You know how it goes…

tulips

Within the last few weeks, it’s like life has just exploded with craziness! We’re all so busy and I feel pulled in many different directions at the same time. Not in a bad way, mind you, just a busy way. Basically I just wanted to pop in and say hello!

I spent last weekend up in Western Mass. visiting my family. My nephew turned four and Laura and I went to his party on Saturday. We drove up on Friday night and hit the craziest, awful snow squalls. I don’t enjoy driving in the dark to begin with, but when you add in dizzying snowfall and slippery road conditions, well… let’s just say I was very glad when we finally passed through them and even happier when we got to my parents’! Other than that, the weekend was great! So much fun relaxing with my mom and dad and seeing the rest of our family.

I even picked up my 12-pointed star blanket, only to discover that I had to pull back several rows to correct a missed stitch. Ugh! But now I should be back on track.

I also had the chance to play with my brother’s new camera — a Sony Alpha a6000. Oh, it puts my Nikon D40 to shame (then I realized that my camera is 10 years old, so it should be no surprise). It’s so fast and the photos are just stunning! Time to start saving up.

This week has been a blur since we got home on Sunday. I feel like all I’ve done is work and drive the kids around. I am so looking forward to (hopefully) taking a break over the weekend, catching up on stuff around the house, catching up on my crochet, and maybe even catching up on sleep! I think next week should be a little bit calmer.

Recipe | Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

It’s not easy to make a nice Valentine’s Day dinner mid-week, when there is work, school, and activities. But I was determined to do it yesterday. I’ve been looking through old recipes lately and I knew exactly what I wanted to try: balsamic roast pork tenderloins. This is a recipe I made often when Drew and I were first married. I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I prepared it, but I’m happy to say it will be back in the meal rotation.

The recipe is simple (SO simple), and my kids all loved it, too. Laura especially loved the bits of roasted garlic that flavor the pork.

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins

Balsamic roast pork

2  pounds pork tenderloins (1 package with 2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, cracked
Kosher salt salt and black pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Trim silver skin or connective tissue off tenderloins with a very sharp thin knife.

Place tender loins on a nonstick, rimmed cookie sheet. Coat tenderloins in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, rubbing vinegar into meat. Drizzle tenderloins with extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to coat. Cut small slits into meat and disperse chunks of cracked garlic cloves into meat. Combine salt and pepper with rosemary and thyme and rub meat with blend. Roast in hot oven 20 minutes.

Let meat rest, transfer to a carving board, slice and serve.

I served this with baked sweet potatoes and lemon-Parmesan roasted broccoli. This dish would be great to prepare for company because you get a fantastic result with very little effort! Enjoy!

Recipe | Babci’s Golumpki

GOLUMPKI

Lately I’ve been seeing a recipe for golumpki casserole floating around the Internet. I was interested in making it, and even had it on my menu. But I decided to make actual golumpkis instead. Truthfully, they’re not hard to do. And even though I was not at the top of my cabbage-rolling game when I make these on Monday, they still held together and tasted delicious (which is obviously the most important part).

After I’d put together a pan of the golumpkis, I still had some of the meat-rice mixture left over, but only teeny tiny little cabbage leaves that were way too small. So in a square Pyrex, I just layered the ingredients — tomato sauce, cabbage, meat-rice, repeat. Call it a lazy girl’s golumpki 😉

Now, this recipe is one that stands out from my childhood. When I was a kid, I’d eat everything except the cabbage, and I’d put a little bit of ketchup on top. Nowadays, I love to eat the cabbage, but you know what? I still put a little ketchup on top too. Don’t knock it ’til you try it! OK, ready to get going on this Polish classic? Since this is a  family recipe without precise measurements, I did the best I could to explain. Just leave a comment if something doesn’t make sense! Luckily, we took photos when my parents and I made them back in November, so hopefully those help as well.

Babci’s Golumpkis

1 lb. meatloaf mix (beef, pork, veal)
1-1.5 c. cooked rice
1 small onion, diced
tomato sauce 
large head of Savoy cabbage
salt & pepper to taste

 

  • Partially core the cabbage. In a stockpot, boil the head of cabbage in salted water for 10-15 minutes until the cabbage has softened. Do not overcook it. Cabbage leaves that are overcooked will break and will not hold the filling. Drain the cabbage and cool. Carefully separate the leaves without tearing and set aside.
  • To make the filling, cook the meatloaf mix and onion together in a large frying pan until the meat is browned. Drain fat from cooked meat. Add cooked rice and about a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. 
  • Cover the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish with tomato sauce. Not too much, just so there’s a thin layer
  • With a paring knife, cut down the thick “vein” at the bottom of the cabbage leaf to make it easier to roll. Add aprox. 2 Tbsps. of the filling to a cabbage leaf. To make this easier, you can use a soup ladle to help.

Golumpki preparation

Golumpki preparation

  • Begin to roll up the golumpki, then fold over the side and finish rolling. Place each roll with the seam side down in your baking dish. The rolls should be arranged close together.

Golumpki preparation

  • Pour a little more tomato sauce over the top of all the golumpkis. Cover the top with cabbage leaves.

Golumpki preparation

  • Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 1 hr. Enjoy!

Golumpki preparation

Grocery Day

Grocery Haul

I was trying to think of a blog post for today and, really, all I’ve done is grocery shopping. So I guess that’s what I’ll write about! I have long enjoyed “grocery haul” posts (going way back to the days when Crystal at Money Saving Mom would post what she bought using her $35/week budget). I have done a post like this once or twice, but certainly not in the last couple of years. 

Maybe it’s because I love food and frugality, or maybe I’m just nosy but I really do enjoy seeing what people buy and how they are able to save! I don’t think this is something I’ll do all the time, but maybe on occasion. Of course, if anyone is really interested let me know and I can post grocery hauls a little more regularly.

So first… how I shop. I am not a one store kind of girl. There are some things I always get at one place, some things at another, and then I will hop from store to store for the sales. All these stores are located on the same strip of road, so over the years I have charted my course and if I’m not taking my time I can get it all done in a morning. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

First stop… Dollar Tree
Grocery haul

I needed lightbulbs and detangler and also picked up some tortillas, spices, and Awesome cleanser. I also got a few other misc. items not pictured here.
Total: 9.48

Sam’s Club
Grocery haul

I went in just for peanut butter and bananas, but I was really excited to find this cilantro jalapeno hummus! I really enjoy the Panera sandwich that uses this flavor hummus and I’ve never seen it in a store anywhere. I hope the flavor is close. I also purchased this Italiano dip because it sounded really good and sometimes items at Sam’s come and go. Thinking I may save this for a party.
Total: 22.24

Walmart
Grocery haul

I was happy that they still have those 1.98 wire baskets. I wanted a few for our bathrooms to hold extra TP. The rose gold was very coppery so I just went with gold. These baskets are really sturdy and I think the price is a bargain! I also scored on beef. One package will be made into burgers for the freezer and I’ll make some beef jerky with the extra-lean stuff. The whisk was a random purchase because it was 50 cents and my wisk is on its last legs. Rugalach was on the day-old bakery counter, so I snatched that up. Then Go-Gurts for Laura’s school lunches, cottage cheese, onions, and red cabbage.
Total: 35.90

ShopRite
Grocery haulShopRite had our favorite American cheese on sale this week, so that was the main reason I stopped in. Also got some turkey for wraps for lunches, and ground turkey which I’ll divide up for the freezer. We prefer to use ground turkey for tacos, but we also like turkey burgers and in the next week or so I’ll use it for copycat P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps, which we haven’t had in forever.
Total: 19.26

Aldi
Grocery haul

Aldi is where I purchase most of our staples. You can’t beat their prices on most items and with only a few exceptions, they’re just as good if not better than the name brands. I bought a giant tub of spring mix (we go through this like crazy), tri-colored peppers, zucchini, carrots, avocado (such a deal this week at 69-cents! I’ll enjoy them while I can), gala apples (my favorite – I eat one a day!), Parmesan cheese, fresh mozzarella, spinach wraps, bagels, fries, half-and-half, eggs, cream cheese, juice boxes, pretzels, unsalted peanuts (they were out last time so I bought two today).
Total: 36.91

And finally, Tops
Grocery haul

I had to pick up our prescriptions and because Wednesdays tend to be crazy, I decided to get fried chicken for dinner just to make things easy. That and a salad and leftover potato salad or chips will be a supper that no one can argue with! I also grabbed my yogurts because they are on sale (have you tried the Dannon whole milk yogurt? SO good!), and these deli soups were BOGO. 
Total: 17.63

So my grand total for groceries today was: $141.42. Considering we are a family of 5, with one teenage boy and one tween boy, I don’t think that’s horrible. Some of this will last us much longer than a week. And there are always incidentals during the week that get picked up (for example, Drew grabbed milk yesterday on his way home, and this doesn’t take into account the ham and bread I’d purchased earlier in the week for school lunches). But obviously, it’s the bulk of my weekly shopping. Living in New York, prices are definitely higher here than in other parts of the country, and we really don’t go out to eat often so everything is made at home. I don’t have a grocery budget per se, so during the month of February I’m really going to track my spending in this area to make sure I’m not going crazy!

Happy Homemaker Monday, Jan. 30, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday

The weather:::
Cold but sunny. It’s the end of January, so I don’t expect it to get warm anytime soon (nor should it!). But I am happy to see blue skies and bits of sun today.

On my reading pile:::

Same books as last week! I need to make time to read this week. I’ve been choosing TV over reading — not the best option.

On my TV:::
“Unsolved Mysteries” on Amazon Prime, “Seinfeld” on DVD, and rewatching the last season of “Criminal Minds” that’s on Netflix because I barely remember any of the episodes

On the menu for this week:::
Monday – Golumpkis, salad
Tuesday – Crock Pot pulled pork, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, potato or macaroni salad 
Wednesday – Fried chicken, smile fries, green beans 
Thursday – Chicken pesto paninis with mozzarella and roasted red peppers
Friday – Meatballs & hot Italian sausage over pasta, salad
Saturday – Chili, salad
Sunday – Leftovers

On my to do list:::
– Make dentist appointments
– Reorganize pantry
– Update my Home Management Binder

What I am sewing, crocheting, knitting or creating:::
Nothing new at the moment, I’m trying to find a new project. I’ve been keeping up with my memory planner and loving it!

Looking around the house:::
Sleepy kitties, flickering candles… a cozy sort of afternoon.

From the camera:::

Just a couple shots from last week. I loved the late afternoon sun shining through the oak trees. The photo doesn’t do it justice!

late afternoon sun

My little hyacinth bulb has bloomed into a stunning flower! I keep it on the windowsill to get the best light and it makes the whole kitchen sink area smell divine when I’m washing dishes. I still can’t believe forcing the bulb worked!

hyacinth week 3

Something fun to share:::
I’m coming up blank on this one this week. Sorry!

What I’m wearing today:::
White and grey striped long-sleeve tee, jeans, black and white fuzzy socks.

One of my simple pleasures:::
Taking a moment to look up at the sky every morning at sunrise. Sometimes the pinks, reds, and oranges are just unbelievable.

Linking up with Sandra at Diary of a SAHM for Happy Homemaker Monday!

Unique, Handmade Valentine’s Day Card + A Free Printable!

Untitled

I realize than many people dislike Valentine’s Day, but I am not one of them. I’m all about the love, the chocolate, the hearts, the flowers, and especially the cards! I think one of the reasons a lot of people don’t like this holiday is because of the perceived pressure to spend, spend, spend. I totally get that, and I’m here to tell you that really, the best Valentine gift for your sweetie is one from the heart. A simple, handmade Valentine with a heartfelt sentiment will no doubt be appreciated beyond an expensive dinner in a restaurant or pricey jewelry. Read on to find out how I made this unique bouquet card for Valentine’s Day

When ProFlowers invited me to participate in their DIY challenge to create a beautiful handmade card, I was definitely up for it! I wanted to put a little bit of a twist on my card, and I have to say — I’m quite pleased with my project!

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

The selection of Valentine’s Day flowers at ProFlowers is full of beautiful choices. It was not easy picking something to work with — my head was spinning with dozens of ideas! But I ultimately hose a bouquet of 18 long-stemmed red roses because I wanted something classic. Because I absolutely love roses anytime of year, but especially on Valentine’s Day, I decided to make the flowers part of my card. ProFlowers has some really cute vases to go with their Valentine bouquets, and I absolutely fell in love with the Rustic Heart vase. Not only does it fit right into my home decor, but I immediately knew how I could personalize it.

The first thing I tackled was the vase. It looks like a heart carved into a birch tree, so it seemed obvious to make sure my husband’s and my initials were on there! I cut them them out of silver vinyl using my Silhouette Cameo, but you could easily use stickers or even a paint pen!

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

Next was to create the card. As I arranged the roses in the vase, Shakespeare popped into my head. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!  There was my inspiration! I made a simple folded card out of cardstock and scrapbooking paper. Then, I lettered the beginning of the sonnet. 

Untitled

The rest of the “card” is hanging off the roses themselves. I cut tags out of black cardstock and ran a silver paint marker around the edges.

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

Then I wrote out one through eighteen on one side of the tag. I used my favorite oblique holder, a Zebra G nib, and Dr. P.H. Martin’s Bleedproof White ink, my favorite white!

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

DSC_0859

On the other side I wrote down why I love my husband. I tried to include a mix of silly and sappy reasons. I knew that I would enjoy finding each hand-lettered tag and spending time reading over every one of them.

DSC_0863

Then I looped baker’s twine through the holes and attached each tag to one of the roses.

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

ProFlowers Valentine Card Challenge

Untitled

If you’d like to recreate this bouquet card but don’t have calligraphy skills, don’t worry! You can write the numbers in cursive and then thicken the downstrokes to create “faux calligraphy.” Or, you could print out these free tags on cardstock, cut them out, and write your own messages on the back! 

Free Printable Number Tags

Download your free tags here!
Numbers one-nine and numbers ten-eighteen.

I hope you’ll give a homemade card or gift a try. If you do, please make sure to share a photo or a description of your project with me! I want to hear all about how you are going to make it a handmade Valentine’s Day this year!

In order to facilitate this post, ProFlowers provided me with a free floral bouquet and vase. I received no further compensation. All opinions are my own.

Happy Homemaker Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

Happy Homemaker Monday

The weather:::
It was a cold and windy day today. The wind is whipping and a cold rain is currently falling. I’m sure it won’t be long until it starts freezing. We are due for a mix of various types of nasty precipitation overnight. We will see what happens.

On my reading pile:::

I am still reading this book I started last week. Honestly, I haven’t gotten too far. It was just the way things played out. Didn’t feel much like reading. I’m going to try to finish it, though because I have this one up next…

 

Ahhh! I’m so excited to ready this. I’ve heard really good things about it. I just hope it’s as thrilling as people say.

On my TV:::
I’m watching old episodes of “A Cook’s Tour” on Netflix and old episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries” on Amazon Prime. So good!

On the menu for this week:::
Monday – Sticky chicken, rice, steamed broccoli & carrots
Tuesday – Cheeseburgers, tater tots, green salad 
Wednesday – Maybe take-out? 
Thursday – Turkey meatballs stroganoff over egg noodles, mixed veggies
Friday – Homemade stromboli, green salad
Saturday – Chicken fajitas, chips & salsa
Sunday – Golumpki lasagna, green salad

On my to do list:::
Everything. Seriously, laundry up the wazoo, vacuuming, dishes… I’m way off schedule and don’t see myself getting it back together until next week. Just too much going on.

What I am sewing, crocheting, knitting or creating:::
Well, I still haven’t started that shawl. I have yarn picked out to make an oval runner for our coffee table. Maybe I’ll start that tonight since after-school activities were cancelled and I’m free from driving around!

Looking around the house:::
Clean laundry to be put away, blankets on the living room floor, lunchboxes that need to be emptied and cleaned. It’s just how the afternoon is when you’re a working mom. Things get done when they get done and that’s OK.

From the camera:::
Did you know it’s  National Handwriting Day today? Here’s a photo of one of my favorite pangrams written out in cursive.

 

A photo posted by Carol Bancroft (@planwithcarol) on

And here’s a couple pics of my Engrosser’s Script. Ugh, I miss having the time to practice, but it could be worse, LOL!

 

A photo posted by Carol Bancroft (@planwithcarol) on

 

A photo posted by Carol Bancroft (@carolwrites) on

Something fun to share:::
If you use Chrome for your browser, you will want to install Library Extension. When you’re shopping for books on Amazon, Library Extension will find those same books at your local library! How does it work? Easy: you pick your favorite libraries and add them to a list. Then, when you’re book shopping the extension adds a box that will let you know if those books are available at your library. Then you can head over and pick them up! I love supporting libraries and being frugal!

What I’m wearing today:::
Jeans, burgundy boat-neck top, charcoal sweater.

One of my simple pleasures:::
Enjoying a soothing cup of tea in the evening after the kids are upstairs for the night. It’s part of my relaxation ritual.

 

Linking up with Sandra at Diary of a SAHM for Happy Homemaker Monday!