Monday, September 1, 2014

Cooking En Masse

You may have noticed from several of my posts that I've been attempting various strategies to try to pull myself together before school started back.

This latest endeavor is no different. 

I have decided to try my hand at....

you guessed it...

cooking en masse.

Okay.  You probably wouldn't have guessed that.  But when I saw this pin on Pinterest I thought it might be something good to try.

You can read the detailed instructions here.

This is how it works.  You obtain all the ingredients and prepare all of the meals and freeze them in the freezer.  This process is supposed to take an hour.  (It took me two hours but that only confirms my suspicious that I cook twice as slowly as a normal person.)

Here are the ingredients I bought plus the meat (not pictured).

The night before you want to cook them you thaw them in the fridge and then cook them in the crock pot the following day.

So far we've eaten 3 of 7 meals.  Two of them received high marks from my husband and myself...the third was just okay.  I wanted to hold off on blogging about these until I had at least tried some of the recipes.

The finished product all stacked up in my freezer.

Here's what I like about it:
  • It keeps me from having to run to the grocery store after work.  I usually only buy enough meat for 2 or 3 meals because I never know what our schedule will be like or which set of in-laws will invite us over to eat with them on a given night.  It never fails that I am out of meat on the night we have no invitations.
  • It's ready by the time I get home!  That is awesome.
  • I use these crockpot liners so there's very little clean up.  (Side note: Don't try to use these in a Roaster.  It will melt and stick to the side of the pan.  Learn from my mishaps.)
  • I loved the all inclusive shopping list.  I spent less than $100 for the ingredients for all 7 meals, although I already had a lot of the pantry and spice items.  That is a more than I normally spend on a trip to the grocery store but I usually don't buy enough food for 7 meals either.
  • Although it took up 2 hours on a Saturday, it was well worth the time I have saved during the week, thus far anyway.  And I'm sure it would take less time next time.
Here's what I didn't like so much:
  • Most of the recipes cook in 6 hours.  I can program my crock pot to cook for any amount of time and then it switches to keep warm.  I feel like the recipe that was just okay was probably because the meat dried out on the keep warm setting before I could get home.
  • I think next time I will try this version of recipes since it has step by step instructions and also has a detailed shopping list and even has printable labels (how cute is that?!?).  It also has recipes that aren't crock pot recipes.
Like the idea of cooking en masse?  Scope out Pinterest for all sorts of posts.  I even saw one that was 40 meals in 4 hours.  I'm intrigued but thought I would try my hand with the 7 meals first before I committed to 40 meals.  They also have ideas for inviting over a friend or two and prepping together and then splitting the meals.

p.s. I'm linking up to Home Stories A to Z, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, By Stephanie Lynn, I heart Naptime, Serenity Now, Savvy Southern Style, Remodelaholic, Tidy Mom,  Living Well Spending Less and It's Overflowing.

Friday, August 29, 2014

First Day of School {2nd Grade}

We have survived a full week of school.  It hasn't been pretty and there was one day we flirted with getting a tardy but managed to get to school on time.

We kicked the first day off with our annual Back to School Breakfast.

Back to School Breakfast
The "runner" is wrapping paper from the OneSpot at Target along with the marker board that looks like a sheet of paper.  I had everything else around the house already.
We dined on McKenna's favorite Cinnamon Rolls.

These girls are growing up entirely too fast.  It seems like McKenna just started Kindergarten and she's already in 2nd grade!  And my little Avery will start her last year of preschool next week.

We took our Back to School pictures on the porch really quick.  Daddy was totally rushing us at this point and I didn't get very many.

She wouldn't let me take my big camera into her classroom.  But she did ask if I would hold her hand on the way into the school.  I don't know if it made her feel but it made her Mama feel a lot better.

I did manage to get this one on my phone of her at her desk.

This is my 3rd time leaving her at school for the first day...and it's still hard.  Part of me wants to snatch her back out, take her home and lock her in a tower until she's 35.  But I always talk myself out of it.  It wouldn't be fair to her even though it would make me feel a lot better.

So far she loves school and even got up on her own this morning.  That has NEVER happened before.  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it continues and she has another great year!

And that, my friends, was our first day of second grade!

p.s. I'm linking up to Serenity Now, Home Stories A to Z and I Heart Naptime.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Summer Bucket List {2014}

It's a sad day on the Bay Bush as we put summer to rest and prepare for the first day of school tomorrow.  McKenna will begin 2nd grade (what?!?) and Avery starts another year of preschool after Labor Day.
We packed a lot of fun into a short time and almost checked everything off on our Bucket List.  We missed the water park, riding go-carts and riding a horse...but there's always next year for those!


We put a little gold star on them as we crossed them off the list.

Here are a few pictures we took along the way...

Playing monopoly...

And putt-putt...

And more putt-putt...

And at the beach...

And on one of our adventures in the mountains...
We also did a few extra things that weren't on the original list like...

- Floating down a river in an inflatable tube.  We had so much fun but I don't have any pictures since I wasn't brave enough to bring my camera.  You'll have to take my word for it!

- Getting in Daddy's way helping Daddy at work...

- Both girls had an "UN-Birthday Party" at breakfast at different times during the can see that I went "all-out" by making Nutella waffles and cheese toast.  Nothing but fine dining around these parts.

 - several trips to various girl loves some skee ball.

- Got in a lot of snuggles with this sweet boy...

All in all, it was a great summer and I hate to see it end!

p.s. You can read about our 2013 bucket list here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pretty Little Planner

I'm trying to get my life organized before school starts back.  I needed a new planner and loved the colors of this one I found at Target for $5.99.  It had a clear plastic cover which should be more durable than my May Book.

I really loved my May Book that I used last year but after 5 months of hard time in my purse, it started to look a little frayed.  No offense to May Books because I really loved the planner.  Traveling around in my purse with 50 little toys, a tangled mess of receipts and who knows what else is probably a rougher life than it was intended to have.

I really wanted a monogram on it but thought I could add one.  I ordered a 2 inch vinyl monogram in hot pink for the front off of Etsy.  I applied the vinyl monogram to the inside of the cover without considering how busy the greek key design was and that even hot pink wouldn't really show up on it. Bad idea #1.

I decided to pull the monogram back off and put it on white paper.  Bad idea #2.  It was a tangled hot mess.
I thought about ordering another monogram and trying again but I really just wanted to finish this little project.  That's when I found Printable Monogram.  It has a ton of templates that you can download and print your own monogram...
the best part is...
wait for it...
ALL FOR FREE!!!  Just about every monogram design you can think of is up there.  You should really check it out if you haven't already!
To get the right size, I used the note card size and printed them on shipping labels that I already had.  To get the monogram, I printed the note cards and then used that as a guide for positioning the shipping label on the paper.

Once I printed on the shipping labels I just cut inside of the pink lines for my monogram.

Since I printed on a shipping label, it stuck right to the planner.

I've already gone through and added all the birthdays and school calendar dates so I should be ready to roll!  I love the way it turned out!!!

p.s. I'm linking up to Home Stories A to Z, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, By Stephanie Lynn, I heart Naptime, Serenity Now, Savvy Southern Style, Remodelaholic, Tidy Mom,  Living Well Spending Less and It's Overflowing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tuckaleechee Caverns

We spent our last morning of our trip to the mountains at Tuckaleechee Caverns.

Tuckaleechee Caverns

I have visited other caverns before but these were much larger and felt like authentic caverns.  I almost felt like I should have been required to wear a hardhat and tote a chisel.
Tuckaleechee Caverns

There is no elevator down to these caverns.  You walk down stairs and paths all the way down to 450 feet below ground.  I really have to talk myself out of freaking out when I think about being underneath 450 feet of bedrock.  Things like this never bothered me when I was younger but now I think of every possible thing that could go wrong. #oldladyprobs

Tuckaleechee Caverns
These caverns were opened by two brothers who played in them as children.  They decided to open them up as a tourist attraction in the 1950s but no one would loan them the startup capital.  So they went to Alaska to work for several years until they had saved enough money to open the caverns. 

Tuckaleechee Caverns
Our guide was very informative.  Those tall toothpick like structures in the background are actually 25 feet tall.

Uncle of the year, here, carried Miss Priss part of the way after she got a blister on her foot.

This is the beach area.  Some people filled up their water bottles with the spring water to drink.  Not me.  I'll stick to Coke Zero.
Tuckaleechee Cavern beach

The girls made a wish in the wishing well.  Avery told me later that she wished she "could build something like this someday."
Tuckaleechee Caverns wishing well

There's even a waterfall inside the cavern that they've never been able to find the water source for.  I love a good mystery!

Tuckaleechee Caverns Waterfall

I like to sneak in some educational activities on our little trips.  The girls had a ball and thought we had gone on a "real adventure!"

Here are a few tips in case you visit...
  • It's cold 450 feet underground!  I brought jackets for the girls and I and we wore them the entire time.  I'd guess it was about 58-60 degrees.  That's cold to me.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with a good grip.  All of the stairs are man-made and not necessarily evenly spaced or the same width across.  Our guide was good about telling us where to be careful walking but I certainly wouldn't recommend wearing heels or shoes that were slippery.  Plus, it's a lot of walking and you might end up with a blister like McKenna.
  • There were spots where even McKenna had to bend down to get through so this tour.  This would not be a good trip for anyone who has trouble walking, bending or going up or down stairs.
  • Similarly, no strollers are allowed so small children either need to walk or be carried.  Avery is 4 and she had no trouble walking but I held her hand on the stairs.
  • The tour takes about an hour and 15 minutes from start to finish.
  • Taking pictures is tough.  The picture quality is best without a flash but it's difficult to stand still long enough for the shutter to close.  I used both methods and shot without a flash where I could find somewhere to prop up against.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joining the Band Wagon

I'm officially adding the Bay Bush to the latest band wagon...

When I saw these on Groopdealz buy one get one free I couldn't resist.  I haven't decided where the other print will reside but I found the perfect spot for this one.

Just for's what the bathroom looked like the last time you saw it after I added the Gold Polka Dots...
Polka Dot Wall

I popped the print into an old frame and hung it right up in my gold polka dot bathroom. (Never in a hundred million years did I think I would have gold of any sort in my house...let alone an entire wall of shiny gold polka dots.)  But I really love them!

It doesn't get much more southern than "hey y'all" and mason jars!

You can read about how I built the shelf in our bathroom here.

p.s. I'm linking up to Home Stories A to Z, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, By Stephanie Lynn, I heart Naptime, Serenity Now, Savvy Southern Style, Remodelaholic, Tidy Mom,  and It's Overflowing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cades Cove

We just wrapped up a fun-filled little jaunt to the mountains of East Tennessee.  One of our favorite places to go in the mountains is Cades Cove.  (You can read about our last trip here.)

Forgive me for the sheer volume of pictures you're about to see.

We ran by Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way and picked up the makings for a picnic.  They have a large picnic area and stream.  The girls had a ball playing in the stream while we got the picnic ready. A few of our favorite friends met us for the picnic and trip through Cades Cove.

Even little Tyler got in on the action...

Once we entered the actual park, we hiked up the trail to the John Oliver house.  It was only a 1/4 of a mile each way.

John Oliver House


John Oliver House
We loaded back up in the car and continued around the Cove.
Cades Cove

  We went into one of the old churches...

This deer was standing right next to the road munching.  I was only 10 feet away from this deer when I snapped this picture.  We also saw a bear on this trip but I didn't get a good picture of it.

These girls just had the best time seeing each other again.

Cades Cove

This is the 1820 version of a McMansion.

This was the only house in the cove that we saw with painted rooms.

Mom.  Dad.  Smiling.  Holding hands?  I'm so confused.

I love these sweet girls!

I think this is proof that a good time was had by all!
Here are a few tips if you'd like to visit the Cove.
  • Wear good shoes.  It's a lot of walking to some of the houses.  A few are right on the road through the cove though if you're not able to walk very far.
  • I wish I had brought an additional pair of water shoes for the girls.  They had a ball playing in the creek.
  • Bring a picnic!  The only food for sale is in the little snack bar at the visitor's center as you enter or exit Cades Cove. 
  • There is a waterfall hike in the Cove but I've never braved it.  It's over 5 miles round trip.
  • Sometimes traffic can back up as you drive through if there is a wild animal on the side of the road.  Even though the road through is only 9 miles it can take up to an hour to get through if you don't stop for any of the trails.
  • Bring your camera! 
  • There are restrooms in the visitor's center, at the start of the Abram's Falls trail and at the Nature center.  However, the ones at Abram's Falls were a little too "port-a-john-ish" for me.

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