Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some photos of a spinning wheel I'm looking buy or not to buy?

One of the supports for the flyer broke off, but could be an easy fix. It's a 3 hour drive to look at in person, though.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Amazing Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Well, the kids and I have picked about 6 or 7 quarts of strawberries off of our little strawberry 'pyramid' in the yard in the last week. I love strawberry season!

This is a recipe my husband came up with while modifying our go-to vanilla ice cream during last year's strawberry harvest. It's chock-full of strawberries (yes, that's 2 *pounds* of strawberries in there!), so if you don't like your ice cream with more fruit than cream, you can certainly decrease the amount you use. But if you're trying to use up every last one of the berries from your garden, this is a great way to do it!

Amazing Strawberry Ice Cream

2 large eggs
3/4 C. sugar
2 1/2 C. Heavy Cream
2 1/2 C. Milk
2 t. Vanilla
2 lbs. Strawberries, diced

Whisk eggs in mixing bowl until well blended and slightly fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in sugar a little at a time, continue mixing about 2 minutes. Add in cream, milk, and vanilla and whisk together well. Mix in strawberries and freeze according to your ice cream freezer directions.
*Our freezer makes 2 qts. and this recipe makes more like 3 qts.

Print Grocery List

This recipe is linking up to Tasty Tuesday at Beauty and Bedlam and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Things I Love Thursday--Pioneer Woman!

Have you heard of the Pioneer Woman? Go ahead, check out her blog for a few minutes. I'll wait.

Did you see this section?

Or this one?

What about this?

Yeah, there's even more than all that. I don't know how the woman does it all and manages not to be pronounced insane. But if she's not sane, she at least distracts you with tons of inspiring and motivating articles.

She drove me to make these the other night. And split a whole batch with my husband. We ate them all. Maybe I should do some sit-ups or something now.

She's got a book, too. I bought it for my good buddy for her birthday. Now my good buddy loves the Pioneer Woman, too. I'm just sharing the love, here.

Find more Things I Love Thursday over at the Diaper Diaries!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Large-Scale Laundry

With a growing family, comes a growing mountain of laundry! One tool that helps me so much in the War of the Wash is my laundry sorter. Our old one recently bit the dust (i.e. succombed to the terror of the three year old), so I decided to see how we could get along without it for a little while. You know, in the name of saving money.

That didn't last long.

Without my trusty sorter, there were constantly piles of laundry all over the floor. I'd get one day's laundry all sorted, but maybe wouldn't get it finished that day. Then the next day, the kids would come and dump all their mixed-up dirty clothes on top of my 'piles' and......well. It drove me crazy.

My kids all have chores, and one of the kids brings down the dirty laundry from upstairs (The Kid Zone) each morning. Another kid has the chore of sorting the clothes into the 3-slot hamper. Then when I'm ready to start a load, I only need 2 minutes to turn on the washer and grab the duds from the fullest compartment.

It works for me!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For my information....

I know I haven't posted in ages. No excuse but the usual busy-ness with some writer's block thrown in. Anyway, I came across a few websites that I'm going to 'bookmark' here for my own reference, while sharing them with you. Even if you don't have a large family, I'm sure you'll find some interesting and practical information. :)

In A Shoe (I heart the name of this one!)

Larger Families

Large Family Logistics (a recently rediscovered, old favorite)

Mommy Life

Happy Reading, everyone!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Non-Casserole Freezer Cooking Ideas

I just found a great post by Crystal over at Money Saving Mom. She's got ideas for freezer cooking if you and your family don't like casseroles.

I personally really like casseroles, but I've had friends ask me what they can cook ahead if their family doesn't like them. I've really been at a loss as to what to tell them!

Well, now I've got some ideas up my sleeve, and you can too--check out the info HERE.

Thanks, Crystal!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coupon Preview

If you'd like a preview of what coupons will be included in this week's Sunday papers, check out THIS site. They update in the middle of each week, so it's worth a bookmark.

I buy my papers each week, so if I know there will be some really good ones, I'll buy extra. If the pickings look slim, then I'll just get 2 (always buy an even number so you can take full advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales).

Happy Couponing!

Homemade Onion Soup Mix--Great Site!

I love this website--I found it a few years back. Her advice is so helpful, and she has a lot of practical ideas for cutting costs and living frugally.

Hillbilly Housewife

Specifically, I wanted to keep track of her recipe to make your own Onion Soup mix--you know, the kind that costs a ridiculous amount of money at the store, considering it's basically beef bullion and dried onions.

Prepare to spend a little time looking around over there, it's a great site.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Birthday To Swagbucks!

Today is Swagbucks 2nd birthday and to celebrate they've unveiled a new look to their website. I just missed a code for 7 swagbucks, but there will be more to come today, from the sounds of things.

If you haven't signed up yet, do it today--Frugal Coupon Living has a bonus code for new members worth 60 Swagbucks!

Throughout the day today, The Swag Guy will be revealing new ways to earn swagbucks besides just searching, too!

I really like the new look of the Swagbucks home page and the new features sound exciting. There's really no reason not to join up and start earning free stuff!

Check it out HERE.

UPDATE! Another website claims to have a bonus code for new members--if you decide to sign up, go HERE to get the code. You'll see a box like this on the right side of the Swagbucks home page:

You just enter the bonus codes in that box and your account is credited. Fun!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Random Dozen!

I have no brain power to think of an original blog post for today, because I'm totally grossed out by the spaces where I had two teeth pulled today. UGH.

1. Have you ever fired a gun or shot a bow and arrow? Yes, my first boyfriend was the hunting type, and he taught me to shoot a gun. I shot a bow and arrow in PE in 7th grade.

2. Do you know where your childhood best friends are? Mostly, thanks to Facebook! LOL

3. Do you usually arrive early, late, or on time? I used to be the early type, but 13 years and 8 kids have transformed me into the perpetual latecomer to everything.

4. Are you more of a New York or California type? I've never been to New York, but I loved California when I visited years ago. I think after living a slow-paced life in the Midwest, I'd be more suited to beaches than high-rises.

5. Do you have a special ring tone? No, but I helped my DH get some great ones for his phone.

6. What is your favorite type of chip? Sour Cream and Cheddar Wavy Lays. Yum!

7. Best comedy you've ever seen is .... Jim Gaffigan

8. Have you ever cut your own hair? Yes
To quote Dr. Phil, "How'd that work for ya?" It was actually ok--I didn't do anything drastic, but took off a couple inches.

9. If you were going to have an extreme makeover, would you rather it be about your house or your personal self? It can't be both? Probably the house, then--I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin.

10. Are you allergic to anything? An anesthetic I received during tonsil surgery as a kid--they don't use it much anymore, I'm told. Food-wise, lots of things--but I've 'outgrown' most of them, and pretty much eat what I want now.

11. Why is it so hard to change? Maybe so we'll have to depend on God to help us--it's pretty much futile to try it on our own.

12. One last question dedicated to February love: CS Lewis said, "To love is to be vulnerable." Please share one example of that assertion or share any thought you'd like to about this topic.
There is so much potential for rejections and disappointment when you give your heart to someone. The Bible says in Proverbs, "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." I think we do our kids a huge disservice by not teaching them to guard their hearts, and they suffer so much for it sometimes. But once you've found the one you're committed to stay with for the rest of your life, and that love is returned--what a gift!

Making Do

How often, in this convenience-centered world of ours, do we miss opportunities to learn new skills because we think we don't have time?

If you're a mom committed to living frugally, or just starting out trying to cut expenses, I have a challenge for you. I'm not going to ask you to give up any and all convenience foods and make everything from scratch. BUT--the next time you start cooking something for supper and see you're out of one of the ingredients, see if you can 'make do' with something you have on hand. Or if you start a project and are missing a non-essential element, use your imagination to see what you can come up with as a replacement.

I think that so many times, we overlook our capacity for creativity. If we give ourselves a minute to stop and think, I think we could be surprised by what we can do.

People often look at my craft projects and tell me I'm so creative and they could never do that. But that's really not true! I grew up as the bookworm who always followed directions and did what she was told. My mother often reprimanded me for not thinking about what I was doing and not having common sense. I never even took an art class after elementary school--it was never required in Jr. High and High School. I think you get my drift that I'm not naturally the artistic/creative 'type'.

But I *learned* to be creative through the first years of marriage when money was tight and new babies were showing up every other year. I *had* to make do with what I had, because we couldn't afford to run to the store every day or two, and even if I could--we all know that dragging little kids to the store in the middle of the afternoon when they're all tired and/or hungry, is not a fun time.

So, I substituted different types of pasta. Or used canned veggies instead of frozen. Or made up my own seasoning mixes from recipes found online. As time went on, I got more daring. Out of tater tots for tater tot casserole? I bet french fries would work fine. No tortilla chips? I can make some out of tortillas--flour or corn, baked or fried.

I learned to make my own bread if we ran low for the week. Make biscuits so I didn't have to buy the canned ones. Found a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup that I could use in a pinch, and taped it inside my cupboard so it would be handy.

If you're low on milk for mashed potatoes, mix together some sour cream and water or broth and use that (hey, it's dairy--and it's pretty yummy, even!) What about that can of evaporated milk in the back of the cupboard--reconstitute it by adding an equal amount of water, and you're in business for baking or cooking pretty much anything.

And, while I've focused on cooking here, this mentality really can spill over into anything you do. I ran out of gallon-sized baggies last week. So as I used up the contents of a few baggies in the fridge, I quickly shook/wiped them out and re-used them. Sewing projects can be completed using un-needed pillowcases, worn-out jeans, or unloved shirts. Need to organize a drawer? Try the boxes from those bricks of processed American cheese, nice and sturdy. Or cut down cereal boxes to the right size. I've got my entire medicine/health cabinet organized with these, labeled on the ends so I can see at a glance where things are.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let's see what we can accomplish, and how much money we can save our households, by 'making do'.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day Activities

Well, have you reached the end of your patience for snow days? We've had so many of them this year! Being a homeschooler, they really *shouldn't* affect me much, but just knowing that the public schools have the day off, does something to my motivation.

And you all know that snow makes kids go crazy, right? (And if you didn't before, you do by now!)

So, here is a list I put together of some 'fun' activities that my kids don't get to every day. Maybe they're a little messy, or take a bit more of your time than you're usually willing to give up. But maybe you're in a place where you're willing to sacrifice a little to keep the kids happy and occupied. *smile*

  • Puzzles
  • Play-doh
  • Obstacle Course (set up 'cones' to run around, chairs/benches to climb over, cushions to jump on, etc.)
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Memory (I hate picking up all those little cards afterwards, so this one doesn't come out often)
  • Lacing cards/shapes for little ones
  • Block Party--go on a hunt all through the house to find all those lost blocks. Then bring them all to the living room and built a giant city/fort/tower together!
  • Boxes--my little kids love to play with boxes. If you have any that are big enough to sit/stand in, you've got instant cars, trains, houses, or whatever else your kids imagine.
  • Tents--set up a real one, or drape blankets over chairs
  • Legos
  • Tea Party
  • Wii Sports Tournament (maybe video games are a cop-out, but when you pit the whole family against each other in a tournament, it gets pretty interesting!)
  • Cut & Paste pictures/collages
  • Paint pictures
  • Play/Puppet Show--some kids are born for this kind of thing :)
  • Science Experiments
Or, if it's the end of the day and you just don't have the energy for any of the above, just sit on the couch and start reading aloud. I bet it won't be long before you're surrounded by quiet kids. :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Swagcode right now!

Check out the widget in my sidebar--hover your mouse over the words 'code alert!' and it will give you the code. It's good until 6 pm central time. Hurry--gotta love those free swagbucks!

Watch That Register!

I was reminded again recently of the number one, basic, frugal shopping tip.

Watch the register.

Since I've been couponing, I've been more motivated to look over my shopping receipts to be sure that items rang up at the correct price, and that all my coupons were deducted. It's great fuel to review how much you saved and keep up the hard work.

But you'd be AMAZED at how many times the register is wrong!

Some stores, like my local grocery store, may have policies to keep them accountable. Here in my little town, our store promises that items will scan at the correct price or you get it free.

Now, I don't like taking advantage of this policy. I get embarrassed when pointing out other people's mistakes (unlike when I was a teenager *grin*).

But when I'm being charged regular price for an item that is on sale--usually a good 40-50% savings--I'll speak up.

This weekend, I bought some cookies that were on sale, using a great coupon that brought the price down to 50 cents per package. I don't buy cookies often, but I can't make them for that low price!

Imagine my frustration when I got home and saw that I had paid DOUBLE the price they were advertised for. You can bet that I drove back to the store and pointed out the error. Especially since I had purchased two packages, and thus was penalized twice for a computer/programming error. The manager on duty was happy to refund my money with just a quick glance at the receipt and the copy of the ad that I had brought with me, verifying that the sale was in effect the day I made the purchase.

Now, don't think I'm happy about this--I would much rather have just paid the correct price in the first place, and saved myself another trip to the store. But it would have been easier on me if I'd just watched the register while checking out, or at least checked over it in the parking lot before driving away.

Just don't be embarrassed to question the register receipt--I don't think there are many cashiers, or managers, these days who would take it personally. Don't we all blame computers for most of our mishaps these days? Your eagle eye could keep you from paying too much--or even end up getting something free. If you don't watch out for you, who will?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Never Buy Waxed Paper Again

So maybe you don't like waxed paper as much as I do. Growing up, it was always around and being used to protect counters, cover foods in the microwave, and wrap up goodies.

Well, you'll never believe how much waxed-paper-equivalent you've been throwing away! A good friend was amazed that I had never heard of using the bags from boxes of cereal.

I have to admit, the thought had NEVER occurred to me.

But they work perfectly! For no-bake cookies or 'people chow' snacks, it's great to use one of those bags, opened up to lay flat and in one layer, to protect the counter. Nothing sticks to it. It's already pre-cut into multi-purpose pieces, just pull the bag open along its seams, or use scissors instead.

It's very easy to shake the crumbs out after finishing a box of cereal, and simply fold it up and place it in the drawer with the plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Or save an empty box from sandwich baggies and stow the pieces in there.

Check out THIS SITE with even more uses for this trash-turned-treasure!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Double Swagbucks Day!

It's Friday! You know what that means--double Swagbucks!

Search for anything and everything using as your search engine. You'll get great results because their engine is powered by both Google *and*

Your swagbucks will add up even more quickly when you install their toolbar, making it super simple to use their search from any site on the web.

You can also refer friends and earn swagbucks when they do! Or trade in your old cell phone or video games to add to your earnings.

The Swagbucks gang are a generous bunch, and frequently send special 'swag codes' into cyberspace via their newsletters, blog, twitter, and the like.

Sign up today so you can get in on the 7 bonus swagcodes and TRIPLE Swagbucks on February 25--the second birthday of the web's premier digital dollar.

Have I mentioned how much I love swagbucks? There's something about 'winning' that just makes me happy! LOL It always puts a smile on my face when I do a search and get a swagbuck.

What can I say--I'm easy to please. :)

But I just earned my second Amazon gift card of 2010 --you can't beat FREE money! Surely that would please anyone. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cooking on a Budget

I found a great blog that shows, step-by-step, how to create delicious and frugal meals for your family, without skimping on nutrition.

$5 Dinners

I subscribe to her e-mails and get one several times a week. They usually feature a yummy original recipe and/or money-saving grocery shopping tips. I've really appreciated the way she demonstrates skills essential to living on a budget: shopping the store sales, meal planning, and working with what you've got instead of running to the store constantly to buy expensive ingredients.

I made her Roasted Red Potato Salad this evening and it was fabulous! My kids aren't big on potato salad, but I didn't hear any complaints about this one. I love the texture of the spuds when roasted instead of boiled--so creamy and delicious. Give it a try, or any of her other free recipes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Younger Man

The other day as I was teaching history to a few of my kids, my 3 year old climbed into my lap. In an uncharacteristic moment of affection, G. smilingly stroked my face as he said, "I just love you, Mommy. We're married!"

I apologized to my dh later, as I told him I just couldn't resist the younger man who swept me off my feet. :)

You can't beat that to brighten a mommy's day!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spanish Language Podcast for Beginners

I found THIS podcast over the weekend--News in Slow Spanish. I've only listened to one so far, but it's so nice to practice when I'm busy with other things and can't sit at the computer for lessons at, or at the table to do exercises in my book.

I really appreciate the fact that they're speaking slowly and they even repeat phrases here and there to be sure you understood. The podcast notes are so helpful because, while they are also in spanish, phrases and words that may be unfamiliar to you have english translations. You just hover your mouse over those words and the translation pops up.

The podcast is free, as well as a few additional helps such as partial transcripts and short lists of expressions, and more. Much of that extra content is abbreviated, though, and requires a paid subscription to see it all.

Any other good spanish language media out there that I should know about?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Something to Keep You Busy!

OK, for all those deal-hunters and bargain shoppers, HERE's a post for you!

Frugal Coupon Living has a great summary of current deals and freebies over at her blog.

This is one I'd recommend subscribing to, she is always posting some great information!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Swagbucks Birthday Bash!

If you haven't already joined Swagbucks, now is the time! They are celebrating their second birthday, beginning February 25, with lots of fun 'festivities'--which usually means bonus swagbucks for us!

Go ahead and join up now, and if you do twitter and facebook, or have a blog, be sure to follow them and/or put their widget on your blog. That way, you'll be sure to know how to get your bonus bucks when the party begins on the 25th.

Go HERE to check it out and join up!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Baby Knitting!

I don't know if I mentioned it, but as of Sunday evening, my first foray into fair-isle.....failed.

Well, really, it was more like sabotage.....of the toddler variety. Due to mommy-brain malfunction. I seemed to forget about one year olds and yarn, since it's been SOOO long since I've had a one-year-old. (insert sarcasm here *smile*)

Anyway, I'm moving on because we've got a new member of the (extended) family! A dear cousin welcomed a sweet baby girl into the world Sunday night, so I'm knitting with PINK.

If I've got enough yarn, I'll make matching berets for baby and big sis. We'll see when we get the baby version done.

Yay for plain stockinette (even if only for 3 inches). Oh, how I've missed thee.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Super Bowl Recipe--Crab Rangoon

I just wanted to post this here so I wouldn't lose the link. We're hosting a Super Bowl party for some friends this Sunday, so I'm figuring out my food plan.

I checked out some ideas HERE and HERE, then stumbled upon THIS. It's a recipe for Baked Crab Rangoon. I LOVE crab rangoon! And to have it at home, without all the mess of frying, sounds heavenly.

Definitely going to try this. Any favorite appetizer recipes out there?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bulk Cooking Day

I told you I was planning to do some 'freezer cooking' the other day. Well, Saturday came along without any activities to take me out of the house, so I charged ahead with the plan.

I started out by browning about 6 pounds of hamburger with 3 diced onions. That was a lot of meat in one big pan! When you have that much meat to cook, it really does take a while, so I just set it on medium heat and stir it around now and then while I'm doing other things.

In the meantime, I started shredding the chicken that had cooked in the crockpot all Friday night. I got some great deals on IQF chicken breasts last weekend and stocked up. I love having cooked chicken in the freezer to throw into casseroles or mexican dishes! I got 2 quart bags of shredded chicken, and another bag FULL of chopped chicken.

Once that was done, I started mixing up some bread dough. I don't have any big fancy kitchen machine/bread maker type things, but I've got my KitchenAid and I love him. (Yes, it's a he. Humor me.) So we whipped up some dough and got it to rising.

Next up were the meatloaves. I doubled our usual recipe HERE and had the brilliant idea to just shove the meat mixture into a couple of gallon-size freezer baggies and squish it into shape and freeze just like that. I usually line a loaf pan with foil, add the meatloaf, wrap the whole thing up nicely, freeze, then remove the meatloaf from the pan (still wrapped in foil) and stick that whole thing into a baggie.

I've gotten away from using loaf pans for meatloaf anyway, so this way I can just pop the frozen meat-chunk out of the baggie and into my 9x13 pan to thaw in the fridge before baking. It just saves the step of messing with foil. Nothing like this is ever in my freezer long enough to need that extra layer, anyway. *smile*

That afternoon, I was joined by two of my dear daughters who wanted in on the cooking fun. (okay, so it was getting to be quite a bit of work by now, and I kind of begged them to help. But I think they kind of enjoyed it. A little, anyways.) One whipped up a batch of muffins, which went into the oven as soon as the bread came out. The other kept busy cooking pancakes--a chore no one ever wants to do first thing in the morning! We will all enjoy these special breakfast treats in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I used up the last of my thawed hamburger by forming it into hamburger patties and freezing. I really don't enjoy frying hamburgers, so we don't eat them much in the winter. But a couple of the kids had asked for them recently, so I guess I can suffer through it. *smile*

I mixed up another batch of bread dough and some dough for dinner rolls at some point, though it's all a blur right now. I just put the bread dough in the freezer to use later--maybe it will be bread, maybe pizza crust. I like leaving my options open.

I went ahead and formed the dinner rolls, then froze the dough balls on cookie sheets before I put them all into freezer baggies. I plan to thaw the dough overnight (next weekend) in order to bake next Sunday morning for our church's potluck lunch.

All in all, a successful freezer cooking day! I like looking over the list of everything we got done:

2 loaves bread
2 lbs. bread dough
2 dozen dinner rolls
2 meatloaves
10 hamburger patties
5 qt. bags browned hamburger
3 qts. cooked chicken
2 dozen muffins
17 LARGE pancakes

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Favorite: Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This has been one of those recipes. I made it once, exactly as written, and we all loved it. It's one of those recipes that you just don't need to tweak at all because it's so perfect.

It's creamy and flavorful and so satisfying. We love it with lettuce and tomatoes on top, but if they're out of season, it's still great without them. Serve with rice and corn, or some green veggies, or chips and salsa--it goes great with any of them. It's quick and easy, perfect for using up leftover chicken, or some precooked bags you've got stashed in the freezer

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Salsa
1 diced onion (or about 1/4 C. dried minced onion)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
flour tortillas (about 6)
~2-3 cups cheese (cheddar, colby jack, or mexican blend is the best)

Mix first six ingredients in a bowl. Cut or tear tortillas into pieces and cover bottom of 9x13" pan with a layer. Cover with half the chicken mixture and half the cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

print grocery list

What's your family's favorite?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Have I Ever Told You?

I really enjoy listening to knitting podcasts. Even when I don't have time to actually knit.

One favorite is Never Not Knitting. I've been listening since she started--you have to hear her theme song, it's too cute!

Anyway, she likes to feature a knitting story on each episode, and implores her listeners to send in theirs. Well, I sent her a story last summer and she decided to feature it on one of her shows! I was so excited! (I can't believe I didn't tell you!)

Anyway, I had it all written up. But then I got the idea that it would be fun to record it myself, along with my daughter, whom the story includes. (I don't know if that's the correct usage of 'whom', but I feel intelligent when I use it, so there it is.)

Well, we recorded several times until we got a good 'take' and got it all ready to send to Alana, wouldn't go. Something in cyberspace was strategically blocking MY recording from getting to where it needed to go. Because my recording was going to change the world, you know.

So my story ended up just being read by the podcaster, which was great, because she does an awesome job and adds cute sound effects and such. It was such a fun experience hearing my little knitting story being read on the intergalactic Web. My daughter and I got such a kick out of it. I even made my darling husband listen to it (I just ignored the eye-rolling).

So, if you happen to be interested in giving this episode a listen, or any of the Never Not Knitting episodes for that matter, click HERE, grab your knitting, and settle in for a pleasant half hour or so.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Freezer Cooking

Wouldn't it be great to have dinner ready for you to just pop in the oven several evenings a week? I really love having that convenient option for when the day just gets away from me.

It's one reward that is well worth the time and effort you put into it.

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom and FishMama are putting together some Freezer cooking days this weekend. You can get all the details for how to get ready and follow along HERE.

I think I'll be pulling some hamburger out of the freezer this evening to thaw. I'll brown some with onions to bag up for easy spaghetti/chili/mexican dishes, then I might make a couple of meatloaves and/or meatballs.

I may even throw a couple of bags of frozen chicken breasts (bought at an AWESOME sale last weekend) into the crockpot to cube or shred for casseroles and such. Some of it will probably end up in our favorite Chicken Enchilada Casserole (recipe HERE). Yum! Looking forward to it already!

So, do you have any plans to join in on this Freezer Cooking weekend? What dishes will you be preparing?

Now is probably not the time... be knitting mittens. By the time I'm done, I'm sure it will be the middle of July and I'll have to stuff them in the closet until winter arrives again.

Worse yet, I'll get sidetracked halfway through, set them aside, and I'll forget about them until next winter. When I'll *still* have cold hands.

Though I have no photos to show you just yet (can't find that blasted camera cable!), you might want to check out these patterns.

I'm following a pattern called Mittens to Order by Diane Mulholland (rav link HERE ).
But I'm inserting the pattern charts from these Swirly Mittens by goldenknits (rav link HERE ).

I LOVE the swirls! They're going to be gorgeous. If I finish them.

I'm using three different leftover sock yarns--with no idea how much I actually have of each one. It's one of those moments when I really miss my little postage scale. I pretty sure that I've deluded myself into believing I have enough yarn, but I'll probably end up with one and a half gorgeous mittens to display on my shelf. Or decorate bottles of soda, maybe?


Anyway, I'm using THIS gorgeous yarn, Fleece Artist Trail Socks in the Aurora colorway, along with two solids. The solids are both Knit Picks Essential--Grass and African Violet. The two solids are actually found in the Fleece Artist skein, but both pretty briefly, so there shouldn't be much problem with the pattern getting lost.

I'm using the purple with the variegated for the cuff, which is based on the original pattern formula, a two-color rib. Then for the main body of the mitten, I'm switching over to Grass with the Fleece Artist. I actually have already gotten to the chart using the purple instead of green (had to rip it out), and something about the brightness of the purple was distracting. I think the green will be a better choice for the swirls, and they should stand out a bit more.

I'm not 100% sold on the pattern for the palm of the mitten. The first time around, I used the one that came with the swirl chart. But it seems to use a lot more of one color than the other. I think that if I keep the yarn usage at more of a 1:1 ratio, I'll have less chance of running out of one or the other of the yarns.

I may end up scouring stashes on Ravelry to find some matching yarn--at least that's an option! Thank goodness for Ravelry. :)

What are you all knitting or crafting these days? Are you finding enough time for your hobbies?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Counter-Culture Nutrition

After a fairly surprising trip to the dentist yesterday, I wanted to share something with you. You see, I haven't been to the dentist since I was a kid--over 15 years ago, I'm embarrassed to say.

Let's just say, I've only got 1 cavity that isn't in a wisdom tooth. (yes, the wisdom teeth need to come out--pretty common, anyway.) Very surprising considering how many months I've been pregnant or breastfeeding in the last 12 years!

As I pondered this, I really felt the need to share something that I feel has contributed to this lack of dental problems--other than the grace of God. :)

Anyone who is interested in nutrition and natural health-related information, should do some reading HERE. I'll admit that I haven't done any serious reading on the subject for a good couple of years, but when I did some research on this site about 5 years ago, we made the decision to try to drink only RAW milk--straight from some farming friends.

That's also when I learned the great value of eggs and started incorporating them into our diet much more than I ever did before.

Now, I can't sit here and say that we're healthy all the time, or have never had cavities, but I can say that we enjoy very good health, and my kids are smart and happy.

And did I mention? Raw milk tastes SO much better! We bought some at the store last week because we were running low and the weather was too bad to make the trip to get more 'good stuff'. I feel bad for people who have never had fresh, raw milk! The pasteurized stuff is so tasteless and blechh.

I'm a big proponent of educating oneself, and feel that applies especially to the foods we consume. It's amazing what an effect nutrition can have on one's health--I see so much evidence of that in the people I know and interact with. Feed your body well and it will reward you!

Go forth and learn: Weston A Price Foundation website

And if this is 'old news' for you, do you have any ideas for incorporating more nutritious choices into our diets?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An important subject

I know birth control can be uncomfortable to talk about.

Whether or not you agree with it's usage, THIS is an important post to read.

There are very real consequences to using chemical hormones. I believe this is because those chemical hormones are made and/or altered by fallible human beings rather than what our perfect Creator planned for us.

(I'm not judging anyone here--we used the pill for a short while before being convicted not to. I just want to pass on some information to try to save some sweet friends a bit of heartache. *smile*)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Oreos Today!

The Mannings beat the Donalds in the Oreo DSRL! That means free Oreos for us! Go HERE and become a fan--then be ready at 3PM EST TODAY to sign up on that page for a package of free oreos. There is a limited supply, so be ready. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Daily Guideposts

I received a surprise package in the mail the week before Christmas. I had no idea what it was, so I opened it up eagerly.

It was a book--Daily Guideposts 2010, A Spirit-Filled Devotional.

I knew just who it was from.

My dear, sweet Gram had, just a month before, shown me her 2009 copy and wondered if I had one.

I had never seen these particular devotionals before, and told her so. She shared how much she enjoyed hers, how the devotions were short and sweet, but just a little something to jump-start your Bible reading.

I completely forgot about the conversation until opening up this package. What a sweet gift, and so much appreciated. I've been reading my devotions (nearly) every morning this month and have really enjoyed it.

I'm so grateful for my thoughtful Grandma. She laid a foundation of faith for me when I was just a little girl, and even now she's helping me continue walking that path. I love my Gram.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Media Cards (or--how to get the kids to not play video games every waking minute)

When we bought our Wii 2 years ago, we had never owned any kind of gaming system before (well, not since having kids, anyway). We quickly realized that we needed to do something to prevent our kids from having a serious gaming addiction and/or let their grades slip down the drain.

Thus, the Media Card was born.

It's basically a grade-based reward system. I've never liked the idea of paying kids money for good grades, but this was a way to make them feel rewarded while at the same time keeping them accountable for the amount of time they spend on computer/video games/tv/movies. Yep, the 'media' in Media Card applies to all electronic forms of entertainment in our home. They can read books, play board games, puzzles, cards, etc. etc. for 'free', but they have to 'pay' to play Lego Indiana Jones or visit their Webkinz online.

We set the payment levels for the grades we knew our kids were capable of. We use a software-based curriculum for a couple of the kids, which gives a quiz and/or test in every subject at least once a week. Therefore, we thought this would give the kids enough opportunities to earn media cards to keep them supplied to the tune of about 1 card per day, if they did well on those quizzes/tests.

We didn't want them to earn so many cards that they could spend every free minute on electronic time wasters, but enough to keep them motivated to put forth some effort in school. That's why we decided not to 'pay' for their daily work. You can decide what you reward them for and what they need to pay for. Just set up the rules to start with, communicating to your child(ren) that for the first month or so the system may need a bit of 'tweaking'.

We also had two 'tiers' of earning opportunity--1 card earned for an A or B on the quiz/test, 2 cards for a 100% on one. Each media card is good for 30 minutes of 'play' time, and we used a timer to keep them accountable on this. I've gotten away from that recently and have noticed the kids taking advantage and going a bit over their time limit if I'm not paying attention. Going to have to bring back the timer. :)

Oh, and I actually made up the cards on the computer, using a label template of some sort. They're just made out of cardstock, but have lasted 2 years so far with no problems.

I now have a couple of kiddos using non-software-based curriculum, so it's a little more work for me to keep up with this system for them. They don't have tests or quizzes in a couple of the subjects, so I just average their weekly grades in each subject and if it falls within the acceptable range, they get their card.

Several of my friends have commented on how much they liked our system, so just thought I'd put it out here to share.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Feast

Nearly Every Friday night, we have friends over for a big ol' potluck-style Feast.

I won't go into how it began here, but I wanted to share the menu for this week and a recipe or two.

Jan. 22, 2010 (Happy Birthday, Anna! :)

Pickle-Cream Cheese roll-ups
Tortilla Chips and dip

Baked Ham
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Home-canned Pear Halves

Gooey Cake (recipe below)
Chocolate-Chunk Brownies

Even though we always have tons of food, it's funny because the kids hardly eat anything--there are always at least 5 kids besides ours, if not more. Just too many fun people to talk to and play with!

Today we're planning on a really big crowd--I think we'll have about 38 people here, altogether. I'd better check the stock of paper plates! LOL

Oh, and in honor of my dear friend Anna's birthday, I'm sharing her fabulous recipe below.

Gooey Cake
1 Yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, barely melted
1 egg
1 8 oz package cream cheese
2 eggs
3 3/4 C. powdered sugar

Step One: Beat together butter and 1 egg. Add cake mix and stir until well blended. Press into 9x13 pan. Set aside.

Step Two: Beat together cream cheese and 2 eggs until blended. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread cream cheese mixture over crust in pan.

Step Three: Pop that pan into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until starting to brown. Let cool completely before serving.

I'm sure Anna would want me to tell you that you can use a lemon cake mix and add some lemon juice to the filling mixture to make lemon bars--one of her favorites!

I'm thinking about trying a chocolate version, myself. YUM!

Double Swagbucks Today!

Use your swagbucks toolbar (or just use to search for anything and everything today--you're sure to get several extra bucks in your account!

Get your Swagbucks HERE!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Long Day....but a good one.

I've received a lot of help on this road of motherhood.

My mother and in-laws both live nearby, so I've rarely had to hire a sitter over the years. I've always had someone to step up anytime I've needed it.

Now that my kids are starting to get older, and our lifestyle has changed to accommodate the larger family, I don't have to ask for help *quite* as much as I used to.

What's more, I now have a bit more mental energy to help others out when needed.

Today was one of those days. A dear cousin needed a sitter so she could see her doctor, and I was happy to help.

The day went fine--I gave my 1st grader the day off of school so that he could help entertain his nearly-4-year-old cousin. He was thrilled to 'help'--and have some extra time to play trains with his brothers, too.

Meanwhile, the rest of us hit the books as usual. Everything was going ok--just a few interruptions from the newcomer, who wasn't used to the routine around here. :)

Then Dh calls to say he won't be home for lunch.

This is where it starts getting hairy--for some reason, that little mental break in the day makes such a HUGE difference, for the children as well as for me. And when I don't get that break, my nerves get a bit more, um, *sensitive*. LOL

Later, another cousin needed his kids to come over for a bit. So we had 11 kiddos here this afternoon! I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, cooking dinner with the usual hungry-whiney-kid noises in the background when my dh arrived home. He helped me take the focus off of myself and directed my attention to something priceless.

Our girls and one of the visitors were playing dress-up. Nothing really new, this has been a favorite pastime of my girls' since they were itty bitty. But the twins are 10 now! They were in some crazy outfits pretending to be fairies. They came dancing down the stairs and filled us all in on their names and what their 'specialty' was. There was a water fairy, flower fairy, and a couple of others. So sweet!

I know these days will get fewer and farther between as time goes by, so I'm trying to enjoy them while I can. These really are sweet times.

SOOOO Behind!

It seems I just keep falling behind on things lately, and the more behind I am, the more I avoid those things.

The most notable casualty has been my coupon stash.

I've got 2 weeks worth of Sunday inserts cut out and quite a stack of IPs (internet printables) cut out, but none of them are sorted or filed, which renders them pretty much useless as far as helping out the grocery budget. Also, there's quite a backlog of coupons that I haven't even printed because I don't want to have a stack of them on my desk waiting to be cut and sorted. Pathetic, no?

Because of this behind-ness, I haven't been shopping (with coupons) for nearly 2 weeks. I'm going to work on catching up today. I'll be loading up my MP3 player with a few knitting podcasts, and powering through. I may even pay my oldest (in media cards--more on that later) to help me out.

Does anyone out there have a good system for this task? I love using coupons and the 'rush' of saving a ton of money at the register. I don't even mind sitting quietly and cutting them all out. But I dread the sorting and filing. Guess it's just another one of those things that just has to be done, so I might as well learn to like it, huh?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Swagbucks codes this week!

I hope you guys don't get sick of me talking about SwagBucks, but I really do love it and really encourage everyone I know to sign up. This week they're putting out some special codes to get 'free' swagbucks, at least one code per day. The 'catch' is, that you need to have their toolbar installed on your computer in order to get the codes.

Their toolbar simply has a search box, and a few buttons to lead you straight to information on the swagbucks website. There is also a 'message box' from The Swag Guy, where you sometimes get special swag codes to redeem on their homepage for a SB (swag buck) or two.

I installed their toolbar last summer and have never had a bit of a problem with popups, spyware, or anything of the sort, so I don't hesitate to recommend it to people.

My only complaint would be that after one of my FireFox updates, my SB toolbar went away for some reason, but I re-installed it on Internet Explorer just fine, so I think that was one of my computer's 'quirks'.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know how they could get some FREE swagbucks this week in addition to the ones you can earn by searching, referring friends, shopping through their site, etc.

Also, did you know that they have a program where you can send in your old cell phones for swagbucks? What are you going to do with those old, outdated cell phones that you've 'outgrown' and are just collecting dust somewhere? Why not turn them into swagbucks that you can redeem for gift cards or even PayPal CASH! I think it's just a great program, all-around. Check it out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Learn Spanish--FREE Site!

I have been loving THIS spanish learning site since last summer. We're going on a short trip to Mexico this spring and I've been using this site to brush up on my language skills. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all this site has to offer, but what I've seen has been mind-blowing. There are some ads and 'commercials' at the beginning of the instruction videos, but they're short and not bothersome. I think it is very appropriate for homeschools, and have had my kids do a few of the lessons so far. They loved it!

I've been using the 'learn spanish' section of this site, which contains videos, flashcards, and interactive learning activities to help you learn. They use a point system to help gauge your progress and 'compete' with others if you'd like. You have to earn a certain number of points from one lesson in order to complete it. Of course, you can choose your lessons based on your skill level and area of interest. There are also forums, a spanish/english dictionary and translation feature, and lots more!

Check it out here, at

Chuck is coming back--and here's a contest!

Have you watched Chuck? It's a fun TV show (and I don't watch much tv) with comedy, action/spy stuff, fun family time, and a little romance. I got sucked in after watching the pilot and have been in love with the show since.

Season 3 starts on Sunday at 9 eastern on NBC with a 2 hour premiere, then another episode at it's regular time Monday night. Be sure to tune in--we almost didn't get another season of this series, so watch it and tell all your friends to, as well. Of course, you can watch the full episodes later on or if you can't watch the original airing.

And the contest--go HERE and leave a comment for a fun prize!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kraft Sweepstakes--$44,000

Enter HERE every day for a chance to win a $44,000 home makeover, flat screen TVs, cookware and more. You need a UPC code from a participating product (appears to be nabisco/planters) to enter.