Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soap, Soap & More Soap (Gift Sets Too!)

Today has been pretty busy for me.  I have gotten behind on my soap labeling and decided that today was the day to catch up.  Amanda and I are planning to be at a local craft fair next weekend, so I have a lot to do to get ready.  Today I made up several gift sets as well as labeling all of the soap.  I still have a few more gift sets to put together to fill requests that we already have and hopefully I'll get a few more ready for the sale.   I also have requests for a few crocheted dust mop covers and soap savers so I need to get those finished as well. 

I thought I would post pictures of some our stuff.  I apologize that the pictures are a little blurry.  I guess that's what you get for being in a hurry :)

Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey Soap with Brown Sugar Scrub

Coffee Soap with Coffee Bath Scrub

Energy Blend Soap with Loofa, Lavender Soap with Loofa, and Men's Shaving Set

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Soap

Christmas Forest Soap with Ground Rosemary
 We have a few more things ready, but the battery died on my camera so I didn't get pictures.  I'm planning to post more later.   Oh well, I think I'm gonna call it a day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is a special day for us here in the Baker household.  Not only are we having our family Thanksgiving meal this evening, but today is my precious daughters twenty-sixth birthday!  Not only will we be having our usual Thanksgiving feast, but we will also be having some of Amanda's favorite dishes as well.

I have learned over the years to never take our time together as a family lightly.  After seeing Amanda battle cancer a few years ago and my Dad having open heart surgery a year later, each and every day together is a blessing.   I am so thankful for a loving and merciful God that has allowed us one more year.  He is so good!

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Early Preparations

Well, I have been busy making as many preparations for our Thanksgiving meal as I can this far ahead.  Today I went ahead and made the Garlic & Leek Potatoes, cornbread for dressing, mixed the Sweet Potato Pies to be baked tomorrow, a loaf of gluten free bread, two sweet potato casseroles (for church dinner and Thanksgiving), and spiced peaches.  Everything except the spiced peaches will be in the freezer shortly.  The peaches probably won't make it until tomorrow :) 

Tomorrow I will go ahead and cook one of the turkeys, because I need the broth for some of the casseroles I'm making.  Rachel cannot have eggs or chicken so I will be making some homemade "cream of turkey" soup to use in the Broccoli and Rice casserole I'm taking to the church Sunday.  I also plan to make some for the freezer so that Amanda will have it on hand for some things she's planning.  I will be freezing most of this turkey in meal size portions to be used later for soups, stews, casseroles, turkey salad, etc.  We'll be cooking another turkey and also a ham for Thanksgiving Day later. 

I have to say that my house is starting to smell really, really good!  It's so nice to be the cook, because we all know that means we get to sample as we go along.   Rachel "helped" me with the Garlic and Leek potatoes and after we had everything mixed together she just had to have a "taste."  Her tasting led to a bowl of potatoes for her to eat while I put the rest into the pan for freezing.  I am so thankful for my precious little grandaughters. 

Things are usually so hectic around here that it's difficult for us to have a time when the whole family can be together.  I'm really getting excited about having everyone here, at one time, in one place, to celebrate Thanksgiving together.  God is so Good!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Final Decision on our Thanksgiving Menu

Amanda and I finally sat down yesterday and made a final decision about what we're having for our Thanksgiving meal.   I appreciate those of you that shared your family traditions and gave me some new ideas and recipes.  All of the dishes will be gluten free with the exception of the Mandarin Orange Cake which was requested by my daughter in honor of her birthday which happens to be November 24.  (We are having a combination birthday party and Thanksgiving celebration all in one :)  Here's what we're planning:

Cornbread dressing
Giblet Gravy
Sweet Potato Casserole
Garlic and Leek Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole (with homemade cream of mushroom soup and  french fried onion topping)
Layered Salad
Broccoli Salad
Bread (Amanda will be making bread with gluten and I will be making gluten free bread)
Apple Crisp
Sweet Potato Pie
Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie (this has always been my husbands favorite pie.  His mom used to make them for him)
Mandarin Orange Cake

I'm getting hungry just thinking about all of this "good eatin'".  Can't wait for next week to get here :)  For now, I guess I'll get to work making the things that freeze well so I won't be to tired to enjoy the food on Thanksgiving Day! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Soup & Salad Kind of Week

Due to quite a few different activities and distractions we have going on around here, I think we will be having a soup and salad week at the Baker household.  I know, I know, not much variety, but it does make life so much simpler when I don't have to spend a lot of time preparing our evening meal.  Since I have just about emptied our freezer of pre-cooked dinners (with the exception of beans), we will be having a variety of soups and salads.  Thankfully, I do have some pre-cooked ground deer and chicken in the freezer that will make things a little easier.  Hopefully this weekend I can take a little time to throw together a couple of meals for the freezer while making preparations for our church dinner and Thanksgiving next week.

Our evening meals will look something like this:

Tuesday - lentil soup over rice with lettuce salad

Wednesday - taco salad and corn on the cob

Thursday - leftover chili (from Monday) and potato soup

Friday - leftover soups  from earlier in the week and broccoli salad

Saturday - taco soup

Sunday - Church dinner

I'm planning to make enough taco soup and lentil soup to freeze for future meals.  We will also be having a variety of breads and chips to go with each meal.   I am so thankful for my three crockpots and rice cooker.  They will definitely be getting a workout this week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Simple Little Thing

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it's the simplest things that make life easier?  Most of you have probably known about those handy little command hooks for a long time, but I have only recently discovered them.  Oh my goodness, I wish I had known about them sooner!  Amanda has used them for years and I (being the completely observant person I am)  finally noticed them and the many ways she uses them.  I just have to share pictures.

Aren't they neat?  They hold up quite a bit of weight and also come in different sizes.  When she takes them down there is no mark left on the walls!  When space is limited these simple little gadgets can make a BIG difference!  Oh, by the way, the cute little blue and white organizer in the above picture?  You can get one for yourself at  Check it out!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Gift Sets

Amanda and I have been busy putting together some gifts sets using the homemade soaps and body scrubs that we make.  Thought I would share a few pictures.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Soap and Brown Sugar Scrub

Coffee Bath Scrub and Round Soap

Men's Shaving Set w/camo bag

Wooden Soap Saver Set

Amanda has also been making beeswax candles and we have a few other projects in the making.  Hope to post pictures soon.   We would love to hear about any homemade gift ideas you have.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu

I don't know about you, but it seems to me as if this year has totally flown by!  It's really hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away!  Wow!  I'm sitting here thinking about our Thanksgiving menu and thinking that I would love to have some different side dishes this year.  Our menu usually consists of turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole, lettuce salad, bread, greens beans (or green bean casserole), blueberry cream cheese pie, sweet potato pie, and cookies of some sort.   For some reason my family loves to have salad with their Thanksgiving meal, so I know that we will have that, but I would love some ideas for other side dishes and if they happen to "already be" gluten free that would be totally awesome, if not I'm getting good at adapting :)  I would love to hear what you're having and shared recipes would be an added bonus! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Great Weekend

It seems like as my children get older, our weekends get more and more hectic.  Everyone is going different directions trying to complete things that we didn't have time for during the week.  This weekend was not that way.  My husband was off work from Thursday through Sunday and didn't seem to have any projects that he needed (or wanted) to do, Heath was off Saturday and Sunday, Caleb had to work Saturday, but was home Sunday, and since Amanda's husband (Alan) was out of town for the weekend we saw a lot of her and the girls.  Murry, Ferrell, and I did take care of a few things around here on Friday, but it was all stuff that we worked on together like moving and insulating the chicken tractor and working in the garden.   Murry also took the time to help Amanda get things taken care of at her home so maybe she won't have any frozen pipes this year.  

On Saturday, Murry, Ferrell, Heath, Amanda, Rachel, Ellen, and I all went to the Vardaman Sweet Potato Festival and had a blast.  We haven't done anything like that as a family in a looong time.  I just hate that Caleb had to work.  He used to love going to the Sweet Potato Festival and entering the Sweet Potato Pie eating contest, but I guess it may be a good thing he didn't get to go, because now that he is gluten free he would not have been able to participate in the pie eating contest and that was always the high light of the day for him :)  

After we got home from Vardaman, Murry & Ferrell killed one of our roosters so that I would have it to cook this week.  They didn't really have time to take care of more than one since we had company coming that evening, but that's okay we'll get the rest of them taken care of soon :) 

Amanda and Heath's half brother has a birthday this month, so he came over on Saturday and I made him an early birthday supper.  He had requested tacos, rotel dip w/sausage, and strawberry cake.  We enjoyed a great time of fellowship with this sweet young man and on Sunday our entire family (with the exception of Alan) was able to be in our home church for services.  Our pastor outdid himself with the preaching services both morning and evening.  You could definitely feel the presence of God!  I am so thankful for a pastor that follows the leading of the Holy Spirit and I am also thankful that God blessed us with a wonderful, "family" weekend.  It was just what I needed! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Subscribe & Save

I enjoy cooking!  I've always enjoyed cooking and especially making bread.  I love the smell of freshly ground wheat and hand kneading dough has always had a soothing effect on me (yeah I know I'm strange).   Since Caleb has had to go gluten free, breadmaking has become more of a challenge.  Did you know that you can't knead gluten free bread?  No really, you can't!   Gluten free bread "dough" is more like a cake batter.   For the past year I've been grinding rice and beans to mix with other flours to make a decent sandwich bread for Caleb.  (Oh, by the way,  freshly ground beans DO NOT smell anything like freshly ground wheat, just in case you were wondering :)   In the past I've always done my bread making from scratch.  No mixes and no bread machine for me.  No sir!  It just wasn't the same.  Well, I've learned that there is definitely a time and place for bread mixes and to get a really good (taste and texture) sandwich bread we've started using Gluten Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread Mix.  It really is good.  Even my "non-gluten free" family members like it, which is saying a lot.  (Because of the expense involved most of our gluten free bread is for Caleb only, but we all have to taste anything new :)  Since Caleb has been gluten free we really haven't been eating a lot of bread.  I worry about cross contaminating if I try to make whole wheat for the rest of the family and it is a real issue, because Caleb is extremely sensitive to cross contamination.  He will be sick for days with just the slightest amount of gluten.  Since I've discovered the Gluten Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread Mix I have been making about a loaf a week or sometimes every other week for Caleb.  I usually make it and let it cool on the rack, then I go ahead and slice it up into sandwich size slices and freeze it.  That way he can take out what he needs and we don't have much waste.   This bread mix is not as expensive as some of the others we've tried and it definitely has simplified things for me.  I do still grind and make my own gluten free flour mixes to use, but I keep some of this bread mix on hand for those times when I just can't seem to get everything done.  

The thing that really helps with the cost of purchasing gluten free, ready made items is the Subscribe & Save option at  With Subscribe & Save you get 15% percent off of your product and also free shipping.  When I combine this feature with my Swagbucks gift cards I quite often get my shipment for under $5.  We are signed up with Subscribe & Save on several gluten free items and have them delivered at different times.  Some things come every three months and some things come every six months.  You can set up delivery any way you want, for us this spacing works better financially.  I have plenty of time between shipments to accumulate enough Swagbucks to make a real difference in total cost.   If you buy many gluten free items (flours, mixes or ready made snacks) you may want to check into this option.  For us it works.