Thursday, August 28, 2008

Frugal Friday

This is a great little recipe that I use for potlucks and gatherings.  Not only is it frugal on the pocketbook, but it's also frugal on time.  Everyone loves it and is amazed by how easily it comes together.  I don't remember where I got this recipe, but it's not originally mine.  Enjoy!

Berry Tart
  • Ready made pastry pie crust
  • 1 (16 oz) bag of frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Place thawed pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate.
  3. Combine berries, sugar, and cornstarch.  Pour into crust and dot with butter.
  4. Bake for 40 min until golden and bubbly.  Cool @ room temperature.
The original recipe calls for placing a second pie crust on the top, fluting and trimming it.  However, I've found that there's not enough berries for a second crust and it's very tasty with just the bottom crust made into a tart.  

This is so easy and so delicious.  It rotates through our menu regularly.

Birthday Party Blues???: Food and Gifts

Congratulations!  You're almost there.  Your guests are coming, the home is decorated, and goodie bags are filled.  You're child is dressed, you have fresh film, and the video camera is charged.  But wait, what are you going to feed this gang?


Traditionally, parties held between 11am-2pm and 5-7pm would mean that you would be feeding your guests a meal.  Either lunch or dinner depending on the time of day.  This means an additional cost and burden on you as the hostess.  Some moms thrive on this.  I don't.  However, you if you do plan a party for this time, you should expect to provide more than cake and ice cream for your guests.  In that case, these are just a few useful suggestions:
  • Host a barbeque- Enjoy the great outdoors with hamburgers, hot dogs, and some fixings.  This way you can still mingle with your guests and they visit outside, keeping you from being stuck in the kitchen during the party.
  • Have a mock fondue party- A dipping party of sorts, provide a variety of veggies, chips, and crackers as well as several dips and spreads.
  • Have a tea party- Display an assortment of tea sandwiches, scones, muffins and spreads for your guests to enjoy as they mingle.
If you choose to avoid meal time, you may opt to provide just the basics: cake, ice cream, beverages, and 1-2 finger foods.  A party like this would hosted during that mid-morning or mid afternoon time before 11 am or between 2-5pm.  This may be a bit tricky with the younger crowd taking afternoon naps, but it doable.  Just keep in mind that shorter parties are better for this age group anyways.

In our family, we usually host the kids' parties between 3-5pm and serve the following:
  • homemade cake and/or cupcakes
  • water
  • punch
  • tortilla chips and 7-layer dip
  • veggie tray with dip
  • and possibly a 7-up salad
The kids get a little something in their tummies before the sugar and it helps keep them from becoming too cranky.  As we all know, hunger and sleepiness are the two major meltdown triggers to any celebration.  So I would absolutely encourage you to provide a small snack like these to keep your guests content until the main cake event.

Fun Gifts for Children Ages 1-5

Gifts is a sticky situation.  I hate to dictate what other people buy my child, but somethings are just so annoying to have around.  And unnecessary.  I tend toward simple, educational, active toys and gifts.  And tend away from items that need batteries.  Ok, well, there are a few of those on my list.  Not too many hopefully...

  • A craft assortment- Hit the dollar store and fill a gift bag full of pom poms, pipe cleaners, stamps and stamp pads, markers, sidewalk chalk, crayons, googlie eyes,  stickers, construction paper, etc.  This will provide the parent with some fun stuff to keep their child busy and active.
  • A favorite childhood book- Purchase your favorite childhood book for the birthday boy or girl.  Look for unusual stories and concepts, potentially concepts that are foreign to the area in which you live or the experiences of the child. 
  • Blocks and Puzzles- Again, these provide the opportunity for lots of creative thinking and problem solving. 
  • Little People- I love these as they provide plenty of opportunity for imaginative thinking and play.
  • Outside toys- Things like wagons and sprinklers are a great hit and something that will absolutely be used.
  • Leap Frog Fridge Phonics- This is a great one in our house.  We find it's a wonderful toy for learning the ABC's.
  • Tunnels and Playhouses- These collapse so they are good for small spaces and continue to support imagination.
Again just keep them active, keep them growing.  At this age, everything is a learning experience; however, some toys will better support this than others.  So just take some time to think through your choices and make sure it's not going to be just another toy that fills up the toy box.

Congratulations!  You have just hosted a wonderful birthday party.  Your guests were dazzled by your calm cool manner in entertaining the kids and all had a wonderful time.  I hope these tips each week have given you some wonderful advice and helped you get ready for a fun filled day.  Have a good time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Asking for Help Works for Me

Asking for Help
Who likes to ask for help?  I know I certainly don't most of the time, but there are certain times in life when you just have to.  This is one of those times in my life.

We are in the middle of moving across town to a new place.  It's been three years and two kids since we moved and boy have we accumulated a lot of stuff.  Alot of stuff.  Besides that, moving with a crawling 8 month old and a very curious 2 year old is not easy.  My days consist of hearing Big Boy ask "What's that?" and "Can I help?" while I'm telling Baby Girl "No, stay out of that."

So tonight we had a huge help from our small group.  As we were pulling the last of our stuff from the apartment, our small group came over to help us clean.  We finished up in no time.  A friend of ours kept and fed the kids while we were there and about 8 people showed up to help us clean.  

As I was leaving to nurse the baby, there were a couple of ladies in the kitchen just finishing up.  All that's left there is Big Boy's lifejacket and Baby Girl's floatie as we plan to finish off the week with some swimming.  It should be nice.

What a blessing it was to us to have so much help.  They were more than willing to help us out once they knew what we needed.  And to think that we almost didn't ask.

So that's what Works for Me.  What's working in your house?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Teaching Tuesday-grocery list

Mom Advice is hosting a great giveaway this week and I just couldn't help, but jump in.  Especially after finding this great activity in the notebook from 5/8/08.  The original grocery list activity can be found here: PlumPudding's Grocery List activity.

I've been needing an activity to keep Big Boy busy for Baby Girls nap, but one that would also be educational and help him with his fine motor skills.  So this was a great thing for him to do in practicing with scissors and vocab.  Here's what it looked like:

Purpose: to practice with scissors, glue sticks, and pencils, also to talk about nutrition and vocab words.  

Printer paper
Weekly ads
Glue Stick

Check out the original link for full directions.  

For our grocery list, I had Big Boy cut out the items he wanted to "shop" for that week.  We came up with an interesting mix of items.  Nonetheless, he had some great ideas.  

This gave him some needed practice with scissors, which he loved.  Grandma got him a pair of child safe scissors for Christmas and he always wants to use them.  He still has a long way to go in developing the coordination necessary to be very effecient, but it's an activity that he really enjoys.

Then we glued our pictures onto a piece of printer paper.    We talked about how to do this as well, turning the picture over to put the glue on the back.  It's amazing how much we take for granted as adults.  

Afterwards, we talked about what each one was.  I wrote them down and he told what letters he saw in the words.  We did some sounding out and talked about nutrition.  

This was a great activity that I'm sure I'll use as long as he's interested.  It takes minimal effort on my part and is open ended enough to touch a variety of educational topics.  This one really worked for us. 

So check out the notebook from this past week and try something new.  You may be surprised what you'll learn.

Tackle it Tuesday--Moving

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Well, it's almost the end of the summer. My kids are still little so I don't consider it to be the end of the summer till Labor Day and Sept hits. After all, it's still well over 100 degrees here and will continue to be for the next couple of weeks. We're still getting lots of swimming in. But I digress...

Moving wasn't a part of the plan for this summer. It certainly wasn't on my Summer To Do List, nor was it something that I thought would happen for awhile. But here it is. We're moving into a 3 bedroom house with a friend of ours. Little bit more space and new location. Thankfully it's not too far from here and we'll still be in the same town. So I'm not packing everything, but a few things do need to be put into boxes. And of course, the apartment must be cleaned.

So that's what I'm tackling today. I have a sitter coming in the morning to stay with the kids while I have a doctor's appointment. Then we'll do a little packing and hit the pool in the afternoon. Nothing like a cool dip to reward us for our efforts.

Our small group is also coming over tonight to help us pack up the last of it and clean things out. It's amazing the "filth" that we've been living in. You never realize how dirty your house is till you're moving out. Wow.

Anyways... wish me luck!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Making your Home a Haven

Oh, anti-procrastination day???  Really???  I love procrastinating.  Why do you have to ruin my fun?

I am the self confessed queen of procrastination.

I get some great ideas, have a lot of fun starting them, then decide that finishing is really over rated.  Really.  It is.  

But in the spirit of anti-procrastination day, I'm going to try to get a few things done around here.

And what, you might ask, is on my unfinished list?

Baby Girl had her pictures taken in June and I've had them back for at least a month.  And where are they?  Still sitting on my desk.  The grandparents haven't even gotten their copies yet.  We haven't even framed and hung ours yet.  So today I'm working on writing on the back of all of them (yeah, I bought more this last time 'cause they were so cute) and mailing as many as I possibly can.  Hopefully at least the family ones.

Other than that, just a few moving things, with transferring our phone service at the top of my list.  

1) Refresh Your Spirit
Check in on My Utmost for His Highest this morning.

2) Morning Routine
Everything else is just our normal routine.

3) Plan for the Day
  • Unload dishwasher
  • Put away more in the kitchen
  • Take the kids swimming
  • Upload photos
  • Do some blogging
4) What's for Dinner?
Hum... homemade pizza.. vegetarian, but delicious with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and olives... Yum... doesn't require much prep other than letting the dough rise.

5)  Project of the Day
Anti-procrastination... yuck!

Check out Biblical Womanhood today so see how others are dealing with this anti-procrastination Monday.

Great Mom's Giveaway...

Check out these great giveaways...

My Kids Mom is have a great Veggie Tales Giveaway.

Mom Advice is giving away a Flip Ultra Camera.

Shake The Salt is hosting over 40 giveaways.

Menu Monday 8/25-8/31

We are moving. So this week's menu MUST be super simple. Not only are we moving the remainder of our stuff this week to a new place across town, but we're also going to a family reunion at the end of the week. While I'm looking forward to it, there's a lot to do in four days. Add two kids, volunteering at the YMCA, and leading a small group,... will I survive this week?Better keep it simple.

Cereal and milk
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, juice
Homemade pizza

Granola or cereal
Sandwiches, fruit or crackers, juice
Potluck: Taco Ring

Granola or cereal, milk
Sandwiches, fruit or crackers, juice
Taco Salad

Granola or cereal, milk
Sandwiches, fruit or crackers, juice
Aztec Chicken (similar to this)

Oh, and I think I'm going to have to try these this week: Peanut Butter Cookies.

Friday-Sunday: (actually Monday) Family Reunion

Yum, yum! I'm hungry!

Our Tamale Pie a couple of weeks ago turned out great. We loved it. I added onion, but other than that, followed the recipe. The crust comes out a little thick, but I liked it like that. It made enough for us (hubby, 3 year old son, and myself) to stretch it into two dinners and 2 lunches.

Check out what others are making this week at Organizing Junkie.

Link Love

Looking forward to these Peanut Butter Cookies.

Have to try this new idea for transporting cupcakes to parties.

Gotta read this one before I hit the grocery store next time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Birthday Party Blues???: Decorations and Entertainment

You've choosen a theme and your guests have RSVPed. What's next?


I think decorations are an important party of any party scene. Sure you could skip them when the kids are young and save a bundle. But I love them. You can take such a few touches and completely transform your home into party central. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

1. Don't forget to check out your local $ and $.99 stores- You would be amazed and what you can find in these places, everything from paper goods to party favors, all reasonably priced. Be sure to check the package quantities to make sure you're not over paying though.

2. Pick a few "theme" items and fill in with accents- Party packages are available at a variety of locations, but with a little extra time and patience, you can find just what you're looking for. With my son's first birthday, we choose farm theme. Do you know how hard it is to find farm items. So we filled in with red and yellow streamers, red paper goods, and red and white table clothes. Everything fit perfectly.

3. Look outside of the party section- For this same farm party, I picked up a package of red cups only to find a similar package of cups in another section of the store. Upon checking the quantities, I noticed that the non-party package had more cups for the same price.

4. Avoid "cheap" items because they are marketed for birthdays- Avoid the cheaper party favors and opt for a larger, better quality item to exchange. Some items would include: sidewalk chalk, bubbles, matchbox cars, play-doh, stickers, etc. These items will be played with much more and last longer, instead of the junkier items that our kids so often come home with. Look for large quantity packages that you can break down, such as a box of sidewalk chalk, giving 2-3 pieces to each child.

5. Remember that it's only one day- Remember to keep things in prespective. No one is going to remember exactly what the cute little napkins looked like, but they will remember how you treated them when they were in your home.


While my kids are still young, just getting together with their friends and playing is a treat in and of itself. I know as they grow older, they will need more structured play, but for now, I tend to keep things simple, opting to host our party at a local park. Here are just a few items to help you fill the time you are entertaining guests:
A local playground
Sprinkler and waterguns
A small craft project
Spa night
Crazy action board games: cranium, pictionary, etc
Obstacle course
Scavengar hunt for favor bags

check out this site for more ideas:

I haven't checked all the links on the site so beware, but from what I've seen it looks as though it could be very useful.

If you've missed any of our earlier posts on party planning, you can check them out here.

Next week:

Food and a few gift suggestions for the early years

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Activity Wednesday

We've been talking about caterpillars and butterflies the past couple of weeks with Big Boy.  So this seemed like a great idea to talk about so many elements.

Link Caterpillar

  • Construction paper
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Mini stapler
  • Scissors
  • Small bowl
  • Crayons, markers, etc
  1. Trace around bowl and cut out a small round face for your caterpillar.  Have your child make a face for the caterpillar.  Attach pipe cleaners trimmed to the length you want for antennae.
  2. Cut strips of paper (or help your child do this) in various colors for the link body.  
  3. Help your child attach the links together to form the body of the caterpillar.
Some variations on this activity:
  • Use a set number for colors for the body and talk about patterns in colors.  For example, our pattern was yellow, blue, white, yellow, blue, white, etc.  It may be best to start with only 2-3 colors for a young child.
  • Number the links to help your child talk about and identify numbers.  It may be best to start with only 1-10 for a beginning counter.
  • Spend time counting the links with your child, learning to count each link separately.

Planning Ahead to Get Out of the House

Getting out the door...
Baby #2 has been a real learning curve for me. So I'm always doing everything I can to help us get out the door in better shape than we did the day before. These are just a few of the tips I'm working on incorporating into our lives...

1. Keep a stocked diaper bag in the car- I keep a stocked diaper bag in the trunk of our car. It has an extra change of clothes for both of the kids, extra underwear for Big Boy, diapers and wipes for Baby Girl, bibs, and baby spoons to name a few. This keeps me from having to tote around a change of clothes for the kids all the time. And I'm still prepared in case of accidents. Just don't forget to restock and check clothing sizes.

2. Make all sack lunches and snacks the night before- This can be a pain when I just want to sit in front of the TV the night before. But then I remember how nice it is the next morning. No running around looking for good snacks for the park or being frustrated over an unopened jelly jar for sandwiches. This tip alone saves me 10-15 minutes in the morning.

3. Playing music while getting ready- Planning music in the morning helps our house run so much smoother. Big Boy is getting to the age where he can help by dressing himself. But he's in a much better mood, and therefore I am too, when we play worship or classic music. The same goes for fun kids' music as long as it's not too crazy.

4. Keeping my keys on the key hook in the kitchen or by the door- When my keys are in a designated spot, we get out of the house anywhere from 5-10 minutes faster. Although it's easier to toss them somewhere, anywhere, as I'm stumpling in the door, I am always more thankful that I put them away when it's time to head out again.

5. If all else fails, try again tomorrow- Some errands I realize don't need to be done till tomorrow. And on those mornings where all else fails, we plop down and come up with Plan B. Sometimes we just don't get out the door as planned. We shrug our shoulders and try again next time.

That's what Works for Me.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday

My tackle for the day is... yummy!

I'm at "home" (my hometown) with the kids for the week. And I'm so excited. It's giving me a ton of time to do so many of the things that I miss doing with my mom, and with the kids, and showing them just a little bit of the way I grew up. So I'm excited. I love going home.

So while we're here, we're going to accomplish a few things on our Summer To-Do List. Not only will we be spending lots of time with Grandma, but we're also going to be picking and canning blackberries. She's been doing some picking before we got here, but I can't turn down free food so I know I'll be doing a "bunch" of picking as well.

We are in the height of blackberry season and they are everywhere. While the vines and brambles may be a pain throughout the rest of the year, I can't wait to get to them around Aug. This year we've had a lot of wildfires in our area, keeping the air cool and the berries juicy. There's been a great mix of sunshine to sweeten them up and overcast, smokiness to keep them from drying up. I'm dying to get my hands on some.

Doing some research on these berries, I've found out some great facts. One cup of berries is only 62 calories. They are a fantastic source of vitamins C and E, as well as fiber and potassium. To learn more, this is a great site to check out: Blackberries Nutrition Facts.

Tips for picking:
  1. Wear old, full-coverage clothing. I usually put on a pair of ripped jeans, an old, long-sleeved shirt, socks, and close toed shoes. The blackberry brambles are very thorny and you want to protect yourself as much as you can. Blackberry juice also stains easily so older clothes are a better option.
  2. Try the most obvious spots for blackberries first. Check out your backyard or your friends' backyards. Those are quick and easy places to pick. If that's not an option, scout out an easy access spot near your home: empty lots, quiet roadsides, etc. Make sure they haven't been sprayed if possible.
  3. Mornings and early evenings are the best times to pick. It's cool and you will feel more like picking if you're comfortable. Since this is also the time of day when most mosquitos are out, I would also suggest spraying on some mosquito repellant as well. Mosquitos will bite right through your clothing.
  4. Pick the berries that are the blackest and softest. When you start to pick, the berry should come off easily. If you have to tug too hard, it's not ready. Leave it alone.
  5. Stomp down the bushes as you go and you can reach back further into the patch. But don't forget to get low into the vines first. Many times if you do a little searching you will find some of the nicest, plumpest berries tucked low to the ground.
Some suggestions for your harvest include:
Blackberry Smoothies
Blackberry Jam
Blackberry Syrup
Blackberry Pies and Cobblers
Blackberry Ice Cream
and of course,
Handfuls and Handfuls of Berries to munch on!

Berries are so nutritionious, portable, and sweet. They make a great afternoon snack even by themselves. Big Boy just loves to have some to munch on. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Link Love

Check out these great frugal lunch ideas.

Jessie gives us some great ideas for helping out our budget when a loved one is in the hospital.

Maria gives us some great ideas for working on frugal Christmas gifts.

Menu Monday 8/18-8/24

We'll be visiting my mom for most of this week so we won't be eating most of this. I'm so excited to have time to spend at my mom's, let the kids run around, and pick and can blackberries. I'm really looking forward to it. But here's an idea of what we typically eat in a week:

Gingerbread waffles
Cereal and milk
Granola and yogurt
Cinnamon Rolls

Egg salad sandwiches
Peanut Butter and jelly sandwiches
Cheese and crackers
Fruit jello

Granola bars
Cheese and crackers
Graham crackers and peanut butter

Lentil Tacos (on the menu once a week)

Home group potluck: Taco Ring


Aztec Chicken
(similar to this with cream cheese)



Taco Salad

I just wanted to highlight these Crockpot Gyros. These were a great meal and one that we will repeat often. I made a few adjustments to the recipe to suit our families taste. We used only ground turkey. I'm not a lamb fan so it was strickly turkey for us. I also added an Indian spice mix to the meat and the sauce. It just added an extra layer of taste. Also I did not have mint for my sauce. I did however add extra garlic, but that was a mistake. The extra garlic in the meat was ok, but in the sauce, it became too hot.
Although I love the recipes from this site, I often add extra garlic and other spices. We like our food spicy, so I'm always looking for that extra layer of flavor. But all around, it's a great site to grab recipes from.

To see what others are cooking up, check out Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Frugal Friday

My frugal friday tip is pretty simple: Don't Pay for TV.  

That's it.  Simple, simple, simple!

My husband and I, after 7 years of marriage have never paid for TV.  We've always just used "bunny ears" and had more than enough options on what to watch.  Especially now as the networks and seasons are changing, there is new shows on more often.  

We find that we can still find plenty of good shows that we enjoy watching.  Lately the Olympics have been on non-stop.  But we also enjoy LOST, Surivor, The Amazing Race, and so many others.

Or if you'd rather have TV on your schedule, check out the network websites and you'll find plenty of options for your entertainment.  I just watched the finale of The Mole on ABC and if you haven't checked it out yet, it's a must see.

Now for those of us who do use "bunny ears," the "digital revolution" is quickly approaching.  I'm personally not that excited about it, but it's not my choice.  So we will be paying a bit for TV in the future as we'll be purchasing a converter box.  But did you know that you can get a government issued coupon for this purchase?

Check out  The government will issue you 1-2 coupons worth $40 each toward a converter box at a store near you.  We just got ours in the mail today and I'll be checking out Walmart soon as our PBS station is converting at the end of the week.  Sesame Street is quickly becoming a must in our household.

So take it from us... you really don't need to pay for TV.  Some days I wish I had the Food Network or TLC.  But still we watch more than we should and don't really miss it.  That's one great asset to our monthly budget.

For more Frugal Friday tips, check out Biblical Womanhood.

Birthday Party Blues???:Theme and Guest List

Congratulations!  You've set a date and time, and picked a location for your birthday party.  Now you're mind is reeling with the realization that you actually have to host people either in your home or a separate location.  What do you do now?


There are so many different themes that you can do with the various age groups.  I always have a great time coming up with something different.  It doesn't have to be a commercial character.  In fact, you may save a considerable amount of money by being more original.  Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices going:

Farm Animals
Jungle Exploration
Frog and bugs
Teddy Bear Picnic
Construction Equipment
John Deere Tractors
Dirt Bikes
Butterflies and Ladybugs
Generic Trains
Generic Cars
Pink Poodles
Street Fair
Cowboys/ Cowgirls and Ranching
Sports: Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Football
Night at the Oscars
70's/ 80's/ 90's

Just be creative.  Keep in mind the personality of your child and the location of your event.  Having a Dance party might not be much fun at a park.  Just as a 3 yr old will appreciate a Bug party more than a Sports party.  Have fun being extra creative.

Guest lists

Guest lists are a sticky subject in our house.  Personally, we cut every other corner that we can to enable us to have larger parties.  Although our kids are small, they tend to have bigger social lives than we do.  But you have to decide for yourself, how big or how small you are choosing to make your event.  There are just a few of the people to keep in mind while you're planning:

Cousins and family
Sports friends
Sunday School friends
School friends
Family friends
Aunts and Uncles

Just as a side note, if you're concerned about too many gifts as you have every right to be, some parents will specifically note on the invitation that gifts are not expected.  We attended a rather large party for a 2 year old recently where the parents commented on the invitation that a book would be very much appreciated.  This kept the clutter down in their home and challenged the creativity of the guests.  The little boy received some wonderful and unusual books for his library.


While deciding on a theme, you may opt for a decoration package that includes invitations.  However, you may plan farther ahead and make your own.  This is the route we've gone in the past and not choosing a package has allowed us to be more selective about our decor and price.  I'll address this more next week.  

For now, if you choose to make you're own, here are some additional links to get you started:

Also check out last week's article for further links to invitations.

What's in store for next week?  Decorations and Entertainment.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let's Eat Cake--for a cause!

Check out this great fundraising idea at Hostess with the Mostess.  Definately worth your time.

How We Potty Trained

For any loyal readers out there, Big Boy.... dare I say it...  Big Boy seems to be... I don't know if I can say it.

Deep breath...

Big Boy seems to be well on his way to being potty trained.

Well on his way.

Although we are still having accidents at night, he's had only a handful of daytime accidents in over two weeks.

So what finally made the difference?

We went cold turkey on the diapers and pull-ups.  I was using diapers for nap and bedtime, and an occasional pull-up if we were going to be out of the house for several hours.  I didn't feel like he was ready to give them up, but now it appears that I wasn't ready to give them up.

Although it took a couple of days at home to really get the hang of things, he quickly learned that going potty in his underwear didn't feel too good and he started to recognize the sensation of needing to go.  And now he tells us everytime, even when he's really busy playing with friends.

Naps are cut at two hours ( I know.  I'm a blessed woman) and I get him up to potty at midnight to hopefully stay dry all night.  Plastic training pants and an extra absorbant towel under his comforter help with night time accidents.  And so far so good.  

So what works for me?  Going Cold Turkey.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Teaching Tuesday--modeling letters

I was up late this weekend, looking for preschool concepts to work with Big Boy.  I was outlining some things I'd like to practice with him this week, how to go about teaching letters, etc.  As I was thinking through hands-on activities I came up with the following ideas for learning letters:

  • Write out the letter on a piece of paper and have child glue beans, peas, etc over the top of the letter.
  • Have child mold play-doh around the letter on paper.
  • Have child mold a pipe cleaner around the letter on paper.
  • Have child trace out the letter in a paper plate of pudding.
  • Have child glue pom poms over the top of the letter on paper.
  • Have child lace cards in the shape of letters.
This post is also linked to Homeschooling Wednesday.  Check there for more great ideas.

Monday, August 11, 2008

American Men's Olympic Team Finals

Is anyone else watching this LIVE on the West Coast?  Amazing.  This team is rocking it tonight.  I am in awe.  I can't imagine what it must be like in that arena.  Just finished high bar routines and they were phenomenal.  Vault is next and if they keep this up... Wow!  

Tackle it Tuesday--Technology

I have a love/ hate relationship with technology. Love it! Hate it! I can't decide. So today I'm working on getting some of those little technology challenges out of the way.

We have a video camera that's out of commission. We took it out of the carrier just a few days before Baby Girl was born and it was dead. Oh, well for taking pictures right away. Now 8 months later, I still haven't had it fixed. So I'll be calling around for a repair quote and possibly looking at the prices of new ones.

Same with the laptop. Over the last few months, it's decided that it's done. Not sure if it's viruses or too much on the hard drive. Either way, it's not happy with me and I Have no idea how to make it happy. So I'm taking it to a place downtown to have this look at it and at least take the photos and files off of it for me.

And finally, I need to do a little work on my blog. Clean up a few things, fix a few links, maybe add a few more blogs to my favorites. You should definately check out what's there already. There's some amazing bloggers out there. And start thinking about some future blog posts that I might play around with this afternoon.

So that's what I'm tackling: my evergoing battle with technology. What are you tackling today?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Link Love

In I Corinthians 13 for Mothers, Carrie, of Biblical Womanhood,  shows us that "Love" is what makes up mothers, not caregivers.

Lindsay , of Passionate Homemaking, reminds us to do things in His Name.

MoneySavingMom gives us some great ideas for stretching a buck this week at CVS.

Menu Monday 8/11-8/17

Yum, yum! My uncle sent home fresh fish. I'm excited to break into it.

Cereal and yogurt
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, juice
Grilled Halibut, green salad, marinated cucumber and onion


Out for our anniversary

Granola and yogurt or milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, cheese and crackers, juice
Potluck: Berry tart

Cottage cheese and fruit
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, juice

Cereal and yogurt
Egg Salad sandwiches, fruited jello, juice
Homemade pizza

Cottage cheese and fruit
Egg Salad sandwiches, cheese and crackers, juice

Cereal and milk

Leftover waffles
Kids and I: ????
Hubby: Staff Meeting

Check out Organizing Junkie for more great meal plans.

Oh, and if you're looking for a great light dinner, you have to try this one from Martha Stewart: Potato-Rosemary Pizetta. We made this a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic. To simplify the recipe, I used a ready made dough out of the freezer. Then we topped it with everything listed there as well as some oregano and extra garlic. Pair it with a green salad and we had a complete dinner. My son and I ate it the first night and it made a lot. We cut it into average size squares and it gave us 16-20 good sized squares. It was light, tasty, and addictive. We both loved it and ate it for several days. This recipe will be a repeat in our weekly menus.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Simple Faith Chp 3 & Chp 4

Every Friday join us in reading two chapters of "Simple Faith" by Charles Swindoll. I'll post a brief overview of the chapter with a few highlights, as well as a couple of personal thoughts.  At the end I will also include 2-3 questions for discussion.  So join us in our journey toward becoming the mommies that God has called us to be.

Chapter Three--A Simple Counterstrategy: Shake and Shine

In chapter three, Swindoll follows the two illustrations of being the salt and light of the world.  He starts by answering the question "Who are we to love?"  In Christ's own words, we are to love one another.  And what can we expect from the world?  Hatred and persecution.  How's that for bleak reality?  As the world hated Christ, so will it hate us.  

So how do salt and light play into this analogy?  Salt makes people thirsty.  As we are salt to the world, others will thirst after Christ.  Light dispels darkness.  As we shine our light into the world, people cannot deny the light of Christ, nor can they deny their own sin.  

Swindoll leaves us with three points:
  1. Don't overdo it
  2. Don't hold back
  3. Don't worry about the few who resist it

Quotes to consider:
  • The counterstrategy is simple: Shake, don't pour.  Shine, don't blind. (pg 53)
  • When you shake and shine, you influence others... (pg 55)
Questions for discussion:
  1. What do you think of the following quote: " The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.  It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first (Jones, pg 44)?"
Chapter Four--Simplicity Starts from Within

Swindoll breaks this chapter into three sections:
  • Law and Christ
  • Law and Christian
  • Law and Righteousness
In Law and Christ, two points are made: Christ fulfilled the law by coming to earth and obeying  God, and he committed himself to Scripture and obedience.

In Law and Christian, Swindoll makes the point that the Pharisees missed the spirit of the law.  They were focusing on following the letter of the law, but not paying attention to their own hearts.  Christ pointed out that what comes from the heart is the most important factor.

In Law and Righteousness, Swindoll focuses on "Thou shalt not murder."  He argues that Christ was angry, so anger is not the point.  Crossing the line comes when we move into judging others and finding their morally worthless.  We have degraded them to a point where we have in a sense "murdered" them.

Three Principles:
  1. The principles of Scripture go deeper than externals
  2. The potential of anger is greater than words
  3. The power of reconciliation is stronger than revenge
Questions for discussion:
  1. In speaking of the church: "If it weren't for all the trouble on the outside, we couldn't stand the stench on the inside" (Hendricks, pg 61).  How are you contributing or alleviating the stench?
  2. In speaking of reconciliation: "The best thing to do?  Keep it simple--go and make it right" (73).  Swindoll argues that reconciliation makes our lives simpler.  Agree or disagree?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tattertot Surprise

I have to laugh everytime I think of this meal.  The name just makes me think of something you'd find in a middle school cafeteria, wedged somewhere between the mystery meat and the fish sticks.  But yummy, yummy... we polished off almost an entire casserole tonight...  eat up!

For a small casserole pan:
1/2 lb. hamburger
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 can mixed veggies
1 can cream of chicken soup, or beef gravy
1/3 bag tattertots
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Brown hamburger with onions and garlic
  2. Layer hamburger mixture, veggies, and creamed soup in casserole dish
  3. Top with tattertots and cheese
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 min
  5. Enjoy!
This is my frugal and yummy tattertot surprise.  See how others are "dishing up" frugal ideas at Biblical Womanhood.

Birthday Party Blues???: Time and Location

Congratulations!  As a mom, you get to plan, host, serve, and clean up at least 18 birthday parties for your child.  And that's only if you stop at one kid.  And planning the first birthday party can be as nerve racking as planning a wedding.  But it doesn't have to be.  With a little planning, some common sense, and a dash of "saying NO," it can be painless, and dare I say fun, to celebrate with family and friends.  

First Things First

What comes to mind when planning a birthday party is often the decorations.  Moms picture elaboration balloon bouquets and a beautifully decorated home, punctuated by a detailed circus themed cake, homemade by you of course.  But is this really where the planning needs to start?

The first order of planning a party should be considering the time of the event.  No birthday party will be a celebration if it's attended by a sleepy baby or a cranky toddler.  Some things to keep in mind are nap and meal times, knowing that missing these are sure to put a damper on the party.  Try to plan around these time to start the party with a rested and happy baby.  If it's impossible to work around a meal, keep finger foods handy to ward off a rumbly tummy.

If you are planning a party for a little one, you're likely to have the party in your home.  In this case, you can always put the baby down for a nap while you still have guests in your home.  Turn on a fan to block some of the noise and enjoy the company.  Most babies won't last for more than a couple of hours anyway and out of town guests won't feel like they have to spend the rest of the afternoon in the hotel.

Not only is the timing important, but the date is as well.  Ideally you will want to plan the party as close to the actual birthday as possible.  However, that's not always possible. Things to keep in mind include: religious services and events, planning around work schedules, and local events.  Although Saturday mornings are often the most popular times for a birthday party, there are other options.

If hostessing a party outside of your home, some venues may give you a discounted rate for a party on a week night or Sunday afternoon.  Planning a party in the park may also be best planned for a Sunday morning if there are no religious objections.  Parks will often be less busy during this time of the week.  

Location is the third element of your pre-planning.  If you have the room to accommodate guests, your home is the most likely choice.  It keeps you from having to transport food, decorations, gifts, and possibly guests to a secondary location and back. Bathrooms are also readily accessible, important if your hosting a group of potty training toddlers. And the ice cream can remain in the freezer till serving.

If your home is not an option, be sure to check out the local park.  Local parks may range from a small grassy area for kickball and cake to larger neighborhood parks with swing sets, slides, and water fountains.  Some things to keep in mind are the accessibility to your home, the size of the park, how visible kids are from the picnic area, and the amount and type of foot traffic the park receives, as well as the afore mentioned bathroom facilities.  Some parks may provide more in the way of entertainment, but be large.  Other parks will have less to do, but may be easier to keep an eye on the kids, making it more relaxing.  Keep in mind the age of your guests and your own personal parenting and entertaining styles.

Other options for locations include gymnastics centers, bouncy places, water parks, the local McDonald's, etc.  Be sure to talk to other parents in your circle to generate more ideas that are unique to your area of the country.  Other parents are often your best resource.  Utilize them.  

What's Next?

Once you're picked your date, time, and location, you're ready to start thinking about invitations.  Don't get too far ahead of yourself.  Our next article will explore possible themes for different age groups.  But if you'd like to start dreaming, here are a few websites to help you come up with ideas of your own:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Activity Wednesday

Check out this great craft and gift idea over at Scribbit.  I think I'll be needing to make one of these for Big Boy.  He loves little games in the car and this would be perfect.

Bed in a Pillowcase

I have to acknowledge the fact that I got this idea from Martha Stewart.  And it works beautifully in our house.  I can usually find all the pieces I need for make the bed: fitted sheet, top sheet, and pillow cases.  And they're usually all together.  It's not an issue of finding the lost soul, but rather keeping the rest of it from caving in on me while I'm doing it.  Stacks tend to lean, items shift, and before we know it, it's a mess.  So here's my way around that:

I fold both the fitted sheet and the top sheet to approximately the same size.  Fold one of the pillowcases to a similar size.  And then... slide those three items inside a second pillowcase.  Tuck under any excess material from the outer case and put the closed end facing out of the linen closet.

When I need to change the bed, it's all there together.  Just lift the upper items and pull out one item, all there together.  Extra blankets and comforters underneath as they're used less often.  Just makes me breath an extra sigh of relief to see it organized.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday

Today I'm trying out something new. Something really new.
A little background: My mom is incredible. She sews, scrapbooks, cooks, bakes, cans,... you name it, she can do it. Anything homey, she's got it covered. What can I do? Well, call my mom with lots of questions. And hope I can decifer the directions of "A pinch of this" and "Just cook it till it looks like it's done." Anyways... back to the point.
We were give a bunch of plums a few days ago and there's no way we can possibly eat them all before they go bad. I hate to waste stuff like that. It's the frugalist in me. Wasting food is not in my nature. There's got to be some way to utilize it.
So I called my mom last night and got a Plum Jam recipe from her. I love Plum Jam. It's smooth and rich. And I haven't had any in a very long time. What a perfect way for me to flex my "canning muscle."
Today's tackle in my house is to make Plum Jam. Messy, challenging, and hopefully "fruitful." Big Boy wasn't feeling well last night so I might get a chance to do it this morning. If not, there's always nap time. If it all comes out well, I'll be sure to post the recipe.
I'm hoping to get my camera back from a friend today and post photos later.

Menu Monday

It's amazing to me that it's already August. Who can believe how quickly this summer has gone by? It seems like I've only done a fraction of the things I'd like to do and still have so little time to finish up what I want to do. And one of those things is coming up this week: Big Boy is going to the fair with my extended family. I know he's going to have a great time with the family. Here's our menu for the week:

Monday (hubby has a surprise day off):
Scrambled eggs and bacon
Picnic lunch: Egg Salad sandwiches, fruits, crackers
Homemade pizza

Yogurt and granola
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit jello, juice
Lentil Tacos

Toast and jelly, yogurt
Egg Salad sandwiches, fruit
Tamale Pie

Cottage cheese and yogurt
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tricuits (crackers)
Tattertot surprise

Cereal and granola
Pizza roll


Cereal and granola
Potluck: Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies

See what others are including on their menus @ Organizing Junkie.

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Book Club-- Simple Faith Chp 1 & Chp 2

I'm so excited that I finally got a chance to sit down and read some of this book this week.  It seems like no matter how you try to plan, life just gets in the way.  I've been trying to get to it for a couple of weeks and have been getting frustrated that it wasn't happening.  But finally... So without further ado,...

Every Friday, join us in reading two chapters of "Simple Faith" by Charles Swindoll.  I'll post a brief overview of the chapter with a few highlights, as well as a couple of personal thoughts.  At the end, I will also include 2-3 questions for discussion.  So join us in our journey toward becoming the mommies that God has called us to be.

Chapter 1--Let's Keep It Simple

In chapter one, Swindoll sets up his premise for the book, that Christ has called us to live an uncluttered life of faith in Him.  He finds in studying Matthew chps 5-7 that Christ's message to the masses where to move beyond the legalism of the Pharisees and focus on Him.  Swindoll believes that faith is much simple that we humans choose to make it.  He centers much of his chapter around the idea that Christ was focusing on four basic teachings in this passage:
  1. Out with Hypocrisy-- Looking busy is not the same as working for God.  Appearing pious in our activity is not the same as authentic Christianity.
  2. Down with Performance-- Stop trying to "look" the part.  This includes three parts:
  • Giving
  • Praying
  • Fasting-- "But if we fast or counsel or study or pray) to be seen, forget it!  These disciplies were never meant to be displays of the the flesh.  We are not in them for the grade others give us or the superficial impression we can make." pg 11
3. Up with Tolerance
4. On with Commitment

These were a few interesting quotes that I noted from the chapter:
  • "Hypocrisy despises authenticity." pg 4
  • "Of special concern to (Christ) was the possibility that some had gotten sucked into the pharisaic model of substituting the artificial for the authentic, a danger that always lurks in the shadows of legalism." pg 6
  • "Hypocrisy permits us to travel both sides of the path- to look righteous but be unholy, to sound pious but be secretly profane.  Invariably, those who get trapped in the hypocrisy syndrom find ways to mask their hollow core." pg 6
  • "People of simple faith mean what they say and do what they hear... Unfortunately we neither mean what we say nor do what we hear.  We substitute words for action and pious discussion for personal involvement." pg 14
Wow!  That last quote ought to kill any idea that we have that are following God with everything in us.  Any time I think I'm doing great, I simply need to refer to that quote and remember that not matter what's going on, I'm still probably doing more talking than being personally involved.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Define "Simple Faith."
2. Of the four basic teachings, where do you most struggle?
3. What are of your life lacks authenticity?

Chapter Two-- The Qualities of Simple Faith

In chapter two, Swindoll opens with explaining how Jesus delivered his message to the masses in Matthew chapters 5-7.  These are the four observations that he makes:
  1. Jesus spoke outside, not inside
  2. He sat among them
  3. He taught, not preached
  4. "He blessed and encouraged rather than rebuked" pg 23
Let's take a moment to look at point #4.  How often does our attitude rebuke rather than encourage?  Do we focus too often on what people are doing wrong rather than encouraging them to live like Christ?  What is our attitude?

Swindoll then spends much of his time disceting the "Qualities of a Blessed Life:"
  1. Poor in spirit- Being "Poor in Spirit" is having an attitude of total dependence on Christ.  It is a deep personal humility and knowing one's inability to live up to God's standard simply by human will.  "Where there is an absence of well-polished pride and personal conceit, there is a wholesome dependence on the living God" pg 25
  2. Those who mourn--Swindoll defines "mourn" as "a passionate lament" pg 26.  It is a mourning over one's own wretchness.  "God does not expect  or require months of misery-evoking penance or daily sacrifices to appease His anger... Nevertheless, a contrite heart that expresses itself in mourning over wrongdoing results in divine comfort "pg 28
  3. The Gentle-The Gentle are those who posess a "true inner strength under control" pg 29.  Can you imagine what that looks like?  Having the strength, but controlling it?  Their spiritual needs will be met if they allow God to do the conquering (pg 30).
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness-- How much do you "hunger and thirst after righteousness?"  This is a daily feeding of the soul, just as we daily feed our bodies.  This is a daily aligning of oneself with God's character (pg 30).
  5. The Merciful--Mercy is a deep empathy that requires action on our part.  It is more than sympathy as it drives us to "action."
  6. Pure in heart--"Pure in Heart" denotes a deep sincerity.  Those who are "pure in heart" have true motives and live a life of transparency.  They will deeply see the hand of God moving in their lives.
  7. Peacemakers--Swindoll finds that peacemakers are not appeasers (pg 34).  They still stand up for the integrity of the gospel, but strive to live at peace with those around them to the best of their ability.
  8. Those who are persecuted for righteouness' sake-- These are those who are persecuted not because of their own offensive behavior, but persecuted for the gospel.  Truth will also offend sin.

These were a few interesting quotes that I pulled from the chapter:
  • "Great sermons and godly servants usually go together." pg 21
  • (speaking of peacemakers) "It cheapens peace to ignore the gross offense, treat it lightly, and release him from accountability and responsibility if he doesn't have a contrite heart of repentance." pg 35
  • "True persecution occurs when two irreconcilable value systems collide.  When taht occurs and you choose to stand on principles of truth you can count on it, you will be persecuted." pg 35-36
The first quote can be true for not only great sermons, but great counsel in our Christian walk.  When offering counsel to other, or receiving counsel ourselves, we should look to our motives and the character of others.  Is this person a godly servant.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Contrast these qualities with the world's standards.
  2. How can you begin to cultivate these qualities in your own life?
  3. Explain why the quote from pg 21 is true.
  4. Will you take the challenge to try applying one beatitude a day?  Dependence, repentance, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, integrity, peacemaking, and cultivating joy?
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