Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Great Purge of 2017

Things. We have too many of them. And they are taking over our lives.

A simple Google search of "getting rid of stuff" returns over 3 million results. As a society, we recognize the fact that we have too much--so much that our possessions are getting in the way of more important parts of our lives. Yet we also live in a very consumeristic, materialistic society that always wants more.

Since this is the beginning of a new year, I recently sat down and looked at my purpose statement, mission statements, and long-term and short-term life goals (that will have to be a different post). For my home, my mission statement reads as follows: Maintain my home as a refuge and sanctuary where my family can thrive and grow and others can be refreshed and encouraged. My someday goal for my home reads this way: Live minimally and with organization and systems such that the care of the home is a joy and not a consuming burden.

How many partial bottles of dried paint do I need? NONE!
In order to fulfill my mission and reach my goal, I need to seriously deal with the THINGS. The STUFF. Not that I haven't been trying to do that the past few years, but this year I am going to make a noticeable difference in my house. The plan requires a two-fold approach. First, we are going to control what comes into the house. Second, we are going to get rid of at least 2017 things this year. Thanks to my friend Debbie for this idea!

As I write this, we are five days into the new year, and I've already gotten rid of more than fifty (50!) items! Throughout the year, I will post updates on my progress here on the blog as well as on our FB page. If you would like to join us in our quest to reclaim the space in our homes and the time in our day, please comment to let us know. The communal encouragement will help us all be more successful.

These are the ones I got rid of. I counted every
three as one item.

BTW, one of my favorite articles about getting rid of stuff can be found here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Make-Ahead, Freezable Carnitas

I have no new recipe for you today - just a helpful hint regarding an old recipe.  A few years ago, I had posted a recipe for my favorite carnitas.  It is still a regular meal in our house, since I can get pork shoulder cheap (and, well, it's just amazingly delicious).  And since they're large cuts of meat, I make a lot and freeze the leftovers.  I was recently able to get pork shoulder picnic roast for 69 cents/lb.  I bought almost 16 lbs and paid just under $11.  I fed 11 people (7 adults, 4 kids) dinner with some leftovers, plus bagged 3 more meals for the freezer.  You can get the recipe here.  And you can do a lot more than just make tacos or burritos with this meat.  We also like to make taco salad, quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, omelettes, etc.  This week we made burritos and filled them with carnitas, homemade pico de gallo, avocados, cheese, lime rice, lettuce, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Once the meat is done cooking in the crockpot (and before it's put in the oven), I divide it up into meal-sized portions and place into gallon zip-top bags.  I also divide up the reserved seasoning into snack size zip top bags.  Then I take a seasoning bag, lay it on top of the sealed gallon bag, roll them up together, and put a piece of tape at the top to hold it all in place.  This way the meat and the seasoning are together and I don't have to worry about losing the seasoning (or forgetting where I put it :)).  Before I fill the bags, I write what's in them, the date, and cooking instructions. When I want to eat it, I pull a bag from the freezer and defrost.  I heat the meat, then place it on a large pan (I use a jellyroll pan) and sprinkle with the seasoning.  It's placed it in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy.  This makes for a quick and easy meal.  In fact, before I had my last baby, I made sure I had some of this in my freezer for after baby came.

Make-ahead, freezable carnitas
Seasoning packet and meat ready to be rolled up.

make-ahead, freezable, carnitas
The seasoning packet is rolled up inside of this and
the whole thing is secured with a piece of tape.

make-ahead, freezable, carnitas
The finished product, ready for the freezer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kids' Chore Chart

To Do Chore Chart

As I was evaluating where most of my wasted time and energy go, I realized it was in telling the kids to do things that need to be done on a regular basis. I needed a chore chart. I needed one that I could change as our needs changed, but I didn't want to have to keep printing them every week. And my kids are masters at losing papers.

After browsing Pinterest, I came up with a color-coded magnetic chore chart.

Each kid has chores for morning (before school/church/leaving the house), afternoon, and evening (before bed). This is great for helping the little ones keep track of what needs to be done when.

Kids' Chore Chart

I color-coded the pieces so they don't get mixed up. I also made a few black chore pieces for the chores that get rotated (feeding the bunny, sweep the dining room, etc.). 

Once a chore is done, the piece is moved from the "To Do" board to the "Done" board.

Kids' Chore Chart

I found the white framed magnetic chalkboards at Target for about $10 (they were about $20 at another local Target). I don't see them on their website.

I made the chore pieces with the following supplies that I ordered from Amazon.com:
DIY Chore Chart Supplies

Using hot glue, I attached one magnet to each wooden circle. At this point, I spray painted them. I recommend painting after adding the magnets so they don't stick to the surface you are spray painting on.

When the paint was dry, I added the labels I had printed using the web-based template on Avery's website. I went ahead and created an account so I can reprint any time I need to. The labels didn't stick to April's sparkly glitter pieces, so I added two layers of Mod Podge.

After I had made all the pieces, I recruited my super talented husband to do the lettering.

Since implementing this chore chart, all I need to say is "Check the chart." And at a quick glance, I can see who hasn't done what. This has definitely streamlined those stressful parts of the day.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Things

Well, 2016 is over and we're two days into 2017. Near to Nothing had only three posts last year--three. And yet, our site visits and page views continued at a pretty steady rate. Thank you to everyone who has pinned or shared our posts!

Life is busier than ever for both of us, but we have not forgotten about the blog or about our readers. One thing we would like to do to try to increase our posts and help you is to expand our focus. Up until now, our focus has been mainly food. We will continue with food posts as we are able, but you will see new aspects of our lives start to pop up.

As we looked around us, we realized the Near to Nothing is our philosophy for almost all areas of our lives. We would like to share how we apply those principles in areas outside the kitchen. So join us as we strive to live Near to Nothing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Most Definitely the Most Disturbing Cake I've Ever Made"

Our kids are spoiled. It's birthday tradition in both of our houses to let the kids pick their birthday cake. Then we figure out how to make it. Between the two of us with our seven children, we've made a Cheerio box cake, a ladybug cake, a goldfish cracker cake, a princess castle cake, a Hello Kitty cake, a super hero cake, a space ship cake, a duck pond cake, a little man cake, and now...


Yes, you read that correctly. Toomgis.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Toomgis, check him out here:

Toomgis recently threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game that my sister and her family happened to be at. Well, then-2-year-old Karis fell in love. And she knew she wanted a Toomgis cake. My sister rose to the challenge and produced this amazing Toomgis look-alike for Karis's 3rd birthday last week:

Toomgis Cake

Kimiko commented that "this is most definitely the most disturbing cake I've ever made."

But Karis loved her Toomgis cake and had a great birthday. Too Much Good Stuff!

Check out these other cake posts:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Greek Salad with Chicken

I realize that salads are typically more of a summer meal, but we eat salads all year at my house (plus it's still very much summer where I live).  I'm not sure if this is because a) I'm too lazy to actually cook something, or b) we don't really have a true winter here (unless you consider lows in the 50s winter).  Salads are also economical as they allow a small amount of meat to go a long way.

One of our favorite salads is a Greek salad that I posted 5 years ago.  It's so good that it really deserves to be mentioned again, but I've tweaked it ever so slightly to make it an entree!  I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner because it's so simple.  Add some chicken to the salad and, BAM, you've got a healthy and affordable entree!  You can use any kind of chicken you want - grilled, sauteed, rotisserie, leftovers, etc.  If I've recently made a whole chicken and have leftover meat, I'll use that for this.  If I don't have any leftovers on hand, I'll typically season boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I can often get these for $1.66-$1.77/lb on sale so I stock up and throw them in the freezer) with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and sautee in butter or throw them on the grill.  And for our family of 5, I can get away with 2 chicken breasts and usually have leftover meat for the lunch the next day.

You can use a bottled salad dressing, but I highly recommend you make the dressing below.  It tastes a-maz-ing (thanks to my sister-in-law for sharing it with me!), and it's healthier and much cheaper than store bought dressings.  My 7-year-old daughter LOVES it and always asks me if we have *that* dressing, even when we're not having a Greek salad.

On an economical note, I realize that Feta can be pricey.  I typically buy a chunk rather than crumbled Feta, because it's cheaper per ounce, and let's face it - it's really not hard to crumble your own Feta.  I've been omitting the olives as half of my family doesn't like olives and not using them also brings the cost down a bit.

Greek Salad
Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
Tomatoes, diced
Green bell peppers, diced
Red bell peppers, diced
Red onions, sliced
Cucumbers, chopped large
Olives, sliced (either kalamata or black will work)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Greek salad dressing (recipe below)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  You can either toss it all with the dressing or have people put their dressing on individually.  If you choose to toss the salad with the dressing, make sure you add it immediately prior to serving so that the lettuce doesn't get soggy.

Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a salad carafe and shake well.  If the dressing is too tangy for your taste, you can add a little sugar to tone it down a bit.  To help prevent separation, you can put all ingredients except the oil into a blender or food processor.  While the blender or food processor is running, slowly add the oil.  

Note: For those doing Trim Healthy Mama, this is an excellent S!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kids in the Kitchen--April Makes Scrambled Eggs

First off, our apologies. We haven't posted anything new in over a year. We have a ton of posts to write for you, but our lives keep getting busier and busier. At the same time, we love blogging about food and family and truly desire to continue to do so. We hope this is the first of many more posts to come in the near future.


Last summer we started a routine in our house. Each kid is responsible to cook dinner one night each week. They plan the menu, do the prep work, cook the meal, and set the table. When it's time to sit down to eat, one of the other siblings prays for the meal and include giving thanks for the one who did the cooking.

When I started posting about this on my personal FB page last summer, I received some questions about how I get my kids involved in the kitchen. At that time, the kids were 11, 7, and 4. So this summer, I've been taking pictures of their dinner nights so I can share with all of you. Of course, you know your own children and their limits and abilities. Since there are a lot of opportunities for injuries in the kitchen, always supervise your children and never let them do anything outside their skill level. At the same time, don't underestimate what they are capable of. Teach new skills by demonstrating and talking them through it. Then help them do it. Finally, watch them do it themselves.

Technically, April isn't making dinner in these pictures, but she is involved in the kitchen. And she has become so good at making scrambled eggs, that she can do the whole thing herself. I just light the stove for her because our igniters are broken and we have to use matches. She probably makes eggs 4-5 days a week now.

First she collects her ingredients and tools.

I love those little hands!

The easiest way to end up with shell-free eggs is to break them into a clear dish. This day April was breaking them into my quart Pyrex. Once the eggs are cracked, pick up the dish and look through the bottom. The shells will have sunk to the bottom. You can use a spoon to fish them out, but April and I find it easier to just use our clean fingers.

Cooking is a great way for kids to learn math skills in a practical setting. April is just learning to recognize fractions, but the boys are learning how to double and triple amounts when they cook.

Another fun aspect of cooking for kids is getting to use the kitchen tools and gadgets. For some reason she used a fork the day I took these pictures, but she is usually really thrilled to get to use the wire whisk.

These were plain eggs. She usually makes green eggs with sausage. Just add a few drops of green food coloring and throw some cut-up cooked sausage on top after pouring the eggs into the hot pan. And remember: it is imperative that you let the pan get hot before adding to eggs to prevent them from sticking. See the post here.

April's Scrambled Eggs
4-6 eggs
1 1/2-2 Tbsp. cream
1/2 tsp. salt
few shakes pepper
few drops green food coloring (optional)
sausage, cooked and chopped

Heat pan over medium to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, crack eggs into clear dish. Look through bottom to find and remove any shells. Whisk in cream, salt, pepper, and green food coloring if desired. Add butter or oil to heated pan. Pour egg mixture into pan. If desired, toss sausage on top. Turn heat down to medium. Once bubbles start to form, stir to scramble. Cook until desired doneness, stirring occasionally.
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