Thursday, May 31, 2012

Freezing Donuts

Ok, so my kids enjoy donuts and so does my husband for that matter. Heck, I think everyone likes donuts now and then. The thing is they are like $6.99 a dozen (or more) and I have to drive 25 minutes one way to get them. I can't do that on a regular basis, but I can make them at home for a fraction of the cost and have them whenever I want.

Donuts take time to make and if you're going to heat up a big pot of hot oil you might as well get as much use out of it as you can. Make up a double, or triple, recipe and have delicious donuts anytime you want. How can you do that? I freeze them. Yup, I freeze them. And you know what? They turn out almost as good as fresh when they are defrosted. It's an easy quick fix and it makes everyone's tummy happy.

Would you like to freeze donuts too? I can help you with that.

Make your donuts from whatever recipe you like. I use several different donut recipes, depending on what kind of donut we want. I think raised donuts, Apple Fritters and cake donuts all freeze and defrost well.

After your donuts are cooked, glazed (I've never frozen any variety besides plain glazed, so I'm not sure how chocolate or maple would do. I suspect that they would be fine though. Someone will have to try it and let me know :)) and completely cooled, wrap each one in plastic wrap. Put the plastic wrapped donuts onto a large cookie sheet and freeze! By freezing them solid before putting them into bags you"ll keep them from getting squished and help them keep their shape. After they are all frozen, pop them into a freezer bag and put them into the chill chest. If you are really worried about them getting stale or off tasting, you could double up on the freezer bags, but I've never had any last long enough in the freezer to worry about.

To defrost, take them out the night before and pop them into the counter, or microwave for a few seconds or pop into a toaster oven for a minute or so on bake. It all just depends on if you want it hot or if you want it room temperature.

So there you have it. Make up a big batch of donuts (at least a double batch) and freeze those babies for later. Your family will thank you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fixing Ugly

We had this spot in our yard. It was ugly. Like, the grass was growing in clumps and the kids dug holes all over it and there were bare spots in between and the lawn mower couldn't fit in between  the tree and the fence so part of it was never mowed and it was just an eye sore. So, we took it down to bare dirt. Still ugly, but less ugly than it was to be honest. We had a plan for this ugly spot, we had a plan!

We got a load of decomposed manure from the barn (a perk to having all those cows). And made a slight mound in the center around the tree, sloping it down as it came to the outside edges.

The we laid out the big, permanent flowers that will be the base of our landscape design. Most of these get fairly large and will fill in as they grow.

Some of our selections.

All the little plants in the ground. Keep in mind that this is just stage 1, we have plans for adding springs, summer and fall bulbs so we have some color all year long, we're going to add some smaller perrenials and some annuals as well. The edge is going to be completely bordered by petunias and we'll be adding some blue fescue grass this week sometime.

I'll keep updating as we go along. We're already happier with this flower bed than we were with our dirt patch we had before, and it's not even all that pretty right now :)

In addition to this, we mowed, weedeated, cleaned up and finished planting our garden yesterday afternoon. It was a good day for getting stuff done!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cherry Brownie Trifle

I was asked to bring dessert to my families Easter dinner this year and I was happy to say I would! I knew exactly what I wanted to make too. I'd had a variation of Layers of Love Choco-Cherry Trifle brewing in my mind after making the original.

So I tried it out on Easter. What. A. Hit.

My family cannot thank Lucky Leaf enough for sending me their Bake Your Heart Out recipe book. We've made almost every single recipe in there and they have all been excellent. This trifle though, this one is the one that they ask me to make.

Here is how I gave the original recipe a little twist:

Gooey Brownie Cherry Trifle 
1 (18.25 oz) box chocolate brownie mix, prepared (I used my brownie recipe)
1 (4 serving size) package instant chocolate mix, prepared
2 (21 oz) cans Cherry Pie filling 
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix according to the directions and bake in a 9x13 inch pan. Let brownies cool completely and cut into 1 inch cubes. Prepare pudding mix according to package directions. Chill at least 30 minutes. Place half of the brownie cubes in a 3- to 4- quart trifle bowl. Spoon one can of Lucky Leaf cherry pie filling over brownies; spread 1 cup pudding over the cherries and top with half of the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. 

The brownies have a more dense, chocolate-y flavor than they cake and make it feel so rich and decadent. Trifles like these are just perfect and I'm so glad I have Lucky Leaf to help me make them even more special!

Now, didn't you want to go make one today? I think I heard you drooling :)

Lime Poke Cake

I feel like I'm cheating writing a post on poke cakes. Nothing in the world could be easier. Want something to teach your kid how to make? This is it. Want to teach your non-cooking spouse a simple dessert so they can help you out once in a while? This is it. (On that note, I taught my husband how to make these and he made me one for my birthday one year, it was awesome!).

It's really simple. Your favorite flavor cake mix, a box of jello that compliments the cake flavor and a tub of cool whip. Make it in the morning before it gets too hot outside and stash it away for dessert later.

Bake your cake according to package directions. When it comes out of the oven, poke holes all over the top.

 Let the cake sit on the counter while you boil some water and add 1 cup of it to the package of jello. Stir it up really good (you won't end up with a tire patch jello cake if you make sure it's all the way dissolved) and pour it on the cake, paying special attention to getting it down in those holes you so lovingly poked.

Pop this lovely little jewel into the fridge for at least 2 hours, so the jello can set up.

 I usually make them in the morning and let it hang out in the fridge all day. Liberally frost it with your cool whip and there you go, simple dessert.

Don't write it off because it is so easy, there is such a complexity of spongy cake, cool jello and refreshing cool whip that you wouldn't guess that these cakes are so simple to make. The other good thing? There are a million different variations.

Ones we really like:

  • white cake and peach, cherry, watermelon, grape, lemon, lime and orange jello
  • chocolate cake and cherry, strawberry, blackberry (or berry) jello
  • lemon cake with lemon, lime or orange
Now here's the fancy can use pudding instead of jello. Fancy-schmancy huh? Just make a package of instant pudding and pour it over the holes-poked-in-the-cake like we did with the jello and refrigerate. When it comes out you can put pie filling over the top if you want. Chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and cherry pie filling make a black forest poke cake that is supremely good! 

Take on to your next get together and be amazed at how much people enjoy them. They'll think you did something amazing and you'll know how easy it really was :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

There were 2 things I loved my mom to make when I was growing up: Peanut Butter Cookies and these. They were ALWAYS so good and I loved opening the cabinet door to find a plate of them.

They are perfect for this time of year , because as the weather heats up who wants to use the oven? Not me! Our house is pretty old and as long as you respect her laws she'll stay cold in the summer. Want to tick her off? Use the oven on a hot day. You'll think you died and went to.....well, not Heaven. So we make no-bakes and everyone is perfectly happy.

My 7 year old makes these, with me watching, they are that easy. They're also really good, have I mentioned that? :)

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (optional)
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
3-3 1/2 cups oats (If you don't use coconut, add another 1/2 cup of oats)

In a medium pan, put the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Let boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, add peanut butter and coconut if using. Stir until the peanut butter is melted and add in the oats. Stir until thoroughly combined and them drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper or tin foil. Let cool completely.. Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on the size scoop or spoon you use.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Homemade Toothpaste

I am not a doctor, dentist or health professional. I'm sharing my personal testimonial today. I can only tell you what has worked safely for me, and let you make your own decisions regarding your heath. I'm not responsible for any ill effects you may experience. 

This mysterious looking stuff isn't food, although it is completely edible. It's toothpaste! I have been playing around with a natural toothpaste that I can make with things I already have laying around the house and this one fits the bill perfectly. It doesn't contain any fluoride (I AM NOT on the Fluoride is great bandwagon, I think it does far more harm than good, but how you feel is up to you to decide), it will leave your teeth feeling cleaner than any toothpaste you can buy at the store and you'll see your teeth getting naturally whiter.

I'm not joking.

I have really crowded teeth and it has caused so many problems with my gums over the years. I recently heard about oil pulling, so I tried that. Basically, you scoop some organic, cold pressed coconut oil (about a tablespoon) into your mouth and you swish it around for 15-20 minutes. You spit it out and then brush. I brush with this toothpaste and let me tell you, the results I have seen in my dental health are amazing.

Don't call me crazy....anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my gums are no longer angry and red. They lay flat and are a healthy pink. Tartar that the hygienist had a hard time getting off is FALLING off of my front teeth. My teeth are whiter than they have ever been, stay cleaner longer and feel clean all day.

It's hard to believe that something so simple and odd sounding can make sure a difference. I wondered how it was going to help me to swish fat around. How would you get it all out? Wouldn't your mouth just be coated with it? It doesn't stick to everything, I swear. I've heard people comment that they couldn't never keep all the oil and spit in their mouth for that long. I'm here to say that after the first couple of day, you don't even notice it. I try to do my pulling in the shower in the morning so I'm doing two things at once. Get out and brush your really is simple and so very effective.

I feel passionate about this and I wanted to share my story in case someone was having issues similar to mine. Here are just a few of the benefits that I have observed through my own experiences:

  • Whiter teeth
  • Healthier gums
  • Longer lasting clean feeling
  • Tartar build up has completely stopped, and in some cases reversed
  • Fresher breath
  • Sensitivity has been eliminated
There is my testimonial. I'm putting myself out here sharing this with you because I never thought that my teeth and gums would feel good. They always hurt, they always looked terrible, they always were embarrassing to me. It didn't matter what dentist I saw, the results stayed the same. Within a month of oil pulling and brushing with this toothpaste, I have seen results that I never thought were possible. 

The proof is in the pudding, and I'm happy with what I see. Don't write it off as crazy stuff because I honestly think it's worth a shot if you want to see some improvement in your dental health. 

I'm so glad I did.

If nothing else, try this toothpaste. It is so nice and makes your mouth feel clean and fresh all day. I'm in love. I don't think I could ever go back to the "other" toothpaste again. This stuff WORKS!

Natural Minty Toothpaste

3 Tablespoons Coconut oil (cleans, helps provide the "slippery" feeling, has anti-microbial, anti fungal and anti bacterial properties))
3 teaspoons baking soda (this is the abrasive part)
1 heaping teaspoon bentonite clay (optional, you can just add more baking soda, or the same amount of sea salt, but the clay is famous for its ability to draw toxins from the body)
10-15 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oil (taste)

Mix everything well and store it in a small airtight container. Scoop some out on a dry toothbrush and brush as normal. Rinse your mouth well and use homemade mouthwash if desired (recipe coming next week).

I hope you think about using this toothpaste. It's great and it uses things you can get at the regular grocery store. I figure that it cost me $0.40 cents to make this batch and it's approximately 1/2 of a large tube of toothpaste. That's pretty darn good price for all natural toothpaste!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lazy Enchiladas

Growing up, I never remember having our enchiladas rolled unless we ate at a Mexican restaurant. My mom always made these, kind of a Mexican lasagna of sorts. Whatever you choose to call them is up to you, Enchilada Casserole is probably a more proper name than Lazy Enchiladas. These take no time to whip up and they are SO GOOD.

I'll show you how to make them and then list the recipe ingredients at the bottom of the page. Ready, Set, Go!

Put a layer of enchilada sauce down on the bottom of your pan. This is a 15x9 inch pan, we had 7 people in the house tonight (a man, a woman, a teenager who eats more than a man and 4 kids who eat more than me) and after dinner tonight we'll probably have just enough left for lunch for those that want it.

Add a heafty layer of corn tortillas down. This makes your base and you want it to be a good one so when you're scooping it out of the pan to eat it it doesn't just break and go everywhere.

Sprinkle on some ground beef....

And cheese.....

And then a layer of enchilada sauce. Repeat layers (I do it 2 more times).

The top layer I do a little differently. Put down your tortillas....

Then sauce....

And finally cheese. I do it this way so the cheese has a chance to get all brown and gooey. If you put sauce first the cheese doesn't get a chance to make a crispy edge all around the sides :)

Pop it into a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is bubbly. Usually about 30-45 minutes.

Add some toppings and serve it with sour cream. We like to have refried beans and mexican rice to go along with it, but that's just us.

Just look at those layers! Yum!

Lazy Enchiladas
makes a 15x9 inch pan, serves approximately 10 with side dishes
2 lbs ground beef, cooked and seasoned with 1 packet of taco seasoning (or homemade seasoning)
corn tortillas
4 cups enchilada sauce
5 cups cheese
sour cream
hot sauce

Put a very thin layer of enchilada sauce down, cover it with corn tortillas. Sprinkle 1/3 of the meat over the tortillas, followed by 1/4 of the cheese. Pour about 1/4 of the sauce over the top evenly. Repeat 2 more times. For the top: on top of the corn tortillas, spread the remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Garnish with any or none of the optional toppings.

I hope you enjoy this as much as my family has. It's a great dish to take to potlucks and bring-alongs. It's always well received and people LOVE it :)

I'm proud to link this up at The Old fashioned Recipe Exchange on Little House on the Prairie Living

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Barn Tour!

I can't actually say we are living the country life, because we live in "town". "Town" being a community of about 800 people (more or less, I have no idea how many people live here anymore, but it's not many). We have a store, a hardware store, a library, several churches, a post office and about half a dozen various other businesses and such. We are 30 miles from a big town, one that has a Walmart, more than 1 grocery store and has stop lights. Well, we have one flashing light but it's not actually *in* town. My parents live out of town, about 5 miles away and that is where our livestock is kept.

We've been building a new cow house for our milk cows. I took some pictures so you could see how nice our new set up is going to be.

Here she is! Let me take you on a personal tour!

Walking in the front door, we would enter the storage room. Imagine this room without the building supplies and ladders. It will have shelves on the walls for our vet supplies (housed right now in the blue topped cooler), grain storage (we have one barrel in the left corner of the picture now, but we need more), various bits a pieces like halters and lead ropes, eventually a milking machine, maybe a small refrigerator and whatever else we decide we need in storage for the animals.

Walking out the door to the left, we enter the hay storage area. 

Walk out of the hay storage area and to the left and you have the spot where our milking stanchion will be built. It's in a very nice spot with wind and rain protection on all sides so we can milk in comfort. Awesome!

Looking straight out with the milking stanchion to your back, the big double gates keep the cows out unless we want to let them in. Here they are waiting to be milked in the evening yesterday.

It's still a little breezy, but the view is nice. It's summer, so this won't be a bother until we can get the roof on.

The girls have their own private field all to themselves. Trees for shade and pasture to nibble on, plenty of room to amble about and be happy.

And now that our tour is complete, I'll answer some of your questions.

"How much milk do you get in a day?"
Right now we are getting about 6 1/2 gallons a day between the two cows. Lily was awfully sick right after she calved, so she isn't at peak production yet and Petunia is in her 10th month of lactation, so she's on the downhill side. She isn't bred back yet either, and that makes a difference in milk production.

"What can you possibly do with all that milk?!?!?"
Well, the calf is drinking between 2 and 2 1/2 gallons a day. That leaves about 4 gallons of milk a day. The kids drink AT LEAST 1 gallon of milk/day and that doesn't include Kevin, who often drinks a gallon himself in a day. With our other milk we make yogurt (1 gallon lasts us about 4 days), cheese (it takes 2 gallons to make 1 batch of mozzarella. It takes about 2 batches to make pizza for the 6 of us), puddings, hot cocoa, ice cream, butter (we may be getting all that milk, but a portion of it is cream that we skim off), whipped cream for desserts, bread puddings, pepper gravies for biscuits, potato or other milk based soups. Do we ever have milk go bad? Yes, sometimes. Doesn't the milk in your fridge go bad sometimes? It happens to everyone.

"I bet you drink it raw, don't you?"
Yes, we drink our milk raw. For a while we pasteurized it, but we decided that for OUR family, with these particular cows, in our particular circumstances, raw milk was best for us. I'm not going to go into a raw milk debate, or tell you that you should be drinking it too, because that is a choice for YOU to make about YOUR family, not me to tell you. What I can tell you is that after a lifetime of being lactose intolerant I am now enjoying milk and milk products with no side effects. That alone is worth it to me to have cows and to milk them, no matter how inconvenient it may sometimes be.

"What do you do with the little babies"
The cold, hard facts are that these animals are stock. They aren't pets and they aren't people. We try to give them the best life possible, let them enjoy their days and then they will be going in the freezer. Part of the benefit of having a milk cow is that she has to keep having calves to stay in milk for us. Those calves become very cheap freezer filler if you let them be milk and grass fed. There is no market here AT ALL for a dairy steer, so while you keep breeding your cow in hopes of getting a heifer for replacement someday, you have to do something with the bulls that you get. So, we eat them. And I don't feel one bit bad about it.

"Doesn't having a cow keep you tied down?"
Yes and no. Yes, it does because you have to have a schedule. You have to milk that cow at least 1 time a day, usually twice a day. It's a commitment and it's not always convenient, BUT it's worth it to us. You can train someone to be a relief milker for you and trade them milking out your cows for the milk, or you can sometimes let the calf back in with mom to keep her milked out, but usually you are responsible for this animal. It's no different than having a dog or a cat, you have to be committed to taking care of them and making sure their needs are met. It's not for everyone, but we are more than happy with the situation.

So far, those are the questions I've been asked about the milk cows. We're still fairly new to all of this, but we enjoy it and we would someday like to have a small (very, very small) dairy herd of our own. We're trying to decide what type of artisan or specialized product we want to sell someday and are trying to study up on all the different options for us. It's going to be some day in the future, but we've fallen in love with the dairy cow.

She is a beautiful creature capable of so much. They aren't for everyone, but they are sure for us. I can't imagine not having a milk cow now that I have one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fry Bread and It's Many Uses

One of the best memories I have of being in 4-H was being at fair at night. The lights and the laughter, the noise and the people all trying to get to one place or another in an excited crush was such fun. But, best of all was auction night, the night we sold our animals that we had raised all year. The beef steers went first and then the pigs, and the auction often went on past the closing of fair. If you knew all of the secrets though you would know that the fry bread booth always made too many fry breads that night and if you were lucky enough to walk past there after closing they would sell them to us for $1.00! It was almost a game to see if you could get one of the cheap eats. lol

Fast forward a few years (ahem) and my love affair with the fry bread hasn't changed. It's just that now I know they can be so much more than just a deliciously hot, butter slathered, cinnamon and sugar sprinkled fair food.

They can be dinner!

They can be dessert!

They can be breakfast!

They can be anything in between!

They are a yeasted dough BUT they only raise once and after that you are golden. Leftover dough can be kept wrapped well in the fridge overnight if needed.

One of our favorite ways to eat fry bread is to make Navajo Tacos out of them and it's the dish pictured in the dish at the top of the post.

Basic Fry Bread
recipe halved from the one found here.

2 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup oil + 2 tablespoons oil
6 cups flour

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit until the yeast starts to bubble. Stir in the sal, oil and 4 cups of the flour. Mix well. Add in the remaining 2 cups of flour a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. You might not use it all. Let rise for 1 hour. Scoop out pieces the size of an apple or small orange and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Fry in 350 degree oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Proceed with your recipe!

To make these into Navajo Tacos, spread each shell with refried beans, ground beef, ground turkey or chicken, shredded beef, chicken or pork seasoned with taco seasoning, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, diced onions, olives, avocado chunks, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, hot sauce or whatever else you enjoy on your taco.

To make these into County Fair Style Fry Breads, spread each shell with melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, honey or a combination of your choice.

To make these into Dessert Scones, top with warm pie filling, a scoop of ice cream and a sprinkle of powdered suagr.

To make these into a Snack, add whatever you want! Be creative and you won't be disappointed.

Who needs to pay fair prices for fun treats when they are this easy to make at home??? Make some today, they are so good and so easy. Your family will love them :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Build Your Own Macaroni Salad

Have you ever been to a summertime BBQ, potluck or get together and not seen a big bowl of macaroni salad on the table? I don't think I have. It screams summertime. It leaps off the table onto your plate no matter how hard you try to resist it. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's ok and sometimes it really stinks. You get to the point where you whisper "Who brought the macaroni salad?" behind your hosts back so you can determine if it's the *good* salad or not. 

Well, no more. Take this recipe to your next get together and everyone will ask you for the recipe. When you're all making the same recipe you'll know it's going to be good every time, all the time. It's like insurance for  your stomach :)

I'm going to give you the base recipe, which kicks some mega macaroni salad booty, but at the end I'll give you some add-in ideas to make it a little different or, in some cases, even make it a complete meal. 

Macaroni Salad

16 oz macaroni noodles, cooked and rinsed under cold water
 1 cup mayo (or 1/2 mayo and 1/2 miracle whip type dressing)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons regular mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) pepper
1/2 onion, grated with juices reserved

Boil macaroni noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside. In a large bowl mix mayo, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper until well mixed.

 Add cold noodles and stir. Mix in the grated onion and mix well.

 Cover and let sit at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. Leftovers are even better!

Here are a few ways you can change this salad up:
  • add 2 medium stalks of celery, diced and 3 chopped hard boiled eggs (this is what I did in these pictures)
  • add chopped bell peppers and diced cooked chicken
  • add green onions, diced tomatoes and salad shrimp
  • add ham, defrosted frozen peas and small cubes of cheddar cheese
  • add grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, onions and onions are good)
  • add diced, cooked chicken, diced pickled jalapenos, defrosted frozen corn and avocado chunks
  • add olives, celery, hard boiled eggs, sweet pickle relish and shredded carrots
As you can see, there are really no end to the things you can do with this. Like so many other good recipes, this gives you a place to start. It's a great salad with a solid base. Leave it as it is and be more than pleased or add to it and make it your own. Change things up, make it full fat or slim it down. Leave things out, add things I've never even thought of. 

Have fun with it....just promise me that you'll make it. It's worth the 15 minutes you'll spend putting it together :) 

I'm proud to be linking this recipe up at Little House Living's Old Fashioned Recipe Exchange

Monday, May 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This is kind of a 2 part post because I'm working on the second part right now, but this ice cream is too good not to share right. now. 

I have a lot of milk at my disposal and I bought this ice cream maker from Amazon a couple months ago. I love it because I can make a 2 quart batch of ice cream in just about 25 minutes. Did you know the 1/2 gallon ice cream cartons you buy aren't 1/2 gallons anymore? It's a rip off, they've gotten smaller and gone up in price. 

I like having an ice cream maker because I can keep the freezer canister in the freezer all the time and ice cream treats are always at my fingertips. 

This recipe is out of the booklet that came with my ice cream maker. It's easy and tasty too!

1 1/8 cup peanut butter (don't use natural)
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped peanut butter cups, chocolate chips or 1 cup combination of the two

Mix peanut butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Add milk and mix for 2-3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the vanilla and heavy cream. Freeze according to your machines directions. Makes 2 quarts.

This will have a soft serve consistency right out of the machine. If you want it a little firmer, you can freeze it for 1-2 hours and it will be more scoopable.

Tomorrow I'll share how to turn this into a delicious ice cream sandwich! Yum.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Family Night

Because we have so many animal responsibilities and because of my husbands work schedule, we don't often get a chance to "get away" as a family or a couple. Does that stop us from having a good time? Heck no and it shouldn't stop you either! There are so many fun things you can do with your family without leaving home and on the cheap. We've taken vacations before of course, and the kids have enjoyed them, but the things they always talk about and want to do are the things we do at home or close to home.

For most of you the school year is drawing to a close and now is the perfect time to think about fun activities to do with the kids. And let's face it, there aren't a whole lot of folks out there with a ton of extra cash laying around right now. To get you started thinking about things to do on Family Night, I thought I would share a few things our family enjoys doing together.

Not every thing we do is going to interest you, or be something you can do, but it's a place to start. I highly encourage you to think outside of your normal boundaries and try something new. It might just turn into your families' new favorite activity!

Last Friday night we had our first bonfire of the year. The thing about getting kids excited about doing a new activity is that the more involved they are, the more likely they are to enjoy the activity.

Our girls helped by making a fire ring out of bricks.

Now, the fire ring really isn't that useful when it comes to containing the fire, BUT the girls thought that a fire needed it and they did it. What it does do is provide a boundary between the kids and the fire. They know to stay away from the ring, and that getting any closer could be dangerous. We never have really big fires, but any fire is enough to cause an accident to happen with little kids. The ring helps to make that possibility a little less.

Next, we asked the girls to round up some seating. Instead of carrying out the lawn chairs, they opted to make some benches out of stuff we had laying around.

I applaud their sense of style ;)

So, just getting them involved in making the space "their own" is a big help in getting them excited. We set this up last week and they have asked to build a fire every night this week. We try to only have a fire once a week or so, maybe more often in the summer, so that the fun stays fresh. We rotate through our other activities so one doesn't become stale.

I usually make up some treat to enjoy while we hang out together, and this week it was Peach Crisp and ice cream, but other times it will be roasting marshmallows or making s'mores. Or we might get out the pie irons and use some bread and pie filling to make some really great treats. We just go with the flow and have fun.

Doesn't she look like she's having fun??

Other things we enjoy:

  1. Walking to the park after dinner and playing
  2. Going to the local reservoir and taking a picnic lunch or dinner
  3. Laying in the grass on a clear night and identifying constellations, talking about phases of the moon and watching for shooting stars
  4. Playing catch or soccer in the yard as a family
  5. Watching a movie and having popcorn
  6. Taking a walk around our little town
  7. Eating ice cream cones on the front porch and watching the cars go by
The thing to remember about having fun as a family is that it doesn't take an exotic destination or tons of cash to have fun. All it takes is being together!