Saturday, December 29, 2012

Confession #38: A homemade Christmas is a wonderful thing

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We don't put a huge important in presents when it comes to Christmas because the true reason for the season is Jesus's birth, not Santa, food, presents, etc.
That said, I made a few things to help cut our costs (because presents still are a part of Christmas), make Liana's Christmas more personal, and because, well, lets face it: I am addicted to crafting stuff.

Our stockings
First off: Homemade stockings made from recycled sweaters. I posted these in an earlier post. They worked well and they actually held all the goodies inside.

L is for Ladybug, M is for Mail
ABC quiet book ready for exploring

Secondly, I have been working with a Quiet Book Exchange group the last 6 months to make an ABC quiet book. And finally it was  all done for Christmas (well still missing a few pages). I simple explanation is that we all picked 5 letters to make and would make enough of those letters to mail out to all the moms in the group. So all I did was make my letter pages, mail them out, and wait for the other letter pages to come in the mail. Still waiting on a few, but I know they are coming.

Please ignore the backward J.

Thirdly, I made Liana magnetic letters for our fridge or front door (which is a metal door). They are made out of felt, lined with cardboard and magnets. Super strong magnets they they hold the whole letter.

Ours looked like this but this
 one is from Martha Stewart Living

Fourthly (is that a word?), We made an advent calender for Liana to count down the days until Christmas. Inside each sock was a toy (usually a plastic bug or finger puppet) and a scripture. Here's some ideas for different homemade adevent calenders: Advent

Christmas Crackers
Fifthly, Homemade Christmas Crackers. A fun way to bring other cultures traditions into our home. Ours were filled with candies, small toys, and crowns made of gold tissue paper.

Lastly, homemade breakfast. From homemade whip cream on homemade Belgium waffles to potatoes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Yum!

After opening presents and eating a wonderful breakfast, we read books, took a nap (Liana woke us up at 3:24 am!), drove up to the snow, drank hot cocoa, ate popcorn and made a ginger bread house. We also spent some time skyping our loved ones back in Washington.  it was a wonderful family Christmas.

Shoes were not worn in our home during Christmas. We did however, put some on to go play in the snow.

Liana playing with her new ABC book

Liana enjoying her Christmas Day in the snow.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Confession #37: Meals in a Jar: Another Form of Nesting

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71 jars! So proud
I recently lead our creative day for mops which included 2 different types of meals in a jar. I had never done meals in a jar before so I was going in blind when I search on Pinterest. But I soon found that there are a LOT of recipes out there. And it's not just limited to soup, like I originally thought. I ended up selecting a lentil soup recipe and a pumpkin cranberry recipe. I did most of my shopping for this at Costco, since I was buying enough for 25 quart jars of each. But all of these ingredients can be purchased at your local grocery store too. For the most part I prefer buying in bulk. I bake so much that buying 25 lbs of sugar, flour and oatmeal all at once isn't too crazy. And in the long run it saves us allot of money. The meals for mops ended up costing under $2 for each quart. Not too shabby.
I think that everyone seemed to enjoy the meals in a jar day at MOPS and since there was a small crowd of women who came that day, most moms got to come home with 2 soup jars and 2 bread jars. Bonus!

Here are the recipes that I used for mops:

Lentil Soup
Lentil Soup
1/4 cup beef bullion granules
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas
1/4 cup barley
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
1/2 cup long grain white rice
1 cup uncooked pasta

Layer in quart jar and include the following instructions on the jar:

In large kettle, brown 1 lb. ground beef (optional). Remove pasta and reserve. Add rest to kettle with 12 cups water. Let come to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Add pasta and simmer 15 minutes more.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread for one quart jar
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts/chocolate chips (optional)

layer in jar and include the following on jar:

1 jar pumpkin cranberry bread mix
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or applesauce)
2 eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (or use spray) two 7 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 2 1/4 inch loaf pans (or 4 small loaf pans).
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil and eggs, stirring until well blended; set aside.
Place contents of jar into a medium bowl; mix until well blended and brown sugar is no longer clumped. Add flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, stirring until well blended. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes (30 to 35 minutes for the small pans), or until inserted wooden pick comes out clean and tops of loaves spring back when pressed

I ended up coming home that afternoon, and while my daughter took a 4 hour nap, I continued making more meals in a jar. I actually continued making them for the next 2 days. Until all the empty jars I had were filled. Turns out I had 2 quarts, 64 pints, 4 half pints, and 1 quarter pint jars. Totally 71 jars filled with all sorts of goodness.

Want to try this for yourself? Here are the recipes I used:

Cajun Dirty Rice
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Cinnamon Pancake Mix
Cocoa Mix
Cumin Lentil Soup
Curry Powder
Focaccia Bread Mix
Four Spice Sugar (I used Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Allspice)
Lemon Poppy seed Cake Mix
Minestrone Soup
Mulling Spice
Pancake Mix
Pumpkin Chocolate Bread (I exchanged the cranberries for chocolate chips)
Pumpkin Nut Bread (I exchanged the cranberries for walnuts)
Seasoned Bean Soup
Sun-dried Tomato and Penne Soup
Texas Corn Bread Mix
Trail Mix Cookie Mix

Directions are tape directly onto the jars.
I had to change the amounts for some of them to make them fit into a pint jar (most recipes are made for quart jars). But I have found that we don't like to eat the same soup 5 days in a row, so pint jars are much better for our family. If you have a bigger family, than stick with quarts.

I also should note that I covered each jar with plastic wrap before putting the lid and ring on them. This is good because I used old lids from my canning jars. And I don't want my tomato sauce smell to leak onto the chocolate chip banana bread. The plastic wrap will work as a barrier to prevent the smells from leaking.

Add some ribbon and pretty paper for the recipe and
 you have yourself a wonderful homemade gift.
I am hoping that this helps make our transition from 3 to 4 a little easier. Hoping to get some freezer meals done in the near future (just need to make room in the freezer first). Less than two months and I could be holding that wonderful baby boy. I am so excited. But there's still plenty of nesting to be done.
Hope this inspires you to make some meals in a jar for your own home or as gifts.

Warning: no shoes were worn in the making of these meals.