Friday, February 28, 2014

Organization: my pantry

A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Instagram how I was re-organizing my kitchen pantry. In total, I cleaned out the entire pantry along with the two cupboards near the stove that hold food items.

 I started by pulling everything out of the pantry (which accumulated in the kitchen in the above middle) and wiped down the shelves. Once I had a clean slate, I could focus on where to put my food items. I started by placing the most used items closer to the entrance of the pantry, and went from there.
I'm in love with my new organized area, making it easier to pull ingredients for meals. I asked my IG and Facebook followers for suggestions during this process, and I thought I'd share what information I gleaned:
Jen said: converted a hall closet to industrial metal food cabinets... Only kitchen holds cooking supplies, cook books, and spices.
Judy said: Pitch all things out of date. It will lighten your load and make room for more. List things you pitched to buy only if you use them a lot.
Jim said: Start with the trash can.

My peeps are so smart--Thanks for your help and support! And if you would like, feel free to hop over and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

Friday, February 21, 2014

InstaFriday - Valentine's In Review

I thought I'd catch you up on a bit of our life, and where better to start than the most recent holiday :)
The Handsome Hubby bought me beautiful roses in white, I just happened upon some pretty pink roses at the store one day and thought they'd make my bouquet smile. These beauties graced our table to a while.

Widget had a little festive party, so I gave her a festive hairdo to attend the affair.
Here's a close up after I tied the ribbon into bow.
Widget wanted to pose with her sweet teacher.
And here is Widget's version of a Valentine's It's cute and creative none the less :)
I hope you had a fun red & pink holiday, and a wonderful February (which is almost over...WHAT!!!). Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cracking Eggs

Remember, on the third Thursday of {almost} every month, my Sis-in-law, Tash, writes about her recent crafty adventures. Take it away, Tash!

Hello everybody!  I hope you enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy your holidays.  Does it bother anyone else that in the fall and winter we have a holiday every month Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines.  Then nothing major for spring and summer until Easter and Independence Day?  The only time to really party is birthdays, and you can't always control when that happens.  Spencer and I fall in the same month, in the same week of the same month!  I don't even bother to make two special desserts.  We can't finish the first before it's time for the second.  We would have to give each other gym memberships every year if we ate that much cake and ice cream.  Maybe that's your dream gift, but that would make me cry.  

This year Spencer and I followed Ashley and Preston's example, to remedy that problem by adding a new birthday month to our year.  This August we will celebrate the birth of our first baby!  Actually this year we probably won't celebrate too much, hospital smells, labor and delivery recovery, and lack of sleep will make us lame party people.  So next year we will party!  

To celebrate the future celebration of our celebratory worthy celebration...I wanted to send a special announcement to our favorite family members.  As I looked online for ideas I came across this beautiful quail egg announcement.  It's soooo pretty!  However I wanted to make something not buy it.  If I was in the buying mood I would have spent the money happily.  Then I discovered how to make my own crackable paper mache eggs here.  I also looked up the paper mache process in general.  Did you know flour and water make a very durable paste?  A balloon, tissue paper, some flour water, and a brush later, I was set to go.  Once they were dry I slipped in the announcement, added the string, sealed them up, and mailed them out.  

Oh and just so everyone knows how happy I am, CONGRATULATIONS ASHLEY!!!  You're having a baby girl!  And your prego belly is so much cuter than mine.  I just look like I ate all the cake and ice cream by myself.  ;)

See you next month!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tasty Treats Tuesday - Creamy Salsa Verde Chicken

Do you have a favorite 'go to' recipe that your family loves? Yep, me too! I love how easy the Creamy Salsa Verde Chicken is to make (toss a few things into a slow cooker) and how versatile the recipe is.

Every Tuesday, I post some type of recipe that I've made recently (my own concoctions or some of our family faves). Earlier this month I posted two Blackberry Freezer Jam recipes, feel free to check them out. You can find other recipes under the Recipe label (on the right sidebar).

Once upon a time, I stumbled upon this recipe on Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom. She made Creamy Chicken Verde Tacos in the crock pot, and I thought to myself, "I like salsa verde...I love cream cheese...this looks like an easy and awesome recipe!"

I've now been making this recipe for a year now and let me tell you, it really is easy and awesome! I don't deviate much from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom's recipe, but on occasion I do serve it differently. Plus, I'm all about not measuring things and I use whatever I have in the pantry. Here is what I use:

Creamy Salsa Verde Chicken

  • 1 jar Salsa Verde or chili verde or other salsa (I always buy mild for my family, but use whatever you like)
  • approx 2 lbs boneless chicken breast
  • 1 block of cream cheese (I usually buy fat free/low fat)
-Toss chicken into crock pot/slow cooker.
-Smother the chicken with salsa.
-Cook chicken for 4-6 hours on the low setting. This will vary depending upon your slow cooker, the thickness of the chicken and/or if the chicken is completely thawed. (I usually do not defrost my chicken all the way before starting this process, so my cooking time varies according to the frozen-ness of my chicken). Be careful not to over cook your chicken because it can dry out if cooked too long.
-Shred chicken. I use two plastic forks (so it doesn't scratch my slow cooker) and pull the chicken apart.
-Spoon out excess liquid if you prefer. I usually skip this step ;)

-Add block of cream cheese to the slow cooker, cook on low for about 1/2 hour (or until the cream cheese is melted enough that you can stir the mixture together without chunks).
-Serve however you would like: on tortillas or taco shells with all the fixings, as a dip for chips or crackers, or (like I did the last time I served this) over egg noodles.

It is one of my favorite recipes to incorporate into different meals. I hope you try the Creamy Salsa Verde Chicken for yourself!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tasty Treats Tuesday - Blackberry Freezer Jam

We love jam...let me rephrase that...We LOVE homemade jam! And as you can imagine, it is hard to keep enough jam on hand when we are all at home through the week. That is why I make multiple jars of freezer jam every other month. This month, I found a wonderful sale on blackberries at our local grocery store, so even though I had never worked with blackberries before, I decided it would make yummy jam ;) And that is how my recipe for Blackberry Freezer Jam came to be...

Every Tuesday, I post some type of recipe that I've made recently (my own concoctions or some of our family faves). Last month, I posted three delicious Puppy Chow recipes - feel free to check them out (here, here and here). You can find other recipes under the Recipe label (on the right sidebar).
Last week I made lots of freezer jam with a friend. We mostly just make strawberry jam, but one of her kids has shown an allergic reaction to strawberries lately, so we have been experimenting with other fruits. This 'Jam Session' we focused on blackberries.
My total spoils for the day: 3 jars of Blackberry, 2 jars of Blackberry Peach, 3 jars of Blackberry Peach Raspberry, and 4 jars of Strawberry freezer jam.
(Notice my treat while working on jam? It's Key Lime Pie Puppy Chow!)
My recipe for freezer jam differs a bit from Tasha's because I use something different for my pectin (to thicken the fruit mixture into jam). I base all my freezer jam recipes off of my mother-in-law's strawberry version (which keeps it simple for me).
Ashley's Blackberry Freezer Jam Recipe:
~ 4 Cups blackberries (fresh or defrosted)
~ 1/2 Cup Ultra Gel (I bought mine online, learn more about Ultra Gel thickener here)
~ 3/4 Cup white sugar (can be adjusted a bit to taste)
Mix the sugar and ultra gel together, then add fruit and mash together with a potato masher until mixture is the desired consistency. Once well mixed, spoon/funnel jam into freezer safe jars and seal lids. This recipe yields three 8 oz jars. Good in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year.
But since I made a few other blackberry based jams, and I thought you'd like to see another one of those recipes: Blackberry Peach Raspberry
Ashley's Blackberry-Peach-Raspberry Freezer Jam Recipe:
~ 3.5 Cups blackberries (fresh or defrosted)
~ 1.5 Cups peaches (fresh or defrosted--I prepped a boatload of peaches for freezing in the fall)
~ 1 Cup raspberries (fresh or defrosted)
~ 1/2 Cup Ultra Gel
~ 1/2 Cup white sugar (my peaches already had a bit of sugar on them from their preparation for freezing, so I dropped the amount of sugar for this recipe)
Mix the sugar and ultra gel together, then add fruit and mash together with a potato masher until mixture is the desired consistency (peaches tend to be a bit more 'stringy' than berries, so I used an emersion blender to mix this batch of freezer jam). Once well mixed, spoon/funnel jam into freezer safe jars and seal lids. This recipe yields four 8 oz jars. Good in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. 

Mmmm...all these delicious fruits made delicious freezer jams! Check out what my freezer drawer looks like now...full!!!

I hope you enjoy my Blackberry Freezer Jam Recipe. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions :) Happy jam making!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Make Shopping Easier

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Favado for All opinions are 100% mine.

Do you ever go grocery shopping? Who am I kidding, of course you do!
How about shopping sales? Or clipping coupons?

I love a deal, no matter if it's on cheese sticks or maternity pants :) BUT, I hate spending hours upon hours trying to collect coupons and comb every.single.advertisement and flyer before driving to multiple stores...

So I wanted to tell you about a little app that I've come across recently called Favado. You can enter the names of stores you want to look at, and it tells you what sales they have going on that week. AND it will let you know if there are printable coupons you can stack with these sales (and if there were coupons included in the newspaper inserts that you can also use - if you get the inserts, that is).

For instance, check out this sale at one of my favorite stores on diapers:

Huggies Super Pack Diapers (the paperclip icon means there are coupons available)

Once you click on the specific deal, you will be shown more information. Under 'More Ways to Save' there are clickable links for printable coupons

Scroll down, and under 'Insert Coupons' the app lists manufacturer's coupons with the date they appeared in the paper

Cool, right!
Here is what Favado has to say about themselves:

Fall in love with grocery shopping again!

With love in the air, Favado wants to help you fall in love with grocery shopping again! We know that you have a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping and we know that with Favado’s help, we can transform it into a love-love relationship again.
With Favado, you’ll find yourself wanting to go you can show off how little you spend...and so you can brag to your family and friends how you have more money lining your pockets these days.
And it gets better - Favado wants to give you a chance to win a little spending cash!

Show Your #favadolove and Be Entered to Win $1,000

This Valentine’s Day, we want you to share a video about what you love about Favado and you’ll be entered to win $1,000. Tell us what app features you love or how much you have saved using the app or why you can’t stop talking about Favado.
To enter to win $1,000, simply post a video to your favorite social media channel and add the hashtag #favadolove.
  • On Instagram or Vine, add a video and include #favadolove in the caption box.
  • On Facebook, go to the Favado Facebook page upload a video and include #favadolove in the status update box. Note: videos uploaded to your personal wall or page won't be counted as entries.
  • On YouTube, upload a video and include #favadolove in the video description box.
  • Entries without the hashtag will not be entered, so don’t forget to include it!
One random video will be chosen among all those entered. Entries must be submitted before Valentine's Day. Winner will be chosen at 6 pm PST on February 14, 2014.

$1000 prize!?! That would be some awesome spending cash - if you choose to enter, I wish you the best of luck ;) And make sure to check out Favado for more ideas on saving money while shopping.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Quick Heart Garland

Now that we've entered the LOVEly month of February, have your broken out your Valentine's Day décor? I have not opened my storage box filled of red, pink and white knick knacks, but I did throw together a few cute banners. And the best part? The banners only took a handful of supplies (and didn't cost very much to make)!

I started by grabbing two bags of XL confetti from Walmart for 97 cents each. I used my scissors and some ribbon or twine, as well. I also used my glue gun to attach two hearts together around the twine (think sandwich) and then strung it up above the command center in the kitchen.

See! Cute red, pink, and white hearts hanging above our family chore chart :)
While I was in the banner making mood, I grabbed a box of large conversation heart stickers (also from Walmart for less than $4) and some ribbon.

I sandwiched pink ribbon between the foam style stickers (only pulling the backing off one heart, and adhering the stickiness to the backing of the other heart - while keeping the ribbon in between).  Keep going until you make a banner the length you'd like... I made mine long enough to drape across our mantle.

Here's a little close-up of the conversation heart banner.

I even used some festive red chevron washi tape to attach the banners to the mantle.

Fun, right! And you can make banners like this using paper shapes, or maybe felt...both would be so cute :)

Happy crafting!