Thursday, April 17, 2014

Swap Storage

One of the key elements when participating in swaps is to use the items you get back.  Using the items is always fun, if you can find what you need.  My system has to take care of a few things - one - be easy to use, easy to search and safe from my paper eating cat. 

It is based on a combination of something I saw one of the message board members post and sort of what I have seen with the scraprack system.

I use enclosed hanging file folders and sort how I think when I need to find something.  The strange advantage - if the wrong folder is opened, I am tending to remember more of what I have :).

The above are some of the hanging file folders.  I have two boxes for swaps.  ATC's, cards and dimensional flowers (for the most part) are stored in a different boxes.  The flowers I am used to looking through, the ATC's - I recently found their box.  I will probably sort them into these folders since I like to use them on pages/in mini albums.

Sample contents of one folder - not too much to look through (yes, I did pick an easy one here) but very simple to find what I want.  I haven't finished sorting, but plan to maintain two (or maybe three) boxes as that is what my space allows. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Almost finished with Maple Street Tea Shoppe?

I bought the pattern from Laura Dennison Designs.  Had a blast creating.  This is the sample that I will keep - a shop called Oddities.  The front window showcases quite a few fun little things I found from my stash.

No, nothing was purchased for this (other than pattern), this was a 'let's see what can be done with stash only' type project.  Love the little windows and fact it holds a 6x6-8x8 mini.  Planning to create one with a tea shoppe theme once I find the right little tea set or old tiny dishes as a gift.  I have the paper I think I want to use - now to play around since I have a feel for what I am doing more now.  Another difference - no flower pot outside - thinking a sandwich board sign and maybe some old skates or baskets.  I will know what I want when I see it.

Lots of mistakes through out this project, I made lots of notes as I think I approach and work on projects a bit differently than the designer.  Not a big deal - I usually end up heading out on my own after learning a technique.  I like how my little awning things came out - think I want to find some copper paper (metallic) and use that for my next one.  Give it a bit different look.

The designer or this project has wonderful ideas and the way she sees things is so much fun.  I can't wait to try my next one.  I have a goal for 12 different little shops on a particular shelf for me. 

The pink 'construction strips' you see were on purpose - I tend to use bright colors when creating something for the first time.  I always make a sample, then proceed to the real deal.  I was given a large stack of neon card stock once - I used it quite often to make my sample pages or try out new folds and such.  It means my samples are pretty colorful.  This is the first time in quite a while I made such a 'calm' looking sample.

A few designs I want to try/work on (one a month is about all I can hope for right now).  Not quite main street, more like where I live.  The first building reminds me of a local antique shop in town.  They look different, but the window reminds me of the variety in their store.

Barn - the basic tea shoppe above, but wider, different doors and such.  Maybe even a tractor or hay bales in the top section.

Town Hall - I would like something a bit more interesting than my current plain album.

Fire department, house, church, grocery store, and more :).  Now to see if I can get them created.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Menu for the next two weeks

Taking the easy route for shopping this week - just doubling the menu.  I will add some extras - cookies and such based on time, but the basics are complete!

Tonight - Pizza and Salad - pop to drink (yes, we do give kids regular pop once a week.  Never diet or the monster stuff.  Usually it is rootbeer, coke, pepsi, dr. pepper or sprite.  At our house, Fridays are pizza and movie night around here.  Living with meniere's doesn't mean that changes - just made some food adjustment.   We have been making Friday night pizza's for quite some time so it hasn't been that big of an adjustment).


B:  Low sodium bacon waffles, fresh fruit (toast, peanut butter, orange juice, milk, water, coffee available for anyone who can have them)
L: leftovers from the week
D: Chicken and carrots in the crock pot, sauteed cabbage, mashed potatoes, fruit dessert

B: oatmeal
L: unsure right now - probably fajita's if plans change
D: Peppered meatball sandwiches (sort of philly cheesesteak taste), oven potatoes and lettuce salad

B: oatmeal
L: leftovers
D: Tacos, rice & salsa, fruit kabobs

B: eggs and toast
L: leftovers or 'dead animals' (aka bread dough rolled around leftovers and cooked in oven until bits and pieces spew out a little)
D: Crockpot chili, jello and corn muffins

B: pancakes and bacon
L: leftovers or chili dogs
D: Chicken casserole

B: oatmeal
L: Leftovers
D:: meatloaf, cheesy potatoes, green beans and fruit kabobs

B: oatmeal
L: leftovers
D: Pizza

Repeat - short/sweet/easy.  The crockpot chili may become crockpot lasanga next week and the chicken casserole probably chicken pot pie instead.  The ingredients are all on hand (I keep lasanga noodles at all times  and a pie crust is pretty easy to make).  The peppered meatballs may become meatball marinara, but either way - everything will be on hand if I make some changes.  Still low sodium.

Grocery run after the first week for more fresh milk and produce, otherwise, shouldn't need any other runs

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Meneire's plan for the week

The biggest key we have found is planning our menus.  As my husband is required to eat at restaurants for his job, our planning is key to helping him be successful.  His standard order - a steak cooked plain, a plain side salad (no croutons), steamed veggies (again - be sure they are plain) and rice-pilaf (after checking prep) or a baked potato with sour cream and pepper only.  Asking how everything is prepared is most important.

We raise our own beef, lamb and chicken, so we tend to rely on these meats.  Out of venison this time of year (pheasant too - I think we have a meal or two worth of duck and fish left in the freezer).  Here is the menu for my husband's week (nights he eats out are usually take out for the kids or a higher sodium meal that the kids like - last week it was Papa Murphy's 5 meat stuffed pizza (1/12th slice has 1260 mg sodium), this week it is either frozen pizza one night and other tacos with the full salt refried beans and store bought shells - we are getting them used up).

He is at 1200 mg per sodium per day as a goal.  If we eat all home-cooked meals - it is pretty easy to stay in the 600 mg per day range - very little thought these days.  

This week (snacks are usually some oatmeal cookies I have made 5 mg sodium each or a fiber bar and fruit and/or homemade bread):

Breakfast - oatmeal with raisins, apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and 2 tbsp cream.  Ran out of walnuts, so no walnuts this morning.

Lunch - meatball marinara subs with fresh fruit and brussel sprouts.  I love that Aldi's fit and active is only 25mg sodium per serving.  This greatly speeds up the cooking process - yes, we do purchase it by the case.  Having it on hand means I can come up with a 25 mg dinner if needed (pasta plus 1/2 cup sauce).  One jar and 24 meatballs serves 6-8 people.

Snack - homemade bread (I bake every day - just like most others) or a fiber bar (store bought 85 mg per bar) and maybe an ounce of low sodium cheese.  Sometimes nuts, sometimes peanut butter and no salt crackers or veggies, it depends on the day.  My goal is two snacks per day, though he usually combines all into a single snack. 

Dinner - Roasted leg of lamb with onions, carrots and potatoes, biscuits and a berry cobbler for dessert.

Breakfast - oatmeal (pretty standard breakfast around here)

Lunch - leftover roast beef, carrots and garlic potatoes from Saturday night

Dinner - kids choice as husband eats out tonight

Breakfast - oatmeal
Lunch - leftover spaghetti and garlic bread
Dinner - kids choice

Breakfast - eggs/toast/fresh fruit and 1-2 slices of low sodium bacon.  Bacon is something that after a month, my husband really still misses.  We only had it on occasion, so we are trying out the Great Value brand of lower sodium bacon (173 mg for two slices).  We used to just split a serving between the two of us, but will see if he wants both.  :).  Consumer Reports had this listed as one of the better tasting lower sodium bacons.  Compared to the other brand of low sodium they offered, this one is over 100 mg lower in sodium per serving size.  Here is hoping it is good.
Lunch - leftover meatball marinara subs
Dinner - Beef barley stew (beef from leftovers from roast cooked on Saturday)  The bone will be used to make beef broth.

Breakfast - oatmeal
Lunch - leftover beef barley stew
Dinner - Lamb pot pie with jello (leftovers from Sunday dinner)

Breakfast - oatmeal
lunch - leftover lamb pot pie
Dinner - pizza with homemade sausage, low sodium cheddar and a serving of lower sodium bacon if it is good on Wednesday with the grease used in the crust for more flavor.  If it turns out that it doesn't taste good, we have outdoor animals whose coats will benefit from the fat content.  Though nice here - we still have several feet of snow on the ground and drifts over 10 feet tall.

Breakfast - pancakes, fruit
Lunch - hambergers, baked beans (from scratch), fresh carrots with mustard dipping sauce
Dinner - Crock pot chicken, oven potatoes, sauteed cabbage/veggie mix, brownies, biscuts

I also keep oatmeal raisin cookies on hand - 5 mg per cookie (approximately - as anyone with Meneire's knows - every flour is different  - but I do really like the no salt baking powder).  Two other items that tend to fit without much issue - some vanilla ice cream or sherbert.  We don't forgo treats in order to eat right.  Just revamp where needed so they fit into a low salt/no added salt plan of eating.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Low sodium cheddar cauliflower soup

Planning to try this - with a few tweaks (ex: original recipe uses 2c water, I am using 2 cups of my home-made broth - no sodium added from lamb ribs - fat removed).

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks
1 med head cauliflower
2 cups broth
2.5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 t pepper
3 tbsp flour
1.5 cups Heluva Good Reduced Sodium Cheddar cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice

if all works well - this should make 8, 1 cup servings at 45 mg sodium each.  The directions provided look a bit strange, so I plan to go about it in this manner

cook cauliflower in the broth with bay leaf and pepper.  Toss bay leaf, strain, set cauliflower aside for a bit

cook leeks in the olive oil - once soft, add flour - then milk and broth slowly, making a nice thick sauce like I do with pot pie, then the cauliflower to what I hope is a nice thickened mix.

remove from heat - add cheddar and lemon juice.

Not 100% sure what to expect, but I don't like the original recipe idea of adding milk to heated oil.  I have too many issues with curdling.  Hoping to follow a standard 'white sauce' type of cooking works.

update - I didn't try this, but the Heluva Good reduced sodium cheese did wonderfully when I made cheesy potatoes the other day.  Started with the mirepoix (salt free butter, garlic, onion, celery, carrot), created a whitesauce and added some Mrs. Dash and 8 ounces of this cheese shredded.  While much different in taste from the standard ones made with velveta or extra sharp cheddar and mushroom soup, it was really tasty and the kids have requested it again.   It does amaze me that this is a tasty cheese - without the salt.  I imagine that if I put it on the table with other cheeses, people would ask for the type as it does taste good on its own.  It is delicious on sandwiches as well.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Menieres Disease - a good thing?

We finally know what has been going on with my husband.  It has been a long road, but happily? Yes, now have a name and plan of attack.  It is Meniere's Disease.  No, there isn't a cure, but we are trying meds and low salt (1200 mg per day max).    The goal - 300 mg per meal (max) and that leaves 300 mg to split between two snacks.

It has only been two weeks, but the ringing is lower and the nausea/vomiting and dizziness have gone for now.  We know it is no guarantee, but it has been over a year since he has felt this good.  It is nice to have him feeling better again.

So, on to the low-sodium diet.  Right now, just getting to the 1200 mg per day is a huge learning curve for me.  Luckily we have been making our own bread for a while.  Now it needs to become habit.  I found the bread recipe online ( - I can't find the page right now - it has been almost two years ago, but recipe is below) while looking for a robot instructable.  Gave it a shot and very glad I did.  It does have 124 mg of sodium in the entire recipe.  I adjust with seasonings to go with the meal (garlic/pepper/onion/various oils) or change up the flour content (white, wheat, cornmeal, oatmeal, flax seed, etc.).

Basic recipe - start oven pre-heating at 400 degrees.  Then combine 3 Tbsp yeast, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil - mix well.  Add 1.75 cups hot water (if you have a water-softener - adjust for this - we do with 15 mg per 8 oz water).  Mix well.  Let set for 15 minutes.  Add 5-6 cups of flour - blend and knead for a minute or two until a nice elastic dough.  Make into 30 rolls (or 3 pizza crusts, or 12 hoagie rolls, etc.) and let set for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes of rest, into the oven with the dough.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Viola - if you did the 30 rolls, and have a water softener, you now have buns with about 5 mg of sodium each!  Much better than the bread we normally bought at 150 mg per slice!

Water softener note - you can use other 'salt' pellets, but like I mentioned, we are only two weeks into this diagnosis, so I am figuring out foods first, other items next.  

So, one fun recipe meatballs marina.

Start by making one bread recipe into hoagies - though sized for 10 from the recipe.  15 mg sodium per bun.  Then I used Aldi's no salt added spaghetti sauce (it is winter in MN - I have to use what I can find locally right now).  25 mg per 1/4 cup.  I used the entire jar (5 servings or 125 mg sodium total).  Did I mention we live on a small farm and I have three teenagers to cook for as well?  The change is happening.  The kids are in support - big time, but it is a challenge right now to make meals both will like and enjoy.  I read it takes 3 months for taste buds to adjust - so maybe by summer. 

Anyway, I found that lamb is the lowest sodium meat I have available in my freezer.  Beef, pork, chicken, and turkey are next (in order from lowest to highest).  Glad the guys like to hunt - venison and pheasant are lowest in sodium and when we have more, I am looking forward to using those meats again.

The meatballs:  two pounds of ground lamb (530 mg sodium), 3/4 cup oatmeal (0 g sodium), garlic, onion, pepper, 2 eggs (124 mg sodium), 1/2 cup milk (50 mg sodium), and mix well.  I then form the mixture into 20 meatballs, cover with the jar of sauce and bake at 350 until done.  Each meatball is figured at 35 mg of sodium.  (including sauce)

For the meal:  1 bun (15 mg sodium), 3 meatballs (105 mg sodium), plus 1/2 ounce of mozzarella cheese (75 mg sodium) makes a generous sized and delicious sandwich with 195 mg sodium.  Add some steamed frozen veggies and fruit for a wonderful meal.

I just got done calculating my oatmeal cookies (a favorite here) and they should come in at 6 mg of sodium per cookie.  They are large size cookies, so will fit into a snack with a cup of milk without issue.

Right now we are only looking to control sodium content.  I will worry about fats more once I finish learning about sodium.  I would love to say - we are there, but after two weeks, I still have a ton to learn.

I have ordered Heluva Good Low sodium cheddar cheese and some Hain sodium free baking powder to try.  Pizza and Taco's are favorites.  Because I am too cheap to purchase taco seasoning, we have made our own for quite some time - salt free - huge bonus!  I also started making my own sausage a while ago as it was cheaper and easier to use our own low fat beef, pork or lamb than to purchase pre-made sausage.  Still working to perfect this one without salt, but the two I have tried so far have been really successful.   

Anyone else just learning how much salt is in everyday foods - my best tip to start - read every label and buy some things to have on hand.  $3.79 for a can of soup seems steep, but it has 35 mg sodium per serving and if I am at work and my husband has to fend for himself - $3.79 is a pretty cheap price to maintain his good health.  The peanut only peanut butter is also good - no sodium and he can put on some salt free crackers or bread I make for a great snack.  Even add some to celery with raisins (another snack he has always enjoyed).

His other option after a busy day - cook some meat using no-salt seasonings, cook some pasta- add a bit of whatever flavor oil or salt free butter you like, add seasoning and cooked frozen veggies.  If you aren't good with seasonings, I have found that Mrs. Dash or Benson's really help - kind of no thought required.  We are all learning, but having some 'instant' things on hand really helps when others have to do the cooking.

I would love to hear about your no salt/low sodium recipes.  If you have a blog, please leave me a link!  Thanks

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Operation Write Home

My first attempts at making cards for Operation Write Home.  While creating scrapbooks and altering don't phase me at all - making simple little cards can be agonizing.  Not that I don't enjoy, just that it is not something I feel talented at.  Kind of like knitting vs. crocheting - one is easy, the other is hard, but the tools are similar.

So, the website (here: said simple is good - and to make a lot of space available for writing.  The card fronts are attached to smooth white cardstock - so lots of space to write.  Both are blank inside.

I found the Lion and Zebra stamps at Stampin Place (here: and thought they were really cute and would make wonderful cards.