Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game Review - Double Shutter

I have a confession to make. I bought this game for my children, but I am currently obsessed with it myself. I have spent quite a bit of time attempting to beat it and it is addictive!
The game is called Double Shutter. The manufacturer states: Roll two dice, add the dots and find the best combination of numbers to shut two rows of nine tiles. Don’t touch a tile on the second row unless you have already shut the tile in front of it. Very few can shut all the tiles and close the super box.

I will agree with them. I've played countless games and have only beaten it once. My kids also enjoy the game and tend to play as a team so far. It is fun to watch them celebrate when they get to the second row and the agony of defeat when their last roll brings them the wrong number.
I love when an educational game comes in disguise! I think you and your family will enjoy this game and recommend you give it a try.
-Julie

Friday, October 30, 2009

Retirement Home Trick-or-Treating


The mom’s group that we recently joined had a Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treating event at a retirement home. We haven’t been involved with this mom’s group for long, so I did not know what to expect. All the kid’s dressed up and went around the common areas of the retirement/nursing home where the residents were eagerly waiting to give the children candy. Our children were thrilled to see the residents and the residents were just as thrilled to see the children. After trick-or-treating, some of the residents came to a small Halloween party that was held for the kids. The children enjoyed visiting with the residents and each other. This is a great activity to set up with your mom’s group and a local retirement home. The children and the residents will look forward to this event every year. It was a blessing to me to see all the smiles on everyone’s face.


-Robin

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thrifty Thursday - Frugal Toy

We recently acquired one of our most frugal fun finds. We got giant bouncy balls for the kids. They were 50 cents each and it has been one of the best dollars I've spent in a long time. They are mandated as outside toys, but the kids and the dog have been chasing these for hours! We've also used them to create other games using hopscotch squares and some very creative rules.

What are your favorite thrifty games? We would love for you to link that, or any other great thrifty ideas below.

Look here to see how to join Thrifty Thursday.

-Julie

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Picnics


Over the weekend, we were lucky enough to have really nice weather. So, we made some hot dogs and headed to the beach for what will probably be our last picnic this year. Our girls love picnics, so we try to go as often as we can. Usually, we go to parks so that they can play on the swings and slides when they are finished eating.


Fall is a great time of year for a picnic. The weather is perfect and the bugs are not biting. Next year, we hope to head north for a fall picnic and enjoy some of the beautiful fall foliage. Fall picnics work for me!


-Robin

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grateful For Time To Play

On this GratiTuesday, I'm reminded of how grateful I am when we have time to play. With back to school and all of the activities involved, we are often so busy. I like when we take time to step away from all of that and just play together. Whether we are working on a craft, playing a board game or just dancing around to music, it helps us reconnect.

I have been pushing myself to remember to take this time for me and for my kids.

-Julie

Monday, October 26, 2009

Glazed Peanut Butter Bars


From time to time, I have thought about a delicious cookie that we used to have for school lunch during elementary school. The other day, I was flipping though one of my mom’s Taste of Home Cookbooks and stumbled upon the recipe for the wonderful cookie that I used to love…. Glazed Peanut Butter Bars. We decided to try the recipe in our kitchen and it was just as wonderful as I remember. I hope you will add the Glazed Peanut Butter Bar recipe to your Menu Plan Monday!


-Robin

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Sunday!


You have reavealed the paths of life to me; You will fill me with gladness in Your presence. Acts 2:28

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


The month of October is Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness month. This year, breast cancer has hit close to home for me. My aunt was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. I am grateful to say, she has come through treatments and is in remission.

I am so thankful for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and all of the work that is put in to help prevent and cure breast cancer. I have been giving donations for the last couple of years and am always treated with return address labels and cards, which I use, to continue to spread the word about breast cancer awareness. This month, I hope you will be encouraged to give a donation or participate in an event.


Also, don’t forget to do your monthly self exam and have your mammogram!


-Robin

Friday, October 23, 2009

Family Traditions - Yearly Photos

There are a few places we visit around the same time each year. I make a point to take photos of my children in the same spot each time. It is so fun to compare them and see how much they are growing. Just like those first day of school photos, they mark the passage of time. I think it will be fun to compile them into their own photo album someday.

Make sure to get yourself into those family shots now and then, too. Your kids will be glad you did.

-Julie

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Unfinished Wood Furniture


I have wanted a little wooden table and chairs for my girls for a long time. Now, we finally have the room to put it. I looked at many stores, but could never find the one that I wanted or the one that we could afford. Then, I found the perfect table and chairs at an unfinished wood furniture store. The table has four drawers and four chairs. It is perfect for our growing family!


I have never bought unfinished wood furniture before, but it is great because you can stain or paint the wood the color you want. We decided to stain and coat our furniture to prevent crayon marks. If you are an artist, you could decorate it with your artwork.


The girls love their new table and sit at it every day for crafts, coloring, and pretend play. I would recommend unfinished wood furniture for a cheap and fun way to do kid’s furniture.



-Robin


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, October 21, 2009

My Cleaning Schedule Works For Me

Aside from switching to all natural cleaners in our household, we have also instituted a weekly cleaning schedule that Works and keeps our home running smoothly. We try to do a quick tidy of our major clutter areas each evening after dinner and I have guidelines I follow for the deeper cleaning of the house. Deep cleaning for me includes dusting, vacuuming, wiping baseboards and clutter control. We have a three story home, so I have divided it up into areas that I tackle each day. The kids often help me with this, but my routine is as follows:

Monday - Kitchen Deep Clean (including mopping floors) and Bedrooms

Tuesday - Main Floor cleaning (our main living spaces)

Wednesday - Bathrooms and a Kitchen Touch-Up

Thursday - Basement (our "play" and craft space)

Friday - Kitchen and Bathroom Touch-Ups

We take the weekends off as family time and this schedule has completely freed us up to do that. If we have a mess on an off day, we do tackle it, but this schedule keeps us "company ready" and very proud of our space.

I hope you can adapt this to work for your home or that you'll share what Works for You!

-Julie

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grateful for Grandparent Time


My husband and I really value grandparent time with our children and parents. It is a true blessing to see our children playing with our parents and fun to hear them talk about how great they are when they are not visiting. Recently, our children have spent a lot of quality time with all of their grandparents, doing fun activities and making memories.


We are so blessed to have many special moments together with of our loved ones. I hope everyone cherishes their time with family. On this Gratituesday, I am grateful for grandparent time!


-Robin


Monday, October 19, 2009

No Bake Cookies

Whenever cooler weather arrives, I get an unexplained craving for No Bake Cookies. I am always challenged with these cookies because I have about a 50% success rate as far as them setting up correctly. But, I'm not going to lie, I will just eat it with a spoon if it doesn't firm up!

For Menu Plan Monday, I thought I would tempt you with these as well.




No Bake Cookies

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups oats
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine milk, butter, cocoa and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, oats and vanilla. Spoon onto wax paper and let cool.


Do you have variations on this recipe? Do you ever have No Bake Cookie failures? I would love to hear that I'm not alone!

-Julie

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Sunday!


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time For Myself

Most of my activities revolve around my kids, but I know that I need to take time for myself now and then. I like to be nearby when the kids play, but I often give them the freedom to play on their own. I love to take a book or magazine and soak up some sun and take in the fresh air while they play outside. I can read a blog or two on the laptop while they are battling on a video game. I can work a crossword while helping them with homework.

Do you have ways you relieve the stress of the day and reconnect with what you love? I believe its important and we all win when I take that time.

-Julie

Friday, October 16, 2009

Baking with the Kids


My husband and I love to bake and cook. Recently, we have had fun incorporating our girls into the baking fun. Our kids are still very young, but they love to help! The other day they helped my husband make homemade bread and helped me make some cookies. Baking has become one of their favorite activities. It’s wonderful to have our girls share in one of our favorite hobbies.


-Robin
Be sure to enter the Muvee Reveal Giveaway here on our blog! The giveaway ends today!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thrifty Craft - Paint A Rock

For the ultimate in frugal crafting, paint a rock!

My kids love to play with water and a recent day led them to "wash" some rocks they found. Since they were now clean, I brought out some non-toxic acrylic paints and let them paint them up. We got everything from animals to food to abstract designs. We had a wonderful afternoon together laughing and creating.

See what images you can see in your rocks!

What are your favorite thrifty craft projects? Link them, or any other helpful hints, below. You can see how to participate in Thrifty Thursday by taking a look here.

-Julie

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Celebrating Fall




It is so nice to have our two little girls to celebrate fall with us. So far this year, we have had lots of fun! Last week, we went to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin. Over the weekend, we made a jack-o-lantern and caramel apples.








After we carved the pumpkin, we baked and pureed the some of the pulp to make a yummy pumpkin gooey butter cake. Then, we skillet toasted the pumpkin seeds for an extra treat. The girls have been coloring in their Halloween coloring books and we have been reading our favorite Halloween book, The Pumpkin Patch Parable. This fall, it has been so much fun celebrating the change of the season. I hope you are enjoying your fall as well. Celebrating fall works for me!


-Robin


Be sure to enter the Muvee Reveal Giveaway here on our blog!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grateful For Knitting

I am a novice knitter. I will be honest and say that I only know how to do one thing - make scarves. Luckily, my kids are both super excited for this winter to come so that they can wear my creations. They keep picking new colors they would like and I am happy to oblige with my limited skills.

I am grateful for a relaxing hobby that I am just beginning to explore. I am also grateful that my kids are so supportive and can't wait to see them wearing their new items.

Motherhood brings so many wonderful moments and, on this Gratituesday, I am cherishing this one.

-Julie

Be sure to enter the Muvee Reveal Giveaway here on our blog!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Muvee Reveal Review and Giveaway! - CLOSED


I was thrilled when Muvee Reveal contacted us to do a review and giveaway! I downloaded the program onto my computer and was shocked at how easy it was to transfer my digital photos into a wonderful home move with music. Muvee Reveal offers a wide variety of styles to make each home movie unique. The steps are simple just add photos, video and favorite music and select a style. The video editing software does everything for you and even syncs your movie to the beat of the music. I think this video editing software is awesome and I have recommended it to all of my friends. The videos can also be uploaded to www.shwup.com and sent out via e-mail or placed on facebook to show all of your friends!


Muvee Reveal has been kind enough to giveaway their video editing software to one of our lucky readers. To enter, you must first post a comment below telling us what you would love most about the video editing software http://www.muvee.com/

To earn additional entries:


1.. Follow Brilliant Moms , tweet about the giveaway and post the link to your message in the comments here.

2. Become a Facebook Fan of Brilliant Moms and/or Muvee Reveal 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 10/16/09. At that time, a Random Number Generator will be used to choose a winner! We will then contact you for your shipping information so Muvee Reveal can send their wonderful prize package 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!!

video

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake


Last week, we went to the pumpkin patch to pick our pumpkin. Over the weekend, we carved the pumpkin with our girls and made a yummy Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake from Paula Deen's recipe. The cake was moist and delicious. It was the best and easiest pumpkin dessert I have ever made.
We used fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin. Fresh pumpkin pulp can be baked on 350 degrees for 30 minutes then pureed. Measure 15 oz. of pureed pumpkin for this recipe.


We enjoyed this dessert with some fresh whipped cream.


I hope you will try this great Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake recipe for your Menu Plan Monday!
Please note that we have a Muvee Reveal Giveaway going on this week! Be sure to enter!


-Robin

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy Sunday!


If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pumpkin Patch


Fall is one of our favorite times of the year. We always look forward to going to the pumpkin patch and picking out the perfect pumpkin! We enjoy carving the pumpkin together, baking the seeds, and then using some of the pulp to make some sweet pumpkin treats.


Going to the pumpkin farm to pick out a pumpkin with your kids is a great way to spend time together.


I’ll share some of our favorite pumpkin recipes with you after we carve our pumpkin!


-Robin

Friday, October 9, 2009

Planning The Unexpected

It may sound odd to PLAN something unexpected, but I take great joy in doing this with my kids. We love to plan simple surprises for them. They are so happy when we tell them to hop into the car and decide not to give away where we're going. It may be heading to a local pool, going to a movie, heading out on a geocache adventure or to grab some ice cream. My husband and I take care of the details and they get to go along for the ride. They are always excited and love guessing what our destination might be.

If you've never tried this, or haven't done so recently, treat your kids to the unexpected! They'll thank you for it!

-Julie

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Bulk Basic Red Sauce


Welcome to Thrifty Thursday!


I love making bulk pasta sauce and storing it in my freezer until I need it. Years ago when I started shopping at Costco, I used to pass by the isle of #10 cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste and wonder who would need those big cans. Then, I found a recipe using these items to make bulk pasta sauce. You can make 40 cups or 2 ½ gallons of pasta sauce for around $8. This is a huge savings from store bought pasta sauce! The recipe that I use is from one of my favorite cookbooks called Fix, Freeze, and Feast. It can be altered in any way your family likes.


Basic Red Sauce


1 (111-oz) can tomato paste halved
8 cups hot water
½ cup dried parsley
½ minced onion
¼ cup minced garlic (about 36 cloves)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 (106-oz) can tomato sauce
1 (102-oz) can diced tomatoes
Several one gallon and quart size freezer bags



-Freeze the other half of the tomato paste and use it next time


Mix tomato paste and hot water in a large stockpot until smooth. Stir in parsley, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, basil, oregano, and thyme. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and mix well. DO NOT COOK. Measure the sauce into appropriate portions for immediate use. Divide remaining sauce evenly among freezer bags, seal, and label each bag with the amount of sauce inside and freeze.


*I put a chopping board on one of my freezer shelves and lay the bags flat to save space. If you do not use something hard and flat, the sauce will freeze through the shelf if you have a wire rack shelf.

Remove chopping board after the sauce is frozen.


To use:


Completely thaw one bag in the refrigerator.
Use in a recipe calling for tomato sauce, or simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat for 20 minutes and pour over your favorite pasta.
To use in a meat sauce, brown and drain 1 pound lean ground beef for every 8 cups of sauce; add cooked beef to sauce and gently reheat.



This is a great frugal pasta sauce that is nice to have on hand for a quick meal!

A special thanks to Lindsay, one of the authors of Fix, Freeze, and Feast, for allowing us to share your great recipe!

-Robin


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, October 7, 2009

Cleaning Out The Closets - Resale Shop Tips

With the change of seasons, I clean out my kids' closets and purge things that no longer fit. I do take out EVERYTHING and use that time to vacuum the floor of the closet and wipe down the shelves. Then, we get tough about what goes back in. Since I have a girl and a boy, I can't hand items down from one child to the next. I take advantage of local consignment shops to make a bit of money from our used clothing.

After reselling clothes for a few years, I have some tips that might help someone who is just getting started.

1. Check very carefully for stains, rips or tears. If these are present, your item might not be accepted at all, or you will get a low dollar amount for them. See if you can remove any stains that you find before taking them for inspection.

2. Put "outfit" or coordinating pieces together. We have some Gymboree items and I make sure to place them together in the basket. Outfits will often sell better than individual pieces.

3. Focus on recent purchases. If you have handed down your items thru many children, resale might not be a good option for you. Resale shops are looking for current styles in good condition. If your items are more than three years old, you might want to consider selling them privately.

4. Launder your items. A fresh wash and neat folding will highlight your pieces. Compare those with someone else's items which were crammed into dresser drawers for six months and you will be the one to get top dollar.

5. Go early in the season. Resale shops are looking for good inventory early in the season to draw in the most shoppers. Call your local shops and see when they start accepting items. Be there early!

6. Count your items. You will likely need to leave your basket at the store and give them time to sort thru your items. I do a count of what is in the basket and label the outside with my name and what is inside.

7. Learn the store's policies. One local shop purchases my items directly. Another hangs the pieces and we split the sale price 60/40 if it sells. There are advantages to both, so see what is available in your area.

8. Sell to more than one shop. I have a shop I go to with my entire inventory. After they make their choices, I take the remainder to a second shop. I am usually able to sell almost all of my items and this year, I made enough to stock the back to school wardrobes of both of my children.

Try these tips if you have local resale shops to earn a little cash on your used items. It definitely Works For Me!

-Julie

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunday Morning Fellowship


I love that our Sunday School class gets together for snacks and fellowships once a month before class begins. This time give us a chance to get to know one another better and get to know any new members of our class. Last Sunday, my husband and I brought cantaloupe wrapped pursuitto to share with the class. It was yummy and easy to make. The salty taste of the pursuitto went very well with the sweet taste of cantaloupe. I would encourage all Sunday School classes to start a fellowship Sunday. This Gratituesday, I am grateful for Sunday morning fellowship.
This post is also linked to Tempt My Tummy Tueday!
-Robin
Join us on Thursday for Thrifty Thursday!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

We have a new love in our house. These little gems disappeared faster than anything I've ever baked before. I completely altered this recipe on my own, so I was very impressed with my culinary skills! I thought I would share our new favorite treat for Menu Plan Monday.







Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pancake mix
(you can substitute 3/4 c. whole wheat flour plus 1 tsp baking soda)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large, ripe bananas
1/4 c white sugar
1 egg
1/3 c natural applesauce
Optional: 1/2 c chocolate chips and/or 1/2 c old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray. Sift together dry ingredients, set aside. Combine bananas, sugar, egg and applesauce in a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients, leaving batter slightly lumpy. Stir in chocolate chips and/or oats. Spoon into muffin pan. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, large muffins for 20 to 25 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly touched when done.




We are partial to these with chocolate chips and love them with and without the addition of the oats. They are sweet and very moist. I only had whole wheat pancake mix on hand, so that is what I used. If you're more prepared and have the flour, be sure to add some baking soda (it is already incorporated into the pancake mix). Oil or butter can be substituted for the applesauce, but I always make that change when I'm baking. I am pleased that these are relatively healthy and they make a wonderful lunch box treat for the kids, too.

I hope that you enjoy them as much as we have!

-Julie

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happy Sunday!


Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. John 14:1

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Embracing Fall

I am definitely a fan of summer. However, the past few years, I have chosen to embrace each new season (and its associated weather) and find happiness within it. Fall brings leaves to pile, fires in our fire pit to roast marshmallows, apple picking and a beautiful landscape to gaze at thru my kitchen window.

It is truly all in your attitude. What do you love about fall?

-Julie

Friday, October 2, 2009

Brilliant Moms Blog Community




It is often easier to pick out our differences than it is to rejoice in our similarities. Community is a social group of any size that shares experiences together. Our families are often our most immediate community, but you may have a neighborhood community, a church community, a club community, etc. Plus you are part of the global community, and by the fact that you are reading this, you are a part of the Brilliant Moms Blog community.

In our house, we had the opportunity to each make our own sandwich the way that we wanted it last week. You might look at these two pictures and note that one sandwich is turkey on toast and that the other is bologna on bread. If you could look closer, you might see that one has mustard and the other has mayonnaise or that one has tomato and the other is without. Look again, though, and you will see that both have similar structure with bread on the outside holding the contents within. Then you might notice that each is cut into diagonal sections and placed on a similar plate. But, I think the most important similarity to notice is that each plate is at the same table. One of the biggest challenges for a Brilliant Mom is to maintain a sense of community for herself and her family. I want to thank each of you for giving me a sense of on-line community. I hope that any of you who are lacking the fulfillment that can only be achieved through our interactions with others will choose to look beyond your immediate differences to sit at the same table with your family or local community.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thrifty Fall Owl Theme Craft

It has become obvious here that I love a thrifty craft. This is one we've pulled out the past few years. We love to hang these cute owls up to help us celebrate the return of the fall season. We actually have an owl living in our backyard right now. Although I don't love the fact that he keeps us awake at night, it will be a funny family memory.

This is a very easy craft. You need to take a large sheet of brown construction paper and round the ends. Fold one end down and tack it with a gluestick in the center. This is the owl's head. Take another sheet of brown paper and create wings. You can hinge them with brads or just glue them direclty down. With bits of white, yellow, orange, brown and black paper, you can create eyes, a beak and "feathers" for your new friend.

I hope you enjoy this craft and will link your Thrifty Thursday ideas below. You can find details of how to participate here.

-Julie