I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for the ‘Home Management’ Category

Wordless Wednesday – 8/30/17

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True Confessions

Confession #1 – I am still, at the age of 46, learning how to schedule my time to do all things I need to do and hopefully squeeze out some time for things I WANT to do.  As my absence from this blog can testify, I didn’t do so well through July!  Might have something to do with the fact that both of the Youth Theater shows were that month with two tech weeks happening just three weeks apart!  The summer program is over and life has slowed down . . . sort of . . . or at least, looks like what “slowed down” is around here!  Hopefully I can nudge “post on the blog” up the priority list!

Confession #2 – I know that I need to make healthier eating choices, but I get so overwhelmed with the contradictory “healthy eating” information out there – no carb, low carb, low calorie, high protein, low fat, exercise more but only interval training works, lift weights, etc. – that I have to fight a serious urge to give up and just go eat a bowl of ice cream.  Or two.  I’m not giving up on the healthier eating goal, but I’m not making as much forward progress as I would like!

Confession #3 – Many, MANY years ago, when I got married, I bought into the unspoken but carefully taught lie (the media, comments of other women, etc.)  that every husband is a project.  They need cleaned up or dressed up or fixed up by their far more capable wives.  I didn’t set out on my marriage with the sole purpose of “fixing” my husband but I definitely understood it to be one of my “jobs”.  How did I learn that you ask?  Simple.  Every husband/father on sitcom television was a moron, incapable of having a thought that his wife didn’t carefully and systematically trick him into having.  (Don’t believe me?  Watch old episodes of The Cosby Show.  The man was supposedly a doctor but teachers wouldn’t trust him to have a conversation about his kids and his wife was CONSTANTLY scheming with her kids to manipulate him!)  The other “teacher” of this attitude was the way married women I knew spoke of their husbands.

“How many kids do I have?  Well, I’ve given birth to three and I’m married so, really, I have four children” at which point all the other women in the group would chuckle knowingly as if some great secret of the universe had been shared.

“And he let her go out of the house wearing a polka dot top with a plaid skirt!  But what can you expect, he’s a man!”

You get the idea.  It’s taken time, but thanks to some wonderful counselors and, most recently, some FABULOUS accountability partners, I’ve learned to focus on the things about my husband that are amazing.  He never shies from physical labor and is VERY quick to help me whenever I ask.  Even if I say “whenever you have the time,” he usually jumps up right away to help.  He is a passionate pastor and I LOVE to hear him preach.  He is a committed golfer – and is actually getting REALLY good at it! – and I can say from personal experience that he is a VERY patient instructor to a total novice on the driving range and is EXTREMELY encouraging (even when said novice somehow manages to bruise her own forearm with her golf club!).  He loves to make me laugh, is my biggest fan when there is a theater or music performance I am somehow involved and certainly is my biggest encourager in life.

As I’ve focused on seeing the things about him that are good/positive/amazing I’ve discovered something quite fascinating.  We were complete opposites in high school.  I, the triple nerd status performing arts geek – band, theater, and choir – and he, the year round athlete.  (I hesitate to say “jock” because the man is also extremely smart and doesn’t fit the “dumb jock” characterization at all!)  And like many young women, I had this picture of what my “perfect man” would be like.  But I”ve learned something.  My idea of that “perfect spouse” fell so far short of what I really needed.  I’m still WAY more into the performing arts than he is.  But he’s tried out for a couple of plays at the local theater.  Won an award in the first one and will find out this weekend if he’s been cast in the other.  And me?  I’ve actually swung a golf club a few times.  As for my skill . . . let’s just say I won’t be winning any awards any time soon.  Probably ever.  But we’ve each managed to step into the others passion a bit and found the experience to be a rather fun one!  (And he truly is the most patient instructor ever for a totally uncoordinated clutz swinging a golf club!)

That fascinating thing I discovered?  When I learned to value my husband for his character and his drive and his passion, I was thrilled to discover that he really has been my “perfect man” all along.  His strengths shore up my weaknesses, his level-headed, analytical approach to things keeps my tendency to respond emotionally from running away with me.  He loves to make me laugh and smile as often as he can and frequently tells me I’m beautiful.  As if all of that isn’t enough, he tells me “no” when I need to hear it – whether it’s in relationship to finances or my simply trying to get him to do things for me that I really should do for myself!  He let’s me babble on about my latest theatrical endeavor and has learned the art of simply listening when I’ve encountered a situation that leaves me needing to vent.

He may not be the man I THOUGHT I wanted.  But I am so thrilled to say that he is exactly the man I needed as a partner in this crazy ride called life!

Freezer Cooking – The Short Version

I don’t usually do this “happy homemaker” stuff on my blog (simply because I don’t have much to teach in the way of housekeeping hints or original recipes) but I’ve commented about my freezer cooking days and a few people have asked so I thought I’d give a brief idea of a simple freezer cooking day.

A little back story – I am a mom of four and the older my kids got, the busier they got.  Add to that the fact that there were seasons of the year when I worked 3 part time jobs and one of those was a musical which tied up evenings.  Freezer meals made it easier on everyone!

Today’s plan was very simple (compared to other days where I’ve done a dozen entrees or side dishes).  If you are looking for good freezer cooking ideas you can find two of my favorite blogs here (love the taco soup recipe on this one!) and here (I’ll be sharing the marinade from this one a little later).

One tip – I’ve learned that LOTS of casseroles can be frozen for use later in the week.  Just prep them to the moment right before you would put it in the oven to bake and then freeze it instead.  You can use either freezer bags or casserole dishes.

First, it was off to the grocery store to do the grocery shopping.  TIP: I use Cozi.com for meal planning and I have the app downloaded to my phone so I don’t need a written grocery list.  I just use the app!  Hubby gets paid twice a month so when I shop for groceries, it’s for two weeks!

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When I freezer cook, I use the items shown in the picture.  The binder is a family cookbook and that plus the green cookbook are the ones I use most.  The laptop is used to access recipes I’ve pinned or websites I’ve “bookmarked” as well as providing some entertainment via Netflix!

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One of the things I did to start the day was to freeze some fresh green beans I picked up at Market on Central yesterday. Snipped the ends while I got the water boiling. I blanched them then spread them on a cookie sheet to “flash freeze” so them.  That way they wouldn’t freeze in one big lump when I put them in the freezer bag!

IMG_20130915_154743_645Then I started on some of the other recipes.  I got two skillets heated up and fried up two pounds of ground beef in each one.  The one on the left was turned into my mom’s homemade sloppy joes and the one on the left was simply fried up, cooled and frozen.  It would be used later for nachos.  I labeled freezer bags and when the content of each pan had sufficiently cooled, I bagged up the contents and put them in the freezer (I have a stand-up freezer in my basement since the one attached to my fridge is full of veggies and other things!

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I make a pretty mean chicken broccoli alfredo (with a homemade alfredo sauce) and I’ve discovered that I can speed up the process by prepping the chicken ahead of time.  Chop up two chicken breasts, salt and pepper them, heat some EVOO in the skillet and then fry up the meat!  Cool it, bag it, and freeze it.

I’ve also learned that I can freeze meat in sauces or marinades and they are super tasty – they just soak in the marinade before they freeze and soak some more as they are thawing.  The second link I shared above introduced my family to what has become our families favorite marinade.  It’s fairly easy – blend the ingredients then pour it over the meat which you have already placed in the freezer bag.  Thaw the meat then grill it and heat the sauce to use on the meat.  (Go to the link above and look for Steak Marinade near the bottom of the page).

IMG_20130915_170448_680Like I said – a simple day. I kept dishwater in the sink since I kept using the measuring cups, measuring spoons, and skillets.  I spent about an hour and got fresh veggies frozen and parts or all of four entrees.  Regardless of who is responsible to finish dinner, some of the most complicated (or messiest!) work has been done.

Looking to do more freezer cooking?  Go to Pinterest!  It’s a growing area of interest for many and I found some of my best ideas there!  You can find me – MaryJo – and check my “Freezer Meals” board to see the ideas I’ve saved or my “Did It!” board to find the ones I’ve used and liked!

New Year

I don’t really do resolutions. At least not in the traditional ” tell everyone what my resolutions are” kind of way. I tend to write goals down somewhere private and date the list. Then I can pull it out in December and see how I did.

Without getting into the details, I will say that two of the areas I’ve set goals in are my use of and planning for “discretionary” time (aka time I’m not at work) an the summer theater program I work with.  There are others of a more personal nature and I’m guessing some of that will show up here!

For now, I’ll simply wish you all a blessed 2013!

Season of Renewal

I might be alone in this (although I doubt it just a little bit) but fall is always a season of “new beginnings” for me.

I know, I know – a large number of people feel spring is a more appropriate time to “start over”, as the saying goes.  But for me, that chance to start something new or make a change is always associated with the changing color of leaves, the crisp fall air, apple cider and cake donuts, holiday meals being planned (I’m getting hungry!) . . . where was I again?

Oh yeah, renewal.

It’s no secret I’m busy.  I would say I’m a “busy mom” but that’s redundant since EVERY mom I know whose children are still in the home is busy!

Nevertheless, I have the amazing opportunity to spend much of my “work” time (aka, time I get paid for) in the performing arts.  Some of these jobs are seasonal and come and go from one year to the next.  The down side?  These same jobs take up my time in the evenings at least a couple of nights a week and one of them occasionally needs me on the weekends.

I love to be busy and wouldn’t know how to function if I had a safe, predictable, nothing-exciting-ever-happens kind of work situation.  But it would be FAR too easy to over-commit myself, thus making me useless to pretty much everyone!

So now the big question – what, if anything, should I commit my evenings to besides the theatrical productions I get paid to work with?  This is never an easy question to answer because there are so many good things I could be doing; fun things; worthwhile things.  But as my husband loves to say, “You can’t do everything”.  He’s right.  At some point, I have to say “No more.”

I still have children living in my home, laundry to do, meals to prepare, grades to enter, music to rehearse, etc. and I need to allocate my time wisely.  Before you begin to point out that my children could be helping with some of those tasks I just mentioned, let me stop you.  (1) My children are responsible to do their own laundry but my husband and I can produce 6 to 8 loads a week just between the two of us (work clothes, casual clothes, etc.) and that doesn’t include towels, bedding, etc. (2) I will not pawn chores off on my kids just so I can go play.  Yes, I need time to recharge my batteries so I don’t get cranky from feeling overloaded and stressed.  But being gone more nights than I am home just does not seem wise REGARDLESS of whether or not family members help out with chores.

So I’ve set a deadline (of sorts) for myself to get some things sorted out and decide whether or not to give away even more of my evening time to other activities or not.  Here’s hoping and praying (LOTS of praying) that I get it right!

Sometimes being a grown up is hard work!

Laboring on Labor Day!

The house is nearly silent.  Well, it was till my youngest daughter walked in the door and the dog felt the need to run and see who was in “her” home.

I realized earlier today that I was having a great day and that was surprising.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting to have a bad day.  But I had a massive list of things to do around the house that I needed to make a good-sized dent in and I wasn’t sure how successful I’d be!  That kind of day usually ends with me being disappointed in how little I got done, how easily I got distracted and feeling just generally wiped out.

I finished up a couple more freezer meals (one yet to put together), did some cleaning, did some purging of “stuff” (more on this later), took care of some organizational things, chatted about an “upcycling” idea with hubby that I’m pretty stoked about.  In general, I got ALOT done today.  Started the day with a to do list that I knew was too long for one day but I’m pleased at how much has been crossed off!

Hubby stepped in and helped with some of the tasks, daughter number 2 stepped in and offered to help with dinner prep (fresh veggies to be peeled and cut) and I didn’t ever battle “foggy brain” which always happens on these days when I have lots to get done!  What is foggy brain?  Well, it’s this weird issue I have with staying on track during those days when I want to get lots done in the house.  I start off well, but then I get a room cleaned or a major project done and my brain can’t quite figure out where to go next.  I usually end up doing random jobs here and there that don’t really allow me to make any progress in any room.  That didn’t happen today!

I have to give hubby some of the credit because his willingness to step in and work right along side me was definitely motivation to keep going!  And kids who were quick to respond when I asked for help – or who even volunteered to help! – was an extra push.

I said I purged some stuff today.  The nice thing is, I’m not done yet!

For as long as I can remember, Fall has felt like a time to “start over”.  The kind of cleaning most people do in the Spring?  I start tackling late summer and into the fall.  And this time around I have been consumed with a desire to clean out stuff!  Just a couple of weeks ago I filled several trash bags with clothes to donate.  Today it was cookbooks.  I had more than any one person – who is not a professional chef! – should need.  The sad thing was, I was holding on to some of them for one or two recipes. So I pulled the entire collection out of my cupboard.  There are one or two I’m keeping for sentimental reasons.  My youngest daughter and her classmates compiled a book of favorite recipes in 2nd grade.  That one stays.  I inherited a cookbook with popular recipes from the camp I grew up going to.  Not giving that up!

Several years ago, I put together a “Heritage Cookbook” as a Christmas gift for my sisters and mom. A few years later, my baby sister updated the book with some new recipes and a few brand new categories of recipes.  Many of the recipes from my cookbooks have made the jump to the heritage cookbook which made it easy to make the decision to get rid of some.  Others were in magazine form (I love Taste of Home!) so it was easy to tear pages out.

But what do I do with the loose sheets that I have containing recipes?!  How do I keep track of what I’ve done/haven’t done/want to do for a special occasion?!  Slowly but surely, I”m starting to type them all into my online recipe box on Cozi.  (BTW – for my Pinterest friends, I discovered that I can simply copy the link to a recipe website and put that in the virtual recipe box! Hmmm.  Maybe I can purge some of Pinterest boards?  Am I getting too carried away?) I have also set up a spreadsheet that lists the recipe, if it’s online, a loose sheet of paper, or in the heritage cookbook  and whether or not I’ve ever made it.  I have different tabs for different “food categories” (entrees, side dishes, etc.).

I’ve also started making notes (on that same spread sheet) for recipes I intend to try during the upcoming Holiday season.  Not only do I have to consider Thanksgiving and Christmas – especially since we don’t know if we’re travelling for either of them yet! – I also need to plan food for the Open House that hubby and I throw for the church each December.  I haven’t even gotten close to finishing the project yet but I already feel like the system makes sense and will make my life as a menu planner and grocery list maker so much easier!  Here’s hoping!

Sheer Willpower = More Freezer Meals

Hubby’s pay day was yesterday which meant another round of grocery shopping today followed by another round prepping some freezer meals.  I didn’t want to just duplicate everything I did the last go round so I changed it up some.  Unfortunately, today didn’t run nearly as smoothly as last time around and it took every ounce of willpower I possessed to keep going!  Last time around I used all of the recipes but one from the same blog and her step-by-step directions were incredibly helpful!  (Side note – check out that particular blog entry here – The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis.  I didn’t do the BBQ recipe but made all the rest!  Believe me, I will repeat those recipes again!)

Every time I got close to saying “chuck it”, I remembered the complete lack of stress when it came to meal time this past week and I kept going.  As I type this, I have a batch of sloppy joe meat all cooked up – it’s my mom’s homemade concoction – that will get defrosted and reheated on Friday night since there is a home football game which means marching band responsibilities for my son and uniform responsibilities for mom!

I also have a double batch (translated: two casseroles) of cheeseburger and fries casserole frozen and ready.  The steak marinade from the Melissa Fallis blog was a HUGE hit last time around so I did that one again.

I have four more recipes that I will take a go at tomorrow, all of them new.  One of them will make individual servings of calzones, another will make a double batch of  Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes casserole, then there is Sausage and Spinach Pasta Bake as well as Upside Down Fettuccini Bake.  With the holiday on Monday, we are grilling out – burgers – and we are doing “breakfast for dinner” one night this week.  Still have two Chicken Pot Pies in my freezer and one of those will get pulled for supper on Wednesday.  Tomorrow’s dinner is a Marinated and Baked Pork Chop recipe from the blog I mentioned above.

I wasn’t planning to do any more twice baked potatoes but there was a sale at the store we couldn’t resist – $2.99 for a 15 lb. bag of potatoes.  No, that’s not a typo.  So I did two or three more meals worth of twice-baked potatoes (still had one of those in the freezer that we’re using for dinner tomorrow).  We’ll throw some fried potatoes on the menu with the burgers on Labor Day to use up another significant portion of the tatoes.

The butcher counter at our local grocery store does “meat bundles” and we purchased one of them this week – 100 servings of various meats for 100 dollars.  The box included pre-done burger patties (Labor Day cookout!), brats, pork chops, boneless pork chops, steaks, cube steaks, ribs, . . . lots of tasty stuff!  Between my freezer cooking and the meat bundle, we are well on our way to having most of the entrees for the month of September taken care of!

I’m absolutely exhausted and my feet hurt.  But I’m soooo glad I accomplished at least half of my freezer cooking today, especially since I didn’t get the grocery shopping started until after lunch!  Feeling very blessed that the freezer cooking thing (and the deal on potatoes and the meat bundle from the store) have stretched our grocery budget to crazy lengths!

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