Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Please excuse the construction

Please excuse any glitches or problems you have with my site for the next few days.  There are some major changes taking place behind the scenes.  I'm praying it all goes smoothly and I'm pretty sure it will since Joy is in charge!!

Other than a completely new experience, there will be a name change, so don't let it throw you for a loop when you click on Bloggin' Mama and find someone new inhabiting the place - it's still me, I'm just changing the blog name and delving more into what I want my main focus to be - Homemaking Joyfully!

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Freezing and thawing bulk ground beef

I typically buy ground beef in bulk at Costco, since it seems to be the most reasonable price (other than sales) and good quality meat I can find.  Recently, I've developed a better way to freeze it to save room in the freezer.  This new way also helps with the thawing process, and makes it much faster.

The large packages of ground beef typically come in somewhere in the 5½-6½lb range.  I look through and try to find one that is close to 6 pounds, this makes the division into freezable portions much easier!

Using six, quart size freezer bags, I separate the meat into 6 portions.

Zip the bag, leaving 1-2" open for air removal and begin flattening the meat.

The goal is for it to be even-thickness and fill up the entire bag.  Try to get it as level as possible for better stacking.  Then seal the bag.

Once all six bags are flattened and sealed, stack them.

Then they fit nicely in the freezer.

This also makes thawing the meat so much faster.  Stick it in a dish in the fridge and it will thaw in about half the time a "lump" of ground beef will thaw.  The thinner packing also makes it easier for those occasions when you forget to thaw your meat.  Just pull it from the freezer and drop it into your skillet or pot.  It will thaw quickly once it hits the heat.

This post is linked to: Kitchen Tip Tuesday

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wonder how many new members this church sees each week...

Can you see it? That's a church next to that liquor store!!

This post is linked to: Wordless Wednesday.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup

For a while now I've been trying to incorporate more beans into our diet as a main protein for one meal each week and have been so happy with this navy bean soup recipe, there was no way I could resist sharing it with you.

I have adapted this recipe to suit our tastes and we think it is SO yummy!  My favorite part is how easy it is to put together a nutritious and filling soup for my family.

:: 1½ cups navy beans (great northern beans also work wonderfully)
:: 5 cups water
:: 2 carrots, diced
:: 2 celery stalks, diced
:: 1 medium onion, diced
:: ½lb. ham steak, cut into bite size pieces
:: salt and pepper, to taste

~ Soak beans over night, then drain and rinse.
~ Add all ingredients to slow cooker
~ Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 8+ hours

Could it be any easier?

This soup is wonderful served with cornbread or yeast rolls.

Tip: If I'm running behind and don't get it started early enough, I turn the slow cooker on high while I'm chopping the veggies, boil the 5 cups of water in my kettle and then pour the boiling water (instead of tap water) into the slow cooker with the other ingredients to speed up the process a bit.

This post is linked to: Smockity Frocks' "What's in your crockpot" carnival.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - 2/22

It's another crazy busy week this week.  Part of it is that I'm starting my regular schedule with my new chiropractor and he wants to see me three times a week for the next four weeks.  Eek!  AND he's 30 miles away, but he's amazingly wonderful at what he does and after only two visits I'm seeing improvement!  So, those three appointments added to a MOPS event and a dental appointment already have me feeling a bit crazy about this week.

I've planned pretty simple meals for this week.

Breakfasts: lazy granola (either served as a cold cereal, with milk and bananas or in yogurt), cold cereal with bananas, pumpkin pancakes, eggs/toast/fruit

Lunches: mostly sandwiches and fruit/raw veggies on the go (as my chiropractor appointments are just before lunch time and we'll be packing lunches to eat on the way home)

Monday - pb&j, veggie sticks, fresh fruit or smoothies
Tuesday - Crockpot chicken with quinoa
Wednesday - Tacos, fruit smoothies
Thursday - Navy bean soup (recipe coming on Monday), bread w/butter
Friday - Pizza, fruit
Saturday - Out
Sunday - Chicken nachos (w/salsa, olives, sour cream), fruit smoothies

This post is linked to: Menu Plan Monday.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Military support system

The squadron Michael is in is quite small and a fairly close-knit operation and that has definitely been a finer thing for us during this time!

I am so blessed to receive at least one phone call and several emails per week checking in on us and asking if there's anything we need assistance with around the house or babysitting, etc.

The Command Team of this squadron are among some of the most awesome people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Here's a sampling of how wonderfully they treat their squadron families:

~ Last Monday when Rachael wasn't well and I spent the majority of the day at doctors and eventually the hospital with her, the Major's wife (awesome lady - cannot say enough about her!!) came over to babysit the boys so I wouldn't have to take them along with me.  She (and their 14 y/o daughter) ended up spending nearly the entire day and half of the night at our house.  And she did it because she wanted to, not out of an obligation due to her husband's rank/title.

~ Last Friday was also the monthly deployed spouse dinner on base and we were the only family from the squadron there, yet, the squadron Commander (photo: in uniform) and one of the NCO's (photo: holding Rachael) came to support us and give me a little break.  I knew no one else at this event (because I don't participate in any of those "wives' club" type events).  They stepped in to entertain the kids while I got our food, then later took over while I waited in line with the boys for face painting.  I also ended up winning one of the door prizes (an 18" boys bike) and had help getting it loaded up to take home.

It has been such a pleasure and blessing being a part of this squadron and experiencing the wonderful leaders Michael currently has.  Not all military superiors are as dedicated to their people as these gentlemen and their families.  I pray many return blessings on these families and will terribly miss the friendships we have cultivated during our time here when we move away this summer.

Note: I have written, deleted and re-written this post several times and still feel I haven't adequately conveyed how blessed we are.

This post is linked to: Finer Things Friday.

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You Capture - Kisses!

I have the perfect photo for this week's You Capture!

Anytime I'm on Skype with Michael (he's in Iraq) or have a photo of him up on the monitor, Rachael finds her way into my lap and shimmies herself up until she's level with (and an inch from) the monitor and begins her smooch-fest with daddy!!  She goes on and on about "dada" telling me all sorts of things and kissing the monitor.

She is absolutely in love with her daddy and it has to be the most heart-melting thing.  EVER.

This post is linked to: You Capture.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sleeping arrangements

This is how I sometimes find Eli when I'm on my way to bed!

This post is linked to: Wordless Wednesday.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - 2/15

Valentine's Day, 2010

We had a pretty nice Valentine's Day around here.  Admittedly, I was a bit grumpy this morning (had nothing to do with Valentine's Day...), but I managed to pull it together and we ended up enjoying our day.

The boys really enjoyed their heart shaped foods today.  I served heart shaped sandwiches for lunch and heart shaped pancakes (with strawberry topping) for dinner!  They thought it was fun!

Then we had a couple of friends over and after the kids were all in bed, we watched this week's Survivor.  (My DVR records it every week and I don't watch it until whatever evening they can come over to watch it with me).

I have another busy week ahead of me and I'm wondering when this will slow down.... hopefully once I get the bulk of the moving paperwork/appointments taken care of I'll get a few weeks of reprieve.

Here's what I'm planning for this busy week:
Breakfasts: Pumpkin pancakes, eggs & toast, oatmeal with fruit/honey, cereal with bananas

Lunches: Mostly leftovers, otherwise, pb&j, fruit/veggie tray, random assortments of odds-n-ends

Monday - Antelope steaks, brown rice, steamed veggies, bread w/butter
Tuesday - Philly steak sandwiches (w/green peppers, onions and cheese), fruit smoothies
Wednesday - Grilled cheese, fresh fruit, carrot sticks
Thursday - Tuna melts, carrot sticks, grapes
Friday - Pizza, fruit smoothies
Saturday - Take out
Sunday - Taco rice casserole (recipe later)

This post is linked to: Menu Plan Monday.

Note: I made that dress Rachael is wearing and I used this awesome tutorial.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Will you help me support my husband while he's in Iraq?

We all know that we can pray for our troops.  And many of you know that care packages can be sent, but let's face it, unless you have a loved one who is deployed or a school group putting together packages, most people don't send care packages.  They take time and effort and the majority of the time, people really don't realize just how much those care packages mean to our airmen/soldiers.  However, they mean A LOT.  Trust me.

But, did you know there's actually something tangible and easy you can do to help give our troops a morale boost and provide them with a small comfort from home?  Small comforts from home are the finer things that get these guys/gals through their time away.
Buy them coffee.  That's right, coffee (at a real coffee shop).  All you need to know is his/her first and last name, their email address and their pickup location/base name.

Here's how:
~ Go to the Green Beans Coffee site.
~ Choose your recipient's pick up location - if you're ordering for Michael, it's "Iraq - South Victory"
~ Choose your amount (the recipient automatically gets an additional 10% to what you purchase)
~ Consent to terms and click "order"
~ Fill in your information
~ Fill in the recipient information.  For Michael - Michael Venning, mvenning79@yahoo.com and Iraq - South Victory
~ Please write them a message.  It means SO much to them.  Even if you're only thanking them for their service, they appreciate it.
~ Fill in your payment information and submit your order.

The recipient will then get an email notifying them they have a gift card available at the coffee shop you chose as the pickup location.

That's it!  Easy, right?  Now, GO show your support.  I know first hand that Michael would appreciate it!

This post is linked to: Finer Things Friday.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Update on Rachael

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen these updates last night.

Here's the scoop.

On Monday morning, Rachael woke up with a moderate fever (102°) for the fifth day in a row.  Due to the fever and not feeling well, she also hadn't eaten more than about 4 bites per day in three days.  She has also had cold-type symptoms (coughing, runny nose, runny eyes) for 10 days.  She saw the pediatrician on January 29th and was diagnosed with a cold.

The only way I seemed to be able to get the fever down was with ibuprofen.  Now, I know what a fever is (the body's reaction to fighting off a virus/bacteria) and I'm not one to fret over a fever that has lasted a few days, however, FIVE days is too long to be running a temperature of 102°.

Monday morning I called the pediatrician and there were no appointments available in the pediatric or family practice clinics, so they scheduled her an acute care appointment at the US Air Force Academy (nearest military treatment facility with acute care capabilities) across town.  The appointment was at 2:20.  The boys stayed at our house with a sitter.

At this appointment, the doctor checked her over and then wanted to do some urine tests.  I am not quite sure why, but rather than using a catheter and gathering the urine immediately, he decided to put a "u-bag" on her.  Just Google it - I won't be explaining that one..... And then I proceeded to wait an additional 2½ hours (she had already had a dry diaper on for over an hour) for her to provide a sample for testing (:: I had to wait for her to pee in the little baggy thing::).  She was already mildly dehydrated at this point.

In the mean time, her temperature had spiked to 104.2°.  They gave her some ibuprofen and we then had to wait an additional hour for the test results and her temperature to go down.  She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, prescribed some oral antibiotics and sent home.  By this time it was nearing 6:30pm a full FOUR hours after we'd arrived at the clinic.

On the way home, she began vomiting in the van.  I called the acute care clinic and they wanted me to take her to the nearest ER since she had a new symptom and it was probably an indication of an additional kidney infection - and the clinic didn't have the capabilities to run the necessary test.

We went home first so Rachael could have a bath and I could get her nasty carseat out of the van and into the wash (I adjusted Eli's carseat and she used that since hers was washing).  

Then we proceeded to the ER.  As with most ER visits, we spent quite a while waiting...

Once called back, they took more urine (this time they did it the quick way).  By this time she was refusing all drinks, so once they got the test results back, she was started on an IV for fluids.  When that was finished, she was given IV antibiotics to help with the infection.

Once, the fluids were in her, she was a completely different child!  She decided she wanted to eat some snacks and have some juice and play with anything in Mommy's purse she could find!

She was discharged with instructions to continue fluids, keep the fever down with meds, fill the prescription for the oral antibiotics and start them sometime today and follow up with our regular pediatrician on Friday.

We arrived home at 1:30 am, exhausted.

I am so incredibly thankful for our wonderful friends (friend and her 14 y/o daughter) who spent most of the day and half of the night at our house yesterday so I could get my baby taken care of without having to spend the extra energy to also keep track of the boys and keep them occupied.  I'm certain I would have been quite insane at the end of the 11 hour ordeal if the boys had been with me!

I'm also incredibly thankful for the prayer support we received last night after my tweets.

Oh, and evidently, the cold and the bladder/kidney things aren't related. Two separate issues - which I definitely think is accurate since the boys have also had the same cold symptoms.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'm back from hiatus!

I'm back and feeling refreshed and so excited about the changes that will be taking place around here over the next few weeks!  I'll share more of that with you as the time approaches!!

Last month, I ended up completing the pantry challenge.  I did go over budget from my original goal, but still only spent half of my normal grocery budget.  And since I very much enjoyed having a monthly menu plan last month, I decided it's something I think I will keep up with so long as it doesn't become overwhelming.  I planned 3 weeks worth of menus for this month because in January, I planned the whole month out and ended up not making about 5 meals due to leftovers, etc.  This is already giving me some wiggle room for those occasions, since I already have one carry over meal from last week!

Here's what I have planned for this week.

Breakfasts: oatmeal/muesli, pancakes, cold cereal, eggs/toast

Lunches: Mostly leftovers, otherwise, pb&j, fruit/veggie tray, random assortments of odds-n-ends

Monday - Crockpot chicken, steamed veggies, buttery rolls
~ make chicken stock
Tuesday - Spaghetti, fresh fruit, leftover buttery rolls
Wednesday - Pan fried fish, steamed veggies, leftover buttery rolls, fruit
Thursday - Taco rice casserole (recipe later)
Friday - Deployed families dinner on base
Saturday - Dinner out
Sunday - Heart shaped pancakes with strawberry topping in celebration of Valentine's Day

This post is linked to: Menu Plan Monday

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What to do with those old military uniforms

We now interrupt this scheduled blogging break to bring you a lovely craft project.

The USAF has been in the process of implementing new uniforms for a couple of years and the changeover will be complete next year.  When you deploy you are required to wear only the new uniform.  This meant that Michael was issued (and had to purchase a few) new uniforms prior to his deployment.

Not wanting to be wasteful, I had him save 7 of his old uniform tops (4 BDU - that's the regular dark camo - and 3 DCU - that's the desert/sand camo) so I could come up with something crafty to do to reuse them!

I had an epiphany a few days ago!  Reversible superhero capes for the boys!

Here's what you need:
~ 4 mens shirts
~ Grosgrain ribbon in coordinating color (I used 3/8" because it's what I had, but I would recommend 1")
~ Fray Check **
~ Scissors
~ Fabric marker/chalk
~ Sewing machine
~ Coordinating thread

:: I started with this (I actually used 2 BDU and 2 DCU shirts for this project):

:: Then I cut the entire back panel off.  Leaving the bottom hem intact, cut just inside the seams, including around the shoulders and collar, to remove the back panel in one piece.

:: Once you have 4 panels cut out, iron them all, then pick out the smallest one.  You will be using this one to create your pattern for the other pieces.

:: Fold this one in half lengthwise and use chalk/fabric pen to make your outline.  Basically, you want to go from the shoulders to the bottom hem gradually flaring out toward the bottom.  You may also need to even up the shoulders/neck.  Just eyeball it - there's no need for perfection, it's a dress-up item, afterall!

:: Cut this out and then cut out your other 3 pieces using this as your "pattern".

:: Once you have all 4 pattern pieces cut out, place one right side up on your table, cut a length of ribbon long enough to tie around child's neck with plenty of slack.  Then cut that ribbon in half and pin one to the center of each shoulder.  Then place the other fabric, right side down on top of the other and continue pinning around perimeter.

:: Sew with a straight stitch and leave a ½" seam allowance all the way around.  Be sure to leave a 6" opening in one side for turning.  I also back-tacked my ribbon a couple of times for added security.

:: Snip corners on an angle and turn right side out, making sure to "poke" each corner out.

:: Flatten out, ironing again if necessary and pin the perimeter for top-stitching.  Be sure to close the opening used for turning.

:: Sew with a straight stitch and ¼" from edge, making sure to catch the seam allowance in your top-stitch.

** Use the Fray Check to treat the exposed ends of the ribbon to keep it from fraying.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking a time-out

Hello friends!

I've decided I'm taking a break from blogging for a bit.  I don't know how long this break will last and frankly, at the moment, I can't think more than a week into the future because there are SO many things going on. 

With Michael being deployed I'm feeling a little worn out and feel that it's best if I take a step back to regroup.  I'll still be hanging around Twitter and Facebook and checking email, but won't be putting many "thoughts" together here.

I'll see you guys back here soon, hopefully feeling refreshed and with my life a little more ordered.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Pantry Challenge - week 3

GAH!  I only have $1.38 left in my projected budget (and there are some items that I still NEED).  But, it couldn't be helped - my honey needed some healthy snack foods - he sent me a "mayday" email because the only portable snack foods he could find at the BX and chow hall were things like poptarts, sugary granola bars, sugary cereal, etc.  So, I spent $20 on trail mix, mixed nuts, veggie chips, popcorn and dried fruit.  It was $20 well spent!  I feel so blessed to be able to take care of him!

Actually, I would be going over my projected $100 by the end of the month anyway, so I'm just going to wing it from here and see exactly how much I truly needed to spend.  I didn't know going in to this if I would be able to stick to the $100 and I am proving that it was a little low for me.

Here's what I have on the menu for this week:

Cold cereal, oatmeal, pumpkin pancakes

Mostly leftovers, otherwise, fruit/veggie tray, cheese & crackers

Monday - Chicken tortilla soup
Tuesday - Spaghetti, steamed veggies, buttery rolls
Wednesday - Broiled or grilled steak (will grill if weather permits), roasted potatoes, buttery rolls
Thursday - Dinner out
Friday - Pizza, smoothies
Saturday - Crockpot chicken, rice, steamed veggies
Sunday - Potato soup

Be sure to visit Menu Plan Monday for wonderful menu ideas for this week!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Help for Haiti

Have you seen what's going on in the blogging world today?  It's Help for Haiti craziness out there.  And it's awesome!

So many wonderful people are joining in with donations to charities with the focus of helping the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Money Saving Mom has the details on who is giving and how you can help and she has a link-up over at her place.

My friend, Amy, says it so well:
"There is so much need, but so little me. With this economy, no one really expects us to give, right?

Wrong.  Giving is something that everyone can and should do. Yes, everyone.  Rich, poor, talented, not-so-talented, young or old.  We all, in any of our broken circumstances, can give."
Yep, that's right, YOU have something to offer.  If not financially, you can spread the word on your blog, comment on all the blogs offering to donate $ per comment and you can pray.

Please join us in helping those in need!

I'm donating 50% of sales through Friday, January 22, in my Etsy shop to Compassion International. (Look for 7 new items coming later today!!).


This post is linked to:
:: Money Saving Mom
:: The Finer Things In Life
:: The Happy Housewife

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Caught in Mommy's makeup!

I sent Eli upstairs with a hand towel to hang in my bathroom... he was taking much longer than I thought he should have, so when I found him, this is what he looked like:

Someone's been in Mommy's mascara!

This post is linked to Wordless Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Six years ago. . .

Jacob Jasper
January 12, 2004
9lb 15oz; 23½" long

1st birthday - January, 2005

2nd birthday - January, 2006

3rd birthday - January, 2006

4th birthday - January, 2007

5th birthday - January, 2009

6th birthday - today!

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