Sunday, October 27, 2013

Movie Night

Moving to Iowa gave me the opportunity to go from a working-outside-the-home mom to a working-at-home mom.  (By the way, I'm pretty sure staying home with the kiddos, even without trying to restore the farm, is way harder than going to work every day.  But I digress...).  I am beyond thrilled to be able to spend all day with the boys, attempting to do some sort of homeschool preschool, hanging out and playing with them.  On the other hand, the girls are gone most of the day.  They get on the school bus at 7:04am and don't return until about 4:15pm.  They are not overloaded with homework, thank goodness, but there is the nightly reading, weekly gymnastics and girl scouts, household chores and we've got squeeze in some play time!

This school year we established Friday nights as "family movie night."  I get to spend some time with the kids, not feeling like I have chores or projects that need to be done.  The kids take turns picking a movie, I pop some popcorn in the air popper and everyone convenes in the living room (Tucker sits still for about 10 minutes, then wanders around playing, snacking and climbing all over everyone.  But who can blame him? He's only 17 months old).

Another thing we love is celebrating holidays and seasons, so this month our movie nights are taking on the Halloween/ghosts & ghouls theme.  We are watching some classics and trying out some movies we haven't seen before.  Check out this list of family friendly Halloween movies we've compiled.  Do you have any favorites you would add?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hey good lookin, whatcha got cookin

Hubby and I have always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen - cooking, baking, canning and making candy. Making food from scratch ensures I know exactly what is in it and most of the time, it's less expensive than pre-made or restaurant prepared.  In California, we were extremely fortunate to live downtown, within walking distance of so many things.  We were just blocks from the food co-op and the farmer's market.  

Now that we live on the farm, we are about 12 miles from a grocery store.  What used to be a quick stroll to the store, now takes a minimum 45 minutes to pick up one or two things, and much longer for weekly grocery shopping.  The most practical thing is to keep inventory of the fridge, freezer and pantry so that each week when I am planning meals, I can easily add items to the grocery list.  If I forget to buy something, I know I'm not making a quick trip to the store, so being right the first time is pretty much my only option!  Download my grocery list and learn the art of checking off items as you run out.

That being said, sometimes a craving pops up.  Like on a cold rainy day, you might want to bake.  Or you open up the bread box to find that not only did he kids eat all the banana muffins, but there's no bread either. And you can't always predict when a batch of chocolate chip cookies are necessary.  (I like to keep at least a couple bags of chocolate chips on hand for this reason!)

When I bake, the first thing I like to do is gather all the ingredients in one spot on the counter.  Hubby used to be notorious for starting something and realizing we were out of one or two ingredients.  He would set out for the store, usually with a stroller and at least a couple kids, and be back in a few to finish his masterpiece.  Gathering all my ingredients first ensures that I'm not stuck in the middle of a creation, only to find I'm out I don't have all the necessary components.  This has become especially important now.  

Sometimes I start to gather ingredients and realize that I am out brown sugar.  Has this ever happened to you?  It can change your sunny attitude into a tailspin quick if you're looking forward to a tasty treat.  Here's where knowing how to make your own an really come in handy!  The last couple months more than ever, we have relied on these skills in the kitchen.  Hubby and I have made our own brown sugar, powdered sugar, buttermilk, tortillas, sandwich bread, pasta and refried beans.

Powdered sugar is probably the easiest to whip up in your home kitchen.  All you need is white sugar and a blender.  (If you won't be using all the powdered sugar immediately, blending with cornstarch will keep it from clumping.)  Simply measure the amount of sugar you need for a recipe and blend until it becomes a fine powdered consistency. 

Just as simple is brown sugar.  It only takes two ingredients!  Check out my photos and recipe below. 
Homemade Brown Sugar
-2 tablespoons molasses (if you're trying to make dark brown sugar, add more molasses)
-2 cups white sugar
Molasses is really sticky, so I love using the back of a little rubber spatula to mash the sugar.  It takes a little elbow grease, but comes together pretty quickly.