates to match this style.  Plus she loves clean line & modern to contemporary style.
I paired it with this sugar bowl & it looks sweet.  It's unique & in no way broke the bank.  My Mom loved it! (We opened presents on our early Mom's Day celebration.  See yesterday's post.)

This site is a great place to find one of a kind gifts & affordable dinnerware & stemware.  Good luck present shopping for you mama!

Mother's Day Thoughts

It's quickly approaching.  Mother's Day is almost here.  And as a most Mom's know, nobody really prepares for Mother's Day.  It's the same day every year, but somehow husbands & children always seem shock when it arrives.  They quickly dig through the art cabinet to scribble out a card, make a mad dash to the drug store for a gift, & try to quickly whip up a breakfast.
It's always interesting to see how my husband will guide my four small children through this holiday.  Unless I've really pressed the issue nothing is planned out.  Since my husband is a pastor, Sundays are busy for us already & they don't change for Mother's Day.  My Mother's Day usually begins with me waking up at 6am & for the next few hours scrambling to get all my kids fed & ready for church.  Then church, which for me is rarely relaxing (but always fulfilling), until we live around 1pm.  After which we will most likely drive to 4 or 5 restaurants (because no reservations had been made) before finding one that can seat us before the next century.  By this time I'm completely exhausted. We'll head home where I'll finally get to put on my sweats, & then make dinner, & then tuck kids into bed, & then sit down & watch Sister Wives (which will most likely be the highlight of my day).
Because Mom's Day usually turns out to be too busy to celebrate what it's actually suppose to be celebrating I have started doing something new.  I celebrate Mother's Day either the day before or the day after.  That means I actually get a day to relax... sit home all day if I want.  This year because the actual holiday is busy for both me & my Mom we are doing dinner tonight at a restaurant close by that is casual so I don't have to dress up my children or worry too much about their table manners.  It's funny, but if a mom wants a good Mother's day she has to plan it herself- but it's worth it.  If you celebrate on another day you may luck out & get 2 days of special treatment.
If you are a husband or child reading this here is my advice to you.  Plan today what you are going to do for your mom on Mother's Day.  Do not buy her an inflatable bathtub pillow as her only gift.  You plan the day, don't ask your Mom to plan it.  Give your mom lots of hugs & kisses.  Clean the house (the way your mom would), fold the laundry (the way your mom would), celebrate Mother's Day (the way your Mom would celebrate your birthday, or Father's Day).  Do these few things & I guarantee that Mother's Day will be a success.  You don't have to spend a lot of money, just plan ahead.
Above all, moms remember to give yourself a day off.  And if you are blessed to have your mother around shower her with the same love & affection you would like to receive from your family.  We all learn by example best.


Now is the time to start sowing your seeds indoors for your garden.  Up here in the north country it is anyway... where it's still cold...where we're still wearing our winter coats... where it snowed the past 4 days.  In warmer climates you can just sow in the ground.  But where it's chilly & there is a short growing season it is best to start your seedlings in doors.
This indoor head start for your plants is great for their growth, but often not very attractive for your home decor. I saw this idea in one of my magazines.  Egg shells are easy enough to come by, but I thought I would never be able to afford the cute glass egg carton.  I was proven wrong when I came upon this one at Ross Dress For Less.  And it was less, only $3.  I snatch it up & started my indoor herb garden in it.  It's so sweet, & country, & Springy and looks good on the kitchen counter where it can soak up soft sunlight.

Once the seedlings are big enough to transplant simply break the shells up a bit & plant the whole thing.  The roots will remain stress free & the shells provide great nutrients to help you plants grow.  Happy planting!