Are you a Princess Bride Fan?

I posted this on my writing blog, but I’m so excited about the book I had to share it here, too!

Shari L. Tapscott

Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

Can you think of a more perfect title? I know I can’t.

I’m a bit of a Princess Bride fan, and by a bit I mean I can quote just about the whole movie. And I do. Every time.

I’m purchasing this book today, and I will do a review after I read it. Now I just have to decide if I want the hardcover or the audio version. Decisions, decisions.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Free Autumn Bird Label Download – 2″ Circle

Autumn is my favorite season. I just love it! Here’s a free 2″ circle label download for all your crafty fall projects. These fit on canning jar lids very nicely, and they are cute on top of apple butter, canned apple pie filling, dry potpourri, and loose tea blends. I hope you find them useful. Enjoy!

AutumnBirdLabel

Pumpkin Coffee and an Author Challenge

This is a beautiful, wonderful day. I found decaf pumpkin spice coffee!!! I don’t drink much caffeine anymore–it makes me jittery. It is very difficult to find fun varieties in decaf, though. Let me share what varieties of decaf I can buy locally:

House Blend

Mmmmhmmm. That’s about it. Oh, sure–different companies label it with different names, but it’s all the same. I don’t do flavored creamers, so it means my coffee life has been pretty boring. I decided to try Amazon for some decaf pumpkin spice coffee, and I found one by Archer Farms. Target brand! After a quick search on their website, I discovered they had it stocked at my local Target! So exciting. And delicious. It’s so good.

Click the picture to see if your local Target stocks this yummy coffee!

Also, I’m participating in an Author’s challenge. Every time someone clicks this link, I get a vote! If I get the most votes in a month, I’ll be promoted on the mailing list. That would be pretty cool!


Have a great evening, and pick up some pumpkin spice coffee!

A Few Autumn Photos

We are about to start school, so I don’t have much time to write today, but I thought I would share a few of our autumn pictures with you. We took a drive yesterday afternoon to Glade Park, and I played with my camera.

The kids had fun for about the first five minutes, and then they were tired of smiling. I’m pretty happy with the photos I got, and I will pick up some 4×6 samples today to see how they look printed.

Have a great day!

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Fall2014Dogs

Freezer Cooking – Stocking the Freezer with Staples

There are many different ways to freezer cook. Some people buy ingredients for a month worth of dinners, prepare the meals, and then freeze them. Others simply double the amount they make each night, and then freeze the leftovers (this works great with chili, soups, and stews). My favorite way to freezer cook is ingredient preparation.

I don’t prepare meals to freeze; I prep ingredients.  I’ve tried all methods, and though I will still double some meals, I like ingredient prep the best.

Here’s a list of staples you can prepare and freeze, and a few of the easy ways you can use them. I hope this helps you stock your freezer and make your weeknights a little easier!

Vegetables

If you slice and chop vegetables in advance, it makes them easy to toss in your favorite recipes. We eat a lot more vegetables in dishes if they are easy to add. Toss them in omelets, fajitas, roasts,  soups, stir-fries, and more.

Sliced/Chopped Bell Peppers

Sliced/Chopped Onions

Jalapenos or Green Chilies

Chopped Carrots

Peas and Snowpeas

Chopped Broccoli

Chopped Cauliflower

Corn (kernel and on the cob)

Green Beans

Chopped/Diced Tomatoes – I like to buy huge cans of whole tomatoes at Sam’s Club and then run them through a food processor before I freeze them.

Meat

Both chopped raw and cooked meats are handy to have on hand. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Sliced/Chopped Grilled Chicken Breasts – Add to salads, soups, rice dishes, tacos, potpies, casseroles, soups, and more.

Sliced/Chopped Raw Chicken Breasts – Thaw and then cook fresh for stir-fries or Italian dishes.

Shredded Chicken (boil a whole chicken and then shred the meat–save the broth) – Use in enchiladas or other Mexican dishes, chicken salad, and soups.

Sliced/Chopped Raw Sirloin – Thaw and use for beef tips with rice or noodles, stir-fries, stews, chili, and more.

Shredded Beef or Pork (Simmer on the stove or in a slow cooker–save the broth) – Great for Enchiladas or Mexican dishes, hot sandwiches with gravy, and bbq sandwiches.

Chopped Ham – Toss in omelets, scallopped potatoes, casseroles (cordon bleu type casseroles are amazing), chowders, and more. 

Marinated Raw Meats (chicken breast, pork chops, steak) — Sauce Ideas: Teriyaki, BBQ sauce, lemon pepper, and more. Add the meat to a gallon size freezer bag and pour the marinade in. Freeze, and then thaw before cooking. Drain off the marinade and grill, bake, or pan sear the meat.

Sausage (Italian and Cajun)- use in pastas, soups, Cajun dishes, or grill and serve on a bun.

Cooking Staples

These are ingredients you will need on hand for quick meals. Many you can make fresh and freeze, and others you will need to buy.

Broth or Stock (chicken, beef, pork, vegetable) – Use in soups, gravy, chili, stuffing, and so much more.

Spaghetti and Pizza Sauce – Use as a sauce by itself, or add to chicken Parmesan style casseroles, calzones, or lasagna.

Tomato Sauce – Use in a variety of sauces, mix in meatloaf, and more. 

BBQ Sauce – Use as a dipping sauce, toss with shredded meat, bake over chicken breast, pork chops, ribs, and more. 

Salsa – Serve over meat, with chips as a side, bake over chicken breast or pork, and more. 

Tomatoes and Chilies (Rotel) – Flavor taco meat, use in goulash, flavor soups and chili, and more.

Noodles –  (spaghetti, angel hair, penne, bowtie, macaroni, old fashioned, spiral, and lots more fun varieties) – Use in pastas, soups, pasta salads, casseroles, and more. 

Rice (brown, white, wild) – Use in stirfries, soups, as side dishes, rice casseroles, and more. 

Tortillas (flour and corn) – Use for quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, wraps, and more. 

Cheese (Mexican blend, cheddar, mozzerella, parmesan, pepper jack, and Swiss are all good to have on hand) – Use in Mexican dishes, casseroles, grilled sandwiches, and more. 

Beans (kidney, pinto, black, white, and more) – Use in taco salads, chili, minestrone soup, as a filler for taco meat, and more. 

Spices and Pantry Staples

You can make your own blends or buy premixed.

Salt/Pepper

Italian Seasoning

Cajun Seasoning

Poultry Seasoning

Taco Seasoning (this is so easy to make – You just need chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic, and a few dashes of hot sauce in your recipe)

Chili Powder

Cumin

Garlic Powder (or fresh garlic if you prefer)

Grilling Blends (there are all kinds of wonderful blends in the spice aisle) – Sprinkle over meat before you grill or bake. 

Bread Crumbs & Croutons (Italian and regular) –  In meatloaves, meatballs, over casseroles, as breading, and over salads.

Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine, and more)

Oils (coconut, olive, canola, and more)

Fresh Foods

These are foods that don’t freeze well, or they last so long there is no reason to freeze.

Milk

Eggs

Butter

Fresh Herbs

Salad Ingredients (romaine hearts last for several weeks in the fridge–they are amazing and you usually buy them in a three pack in the produce section)

Lemon and Lime Juice

Vinegar

Salad Dressings

Mushrooms – I’ve noticed these don’t freeze well. You might have better luck, but I find them rubbery after they thaw.

Potatoes – I do not have good luck with frozen potatoes. 

This list should get your started, but there are so many more things you can prep and keep on hand for easy meals.  I will add more as I think of them.

What ingredients do you like to keep on hand for meals, and what do you make with them? Let me know in the comments, and I will add them to the list!

It’s Soap Day!

This week is our school district’s Fall Break. Fall break–seriously? Kiddos get a week off at the beginning of October around here. Um…didn’t school just start?

Well, I decided, why not? I wouldn’t mind a week off, so let’s just jump on that band wagon. Yep. We’re taking the week off.

I have a quick meeting this afternoon, but once I get home, I’m making soap! The first soap will be a peppermint soap with coconut oil, olive oil, and deer tallow. That’s right–I’m using the deer. Wish me luck.

The second soap will be a hot process 100% coconut oil laundry bar that will be shredded up for a huge batch of laundry soap. I’m hoping to do a post on both.

What are you soaping or crafting today?

New Writing Blog

Over the last year I have become serious about my fiction writing, and with my first novel’s tentative publication date set for early spring of next year, I decided to start another blog for my writing. Occasionally I may post about my writing projects here, but for the most part I would like to keep my focus on crafts and homeschooling on Good Intentions.

If you would like to check out my new writing blog and learn a little more about my first novel, Pippa of Lauramore, you can go to  http://sharriepuckett.wordpress.com/.

Rendering Tallow for Soapmaking

What did I do yesterday? Oh, you know, I had coffee with my step-sister, Marlo. We talked about my book, and we rendered down one of the four gallon bags of deer fat she brought. Yes, I know what you’re thinking–yuck. Why would we do that? Why?

DeerTallow

Well, my reasoning is simple. Why not? The fat was going to be thrown away, and that’s such a waste. Also, tallow acts like palm oil in soap recipes; it makes the bar hard and long-lasting. I have been patiently waiting for hunting season so I could try it out myself.

Actually, the process isn’t that bad. The fat had very little odor, and what I did notice reminded me of a pot roast on the stove. I believe this had a lot to do with Marlo and her crazy fat trimming skills. Everything she bought was just nice, white fat, and nothing else.

Can you write nice fat? Does that even work?

Anyway, we cooked the cubes down in a pot with several inches of water, and we used my Pampered Chef masher to help the process along once the fat began to turn translucent. The fat cooked on low for about half a day. Once there was a significant amount of liquid in the pot, I strained it off into a couple soaping containers. After they cooled on the counter, I placed them in the freezer for the night.

Right now the tallow is warming up on my counter. Once it’s warm enough to work with, I will slice off the gelatin and impurities, and into the pot it will return. After one more round through the pot and freezer, the tallow will be poured into a mold, cooled and sliced, and then frozen until I am ready to use it for soap.

I will post about the finished product when it’s all ready.

So tell me, have you ever used tallow in your soaping recipes? If so, how did you like it?

The Turmoil that is Editing a Manuscript

Editing stinks.

That is all.

No, really–it makes me crazy. I’m really happy with the novel I wrote back in July, but after staring at my own words for way too long, I’ve had some pretty emotional moments. More than once I’ve cried to my husband that it’s the worst lump of words ever written, and I should delete the whole thing.

He rolls his eyes, and then he tells me it’s fine. I start to breath again and realize he’s most likely right. I’ll be more convinced when he actually reads it. Darling–read the book, already!

I’m at that part where I’m almost ready for beta readers, and my step-sister is chomping at the bit to start.

I’m terrified.

What if she hates it? What if she thinks it’s stupid? What if she hates fantasy and she thinks I’m stupid?

Seriously, no one ever mentioned the mental breakdown a writer goes through during the editing process.

No matter where I’m at with my manuscript, two weeks into October I’m setting the whole thing aside to plot my NaNoWriMo novel. Yes–it’s NaNo time again!

If it’s your dream to write a novel, but you’ve never attempted it, I wholeheartedly urge you to give NaNo a try. Then after you’re done, you can tackle the editing monster, too.  And what fun that is!