November 22, 2017

Easy Thanksgiving Meal Prep

This year we'll have some of my family visiting for Thanksgiving. Since they're traveling from about five hours away and leaving at the wee hours of the morning I didn't ask them to bring anything for the meal. (But I'm super grateful my sister offered to bring an apple pie.) We look forward to spending the next few days with them.

In the meantime, I think I have finally figured out how to make preparing a Thanksgiving meal, with plenty of sides, a lot easier.

1. Gather your recipes.
Have all of your recipes ready to use. If you use the internet for them, have the printed out. You don't want to have to look up any recipes or even how long to roast the turkey when you're knee-deep in Thanksgiving meal prep. 

This year I tried something different. I put all of my Thanksgiving recipes into one document. Using the "landscape" format with three columns, all of my recipes fit on one (front and back) piece of paper. After printing it, I laminated it, just like I did for all my recipes years ago. 

(I desperately need to update those laminated recipe cards! Since I prefer to use mostly the same recipes that I know we like, this method works for me. However, I have 20-30 new recipes to add to my recipe sheets.)

2. Prep some dishes the day before. 
Typically I only prepare the breads and desserts in advance. However, this morning I prepared the cheese sauce for broccoli casserole, the sweet potato casserole (minus the nuts), the sausage stuffing (celery, onion, sausage), and the corn bread pudding. 

I placed all of the prepped food in baggies or bowls instead of baking dishes. I did this for two reasons: My fridge only holds so much and these stack and smoosh easier than baking dishes. Also, I prefer my baking dishes to be room temperature, even if the food isn't when I bake it. (I do plan to take the cold items from the fridge 30 minutes prior to baking to get them closer to room temperature.)
It may not look like much, but it will save me a lot of time tomorrow morning!

3. Decide which baking/serving dishes will be used.
I cleared off my counter and brought out a lot of my serving and baking dishes. Using sticky notes, I determined which dish will be used for which food. It works for me.
My husband's grandparents used to have turkeys on their farm. Grandma gave me some tips on how to prep the turkey-especially when there are always some ice in the cavity. Read about Grandma's frozen turkey tips here.

You may be wondering when I'll bake all of my side dishes when the turkey doesn't share the oven. I have taken the turkey out of the oven and still had it steaming HOT two hours later. Read how to keep your turkey hot for hours here.

Thanks so much for stopping by This Simple Home! If you want to know what I'm up to with my writing these days, visit www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!
~ Annette
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September 11, 2017

Remember the Heroes

September 11. 
These figures sit above my kitchen sink. They serve as daily reminder to pray for the police, first responders, and military men and women who serve this country. 

We have much to be grateful for. 
I must admit these action figures were not my own idea. My local print shop offers the figures to patrons as a reminder to remember and pray for those who serve our communities and country.

~ Annette
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August 24, 2017

My New Books

Last August my first book was published. This month two more of my books were published by Rourke Educational Media. They were a lot fun to research and write about.

Flowers Book Description: 
Flowers are more than just decoration. They have an important job. But they can't always do it alone. Find out more about the work of flowers, how they attract help, and how they help plant species survive.
Flowers
(Amazon links are affiliates at no extra cost to you.)
Soil Book Description:
Soil hides most of the time, but it's important. Dig into the layers of soil and learn how it is made. Find out how soil helps plants and other living things thrive. Are you ready to get your hands dirty? 
Soil
If you want to keep up with my writing adventures, subscribe to my newsletter and/or like my author page on Facebook. (Just keep in mind if you don't like or comment posts on Facebook they'll show you fewer posts.)

A lot of people ask me how I became an author. The short answer is that the first book was an assignment. I wrote a detailed post about getting my first book published here.

Others want to know how they can best support authors (myself or others). Please consider requesting your public library order the books your favorite authors write. Then be sure to borrow them, too. Consider buying a book either for yourself or as a gift for another. Telling others about the books is always helpful, whether in real life or on social media. If the author provides school visits, tell your PTO and school principal. All of these things support authors!

My publisher sent me these bookmarks this week. They will be given to children at upcoming events! I laughed when I opened the flap and saw my face there.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
Thanks so much for reading about this new writing journey. It's been fun!

~ Annette
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August 7, 2017

Homemade Owl Pellet Dissection Kit

Children love to know how things work including nature. They can explore owls and the food chain with a hands-on owl pellet dissection kit. You can purchase these or create one. I actually made this homemade owl pellet kit as a birthday gift for a girl who loves owls.

Below are some simple instructions to help a child dissect an owl pellet by him or herself.

April 12, 2017

Skillet Meatloaf Recipe

Maybe my mom made meatloaf when I was a child, but I don't remember it. Any time I had it as a teen, I disliked it. Maybe I just needed to wait for the right recipe.

However, I like meatloaf now, as does my family. My easy meatloaf recipe is moist and delicious. Today I'm sharing my quick skillet meatloaf recipe. I found the recipe in my family recipe book. It's a great recipe! It's fast. It's moist. And most importantly, it is delicious...even with all those vegetables in there. (You might recall I am not a fan of veggies...)

I don't measure the carrots and celery precisely. In fact, I even left out the celery at least once. I use whatever crackers I have on hand. Sometimes it's Saltines. Other times it is Ritz. I think one of the strengths of this recipe is its flexibility. It's also nice to have a meatloaf fully cooked in thirty minutes!

My children saw the vegetables in this skillet meatloaf and didn't think they'd like it. However, they all liked it and some even asked for seconds. (Sorry for the photo quality.)
Skillet Meatloaf
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 sleeve crushed crackers (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef 

Combine eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix in saltines, celery, carrots, and onion. Add beef and mix well. Place in a 10 or 12-inch skillet and form a large patty. Top with additional mustard or ketchup, if desired. 

Cover. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook 15-20 additional minutes (to 160°). Drain any fat and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Thanks, Aunt Janice, for another great recipe!

~ Annette
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March 12, 2017

Washington, D.C. Family Trip

With Washington, D.C. only a couple of hours away, our family took an overnight trip to our nation's capitol. It was highly educational, but more than that, we had a lot of fun.
For some background, we don't vacation much. We visit family overnight regularly and go to family camp each summer for a week, but we don't venture into new adventures too often. Our children are ages 10, 8, and 5. The children were beyond thrilled at the idea of a trip into D.C.

We left on a Friday morning when my children's school had off for a teachers' in-service. It was snowing. It wasn't long before the snow changed to rain as my husband drove us toward the city. We went to Greenbelt to take the Metro subway into the Washington, D.C.
It was raining and sleeting when we arrived in our nation's capitol. We happily walked to our first stop of the day: The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

January 15, 2017

News from Annette

Maybe you've observed my absence from this blog. Or maybe, you're a bit like me, and you're too busy to notice.

Though I'm not blogging regularly, I am certainly staying busy writing. My first book was published in August. I love writing nonfiction for children!

This month I turned in manuscripts for two children's nonfiction books. They'll be published later this year. I also have a couple of programs in the near future. One is about the creative calling. The others are presentations to celebrate the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (See my schedule here.) Over at Little House Companion, I've shared how you can prepare for your own Laura Ingalls Wilder event in a series of blog posts.

And of course I still take care of my family and volunteer in my community. There's never a dull moment!

If you want to stay up to date with me, it might be best to sign up for my newsletter or be in touch through Facebook.

Thanks for reading This Simple Home!
~ Annette
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January 2, 2017

10 Gifts for Writers

Some professions and hobbies become a person's identity. Writers fit into this category. Based on this past Christmas and my personal wishlist, here are some gift ideas for writers. I think many of these would also be great for bloggers.
1. Good Office Chair
A comfortable office chair makes all the difference when one spends hours sitting at a desk.

We had an office chair, but I avoided it. Once I started writing books, I knew I needed to use my desk. The old office chair went to the basement and I used a dining room chair. I was quite content with it, but I was quite excited for the office chair my husband chose for me as a Christmas gift.

2. Writing Conference 
Send your writer to a conference. They'll make friends and connections and understand the publishing world much better. They'll come away inspired and a better writer.

I wasn't sure if there was a conference out there tailored to me as a children's nonfiction writer. My first writing conference was the 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference. It was there I met my editor for my recently released book and my two upcoming books. (It would also be great for illustrators and editors.) I can also heartily recommend the Highlights Foundation. I attended the Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing workshop. They were both right in my writing niche. At the Montrose Christian Writer's Conference I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned that applied to me though not many classes were specifically for children's nonfiction writers.


November 29, 2016

Jesse Tree and The Jesus Storybook Bible

A Jesse tree is a visual celebration which connects the Old Testament to the arrival of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. A Jesse tree can also be used as an Advent calendar.

The name comes from Isaiah 11:1.
"A shoot will come  up from the stump of Jesse; 
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."

October 7, 2016

Celebrating Birthdays

Welcome to October! October is always busy for us with the three children's birthdays. Add to that football for Big Sister and Brother, community activities, school activities, and everything else, and we're busy.

So how do we celebrate three birthdays that take place in the span of one week?

Dinner and Dessert

Birthday Kid chooses the dinner and dessert menu for their birthday. This is their chance to really have what they want for dinner. Here are this year's choices.

  • Big Sister, age 10: Velveeta Shells and Cheese with apple pie. (A side note: It has probably been two or three years since we had Shells and Cheese. She hasn't forgotten it!)
  • Brother, age 8: Andre's Pizza with peanut butter swirl brownies.
  • Little Sister, age 5: Cheeseburgers and a giant cookie cake. This is incredibly easy and delicious!

A Party

The kids don't have parties every year. In fact, Big Sister turns ten this month and she's having her second friend party. (Her first party was a Little House party.) When the Birthday Kid has a party, they get to help choose a theme and activities. Last year, Brother had a LEGO party. (And no, I didn't blog about it.) Big Sister chose a Star Wars theme for this year. 



All of our family lives hours away, so we don't have a family party. However, my mother-in-law visits every year for a birthday. (Often my father-in-law joins us, too.)

We try to keep it simple while celebrating the children's uniqueness! 

What's your favorite way to celebrate a birthday? 



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I earn a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
~ Annette
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