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Posts from ‘May, 2011’

Economical main dishes

Since before Nora and Topher's wedding I have been thinking of posting some recipes for economical main dishes. I have always tried to plan meals within my food budget, especially when all three of the children were at home. The food budget is a little more liberal these days with just the two of us at the table for most meals, but many of these meals have become our favorites.

I'm going to start with this recipe that I found in a magazine years ago:

picture of Herbed Meatballs

Meatballs with Herb Gravy

2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
2 Tbsps. flour
1 1/3 cup water
2/3 cup evaporated milk (can use evaporated skim milk)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
two dozen fully cooked meatballs (your own or purchased)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried parsley

Melt the margarine in a large skillet and then blend in the flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly add the water, evaporated milk, and bouillon cubes. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a simmer and then add the meatalls and herbs and simmer gently for about 5-10 mins. being careful not to let it scorch. This is delicious served over mashed potatoes.

Here is a recipe for freezer meatballs if you would like to make your own:
4 lbs. lean hamburger
4 eggs
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsps. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend well and shape into 1" balls. Place in baking pans and bake for 10-15 mins. or until browned. Remove the meatballs from the pans and drain on absorbent paper. When cooled divide into portions in 1 quart freezer bags and freeze. Use within three months. Makes about 144 meatballs.

I plan to post a series of ground beef dishes for the next few posts.


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Housework can be fun!

Housework is not always fun, but it can be very satisfying to have a nice, clean, organized home. It is a goal that most of us must work towards. I enjoy reading books or magazine articles that give tips for organizing and tell about methods to streamline cleaning. (As I am trying to write this my cat, Adelaide is here on the desk and she keeps putting her paws on the keyboard. This is not helping to streamline my writing!)

Today I want to share two things which have helped to make my housework more enjoyable. The first is this product:

picture of Mrs Meyers cleaner

I had read about Mrs. Meyer's products on a blog a few months ago and decided to give them a try. I have been using the all-purpose cleaner for several months and have found that it works well and the delightful lavender scent is wonderful. There are several products in different scents to choose from at my local Walmart.

Several years ago Rob did a post that included a video about folding T shirts. I watched it several times and practiced until I learned the technique. I now actually look forward to folding T shirts. I would encourage you to try it a few times until you get the hang of it. It really helps you to get a nice neat stack of shirts folded up in record time. If you google "how to fold a t shirt" you can find a number of videos with English commentary if that would help you learn the technique.

Do any of you readers have a household tip or hint you would like to share?

Bluebird update: We have sad news about the bluebirds. Our neighbors found the father bluebird dead in their yard--apparently attacked by a cat. Towards the end of last week two of the babies also died. The mother bird faithfully cared for the remaining chick and after two days of peeking out of the bird house she finally "flew the coop" on Sunday. We are hoping she will master flying quickly before one of the neighborhood cats can catch her. Here is the last picture Rob took of her before she flew off:

picture of Last Baby Bluebird


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Mother’s day was for the birds this year

Rob and I really enjoy watching birds. Right now we have quite a bit of bird activity going on in our backyard because a pair of bluebirds built a nest in the bird house just outside our kitchen window. We have been watching them from the beginning as they built their nest, the eggs were laid, and now the chicks have hatched and are feathering out. For the last couple of days the male bird hasn't been around, so the poor female has become a single mother trying to feed three hungry chicks all by herself. Here's a recent picture of the chicks:

picture of Baby Bluebirds 5-14-11

This year for Mother's Day two of my gifts were bird-themed.

I got this necklace with three pearl "eggs" and a mother bird.

picture of Nest Necklace

I also got this little basket with bird salt and pepper shakers.

picture of Bird S+P

Unfortunately I wasn't at home to witness this visitor to our bird feeder but Rob was able to snap a picture. We just never know who is going to show up at our bird feeder, but I think this has been the largest bird so far.

picture of Baby Hawk

Have you ever had any unusual birds in your yard or at your feeder?

Several years ago one of our neighbors had two small fish ponds in his yard that he had stocked. For several weeks a large Blue Heron would come sit on his roof each morning and had soon eaten all the fish even though the ponds were netted. We enjoyed watching him, but our neighbor did not enjoy losing all his expensive fish.


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Rob and Becka’s big adventure

Last Saturday was graduation and Rob and I decided to take this week off from work before starting into the summer. He will return to his summer job at IT and I will continue on in my regular work for a few more weeks until I officially retire.

Monday we drove some friends up to the Charlotte airport for their overseas mission trip. In a rare moment of spontaneity we decided to spend the night up in that area and visit a few local places of interest. One place that my friend Kathy has been mentioning to us for years is the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, NC. The museum has a number of dioramas of North American wildlife which were quite interesting. It also has a nice exhibit of minerals and gemstones. We did find some of the exhibits to be rather "tired" looking, particularly the bird exhibits, some of which were very faded in color. The museum also had a few live animals, such as snakes and these fellows:

picture of Raccoon

picture of Porcupine

After touring indoors we went out on the nature trail and headed to the 18th century back-country farm. Since we were there on a weekday morning there were no interpreters there, but we did meet this delightful woman who was working in the garden:

picture of Garden Lady

She was working very hard weeding and trimming back some rosemary which was quite overgrown. She possessed a wealth of knowledge about old-timey plants and their uses which she shared with us. Nearly all the plants in the garden were used for food, medicine, or for their scents. The farm also had a few animals, such as these creatures:

picture of Sheep

picture of Pigs

We also saw this fellow while we were walking on a trail--he wasn't part of an exhibit!

picture of Snake

All in all our visit was enjoyable, but I would recommend if you would like to go that you go after mid-June when more exhibits will be opening and on a weekend when there are interpreters there giving various demonstrations.

We asked the nice garden lady for recommendations for lunch in the area and she suggested a local barbecue place which we tried. It was very crowded and had lots of trucks outside, which is usually a good sign. Our waitress recommended that we split a small barbecue plate and we still couldn't finish our meal. The barbecue was good, be we were a little disappointed with the sides. We have been very spoiled by Bucky's here in Greenville.

Since we were in Gastonia I felt like I really needed to make a stop at Mary Jo's and pick up a few things. I found some flannel for baby gift, some quilt batting, and a 1930's style print for a new apron. While I was enjoying my time at Mary Jo's Rob went to a nearly coffee shop and caught up on his email.

Our next stop was also recommended by the garden lady. She told us about Tony's City Ice Cream which has been in Gastonia since 1915. Rob thought that we really needed to stop and try it out since it has such historic significance. We enjoyed our ice cream there. We were told that they have really good Cherry Lemonade slushes, but we didn't try those this time. They also sell sandwiches, including liver mush sandwiches. So, if you are curious about liver mush after reading Jan Karon novels here's the place to go to satisfy your curiosity. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our next stop of interest was actually pretty close to Tony's, but unfortunately we didn't know it and we drove further than we needed to to find it. We stopped at Long Creek Mills which is a store which specializes in thread (especially threads for sergers and machine embroidery.) They also had quite a bit of other crafting materials such as beads, pom poms, etc. One thing that interested me was the cotton yarn. They had lots of the large cones of Peaches and Cream and large bags of balls of Sugar and Cream. The website doesn't show all the colors that they carry, but they have more colors than I have ever seen in any store. I bought this bag:

picture of Yarn

If you knit or crochet dish cloths this is the place for you.

After that we headed on home and are planning to work on a few projects around the house and yard for the rest of the week.


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Going green

I headed out to the Farmer's Market on Saturday and on the way passed an estate sale. On the way back I decided to stop and check it out. There was a lot of furniture and quite a few dishes. Way in a back room I spotted these:

picture of Green Dishes

I already have a small set of dishes in this same pattern, so I purchased them to add to my collection. The challenging thing now is to find a place to keep them. ๐Ÿ™‚

We also drove out to Mark and Katie's house Saturday evening and spent some time spoiling I mean holding Ryan. He's filling out nicely and weighs over ten pounds now. Here are a couple of pictures:

picture of Ryan Diaper 5-7-11

picture of Ryan Duck 5-7-11

Hope all you moms had a wonderful Mother's Day.

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