If you're a fan of freezer cooking, you might already be familiar with this week's Featured Friday blogger. She recently got lots of attention for this amazing post, and that's how we ran across her blog as well.
And amazing though her freezer-stocking skills may be, Natalie's blog is so much MORE than bargain shopping and meal planning. She's crafty and thrifty, one of our FAVORITE combinations, and above all else, she's a mom who's loves to spend time with her family. Her blog is a record of all their adventures and the fun they have together is infectious.
Whether she's whipping up some tasty zucchini brownies or crafting a hideaway for her daughter's dress-up collection, Natalie's clever ideas always inspire us...the warmth that comes through in all her posts will keep you coming back to visit.
We're excited to shine our Gooseberry Patch spotlight on...
We asked Natalie to answer some getting-to-know-you questions and here's what she had to say...
Tell us about yourself, your family and where you live.
Hi, I'm Natalie and I blog at A Turtle's Life for Me! I've lived in some area of Central PA my whole life along with the majority of my family! I'm a stay-at-home mommy who is slowly starting to get back into working part-time (those free summers are hard to give up, though!).
I've been married to my college sweetheart for 11 years and we have 2 kids. Stevie is our 9 year-old son who is his father through-and-through. He's the biggest sweetheart, totally laid-back, aware of the people around him, loving and hysterical. Emma is our 7 year-old, and the spitting image of me. She's feisty, independent, sensitive and has a fierce love for her family.
Together we have dance parties, tickle fests, potato sack races and lots of other good times. We fit together amazingly well!
What or who originally inspired you to start blogging?
I started a blog back in January 2009 with no real purpose or reason. About 15 posts later, I still didn't know what I was doing and I only had 5 followers, so I called it quits and didn't really think about it again. This past January, I started looking at other blogs again and remembered my poor little one sitting there all abandoned. I pulled it up thinking that I would delete it, but realized even with the few posts I had written, it was a nice little journal for me and the kids.
So, I decided to start it up again with the intent to only blog about what I was already doing and to maintain it for my kids. I'm not looking to do projects just for the sole purpose of having something to blog about. Everything you see on my blog is the way we normally live and the projects we like to do, that I've then decided to share on the blog. It's been a lot of fun and I've been blown away with how much it's grown just in the 7 months since I started it!
As a busy mom of two little ones, how do you find time to write, craft and take photos to share?
Most of the crafts and recipes I make, are activites I share with my kids! My daughter especially loves painting and other crafts and we just keep 2 stools pulled up to my craft counter so she can do her thing at the same time. It's not about working on the same thing, as much as it is working at the same time!
She shares little things with me, we sit and giggle and in the end we have a nice little doo-dad to show for it! Sometimes my son joins in as well, especially in the kitchen. They both love pulling their stools up and they're quite good at measuring and mixing!
The only thing I find that takes time with blogging is the write-ups. For the most part, I try to wait until they're in bed and I set my timer for 30 minutes. Once the timer goes off, I call it quits and go spend time with my husband! So you won't see daily posts on my blog, but I'm hoping when school's back in session it will get better!
How did you get your start in the kitchen?
Both of my parents are incredible cooks and bakers. My dad went to culinary school and is pretty adventurous in the kitchen. My mom is one of those people who seem like they can make anything! She just mixes and dumps and this magical meal appears before you!
We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but she still managed to celebrate everything! I definitely get my love of holidays from her! Each holiday (down to National Pig Day!), had themed meals and homemade treats! My youngest siblings are nearly 21 years old and she still makes the themed meals for them! Nearly everything I do as a mom is about making my kids' childhoods as special and wonderful as she made mine!
Quick! You have 30 minutes to put dinner on the table...what do you fix?
Cereal!! Just kidding! I always have bags of taco meat, ground beef and shredded chicken in the freezer for these types of nights (which seem to be happening more frequently the older my kids get!). I'd pull out any of these bags, thaw it in the microwave and throw it on top of a salad for a quick, hearty meal. Or quick make a "baked" potato in the microwave and top it with taco meat, sour cream, cheese and avocados for a quick, one-bowl meal!
Care to share your favorite recipe from your blog?
My current favorite (and one I might make today!), is one I posted recently for Apple Dabble Cake. I host an Apple Day every fall for the girls in my family. We meet at a local apple orchard and pick a ton of apples then come back to my house to prepare some dishes. Each girl is supposed to bring a recipe and enough ingredients to make her recipe a couple times.
Cakes and breads are baking, applesauce is simmering, apple butter is cooking, pie filling is frozen...and at the end of the day, we have a box full of fresh apples and apple goodies to take home with us! The little girls especially love it! After our Apple Day last year, my sister's friend passed this recipe along and I became instantly addicted! It doesn't photograph well, but we all know that just means it tastes heavenly!
Apple Dabble Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups chopped raw apples, peeled
Mix all ingredients at once by hand. It will be very thick. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in saucepan (when cake is almost done), combine:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
Boil 4 minutes. Pour over cooked cake and then return to oven for a few minutes until bubbly.
We love the recipes you share and thrift-store transformations are some of our favorites. So, which came first, kitchen creativity or your crafty skills?
I would guess that for me, the crafts probably came first because even when my mom was still in charge of putting dinner on the table for me, I was already trying to make crafty things and rescue trash for gifts for other people!
(Our favorite thing Natalie's rescued from the trash? This playhouse!)
In terms of my blog, I started it with the intention of it being a craft/party blog, but it has slowly evolved into recipes as well. The recipes (especially the freezer cooking) seems to be the most popular!
Early bird or night owl?
Absolutely a night owl! I have to force myself to go to bed by midnight so I can be up in time for my kids! I have pretty bad insomnia so it usually takes me a couple hours to fall asleep and it's nearly impossible to get me out of bed before 7:30-8:00! This is one of the few things I would change about myself in a heartbeat if I could! I'm SO jealous of people who go to bed at a decent time and wake up productive!
Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi (as I drink it right now!), books, my phone (which would make friends laugh since I am the worst at answering it!), cheesecake and music!
If you could design your ideal kitchen or craft room (your choice), what would be in it?
I'd love a new kitchen! My dream would be base cabinets in a distressed blue that looked like pieces of furniture (think wide hutch bases or dressers). Dark countertops and open shelving for the upper cabinets. A huge farmhouse sink and oversized island! I'm drooling just thinking about it!
If you could spend a whole day (guilt-free!) doing something you love, what would it be?
I have days like that quite often! Luckily, my kids love doing much of the same things I like to do! Some of my favorite days, though, have been at Disney World! There's no dinner to make, grass to cut, laundry to put away... it's just the 4 of us... smiling, giggling and being together! I don't know how people can be grumpy at Disney World!
Tell us something that no one would guess about you.
I can actually be quite a hermit at times! People just roll their eyes when I tell them this, because I'm actually very out-going and involved with quite a bit in my town... but there's this definite, sometimes strong side of me that just wants to live in the middle of nowhere and be able to curl up with a book, not care if I'm still in pj's and know that there's no chance anyone will ring my doorbell! Although, my hermit side would probably only last for 2 or 3 days max!
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Natalie...we can't wait to see what you come up with next, and we'll be reading along!
Definitely pay a visit to A Turtle's Life for Me...if only for more photos of Natalie's cute kiddos. You're bound to find a recipe to try, a timesaving tip, some creative inspiration or just a funny story. We know you'll enjoy your stay.