Friday, April 29, 2011

Gardening 101



When thinking about planting a garden - there are two main starting points:

1. How much space do you have?  You will want most of your garden in direct sunlight for the majority of the day - there are also many things which will take partial shade (lettuce/carrots/etc).  Garden boxes and containers can be built in just about any size.  Figure out how much space you have.

2. What do you want to grow?  You need to figure out what types of fruits and vegetables you want to grow in your garden.  We started by figuring out what we eat a lot of, followed by what we want to eat but don't want to pay exorbitant prices for, and lastly just what would be fun to grow!  We are very blessed to have a ton of room and have planted just about everything we wanted - if you have a smaller space you will want to pare your list down.

3. Now to build our boxes we used Mel Bartholomew's method Square Foot Gardening.  Things like carrots go 16 to a square, beans 9 to a square, tomato's one per square so you can fit a lot in one 4 x 4 box. 

We bought 2 x 6 x 8 pieces of lumber at Home Depot and had them cut them to 4' in length (they do this for free).  Take them home - pre drill holes in the ends of the wood then screw together with 3" screws.  (Pictures to follow).  To make the lattice on top we bought wood lath in the outdoor garden section of Home Depot cut them in half and attached with small screws and nuts then screwed into the main box.  Lastly we stapled weed cloth to the bottom and placed it where we wanted it!


Then you have your box!  That part is really easy and cheap - our four by four boxes cost about $6 each. 
On Monday I will let you know how to fill your boxes with "homemade" soil which is the only thing keeping my plants alive it is the bread and butter of the Square Foot Gardening method.

If you are really wanting to garden and plan to use containers or raised garden boxes I highly recommend getting Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening book* as it has tons of tips for different situations plus a full list of how many plants to plant per square and the planting and harvesting schedules.  It is a great tool!

Happy Reading,

Ash of All Trades

*Disclaimer:  The links in this post and on my blog may take you to a website where I receive points or rewards for your purchases.  The costs associated with purchasing through one of my links are the same prices you would receive by going direct.  If you do not wish to use my link please head the website directly!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grocery Deals April 27th - May 3rd

Albertsons:

  • Mangos @ .33/each - Stock Up Price (buy some and freeze for smoothies)
  • Limes @ .25/each - Excellent Price
  • Albertsons Diced Tomatoes @ 1.00/can - Good Price
  • Rosarita Beans @ 1.00/can - Good Price (cheaper for an 8 pack @ 5.99)
  • DiGiorno or CPK Pizzas @ 2.50 - Good Price (Great with coupons)
  • *****BUY $20 WORTH GET 5 RedBox Rentals & $5 Off Next Purchase******
  • Tide @ 10.99 Each - Great Price with Coupons and Above Deal
  • Cascade Detergent @ 4.99 - Good Price with Coupon

Ralphs:
  • Avocados @ 1.00/each - Good Price
  • Kiwi @ .25 each - Great Price
  • Mangos @ 1.00/each - Good Price
  • Ground Beef 80% Lean @ 1.99 - Great Price
  • Totinos/Celeste Pizzas @ 1.00 - Great Price with Coupons
  • Kellogs Cereal @ 1.98 - Great Price could be stock up with coupons
  • Ralphs Frozen Veggies @ 1.00 - Good Price
  • Knorr Pasta/Rice Side @ 1.00 - Good price look for coupons.
  • McCormick GrillMates @ 1.00 - Excellent Price
  • Nabisco Snak Sacks @ 1.00 - Good Price
  • Crest Toothpaste @ 1.00 - Stock Up Price - Free with coupons
  • Oral B Indicator Toothbrush @ 1.00 - Stock up Price - Free with coupons
  • Pull Ups @ 9.99 - Great Price - look for coupons
  • Navel Oranges @ .99/lb - Great Price

Stater Brothers:
  • Foster Farms Whole Chickens @ .75/lb - Stock up Price
  • Minute Maid Drinks @ .99 - Excellent Price
  • Kellogs Cereal @ 1.98 - Great Price - look for coupons
  • Cauliflower @ .75/lb - Excellent Price
  • Strawberries @ .89/lb - Excellent Price
  • Wishbone Dressing @ .99 - Excellent Price with coupons
  • Nabisco Cookies/Goldfish Crackers @ 1.99 - Great Price with Coupons
  • Farmland Ham or Bacon @ 2.49 - Good Price with coupons
  • Fuji Apples @ 1.00/lb - Great Price
  • ***********BUY 10 SAVE $5 - Price reflects $5 off*********
  • Digiorno or CPK Pizzas @ 1.99 - Stock Up Price - look for coupons
  • Juicy Juice @ 2.49 - Good Price
Happy Shopping!

Ash of All Trades

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Big Kid Books (Ages 3-5)

So while I am definitely not an expert - I am a parent - and I feel being a parent gives *some* authority on what the best things are for MY kids.  Big C is an avid reader - since the age of oh birth - she has LOVED books we have tons and tons laying around (okay they are neatly on a book shelf) so I thought I would pass along what have become some of her favorites from about last year through now (she is 4) and that I think will continue on for the next few years. Our favorites series, authors, or books:

1. I Can Read Series: These delightful stories come in single story version or complete series sets (above).  They include classics like Rainbow Fish and Amelia Bedelia and new stories such as Biscuit.  Both Big and Little C love these stories and they progress from pre-reader through chapter books.  A must have for kids this age!

2. John Muth: Detailed water color painting inspire conversation and artistic endeavors, couple this with wise stories and what a combo.  While most of his stories are based upon ancient Chinese proverbs (which are somewhat over a child's knowledge) it sparks great conversation and gets minds enquiring from an early age.  Big C asks to read these books at least once a day!

3. Dr. Seuss: What list would be complete without Dr. Seuss!  We love all Dr. Seuss books - rhyming is so much fun and makes books easy to memorize.  The girls love reciting Dr. Seuss stories and it helps them gain confidence in reading.  We also love the new spins of Dr. Seuss by authors trying to continue his work!

4. Curious George:  Margaret HA Rey has amazing talent at taking one little monkey and creating delightful stories of childish curiosity leading children to giggle and laugh while reading stories of things only they would try to do!  We have read many a Curious George story before trying something new - it keeps the curiosity somewhat in check!

5. Disney Story Time Books:  Classic Disney stories plus the characters we love in thrilling new adventures.  We have over 15 different versions of these books and they make for a great story time. We often read a story then reenact it - The Hubs also loves to read them at bedtime as we just read one story a night and it lasts us about a month.  My girls don't watch TV very often but they know their Disney stories!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Garden Update

Okay I am playing around with what day of the week I am going to post our garden updates...and finding it is quite hard to remember to weigh and take pictures of our harvests - must get better at this!  Anyways we got three huge artichokes this week:

Fresh Artichokes from the garden!

A cooked artichoke (because I forgot to photograph it first)

And one that is not pictured!
Here is an interesting tidbit for you - pincher bugs LOVE my artichoke plants and have apparently decided to breed in them.  Each artichoke is thoroughly washed and we watch as 5-8 pincher bugs get flushed down the drain - ewwwwwwww.  Everyone is under strict orders to run the artichokes straight to the sink after picking them.

Any who we have a total approximate weight of: 2.2 lbs of artichokes this week!

What are you growing this season?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meal Plan - Week of Leftovers!



Greetings all, hope you had a glorious Easter celebration - we sure enjoyed a weekend full of family, food, and fun!  Big C turned 4 this weekend and we enjoyed taking her to the movie theatres for the first time.  We had a great time laughing and enjoying the birds during Rio(we even went bird watching - hence above)!  Here's our menu for the week:

Breakfast:
  • Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Donuts, Strawberries
  • Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Cuties Oranges
  • French Toast, Watermelon, Peanut Butter
  • Whatever Grandma has! (Yay for carpooling to work with daddy)
  • Cereal, Yogurt, Bananas
  • Breakfast Burritos, Watermelon
  • Waffles, Peanut Butter, Apples
Lunches:
  • Appetizer snacks at Grandmas!
  • Hard Boiled Egg, String Cheese, Wheat Thins, Strawberries (picnic at the park!)
  • Egg Salad Sandwiches, Wheat Thins, Carrots & Ranch
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Apples, Yogurt
  • Ham Sandwiches, Mandarin Oranges, Cheez Its
  • Bean & Cheese Quesadillas, Tomato & Corn Salad
  • Pollo Asada, Beans, Rice & Sides
Dinners:
  • Turkey, Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Bread, (basically Thanksgiving Dinner)!
  • Dijon Crusted Chicken, Salad, BBQ Baked Potatoes
  • Tamales, Beans, Rice, Corn
  • Ham N Cheese Pasta, Peas, Garlic Bread
  • Individual Turkey Pot Pies, Bread Rolls
  • Hamburgers, Australian Garlic Fries, Tomato Salad
  • To be Determined Because our lunch party might fill us up!
So What are Ya'll Having This Week?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mother's Day Gift Idea


Every year for Mother's Day we make our mom's photo books of the best photos from the last year!  They both tell me they love the books and have asked for them each year (so nope not ruining a surprise).  I use mypublisher.com to print these books (but please download it through a link on Costco's Photo Center as it saves a ton)!  They frequently run a great promotion where you can get their bestseller book with unlimited pages for $35 + shipping.  Going to go finish my mother in laws book right now!

Ash of All Trades

PS One tip is rather than finding each picture off your camera or hard drive -set up a new folder on your desktop copy the pictures you want into it and then upload them to mypublisher - you will save yourself a lot of time!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Favorite Baby/Toddler Authors



We are book fanatics - anyone who knows us or who has been to our home would be able to tell you this! Shelves upon shelves fill our home and we have tons of kids books but I really wanted to point out our five favorite authors for kids from birth through oh I don't know my husband's age!  But seriously these are books that are good for the younger ones (infant, toddler, preschool) but also keep my four year olds attention (I will do a post later for preschool aged books).

1. Eric Carle - We love Eric Carle Books for their simple illustrations with vivid colors.  Their text invites even the smallest children to learn the soothing sounds of mom or dad's voice.  I don't think my girls will outgrow these books as I certainly have not. All of his books are classic!


2. Olivier Dunrea - Follow Dunrea's goslings through simple plots involving all things toddler.  My girls adore these books for their simplicity and pure innocent even messy fun.  The girls love hearing about Gossie & Gertie over and over again!

3. Amy Rosenthal - These tales mocking normal parental rules are definitely hilarious and have invoked many a giggle fest.  If you really put emphasis into reading the book with gusto the crazy sound effects will delight even the youngest child.  As they get older the kids will *hopefully* make comments about the silly rules the parents of these books have!

4. Margaret Wise Brown - These book are simple and to the point, their pencil drawings and everyday story lines are very soothing to children. Most kids love routine and are frightened by new things - these books bring that familiarity to a story and also provide great discussion topics based upon the drawings or the responses in Goodnight Moon.  While my husband says they are boring my girls absolutely adore these books!


5. Happy Baby Books - A great costco find by my sister in law our girls have loved these books from the minute their received them.  Even Little C who wasn't much of a reader before now would sit through the book.  With simple photographs and no plot (a true learning style book) the girls were able to start identifying different things and "reading" the books on their own.  They are so simple the kids loved that they could tell me what was coming next and really enhanced their confidence with books!

Happy Reading,
Ash of All Trades

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meal Plan April 17th to April 23rd

Happy start of a new week all!  A couple shots of our palm crosses and a meal plan as we enter the last week of lent also known as holy week. 


Breakfasts:
  • Chocolate & Peanut Chip Pancakes and Grapes
  • Syrup Pancakes, Mandarin Oranges, Sausage
  • Cereal and Smoothies
  • Breakfast Burritos, Baby Oranges
  • Waffles, Yogurt, Strawberries
  • Cereal, String Cheese, Grapes
  • Overhard Eggs, Toast, Strawberries

Lunches:
  • Egg Salad Sandwiches, Cheez Its, Grapes
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Strawberries, String Cheese
  • Surprise Lunch out for the girls
  • Quesadilla, Beans, Corn
  • Pasta w/butter, Carrots/ranch, grapes, Popsicles
  • Fried Bologna Sandwiches, chips, strawberries, bell pepper sticks
  • Mac N Cheese, Mango & Melon, Goldfish crackers, Peanut Butter
Dinners:
  • The Hubs marinated steak & salmon, Baked Beans, Asparagus
  • Chicken Raviolis, Garlic Bread, Salads
  • Tamales, Beans, Chips & Salsa, Corn
  • Fire Roasted Ziti, Salad, Bread
  • Ground Beef & Cilantro Soup, Quesadillas, Corn
  • Green Chili Burritos, Chips & Salsa, Asparagus
  • Citrus Marinated Chicken, Bake Potatoes, Grilled Zucchini
Bon Appetit,

Ash of All Trades

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Update

We have artichokes - about 8 of them!

Some are small and near the bottom but look at these babies!

9.5 ounces of Artichoke!

Plus I harvested about a pound of kale this weekend for Zuppa Toscana and Kale Chips- Yummo!
Nothing is more delicious than fresh produce!

So a garden harvest total of: 8.218 Pounds of Produce So Far!

Ash of All Trades

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Drinking From A Cup

We are working with Little C on learning to drink out of a plain ole cup (without spilling as much as she currently does).  My favorite method:

Send her outside with a cup of water!
Such a big girl!

The Sweet Satisfaction of a Refreshing Sip of Water!

Ash of All Trades


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grocery Deals April 13th through April 19th

Albertsons:

  • Whole Chickens & Bone In Pieces @ .88/lb - Excellent Price
  • Red Grapes @ .88/lb - Excellent Price (Stock Up if you Freeze)
  • Quaker Cereals/Post @ 1.75 (4) - Stock Up Price (look for coupons)
  • Del Monte Canned Veggies @ .50 - Stock Up Price
  • Albertsons Cream Cheese @ .99 - Stock Up Price
  • Birds Eye Steamfresh Veggies @ 1.00 - Excellent Price (look for coupons)
  • Oranges @ .99/lb - Excellent Price
  • Finish Dishwashing @ 3.99 - Okay Price look for coupons and you get free eggs!
  • Ronzoni Pasta @ 1.00 - Great Price
Ralphs:

  • Foster Farms Chicken @ 50% Off - Could be Great Price (look for coupons)
  • 50% Beef Roast - Could Be Great Price
  • Barilla Pasta @ 1.00 = Great Price
  • Navel Oranges @ .99/lb  - Excellent Price
  • Lettuce @ .88/lb - Excellent Price
  • Broccoli/Cauliflower @ .88/lb - Excellent Price
  • Baby Carrots @ .99 - Excellent Price
  • Green Onions (organic) @ .79 - Good Price
  • Blackberries @ $2 - Okay Price
  • Mangos @ 1.00 - Good Price
  • SteamFresh Veggies @ 1.00 - Great Price (look for coupons)
  • Kens Dressing @ 2.00 - Great Price (look for coupons)
  • Bush's Baked Beans @ 2.00 - Good Price (look for coupons)
  • Dole Pineapple @ 1.00 - Great Price (look for coupons)
  • Kedem Juice @ 1.50 - Great Price
  • Pasta Roni @ 1.00 - Great Price
  • Kraft BBQ Sauce @ 1.00 - Good Price (look for coupons)
Stater Brothers:

  • Cantaloupe @ 1.00 - Excellent Price
  • Navel Oranges @ 1.00 - Great Price
  • Zucchini @ 1.00/lb - Great Price
  • Bell Peppers @ 1.50 - Okay Price
  • Avocados @ 1.50 - Okay Price
  • Ground Beef 81% @ 2.49 - Okay/Good Price
Now just for clarification - any name brand items I always search for coupons even if I am pretty sure there aren't any because I have been pleasantly surprised before!  The ones where I say look for coupons I am pretty sure there is a coupon available somewhere but it may have been in the paper in the last couple of weeks.

Happy Shopping,

Ash of All Trades

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Garden Pictures

Wahooo - Spring Weather is finally here and we finished our yard (as in the ground is all covered and there are only cosmetic preferences we want to add).  Without further ado our yard!

Girls Swing Set

Love Seats & Berries in Pots

Gardening Boxes

More Boxes

Our Fruit Trees

Stepping Stones - Corn Box

Cantaloupe & Pumpkin Area

BBQ & Eating Area w/Tomato Plants

Slider & Tomatoes

Asparagus

Artichokes & Strawberries

We also have two side yards one with trash cans / storage bins and one with a shed, playhouse, picnic table.  We LOVE our backyard and spend ours out there each day.  Buying a home out here with a yard was one of the best decisions we have made.

Enjoy,

Ash of All Trades

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meal Planning

Breakfasts:
  1. Chocolate Chip Pancakes (of course!), cantaloupe, peanut butter
  2. French Toast, grapes, yogurt
  3. Eggs and smoothies
  4. Syrup Pancakes, cantaloupe, egg
  5. Cereal, grapes, yogurt

Lunches:
  1. Black Beans, Tortillas, Corn, (bowls or burritos)
  2. Tuna Sandwiches, grapes, Cheez Its
  3. Quesadillas, cantaloupe, turkey
  4. Hot Dogs, String Cheese, Grapes
  5. Leftovers

Dinners:
Sunday: Garlic Lime Game Hens, Wild Rice, Asparagus
Monday: Chicken Chow Mein, Asparagus
Tuesday: Rockin Round Roast
Wednesday: Paella
Thursday: Shredded Beef Tacos, Salad, Rice
Friday: Pesto Pasta, Salad, Garlic Bread
Saturday: Supplied by a Family Birthday
Bon Appetit,

Ash of All Trades

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Butter Bell

We have made the switch folks - no more margarine in this household!  I grew up with margarine and loved it but with all of the recent research indicating the more natural a product is the better it is for our body I made a decision to switch to butter (and oh boy is my dad - an all butter guy - happy!). 

Honestly though I had a huge hesitation - my kids love toast and grilled cheese where you spread the butter (or in our case margarine) all over them.  Let's just say that I was horrible at remembering to pull the butter out to soften to make these types of foods.  Enter a great invention one which I was introduced to by my in laws who then bought me my own:



Seriously you add 1/3 cup water to the bottom.  Place one stick of butter (slightly softened) into the top and it will keep for 30 days.  We do change the water every 3-4 days but no more hard butter to cut for toast.  The best part is the girls love it and after having margarine again for the first time in a while I can tell you it tastes processed to me now!  Eek how did I live on that stuff - oh yea it was good. 

Hope you will consider the switch if your only delay has been how to have soft "butter" and if not totally cool I will even eat your margarine if I come over!

Ash of All Trades

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Garden Update

One of the best things about having a garden is heading out and picking what you need right when you need it.  One of the bad things about doing that is we often forget to weigh our produce before using it.  Oops!  But here is an update:
We picked 4 heads of lettuce at approximately 1 pound total.

We picked three lemons at approximately 15.375 ounces

We picked two batches of kale at approximately 7 ounces total

Then we picked this kale and broccoli:



So 7.125 ounces of Kale & Broccoli.

Total for the last few weeks: 1.844 pounds of produce

Total for the year:  6.624 Pounds of Vegetables/Fruits!

Thanks for reading,

Ash of All Trades

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meal Planning

Okay folks just have to let you know I very rarely stick to our breakfast or lunch schedule.  We usually eat the items sometime during the week but rarely if ever on the day that it is schedule for - so instead I am just going to list 5 things we will eat for breakfast and lunch.  Dinners are still very much planned out and go according to schedule more than 99% of the time.  Without further ado:

Breakfasts:
  1. Chocolate Chip Pancakes (of course!), cantaloupe, peanut butter
  2. French Toast, grapes, yogurt
  3. Eggs and smoothies
  4. Syrup Pancakes, cantaloupe, egg
  5. Cereal, grapes, yogurt

Lunches:
  1. Black Beans, Tortillas, Corn, (bowls or burritos)
  2. Tuna Sandwiches, grapes, Cheez Its
  3. Quesadillas, cantaloupe, turkey
  4. Deli Turkey/Ham, Cheese, Crackers, Grapes
  5. Leftovers

Dinners:
Sunday: Steaks, Twice Baked Potatoes, Caesar Salad
Monday: Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs, Fried Rice, Broccoli
Tuesday: Tostadas, Corn, Chips & Salsa
Wednesday: Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
Thursday: Mongolian Beef, White Rice, Broccoli
Friday: Parmesan Pasta, Garlic Bread, Salad
Saturday:  TBD by the Hubs

Bon Appetit,

Ash of All Trades

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cakes

I LOVE decorating cakes and making unique creations for my girl's birthdays and other events.  Now with a two and three year old in my house I don't have a ton of time to make fancy fondant cakes but I try to make cute ones. 

My sister in law so graciously gave me this cake pan (follow the link to see it) - she shares my love of cake decorating and her creations are absolutely awesome.  Any who I used my new cake pan to make Little C's number 2 cake:



Isn't it adorable!  I love how it turned out considering she picked it out and kept trying to take the decorating tools from me.  Other than baking the whole things took less than 10 minutes yahoo for an awesome quick cake!  And yes my baby is 2 - two - 2 oh how time flies.  She is a big girl now and love holding up two fingers so she can let everyone know how old she is!

Thanks for reading,

Ash of All Trades


Moroccan Chicken

We love to cook - just about anything and everything we love trying new things especially ethnic foods outside our normal upbringing (Mexican/American).  So here is Moroccan Chicken in the crock pot.  Super easy and super yummy!  Even Big C who is one of the world's pickiest eaters devours these and asks for more!

Recipe:
5-6 Chicken Legs (bone in)
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Curry Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Cooked White Rice

Directions:
1. Heat Olive Oil in skillet then brown chicken legs evenly about 5 minutes each side.
2. In a mixing bowl combine: juice, tomato paste, cumin, curry, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Whisk together.
3. Place chicken in crock pot and pour the sauce mix over chicken.
4. Cook on low 8 hours or High 4.
5. Serve over white rice.

Browning the Chicken Legs

Place in Crock Pot and Add Sauce

Finished Product

Incredibly Picky Eater with Her Finished Leg

Both Big C and Little C gobbled up their chicken legs and asked for seconds.  The hubs has always loved this recipe and asks for it at least monthly.  Some tips: 
1. Use bone in and skin on chicken in the crock pot it is so much more flavorful and doesn't get mushy (it falls off the bone but is not mushy)
2. Spray your crock pot with Pam or olive oil it can get sticky.
3. Freezer your leftover tomato paste in single tablespoon containers (ice trays for example).
4. Places like World Market or Winco have the best prices on spices.

Hope you enjoy!

Ash of All Trades