Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baking Bits: Slow Cooker Ham & Hashbrowns

When our first oven went out (the one that came with our house), I was L-O-S-Tlost. I had just begun to really start cooking and I was actually enjoying it, and *poof* out it went. The oven would not light. Thankfully, I could still use the stove. But, that really put me in a bind. I mean, I already had my menu planned for the week and really, the rest of that month (I think there were 2 weeks left) and I had no idea what I was going to do about cooking all the things I had planned. AAAHHHH!!!!!

So, for a few days I trekked down to my parents’ house (only 5 doors down) and baked what I needed to there. Brought it home and served it to my family. Boy did that wear me out fast!

So, after I had cooked what was already planned (now keep in mind this was in my early stages of cooking and I could. not. deviate from my plans. It just threw me into a tizzyseriously!), I began searching the internet for some Slow Cooker recipes. This was of course before the wonderful days of Crockin’ Girls.

If only they’d been around 2 years agoboy, that would’ve made my life so much easier! But, luckily they are here now!

Along with hours of internet searches, I also sought out magazines that had slow cooker recipes. And that’s where I found this gem of a meal!

Hashbrowns w/ Ham
(adapted from Taste of Home magazine)

2 pkg (24 oz) frozen CUBED hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 cup CUBED (or diced) fully cooked ham (we use Turkey-Ham from Aldi’s)
1 small onion, chopped (or 3 TBSP minced onion)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 can (14 ¾ oz) Cream of Chicken soup
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1. In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, ham, onion & 1 cup cheese, soup & butter.

2. Pour into slow cooker. I love using the liners for easy clean-up!

3. Cover & cook on LOW for 3-4 hours or until potatoes are tender.

4. Stir in sour cream.

5. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. (I usually add a little extra, since our family loves cheese.)
6. Cover & cook for another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.


What’s your favorite quick and easy slow cooker recipe? How often do you use your slow cooker?


Linking up here:

Growing Home

 Our Simple Farm

Teachable Tuesdays: Daily Routine Picture Cards

Have you ever been taught a lesson by your own child? NahI’m sure it’s just me, right? No? Okay, good. I’m so glad I’m not the only slow-learning parent here!

Well, the past few months my oldest son has had difficulty remembering to do simple tasks. Such as zipping up his pants after using the restroom or shutting the bathroom door after he’s done. (We have small children who seem to think the toilet is a FUN place to splash and play if we don’t keep the door shut. YUCK!)

Now, he’s been potty-trained since he was about 20 months old. Yes, I know that’s not normal. Believe meI KNOW! (My 3yo could really care less about the toilet these days!) We were so proud and yet, shocked at the same time. He was so young, yet he was determined not to wear another wet diaper! Fine with me! We loved it!

But, since he was able to go on his own, we’ve had to constantly remind him to flush the toilet, wash his hands, close the door and on those occasions when necessary, to wipe! At first, we thought it was because he was still getting used to doing it all on his own. But, we’re still doing it!! EVERY TIME!!! I get so frustrated sometimes and then I get mad at myself for getting frustrated.

Finally I thoughtI should talk to him about why he forgetsDUH! So, I did. We sat down and talked. He said he just couldn’t remember and it gets confused and forgotten. I honestly thought it was just an excuse. At least at first I did. Then, the more I talked to him, the more I realized the details is what he couldn’t remember. He didn’t want to be bothered with them. He knew how to use the restroom, when to use it and where, but that’s all he “needed” to remember.

I started doing some research and asking questions to some friends. After all my efforts, I began to think he just might have some Asperger characteristics. So, I began looking into things that would help him and us. Especially relieving some of that tension and frustration on both our parts.

One sight I came across mentioned making signs and posters (with or without pictures) that gave basic instructions-in order. It helps them and they can more follow those versus verbal instructions.

I prayed and prayed over the information I found. It was so much to digest and take in. So much to go through and process. But, I was determined that he would be able to learn and learn to the best of his abilities. (This behavior was also negatively affecting our schooling efforts.)

After much prayer and research I sat him down again to talk. I asked him why he couldn’t remember those simple tasks and what would help him remember. Much to my surprise (although, after bathing it in prayer I shouldn’t be surprised at all), he said he wanted signs in the bathroom and his room. Ones that told him exactly what to do when he went to the restroom, washed his hands, his morning and night time routines. WOW!!! What an answer to prayer! I was so worried that he would hate the idea and think we were calling him “dumb” or something. What an AWESOME God we serve!!!

So, I told him I would make the signs. Now, here’s where I had another parent-fail (not that any of you have had one, right?)that was the beginning of January. UGH!

The toilet sign. Sorry the toilet is in picture, but I wanted to show  you where I put it.
But, now that I think about it, that's kinda weird...
I have finally made his signs for him and laminated them. They are now hanging in the bathroom. He’s so excited!! And frankly, so am I! I can not wait to see how this might improve his life and our relieve some of our frustration!

Now, I’m not one for illusions of grandeur, but I do envision a much smoother day and less arguing about whether he has to wash his hands or not! It’s therein coloron the wall. That’s makes it a law, right? At least that’s the way he thinks and that is what matters.

The Morning & Evening Routines are on the left and
the Hand Washing is on the right.
I did find this site helpful. There are quite a few FREE things on there you can print and use or you can order a download like this and use it all you want. I ended up making my own. I wanted kid friendly pictures that would also help my middles as they grow and I just didn’t find what I wanted. You are welcome to download my .pdf here.
Those of you who have special needs or Autistic children or one with Asperger’s, what other “tricks” have you found that work with daily routines? Please share what you have learned or some of your favorite sites. I would love to have more resources!


(NOTE: Our son is not diagnosed at this time. We are still seeking prayer and researching some things on our own before subjecting him to such tests.)

Linking up here:

Growing Home 


Monday, February 27, 2012

Maid for Mondays: The Pantry Blues

Do you have an area of your home that you just hate? One that would completely embarrass you if anyone saw it? Well, I do and for me it’s the pantry. I would like to say my pantry looks like this...

Photo Courtesy
Isn't it just blissful? I actually think I'm in love with this pantry! No...really, I am!!  But since I cannot tell a reality it looks more like this

Ugh!!! It’s just hideous! How do you like our overflowing trash in the bottom right corner? Nice, huh?! Very little organization to it. I do have my canned goods grouped together (mostly), my baking items in the same general vicinity and my spices all together. Other than that though it’s pretty much a MAJOR mess!

But, I hope that will change in the next few weeks. My goal is to completely clear out the pantry, take some measurements and get planning. I can NOT even tell you how excited I am about taking on this project!!!

I figured if I posted pictures of my ugly pantry, then maybejust maybe that would push me to get it done!

Do you have a major eye-sore in your house? What is it?

Do you have any tips or favorite organizing items to use in a pantry?? If so, share them below or link back to your post! I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and ideas!!


Linking up here:

Growing Home

Monday Meals: Weekly Meal Plan

The past few weeks have been quite a blur around here. (Read about it here.) Last week we flew by the seat of our pants for meals as I was trying to play catch-up around the house. I’m so glad to be back on track with our meal plans this week though. I must admitafter making Meal Plans for nearly 2 years now, I feel completely lost when I don’t have my meals planned out. I have become dependant on them! This is just one thing that really makes my house and day run smoother.

Photo courtesy
Now, with that being saiddoesn’t this cartoon ring true at one time or another? Even though I have things planned out, there are just times when I am exhausted or feeling run-down. And those are the days when it takes all I have to get meals together. At least I don’t have to think about them, right?!

Anywhomoving on.  Here is this week’s meal plan!

Monday 2/27
Breakfast: Oatmeal, cold cereal
        Lunch: cheese quesadillas
        Dinner: Chicken in Honey Sauce, brown rice (cp)
Tuesday 2/28
        Breakfast: poptarts
        Lunch: chicken nuggets, fruit, chips
        Dinner: Cheeseburger Macaroni
Wednesday 2/29
        Breakfast: cereal
        Lunch: fishsticks, fruit, pretzels
        Dinner: Leftovers
Thursday 3/1 (Dad’s day off!!!)
        Breakfast: homemade sausage biscuits
Lunch: Mac and Cheese, fruit
Friday 3/2
        Breakfast: Dry cereal
        Lunch: Hot Dogs, fruit, chips/pretzels
        Dinner: Homemade Bacon-Cheeseburger Pizza
Saturday 3/3
        Breakfast: Dry cereal or Oatmeal
        Lunch: fishsticks or Ham n’ Cheese, fruit, chips
        Dinner: Lemon-crumb chicken
Sunday 3/4
        Breakfast: eggs, bacon & cheese
        Lunch: Family lunch
Dinner: Mac & Cheese (again, our regular Sun night meal)

So, what’s on your Meal Plan for the week? Link up here and share your favorite recipes!!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scriptural Sundays: Proverbs 18:10

Photo Courtesy
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10

How do you continue on with life when everything else seems to be spinning out of control? How do you find strength in the midst of trial?

I can tell you right now, it is not easy! In fact, it’s down right tough!! Your life may not be perfect, but it’s good and then one daythat’s all gone.

Now, please here me out. It’s not that your life all of a sudden become this horrible mess, but it’s not what you’re accustomed to. You’re lost. You're wandering. So, how do you find your way back?

I can tell you with the utmost certainty that I would be absolutely LOST and in utter despair if I did NOT have my Faith in Jesus Christ to lean on!! My family and friends have been paramount during these past weeks. Our life will never be the same again. But, we will press on and move towards a new normal.

I am so thankful that the LORD is my one constant. No matter what else changes in my life, He is and was and always will be the same! And in that I can find rest, peace and safety.

I am also thankful for new blogging friends. Jacqueline put this verse in a comment a few weeks ago and it has really been a source of strength for me. Most of us know this verse well. But, it wasn't until I went through these past weeks with my Dad's illness and death that this verse really resonated with me.

I knew He was always with me. But, I've never felt His presence more than I have in the past few weeks. I may be sad, but I have a peace. A peace that literally passes all understanding. And in that...I am blessed!!


Linking up here:

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

These Five of Mine

the straightened path

Friday, February 24, 2012

52 Fridays: Weeks 6-8 Catching Up!!

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve missed a few weeks of our 52 Friday’s posts. I am so very sorry for dropping the ball here. My life changed over the past few weeks.

Just to give you the synopsis, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer (after 5 days in the hospital) on January 28th. He went home that day and waited for his follow-up appointment with his doc on February 3rd. He was sent from his appointment to the hospital again, with the threat of both lungs collapsing (the left lung collapse landed him in the hospital the first time). That was the last time my Dad would see the outside of a hospital. We spent the next week and a half visiting him in the hospital and preparing for the worst, all the while hoping and praying for a miracle. God had other plans and took my Daddy HOME early in the morning on February 14th, 2012.

So, it’s been a whirlwind of diagnosis’, doctors, medication, tests, tearful visits and our Last Good-bye (read more here).

But, I am getting back on track here at home and I finally decided that I should put together a form I can just fill out each week. DUH!! This will make it so much easier to update my progress for our 52 week journey!

So, even though this may not be the best update of the year, I’m chronicling my progress anyway. These go in order of what I wrote about in Week 1.

  1. DAILY quiet time: I have been reading my daily emails, which I signed up for in January. I signed up at to help me stay on track. There are several different programs to choose from and I am super excited to get into God’s Word this way!!!

  1. Weekly weight loss: Okay, so this has not gone so well. Especially with all the wonderful food provided to us last week after my Dad’s passing. But, I am back to portion control and eating better. I’m looking at a few new approaches and what will work best for me and my family. Because as we all know, if we don’t get our families involved, we’ll just give up. It’s so difficult to make yourself something healthy to eat, when your family is eating your favorite meal.

  1. Vintage Remedies 8 weeks to Real Foods: I did not do so well with this, so I’m starting over!!! I have all the emails and what I’m to do. So, with a little more planning and ingenuity on my part I think we can make this work!

  1. Homeschool Fun: Wellto be honest, we haven’t had school in the past few weeks with everything going on. But, I did come across some GREAT websites today, which I found on pinterest, of course. Follow my Homeschool boards to keep up with new finds!

  1. Organization: I am surprised at how much I’ve been able to accomplish so far. I am still working on getting our kitchen organized just the way I want, but otherwise I am doing pretty well. I am really working on planning things out before I just go changing them around. I found when I changed things in haste, just to have them done, it didn’t always work out so well. So, I may be a little slower on some things than others, but it’s simply because I want to do it ONCE!

  1. Staying caught up: I am getting caught back up on laundry after being out-of-pocket most of last week. But, with my central closet in place (mostly anyway), things move so much faster and easier! Dishes are caught up now, which makes me feel better. Have some major cleaning to do this weekend to get back on track, but that’s just what it takes sometimes. Nowif I could just find that motivation again! haha

  1. Blog changes: I was finally able to purchase my new domain name last night. I will be working on more changes and updates throughout the weekend. I am so excited to get my new site up and running!!!! I CAN NOT wait to reveal it to you all!!!

So, how are you doing in your quest this year? Are you becoming more DISCIPLINED or ORGANIZED? While you’re here, please share some tips!


Join us:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Our Last Good-bye

The stack of cards that have blessed my Mom

This is our LAST good-bye, for when we meet again it will be FOREVER!!!

Valentine’s Day will forever be changed. For my family, this day will hold a different meaning than most. In the wee hours of the morning, my earthly Daddy went HOME. He was with his sweetie and only her. He was tired and ready for his eternal reward.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind in our family. (Read more here and here.) And the past few days have been a blur. Right now it’s surreal. I know that will soon wear-off, but for now I am okay with it. My brother’s and I have been thrust into planning modea mode I wish on no one. At least not for this reason.

There are no words to express how I feel right now other than numb. It almost seems that life is passing me by and I am watching from the outside. I know my Daddy was tired and ready to go Home. I saw it in his eyes. He had run his race. I just wish his race has lasted so much longer. But, as my brother and I talked we realized, just seeing our kids wasn’t enough. We wanted him to see our kids graduate high school, get married, have kids of their own and so much more!! We just wanted him here.

Even though our flesh pleaded for more time, we also know the Lord is and was in control of this entire situation.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB)

As a human, I question why this had to happen now and why so fast. But, as a Christian, I am so excited to see what God’s purpose is in all this. Our family has already seen so, so many UH-MA-ZING things happen. Here’s just a few I would like to share with you.

*        My brother’s plane ticket was covered in full by an anonymous person.
*        The extra expense of a Saturday burial was covered by someone.
*        The nurse tech on my Dad’s floor told my mom he couldn’t believe a family would stay together like ours did. He had never seen anything like it.
*        Christian doctors surrounded us and even prayed with my mother!
*        Babysitters have stepped up and volunteered to watch my kiddos (this is a HUGE thing for me!)
*        My husband’s employer has given him double the days for bereavement, which has allowed him to be home with me and the kids. He’s been able to not only support me, but also help with arrangements. What a blessing!!!
*        People at my mom’s work shared their PTO time when hers ran out, just so she could stay with my Dad.
*        My Mom’s work opened an account at the credit union for people to donate.
*        Friends gave money to help pay the bills while my Dad was in the hospital.
*        We were so blessed with food that we were able to feed not only our family for 5 days, but also 2 other families in need!! WOW!

And so much more!!! I could go on and on about how BLESSED we have been. It is so nice to know that I don’t have to worry about dinner after running around taking care of arrangements all day. We have more food than we know what to do with!! We could literally feed an armyat least a small one!

I am not at all ready to say my final good-bye to my Daddy. But, I am so very thankful this will be my LAST good-bye!!!!  Because when I see my Daddy again, it will be FOREVER!!!!

I love you Daddy! Forever and Always!


(Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a personal testimony about my Daddy’s life and the impact it had on me! Stay tuned!!)

NOTE: This post was written last week before the Celebration service. I just waited to post it.

Linking up here:

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

These Five of Mine
Our Simple Farm

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baking Bits: Sloppy Joe Bake

When I began my cooking expedition several years ago, I got this recipe from a friend of mine. I thought, I love Sloppy Joe sandwiches, but gosh they are so darn messy for my kids (ahemand husband). This was the perfect solution! I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does!

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 lb. ground meat (I use turkey)
Can of biscuits (10 small or 8 large)
2 cups Spaghetti Sauce
8oz Tomato Sauce
Onion powder
Onion Salt
Minced onion
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup Cheddar Cheese (not pictured)

Brown meat. Just before it’s completely browned, add in minced onion, onion powder and onion salt. Now, I don’t have exact measurements for these three ingredients as I do them by sight and taste. But, it’s probably somewhere around 2T of minced onion, 1 tsp onion powder and a dash of onion salt.

NOTE: You can use a fresh onion, chopped finely if you prefer. But, my kiddos won’t eat them and literally spit them out if I try to sneak them in. Not to mention the fact they will just not eat if they seem them in a dish. So, I go with the alternative.

Once the meat is browned and onion mixture is cooked thoroughly, add the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and seasoning. Now, the original Sloppy Joe seasoning mix yields 3T for 1 packet, but I’ve found that was too strong for our family. So I only use 2T.

Mix it all up really well. Now, cover and simmer for 10 minutes

Now, once you have simmered the mixture, you can either let it cool and place in a gallon size freezer bag and freeze, or if you’re like me and don’t always get things done ahead of time, you can continue on to the cooking stage.

So, assuming you’re like me, you'll pour the mixture into a 9x13 pan.

Top the meat mixture with the 2 cups of cheese. (NOTE: I only had Mozzarella, so we went without cheddar, but I normally use both.)

Now, you’re going to top the meat mixture and cheese with the biscuits. Okay, so a trick I learned was to flatten out the biscuits. I just do it by hand. Just pull them out of the can and kinda pull on them in a circular motion all the way around to flatten them out. (It makes them cook faster and cover more area!)

Now, I covered mine with foil, set it in the fridge for later in the day. (Do this before putting the biscuits on though.) When you're ready, you’ll cook it on 375o for 20 min. or until the biscuits are golden brown. Watch closely so your biscuits don’t burn. Sometimes mine take 20 min and sometimes they take more like 25min. I think it depends on how much you stretch your biscuits.

Doesn’t it just look yummy? This is one of my kids’ favorite meals.

What’s your kids’ favorite meal? Have you adapted a favorite meal to make it easier to cook or freeze? How?

**NOTE: If you choose to freeze this meal. You’ll want to thaw the meat/sauce mixture, add cheese and biscuits. Then cook at 375o for 25-30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Happy Cooking!!

Linking up here:
This post is linked to The Imperfect Housewife.

Our Simple Farm
 Growing Home