Monday, July 25, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

We had a great week last week and amazingly my boys are not "tired" of eating deli meat and summer salads. Our lunches didn't have much variety last week due to a "heat wave" that hit our area. I have much more variety to our lunch menu this week. I have a few Crockpot recipes planned for this week because it is still too hot to use the oven.

Here is menu for the week (The Blue Highlighted words are clickable to take you to the recipes):
Weekly Menu Plan 7/24-7/30

For more menu plans and recipe ideas visit Menu Plan Monday at: Organizing Junkie

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Decluttering, Organizing and Lesson Planning

I have been busy over the past week getting my apartment decluttered and organized. I need to get lots of things done before August 8th, as I am having surgery on my right index finger, so I will be "out of commission" for a couple of weeks. I won't be able to clean or type or do much with my right hand for about 2 weeks.

I have gotten quite a bit accomplished over the past week, including backing up and cleaning up our 2 computers. The project I have been dreading is next up: The Toy Room/School Room. I have to go through lots of papers, books and more in there. I want to rearrange some areas and get things better organized in there. I also have to purchase a book shelf to replace the one that broke in there. I will also need to put 2 boxes on books on the bookshelf. I am going to be taking "inventory" of our school supplies, and then restocking the supplies with the Back to School sales. Back to School shopping season is my favorite shopping of the year. I just love all the new "stuff" for school and all the fun stuff. The sales are so awesome I can stock up good!

The project that will be next in line after that, is Lesson Planning. We always begin on the day after Labor Day, so I want to get at least the first month planned out before my surgery. I have already purchased 95% of our curriculum, including the Illuminations Program by Bright Ideas Press. I am very excited about using Illuminations as it has the Lesson Plans pretty much planned out for me already, I just have to change some things to reflect the actual curriculum we have selected, if we choose a different one then what BIP suggested. I only did that for a couple of subjects for each of the boys. I also am going to get a Library list going of what books I will need when. I really love living in the 3rd largest City in America, as we have so many libraries and access to so many more. My local "home branch" is Berwyn Public Library. My local library is part of a bigger system that includes 80 other libraries! I also have a Chicago Public Library card. I can check out, reserve books and more with my Chicago Public Library card. Also, there are a few other library systems that I can get library cards for and plan on doing so in the near future. I love being able to "borrow" books from the library and having so many systems available to me!

I am excited about our upcoming school year. My husband is now on a great work schedule, where he is working 8:30am-5pm. His previous schedules were hours like 5am-1pm or 2-10pm, which made it difficult to get things done or have the car for the day. His new hours will allow us to drive him to work and then have the car for the day on days we want to do Field Trips or get together with other homeschooling families. I am also excited to see my boys progress this year!

I can't wait to share more with you all about the boys curriculum, schedules, activities and more! I will be sharing as I get things in order over here!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Easy to make Individual Jello Cups

Our family really likes Jello and Pudding Cups, although I don't like the expense. A couple years ago I found these 4oz cups at Dollar Tree that would be perfect for individual Jello and Pudding cups. I purchased 4 packs of 4 cups and we have been making our own jello and pudding cups since then. I buy packages of jello and/or pudding and we get 4 cups per box for about .50¢, rather then $1-$3 per 4 pack. I am in the process of looking for "made from scratch" jello and pudding recipes rather then buying the boxes! 

A couple weeks ago my 17yr old niece was here at my place for a couple of days. She made some pudding right in my 2 cup measuring cup. I thought that was "genius". I decided to "borrow" her idea the other day when I was making Jello cups. I mixed the Jello right in the 2 cup measuring cup and I was sooo pleased with the ease of making it and especially pouring it into the individual cups.

I am sooo happy with how easy this system is and will continue to use this method. I had been mixing in a bowl and found it difficult to get the liquid into the cups good, many spills happened. I know this method will lessen the spills and I will only have one thing to wash now!

Mixing Jello and/or Pudding in the measuring cup "Works for Me". For more great hints and tips visit Kristen over at We are THAT Family.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Crockpot Yogurt

A few years ago one of the "moms" on my "mommy board" posted a recipe that she uses to make Homemade Yogurt using a slow cooker. I tried it and LOVED it! It is so easy to make and doesn't take a lot your time. The whole process takes about 24hrs, but only about 15 minutes of your time! I used to make it all the time, but had gotten busy with life, that I was just buying tubs from the grocery store. The rising price of groceries, the grocery budget needing tightening. I decided to give it a try again and made some yesterday.

Here is the recipe that my friend typed out on my "mommy message board":

I make it all the time. I literally make a gallon's worth of yogurt almost every 10 days.
Here's what I do: 
I use 2% milk and 1 cup of PLAIN Full Fat Yogurt 
You need to bring it almost to a boil. However, in my experience, I've many times burned the milk and the milk burns in the pot, and it's a mess. So, I do what my MIL does and put it in the slow cooker and put it on high for like 3 hours. That way the milk does not burn and does not boil and i don't have to sit next to the stove worrying that it will.
I take the hot milk and let it cool to 118 degrees. In order to make yogurt, you need a culture and so the first time you do it, you need to buy plain full fat yogurt. 
When the milk is at 118 degrees, stir in the yogurt into the hot milk. I put the warm milk/culture mixture into the oven and away from drafts (but the oven isn't on). I let it stay there for like 7 hours. 

After 7 hours, I put a clean towel over the yogurt to absorb some of the water out and put it in the frig (towel in there) for several hours. I like my yogurt almost cheeselike since I add grated cucumber, dill, green onions, etc and if the yogurt isn't drained well, my yogurt with dill is too watery. I sometimes drain it with 2 changes of towels.

It sounds very time consuming but I have a system. I start the slow cooker at 9 am and let the milk cook in there for 3 hours. At around 1 pm the milk is cooled to around 118 degrees. I add the culture and stick it in the oven and let it do it's thing until 8:30 pm. At 8:30 pm I take it out of the oven and put a towel on the yogurt and when I wake up in the morning, I take the towel off. I always reserve around 2 cups of yogurt for my next batch of fresh yogurt.
Once you've had homemade yogurt, you'll never go back to store bought! I can't stand the taste of store bought yogurt.

It is a really yummy recipe and so easy to do.  The longer you let the towels soak up the liquid, the thicker the yogurt will be. I usually soak up the liquid for about 12-14hrs.

We add granola, smashed fruit, maple syrup and other flavorings before eating. Also, you can add a few teaspoons of vanilla during the process of stirring in the starter yogurt for vanilla flavored yogurt.

I really like the cost factor and being able to get a gallon's worth of yogurt for about $3.50. I buy the milk at Aldi's $2.59 and then the "starters" about .40¢ each. A 32oz tub of yogurt is usually about $3.50! 


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Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 7/18

WOW, June was a crazy busy month and I really lacked in doing menu plans and our budget suffered because of that. I put it as a priority this weekend and got it accomplished. I also went grocery shopping for our groceries for 2 weeks.

We will be having lots of cold foods and crockpot meals due to a "heat wave" hitting our area for a few days. I prepared many of our Snacks and Goodies for the week yesterday. Here is the rest of our menu for the week (The Blue Highlighted words are clickable to take you to the recipes):

Weekly Menu Plan 7/17-7/23

For more menu plans and recipe ideas visit Menu Plan Monday at: Organizing Junkie.  This weeks edition is being hosted at Finding Joy in My Kitchen.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heat Wave Refreshments

I have been busy over the past couple of days getting ready to stay inside most of this week due to an impending Heat Wave that is coming to Chicago. The temps are going to be in the Mid to Upper 90's. The heat index is going to make it feel like 110°-115°. Josh, age 9, has asthma and the humidity makes him have asthma attacks, so we have to avoid being outside unless we HAVE to be.

I went Grocery Shopping yesterday and got Fresh Fruit and Veggies, Fresh Meat and other "goodies" that will keep us refreshed and cool. I like to eat light during the summer, especially when the heat is hot and dangerous. Today I prepared many of those foods, so the boys and I can just "Grab and Go" and not have to do much prep work each day.

Take a look at our some of our "Goodies" for the week:

As I mentioned in a previous post Preparing for a Heat Wave, our basement apartment can get pretty warm and we only have 1 A/C unit in our apartment. It is in the Front Room in the wall. The boys and I are planning on "hibernating" in the front room during the heat wave. I was hoping to get them out after dinner, we still hope to do that, but from what I am hearing the humidity will be worse after sundown. The boys and I will stay inside for the majority of the week. I do have to go out for Library Day one night this week. I will go after hubby gets home from work and go by myself!

I will be praying for those who HAVE to be out in this Heat Wave. Please remember to check on the elderly and stay cool and hydrated!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Fast and Furious Storm this morning

WOW! I know Chicago weather can and will be whacky, but this morning it really got whacky on us!

I woke up at 6:30am and it was sunny and humid, temp 80°.  I was watching the local morning news and they were saying that a storm was going to pass through at around 8:00am. I was checking email and websites around 7:50am, hubby was getting ready to leave for work, it started getting gloomy outside. Hubby left for work around 7:58am, around 8:03am, Joshua(9) comes into my bedroom with a scared look on his face. He said "It is going to storm? It sure looks like it?" I look out the window and it was so dark outside, it looked like it was midnight. I told Josh of the impending storm and all of a sudden the clouds opened up and it started  pouring down rain.

Josh and I grabbed our cameras and I grabbed my cell phone and we went to the front porch to get some pics and a video. It was coming down FAST and furious, it was wild.

Don't mind my crazy narration in the video, I was being silly so the boys wouldn't be so scared. LOL

It stopped raining within 30 minutes, but it caused significant damage in and around Chicagoland. 80,000 people are without Electricity right now, branches and trees are down in many areas, a roof was blown off a building at 66th and Central and much more. The temp went down to 70° for a while, but it inching back up already. The sun will return this afternoon and our high temp today will be 94° and humid.

I am going to bake some Banana Bread this morning while the temp is still low. We won't be able to go out to a park this morning, so now they are all waterlogged. We will make the best of the day and have some fun indoors!

Crazy Chicago Weather!!

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