My faith

I'm a Mormon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite Recipes

I've been meaning to post some of the yummy dinner recipes I've made over the last 2 months. I'm finally getting around to it. All of these dishes are yummy, inexpensive, healthy, and EASY!!! Hope you enjoy them, we sure have!!

Tortellini Primavera (5 stars from DH=Amazing!)
1 package cheese tortellini, 20 ounces
1 bag frozen sugar snap stir-fry peas
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved if desired
1/2 cup Diced tomatoes
1 jar Alfredo sauce, 16 ounces

Cook tortellini as per package instructions. Add vegetables two minutes before pasta is done. Cook until tender. Drain. Pour sauce into pasta pot and cook over low heat until hot. Remove from heat, add pasta and vegetables and toss to mix and coat.

Pasta Faglioli (thick soup, crock pot)

--1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
--1/2 large red onion, chopped
--1 cup carrots, chopped
--2 celery stalks, sliced
--2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (and juice)
--1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
--1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
--4 cups beef broth (check label for gluten!)
--1 jar (16.5 oz) pasta sauce
--2 tsp oregano
--1 T Tabasco sauce
--1/2 tsp salt
--1/4 tsp black pepper
--1/2 cup dry pasta, to add at end of cooking time (I used TJ's brown rice fusilli)

The Directions.

Use a 6 quart or larger crockpot, or cut the recipe in half. This makes a lot.

Brown the meat on the stovetop, and drain well. Let it cool a bit.

Chop up the carrots, onion, and celery. Add it to the empty crockpot.
Drain and rinse the beans, and add them. Add the whole cans of tomatoes, and the pasta sauce. Add the beef broth. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and Tobasco sauce. Stir in your meat.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4. When the vegetables are tender, stir in the 1/2 cup of dry pasta.

Favorite White Bean Chicken Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 package frozen white corn, 9 ounces
2 cans Great Northern beans, undrained
7 ounces green chilies, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
3 cups Chicken broth
3 tablespoons lime juice

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add cooked and chopped chicken, corn, beans, green chilies, spices, broth, and lime juice. Stir until well blended. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, corn chips, and grated cheddar cheese.

Apricot Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle Russian salad dressing
1 cup Apricot jam
1 package onion soup mix

Place chicken in a greased casserole dish. Combine dressing, jam and soup mix. Pour sauce mixture over chicken. Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Pretty Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c margarine, slightly melted
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3-3 1/2 c flour (not too sticky, but be sure dough isn't dry, I always use 3 1/2 cups)
1 pkg of your favorite baking chips, and nuts if desired (semisweet, butterscotch, whatever!)

Mix all and bake at 350 for 11-12 minutes. (don't overcook!)
Enjoy! These are seriously amazing. I got the recipe from a ward cookbook, and I always get compliments on them!! And SO easy to make!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Slow cooker week!


Next week is Chicken Slow Cooker week! I've posted some recipes on the google calendar (scroll to the bottom of my blog to view). On Saturday I will add a linky thingy for you to blog about your favorite slow cooker chicken recipes and link up! It will be a Chicken slow cooker McLinky party! Yeah!

*Image from Foodnetwork.com*

Disciples of Christ

I LOVE Christmastime! It has always been a magical, spiritual time of year. I love the decorations, the treats, the music, the lights, and the remembrance of the Savior's birth. However, there is one thing that eats away at me: the "getting."

When I was a child, we didn't have much, yet Christmas did tend to focus on what we got, no matter how hard our mother tried to focus it on the Savior. This year, as I've wandered through stores, thinking of what the people on my Christmas list would enjoy and including my toddler in the preparations, I've tried to explain to her that we give gifts as Christmas as a reminder of the following:

"God so loved the world that he GAVE his ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, that whose believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:!6, KJV)

There are not one, but two gifts mentioned in that powerful scripture:
1. God gave His Son.
2. His Son can give us Everlasting Life.

I'm not sure how you feel, but compared these two gifts, the ipods, DVD's, books, jewelry, or whatever else we "get" at Christmas mean absolutely nothing.

So I'm trying to take a different focus. I've been studying about how to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost in order to help others. Honestly, I don't think I'm very good at this, but I am motivated by something from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency:

“Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion. … In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers” (“Happiness, Your Heritage,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2008, 119, 120).

I WANT to be a disciple. I'm sort of clumsy at it. But luckily I know that my efforts will be magnified by the Grace of my Savior, and if I focus on him this Christmas, and all year, and remember that this is His work, perhaps I can be an instrument in God's hands to help answer the prayers of His children.

That's my Christmas wish for this year. :)

Image found here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Divine Destiny

I read this today and was touched:

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The Good Shepherd said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ (John 21:15.) So a woman feeds her loved ones, providing succor and sustenance just as the Savior would do. Her divine gift is to nurture, to help the young, to care for the poor, to lift the brokenhearted.

“The Lord said, ‘My work and my glory [is] to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ (Moses 1:39.) So His devoted daughter-disciple may truly say, ‘My work and my glory is to help my loved ones reach that heavenly goal.’

“To help another human being reach one’s celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting” (“Woman—Of Infinite Worth,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 22).

Wow!

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Ideas

Jenny shared some other links that she and her family love from the Friend.

Check out Stories of Jesus, Christmas Advent Wreath, and A Week for the Christmas Story.

Christmas Countdown

We are SO excited! Tonight begins our Christmas Countdown! We will be decorating, having a yummy salmon dinner, eating brownies and ice cream, singing songs, and enjoying the beginning of our CELEBRATION of CHRIST!

I found this activity that we will be doing every day to help us remember Christ this season! I love simple things that other people think of!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Unexpected

Things never really happen the way you expect them to.

My sweet younger sister and her husband were expecting their first baby. He could have come any time. Then on Monday I got this email from my husband (I had left my phone at church the day before so I couldn't get calls.)

"Your dad just called me, he said that Whitney's baby just died. He tried to call you, but the phone wasn't on or something. Give me a call when you can.

Loveyou,


I was shocked. I was sure it wasn't true, like it must have been a joke or something. Just a few days earlier I was laughing and joking with my sister, talking about labor and looking at all the cute little things they had acquired for the baby. How does this happen?

Early the next morning I received this text from my sister Julie:
"Sweet little Scotlin was six pounds twenty and a half inches long. The cord was wrapped around his neck. I've never seen anything more beautiful than Whit & Evan's faith and love or more heart breaking than their loss."

At the time I was nursing my own sweet baby. I cried.

I thought holding Scotlin's little body would be too difficult, but as I sat there rocking him, I looked at him expecting to see his chest rise and fall. It didn't. Seeing my sister's pain and the grief of her dear husband was difficult. But it was also beautiful, as Julie said, to see them comfort each other. They would occassionally smile at something. Evan would sob and Whit would just hold him and comfort him. Then she would take a turn grieving and he would do the same for her. Whit pointed out to me that she finally got some stretch marks, I had teased her last week about not having any. I told her they were her battle wounds. At least the ones that are visible. The gaping hole in their hearts will be healed eventually too, leaving only a scar.

This is a very sad event, but nobody is despondent. Everybody is looking forward with a perfect brightness of hope for the day when Scotlin's body and spirit are reunited and they will get to raise him, hold him, tickle him, watch him play and learn. Until then, there are some rough days ahead, but we know they will be comforted by the peace the Gospel brings.

One last thought. I just thought of a quote I love by Hugh B Brown. "At the judgement bar, the Lord will not look us over for medals, degrees, or honors, but for scars."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our Heaven is Our Home



While searching for music for our church choir to sing for Christmas, I came across this song by Marilyn McMeen Miller Brown and Dennis L. Crockett, “Our Heaven Is Our Home,” in the Ensign, July 1977, (pp. 36)

1. Our heaven is our home,
Our place on earth to kneel,
Where nearest to our Father’s throne
We live and love and feel.

2. The gentle dew of grace
Rests on our morning prayer.
The soft light from our mother’s face
Reflects her constant care.

3. Like rainbows crowned with light
That promise glory soon,
The children fill the darkest night
With all the hope of noon.

4. The sunset’s golden rays
Glow in our father’s eyes:
His strengthened hands with prayer and praise
Hold firm our family ties.

5. Our heaven is our home,
Where miracles increase.
And where we hope our
Christ may come
To bless us with his peace.



I like this song. :)



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Here is my favorite twist on traditional brownies!

What you need:
1 box brownie mix (or prepared brownie if you do it from scratch)
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg

Prepare brownie mix and put in greased 9x13 inch pan

mix together cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Mix WELL. Drop dollops of cream cheese over brownie batter. Use a butter knife to swirl.

Cook about 15 minutes longer than the brownie package instructions, or until toothpick comes out clean (it WILL take longer than the instructions.)

Cool and enjoy. These are SO divine!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"...A Heaven on earth: a History"

To me, the origins and evolution of this blog are fascinating. It began one night while I was chatting with a friend over the perplexities of being a successful wife/mother/woman/homemaker. How in the world are we supposed to get everything done and still spend time with our families? But I didn't want this blog to focus solely on the "mommy life," as many women still face the challenge of creating a Heavenly Home, yet don't have children. I really wanted to focus on the divinity of womanhood, and the importance of helping and supporting each other in our roles. At the time of this blog's creation, DH & I were still in school and didn't have children. So this blog has evolved since then. I wanted it to be a place where people could find support, ideas, or where they could share ideas and give support.

I wanted to focus this blog on several different aspects of happy home making:

*"If mamma ain't happy..." As the wife and mother, I believe that I am the center of my home. It's important to me to take time to do the things I enjoy, such as digital design, crochet, baking, jogging, pilates, reading. I can't draw water from an empty well!

*Marriage: I know that marriage is ordained of God and that the family is central to His plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Because of this, marriage and the family are attacked on every side. Strengthening marriage and family is one of the central goals of this blog!

*Parenting/motherhood. My main goal as a child was to be a mom. I love my dear little ones, although sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy. I enjoy sharing anecdotes and tips that will either make you feel better on a bad day of parenting, or give you ideas for things you might want to try. I know I have learned SO much from others, and I am constantly learning how to be a better mother!

*Frugality has become sort of an obsession of mine. It's somewhat thrilling to see how long I can go without buying anything. I know, it sounds absurd, but you should try it, it's fun. It's also fun to re-purpose things. I have seen many great ideas from other bloggers, and would love to share what I've done as well.

*Meal planning and finding simple, tasty, inexpensive, and healthy recipes has also got me hooked. I know, you're probably thinking "yawn! SO boring!" Feel free to use my meal plans!! :) I also love sharing yummy recipes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Construction under way

Pardon the construction, and my being absent. I've had lots of ideas for this blog, and I will be changing the web address and name. Plus I'm figuring out how to make my own template! Whew! Stay tuned for great things to come!! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

GIVEAWAY!

My sweet sister and her cute husband were approved today for adoption! They are so excited and will be excellent parents, but the approval only means that now they can be chosen by a birth mom! So they need your help! Go to their adoption blog: lanceandjulieadopt.blogspot.com to learn more about them. Then visit HERE to read more about their daily lives and to enter to win Julie's awesome giveaway. She made two adorable rag quilts and is giving them away to help spread the word that they're adopting! Adoption is a miracle and we are so excited for Lance and Julie to begin their journey toward completing their family!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pink Nothings Giveaway WINNER!

I posted earlier about the Pink Nothings Metro Mama bling wrap giveaway (what a mouthful!) :)

Well, the day I got home from the hospital, I found out I won!! It was very exciting! So check out Pink Nothings, it is a great blog. The Wrap is not the color I would have desired, but it is so comfy for wearing my newborn while I cook, take care of the toddler, etc. (I probably won't wear it out, it is green camo...I don't like when people call my "she" a "he"...;) ha ha).

Thanks Pink Nothings!

3 Weeks Later

Life has been a little crazy. On the 16th we welcomed this little one to our family:

The baby's sister has hit the terrible twos with a vengeance. Hence, I'm not blogging as much these days.

I'm still planning on doing a crockpot challenge, and I'm keeping my g-cal up-to-date with meal plans, but the official "blog support and giveaway challenge" will be put off until November. Stay tuned. Oh, and check out today's dinner recipe on the G-Cal: white bean soup. It was DELICIOUS. DH isn't often wowed by things I make (I experiment a little too much, or try to make it too healthy) but tonight's meal qualified for the "better than you-know-what" title. I forgot the lime juice and only used 1 4 oz can of chilies, plus added almost 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper. YUM! Next time I will double batch and freeze half for a later meal!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kid to Kid

I LOVE Kid to Kid! It is one of my favorite stores. I normally go to the one in my town, which isn't THAT impressive, but I've still gotten some great deals. This week I went to a different store, and it was AMAZING!! In fact, I found out that on September 12 they are getting out all their Halloween Costumes! So check out Kidtokid.com and see when a store in your area is doing this! Or go HERE and maybe I'll see you on Sept 12!

Cookie Cutters

I took my little girl to the Cookie Cutters Hair Salon, and it was a great experience (well, she sobbed, but they were so great and we were able to get a great haircut.) The cost is normally 13.95, but if you have a Cookie Cutters near you and would like a $3 off coupon, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you one. It expires November 1, 2009, but I'll probably be getting more coupons in the future! It was a very great deal and they were experts with my small child. (she even got to sit in a pink car, watch Elmo, eat candy, pop bubbles, and hold a toy pony!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Could you go a year?

I found a link to this article from another frugal mom blog, and thought I would share. This family, who were well off financially, decided to go an entire year without buying anything that wasn't edible or depletable. Read it and see what you think.
The Article.
The other blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nesting...

I think that my motivation to work on this blog more was partially fueled by my nesting instinct. I'm about 37 weeks along with baby #2, and am really loving being "domestic" (running a house well, being a good mommy and wife, improving my talents, learning new skills, etc...).

That's why I had grand ideas for this blog. I still have grand ideas. But I'm tired. And the Hub is going out of town for a few weeks, followed by a new baby and our computer needing to be sent to Gateway to get a new graphics card, which will take 2 weeks. So I'm sorry for not posting more frequently. But that is our life and we still love it.

I did want to mention some thoughts I've had on finances.

First, in reading the Book of Mormon at the beginning of Alma, the people in Zarahemla start treating each other terribly, doing all sorts of terrible things, and rejecting God. Alma mentions that they had begun "worshipping idols." When reading that I thought "I don't worship idols. I don't even know anyone who does." Then I thought about the word worship, looked it up in the dictionary, and came to the conclusion that worshipping something is really just paying devotion to something or making it the most important thing in your life. So I thought about that and my attitude towards money. I'm striving to improve my relationship with God, but I can't do that if I am devoting myself to having more "things." I think we can see how comparing ourselves, our lives, and our standard of living to others can cause us to worship idols by losing sight of God's plan for our lives. We slowly are enslaved by the desire to possess more things. (And we don't see others for who they are as fellow children of God).

Admittedly, there are necessary purchases. I don't want anyone to think that buying things makes them an idol worshipper. But I think at least I can live more providently and self-sufficiently by really thinking about each purchase I make, asking myself why I am buying that item, and if I really need it. But also, it's good to occassionally, and when you can afford it, buy yourself or others nice things. I'd love to have a Bosch mixer. Do I need one? No. Do I need photoshop, or a piano? No. Can I afford those things now? No. But those things are on my list of things that, when the $ is there, I would like to purchase.

Hopefully I'll be able to post at least once a week the next few weeks, but I'll be taking some time away from the internet once the baby gets here. (I have a feeling sleep will be much more important then!!)

Adventures in Canning!

Check out my sis's blog for a cute pic of me showing off our finished product!!

That's right, we canned peaches. Something on my to-do list that actually got accomplished!! We used googled "canning peaches" and found a very helpful website, which the link is now broken to, to guide us through the process, but here is a simplified overview. By the way, having 3 people makes the process happen about 2 times faster than just 2 people! I'm glad Julie's SIL could help us out!!
What you need:
* Good peaches (5 per quart sized jar)
* Water bath canner with rack
* Jars w/ lids and rings
* Fruit fresh, or lemon juice
* Sugar, lots of water
* Paring knives.
* lots of pots and bowls
* A good attitude and a friend or two.

1. Pick out good peaches! If you are in my area, Reams had an amazing deal on super yummy peaches: 13.99 for 25 lb box, or $.59/lb. They were really good. Most roadside stands have amazing peaches: local produce is always better!

2. wash peaches, run jars through hot rinse cycle in dish washer or sanitize by boiling.

3. Get syrup ready. We made the light syrup, which was 6 cups water, 2 cups sugar. That was a little too sugary for my taste. If you increase the water 1-2 cups, you should have enough syrup for 6 quart jars of peaches. All you do is get the water hot, slowly add the sugar, stirring well, boil it for a minute, then turn it way down to keep it hot until you are ready to use it.

4. Peel and cut peaches. Here's how: boil peaches for 35-45 seconds. Remove and put in ice water. We found that VERY cold ice water works the best, it isn't great if you have just a few pieces of ice in the water. After the ice bath, cut the peach along the seem, press together and twist to half the peach. The peel should come right off, and the pit will usually just stay in one side. We haven't found a fool-proof way to get the pit out easily. We just cut it out, dug it out, or used my little tool to take the tops off of strawberries or tomatoes.

5. After cutting peaches to desired size, put in a bowl and mix lemon juice or some "Fruit Fresh" to prevent browning.

6. When the bowl is full, put into hot, sterilized jars, cover with hot syrup*, and put hot lids on. Then screw the rings on, and process in your water bath canner for 40 minutes (at 3000-6000 ft above sea level, less for lower elevations).

*This is the cold pack canning method, for hot pack canning, which is supposedly safer we haven't gotten sick from the peaches yet, simmer the peaches IN the syrup for 5 minutes, then pour into jars.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week 3 O.O.

Here are the pictures of o.o. week 3! Organizing the kid's room closet and dresser top. Why do dressers at my house always collect STUFF?! I've actually already finished the closet, the challenge is to find places to put the dresser stuff!





Friday, August 14, 2009

Addicted to organizing.

I am happy to report that I am getting really great at organizing! This week it was something I looked forward to, and the time I spent organizing my kitchen cupboards was enjoyable!

It is also essential that I report on my efforts to KEEP things organized. I have a nook in my home that has always been the clutter corner. Now, whenever I walk by, I take note of anything that shouldn't be there and move it right then. It has been so cleansing for my soul to have this one spot that always looks "nice." I'll have to post a pic!!

Without further chatter, here are the pictures of the space I organized this week. I ended up cleaning, rearranging, and organizing ALL of my kitchen cupboards except for the pots/pan cupboard and under the sink (that's a whole other project!) But I realized that if I switched my food and dishes around I would be able to utilize the space more efficiently. Aren't I a smarty-pants house-wife?






Remember it isn't too late to join in on the fun of Operation Organization. Especially if you just need some motivation!!

Break time...

Our computer was in the shop this week, and it gave me a great break from the online world. DH & I even spent time giggling together instead of spending all evening doing our separate things. It was nice to know we can survive without the internet!

For a great parenting pick me up, head over to our "Sitsta" at d2the4thpower. This was a reminder to be gentle and that all of us make mistakes as parents (funny, I kind of got a goblin face and got up to an almost scream today when my little one rubbed her chocolatey face* on my khaki shorts**, so this post was especially poignant!)***









*Immediately clean chocolatey faces in order to prevent such a fiasco.

**Don't wear anything but dark wash jeans or brown/black pants. Dirty faces are attracted to clean, light colored clothing

***Your child is more important than your clothing. Invest in some oxyclean or spray 'n wash and remember that the goal is to raise loving, helpful children, not necessarily to have clean clothes...but if you can do both please tell us how you do it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good Zucchini Bread Recipe

It seems like I am always looking for good recipes this time of year to use our abundance of zucchini! This is my favorite recipe for zucchini bread, moist and good texture.

3 eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

¾ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. baking powder

3 cups flour

2 cups shredded zucchini

Mix eggs, oil and sugar. Add vanilla. Mix in salt, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Add flour. Mix in zucchini. Grease and flour pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes (depending on size/number of pans; will want to watch closely towards end of time). Toothpick poked into center of loaves should come out clean when done. Cool in pan about 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 2 regular-sized loaves (or about 3 smaller loaves). Double batch makes about 1 regular and 6 small loaves.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Inexpensive project idea for children

Most preschoolers seem to love anything that involves coloring and cutting (though sometimes supervision is still needed!). My almost-4-year-old son loves doing these toilet paper roll crafts. Sometimes he is impatiently waiting for the next toilet paper roll to be finished so he can start another project. Though we have utilized other pieces of random cardboard that is laying around the house. Today we have already made Shrek and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (and he is trying to convince me to start one more...I think that will wait until quiet time tomorrow) but we probably have a stash of 15+ laying around the house!

I think most of us can relate to the experience of a young child having more fun playing with the paper and boxes at Christmas or birthday than the actual gift; the same concept may apply here, it really doesn't take much to make a child's imagination happy. Plus, it is a good activity that encourages me to sit down and interact with my preschooler as we cut, color and tape each project. But I will warn you, if your child likes making one, you probably will end up making them all the time, since there are lots of characters from which to choose!

Home Canning



My sister and I are undertaking a canning adventure soon. We want to can peaches, peach jam, and salsa. This is the first time we've canned since we "helped" mom in the kitchen when we were very small. Any home canners out there with any advice?

If not, I'll just have to read homecanning.com

A few great Blogs!

I have found a few great blogs that are worthy of mention:

She Shops smart: a smart mommy who shares how she saves money.

Sensible Savings: a friend who shares all the great deals she finds.

A Thrifty Mom: 'nuff said.

Sumo's Sweet Stuff: a cute mom who makes tons of cute stuff for her little girl. Great craft ideas!

Monday!



I'm not sure it is effective to include a grocery list with each week's meals. I usually only include the things that I need (what I don't have on hand) and other people probably don't have the same things I do. Besides, you may just use the meal plans for inspiration rather than following them exactly. So let me know if you want me to continue to do a comprehensive shopping list for the week. If nobody comments, I won't do one anymore. :)

If you notice the calendar, I changed the menu to have summer foods that don't require as much cooking, thus keeping my home cooler. I think we'll eat very healthfully this week.



Pork Roast
6 b/s chicken breasts
Steak*

Brown Rice
Olive oil
Canola oil
Brown sugar
Mandarin oranges (3 cans)
Craisins
Tomato soup
Steak seasoning
Almonds
3 pkg Oriental Ramen Soup
Bow tie pasta
Sesame seeds
Teriyaki sauce
Rice vinegar
Corn bread mix or corn meal

Bread

lettuce
Spinach
Green onions
brocoli
Corn on the cob
1 head green cabbage
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (I omit this, I don't like cilantro)
Onions
berries
bananas
apples


1 pkg frozen peas, thawed

Cheddar cheese
Milk
Eggs

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Slow cooking

I came across this blog recently. I like it a lot. Check out THIS post about why slow cooking is great during a recession. People have such great ideas!!

Thanksgiving Point $2 Tuesdays

If you live in Northern Utah, check out Thanksgiving Point's $2 Tuesdays during the month of August. Every venue is $2! I think we'll go to the Dinosaur museum, I've heard it's LOTS of fun!!

Organizing WEEK 2!!


This week's goal is to tackle how I organize food in my kitchen. Last winter I bought a little pantry from Shopko for super cheap, and while it has been great to not store food products on my counter, I definitely need to fix the mess, and come up with a better way to store things. I think some stackable plastic shelves and some flour/sugar/etc... containers might be in order! Too bad about the spending freeze (if anyone is getting rid of anything like that, let me know!)

Here are the "BEFORE" pictures:


Operation Organization Week 1 Finale

I finally finished my week 1 goal for Op Organization! Yippee! The toddler was so cooperative today, she played a lot, and I let her get into some of the things I was junking, so she enjoyed herself too! Here are the "after" pics:




What's that? My shelf doesn't LOOK organized? Take a look again! See those shoe boxes. Yeah, that's what frugal moms on a spending freeze use. They stack nicely. I even labeled the top of each box so I know what is in them. The bottom shelf is my craft/sewing stuff (hey, I have aspirations, and Jamie and Shalyse I know your prize is overdue, sorry!) as well as books that I read a lot of.

The middle shelf is hubby's junk (don't tell him I said that) but I compromised and only threw out all the recruiting stuff from the 10 billion accounting firms, only 2 of whom offered him an interview. I didn't throw out his notes from classes that he is convinced will come in handy on the CPA exams. We'll see, if he doesn't touch them in 6 months, they are SO gone! Plus the middle shelf is holding my foot spa and our humidifier. Very oddly-shaped things that don't make a space look very organized.

The third shelf has the text books and our sub-woofer/computer speakers that we only occasionally use. Sometime I'll post a pic of our computer desk so you can see why it is stored on this random shelf.

I also have to mention that with this week's challenge, I organized ALL of our files (and now have a HUGE bag of old bank statements, bills, and pay stubs to shred.) I also mostly organized our bedroom closet. I'll probably do a more in-depth job with that in a future week's goal!

And for those of you needing some tips, Melinda had a guest post some GREAT ideas on her parenting confessions blog. CHECK it out!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mother Teachers

I am a teacher by profession. I received my degree and taught 5th graders before staying home with my little daughter. If I ever felt uncomfortable explaining to someone that I am a "stay at home mom" (which I don't, I think it is the most noble, demanding, exhilarating, exhausting job ever!) then I would say "I am a teacher" when asked. I am a teacher!! I love this quote from Jane Clayson in her book "I am a mother." (A great read for those who feel weighed down by the burdens of motherhood, or who feel like 2nd class citizens for choosing to raise children).

"How empowering! How true! It is mothers who teach future businessmen to be honest in their dealings. It is mothers who coach (and sometimes coax) future scientists, doctors, and mathematicians through worksheets and multiplication tables. It is mothers who show future politicians how to be compassionate--even in the face of opposition." (I am a Mother, 59)

President Harold B. Lee taught that "A mother's heart is a child's schoolroom. The instructions received at the mother's knee...are never effaced entirely from the soul....Family life is God's own method of training the young, and homes are largely what mothers make of them" (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 289)."

These thoughts could be overwhelming. I could listen to the adversary who is constantly whispering that I'm not doing enough, that it's too much, or that I shouldn't expect so much from myself as a mother. I make mistakes as a mother! BUT, I also know that I can turn to God for inspiration, for added patience, and for forgiveness when I am less than Christ-like in my profession!

I love teaching, and I know that is the most important thing I can do with my children!

Baby Days



I thought my first book review should be a parenting type book. This is a book for stay-at-home parents of young kids, and I love the sub-title: tips for enjoying daily life with children under 3! How many days does daily life with young children feel like an exhausting, overwhelming, not-so-fun experience? Don't get me wrong, there are always good moments in most days, but taking care of young children can be draining. It's difficult to get things done, tantrums are hard to handle, and sometimes your 18 month old will watch 3 hours of television because you need something to distract them.

This is not really a parenting book, just ideas of how to give your young children things to do that are stimulating, entertaining, and allow you to get things done or enjoy playing with them.

Some things I like:
1. The activities are broken up into different times of day. There are activities for mornings, mealtimes, afternoons, bedtimes, etc...
2. Each activity has a "messiness quotient." IE, how much of a mess can you expect from this activity. If you don't want to take the time to clean up, then choose a low quotient activity. BUT, I would mention as my own thought, taking them time to clean up WITH your young child (the younger the better) is a good way to start them on the road to keeping things neat and clean. Make it into a game.
3. Fun activities based on age. My toddler LOVED playing in a bucket of beans with a funnel. She wasn't quite old enough to care about the play dough we made (although "making" it was fun for her).

Things I disliked:
1. You could probably find activities like most of these on the internet. But like I said, I like the descriptions by age, how messy it will get, materials you need, etc...
2. I think it's important to avoid "Supermom syndrome", where you feel like you have to be constantly busy. Kids NEED time to just go play by themselves. But I think young children often throw tantrums because they want your attention. If you are making dinner and give them a task to "help" they will feel involved and ideally whine a little less.

I also think this is a great book for Winter time, when it's too cold to go outside much. Making tents and playing make-believe would be thrilling for a 2 year old!

You can go HERE to read more reviews of this book.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spending Freeze


One of the greatest blessings we've had the past few months is that of little/no income! The gap between graduating from college and the start of hubby's job will be 7 months. For us it has been essential to make every penny of our savings count! One way we have accomplished this has been by imposing an abosolute spending freeze. At first it was a total bummer not to buy new shoes (they weren't an absolute necessity, my older pairs were still intact, but I like to be stylish!) It was also difficult to refrain from buying toys, books, and new clothes for our toddler and for the baby we'll have soon!

But after months of knowing we couldn't spend ANY extra money on ANYTHING that wasn't absolutely essential, living with a spending freeze has actually become quite liberating! I mean, look around your house and count the number of things you thought you wanted, or even thought you NEEDED at the time of purchase. If you're anything like me, you realized that quite a bit of money every month goes down the drain. In our society, having "things" seems to up our status (though probably only in our own eyes!) Therefore we use credit, pile up the debt, and spend years paying off $100!! Or at the least, we don't save, and consequently lose money we could have made on interest!

The liberation comes in not letting things own you! It comes in knowing that your credit card bill is $0 and that you won't pay interest. It comes in knowing that you will be able to meet your family's needs because you didn't splurge on that bowling game your 14 month old was carrying around Ross acting like it was the most important thing to her! (By the way, I must mention that it is pointless to buy many toys for a young child. Get out some cups and bowls, they'll be WAY happier!)

SO, my challenge to you, dear reader, is to set aside a period of time that you think you can go without spending ANY money on non-basics (no, clothes aren't basics, neither are new seat covers for your car, a kiddie pool, or a pass to the nearby theme park!) Seriously, food, rent/mortgage, utilities, car, gas, insurance, health, toiletries. Those are basically it. Try it for a week. Be really brave and try it for a month. FREEZE your spending, and see how much you save! (And it's ok to start to carry a bolt of fabric to the counter, convincing yourself that your girls NEED curtains in their room, and you must make them, and then turn around and put it back! Be STRONG!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mommy's meal plans!



Before I share the meal plans and shopping list, I need an attagirl! I only went grocery shopping ONE TIME last week. To some it may seem crazy, but I am the girl who forgets things on my list, and then craves something during the week, and in the end I make 2-4 extra trips to the store (or have hubby go for me) and spend $40+ extra for the week! NOT good, I know!! So, give me a pat on the back, and enjoy the ideas I have planned for the week. I know, some probably aren't the best summer recipes. I'll work on putting a week of summer recipes together, but hey, I'm preggo and this is what sounded good to me!! Remember to add your veggies to your shopping list!!

For the Week of Aug 3rd, go to the bottom to the google calendar. Clicking on the meal gives you a recipe idea!




Bacon
Salmon
1 lb ground beef
Deli meat
B/S chicken breasts (4-8, or enough for 2 meals)

Ranch dressing mix
Basil
Chicken broth
Tomato juice
Gingersnaps
White vinegar
Brown sugar

Corn flakes

Garlic
Onion
potatoes
sweet potatoes
zucchini
lettuce
carrots
brocoli
cauliflower
berries
bananas
apples

½ and ½ cream
Parm cheese
Deli cheese

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Operation Organization

A GREAT Idea!

Remember how I was talking about the "attagirl" and helping motivate each other? HERE is a great chance to get motivated to declutter/organize with just a little time each week. Su-WEET!! It's nice to know there are a bunch of us out there working to make our homes a little piece of heaven!

Here is the area I will be de-cluttering this week! All those stacks of papers are hubby's school notes and such. I may be re-cycling them (shhh, dont' tell, he is convinced he will use them again someday...) Maybe I'll be a super nice wifey and have them cerlox bound... ;)





I have posts already written which are set to be posted on Monday and Tuesday, so stay tuned, leave a comment, and I'm taking a couple of days to be computer-free!

Saturday is a Special Day

Growing up, Saturday was always the day we completed the "major" chores, such as scrubbing the bathroom, cleaning out the garage, etc. So I though "what better day to share home organization/simplification tips than Saturday?"

Today's Focus: Automation.

When was the last time you forgot to brush your teeth at night? Put on deodorant (ok, I'll be honest, sometimes I forget that one in the rush to shower and get dressed before the little one notices I'm not in the same room!) But seriously, think about all the things in your life that you do without even thinking.

I think that one way to keep your home a little more clutter-free is to create routines that become automatic. There are several ways to do this. First, you could make a schedule for yourself. This might work for some people, but not for me.

You can also try the website Don't Break the Chain. With this tool, you set a goal for something you will do every day (for example, clean up the dishes right after a meal, organize the counter every night before bed, exercising, etc...). You get an "x" for every day you do the task. The point is that once you have a few days in a row, you don't want to break the chain, so you do the task to keep it going. Then pretty soon, it becomes automatic.

Or you can try what I do, which is just to organize a small part of my day with a routine. This keeps things flexible, but I always know how my mornings will go:

1. get up and eat/feed the child

2. Clean up breakfast and any leftover dishes from the night before (child sometimes "helps" with that)

3. Turn on our "Song" (Good day Sunshine by the Beatles) and make the bed together.

4. Shower (if the child needs a shower, I put her in with me, otherwise I turn on Curious George or Clifford and give her 15 minutes of cherished tv time.

5. Get ready for the day, finish up any chores.

6. If it's still too early to go outside and play, we read some books or play with toys together.

7. Go outside and play


By the time all these things are done, it's lunch and then naptime. Keeping a routine with my mornings really helps me know exactly what needs to get done and when.

Another idea to help create organization routines for yourself is to have "attagirls." When I was teaching school, I had an "attagirl" folder, that I kept positive notes from students or parents, any achievements I got, or good teaching reviews. Send yourself an email every time you do something great, or your routines work out how you envisioned. Better yet, get a friend to send you an email every time she accomplishes her goal, then you send her an attagirl email. And she can do the same for you. It's all about helping each other out!

Friday, July 31, 2009


It is interesting that yesterday I decided I would dedicate Fridays to why I love being a mom. Today I took my 17 month old to a nearby duck pond. We had a lot of fun feeding the ducks, but as we were getting ready to go, she started throwing a tantrum. A crazy, insane, throw my body into violent convulsions type of tantrum. She screamed and jerked the entire way home. She screamed louder if I tried to talk to her, distract her, offer her a graham cracker, etc... 25 minutes later we were home, and the tantrum continued. I finally turned on Signing Time, which sort of helped, then gave her some grapes.
I still have no idea what was wrong. But what I do know is that I sure was at my wits end about what to do with the dear little thing. I kept my cool for the most part, it is a good thing we were outside, because I probably would have yelled at her to knock it off if we had been inside.
Am I still grateful to be a mom? Yes. I definitely am. Now she is napping, and reflecting on the prayers I said to know what to do, I'm not sure that they were specifically answered, but at least Heavenly Father helped me to keep my cool. That is a pretty big miracle.
Sometimes I just need to remember this thought from Jeffrey R Holland, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"You are doing God's work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you, and He will bless you, even--no, especially--when your days and your nights may be most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way thought the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master's garment, so Christ will say to the woman who worry and wonder and week over their responsibilities as mothers, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well" ("Because She is a Mother," 37).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Google Calendar

Check out the google calendar at the bottom for my own meal plans. I use different websites for inspiration, but I also have to consider my owns tastes, and what I have on hand.

One thing I discovered this week: going meatless is SO easy! Mon-Wed we had meatless meals, and it was great! You can still get all the protein you need, it takes a lot less time, and you save SO much money!

Meatless week.

Sorry, I'm still trying to figure out a good schedule for posting. I'd like to do something more consistent, and I think this is what I will do:

Mondays: Meal plan Mondays

Wednesdays: Book review of a book, which may or may not be related to frugality, meals, parenting, relationships. In fact, it might just be a review of a book I read in order to fill my own bucket a little (which I think it a good idea.)

Fridays: Fabulous Fridays: Posts on why I love being a mom!

Saturdays: Special Days: Home organization and simplification tips!

I think I can keep up with 4 days of posting a week! And of course, if anyone has ideas to share, please do! I like to borrow ideas from any source I can find. That is the whole point of this blog, for us all to help each other by sharing ideas!

If you have a blog, please share a link for this blog so we can get more ideas going and help more people!

Giveaway Winner(s)

Since only 2 people entered (sad, don't you have trust in my crafting abilities?) I decided they are both WINNERS!!

So Jamie and Shalyse, I will send (Jamie I will probably hand deliver) your prize by next Wednesday. Shalyse, can you email me your address so I can send you your prize? Congrats ladies, and don't worry, this prize will be so great!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Puffy Boxes

These would be so fun and easy to make. They could be great for little gifts for friends' birthdays, or for your kids to give for friends for Christmas. All you need is scrapbook paper and ribbon, and something to go inside. We'll probably use them for favors for my sister's baby shower this fall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Parenting...

Just a thought:

If your toddler takes a nap from 7-7:45 pm, chances are they will still be awake at 9:37 pm. Even if you are tired and would like to go to bed yourself. In fact, you might even find them jumping on the bed, squealing, and jabbering away!

So cute...:)

Bottom line: maybe delay the nap, so it actually becomes bedtime! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Simplify Supper

My little sister shared this AMAZING site with me! It's called "Simplify Supper." Basically, it is what I was trying to accomplish with my weekly meal plans, but was having a hard time staying on top of. I kept trying to look up meal plans with shopping lists, but all the sites I found cost money. This one, however, DOESN'T! Yipee! So check it out!! You'll be glad you did! :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Re-use tips

I thought I would share a few things that I re-use around my home!



Yogurt, sour cream, or cottage cheese containers! These can be used for a variety of purposes! 1. Storage: forget the zip lock containers, you can easily store leftovers, cut fruit/veggies, and a variety of other fridge foods in these, as long as you have the lid!

2. Storage: if you buy bags of rice or beans, these make great containers too! Just make sure they are completely dry before storing (and only use for short-term storage!)

3. Toy storage: If your child has little toys, these are perfect.

4. Writing utensils: perfect cup for all those pens. You can even get creative and decorate!

5. Tub/water toys. Little ones LOVE dumping water. Keep a few for the bathtub. You can even poke holes in the bottom of one for a neat strainer. Or take them outside to the kiddie pool so you don't lose all your real cups!

6. Any other ideas for these containers?



Jam jars (or other glass containers with metal lids).

1. Once again: get crafty! You can make this yummy Brown sugar body scrub and store in a glass container. Or you can decorate the lids (use some goo gone if there is any glue from the label left) and give away as gifts.

2. Use them to store leftover sauces.

3. I'm out of ideas on this one: what do you do?



Any other ideas? Please post and I'll add them!! Thanks!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Relationship tip!

This thought first came to me at my childbirth class. We were practicing giving each other encouragement, and discussed that during labor it is important to be able to do this easily. What a wake up call! I think most of us can point out many things we'd like to fix in our spouse/family/friends/etc...but how often do we look for the good? If you're like me, you are used to constantly picking out the things that bug you about the person/people you love dearly. I've been thinking about how I can work on this and have a couple of ideas.

1. DON'T say it!
First, I have decided that every time I have a negative thought about someone I love (myself included), the most important thing is to NOT say it. Not to myself, and especially not to them. Whether it's "why can't he see how tired I am and do the dishes for me and then rub my feet?" or "you never do anything right!" or "my child is just a living terror!" it is essential to keep these thoughts to myself.

2. Replace the bad with the good!
After I have mastered holding my tongue, the next step is to replace those negative, debilitating thoughts with positive ones. Our children do so many amazing things, why do we pick out the bad ones to showcase? My spouse helps me in so many ways, so why is it when I'm tired I want to gripe about how he isn't helping me right that second? My mom did such an amazing job raising me, why should I complain about 1 habit that bugs me? When those negative thoughts come, REPLACE them by thinking of at least 3 positive things about that person. It can start simple with something such as "I love the way he makes me laugh," or "she is always willing to help anyone." or even "her hair is such a beautiful color!" Even if the only nice thing you can think is superficial, it's a start!

We might start out only being about to think of 1 nice thing, and if we are angry or hurt, we might not be able to think of anything at all. My sister suggested keeping a journal of your spouse's good qualities. That way, in the heat of your anger when all you see is red, you can remind yourself how much you love that person. Or you can just try and remember your wedding day, or a time you were very happy and felt a lot of love and appreciation for that person (maybe the first time you held them if it is a child who is particularly troublesome.) The goal would be to think of 5 great qualities whenever you have a negative thought about that person. I think this helps with empathizing also, since you realize the behavior that bothers you isn't being done just to make you mad or upset!

3. TELL them!
Once you are able to quickly overcome those negative feelings, and replace them with positive, appreciative thoughts, it is important to tell that person the positive thought. This can go a long way in healing relationships. If you have a history of being very negative with that person, they may think something is up at first, and your sincere efforts could be looked at as phony. But keep going, and pretty soon I'm betting you'll start receiving positive, loving encouragement as well!

So, a day at your house might look something like this:

Church was crazy, your kids were naughty, and it has been a hectic day. You haven't had a moment to rest, but you come home and prepare dinner for the family you love. You are happy to do it since you are hungry and know everyone will appreciate it. In the middle of your preparations you toddler starts screaming because they want to be held. Your first thought it "why can't my husband just come and help, doesn't he know I'm busy. He's so lazy! I'm tired and just need a little help!" You catch yourself and realize that your spouse is definitely not lazy, and remind yourself that he got the kids ready for church and there on time while you were at meetings. You recognize his contribution and think maybe he is tired too and just hasn't thought about dinner yet. You think of other times when he has been helpful, how hard he works to provide for the family, and then, now calm, you find him and tell him how much you appreciate his help during the day. Then you say "the baby loves playing with you, would you mind distracting her while I finish dinner?" He gladly agrees, and is excited since he didn't realize you had started dinner and he is hungry.

This scenario may be slightly similar to one I should use more often! Some people would look at it and say "your spouse should just anticipate your needs and help without being asked." To those people I would ask "do YOU anticipate everyone else's needs all the time?" Maybe you do, especially if you are a mom. The point is not to change your spouse into some he/she is not, but to let them know you love them no matter what. Telling yourself what someone should do to make you happy won't help the situation, won't change behavior, and is pretty pointless, since you are in charge of your happiness, not anyone else.

4. One other tip I have is to check out the site: Immunized against infidelity. I love the thought that we are in charge of our relationships and can make them beautiful, remembering that happiness does not depend on what happens outside of us, but inside!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Menu Planning classes

The USU extension in SLC has free menu planning classes. Check it out!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shopping tips

Some tips my sister was telling me (and they sounded VERY smart!)

1. Look at your local grocery ads for the week and plan your meals around what is on sale!

2. Budget! And stay on budget!

3. Shop every week, but ONLY once a week. If you forgot something you need, too bad, don't go get it unless it is vital.

4. Shopping list. Go through cupboards and look at what you can have and use. Keep the list on your refridgerator so that the minute you run out of something (like ketchup or salad dressing) you can put it on your list so you don't forget and end up making more than 1 trip a week.

5. Keep coupons to a minimum. If you need something, look for a coupon for that thing. Don't buy something just because you have a coupon for it! (Thanks Shalyse!)

Meal plans

SO sorry, I dropped the ball on this week's meal plans. I planned it out for myself on Sunday, but haven't gotten around to posting it. Having a toddler has taken almost all my time this week! Whew! So I will just post 7 days worth of meals, and you can take or leave them!

Before I list the meals, I must mention how I went about my shopping this week. First, I bought all my produce and some meat that was on sale at Sunflower Farmer's market. I spent about $40. (Weekly budget is $75). Then I went to Smith's and was hungry. I went over my budget because I bought things I could have made, bought things that looked good, etc. Bottom line, STICK to your budget, don't shop hungry, and the cheapest foods are whole foods, not manufactured foods. If you really need to save money, set aside time to make snacks instead of buying them. :)

This week I'm just listing dinners, and am not including a shopping list.
Day 1: Pork Roast and mashed potatoes. (The roast was on a great sale.

Day 2: Pork sandwiches and French Fries (conveniently utilizing leftover pork!)

Day 3: Chicken Noodle Soup (not the best for summer, but I had a leftover fryer chicken I just boiled to get the meat off the bones. It was really easy!

Day 4: Tortilla Casserole. This is in the oven as we speak. Hopefully it is good. See Recipe at bottom.

Day 5: Chicken Fingers and fries (lovin' potatoes this week, sorry about the Fries repeat, I guess I needed the fat!)

Day 6: Sweet & Sour Chicken with brown rice: See recipe at bottom

Day 7: Chicken Divan

Tortilla Casserole Recipe:
1 lb ground beef (using less, or even substituting beans would be fine!)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c water
2 small cans tomato sauce
12 floud tortillas
1 8 oz cream cheese
2 c shredded cheese.

Spread cream cheese inside tortillas and roll tight. Place side-by-side in baking dish. Brown ground beef and onions, then add spices. Mix tomato sauce with water. Add to hamburger mixture and pour over tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
*I would add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp basil to the spices to give it more flavor. I also might turn it into an enchilada by putting everything inside (adding refried beans and green onions). It is a relatively low-sodium meal.

Sweet & Sour Chicken Recipe: (I love this one!)
8 chicken breasts, cubed

Dip: 1-2 eggs and cornstarch(mixed well). Lightly cover chicken and fry until crispy. (I used canola oil and don't deep fry, just shallow)

Sauce:
1 c sugar
2 c vinegar
3 chicken bullion cubes
1/2 c ketchup
3 TBSP soy sauce
1 cup canned pineapple (can be crushed or cubed)
1 green bell pepper, diced.
Mix all together.

After frying chicken, remove, clean out pan, and replace chicken. Then pour sauce over the chicken. Heat until bubbly. Serve with brown rice and steamed veggies for max nutrients! I halved the recipe and had enough for 4 people! I also chose the easier method once and just bought a bottle of S&S sauce. So it's an option. You'd probably need 2 bottles for the full recipe.

Giveaway!

I decided to become a true blogger and have a blog GIVEAWAY!! Woot! This first giveaway will be simple:


I will be giving away something very cute and handmade by me. I promise it will be good!

Here are the ways to win:

1. Leave a comment with your email address
2. Become a following of this blog and leave a separate comment letting me know you are a follower.
3. Leave a comment sharing a helpful "frugal" tip.

3 Chances to enter! The giveaway will close July 25, 2009!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Healthy Granola Bars!

One of my goals that will help with saving money, as well as eating more healthfully, is to make my own snacks. Most snacks are high in HFCS, salt, MSG, trans fat, dyes etc...plus they are much more expensive than making your own. And if you have kids that are old enoug, you can get them involved in making the snacks. What kid doesn't like to help "cook" if given the opportunity?!

Here are a few ideas:

1. Homemade granola bars: Try this recipe. It was delicious, chewy, and you can really do a lot of things to add variety (different nuts, dried fruits, add a few chocolate chips on top, etc. It made 16 granola bars for less than a box of 10 would cost! TIP: if you don't have waxed paper and use foil instead, make sure you spray with non-stick cooking spray!

2. Homemade popsicles. Or as I like to call them "juice-cicles." Just take 100% juice and put it in ice cube trays. After about an hour, or once the pops start to freeze, put in some popsicle sticks. YUM! You can always buy the fancy popsicle molds, but this is the cheapest way! And MUCH healthier. You can always pour your favorite yogurt in the trays and achieve the same thing, just with different nutrients and some protein! COOL!

3. Trail mix: make you own, and use unsalted nuts. That way you only have to put in what YOU like!

4. Apple smiles. Cut apples into wedges. Smear peanut butter on one side of 2 wedges. Stick a few raisins on the peanut butter on one of the apple wedges and top with the other apple wedge - peanut butter side down. It looks like a smile! YUM!

5. Fruit leather. Yes, there is sugar, but at least YOU control the amount and you know exactly what goes into it!
Wash fruit well. Remove stems and seeds, you can peel the fruit if you wish. Slice or chop fruit and place in a food processor or blender and puree. To prevent discoloration, add a tablespoon of lemon juice if you wish. Purée adding a minimum amount of water or juice if necessary. Purée should be the consistency of molasses or thick applesauce.

If you wish to cook the fruit, pour the purée into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. When it boils, keep stirring, turn off heat, and let purée simmer for 3-5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Spread fruit purée evenly over a grease cookie sheet or a cookie sheet covered in plastic wrap (secure plastic wrap with tape) until 1/8-1/4" thick. Leave 1-2 inches between the purée and the edges of the cookie sheet.

Place cookie sheet in oven with door slightly open. Keep oven at 115-120°F. Dry for 6-8 hours. Flip leather over, pull off plastic wrap and dry for another 6-8 hours.

Fruit leather is finished drying when it feels tacky, but is pliable and will pull away from the plastic wrap.


6. Fruit and cheese kabobs. Cut up the fruit and cheese, and skewer them! You can store them in a plastic container for up to a few days!

7. Here is another granola bar recipe. I might try this next time!
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¼ cup wheat germ
¼ cup ground nuts
¼ cup nonfat dry milk
¼ cup melted butter or oil
5 tablespoons honey
1 beaten egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup dried fruit

Mix all dry ingredients. Mix honey, oil and vanilla into dry mixture. Add more honey to moisten or dried oats to dry mixture if necessary. Press mixture into 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, cool and cut into bars.


Got an idea? PLEASE share!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kitchen Organization tips

I am definitely a clutter bug. I know the simplest way to keep my house free of clutter is to have a place for everything and everything in its place, but I simply get lazy when I get the mail or go to the library, and end up stacking everything in one place. Then, within a week or two, I get so sick of the clutter that I spend 30 minutes or more de-cluttering. So the first step in de-cluttering my kitchen is to find a place for everything. Here are some tips that help me:

1. Plastic grocery bags: use an old tissue box to store these in and recycle when the box is full! There are many different ways you can find to store plastic grocery bags. It would even be ideal to buy 1 cloth bag every time you go shopping, and gradually you will have no bags left. We also use the grocery bags for liners for the bathroom garbage can.

2. Re-arrange cabinets. The items you use most frequently should be on the bottom shelves with easy access. We have extremely limited cabinet space in our kitchen, so stacking is a big deal. Find creative ways to stack dishes to maximize space. With food, if a box is almost empty, take out the remaining food and recycle the box to make more space.

3. Use plastic containers that nest and stack easily. Don't spend tons of money on fancy plastic containers: old cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream tubs are perfect for leftovers!

4. Set a day every month to clean out your fridge! Say, the first Saturday of every month! If you do monthly shopping, it's great to have a clean fridge to come home to! (and it helps your home smell better also!

5. Organize recipes. I have lots of random papers all over my kitchen with recipes I printed and used. Get a three-ring binder, or transfer the recipes to index cards and file. If you use a binder, tape any cards you do have to a sheet of paper. Use dividers to organize your recipes.

6. Get rid of things you don't need. Go through your utensil drawer. Do you have 5 spatulas? Get ride of 3 of them. Do you have strange doo-hickies that you have never used? Thrown them out! I finally got rid of some shallow ceramic bowls that matched my plates because I NEVER used them! SIMPLIFY!! Ask yourself:
Is this easy to use?
Do I frequently use it?
Is it enjoyable to use - e.g., It feels good in my hand.
Is it easy to clean?
Is it easy to store and does it earns its keep in storage space?
Do I have too many of these?
Can I do this task just as easily by hand (without the messy cleanup of a machine?)
Does this tool really make the task easier and quicker, or is it just a cool gadget?
Is it uncomplicated to use, clean and care for?
Is it clean, in good shape, and ready for action?


Do you have more tips? Please leave a comment!!

I think the key is twofold: 1. Organize! 2. Keep it organized. That means every time you go in your kitchen, do a visual sweep. Is anything out of place? Are there things on the table that shouldn't be there? What can you quickly put away? It's also important to put things away right after you use them!

Monday, June 29, 2009

UIDAN

Heather Farrell posted about this awhile ago but I wanted to second it, and also mention from personal experience, since I am currently taking the financial classes. You can save money through a program can UIDAN that can be used toward a house, education or new small business. For more information click on the link above. We are hoping this will help us get in our first home in (hopefully) the next 3 years or so. From my understanding there is a waiting list currently, but after you finish the 4 classes and apply, you will be placed on the list and start saving as soon as there is an opening, then get a great return on your savings when you complete your savings plan.

My Weekly Meal Plan

Crystal inspired me to post my dinner meal plan for this week, as I am currently planning my shopping list, I figured I could write it here as well. If anyone is interested in a recipe, feel free to comment on this post and I will post it. My goal right now is to shop as cheaply as possible and be more efficient in my planning and cooking, i.e., if I have spinach, make sure I am utilizing it for salads throughout the week, but also planning a specific meal to cook with it; cooking meat for two separate meals at the same time then using later that week; being more conscious about varying the meats, non-meat meals, etc. I am feeling more in control of our eating and food budget as I am trying to do this. That, and cook from what I have and what's on sale, not just choosing random meals then having to purchase items at full cost. It's amazing how much smarter my shopping has become as I've done this the last few weeks.

Monday - Taco salad
Tuesday - Spicy tofu burritos
Wednesday - Tuna over toast
Thursday - Spinach quiche
Friday - Tomato basil soup
Saturday - 4th of July (we'll probably be at a family BBQ)
Sunday - ?? (usually with family, if not, we'll come up with something simple!!)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yummies Lasagna!

I LOVE this recipe. It is worth the time it takes to make! It is Stuart's counsin Camille's recipe, and so great!

Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic
1.5 tsp salt
1 TBSP italian seasoning
1 lb can tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste (I always use sauce and it still tastes good)
1 TBSP brown sugar (I added that, so yummy!)
8-10 strips dry noodles
2 eggs
2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c parm cheese
2 TBSP Parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
grated Mozz cheese

Brown meat and drain fat. Add next 6 ingredient and simmer 20 minutes. Cook, drain, and rinse noodles.

Beat eggs, cottage cheese, parm, parsley, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.

Spread a little meat sauce on bottom of 9x13 pan. layer noodles, 1/2 cottage cheese, 1/2 mozz, 1/2 meat sauce. Repeat. Bake at 350 for 30 min or until bubbly.

FINALLY!

It has been a while, but I'm trying to get back on the train here. I realized that my last post was before I found out I was expecting, and things have been crazy since then. But money is as tight here as ever, so I'm going to start trying to post meal plans with a shopping list every Sunday. Wish me luck! :) The food for each day is under the date, minus a snack. The dinner is in BOLD.

Monday
6/29
Milk & Mini-wheats
Yogurt & fruit
PBJ
Apple
Carrots & spinach
baked potato bar & broccoli


Tuesday
6/30
Scrambled eggs
Fruit & toast
lunch: Leftovers
Lasagna w/ spaghetti squash (see post for best Lasagna recipe, though not quick)


Wednesday
7/1
Cereal & fruit
Pretzels & turkey salad pita
Leftover lasagna


Thursday
7/2
Cottage cheese & fruit w/ toast
PBJ w/ strawberries & yogurt, veggie
Chicken stir-fry w/ brown rice
Spinach salad (cook chicken for Sat. night's dinner)

Friday
7/3
French toast w/ fruit & milk
Tuna sandwich w/ chips & veggies
Homemade pizza (sauce)


Saturday
7/4
Eggs & fruit
Mac n cheese w/ veggies
Chinese Chicken salad w/ fruit

Sunday
7/5
Cereal & fruit
Grilled cheese & fruit
Pot Roast & mashed potatoes

Now for the shopping list. Just a note, I did not put things on the list if I had them already. :)

Produce
Apples (5)
blueberries
banana (6)
pears(4)
strawberries
Squash (3 kinds)
Celery
Cucumber
Romaine
cabbage
Broccoli
celery
onions
Pita bread
Wheat bread
*already have spinach

Dairy
Cottage cheese
Mozz cheese

Protein
b/s chicken
turkey breast meat
eggs
roast

Frozen
Edamame
Peas
Corn

Non-perishable
2 pack chicken ramen
Lasagna noodles
pizza sauce
pickles
Sunflower seeds
fennel seeds
Honey
Raisins
Popcorn
Waxed paper