Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mummy's Nightmare: Attack of the Toys

     My youngest child looked up at me and declared, "Mommy you aren't afraid of anything!"  Since I didn't run shrieking at the sight of a bug I had won the bravest person in the world award.  I told her that there was one thing that scared Mommy...messes.  Dirt came into my kitchen on sneakers and spread across the house.  Spills happened and toys tripped me like tangled roots. She giggled at the thought of Mommy running from the dirt, mud, and messy monsters in fear.

     Her room held more surprises then a haunted house.  When I opened her closet to get Playdough it was difficult to reach it without turning my ankle. This was not a boo-tiful closet like her brother's room. It made me think of watching a horror movie and shouting to the screen, "Don't open the door!"  I called in reinforcements for this task.  No it wasn't ghostbusters, more like clutterbusters. I waited until my daughter was on the school bus before my friend helped me tackle this beast of a pile.

   First to find the floor we dragged everything into her room.  Then we sorted pieces, removed outgrown toys, and filed miscellaneous drawings under G. My friend smartly brought a garbage bag in before we started. The stuffed animals  relocated to a bin in her room so she can play with them. The outgrown toys were passed down to younger friends. Dress up clothes were moved to the playroom.
     We shelved the books.  My friend suggested we use a clear plastic shoe box for small books.  I combed through the books to find the little readers.  It saved a lot of shelf space by turning the box sideways and made it easier to find skinny paperbacks.

I love this space saving books in a box.
Clear boxes make toys easy to find.

      The addition of  a few clear plastic boxes contained the small toys. I normally used baskets, but these were stacked to save room. All the baskets of craft materials were removed from the closet. There is no work space in the bedroom and I've encountered a few surprises with markers and glue lately.  I have a new 3 bin drawer to house all the craft materials near the homework table outside her room.  

   The result was one happy girl.  After school she immediately went for her closet and played with her favorite toys.  She was happy to get into the closet and find her things. Now for what is lurking beneath the bed!  


Monday, October 29, 2012

Boo-tiful: A Dream Closet

There's a floor in the closet.
Books on shelves
      Unlike the skeletons in my closet, my son's closet was a fairly simple job. I didn't take a before picture so let me walk you through it.  I set the timer for 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon and got to work.

     The kids had made a habit of making a secret reading area in his closet.  It sounds like fun, but his sister is not fond of the clean up part.  The result was a twisted pile of sheets and books. He helped me put the books up on the shelf.  That was step one. Next we folded up the sheets and put them away.
    Now we had a floor.  The next step was to remove a few games from the top shelf.  They were put up there to keep little hands out of reach years ago.  The outgrown games were donated to the church rummage sale.  What a great excuse to get me to clean things out. I put the games immediately in the car and dropped them off the next day.

    The only other thing taking up a lot of closet space was a bucket of stuffed animals.  I wondered if they reproduced while we were sleeping.  There just always seemed to be a pile of them.  I put his favorites on his bed and the overflow in the camouflage sack so they take up less room.  The bin was cracked so I disposed of it.  Then I triple checked for outgrown clothes and his boo-tiful closet was finished!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Skeletons In My Closet: It's Scary In There!

The Secret Stash of Clutter
Ahh...that's much better!
      My favorite blogger Barb from Cleaning Up The Clutter inspired me to take a look at my mess.  I worked hard to keep to a daily chore schedule and tidied up the house.  Meanwhile, my closets were a fright worthy of the Halloween line up.  Somehow out of sight out of mind kept it from getting done.
    I set a goal this month to work on making the closets more livable.  I worked 20 minutes a day until it was done. First step was the repair/stain pile.  My Mom is the ultimate stainmaster.  Seriously she could get the mud out of a puddle.  She took a look at my pile and marked stains with pins and sewed a blouse with a tear. Thanks Mom you are the best!

  My husband built me this wonderful storage shelving unit for my birthday.  I needed to clear off the top surface. The box held LL Bean items that didn't fit.  Back to the store they went. What was left?  Clothes that didn't fit.  Time for them to get donated.  Now we had the little surprises I had picked up for the children.  They were moved to an undisclosed hiding place where they were more secure and out of the way.

   With the summer clothes stowed away in the cubbies and the fall apparel in the dresser the closet was complete. I wanted to leave the door open so I could admire a job well done!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whole Lotta Pumpkin: 5 Things To Make With Pumpkin

    I have a HUGE pumpkin carved in my yard.  Although I do like to bake pumpkin seeds, I don't tend to use the pumpkin itself.  I find the canned pumpkin very convenient.  I buy the plain pumpkin without the spices.  Since it is pumpkin season, what do you do with that canned orange stuff?

1. Pumpkin bread/muffins

2. Pumpkin seeds

3. Pumpkin Pie

4. Pumpkin Oatmeal

5. Pumpkin Harvest Pudding

Pumpkin Harvest Pudding
    After opening up the can for our new recipe pumpkin oatmeal, I had A LOT leftover.  I could just let it sit on the back of the shelf and grow mold, tsk tsk, or find a use for it.  So in the most unlikely of sources What To Eat When You're Expecting I found a pumpkin recipe that used up my pumpkin and my dwindling pile of apples.
   I didn't have frozen apple juice so I substituted unsweetened applesauce.  I was out of pears, so I doubled up on apples and threw two extra in since they were on their way to rottensville. I raided the raisins from the kids snack shelf and I skipped the wheat germ and cranberries since I didn't have any.  I threw in two eggs instead of egg whites, though I did manage to separate them by dropping one on the table. We had some mixed nuts which my little helper enjoyed preparing with a bag and a spoon.
   It took a little work to put together, but it was good!  The recipe said to enjoy it for dessert, snack or topped with yogurt for breakfast.  It was even tastier cold. The crumb topping would make a nice crumble for an apple crisp or granola starter.  I'm not waiting until Thanksgiving for my pumpkin fix!

Harvest Pudding from What To Eat When You're Expecting

2 cups canned unsweetened solid-pack pumpkin
1 1/3 cups apple juice concentrate
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 egg whites
1/2 cup raisins, chopped
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 medium pear, peeled, cored, and freshly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cranberries (optional)
1 2/3 cups rolled oats
6 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pumpkin, 3/4 cup of juice concentrate, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and egg whites in a bowl; beat together until well blended. Stir in the raisins, apple, pear and cranberries. Combine remaining juice concentrate, cinnamon, oats, wheat germ, butter and nuts in another bowl; blend until crumbly. Stir half the oat mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Transfer the pumpkin mixture into a 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the top. Bake until crumbs are light brown and pudding is set, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pump-kin you up: Oatmeal With A Seasonal Spice

Pumpkin Maple Oatmeal

    I strayed from my shopping list by picking up a huge can of pumpkin. It was a little early to make pie and I was out of flour so muffins were out.  Could I put a teaspoon in my morning coffee to make a pumpkin spice latte?  I wasn't so sure how that would end up.  Then I spotted a recipe from Dr. Oz's newsletter for pumpkin maple oatmeal.
   I used old-fashioned oats, maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon. I skipped the berries to get the full pumpkin flavor.  It wasn't as sweet as I expected so I would recommend keeping the berries or stirring in 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
Pumpkin maple oatmeal with berries is a nutritious treat. Cook 1/2 cup of quick or old-fashioned oats according to the directions. Add 2 tablespoons of 100% pure pumpkin, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries or blueberries. This makes 1 serving and has 198 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trickless Treats: 5 Healthy Halloween Snacks

    I know kids like candy and I don't expect a sugarless Halloween.  Since they will get plenty of candy from the nocturnal wanderings, I like to put my own spin on the holiday.  These snack ideas will have the kids in the spirit all month long. Let the kids have some fun creating treats that won't trick their teeth!

* Orange-o-lanterns: Take an orange peeler and carve your favorite jack-o-lantern face into the peel.

* Cheesestick Ghosts: Take a Sharpie and draw a ghost face (before you peel the wrapper please).

* Pumpkin Seeds: Scoop the goop and cook up those seeds salted, with cinnamon or pizza flavor.

* Popcorn: We make it the old fashioned way on the stove top with olive oil. You can stuff it a clear glove to make spooky hands.

* Rice Cake Monsters: Smear some peanut butter on a rice cake and add ghoulish toppings.

Fireside Creation: Creepy Cake Spider

    My niece made this delightful rice cake spider.  We were gathered around a rather wet fire camping on Columbus Day weekend.  She used Cheerios for eyes and fruit juice sweetened fruit strips for the legs. I think some of his legs may have been eaten before the photo was taken!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In A Pickle: Cucumber Salad

     With garden season over, all we had left were a few cucumbers hanging around the kitchen.  I needed a side dish one night so I pulled out a cucumber salad recipe.  I had found it in a low carb cookbook no idea what one since I photocopied it eons ago.  I used apple cider vinegar.  It was an easy put together and a hit with the home crowd!

Dilly Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
salt to taste
coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Place the cucumber slices in a large bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, and dill and mix well. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fiesta Pie: leftovers madeover

Taco Pie and please don't call it quiche
   At the end of the week we had a medley of leftovers: a barbecued chicken breast, a bit of steak, and half a serving of taco meat and re fried beans.  I could give everyone an ounce of meat with a vegetable on the side, but that seemed too much like reruns.  It was time for this food to write an alternate ending.  What I had plenty of in the fridge was eggs.  They had just arrived fresh from my neighbor's chickens.  

   I spied this new recipe in the gluten free cookbook. I sliced up the meat and layered in the pan like lasagna.  Then I put in the re fried beans, chopped peppers and poured the  whisked eggs over everything. Into the oven it went, skipping the skillet step to cook until firm.  With a dollop of plain yogurt and a splash of salsa the fiesta taco pie was served. 

Frittata from: Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselbeck

10 eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup of canned black beans, drained and well rinsed
1 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. Heat an 8-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, onion, and pepper, Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. In the skillet add the egg mixture and cook 1 minute until the edges bubble. Pull cooked egg to center of the pan.  Scatter the cooked vegetables, beans and cheese over the egg. Transfer the skillet to the oven and and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until firm. Let cool for 5 minutes.