Category Archives: Cooking for a crowd

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–May 30, 2022

On Saturday, we celebrated with Patsy. She is finished with homeschool high school. She wanted the theme of her party to be “tea party.”

Here’s how we made it both frugal and fun! We used flowers from our yards–both my yard and various relatives’ yards. We did buy some baby’s breath, but the rest were grown by the family. My niece brought this bouquet for the mantle.

My aunt sent over gorgeous roses from her bush. For such a momentous occasion, even the bathroom got a beautiful bouquet.

There were flowers everywhere!

We had all kinds of bite-sized foods. My sisters, mother, and aunt all brought fancy foods. This kind of food tends to be expensive. I feel as though I kept the cream cheese and whipping cream companies in business this week. I think I used 8 boxes of cream cheese, just with what I cooked!!! But, I bought a little here and there over the past month, as I found sales, used several stores to get the best deals, and happily accepted platters of goodies from any who offered. We cut back on our grocery shopping for regular meals this month and, instead, used more food from the pantry, freezer and canning shelves, and stayed within budget overall for the month. Mostly:). I went over a few dollars and will simply take it out of the budget for June. It’s such a small amount it won’t make any difference, especially since the garden is starting to produce a few things.

The biggest way we stayed within budget was by cooking from scratch. Because of the dietary needs in our family (lots of celiac–so no gluten), every single thing was gluten-free except the licorice sticks and one bowl of crackers. We would have had to pay a fortune to buy it all pre-made or to have it catered.

I was able to use herbs from my garden. I used parsley, chives, thyme, and dill in various things. I used some early lettuce for part of one salad. I candied some nuts we bought from a farmer and cracked out ourselves a couple of years ago–they were in the freezer. The dipping chocolate for the berries was purchased after Christmas on the clearance rack as they didn’t want to keep it another year, so it was only 49c/package, and so on….A deep pantry was my friend, as I didn’t have to buy every single ingredient at one time.

I will say that I did put in many, many hours cooking, cleaning and setting up–digging out the dishes, washing them, etc. Some times in my life, I am too busy and just have to buy more things and be o.k. with that. Normaly, I would use paper plates and other things that cause less dish washing. On this occasion, I had the time, so I did it more elaborately, but it was definitely more labor intensive.

Lovana came over and made salmon flatbread with some gf flatbreads I made and froze earlier in the week. I made blueberry-lemon flatbread, salads, cheese plate, veggies, cookies, and bought every kind of pastel candy I could find. I even used some Cadbury eggs purchased after Easter, as they were the right color.

I dipped strawberries in chocolate and made chocolate mousse in little dessert glasses. That was stressful. I’m more into everyday, ordinary cooking, but by the time I whipped egg whites in one bowl, whipped cream, melted chocolate and tempered egg yolks, and then had to fold it all together…..I was in agony that it would turn out. Thankfully, it did! Every bit of it was eaten.

There was a teapot right in the middle of this display on the counter and although most people made coffee in the Keurig, or drank punch from the punchbowl, one little girl in particular drank her tea in a fancy cup, poured from the teapot, and had it filled more than once:). Those little square candies on the top are graduation hats, made from Ghiridelli squares and Reese’s peanut butter cups with an M and M on top.

As you can see, we used my fancy dishes and linens. There were a lot of dishes to wash, as we had between 40-50 people flow through the party, but my relatives cheerfully washed the plates and silverware and put them back out for re-use. It was so nice to use my nice things that are so rarely used. So many of them have come from garage sales over the years. Some have sentimental value to me as they were from relatives in my past. But, none are doing anyone any good in a cupboard or drawer, so I was delighted to use them, even if there was a risk of them getting broken. None broke, in case you were wondering. The pink plates are the ones we use every single day to eat off of, but they fit the occasion beautifully.

We went a few weeks ago and got her dress and shoes. Although I love to get bargains, this time I wasn’t looking at the clearance rack. It’s no picnic shopping for dresses these days and I wasn’t sure we would find one we both liked at any price! As always, I prayed before I went, and we did get a dress that she liked and fit her, and I was so, so happy to get it. We found the necklace and earrings the same day.

Patsy had a great party. It was so nice that so many could come and celebrate with her. Many who could not come sent cards to her, so she felt well-celebrated and loved.

During the week of prep, I did a huge amount of yard work. I worked in the garden a little, too.

Rob dried almost every onion left from last summer’s garden because they are wanting to grow now. They lasted well–this is May, after all. I dried a couple of trays of chives at the same time.

It was a great week, totally consumed by Patsy’s party, and I’m ready to have a more normal week full of gardening, work, and other more mundane activities, and I can just remember the party and all the fun we had!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–May 7, 2022

Lovana had a big project this week. She was asked to do food for one of her best friend’s college graduation party. Her friend’s mom, also my friend, gave her money to use, but could not personally do this party as she wanted to attend the actual graduation, which was at 9 a.m. the same day. Once Lovana got a plan in her mind, she asked me for some help in carrying it out. She sent me recipes to print off on my computer, I compiled a notebook, and then was able to cook a few items while she was at work. Even my mom was called into service one morning to thread skewers.

We made a small gluten-free section on the board, and I baked flatbread and French bread for that. The rest used purchased wheat breads and purchased crackers of all kind. There were fancy cheeses, meats, crackers, dips and spreads, skewers, desserts, nuts, and more. It was quite a production and took many shopping trips and cooking sessions. The bulk of the cooking was done all day Friday and Saturday morning, and the set-up and finishing touches were done at the event, which started at 2 p.m. We didn’t get home until around 7 p.m.

We had a really good time doing this event. When asked by a few guests if we did catering, and how many of “these events” we were doing this spring, I quickly answered..”ONE.” This was it for us.

One of the other girls in Lovana’s close circle of friends did a gorgeous display of flowers. She had bouquets and bouquets, all displayed on carts and other places, following her theme of “flower stand.” I got to bring home one of the bouquets as a “thank you” gift for my help. It’s beautiful.

The house where it was held was up in the hills, with a lovely view. The kitchen was huge, with multiple sinks, 2 dishwashers, a huge gas range, and spacious counters. It was a dream to work in and the owners were so gracious to leave word that we could use anything we needed. Thankfully, we remembered almost everything, and only needed to use a few spoons, bowls, and a couple of other things.

We were able to use chives, parsley and rosemary from my garden. Almost every pansy bloom in the yard was picked and used. They will bloom again, even better.

At the beginning of the week, I made chili, chicken-rice soup, potato soup and we ate them all week, in-between cooking. Rob made some home-baked fish sticks and baked potatoes. We also got a Costco chicken. It’s amazing they are still $5. I boiled the bones for broth, and froze that for another time.

I also made some rice in my Instant Pot, and this ham-pineapple dinner. It was basically sweet and sour sauce with ham in it. It was great. I used some of my home-canned pineapple, frozen peppers from the garden and ham leftover from easter. It was quick and easy and kept everyone fed on a week where I was extra busy. I wanted to keep my grocery bill low this week, and not get caught in the trap of driving through fast food on such a super busy week, and I met that goal.

One morning, we spread out 4 huge garbage cans of sawdust around the blueberry plants. The sawdust is piled along the road where it is a by-product of a business, and is free for the taking. I did get a little weeding done in the flowerbeds at the beginning of the week. I’m still having to take an hour/day here and there when it’s not so wet. It has been exceptionally wet this April.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–November 29, 2021

The kids and I made a turkey platter just for them:). One kind of turkey was rice cereal treat balls on gluten-free Oreos with candy corn feathers and beaks.

The other one was from a library book and was a Rolo on a gf pretzel, candy corn feathers and an M and M beak. You put the candy on the pretzel and put it in the oven for a little bit. But, although I did 2-3 minutes, it was too much and the Rolos melted way too much, so I will do 1 minute next time. Most of the kids in the family don’t actually like turkey, but they liked this turkey platter.

I only had 2 days of school with Jake last week, so we read more about Pilgrims, made these special treats, I read aloud a book called “Molly’s Pilgrim” plus finished up a Hardy Boys book we were reading. He read aloud to us, choosing any story he wanted from his easy reader Bible and some others. Some of the books were from recent yard sales, or left over from years past, so he got a week of what we called “fun school” for pennies. The kids also worked on a fall-themed puzzle while I read and at other times for hours. Funny thing about that puzzle. We ended up with 2 of the same fall-themed puzzles, due to the fact that we purchase them at yard sales and thrift stores. The first time they did it, it was missing a piece. This is the second one. They are hoping it’s all there. If not, I guess they will be very busy trying to find the missing piece in the first box! Anything to keep kids busy with good projects, right?

I also tried a new gf pie crust recipe and filled it with “pumpkin” pie made from butternut squash that was given to me and I cooked and pureed. It was crisp, to put it mildly. It had a good flavor, so I may do some more experimenting. That is one thing I have not figured out how to make well, gluten free, so usually make crustless pumpkin pie and lots of crisps.

I decorated the entire house with tablecloths I already owned and with selections from a huge box of artificial flower arrangements Rob got in a free box on the side of the road last summer. I thought he bought them at a garage sale, which I mentioned last week, but it was even better than that! I’m keeping that man! After 39 years of marriage, he still surprises me with some of the amazing things he finds and does. I’m blessed with so much more than dried flowers with that man.

I threw some little candy bars around and was done. Since I didn’t get to really buckle down and do the final cleaning and decorating until Wednesday night before the big day, I was thankful that, first, it was so easy and, second, my sister had helped me clean on Monday. I had a lot of little ones in and out, so had some major clutter to pick up, but it was clean underneath so didn’t take long–whew!!!

Rob and I took several walks. On Thanksgiving, one sister and I grabbed a couple of kids and took them on a short walk.

The parade of jars continues. We get the full ones from the shop, where they are stored, empty them, and carry the jars back out…repeat….repeat…repeat! On most days, we wash anywhere between 1 and 5 or even more jars. I’m so glad we have so many full ones still left out there and will happily trot out there with the basket I use every day if I need to.

I cooked the Thanksgiving meal in a very traditional manner, since we had to skip the family gathering last year. Rob did a turkey and a ham on the Green Mountain Grill. I made mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, cooked home-canned corn, deviled eggs, gluten-free stuffing with apples, celery and onion, and sweet potatoes with butter, brown sugar, orange juice and topped with marshmallows. I made crab-stuffed mushrooms with some huge mushrooms my sister brought me and some crab we caught and canned a couple of years ago and they were impressive, I just have to say! I wanted one thing that was not traditional, and they turned out as good as I hoped. We used our home-canned green beans to make traditional green bean casserole with gluten-free cream of mushroom soup and some Rob-made fried onions. He toiled over them the day before after we checked 3 or 4 stores and could not buy any. In years past, we did. Not this year. His turned out great! We put out home-canned pickles galore, and people brought rolls, desserts, home-made fudge, candy, salads, and more. Several family members pitched in significantly for the meat and other groceries so it was a burden on none.

I think everyone loved it, as there were not all that many leftovers left over! Everyone got some to eat the next day and no one had to eat it daily until we were tired of it. Perfect! I finished up my turkey portion yesterday in turkey-rice soup. All the bones were boiled right after Rob cooked the turkey and I used the broth for the gravy and stuffing, plus froze some.

At the end of the day, a couple of grown kids were still left over here for a while:), so I made a turkey enchilada casserole real quick while they watched movies. One daughter puts Netflix on our tv each year for her Dad’s Christmas gift. We get Prime because we like the 2-day shipping on Amazon. Another daughter just put Disney Plus on the tv so the baby could watch Mickey Mouse. With all that, we still ended up watching a disk of Princess Bride from the library:). So funny!

On Friday, I was very tired, so I told my daughter to bring the baby over so I could play all afternoon. (The 16 month old, not the 4 month old, as he is still wanting Mama most of the time.) I guess he was screaming his way through Walmart, and was very happy to come see Grandma. I had absolutely no desire to do any work on Friday. We read, laid on the bed, he slept a while, we played, ate, and watched the Wiggles. We both had a great afternoon. She cleaned and organized at her house for a while without his help. Win-win! In this picture, he’s kissing his baby brother. They already love each other. It’s so cute to see.

We had a nice visit with our oldest daughter and son-in-law on Saturday, as they couldn’t come on Thanksgiving Day. That’s one of the perks of having so many kids…we can enjoy them for days! I made ground turkey tacos/taco salad bar–since I could do it fast while they were driving down. I still have a few tomatoes we have ripened from green ones from the garden, so I used those with the taco bar. I thawed ground turkey purchased on a great sale a while back, head lettuce, pre-shredded cheese, canned olives, canned refried beans, etc. and it was easy and fast! I had a bag of corn chips from a huge bag from Costco. I buy the huge bag and re-package in gallon Ziplocks so they don’t get stale fast and you can’t beat the price! I have lots of home-canned salsa, so dug out a jar of that. I didn’t choose to make dessert, and everyone still had a wonderful time. Just sayin’.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that you are looking forward to the next month as much as I am.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–November 14, 2021

Rob’s mom gave us quite a few Butternut squash she got from her brother. One has already been cooked and eaten. They store very well, so we will eat them over the next few months.

The super ugly dill was the remains of my dill patch in one of my raised beds. I saved some seeds for growing, but these seeds are probably immature, so I put them in a baggie for cooking. Rob also used some of this dill in cooking. We are trying to put every last bit of the garden to use, and I’ve been surprised that a few things are still lingering so late in the season. We finished up the lettuce I had picked and Rob told me there are a few more snow peas out there. I’ll have to go pick them soon.

Last year, my niece gave me an African violet. It’s blooming! I did not kill it!!! Also, I noticed there were two little plants in the container, so I re-potted them both this week and they now have more room to grow.

I took my grandson to the park a couple of times this week. He loves to hold bouquets of fall leaves we pick up on our way there. I also love that he’s wearing the bomber jacket Rob found at a yard sale or thrift store (can’t remember) for way under $5. I keep it at our house so he always has a coat there. Today, the kids/babies came to church and then over for lunch after. I pushed Malcolm down to the park and we tried the swing again. He enjoyed it, smiled and even laughed today, for the first time. Before today, such as when this photo was taken, he’s not been so sure he likes that swing. We also took Jake down to the same park another time, and went for quite a few walks this week, with kids and without.

Rob and I were just talking this week about how thankful we were that his hip surgery was so successful. He has walked more in the past year and a half then he had walked for years and years. He had a routine re-check on his hip and it’s doing great.

I cooked a lot, as we had a lot of people through the house this week. (The busiest day had 4 of my children, 1 niece, 1 nephew and 2 grandsons, along with Rob and I…) I sent Rob down to the store for groceries. I didn’t need much–produce and dairy mostly, so I just sent him to the Winco near our house. He got out of there for under $40, which I was thrilled with. I didn’t need the specials from some of the other stores this time–carrots and celery are very cheap anywhere you buy them around here, and those were two of my main needs this time.

Yesterday, one of my daughters offered to go buy some groceries if I wanted anything as she was going to a certain store anyway, and they eat here a lot, so wanted to help out. I happily made out a list of basic items I could always use and she brought me those, plus things that were on sale there, such as 2-lbs of shredded Kroger cheese for $3.97, potatoes for $1.99, whole milk that her baby drinks, the spinach I forgot to write down for Rob…stuff like that. Rob had asked for some sausages that were on sale and she didn’t know which kind he liked, so got him 4 packages, all different kinds. He’s already eaten the hot Italian package. Yum, I guess–I left it to him:). Then she threw in a couple of bags of chips for good measure and donated it all to our cause. That really helped out this week, and kept me under budget.

Here are some ways I keep in budget when so many keep coming over for lunch/dinner/every time in between:

  1. I almost always have white rice cooked and ready to go in the fridge. They eat it with butter, salt and pepper, or with milk and cinnamon sugar or one adds it to her stir-fry. It seems to be a favorite of all.
  2. I make soup for those who eat it. Since I’m dealing with special needs and lots of preferences, Rob and I are the ones who eat the most of that.
  3. I buy meat and seafood on sale and in bulk–for example, last summer I got shrimp for under $3/lb. and bought several 2-lb. bags, which we are using now. That was the best price I’d ever seen. We are expecting our 1/4 beef to be ready one of these days. When chicken was 67c/lb, we got 4. 2 girls eat only seafood and dairy–no other meat, one son wants hamburgers all the time, some visitors only want cinnamon sugar toast or cold cereal or ramen noodles….you see how it is around here, so I get everything on sale or in bulk if possible, especially protein. My grandson, however, will eat every single thing I give him, other than bananas. How refreshing and fun to cook for, I must say:)
  4. I do a lot of taco/taco salads as people can add or subtract at will–and it’s one daughter’s favorite meal of all time, and enjoyed by all.
  5. I often make baked potato bar–same story–they can add or subtract at will.
  6. I use dry beans to make refried beans, chili, chili mac, and other recipes. These are very economical.
  7. I make lots of crisps and other fruit-based desserts or just serve canned fruit in a bowl, as it is very accessible to me in the summer to can or freeze and I always have lots on hand.

What do you do when lots of people come over to eat at your house?

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–May 4, 2021

I have a large pansy plant that overwintered in the corner of one of my raised beds. I’m really enjoying it a lot this spring.

The spinach in the raised bed is ready to pick. I picked some that had overwintered in the garden, and these spring-planted ones are next. There are a few snow peas, too, and some artichokes.

We have a bit of a situation going on in regards to our garden. Our big tiller is broken beyond repair and another one is on order. And remains on order. And the store was sent the wrong one. And…..And….And… They say it’s very difficult this year, with Covid, to get things.

We are hoping it gets here by the end of the week. Rob really needs to deeply till the garden. We’ve spread our compost. Leaves and grass clippings have been added weeks ago. We’ve used the tiny tiller to work up a small corner to get a few cabbages, carrots and beets in. We know things won’t grow very well there since we’ve tried doing it like that before. That one is a cultivator, and is for getting a few weeds from the center of the rows, the edges, and maybe roughing up a little area for a second crop of lettuce, and things like that. I’m trying to be patient. I need to try harder. I don’t feel patient one bit:). There are so many lovely plants ready to go out into the garden.

Rob scored big-time this week. He got a pack-and-play, a wagon, and baby gates from a Facebook post. Basically, they said whoever got there first could have the things–don’t call, don’t knock, etc.–just take it from the side of the road. He happened to see the posting 6 minutes after they put it up and it wasn’t far from our home. I made a sheet for it from some flannel I had and now there is a place for the baby to sleep if he needs one here at my house. I still had J’s baby blankets, so put those in there and I’m set.

He also got piles of baby clothes, in various sizes from a garage sale, for a very, very inexpensive price. We sorted them and put them in sizes and will give them to baby when needed. If some never get used, it was still worth the price and we will donate any extra.

We had my niece and nephew all weekend, and Jake and Malcolm shared this sweet moment after church on Sunday. We didn’t do any great, fancy activities with the kids–just stayed close to home, watched movies and t.v., read aloud, took a walk, did school with Jake, and played Safeway Monopoly.

Patsy was given a huge envelope of tickets and she graciously shared with the other kids. When we went to the store to redeem some prizes, the cashiers were extremely generous, so there were lots of tickets to tear open and download into our phones. Over the course of the game, we’ve won lots and lots of water bottles, a large package of toilet paper, some tissues, bread crumbs, vinegar, batteries (although they were out and we didn’t get them yet), waffles, several loaves of French bread, ice cream, a $25 credit on our account, and sour cream. There were a few other things, too. Once we had our $25 credit, they played for the girls, and got them one, too, which was used to buy diapers and baby food. We are thrilled with the prizes, but I will say this year the game takes a lot of time. If I didn’t have such willing helpers, I’m not sure I could find that kind of time in my schedule. But, this year, I’m delighted since I did have so much help and it gave them an activity and me free groceries.

People were hungry this weekend, and I felt like I cooked, washed dishes and went to the store all weekend. Twin pop (popsicles) were the elusive item that was hard to find, but I finally did Sunday afternoon on the third try. Jake was eating so many, and he actually needs both the calories and the liquid, so I try to keep them on hand. The crew ate so many pancakes and syrup they downed an entire container of syrup, so I had to get more of that, too. I love cooking for a crowd, so I was in heaven:)

One of our large upright freezers had a problem. We still don’t know if it is broken, or just got left open. I spent several hours last night sorting and making decisions and re-arranging things amongst the freezers. I pulled out everything that couldn’t ruin in one night like bread, butter, cookies, brownies, nuts, etc. and put them in boxes. Then, I filled all cracks, gaps and spaces with meat, fruits and veggies–things that were most important to me. I spent all day today cooking up things that wouldn’t fit or needed to be used and the few things that did start to thaw. I made pork chili verde, enchilada casseroles from both chicken and pork, mixed fruit crisps, and boiled the 3 remaining packages of beef bones into broth. I’m glad we caught it early. I was able to share some food, and have plenty for us, as well. Best of all, nothing was wasted except a few packages of things that were buried and needed to go away anyway. I’m sure by tomorrow, we will have a better idea of if it’s broken or just got left open on accident. I put all the bread and things in there and a water bottle to see if it freezes.

Of course, we had just gone to Costco and loaded up on a few things like jumbo bags of cheese and a chicken right before it broke. Obviously, Rob had just barbequed an entire roast beef so the little fridge was full. And, the kids and I, appropriately had just won 5 or 6 loaves of French bread from Safeway and they were in there along with all those popsicles… Hmmmm……I wonder sometimes about my timing:) I even had to stuff the camper freezer with some of the important items I really wanted to save, and every fridge I have is full, no matter how small. We will eat well this week!

Thriving In My thrifty Week–January 13, 2020–Chewbacca Came To Visit Jake and I cooked!

It was Jake’s birthday this week. Chewbaca came to Family Sunday Dinner to see him. The Millennium Falcon apparently dropped him off so he could visit Jake during his birthday lunch. Jake was surprised and pleased, but later confided to me that “there was a guy in there, auntie!” Good to know, I said:)

A few family photos were taken.

Everyone had fun! There were quite a few other family members present, and we thoroughly celebrated Rob, Alissa and Jake’s birthdays.

I managed to save quite a bit of money during the week in the food department. I had several meals I wanted to cook for friends and family who had various needs, such as recovery from surgery, sickness, etc. I also had a lunch to pack to share when I went visiting another family and food to make for our meals, too, of course. It was a busy week, I’m telling you!

First, I did a large (for me) grocery shop at Safeway, using a $10/off $50. I purchased more than $50 worth, but it was still nice to have that discount. I used several coupons that I downloaded, one I picked up in the store, and 4 Ibotta rebates, which gained me a $5 Ibotta bonus.

We cooked both a large turkey and a ham this week. They were bought on great sales over the holidays and pulled from the freezers for this super busy week. I boiled the bones from both of them. All of the turkey broth, 2 big kettles of it and a 3rd small one, was used up in 3 large batches of turkey soup.

Several pans of turkey enchiladas were made. When I found a large baggie of frozen corn tortillas leftover from Christmas, I thawed them out and used them up on this project.

I sliced turkey breast very thinly for sandwiches, and turkey pieces were given to some of the families. I made sandwiches with turkey and some 99c/day-old-bread-rack buns when I took the picnic, along with some carrots and cupcakes.

Patsy made a double batch of lemon poppy seed muffins. I made a double batch of pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and most of those went out with various meals.

A while back, I was given a bag of white rice. While we love it, we don’t eat it often, as Rob is dieting and I’m diabetic. So, I took the opportunity to made up a huge batch of fried rice with some of it. I added grated carrot, peas, scrambled eggs, onion, some water chestnuts and 1 can of bamboo shoots that I’ve had for quite some time. I seasoned with soy sauce, and made enough for 2 families to have some, and kept a small bowl for us, since we love it so much!

I sliced up ham for one family to go with their fried rice. We ate ham in several ways this week.

Salads were made and shared and also eaten here. Rob eats a lot of salad! A huge chocolate cake was baked for the birthday party on Sunday. I also did some white cupcakes from a boxed mix, which I divided between the birthday party and one family.

The amazing thing is that cooking all this food was not a huge drain on my budget because I chose foods we had in the pantry and freezer to base the meals on, with some additions from the store. Sharing food is one of my favorite things to do and I am always happy when I can make it work as nicely as it did this time. It was a fun, rewarding week, though I must confess that all that cooking made it a busy one!

Now that people are feeling better from their various surgeries and other things, my cooking frenzy is over. It was kind of funny how it all came at once, but that’s how life goes sometimes. This week, I’ll put my energies in other directions, and that’s ok, too. I like variety in my life:)

Homeschool Outdoor School–August, 2019

I have been planning an outdoor school experience for Patsy for a few weeks. When Jake heard she was going camping and doing school, he insisted on some school, too:). He was always going camping—he loves it so much. So, along with the notebook I was making for Patsy to do, I had to make one for Jake, too. For his, I had Rob run off some word searches from the internet, and let him do those. I planned lots of fun, outdoor activities, as well, along with “messy” crafts that were perfect for doing outside.

Here’s where the big surprise came in…..I wrote the date down wrong. Really, I did! So, we woke up on Saturday and I leisurely asked Rob to look up which campsite we had, just for fun, and YIKES! we were due down there at the coast that day!!! I called my sister to see if Jake could go with us earlier than we had planned, so they packed him up, came over and helped us get ready and hustled us off on our adventure.

The very first day, there was a ranger program about agates. Rob took the kids down to it and they were hooked! The ranger gave them each 2 agates and they spent hours hunting for more down on the beach in 3 different places. On the 3rd beach we tried, they finally found some. They were excited.

Patsy did bookwork each morning, like language arts, Bible, math, and science. Jake did a few word finds. I read aloud to both of them, mostly things Patsy needed to hear for school–good for them both. I also read a beloved Boxcar Children book to Jake in the evenings. In the afternoons, we did fun activities.

Patsy had chosen 2 simple cooking projects to do on the trip. One was trail mix …

and the other one was Camping Haystacks–mostly a can of chili on top of Fritos with some salad toppings. She loved it! I mean, who wouldn’t want chips for the main part of dinner, right?

Patsy and I went clamming and caught nothing. Jake and Rob did not walk out with us, but instead, Jake dug for gold. He did not find any gold, either, but he made it clear that if he had found any, it was, and I quote, “ALL MINE!”

The weather was amazing. It was in the upper 80’s (or warmer) most of the time. There was wind or a breeze frequently. I heard we escaped some awfully hot weather back in the valley. In this picture, we had gone for a drive and stopped to feed some seagulls.

Patsy and I took a few walks. I have been working on training our dog— if she pulls, the “Haltie” on her nose (black leash) tightens on her nose, which she doesn’t like. If she isn’t pulling, I let her run on the blue leash and let the other one hang loosely. I only tighten the black one if she pulls. I have no idea if anyone else does it that way, but it’s working well. She managed to walk calmly through the entire campground full of dogs and children without going ballistic by the end of the time. I’m starting to take her places with more and more people and animals, and she’s not comfortable, in fact shivering and shaking on the crowded beach one day, but I want her to get used to it.

We read books about fall and decorated fall cookies. I had hoped to bake them before we went, but with our hasty departure I couldn’t, so I had to make them in the camper. It worked, but the oven isn’t the best. Of course, this activity was geared for Jake, but no one argues with cookies around here.

Patsy did another craft..a coconut oil-brown sugar scrub. They both folded some origami animals as well, and decorated sunglasses with duct tape. They had a lot of squirt gun fights.

The tree was a favorite perch all week.

Our other nephew came down the last night after he finished work. Jake immediately roped him into game playing. We had a great visit, although short, and we all headed back to the valley the next morning.

I had Rob develop some pictures of our activities and we put them into a notebook for each kid so they would have good memories to keep about their fun outdoor school.

I am very satisfied with the fact that we are now most of the way through the first 4 weeks of school with Patsy. I hope to finish week 4 today. I love getting started in August. It will give me more leeway during the year when I get super busy. I also love the fact that we could take school on the road, get a lot done, but still have so much time to enjoy the outdoors. It took a lot of planning and a lot of supplies for so many crafts and hands-on activities, but I love to do that.

On Wednesday, the weather started to change. I enjoyed the cooler weather, and came home Thursday to a city that was considerably cooler than it has been, which was a relief. I gave a happy, sun-tanned boy back to his daddy and he’s going to spend the next couple of days snuggling with his mama. I’m going to put the house back together, can up some applesauce and start working outside in the garden and yard a bit over the next few days. Things are quite messy after 2 trips away, but then again, the work will always be here. Little boys and teen-age girls won’t.

Our Adventure: A Trip Up the Rogue River and A Beach Trip–August, 2019–Part 1

We just returned from a big adventure, complements of my sister. She should have been a travel guide…..She planned the trip out to the last minute, got all the accommodations and tickets, and arranged everything. It was amazing. Here’s what we did.

Months ago, she had purchased tickets for the play, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” up at the Keller Auditorium in Portland (Oregon). It was for my birthday present, and started at 2 p.m. on Saturday. We had a wonderful time. It was so well done. I loved it!

When planning the trip, she found the beach house she wanted to rent was only available on this past weekend, the same weekend as the play. She also wanted to go ride the jet boats that go from Gold Beach, Oregon, up the Rogue River 52 miles and back down again. So, we needed to leave on Saturday to make all of that happen. The play caused us to get a late start.

I was in charge of the meals for everyone. Everyone included: My sister, Gail, 3 of her children, myself, Rob and Patsy, and a friend, Debbie, and her 7 children. Jake and his big sister, Caitlyn, came on Sunday night, as he doesn’t do well on boats. So, I packed a picnic for 13 to eat in the cars on the road. We pulled into the hotel around 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning. It’s a distance from here, and we didn’t leave until early evening.

The hotel included breakfast the next morning, which we enjoyed tremendously. The kids loved the waffles with the heart shapes in the center. Rob and I packed a large picnic for the 13 of us who where going on the boats, plus drinks, while the rest of the crew enjoyed the hotel swimming pool. Then, we were off for our 11:30 departure time.

Rob really, really wanted to do this trip. In fact, he declared to Gail (my sister) that he would crawl into the boat if he had to, when the subject was first brought up. He had to!

It was so worth it to him!

At the 2 rest stops, they sent a van down a steep hill to drive him (and us) up to the top, where we could use the restrooms and at lunch time, eat our picnic.

I had a blast, too! My little friend, Delaney, fell asleep between Rob and I on the way back. It was super funny because we were getting splashed with large amounts of water going down the rapids. We tried to shield her the best we could with a blanket that was for that purpose, but in the process, I was absolutely soaked. It was dripping off my hair and down my face. Some got on her, too. Through it all, she never woke up. The people behind us (and us) kept looking down and asking if she woke up, and each time the answer was “no.” Pretty soon, we were all in gales of laughter as each new wave of water doused us, and the child still slept. I guess she was tired:). When she was good and ready, she woke up and enjoyed the rest of the ride.

We saw so much beautiful scenery. There was a lot of wildlife. We saw ducks, egrets, osprey, a bald eagle, otters, deer, and a seal or sea lion–not sure which, and more.

There were a couple balancing on various small rocks. The boat driver was very skilled and got us up pretty close to this one.

We were on the water for around 6-1/2 –7 hours. We went the 104 miles, and had 2 stops. We went from the cool, balmy coast to the dry, scorching hot interior, and back down to the cooler coast once again. The driver did a great job of cooling us off with water when it was hot, and keeping us dry when it wasn’t. Running the rapids was fun. We all had a blast.

We got back into the vehicles, handed each kid a granola bar, and headed an hour north to the town of Bandon.

It was pretty late by the time we arrived, but I had dinner all planned and it didn’t take long to get it on the table. I had taco meat and refried beans premade and they were warmed up. Tortillas, garden tomatoes, lettuce and pre-shredded cheese were put out, along with a Costco bag of corn chips and some salsa. Every scrap was devoured.

Our Monday was very full of fun, as well. I’ll continue writing about our trip tomorrow in Part 2, as this post is getting pretty long, and there’s lots more to tell.

A Formal and casual Dinner for a crowd–January 2019

This was a week of contrasts. We fed 2 different groups of kids 2 very different meals.

Last Saturday, we were very involved with a formal dinner for the high school youth group from church. The event was held at my sister’s house and our 2 families did all the cooking.

We ended up having about 24 youth, and 12 college-aged and adult helpers. My brother-in-law rearranged their house so that there were 3 large tables in the living area and all the youth were able to sit down.

We had gluten free and dairy free students coming, one that was allergic to fish and one that was allergic to shellfish, so needed to make it allergy friendly. We had at least one vegetarian as well. It was quite a challenge.

We served the meal in courses. We had the “waiters” take orders, noting special dietary needs and kept all questionable food completely separated from the other food, even on the grill. Rob used foil and separate pans/dishes to do this.

Our waiters kept really good track of what each student needed using sticky notes.

The first course was appetizers. Rob barbecued shrimp skewers with peppers and onions threaded on in between the shrimp. We made 2 kinds of potato skins–one with olive oil, green onions and rosemary and one with cheese, bacon bits and green onion. We had purchased mozzarella sticks, served with marinara and ranch. The last appetizer was cheesy bread sticks. The bread sticks were purchased and cheese was sprinkled on top and they were baked to melt the cheese.

There were fancy drinks. They had sugar around the rims of the glasses and the kids could choose their favorites. Unlike a restaurant, they could have free refills and some had several!

Salads were next. They got their choice of dressings and customized salads without cheese or bacon if requested or needed.

The main course consisted of risotto, teriyaki chicken or salmon topped with mango-peach chutney sauce, garlic green beans and was decorated with spiralized zucchini and cilantro. Rob was able to cook the beans, chicken and salmon on the big grill outside, which helped the kitchen prep tremendously.

We dipped strawberries in chocolate and made gluten-free mini-cheesecakes with cherry topping and chocolate decorations for dessert. It was so pretty and tasted so good. We dipped a few berries in dairy-free chocolate, but did not make dairy-free cheesecakes. The student was still happy because he could have a yummy strawberry and some extra chocolate candy we got for him.

That event turned out very, very well. It was so fun to see the kids and some adults dressed up and they ate SO much food! We had a ball doing the event. The kids were delighted to have this experience and were happily talking about it the next day at church, I’ve heard. They went off ice skating afterwards, but we collapsed! It was worth it, though.

The second event this week was feeding the college aged kids their Tuesday night dinner. It was just coincidence that our turn for that was this week as well. It was kept quite simple.

We got ham for 77c/lb at Winco and Rob barbequed 2 of them. He sliced them and put them in our big roaster. I made southwestern beans with soaked pink beans, onion, green salsa verde and ham broth. We used 6 heads of romaine and one head of head lettuce to make a huge bowl of salad. Then, we put toppings such as olives, cheese, tomatoes, and tortilla salad toppers out so they could create their own southwestern salads. Some canned corn, oranges and brownies and made from a boxed mix finished out the dinner. There were around 35 people there–more than expected, but the food held out! Hallelujah! Those kids are a cheerful, appreciative bunch every time we feed them. It makes it fun to do.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-January 13, 2018

This week was an interesting one. I did a couple of things that were out of the ordinary.

I went with my sister to visit our friend, Harnet. She has moved a little farther away from us, so we carpooled a lot of the way, saving me some gas. Even better, my sister and I got to visit for way longer than if we had driven separately. We had coffee, lunch, did errands, and visited. It was a fun day. It was on my normal shopping day, so I did not go to the grocery store. Danait wanted to wear all her gear and ride her bike, so my sister took her outside for a while to do that. Brrr…..they didn’t last long, but it was fun for them both while it did!

Rob made Jake “Almanzo” pancakes for breakfast this morning. Every since we read “The Long Winter” and Almanzo ate stacks of pancakes, Jake has been fascinated with the idea. Rob makes them small, only about 3 inches across, so he we can make a stack. Last night, we were helping with a youth event, and after Rob finished barbecuing, Jake had had enough of it all, and went home with “Unckie.”

The youth event was a formal dinner. A few weeks ago, the youth pastor asked my sister if she could make a dinner for the kids, with “real plates and courses.” Of course, my sister said she could, and roped us in. In the end, over 20 kids sat down and ate dinner at my sister’s house, in their fancy clothes (or not in a couple of cases–there were a couple in jeans, but still always welcome). Then, they went ice skating. I’m planning to do a post later in the week showing what we cooked, but here I’m going to highlight the money-saving things we did.

Rob cooked 4 things outside on a very large BBQ. He did 1 of the appetizers, the vegetables and the chicken and fish. That saved us a lot of commotion in the kitchen. He shopped around quite a bit for the best price on salmon. It varied greatly in price, according to where it was purchased. He finally found 2-lb bags for $7.99, an amazing deal.

We used between 120-150 glass plates. We were able to use hers, mine and borrow more until we had enough. (In addition to the over 20 youth, there were 12 adults and college age helpers that came for the actual event and we fed them, too, making it a crowd of around 35. Yikes!). I had some nice paper napkins someone had given me long ago that we used, and we took 24 sets of silverware over there. I bought that set years and years ago at Walmart and they are very lightly made, but they all match and I use them for large gatherings.

We tried to get the best prices on the food that we could. For instance, I got most of the cream cheese on sale over the Christmas holidays and picked up a few more boxes at Winco when I realized I had not purchased enough for the cheesecakes. Their brand was quite inexpensive–I’m not sure if they had leftover from the holidays, but I was happy to see that price! I used dipping chocolates we had on hand for the decorations and home-canned cherry pie filling for the topping.

As I mentioned before, I was so busy this week with the dinner, and was gone on my normal shopping day that I didn’t have a chance to go shopping, except early one morning to pick up just a very few items. This is helping me with my project of cleaning out the fridge and using some stockpile items. I’ll see how many days I can make it, but I’m pretty sure I may run out of some things this week. We’ll see! At this point, I really, really want to clean out that fridge–it needs a good wash very badly.