What do empty nesters do?

img_0489Remember when the quilt went to college with my son? Well, now my daughter has gone off to college. So now both kids are away at college and we are officially empty-nesters. (It’s awesome, by the way.) To take up all of our spare time, we have been building a teardrop trailer camper.

You know I love camping but, I don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. So this is our solution – a 4′ x 8′ teardrop camper trailer – fondly known as “Scamper.”

First, you have to build a trailer frame. Our frame is from Harbor Freight. Then, we bought the plans for the camper from Big Woody. Next, we spent time building it.

Yes, our 4-cylinder Jeep will tow it. Yes, it fits in our garage. No, it’s not done yet but it’s close! Yes, I sold the vintage travel trailer because our car wouldn’t tow it and we’re not getting a new car. In fact, we are down to one car!

What have you been up to?

Easiest Ever Easter Meals

Go Gingham: Homade Easter Baskets

Go Gingham: Easter morning sandwich

Springtime is here – or at least mostly – but that’s what we’ll call it since Easter is next month. With spring time holidays right around the corner, here’s a round up of some quick and easy brunch meal ideas.

We like to host Easter brunch – but it’s actually breakfast since it gets eaten around 9:00am. After we go to church, everyone is starving. For some reason, going to church early makes my family hungry. Must be all that kneeling, praying, and hand shaking. Who knows what but something makes us famished so we come home and eat. Immediately. Go figure.

Breakfast – or brunch – sandwiches are my favorite. You get everything ready ahead of time and then assemble them when you get home from church. Or, you skip church and just get everything ready. Either way, you’re set.

The other breakfast (or brunch program) I like to do is make all of the sandwiches ahead of time and put a tray of them in a warm oven. Instead of everyone making their own sandwich, I do an assembly line and get them all done.

Easiest Ever Easter Meals

These egg salad sandwiches are the best with eggs from backyard chickens.

Easy egg salad recipe Go Gingham

Make these sausages ahead of time and freeze. Cook and enjoy for breakfast lunch or dinner.

Natural Pork Patties Go Gingham

If you need an appetizer, check out these devilishly good deviled eggs. Seriously. I love a good deviled egg and these deliver!

Deviled Eggs Recipe Go Gingham

If you like simple, go with the egg in a basket. It’s easy enough for kids to make.

Egg in the basket from Go Gingham

Of course, you can start super simple with making the perfect boiled egg. If you’ve never gotten that down, you’re in luck. This is a no fail method.

Go Gingham: How to hard boil eggs

Whatever spring holiday you celebrate, enjoy it without lots of fuss or complicated dishes. Eggs are easy for breakfast or brunch. Happy spring to you!

What’s your favorite egg dish?

How to Shop and Save at Warehouse Stores

Go Gingham Warehouse Shopping

On a recent visit to my son, at college, I took him to the nearest warehouse store. It had been a long time since he and I shopped together at a warehouse store. After reviewing the unit prices on items, discussing the packaging, and comparing prices to what we usually pay, he became enlightened. Not everything at the warehouse store was the ‘deal’ it proclaimed to be.

Here’s my list of do’s and don’ts I adhere to for saving money, time, and resources when shopping at the big, bulky warehouse stores:

How to grocery shop to save

  • Be smart: Don’t try and buy everything in bulk. Know what your essential needs are and only purchase those items in bulk. Coffee, dental floss, frozen fruit, nuts, and toilet paper are items that I know we’ll always need more of and I don’t want us to run out of these – ever! Everything else can wait until the next month but I keep a close eye on these essentials. (Make your own mixed nuts with this recipe.)
  • Be aware: Be aware of the unit price of items. Sometimes the bigger packaging found at large warehouse stores can have different prices than the smaller sizes found at the neighborhood grocery store or market and it’s difficult to compare prices. Knowing the unit price of items can help determine if the buy it bulk price is actually better – or just a bigger box.
  • Be reasonable: Let the store keep the inventory for you. Don’t think that you have to store lots of items in your home – just the essentials. If you’re buying items that your supply will last more than 3-months, perhaps that’s not a good item for you to buy so much of. Make sure your purchases make sense. Still want to take advantage of a great price? Share with a neighbor or friend. My neighbor and I share a package of paper towels and it lasts us both about a year. (Here’s how we eliminated using paper towels – but I do keep a secret stash.) The price is right on the paper towels and the quality is excellent – both do’s when buying in bulk.
  • Be organized: Keep a running list of what items are to be purchased at the bulk/warehouse store and have your family add to the list as they need to. Whenever someone says, “I’m out of shampoo!” I say put it on the list. This is a good life skill – everyone needs to know how to manage a household. If your kids are young, have them write up a list, too. Little kids love “helping” and as they get older, they’ll know the drill. (Although you may need to do a refresher course like my guy…)
  • Be timely: I try and only hit the ‘buying in bulk warehouse store’ for shopping once-a-month. If we run out before the monthly run, depending on what the item is, I may buy it in a smaller quantity elsewhere but it’s not usually worth the trip to the warehouse store to purchase one item. I also only buy fresh food items that I know we’ll eat in the next few days. If I buy 2-pounds of fresh organic spinach, dinners and our meals will involve fresh spinach so that none of it goes bad before we eat it.

Buying in bulk at a warehouse store is smart as long as the dollars tied up in the  purchased items don’t outweigh the benefit of the better price. Make sure to consider time, money, and resources when buying in bulk. And, stick to your list. Here’s my – Costco Shopping List – for your refrigerator.

What would you add to the list of tips? How do you stay on budget at the big, bulky stores?

Make Your Own Mouthwash

Go Gingham homemade mouthwash

Have you ever wondered why a company would add sweetener to mouthwash? I mean really? We’re trying to clean and freshen our mouths here not have candy and sugar before going to bed.

Go Gingham homemade mouthwash

After reading the ingredients in our mouthwash, and not being able to pronounce most, we decided to buy an organic, non-gmo brand. The contents, which came in a plastic container, cost nearly  $10.00. This seemed liked getting robbed in daylight.

After finishing our store-bought, expensive mouthwash, I experimented with a few recipes and here’s what I came up with. Be ready for freshness!

Make your own mouthwash

  • 3 3/4 cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable glycerine
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon tea tree oil

All you need is a measuring cup and a glass jar.

  1. Add 1 cup water to a 1 quart or 32 ounce glass jar.
  2. Add the baking soda and shake well.
  3. Next, add the glycerin and shake well.
  4. Now, add the essential oils and remainder of the water. Shake until well combined.

That’s it! Make sure to not swallow any of the mouthwash. The essential oil’s are not meant for consumption.

The glass jars I’m using our Apple cider vinegar jars. These are the same jars that I use for cleaning supplies.

You can buy whatever type of glycerine and essential oil brands that you like. I like the brand NOW for my non-gmo glycerine and essential oils. I buy them at Natural Grocers when they are on sale. They seem to have the best price for these items but do shop around.

(I use the vegetable glyerine for my facial moisturizer along with coconut oil. That’s it!)

Go Gingham homemade mouthwash
A small funnel really helps for this project. You can also make this in a glass bowl and whisk all of the ingredients together.

Before using the mouthwash, simply give it a shake before you use it.

One final note: after using this mouthwash for several weeks I went to the dentist. According to my hygienist, my gums have never been in better condition. I was thrilled with the results and I hope you will have a similar experience.

Of course I also love that I am not buying more products with added sweetener, sugar, food dyes, or things that come in plastic jugs. These glass jars can get used over and over.

Good for you, good for the pocketbook, and good for the environment! That’s the sweet spot that I love!

Hello Out There

Marathon bumper sticker

Hello dear readers, I’ve missed you. Have you missed me? Have you been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to? Well, not much, only taking a break from the blog.  After six years, I felt like I needed a break and to re-examine where Go Gingham was going.

My break began with summer off. A family trip to Alaska to visit family and then college tours with my senior in high school. When we got home, my computer broke and I took that as a sign to take a longer break. (My computer is still broken. The monitor is shot and I’m looking at this on my TV. Uggghhh!)

After summer, I got a full-time job at a school with a regular paycheck and full-time benefits. But, they expect me to show up every day. (Can you imagine?) That has put a crimp in my gingham routine.

Also this year, I celebrated turning 50 by training and running my first (and only) marathon.  It was time-consuming and sometimes painful but I had such a huge sense of accomplishment when I finished! I’m not sure my body has completely recovered from 26.2 miles but I am happy to say I did it. Marathon? Check!

Marathon bumper sticker
My first bumper sticker ever!

Now that I have less time for the blog, what I’ve decided to do with Go Gingham is to share things that I want my kids to know. With one of them in college and the other about to go to college, I want them to be able to access our family recipes, know my methods for making household cleaners + laundry detergents, how to save money, and just general good for the environment living. They’ll also need my latest recipe – make your own mouth wash!

If you can benefit from any of these topics, I hope you’ll continue to read Go Gingham. I only plan to post once a month or so depending on my schedule. I’m also going to quit sharing on social media. There’s only so much time in a day and I do want to share here but I don’t have the energy or time to share elsewhere.

Thank you for your concern and emails asking if everything is OK with my family and me. All is well. I just needed a break from the blog and when my computer broke, I took this as a sign to take a longer break and think.

I’d love to hear your feedback about these or any other topics you’d like covered. Email me at sara (at) gogingham (dot) com or leave a comment below. I’d also love to hear about how YOU are! I’ve missed you, dear reader.

What have you been up to the last 6 months or so?

Summer Eating

Summer eating Go Gingham

Food tastes so fresh when it gets plucked right from the garden and gets eaten immediately. In January, I can’t wait for summer and the ripe tasting fruits and vegetables. In the summer, I can’t wait to eat what’s growing in the garden or what’s freshly picked. Even though we eat lots of what’s fresh, I want to preserve that splendid taste of summer for those winter months.

Peaches to freeze Go Gingham

I’m willing to work to preserve food but not too hard. It’s summer after all and there’s picnics to pack and trips to go on.

Fresh vegetables Go Gingham

Here’s how I preserve the taste of summer and keep summer eating up all year long…

Blueberries to dehydrate Go Gingham

  1. Freeze :: By far my favorite and go to method for preserving fruits and herbs is to freeze them. No blanching, just freezing. Find all the details about how I do it with strawberries. Aside from lettuce, I’ll try freezing anything.
  2. Jam :: Have you ever read the ingredients on the back of a jar of jam or jelly? If so, you’ll see how much sugar and other sweeteners are in there. Skip the store bought and make your own. I promise you will never go back. Use the brand I do – Pomona’s – and the jelling magic will happen without lots of sugar.
  3. Roast + freeze :: Tomatoes roasted + frozen for sauce and roasted padron peppers are a freezer staple. The tomatoes are the base for pasta sauce year round and the peppers get chopped up and tossed into just about any dish – beans, eggs, pilaf. Anything that needs a kick of flavor gets a padron pepper or two.
  4. Dehydrate :: Blueberries are humming away right now in the dehydrator. I found mine at a garage sale. Check for one there if you want to buy one. I probably don’t use it often enough but several neighbors have borrowed mine. The fruit tastes delicious and there’s no sugar or oil added when I make it myself.

Berries to freeze Go Gingham

Easy, no big tricks and no need for lots of special equipment. Try preserving the tastes of summer and eat the goodness all year long.

What’s your favorite way to preserve the taste of summer?

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate and Nut Cookies Go Gingham

What I love about baking desserts is sharing them. OK, I wouldn’t mind eating them all myself but the older I get, the less I can eat – if I want my jeans to fit. These are a complete knock-off of the Pepperridge Farm cookie that you see at the store. My track running daughter looked at the package of them and said, “Let’s make these ourselves, only healthier.” Game on!

White chocolate chips Go Gingham

What I didn’t tell her was that we had to share them with her track team. High school runners will eat anything and they can – and do! Yes, the track team will love these. You will, too, but share. Or not – as long as your jeans will still fit.

Continue reading “White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies”