Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 1 – All About Getting Organized

There were a few issues with this post not working yesterday but it should all be fixed check it out!

So today is technically Halloween but I always start my Christmas organizing on the Monday closest to the start of November (if that makes sense).  So there are 2 posts for today since I did a Halloween post as well…could you tell that I am not huge into Halloween but I am going to try harder as my boys are getting older and are starting to understand it.
So this week is all about getting yourself organized and ready to hit the gifts, baking, cooking and decorating hard so you can get it done before December really gets going and all the fun starts.  I have a few printables that you use, I tried to make them files that you can work with but I am new at this so I hope that they work…
So here is the list of things to do this week -
  • Update your calendar with all your Christmas parties, kid events, and normal everyday stuff
  • Start by making lists, some examples are ;
    • Gift List (don’t forget your baby-sitter(s), co-workers, hostess gifts), a home-made gift list, and stocking stuffers list (if your family does that).  The gift list also helps record if you bought on-line or not and if you have received it.
    • Christmas Card list, use my excel file (or make one the same) and I will have a tutorial on how to mail merge onto labels which makes sending lots of cards SSSOOOO easy!  (Don’t forget to have at least 10 extra cards for those families you forgot!)
    • Holiday cleaning list, get your house, pantries and freezers ready for all the extra guests and food.
    • Party planning list (includes menu plan, grocery list, and guest list)
  • Plan your Christmas Card - Whether you are going to use a layout available from a photo shop, or make your own card, you have to pick out or take the pictures that you want for them.
  • Check that you and your family all have the wardrobe that you want for pictures and parties.  Are there some things in your wardrobe that you can fix up for the season to save money?  There are so many ideas out there in blogland so start looking now!
  • Check your gift wrapping supplies and stock back up.  (Stay tuned for some great eco-friendly gift wrapping options during All About Gifts week)
So I guess I basically spend my first week making a ton of lists, talking with my husband and family about gifts and making more lists!  But if you keep those lists in an easy to get at place (like your purse or a command center in your home) you will find that you are able to shop more efficiently and get things done much more quickly.
(Now get those card mailing lists done up and ready for a mailing merge tutorial tomorrow!  If you don’t already know how to do this you will wonder why you never figured it out sooner!!!)

Happy Halloween!

In case you couldn’t tell, I am not that big into Halloween…I just don’t really like dressing up and stuff.  BUT I have 2 young boys so I am trying to make a bit of a effort for them, so here is our Halloween so far…

We went to a pre-schooler Halloween party and there was some cute party ideas and food there!  (Please excuse the poor quality pictures…my camera is dying and I haven’t got my new Canon yet!)


The cake that I made…it was supposed to be a graveyard cake but it just didn’t happen.  Instead I put these cute mice on it…gummy mice!


Hand and eyeball juice


Halloween Cake pops


And some of the cute games and crafts (crafts were a coloring page, decorating cookies and painting pumpkins)


Bobbin’ for Bones

Pin the Face on the Pumpkin

Then at home we carved and painted pumpkins and decorated the front porch.  I don’t have a good picture of the porch yet as it was raining last night, so I’ll get one tonight and share it tomorrow.  Smile


The SCARRRRRYYYYY pumpkins my husband and I carved (Munchkin 1 picked out what to carve)

And of course, I turned this…


into this delicious goodness!


Have you ever baked your pumpkin seeds?!?  It is so easy and they taste awesome! 

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

  • Right when you clean the pumpkin guts out of the pumpkins sort the seeds out from it into a collinder.  Do this before the slimy guts can dry onto the seeds, makes it so much easier.
  • Rinse the seeds clean with cold water
  • I dry mine slightly in a clean dish towel and put them in a bowl. 
  • Put a little bit of Olive oil and some seasoning (I use a sea salt spice, so some pepper, garlic, onion…)
  • Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 325F.  Give them a stir around every 10 minutes and keep an eye on them after 20 minutes, watch for them to brown but not too much or they will be burnt.
  • Cool and store in an air tight container for several months…not that they will last that long!

That is the extent of our Halloween celebrations.  I may do some Halloween stickers and coloring with the boys today but the only other plans we have is to go Trick or Treating!  My oldest told me that he want to go to “5 houses, is that OK mom?  That is a lot of candy!!”  Hmm, probably won’t actually be able to do that but once the baskets are full that is it!  Open-mouthed smile


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday’s Meal Plan

It’s that time again, planning for my meals next week as easy as possible as I have to do some work for my other job so I am going to be busy…so simple meals this week.

Weekly Plan - for posting.xlsx

I already have cookies and banana blueberry muffins so no baking needed.  Nice and Easy.

Come check out Monday to see the first week of Christmas Organizing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christmas Organization


Christmas is probably my favorite time of year, other than the hustle and bustle that it has an annoying way of creating.  Well, over the last few years (basically since I had my first munchkin) I have worked at simplifying Christmas while still keeping it very festive and not so hectic in December.  Nothing is worse then being so busy getting ready, going to parties, spending time with your kids and family, just to get sick for the big day!  So I have a plan that I set in motion the first day after Halloween which enables me to have all my gifts bought, my parties planned, baking done and gifts wrapped I hope that this year I will have my gifts wrapped before Christmas Eve.

As further motivation I am sharing my organizing plan with you so that I will get it all done this year - I will be doing a Christmas special for all of November in which I will share some of my short cuts, favourite recipes and crafts, as well as some things that I plan to do this year to be more environmentally friendly and some home-made gifts to give to friends, host/hostess of parties and co-workers.

Here is the outline to my monthly special -

Week 1 – All about getting Organized   (Oct.31 to Nov.4)

Week 2 – All about Gifts and Giving    (Nov.7 to Nov.11)

Week 3 – All about Food    (Nov.14 to Nov.18)

Week 4 – Finishing Gifts and Food    (Nov.21 to Nov.25)

Week 5 – All about Decorating   (Nov.28 to Dec.2)

Notice how I don’t decorate until December, I love the holiday but hate how it has gotten so commercialized that everyone starts decorating and turning on their lights at the beginning of November…that just makes the holiday’s too long for me and it doesn’t seem so special after that long…but that is just my opinion…

So I hope that my attempt at getting organized early will help you get ready early or at least give you some great idea’s and fun projects! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apples, Apples, Apples

So all the kids started back to school in September (while, not mine as they are too little) and then the fundraising started!  It seems that everyday someone is at the door, or messages are posted on Facebook, that their kid is doing a fundraiser for one thing or another.  (It actually is crazy seems kind of crazy the amount of fundraising you have to do once your kid is in school…not really looking forward to that part!)

I try to help out as much as I can as I know that I will be there one day, and one of the purchases I made was for a BOX of apples!  My favourite school deal so far!  So what did I do with the apples, while first I had to hide them from my oldest who decided that he needed to eat 3 apples a day.  I’m glad he loves apples so much since you should eat one a day but he was going to eat them all before I could make some apple goodness!  The first thing that I made was an apple pie, and it was delicious!  I also cut up, cooked and froze enough apples to make 2 more pies, for easy pies during the winter.

To do this you basically mix up enough apples, sugar and spices for the number of pies you want then you add water and corn starch and boil it until the apples get tender.  (Watch how much water you use, there are tons of recipes out there but I have found that there is too much water in them.)  Then just divide it up into freezer bags or containers and freeze…depending on the type of freezer, they could be good for up to 12 months…not that it will last that long!

With the rest of the apples I made Apple Butter in the slow cooker.  A friend of mine made some that way and said it turned out great so I followed the recipe she used to a point…I didn’t really measure how many apples I used and didn’t know the size of my slow cooker so I winged it.  She also mentioned that she used way less sugar and it was still good, I did the same especially since most of my apples were gala which are sweet on their own.

Basically I cored and chopped up the apples until my slow cooker was full, I added about 1/2 c. of white sugar and 1/2 c. of brown sugar and some nutmeg and cinnamon.  Then I left it to cook for probably 17 hours, it could have cooked faster if I cut the apples up smaller.  After about 12 or 13 hours I tried to mash up the apples and the last hour I mashed them up more and left the lid off. 

As I mentioned, it was full of apples and now it is just under half full.  When I was at this step I place the apple butter into sterilized jars and canned it.  This is my first canning venture as well so I don’t have a water bath canner but I decided to wing it and see if I even liked canning.

On the bottom of the pot I put a towel to keep the jars from sliding around and then a couple of them still wanted to touch so I put a few non-metal spoons between them.  Smile 

I bathed them in boiling water for 10 minutes, the canning book I read said that I only had to do it for 5 minutes but I was nervous about that…just didn’t seem long enough…then my mom told me later I should have done it for longer still.  (So I guess we’ll find out if it is still good after a couple of months…eek)

Not a lot of jars but it wasn’t a lot of work so I am ok with that.  We have had one jar and it was delicious!  I would probably put even less sugar in but I don’t like really sweet fruity things…if that makes sense.  A couple of jars may become Christmas presents but we may just eat it all ourselves!  Mmmmm…..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday’s Meal Plan


Ok, here is the switch, I will now be doing the meal plans on Thursday so that I can plan ahead of time!  Smile

Weekly Plan - for posting.xlsx

Another easier week with only making muffins again.  This is a recipe that I have made and is good and fairly healthy, I will share it with you later this week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

I am thinking about changing this up a bit and making the meal plan on Thursdays…I think that it will help if I can go shopping on the weekend without the munchkins.  It will work for the winter as we seem to keep close to home on the weekends but I’ll probably have to adjust it again for the summer.

So the plan this week is pretty simple, I had kids with colds last week and now it seems that I have their cold so I have no desire to do anything too fancy this week.

Weekly Plan - for posting.xlsx

The only thing that I am making this week is the muffins.  Smile

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creative Sandwiches

I think that most families with young children eat a lot of sandwiches.  In my house I try to give a variety of sandwiches but it usually ends up getting thrown (my 18 month old) or sits un-eaten unless it is a cheese or peanut butter sandwich.  So I was trying to get creative and make some fun shaped sandwiches to see if that helped…and it did for a bit…but now my kids just want fun shaped cheese and peanut butter sandwiches.

I am fine with that but what comes with making these cute shapes is a whole lot of this…

And I am getting tired of eating that!  LOL   I do have one sandwich cutter that cuts off the crust (which is a necessity in my house) and makes 2 cute dinosaurs but those are expensive.  Guess I will have to keep my eye out for a sale and/or a coupon and get some more.
Any other idea’s out there for eating other sandwiches?  So far tuna, ham and grilled cheese with avocado are a bust.  But grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter with banana’s, peanut butter & jam roll ups and sandwiches area all a hit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Table Setting

I haven’t been much into seasonal decorating, for one my husband and I both worked full time so we were never home…didn’t see much reason for doing it.  Then we had 2 boys 21 months apart, there just wasn’t any time to do it during that time AND Munchkin #1 was likely to climb on the table or said surface and “look closer” at it.  (Which would be why our house currently does NOT have any coffee tables, end tables or breakable things)
So I attempted my first table center piece.
The plants are these cute little pepper plants that I just couldn’t resist…and the wheat just screams fall and harvest.

I actually have them facing the other direction on my table but I have big south facing windows and a picture just wasn’t going to happen facing that direction.  But this picture shows my great old extremely old, huge table.  This is from my grandparents, they got it as a wedding present and they were married for 50 years, then my mom and dad had it for almost 10 years when my mom refinished it in this dark color (and white seats on the chairs…yah, seriously still like that and totally disgusting after 2 boys have touched them) and now I have had this table for 6 years.
I am going to be re-doing the table and still trying to decide what to do.  I have the material for the seats and I think that I want to do the table and chairs in white but not sure how much work it is going to be.  I have been looking for inspiration on the web but haven’t found anything yet…I guess the table is about 70 years old and not an antique (in the worth money sense) so I may just take a chance and if I hate it I will have to cough up the dough to buy a new one.  But right now new table on the cheap sounds good to me.
Now to find the time to get started…might just have to bite the bullet and do one chair at a time, one step at a time, until they are ready to be painted.  Then I will just have to take over the garage and take a weekend to just finish them.  I am going to set a goal of starting them next week…after the baby sale and while it is still nice enough for the boys to play outside in the afternoons…yah, I’ll do it then…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meal Plan Monday


So today is meal plan Monday but I am not really doing a meal plan this week as my husband is out of town for the week and my freezers are in dire need to being cleaned out.  So this week is “Clean out the Freezer” week.  I figured it was a good time to do it since my toddler and preschooler don’t really appreciate it when I make an effort to cook and usually end up eating a few bites then asking for a sandwich.  “sigh”

My plan of attack this week is looking in the freezers each morning and pulling something out…quite simple.  Smile

But don’t worry, I won’t leave the post just at this.  My family had an early Thanksgiving Dinner last weekend so Saturday I made a nice home cooked meal with the left-over turkey…Home-made Turkey soup, cheddar biscuits and apple pie.  I got the 2 recipes from my favourite food site – Our Best Bites…it is a fantastic food blog, it makes me laugh and I haven’t had a recipe fail on me yet. 

I did do the biscuits a bit different, I used a pastry blender instead of a mixer (I didn’t want the extra dishes) and they turned out perfectly.  I also used cheater pie crust but I made it cute with a little maple leaf cut out.  Smile

And home-made turkey soup is actually REALLY easy, the longest thing is cutting the onion, celery and carrots.  Honestly, you put the turkey carcass in a big pot and cover with water.  Toss in a quartered onion, the tops of some celery (the leafy part), some chunks of carrot and throw in whatever fresh herbs you have (or some dried parsley, thyme, and whatever else you feel like).  Let it simmer for a few hours then run it through a strainer…now you have your turkey stock.  Now just add new chopped onion, celery and carrots (and whatever other vege’s you feel like) and cook them until the vege’s are soft.  Then add the shredded turkey and some egg noodles and cook until the noodles are tender.  DONE

It is seriously that easy and you get to have a kitchen the smells delicious all day long for minimal work.

Have a great week!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meal Plan Monday - Week 39 (leading up to Thanksgiving)

Hi All, so here is week 39.  Pretty simple this week, just a bit of baking and a few ideas for you to search on-line for some pumpkin and apple recipes.

Today is my husband's birthday, so the boys and I are going to bake a small cake and decorate it for him.  And I will make lots of extra un flavored chicken to use the rest of the week...makes suppers super fast escpecially since that is grumpy toddler time for me and it is tough to cook with 2 kids hanging off me.  :)

Tuesday morning marinate the flank steak (which tastes really good and is pretty cheap but you have to make sure you cut it the right way or it can be tough to chew) and bake the pumpkin apple muffins.

Wednesday I decided to do a fun baking thing with the kids and make Apple Pops, which are oreo's decorated to look like apples (but I am sure ours will just look like a mess!)...maybe I will post about the apple pops later this week.

Thursday morning we are going to make pumpkin pancakes as there will be left over pumpkin from the muffins to use up.

Friday I will make pizza dough in the bread maker and the boys and I will make some pumpkin bars (I wills till have pumpkin left over as I bought a BIG can).

Saturday will be get things done around the house day so I planned on left overs and a crock pot meal.

Sunday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at my Mother-in-Law's.

Have a great Week!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

National Coffee Day

Ok, so this was meant to be posted on Thursday which was National Coffee Day but I got side tracked by a showing of our house and then we decided to have a last minute Thanksgiving at our house (which I tried an awesome Chantilly Pumpkin Pie recipe!).  So anyway, here is the post!  :)

I don't know about most of you out there but I LOOOOOVVVEEE coffee.  I like brewed, french press, peculated, name  And I recently came across 2 cupcake recipes that I just had to try - Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcakes and Vanilla Latte cupcakes (I had them saved in my Pinterest...I love that site!  Check it out if you haven't already).  So of course I had to make them.  :)

Don't these look Delicious! 

Mmmm, the ones below are the Vanilla Latte ones, I made them a bit different.  Instead of coffee liquior I used vanilla syrup and I put sweetened whip cream on them with some vanilla latte powder and a chocolate covered coffee bean.  These took a little longer to cook than normal cupcakes, it was about 14 minutes for the mini ones and 22 minutes for the big ones.

The next ones are the Pumpkin Spice Latte ones and they were delicious!  I basically followed the recipe for these, the mini ones took 12 minutes and the large ones took 18 minutes.  These ones were also a bit lighter than the vanilla ones.

I packaged a few of them up all pretty like (Well, pretty for me as I am not good with the whole paper crafts although I plan to try more) and played cupcake fairy!  I love giving things like this away as I don't need them all but I love to it is like Paying if Forward, if you do something nice for someone then they do something nice for another person...and so on and so on.  You make someones day and eventually if all comes back around to you.  (Just like the other day, I was getting a Timmy's coffee and the person in front of me paid for my nice and unexpected!)

Enjoy the rest of you weekend!