Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ My Party Girl

Grace is a party girl.  To her, everything is a party.  If we're having company and Grace sees me getting the plastic cups and paper plates ready for lunch in the back yard, she tells me we're having a party.  If she sees me baking a cake, she tells me it's for a birthday party.  When I was making a coffee cake to take to our friends' house for dinner, she told me we needed balloons.  So, last week, I was so excited to tell her that we were going to a birthday party!  Her first non-family, kiddie party!

As excited as I was about her going to the party, I was also a bit apprehensive.  I imagined her throwing a major temper tantrum and spoiling the party.  I imagined Hurricane Grace tearing my friend's house apart.  I imagined all sorts of embarrassing scenarios.  But aside from not wanting to leave the party when it was time to go, she did great!

Although, she didn't understand the concept of the scavenger hunt, Grace was busy  playing with toys, posing for a few pictures, getting a temporary tattoo, and coloring with the other kids.  It was a princess party, so Grace wore her Sleeping Beauty costume and one of the party hat crowns.

She had a great time and was much more behaved in public than she normally is at home!  Remind me to tell you about the mess she made as we were getting ready to leave for the party that morning....maybe I'll share that next week!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of August 27th

Even though last week's menu plan didn't go completely as planned, it felt good to have some sort of plan in place when the dinner hour rolled around.  Especially, since this past week was busier than usual.

This week, I have plenty to keep me busy around here, though, it will be slightly less hectic.  We'll be preparing meals from our over-stocked pantry again this week.  In hopes that soon I'll be able to fully close the doors on the pantry cabinets.

Here's what we'll be enjoying for dinners this week:

  • Hot dogs, mac 'n' cheese.  Not a very healthy, or even creative meal, but we have some buns that need to be used.  

  • Enchiladas.  Last week, I made enchilada filling using some leftover Zesty BBQ Chicken.  Even though it was just a small container of chicken, adding some cooked rice, a can of beans, some cheese and canned chilies, really bulked up the filling so much, I had enough filling to freeze for this week!  

  • Chicken 'n' Dumpling Soup.  On Sunday, I made Chicken 'n' Dumplings instead of Chicken Pot Pie.  I was really in the mood for pot pie, but forgot to pick up the butter needed for the recipe we stopped to get milk and bread last week.  That's okay, though, since we'll get another meal from the dumplings when I turn it into a soup.  

  • Applesauce Chicken, sweet potatoes, green beans.  Keeping up with the "easy" theme of the week with this simple crock pot chicken recipe!  

  • Hamburgers, baked beans, corn on the cob, salad.  The holiday weekend calls for summer barbecue type foods.  While I'm really looking forward to soup and stew season, I'm always up for a big, juicy burger!  Mmmmm!  

Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable

Monday, August 20, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of August 20th

Good Morning, Friends!

It's been hectic around here the past several weeks.  I've been working hard on ridding my home of items we no longer use or no longer need.  My goal for this month was to remove 500 items from our house.  I must admit that I haven't been doing a good job at keeping count of the number of items being purged from our basement and closets.  But, I do think I've managed to get rid of a lot of our unwanted stuff.  And there's still more that needs to go!

When I haven't been cleaning out our closets, I've been visiting with friends and family and just enjoying what's left of the summer.

Menu Planning has really taken a back seat around here lately, and I really missed it!  I'm looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and trying some new recipes!

Last week, I had a couple of hours to myself so I decided to organize our pantry.  In doing so, I realized we really shouldn't have to go grocery shopping for a long time!  On Sunday, we picked up some deli meat, bread, milk, fruit and lettuce.  I'm hoping we can go most of the week without needing to make another trip to the market.  Whenever we run into the store for "just one thing" we end up with a shopping cart full of items we didn't intend on picking up.  Money we didn't intend on spending.  I really need for that to least until I can fit more in our over-flowing pantry!

Here's how we'll be using up some of our unintended stockpile:

  • Enchiladas.  Last week, to make meal time easier on myself, I made Zesty Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.  We enjoyed this for a few nights' dinner and there's still a small bowl leftover!  I'll add some rice, beans, chilis and cheese and see how it does as enchilada filling! 

  • French Toast, turkey bacon and fruit.  
  • Lima Beans and Ham over Rice.  I've been wanting to try this recipe for several months now, and for one reason or another it always gets bumped from the menu plan.  Not this week, I'm definitely going to make this recipe this week!  

  • Chicken Pot Pie.  After preparing a wonderful Beef Pot Pie last month, I've been in the mood for soups and other comfort foods, especially after all of the leftovers and quick meals from the last several weeks.  
  • Leftovers.  I'm sure there will be plenty of leftovers from the meals listed above.  In order to avoid waste, I'll either serve the leftovers for dinner or freeze for meals in future menu plans!  

Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm still blogging....

Hey, Friends!

I've been absent from blogging for the past several weeks and I owe you all a big apology!  I am so sorry!
It's been a busy few weeks and although I look at all things as a potential blog post, my mind has just lost the focus to sit down to write.

I'll be back with a new menu plan tomorrow and a recipe later in the week and possibly a couple of other fun posts, too!

See you in the morning!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Post ~ Getting Your Verse On - With Wild Olive Tees!

I know I've been neglecting you all for the past few weeks and I apologize.  I've been spending a lot of time cleaning out the basement, closets, storage bins, etc. in order to make room for a few new projects I want to work on this fall.  Several months ago, I joined an online yard sale community (check facebook for yard sale groups in your area) and a couple of weeks ago, I was very happy to have met a fellow blogger.

After chatting with her for a bit, I knew I wanted Tracy to be Under the Big Oak Tree's first guest blogger!

I’m very excited about this opportunity to guest post here today. My name is Tracy, also known around my blog as The Gang’s Momma. I am a stay-at-home momma to five amazing kids. My oldest four kids came to our family the old-fashioned way, and range in age from 18 to 11. Our fifth child is a spunky, firecracker of a five-year old adopted from China in 2008. We are amazed every single day at the gift of her life and how it has enriched and expanded us all. In November 2010 my hubby and I felt there was one more little girl waiting somewhere in China to join our family, so we began our second adoption adventure. It’s not an easy road; there are plenty of twists, turns, and detours along the way.

Frankly, one of the biggest obstacles for most adoptive families is the financial aspect. In an international adoption, most of the expenses are incurred in the process of qualifying the adoptive family as fit to adopt. This includes local, state and federal documentation, all kinds of clearances, and home study interviews. In the adoption community, it’s affectionately referred to as the paper chase. As a second-time adopter, I am more than willing to subject myself to this paper chase because I already know the sweet little treasure I will get to bring home at the outcome of the process!

Thankfully, there are plenty of resources out there to help adoptive families these days. Shortly after I became connected in the on-line adoption community, I started following a couple “heavy hitters” in the blogging world. These women were full of purpose and passion, far beyond the privilege of building their own families by adoption. They were on a mission to participate in orphan care around the world. And they were committed to helping other adoptive families do the same. That’s how Wild Olive Tees was born.

I’ve been a huge supporter of this business since the beginning. They sell beautiful trendy tees that proclaim The Word of God in an artsy, hip message. I own several – I keep them at the top of my “gift ideas” list whenever the hubby is looking for something to buy for my birthday or Valentine’s Day or Christmas. He loves how easy I make it for him, and I love the message and the purpose behind their company.

As Wild Olive Tees has grown in size and reputation, they have expanded to include an Adoption Fundraising program for families like mine. We desire to add another child to our family. We are ready to become parents to a 6th child even with all the changes it will entail (Thankfully, our social worker agrees, after a series of intimate interviews and reference checks...) We are working hard to save and find creative ways to earn the money for the process as we go. But it’s still a lot of money and we don’t necessarily have $30,000 sitting in the bank. That’s where Wild Olive Tees comes into my story.

Since May we have worked with Wild Olive Tees as part of their Adoptive Families fundraising program. I’m so very proud to be associated with these women. They are generous, godly, and purpose-filled women who understand the importance of supporting and caring for orphans around the world. They know first hand the joy that adoption brings to every family who experiences it. Using their combined talents to share The Word in artistic expressions on beautiful tees that honor The Lord, they are fulfilling the purposes for which He formed their business. I’m very humbled that they would allow us to participate in this mission of theirs.

If you would like Get Your Verse On and share in our adoption adventure, please click on the button below. At the check-out, enter our family code WHITNEY407. A portion of your purchase of any of these Adoption Fundraising Tees will benefit our adoption journey.

Wild Olive Adoption Fundraiser Tees

If you are interested in fund-raising for your own adoption, please contact Amie at Wild Olive Tees. She will be more than happy to help you Get Your Verse On, with a purpose, too! Tell her The Gang's Momma sent ya! The Gang's All Here!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of August 6th

Wow!  It feels like it's been forever since I've posted!  Although, it's been just a short time, so much has been going on around here.  I can't decided if time is speeding by or just dragging along!  I'm not sure how much sense that makes, maybe it just depends on my mood (or task) at the moment.

This summer has been pretty boring.  Due to some needed car repairs, we haven't done much as far as entertainment goes.  Sure, we've gone to a few local events like the soapbox derby in our town and a small country fair hosted by one of the local schools.  I think I'm just ready for summer to be over.  I know parents of school-age children probably feel differently, dreading the time when summer is over and the kids go back to school.  I'm sure I'll feel that way when it's time for Grace to begin school in a couple years.

But for now, I'm ready for the fall.  I'm ready for soups and stews.  I'm ready for apple picking, the pumpkin patch and the Halloween Parade at Sesame Place!  I'm ready for some brisk autumn weather and leaf piles, too!

This week is going to be another busy week, so the menu plan for this week is going to be an easy one!  I've already pulled a few things from the freezer to help myself out!

  • Black Bean & Spaghetti Squash Casserole and ham steak.  Last week, I made one of our favorite meals:  Spaghetti Squash Casserole.  While we really enjoy this as a meatless meal, there just isn't enough leftover to make it a complete meal for the two of us.  I'll reheat the leftovers (probably in the microwave) while I heat up a ham steak in a skillet on the stove.  

  • Chili over rice.  I pulled a quart of chili from the freezer yesterday since I was rooting around looking for easy meal ideas!  We enjoy our chili over rice.  Since I don't have any pre-cooked rice in the freezer, I'll just make some Minute Rice.  Dinner will be on the table in no time with the help of a few short cuts!  

  • Pesto Orzo.  I'm having some friends over for a visit one day this week.  I'll throw together a batch of Pesto Orzo together for lunch and I'll save some for dinner for one night.  Since it's tasty both hot or cold, it will be the perfect meal on Thursday night when we have some errands to run!  

  • Coney Island Hot Dogs and fries.  Joe bought some hot dog sauce when it was on clearance at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago.  I'll probably just add the dogs and sauce to a pot and heat on the stove while the fries bake in the oven.  

  • Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblano Peppers.  Mmmm!  I really enjoyed this soup when I made it a couple of months ago!  I'm so glad that I froze a couple of servings for later!  I pulled the corn chowder from the freezer at the same time as the chili.  I'll make a couple corn quesadillas to serve on the side. 

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs.  We took Grace to my families' house to swim at lunch time yesterday.  While we were there, my brother was preparing meatballs for dinner.  We didn't have the time to hang around for dinner, so I decided I'd make us a spaghetti and meatball dinner this weekend.  I'll serve a salad, garlic bread and possibly some fried zucchini along with the pasta!  

  • Cheese Steaks and Wings.  After a very budget-friendly, almost all from the pantry/freezer menu plan, I think I want to treat us to some take-out. 

Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week!  Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to  Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable. Yvonne was very kind to add my blog to her weekly features last week!  Thanks so much Yvonne!  You made my week!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Party Tip: Setting up a Beverage Station

Did you all get a chance to check out my new "Party Ideas" tab at the top of the page?  If not, check it out!  It's still a work-in-progress as we've only documented a few of our shindigs so far, but I figured it would be an easy way to find all of our past party themes, tips and ideas all in one spot!

Today, we're going to talk about beverages!

One of my biggest pet peeves when going to a party is not knowing where to find the drinks.  Has that ever happened to you?  There's a huge buffet of food set out, but the beverages are nowhere to be found!  This has happened to me a few times!

When Joe and I started hosting parties at our home, whether it's indoors or out, I've always set up a beverage station.  By setting out a variety of drinks, ice, cups, straws, cocktail napkins, etc.  I make it easy for my guests to just grab what they want!

In the photo above, I set up 2 drink dispensers that I borrowed from a family member.  This is a great way to serve lemonade or punch or even some mixed cocktails for the adults!  Some vintage buckets, enamel tins and even a colorful party bucket filled with ice and sodas, waters and juice boxes make it easy for guests to see what they'd like without having to dig through a bunch of ice chests!

I also like to keep extra beverages handy, that way if one of the buckets starts to run low, anyone there can just refill it without having to search for me (or Joe) to find out if we have more water or juice boxes!

Another thing, I like to do, but is not shown in the above photo, is to keep a large cooler full of ice behind the drink station.  Keeping extra ice near by makes it easy to add more ice to the bucket as it melts.

Obviously, a station like this one is for a larger party.  When having friends over for dinner, I like to do something similar.  I usually reserve a spot at the end of our kitchen counter to put some cups, ice and drinks.  Again, making my guests feel more welcome to just help themselves to a cold drink!

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