Friday, September 30, 2011

Cuteness - Reed & Oreo the Cat

Too cute!

Reed is our resident artist.  Most afternoons you will find him at the dining room table feverishly working on several colorful masterpieces.  He's even started experiementing with different "mediums" - ie. raiding boxes of pasta in the pantry and taping the noodles to his artwork!  One afternoon, I heard "Moooommmmy!" coming from the dining room.  I went in to see Oreo (whom Reed affectionately refers to as Meow-Meow) lying on top of Reed's paper as he was coloring.  Guess she wanted to help!

Have a great weekend!

Mary Ellen  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

As Seen On Pioneer Woman - Chocolate Chip Cookies with Malted Milk

Malted Milk - who knew!?!

I discovered something new (to me) watching the Pioneer Woman's show on the Food Network this past weekend - malted milk.  I had never heard of it!  But was quite intrigued as I watched the Pioneer Woman whip up a delicious looking batch of chocolate chip cookies using malted milk.       

Cookie dough - yum!

For those not in the know (or maybe I'm the only one!), malted milk is a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour and whole milk evaporated into a powder.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to find this in our grocery stores.  But to my delight, I found some at Harris Teeter in the Nesquik, Carnation mix section.    


I have to say, this is probably one of the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipes I've ever tried!  You just know it's going to be good when the recipe calls for an entire 12 oz bag of chocolate chips.  The cookies are thin (the dough did spread exactly like PW said it would), but so soft and chewy.  The kids went crazy over these cookies!  You would have thought I had never made them cookies before in their entire lives LOL!  As soon as one warm, gooey batch of cookies came out the oven, they were right there waiting - ready to devour.   

The cookie monsters in action!

Now that I know of malted milk and have some in my pantry, I will definitely be making these cookies again.  And there's a pretty good looking milkshake recipe on the malted milk container that I'm going to try out.

Do you have any malted milk in your pantry?  If so, what do you use it for? 

Mary Ellen 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I Wore to Work - City Triangles Hot Chocolate Retro Inspired Polka Dot Dress

Dress - City Triangles (Goodwill)
Shoes - Mudd T-Bar heels (Goodwill)
Sweater - Cherokee (Yard Sale)

Now that it's officially Fall (yay!), I've been bringing out some of my fall-colored dresses.  The dress above is a satiny, rich chocolate colored dress with white polka dots and white ribbon around the waist.  Like the "tulle time" dress last week, it has a built in crinoline slip which peeks out below the hem. 

The dress has a halter top which I make "office-friendly" by wearing a small sweater.

Hurray for Fall!

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Lunch Box Edition - Whole Wheat Pizza Toast

Whole Wheat Pizza Toast

Early mornings begin with me packing school lunches for Ashleigh & Clayton.  By packing lunches for the kids, we save $360 per school year per child!  And besides the savings, we can also send along healthier lunches than what they would be able to buy at school.  I make lunches using the food bought for the week instead of buying special lunchables or snack packs (those are a rare lunch treat!). 

This year I'm trying to be more creative and not fall into the PBJ everyday routine - although there's nothing wrong with that!  A quick and easy favorite of the kids is pizza made on whole wheat toast.  I take a piece of whole wheat bread (a whole wheat English muffin would work as well), spread some pizza sauce, shredded cheese (mozzarella or raw cheddar), then top with nitrate-free pepperoni slices.  Pop the toast slices in the toaster oven until the bread is slightly toasted and cheese is melted.  Slice and pack for lunch!       

Ready to go!

Along with a their main lunch sandwich, I also pack each kid two snacks (one for mid-morning and one for after lunch) and a bottle of water.  Then we're out the door for a great school day!

Mary Ellen

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dressing Kids for Less - Nearly New Consignment Sale

My haul from the Nearly New Consignment Sale

Our clothing budget is a whopping $25 a month.  Keeping three growing kids clothed on said budget takes some prudent and savvy shopping!  While I buy most of my clothes at the Goodwill, I've found clearance racks, yard sales and consignments sales to be a better buy for kids clothing.  At those places, I can typically find childrens clothing in better condition and for less money than at Goodwill.  

Girls clothing for Ashleigh

For the past few years, I managed to find some great buys at a local church yard sale.  Sadly, the church decided to no longer hold the seasonal sales.  So I've been on the look out for new sales.  Recently, I received a flyer in the mail for a consignment sale being held at a church near our house.  I wasn't able to make it out for the first day of the sale because of work.  So, I anxiously awaited for the last day of the sale, when most items were 50 - 75% off!   

Boys clothing for Clayton & Reed

Even on the last day, I was still able to find some great name brand items for $1 - $1.50 a piece.  In total, I bought 20 items and paid $20.28 for everything.  Not too shabby!

Where do you find the best deals on kids clothing?

Mary Ellen 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Not So Extreme Couponing - Harris Teeter Triple Coupon

My small haul from last week's triple coupon promotion at Harris Teeter -

2 jars Mt. Olive banana peppers
1 jar Mt. Olive sweet petite pickles
3 Whiskas Temptation cat treats
4 boxes of Kleenex
2 Dawn dish detergents
1 Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (2ct)
4-1 lb. boxes of Domino light brown sugar

Total oop: $11.19
Total savings: $27.73

Mary Ellen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I Wore to Work - Tulle Time

Dress - B. Darlin (Goodwill)
Shoes - Mudd T-bar heels (Goodwill)
Sweater - Cherokee (Yard Sale)

There's been a slight chill in the morning air recently.  Fall is definitely on its way!  For a cool workday morning, I chose this soft yellow/cream colored dress with brown and blue florals.  The dress has a built in slip with an edge of tulle that peeks out from underneath the skirt.  Since the dress is sleeveless, I wore a small (read: belongs to Ashleigh) blue sweater to keep my arms warm. 

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Thrown Together Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup with homemade Cornbread

This dish was literally thrown together at the last minute.  But it turned out to be hit with the family!  I was planning on making a potato and vegetable chowder with a milk and chicken broth base.  But as I opened the refrigerator, I discovered I was out of chicken broth - oops!  I could have used water to replace the broth, but the flavor would have been lacking.  I did have a bottle of vegetable juice (love, love Trader Joe's Garden Patch vegetable juice) hanging out in the back of the fridge.  From there, it was just a matter of throwing in some odds and ends and hoping for the best.

I sauted diced onions in olive oil, then added some peeled and diced potatoes and sliced carrots.  Looking in the freezer, I found some partially used bags of frozen organic sweet peas and organic sweet corn - threw those in.  Then I added the vegetable juice and tossed in some ditalini pasta from the pantry.  I seasoned the soup with basil, oregano, bay leaves and black pepper.  Then I let it simmer on the stove until the carrots and potatoes were done. 

Dave, the kids and my Momma loved it!  And I found it to be a great way to use up those partial bags of frozen vegetables and pasta.

Mary Ellen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Little Help in the Kitchen - My KitchenAid Mixer

Mixing delicious cinnamon raisin scones

This past Spring, I celebrated 10 years of employment with my company.  I can't believe it's been a whole decade - wow!  For reaching the 10-year mark, I was able to select some items for my service reward.  One of my rewards was this KitchenAid mixer! 

Scones topped with cinnamon sugar ready for the oven

Prior to receiving my KitchenAid mixer, I only had a small handheld mixer.  I nearly burnt the little motor out making homemade marshmallows last Christmas!  So, very limited in what I do with the handheld.  But with the KitchenAid, it's a whole new world.  Cuts cold butter into flour for pie crusts like a champ!  I've made pizza dough, breads, muffins, cakes.  I even use it to mix up the ground beef and other ingredients when making meatloaf.  It might even be making me a little lazy in the kitchen.  When I want to stir up some cornbread, instead of mixing by hand, I just throw it all in the KitchenAid and use the stir setting LOL!  

Hot out of the oven - yum!

I definitely love my new kitchen helper!

If you're interested in the scone recipe, you can find it at Tomato Soup Cake - it's wonderful!  I did make a few changes - I used raisins (a mix of golden and black) instead of dried apricot, added cinnamon (love Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon!) to the batter and topped the scones with cinnamon sugar.  I also added a splash of vanilla extract to the glaze.  :)   

Mary Ellen

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How I Became A Dress Every Day Kind of Girl

Ashleigh has taken to wearing more dresses and skirts on her own since I made the change to wearing dresses every day

From my "What I Wore to Work" posts, you know I wear dresses and skirts every day to work.  However, you may be surprised to learn that I'm usually in dresses and heels on my off days as well.  But it wasn't always that way.  My wardrobe used to consist of khakis, cords and few dress pants for work and jeans for the weekends.  Last Spring, my company began the process of changing database and web providers.  The initial phase began with three days of meetings for key users.  Typically I'm not involved in such meetings, but my manager thought it best I sit in (oh joy!).  Since we were meeting with outside vendors, I decided to pull out the only three dresses I owned.  And that's when the change happened!

Wearing my dresses, I felt more feminine.  Dave noticed too!  He started telling me how beautiful I looked in the mornings before work.  And I started to feel more positive about my appearance as well.  While I don't seek the attentions of any man other than my husband, I couldn't help but notice more doors were opened for me and that more kind smiles and compliments were offered.  Even a woman executive in our office told me it was nice to see someone wearing a dress as so few women in our office did anymore.   

Well, the meetings ended but the dresses stayed!  I slowly started rebuilding my wardrobe inexpensively by buying dresses and skirts from Goodwill.  I sought out A-line dresses and skirts at first since the style is flattering on most body types.  More recently I've taken to buying modern dresses with a more retro/vintage feel.  Most of my jeans and dress pants were donated to Goodwill or given away to friends.  I've only got a few pairs of jeans in my closet now (which probably don't fit anymore!) that I haven't worn in over a year.  

There are so many messages today which try to deny the differences between men and women.  Or blur the lines between what is feminine and what is masculine.  I enjoy expressing my femininity by wearing only dresses.  After all, God fearfully and wonderfully made me a woman!

Mary Ellen  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Small Batch Canning Pear Honey

Locally-grown pears cooking on the stove top

Small batch canning is ideal for working moms.  You can put up the season's offering just like your grandmother did, but in less time! 

Recently at our farmers market, my pastured egg lady was selling pears that had fallen from her tree when Hurricane Irene came through.  Because some were slightly bruised, she sold them to me for .50/lb.  I'm not big on pears, but I do love pear honey!  It's so delicious on top of a warm whole wheat waffle.  Or if you're like my Momma, you can eat it straight out of the jar!  The recipe is very simple -  just pears, crushed pineapple, sugar and lemon juice.  Great for a first-time or beginner canner (like myself!).  Once the pears and pineapples are cooked, it only takes 10 minutes to process the jars by water bath.


Jars of pear honey!

You can find the recipe for Pear Honey here

A few notes: 
  • The recipe calls for 5 cups of sugar.  But I've found 2 1/2 - 3 cups to be plenty sweet.
  • 3 lbs of peeled, cored and cut pears is about 6 - 7 lbs whole pears
  • After the pears and pineapple have cooked, I use an immersion blender to grind the pears to a thick applesauce like consistency.
  • Instructions for preparing your jars and the water bath process can be found on the Ball canning website.
Happy canning!

Mary Ellen

Monday, September 12, 2011

The North Carolina Life & Science Museum - Durham

Ashleigh & Clayton making goo

The kids were invited to a science party at the North Carolina Life & Science Museum in Durham.  The party took place in an actual laboratory where the kids learned all about acids, bases and chemical reactions.  Reed even participated in one of the demonstrations.   

Reed assisting in a demonstration

After the party, we got a chance to explore the rest of the museum.  There is so much to do and see at the Life & Science Museum!   

Ashleigh watching a tornado form in the weather exhibit

The kids (and Daddy's!) favorite part of the museum was the space exhibit.  Here Dave and the kids attempt to launch a craft to Mars.

One of the motion exhibits

Time for a ride on the train!

After a train ride around the museum grounds, the kids headed over towards the playground to explore a real train car.

A little water play at Loblolly Park

The boys making music

Time to play!

Clayton standing next to the rocket outside the museum

We had a fun filled afternoon at the museum!  Even though we saw alot, we didn't even get around to the Butterfly house, farmyard animals or nature trail.  Maybe next visit!

Mary Ellen   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celebrating the Domestic Side of Working Motherhood

Signs of Fall are popping up everywhere!  Beautiful yellow mums and bright orange pumpkins.  It inspired me to change over to my Fall blog header.  While I was changing the header, I decided to change my blog tagline.  It used to read "the life of a working mother & home keeper".  But now it says, "celebrating the domestic side of working motherhood."  While this blog will most certainly continue to be about my life, I realized that I didn't really blog much about work.  Most of my posts are about home because truly that is where my heart is.

Even though I work full-time outside of the home, I'm not a feminist or careerist.  Work is just something I do for several hours during the day.  I work because my husband feels it is best in this season of our family's life for me to contribute financially {Epshesians 5:24 - ...wives should submit to their husbands in everything}.  And because my income will allow us to reach our long-term financial goals sooner, such as becoming mortgage debt-free before our children go to college.  But my work doesn't define me.  I don't even consider it to be the most important thing I do in my day.  I'm good at my job, but I know the world would continue to spin even if I wasn't there doing it!

My focus, my number one priority is my family and my home.  Working outside of the home does not change that fact - for me or for any working mother.  All the day-to-day work involved in running a home is still up to me.  And this is where I hope to celebrate the domestic side of my life!

Mary Ellen    

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I Wore - Anniversary Edition!

Dress - Speechless - (Goodwill)
Shoes - Anne Klein -  (Goodwill)

Today's "What I Wore" is not something I would wear into the office.  But it is what I wore out for our 11th anniversary last week!  Dave and I went out for a nice, quiet dinner alone at our favorite local restaurant, Winston's.  We sat out on the restaurant patio and enjoyed the beautiful evening weather and time together.  I ordered one of my usuals - Grilled Chicken Penne with tomatoes in a white wine sauce.  And Dave ordered his favorite Classic Reuben sandwich (with extra dressing) and a Newcastle. 

I'd been saving this dress in my closet for awhile.  Not many occasions in my day-to-day to wear short, metallic numbers!  But it was perfect for our anniversary date night.  The dress is a v-neck with twisted spaghetti straps, above the knee hemline.  The silver beadwork at the waist line gives a bit of sparkle.   

Silver Dana Buchman floral pin for my hair

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Bacon Time - Desperate 4 Date Night

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick Meals for Working Moms - Homemade Cornbread (Vintage Modern Family Cook Book Recipe)

This isn't a meal, but with Fall right around the corner, my thoughts are turning towards warm bowls of comfort food.  And nothing goes better with a big bowl of chili than cornbread!  My Momma is/was a fantastic Southern cook.  But when it came to cornbread, she made hers out of box - Jiffy, to be exact.  Don't get me wrong, it was good.  So good, I remember impatiently waiting at the kitchen counter just to get a chance to lick the raw corn meal mix from the bowl!   

Don't tell my Momma, but I think this homemade cornbread is just a little bit better than hers :)  Light, fluffy and soooo good hot out of the pan.  I found the recipe while browsing one of my Momma's old cookbooks - The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given (1953 edition).

I love how my Momma signed her cookbooks using my Daddy's name - Mrs. James A.  P...

Click to enlarge image

The recipe is for corn sticks or muffins, but I usually make this in a pan.  

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup melted shortening (I use oil)

Mix ingredients, pour into a prepared pan or tins and bake at 425 for 20 - 25 minutes.   

You absolutely MUST eat a slice of a cornbread hot right out of the oven!  Consider it your right as preparer of all things delicious. 

And while you're in the kitchen mixing up a bowl of this cornbread, give a listen to the Carolina Chocolate Drops as they perform "Cornbread and Butterbeans"

Mary Ellen