Calico Beans

I love a good cookout. Over the years, especially after moving to Texas, we've branched out from the basics and grill chicken, brisket, and tasty marinated meats from a nearby market. My favorite, though, no matter what, is still the old standbys: hot dogs and hamburgers.

There's something about a grilled hot dog that screams childhood and nostalgia to me. Growing up, I don't remember much variation from the basics: hot dogs, burgers, chips, fruit, veggies and dip. And really, what's not to love about that sort of picnic? Finger food, easy to eat, everyone loves it... perfect for an afternoon outside with friends.

As a kid, we would grill foot long hot dogs on the Fourth of July. My high school graduation party, and my sibling's parties, were these same cookouts. When Phee was baptized at home, we had a cookout for everyone afterward at my mom's house. It's what we like to do in the summer!

Once we started having lots of people over for these cookouts, my mom started making some different things to go along as sides. One of those that has become a favorite is calico beans. The biggest draw for this dish? You can make it in the crock pot and freeze the leftovers. Well, I've heard you can freeze the leftovers... it doesn't happen often! But, you can mix this up in the morning, turn the crock pot on and then forget about it until party time. It's delicious and it's not going to heat your house up in the middle of the summer.

Calico beans- a tasty crockpot side dish for cookouts! #grilling #crockpot #picnic

Calico Beans

  • 1 large can baked beans (Mom says that Bush's are the best)
  • 4 cans of beans (any combination of black, kidney, pinto, lima, or white beans)
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 lb sausage (can use ground turkey, turkey sausage, Italian sausage)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 T vinegar
  • 2 t mustard
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 c ketchup

  1. Cook bacon and drain fat.
  2. Brown the sausage and drain fat.
  3. Saute onions and garlic.
  4. Mix beans, bacon, sausage, onion, and garlic together in crock pot.
  5. Mix up the sauce ingredients and pour over the bean mixture in the crock pot.
  6. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
Calico beans- a tasty crockpot side dish for cookouts! #grilling #crockpot #picnic

These beans have great flavor. Everything blends together so well in the crockpot and it's so much tastier than plain baked beans. The sauce is sweet and slightly tangy. Dip your potato chips in the sauce or use some chips to scoop up these beans. You'll love it!

What's your favorite thing to have for cookouts? If you're looking for some other tasty treats to round out your picnic table for Labor Day, try these!

Honey lime fruit salad #fruit #salad #picnic

Pasta salad #salad #picnic

Loaded baked potato dip #party #picnic

Counting cake #dessert #bars #cake

German chocolate caramel brownies #dessert #brownies #caramel


Run, Fun

Run, Fun: a weekend of running and playing at a lake house #running #relaxation #lake - Life in Random Bits

It's been a whirlwind around here lately. Phee had camp last week and her school was closed part of the week to prepare for the new year. We're still adjusting to a completely new schedule for our family. Early mornings are a part of that schedule and this weekend it finally seemed to be a little bit better.

Saturday I hit a huge milestone in the Couch to 5K program: Week 5, Day 3 which is 20 minutes straight running. I meant to do it Friday, but pushed it off 'til Saturday and was glad I did. I got up early and did the whole 20 minutes with no problems. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and I was quite pleased with my results. I'm extremely proud of myself.

This coming Saturday, I'm doing my first 5K. It's one of the fun ones, Run or Dye, and I'm quite looking forward to it. I've decided that I'm going to start out doing Week 6, Day 3 which is a warmup and then 22 minutes of straight jogging. I don't expect that to be the 2 1/4 miles that the app thinks it will be, but it will get me part of the way. After that, I think I'll go back to one of the easier walk/jog combinations to finish out the race.

I'd do more walking, but in the interest of brevity, I need to run more and get it over with. Saturday we're headed to the lake with some friends and I want to get there as soon as we can for lots of fun, swimming, grilling, and games.

Our friends found a huge lake house with lots of space and easy access to parks and the lake. We've joked about putting all three kids in one bedroom so that the four adults can all have their own beds. Ahhh, sleep. This house looks amazing, though, and I can't wait to get there and relax for a couple days. We've pretty much never done anything for Memorial Day or Labor Day because of schedules and now we have the opportunity and Doug and I are looking forward to it.

Do you have any fun plans for the last hurrah of summer this weekend? And do you have any 5K tips for me? I've never done a race before, not even walking, and, while I'm excited about it, I'm also a bit nervous.


Advice for First Year Teachers

Last year my sister Kate was a first year teacher. I wanted to do something really special for her, but I couldn't think of what exactly might work. I'm in Texas and she's in Ohio, so shipping things works, but isn't always convenient. Plus, what does a first year teacher need? Everything.

In thinking about what to do for her, I started to realize that I have a lot of friends who are, or were, teachers. We also have quite a few teachers in our family. I had a ready-made pool of advice for Kate.

I emailed and messaged every teacher I could think of, both friend and family, to get their advice for first year teachers. I got a great response and some really fabulous advice.

But, what to do with it all? That's where the fun really started. I created a template for 3x5 cards and started filling them in with the advice. I broke it all down into simple, useful pieces that I could sent to Kate one at a time, every week during her first year.

Advice for first year teachers #printable #quotes #teachers #inspiration

After creating the cards on white card stock, I cut them out and backed them on pretty scrapbook paper. I added embellishments, stickers, and other bits of fun. Then I mailed them off, one or two at a time throughout her first year. (Okay, first half of the year was pretty consistent... second half of the year was a disaster.) With each bit of mail, she got a fun card or note, or some little extra like post-it notes, a magnetic notepad, small things for her classroom, etc.

What a fun project! I thoroughly enjoyed putting it together for her and she really loved the cards. I'm ordering a cute little box for her to put them in so that she can keep them handy and just pull one out whenever she needs a little encouragement or inspiration.

You can print these note cards, too! Share them with your teacher friends and family when they need a little boost. Or pull them out for yourself if you're a teacher and need a little cheering on.

Advice for first year teachers #printable #quotes #teachers #inspiration

Kate had a crazy first year, as is often the case. But, she loved it all and she loves her job. She's back at it again this year, doing even more, and I couldn't be more proud of her!

Teachers, what advice would you give a first year teacher? I have more quotes to put into a second set of cards and if you have something wonderful to add, I'd love to include it!


Summer's End Sounds

I can't believe it's the last week of the summer already. The weeks seem to fly by faster and faster.

Phee's in acting camp this week and very excited to be doing a small performance of Annie on Friday. She only has two afternoons left in her current classroom and then the school closes for three days. Next Monday, she'll be in the last preschool class. It all happens so quickly!

Anyway, I'll be driving her back and forth to her morning camp which will have me in the car more than usual. I usually listen to the radio, but that's been getting old lately. At work, I listen to Xbox music or Pandora. I can't stand to have a quiet office all day. I don't know how my coworkers do it.

So, here is a last week of summer playlist to make the most of the last bit of freedom and fun before school starts, traffic gets worse, and everyone has somewhere to be.

Summer's End Sounds: tunes to see the summer out #music #playlist #summer

Summer's End Sounds
(click the link if you have a Microsoft account and want to listen on Xbox music)

This Time Tomorrow The Kinks
Out of My League Fitz and the Tantrums
We the Common Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa Vampire Weekend
Ways to Go Grouplove
Sleepyhead Passion Pit
Cannonball The Breeders
Gold Soundz Pavement
Me + Yr Daughter Brite Futures
Over & Over Smallpools

What are you listening to while you're closing out the summer? I'd love to hear your favorites right now!

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Follow Life in Random Bits on Facebook for more end of summer fun!


30 Minute Marinara

We are big pasta eaters. It's hard not to be when you've got an Italian around! Doug is in charge of most of the Italian cooking and we are regularly spoiled with really delicious dishes. He's usually the one that makes sauce, too. For some strange reason, we seem to make it more often in the summer than in the winter. Because everyone wants to simmer tomatoes on the stove in 100 degree weather apparently.

Anyway, I used to make the sauce more often than he did so I'm no stranger to the process. Like usual, though, I'm always looking for a faster way to get dinner on the table. I decided to make up a quick version for weeknight dinners when we really want tomato sauce, but don't have any in the freezer.

30 minute marinara! A quick and easy weeknight dinner solution. #pasta #italian

30 Minute Marinara (Weight Watchers = 3PP per serving)
makes 6 servings

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • 1 t basil
  1. Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes in a large frying pan.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning and stir well.
  3. Simmer on medium-medium low heat for 25 minutes. 

You can serve this over warm pasta, use it in a baked pasta dish, or even use it as pizza sauce. It's not quite the same as Doug's regular version of sauce, but it certainly did the trick for a mid-week dinner.

Do you make your own sauce, or do you stick to jarred sauce? If I get jarred sauce, I like to get one of the Muir Glen varieties. I love their tomatoes!

30 minute marinara! A quick and easy weeknight dinner solution. #pasta #italian