Monday, August 31, 2009

Homemade Vegetable Soup

One of our favorite soups to make is my mom’s homemade vegetable soup. You can make it with fresh, frozen or canned veggies or use leftovers. Here is a sample recipe; we make this many ways depending on what is in our pantry and refrigerator/freezer.

Homemade Vegetable Soup Recipe

1 lb. of beef stew meat or some leftover beef roast
1 onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 potatoes chopped
1 1/2 cup uncooked pasta
1-2 cans beef broth
1 large can of tomato juice
2 cans Veg-All or frozen vegetables

Put beef, onion, potatoes, carrots, and pasta in a large pot, cover completely with water and cook until beef and potatoes are done. Cut up beef as desired and place back in pot. Add tomato juice, Veg-All, salt and pepper, and one can of beef broth. I usually taste the soup and add in additional beef broth as needed.

We like this soup with a grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwich. I hope you enjoy your Menu Plan Monday!

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Sunday!

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. Ephesians 5:28 KJV

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Car Window Punch

A few years ago for Christmas, I bought every driver in my family a car window punch. I had been meaning to buy one for myself for years, but had never put the effort into purchasing it. I figured that everyone should have a window punch, but like me, no one ever gets around to buying one.
Car window punches are used to break car windows in case of an emergency. One thing that scares me is getting into an unexpected amount of water and not being able to get out of the car. I am also afraid of having an accident and possibly going into a river or lake. We live around a lot of water, so these are possibilities even though people rarely think of them. I have two toddlers and it is awful to think that I could be trapped in a car and not be able to get them out.
I keep my car punch in the consol of my car. I am also planning to purchase one for my key ring. The car punch could also be used if a child is accidently locked in a car on a hot summer day. A car heats up very fast. I would not even blink before breaking the glass to get one of my girls out of the car.

I think that a car window punch is a great way to tell someone how much you care about them.

Hundreds of people die in their car each year from accidents or floods when they could have gotten out safely with preparation and a plan.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Let Kids Be Kids

With the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we often forget to stop and let kids be kids. Most of us remember summer days spent outdoors getting messy and dirty and loving every minute of it. Today's children often aren't given that chance. Time to explore nature. Time to learn cause and effect. Time to splash in the puddles until they have to stop to catch their breath.

I have to remind myself often to seize the moment with my family. Let them BE kids. Better yet, I plan to get out there with them during the next summer rain and surprise them. Splash each other! Get wet, messy and dirty. THOSE are the memories they will treasure most and it will make them better parents when their time comes.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thrifty Thursday- Economical Pizza Sauce

I have been using the Super Baby Food book since my first child was four months old. We went through the entire baby food making process and now I use it for the great recipes in the back of the book. One of my favorite recipes is for pizza sauce.

Pizza Seasoning

2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon of garlic powder

Add about a teaspoon of this mixture to each cup of the pizza sauce recipe below.

Economical Pizza Sauce

Mix a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce with a 5-ounce can of tomato paste and add flavorings above.
I love this recipe. It is super cheap compared to premade sauces and it is very easy to make. I use the sauce on our homemade pizzas. With cheese and toppings included, my guess is that we make a large pizza for under $2. Even if you use a premade crust, try this pizza sauce. It is very tasty!

A special thanks to Ruth Yaron, the author of Super Baby Food, who gave me permission to use this recipe on our blog.

What thrifty idea can you share today for Thrifty Thursday? Add them below! Details on how to participate can be found here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Closet Trick

I have a closet trick that really Works For Me. At the start of each season, I have to move my current season from the top rack to the bottom since I'm a bit vertically challenged. As I do this, I turn all of the hangers backward. As I wear an item and bring it back from the wash, I turn it the other way. This allows me to see what I truly wear. It helps me vary my daily wardrobe by reaching for items that I haven't worn, and it allows me to eliminate what I fail to choose. The items that are never turned are removed and donated.

I hope that this idea helps you discover what you really love and wear and weed out those items that don't speak to you anymore.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Family Dinners

My husband and I both grew up having dinner around the table with our families. We have started the same tradition in our family. Each night we look forward to gathering around the table with our little girls and sharing a home cooked meal, this is a time that we cherish. Our dinner conversations start after our two year old says the blessing. We each share things that we did during the day. Right now, we mostly talk about fun things that happened at the playground, what we learned today, and funny things that the girls did or said. I love these moments to talk to our children and learn what is going on in their little minds. We look forward to many family dinners to come and dream of the ever changing conversations as the kids grow up. This Gratituesday, I am so grateful for family dinners.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Potato Salad

I was recently given some extra Farmer's Market goodies by a neighbor who was going on vacation. Red-skinned potatoes and farm fresh eggs. I decided to make a super easy homemade potato salad and wanted to share our recipe for Menu Plan Monday.

Potato Salad

4 cups diced potatoes, scrubbed

6 eggs
1 c. light mayonaise
4 Tab. yellow mustard
2 Tab. apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Optional: chopped celery or onions

Boil the potatoes and eggs for approximately 20 minutes. Dice the potatoes and peel and dice the eggs. Mix together the mayonaise, mustard and vinegar. Add salt to taste. Dress the potatoes and eggs. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe and please feel free to share your variations!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Ephesians 5: 22 KJV

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Crossing Items Off Of Your List

We have been in our home for almost three years. Despite that, there were still several things remaining on our "To Do" list. We have recently begun earnestly attempting to cross those items off. We did a little furniture shuffling in our children's rooms to allow space for a reading chair for each of them since reading is our passion. We moved all of our exercise equipment into our spare room because commiting to fitness is high on my priority list. We also decided to spruce up our laundry room.

This green is my absolute favorite color! Since the laundry room is usually associated with a chore, why not change that image? My dear husband painted the room for me with my favorite shade (even though it took three coats to get the true depth of the color and despite the fact that painting doesn't rank up there on his list) and I am making it a space I will love to spend time in. It truly puts a smile on my face every time I walk in there now.

What items are on your "To Do" list that you have been putting off? Are there any you can tackle today? We're still working on our list, but our house is already more us with these minor, inexpensive changes.


Friday, August 21, 2009

The Aquarium

We are fortunate enough to live relatively close to an aquarium. Our kids love the aquarium and ask to go there all the time. Now that we are doing some preschool activities with our oldest daughter, I consider it a “field trip” to go to the aquarium. I try to use the time pointing out things as we walk through helping her learn.

An aquarium is a great place for kids to have fun and learn in a very family friendly atmosphere. They offer memberships that nearly pay for themselves in a few trips and invite members for special programs and events.

We hope to see you at the aquarium!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thrifty Thursday - Kids' Clothing

How does my son do this to every pair of his jeans? Honestly? It is amazing, but each pair starts to burst on the left side (whatever it is must be dominant on that side - in the beginning). Then, it spreads.

Since I am a Thrifty Mom, I make him wait it out. Once both knees are out of control, I store them away until warmer weather. Now that summer is here, we have cut the legs off and made him some great denim shorts! Not a new idea, but one that definitely works for mothers of little boys. We even go so far as to recycle the denim that we cut off for our craft projects.

What thrifty idea can you share today for Thrifty Thursday? Add them below! Details on how to participate can be found here.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I am working at making our house more eco-friendly. As I have said before, my favorite channel is Planet Green!
One of the best eco changes in our house is composting. We started composting last month and it has decreased our waste tremendously; therefore, decreasing the amount of methane gas that we emit into the atmosphere.

Before starting the composting process, we went to Lowe’s and bought a composter. A composter allows you to grow aerobic, as opposed to anaerobic, bacteria by letting air into the composter. We put or composter next to our house and have not been bothered by extra bugs or smells. I’ll share a few composting tips that I have learned with you.

Composting Tips

How to Compost
1. Place the Composter in the sun to accelerate the speed of composting.
2. Make sure your compost is kept moisturized.

Things You Can Compost
Dry grass
Garden Plants
Soft plant stems
Fruit and vegetable matter
Egg shells (crushed)
Tea bags, coffee grounds

Things You CANNOT Compost
Meat, fats, bones, fish
Dairy products
Cooking Oil

Composting is easy once you get into the habit of it. It helps to save the environment and will supply nutrient rich dirt for next year’s garden. Composting Works For Me!

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Packing For Kids

Today, I wanted to discuss packing for kids. As our kids have grown, they want more independence when it comes to packing for trips. They love to make their own lists of what they would like to bring and to pick out their clothes. To allow them to be even more independent, I like to pack their clothes by outfit.

We go thru out schedule for our trip and decide what we need to pack for each day. For our oldest, we fold things neatly and she can choose the items she needs for each day. For our son, I have found a fantastic solution that allows him to do things more on his own. I got some large gallon, slider bags and we keep them in his suitcase. We choose his outfit for each day (including socks and underwear) and I put each day's clothing in a bag. We neatly place these individual bags into his suitcase in reverse order so that the first day is on the top. He can choose a "package" each morning and get dressed all by himself!

Also in their suitcases are a smaller bag for their toiletries and a plastic trash bag that they can place their dirty clothes in at the end of the day. At the end of the trip, all of the bags go back into the suitcase waiting for our next adventure!

I love fostering independence in my children. This simple trick has allowed them to feel in control away from home and I love to see them gaining that confidence in themselves. Please feel free to share your favorite tricks and tips for packing for your children!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Fried Shrimp Recipe

I love living by the ocean. Of the many benefits, you can get fresh seafood any time you want it. The other day, our friends were coming into town, so I stopped by the local seafood market to pick up some fresh shrimp. We had boiled and fried shrimp for dinner that night. I used my mom’s recipe.

Fried Shrimp

Crushed saltine crackers
Vegetable oil

Rinse and pat dry peeled and deveined shrimp. Coat with flour, dip in egg, and roll in crushed saltine crackers (add salt and pepper to crackers as desired). Place shrimp in a hot pan of vegetable oil. Cook until pink then turn.

I hope you enjoy this delicious Menu Plan Monday recipe!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Sunday!

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:5-6

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Box Tops for Education

Over the last year, I have been saving Box Tops for Education. My kids are not in school yet, but I think it is a good program to start saving for. Box Tops for Education is a program to help schools buy computers, books, or playground equipment that they need. As consumers, we buy many products that have a Box Top coupon on them. We should all be saving these coupons for our children’s schools. The labels come on diapers, food, Ziploc bags, and others. Click here to view a complete list of what products have a Box Top coupon.

As a parent, I am thrilled to do all that I can to make our children’s educations better. Please join me in cutting off these coupons. If you do not have children in school you can save the coupons and take them to a school near you. I’m sure they would appreciate it!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Family Art Time

One of our favorite family activities is visiting local gardens and parks. I often take a sketchbook and pencils with me when we go. After watching me, my children will now often join me with their sketchbooks!

Your local craft store will have inexpensive books and multi packs of pencils. It is a wonderful way to allow children to stop and really look at the details in the world around them. Remember to have them sign and date their work. It is wonderful to watch their skills grow and improve.

I hope that you'll consider blending art and nature with your family.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thrifty Thursday-Hand Push Reel Mower

We have been waiting a few years to have a yard of our own again. Recently, we moved into a house that has a small yard. My husband is the grass mower in our family and he decided to try a hand push reel mower. The mower is perfect for our yard. It takes my husband about 30 minutes to mow the entire lawn. He also gets his exercise and we will save money on his gym membership! We have also gotten to know our new neighbors . They have all came out of their houses to offer my husband to use their mowers!
Not only does the mower not need gasoline, but it cuts down on noise pollution in the neighborhood. This brand of mower has excellent reviews on-line and by my husband. It's light-weight and cuts a wide strip at 18". While still possible, accidents are less likely with this mower.

If you have a small yard, you should look into buying a hand push reel lawn mower. You will save money on the cost of the mower, the cost of gas, and you will help preserve the environment.


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, August 12, 2009

Healthy Eating Habits

As our kids have grown, they have become more responsible for their food choices. They often eat at friends' homes and have snack choices at school. We have worked hard to teach them healthy eating habits and they usually make wise choices.

One of the funniest examples came from our daughter. We use natural peanut butter at our home. She was at a friend's home and was offered a sandwich at lunchtime. They served her a peanut butter that contained sugar and she didn't like it! They were so surprised! It is true that tastes can change and they learn to like what you serve on a regular basis.

It definitely Works For Me, and I would love to hear how you have taught your kids healthy eating habits.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Home Preschool

Welcome to Gratituesday! Today, I am thinking about how truly grateful I am that I can take a break from my career and raise my children. We have a 2 ½ year old, 16 month old, and a new baby on the way. Life can be a little busy these days, but my husband and I are soaking up all the fun that comes with raising a young family.

Last week, I started doing a home preschool program with my oldest child. I was a little nervous at first because I am not a trained teacher, but I soon realized that there is a lot of material on the internet to help. I also have the added bonus help of having two sister-in-laws that are teachers and available to give me tips.

My daughter knows how to say her abc’s, she can count to 30, and knows her colors. So, we started with learning how to recognize the upper case and lower case letters using fun coloring worksheets. She is having fun learning at home.

This Gratituedsay, I am thankful to be a stay-at-home mom and a home preschool mom! If you have any tips on what material to use for home preschool, I would love suggestions.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Catalina Chicken Recipe

For Menu Plan Monday, I wanted to share one of our favorite recipes. It has been a huge hit with everyone we have shared it with and I hope that will include you!

Catalina Chicken

1 lb. chicken, diced
1 c. Light Catalina French Dressing
1/3 c. soy sauce
minced garlic to taste

Cook the diced chicken until it is done thru. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and add to the diced chicken. Cook until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens slightly.

We enjoy this with macaroni and cheese and a small salad. It is slightly sweet and very tender. I hope you love it as much as we do!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy Sunday!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Teaching Responsibility With Pets

We have a dog and our children learn a lot of responsibility by being charged with taking care of her. They learn that they need to be timely with her feedings, remember to fill her water bowl, play with her, walk her and give her lots of love.

We think it has greatly helped them learn to care for others around them.

What lessons have your children learned from having pets?


Friday, August 7, 2009

Easy Daysies Magnet Set Giveaway Winner!

The winner has been chosen for our Easy Daysies Magnet Giveaway. Becky, you're our winner! You'll be contacted soon to get your mailing information!

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Ironing 101

My husband recently finished his training and just started what we call his “real job.” For years, I have not ironed his clothes because he wore a long coat to work every day. Who wants to do all of that work if he is just going to throw on a coat and get everything wrinkled? Last month, I finally gave in and got out the rusty old ironing board. It took a lot of strength to look at all of those wrinkled shirts and know how much work I had cut out for myself. I soon realized that it wasn’t just my ironing board that was rusty. I found that I really did not know what I was doing. For this reason, I have done some research and thought I would share what I learned about ironing with you.

Ironing Tips

1. Adjust the height of your board to the correct height. The board should be at the level of your hips so that you are not slouching. Be sure that you can place your palms on the board without bending your knees.
2. Use the correct temperature settings by checking the labels for the manufacturer’s suggestions. Here are a few rules: for manmade fabrics (such as acetate and acrylic) use the coolest setting. For silk and wool, use a warm setting. Iron cotton and linen on a hot setting.
3. Iron in order. First, iron all parts that have a double-thickness (ties, bows, sleeves, pockets, and collars). They will wrinkle less quickly than larger and thinner areas like shirt backs. For button-down shirts, iron the reverse side of the button row to give it a smoother line. Iron the backside of a shirt collar first and then the front for less wrinkling. For pockets and cuffs, do the backside first. Then, iron in a slow up and down pattern on major areas, pressing harder on the forward motion than the return one. Do not move in circles because it stretches the fabric. Do not press too hard, and let the heat and steam do the work.
4. Ironing works best on slightly damp clothes- if they are too dry you may scorch and yellow your garments. Keep a spray bottle of water at hand for spot dampening.
5. If your fabric is lined, turn it inside out and iron the lining first.
6. For any fabric that is hard to iron like silks, rayons, velvets, and corduroys try ironing them inside out.
7. For ruffles or gathers, hang the garment up and use a vertical burst of steam from your iron or hand steamer.
8. Hang clothes up immediately when the dryer shuts off, the clothes will still be warm and many of the wrinkles will fall out.

I hope these tips help you to become a better ironer. Honestly, I need a lot of practice!

We are currently hosting a wonderful giveaway that will make Back To School even easier! Enter for your chance to win an Easy Daysies magnet set here. They are a great visual reminder to help your kids organize their day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Altering Bargain Clothing

When we find a good clothing deal, we try to snag it. I purchase up to one size ahead for my kids. We often find great deals at end-of-season sales, resale shops and Goodwill. I will not let a slight alteration or a missing button stop me from snagging a great deal! If you find an item in a store with an imperfection, you can often get an even greater discount.

I have learned to do minor alterations, but I tend to sew by hand. I can hem. I can reattach buttons. I can put a tuck in the waistband of a skirt or pair of pants to tighten the fit. We also recently found this tank top for our daughter. We got it for an incredible deal, but it was a little low in the front. We are strict about modesty with her, so we needed to make an alteration. I chose to sew the straps together in the back, making a sort of X on the back of the tank. Now, it is a perfect fit, and a one-of-a-kind item!

If you're able to complete simple alterations, don't forget to look at what a garment CAN be when you find a good deal!

Share your Thrifty Thursday tips with us! Details on how to join can be found here. And, don't forget to enter our current giveaway from Easy Daysies here.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Expanding Literature

I try to find every opportunity to expand our literature lessons and make the books come to life for my kids. Today, I thought I would tell you about what Works For Me.

We recently decided to work thru the Magic Tree House series. This is the second time thru for our oldest, but the youngest hasn't heard them yet. We began with the first and I chose to make it a unit. The first book is Dinosaurs Before Dark. I read it aloud while they worked with Legos and built their own house. When we were finished, we put together a large dinosaur floor puzzle together. I had also found some dinosaur poem prompts online and some cards that we could use for a Concentration type game. After we completed these, they wanted to build their own treehouse.

They put this together with zero guidance from me. I'm a proud mama, but I think its pretty fantastic! It became the centerpiece of the rest of the book series for us. A lot of imaginative play revolved around it and we have truly enjoyed making each book in the series come to life for us.

I hope this helps you look at the opportunity to expand your literature selections with your children. Look at the games you have, check online resources and think of imaginative play opportunities. Please let me know if this sparks some fun ideas for you and your children!


We are currently hosting a wonderful giveaway that will make Back To School even easier! Enter for your chance to win an Easy Daysies magnet set here. They are a great visual reminder to help your kids organize their day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Serving Others

I am so excited to be participating in Gratituesday this week! There are so many things that I am grateful for. Today, I am thinking about how grateful I am that the Lord opens doors for my family to serve.

We have had many serving opportunities through our church. One of my favorite serving opportunities was when our church went to an underprivileged community and put on a “day of fun” for the children and residents. This was the 3rd year for this event for our church, but the first time that my family was able to participate. Our whole family went to the event including our two toddlers. The little ones were there to make friends and play with all the kids. It was a great opportunity for our kids to learn at an early age to serve others.

The preparation began weeks in advance. The church members were asked to donate stuffed animals and books for the children. Each child at the event received one of each. We brought with us games and inflatable bounce houses. My job was to make snow cones and popcorn. Others served hot dogs and lemonade. Manicures were available for the teenage girls. This year, we had a wonderful turn out. In two hours, we served 400 snow cones and at least that many hotdogs. It was awesome to see the smiling faces of so many children having fun!

I am so grateful for opportunities to serve.


Enter our Easy Daysies giveaway here!

Please join us on Thursday for Thrifty Thursday! Link your thrifty ideas here and share with everyone!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Easy Daysies Magnet Set Giveaway! - CLOSED

This is definitely a giveaway you don't want to miss!

One lucky reader will receive magnet set of their choice from Easy Daysies! We were very happy when Easy Daysies asked us to do a review and giveaway. This product fits perfectly with our lifestyles and they will work so well in any home. You can read our full review here.

To enter, you must first post a comment below telling us which magnet set you would choose from the selection here. We're confident you can't go wrong with the great choices available. To earn additional entries: 1. Follow Brilliant Moms on Twitter, tweet about the giveaway and post the link to your message in the comments here.2. Become a Facebook Fan of Brilliant Moms and come back and let us know. 3. Post a link to the giveaway on your blog and direct us to the entry in our comments.Remember to post entries in the comments below. They will not be counted if left in other comment sections. Entries will be accepted thru 5pm EST on Friday 8/7/09. At that time, a Random Number Generator will be used to choose a winner! Easy Daysies will then contact you for your shipping information so they can send their wonderful prize on its way to your door! Be sure your profile is set to public or leave your email address. If we have no way to contact you, another name will be drawn.

Good luck!!

Be sure to join us later this week for our new feature: Thrifty Thursday. Link up your blog posts sharing your best thrifty ideas!

Strawberry Angel Food Cake Dessert

One of our favorite desserts is a recipe that my mom made a lot when I was growing up. This year we were able to pick fresh strawberries which made it all the better.

Strawberry Angel Food Cake Dessert

Approx. 30 strawberries
2 – 8 oz strawberry glaze
1 Angel food cake
8 oz cream cheese
1 large cool whip
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Crumble ¾ of the angel food cake up into the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch pan. Blend together cream cheese, cool whip, and confectioner’s sugar. Spoon mixture evenly over angel food cake. Dice strawberries, mix them with glaze, and spoon evenly over the top.

This is a very easy and delicious Menu Plan Monday dessert to make. Enjoy!

Please join us later this week for our new feature: Thrifty Thursday! Link up your blog posts sharing your favorite money saving ideas!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 KJV

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bath Time Art

Our girls love to take a bath. We have lots of bath toys, but they like to spend their bath time drawing on the walls and tub.

A while ago, I bought the girls Crayola Bathtub Crayons. The crayons are fun for drawing and wash off easily. They have even made a crayon holder to help you keep your bathtub organized. Bathtub crayons are a fun way to incorporate art into the kid’s daily activities. My husband and I usually help our kids be creative and sometimes add in our own artwork!

If you have trouble getting your little ones to enjoy a bath, try bathtub crayons and get their little creative minds working.