Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Fun

It has been a very busy week with school parties, Halloween activities, and our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. Like almost every other holiday, Halloween has become a week long event. Lots of fun for the little ones but often tiring for moms! I may be exhausted, but here are some images of the fun we had at the pumpkin patch. We were blessed with 70 degree weather, too!

I love this yearly picture, and it shows a little bit about each of my girls' personalities.

We enjoyed fresh apples and apple cider:

We picked a huge pumpkin to carve.

We decorated little pumpkins:

Erin grew a mustache:
We played in the corn crib:

And the hay jump:

We had a wonderful day! Happy Halloween!

Just a reminder that Christmas is right around the corner. I have been busy getting organized so I can have a relaxing holiday season. Does anybody else have an organization plan for the upcoming holidays?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Easy Halloween Craft for Kids: Pumpkin Planter

My kids bring home a lot of crafts from school, the library, and pretty much everything else they do. And they love it. I obviously cannot keep everything. I have a folder for each of my girls with projects that are special to me. I also save some art for family members. Everything else ends up in the recycling bin or garbage. Every so often they do an activity or create a craft that it . . well, a little useful.

My three year old made this Pumpkin Planter at Harvest Class:
She really enjoyed cleaning out the pumpkin, decorating it, and planting the little plant. We also brought the pumpkin seeds home to bake. By the way, we put the plant in a yogurt container so it is easier to water. It is a nice addition to my autumn decor!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crock Pot Chocolate Slop

I do not remember where this recipe came from but it is always a hit when served with ice cream:

Chocolate Slop:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small box chocolate instant pudding
1 pint sour cream
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup water
6 oz. chocolate chips

Spray crock with non-stick spray. Mix all ingredients and place in crock. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Glimpse of the Past

I recently started reading the Little House series with my older girls. They are really enjoying just listening to the simple stories of Pa, Ma, Laura, Mary and Carrie. The books have very few illustrations so the girls must listen very intently to understand what is going on in the story. The simple lives of this family intrigues their young minds.

One Fall afternoon, I was thrilled to be able to take the girls to a local working pioneer homestead. They were amazed to watch and participate in many of the activities that the Ingalls family did in order to survive.

They played dress-up in handmade pioneer clothing.

We churned butter.
We made church babies. Little girls made these dolls to quietly occupy themselves at Sunday services.

I fell in love with the kitchen!
And the pantry . . .
And the oven. They were making applesauce cakes . . .yum!

The day was so much fun and so educational. We are planning to learn more about the pioneer lifestyle by creating a Little House Story Study Lapbook found here. This year, Santa may be surprising the girls with little baskets recreating Laura's favorite Christmas gifts - red mittens, a red and white peppermint stick, and a rag doll (which they will probably name Charlotte!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week of 10/25/09

I am working on batch cooking this week. Tonight I made about 100 meatballs for the freezer and about 12 jars of strawberry jam. I hope to make a big batch of waffles, muffins, cabbage soup, and yogurt throughout the rest of the week. I am already tired just thinking about it . . . .

Here is my menu plan for the week:

Sunday: Swedish meatballs with broccoli and noodles

Monday: Stuffed shells, salad

Tuesday: Crunchy Ranch Chicken, brown rice, and broccoli

Wednesday: Roast Beef, oven fries, parmesan green beans

Thursday: Hoagies (from school fundraiser), vegetable tray with dip

Friday: Crock Pasta E Fagioli soup and Pizza (from school fundraiser)

Saturday: Halloween Menu:
Mini Mummy Dogs
Baked Sweet Potato Witches
Brussel Sprout Brains
Halloween Cupcakes

As always, I am trying to cut down my weekly grocery bill. Even though we are a family of six, we try to eat as organically and locally as possible. I realize that this does increase my weekly bill but it is definitely worth the investment in my family's health. Nevertheless, I am sure there are ways to cut back.

I cook from scratch where I can, I plan my menus and strictly shop from my list, I shop at Costco for those things that I truly use in bulk, I cook from "frugal" cookbooks, I batch cook and freeze when items are on sale, I try to incorporate at least two meatless meals a week, etc. I use coupons when I can, but it is very hard to find coupons for most things I buy. And unfortunately, farmer's markets and CSAs are done for the year in my neck of the woods :(

Does anybody have any suggestions on how to further cut my grocery bill? My wallet is begging you for help!

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hot Soup on a Cold Day

I have been making soup once or twice a week this Fall. It is one of those meals that I know ALL of my family will eat. I always double my batch to freeze, and I also save some for lunch the next day. I made the following recipe for my Autumn Mother's Night Out. It was a huge hit!

Delicious Cheese Tortellini Soup

1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes, undrained (You can also use a large can of diced tomatoes.)
32 oz. chicken broth
1-2 pounds frozen cheese tortellini
2 boxes frozen spinach

Saute onion and garlic in butter in a large soup pot.

Add chicken broth and tomatoes. Simmer 30 minutes.

Cook tortellini and spinach according to directions on package.

Add tortellini and spinach to soup and cook for additional 10 minutes. Add some additional chicken broth or water if needed.

Serve and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moments of True Bliss

Indian Summer and cloth diapers sunning on the line. Such sweetness!

Sunday Football Favorite Crockpot Recipe

I love love love my crock pot. It treats me like a queen, it does what I ask, it is very flexible and forgiving, it makes my life easy, it does not talk back . . . you get the picture.

Why do I love it so? Let me count the ways:

1. As I write this, I am nursing my sick baby. I also have a sick 3 year old. By 5:00 p.m., I will have two sick, cranky little girls not to mention two tired, hungry school girls.
With dinner in the crock, I can tend to everybody's needs and still have a hot, nutritious dinner on the table.

2. Thursdays. My two older girls have dance class on Thursday. How else can I feed them early and still have a hot meal ready for my husband and two little ones while we are gone?

3. Summer. Hot meal, cool kitchen. Enough said.

While I can go on and on, here is my Steeler Sunday Football Favorite Crock Pot Recipe (not the most nutritious but darn is it sooooooo good!) By the way, this is not exactly a "recipe" so feel free to add and delete ingredients for your own taste.

Crock Italian Sausage Sandwiches:

Brown a package of Italian Sausage in a skillet with a little water. I prefer Extra Hot Sausage!
Throw sausage in the crock with:
One box of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes. Do not drain.
One large can of tomato sauce
One chopped onion
One chopped green pepper

Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Serve on soft hoagie rolls.

These sandwiches are so delicious especially as the juice soaks into the bun. Now the key to my sandwiches is the crock I choose to cook them in:
On another crock pot note, I was very excited to receive my copy of Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea , founder of While I have not had a chance to make any recipes from the book yet, it really looks promising. It has recipes for beverages to desserts and everything in between. Check it out!
Pictured here is my everyday crock that I purchased last year at Target for $15. While I love it, I am interested in investing in another crock pot with automatic settings and all the bells and whistles.

Does anybody have any recommendations?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autumn Crafting with Glitter Pumpkins

I have been inspired to make some new decorations for the house as the weather has gotten drastically colder in the past week and the daylight is getting shorter. I saw the following idea on one of my favorite blogs, a long time ago. And then this week I received a Martha Stewart daily craft idea in my email that included these lovely glitter pumpkins. I knew it was time to make them!
I purchased (using the weekly sale and a coupon, of course!) five craft pumpkins, some sponge paint brushes, Martha Stewart Glitter Glue, and Martha Stewart Glitter in red, orange and brown. I poured a glass of red wine, put on some jazz, and got to work.
I glittered the stem with brown. If I were to do this again, I would have just painted the stem brown for ease.I worked a little at a time, allowing the glue to dry.I think the end result turned out very well! I placed them on our red hutch in our dining room. My girls were so thrilled when they woke up the next morning - they love anything that sparkles! This was such an easy and relaxing project. I plan to do some more glitter projects for Christmas. The Martha Stewart glitter was so nice to work with. It is definitely not your children's glitter. It had a rich creaminess about it - I could not resist running my fingers through it:

Menu Plan for the Week of 10/18/09

This week, I am hosting an Autumn Mom's Night Out at my home. I have been busy cleaning, crafting, and decorating! Here is my plan for the week:

Sunday: Mom's Night Out
Sliced apples with caramel dipping sauce
Cheese tortellini soup
Homemade dinner rolls
Hot fudge brownie sundaes

Apple cider with mulling spices
Iced tea

Monday: Crock pot macaroni and cheese casserole
Steamed broccoli
Vege tray with baby carrots, grape tomatoes and celery

Tuesday: Lasagna with homemade noodles

Wednesday: Saucy Beef and Broccoli
Brown rice

Thursday: Lemon chicken/Garlic Lime Chicken
Buttered orzo
Steamed green beans

Friday: Creamy Wild Rice Soup

Saturday: Date night/Movie Night for kids

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Little Girls and Fairy Tales

We have been reading almost daily from our wonderful books from the Sonlight Curriculum. I have been asking Mary what she wants to read and she always responds, "Fairy Tales." Today, we chose The Princess and the Pea from Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales. Mary put on her favorite princess dress and crown:

After reading the story, we played our Sleepy Princess and the Pea game from Haba:

The game was fun and we got some extra practice with colors, shapes and patterns. For lunch, I will serve peas. Later, I will make some homemade play dough to recreate peas, mattresses and pillows!

Here is our recipe:

1/2 cup salt
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. cream of tartar
2 cups water

Cook on low heat, stirring continuously until ingredients form a ball. Remove from heat and let cool until mixture can be handled, then knead well. Cool completely. Store in airtight container and it keeps for a long time!

You can color with food coloring or powdered tempura. I sometimes add a few drop of essential oil to give it a pleasant smell.

Enjoy creating!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn Day at the Farm

As promised, we returned to our favorite farm to see how many things have changed since we last visited at the end of summer. It still amazes me that just a few short weeks ago it was warm and everything was alive and green! While I miss the warm, relaxing days of summer, the beauty of autumn in Western Pennsylvania is such a blessing! Here are some images of a beautiful day spent with friends and family:

Mary making leaf angels

Mary was so excited to see "her" horses. Here, she is looking for her favorite horse, Buttercup.

Anne loves to make leaf angels, too!

Mary's favorite animals are her "lampies." Here, she is yelling, "Look, this is my Lampie!"
Running through the leaves was the best part of the day!
Autumn Blessings!