Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Herb Garden

I am so excited to be settled into our new home. A few weeks ago, I started some projects that I had been waiting to start. One of the projects was my herb garden. Our family loves using fresh herbs in our cooking, so I thought it would be fun to have the kids help me plant the seeds and watch them grow. Every day the girls help me water the plants. It teaches them some responsibility and gives me a little help as well.

After a few weeks, our herbs are off to a great start! We planted our favorite and most used herbs basil, oregano, and parsley, but we are planning to add to our garden since it has been a success.
Growing your own herbs saves money and it is a fun project for the kids. My herb garden Works for Me!


Share your money saving link tomorrow on Thrifty Thursday!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grateful For Apple Season!

Here in the Midwest, the apple orchards are filled with fun family activities and loads of apples ready to be picked. We are super excited because our favorite variety, Honeycrisp, just became available! Apples were a bit late here due to our unusually cool summer, but we are happy to help harvest them now!

Heading out to several local orchards is one of my favorite fall activites. I love the joy of choosing the perfect apples together. I love to watch my kids try to carry our haul to be weighed, each of us guessing what the total will be. I love the fresh donuts and cider available in the little shops. And, we have become huge fans of corn mazes. We have two on our list this year and we're just waiting for a rain-free weekend to tackle them. Of course, the best benefit is the huge supply of fresh apples that grace our home for weeks after our visits.

I am always grateful for opportunities to make wonderful memories with my family, and apple season is one of our favorite times of the year. On this Gratituesday, I am thankful for this time of year.


Monday, September 28, 2009

My Favorite Fruit Salad

Last week, I found my recipe for Seven Cup Salad. The name gives it away. It is literally one cup of seven items mixed together to make a wonderful fruit salad.

Seven Cup Salad

1 c. Coconut
1 c. Mandarin oranges
1 c. Chunk Pineapple
1 c. Sour cream
1 c. Cool whip, thawed
1 c. Pecans or walnuts
1 c. Miniature marshmallows

My kids and I love this salad. I hope you will give it a try! Enjoy Menu Plan Monday!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

My husband and I are big on safety in the house. The start of fall always reminds me that lots of families will soon be using gas for heating in their homes. We are strong believers in carbon monoxide detectors and have them in each bedroom and in the hallway. They are all plugged in to the wall with batteries as back up. There is no gas connected to our house, but our garage is connected to the house.

I hope you will consider a carbon monoxide detector to protect your family. You may want to consider taking them on your winter vacations just in case they aren’t provided in your cabin.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review

One of my favorite, recent book finds is What To Read When by Pam Allyn. This is a gem of a book that should be part of every household's library. Some of our favorite family time is spent reading together and this is a wonderful resource.

I believe that reading aloud to your children is one of the most powerful things that you can do. That time together and the bonding experience of sharing good literature cannot be topped.

From the back cover:

What To Read When is a celebration of storytelling, of new worlds to explore and the sense of endless possibility that parents and children can discover together through books.

Ms. Allyn gives recommendations of books by age and by subject matter. I hope that you will take the time to look thru this newer release.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thrifty Thursday-Freezer Chicken Mix

I am so excited to share this Thrifty Thursday with you. My family has been practicing low cost eating now for a while. We have found that sometimes it is cheaper if you find a sale on chicken breasts and stock up or buy them in bulk. My favorite is boneless skinless chicken breast. I know they actually cost more, but sometimes I find that I am in a rush during food preparation. At times, I have found bones in my chicken while eating if I buy whole chicken or bone-in chicken breasts. For this reason, it is actually worth buying boneless skinless chicken breasts for us. My children are very small and will choke easily if I accidently miss a small bone.

Our children start to get restless about an hour before dinner time. It is sometimes hard to keep them entertained and make dinner at the same time. So, I buy chicken breasts on sale and boil about 14 chicken breasts at one time. I got this idea from my Make-A-Mix book. It has a recipe for “Chicken Mix.” You can follow their recipe or boil chicken with the spices you like. After the chicken is boiled, pull the meat apart, wait for it to cool and then place it in labeled quart size freezer bags. If you need a quick meal like chicken tacos, chicken and dumplings, chicken casserole, etc. just thaw the chicken and you can have a quick meal in no time.
One of the best things about making a “chicken mix” is that you can save all of the chicken stock. I strain the chicken stock and put it in the refrigerator to let it cool. Then, skim any fat off the top and save the stock in labeled freezer bags. This is a great money saving technique as canned chicken stock is expensive.

Here is a list of suggestions to add to your boiling chicken for great chicken and tasty stock.

Chicken Mix

14 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Dried Basil
Salt and pepper

Stock up while chicken breasts are on sale and do some meal preparation ahead of time.


Do you have a tip to share for Thrifty Thursday? You can find details here. We hope you'll join us! Put your links below!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Favorite Kitchen Tool

This definitely Works For Me. I have mentioned that I am "vertically challenged" so I need this little plastic stool to reach the top shelves of my cupboards and pantry.

Even more important, this stool allows my kids to get in on the action in the kitchen. They love to help prepare meals, wash dishes and see what Mom is working on.

This is definitely one of the least expensive, but most used items in our kitchen!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ladies' Night Out

My husband and I recently started going to Sunday school at our new church. We are excited about all the activities our Sunday School Class has planned. There are many events throughout the year for families, a Christmas party for adults, and ladies night out once a month. Last week, I participated in my first ladies' night out. All the ladies go to a restaurant and have dinner together once a month. I really enjoyed ladies' night out. Sometimes, as mothers, we forget to go out and give ourselves a break. It is also a great time to make friends and talk with other mothers.

On this Gratituesday, I am grateful for ladies' night out. I would recommend that you try it with your church group or mom's group.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Cranberry Pecan Salad

I have a favorite salad that I eat almost EVERY DAY. Honestly, I can't get enough of this one. I wanted to share it with you for Menu Plan Monday in hopes that you will enjoy it, too.

My Favorite Salad
chopped romaine lettuce or baby spinach
chopped pecans or walnuts
crumbled, fat free Feta
fat-free balsamic dressing (this one if my fave)

Hope you enjoy!!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Take Photos Of The Everyday

I am the memory keeper in our home. It is very easy to focus on the "big" events of life and forget about the everyday. I try to remind myself on a regular basis to capture the little things that make our life special and our home our own.

Take some time to capture what makes your life unique. These little things will become wonderful jumping off points to recall your daily life years from now.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Simple Fun with the Kids

My husband and I are always thrilled when we have a day that we don’t have any plans. Life is so much more fun when we have some time with the kids without a million things to do. It is during these times that we find simple and fun things to do with the kids. I think that a lot of people are confused about what kids really want. I believe that kids just want love and attention from their parents. The love part is easy, but finding time to give the children your undivided attention is a little more challenging.

When my husband has the day off of work we like to go to the park and have a picnic, take a walk together, or go out for ice cream. It is during these simple fun activities that we can put all of our focus on talking to the kids and giving them our undivided attention. These are the moments that we will all love and remember the most.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thrifty Magazine Rack Makeover

I was recently able to make a very thrifty makeover. I was looking for something to hold our library books so that the kids have easy access to them. I wanted it to be functional, but to look nice, too.

I found this magazine rack at a local thrift store for $2.00! Even the sales clerk was shocked at the steal I got. It is solid wood, but the color wasn't going to work for me. I had a free paint sample at home just waiting to be used (the recent Glidden giveaway that is unfortunatly now closed, but how many of us have extra paint sitting around!). I lightly sanded the wood and gave it two
coats of green paint. I added some little felt stickers to the bottom so that it can slide on the wood floor. We think it makes a wonderful temporary home for our library finds!

What thrifty things do you have to share? You can find guidelines on how to participate here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rest Area Picnics

My family and I recently took a road trip to visit some relatives. Our trip was about six hours long. We were traveling with two toddlers and a dog in the middle of the summertime. This made stopping for food or to go to the restroom a challenge. We had to stop with the girls, but we could not leave our dog in the car. So, I packed a picnic lunch for us to stop at a rest area. It was a perfect day for a picnic with nice weather. We let the children eat and gave them some time to run around. The girls loved being able to stretch their legs and play for a little while to break-up the trip.

Rest area picnics are safest with at least two adults in the middle of the day when several other travelers are having picnics too. It is quicker, cheaper, and healthier for your kids then stopping for fast food. Rest area picnics Work for Me.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grateful For The Library

This Gratituesday, I wanted to discuss my love of our local library. We have moved many times, and one of the first things I always want to find is the local library.

We check out 30+ books per week. I love the fact that we can put books on hold and have them waiting for us. Inter-library loan is also a huge plus if your local branch doesn't have what you are searching for. Computer games, audio books, videos and music also find their way home with us often.

Many of the libraries we have lived near have story time activities, special events and classes we have taken advantage of as well.

The library introduces us to a new community and new friends. It also helps expand our love of books and media and helps our budget since it is free of charge!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

I shared last week that I was grateful for another birthday. This week, I want to give you my grandmother’s recipe for the coconut-pecan frosting on the cake that my husband made for my sister and I this year. The cake was wonderful!

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
1 c. evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
¼ lb. of butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
1- 1/3 cups coconut
1 c. chopped pecans

Combine milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter or margarine, and vanilla in a saucepan. Boil over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coconut and pecans and beat until cool and of spreading consistency.

You will love this great Menu Plan Monday frosting!!

Join us this week for Thrifty Thursday!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3 KJV

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The objective of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is to spotlight childhood cancer and survivorship issues related to childhood cancer nationally. I would like to take this time to remember and say a prayer for all of the children and families that deal with cancer every day.

Any money donated to help a family in need is a wonderful gift. Let’s remember these special children and their families this month and every month of the year.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Family Friday - Mini Golf

One of our favorite family activites is miniature golf. Here in the Midwest, it is definitely a seasonal activity, so we are trying to squeeze in a few more rounds before winter comes.

The added benefits to the game include family time, lots of laughs, and we can sneak in some educational moments as well. We have our children keep score and add up the totals at the end. Seeing who comes in first can make even math fun!

Does your family enjoy mini golf?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thrifty Thursday- Buying in Bulk

One of the things I love most about being a homemaker, other than the family, is balancing the budget. We run a pretty tight budget around our house when it comes to material things and supplies. I have found that we save a lot of money by buying in bulk.

The last time I went to
Costco, I saved money on bread, cereal, light bulbs, coffee, and milk. We have found that if you go to Costco and buy their generic brand you save the most money. Costco also puts out coupons about once a month for special deals. Here is my bulk buying, money saving techniques:

Bread is bought in double loaves. We freeze one loaf and use one loaf.

Milk is $1.00 cheaper per gallon than at our grocery store. We buy all that we will need in a 2 week time period. Some people freeze milk, but we do not.

Meat is bought in large trays, so we bring it home and repack it using our food saver.

Chicken- Fresh chicken is usually not cheaper. This is more of a convience item for us. The grocery store sales are much better. Frozen chicken is cheaper or about the same price as the grocery store.

Salmon is a great deal if you buy a large tray and repack it in portion sizes.

Cereal is cheaper unless you go to the grocery store with a handful of coupons.

#10 gallon cans of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes are much cheaper. I make my own spaghetti sauce with these and freeze it.

Oatmeal is usually cheaper in bulk.

Baking goods are usually cheaper- powdered sugar, brown sugar, flour, and chocolate chips. These are all easy to store and great if you buy them just before the holiday season. Then, you can use some and store some.

Spices are cheaper in bulk.

When you shop wholesale you will usually get a good deal. The best thing to do is compare prices and sale prices at your grocery to your wholesale store. You will probably find that some things are cheaper and some things are not worth the addition space that is needed to store your items. What items do you find are cheaper in wholesale stores?


What idea do you have to share for Thrifty Thursday? You can find details on how to participate here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paper Bag Books

I have a very thrifty craft idea that Works For Me. We often make paper bag books. The kids use them for gathering treasure on nature walks and as scrapbooks for special memories. They couldn't be easier, so I thought I would share the steps.

Begin with a few paper lunch bags. You will get two pages per bag since you will be folding them in half. We usually use four. Alternate the folded end left and right (photo 1). This will give you flaps and pockets on alternating sides once you assemble your book.

Fold all of your bags in half and punch holes on both sides of the fold, top and bottom (photo 2).

Run a piece of ribbon or string thru the holes to the outside of the bags (photo 3). Tie the ribbon in a knot to hold your book together.

Decorate your cover and interior pages (photo 4). A simple sheet of stickers from the craft store and some photos can make a fabulous scrapbook. Hand the kids a glue stick and let them loose! For a nature album, they can slide their finds into the pockets and folds and jot notes of the things they see during your walks.

I hope that you enjoy making your own paper bag albums!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Birthday

Today, I am so grateful for another birthday! My twin sister and I celebrated a big 30th birthday with family this past weekend. I always thought that I would be sad to kiss my 20s good-bye, but I am so glad to be where I am in my life with good friends, great family, and my own growing family.

It was especially great to spend time with my twin. Birthdays have always been a special time for us. She visits me or I visit her and we get to celebrate together. This Gratituesday, I am so grateful for a healthy and happy birthday with family. Life only gets better with time!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Oreo Cloud Dessert

For Menu Plan Monday, I wanted to share an oldie but a goodie. I had honestly forgotten how much my family loves this dessert until a friend brought it to a get-together recently. Now it will be a regular part of our rotation again.

Oreo Cloud Dessert

2 small packages white chocolate Instant Pudding
3 cups milk
1 thawed container Cool Whip
2+ sleeves crushed Oreos
Extra Oreos to garnish

Mix the pudding and milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Crush the Oreos. Stir in the cookies and the Cool Whip. This can be made the day before if you want the cookies to soften. I like to add an extra cookie to garnish. Who doesn't like extra Oreos?



Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 KJV

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Easy Suncatchers

Most craft stores have very inexpensive selections of suncatchers. My kids are always drawn to them, but there is a definite mess involved with the paints and the expense involved there as well. If paint comes in a kit with the suncatcher, we always seem to get the one that has dried out and hardened.

I was recently introduced to a much easier way to decorate suncatchers. Sharpie Markers! We have a nice selection of these already, but I had never thought to use them for this.

Hope this tip helps you with your crafty time!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Fun at the Playground

Our girls love to play outside. During the summer, we spend lots of time playing at the playground. We are very lucky that our town has many different playgrounds and most of them accommodate all age groups of children. I like to take the kids to the playground in the morning to run off some of their energy. Sometimes, we bring a snack or pack a picnic lunch. It’s also fun to meet and talk to other moms and kids that live in your area.

The playground is a great place to have free family fun.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thrifty Craft - Beads

A very thrifty craft idea is an inexpensive bag of plastic beads. They can be found at your local craft store and come in many designs and colors. You can string them on shoelaces, yarn, pipe cleaners or plastic laces. You can make jewelry, bookmarks, crazy animals or endless other possibilities. We tend to display our creations for a while and then remove the beads to make a new craft! Even more thrifty!!

What idea do you have to share for Thrifty Thursday? You can find details on how to participate here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Organizing the Nursery

When my mother-in-law arrived at our house for the birth of our first child, she brought with her the baby gift of organization! We were living in a 900 sq. ft. house, at the time, and hardly had room for ourselves much less all the baby stuff that we were accumulating quickly. We had a changing table with three drawers in it, but that was the only drawer space that we had. So, my mother-in-law bought us drawers that we could set up and use for all the small items that babies require. We put bibs, socks, onesies, wash rags, burp clothes, shoes, etc. in drawers that came in a set with our huggable hangers. The set also included a shoe rack to hang on the door for extra storage. While I was recovering from having the baby, my husband and his mother labeled all the drawers, washed all the clothes, and put them away.
Small drawer organization in the nursery Works for Me!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Grateful For Rainy Days

Our lives seem to become busier and busier as the kids get older. Friends come by to play, the phone is ringing, they have more outside activities. Because of this, I am always grateful for rainy days. We center ourselves around our family and stay inside. There are quiet, calmer moments spent playing games, crafting together and reading books. It brings our focus back to where I like it to be, within the walls of our own home.

This Gratituesday, I am reminded of how much I appreciate rainy days. They also make the sun that much sweeter when it returns.


Join us this week for Thrifty Thursday and share your money saving ideas!