Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WIAW and a Giveaway!!

Let's link up for some eats!

 Scrambled eggs with onions and broccoli and toast (using my homemade bread!) I forgot to take a picture of mine but Melody was more than happy to take a picture with her breakfast! Yum!

Lunch: Subway sandwich- I haven't had one of them in probably almost a year!( It wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be.)

Barbacoa Beef Tacos. WOW! These were awesome! The beef has amazing flavor! If you want your man to drool, make this beef!

So lately I have turned into an apron wearing mamma. Yes, I don my apron after I get ready in the morning before I make breakfast until I put the kids to bed at night. I love it. Maybe it's because my clothes haven't been stained by flying food or baby puke lately. Or maybe I just like to feel like I'm a 50's housewife. Whatever the reason, I wear an apron almost the entire time I am home.

So of course I just had to make my own apron! Recently I made myself a new ring sling with a beautiful fabric I found at Joann's. (Which is not where I usually get my fabric, but I saw it and had to treat myself for once!
So pretty, right? I thought so. Well I had quite a bit of this fabric left over after making my ring sling. I thought it would be perfect for an apron! Here is how it turned out:

A picture my hubby took before I added the pockets
I love it! It's super comfy because the fabric is a linen blend! The black fabric trim and ruffle is actually the leftover fabric from my first ring sling! It also has a really pretty light grey floral print that paired perfectly with the linen.

Do you like it? I hope so! Because I made TWO! One for me and one for a lucky winner! Excited? I am!
The giveaway will last until Saturday night (12am Sunday 8-3-14). I will announce the winner on Sunday evening. Good luck!

****** Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway! The winner has been emailed and claimed their prize! Make sure you like the Brother'sBinky Facebook page and follow Brother'sBinky on Pinterest for more fun and awesome things!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Free Kindle Books for Gardening

I have a confession to make...

I am an e-book hoarder. It's awful. I have more e-books on my Kindle app than I could ever read in a lifetime. But most of them were FREE! I just can't pass up a free book. I have limited myself to only downloading free books that pertain to hobbies I'm interested in. It's helped... a little. Okay so it hasn't really. But at least I know I have them if I ever need to look something up. (That's what I keep telling myself anyway!)

So since I have been doing a lot of vegetable gardening research I decided to share with you guys some free gardening Kindle e-books to download today! These are free at the time of this posting but they may not last for long so go get them asap!

1. Indoor Gardening Essentials: The Essential Guide for Growing Herbs and Vegetables From Home
Learn how to grow any vegetables and herbs you want all year round without having to wait for the right season!

2. Home Vegetable Gardening- a complete and practical guide to the planting and care of all vegetables, fruits and berries worth growing for home use
Exactly what it says, a complete guide!

3. Plant a Seed and Watch it Grow!
A book for the children in your life (ages 2-6 years old)! A pictured book to teach children about seed germination and how to grow their own plant.

4.Companion Planting for Better Crops 
Learn how plants protect and nourish each other when grown together.

5.Container Gardening Made Easy: Beginners Guide To Growing Organic Herbs and Vegetables in Your Indoor Garden.
Another container gardening guide.

6.Organic Herb Gardening: Beginners Guide to Planning, Growing, and Preserving Your Own Culinary and Medicinal Herbs

Organic herb gardening to suit your needs.

Now go download some free books! I haven't read any of these free books yet, myself, so if you do let us know what you think!

**** Come back tomorrow! I may have an awesome giveaway in the works!****

Monday, July 28, 2014

Preparing My First Garden

I've been saying I am going to start a small garden in my backyard raised bed for a couple years now. It's just always the wrong time of year, or we can't afford to spend money getting it started. Well on Friday after doing a little more research, I got the gardening itch again. Yes, I know it's almost fall but I just couldn't help it. Saturday morning I decided to call our local Star Nursery and figure out how much top soil I would need to fill my raised garden bed. They were extremely helpful. I gave them the dimensions of the raised bed and asked for a 50/50 mix of soil/compost (which is what their top soil consists of). He told me I would need 1 and 1/4 yards worth of top soil. I talked to my husband about it and surprisingly he said, "Why don't you just have them deliver it?". Wait, what? Just like that? Why haven't I done this sooner? (I'm thinking the amazing breakfast I made Saturday morning had something to do with my husbands decision!) So I called them back and had them deliver the soil the next day.

 I prepped the bed for the soil on Saturday. It has been sitting half empty for over a year now. I just had to go through and break up the dirt a little with a pick. My husband already has a water line running to this planter for me. When he fixed all our sprinklers in the back yard, he also ran a line to my planter box for a future vegetable garden. He's so great! All I have to add are the drip emitters which is super easy.

Sunday morning the soil came. I knew it wasn't going to be the most fun in the world shoveling dirt into wheel barrows and hauling it to my back yard. I live on about 1/3 of an acre people, and they dumped it in the street in front of the house. It's not the shortest trip.

Lyric fortunately took an extra long nap while Melody and I hauled the soil into the planter one trip at a time. Melody helped me shovel the soil into the wheel barrow. I wish I was able to get a picture because she was such a great helper!

I had to do almost all of the work myself (well with a little help from Melody), since my husband had some work to do on a friends roll cage.

Even the dogs were hiding out in the garage in the cool air!
I seriously underestimated how much work it was going to be! It was so hot outside! A storm was rolling in, too, which made it more humid. Ugh! 

My husband came to my rescue and helped out a little in the end. Here is the planter about halfway through.

I am going to wait until September to plant anything, though. I've heard it's just too hot right now for any seeds to germinate. In the mean time, I'm going to test the soil and see what nutrients, if any, that it needs. I'm not sure how well a fall garden will work out for me as my first garden, but hey, maybe it will help me to have a better spring garden. I'm hoping the huge rain storm we had last night was a good luck sign! Some things I'm going to try growing for fall are :
I'm planning on using mostly heirloom, organic seeds to start. Then if I'm able to, harvest the seeds to use for next year. I will be doing a lot of research and any input on vegetable gardening in the Las Vegas desert would be greatly appreciated! I have to thank my friend Lindsay for all her help and guidance! Check out her blog HomespunSprout

What are your favorite things to grow in the fall? How did your first garden turn out?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Update: Chore Calendar and Meal Planning

Obviously a lot has changed since having a second child. I still like to be pretty organized but the priorities have changed slightly. Almost a year ago I wrote a post about my monthly chore calendar and weekly meal planning. Since then, I've had to let some things go a little, and not be so anal retentive. This has really helped me keep my sanity! Let me show you what I mean...

1 year ago, my calendar looked like this. I used different colored pens to organize different things that needed to be done each day.

This is what my calendar looks like today. Get the picture?

I don't have time to spend 20 minutes using pretty pens to organize my month. Now, when I make an appointment I just write it directly on the calendar. As for organizing my cleaning schedule, that is just an impossible feat with two little ones constantly leaving messes in their wake. I do have some things I do each day to keep things from getting out of hand. 

Dishes every day- sometimes twice a day
Laundry- at least one load per day
De-clutter- At the end of the day, the kids clean up all their toys that are spewn across the whole house. I take this time to also pick up things that are not in their designated place.(used cups/dishes, craft supplies, papers, mail, etc.) 

Now, as far as cleaning room by room, I basically clean them when they need to be cleaned. For example, I just mopped my floors the other day. It had been about two weeks since the last time I mopped. Sounds crazy? I've taught my family to take their shoes off in the house! My daughter does it religiously. I clean the bathrooms maybe once a week. I vacuum when I start feeling anxiety. That is usually my sign that I need to clean. When I start getting anxious and uncomfortable, it's usually because I don't have a clean living space. For me, a clean home, is a calm mind. 

So now let me show you my meal planning...
1 year ago, I used these super cute "Eat Sheets".

Now I use a notebook.
I could still use the eat sheets. I did like them, but when I would take them grocery shopping, it was hard to write on them without a hard surface. By using a notebook, I can take the whole thing with me to the store and cross things off my list no problem. Then when I get home, I just rip that page out and put it on my fridge for that week. It might not be as pretty but it makes life easier. That is what I have been trying to accomplish. 

As much as I like lists and organization, there are just more important things to take care of now. Number one priority is my children. Kissing boo boos, building castles, coloring, or wiping butts, these things come first and that is how it will always be. I want them to have memories of mommy playing with them, not constantly cleaning the house.

Slowly my daughter is learning how to clean things on her own. I do still want my children to learn to take pride in the things they own. Helping around the house is the first step. I see chore cards in my future...

Okay, so I am still pretty OCD, I guess the things I find the need to organize are just different now!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homemade Apple Butter For Canning

Recently I've had a few people interested in my recipe for apple butter. I haven't made any this year, but if I do start craving it, I might just go pick some more apples and whip up a small batch. I don't have many pictures for this tutorial, but I will update this post as soon as I make some more apple butter this year. To see a more pictured tutorial please visit The Scraps of Life blog. My recipe is adapted slightly from hers.

To make the apple pulp, I use my apple peeler, corer, slicer. Like this one. I slice them into smaller pieces. I cut enough apples to fill a large stock pot.

Then you will add about 1/4 cup of water or apple juice to the apples (just enough to keep them from burning) and cook them over medium heat until they are very soft. About 20-30 minutes. Then you can either use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the apples into a pulp.

In a large bowl, you will then combine 6-8 cups of the apple pulp with white sugar, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract.

Transfer to a deep baking dish and bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for at least 2 hours, stirring every half hour. The longer you cook it, the darker and thicker it will become. Be careful not to burn it. I've made that mistake. It's salvageable but its just not as good. If you don't have any children running around, you can crack the oven door slightly with a metal spoon or spatula. Ultimately you are trying to get the moisture out of the apple mixture and infuse the flavor.

If you are going to can the apple butter, you will want to wash and warm your canning jars, and put your lids in a small pot of boiling water. When the apple butter is done, ladel it into your hot jars, and place the hot boiled lids onto the jars. Screw on the lids and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. If you aren't going to be giving your apple butter as gifts, you can also forego the water bath. If your jars are hot and so is your apple butter, the jars should seal themselves. You probably will have no problem with them, but if I give them as gifts, I want to make sure they are boiled to kill any bacteria that may be inside the jars before storing.

Then comes the waiting.... POP........POP.. POP! Make sure all your jars seal. If any do not seal, I will usually change the lid out and process again. Now you can store them in a cool dark place, or... pop it open and eat it immediately! Sometimes I keep a jar to the side just to cool enough that I can dig in! YUM!

Homemade Apple Butter

6-8 cups apple pulp
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and put in a deep baking dish. Bake for at least 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Ladel into hot canning jars and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Makes 4-6 pints.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Old Photos

I have come to really appreciate the time I set aside to write a new blog post. It really makes me stop and think about what I did yesterday or what is really going on in my life. I do this in the evenings when I pray before bed, but doing it again the next day really makes everything sink in again. It brings me back to center and makes me realize, again, everything I am so very thankful for.

Yesterday, the kids and I had breakfast,

2 eggs and 1 egg white scrambled (I have slowly been adding egg yolk back in my diet, and it doesn't seem to bother the baby!) with broccoli, spinach, onions, bell peppers, and sriracha, and whole wheat toast.
then we headed over to my dad's house. He lives right around the corner from me, literally I could walk there. Which I was going to, but I needed to pick up 2 more bags of peaches and I didn't think I would be able to carry them home with me and the kids. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

When we got there, my dad and step mom were going through my dad's old pictures. I've seen most of them before but it has been awhile and it's always so nice looking at things from my family's past. Here are a couple I brought home with me to keep:

My mom and dad, not sure if I was born yet, but they were taking a helicopter ride back from Catalina Island.  I thought it was such a good picture of them together.

My grandma and grandpa, my mom's mom and step dad, also in the helicopter.

Yesterday was also my uncles's birthday (my dad's youngest brother). So in light of that I had to share this picture of his awesome mullet. It was another birthday that we shared with him. My sister is on the left and I am on the right.

So cute! After letting the kids play a while, we finally went back home for lunch. Lyric hadn't napped yet so he passed out and Melody and I had left overs.

Mexican Pot Roast Soup and tortillas

Around 2:30pm we headed out for Lyric's 8 month check up. We even made it a couple minutes early!... Except I guess I wasn't just a couple minutes early... I was a WHOLE WEEK early! His appointment is next Tuesday! Oh my gosh! I couldn't believe I did that. I'm going to blame it on the "mom brain". Wow, and I thought I had all my ducks in a row! At least I got a laugh out of it.

This did give me more time to prepare my 3 giant bags of peaches. I couldn't can them yet, because I am out of canning jars. The horror! So I peeled, pitted and sliced half of the peaches and put them into large ziplocs in 4 cup increments. That would be the Ball jam recipe times 3. The other half I washed, dried, and placed on a couple cookie sheets to put in the freezer whole. I haven't frozen them whole before but I read that they are just as easy to peel and pit when you take them out to use. We will see.

While preparing the peaches, I also made dinner. (multitasking for the day, check!)

Chicken and rice in the pressure cooker. I'm  really getting the hang of this pressure cooking thing! I made this without a recipe. I will post it for you soon, don't worry! It was so yummy and full of comforting goodness!

Don't forget to link up for WIAW!

Have you gone through your old photos recently? How do you store them? I'm accumulating quite a few and I'm not sure what to do with them!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garage Sales and Peaches

On Friday morning my step mom asked me if I wanted to go garage sale picking with her. I didn't really need  anything but we weren't busy so I decided I would tag a long. Thank goodness I did! I found a huge deal on books for the kids! Good books! Classic books! I'm still excited about it, can you tell?

I paid 25 cents for each book! I'm serious! Apparently the woman having the garage sale is a teacher and she was getting rid of a bunch of her books. She had multiples of almost every book. I would have gotten more, but it was so dang hot I couldn't search through boxes any longer!

I also scored a cute doll stroller/ carriage for Melody for 5 bucks. I thought she would enjoy puting all her babies in it and pushing them around. Instead, she has been trying to get in it herself. Whatever floats your boat, kid.

Over the weekend, my dad called and said his neighbor was getting rid of a bunch of peaches form his peach tree. He asked if I wanted any, and of course I said as many as he wants to give me! He said do you want the whole tree? Jokingly I said yes. Little did I know he was somewhat serious! They gave me 3 huge bags of peaches AND a piece of the tree that Larry (his neighbor) had found growing next to his tree. Seriously? This girl is happy! Now I need to figure out where I am going to plant it. I did some research about propagating peach trees and I've only found a little information about when and where to plant them. I'm thinking I need to keep it indoors for the winter and replant it in spring. If you are familiar with propagating peach trees, and possibly have done it here in Vegas, please fill me in! I really don't want to kill this thing.

In other news,

My 8 month old is getting ahead of himself. He literally just started scooting around a few days ago. Then I catch him trying to stand. Listen kid, SLOW DOWN. I knew he would eventually be mobile, but I really like the stage where you can set them down, they sit there, and don't go anywhere! Well, I guess I am in for a lot more messes now.
The kids have started playing together. Lyric loves his sister and whenever she talks to him or plays with him, he just laughs and gets so excited! Most of the time Melody prefers to keep her brother away from her toys, but recently she has been including him more often. It's adorable. I hope they become great friends.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apple Picking and Canning

Last week I packed up the kids and headed out to Gilcrease Orchard. It's only about 15 minutes from us which is great! Last year I picked apples (while pregnant) and canned apple butter for Chirstmas gifts for my neighbors. It was so delicious! I ended up buying more apples from the store to make more and it just wasn't the same! This year I went early in the season. I get weekly news letters from Gilcrease that say what is ready for picking. When I saw apples I had to go right away!

It was a cloudy morning so it kept the heat away a bit. I started out with Lyric in my Ergo on my back and Melody in the wagon. Lyric fell asleep for a while and eventually I needed a break from having 20 extra pounds on my back! So Melody got out and walked and Lyric sat in the wagon. Much easier! Then, of course, the kids wanted to eat the apples! Sure!

Yes, I did take 3 pictures. They were so stinkin' cute! 

As we were walking up to the check out stand to pay, it started sprinkling. Just in time! Then it started raining a whole lot harder and we were all soaked by the time we got in the truck. The kids had a blast!

I decided instead of apple butter this year, I would make something a little less time consuming. So I decided on apple pie filling. I used this recipe here. Now, I will say, cornstarch is no longer recommended for canning. You should instead use Clear Jel, Ultra Gel, or Thick Gel which are modified cooking starches. I haven't been able to find the reasoning behind this, just that the USDA no longer recommends it for safe use in canning. Well, I couldn't find any of those here in town, and was going to have to order it online. Needless to say, I didn't want to wait for that, so I used a cornstarch recipe. I figure if it's been safe for this many years now, I should be fine.

So here are the pictures of the whole process: if you would like a tutorial, just click the link for the recipe above.

I used my apple peeler, slicer, corer to cut up the apples first. I just filled up my bowl. Then I filled my jars with the apples.

I still have half a box of apples left! 

I filled the jars with the sauce with 1/2 inch headspace and put the hot lids on.

I then, processed two batches in my waterbath canner for 20 minutes each.

I had a couple cups of sliced apples left so I made some applesauce. It smelled amazing! I somewhat followed the Pioneer Woman's recipe, just with different measurements.

I probably would have more than half a box left if I didn't find toddler remnants 3 times a day! I guess it's a good thing I have healthy food in my home, because I have been finding this more often lately. The other day I found 1/4 of a red pepper eaten when I took it out to use it in a recipe!

I think with the other half of the apples I am going to make some unsweetened applesauce and can it. Sorry friends but I am foregoing the apple butter this year. :(

Have you picked your own apples? What did you make with them?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WIAW- Yesterday's Eats and my favorite snacks

As I write this post, I am enjoying my back yard and the warm summer air before it gets scorching here in a couple hours. It has been so hot, and the rain has made it humid to boot. I know it's much more humid back east but for Vegas, 90's and humid is just a little much.

Yesterday's eats looked something like this:

Peanut butter toast and coffee while deciding what to buy from my Pampered Chef party I had on Sunday. I have my eye on the double burner griddle pan!

Melody and Lyric wanted cereal.... Breakfast was super exciting, I know!

Around 11 we went to take my sister to a doctor's appointment, which just so happens to be close to Whole Foods. We stopped in there and grabbed some salad, chips and drinks and headed over to the park to wait.

I forgot to take a picture of it at the park so here it is when we got home... Pita chips, water, salad with mixed greens, quinoa, baby corn, peas, red onion, bell peppers, olives, and chicken breast, with a balsamic vinaigrette (soy and dairy free!)

I forgot to take a picture of dinner, I know, slacker! I was actually going to post a recipe for it, but it wasn't that great. It was another pressure cooker recipe, for Tex Mex Chili. It was ok, but I like my regular chili better. 

Since I forgot a dinner picture here are some pictures of the snacks I have been eating lately! Yum!

Fresh, sweet, cantaloupe from Gilcrease Farm

My new addiction, thanks to my husband! They have to be this brand!

And no summer is complete without Ranier Cherries! Oh my, the deliciousness! I wont tell you how much I paid for these, though. It was waaaaay too much!

 What have you been eating this summer? Don't forget to link up for WIAW!