Continuing Family Traditions!

It has always been important to me to pass on family traditions to our kids, especially since we do not get to spend a lot of time with our extended family.  I try to incorporate some of my husband’s family English traditions as well as some of the special things I did growing up.  I’ve learned to make an English Trifle, Scotch eggs, and a variety of holiday foods that my husband grew up eating.  From my side of the family, we have incorporated family game night during those long winter evenings and cooking up a huge Thanksgiving feast.  I even started some traditions of my own by making a holiday themed meatloaf the week before the big holiday meal.  It is important that my kids have concrete memories of fun things we do as a family, especially with moving to new houses and having to make new friends all the time.IMG_2850

One of the easiest traditions to continue is that both of our families often went on Sunday afternoon hikes when the weather was nice enough.  These Sunday adventures are probably a large part of why we love the outdoors so much.  We want our kids to appreciate and enjoy nature as much as we do, so it is very important that we set aside time to spend outdoors as a family.IMG_2801  This past weekend, the weather was HOT for the Pacific Northwest, it was 80 degrees or more.  There was a 10 mile an hour wind in the forecast though, so although I suggested going to the beach before Brickman got his plaster cast, we decided a hike would be better.  My Husband did a little research and scoped out some geocaches for a hike in Ecola State park.

I packed a picnic, some sunscreen, and the geocache trinkets before loading the kids and our dog Suki into the minivan and heading out. IMG_2834 When we got to the park, the area we wanted to explore was closed, so we just rolled with the punches and went walking on a trail we saw.  We figured we would just hike for a while and see what adventures could be had.  The trail we took had some pretty steep up and downs over coastal headlands that gave us some AMAZING views of sea stacks and the Pacific Ocean.  We continued on the trail and ended up at THE BEACH!  We decided to just go with the flow and let the kids play in the sand and surf.  Our poor old dog Suki was tired and needed to relax a while anyway, and the wind wasn’t bad at all.  We found out we were on a beach called Indian Beach that had a lot of little rock outcroppings that made shallow little pools of water that the kids, especially Baby, loved to play around in.IMG_2809  My husband was playing around on the beach and does what he describes as “a common human mammal performing a mating ritual for his wife of 12 years. Although he has effectively secured his privileges he still feels the need to impress her.”  I’m bummed I didn’t get a picture of Baby trying to imitate him and having her legs and arms flailing in the air while getting her head covered in sand. We finally decided to pack up and hike back out to where we started.  The views were once again breath taking and had changed with the tide going out.  The kids also took time to explore a huge root hole left from a tree growing on a nurse log.  They were both able to climb into it and have room to play around.  we were running low on water though, so we finished the hike and refilled our water bottles at the faucet in the parking lot.IMG_2844

We drank all of the drinks I had packed, but we didn’t end up eating the picnic since we were so warm. Fortunately, we were driving past our favorite gelato shop, Sea Star Gelato,  on the way home so we hopped in to partake of a cool tasty treat.  Everyone must have had the same idea, because parking was a nightmare in Seaside, so the big kids and I jumped out to order our gelato as my husband drove around with Baby and Suki in the van.  I didn’t get a picture of our delicious frozen treat because it was melting so fast and I had extra cones to carry back to my husband… I guess we will just have to make another trip soon so I can show you all just how good this stuff is.  Hmm, maybe monthly gelato can be a new family tradition?  On that note, I must go do some dinner preparations before Brickman and Fancy get home from school and Baby wakes up from nap.

-Mussgo Momma

 

Posted in Coast Guard Life | 1 Comment

Bikes, Ice Cream, and Broken Bones!

This past Saturday we had another dry spring day in the Pacific Northwest, so we jumped
at the opportunity to get outside.  We decided a bike trip would be the best option since the temperature was only in the upper IMG_178750s.  Because it was a little breezy, we choose to ride the more protected trails at Fort Stevens State Park and explore more of the WWII bunkers and equipment that it has to offer.  The trails of the park are absolutely beautiful, going through moss covered forest, on wooden bridges over coastal wetlands, and alongside the concrete bunkers that overlook the beautiful Columbia River.IMG_1777

My husband loaded up the bikes on the trailer as I packed a few snacks and got the kids and myself ready before heading out.  Baby was so excited, she kept crawling into the bike trailer any time she got the chance, even when it was just sitting in the driveway getting ready to load into the trailer.

Brickman and Fancy had a blast getting some exercise and burning off some energy while Baby took a cat nap in the bike trailer.  As we were pedaling along, my husband and I got to have a nice chat.  It came up in conversation of how IMG_1759my college English professor tried to convince me to switch from a biology major to something that would have me writing.  She told me I had a talent with words and even if I didn’t pursue it as a career that she knew I would end up doing some kind of writing as a creative outlet.  Of course as a busy college student studying for Organic Chemistry and Calculus finals, I blew her off and never really gave it much thought until the recent bike ride chat.  I guess she was right, as I am now writing on my blog and writing recipes, hopefully living up to the potential she saw in me.

After pedaling around for 7 miles and doing some geocaching, we went to the local ice cream shop for some Frites (Belgian french fries) and a scoop of homemade custard.  Frite and Scoop is one of our favorite local homemade ice cream shops because they offer up some unique flavors in homemade krumkake cones AND piping hot fresh, from the fryer frites with all sorts of delicious dipping sauces. IMG_1420 I don’t know about you, but I like a little salty with my sweet…Hmm, maybe that’s what hooked me on marrying a Coastie!  When we got into the ice cream shop, we ran into some of our neighbors, so we got to enjoy some good company along with our treat.  The kids quickly finished off our food (before I got a picture of the frites) and were getting rowdy, so we decided to go home so the kids could play.  We ended up switching kids around for the quick car ride home and all the girls came with us and Brickman went with our friends in their vehicle.  Sometime in that quick trip home, Brickman ended up hurting his wrist, but didn’t say much about it hurting until later that night, AFTER playing with his friends.

By Monday his arm was still hurting, so I took him along to Baby’s 18 month check up.  The pediatrician examined him and ended up sending us for X-rays which confirmed he had a buckle fracture in his right radius.  We are STILL waiting to get his cast, because unfortunately my kids came down with Hand Foot and Mouth that I suspect Baby picked up at the doctor’s office and then spread to the rest of the family.  Now, we are all on the mend and Brickman should get his hard cast put on by the Orthopedist early next week.  Brickman is just taking after his parents, as both of us have had broken arms as children.  Unfortunately, we can’t go on any more bike rides until his arm is healed though, but we can go get some more delicious locally made ice cream!

-Mussgo Momma

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Weekly Meal Plan April 15-21, 2016, plus 1 chicken 3 meals!

Well, I didn’t get to do a restocking grocery trip this week after using up my pantry items IMG_1807last week.  This week has been too full of disasters and sickness for us to get out to go anywhere other than the doctor’s offices.  12994595_10154131790983685_1466949413816633505_nMy son, Brickman, ended up breaking his wrist climbing out of a car on Saturday and then Baby came down with the Hand, Foot, and Mouth virus that has been going around.  We are all basically quarantined because of how contagious it is, so I haven’t had a chance to go to Costco to restock.  Not to worry, as you can see my pantry is still pretty full and my freezers are still well stocked too.

I’m also going to share how I turned one chicken that cost less than $6 into meals and extra chicken stock for the freezer!  I will once again post links to the recipes I loosely follow, but I’m not one for measuring or following directions to a T.  IMG_1796I use what I have and trust my instinct and palette to cook and am usually successful doing things on the fly. I do follow a recipe much more closely when I make homemade dough and baked goods though, as that is more of an exact science than cooking.  So here is what I planned out of the pantry for this week’s meals, packed full of comfort foods for my family who are still recovering.

Friday

  • Homemade Stromboli ( I used bell peppers I had frozen when I couldn’t use them 1472854_10152038380103685_638872945_nbefore the went bad from a large Costco package)
  • Caesar Salad (Romaine lettuce lasts a long time in the fridge!)

Saturday

  • Freezer meal, mussgo, or meal not cooked last week

Sunday

  • Chicken meal 1-Simple roasted whole garlic-rosemary chicken ( pick leftover chicken
    off the bones and set aside. Throw remaining bones, juice, and anything left in the roasting pan into crock pot and cover with water.  Cook on low overnight and you will have concentrated chicken stock in the morning).
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Frozen peas
  • Homemade Amish White Bread ( I only use 1/3 cup of sugar)

IMG_1805 IMG_1806

Monday

TuesdayIMG_1823

  • Chicken meal 2- Chicken and cheese flautas ( See my recipe below)
  • Smashed black beans
  • Guacamole salad ( Jarred salsa substiutes well for fresh tomatoes and peppers in this salad)

Wednesday

  • Salmon cakes
  • Baked potatoes
  • Steamed broccoli with garlic butter

Thursday


 

Chicken and Cheese Flautas

2 cups leftover chicken

4 oz cream cheese, room temperatureIMG_1825

1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

1 small can of diced green chilies

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

tortillas, corn or flour

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.  Mix all ingredients but tortillas in large bowl.  Spoon equal amounts of chicken cheese mixture in tortillas and roll up, leaving ends open.  Spray tops of tortillas with cooking spray.  Bake until tortillas are brown and filling it hot. Flautas are great served on their own or dipped in guacamole or sour cream.


 

I must go tend to my under the weather family. Enjoy this weeks budget friendly meals!

-Mussgo Momma

 

Posted in Cooking and Baking, Weekly Meal Plans | 3 Comments

Everything Must Go…even the baby stuff

I never realize just how much stuff we accumulate, even with purging our stuff every few years before moving to a new duty station.  The amount of products I have accumulated in the past 6 months of reviewing has definitely added to the pile.  Luckily, there is a Coast Guard yard sale being organized to help everyone get rid of their stuff before transfer season.  I’m usually eager to go through stuff to see what we can get rid of, but not so much this time.  This time is hard for me because I need to get rid of all our baby items, some of which I’ve had since before Brickman was born nearly 9 years ago and some are the cute cloths that Fancy wore.  I absolutely love having a tiny baby to snuggle and nurse, so getting rid of the baby stuff is a stark reminder that there will be no more growing a baby for 9 months and bringing home a tiny newborn.  Although my husband and I think that out family is perfect right now, I still can’t help mourning the fact that Baby is our last child and turning 18 months old this week to boot!  Moving on from the child bearing years makes me feel old beyond my 32 years, and is another new stage of life that I’m just beginning. IMG_0031And its not like this is a new decision either, my husband had a vasectomy a few weeks after Baby was born.  I guess getting rid of the baby toys, swings, and baby bathtub are just hitting me hard because I no longer have a tiny baby, but a rambunctious toddler.   My days having Baby gaze into my eyes while having my body provide her nourishment are numbered, and that number is up to her to decide when she is ready to wean.  She is already dropping nursing sessions as the adventures of the day attract her attention and she needs me less and less.  But such are the seasons of life I guess, so I will cherish the middle of the night nursing session, being nap trapped, and being the center of her universe for as long as it lasts.

I do know I have new and exciting things to look for as she grows too.  I have been getting IMG_0176all 3 kids into the kitchen cooking and baking with me.  We as a family have been able to go do more fun things (in the not always optimal Pacific Northwest weather) because there is no longer a tiny babe requiring so much attention.  Seeing all 3 of my kids interacting more and more each day fills my heart with joy, and I look forward to seeing their bonds grow as they do.  It won’t be long now until we IMG_1609get back out to the woods or the remote beaches on back country camping trips since we will not need to carry Baby much longer. Instead of more lamenting on what I’m losing, I must go enjoy what I have and get together the ingredients to bake cupcakes and make lemonade with the kids so that they can be involved in the yard sale too.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” -Robert Munsch

 

-Mussgo Momma

 

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How to Review Part 2

In my Amazon Reviewing Intro post, I promised I would give you examples of reviews I have written.  When you opt in to product posts in the online groups or websites, doing extras like photos, video, or blog post generally increase your chances of being picked to review that product.  I always add pictures, just to make my reviews more legitimate.  This is especially important if you receive a product direct from the seller as opposed to ordering through Amazon with a promo code.  The pictures and video prove that you did actually have the product to test out and are not just writing a review without testing it out first.  Adding in videos and making blog posts take more time, so I generally only opt in to do these kinds of extras if it is a product I really want.  The longer you have been a reviewer and the better your ranking gets, you can be more selective on what items you choose to review.  Right now, I am trying to limit myself to no more than 6 products a week and prefer to not spend more than $2 on an item, but there are always exceptions based on what pops up for review on the sites.  Last week, I opted in to do a blog post on 2 items because I thought they would be really useful and because I wanted to have examples to show you.

The first product, one that my husband really wanted, is the Blue Wind HDTV Flexible USB Accent 2x50cm RGB5050 LED Light Strip + 24 Remote Control for TV / Computer / Laptop /Desktop PC RGB LED Light Strip.  Here is the 5 star review I posted to Amazon…

The USB accent lights fit great around our 50 inch flat screen LCD TV. There are 2 strips of lights, one of which has a longer cord that will reach to the opposite side of the TV from where the control box and USB power cord are located. The USB cord is great because it doesn’t take up room on a power strip or wall outlet plug like other light sources. The adhesive backing of the lighting strips stick securely to the back of the TV and provides a nice even light. With the remote as your control, you can change the color and the effect of the lights easily. With all the options that these LED strip lights provide, you can choose a combination to set just the right ambiance. These lights were super easy to install, no tools or special electronics knowledge necessary. I really like that these USB accent lights provide some extra light that doesn’t cause a glare when watching TV at night. I received this product at a reduced cost in exchange for my honest an unbiased opinion.

And the video my husband helped me make…

 

Sometimes you get a product that isn’t as great as you hoped.  In most groups you will need to contact and admin before leaving a review of less than 4 stars.  However, Honest Dragon Reviews do not require a high star rating and are truly after honest product reviews.  For this reason, I really respect Honest Dragon and it is another of my favorite review groups.  I recently received a  Girls Stripe Long Sleeve Party Mini Casual Dresses 6/7Y .  Even though I was not in love with this product, I still did a well written review explaining and a photo review showing why I only gave the product 2 stars.  I find it especially important to validate why you give a product a less than 4 stars.   Here is what I submitted to Amazon…

I ordered this girls stripped dress in a size 6-7 for my just turned 6 year old daughter who normally wears a size 6 clothes. The fit of this dress is very unproportionate. When first trying it on, the dress was very baggy and loose all around and was very short. I would not let my daughter wear it as a dress and it definitely needed leggings underneath, it was more of a tunic length. The sleeves were way too long and the neck hole very large causing it to hang on my daughter in an unflattering way. After washing in hot water and drying on hot, The “dress” shrunk and the sleeve length fit much better. The length of the dress also shrunk and is defiantly just a tunic, barely covering my daughter’s bottom. She likes to wear it with some sparkling or printed leggings though, so I am giving 2 stars. She does not to seem bothered that the stripes do not line up at the seams, which I find unappealing. The hems of this dress have a tendency to roll inside out, exposing the stitching around the neck, sleeves, and bottom hem. The fabric is made of a stretchy material and held up well to my daughter wearing it to school, playing at the playground after school, and rolling down a hill without being damaged or getting grass stains. Bottom line, this does not fit as a dress, but as a baggy tunic. I received this product for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

IMG_1696 IMG_1698

 

Just remember to ALWAYS put your disclaimer and to write an honest review for products ordered with promo codes.  I was apprehensive at first to contact an admin about a product I found sub-par, but have not had a bad experience yet from doing so.  Leaving truly honest reviews will establish you as a credible reviewer who isn’t viewed as someone doing it just for the free stuff.  I started reviewing for the free and discounted products, but have since come to value honest reviews.  When I need to purchase something off of Amazon, I want to trust the rating system and reviews of the products to make sure what I am ordering will fit my needs.  I think it is our duty as reviewers to provide quality reviews whether we received a promo code or not.

I hope these examples helped you understand what a well written review with different extras added in should look like. Now, I must go see what new opt ins are available!

-Mussgo Momma

 

Posted in Amazon Reviewer | 2 Comments

Weekly Meal Plan April 8-14,2016 and Haluski Recipe

My pantry and freezers are getting pretty full, so my goal for this week’s menu was to cook with what I already have.  The only things I needed to get from the store this week were avocados, fresh tomatoes, and bell peppers.  I found a head of cabbage rolling around in the crisper drawer of one of my two extra refrigerators and made sure I integrated that into the menu to get it used. When I have cabbage rolling around, my Polish heritage always comes into play and I make Haluski, a fried cabbage and noodle dish.   And yes, you did read that right up there… I have an extra full sized refrigerator, my husband has a beverage fridge,  and we have a large chest freezer, in addition to the refrigerator in the kitchen.Lake cresent

My husband’s last duty station on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington was rather remote, where the closest Wal-Mart, Costco, and Safeway were over an hour away.  I would buy enough groceries to last my family about a month to save us making the 120 plus mile round trip drive around the beautiful Lake Crescent .  The town we lived in did have a local grocery store that was higher priced and had a smaller selection, so I could pick up produce or last minute items there when I needed to.  That store also had the best doughnuts and friendliest people I’ve ever encountered.  Going to the local Thrify was always like a social gathering because you were bound to run into someone you knew in the small town of about 3,000 residents.  I always said I spent more time chatting than actually shopping at the store in Forks.  (Yes, the Forks from the Twilight Series.) Anyway, old habits die hard, so I still keep a large pantry of grocery and household items even though we are only about 10 minutes away from a Costco now.  I know I can just run to the pantry and grab something to throw together a quick meal, and the other Coastie wives know that if they are missing an ingredient for dinner, chance are that I have it.  But without further ado, here is what I planned mostly out of my pantry for dinner this week…

Friday

  • Chinese orange chicken ( I used frozen orange juice concentrate) * Make an extra batch of marinated chicken for the freezer for a dump crock pot version for busy nights
  • Veggie fried rice
  • Lemon bars

Saturday

  • Missed meal from last week, Mussgo, or freezer meal

Sunday

  • Pork loin roast with grainy mustard rub
  • Haulski ( fried cabbage and egg noodles, see included recipe)
  • Rye bread (caraway seeds ommitted from personal preference) with butter and jam

MondayIMG_1687

  • Black bean burgers
  • Stir fried sweet potatoes
  • Fresh green bean salad with dried cranberries and apple cider vinaigrette (green beans steamed for 2 minutes in the microwave, then cooled before assembling salad)

TuesdayIMG_1700

  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Avocado, tomato, and corn salad
  • Mexi rice ( 1 can of Rotel in place of 1/2 cup of the water when cooking 1 cup of rice, top with shredded cheese and sour cream when serving)

WednesdayIMG_1704

Thursday

  • Mussgo
    • Make avocado shrimp tacos using leftover shrimp from Wednesday and avocado salad from Tuesday
    • Add leftover pork from Sunday to Wednesday’s noodle dish to make a cold salad

 

Haluski Recipe

8 oz egg noodleshaluski

1/2 head green cabbage

1 large onion

1 stick of butter

salt and pepper to taste

Vinegar (optional)

Instructions:

Boil egg noodles until al dente and drain well.  Melt butter in large skillet, add in onions and boiled egg noodles and cook until onions are tender and noodles are getting browned.  Add in cabbage and saute until tender crisp and season with salt and pepper.  We like our cabbage to have a bit of crunch left, otherwise you can add everything into the pan at once to get more tender cabbage.   I like to serve Haluski with a splash of vinegar (white or apple cider) to give it an extra layer of flavor.

I must go tend to Baby, but I leave you with one of my favorite food quotes that rings o so true in my life…“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.”-Alan D. Wolfelt 

-Mussgo Momma

 

Posted in Cooking and Baking, Weekly Meal Plans | 5 Comments

Amazon Reviewing Intro

Not long ago, I heard a group of Coastie wives chatting at the school bus stop about all the free stuff they were getting to demo.  I was very intrigued and asked them how to get started doing Amazon reviews.  Apparently, there was a whole system of websites and Facebook groups dedicated to connecting sellers with people who demo their item in exchange for posting reviews on Amazon that I didn’t know even existed.  I joined some of these groups, such as  Blue Ribbons Review on Facebook, and their very user friendly website to see what this world of reviewing was all about.   Amber, the gal who runs Blue Ribbon, is very helpful and understanding as an admin, so Blue Ribbon is my top recommendation to anyone who wants to start reviewing.

So how do you get started?

1. Get acquainted with your Amazon Prime account.  Yes, a Prime account is pretty much required to get free 2 day shipping. Under your Account on Amazon, scroll to the bottom to where is says Community and click on Your Public Profile (you will often need to put the link to your public profile into the opt in form when selected to review products). From Your Public Profile,amazon profile you can add personalized profile information, like what your interest are and what you want to review so that sellers can get an idea of who you are and what items you would be good at demoing. On your public profile page you will also see your current Amazon ranking and number of helpful votes.  When I started reviewing I was ranked at over 3 million and since November 2015 have brought that number down to be a top 30,000 reviewer.  Writing good quality reviews with pictures and video will increase the likelyhood of getting helpful votes that help your ranking to go up. Don’t worry if it takes a while for your rank to get better, the more reviews you do, the faster you will see the number drop.

2.  Join review groups and websites.  Make sure you read the pinned post on the FB page, fill out the new IMG_0594member form, and friend the admin team.   Once you complete these few simple steps, you can opt into offered products.  Once you get the hang of things and have a few reviews under your belt, a search on Facebook will bring up many other review groups, like Lady Luck Reviews, Product Testers Review Club VIP  ( both favorites of mine), and many many more.  The admins will generally send you a message through Facebook with ordering info and the promo code to get the products for free or at a reduced cost. Soon you will start receiving lots of products and get to know the delivery truck drivers on a first name basis.

4. Use a spreadsheet to track your review orders.  Here is my sample spreadsheet that you can download that will allow you to track the item, due date, group promo received from, date review written, and the date review completed by submitting the review form to the correct group.  I also track product price because although each product is fairly cheap, reviewing is exciting addicting and all those small purchases can add up.  This spreadsheet works great for me because when I have ordered 10 review products in just a few days, it brings my attention to any reviews that need to be completed by highlighting them yellow.   The number of items, average price per item, and total cost will update automatically as you input the information.

5.  After you have tried out the product for a minimum of 3 days, write a high quality review stating why you liked the product and what makes it different or unique.  Each group has its own rules about what star ranking you may give a product without first trying to resolve any issues, but you can find that info in the pinned post.  I try to always write a bare minimum of 100 words, but eachperma group has word count requirements ranging from 70-200.  Always submit the written review first and record the permalink (found under Product Reviews Written by You) to make sure your review is received within the allotted time frame that varies by group ( time frame and due dates are usually found in pinned posts or sent along with the product code chats.)  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A DISCLAIMER IN YOUR WRITTEN REVIEW!  All promotional products must have a disclaimer at the end stating that “I received this product for free (or at a reduced cost) in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.”

6.  Add in pictures or video to your reviews.  Sellers, and thus review groups admins, generally pick reviewers who will add in photos or video of their products over just well-written reviews.  Pictures and videos will also help protect your Amazon account from being wiped from reviewing products that were ordered with promo codes.  I find it easiest to take photos and video with my iPhone and email them to myself so I can download them on a laptop to make it easier to submit on the Amazon website.

7.  Finally, fill out any required review submission forms for the group you received the promo code from.  Start enjoying all the free and reduced cost items that you get through theses awesome IMG_1678review sites.  Don’t forget to recycle all those boxes, either as toy airplanes or at the local recycling center!

That’s it!  I have received over 200 promotional products at a margin of the cost in exchange for some of my time.  It gets easier the more you do it, and you tend to get picked for better items once you establish yourself as a reliable reviewer.  Soon, you will even have sellers contacting you  directly via email to review their products!  In my next post on reviewing I will show you what a well written review looks like when I post my photo and written review on a striped dress I got for free for Fancy (my eldest daughter’s pen name) and a video review sample on a Flexible USB Accent Light Strip that I got at a discount.

Happy Reviewing!  -Mussgo Momma

Posted in Amazon Reviewer | 2 Comments

April Fools Day!

This year my oldest 2 kids, who chose to be referred to as Brickman and Fancy, are really into April Fools Day.  They were coming up with all sorts of jokes and silly antics yesterday around the dinner table.  IMG_1671When Brickman came home from school he went inside while stayed outside playing with Baby.  Not long after, I heard him yell that he was bleeding.  He usually makes himself a snack after school, and he prefers fruit, so I thought he might of cut himself slicing an apple.  As I was on my way in to check on him, he came running out with ketchup smeared all over his hand.  I was surprised he chose a fake blood joke because he has the queasiest stomach of anyone in our family and can’t even tolerate blood in movies without gagging.  I’m pretty sure he won’t be following in my footsteps and working in the hospital laboratory!

That was the last of the jokes the kids tried to play on me, unless you count Baby trying to camouflage herself with dinner.  I did get in a pretty good April Fools joke in on the family IMG_1673though!  I served them up ravioli, cake, and dirt for dinner.  I have a tradition of making holiday themed meatloaves (mummy, turkeys, snowman), so I naturally went with a meatloaf for April Fools Day. I made 2 meatloaves in cake pans and then frosted the layered “cake” with mashed potatoes I tinted blue.  If you make this, make sure you spray the cake tins first, a step I forgot and thus struggled to get the meatloaf out of the pans.  Instead of making my normal buttermilk mashed potatoes, I used instant mashedIMG_1667 potatoes to get a good consistency.  The blue food coloring really threw everybody off.  My husband even commented that even though we were eating savory food, it seemed like you still tasted sweet, like the visual of the cake really did trick the brain.  I finished off the iced cake with cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese as decoration.

The ravioli served as a side were actually potato bread rolled thin and filled with peanut butter and then sealed to look like ravioli.  I served that up with a side of marinara aka strawberryIMG_1666 jam and a garnish of white and green sprinkles to IMG_1663mimic fresh herbs and cheese.  These were a huge hit with the kids and were the first thing to disappear.  We finished off the meal with dirt dessert, which was one of my childhood favorite dishes.

The kids really thought I was serving them up cake for dinner and got a kick out of this holiday meatloaf.  I’ll have to come up with some new ideas for next year to trick them again!

 

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Fluff Mail!!! …and our start in cloth diapering

Not every day in our house is full of fun activities, some days are just mundane things I must go do.  Today was rearranging the bedrooms and doing laundry after Andma and Andad flew back east.  It was also cloth diaper laundry day, so of course I got these diapers in the mail after I had done my laundry.  No biggie though, I’ll just admire these GroVia limited release Chesapeake Bay print diapers until the next diaper laundry day.IMG_1653

I know some of you are thinking, cloth diapers!?!?  YES!!! …all those not so good things you have heard about old time cloth diapers are NOT true.  It really is quite simple to use and clean cloth diapers and they save so much money.  I didn’t start my cloth diapering journey until Baby was 7 months old.  With my older 2 kids I used disposable diapers and am kicking myself for not cloth diapering both of them and Baby from the start.  At first, I was unsure if I wanted to cloth diaper and put up the initial investment to make the switch.  After doing some research, I found a cloth diaper lending foundation that sent me diapers try out until I decided if I wanted to cloth diaper and to give me the time needed to build my stash at a pace I could afford.  I applied for The Rebecca Foundation’s Cloth Diaper Closet Operation Fluffy Bum and was approved and shipped enough cloth diapers to get me started for FREE!  At first, I wasn’t hooked…it was a lot of laundry to keep the 7 diapers I had washed every night and ready to wear the next day.  I was still using disposable diapers overnight and any time we left the house.  I cloth bum kidsjoined a few Facebook cloth diapering communities like Fluff Love & CD Science and the PNW Cloth Diaper Group  and was quickly overwhelmed with all the choices of cloth diapers and people posting about help with their laundry routine.  I decided it to give it a whole hearted try and purchased a set of china cheapie diapers off of Amazon that doubled the size of my stash.  Adding in more diapers and reducing the washing frequency to every 2  to 3 days really made the difference.  I haven’t had any issues with my diapers stinking or leaking because I have a solid wash routine using Tide that I’ve used from the beginning.  I am now hooked on the money savings of the cloth diapers and how cute Baby looks wearing the vibrantly colored solids and fun prints that the cloth diapers come in. I have fully switched to cloth, except when we go away from more than 2 nights, and have made the switch to cloth wipes as well.   I’ve ended up buying more diapers than Baby needs, but I’ve also forged some great friendships and connected with a lot of other moms (and I only have to do diaper laundry twice a week now)!

My advice to you, if you are interested in cloth diapering, is to join some cloth diapering community pages, like GroVia Families or the pages listed above and connect to other cloth diapering families.  You can apply for numerous diaper loan programs, or buy used cloth diapers that are cheaper than new.  Also, try a few different types and brands of cloth diapers to find what style you like best and what works best for your little.  Stay tuned for more posts on cloth diapering and an upcoming giveaway!  Feel free to comment on anything questions you have about switching to or using cloth, and I will get back to you.

-Mussgo Momma

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Razor Clamming and chowder recipe

IMG_1544It was another gorgeous day here in the Pacific Northwest, so we took advantage of another chance to get outside.  My husband recently bought an Oregon clamming licence for $9 and a clamming gun for less than 20 bucks.  We took the kids clammIMG_1638ing this past Saturday and got our limit of 15 clams in about a half an hour.  We learned how to clean out the clams before I made some Panko breaded razor clams that disappeared almost as fast as I could fry them up.   Today, the tides weren’t as favorable but the weather was! It took us a lot longer to collect our limit today, but we were determined to get enough clams to make the calm chowder Andma wanted before she flew back to Massachusetts tomorrow.  We didn’t mind being out in the sunshine and walking on the beach today, it was a nice change to the rainy winter.  Baby really seemed to enjoy running in the waves, getting a piggy back ride down the beach, and playing in  eating the sand.

After getting home, I took Baby upstairs to bath her while my husband cleaned the clams.  After getting everyone IMG_1639and everything cleaned up, I got to work on our dinner of Razor clam chowder and rosemary focaccia.  I’m not a big seafood fan but my family LOVES it, especially my son.  Bowls of the creamy razor clam chowder were lapped up almost faster than I could snap a picture!  The rosemary focaccia made a great accompaniment and the kids enjoyed dipping it in the chowder.  Andma was on cloud nine from getting fresh clam chowder and getting to spend the day at the beach reminiscing of growing up on the south shore of England.

Here is the recipe for the razor clam chowder…

Razor Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

1 lb of bacon, diced (easiest to do when frozen)IMG_1640

1 large onion, diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

2 bay leaves

6 cups peeled and diced potatoes

chicken stock (about 3 cups, or enough to cover veg/bacon mixture)

2 cups cream

1 cup milk

razor clams, cleaned and diced ( we used all 15, but you can add as many as you like)

3 Tbs butter

6 Tbs flour

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cups cream

salt and pepper to taste

green onions for garnish

Instructions:IMG_1643

1.  Fry bacon is large soup pot until nearly crisp.  Add in diced onion and celery and cook until vegetables are translucent.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add in bay leaves, potatoes, and chicken stock.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Make a roux but melting butter in a small pan and then adding in flour to make a paste. Cook flour for 1 minute, then pour in 1/2 cup of cream to thin out, mixing well.

3. Add clams IMG_1645into soup pot along with 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of milk.  Add in roux mixture and bring to slow simmer to thicken the chowder.  Add salt and pepper to season to your taste.

4.  Serve with sliced green tops of scallions on top of
bowls of chowder for garnish.  Goes great with oyster crackers or freshly baked bread.

 

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Enjoy! -Mussgo Momma

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