I love Christmas. I love it so much that I start planning way early. Today I printed out my Christmas 2017 planner! I usually search the internet for free planner printables because I also love free. This year, I am using this really cute planner from The Cottage Market. 

holida planner

To be honest, I had trouble with the zip file after I downloaded it, so I just printed it from the previews. While the pages ended up having a larger margin than I think they were designed to have, it is functional, cute and free!

I love that this printable planner has one-page calendars for November and December and plenty of gift planning pages. Another thing I love about printable planners in general is that you can take one page and make multiple copies if needed. Not enough space on the card list? Print another page. No big deal.

If you know me, you probably know that I have started my Christmas shopping as early as June in the past. My kids have entered a stage in life where it is getting very  hard to shop early for them. I hear this lasts for quite a while… but they are so susceptible to marketing and the Christmas marketing hasn’t started up yet so they won’t “know” what they want for Christmas until November at the earliest. I have started compiling a list of ideas though. Last year we did the 4-gift plan. Each girl got 4 gifts from Mom and Dad plus 2 gifts from Santa. I loved this! The 4 gifts from us were “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” It makes planning simple and it keeps us from buying things just to have “enough” for them to open. I worried last year that they would be disappointed, but they weren’t. Also with this plan, my whole budget for each girl only has to last for 6 gifts which means I can spend a little more for really good quality stuff. We also do stockings which include new socks, new underwear, a toothbrush, and a piece of nice chocolate. Simple.

Tell me your favorite Christmas traditions! How do you like to plan and shop? Do you start early or wait for the last minute?

Foodie Friday: July Menu

I just finished putting together this menu. I have to admit, I was having a sort of planner’s block this time around. BUT I pushed through and let me tell you: after putting all the recipes in the July 2017 Menu Pinterest board, my mouth is watering! I am so excited to try out some of these new recipes. I found some in Southern Living Magazine, others just searching around on Pinterest, and still others were suggested by friends and co-workers. I even got my 6 year old, Amelia in on the planning process this time!

July in Oklahoma tends to be hot- maybe not as hot as August- but hot just the same. I am avoiding turning on my oven, so you’ll notice there aren’t many recipes that require the hot-box. I love my slow-cooker year round because it requires very little attention and it doesn’t heat up the house. I love my grill too. I have a gas grill, and while some say you really miss out on the charcoal flavor, it is just too convenient to complain. I don’t have to wait on the coals to get to that “just right” place in the grill. I just turn on the gas, push a button and let it heat up for a few minutes. Then I cook! You’ll notice a good number of grilled dinners this time around. Yes, it is hot outside and grilling requires you to be outside. Yes, the grill is hot. But I am not fighting my expensive air conditioner later in the evening, and I get to watch my kids play in the yard while we wait for dinner.

I hope you enjoy this menu. I seemed to be craving Mexican when I made June’s menu, but I have several classic Southern and Creole recipes this month. I guess I’m just excited about my upcoming beach vacation. Thinking about Florida always gets me in the mood for Southern/Cajun foods!July 2017 Menu

And here’s the printable. Feel free to modify this however it will best fit your tastes!

July 2017 Menu

Successful Co-Parents Pick Their Battles

boxing gloves

It can often be difficult to communicate with and relate to a co-parent after a divorce. Sometimes, your co-parent may be uncooperative, and do things to provoke you. They may be doing this to try to gain a sense of control over his or her own life and using you to get there. When you react, you are essentially “taking the bait.”

To stop doing this, you should answer questions and comments meant to provoke with short statements. A brief yes or no response is typically helpful in these situations. Any further details can easily turn into an argument or debate. OR it may be best to not respond at all. If no response is really necessary for the responsible parenting of your child/children, just don’t respond.

In the end, it is critical to be nice. I know you don’t want to, but it’s not for your co-parent, it’s for your kids!

Other times your co-parent may do things that are absent minded and inconsiderate- like sending the kids to your house with bags full of dirty laundry when you always make sure the clothes are clean. These things can be extremely irritating over time, but are they worth a fight? The answer is no. When things like this happen, it is best to take a deep breath (or three, or four) and let it go. You could even use it as an opportunity to teach your kids how to do their own laundry! Or keep up with their own belongings using a list, or basically solve the problem themselves.

Remember, every argument you have with your co-parent leads to more hurt, more anger, and more trauma for your kids. It doesn’t matter so much how you feel about your co-parent, but how you behave toward your co-parent can have a lasting impact on how your children view you, their other parent, and relationships in general.

Foodie Friday: Sand Plums

Have you ever tasted sand plum jelly? It’s delicious! My mom has made it several times and I almost always benefit from her labors. I am not sure where her sand plums have come from, but I know I had never hunted or picked them before this Related image

week. I decided I wanted to go looking for these little wild plums and make some jelly. Sand plums, also known as Chickasaw plum, Cherokee plum, or Sandhill plum (Prunus angustifolia Marshall), are native fruit-producing shrubs or small trees in Oklahoma. Use of sand plums range from cover for native bird species to making jams, jellies, and wine from the fruit.

I was not warned about the thorny nature of the bushes. I was warned about the chiggers. I used bug spray. After 3 trips out looking and picking, I managed to collect 37 chiggers.

The plums are about the size of a large cherry, so you need a lot of them to actually make jelly. Later today I am taking my collection to my mom’s house so we can make the jelly together. Making jelly is not difficult, but as with any chore, it’s more fun when done together. I owe my co-workers some jars of this plum-colored goodness because I most definitely did not collect these sand plums alone and I am definitely not the only one who can boast a spattering of 152 chiggers.

I will try to take some picture of the jelly making process and share an update with you after we’ve made the jelly. I sure hope it is worth the sweat, thorns, and 517 chiggers.

Here’s a recipe from Kraft. (*I am not endorsing Kraft brands, but it is merely an example of one of the brands available for pectin.)

You can follow the link for the Plum Jelly Recipe.

sand plum jelly recipe

Jelly Update: 

On Friday, I took my sand plums to my mom’s house and we made Sand Plum Jam. We decided we didn’t really have the proper equipment to strain out all the pulp, and that was okay. We wanted to do the jam to make it easier on ourselves by  not having to strain it more and also the processing time for jam was 10 minutes. If you process your jam/jelly for 10 minutes or longer you do not need to sterilize the jars. So, making jam eliminated that extra step.

First, we washed the plums and picked out any bad ones. Then we cooked them down in just a little bit of water. Next, we strained the juice out. Like I said before, we only had a regular colander so a little pulp got through into our juice.

After we got the juice extracted from our fruit, we brought it up to a full rolling boil and added our sugar. Then we let that boil again for a bit. That’s it for the “cooking.” It’s good to scrape off and discard the foamy stuff at that will float up as the jelly cools.  We ladled our jam into half-pint jars and processed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

For jams and jellies, you want a quarter inch headspace. That is the space between the top of the jam and the bottom of the lid should be 1/4 inch. Canning jars are standard, and the threads at the neck of the jar for the screw bands will be the same on every brand. You can measure 1/4 inch headspace by lining up your food with the top point of the screw band thread:

plum jelly 7

Before putting the lids on, I wiped the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Any sugar or fruit on the rim could keep the jar from sealing.

Once out of the canner, we set the jars on a towel. Placing the hot jars on a cold surface could cause your jars to break.

plum jelly 4

We had fun making this jam. It was quick and easy. I hope you are inspired to try your hand and jelly/jam making with your fruit collection!