Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bookmarks for March 2012

*Bookmarks is an online book club hosted at Creative2xmom.  Here we discuss the books we've read in the past month as well as the suggested reading.  Our suggested reading for March was Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.

These are the books I read this month:
That's My Son by Rick Johnson--Raising two boys myself, I was naturally interested in this book.  I was hoping to gain some new insight in how motherhood affects boys and possibly some fresh ideas for how to do it better.  Unfortunately, this book lacked focus for me.  At times I wondered if the subtitle wouldn't have bee more aptly changed from How Moms Can Influence Boys to How Dads Can Influence Boys.  Furthermore, much of the content was very close to Dobson's Bringing Up Boys.  And without a doubt Dobson addresses the issues far better than Johnson.  Wasn't the worst book I've read, but I'd say skip it and pick up Bringing up Boys instead.

You're Already Amazing by Holly Gerth--You can find my  review here.

Stand by Me by Neta Jackson--You can find my review here.
101 Things You Should Do Before Your Kids Leave Home by David Bordon and Tom Winters--I loved this book.  It was easy to read in small chunks and just had a lot of great ideas.  Some of these things we done before and some we haven't, so it was a fun resource to read through.  I'd love to revisit this one again and again as my kids grow.

The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine--see my review here

Our monthly reading for March was Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.

This is a book that I've read over and over.  And it continues to remind me of my mission as a mom.  This time it just brought a fresh outlook to my relationship with my son.  He's moving out of the age where he just does what Mommy tells him.  And while there are still situations where that's needed, he's growing into his own person.  My discipline and the way I relate to him needs to evolve as well.  It's brought a softer side to our relationship and I'm so glad for the reminder.

So what are your bookmarks this month?

Tell us in the comments about the books you're chewing on.  Or link up a review from your own blog.  Let's share the books we're finding, good and bad.  And give us your thoughts if you've had a chance to read Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart.

And come back Friday April 27 as we discuss Kisses for Katie and others that you're reading.

*Linked to these Parties

Do-It-Yourself: Wheat Thins

Well, I've looked at this recipe over at Kitchen Stewardship several times and really wanted to make my own Wheat Thins.  My kids fly through boxes of Wheat Thins and I hate that the ingredients list is so long.  I just want to know that what they are consuming in masses isn't going to kill them.  So I tried this one.

Honestly, I completely screwed it up.  For some reason, I had a really hard time getting it all mixed together, even with the KitchenAid.  And I don't have a lot of patience for rolling things out.  So my Wheat Thins were pretty sad looking.  But I do want to make them again.  We all loved the way they tasted; we just couldn't get them to look good.

So I will be working at these again soon.  They take some time, but they are yummy!  Let me know if you try them.  I'd love to hear how they work out for you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

25 Spring Break Ideas

1. Purchase a roll of art paper and get creative with your kids.  Watercolors, finger paints, markers, outline each other's bodies and add the details, be creative!

2. Make Smores!  Get the fire pit going in the backyard or pop them in the microwave.  And don't forget to add those colored Peeps for a fun twist.

3. Memorize a piece of Scripture together.  Pick on that pertains to where you're family is at and challenge each other to memorize by the end of the week.

4. Make an Easter Garland.  Pick bunnies, eggs, or peeps and make a seasonal garland together.

5. Have a sleepover!  Pitch a tent in the living room, pop popcorn, and turn out the lights.

6. Make ice cream.  Pull out that homemade ice cream recipe or try a new one.  What a great way to spend time in the kitchen with your kids.

7. Do a community service project.  Select a project to donate your time to and work alongside your kids.  Show them the value of working hard and serving others.

8. One on one dates.  Take your kids out and spend some one on one time together.  Let them pick the activity (within reason) and just listen.  Who knows what you'll learn?

9. Read a book together.  Pick a book to read as a family and read a bit each day.  Great cuddle time.

10. Learn something new together.  Go to a museum, open up the internet, take a class together.  What are your kids interested in?  Learn about it together.

11. Tackle a project together.  Do you have a fun creative project you'd like to work on together?  Use the extra time to tackle that project.

12. Get ready for guests.  Create a new spring wreath, bake a special dessert, freshen up the guest room. Work together and remember the joy of spring.

13. Make a new batch of Play-doh.  Try some Pumpkin Pie Play-doh or Kool-aid.  And play with the spring colors.

14. Create cards.  Break out the scrapbook paper and markers and make a stack of cards to send to loved ones.

15. Plan a neighborhood bike ride.  Get the neighborhood kids together, add some streamers to the bikes, and have a bike ride.  What a great idea for community pride!

16. Plan a playdate at the park.  Pack up a picnic, gather some moms, and let the kids play as long as they want.

17. Cook a meal together.  Allow the kids to help you plan and cook the meal.

18. Go local.  Make a list of local places you've always wanted to visit and plan to see 3-4 of those throughout the day.

19. Plan a family game night.  Put together some fun prizes like no chores for one day, pick your favorite dessert, or day out with mom.

20. Have a pizza party.  Lay out all the toppings and let them build their own pizzas.  Top the night off with a family movie.

21. Create a Spring Break scrapbook.  Spend the day taking photos of each other and put them in a special book to remember your time together.

22. Start a journal together.  Create a journal where you can write letters back and forth to each other.  Save it for times of encouragement and love.

23. Make a batch of Peanut Butter Easter Eggs.

24. Create a family movie.  Let the kids come up with a script, create the costumes, and act it out before the camera.  Have a movie premiere with fresh popped popcorn.

25. Plan a nothing day.  Let the kids jump on the trampoline, play with the dog or watch cartoons.  Stay in your jammies and catch up on some relaxing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brownie Batter Dip {Pinterest Inspired}

A couple of weeks ago, I was running around the house trying to get dinner ready for company and kept thinking I needed to have something for dessert.  Now usually I skip dessert, but these time I was thinking it might be fun to have something extra.  So I was searching my brain, trying to come up with something yummy and possible with ingredients we already had in the house.  I checked my Pinterest boards to see if I could come up with something.

That's when I remembered this Brownie Batter Dip that I had pinned a few weeks prior.  It was so easy to put together and absolutely amazing.  We served it with apple slices and pretzels, and it made the perfect sweet ending to our meal.  Just a simple little thing to make our evening special.  Enjoy!

Monday Muddle

Monday... Monday... This Monday has caught up with me.  I'm usually at my son's school right now helping teach Math.  Hilarious to me since I'm a former English teacher, but that's how my Monday morning typically goes.  But this Monday, I'm laying on the couch.  Sick! Yuck!  What a way to start the week.

We did have a fun weekend.  My sister in law came out to see my son play T-Ball.  It was opening weekend and unfortunately we got rained out.  But it was fun to have the company.  She just had a great time being here in the middle of the chaos.  They did go see a movie and the kids came back so excited.  It was a nice break from routine.

I'd love to share more, but this sickness is just zapping my energy.  Hope your weekend was filled with fun and good memories.

Here's our menu for the week:

Cereal and fruit
Oatmeal and bananas

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sammies
Green Salad
String cheese, carrots and dip, fruit

Monday: Tomato Soup
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Potato Soup
Thursday: Hamburgers, potato salad
Friday: Spaghetti, french bread
Saturday: Breakfast for dinner
Sunday: Leftovers

How was your weekend?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Money Saving Mom's Budget {Review}

As a long time Money Saving Mom reader, I was excited to review Crystal Paine's new book.  Paine blogs daily about her money saving techniques and tricks.  Now she's compiling her favorite ideas in her book and making them accessible to the beginning budgeter.

There's a lot of pros and cons to this book.  It's a great book for the beginner.  Paine starts with the necessary principle of living within your means and knowing where your money is going.  She also addresses how to set up a bare bones budget and how to extend upon that once you become comfortable with budgeting.

However, for a long time reader of the blog, there is little to no new information shared.  It is nice to have the information in one place, but it's all information that many of us have heard before.  If you have any grasp on living the frugal lifestyle, you'll find that this is all tricks you've used before.

I would recommend this one for anyone who is looking for a place to start in the frugal lifestyle.  Paine is encouraging and offers many great beginners tips to get you started.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey y'all,
How was your week?  Did you remember to wear green on Saturday?  I almost forgot.  Ooops!

We had a good week.  Slower than last, but still busy with three littles.  I'm realizing that as they get older, life doesn't slow down.  The busy just looks different.  But it's still chaos!

I kept Noah home from school on Friday and did a day of homeschooling.  I love having that flexibility. We had a fun day of schooling and being together.  I took the kids out for an apple cider while we worked on Math.  That was fun.  It was a crazy day as we already had several commitments that day, but it gave me a lot of confidence that it is possible to homeschool and still love my kids.

Saturday was just being together.  We had T-ball practice and then came home.  With our weeks being so crazy, we really needed that down time.  I made Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars and we munched on them while we played Yahtzee.  The kids wore down near the end of the game, but Dave and I got a good laugh out of it.

Sunday was church and meetings.  Noah went to a friend's house in the afternoon and the two younger ones got some much needed time.  I was able to get some seedlings started and ordered some photos from Costco.  All in all, a fun family weekend.

We had a really nice weekend and now we're getting ready to brave the rain again.  I feel a bit like I'm at the end of my creative rope with the kids.  Anyone have any great ideas?  I'd love to hear them.

Here's our menu for the week:

Cereal and fruit
Oatmeal and bananas
Homemade muffins
Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sammies
Homemade Spaghetti O's
Veggie Wraps
Cilantro Lime Jalapeno Chicken Salad
Carrots, string cheese, and fruits

Monday: Tacos
Tuesday: Tomato Soup
Wednesday: Potato Soup
Thursday: Aztec Chicken
Friday: Veggie Pizza
Saturday: Hamburgers, potato salad
Sunday: Parm Encrusted Tilapia

No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes
Hm Strawberry Ice Cream
Homemade Wheat Thins (again)

Projects I'm working on this week:
Organize photos/papers/etc for Aug-Oct photos
Finish 2 review books
Read Shepherding a Child's Heart
Patching projects
Jersey Knit Bracelets

What are your plans this week?

Lee's To Do List

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St Patrick's Day

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day!  Yeah!

Not a huge deal in our house, but it's always fun to do something a little out of the ordinary.  The kids get really into it and to tell the truth, so do I.  So to help you out, here a few ideas from the past and also what we're planning for the weekend.

St. Patrick's Day information sites

Shamrock Shakes--Yummy!

Corned Beef in the Crockpot

"Gold" Coins

Irish Stew

Cabbage Salad

Irish Soda Bread

Rainbow Cupcakes

Rainbow Popsicles

Have a great weekend!

*Linked to these Parties

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stand by Me {Review}

Neta Jackson, of the well-known Yada Yada Prayer Group series, has released her latest title: Stand by Me, a SouledOut Sisters novel.  This first novel in the series follows the life and trials over two very different women and how their lives intertwine one Chicago summer.

Avis Douglas seems to have it all together.  A successful elementary school principal, happily married, and faithfully serving as worship pastor at her local church, Avis' life is turned upside down by an invitation to serve overseas with long-time friends.  Her husband is eager to accept the offer just as her daughter goes missing for several months.  To confuse matters further, their church falls into crisis and there's a pesky group of young college students moving in downstairs.

Enter Kat Davies: young, energetic, idealistic, and taking the world by storm.  What she lacks in experience, Kat more than makes up for in enthusiasm.  And it's this exact enthusiasm that has tongues wagging at the local church, Avis' church.

As these two women enter the summer, they find themselves at odds with each other.  Youthful idealism brushing up against experience and raw wounds.  Little do these two realize that they are exactly what the other needs.  And only together can they make sense of the months to come.

Having never read any of Jackson's previous books, I was delighted to find that I couldn't put down Stand by Me.  The characters are real and relatable, and the author crafts an engaging story from cover to cover.  While the book ties up most of the loose ends, Neta Jackson leaves herself plenty of room for a second book.  One I'd be eager to read.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was supplied free of charge for my review.  All opinions are my own.
*Linked to these Parties

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey y'all,
Did you remember to "Spring Forwrd" this weekend? Boy, did that confuse my body.

Last week was crazy. Teacher conferences for the kids, gymnastic lessons, and T-Ball started. It felt like we were running from one thing to the next just to keep up. Some weeks are just like that, I guess. I took a ton of pictures this last week that I'm excited to share with you soon.

We ended up making a quick trip down to my In-Law's on Saturday after T-Ball. Today is my Mother-In-Law's birthday so we went down to celebrate with a family dinner. And completely surprised her. She had no idea we were coming. It was a quick trip, but we were able to just spend some time relaxing with everyone on Sunday. So I'm gonna keep this one short. Lots of fun coming up this week and busy as usual.

How was your weekend?

Here's our menu for the week:

Lucky Charms cereal and bananas
Oatmeal and fruit
Rainbow pancakes
Quinoa Oat porridge

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Peanut Butter and banana wraps
Homemade Spaghetti O's
Cucumber Tomato Salad

Monday: Leftover Bar
Tuesday: Chicken Noodle Soup
Wednesday: Pasta E Fagoili,homemade bread
Thursday: Spinach Calazone
Friday: Leftover Pasta E Fagoili, green salad
Saturday: Irish Stew, Irish Soda bread, Cabbage salad
Sunday: Pizza Monkey Bread, green salad

Strawberry Ice Cream
Reese's Cup Cupcakes

Projects I'm working on this week:
Finish earring holder
Paint some jars
Read Shepherding a Child's Heart
Start review book
Plant seed starters
Jersey Knit Bracelet

Lee's To Do List

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blueberry Breakfast Cake {Pinterest Inspired}

The weekends are special around here.  I love taking the extra time on Saturday morning and making something a little ... extra.  So as breakfast ideas pop up on Pinterest, I'm always looking for fun ideas to treat my hubby and the kids.  And this Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake was just the thing.  It was so moist and so yummy...  we polished off the pan in on meal.  Serve this one warm and your family won't stop talking about it.

*Linked to these Parties

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

While You're Waiting: Keep a Budget

(Image Credit: Jomphong)

*Recently I was thinking about all I would want my daughters to know before they get married.  Instead of wishing the days away until they walk down the aisle, how would I encourage them to live?  Living in the joy of who God created.  The practicalities and the dreaming.  What would I want to encourage... While they're waiting?  These are some of those thoughts.

My prayer is that as you're growing you will see your parents living within our means.  We may not have the newest and the greatest, but we'll have our needs met and debt will be a dirty word.  Budgeting is the key and my hope is that I have taught you at least the basics before you leave our home.

My encouragement to you would be to keep a budget on your own.  Remember to list your basic needs first: housing, utilities, and food first.  Even things like car insurance can come later as you can always ride the bus if needed.  Don't forget to include your tithe right up front.  Honor the Lord in all you do, even in your finances.  

When you first start out on your own, you will be tempted to apply for a credit card or spend beyond your means.  You will see what others have and may desire the instant gratification that credit brings.  Your peers will be buying on credit, banking on future jobs or raises.  Building your finances is not an instant gratification situation.  Instead, it requires hard work and dedication.  You may find that your budget necessitates that you live off Top Ramen and popsicles.  Believe me, I've been there.  You will survive.

Living off a budget will prepare you for the lean times you will encounter with a family.  It will prepare you by being able to enter your marriage debt free.  Budgeting will enable to make tough, dedicated choices in the future.  And it will teach you to control your money, without it controlling you.

Buying on credit or banking on the future may look like fun now.  But 20-30 years from now, when you are debt free and others are still over paying in interest, or worse yet bankruptcy, you'll find that learning to live on a budget offered you true freedom over your finances.

*Linked to these Parties

Monday, March 5, 2012

2012 Goals: February Check-In

How are your 2012 Goals going?  February was rough for me.  While these monthly check-ins have been helpful, but I need to up the accountability.  Any ideas?  I'm thinking of posting them near my bed or on the fridge to keep my goals on the forefront of my mind.  How do you remember to focus on your goals?  How is your progress?

These were my 2012 Goals and how I did in February:

*Keep a consistent devotional time, memorizing verses through my discipleship group.--I'm still struggling with this.  But the consistency of my discipleship group is helping.

*Memorize 12 verses with the kids.--We've done one so far in the past two months.

*Read 24 books.--I read 4 in Jan, and 3 in February.

*Tackle 12 DIY projects.--Tackled Homemade Hand Scrub in Feb.

My Marriage:
*Plan a bi-weekly time of being together.--No date night this month.  :-(

*Read 2-3 books together.--not yet

*Plan a yearly getaway.--Planning for this summer

My Kids:
*Plan a once a month date with each of the kids.--Took Lydia to get groceries a couple of times, and Noah to get a treat

*Homeschool/supplement preschool for Lydia and 1st/2nd grade for Noah.--Still working with Noah and started pre-reading with Lydia, although with other items

*Read through the Magic Treehouse series with them.--Not yet

*Go on a field trip once a month.--Missed it this month

Health and Wellness:
*Convert 4-5 items on our grocery list to organic, as budget allows.--Not yet

*Develop a gym routine of 4-5 days a week.--Going twice a week so far.  Love my Turbokick class.

*Eat more seafood.--Bi-monthly so far

*Learn to make an incredible loaf of sourdough.--Not yet

*Plan posts one month in advance and write posts one week in advance.--Planning is good, but writing is hard right now.  Usually about 4-5 days ahead.

*Spend 2 hrs a week writing on something other than the blog.--Ooops for Feb

*Budget my blogging time more appropriately.  Do less work when the kids are around.--Getting into a better routine.  But it's so hard as we all know.

Link up below and just let us know how you're doing.  Let's work toward real change in 2012!

*Linked to these Parties

You're Already Amazing {Review}

I'm a huge fan of {in}courage.  For about a year now, I've followed along as every day women share what God is doing in their lives, all in an attempt to encourage each other in our walks with the Lord.  So when co-founder Holly Gerth came out with her new book, You're Already Amazing, I was excited to review it.  

You're Already Amazing is written in a very informal style as the author invites you to sit down for coffee with her and have a chat.  The author speaks to a woman's insecurities with herself and her roles in the world.  As women we often find ourselves wrestling with the question: "Am I good enough?"  And Gerth tackles this one straight on with a resounding "YES!"  Yes, you are enough.  God made you with your own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, passions, skills, and dreams.  He has no backup plan, no plan B, no calvary coming in.  You are it!

While I love the message of this book, I felt like I had heard it before.  Oh, yeah... I have.  I've read many Christian women's books in my life.  Some are great.  Some simply hold the same message in a new format.  This book falls in the second category.  While there are some great tips like writing down your LIFE purpose, You're Already Amazing sounded a lot like many of the books I've read before: figure out your strengths, surround yourself with community, you can do it!  

This book does however come with a study guide in the back for sharing in a small group.  You may find it much more beneficial in that format.  Additionally, {in}courage just announced today that this will be their spring Book Club selection with videos by the author.  Perhaps, that will enhance the reading.  But for now, this one is a pass for me.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy for review from the publisher.  All opinions are mine.
**Linked to these Parties

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Monday Muddle

Hey Everyone,
How was your week?  Did you have gorgeous weather like we did?

Our weather lately has been absolutely ridiculous.  It's hard to believe that it's early March when it's mid-70's here.  My kids are playing outside all the time and even had a small scale water fight on Saturday.  Crazy!

Our week flew by.  Gymnastics, library, visits for baby, church events... it all pulls our week along.  Saturday we had antiquities photos.  Have you heard of Antiquities?  One of our local MOPS groups uses this as their yearly fundraiser and the photos are incredible.  My kids get to dress up in overalls and old hats.  Then the photographer poses them like you would an old fashioned portrait.  They come out so good.  I can't resist having them taken.  

All in all, it was mostly a relaxing weekend.  Homework and lounging around the house.  The kids and I made ice cream this evening.  Two thumbs up, one thumb down.  But Noah and I thought it was yummy.  It was the first vegan recipe I've tried and it was good enough to try more.  I'll have to share the recipe soon as it was easy, low calorie, and inexpensive.  And yummy!

What did you do this weekend? 

Our menu for the week:

Cereal and fruit
Overnight Chai Banana Oatmeal
Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sammies
Carrots and dip, cheese sticks, fruit

Monday: Chicken Enchiladas in the crockpot
Tuesday: Taco Soup
Wednesday: Salsa Black Bean Soup
Thursday: Grilled Veggie Sammies
Friday: Personal Veggie Pizzas
Saturday: Tacos
Sunday: Potluck: Cabbage Salad or Fall Harvest Salad

Bite Size Banana Splits
No Bake Nutella Cheesecake
Homemade Wheat Thins

Projects I'm working on this week:
Ordering photos for scrap retreat
Earring holder
Garden project
Paint some jars
Reading review book & Shepherding a Child's Heart

What are you working on?

Lee's To Do List

First Sunday of the Month and it's Party Time!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Taco Soup (A Rainy Day Treat)

We've had an unusually mild winter this year.  The sun has been shining and we've been spending days at the park.  What a turn around from last winter where we actually had snow a couple of times.  But this week the weather changed and we've been enjoying the rain.  This is finally soup weather!  So we've been enjoying this taco soup.  It's so easily, adaptable, and you can even throw it in the crockpot if you want.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 pkg taco seasoning
2 cans of tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can hominey (or corn)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Brown ground beef and onions with taco seasoning.

2. Add everything else and simmer all together.

3. Top with cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream.  Yummy!

We love to add hominey to ours.  It adds such a wonderful flavor and texture.  It's just incredible.  So I would strongly encourage you to give it a try.  But if you're not ready to take that jump, corn will work good too.  

This recipe can also be easily throw in the crockpot and simmered for 3-4 hours.  I love doing this on a long day.  It really is great comfort food.  Enjoy!
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