Friday, July 30, 2010

Freezer Friday: Planning A Party

freezerfridaysm I find that my freezer is my best friend when I'm planning a party or an event with a lot of food prep.  In a week I will be hosting a number of house guests, for The Weekend and even more friends and family for a lunch on Sunday.  This Weekend of fun is preceded by a week of Vacation Bible School at our church where I am organizing all the snacks.  (You can see where this is going can't you!)

I started by making my menu.  I planed to have quick breads on hand for breakfast and then the two larger meals for the masses would be Fajitas and Beef Brisket Sandwiches with assorted salads as side dishes.

I decided to do as much prep work as I could to avoid the chaos of cooking while I have a house full of people.  Here's some of the prepped items that have made it to my freezer:

*Quick breads:  I made double batches of three of my favorite breads, one would be breakfast for the current week I baked, the others went to the freezer to have on hand for The Weekend.  I was working on using up last year's squashes from the freezer so I've made Spiced Applesauce Bread, Blueberry Bread (with all those fresh blueberries we picked) and a healthified version of this Chocolate - Chocolate Chip Zucchini Zucchini bread (which I will post soon).

*Potato Salad Prep: I cleaned, peeled and chopped and boiled potatoes as if I were making the Potato Salad, then instead of making the salad -I threw them in the freezer.  Once they're thawed, I can mix up the dressing and make the potato salad and nobody will know (except my mom, because she helped, and maybe my sister in law because I think she reads this sometimes!)

*Beans: I also cooked up black beans and portioned them to the freezer, planning one portion to be used with Fajitas.

Having the menu prepared ahead of time also made it easy when folks asked what could they bring.  I could assign someone a pasta salad and someone else baked beans and know that there were two less things that I needed to prepare.  I also planned a little bit of flexibility into my menu.  I knew I wanted to do a BBQ style sandwich, but waited to see what was on sale for meat: brisket or pork.

With some planning you can shave your costs for large parties and gatherings as well as saving yourself a lot of work while you're trying to visit with family and friends.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

While the Gardener's Away

I've been gone for four days.  It seems that it must have rained quite a bit as my garden and lawn were saturated -as was the carpet in my office :( .   That may be a post for another day!

Last week I planted my second round of green beans (on Thursday I think).  Today when I got home, I found that they were off and running!


I also have lots of green tomatoes:


I picked a basket of green beans, lettuce and my first zucchini before we left.  When I came home I found even more green beans and some cucumbers:


This post is linked up at An Oregon Cottage's Garden Party - check it out for more gardening ideas from around the country!  I also link up at $5 Dinner's Grow. Eat. $ave. updates!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week I was blessed to have my mom visit - with extra hands around, I seemed to get so much done in a short amount of time!  The visit has been extended since I brought her home and GBaby and I have gotten a weekend away.  I've gotten to bake with Dad, and get some great menu ideas while catching up on Food Network.  Gbaby continues to be a good traveler.

Produce abounds from my garden and breezes to dry laundry were plentiful.  I scored a ton of cheap school supplies to pass along to our local food pantry (and since I was in NH - no sales tax!).

One chapter is closing in my life this week as I have resigned from one of my part time gigs and I'm looking forward to the new chapter that will start this fall.

GBaby discovered the slides at the park this morning after spending lots of time on her favorite: the swings.  Watching her discover and take in the world around her still fascinates me!

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freezer Friday: Peanut Butter Cup Pie

piesmI'm always looking for easy recipes that present themselves as a more laborious dish than they really are.  In the summer, the less time in the oven or at the stove the better.  This fantastic Peanut Butter Cup pie is tweaked from a recipe used at Sonlight Camp, where HandyMan and I have spent some time.  The best part, no oven and no stove necessary!  It is easily made the night (or a week) before and placed in the freezer to "chill out" until it is needed.  The only way it will last a week in the freezer is if it's well hidden or if you're out of town!

To make this for a crowd, I'm going to try putting a graham cracker crust in the bottom of a 9x13 pan and doubling the filling.  Then cutting it into squares once its frozen.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Peanut Butter Cup Piepieslicesm

1 premade Graham Cracker Crust

4 ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup Peanut Butter

1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

1/2 cup Milk

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1-8 ounce tub of Whipped Topping

Hot Fudge topping & Peanut Butter Cups to garnish with.


1.  Cream together the peanut butter and cream cheese.

2.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar and blend completely.  Mix in milk.

3. Fold whipped topping into the peanut butter mixture.

4.  Pour into crust and garnish with hot fudge and peanut butter cups.

5.  Place pie into the freezer and allow to freeze until firm.  (4-6 hours).  Slice and serve!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Easy Fried Rice

Updated August 19, 2010:  If you're joining me from Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap, welcome!  My broccoli didn't give enough this year to freeze, but all the little bits ended up in yummy fried rice, along with all the other garden bits that weren't quite enough to freeze up!

I love Chinese food, but it is one of the few ethnic foods that is very hard to get right at home-although there are some kits on the grocery shelves to make it a bit better.  This summer we've come to enjoy fried rice.  I make as big of a batch of rice as I can in my kettle and freeze portions to pull out and use for this recipe later.

It's a quick one pan meal (if you have a wok or a really big skillet) that is a great way to re-purpose bits of other meals that are hanging around.  You can modify the vegetables and seasonings to fit what is coming in from your garden or your personal tastes.  (I'd have a nifty picture -but we were too busy getting dinner on the table - next time!)

Fried Rice

3 cups Cooked Rice

2 Eggs

2 cups Shredded Carrots

2 cups chopped Vegetables (this batch is Broccoli and green beans)

2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil

2 Tablespoons Grated Ginger

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

1/3 cup Soy Sauce

1/2 pound lean Pork or Chicken (optional)


1. Heat oil in large skillet.  Add ginger and garlic and sautee for about two minutes.  Add soy sauce and cook until mixture is simmering.

2. Add meat to skillet and cook until meat is done all the way through.

2.  Add carrots and broccoli and cook until almost tender.

3.  Push meat and veggies to the edge of the pan and crack the egg into the center of the pan and scramble it.  Once the egg is cooked mix it in with the meat and vegetables.

4.  Add rice, mix thoroughly and cover until rice is heated.  Serve alone or with your favorite egg rolls!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Party!

It has been a party in my garden this week.  My mom is visiting and has been helping with all the gardening, kid chasing, freezing and cooking around here - it's such a great help to have extra hands!  G-Baby has taken to eating the green beans straight from the garden.


The pumpkins, acorn squash and butternut squashes are well on their way to taking over the world.


19julyacornI'm starting to get little zucchinis:


My basil that I moved around last week is SO much happier now and has even gotten new layers of leaves on it. Caprese and Bruschetta here we come!
19julgardenbasilThis morning we picked this basket full from the garden before we took off to get that last batch of blueberries from our local u-pick!

19julharvestMy green beans are coming on strong and I decided to plant a second round in the areas vacated by broccoli and spinach.  I'm hoping to load the freezer and we'll eat them all winter! We are also still picking broccoli and lettuce and the cukes are storming their way to overtake the crisper drawer!

How's your garden?

This post is linked up to An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party.  Check it out for fun adventures of other gardeners.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week has included fresh blueberries and first cucumbers and green beans. Salads with garden lettuce and little bits of raspberry snacks from around the yard.

One of my favorite moments was while out picking blueberries, looking over to see GBaby plopped underneath a tall blueberry bush snacking away on the fruit of the lower branches.  It will remain a mind moment, as I forgot my camera.

GBaby loved toddler swim time and would excitedly squeal "zim zim" (swim swim) as we would turn down the road to the pool.  She also likes to show off her kicking skills as she has learned how to kick in the water too.  This was a free program at our local pool for which I'm so thankful.  The same local pool and a local teachers association sponsored a free pizza and swim night on Friday which was such a fun way to end a hot and sticky week!

Today brings a quiet afternoon, cool breeze and a date night.  All items of refreshment in a busy summer.  We're also blessed to have Granny here to hang out for a few days and give us said date-night away.  I love that we live close enough that GBaby gets to spend good bits of time and build relationships with her grandparents.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Freezer Friday: Blueberries

freezerfridaysmOne of my favorite things about where we live is the organic blueberry orchard where we pick every year.  Their bushes are all 5 to 7 feet tall and picking is easy!  So far we've made it home with about 6 quarts of berries for less than $12 - can't beat that!  And it's a fun family outing to boot!

I portioned some of the blueberries for HV Blueberry Bread and pies and sent them to the freezer.  The rest I loaded into the dehydrator:

upick124 hours later, I had about 6 cups of dehydrated blueberries - with not additives! - that GBaby loves to snack on and I will use when I make granola.  I have a feeling that these will go fast so I'm hoping to make it out to the orchard for more berries next week!

This post is linked at:

Life As Mom's Frugal Friday

A Few of My Favorite Things

Thursday, July 15, 2010

1 Year Ago...

cupcake_candleOne year ago today, I started blogging here at  ThrivingMama!  For those of you who have joined me more recently, you may have missed out on some of my philosophies I shared early on: like how I really don't like grocery shopping, why I love our cloth diapers, or why I garden.

I've shared a lot of recipes, goals (that I really should get back to) and bits about my business.  I've counted my blessings, and shared a bit of my practice of gratitude by giving.

It has been a very full year, and I've enjoyed this outlet for processing my activities.  I appreciate having to think a bit more about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  Thanks for joining me in the journey!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stories of Basil, Beans and Berries

This week, my gardening has brought about some relocation and identity changes.  My poor basil was not growing and the square it was in kept getting overgrown by grass.  Since I'm starting to see baby tomatoes last week, I decided that if garden bruschetta was going to be on my August menu, my basil needed and intervention.

I very carefully dug it up from it's overgrown home, separated each plant and moved them into squares vacated by spinach.  Now they have their own, weed free space to live and each plant has a little bit more room to grow.

[caption id="attachment_1650" align="alignnone" width="180" caption="Overcrowded Basil"]Overcrowded Basil[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1651" align="alignnone" width="180" caption="Spaced Out Basil"]Spaced Out Basil[/caption]

My poor green beans are another story.  I planted them while  tending GBaby (15 months old at the time).  I thought I was doing fine until the row of beans came up and there was a  2-foot gap in the seedlings poking through the ground.  I thought that maybe I had just planted them a bit deeper.  Now, my theory is that I was chasing a toddler and lost track of where I had  planted!  So, my green beans came up.  My citronella chunks were protecting them from the Garden Beast all seemed right in Green Bean Row.  I saw blossoms  - even better.  Then I started to see tiny baby green beans.  This is great, but are they supposed to start climbing the trellis before they make green beans?  I went back to the packet to find that it was non-specific as to which type of green beans it contained: pole beans or bush beans. We had  picked up the packet at the local farm stand and we were assured they were pole beans.  So I went to google.  Google says: bush beans.

If you're familiar with square foot gardening, you know that bush beans and pole beans require rather different planting patterns.  So far my bush beans that have been planted very densely, seem to be doing ok.  I'm not sure if I want to try to move some of the plants to thin it out or just leave them.  Any thoughts?

Also in the yard, blueberries are getting ripe, wild red and black-cap raspberries are sprouting out around our property and cucumbers are on the way!

I'm also experimenting with some natural weed killing solutions to deal with the grass in some of my beds. I'll let you all know how it works out in a couple weeks :)

[gallery columns="2"]

This post is linked at An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dozen Layer Finger Jello


Most of the yummy jello recipes that I am fond of, originated from my Aunt Joyce.  I'm not usually a fan of straight up jello but certain combinations are so yummy.  This weekend we were expecting to have a bunch of kids around and most kids like jello, right?  I went searching and found this recipe for 12 Layer Finger Jello and it was very pretty, pretty fun and yummy too!

After making it, here are a few tips:

1.  Make sure you have a timer handy.  Each layer will take about 10 minutes to set in the fridge. Mix the jello, Pour the sour cream layer, set the timer, [go do something else], let the clear layer cool on the counter, turn water on to boil, pour clear layer, mix next batch, repeat.    My electric tea pot was also very useful.

2.  Consider a 11x14 pan- or a couple fewer layer - it filled the 9x13 up almost to the top.

3.  Make sure the shelf in the fridge is as level as possible for even layers.

Linked up at  Life as Mom's Picnic Recipe Swap

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

As I sit in a quiet, cooler, house I am thankful for my Sunday afternoon routine.  I'm glad GBaby is napping - for she needs it.  I'm so glad for our doctor, whose wisdom is great and is full of compassion.  I'm thankful for antibiotics, and the huge difference they can make for a sick child.  (Are you sensing a trend yet?)  I'm glad the GBaby is feeling better, even if she's not quite to 100% yet.

Thunderstorms and rain brought cooler weather which is a most welcome reprieve.  The also brought forth countless blooms in my garden on my squashes, green beans, tomatoes and peppers.

We were blessed this week by a quick visit from dear friends that are always too short but wonderfully refreshing for the soul.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cheap & Cool Summer Activities

swimIn the last week, there have been a number of free - or cheap- summer activities that have come across my radar.  I thought I'd throw a few out there to get your minds churning on ways to keep your family occupied during the free time of summer!

*Community Pools:  We discovered our local community pool this summer.  They have sessions of 10-30 minute lessons for all swimming levels for $10 per child.  They also have a designated toddler time that is free.  Local organizations have partnered with the town pool to have pizza/free swim family nights over the summer too!  How great is that?!

*Museums: My parents had my niece for a week and discovered that they can check out a pass from their local library that got up to 4 people into the Boston Children's Museum for an extremely discounted rate.  You may want to see if your area has similar programs.

*Library Programs: Many local libraries will have story/activity times for a variety of age groups and most of the time, libraries are air conditioned!

This is only a few that have come up in my life in the last couple of weeks.  What other programs do you know of that are out there to help pass the summer?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sunday Sunshine ->Thankful Thursday

Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

Sunday slipped away, then Monday and Tuesday followed suit.  So here I am, joining up on the Thankful Thursday parties to make up for my absence on Sunday.  For those new, you'll find highlights of the blessings in my life in bold.

Sunday slipped away because my parents were here visiting and we were busy being entertained by my ham of a daughter, and whiling away the summer afternoon playing cards and games on the back porch.  I had a craft fair in Montrose, PA on Monday and while sales were lacking compared to prior years, my mom and I still had a great time in the shade people watching!

I'm thankful that a local pool has a free toddler program that will run for two weeks.  I'm glad that I have healthy tomato plants this year and that my garden is growing well.  I love seeing lilies in bloom and hear the creek running, even though the rain has been sparse.

In light of the heat wave gripping our area, ceiling fans, window fans and cool nights are all things I am thankful for today!

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Audio Book Review: Missing Max

missingmaxMissing Max

By Karen Young

Read by Laural Merlington

The book opens with the abduction of six month old Max Madison during a Mardi Gras parade and moves quickly into the conflicted relationships that are left in the wake of the kidnapping.  Kyle and Jane and Kyle’s sixteen year old daughter Melanie are each struggling in their own ways with feelings of responsibility for the missing child.  Family communication breakdowns add to the frustrations as each family member struggles to deal with the loss, while maintaining hope for reunification.

Ms. Merlington does a wonderful job of voice fluctuation between characters, moods and emotions that draws the listener into the drama.  There was one particular point during a heated conversation where the narration was rapid and was not clear between a character’s speaking voice and the character’s thoughts.  After a moment of listening in context, the confusion was cleared up, but it did give this reader pause.

Without giving away too many details, I will say that Missing Max follows a typical Christian fiction cookie cutter and was rather predictable.  I also found parts of the story line to be far fetched and out of character for the characters as they were written. It served well for “brain bubble gum” to occupy my mind while my hands were occupied with the tasks of the day.

Disclosure: I received this audiobook free from Oasis Audio as part of their Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday Garden Party

I'm wading back into the web-world after a three day hiatus from most things internet.  What a busy weekend: it was filled with family, friends and work.

In order to get in gear for today's Garden Party I had to take a minute to see what was really going on in my garden.  I'm seeing many summer veggie blossoms (cucumbers and squashes).  We're still picking some of our spring veggies (lettuce, spinach, peas and broccoli) but I think those are going to be toast after the heat wave we're getting this week.  My strawberries are just about finished and my potatoes are stretching past the first layer of tires.  Once they get just a bit higher, we'll fill the tire in with dirt and add another tire layer.  We let the potatoes grow up about three layers high.

My basil is taking it's sweet time - I've put it on notice that it has to be prolifically thriving when the tomatoes start coming in!  Hostas, Day lilies and Easter lilies are also blooming.

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July weekend!  Here are some pictures of my yard and  garden:

[caption id="attachment_1619" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Hostas Blooming"]Hostas Blooming[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1618" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Easter Lilies in Bloom"]Easter Lilies in Bloom[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1610" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Day Lilies in Bloom"]Day Lilies in Bloom[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1613" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Itty-Bitty Baby Tomato"]Itty-Bitty Baby Tomato[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1615" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Potatoes - getting ready to get buried again."]Potatoes - getting ready to get buried again.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1612" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Still Reaping Peas"]Still Reaping Peas[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1617" align="alignnone" width="150" caption="Cucumber Blossoms"]Cucumber Blossoms[/caption]

Friday, July 2, 2010

Save Money & Have a Fun Summer Too!

Geyser_SprinklerThe sun is out, the kids are out of school and the temperatures are rising.  Summer is here and there are dozens of pitfalls waiting to empty your wallet.  With a little planning and creativity, you can save money this summer and still get the best that our warm season has to offer.

It’s been a long day of work and the kids are tired.  It’s hot outside and temperatures are even hotter inside.  The trap is set.  Nobody feels like cooking and yet everyone is hungry.  Instead of getting caught in the “let’s just go out” trap, plan ahead.  A package of hot dogs or hamburgers with matching buns can make a quick outdoor meal.  Set up the sprinkler and let the kids run off their energy while you cook.  Add carrot-sticks and chips and a picnic blanket.  Dinner is ready and your wallet has been rescued.

Everyone deserves a summer vacation, right?  You’ve worked hard and everyone wants a break.  The trap is set.  The “we deserve a big vacation” trap that usually entices more greenbacks from your wallet than you ever planned.  You are right.  You do work hard, and you do deserve a break.  Just because funds are tight doesn’t mean that you have to right off your vacation plans just yet.  You can vacation closer to home, planning picnic type meals to avoid eating out and pre-book your nights at budget motels- preferably with pools.  Plan your days for local activities and your evenings for pool time.

Another option is a staycation.  Stay at home, but set up the tent and camp in the back yard or visit the local state park, lake or beach.  You can plan activities that are different from your normal outings and plan a special treat for each day.  This can save in meals and lodging if planned and that amount can be saved, or spent on outings or take-out to relieve the stress of meals.

The summer is also a wonderful time to utilize the natural resources around you to lower your energy bills.  Put up a clothes line to save on electricity and/or gas.  Open your windows on cool nights to naturally cool down your home, and keep your thermostat set warmer during the day when you’re not home. Plant a small garden to save on produce at the supermarket.

The possibilities for saving money this summer are endless.  With a little creativity and planning you can make your pennies go a long way.

This article was originally written and published for  Click here to see my other articles.