Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Recipe Week!

I recently cleaned out my Pinterest recipe board and decided before we started school that I should take the opportunity to try some new recipes! Here are the ones we tried:

Lunch Lady Brownies: Forgot to take a photo of the brownies, but they were super yummy and decadent! Would love to make these again!

I wanted to try these coffee cake muffins but after reading the comments decided against messing with it. After a quick Pinterest search, I settled on this recipe instead. They were absolutely gorgeous muffins, but the crumb topping was waaaay too thick on top {didn't know that was possible!} and the muffin was too bland. In the end, nothing super exciting here.

My kids love French Toast Sticks and I usually just buy them in the frozen section of my grocery store. But, I decided to try making them at home for comparison - I made a recipe of French Bread that makes two loaves in one 2 lb. loaf pan. Then I let it cool overnight and sliced it into sticks after breakfast. I let the bread sticks sit on a cutting board all morning until after lunch to dry out a bit and then cooked them. I froze them on a cookie sheet so they would not be in a lump!  I used this recipe for the egg mixture. Haven't actually served these yet!

Breakfast for dinner! Yes please! If Daddy has to work at night, we almost always have breakfast for dinner {not his fave} and I was looking forward to trying this Ham and Cheese Puff Pancake - I used sausage since it was what I had and all the girls in our house voted it a two thumbs up. Samuel was a little less enthusiastic but ate it without complaint.

Also tried these Greek Yogurt Pancakes although I used regular plain yogurt because that is what we had. These were declared delicious by 100% at our table and a double batch made more than enough so I can freeze the rest and have another day!

Have you tried any new recipes lately?!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Slow Day

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rachel's Birthday!

Rachel turned nine last week! Initially she wanted to head to a water park and invite a few friends but after considering many many things - we opted for a local pool instead. Closer, less expensive, easier, etc... As a local weather site said, the heat index here has been in the triple digits - so we definitely needed to cool off!

We decided on an ice cream theme to go along with her pool side party. The above photo is a tray of inspiration we were working on a few days before the party. Rachel was very opinionated about being involved in picking most of the details on this party! And, both Emily and Rachel chipped in and made parts of the decor.

But, let's back up and start with breakfast! Our b'day girl requested Poppy Seed Bread made by Emily! We were happy to oblige as we all like it! I added some little fabric flags {inspired by Natalie Creates} and a couple of paper doilies and voila - a breakfast picnic!

During breakfast, we read Proverbs 22 {July 22 is her b'day} and I shared some things I'd written out a few years ago about things I pray for her from this Proverb. 

Two tiny little hydrangea blooms were hiding down underneath the bush in the shade so their color has not faded like the others yet!

After lunch, we headed to the pool! I will admit that having a party away from home has both its ups and downs. Our pool does not let us reserve tables, so we got there a couple of minutes before they were scheduled to open for the day to start setting up and grab a table - I had prayed often about this and while it appeared occupied when we got there - it did work out! Also, we prayed for no rain during the party and that was answered too, humbling and a good reminder that God cares even for the little details!

For most of the decor, I shopped my house for things that would fit the colors and space. By His Stripes garland and fabric flower garland have both been around a while! A quilt flipped over to its solid side provided a neutral background for the table. A peek at my Pin board for this party will show where our inspiration was gathered! Pink and orange were her self-declared color theme!

Paper goods are from Shop Sweet Lulu - picked out by Rachel! Yarn balls are left from Valentine's Day and these two baby showers hot glued onto stale ice cream cones from my pantry inspired by this. We made the little favor bags {inspired by this} out of things laying around the house - contents were curated by Rachel from a trip to the Dollar Tree {flip flops, a puzzle, fun rainbow pen, etc...}

Free ice cream printable garland. Ice cream cone marshmallows {we found ours at Wal-Mart} Watermelon pops. No glass at the pool really cramped my style as I don't really do disposable/plastic that much. But, in the end I'm pleased with what we figured out {some at the very last minute!}

We served build-your-own ice cream sandwiches, goldfish, watermelon and lemonade/water.

Years ago, I sort of imposed a $50 party budget for b'day parties. I have not always stuck with it and just added up that this party was around $75 including pool entry fees, paper goods, party favors and food. I attribute part of the higher cost to my lack of planning ahead - with a lot of traveling this summer, a lot of this sort of waited until the last minute and especially for the favors, I could've done better by planning ahead more. I also spent more on paper goods which are important in our house for the cute factor and what they add to the table!

We celebrated as a family in the evening with Rachel's requested foods and a repeat of last year's ice cream sandwich cake. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest but this is what I did:

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Line a bread pan with parchment paper. Create a layer of ice cream sandwiches. Spread homemade icing over the top and then cover with chopped Birthday Cake Oreos. Repeat. Finish with a layer of frosting and a few sprinkles. Freeze.

Homemade Choc Chip Frappucinos

Miss Nine also requested frappucinos to be served at her party - she picked out the above recipe and I made them ahead and froze. However, they stayed frozen throughout the whole party so we were not able to serve them after all.

Happy Birthday, Rachel! We love you so much!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Camping Answers

There were several questions after our camping posts!

* Recipe for sausage skillet?
Super simple! Slice one package sausage, add a can of green beans and I used three potatoes diced. Season with salt and pepper and I put in maybe 1 Tbsp. of butter just to help it not stick to the pan as much. Took maybe an hour over a camp fire.

* How do you store/keep your food cold?
We had a borrowed cooler in the back of our car and when we started out, I had frozen an empty milk jug full of water. That big block lasted us over 24 hours in the beginning. After that, we bought a bag of ice every day to keep things cold.

* How did you like the book pictured here?
 The book shown is From Tablet to Table: Where Community is Formed and Identity is Found. Since I haven't finished it yet a week and a half later, I think that speaks that it is not really drawing me in.  It's not a writing style I love and not exactly what I expected, though I do think I will make the effort to finish it.

* How did you find a creek to camp next to? And, is it in South Carolina? Did you have to get special permission?
This creek is in North Carolina. And, it is actually just a regular camp ground. There were two tent spots right on the creek. We spent quite a bit of time researching a camp site and even called first to make sure it would be a good fit for us. It can be hard to tell from tiny pictures on a website, but in this case it worked out to be very scenic!

* How do you pack light and still have homey touches?
Camping takes a lot of packing and a lot of stuff to pull off, it seems to me. It is tricky to set up house away from your house and outside no less. I think I actually did better at this last summer than I did this year where I was working sort of last minute to get everything ready to go. We all have different priorities about what to bring and what to leave home.

But, let me address the homey touches. For me, this is a huge priority because I know I will enjoy it that much more! Instead of paper plates and plastic ware, I find it pretty easy {and cheap!} to just bring our picnic dishes from home. We use the same dishes at every meal and wash them as we go - more about that below.

A vinyl tablecloth {$3ish at Wal-Mart} helps in keeping the table tidy but also pretty. And, I held the jar of flowers for the entire trip {five-six hours} there just because I didn't want to throw them away at home while they were still so pretty.

Last summer, I just brought an extra camping mug and we picked whatever wild flowers/blooms/leaves we could find camping - it is a fun hunt for children and mama alike to enjoy what is growing near where you are camping. The Queen Anne's Lace shown in a few food photos came from the side of the road.

I also brought one apron to help keep my clothes clean while I was cooking, but I found it was delightful to cook outside and wear an apron!

These were really just a few small things that made a big difference in contributing a homey feel to our campsite.

* Packing Tips?
Last summer when we camped in two different states on the same trip - I was super organized with our food. I had boxes with lids {copy paper boxes} divided into which state we'd be in and put the canned/pantry goods for those planned meals into each box. This helped me know where to find what I was looking for when I needed it.

I struggled with knowing where to look for things I knew I'd brought this summer, so I definitely need to improve on that in the future.

Some things that I bring are born out of difficulties I've had in the past - like the time it poured rain and all of our bedding got soaked! Now, big black trash bags are a definite pack for me and I can put our bedding in the bag during the day when we are not at our tent site if I choose to.

One year we forgot camping chairs and really had no nice place to sit and relax, we brought some this year and was such a nice addition. Plus, we did but all of our bedding up on the chairs every day just to make sure it was not sitting on the ground in case it rained.

Not sure I have a lot of efficient packing ideas to offer - anyone else want to chime in?

* Washing Dishes? 
We have a tradition of bringing two dish tubs {dollar store} and heating water on the campfire or camping stove to wash dishes. To start, I try to scrape the plates really well and maybe even wipe them off with a paper towel or used napkins from dinner. Heat the water in a kettle - we use a propane stove. We have two dish bins - one for wash and one for rinse. I fill those about half full with cold water from the provided spigot. Then when my water is hot, I put about half the kettle in the wash bin and about half in the rinse to warm it up.

My three children take turns with the three jobs: wash, rinse, dry and I put things away. We bring a length of rope or line to hang between two trees for a clothesline to hang our wet rags/towels on when we are finished.

This is the way my parents always set up dishwashing {only we heated the water over a fire!} when we went camping as children so it is just what comes easily to me. This summer, our campground had a dishwashing station which we used twice when our propane ran out at the very end of our trip.

Disposable paper goods are an easy alternative, but I love the charm of our enamelware camping dishes!

* Where is the hike? We are going camping in NC soon and are looking for a new adventure!
The hike is Linville Falls, near Boone, NC!

What are your favorite tips when planning a camping trip!?