Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pouch Project

Growing up, it drove me nuts when my mom would refuse to buy me a piece of clothing that she deemed ridiculously expensive because, as she'd say, "I could make that for next to nothing." I definitely respect her thriftiness now that I'm older and trying to live frugally.

The other day I had a need for a good old fashioned zippered pencil pouch. It was actually much harder than I thought it would be to find one at the store and, when I did, it was $12.  Highway robbery! I bet you can guess what I said out loud right there in the aisle. "I could make that for next to nothing."

And that's exactly what I did yesterday. I used the Zakka Inspired Pencil Pouch tutorial over at Noodlehead. Anna does an amazing job of writing clear, step-by-step instructions and taking pictures to demonstrate every step along the way. Even as a novice seamstress, this tutorial was easy to follow and fun to make. I skipped the applique step and substituted the linen with another cotton print. I also added some height to better suit my intended use. It needs a bigger key ring so I'll pick that up the next time I'm at the fabric store.

I'm really proud of the finished piece:

Total, I'm guessing this project cost around $2. Amount saved: $10!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/25 - 10/31

Monday: beef stroganoff (made by H)

Tuesday: lasagna (made by J)

Wednesday: whatever E made (I forget!)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hot dogs @ the campground

Saturday: Mexican black bean & sausage soup @ the campground

Sunday: late luncheon @ church

* * * * *

I made a dish called California Chicken for meal swap this week. It's one of my mother-in-law's go-to recipes and quite a crowd pleaser. Thank goodness it's pretty easy, too. I was out of town all day Saturday and too tired to cook after the baby went to bed. Of course she decided not to sleep Saturday night so I was up early and cooking Sunday morning on 4 hours of sleep.

California Chicken


-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon celery salt
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-1 tablespoon cooking oil, such as olive or canola
-3/4 cup pineapple juice
-1/4 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium.)
-2 teaspoons sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine all dry ingredients. Dredge chicken in the mixture.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken on both sides.

4. Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce & sugar. Place chicken in an oven-proof dish. Pour liquid over the chicken.

5. Bake the chicken for one hour, basting every 15 minutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/18 - 10/24

Quick post today! I've gotta get in the kitchen and get to work on my contribution to meal swap for this week.

Monday: Spaghetti & Chicken Meatballs (made by me)

Tuesday: Puffy Chicken (made by H)

Wednesday: Chili (made by J)

Thursday: Chicken Tacos (made by E)

Friday: Cheeseburgers or Pizza

Saturday: leftovers for my husband; A and I will eat at scrapbooking

Sunday: whichever we don't have on Friday

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For the Birds

Mommy & Me Discovery group at church yesterday was wonderful. The kids' devotional was all about empathy. We talked about what it meant, why God wants us to be empathetic and different ways that we can show empathy in our everyday lives. While Audrey is still too young to really "get" the lessons or participate in the conversations, I don't think it can hurt for her to hear them and I love listening to the older kids share their thoughts on the day's topic.

Our hands-on activity was to make pinecone bird feeders. Our group leader explained to the kids that this time of year is harder for birds to get to their food and that sometimes they're hungry. She asked the kids how they would feel if they were hungry, but there was a gate in front of their food. Our pastor's daughter, age 3, said "I'd just open the gate and go get it." Out of the mouths of babes. :)

We made the bird feeders with just pinecones, yarn, peanut butter and bird seed. The hardest part was keeping the kids from eating the peanut butter before it actually made it to the pinecone.

Audrey and I took our birdfeeder out in the yard today and hung it in a tree. I picked one we can easily see from the living room window. I have a feeling we're going to feed more squirrels than birds, but they gotta eat too, right?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/11 - 10/17

Week 1 of meal swap with my mom's group at church was a HUGE success. My husband and I liked all three meals we were given: stromboli, enchiladas (The Pioneer Woman recipe) & curry chicken. The pork chops I made were a hit with everyone, too. My friend's 4-year-old told her, "They're yummy in my tummy" while eating dinner and then asked for more the next day at lunch. Even one of the husbands (who's a pretty picky eater) approached me before church service on Sunday to tell me they were good.

Here's what we're eating this week! I'm excited to try all of it.

Monday: Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage (made by J)

Tuesday: Chicken & Noodles (made by H)

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos (made by E)

Thursday: Sweet & Sour Chicken (made by me)

Friday: cheeseburgers & homemade potato skins

Saturday: wedding

Sunday: leftovers

My contribution to the meal swap this week was Sweet & Sour Chicken. I doubled this recipe from The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. Just one modification on my part. It's quick, easy and one of our favorites. My husband isn't a big fan of Chinese food, but he loves this one and requests it on a regular basis. I hope the other families like it as much as we do!


1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound trimmed boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" wide strips (any color bell pepper works, really)
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic (reduce to 1 Tablespoon if using jarred)
1/4 cup bottled sweet & sour sauce (I use Kroger brand)


1. In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and mix well. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated.

2. Place a large nonstick skillet or nonstick wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic softens and the vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the garlic may burn. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

3. Return the pan to high heat and add another teaspoon oil and half the chicken in a single layer. Cook until the pieces are lightly brown on the bottom. Flip the pieces and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the cooked chicken the the bowl with the vegetables. Return the pan to high heat, add the remaining oil and cook the remaining chicken.

4. Return the vegetables and chicken to the pan to reheat if needed. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the sauce, and mix until well combined. Divide the stir-fry among 4 bowls, and serve.

Number of Servings: 4

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Year of Audrey

My baby girl turns 1 today.

It seems like just yesterday that we were headed to the hospital, but I don't remember life before her.

October 2009 - about 2 hours after birth, snuggling with Daddy

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010 - 1st cereal
March 2010 

April 2010

May 2010 - Mother's Day      

June 2010 0

July 2010

August 2010 - county fair

September 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with Creamy Herb Dressing

You may have noticed that I didn't include my contribution to the food swap on this week's Menu Plan Monday post. That's because I made batches for the other families, but not for ours. We just ate it a couple of weeks ago and I didn't want to repeat it so soon. I did want to share the recipe with you all. It was a hit with our family and I've gotten rave reviews from the two other church families who ate their meal swap portions for dinner last night.

I made the Creamy Herb Dressing first and popped it in the fridge so the flavors could marry.
1/4 cup sour cream2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions: Put all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl. Stir until well blended. (NOTE: It may look runny when you first make it, but it will thicken up.)

Then it was on to the Panko-Crusted Pork Chops!

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs)
4 boneless center-cut loin pork chops (4-ounces each, about 1/2 inch thick)
1 tablespoon canola oil (not pictured)
non-stick cooking spray (not pictured)


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine the first 6 ingredients (flour through cayenne pepper) in a shallow dish. In a seperate dish, combine the egg whites and soy sauce. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko into an even layer.

3. Dredge pork in the flour mixture.

 4. Dip pork in the egg mixture.

5. Dredge pork chops in the panko breadcrumbs.

6. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan and brown; about 3 minutes on each side.

 6. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Place pork on the baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Flip pork chops and bake for another 3 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

 7. Plate pork chops, top with creamy herb dressing and serve.

Sorry about the crappy photo lighting, but I think you get the picture. (Pun intended.)

This dish paired well with just a side salad. The pork chops were very filling and we didn't miss a the starchy side. If you did want one, a baked potato or baked sweet potato would probably be good choices.

Source of Original Recipe: Cooking Light

Recipe Notes: The original recipe made 2 pork chops so my amounts are doubled from that. The cooking times are also modified here because the pork did not reach a safe internal temperature following the original recipe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday : 10/4- 10/10

This week is pretty exciting for us in the food department. It's Week 1 of a meal swap program I'm taking part in along with 3 other ladies from our church.

We sat down one day last week to plan what each person would make and work out logistics. Every week, each person will make three batches of the meal they're scheduled to bring that week. Then, each person will deliver their food to the others on their designated day. Two people will deliver their meals when we see each other at church on Sunday. The other two people will deliver their meals when we meet for Mommy & Me Discovery group on Tuesday.

It works out to be cook once, eat four meals (assuming you make a batch of your meal for your family, too). I'm super excited! We have our menus planned for a month's worth of meals. If it goes well, we plan to do another round next month and into the future.

Here's our menu for this week:

Monday: pepperoni & mushroom stromboli (made by H)

Tuesday: chicken enchiladas (made by J)

Wednesday: curry chicken (made by E)

Thursday: pancakes & sausage for my Peanut's 1st birthday (her favorite)

Friday: cheeseburgers & homemade potato skins

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Peanut's 1st birthday party! (ribs, frittata, green beans w/ ham & potatoes, corn bread, veggie tray, fruit salad, whatever my mother-in-law and sister-in-law decide to bring & CAKE!)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coffee Catastrophe

Did you know that this past Wednesday was National Coffee Day?

It also happens to be the day that the lovely machine you see below went kaput. Oh, the irony.
 To make it even better, my almost-1-year-old decided that this would be a good day to break her streak of sleeping through the night and wake up at 3am, laughing and talking to me as I tried to rock her back to sleep. I don't do well on 4 hours of sleep and I don't do well without my coffee. Put the two together and it's exponentially worse. A raging headache and little NoNaps McGhee went strong all day. Good times. I did resort to hot tea. Four cups of it to be exact, but it just wasn't the same.

Maybe you're thinking "catastrophe" is a strong word to describe anything relating to coffee. Clearly you've never met me. I'm an 8-cup a day *cough*minimum*cough* coffee drinker so yes, it really was that big of a deal. We live in an extremely rural area. The only coffee options within a 20-mile radius are the gas station and the grocery store. Both are repulsive. The grocery store offers free coffee from 7-9am, but I'm fairly certain it's leftover from the employee breakroom the day before. The gas station isn't undrinkable, but it's certainly not good and you have to time it just right to even get a cup before the old men drink it all.

Yesterday I hit the motherload. I recently started working a few hours every Thursday morning. I'd previously spotted a little coffee shop along my route there and decided now was prime time to give it a whirl. The cafe just happens to be a Crimson Cup location! If you've never heard of Crimson Cup, you should check it out. As their website describes, they're "a network of 400 independent coffeehouses, grocers, colleges & universities, and food service operations across 28 states." Their coffee is grand and their efforts to promote and support local coffee houses are even better. The staff was super friendly and my nonfat venti frosted pumpkin latte knocked the socks off the pumkin spice lattes I've had recently from that other famous coffee franchise.

You would think that 20 ounces of delicious espressoness would get me through the day. Not so much. After work, I swung back through the drive through and got a large cup of their signature blend coffee. It's pretty bad when you amass two large, matching cups from the same coffee house in less than 4 hours. Oh well. It got me through the day as a happy human being.
Today I was torn. I didn't want to make the 30-minute trip for decent coffee, but I also didn't want to do without or drink sub-par caffeine and I really didn't want to go another day without. As luck would have it, I remembered that the little Amish store just down the road sells locally-roasted coffee by the cup. As soon as the wee one woke up, we had breakfast and headed that way. 

They only have one size and that's small, but for 50 cents a cup you can afford more than one. I'll let the picture speak for itself and yes, that's all for me. There also may or may not have been a cup consumed before this picture was taken.
 My husband should be home tonight and we're headed to get everyone accessorized for a wedding we're attending tomorrow. Peanut needs tights, my husband wants new shoes and I have high hopes of getting a new coffee pot. :)