I feel like I’ve reached the end of an era–sort of.
Every year after one of my kids has a birthday, I dig out the baby book and fill out the most recent birthday page.
So after Carter’s birthday, that’s what I did. I shuffled through, looking for the page for Birthday #6.
But it wasn’t there.
Because baby books generally go up to age five.
That’s it. My first baby’s baby book is done.
I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.
He’s mature, smart, self-sufficient, and SIX.
Give him a 1,000 piece Lego set and he’ll finish the thing in a day without any help.
I realize that in a few years, six will seem like such a small number. And I’ll look back at pictures and think, He was so little then!
So while I’m feeling a bit nostalgic as I flip through the pages of his baby book (and my heart is feeling a bit of an ache for the baby he once was), I’m also flipping through the pages of his “Birthday Book,” a book that has a page for each year up to page 18. (Yes, yes, a baby book AND birthday book. I’m a documenting, word-obsessed mama.)
Ages 8, 11, 16, 18…
More years to come. More growth. More firsts.
So many hopes and dreams for the years ahead.
As I’m saying goodbye to the baby book, I’m also saying hello to his future. Future friends, activities, disappointments, and successes.
And as his mom, I get to come along for the ride.
Motherhood is a blessed, blessed position to find myself in. And even though it goes by in the blink of an eye, I feel so rich to be able to look forward to the years ahead.
Even though I’m done with the baby book, I still have 12 years left of “The Birthday Book.”
And I’m excited for God’s plan for Carter and how those pages will be filled.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
If you are in need of some inexpensive knee and elbow pads for a younger girl, you can get this Doc McStuffins set for $6.52 at Amazon. Subscribe and save and you get free shipping. (Cancel online after you get it, because who wants a subscription for knee pads??!)
Today, May 9, Cents of Style is highlighting their delicate necklaces. They have them on sale, 2 for $15 plus free shipping. Use the code 2FOREASY at checkout.
There are some really pretty inspirational necklaces with phrases like blessed, hope, love, faith, and more.
Being from North Dakota, it’s almost a given that my homegrown, rurally-raised man is a deer hunter.
And if you have a deer hunter in your family, it’s almost a given that you will have deer sausage in the freezer.
We happened to have a hunk of venison in the freezer, just waiting to be transformed into jerky or sausage. We decided to give it a whirl and make a small batch of sausage ourselves.
In the past, we have made large batches of homemade sausage with my grandparents, and it’s a family affair. The guys grind and mix the meat, and then proceed to stuff the casings. Grandma cooks up the sausage as it’s being mixed to make sure it has the right balance of seasonings. We all taste test to make sure it’s good. (That’s an enjoyable requirement!). Grandpa smokes the sausage on his massive homemade smoker. The ladies make sausage patties and seal all of the sausage using our trusty vacuum sealers. It’s quite a process, and it’s quite efficient.
This is from a couple years back. Love that she loved helping!
This is tradition. I used to help make sausage even when I was a little kid. And look, now my kids are helping, too! 🙂
Along with this family tradition, we have also taken the shortcut route in the past and have had it made at different processors, like Reister Meats out of Medina. I think we’ve even had some (gulp!) goose brats made at Meats by John and Wayne in Fargo.
But sometimes, it’s just fun to experiment and do it yourself. So that’s what we ventured to do one recent Sunday afternoon. And by “we” I mainly mean my husband since he’s the one who planned it and did most of the work. I was sort of along just for the ride.
Bless his heart, while I was on a girls trip to Fargo (to see Ree Drummond I might add!), he cut up the deer and pork and had it ready to go.
Then Sunday afternoon, he and Carter got it ground up and mixed.
We tried a country style seasoning that we picked up at the Bismarck Sports Show in February. We got it at the Owen’s BBQ booth out of Glenburn, ND. And then after a quick call to grandpa and grandma for advice, they reminded me to always add extra garlic (4 “toes” for 25 pounds), plus extra pepper. Always extra pepper.
So we did.
We also planned to add bacon to half our batch. We soon discovered that bacon turns into a gloppy mess when you try to run it through a meat grinder. Still, we put it in half our batch with some high-melt cheddar cheese.
We (I mean my husband) got our seasoning mixed in and I lit up my trusty electric fry pan to test our our concoction.
As I was frying, I noticed our color was off. Normally, sausage turns pink, and this was brown. We forgot to buy the cure!
Still, it tasted good. But more pepper. We definitely needed to add more pepper.
We figured we could manage without the cure, it would just look a little different. I recalled my sister did the same thing when they made sausage, so I called her up. Lo and behold, she hadn’t died from it, so we figured we’d be fine. 😉
Then I googled uncured sausage and smoking it (because we planned to smoke our sausage), and I discovered that unless you smoke it at a high enough temp (basically cooking it), we risked a nasty dose of botulism.
Time for a little improvisation. We had some jerky seasoning in the cupboard that had cure packets in it. We followed the instructions for ground meat and added enough cure for our sausage batch. Voila! That cured our cure problem.
In went the bacon and cheese, and I again fired up the fry pan to test out our new and improved sausage. The sample patty was Harper approved. This three-year-old doesn’t want much more in life other than chicken strips and fries, so when she ate almost the entire patty, we knew we were onto something.
So the sausage was mixed and seasoned to our liking. Now it was time to stuff the meat into casings, which happen to be pork intestines. (Guess which one of us rinsed those babies out…..I’ll give you a hint….it wasn’t me…) As he pushed the meat through the “stuffer” he continually said, “Yeah, we’re never doing this again.”
When we stuff sausage with my grandparents, we use my grandpa’s antique stuffer. Literally antique. They have one on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center. It’s like the one pictured here:
This is similar to ours. Surprisingly, I found this on Etsy!
It works amazingly well. Those Germans from Russia were onto something.
Well, we didn’t borrow my grandparent’s antique stuffer. We used the attachment on our humble little electric meat grinder. It wasn’t as efficient as one might think it should be.
To make it work, one fills the “tank” with meat (and it doesn’t hold a whole lot) and then uses the pusher to push it out. I was in charge of guiding the meat that came out into the casings and it took awhile to get the right size down. Some of our sausage came out about as wide as a brat, so I was told to “get them a little fuller.” That resulted in some of our sausage resembling an anaconda that just swallowed a very large animal. We are taking massive girth.
Eventually I figured out a happy medium and we also have some normally sized sausage rings.
We (I mean my husband) got our sausage twisted into rings, and the hubs then threw them in our little meat smoker. When he brought them in, our entire house smelled like a meat factory, in a good way.
Since I wasn’t exactly the most hands-on helper when it came to cutting up the meat, mixing the meat, and rinsing out those lovely casings (remember…pig intestines…), I did the clean-up.
I thoroughly disinfected everything multiple times. Throughout the afternoon, you could hear me saying multiple phrases to the kids, such as:
“Wash your hands…that’s raw pork!”
“Don’t touch everything with that meat on your hands!”
“You got raw meat all over our fridge handles. Go wash!”
I have a bit of a phobia of contracting a parasite from raw pork. Never watch Monsters Inside of Me on Animal Planet at night. Ugh, I tell ya… 😉
We eventually got everything sealed. Carter helped me label the bags. I told him to mark the unsmoked packages with a “U.” So here’s what he wrote:
We tried our bacon cheddar smoked sausage for supper, and we liked it! Success!
After everything was said and done, “I’m never doing this again” turned into “Would you ever do this again?” And that turned into “I would only do this again IF…”
I’m guessing that somewhere down the road, we might do this again.
We may just have to borrow that 100-year-old sausage stuffer first.
I accepted others for who they were, no matter what.
I sometimes recruited the kids with no friends to be on my speech team. (If anyone from my speech team is reading this, be assured I didn’t think you were all loners! 🙂 Because that’s not the case. But you know that we did have some lonely, shy, or “awkward” students that may have needed a place to fit in, so I invited them.) I tried to show interest and be welcoming to others.
Anyway, I digress.
As I’m reading this book about serving others, I’m realizing just how much I served others in my past career. Students would drop by when they needed encouragement. Or, if they needed to vent (which can happen a lot with high school girls…). I always tried to be welcoming. But at the time, I never thought about it from the Christian aspect of being called to serve.
As open to students as I was in school, I know I wasn’t like that with my home. I’m a bit of an introvert, a bit of a perfectionist, and a self-declared “not very good home decorator.” Which means I was always self-conscious about inviting people over.
I remember a time early in our marriage when my husband suggested we invite people over to grill out after work.
What?! We can’t have people over last minute like this. The house isn’t clean!
And that was BEFORE kids. So, I can now assure you that my house was definitely cleaner then than it is now.
And I’m still not as open with my home as I could be or would like to be. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, it’s been so easy to fall into the pattern of not offering hospitality to others and shutting myself in with the kids. It’s so easy to just “be and exist” and not think about how I might welcome others to my home.
Of course I serve my family. But what about my neighbors? Am I as welcoming as I could be? Probably not.
It’s been so easy to wrap myself up with my family in my home and not think of others. It’s so easy to think, “If they wanted to hang out, they’d ask us.” But the truth is, in today’s society, we are all busy, and we sometimes don’t take the time to build a sense of “community” in our neighborhoods and even extended family. But that can change by stepping up and becoming the one to serve and love others.
Since becoming a mom, my faith has definitely grown. I think once you have kids, it has to. 😉 Now that I’m expecting my third, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be needing a direct line to God. (But, don’t I know it…that’s been in place from the start.)
I feel like God has been putting it in my heart to love others, to serve others. And when I say “serve” I’m not talking about starting a homeless shelter in my basement. Serving can be as simple as inviting a friend over for coffee or inviting an unfamiliar neighborhood mom over for a play date in order to get to know her. It’s about offering hospitality and saying, “Come on over and join us, mess and all!”
Specific lines and messages from books I’ve read this past year are still sticking with me.
“If community doesn’t come to you, build community for others.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love
“Don’t wait for others to bless you–be a blessing to others first.” – Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited
“I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to love the people he puts in my path…’Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31). – Karen Ehman, Listen Love Repeat
I don’t think I would be remembering the Hatmaker and TerKeurst themes if it wasn’t put on my heart.
So I’m hoping to work on this skill. Or really, this calling. We are called to love others, to treat others as we want to be treated.
And for me, branching out of my family bubble and finding time amidst the busyness of life can be a tricky thing. But in the end, I know it’s something that I want.
Happy Friday! With summer coming up, here is a deal on SPF lip balm. This Alba Botanica Lip Balm is $1.25, plus you get it shipped for free with subscribe and save.
Also, yesterday I came across some great (albeit strange) deals on kids Crocs shoes at Amazon. I say they are strange deals because the prices vary WIDELY depending on size. For example, a pair of shoes might be $34 for a size 3 but $8 for a size 11.
BUT, some of these prices are awesome for Crocs shoes, and it seems like as hard as my kids are on their shoes, their Crocs never wear out.
So, bear with me, because this is so RANDOM when it comes to size. 🙂
Wowza! Here is a great deal on Pampers Swaddlers (Size 5). Currently, at Amazonyou can get a 124 pack for $16.56 when you subscribe and save. That’s just 13 cents a diaper, which is awesome for this brand and size! PLUS, if you are a Prime member (kind of wishing I was right now….), you can save an additional 20%!
The Size 5 deal is now dead, but you can get Size 3 for $25.55/box, 14 cents a diaper. Click herefor that link.
I love to try new products, and I love to support fellow mamas.
So, when Heidi Engen approached me with her business, The Smart Seed, and offered to let me try her products, of course I said yes!
The first thing that caught my attention was that she makes her products with organic flax. I happen to have a dad, brother, and extended family who raise organic flax in central North Dakota, so I felt a bit of a connection there.
So what are Heidi’s products? She uses North Dakota grown flax seed and flannel to create hot and cold packs in multiple sizes. You can check out why she specifically uses flax in her products here. It’s also why she calls her company “The Smart Seed”.
I checked out her Etsy store to see what I might like to sample. I was the most interested in the eye pillows because I thought I could use them as ice packs for the kiddos. Heidi explained that she was actually working on kid packs, so I waited for those to be done as that is what I wanted to test out.
When Heidi delivers, she delivers. Instead of just the product, I received a cute package at my door, topped off with a personalized note. She impresses right from the start.
She definitely exceeded my expectations. I immediately noticed her great attention to detail and design.
Even her tags have her logo on them. Cute, cute, cute!
So here’s my review of what I received:
This is actually the product that I wasn’t interested in when she offered it to me, but I find that it has been the one that I reach for the most! You simply microwave it for 1-2 minutes–and then you snuggle with it. 😉 It comes out warm and is an instant stress reliever.
I personally find it a bit bulky to wear around my shoulders. It isn’t comfortable for me to have it around my neck and sit back (maybe that’s my undiagnosed claustrophobia coming out….) However, I sometimes lay it on my ankles/feet while I’m reclined and reading (What can I say…I get cold feet!). It also feels good to just lay it on other areas that are sore/tired.
I’ve also taken it to bed with me to warm me up in the cold sheets. In a way, it makes me feel a bit like an old pioneer. Didn’t they used to go to bed with hot potatoes under the blankets to stay warm? 🙂
My five-year-old was also instantly drawn to it once it was heated up. He wanted to snuggle with it.
The nice thing about these products is the flannel covering. Even if the seeds get really hot from a little too much microwaving, the flannel protects your skin.
I keep this in the freezer in a Ziplock bag. I haven’t used this yet as an eye refresher, but this is the PERFECT size for little foreheads. Think fevers. We have used cool damp washcloths on their foreheads to help the kiddos cool down when they are sick, but these get the job done without the “wet.”
This was bigger than I expected it to be, which is nice. I keep this in the freezer with the eye pillow. I personally use them both for the same job: kids. This is the perfect kids’ ice pack because of the flannel and the flax. It’s not too cold on the skin. Whenever I use traditional ice packs for all those “owies,” I always have to wrap them in a dish towel so it’s not too cold. This can go straight to the skin from the freezer without the worry of it hurting the skin. And the flax molds to whatever surface you put it on, so it’s comfortable.
Eye pillow on the left, kid pack on the right
This little lady actually grabs them occasionally just to play with them. They feel pretty cool. (Pun not originally intended.)
These smell soooo good. I do like the smell of lavender, though, so if you don’t, it might be a little strong. At first, I assumed that they were made with essential oils, but Heidi explained that the scent comes from the actual dried herb itself. (I should have read the label.)
From what I remember about aromatherapy, lavender is supposed to help you relax, and peppermint is supposed to help with nausea and headaches. I can definitely see the benefits of combining these scents with hot/cold packs.
Also, flax does have a distinct smell, so the scent packs will mask that smell if it’s not something you like. When my five-year-old was testing out the shoulder wrap without a scent pack in it, he told me it smelled like “dirty pants” which made me laugh. Unless you are pressing your nose up to it, the flax smell is not something you are going to notice. And to me, it just smells natural. And it’s nice to know that it’s North Dakota grown. 🙂
Questions I Had, Answers I Got
1. What is inside the scent packs? How long does the scent last? Can I add more essential oil to the packs if the scent weakens?
The scent packs contain 100% dried lavender or peppermint (no essential oils added). Depending on how often they are heated, they will last approximately 2-3 months. When the scent begins to fade, a couple drops of essential oil can be added to them to boost the aromatherapy experience.
2. How long do the seeds last? Do they ever go bad?
In my experience, I have not yet seen the flax seeds go bad. My husband has been using his heat pack on a daily basis for the past 3 years, and it is still going strong! One of the main benefits to using flax seed is its oil content. As opposed to wheat or rice (which are mainly comprised of water that evaporates over time), flax seed contains 30-40% oil that retains heat longer, and can be reheated over and over without losing its ability to retain heat. (This is my inspiration for naming the products “The Smart Seed” – those flax seeds are pretty smart!)
The flannel liner comes off and is machine washable. Do not wash the flax pack, however.
The eye pillow and kid pack are now a staple in my freezer.
Overall, Heidi has created a neat shop with useful, unique products. I am definitely satisfied with the products I got, and I can see our household continuing to use them in the future.
Thank you so much for letting me try them!
And how awesome is this?! I have an exclusive coupon code for you, the reader of this blog! Through May 31, 2017, you can save 15% on your entire TheSmartSeed Etsy shop order when you use the code NDMOM15 at checkout.
Here are the links if you want to check her out on Etsy or Facebook.
I think cream gravy just happens to be one of my favorite things on earth.
My absolute favorite way to eat cream gravy is this creamed chicken recipe. (It’s one of my family’s favorite meals!)
But I must, must have another medium in which I can make the gravy.
So, I decided to slather it over cube steak.
Cube steak happens to be round steak that has been run through a tenderizer. It’s still not the most tender of meats, but it’ll suffice. We just got our beef back from the processor, and there is always cube steak in the bundle, so this is how I prepare it.
Most chicken fried steak recipes that I have seen use gravy that is made with flour and milk. Since I could practically drink cream gravy through a straw, I figured it would be better than the traditional chicken fried steak gravy. Here’s what I do….
Start with cube steak. Cut it up into smaller pieces and season both sides with salt and pepper. Trim any extra fat.
Dip your steak into an egg wash mixture (I just use an egg and some milk.)
Dip the moistened steak into seasoned flour. I usually add lots of black pepper, Lawry’s seasoned salt, paprika, and a little garlic powder.
Fry in about 1/4 inch of oil. Flip when they are golden. Oops….mine may have gotten a little beyond the golden mark tonight… 😉 The gravy will hide that!
Once they are done on both sides, drain on a paper towel. Pour off grease, but let those delicious brown bits stay in the pan! (My grandma used to call them jellybeans when I was a kid.)
Add approximately 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 1/2 tsp. chicken base, and lots of black pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil.
Scrape up the brown bits and stir into the gravy. Add the steak and boil until the gravy is thickened to your liking. Oooh baby…it’s getting nice and thick now. 🙂
Serve with mashed potatoes and corn for the sake of comfort food deliciousness.
Amazon has an awesome deal on Pampers Swaddlers Size 1 right now. They are priced at $25.99, but you can get a 216 count box for $21.69 when you subscribe and save and clip the $3 coupon. That’s about 10 cents per diaper! Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime member you would save an additional 20%!
Amazonalso has this cute Step 2 New Traditions table and chairs set for $40.38. Walmarthas also dropped its price to match Amazon. Shipping is free from both locations.
I also want to share that Amazon has 18 count Clif Kids ZFruit Ropes in the strawberry flavor for $7.47. This is a pretty good deal as these are normally over $3 for a 5-count at Target. I like to keep these stashed in my purse for situations when the kids need a snack or something to keep them content. 🙂
If you opt for subscribe and save, you save an additional 5-15%, plus shipping is free. I do this since I don’t have Prime.