Tag Archives: cooking

My little party planner

I just love to throw kids parties! Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, tea parties…FUN! FUN! FUN!

I have never done a Valentine’s party.

Last week during our snow days, Leah decided to plan one. The kids will sometimes set up a club, store, game room, dance party, etc., in their bedrooms and the rest of the family attends. I figured that’s what she was doing. Actually, she invited several friends from school. Unfortunately, the inviting was one of those things where first graders make all the plans but the parents aren’t really in sync…nobody knows a time or place…

When I broke the news to her that her friends were not likely to come, she was heartbroken. I promised that the entire family would participate and that helped a little. One of her friends actually did come over for awhile in the evening (only because her mom was here to pick up Girl Scout cookies, but she didn’t care why) and that helped a lot.

After her friend left, she asked if we could have the party. Our 11 year old son had a friend over and the boys were playing. I asked (ok, insisted on) their involvement for a mere 5 minutes. They all went along with it enthusiastically, staying for another activity even after I told them they could leave.

I have to say, she did an amazing job planning and executing this party!

She planned games, activities and snacks:

Pin the Heart on the Donkey–She drew and cut out a donkey and several hearts. She taped them all to the wall in her bedroom.

Heart Potato–She used a heart shaped pillow and sang a song for the music while we sat in a circle and passed the heart.100_2708

Valentine Storytime–She spread out her heart blanket on the floor and read Clifford’s First Valentine’s Day to us.

Snacks–She baked cookies yesterday (Pillsbury Simply Cookies ready made chocolate chip cookie dough dressed up with pink sprinkles prior to baking).

She even had heart stickers and drawings she had made as prizes for the games.

A perfect little party completely planned by a six year old!

She did her mama proud!

A Hodge-Podge of Helpful Hints

Don’t you just love it when you stumble on a great idea? I do!

Time savers, money savers, energy savers (both electrical and human), maybe even sanity savers.

I have a couple I thought I’d share with you, but I’m selfishly hoping you’ll share yours with me.

Fresh and Free Bread Crumbs

I’ve always thought it was a huge waste to throw the ends of the bread away. But I don’t want to eat them either. My solution? I keep a bag in the freezer and everytime I finish off a loaf of bread, I toss the ends in. When I need bread crumbs for a recipe, I pull a couple out and put them in the food processor, blender or Magic Bullet. In just a couple minutes I have fresh bread crumbs that didn’t cost me a dime. Sometimes I add Italian seasoning or some cheese to spice up the flavor. I’ve saved money and reduced waste.

Natural and Inexpensive Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Odor Eliminator

If you’re not using vinegar all around your house, you’re missing out! The first place I started using it was in the laundry room. I have four young children. Diapers leak, they get sick, they wet the bed. Their clothes and bedding get smelly. My towels were smelling musty too. I used to buy Febreze Laundry. Effective, but really expensive!

Now, I keep a jug of vinegar next to the washer. I add a half cup to a cup to the loads that are stinky. Works like a charm! And, no, the clothes don’t smell like vinegar. I also use it as a liquid fabric softener and more in the laundry.

I also use vinegar to clean my kitchen and bathroom. It wards off mold and mildew. It doesn’t disinfect, so it’s not the only product I use in those rooms. But I use it a lot. And, no, my house doesn’t smell like vinegar. It also doesn’t smell like chemicals.

My best tip related to vinegar? Take an old baby wipe container and fill it with equal parts vinegar and water. Fold some clean rags and place them in the solution. I actually filled mine with two cups water and marked a line on the outside of the container with a magic marker, then added two cups vinegar and made another mark. Now I don’t have to measure my equal parts.

When you’re ready to clean, take out a rag. If you need another one, don’t dip the dirty one back in, just pull out a new one. No paper towels! Again…saving money and reducing waste. When you’re finished cleaning, toss the rags in the wash. The vinegar they’re soaked in helps freshen the load.

There are so many other uses for vinegar! Give it a try. You’ll be over the smell in a couple days.

Organizer for Coupons

I wrote an entire post on my coupon strategy, but the key is really how I organize the coupons using a mini photo album and Post-It notes.

Coupon Organizer

There you have it. Three of my time and money savers. What are your favorite tips and tricks?

It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

We have a tradition of eating breakfast for dinner on Friday nights. It was born out of necessity when our youngest son was about 6 and going through a phase where he would only eat soft foods. We never figured out why…but we sure did worry for awhile since he was losing weight.

In an effort to get him to eat, we implemented several strategies, one of which was Friday night breakfasts. He’s long since outgrown the issue, but the tradition remains.

One of our favorite meals is Family Style French Toast. It’s so easy to make and absolutely delicious! I’ve also served it for brunch at family reunions.

Hope you enjoy! Oh, and if you have any great breakfast recipes, I’d love it if you’d share. We’re always looking for something new to try.

Birthday Dinner

Today is my birthday. We have a tradition in our family. The birthday girl/boy gets to pick what we have for dinner—whatever they want.

Hence, my husband dutifully asked me last night what I wanted for my special meal.

That’s a difficult question for me.

  1. I want something I love and don’t get very often.
  2. But more importantly, I don’t want to have to cook it!

Up until a couple years ago, my mom would make the one meal that she always made when I was growing up that I don’t seem to be able to do justice—pounded steak and fried potatoes. But she’s just not up to cooking a big meal for all of us anymore. I am getting better at fixing it, but my husband wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to make it.

This is my birthday dinner, so while pounded steak and fried potatoes fulfill point number one, they don’t fulfill point number two.

Have to pick something else.

Thin Pancakes.

My granny, and then my mom used to make these for me when I was little. You call them crepes. Served one at a time, slathered with real butter and white sugar. Rolled up and cut into bite sized pieces.

A little heaven on earth!

Because they are very quick to cook, and you can only really make one at a time, it’s almost impossible to fix these for yourself.

It was necessary that my husband learn to make these. If we had signed a pre-nup, that point would have been a line item in the document as justifiable grounds for divorce if he didn’t.

So, several years ago, I asked my mom for the recipe.

Before I share that, I have to tell you that she used to complain about her mother’s “recipes.” Apparently, my granny made THE best chocolate chip cookies ever. When my mom asked for the recipe, she replied, “I just follow the directions on the package, but I change it a little.”

She would also use “handfuls” as a measurement. According to my mom, her mother had the smallest hands on the planet.

You can see how this form of recipe recording would be troublesome to one who was trying to duplicate a much loved family favorite.

And now I give you my mother’s recipe for Thin Pancakes. And I quote:

“About 4 eggs—blended a little bit. About a cup of flour. Shake a little salt in there. Blend—make sure it’s mixed together. Put milk in until it looks about right. Blend. Need a pan that slopes and that is really hot. A little Crisco in the pan between medium high and high.”

Thanks for the recipe, Mom! And thanks for cooking, Michael!

My birthday dinner was delicious!

MMMM….Monday!

Who likes Mondays? Whether you’re a stay at home mom, like me or a high powered CEO, it’s back to the grind.

Laundry…grocery shopping…cooking….conference calls…reports…meetings…

What better way to perk up a Monday than with a great new recipe?

I’ve said before that coming up with new and different dishes to try and that my kids will eat is a challenge. From here on out, we’re not having Monday at My Chaotic Bliss. We’re having MMMM…Monday! I’ll share Recipes from the Chaotic Kitchen weekly.

I hope you find some inspiration!

Today’s recipe is one that my boys love! In fact, it’s so easy to make that Zachary (11) made it for his dinner yesterday.

Recipes from the Chaotic Kitchen

People often tell me I’m a good cook. Maybe. I do know I can read, and I think if you can read and follow directions, you can cook. My definition of a truly good cook is someone who creates a dish out of thin air–to me, that’s a good cook. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. Everything I make comes from a recipe.

Maybe it’s the mother in me, but I truly delight in serving a meal to someone who enjoys it. But with a busy family of six, it’s sometimes difficult to find the time in all the chaos.

My favorite recipes are those that require relatively few ingredients and are quick to prepare. There are exceptions of course, but our day-in and day-out favorites are both quick and easy to fix. Oh yeah, and it’s helpful if at least two of my four kids will eat said dish!

One of the worst parts of my “household duties” is coming up with a menu day after day, week after week and month after month, coordinating the grocery list, finding the recipes, etc. It’s hard not to get stuck in a rut of eating the same seven dishes week after week.

I’m always looking for new dishes to try and know many of you probably are, too. I’m also looking for some way for the recipes, the planner and the grocery list to all magically “talk” to one another so I don’t spend hours on the process. I came across a great site, thanks to The Organized Mom, that comes as close to this magic as I’ve found. It’s called Kitchen Monki.

KitchenMonki.com is a recipe sharing site, but it’s so much more than that! You can plan your meals using your own recipes or one of the ones others have shared. You can also create your grocery list from the recipes you choose. The items in your list are automatically sorted by grocery aisle and you can sort them by the different stores you shop. You can add notes for a specific brand or the details of the coupon you have for a particular item. Once you’re done, you can send it to your phone or print a PDF and take it with you. Like the sound of all of that, but don’t want to share Aunt Mildred’s secret recipe? Choose to keep the recipe private. You still get all the functionality described above, but no one else can see your recipe.

On top of all that, if you’re a blogger like me, you can easily embed the recipes you share on Kitchen Monki to your own blog–no formatting required! So now, I can share my recipes with my readers, thereby making my blog more interesting. Check out my “Last Minute Cranberry Relish” below. Yummy!

So now we have the birth of a new category: “Recipes from the Chaotic Kitchen.” I’ll share some of my favorites with you. If I find other tips and tricks for making planning and preparing family meals easier, I’ll share those, too. If you have tips or suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Together, maybe we can make the process less chaotic and a little more blissful!