Yummy Fresh Bread (step-by-step)

I love to bake and with a big family we eat a lot of bread. I started making our bread a number of years ago and have tried a few recipes and methods and have settled on this one. For me baking loaves of bread is super cheap, easy and very enjoyable. I promise it’s easier than you think. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh baked bread?!?!? This just might be your gateway to homemade pizza & cinnamon rolls. 😉

If you are a regular reader you know I am an Aldi shopper. They sell yeast packets which make this super easy. I buy my bread flour in bulk at Sam’s club but it’s also sold at Walmart in large bags. (I have found the cheapest price is at Sam’s though) Aldi also carries sugar, salt and shortening. You can find bread pans at your local thrift store or buy them new at your favorite store. I find the thrift stores have nicer pans and a good selection of size. If you are really ambitious you can order larger bread pans & bread bags online. I have 4 larger pans myself but don’t order bags anymore. (They were great, I’m just too cheap)

Traditional White Bread

What you need:

Bread Flour (If you are curious as to why bread flour here you go: Baking 101)

White Sugar

Salt

Lard/Crisco/Shortening (you may substitute with butter or vegetable oil)

Water

#2 9×5 pans

cooking spray

clear wrap or a light cloth

thermometer

Large bowl

Ingredients

I like to start by measuring out all of my ingredients. I use small custard cups and a couple pyrex liquid measuring cups to hold the ingredients. I also like to line them up in order of use. 

  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 Cups warm water (110 degrees F )
  • 3 Tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons shortening melted
  • 6 1/2 Cups of Bread Flour

Step-by-Step Directions

1. Measure out your ingredients

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2. Spray the inside of the large mixing bowl

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3. Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer (you can use a wooden spoon but I assure you the stand mixer will make this much easier)

4. Empty the 2 packets of yeast into a stand mixing bowl (or large mixing bowl)

5. Pour in the sugar

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6. Pour in the warm water.

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7. Start the mixer on ‘stir’ or the lowest setting. Let it mix/stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve.

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8. Add the shortening and salt

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9. Add the flour 2 cups at a time until it reaches a ‘dough’ consistency. 

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10. It takes roughly 6 minutes to kneed in the stand mixer.

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11. Turn it out onto a floured surface. (I use a large cutting board (18×20 3/4″) I found at Ikea). 

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12. Kneed it by hand until smooth and elastic. (I tend to do about 4 turns and it’s ready; however, if you are not using a stand mixer you will need to kneed it by hand for about 8 minutes or so)

*You want to be able to push on it with a finger and it bounces back rather than leaving an indent.

 

13. Make the dough into a ball and place it in the greased bowl.

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14. Cover with clear wrap or a light towel. Let it sit for an hour. It will double in size. 

15. Spray your bread pans with cooking spray (be thorough so the bread doesn’t get stuck)

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16. Punch down the dough.

17. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

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18. Cut the dough in half and place one piece in each of the bread pans. 

 

*You can roll it up, tuck it under or just drop it in. The appearance is up to you. I used to make 2 batches (1 white and 1 wheat) and then make a swirled loaf but my kids prefer the plain white bread.

19. Cover the loaves with loosely clear wrap or with a light cloth (you want it to have the space to rise so don’t let the clear wrap get too tight)

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20. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes

21. Move your oven racks down to allow for room for the bread to rise and then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

22. Remove the clear wrap or light cloth and place in the oven. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes

23. Remove from the oven and place them on their sides. As they cool remove the bread from the pan and then place on the other side to cool. (This is so it doesn’t get too moist on the sides)

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24. Slice and enjoy!

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This may seem like a long process based on how I laid it out here but I assure you that it gets faster and easier each and every time you make it. I started out taking my time and needing to read everything step by step but now I don’t need a recipe anymore and it goes so fast. Give it a whirl!

iTri

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I tri. Yup, I am a triathlete although I really don’t feel like an athlete most days. I sometimes feel as exhausted as an athlete at the end of the day but certainly don’t fancy myself an Athlete with a capital “A.” As I have mentioned before I try to stay active and do races here and there but by no means do I have the body of an athlete. I race with my mom-bod just fine. 😉

12 years ago while living in Colorado I worked with a super amazing woman who competed in Ironman Triathlons and I was inspired by her to give one a try. No not an Ironman! Not even a full olympic length triathlon. My goal was to complete a sprint triathlon so I had to train. I started running (pushing my jogging stroller with my princess) in the mornings. I had to go early enough as to not get hit by all of the morning lawn sprinklers & there were lots of hills but I did it. I biked pulling a trailer but didn’t train much for the swim until later. After moving to Minnesota in June of 2006 I started to train for open water swim in a nearby lake. I felt ready but was still pretty nervous so convinced my husband and brother-in-law to join me and form a team to compete in a sprint tri.  Team Menne successfully completed the North Mankato Triathlon!  I swam, my brother in law biked and my husband ran. I felt really good after my swim….really good..so much so that I decided I could do the whole thing on my own. A couple of weeks later I completed in my first solo triathlon, the Elysian Rookie’s Triathlon. It was a bit different from the other one but I liked it! I was hooked!

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Since my first tri in 2006 I have tried to complete 4-5 tri’s a season and run a few 5k’s in between. Living in Minnesota there are plenty of lakes for swimming and I have been lucky enough to live in an area where there are lots of tri’s to pick from. I have a few a have done each year and then a few I have tried for something different.

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Over the years I have learned a few things and gotten into my own way of racing. Here is the quick and dirty.

  • First and foremost it’s fun for me. As long as it remains fun I will continue to do them.
  • It’s challenging but doable. My only goal is to finish although sometimes I get pretty competitive and push myself to be stronger. I don’t have the time or resources to train like the elites and I’m ok with that.
  • 10 years later I am still a rookie. Yup, a rookie. Just because I have done lots of sprint tri’s doesn’t mean I am good them. I’ve never won 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in my category although I have gotten close a few times. Again, I am totally okay with it. I’m not a serious racer.
  • It’s what you make of it. I have a hybrid type of bike so it’s not a mountain bike but it’s not a road bike…I guess it’s in between. I don’t have bike shoes and I don’t wear a wet suit. I’m pretty old school I guess. 😉 Again, I am ok with not having the awesome equipment. I just leave that to the pros.
  • Pre-race jitters never go away. Some of these races I do each year so I already know what to expect and am familiar with the race route yet still get the jitters. It’s a bit frustrating because I KNOW I have no reason to be nervous but my body has other ideas. It is what it is. :/
  • There are always other rookies and newbies. I really enjoy meeting other racers and love that the sport is so inviting of new people. First timers get so much great advice and support of more experienced racers. (Just don’t touch or knock over their expensive bikes).
  • It’s a family affair. Our kids do kids tri’s and enjoy them. Our oldest just competed with my husband and I as a relay team. It was his first adult race and he did well. My hope is that my racing instills an active lifestyle in our children.
  • Register Early! The cost varies from race to race and gets more expensive as the date gets closer so I have learned to plan out what races I can do and get registered early. It not only ensures you have a spot to race it also keeps the cost down.

Here’s some feedback on some of my favorite races:

North Mankato Tri (North Mankato, MN) 1/4 Mile Swim/2 Mile Bike/3 Mile Run | This is a well run race. The swim is in Hiniker Pond making it less scary for those who are uneasy about an open water swim. It’s a wave start but not too bad. The bike is very challenging with a few big hills but never fear, you get to come back down those hills. The run is nice and flat with plenty of water stops. The swag bag is usually pretty good too. Over the years this race has grown and has attracted more serious competition but still has some rookie participants. Overall a great race and well run.

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Elysian Rookie Tri (Elysian) .4 Mile Swim/8 Mile Bike/4 Mile Run | Who doesn’t love a race with “Rookie” in the name?? This is a lovely short sprint tri. This race is also a wave start but has plenty of space on the beach to spread out. The swim is a bit longer than others but the bike is short with ‘rolling’ hills. The run although longer than the typical 5k is flat on the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. It’s a very organized local race. I highly recommend this race to anyone who has EVER thought of completing a tri. As a rookie tri they allow life jackets, snorkel or whatever (as long as it does propel you) which makes it less daunting for first timers. Although there are some serious racers who participate in this event it is really fun and full of supportive triathletes.

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River City Days Tri (Chaska, MN) .3 Mile Swim/ 16 Mile Bike/ 3 Mile Run | This is my favorite race but hasn’t happened two years in a row. (They took a year off for construction at the venue and then this year had to cancel due to low registration-big bummer). I love this race because it’s challenging but such an amazing course! The swim is at Fireman’s Park and has a time-trial start. The line may seem long with that type of start but gosh the rest of the race route is far more enjoyable with everyone more spread out. The bike is challenging being a longer one with some hills but it’s a beautiful route through the countryside. Be warned the bike route does go over train tracks! There is always a pile of water bottles in that area and I myself lost my speedometer on those darn things. Anyway, the run starts uphill but you get to run back down that hill flying right to the finish line. They have great music, and emcee AND you get breakfast after the race! Ahh-mazing!! This race entices many hard-core triathletes and has filled up fast.

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Lakefront Days Tri (Prior Lake, MN) 1/4 Mile Swim/ 14 Mile Bike/ 3.3 Mile Run | This race is ultra organized with tons of volunteers to ensure it goes smoothly. It’s not super easy to get in and out because it’s a Clearly Lake Regional Park but it is a nice venue for the event. They have an emcee, great music, delicious post race meal and race professionals on hand to assist with any bike issues you might have. The race begins with time-trial start and has a great swim course. The bike is out on an open course so pay attention to traffic. The run is mostly on the parks paved trail and ends with a nice open area for the crowd to cheer you through to the finish line. The volunteers make sure you get enough water at the stops and every finisher receives a medal. The race was cancelled last year and I hope it starts up again next year.

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Lake Waconia Tri (Waconia, MN) 1/2 Mile Swim/20 Mile Bike /4 Mile Run | This is a very challenging race because the 1/2 mille swim can be a bit much on a windy day. A number of swimmers need to be rescued. The bike seems long but is a beautiful route around the lake. The run is out and back on city streets with lots of people cheering you on. This is a big race with LOTS of competitive racers but still fun.

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Green Lake Tri (Spicer, MN) Sprint Course: 1/4 mile swim /13.4 mile bike/3 mile run
Olympic Course: 3/4 mile swim/21.3 mile bike/6 mile run | This race is filled with competitive racers and offers both a sprint course and an olympic length course. It’s a very fun event and the route is beautiful! Green Lake is a larger lake so the swim can be a bit scary especially when there are whitecaps. The bike route goes around the lake and the run is on a nice wide road for plenty of space for runners. This is a big race and so much fun. They do a great job of making this race a weekend full of fun. It’s worth making it a full trip staying the whole weekend in Spicer.

If completing a tri is something you have always wanted to do I encourage you to try one. You can do it! It’s not about wining, it’s about crossing the finish line. I have done them pregnant, post baby and everything in between. It CAN be done. Be active and have fun!

With God all things are Possible. ~Matthew 19:26

I’m Not Superwoman

The human body is amazing. We ask so much of our bodies forcing it to do so many things…even when our minds tell us we have reached our limits we manage to push beyond that point. Personally I have asked my body to do plenty. I have asked it to be athletic in high school & college for cheer team. Hours of tumbling, stunting, dancing, lifting weights, running, etc. I have asked it to be a flexible and strong not once, not twice, but SEVEN times to carry and deliver my babies. Months of crazy changes inside & out gaining and loosing roughly 70lbs each time. I have asked it to be active for the past 10 years doing sprint triathlons & runs. Swimming, biking, running sometimes pregnant, sometimes not and sometimes so post baby I had to hurry to the finish line to nurse my baby. I have asked it to feed my babies on and off for the past 13 years. Months and months of refueling to produce milk & feed my babies.

Body Changes with Baby #5

Body Changes with Baby #5

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5 Months Post Baby #5

None of this makes me a superhero. It doesn’t even make me supermom. It makes me human.

I have asked it to do so much and always bounces back. How? I move. I’m active with my kids. Being a mom of so many kids I just don’t have time for the gym. I run when I can. I am active with the kids. I push a double stroller up a hill once or twice a day. I pull a bike trailer with kids in it….No magic pill. No special drink. No special diet. No specific program. No gym membership. I just make the effort to be as active as I can.

Body Changes with Baby #6

Body Changes with Baby #6

After baby #2 I started running and competing in sprint tri’s. Since then I have done about 4-5 sprint tri’s each summer and a few 5k races each year. People ask me how I train for these races and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit my response each time is, “I don’t.” It’s the truth. I don’t really train.  I add, “I have kids so I am pretty busy chasing them around. I stay as active as I can.” Honestly, I just do the races with the goal of finishing and of course have fun. It’s not always easy but it can be done. With God, all things are possible. I believe so deeply in this that I completed my first 1/2 marathon while 27 weeks pregnant with baby #7. It was hard. SO hard! I ran when I could and walked when I couldn’t run. The last 2 miles were the most challenging miles I have ever walked in my life. It was all worth it (It was for Team WorldVision). My wonderful hubby was with me every step of the way (ok, so not every step…he took a few of bathroom stops :0). Needless to say I was a sobbing mess of hormones at the finish line so happy to have finished.

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Half-Marathon with Baby #7

By body will never again look like it did in my early 20’s and I am okay with that. I have earned plenty of stripes (stretch marks) and have cellulite but feel very thankful my body has been able to carry my babes.

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Amazing Belly Tricks with Baby #6

I am currently beyond the 5 month mark with Baby #7 and am not yet back to my pre-baby weight but I am not worried as I am still nursing. I’ll get there.

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Pre Baby #7 & 22 Weeks along with Baby #7

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39 Weeks and 2 days with Baby #7 & 4 Weeks Post-Baby #7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Body Changes with Baby #5

I’m no poster-child for athletes and am certainly no fitness guru. I’m still a rookie when it comes to ALL races. I am just a mom who stays active. I pray my being active helps to teach my children to be active as well.

For any of you out there who struggle to be active and stay active, keep at it! Just get up and move. Walk, jog, run, roll. Whatever you like to do. If you don’t like it you won’t do it so pick something you enjoy. If you like to walk, then walk! If you like to bike, bike. If  rollarblading is more your style then do that. Just get out there and be active.

For with God nothing shall be impossible.-Luke 1:37

 

 

Still Learning with Baby #6

Baby #6While pregnant with our 6th child I was a bit shocked at how much I still had to learn about pregnancy, babies, etc. As a former FACS teacher and mother of 5 already I felt I had a firm knowledge base but oh-my-word-big-bird there are still some things to learn.  Here are a few things I have found…

  • The post postpartum uterine contractions (you know, the ones that hurt like heck while you are nursing). Those get worse with each baby. And I can confirm this is so true.
  • Just as the postpartum pains are worse so are the pregnancy pains. Those lovely ligament pains as your muscles stretch for the baby…yeah they hurt far worse with each pregnancy. The Braxton Hicks pains may feel a bit stronger too. (I am not a medical professional-just figured this out on my own)
  • Most of the pregnancy websites and apps are focused on first time Moms, etc. That is totally cool with me but trying to search for anything on the 4th, 5th or 6th pregnancy-yeah, I came up empty handed. Unless I wanted to scroll through some discussion threads I couldn’t find anything.  So, I guess it is learning along the way.
  • Some people are mean or just don’t know what to say when discussing your pregnancy status. I have often pondered if I should just lie to people when they ask me if this is my first because good-golly you should see/hear their reactions when I told them, “Nope, it’s my 6th.” In fact when I was pregnant with my 5th I had someone ask me if I had ever considered the impact my large family is having on the environment and if I thought about the carbon footprint I am creating. – I think I would have settled for a ‘congrats’ and left it at that. I certainly wasn’t prepared to respond to such a comment.

On a lighter note there are some funnier tidbits too.

  • My eldest child has been paying attention to each pregnancy. He came to me with a very serious face and began with “Mom I don’t want to sound mean” and proceeded to ask why I don’t just get a big belly. He wanted to know why my butt gets so big too. HILARIOUS! I may have felt bad about his question if he wasn’t so sincere and kind about the way he asked. I laughed and was a bit shocked. I explained how the hormones of pregnancy cause the fat to store up for a variety of reasons. My husband didn’t flinch and said it’s to balance out the weight of my big belly. (Because we don’t want Mom to fall over) Nice huh?
  • We all have heard of memory foam. Well I am convinced our bodies are similar. With each additional pregnancy your body knows just what to do. The baby bump seems to ‘pop’ a bit sooner with each one. I swear this time I peed on a stick and had a baby bump. What does one do when they have a noticeable baby bump at 6-8 weeks??? Working in administration at an elementary school while pregnant with #6 I was in my office usually but when I was with the students they noticed. I tried telling them I had a large burger and fries for lunch…they weren’t buying it. 🙂
  • Also on the note of kids…If I was ever to forget that I was getting bigger I had plenty of kids to remind me. They tell me as if I really didn’t notice! “Mrs. Menne, your belly is really getting big!” It’s pretty funny. Ya just have to laugh.

And finally some “Menne Mama” tidbits

  • I no longer care about what people think about my belly, or my cloths. I wear what is comfortable. SO, I totally broke out the maternity clothes as soon as my regular jeans were a bit tight. Who needs to feel uncomfortable?? Not me!
  • People ask how I am feeling and how my energy level is. HA! With 5 other children I don’t have time to feel ill, or nap, etc. I just keep on truckin’. There are no sick days when it comes to being a mom. Frankly I think if I slow down I may fall asleep. 🙂
  • The stomach flu whilst pregnant absolutely sucks!!! (yes it’s worthy of 3 exclamation points-probably more) I’m sure we can all agree the stomach flu isn’t a fun thing but lemme’ tell ya’ when you are 6 months pregnant holy-moly it’s awful! I swear I was not in control of my body and hurt worse than anything I could have ever imagined.
  • Trust your gut. I am very aware that I don’t know everything but there is something to be said about women’s intuition. If you think something is wrong call your Dr. If you don’t agree with something regarding your pregnancy or child get a second opinion. In the end, trust your instincts. Baby’s don’t come with a manual and you have to do what is right for your child and your family.

DIY: Organizing closets for 6 kids!?!?!

Preparation for Baby #6 means hauling the baby bins from the basement storage and organizing the baby clothes. This made me somewhat frustrated as ALL of the kids closets and drawers were a mess. We had 2 dressers in each closet for socks, undergarments, pants and shorts. We would hang all of the tops above despite the massive amount of hangers. :/ Trying to put this away was a challenge with so many drawers open and shut. The kids seemed to be constantly breaking the drawers or ‘pushing out’ the bottoms as they stuffed the drawers with the clean clothes. (Laundry day at the Menne house is pretty interesting) I wanted some sort of bins for their clothes but didn’t know how it would work. This is what my hubby came up with.

Closet Organization 1

Each child has a color for their bins and they have 1 bin for each drawer that used to be the dresser. We once again hung up the tops. You’ll notice the shoe storage in the middle. This is my way of keeping sane but I’ll get to that in a minute. Back to the bins, in order to allow the kids to help with putting things away we labeled each bin with words and drawings. It’s hard to see in the second photo but we did our best to draw socks, tights, etc. and then label them with words as well. We used post-it’s and clear contact paper.

Closet Organization 2

Back to the shoe storage bins….At some point on the weekend (when things are less crazy) I take the time with each child to help them pick out 5 outfits for the week including socks and undies and we fill each shoe slot with 1 outfit. This makes mornings much easier on all of us because they know where their clothes are, they match (for the most part) and they have the independence to open the closet and find the outfits on their own.

This project was completed a few months ago and has been going well. I am SO happy with how it all turned out.

How do you keep your kids clothes organized? I’d love to hear your ideas!! Please share 🙂

Minecraft Madness

My 10 year old and well frankly my 8 year old and almost 6 year old are all obsessed with everything Minecraft. As I read in another Dad’s blog, unless you’ve been under a rock-Minecraft is all the rage with 8-12 year old boys.

We’ll my 10 year old recently had a birthday and in fact it was his golden birthday so he decided it needed to be extra special but the word he used was, “Epic.” Under a bit of pressure I checked out many blogs and photos of Minecraft cakes and birthday parties.

Here is what I came up with under the direction of my kids because honestly am pretty clueless about this Minecraft business.IMG_3979

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Minecraft Cake: We used 2 cake mixes and experimented with cereal treats. We ended up making the trees out of straws, cereal treats and fondant. Steve is made of cereal treats and fondant. (I made the fondant myself with a easy marshmallow recipe) In order to make it authentic we had to add a ‘torch’ so the candle was stuck to Steve’s hand with a tooth pick.

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I googled to find the Minecraft font and then watched a YouTube video on how to install it. (very handy that YouTube!)

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After checking out many blogs I decided to use balloons, construction paper and crepe paper to make spiders.

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The treat bags are just green bags with construction paper. A cool idea from another blogger. Check out his way-cool blog here Dad-Geek-Gamer

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I think this is a birch tree?? Lots of paper taped up to make one for them to chop down I guess. Another idea from the blogger cited above.

The kids made their own axe’s from cardboard, crepe paper and tinfoil. They seemed to like it but not as much as playing the actual game. It was a real gamers kinda’ party and they all had fun.

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Happy mining folks and remember, “Don’t mine at night” 😉

Starting our Summer

As an educator I am blessed to have time with my kids during the summer. As an administrator I am still pretty busy for ‘off all summer’ but I do get to spend plenty of time at home just being a Mom which I absolutely love! To start summer for a Type A person like myself it means switching from school calendars to home activities and from hockey practices to library activities, etc.

The first thing I did was get the chore chart all ready for the summer chores the kids do. The next thing I do is figure out a summer schedule. I am okay with being flexible and changing things as needed but I like having a schedule to be sure things like laundry IMG_4441are taken care of and the kids have time carved out for reading books and keeping up with their math skills.

Once the kids and I had determined our summer schedule and talked about the different expectations for summer vs. school year we took a trip to the public library to find out about the summer reading program and any special events. The kids had a great time picking out books and seeing what was in store for the summer reading program. It took no time at all to fill up the calendar with activities, story times, crafts, etc. Summer practically plans itself! 🙂

There are a couple of things we have decided to try as a family this summer that we have not done before and I am excited to see how they go.

1-We hear so much about the 1:1 initiatives but they are typically laptops or iPads….Well the Menne family is taking on a 1:1 technology to reading imitative. The kids were a bit apprehensive at first but so far (a few days into it) it’s going well and they seem to understand in order to earn technology time they have to read. Twice already I have been trying to get their attention where normally they would be zoned out in front of a TV or engrossed in a DS game but I have found them reading. A nice surprise right?

2-I have heard about the toy bin/tote with the chore envelope where parents pick up any toys found on the floor and put them in the bin/tote and in order to get them out the child has to pick a slip from the envelope complete the chore listed on it. The kids are against this idea but I gotta tell yea, I am psyched to put some chores on the list like cleaning up the bathroom floor. (With 4 boys in the house their aim isn’t always great and I could use some help cleaning up the potty area).

I’ll have to post later in the summer my feedback on how those new things go. What summer plans does your family have? How to you keep your family busy during the summer? Or maybe not so busy? (That is tricky too) Do you have any tricks to share or any thoughts on these ideas?

The Battle of Organization is Always Waging

I’m somewhat embarrassed to share this but as always helping others trumps any amount of embarrassment. Why embarrassed? I seem kinda’ crazy with a storage room full of diaper boxes right? Well trying to keep 5 children clothed without buying new items for each one saves me time on getting rid of them as well as time and money replacing them when the next child needs it. Growing up in a large family I remember “hand-me-downs” and may have grumbled about it but don’t recall being traumatized by it. (Eventually as I got older I know I owned clothing purchased just for me.) When the kids are little not only do they not care if it’s hand-me-down clothing but sometimes they even enjoy it! My kids love getting something from an older sibling and the oldest thinks it is pretty cool to see tiny outfits on his little brothers that used to be his. He often says, “Man-I was that small!?!”

So over the past 10 years I have tried totes, bins, boxes, baskets, etc. but it has been a struggle to keep the clothing organized in such a manner that I can 1-locate it, 2-find the appropriate size, 3-keep adding to it. After moving too many times to recall at the moment and having various spaces for storage of said items I think I finally have it down to a science. Clothing Storage

This is one size of my storage area (Yes, I said MY as my husband has a different room to store his military uniforms and other items because he and I are not on the same wavelength when it comes to keeping things organized). This started with my lovely hubby installing some inexpensive plastic shelving units and as you may notice lots of diaper boxes.

When I first started this process I tried to use plastic storage bins but had difficultly stacking them (they crack and sometimes break) and their sizes tend to differ not to mention they can be costly. I switched over to boxes when my children started using Luvs diapers but as we transitioned back to other brands I kept using whatever diaper boxes I had because they worked and they were free. They stack nicely and aren’t too large to become heavy.

For some time I wished that Luvs would leave a nice empty spot on the size of their boxes so one might be able to write right on the box but somehow I don’t think a diaper company cares about the re-use-ability of their products box. I had to settle for making my own labeling system so I use either mailing labels or post-it notes and of course my favorite sharpie marker. (who doens’t love a sharpie??) labeling

I have them sectioned off with girls clothing on the far left and the boys on the right with some overflow area next to boxes of shoes. I also decided to add some hanging area for some heavier winter coats and such by using a shower rod which works pretty well.

I have a large laundry basket I keep in my laundry room specifically labeled for clothing to go in storage so when I do the laundry I can just grab the items that are too small and toss them in. When I find time (albeit it isn’t often) I can haul that basket to the basement and place those clothes in the right box according to size. At that time or when one of the kiddos needs bigger clothes I just grab the box(es) I need and bring up the clothing.

It’s a bit of work to get started but once you get a system down it can be a life-saver in both time and money.

Happy hand-me-downs my friends 🙂

Monster High DIY

My one and only little girl turned 8 on Valentine’s Day. Lucky me to have a little princess on such a lovely holiday right? 😉 Well every year I ask her what kind of celebration she would like and if she would like me to make her cake or buy it. It seems for many of my kids the actual birthday cake is a large part of the birthday present. I like to surprise them with it sometimes but other times I let them select it and then help make it.

We’ll in this case she requested a ‘Monster High’ birthday and asked that I make her cake. She was nice enough to tell me that although I used to teach Home Ec I am not a professional and she is okay with the cake not being perfect. (S0 glad she had her expectations in check)IMG_3242

After searching the web for various Monster High cakes I selected three I thought I could pull off and let her choose from there. She picked the one with the doll in it and told me we could use one of the dolls she already owns. She brought me ‘Draculaura’ who apparently has the same birth date. Being this was my first time making this type of cake I decided to document it.

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1. I didn’t want to buy a new cake pan so I used the Betty Crocker bake & fillpan which I already had.

2. I baked according to directions but added an 8″ round pan base to help give it more height. (Those dolls are tall!!)IMG_0760

3. I used a long knife to hollow out a section for the doll to stand although she was still a bit too tall so I bent her legs to make it work. 🙂

4. Per request I used black and pink frosting. (FYI: If you start with chocolate  frosting it’s much easier to make black frosting)

IMG_08015. I followed the pattern on her actual dress to make it look as if it was one  large dress.

6. I used a piece of styrofoam cut in a circle as a base which I then wrapped with tinfoil. I didn’t want to put candles on the actual cake so I used the tips of my frosting tools to make holes in the foam base to push the candles in.

7. Ta da! Perfect? – No. But she loved it and that’s all that matters. 🙂

The Stink Eye in the Store….

Calling All Mommies! (And Daddy’s too)

Have you ever been in public and people don’t like what you are doing, not-doing, or saying to your kids? Have you ever received the ‘Stink Eye’ from a stranger? We’ll I have and frankly it sucks!

Yes-I have 5 children. I love all of them and although it’s more children than most people have these days I feel we are an average family. That is until we find ourselves in a store or somewhere out in public when people look at us like we are a large family you’d see on a reality TV show.

Recently I took the kids shopping with me. Before we even arrived at the store I prepped them about why we were shopping and what was on our list. We barely got into the store and they were already asking for things they wanted. I repeatedly told them “NO” which worked well for everyone except my 4 year old. He continued to push me on this issue and even came to the register in tears. While I would love to make his smile and give him the moon I think part of my job as a parent is to help him see that we can’t have everything we want right this minute. So after repeatedly being told, “No” he decided it was time to have a temper-tantrum. Kicking, crying, stomping, etc. he pitched a fit and people glared. I bent down and had a word with him about how he was choosing to show his frustration and he was okay until we reached the next store. This is when things got ugly…Although we now had Daddy with us there were 3 crying Menne children in our company. The baby was tired, the toddler was sick of the stroller and the 4 year old was again upset because we wouldn’t let him get a toy he wanted. Enter more glares and cue the stink eye. Yup, I got the stink eye from a number of people who were apparently annoyed with my children’s noisiness.

I don’t apologize for choosing NOT to give in to the demands of a 4-year old. I am sorry they cry sometimes and I honestly do my best to avoid taking them to stores when I know they’ll be crabby. The way people look at me you’d think I was doing bodily harm to my children. Come on people-Give me a break! Please refrain from using the stink eye! I much prefer a “I’ve been there” or an “I completely understand.”