Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New website!!

I have been thinking a lot lately about this blogging adventure and what I would like to see for the future of Life on a Little Hill. I have so much more to share, and have decided we need a more permanent home. To that end have created! All future posts will be there! 

I am so excited to have you visit the new site and to get some new posts up soon! Thank you to everyone who has been reading! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Teaching Organizer Freebie!

One of my many dreams is to one day be completely organized in every aspect of my life: home, church, boys, husband, god children, bills, blog, birthdays, Young Living, teaching... should be a piece of cake, right?! Haha!

Since I am on summer break, I now have some breathing room to at least think about next school year. (One thing at a time!) Aside from getting all of my lessons ready, I need something to keep me organized on a day to day basis. This past year I created a weekly teacher calendar for my two classes. One side has a Monday-Friday section for each classes lesson notes, and the other side has several different note-taking sections as well as short term and long term reminders. Next year I will be teaching World Literature and Pre-AP English, so being organized will be a necessity!

I have put the for on my brand new Teachers Pay Teachers site as a free download- if this is something that might work for you, feel free to snag it! Hopefully, I will be getting more things up there within the next few weeks. If you are a teacher friend... stay tuned!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A blog post! It must be summer!!

Greetings everyone!

I apologize for the lack of posts within the last year; it turns out that one Oklahoma teaching salary alone does not quite fill the budget gap to allow me to stay home with the boys. We had to make the tough decision at the beginning of last school year for me to go back to work. Fortunately, Gideon and I were both able to get jobs in our little town and had a great year giving back to our community!

We are working behind the scenes to diversify our earning potential, and I will be posting as things go forward. In the meantime, and now that I am on summer, I hope to get back to some fun blog posts and show you all what is happening on our little hill!

First up... BEER!!

Yes, you heard me right! Beer! Though I don't drink beer myself, my husband is quite the aficionado and has been brewing his own for the last seven years. He has written a guest post about the process and the hopes of one day being able to help support the family with this endeavor! We are still working on a great name for the brewery... comment if you have a suggestion for us! Enjoy!


I have been brewing now for about seven years or so, and have appreciated good beer for much longer than that. In Oklahoma, good beer is not an easy thing to come by. With strange regulations left over from the prohibition era such as 1) alcoholic beverages over 3.2% are prohibited to sell in grocery stores, 2) liquor stores are prohibited from refrigerating their stock (UPDATE: This law JUST got changed a few months ago), and 3) liquor stores MUST be closed on Sundays, voting days, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. So, if you are planning on doing something over a holiday weekend, make sure to get your REAL beer or adult beverage of choice on Saturday!

In addition to finding good beer conveniently, I have found that the beer that is sold here tends to be really expensive! Mostly, that comes from taxes imposed from the State "sin tax." Additionally, in Oklahoma all sales of alcohol have to go through a distributor. What this means is that small, local craft brewers or wineries can't sell their products directly to the public (or for that matter sell directly to a liquor store). They must go through a licensed distributor. However, this costs money, and of course, the distributor adds a percentage on top of whatever the brewer is charging. Thus, by the time your beverage of choice gets to the shelf, there have been several additions of taxes and rate hikes.

All this to say, Oklahoma has driven me to drink! Or rather, driven me to MAKE my own drink!

One of the things that I really enjoy doing is learning how to do something for myself: make bread, grow vegetables, make ice cream, sew, build things, fix things, work on my own vehicles... I have my dad to really thank for this trait/mindset. He is definitely someone who I look up to, who has always tried to figure out how to do things on his own. Between my dad and my stepdad (who has always found creative ways of doing things), I was doomed from the beginning to start my fiddling and meddling and puttering days early on!

Initially, I started brewing as most people do: with extracts. Malted barley (or other types of grain) is allowed to soak like tea at 155 degrees for an hour. During this time, a process called sacchrification takes place where the complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars. In order to make an extract, this solution is boiled down in factories and made into a syrup.

So, I used these syrups with good success for several years. It was effective, allowed me to make beer at home, and was faster than the "all grain" method. However, the more I brewed, the more I saw the cost difference between extract and all grain. Due to the processing, extract brewing is more expensive. Also, while it does allow you to shorten the brew time by a couple of hours, it does limit the control you have over the viscosity of the beer. In all grain brewing, the brewer keeps the grain at 155. However, if you change that temperature, you can also change the viscosity (or mouth-feel) of the beer.

So, it wasn't long before I began to look into brewing with all grain. I have now been brewing all grain for about two years, and I love it! I wish I had done it sooner! While it does take a bit longer, I can make my beer significantly cheaper, and with a great deal of control.

For those of you who might think about getting into brewing, here is my current setup:
The beauty of brewing is that at its heart, it is truly simple. The key is to keep things clean. By God's grace, I have never had a beer that has been bad due to contamination. I have made beer that I have been less than pleased with, but that was due to me being adventurous in a recipe, and the recipe not turning out as good as I had hoped.

While my brewery is not yet complete, it works very well as is, and produces good results. The hot liquor tank (big pot on the left) also doubles as my boil kettle. Essentially, I boil a lot of water and then transfer that hot water into the mash tun (the water cooler). Next, I add the crushed malted grain to the hot water and wait an hour for the sacchrification process to take place. Meanwhile, have a beer. Then, I begin to slowly drain the wort out of the mash tun and into another vessel (eventually I will get a separate boil kettle for this step. In the meantime, I transfer it into a bucket and then back into the hot liquor tank to double as my boil kettle). Once I have 6 gallons or so, I can begin the boil.

(Inside the mash tun--grain and hot water)
(Here I am sparging (draining and straining) the wort from the grains directly into my boil kettle)

(That is a lovely color!!)
(My goodness that is a dark beer! Like a good Imperial Stout, it sucks the light out of the room!!)

So, with six gallons of wort on the stove, the boil begins. This is where the fun happens... You can change the characteristic of beer by adding different ingredients. Hops are almost always added for their preservation properties, as well as their bittering flavors. By adding hops at different times during the boil, the brewer can achieve different characteristics. For example, if you want to add the bittering flavors of the hops, add them at the beginning of the boil. If you want to add the flavor of the hops (the flowery, citrusy, or piney flavors), add the hops during the middle of the boil. If you want only the SMELL of the hops in the beer, then you add them right at the last. None of the flavors or bittering will be imparted to the beer.

Some of my favorite beers are the Belgian variety. They will add coriander, orange peel, candied sugars... all sorts of things! This is the creative cooking part of making beer where you can really play with recipes and have fun. So, for one hour the wort is boiled with the hops added at specific intervals. Over the hour, about a gallon of water evaporates, leaving you with approximately 5 gallons of beer.

But, this is one of the most critical parts... The boiled liquid must be chilled to around 70 degrees. But this must be done quickly in order to minimize the possibility of contamination of bacteria or wild yeast. This is where I use a wort chiller. Essentially, it is a long copper tube that is immersed in the wort. I then hook up a hose to one end of it, and run cold water through it, thus chilling the wort. It is simple and pretty effective. Once the beer is around 70-75 degrees, I transfer the beer into a sanitized bucket or carboy. At this temperature range, it is safe to add the specific yeast for the style of beer that is being made. I like Wyeast and have had really good results with their products. I am sure there are others, but their consistency has been top notch. A water lock is placed on top of the carboy or bucket that allows gasses to escape, but does not allow anything in.

(Here is a picture of my carboy with Peach Porter Wheat beer. Notice the water lock on top)

It takes about a week for most beers to complete the krebs cycle to break down the sugars into alcohol. Most beers benefit by transferring again to another carboy and waiting another week. It allows for a full fermentation and flavors to settle in. After the two weeks, it is time to bottle (or to keg). There is still active yeast in the beer, and to bottle condition the beer, I usually add 3/4 cup corn sugar solution to the beer. This will activate the yeast and allow for just enough carbonation to take place. I then transfer to bottles, cap, and wait another week or so. Then, chill, crack open, and enjoy!

My kind family has encouraged my hobby and all members truly have supported it! My brother and wife have helped with my kegging setup, my dad with my mash paddle, my mom with special glassware, and everyone else with drinking it! :) I hope to continue brewing and improving and expanding. Maybe one day soon I can do it on a larger scale. However, for now, I am very pleased with what I can make, and will continue to brew on our Little Hill. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Welcome to Our Hillside Garden!

Writing about the garden requires more experience than I have... so my darling husband has agreed to give you an introductory tour. We are fairly new at this gardening thing, so any suggestions or feedback is always appreciated! Enjoy!

Contrary to my wife's better judgment, she has graciously agreed to let me guest blog on her site. Today, I'd like to share a little about our garden, what we are attempting to achieve, and how we are going about doing it.

First of all here are some of the things we have planted so far this year:

Long Term (perennial) plantings:
            Peach Trees (planted last year, replaced one this year)
            Blackberry bushes (Planted last year)
            Asparagus (planted crowns last year, they are producing now)
            Strawberries (planted this year)
Short Term (annual) plantings:
            Sweet Peas

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to plant my leafy greens and brassicas this year in spring: lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, etc. If only that pesky thing called a job wouldn't get in the way! However, we are exploring the idea of planting some lettuce & spinach inside during the heat of summer.

It's now time to get my summer crops in the ground. We are planning on planting:
            Yellow Summer squash
            Sweet potatoes

One of my problems is that when I do something, I like to do it all the way! Go big, or go home! It gets me into trouble frequently... Anyway, the first year, we were able to successfully grow most everything we wanted to. We had some trees die (plums and a couple of peach) as well as blueberries. However, everything else that we planted in the garden grew miraculously well! In retrospect, I should have listened to the advice of my priest. Novel idea, right? His suggestion was to choose the areas I wanted to plant, and cover it with plastic to kill off the weeds underneath. This would have saved us some labor, but we also wouldn't have had all that wonderful produce!

This is our second year in our little house on the hill, and we have loved the fact that we own a little over an acre of land. We have a beautiful view from our house, and while the hill provides a beautiful view, it also provides a challenging topography for farming and gardening! One of the challenges we have here is the soil. Our soil is quite sandy and rocky. Where it isn't sandy/rocky, it has veins of clay. Much of the land has sandstone bluffs, and we are fortunate to have a beautiful example on the backside of our house. In addition to the sandy/rocky and clay-filled soil, the native weeds and grasses are a bear to deal with! So.... what to do?

We initially began to amend the soil with more organic matter--manure, compost, and mulch. The sandy soil is quick draining, so it is important to add more vegetable matter in the soil to help retain moisture and provide nutrients. The clay, on the other hand, is so dense that it does not allow air for the roots to grow. The good thing about this, though, is that with yearly additions of mulch and compost, we can fairly easily improve the soil. However, the quantity of mulch that we need has proven to be HUGE!

The overall size of the garden at this point is probably about 1/4 of an acre., and much of that has to be mulched.

We have made two big changes to the garden this year, both of which are an attempt to reduce mowing/weeding. The first thing we have done has been to widen the layout of the garden to facilitate easier access. By making every other row about 5' wide, I can now drive my mower towing the garden trailer behind between the rows. This allows me to mulch easily. Secondly, we are putting down weed cloth between the rows and mulching over them. This already has helped tremendously in keeping down the grasses and weeds. Hopefully, by the time we are finished with laying down the weed cloth, we will have reduced our labors. We shall see!



Friday, April 25, 2014

Introducing... Aidan Matthew!

Hello Everyone! I apologize for my recent absence... I was bringing new life into the world! Aidan Matthew was born on February 27th (10 days overdue). He came in at a whopping 10 pounds, 3 ounces! We have enjoyed the last 8 weeks getting to know one another, hosting a rotating door of family from California, and celebrating Pascha, the Feast of feasts! What a blessing!

We named Aidan after St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, keeping with our Celtic names. His middle name, Matthew, is in honor of our little chapel and its patron, St. Matthew the Apostle. We feel so blessed to be a part of this parish family.

Here is a little about St. Aidan. Hopefully now I will be able to get back to sharing what is happening with our life on this little hill. :)

*Photo courtesy of Katie Cariker Photography


St Bede (May 27), in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE praises Aidan for his humility and piety, recommending him as a model for other bishops and priests to follow. He was not attached to the things of this world, nor did he seek earthly treasures. Whenever he received gifts from the king or from rich men, he distributed them to the poor. On Wednesdays and Fridays he would fast from all food until the Ninth Hour (about 3 P.M.), except during the paschal season.

From Lindisfarne, St Aidan traveled all over Northumbria, visiting his flock and establishing missions. St Oswald, who knew Gaelic from the time he and his family were exiled to Iona, acted as an interpreter for Bishop Aidan, who did not speak English. Thus, the king played an active role in the conversion of his people.

One year, after attending the services of Pascha, King Oswald sat down to a meal with Bishop Aidan. Just as the bishop was about to bless the food, a servant came in and informed the king that a great number of needy folk were outside begging for alms. The king ordered that his own food be served to the poor on silver platters, and that the silver serving dishes be broken up and distributed to them.There is a charming illustration of this incident in the thirteenth century Berthold Missal in New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library (Morgan MS 710, fol. 101v). Aidan, deeply moved by St Oswald’s charity, took him by the right hand and said, “May this hand never perish.” According to Tradition, St Oswald’s hand remained incorrupt for centuries after his death. St Bede says that the hand was kept in the church of St Peter at Bamburgh, where it was venerated by all. The present location of the hand, if it still survives, is not known.

St Oswald was killed in battle against the superior forces of King Penda on August 5, 642 at a place called Maserfield. He was only thirty-eight years old. St Aidan was deeply grieved by the king’s death, but his successor St Oswin (August 20) was also very dear to him.King Oswin once gave St Aidan a horse and a cart for his journeys (the bishop usually traveled on foot). Soon after this, Bishop Aidan met a beggar and gave him the horse and cart. The king heard of this and was disturbed by it. He asked St Aidan why he had given the royal gift away when there were ordinary horses in the stables which were more suitable for a beggar. Aidan rebuked him, asking if the king regarded the foal of a mare more highly than the Son of God. At first, he did not understand. Then he fell at the bishop’s feet, weeping tears of repentance. Asking for forgiveness, Oswin promised never again to judge St Aidan’s charitable deeds.

St Aidan raised the king to his feet, declaring that he had never seen a king who was so humble. He prophesied that Oswin would soon depart from this life, since the people did not deserve such a ruler. His prophecy was soon fulfilled, for St Oswin was murdered at Gilling on August 20, 651. St Aidan departed to the Lord on August 31, less than two weeks later. He died at Bamburgh, by the west wall of the church. The beam on which he was leaning to support himself still survives, even though the church was twice destroyed by fire. The beam may still be seen in the ceiling of the present church, above the baptismal font.

On the day St Aidan died, St Cuthbert (March 20) was a young man tending his master’s sheep. Looking up, Cuthbert saw a vision of angels bearing someone’s soul to heaven in a sphere of fire. Later, he learned that Bishop Aidan had died at the very hour that he had seen the vision.

At first, the holy bishop Aidan was buried at Lindisfarne on the right side of the altar in the church of St Peter. In 664 the Synod of Whitby declared that all the churches of Britain must follow Roman practices, and that Celtic customs were to be suppressed. St Colman (February 18), the third Bishop of Lindisfarne, was unable to accept this decision. Therefore, he decided to retire to Iona, taking the bones of St Aidan with him. Celtic customs survived on Iona until the eighth century.

*Information from the Orthodox Church in America website (

 You may also be interested in:


Wednesday, January 15, 2014


 I just signed up with Bloglovin! Follow me for all of the latest posts!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Thursday, December 12, 2013

St. Finnian of Clonard

Today is my son's Name Day! What I mean by that is today is the day that the Church commemorates St. Finnian, my son's namesake. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is customary in the Orthodox Church for the newly baptized to take on the name of one whose life is worthy of emulation and to whom we can go for intercession. When I was pregnant, we were drawn to the early Church in Great Britain because of our love of the British culture and, let's face it, we are about as white as they come! Finn's due date was February 17th, which is the feast day for St. Finan of Lindesfarne. We thought the name was very unique, and that led us to St. Finnian of Clonard. We chose him because of his vocation as a teacher (which is what my husband and I were both doing for a living), and his work for the Irish people.

May God Grant You Many Years, Finnan James!! Mama loves you!

Saint Finnian or Finan

Bishop in Ireland

(† 552)

Among the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of Saint Finnian is one of the most famous, after that of Saint Patrick. He was a native of Leinster and was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of Saint Patrick. Having an ardent desire to make greater progress, he went over into Wales, where he met and conversed with Saint David, Saint Gildas and Saint Cathmael, three eminent British Saints. After remaining thirty years in Britain, he returned to Ireland in about the year 520, excellently qualified by his sanctity and sacred learning to restore the spirit of religion among his countrymen. Like a loud trumpet sounding from heaven, he roused the insensibility and inactivity of the lukewarm, and softened the most hardened hearts, long immersed in worldly business and pleasures.
To propagate the work of God, Saint Finnian established several monasteries and schools, chief among which was the monastery of Clonard, which he built and which was his ordinary residence. From this school came several of the principal Saints and Doctors of Ireland: Kiaran the Younger, Columkille, Columba son of Crimthain, the two Brendans, Laserian, Canicus or Kenny, Ruadan, and others. The great monastery of Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning.
Saint Finnian was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Clonard. Out of love for his flock and by his zeal for their salvation, he became infirm with the infirm and wept with those that wept. He healed souls as well as the physical infirmities of those who came to him for assistance. His food was bread and herbs, his drink, water, and his bed, the ground, with a stone for his pillow. He departed to Our Lord on the 12th of December in 552.

The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), Vol. IV, October-December

 You may also be interested in:


2014 Budget Template


Over the course of my almost 13 year marriage, I have tried many different budgeting tools. We have used Quicken, Microsoft Money, various internet applications, and even handwriting transactions along with a calculator for each category. So far, nothing has done quite what I want it to, so I decided to create my own. Budgeting is so important for those of us who don't have disposable income, and it has become essential for my family this year since we are only on one salary. In order to be good stewards of what God has given us, it is good to be aware of how our money is spent and what our financial priorities actually are in practice. To this end, I am sharing my template in the hopes that it will be a great resource for your family, as it has been for mine. 

If you have never done a budget before and need help, let me know and I can write a post about the basics of budgeting. This file will not only help you keep to your household budget, but it will also help you to keep your bank account always balanced! What more could you ask for? 

Because each household is different, this budget is completely customizable to your own family's situation. I have included generic categories that may apply to most people, but if you have a hard time with the instructions, I would be happy to get your file set up for you! The set-up doesn't take long, and this has turned out to be a great tool for my family!

The template consists of one Excel file with 12 different sheets. each month is already there, you just have to fit it to your needs.  There are also formulas pre-written into the sheet that will do all of your calculations for you! Download the template and follow the instructions below... let's get organized for 2014!!

As always, feel free to comment with any questions, or email me if you need help with your budget template. Happy budgeting!


1. Download the budget template and save it to your desktop. The download is from Google Drive, and the file has been converted to a Google Doc. When you open the file, click on FILE at the top of the page and go to "Download As". It gives the option to download as an Excel file, which should maintain all of the necessary formatting. 

2. Once you get your budget open, take a look at the categories given. You may rename or delete any category at this time. I have also given a few blank categories in case you need more. Make sure you have all of your reoccurring expenses listed. Notice that the categories with a blue box correspond to the categories on the table to the right of the budget. These are categories that usually have more than one transaction per month (more on that in a minute). You should be able to copy and paste your categories for each month across the workbook if you wish.

3. After you have finished customizing your categories, type your budget allowance for each category in column B. Do NOT type anything in the blue box for "Out of Budget" (B22). If an expense is out of budget, you have not planned for it and it needs to be separated out. As you add your amounts, they should automatically be summed at the end of the column. When you are finished, your total budgeted expense should reflect in the green box (B23). You never need to type anything into the box 

4. The next step begins on the 1st of the month. Figure out how much is in your bank account on the first of the the month, after all transactions have cleared. Type that number into box D25. This is what allows you to have an accurate reconciliation with your budget and your bank account. 

5. From here on out, you will complete your budget as you have transactions. EVERY transaction that goes in or comes out of your bank account should be entered somewhere on the budget. For the one-time monthly expenses (rent, insurance, etc.), type the amount you spent in the appropriate box of column C. Again, the actual expenses will be tallying at the bottom of the column, so you always know where you stand. 

6. For multiple expenses (groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.), write each expense into the table to the right of the budget. Each column automatically sums at the bottom and that number is automatically entered into the corresponding category in your budget! No need to do anything but enter the transaction!! :) Do not type anything into the blue boxes at the end of the columns, or the blue boxes in the budget itself. 

7. For your income, do the same thing as in step 6. Your income will be from all budgeted sources. The transactions will sum at the end of the column and automatically be entered into the budget in box D26. The math is already done for you as far as your income and your expenditures, so if you have done everything correctly, your bank balance should be reflected in box D30 ("Balance"). As you enter transactions, the formulas make the calculations for you, and you should remain balanced. 

8. If you have transactions that are not in your budget, write them in the "Out of  Budget" category. This category will appear red in your budget because it is extra that was not planned for. There is a note section for you to mark what each transaction was for. This is a great tool because you can look through at the end of the month and see what you purchased that was out of budget. You may need to make changes to your budget for the following month... or realize a little fiscal discipline is in order!

9. If you receive money that is not normally in your budget, add it to the "Out of Budget" column, not your "Income" column. You will want to put the income number in parenthesis so it will subtract from your out of budget expenses. 

10. That's it! You can enter transactions every day or once a week, depending on your schedule and spending habits. The only trick with this budget is that you don't have a static income amount at the beginning of the month. You will want to figure out your monthly income totals and calculate them with your expenses to make sure you have a balanced budget before you enter in your budgeted expenses. If your expenses are more than your projected income, it is time to make some changes! 

Let me know if you need any help! :)
You may also be interested in:


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Best Green Bean Casserole Ever!!

This year, we had the best Thanksgiving meal yet! My hubby's dad and step-mom were here for a visit so I decided to do almost everything from scratch! I'm beginning to get a *little* more confident in my cooking, so why not do a huge meal from scratch with all completely new recipes... right??! Luckily, I had help from hubby's step-mom and a whole day of prep while the guys were hunting.

The recipe I am most excited about is the green bean casserole. I have obviously had the casserole in the past, but it has never been my favorite. I don't love canned green beans, and it seemed to always be more of a mushy mess by the time it was done. This recipe (from Pinterest) calls for NO cans whatsoever, and even includes home-made fried onion topping!! There are many steps, and it takes a bit of prep... but I will never go back to the canned casserole. The flavors of this recipe are so rich and fresh!

The original recipe comes from Creative Culinary
(, but I have re-posted it here for you with my own pictures. Give it a try and you won't regret it!!

Homemade Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole with Fried Onion Strings

For the Onion Strings:
  • 1 whole Large Onion
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon (scant) Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons (to 1/2 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 quart (to 2 Quarts) Peanut or Canola Oil
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • For the Green Beans:
  • 2 pounds green beans, ends removed and beans snapped in half
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
  • 1 & 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar 
      To make the Onions:
  1. Slice onion in half; place the flat half down on your cutting board and slice each half into thin rounds.
  2. Place in a baking dish and cover with buttermilk and soak for at least an hour.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Heat oil in small fryer or large dutch oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Grab a handful of onions, throw into the flour mixture, tap to shake off excess, and PLUNGE into hot oil. Fry for a few minutes and remove as soon as golden brown.
  6. Repeat until onions are gone.
  7. Ree advises to eat them before your family sees them and then repeat the whole process with another onion, because they’ll be really mad they didn’t get any. She is so was hard to not just 'snack' them gone before we even made the casserole!

    To make the casserole: 
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until deep green and tender, about 10 minutes (we like ours a bit crisp tender; cook longer if you prefer softer beans. (The beans do not continue to cook more in the casserole.) Drain and rinse with cool water.
  9. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start sweating liquid, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 3 minutes. Remove the mushroom mixture to a separate bowl.
  10. Combine the milk, cream, and chicken stock in a large glass bowl and microwave until hot, about 2-3 minutes (or bring to a simmer in a saucepan).
  11. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until creamy; about 2 minutes.
  12. Add the hot milk mixture and continue cooking, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  13. Stir the mushroom mixture into the cream sauce and simmer, whisking frequently, for about 5 minutes for the flavors to marry. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. (You want this to be on the salty side, because it will mellow once you add the green beans.)
  14. Stir the green beans into the mushroom sauce and toss to combine. Pour the green bean mixture into a large, buttered casserole dish (about 2 quarts). 

    14. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the grated cheddar and crispy onion strings and  
          bake uncovered until cheese is melted, about 15 more minutes. Let stand for 10  
          minutes before serving.
   15. Dig in!

We made this for Thanksgiving and it makes a lot; I would cut this in half if serving for a regular meal. Except the onion strings; make them all. You won't regret it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Simple Bill Tracker

The end of the year is approaching quickly! I have begun to think about next year and how I am going to keep myself organized. This year I am going to revamp my "home-making" binder a bit. I have found so many great printables this year (thank you Pinterest), that I want to do a combination of things that have inspired me. Some of these I have made, and some I have downloaded from other sites. I will post as I go- feel free to use anything that you think might work for you!!

The first sheet is a simple bill tracker. I have had too many instances of a sudden panic attack when I realize I may have forgotten to pay a bill... or two! This takes away the panic so we know exactly what has been and still needs to be paid for the month. There are two sheets, one for January through June, and the other July through December. Everything is in one place! This also allows you to see how your bills have changed throughout the year. If you would like the Excel file to enter your bills electronically, just let me know! This sheet will coordinate with my simple (yet amazing) budget spreadsheet, on which I am adding the final touches. It will be coming soon!


 **Update: I forgot to add the blank template so you can write in your own obligations... HERE it is!!