April 30, 2012

Slushburgers: the joe you don't know.

Posted by Ethne~

By popular demand – I’m back!  I’ve been pretty sick (no, not preggers) so I haven’t been doing blog activities.  And this past weekend, we moved to our new house.  It’s very exciting – but imagine being super sick and not able to help all the people who are helping you move!

Thankfully, we have wonderful family.  Shout out to everyone who helped us!  THANK. YOU.

And to sis-in-law Mel, yes, I have kept the bathroom organization (pure artistry) but it’s taken FOREVER to get ready in the morning because I don’t know where anything is.  [In all seriousness, where are the band-aids?]

Fortunately before I got sick, I thought to buy all the ingredients for sloppy joes and delegated the task to Thrifty Nana (my mom).  If you’re from North Dakota, you know these sammys by their real name: slushburgers.  Not sure on the origin of the two names.  At least our ND version has ‘burger’ in the name.

Who better to serve up a proper slushburger recipe?  Of course, my bff TC’s mom, Barb!  I got my texting thumbs in motion to get TC on the job and within 30 minutes I had the recipe in my inbox.  Who needs a church cookbook anymore?  (Actually, I think those are great and I’d totally still buy one.)

Of course I have a picture of you Barb!

I’ll preface this by saying that Barb makes THE BEST DILL PICKLES IN HISTORY.  And since I have a special place in her heart, she makes sure TC gets me a jar every time she comes to town.  Even when she came to town for TC’s wedding, she remembered to bring me some pickles.  That’s what you get when you grow up two doors down from one of your best friends from elementary school.  I came and went from their house whenever I pleased, 24/7, even if they weren’t home.  That’s love, my Friends.  I have the pickle recipe.  Perhaps I’ll convince TC to make some with me this summer; it’s about time I snagged her for a blog post.

I was getting my GT bff fix at TC's wedding - I almost stole Steph's baby too.

Here’s the scoop:

2 lbs. hamburger
1 can tomato soup
Ketchup (about ¼ cup)
A tablespoon or so of chili powder
A teaspoon or so of mustard
A couple of tablespoons of brown sugar
A dash of Ortega taco sauce

I think the chili powder kind of makes the good flavor.

You can tell from the ingredients that it’s not an exact science to make slushburgers.  That’s how we roll in North Dakota.  We know that culinary genius means you shoot from the hip a little bit.  Sometimes I use a can of Manwich in place of the can of tomato soup, but it’s ESSENTIAL to add the other ingredients to get an honest to goodness slushburger.

Thrifty Nana made up this batch on Friday night and refrigerated it.  Then we put it in the crockpot on low in the morning and it was bubbly and warm by lunchtime.  I had buns, potato chips and pickles on hand, so people could eat whenever they wanted.

One other slushburger requirement: you must put potato chips onto the sandwich before putting the bun top on.  This is a requirement, not an option.  Think about it – potato chips on a sandwich.  It’s an obvious marriage of crunchy, salty goodness.  We prefer Old Dutch ridges potato chips because of their texture.

So enjoy, everyone.  The perfect moving-in food, and I have leftovers.  Huzzah!

April 29, 2012


Posted by Lori~

We have several coffee shops in my little city, ND town and don’t forget we have coffee club every Saturday.  We typically rotate between three coffee shops…each offering up their favorite treats (and of course, I have my favorites).

One of my favorite treats is homemade muffins…that are YUMMMMMYYY!

And luckily, I was able to snag their recipe.

Mix together the following ingredients:
2 cups ½ and ½
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cupfuls of lemon juice

Add the following dry ingredients:
4 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder

Mix well.  Stir in one bag of frozen fruit.  Stir well.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sprinkle with sugar when done.

I ended up using ½ white flour ½ wheat flour and actually they tasted delicious. And of course, Mur-Man helped and ate two muffins!  Steve approved too!

Delicious!  Super easy!  And muffins not out of the box….it doesn’t get any better than this!

April 26, 2012


Posted by Lori~

It’s that time…time to start preparing the garden.  I have no intention to actually plant anything yet, because in ND it can freeze one day and be 90 degrees the next.  Very unpredictable!

We decided last year to plan a garden and installed old railroad boards and dirt.  Loved it, but they shifted.

That's a wide shot of the back of our lawn!  I LOVE OUR YARD!
That’s where Steve’s plan came into play.  It was time to level and install brackets and the best part was my dad (Handy G-Pa) was in town to assist.

They moved the dirt, they drilled in brackets, and it seemed to work perfect.

I of course spent the next few days pulling weeds and preparing the dirt.

But one thing is growing…my rhubarb plant and I am excited.

And the lawn is looking GREAT…thanks to rain and Steve’s attention to detail!  LOVE IT!

April 24, 2012

Baked Asparagus Spears

Posted by Ethne~

Shaun is really good at creative cooking.  He never refers to a recipe, just mixes and whizzes through the kitchen.  Most of the time his creations are great, and he is a master on the grill.  One of my favorite things he’s ever made is asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

Thrifty Nana and I sipped champagne with pomegranite juice

Prosciutto is expensive, so it’s not an item we keep around the house.  Boy oh boy is it ever good, though.  It’s sliced so thin that when you cook it, it gets crispy like fancy bacon, which is basically what it is.

You can use prosciutto for this recipe, but since I was trying to make it more budget-friendly, I used hard salami slices.  It’s a little thicker than prosciutto, but it’s in the same family of deliciousness!

You can see the thickness of the salami in this picture;
I made pizza with these ingredients (that's spinach) - yum

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray until it’s lightly coated.  Pre-heat the oven to 350ยบ.  Hard part’s over.

Pick several nice asparagus spears and cut the bottom 1-2 inches off of the bottoms.  That part is kind of woody and tough.  Wash and dry the spears.

Wrap each spear with a slice of salami and lay it onto the baking sheet with the end of the salami down so it stays rolled.

Shaun doesn’t remember sprinkling the asparagus spears with parmesan cheese when he made it with prosciutto, but he concurred that it wouldn’t hurt in the least.  So onto the asparagus some shredded cheese went.

The camera decided to focus on my stove stains rather
than the asparagus.  Never mind that.

I baked the spears for about 30 minutes until the asparagus spears were slightly shriveled-looking (ie, they were cooked through and tender), the salami was crispy and sizzling, and the cheese was browned.

And a little extra cheese for good measure!


April 23, 2012


Posted by Lori~

When Mur-Man was a baby I picked up a really cute kid tie at a baby boutique.  Not super spendy, but I did know that I could re-create this tie for a lot less.

And guess what WOMS—it worked!

Simply create a tie pattern and trace it onto Fusible Interfacing (Wonder-Under).  Cut out.

Then iron your pattern onto your selected fabric (I opted to do all holidays including July 4, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day).  Cut out the fabric and peel away the interfacing layer (leaving a film on the fabric).

In the meantime you will want to create your tie elastic.  I simply sewed the two ends together (creating a loop).  I sewed multiple times creating a box on the end.

I then placed the elastic in-between my tie and my tie backing and ironed (wrong sides together).

From there, I sewed a ¼ inch seam around the edge. 

You will then want to cut out the excess fabric.

And there you have it…a tie (multiple ties for multiple seasons).  I think these would make GREAT baby shower gifts or birthday gifts!

April 22, 2012

Plants From Seed: Thrifty or Not?

Posted by Ethne~

The girls’ mini pink greenhouses from the Easter bunny got me to thinking: I should start my flowers and plants from seed too – will there be savings in store?  I really can’t say yet.  If the plants live to maturity, yes, there will be savings.  If the plants die as seedlings (teensy sprouts) then it’s a bust.

I will have the girls hit my homemade mini greenhouse
with their carrot bats if my seed experiment fails

After all, plants from the greenhouse are, on the whole, relatively inexpensive.  But…seed packets are dirt cheap.  $1.00 for 10 up to 100 seeds, depending on what type of plant.  For example, a packet of pumpkin seeds would be about 10 seeds.  The packet of ‘true lavender’ seeds I bought for $1.00 contained 100 or so seeds.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck.

The seeds we used

Not a lot of work goes into this.  I’m just going to have flowers in my pots this year, so I’m just doing seeds that we used for the girls’ fairy gardens in the pink greenhouses: zinnia, dahlia, cosmos and lavender.

When Shaun and I were packing up things in the utility room last weekend, we came across a stack of dusty, medium-sized paper Dixie cups.  We were going to toss them, but then I fished them out of the garbage to use as seed starter cups.

I dug out potting soil from last year’s pots with a large spoon, filling each cup up to the top (because it will settle somewhat when it’s watered).

I used approximately 5-10 seeds per cup
(the lavender seeds are really small, so I tossed quite a few in)

I put several seeds in each cup, pushed them in slightly, then watered the cups until the soil was thoroughly wet.

Zinnia seeds

I made a greenhouse out of a Coors beer box – with no top.  Classy, I know, but you can get free, sturdy packing boxes from the liquor store, so we had several on hand.  There’s a THRIFTY moving tip, Friends!  Anyway, I covered the bottom and sides of the box with Glad Press-n-Seal wrap so if water spilled in the box the moisture wouldn’t damage whatever the box is sitting upon. 

I put the filled cups into my Coors beer greenhouse and covered the open top of the box with plastic wrap.

If these seedlings grow, the nice thing about using the paper Dixie cups is that when I plant them in my pots, I just have to rip the sides away and I can plant the whole baby plant, roots and soil.

So this is a test.  We’ll see if it’s THRIFTY or if it’s way easier to spend money on the greenhouse plants.  I’ll be able to do a little price comparison because when the local greenhouses actually have plants (too early in our zone), I am going there to get a few grassy and mossy looking plants for the girls’ fairy gardens.  I’ll let you know about my plants and the price comparison in a month or so!

PS – the girls’ plants are doing well.  Each seedling is 1-2” tall now, except the lavender seeds which haven’t germinated yet.  The kiddos think it’s great.

April 20, 2012


Posted by Ethne~

Allright, I’m going to tell you about the best t-shirt folding technique I’ve ever seen, but it’s kinda hard to explain.  It’s (apparently) called the Japanese folding technique and my sister-in-law Mel taught me how to do it.  She says you can see video on youtube if you search for it.  I’ll show you in pictures, with my mini toothpick jar as a prop.

Sis Mel - quite possibly one of the most efficient
and orderly gals I know - I'm jealous!

Bear in mind that Lori and I HATE laundry.  Any techniques that make folding laundry neater and faster are right up at the top of our awesome-ways-to-do-something-that’s-crappy list.

First, I’m left-handed.  The pictures are for a leftie.  If you are right-handed, turn the t-shirt the other direction so that the t-shirt neck is at your left rather than at your right (as seen in my pictures).

Lay the shirt in front of you, face up.

Turn the shirt 180 degrees if you're right-handed

With your left hand (remember this will be opposite for righties), trace out 2½” (going away from you) from the neckline and then slide down to the armpit of the shirt.  Pinch that invisible intersection.

Envision that invisible intersection coming downwards from the armpit
and coming leftwards from the shoulder.

With your right hand, grab and pinch that 2½” spot along the shoulder line of the shirt.

Toothpick jar marks where the armpit pinch is -
I needed one hand for picture-taking

Next fold the shoulder pinch over the armpit pinch – can you see where I marked the location of the armpit pinch with my toothpick jar?  When you fold the shoulder over the armpit, do not let go of the armpit pinch.

The shoulder (vertical line to the right of my hand) is
folding over the top of my hand pinching at the armpit
My left hand pinching the armpit is now completely covered
by the shoulder fabric; the toothpicks mark where the pinch is

Fold the shoulder all the way down to the bottom, keeping about that 2½” distance from the outside edge of the shirt inwards.

Grab the bottom ends of the shirt (right hand still) into the same pinch from the top shoulder and hold on tight.  Your left hand is still holding the covered-up pinch at the armpit.

I am pinching the shoulder and bottom edges together;
the sleeve of the shirt is to the right of my hand

Now keep holding the shoulder/bottom pinch in place and pull your left hand (keep pinching the armpit spot) outwards toward you.  This will give you a nice sharp corner. 

Armpit pinch is being pulled outwards; the toothpicks
mark the spot of the pinch
See the sharp point slightly left of center of the photo?

Lift the shirt up, holding in the same spots, and gently shake the shirt so the layers will lay flat. 

[For visual, I laid the shirt back down face up.  The shoulder and bottom pieces are now at the top right and the armpit pinch spot is at the top left – see where I marked it with my toothpick jar, top left?]

From the front

[I flipped the shirt over here so you will see what the back looks like.]

From the back - that's the left sleeve sticking out at the left

While you are holding the shirt up at your same pinch spots, fold the pinched spots over the remaining loose sleeve, so the ends match up.

Folding the front of the shirt over so it matches up with
the loose sleeve end.
The edges are matched up

See how perfectly rectangular and flat the shirt is?

This is what it will look like from the back.

Shaun likes his shirts folded in half again, and the nice thing about this technique is they stack up really nicely with the flat layers.

Perfection in a t-shirt.  Who knew?  I'm sure Shaun totally
appreciates this when he groggily grabs his shirt out
of the drawer, in the dark, each morning...

Now try this a few times.  You may not get it the first time, but once you do, it’s the easiest ever.  A nice flat t-shirt every time.  Lickety-split!  You’ll be amazed.

PS – Mel and I haven’t figured out how to make this technique work for long-sleeved t-shirts.  If you do, feel free to tell us about it.  We’d be more than happy to do a guest post starring you!