Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Downtown Savannah

My friend Naomi came to visit me for my birthday this past week.  It was really nice to have her here with me.  We had a blast and even got to scrapbook together. :) Hopefully she enjoyed that too.  Anyways, she is an aspiring pro-photographer as well, and while she was here I took advantage of her skills and had her shoot some family pics for us for my birthday! :)

This is Naomi:

We went to Forsyth Park here in Savannah.  You can check out her other work at http://naomiabbottphotography.com/ or click the title of this post to link to it automatically.  If you live in the Waxhaw, NC area, or somewhere around Charlotte, you can book her for a shoot...at least for a while!  She's about to move to Houston, TX for a year.  So, maybe if you're in Houston, you'll be able to hook up with her!  

Enough babbling!  Pictures speak louder than words, so here are some of the shots she got.  Some of the solo Jonas ones I took myself, but all the group shots she took.  It is soooo complicated trying to use a timer to shoot a family with an 18 month old!  So, I'm thankful she could help us out.  Our last decent family picture was when Jonas was like two months old for Easter.  Yikes!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kookabums/Kookabear Kids

Wow.  So even after months of saying nothing about this brand of diaper, I am still getting [annonymous] comments and feedback about the inner workings of this company.

Let me preface this review by stating that I love supporting stay-at-home mom/mom based businesses.  I really would love to give a good review in this case, but just keep reading and you'll see why I cannot in this case.  I don't want to lead others astray, and then cause them to hate their cloth purchase.  For future reference, if you have a high quality cloth diaper and great customer service, I'll be happy to review your diaper for you.  This is the ONLY diaper that I have been this dissatisfied with.

A little history:
I found a link on diaperswappers.com to the Kookabear Kids website.  Diaperswapper members had the opportunity to purchase diapers for $10 each.  A great deal.  Melinda (the owner) was most likely flooded with orders, as this price is well below her retail price.  I ordered three.  There was no note on the site about estimated delivery date.  I assumed incorrectly that she had built up stock and would simply ship items out.  Wrong!  Not that this was a terrible crime or anything, as I've waited for other SAHM diapers too, but I knew ahead of time that I would be waiting.  My invoice receipt said that my diapers would ship in 4 weeks.  Sheesh! FOUR WEEKS?!!?!

Please note, any communication between Melinda and myself (where she emailed me) went to my spam box for some reason.  She finally contacted me after 5 or 6 weeks through a friend that also ordered a $10 diaper.  So I searched my inbox and found an email that she'd sent, one week earlier stating that she was out of one of the fabrics I ordered.  MY FAVORITE ONE.  Bummer.

I got over it, picked a different pattern and kept waiting.  Older blog posts show my frustration with waiting.  She mailed them to my old address.  I sent her emails, and checked with her, and was assured she'd send them to Savannah, but low and behold, she shipped them to Evans.  Thankfully I am good friends with my former neighbor.  He intercepted the package, and I met up with him to get it.  (I just had to wait until I made a trip to the Augusta area to get it.)

So I meet up with Brad, all excited to get my new diapers after all this time.  I rip open the package in the car, and, ***what a letdown*** they look horrible!  The stitching was crooked, the leg gussets/elastic looked like she slopped them together, and the snaps didn't coordinate that well with the fabric.  On top of that, the argyle print was cut out the wrong direction.  There were blue pen markings on the PUL on the inside.  (These were AI2's with snap in liners).  The liners were snapped into the covers crooked.  Overall, they were terribly constructed.  I complained to Melinda, and tried them out.  LEAKED almost EVERY TIME.  These diapers were no good.

She emailed back saying that she was having problems with the materials used on the soaker pads, and that she was going to start using some new more natural product (bamboo I think).  She said she was changing her diaper from an AI2 to and AIO and that she'd refund my $ or send me new diapers.  I chose the new diapers like a doofus.  After being surprised by the workmanship, I confronted her, and this is what she said,

"Honestly, I didn't realize that they were so shoddily made and I am somewhat suprised myself because I have had such good feedback too... ;( I have been going through so much personal stuff lately that I have to admit I have been a little distracted. That is why I practically quit selling things until I listed some tester items yesterday.

I can happily refund through paypal.

I can also simply remake your order and see if it is better for you. You are more than welcome to keep the ones you have as compensation for all the crap you have been through with me.

I finally got a serger so I am serging my inserts now and I am hoping that will really help. I am also going to quit using microfiber and exclusively use the bamboo hemp combination because it is easier to work with and I find customers really like the natural fibers for baby.....

Just let me know what you would like to do.... I have to say I am very sorry.... "

I felt bad for complaining, but had her remake them, as $40 was too pay to not expect something, so I gave her another shot...it was my "compassionate" way of helping her since she was obviously going through something.

Fast forward a few weeks:
I get my new AIO's.  They are much better than before.  One of the four was backwards (how it closed) than the other three.  I thought that was weird.  The stitching isn't perfect, but it was improved and acceptable.  She added tags, which was a nice touch.  They looked really cute off of Jonas.  However, my son is chunky, and they were made smaller.  So they were too tight to really let him wear.  I put them on him a few times, but they leak.  Not sure if it was product malfunction this time or that they don't fit him well (30 lbs at the time), but in either case, I was tired of dealing with it, and didn't want to sound like a mooch.  Melinda also offered a freebie for blog reader, that I was going to do when I reviewed the diaper.  So needless to say, due to the dislike of the diapers, I decided to NOT host the giveaway (not to mention her customer service diminished after she sent the 2nd batch) because I was worried the prize would never show up.  I tried emailing her about the sizing of those 2nd diapers because I just wanted her to know that she should upsize them a little now that they were AIO's, but I've never seen any more contact from her. 

I was told that I would get some extra inserts with my second order because of all the cr@p she put me through.  I got the worst looking scraps of fabric.  They were all different, they were different shapes, some were serged on the top, some were really long pieces.  All were crooked and stupid.  What a waste of time. 

So I can't recommend Kookabear Kids/Kookabum diapers to you at this time.  Others are having issues with her too, and from what I can tell, she's avoiding those who have issues with her.  It is sad because the prints and the idea of her store, to have modern diapers was very good, it was just poorly executed.  :( 

Stick with some other brand for cloth diapering your baby....

(I thought I had better pics with the diapers but this is all I could find...you can barely see his punk diaper.  Oh well, he hates it too.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

What I did this weekend... :)

I took pictures at Jonathan's cousin Chad's wedding.  He married Kristi, who is a wonderful person inside and out.  The wedding was beautiful, and I have much editing to do!  But here's a quick look at a few favorites from the pre-wedding photoshoot! :)


Kissing the mid-twenties goodbye!

Twenty-six is almost behind me.  As "birthday week" continues, I'd like to set forth some goals for myself in the coming year.  I think that by publishing these publicly I will feel more obligated to complete them and keep them! :)

This summer has gone by in a whirlwind of traveling and activities...all of which have gotten me off track in many ways. 

1.  All that packing and unpacking has "unorganized" me and my "home" quite a bit.  I hope to do some "fall cleaning" out, as it cannot possibly wait for Spring Cleaning!  It truly has been a lot of fun going on vacation, visiting family, camps, weddings and all the things that caused us to hit the road, but I look forward to slowing down a bit soon.  :)

2.  Dieting - I'm a horrible dieter.  I am obsessively compulsively addicted to chocolate.  It is rare that I eat a candy that I don't like.  My palate is not as picky as it should be I suppose, as I don't mind fast food.  At all.  I have friends and there are teens in our youth group that say frequently, "I don't like that restaurant" or "I hate ____".  I like fast food.  I might even love it.  And my hips are the evidence.  Not only am I a terrible dieter, I am a die hard exercise hater.  :(  I wish I liked it.  But along with re-organizing my drawers and closets, I want to diet and exercise and lose some weight!

3.  Financially - all that eating out and traveling has been terrible financially.  Not only have we spent tons of $$ on gas, on fast food on the way, and increased shopping at our destinations (why is that?), I have fallen behind on the coupon wagon.  I chalk it up to "busy-ness", not having time to clip and shop around since I've been jumping in and out of town all summer.  So, my goal is to jump back in to that full force.  I signed up for newspaper delivery for those much needed coupons.  :) 

4.  Crafting - I've crafted a little this summer, but only in a hurry and only for other people.  So for my birthday I requested some uninterrupted craft time to do some scrapping and such.  I'm farther behind than just the summer, but I've depleted much of my card stash and not replaced it.  I've even used some cards that I'd held onto for a year or more that I was just too attached to to give away.  It's gone! :)  It did bring joy, so it was worth it, but I like having them saved up.

5.  Christian Life - I really am trying to be the best Christian I can be.  I started taking more notes for personal reflection and have been searching for a couples Bible Study to start with Jonathan.  When we first got married we had devo's every night together and after we finished that book, we never picked up another.  So my short term goal for this year is to start a new couples devo, and my long term goal is to start family devotions with Jonas too.  I'd like to become a habit for us.

So, this week, I have three more days until I'm 27.  I am not exactly where I'd like to be in life, but I'm embracing the journey God has us on.  I have several things that frustrate me about our circumstances and I could complain about, but I am going to make a valiant effort to NOT complain about it.  I'm going to pro-actively push myself and my family to be the best we can be in the place God has led us. 

I love my family, and I hope that laying out these goals for the fall will help me to be a better person.  I want to do my best as a homemaker, and be the best wife/mom I can be.  I want to be a better Christian too.  My list isn't very demanding is it? LOL! :)  What are your expectations for yourself?  How have they changed for you since you got married/had children/got older?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trouble Chewing...Adventures in Vinyl Lettering

You know the old saying, "I think I bit off more than I can chew"?  Well, I don't necessarily think I bit off more than I could chew, (though Jon's help was essential to the truth in that statement as he was a huge help!) but I think I bit off more than was FUN to chew yesterday!  LOL!  What I mean is, I did a big job.  I knew I could apply vinyl in small scale.  And then I got asked if I could do vinyl on a 12 foot trailer.  The adventurous side of me couldn't say no, plus I love my Pastor (the owner of the business/trailer) so the work began!  It was HUGE!!  (Did I say that yet??!?!)  Well, that sucker looked MUCH bigger up close than I counted on (I had only seen it from a distance, and in the pictures Jon took).  But, Jonathan and I tackled that big boy one vinyl strip at a time, and little by little, letter by letter, we did it.  We actually pulled it off.  And it actually turned out great.  Now I 'm not saying it was my last trailer job, but I am saying it is much harder than it looks, and I am not chomping at the bits to do it again any time soon!  I have played with my Cricut and vinyl for about a year and a half now, and have gotten pretty proficient at it.  But this was by far, the biggest job I've ever done.

For the record, I did not cut all that vinyl out on my Cricut.  That would have been horrific to do on this scale (not to mention, doing it 3 times for all the sides of the trailer!) but also been impossible to line up straight.  Special thanks to Johnson Signs of Pageland, SC (my friends hubby) for cutting out the vinyl for us on his plotter,  for a VERY reasonable price! :)  And also thanks for talking me through it and putting up with all my questions!  It wouldn't have been so smooth without your help Josh!

It was super hot yesterday, and we worked very hard.  We sweated like crazy.  But we had fun, and we did it together.  We have such a sense of accomplishment, and personally, I think it looks fantastic!

Take a peek at Custom Gutters LLC's newly vinyl lettered trailer!  It goes out on its first job in the morning! :)

In total there were three sides.  We did the back first because it was the smallest and easiest.  So that was yesterday.  I had all but sworn off vinyl and thought about taking a sabbatical from vinyl entirely when I suggested to Jon that we give the Connec+een kids (our youth group) a gift for back to school.  We bought some super cheap notebooks and I once again used vinyl.  They are simple, but the logo on the front looked great and gave a really personalized touch.  The teenagers loved them.  :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hair today, What tomorrow?

Today (the today I am referring to was actually yesterday since it is after midnight as I type this update!) was an unusual day in history.  Today was August 9, 2010.  More popularly written, today was 8/9/10.  That won't happen again for another century!  Of course next year there will be a 9/10/11, but that sequence will only last until 12/13/14 as there is no 13th month! :)  What great wedding dates these will make!

So what great thing was done today on 8/9/10?  Well nothing major for me, but today was fun.  Jonas slept reeeeeaaaalllly late.  He slept until 10:30.  I got lots of laundry done, and then we both got hair cuts.  He was so cute roaming the salon while I got mine colored and cut.  I probably won't do that again, as I had little control over what he was getting into, but he was cute bringing me different colored rollers and hair products, and business cards, etc.  I am really surprised by now he doesn't do better at getting his hair cut.  He's had more than a dozen in his lifetime, but he still squirms.  A dum dum sucker saved the day and distracted him.  I knew I better hurry out the door when my child decided to lay down on the floor (not in defiance, just like he was going to take a nap) right under another (very sweet, Jonas friendly) hairstylist named Dale.  She was so kind to not be annoyed with him.  She must be a momma. :)

After I got home I think I did 8 or 9 or 10 loads of laundry on 8/9/10...lol! :)  It really did seem like that many!  It was more than one mountain to tackle.  I kind of let it slip on me, as I am trying to share my washer time with our missionary friends who are camped out back.  :)  We love having them here, it is constant company and entertainment, but I am getting behind.  Must do work tomorrow...lettering a HUGE trailer and going to an appointment.  Yipppeeee....well, not really that exciting.

Jonas was outside with everyone before dinner and saw the Eden's dog.  It was so cute how clearly he said "Coda".  :)  Their nickname for their dog, Dakota.

Tonight for supper, we had 8 or 9 or 10 guests for dinner...lol!  Really it was 10 guests.  The Edens ate with us, the Jeffcoats, and Pastor and Mrs. Brenda.  I fixed some of those hamburger steak packets (with potato, onion, and carrots in them) for dinner, along with corn (frozen from the garden last summer), peas, mac and cheese, and rice krispie treats...I couldn't find anything else to make for dessert.  I completely forgot to cook the bread.  The mac and cheese was borderline too cheesy.  I overcooked the potatoes in the packets, and I somewhat burned the corn.  To top it off, I did make a small peach cobbler, and after taking out all the pans of hamburger steak, put it in the oven to bake.  But I turned off the oven, and forgot to turn it on.  So needless to say, dinner wasn't up to my high standard I set for myself, but my lovely, kind, and maybe lying guests didn't have any complaints and were gracious enough to say that everything was delicious.  I hope there was some fraction of truth to it! :)  Hey, it was free food they didn't have to cook.  And I have sub-par equipment to work with.  :)

Enough excuses....

Jon was a big help tonight with Jonas.  And then he even agreed that I could go out for a girls night.  We went late so kiddos would be in bed.  I really enjoyed the girl time.  I haven't done that kid-free in a really long time.  I think it is important and hope to do it more often.  I love my son, and I love solo dates with Jonathan, but we should make more time like this for friendship.  We got to go to a late showing of Eclipse, which I've already seen, but still loved the second time.  Its like you pick up more details the second time.  (Or unfortunately hear more cuss words...oopsy!)  I really love that series and enjoyed time out with my friend!  What a great way to end the epic day, 8/9/10.

 So there you have it folks, nothing major happened today, but it was fun, and if I had to do it over again, I hope that it turned out much the same.  Great haircut, great food, great friends.  Life is good...and I'm counting down to birthday week...27 here I come!

What will tomorrow hold?  Not sure, but if it is like today, I'm sure there will be lots of surprises.  I know for sure that folks will start arriving at church at 6 am to vote.  Hope to not be up that early. :)  Good night everyone!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dreaming in Black & White

It is well suited that my last name is Black..because I <3 black and white prints!  I really have been daydreaming of a home, that hopefully we will be in soon! :)  I keep thinking of what rooms I could use my love for black and white decor in... I'm not in a huge hurry, and I'm trying not to get impatient, so for now, I"ll just keep dreaming in black and white!  

Thoughts for the office of my dreams:  I've thougth for a while that I'd like my office space (if I ever get one...lol) to have different aspects of black and white, and probably a pretty turquoise or a bright Cricut green for a wall color! :)  Ideally I'd have white bead board going 1/2 way up, then the color on the top half.  I'm falling more in love with gray walls though!  Those colors tend to inspire me. I have an AWESOME yard sale find, vintage desk.  Heavy, sturdy wood desk, that must be refinished in my future office.  The drawers aren't great, but it is high on style and appeal.  I'm thinking of sanding it, painting it the same color I paint the walls in my office, and then painting it black over that.  Then distressing the edges/corners so that the color shows through.  That way, the desk doesn't always have to look crisp and perfect (great for a messy scrapbooker/crafter and for kids running around) but it is still stylish and purposely not-perfect.  :) Like me...not perfect!  I'd LOVE to get a glass top to go over it so that I can decorate underneath with papers and photographs and ideas that inspire...even verses I'm trying to put to memory.  But I'm not sure how much that would co$t!   

As for the walls, I'd love to paint a mural (use a projector and trace) a large oak tree onto the back focal wall.  It would be a play on our business name "Black Oak Photography."  I'd paint it black, and if the mood strikes me just right, I might even make it polka dotted...who knows! :)  Here's sorta what I was thinking (I want it more "grand" with sweeping branches, not so lollipop looking):

I have this set of birds, they are black metal (or plastic) that I bought for "Jonathan" for Christmas, and he didn't love them, so I will use them.  Some will be on the branches of the tree, and the rest will "fly" around the top of the room.  As for art, Jonas will probably grace the walls in huge scale... but one idea I had was to take square pieces of cork, covering them with four different black and white prints and hanging them on a wall in a square, with wall showing about 2 inches between each.  I think it would be totally awesome to have each one framed, or at least using molding on the wall to frame around the whole wall hanging.  That'd be pretty artsy I think, just not as changeable.   Here's kind of the idea, but I'd put them spread out, bolder patterns, and the frame would be around the whole, with wall showing between. 

For Curtains, I'd LOVE ceiling height heavy drapes that were very full.  I'd want the material thin enough to be able to "scrunch" it up out of the way, but thick enough maybe that light would be blocked (or I could have a separate light blocking curtain?).  One side would be white and the other black...on the inside and outside edges, I'd trim them in some sort of pattern.  The curtains on this bed are similar to what I was thinking, obviously they'd be on the window, not on the bed, and I'd use a different pattern.  This picture simply shows the "trimming."

The reasoning for this is for photos.  If I had a photoshoot, I could just slide the huge black curtain over to use for a backdrop...it would cover the whole wall.  If I needed white, no problem.  Just slide the curtain over.  It would save setting up and taking down so much equipment!  I'd love to have a small scale couch in there too, that opens up into a bed, that way my office would have seating for clients or whoever wanted to keep me company, for Jonas to "rest", or for company to sleep when they come visit.  I have one in mind, of course, from IKEA.
So that's the couch, I'm not set on it, but accent pillows would liven it up, and I could use it for photos easily as black is a good neutral.  That bird throw could tie the bird theme in.  :)  I'd also be happy with a gray, or white.  :)  I have the desk, but storage space is also going to be necessary.  I'll need cabinetry of some sort and surface workspace.  I'd like to keep my desk clear (except a new IMac would be lovely!) for working and designing, so I'd love a counter for my Cricut, Cuttlebug, Laminator, Printer, etc.  Haven't found one I love, but I haven't looked much either.  One thing I thought of getting was this Expedit from IKEA and using it on it's side.  The holes are 13x13 so my large scrapbooks fit, as well as huge pads of 12x12 paper. 
Turned on it's side, it is desk height, and it isn't very expensive.  :)  I think above this, those bulletin boards would be nice.  It might have to go on the "tree" wall though.  Or if there aren't enough walls, there might not be a tree wall! :) LOL! 

A more expensive way to go, would be to have pieces of furniture hold my supplies, like this "to die for" chest:

An accent chair to go with that lovely black couch might be like this one, that would look great in any part of my future home! :) LOL!
Black and white decor has been in my blood for a while...my plates are so lovely, they are damask and were wedding gifts.  I love using them, and coordinating table decor to match them...

Perfect, huh?  :) I am starting to notice chips and such in them after four years, so I'm thinking of ordering a set for "backup".  :) Or maybe not. 

I'd love to "brand" my business with these nice envelopes eventually for delivering pictures (when they are not drop shipped straight to the customer.)  They are pricey, but nice, and would protect from bent corners.  They'd only hold up to 8x10's though.
Even been dreaming of "what if" one day we have a girl (no I'm not pregnant or trying to become that way...just dreaming!)  and found this delicious bedding:  
There are a few things I'd change, but really this is what I had in my head to do...maybe with a few more prints and a bigger polka dot...I think it needs some zebra or houndstooth! :)  I might even get funky for a baby girl and mix it up with hot pink instead of baby pink.  Precious deliciousness! :)  Ooooh to have an unlimited budget and a room to decorate! :)  A girl can dream, right? 

I don't want to overdo the black and white thing, but if my kitchen had accents, my office was completely super cool with patterns and style, and a little Black girl one day had a hip nursery, well, that would be a black & white dream come true! :)  These are things I have quickly found online and thought I'd share.  They are by no means anything that I'd really pay full price for...or may ever have.  Just "liking" it out loud!  Hope you like it too! :)


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cutiepoops Diaper Review

It's been a while since I reviewed a diaper...and I am so ashamed!  :)  I love cloth diapering so much and would love to impart the knowledge I have gained to you all faithful blog readers and followers.

I recently learned about a SAHM who makes diapers under the brand name "Cutiepoops".  I heard such rave reviews, I just HAD to try them.  She offers adorable patterns and I heard such great things about her style of diaper.  Unfortunately, when I started itching to try it out, she was closed for new orders!  She got flooded with new orders all at once, and was so back-ordered she closed her shop for a while to catch up.  What a great problem to have.  One day I happened to catch on facebook that she was going to try and add an in-stock diaper on her site as often as she could.  That's when I got excited.  I waited and was the first one to get that instock diaper when it was listed.  Maybe not the print I would have picked first from her long list of adorable fabrics, but none the less it is cute! :)  I paid $16.95 for it, and it I will say is well worth it.  Thankfully, she's all caught up (Whoo hooo!) and open for orders.  She is also stocking the "In Stock" section of her store so that you can get your hands on Cutiepoops faster! 

I give this diaper ***** out of ***** stars! :)
1.  Adorable prints!
2.  Long soaker that you just fold over and stuff, holds a ton, but dries fast because it is long and thin instead of short and thick.  Great for those who want things to dry quickly.
3.  Diaper design - front isn't cluttered with snaps, she has an innovative snap/elastic mechanism in the leg gussets for changing the size (I have a one size diaper).  It is really cool, and was very unexpected!  Not that hard to change the size, and looks waaaaaay better than a million snaps on the outside!
4.  Good quality materials!  PUL is great, velcro is high quality, elastic is good.  We've used it about six times at least with only minimal wicking.

Overall I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this diaper!

If I had anything really negative to say it would be that it tends to be a tad bulkier than some other brands, but it really isn't bad.  Nothing like a minky Kawaii or Envibum in the thick/bulky department...just not as trim as say a FuzziBunz or a BumGenius.

We have experienced wicking a bit with this diaper, but my son is a super-soaker, and it was when I should have more frequently changed him.  That being said, she recently came out with a new style diaper with pul on the front to alleviate the possibility of wicking.  I will be buying some of those style very soon!

These are great diapers and I would recommend them to anyone!  They are fun, hope you enjoyed this review, and also the pictures of my little cutie in his Cutiepoops cloth diaper!  You can click the title of this post to be directed to the cutiepoops.com website!  :)  Show them some love and "like" them on Facebook!

Bulk Cooking...

I prefer to bulk cook, when I have the time and money (to buy a lot of food at once).  I typically stock up on ingredients when they are on sale to make this form of cooking more economical.  Either way you do it, buy foods on sale and store them up, or make one huge shopping trip, cooking in bulk will save you stress, energy, and I think money!

It saves stress because at the end of a busy day, you can pop a pre-prepared meal into the oven!  mmmm!!  Convenience food with out being convenience food (which are not necessarily good for you, or cheap!).  Preparing your family's favorites in advance also saves energy...you'll use less personal energy by making 2-5 or however many you have room to store casseroles at once. 

It takes far less energy to make multiple casseroles that are the same as it does to do them one at a time from start to finish.  Just think, all those dirty spoons, knives, cutting boards, bowls, etc that you use to prep a meal will be used for the multiples but only washed once!  Yee haw for less dishes!!  So voila, there are two reasons for bulk cooking...do it once enjoy it for days, or weeks, or even months (imagine the possibilities with a huge freezer!) 

Another way this method saves is financially.  Now I know that you will spend about the same amount on the ingredients/foods for these casseroles whether you make one at a time or twelve, but imagine how many times you are too tired to cook, so you stop and pick something up...this saves that!  Eating out is far more expensive for a family than it is to cook and eat at home, so use this to your financial advantage!  We won't even deal with the "healthy" benefits from home cooking as opposed to eating pre-packaged foods.  There are many more benefits to this, but all this mumbo-jumbo isn't why you're here reading this blog...you want the recipes, so below I'm gonna let you in on some trade secrets...most recipes are from my mom (Joy) or my mother in law (Donna), but one new one is from my friend Janet...so enjoy, get inspired, and get cooking! :)

*Please note...my recipe box is in storage somewhere in Hephzibah, GA...lol.  So these were from memory and may vary from the original...but this is how I did it/do it. :)
*Also, I buy the metal 1/2 size steam trays from Sam's.  You get 30 for around $6-8.  They work great, then you can just trash them or reuse them. To be more earth conscience, you can purchase some 9x13 pans to reuse each month.  I have been purchasing some 8x8 pans to make smaller versions for our small family.

A MINI Schedule from this month's bulk cooking days:  I broke it up into two days because I only did this during Jonas's naptime.  It also was less time standing in the kitchen. :) 
DAY 1:
Boiled Chicken
Browned 1/2 the hamburger meat
Mixed up meat w/sauces/spinach for meatballs and hamburger packets
Cut up potatoes/onions for packets
Made 2 pans of meatballs/potatoes
Made 16 hamburger steak packets

DAY 2: 
Made 3 Lasagnas
Made 1 Stuffed Shells Dish
Made 1 Chicken Pot Pie
Made 2 Chicken Enchilada Dishes
Made 3 Chicken Rolls
Made 3 Chicken & Dressing Casseroles
Stored leftover Spaghetti sauce
Stored leftover shredded chicken

And here's the low down on my process: (You can skip ahead to just recipes if you want!)
The first thing I did (and I did this on 2 different days due to time constraints/nap time schedules that I have to work around) was put a large pot of water on to boil.  I scooped about 1/2 cup of chicken bouillon.  You can use the cubes, but I buy the powder from Sam's.  It just boosts the flavor of the chicken broth. While that huge pot is boiling away, (I cooked about 20 lbs of chicken for multiple recipes put together the next day!) I browned hamburger meat.  I bought 10 lbs, and browned 1/2 for lasagna/pasta dishes.  I browned it with italian seasonings/minced onions for flavor.  You can add chopped bell peppers too if you have them.  After it is cooked, drain the meat.  I stored mine and started the sauce the next day.  You can do it all at once if you choose.

Ground Beef Recipes:
The other 1/2 of the meat I mixed with chopped spinach (fresh - I buy one bag from the prepackaged salad section, you can use garden or whatever.  I typically use 1/2 the bag for this mixture and 1/2 later...see below), minced onions, Worcestershire sauce, a couple eggs (1-2 per lb of meat you use), and I put some A-1 for a "smoky" flavor.  Mix this by hand.  I made this mixture into meatballs and hamburger steak packets.

Swedish Meatballs:
Hamburger Mixure
Pre-Baked potatoes - cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup (when ready to cook it)

Meatballs - make balls about 1 - 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place in rows in pan.  I also (baked the night before for dinner) use extra baked potatoes for this dish...cube the baked potato and put inbetween the rows of meatballs.  Freeze.  Before cooking, mix 1 soup can of cream of mushroom soup (or your own recipe) and 1 soup can of water, pour over meat and potatoes.  We crack sea salt over the whole dish after it is plated.  Meat, potatoes, and a veggie all in one dish!  (the spinach)  *Please note, this was the first time I included this dish for freezing ahead.  I've frozen just the meatballs before, but this is the first try with potatoes.  I'll keep you updated after we eat them. :)

Hamburger Steak Packets:
Hamburger mixture
Onions - sliced
Potatoes - peeled and sliced
Mini carrots
*Aluminum Foil

Hamburger steak packets - (the spinach is an addition to mom's recipe, so you can take it or leave it.  I like to "sneak" in veggies when I can)  Tear off 12-15 inch lengths of aluminum foil and lay them out (I fold the whole stack of sheets into thirds so there is a bottom and two sides that stand up, to make more room on the counter.  Make hamburger patties out of the meat and place one patty on each foil sheet.  On top of this, put a slice of onion, 1 large slice of potato, or 2 small, and a few carrots.  Fold up the foil into a packet, sealing all the ends tightly.  Package them in groups (I put mine in groups of 4-6 depending if they are for us or for company.  Jon sometimes eats 2 packets at once.  Freeze away.  We love this dish! :) 

I normally cook these at 375 degrees.  I leave the meatballs covered with foil until the last 45 minutes or so.  They each take  1 1/2-2 hours if cooked from frozen.  *estimate, I just watch for doneness!

Spaghetti Sauce/Lasagna Mixture
Hamburger meat (seasoned w/italian seasoning and onions/peppers)
Spaghetti sauce
Ricotta Cheese
Lasagna Noodles
Cheddar Cheese - shredded


The ground beef that was browned w/Italian seasoning and onions is your first ingredient.  Next add spaghetti sauce.  I typically use 1 jar per 1 1/2 lbs of meat.  You can do this to your own personal taste.  You can also use homemade sauce, which is highly recommended.  :)  I then add 1 can of mushrooms per jar of sauce.  For instance, I did 5 lbs. of meat and used 3 jars of sauce and added a few extra blended fresh tomatoes.  So it was more like 4 jars.  I put 3 jars of mushrooms.  Hope that makes sense!  You can season this to taste or leave out the mushrooms if you prefer.  Some like to add some ground sausage to their spaghetti sauce and that's good too.  While you are making this sauce, you should boil water and start cooking your lasagna noodles.  You'll want to cook these until they are tender, but not completely done.  They will continue to cook and swell in the pan while the lasagna cooks.

While that is simmering away, mix ricotta cheese (I bought the biggest container that Walmart had) 4-5 eggs, and the remaining spinach (chopped). 

Now that your two mixtures are done, and your noodles are cooked, you can start the layering.  I lay out 3-4 pans (however many you want to make).  First put a little sauce until it covers the bottom of the pan (not too thick).  Now start layering...usually 3 noodles will fit across the pans from Sam's.  Layer like this: Noodles, spread the cheese mixture over the noodles (not neatly, :) ), then sauce, and repeat: noodles, cheese, sauce.  The last layer will be noodles and then sauce with no cheese.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese and freeze. 

From frozen, you'll cook this on 400 degrees for several hours.  Thaw in the fridge for shorter cook time.  You can test it by sticking a knife in the center.

Stuffed Shells:
I had extra cheese mixture and sauce after making 3 lasagnas, so I cooked some jumbo shells, stuffed them with cheese and topped with sauce.  I laid them in a single layer in the pan and froze.  Similar in taste to the lasagna.

Any leftover sauce can be frozen for spaghetti night...you'll just heat and serve.  I froze mine (after it cooled a bit) in a ziploc freezer bag.

Chicken Recipes:
I boil the chicken a long time...so that it is done enough to easily shred.

Chicken Enchiladas (from Janet)

Flour (or corn) Tortillas (she used Whole Wheat)
Shredded Cheese
*Green Chilies (optional)

In frying pan, saute' chicken, salsa (enough to coat chicken, but not too runny), and a can of green chilies if you want them.  I personally may try to add black beans, rice, or corn next time.  :)  Heat it until mixed well.  Take that mixture and put into tortillas.  I used small sized ones.  Roll them up and lay them in rows.  Top with shredded cheese.

You will bake this until cheese is melted and it is cooked through (350 degrees).

Chicken Rolls (personal favorite, tried and true in freezer!)
Cresent Rolls (one can per recipe you'd like to make)
Cooked Chicken
Shredded Cheese (1/2 cup to mix w/soup recipe, then 1/2 cup or so for on top, if you really like cheese, put more!)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
One Soup Can Milk

Take Cresent Rolls and fill with cooked chicken.  Roll up and arrange in pan.  (Side Note/Rabbit Trail/What I do... You can do one package per pan or if you want to quadruple the recipe and increase the amount of rolls per pan, buy five packages of crescent rolls for four pans of rolls.  One package of crescent rolls per pan = 8 rolls, if you quadruple the recipe and buy 5 packs, you'd put 10 rolls per pan.  Good for larger families.)  Okay, so the rolls are arranged in the pan.  Now whisk together the soup, milk, and 1/2 the cheese.  Pour over the pan.  Top with cheese.  Simple and delicious.  Bake at 375 degrees.  I cook it for an hour covered and then about 40 minutes uncovered.  If the cresent rolls are puffy and browned, and the soup mixture is bubbling, then it is ready.  Ovens vary.  That time is for from frozen.  If you make this fresh it should be done in 45 minutes or so.  We love this!  It goes great with rice, and you can use the extra cheese/soup sauce over the rice.   

Chicken & Dressing Casserole (another favorite, tried and true in freezer)

Cooked Chicken
1 Box of Stove Top Stuffing, Chicken Flavor (or whatever!) (One box per recipe)
1 stick of butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 soup can water

Melt one stick of butter and mix with one box of stuffing (you can do all of it at once, just use that ratio, for example, if making 3, melt 3 sticks of butter and mix with 3 boxes of stuffing).  Spread 1/2 the stuffing in bottom of pan.  Sprinkle as much chicken as desired in pan.  I usually count on 2-3 chicken breasts per recipe, if you are a meat lover, put more.  It doesn't have to be precise, I just eye ball it, and do a good covering in the pan.  Whisk together the soups and water.  Pour over Chicken.  Top with remaining stuffing.  Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour covered and 45 minutes uncovered or until hot & bubbly!  Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie
Cooked Chicken
1 bag of frozen veggies (or 2 cans of canned mixed veggies, but personally they aren't as good)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup

and when you are ready to eat you will need:
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 stick butter

Cook veggies on stovetop until fork tender.  Layer chicken in dish, just a nice even layer.  (Optional: add crumbled bacon on top of chicken)  Now take cooked veggies and mix them together with the soups and pour over chicken.  Freeze.  You'll have to add the crust mixture when it is time to cook/eat.  It is simple, just melt the butter and stir together the SR flour, butter, and milk.  Pour over casserole and bake.  You can thaw this out first for better results in cooking.  If you don't, do like the other recipes and cook covered for the first part (an hour), then add the crust mixture and bake uncovered the latter 40-45 minutes.  Somewhere between 375-400 degrees is good!


So that was a run down of what I cooked yesterday and froze for future use! :)  I seal them up really well with a few layers of foil (which I leave on for the first bit of cooking so they don't brown too much!) and freeze.  Another tip I'll share really quick is that I sometime find pans that are 1/2 the width of a normal pan from Sam's.  We get tired of leftovers with only 3 people eating a dish, so sometimes, I will take one recipe for a normal pan and put it into two.  I did this yesterday, I bought "Jumbo Loaf" pans.  While they were deeper than I needed, they were about 1/2 the size of those steam pans.  So I was able to make 1/2 sized chicken and dressing casseroles and 1/2 sized chicken roll dishes! :)  Just food for thought if you don't have a large family or if you want to not eat leftovers a lot.

Hope this was a help to you...and sorry it was so wordy.  I like to be precise and tell you all I "think" you need to know.  Sorry if it is repetitive...it's late, and phew, this was an undertaking! :)  Let me know in the comment section how yours work out if you try Bulk Cooking...you won't regret it (well while you're washing those mountains of dishes you might, but when you get to enjoy the fruit of your labor, aaahhhh!  How nice!)