Thursday, December 31, 2009

Frugal Friday

In an effort to keep loading our diet with fruits and vegetables, I find myself returning again and again to The Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables Month by Month. Not only do I find it to be a great resource, but it also reminds me to be creative in my meal planning and exposing my kids to a variety of flavors that I normally wouldn't think of.

So to make things easier on all of us, I've decided that the first Friday of every month I'm dedicating to posting the cheapest fruits and vegetables as well as a Creative2xmom tried and true recipe using at least one item from the list. Hopefully this will keep us all on budget and expanding our horizons in the produce dept.

January's Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables

Cabbage Salad (I'll often times serve this with Corned Beef for St. Patrick's Day)
1 head green cabbage
8 green onions
1-2 c. peanuts, shelled and chopped
4 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 pkg Top Ramen Noodles (raw)

Chop cabbage and onions. Mix with other ingredients and toss with dressing.

3/4 c. oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. vinegar

And while I haven't personally tried this one yet, it will be on our menu some time this month:
Pine Nut Chicken Cutlets and Cauliflower Au Gratin

For more Frugal Friday ideas, check out Life as Mom.

Play it again, Mama: Asian Noodle Salad

ot sure where I found this recipe, but we love it. It's delicious, quick, and healthy. Plus with the peanut butter, it's a real hit with kiddos. It's making my mouth water just thinking about it.

Asian Noodle Salad

  • 1/3 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (we added 3 and will probably make it 4 next time)
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb. long thin spaghetti noodles
  • 3-4 c. shredded veggies (I used carrots and zucchini, you could use cabbage as well)
  • lightly steamed veggies (sugar snaps, asparagus, etc)
  1. Cook noodles according to directions
  2. Prep veggies and sauce
  3. Drain noodles and mix in veggies and sauce
  4. Serve at room temperature or chill. I personally love it chilled.

For more Frugal Friday ideas, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book List 2010

The following is my list for 2010. I'm hoping to actually read more than this, but in the interest of not overloading myself, here's what I have planned:

Christian Living:
End of the Spear by Steve Saint
Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald

My Heart's at Home by Jill Savage
Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson

The Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar
55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs by Dr. Heather Boon

Play it again, Mama: How to Throw a Curious George Birthday Party

When I set out to throw my 4 year old son a monkey party, I had no idea what I was looking for. He's just at the right age where I wanted to incorporate the theme as much as possible, and yet he's too young to really plan a lot of cooperative games. So this one took a bit of creativity.
Planning did however get a bit easier when N suddenly decided we weren't just having a monkey party, but a Curious George party. Now there's something I can roll with. But how do you keep a 4 year old character party from breaking the bank? That's what I set out to discover. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
1. We made our own invitations. A picture of N in his Monkey costume from Halloween, some sale scrapbook paper, and I was on my way.
2. I calculated how many kids would attend and even recognize Curious George. If they were 2 and up, I had character plates and cups for them. If they were any younger or over 13, it was plain yellow and red plates and cups. Plus I bought all the solid color party supplies at the Dollar Tree. Along with an array of colored balloons. The balloons were great party decor and each of the guests took one home as well.
3. We have a trampoline and although I was nervous, it turned out ok. There always seemed to be one adult nearby to watch the kids and break up any rough housing. Additionally, we borrowed a small bounce house from a friend that attends our church. Don't be afraid to exchange services and equipment with other families. This can cut down on your cost drastically. Just be the type of family that other people want to share with.
4. Another thought on keeping these elements under control: Print out a sign with your character and label the activities "2 Monkeys" (or however many you are comfortable). Many preschoolers are used to seeing similar signs in school deliniating how many friends can use an activity at a time.
5. We planned the party for early afternoon, after lunch, but still early enough that party guests could take a late nap afterwards. This drastically cut our food costs as we only served a few chips and salsa, and cake and ice cream. Quick, simple, affordable. Additionally, we avoided the costly soda, and served ice water and juice at the party. I did some research an other foods that monkeys eat are fruit salad and nuts, maybe popcorn. Depends on your budget and ambition.
6. We kept the guest list short. We have a small house and a small yard. And every one of Big Boy's friends has a younger sibling. That adds up fast. So I invited four of his closest friends and their younger siblings, and all pertinant family members (grandparents, and aunts and uncles). That's it. Most of the guests came from church. Since I knew I'd be taking a special snack to his class during the week, I felt that could be his time to celebrate with classmates without my having to invite 15-20 more kids.
7. We make cute little Thank You cards (I'll share these some time next week) and will be mailing them out with our Christmas cards this year. This doesn't work for everyone, but with a middle of October birthday, I figure it's not too late to send out Thank You's at the end of November. Save a stamp or two.

That's about it. There's plenty of resources on the web to help you plan with games for older kids. But this year we kept it simple and all the kids seemed to love it. A little music playing in the background and plenty of time for parents to visit. We had a great time.

Party favors waiting for the guests.
Plain paper bags decorated with monkey stickers and labeled "Monkey Munch." Warning: this is a VERY dangerous recipe to have.
We filled snack size baggies inside for the guests to take home with them.

Curious George masks waiting for the party guests
I printed these off the internet and purchased elastic jewelry cord from Walmart. I measured the length of the cord on my children and labeled them (BK=Big kid and LK=Little Kid). After knotting the end of the cord, I sealed it with a tiny bit of clear fingernail polish to secure it.
So cute!

Scenes from the party table
I found that buying locally, the initial cost of supplies was higher, but I saved drastically over Amazon on the shipping. Only thing I couldn't get was the stickers I wanted.

Plastic Bananas hanging from twine in our backyard tree.
Cheap unexpected party decor.

Big Boy with his Curious George cake (by Grandma).
My mom used the Wilton's 3-D Bear cake pan and transformed it into a monkey with a chenili stem tail.
Grandma's a whiz with cakes so we've saved the cost of buying a cake each year.
Grandparents are often willing to volunteers services and time.

Two friends wearing their Curious George masks

Big Boy riding his bike after the friends have gone home.

Other ideas we had (some I wasn't brave enough to try):
*George says
*Pin the Banana in George's hand
*Cover an outside way with butcher paper and let the guests paint with washable paint
(Apparently George likes to draw on the walls)

Further Curious George/Monkey Party Resources:
Curious George Birthday Party-- the most extensive resource I found. Great ideas!

Curious George Mask--This is a great mask. It's the one we used and sooo cute.

Curious George Parties--Great ideas for the preschool set. Very practical!

Monkey Birthday party--Great game ideas!

Monkey Cupcakes--super cute cupcakes that we didn't use, but I would love to try sometime. Our preschool wouldn't allow sweets, but this is what I had planned on making.

For more Works for Me ideas, check out We Are THAT Family.

Eating from Your Pantry--Week One

Did you really think I could stay away for a whole week? Who was I kidding?

Starting next week Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom are teaming up to bring us the challenge of Eating from the Pantry. Funny enough I had already planning on doing this myself starting THIS week.

I was looking in my cupboards not too long ago and realized I had stockpiled a good supply of deals. And while getting ready for Grandma's house last week, I threw some leftovers in the freezer. So my freezer's looking pretty happy and full too.

Although I don't think I'll last an entire month, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm giving myself lead way on produce and dairy. In fact, we made a grocery run this morning and stocked up a few things. Additionally I'm giving myself some slack with the holiday and traveling to see family this weekend. But for the most part, what you see here was all stocked in my kitchen:

Menu Plan Dec 28-Jan 3:

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs (all from pantry)
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, salad (all from pantry)
Dinner: Stirfry (all from pantry)

Breakfast: Frozen Waffles (from pantry)
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, fruit cocktail, graham crackers (crackers from store)
Dinner: Chili and Cornbread (all from freezer)

Breakfast: Yogurt and fruit (from store)
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, fruit jello, corn (all from pantry)
Dinner: Veggie soup in crockpot (all from pantry)

Breakfast: Cottage Cheese and fruit (from store)
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, fruit jello, cheese cubes (all from pantry)
Dinner: Lentil Tacos (tomatoes, sour cream from store) @ the kids' request-- in fact, Big Boy asked for extra veggies

Snacks till Midnight: (from store): Taquitos
(from the pantry): pepper jelly, popcorn, sparkling cider

Breakfast: Yogurt and granola (yogurt from store)
Lunch: Chicken Salad sandwiches, apples, string cheese (all from pantry)
Dinner: dinner at Sister in law's

Breakfast: Granola and milk (all from pantry)
Lunch: In Sacramento-- Fresh Choice???
Dinner: In Sacramento

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, cereal (all from pantry)
Lunch: Sandwiches and salad (all from pantry)
Dinner: Mexican Corn Chowder and tomato soup ( all from pantry)

Peppermint Patty Cookies

Play it again, Mama:Thriftyness vs. Frugality

I was recently challenged by a post from Kristen at We are THAT Family commenting on The Difference Between Thrifty and Frugal. I wasn't challenged so much to live off the grid, so to speak, rather to revisit my issue of spending.

In the past 9 days, we've had our offer on a house accept and 2 days later had our second car go into the garage. While a second car is a recognizable luxury, it's one that has almost become a necessity in my life. I didn't realize how much I depended on that car until I found myself without. And facing 10 days and thousands of dollars of work. Add these two things together and it's been a lot of soul searching this past week.

As my husband has taken it on to be the bread winner, allowing me the liberty of staying at home with the kids, I've always thought of my contribution to be in the area of frugality. While my days are far from easy, I have had some time to bargain shop, clip coupons, and generally penny pinch. What was once a chore, quickly became fun for me. How far could I stretch my husband's pay check? How far could it go?

And then somewhere along the way, my frugality became thriftiness. I learned how to stockpile shampoo and toothpaste, how to purchase some higher end items for less, and picked up some luxury items for myself along the way. All at a fraction of the cost. However, there were still some loses. Somethings that just weren't necessities. Somethings were just fun.

So I'm just thinking through this idea. Check out the original post. Tell me what you think.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Play it again, Mama:Real Resolutions for Moms

I found this posted somewhere last spring and have loved it ever since. I'll often times find myself coming back to it, remembering what really matters in life. Refocusing my priorities. Re-remembering why it is that I do what I do.

Still I find that I don't read it often enough. There still so much more that I can glean from it. So I'd like to start us on a journey of real change, making real choices that will really change our families.

These "Real Resolutions" will become the basis for a series of devotional that I plan to break down and develop over the next couple of months. But for now, here they are in their entirety. Enjoy! And today, as you make your resolutions as so many of us do (including myself), keep these in mind and ask the Lord to speak to you through them.

Real Resolutions for Moms
By Karen Ehman

"... But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:13b-14 (ESV)


It's that time when many of us are making New Year's resolutions, so how about some resolutions for mothers? Here are mine:

I will put my Bible before the television, the radio, the telephone, and even before good Christian books, for my children will know my priorities by the way they see me spend my free time.

I will make my prayer requests known before God and my children, enlisting their help in the process and informing them of the outcome, for by letting them help when I petition our Lord will they learn of a living God who still answers prayer.

When times of crisis, conflict or confusion arise, I will hit my knees before I hit the phone knowing that by my example my children will discover that although friends are important, God alone is the one who holds the solution to life's every problem.

I will erase the words "luck" and "lucky" from my vocabulary and will instead by my speech point my children toward the One who orchestrates every detail of our lives and brings all good things to pass, for by this my children will learn of an omniscient God.

When bad things happen, I'll neither grumble nor complain, but will instead help my children see that in the scope of our lives even the bad times are allowed for a reason, for by this my children will learn quiet trust in their Maker.

When normal childhood mishaps occur, I will remember that although difficult, it is still easier to remove grape juice from off-white carpet than to erase harsh and unloving words hurled at a child whose chubby little fingers have failed her, for by this my children will see a God who understands when our best efforts fall short.

When my children have witnessed something ugly in me - unkind words, an angry temper, "harmless" gossip, biting sarcasm or even my infamous "mommy pout" when things don't go my way - I will confess it as sin before them seeking their forgiveness, for by this my children will develop the much needed habit of wiping their spiritual slate clean before God and man.

I will teach my children the importance of cleanliness and order while at the same time remain sensitive to the fact that a skinned knee or hurt feeling is more crucial than a spotless floor or uncluttered counter, for by this my children will learn to value people above things.

I will make time for the lonely, the sick, the elderly, the difficult to love, and will bring my children along, for with each afternoon visit, each ride to the doctor, each raked lawn or washed window they will have opportunity to serve Jesus by serving the "least of these."

I will make our home a haven of rest and retreat from the outside world and a welcomed place for my children's friends, for with each impromptu backyard soccer game, each video viewed on a rainy day, each cup of hot cocoa or chocolate chip cookie, my children will have opportunity to practice the art of Christian hospitality thereby learning to share all God has given them.

I will by my actions and my speech let my children see a mom love their dad, for by this will my children sense family stability at a time when marriages all around them are crumbling.

I will not require of my children obedience, honesty, patience or kindness without first being willing to submit to the same rules whether in speed limit, in miscounted change from the grocery store or when answering a toddler for the fourteenth time, for by this my children will see a mother who is also learning and not a perfect parent to whom they'll never measure up.

In all things will I remember that more is caught than is taught.

There are little eyes upon you, mom. You are the first Bible your children will ever read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm outta here. I'm unplugging to celebrate Christmas and the new year with my family. I've pre-posted a few posts for next week and may pop in unexpectedly. But for now, my plan is to take a few days off and enjoy some family time. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas filled with memory making and worshipping our Creator.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Celebrating 2 Years with My Baby Girl

Today we're celebrating 2 years with my sweet Lydia. Two years ago we were awaiting the arrival of our baby girl, born strategically early for Christmas. Greeting us 6 lbs, 13 oz, snuggled up in a tight ball, not really wanting to come out. Wanting to be held and swaddled all the time.

We took her to have her photos taken today and she was all Lydia. Not a smile, just a coy look and a grin. Never really wanting to take too much notice. Preferring instead to be on Mommy's lap. Only warming up after we took out Elmo.

A two year old party this weekend included lots of family, and a few friends. Again, our shy little girl only really crack a smile when we sang "Happy Birthday." The white kitty cake was perfect for our sweet baby girl who chose to Meow at it while Grandma was decorating it.

Today we play at home, plan some yummy dinner, and cherish the memories we've made over the last two years.

I've Got To Dance!

4th of July Sparkler

Enjoying her Watermelon

Playing in the mud

with brother on the back patio

For more Tackle it Tuesday posts, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Monday 12/21-12/27

Pretty sad looking menu plan this week. We'll be spending several days at Grandma's house over the holiday so I don't have to do much grocery shopping. But take it for what it's worth. Here's what I have planned:

Breakfast: Yogurt and fruit
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Out for Baby Girl's Birthday

Breakfast: Cranberry Apple Muffins
Lunch-Dinner: At Grandma

Wed-Sat: At Grandma's

Breakfast: Cereal and fruit
Lunch: Something in the crockpot
Dinner: Garlic Chicken Pasta

Oreo Biscotti
Pumpkin Bread
Hot Cocoa Mix (all the above for an exchange gift)
Shrimp Dip
Pumpkin Pie Cake
Green Salad (these three for Christmas dinner)

Link Love

Martha Stewart is on a hit again with these Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. Perfect for Christmas gatherings.

Here's some quick Christmas ideas for that little girl on your list with Baby Doll Accessories @ Frugal Granola.

Peppermint Cloud Brownies look like the perfect accompianment to any holiday (@StopandSmelltheChocolate).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Homemade Christmas #7

Buying or making Christmas presents for my Grandma is always a challenge. There's very few things she needs and even fewer things she wants. Really when it comes to Christmas, the thing she wants the most is to have us all together. Still it's always my heart to bless her with something. Even if it's a small something.

Being two hours away from the nearest town, my mom and grandma will frequently make all-day trips into town to do grocery shopping, clothes shopping, Dr's appointments, work for my mom, or sometimes visiting family. And on those days, hitting a drive through, or snacking in the car is inevitable. But eating in the car is a challenge for the most coordinated of us. In fact, my grandma could possibly give me a run for my money is staying clean in such a situation. It's not easy.

So this idea actually came from my mom. Some practical clothes protectors, or bibs, the keep the wearer nice during those quick, hectic meals. And with her help, we designed some for my grandma.

The concept is quite easy actually. Start with 1 1/2 yards of terry cloth or chenille (some sort of sturdy fabric that's absorbent). Trim the sides giving it an even edge and fold in two width-wise. I used a smaller dinner plate to get a nice edge on the neck hole. I didn't even use half the width, folded. Cut the neck hole and sew coordinating binding all the way around. Fold the pocket to the depth you desire and sew up the sides. Add ties approximately 12 inches to each side in coordinating binding.


You can also add a small element to the pocket if you wish. Something pretty: butterfly, dragonfly. Even a monogram. Adjust to the taste of your recipient.

Purchase the material with your 40% off coupon for the local fabric store and you have yourself a frugal and practical, as well as easy, gift for Christmas.

For more Frugal Friday posts, check out Life as Mom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Edited: Here's our Christmas letter and photos for the year. Hope you enjoy this extra little glimpse into our lives. And my kids' crazy personalities.

Picking pumpkins

At the Pumpkin Patch Oct 2009

On our beach vacation--Brookings, Or July 2009

In our backyard--November 2009

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. 2009 seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. The days flew, our hands were busy, and our lives were enriched.

Big boy turned four this year. He’s so full of questions. Hardly a moment goes by without some new curiosity or insight coming out of his mouth. He started preschool in January and is thriving in that environment. It’s just a couple of hours in the mornings, but he’s learning a lot and enjoys having something that’s just his. Big Boy’s super active between swimming, gymnastics, and trying to climb on to the roof of the house (with a jump rope).

Baby Girl’s almost two already. Her sassiness is ever-present and she’s such a joy to have around. Most of the time she’s just trying to keep up with her brother, whether riding bikes or getting in a game of Memory. We’ve recently seen her branch out and start making her own friends. Baby Girl also loves swimming like her brother. Most of the summer was spent in the YMCA pool.

Daddy changed jobs in January and is working as a group home counselor once again. His job takes him away from home for some long hours, but we get to have him home for three-day weekends. The Associate Pastor of our church left in June and Daddy has since taken over a good share of his responsibilities. The experience has taught him a lot about leading in the local church and continues to grow him daily.

Mommy is at home with the kids, staying busy with two very active imaginations. She still volunteers at the YMCA on a weekly basis and spent a good part of the past year planning the church’s women’s retreat. All things “home” keep her busy, whether opening our home to others or documenting the spiritual insights of a four and two year old, days are full.

Our summer hit off with a bang. As many of you know, we moved into a three-bedroom home with a good friend last Aug. However, in January he started making plans to spend a three month mission trip in Africa over the summer. Faced with another move, we started to look into buying our own home. With the government bonuses available this year, the process moved even quicker than we imagined. On June 6th, we moved into our first house. The kids have their own rooms and it literally takes us longer to load the kids in the car than to actually drive to the church parking lot.

We’d love to hear from any and all of you. We think of you often and pray that you’re doing well. If you’re ever in the area, give us a call. We’d love to see you.

Big Boy’s Top Ten 2009

1. Lambie
2. Spiderman
3. Riding his scooter and bike
4. In ‘N’ Out Burger
5. Playing Memory Game
6. Swimming
7. Super Why!
8. “How Do Dinosaurs” books
9. Annie (our cat)
10. Hot Sauce

Baby Girl’s Top Ten 2009

1. Elmo
2. Annie and all kitties
3. Disney Princesses
4. Swimming
5. Coloring
6. Reading Books
7. Doing Puzzles and stringing beads
8. Super Why!
9. Hot Chocolate Dates
10. Her Thumb (still!)

Easy Holiday Appetizers

Christmas Day can be hectic with little ones. As you're preparing the main meal, the little one want something around 11:30 or noon. And to be honest, so do I. The munchies kick in and your stomach starts rumbling. But really... who wants to stop and even make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? And you don't want the kids to fill up before the dinner. So what's the solution?
In my family, we have our main meal around 2pm, but before that we have an appetizer buffet about noon. It's perfect. Most appetizers can be pre-prepared and are easy to grab on the go. Kids are in and out, the guys are playing cards or out in the snow, and most of the gals are gabbing in the kitchen. Appetizers definately work for us.
These are just a couple of things you'll find on our appetizer buffet this year:

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

Layer the following on a platter:
1-2 blocks of cream cheese (depending on your size platter)
bundle of green onions, chopped
1 bottle shrimp cocktail sauce
2 lbs of fresh baby shrimp

Serve layered dip with Ritz crackers.
Even non-seafood lovers will enjoy it.

Seven Layer Bean Dip

Layer the following in a 9x 13 pan:
1 can refried beans
green onions, chopped
Tomato, chopped
olives, sliced
Grated cheese
Chunky salsa
Sour cream mixed with a packet of taco seasoning

Serve with tortilla chips

Both of these appetizers can be made ahead and are big crowd pleasers.

For more Works for Me ideas, check out We Are THAT Family.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pound Packing Traditions

I'm a woman who loves tradition. There are people in the world who enjoy tradition and people who feel restricted by it. I THRIVE off of it. Seeing traditions passed down from generation to generation, I feel has enriched my life and the lives of many people around me.
I love knowing what the holidays will look like and reliving similar memories year after year. Although each year has it's uniqueness, there's a sense of comfort in predicatability. The tree goes here, the same songs play on the radio, the same events happen like clockwork, the same dishes are served around the buffet.
At this time of year, part of that tradition is baking. I grew up in a family that did over-the-top baking around the holidays. Molasses cookies, chocolate covered cherry cookies, peanut butter fudge, toffee, ... you name it, we baked it. The SMELLS coming from the kitchen could have packed on ten pounds. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
As I've grown older, I've tried very hard to keep a tight reign on our eating habits, but there's still the lure of baking around this time of year. So I've come to the conclusion of everything in moderation. And to help with that, we've narrowed it down to two or three cookie recipes and peppermint bark. While I'm keeping the 5 Generation Jelly Cookie recipe under lock and key, here's the yummy peanut butter blossoms I'm tackling this week.

This recipe was developed by HERSHEY's and can be found in many of their cookbooks as well as on the web.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

The recipe says 4 dozen cookies. I got 2 1/2 dozen and may have been able to stretch it to 3 dozen, but that was it. That's why, although I made a batch on Thurs evening, it looks like I'm already due for making another batch today.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do. If you don't, why not make a batch of peanut butter cookies and dip them in chocolate? Now doesn't that sound good.

For more Tackle it Tuesday posts, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Monday 12/14-12/20

I have quite a hodge podge this week, some stuff carried over from last week that we didn't get to, several meals out with family, and party planning for a two year old. Yes, Baby Girl is turning 2 years old on the 21st and we'll have family in town this weekend for her party. Also I found bell peppers at the grocery store for $.28/piece so I picked up enough for the kids and I to have Stuffed Peppers one night this week.

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Quesadillas, salad, fruit
Dinner: Chili and Cornbread (carried over from last week)

Breakfast: yogurt and fruit
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, salad, oranges
Dinner: Stuffed Bell Peppers

Breakfast: yogurt and fruit
(taking lemon bars to YMCA potluck)
Lunch: Sandwiches, crackers and dip
Dinner: Tomato soup, veggies and fruit

Breakfast: Last Day of School treat: Monkey Bread
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, salad

Lunch: Almond Chicken Salad
Dinner: Papa Murphy's Pizza

Breakfast: Cranberry Apple Muffins
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Red Robin for birthday dinner

Breakfast: Muffins
Lunch: Out with Family
Dinner: Garlic Chicken Pasta

Kitty Treats (for birthday party)
Jelly cookies
Hummus and crackers
Some party finger food
Lemon Bars

Link Love

These Stamped Ceramic Ornaments would make a great gift for a friend, or a wonderful way to remember the holidays with a loved one (@ In My Stamp Room).

This is a fantastic Pumpkin Spice Bread recipe (@ The Cook's Atelier). The kids and I already tried it out. Don't forget the whipped cream!

I've been dreaming of having one of these shower cleaners and now here's an easy recipe for Homemade Automatic Shower Cleaner Refill (@ Cutting Coupons in KC). I'll be making the plunge in buying on in the new year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Homemade Christmas #6: Altered Puzzles

Do you ever have one of those projects in the back of your mind that you always vow you'll get to? One of those projects that just seem to sit and ruminate in your head amist the to-do lists and "What's for dinner?" questions? That uncompleted idea from years ago?

This was one of those projects for me. Super easy, but just couldn't ever seem to get to it. In fact, I've had these little wooden puzzles in my stockpile for almost 2 1/2 years. I made some last year as Christmas presents and still had a few left. I've been waiting to dive into them. So Christmas was the perfect excuse.

Altered Puzzle

First thing I did was come up with my color decor. This was Christmas so red and green, of course. I'm thinking now that the frame would have been very pretty in black. Play with colors and see what you like. The ones I did last year were covered in scrapbook paper. For that route, brush the pieces with Modge Podge, allow to dry, and trim wit an Xacto knife. Sand the edges down with fine sand paper. Then lock the pieces back together and Modge Podge into the frame.

I adhered the ribbon to the back with glue dots to temporarily keep it in place. Then I added a layer of Modge Podge for a stronger hold.

Now comes the fun part: embellishing. I used srapbook embellishments, free images from the internet and stamped images. Think poinsettas, holly, Santa, snow. Adhere them with Modge Podge. After you've finished embellishing, cover with a final layer of Modge Podge to seal.

For a final touch, I rubbed on a thin layer of glitter glue, just to give it some shine. And finally seal with some acrylic sealer. Seal both sides finish and give it some shine.

I'm working on a winter themed on to put up after New Year's. A blue and silver one. So excited.

Submitted to the Monthly Craft Challenge @ Blue Eyed Blessings.

Submitted to Modge Podge Mania @ This is the Year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making the Most of Christmas Day

I recently heard a blogger comment that each Christmas seems the same. Overeating, filling, opening gifts, and rushing on with life. Each year, year after year, the same people and no closer than they were the year before.

With all the preparation that so many of us put into this day, it's sad to think that we've already got it all figured out before it even starts. We walk into this day with so many hopes for deepening relationships and yet, we have no plan to get there. We have plans for completing our shopping, completing our baking, completing our decorations. And no plan for how to make the most of Christmas Day with our family.

I confess I'm as guilty as anyone. After our marriage we decided to split the holidays between our two families, each living in opposite directions of our home. So although I see my mom often, it's a rarity to spend time with aunts, uncles, and cousins. In fact, due to Baby Girl's Dec 21st birthday, this will be the first time in four years that I'll be home for Christmas.

In an effort to plan, here are some ideas for mixing up the family and getting everyone talking:
*Board Games--I remember as a young teen getting these out with my cousins and there are so many to please a variety of ages. Shoots and Ladders, Candyland, Monopoly, Life, Sequence.
*Card Games--There's often a game of Rummy going on at my house on any given holiday. Again so many to choose from and card decks are easy to come by. Make it more interesting and play for M&M's, or leftover desert.
*Pirate Tree or White Elephant Gift Exchanges--There are so many variations of this game. Everyone knows the White Elephant, but have you ever been a Pirate? Look here for further directions. I've heard of further variations where the gifts had to be homemade or usable by the day's end (in the case of a game, Polaroid camera, or yummy goodies).
*Sledding--Come on! You know you want to get out there with the kids. And think of all the calories you'll be burning. Enough for an extra piece of pie! Then take a step back and grab the video camera while your uncle hits the slope.
*Target shooting--We are an outdoor family and there have been many a Christmas mornings where we've packed up Hot Chocolate and appetizers to target shoot while waiting for the turkey.
*Organize a musical competition or talent show--just hurry before the turkey kicks in. No drozy performers. No one in your family has any musical talent? Break out the Karaoke. Can you picture Grandma singing "I saw Mama kissin' Santa Clause?
*Offer to help with clean up--You wouldn't believe the bonding you can do with your sister in law while you're at a sink doing dishes.

Whatever you decide to do on Christmas day, remember to make it memorable. Go beyond the ordinary questions. Laugh, giggle with your children, and build memories. Mark this Christmas as different than the last.

For more Works for Me ideas, check out We Are THAT Family.

Come on in!

This past weekend, my husband climbed up into the attic and took out the Christmas decorations. We were all so excited. It's long been a tradition in our home to decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving. But with some of the traveling and busyness of the season, we didn't get it done till this past weekend. And boy did it feel like a long time.

It's our first Christmas in our new place and as always, I'm eager to make memories for my kids and decorating the tree is just one of those memories. These are just a few of my favorite things in the house these days:

I saw this idea for a garland awhile back at Homespun Heart (here's the original post). I knew I had to have one. So with a little ribbon and some scrapbook paper, I put one together. I love the extra little touch that it is as you enter the hallway.

I've been wanting to make these for all the seasons, but this is the first altered puzzle I've completed. So cute and so festive. Tutorial coming later this week.

Hubby's cousin gave this to me a few years ago as an exchange gift. I love vintage things and it's one of my favorite. Wish I could have it out all year.

My Grandma bought us this little Nativity Set when we were first married. She found it at the Dollar Store of all places. It's tiny, petite, and simple. But it's also sturdy and catches the light perfectly.

Big Boy made this Gingerbread House kit last year with my mom. Just reminds me how sweet my kids are.

We try to add a new ornament each year to remind us where we were as a family. This one is from two years ago when we went to Alaska.

And finally the completed tree. It's that really the centerpiece of any Christmas home? This is the first year I'll be able to put my tree in front of a window and I love it. I love that everyone can see the lights as they go by, just speaks of warmth and home.

I hope you've enjoyed our virtual tour. Stop by again some time.

For more homes, check out Tip Junkie.
For more Tackle it Tuesday, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Whole Foods Holiday Ideas

The holidays are filled with so many memories. Decorating the Christmas tree, caroling for the neighbors, playing board games with the cousins, and wrapping presents for the tree. As soon as November hits, many of us find our hearts racing, thinking about all there is to do, but also all the memories we can't wait to make with our families.
I find that many Christmas memories are connected with food as well. The baking of those special treats you wait all year for. The smells wafting from our Grandmother's kitchens. The buffet of snack foods lined out on Christmas Eve. I grew up in a family that skipped Christmas Eve dinner in favor of snacks and hors d'oeuvres. The kitchen counter was filled to overflowing with bite sized pieces of comfort, some healthy and some not so healthy. Especially as my young eyes would fixate on the creamy Spinach dip or the fried bits of halibut.
And while I find myself drifting more and more to the healthier end of things as my age increases, I still indulge in some of the higher fat items. After all, it is only once a year!
Still, I'm looking for options. And as my children grow, I want them to understand that they have options as well. Knowing that the holidays don't have to be filled with only pre-packaged items. These are just two of the whole food items that will be a hit at our house this holiday season:

Marinated Cucumbers and Onions
2 Cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2-1 full red onion, thinly sliced
1 c. plain yogurt

Mix the yogurt, vinegar and sugar (to taste) to make a dressing. I tend to like mine on the tarter end of things. Toss in cucumbers and onions. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours. Can be served as a side dish or as a solo meal with a chunk of sourdough bread.

Apple Cranberry Sauce
6-8 apples (this is what the original recipe says, but if they're small, go for 10-12)
1 bag of cranberries (I buy these in season then keep them in the freezer to cook all year round)
1 c. sugar
1-2 c. water

Peel and core apples. You can slice them as well to help them cook down faster. Start with 1 c. water and add just enough water for apples to cook down.
Cook apples until not quite done. This won't take long. Approx. 45 min. Remember to cook not too hot and keep checking them so they don't stick and burn.
Add cranberries and sugar. Cook until cranberries "pop" and apples are done. Add sugar to taste (but I like just one cup).

This is the best applesauce you've ever had. After trying this, you'll never go back to plain cranberry sauce.

And the higher calorie end of things:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. peanut butter
3/4 c. butter @ room temp
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour and backing soda. Beat peanut butter, butter, sugars and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before removing.

For more Healthy Eats and Treats, check out Keeper of the Home.

Menu Monday 12/7-12/13

Scrambled Eggs
Cereal/granola and milk
Yogurt and fruit
Cranberry Apple Muffins

Lunch: Quesadillas, salad, fruit
Dinner: Beef Barley Soup, homemade bread

Lunch: Tortellini Soup, fruit
Dinner:Chicken pot pie, salad

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Stirfry

Lunch: Almond Chicken salad, fruit
Dinner: Taco Salad

Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, fruit
Dinner: Lentils and Naan

Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Garlic Chicken Pasta

Lunch: ???
Dinner:Chili and Cornbread

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Link Love

Next time we have all the family in town, I might throw together this Feed a Crowd Chicken (@Quick & Easy, Cheap & Healthy). Just on a smaller scale.

These Artichoke Triangles would be perfect for a holiday gathering (@ Betty Crocker).

Pear Butter and Honey sounds like a great way to use up the delicious fruit that's on the market right now (@Pilgrims at Oak Ridge).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Frugal Friday: Thinking Long Term

Christmas can be one of the biggest financial drains of the year. Advertising, store window displays, discounts at the mall, Black Friday all add up to a financial crash waiting to happen. Parents buy into the philosophy of buying their kid's love. Grown adults buy into the guilt of returning the favor. Office parties, secret Santa's, teacher gifts, big families, expectant kids (or spoiled kids), and overworked adults. Where did the joy go?

Even if you don't buy into the philosophy of Advent Conspiracy, this debt and consumerism still has has to be stopped. Who wants to start off a new year panicking over credit card debt? Who wants to start ANOTHER year panicking over credit card debt?

One of the keys I've recently learned is keeping my eye on long term goals. Every time I want to spend a little money, every time I want to make a big purchase, every time I want to completely go overboard on my kids, I just have to remember, "What's the long term goal? What's the bigger picture?"

And the bigger picture is:
* Keeping my new home
* Keeping a nest egg in this economy
* One day putting aside money for college educations
* Having a little extra to get away with my kids
* Having some money set aside to help out where God would have us help out

What's the long term goal? And making that purchase will do what to your long term goal?

Spending money on Christmas is not a bad choice. Spending money is an inevitable consequence of our life on earth. And blessing your family with a few gifts is not going to be the end of the world. I've been scanning ads and looking for something my 2 and 4 year old will love. But it's the hording and the stockpiling and the debt that needs to avoided. It's the buying at all cost. It's ignoring the debt, ignoring that poverty of others around the world. It's forgetting the long term goal.

For more money saving ideas, check out LIfe as Mom.

Homemade Christmas #5: Glittered Ornament

I never realized how much of a "bling" girl I was until very recently. Although often found in jeans and a t-shirt, I love my jewelry. It's just that unique little touch that makes outfit "you". And somehow it's not stopping there. I'm into this glitter thing, too. How 80's is that?
A couple of weeks ago, I tackled making Christmas ornaments for my kids. I love the tradition of giving my children a new ornament every year as they grow up. For me, one of the highlights of every Christmas is taking out my own memory ornaments and reliving their Christmases as I put them on the tree. So these were the ornaments I made my kids, little cups of cocoa to commemorate the hot cocoa dates we go on.

And now back to the "bling." This was a very fun little project. I had a "candy" ornament that I painted in pretty girlie colors and then smeared with glitter glue from the Dollar Tree. Quick, easy, and very "blingy." With a fun message on the back and the year and sealed with acrylic sealer (easy to find at Wal-mart).

So just wanted to pass on this fun project. These ceramic ornaments are easy to find at Jo-ann's or any craft store. Just pick up a few colors and some glitter, and get started. What girlfriend wouldn't be proud to add this to her tree!

Submitted to the Monthly Craft Challenge @ Blue Eyed Blessings.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So Thankful

For more Wordless Wednesday, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Homemade Christmas #4

I've been cooking again this week, cooking with my sewing machine that is. More felt food to go with Baby Girl's birthday present. I can't believe it's coming up so quick. I'm almost done with the present, but the problem is, I keep finding more and more cute felt food patterns that I want to try. My mind is racing with all the possibilities. I fear I may end up playing with this food more than anyone in the family. SHHH! Don't tell.

Anyways... I have a couple of quick ideas for ya and one that took a little more thought.

First up: Raviolis.

Aren't they cute? And so simple. We eat a lot of whole wheat pasta and grains in our house so I went with the browns, but you could easily adapt this to ivory. I don't like the look of white, but ivory would convey the idea quite nicely.

Super simple. Simply cut two similar size pieces of felt. Don't worry about being exact just yet. In fact, cut them slightly bigger to accomidate trimming. Simply align the edges and sew together with a straight stitch, stuffing before finishing the fourth side. Double stitch at the end. Then trim up the sides to the size you want with your pinking shears.

And there you have them. Cute, easy, and delicious... I mean, they look delicious. :-)

These orange wedges took a little more time, but once I got the hang of them, they went very smoothly.

I started with the pattern I found here, cutting the larger circle in dark orange and the smaller circle in a lighter orange. Start by folding your larger circle in half and sewing around the open edge.

The original pattern didn't call for stuffing, but I thought it would be cute if they were "juicy" oranges. Just remember to stuff before your finish your edge.

Fold the smaller circle in half over the top of the larger circle. Line it up so it's even on both sides and sew a straight line through the middle of the smaller circle to the edge of the lighter orange.

Continue sewing one more line on each side of the center line, giving yourself four sections. Sew around the edge of the smaller circle to complete.

There they are. My smaller circles weren't as even as I've have liked them to be. But still cute. Figured this would be a good way to complete either a breakfast set with eggs and bacon, or a lunch set with sandwiches.

Finally, I had a few pieces of ivory laying around and was trying to come up with something to do with them. Thus, the tea bags came to mind.

Just cut two simple square slightly smaller than your raviolis, stitching them in the same pattern with stuffing. Before sewing up the final edge, insert a strip of ivory for the string. I cut mine with the pinking shears to give them a fancier edge. After adding the string, sew a smaller single square on the end for the tag. And now tea time is all set, possibly with those oranges you've already made.

For further ideas, check out Felt Food Tutorial #1 and Felt Food Tutorial #2.

Just a few more pieces left (If I can stop myself). Check out my blog next week for felt popsicles (ok, there'll probably be some sugar cookies in there too. I just can't stop!).

For more Works for Me ideas, check out We Are THAT Family.

For more Frugal Friday ideas, check out Life as Mom.
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