Friday, March 30, 2012

Southerners and Shrimp

I am a Southerner...lived most of my childhood in NC.  But, that being said, we often tell people we are Southern traitors...we have lived most of our married life in the west...and we really like it out there.  We like the snow, we like the mountains, we like the wide open spaces, we like the absence of bugs, hurricanes and humidity.  But I do LOVE southern food!  And my sweet Southern friends.  So today I decided to treat you to a Southern recipe from one of my sweetest southern friends, Daphne...who is an amazing cook and a true Southern lady!  (Ask me about her Gumbo recipe sometime)  Apparently her hubby invites friends over and promises them shrimp so she will have to fix this recipe...sneaky, isn't he?!


Cajun Shrimp (Southern Living Cooking School, 1999
1 Oven Bag (large size—14 x 20-inch)
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, melted
1 to 2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (I usually use Tony’s and almost always the whole 2 Tbsp. but I am from Louisiana!)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 lb. unpeeled, large shrimp (I usually buy the 2 lb. bag of frozen shrimp that have been deveined and thaw them. I have used fresh shrimp but the frozen have already been deveined)
8 (3 inch) ears frozen corn, thawed
Preheat oven to 350.
Place oven bag in a rectangular baking dish. Add flour to oven bag; twist end of bag and shake.
Add butter, Cajun seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice to the oven bag. Squeeze bag to blend ingredients. Add shrimp and corn. Close the bag with the nylon tie. Turn the shrimp and corn to coat them with the butter mixture. Arrange in an even layer.
Cut 6 (1/2 inch) slits in the top of the bag.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until shrimp are done.

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So it is not chocolate, but it is the next best thing in my opinion.  All I need is a rocking chair, a beach view and Daphne to cook for me...I may be convinced to become a Southerner again...at least for a while.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Books and Plans!

It is that time of year...school is winding down, summer is approaching and the heat has already come.  While many moms dream of no schedules, pools and fun, this is a time that homeschool moms start obsessing, I mean, pouring over homeschool curriculum.  To find the right curriculum.  To find the perfect curriculum.  I am no different.  Though I now have a complete set of curriculum from pre K to 12th grade, it does not stop me from sneaking glances at all of the new "stuff"!  It's addictive!  It's that same feeling when you go to Walmart in August to pick out new pens, pencils and notebooks.  Fun, but scary at the same time.  You want to get the right stuff!  You want your student to succeed.  You want them to have the pretty purple binders!  (ok, maybe that's just me)  And each child is different!  My girls did very well with what I currently own, but I do see a need to customize here and there for the boys, whose learning styles and patience are slightly different.  (or is it my patience?)  Anyway, many people ask me, what do you use?  What do you recommend?  So I am going to let you peek at my complete list through middle school today...but please keep in mind, this is what has worked or is working for us currently.  With each new review and recommendation, I am liable to find a new favorite.  Sometimes I just add something in, not even replace...RNP loves when I do that! ;)   I will post on high school next week!  It deserves its own space, trust me!
These are just my personal opinions and by no means reflect the views or success of others...just over 13 years of MY experience!

Preschool
PLAY, PLAY and PLAY!  Really, it is fun!
Rod and Staff Preschool workbook set- They are simple yet fun to do. 

Kindergarten
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Explode the Code A, B, C
My Father's World From A to Z Kindergarten Pack Or The Phonics Museum from Veritas Press
Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers, 1 and 2
First Language Lessons
Saxon Math K
Beginner Bible

1st grade
Explode the Code 1, 2, 3
ABeka Language Arts
Sonlight- Literature
A Reason for Handwriting
Saxon Math 1
Mystery of History 1
Science- Jeannie Fulbright's Land Animals of the Sixth Day
Beginner Bible

2nd Grade
ABeka Language Arts
Sonlight- Literature
Saxon Math 2
Mystery of History, 2
Science- Jeannie Fulbright's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day
Begin Personal Devotions and Bible reading

3rd Grade
ABeka Language Arts
Saxon Math 3
Sonlight- Literature
                Bible
Spelling Power
Mystery of History, 3
Science- Jeannie Fulbright's Botany

4th Grade
Saxon Math 4
Mystery of History, 4 (to be released)
Science- Jeannie Fulbright's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day
Sonlight- Literature
                Bible
Grammar Ace
Spelling Power
Power Glide For Children, Spanish

5th Grade
Wordly Wise
Teaching Textbooks Math
Sonlight- History
                Literature
                Bible
NOEO Science
Spelling Power
All In One Master English
Power Glide Junior, Spanish

6th Grade
Wordly Wise
Teaching Textbooks
Sonlight- History
                Literature
                Bible
Jeannie Fulbright's Astronomy
Spelling Power
Junior Analytical Grammar
Spanish (on computer)

7th Grade
Wordly Wise
Teaching Textbooks
Sonlight- History
                Literature
                Bible
Analytical Grammar, Part 1
Spelling Power
Spanish 1 (Classical Academic Press)
Jeannie Fulbright's Anatomy and Physiology

8th Grade
Wordly Wise
Teaching Textbooks- Algebra 1
Sonlight- History
                Literature
                Bible
Analytical Grammar, Part 3 (yes, we skip part 2)
Spelling Power
Classical Academic Press, Spanish 2
Apologia Physical Science  OR  ABeka Physical Science  (We have used both...it depends on which child as to which one I prefer!)
Typing
Spanish 2 (Classical Academic Press)
World Physical  Geography (Brenda Runkle)  One of the best I've seen!!

Ok, so there you have it!  Overwhelms me just looking at it, but also makes me want to open those catalogs again and find even MORE!  It's an obsession...what can I say?! 

If you have a product you LOVE, do share!  I would love to check it out!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Word from the Momma

WOW!  And YEA God!  Those are the thoughts I woke up with this morning.  I want to say thank you to the "regulars" who view my blog, as well as all the new friends who popped over from The Modest Mom and It's Almost Naptime via links.  260 people popped in yesterday  and almost all of those read my daughter's guest post.  We had visitors from Russia, Guatemala, Belgium, Canada, and even Australia!  102 people have already been by this morning.  WELCOME!  We are honored and humbled that you would take the time to read her thoughts.

  You have blessed her by your kind comments and this momma thanks you!

She asked several weeks ago about posting, but when she sent me the post this week she said she would understand if I did not use it since it might be controversial.  You see, we differ slightly in our dress.  While ALP wears only dresses and skirts, I do not. (And don't even get me started on her quest to make modest bathing suits! :) ) But I have learned from her and am challenged by her daily.  She is the one that I now think of and use as my measuring stick when I get dressed.  An 18 YEAR OLD...seriously!  It is easy for me to monitor my girls' dress- nope, you can't wear that- but in the name of fashion I tend to be more lenient on myself.  How sad is that?  I am working on it!

I want to leave ALP's post to stand on its own, but I do want to end with this...

I have told my girls often that there is more than one way to share your body with others...and what you choose wear is one of those ways.  We should not be surprised that men, young and old alike, gawk at our girls, even the bitty ones, when we allow them to wear immodest clothes.  In the name of "cuteness" or "fashion" does not dismiss it!  We are a work in progress like many of you, we mess up and occasionally have to start over, but we are seeking to please the Lord...thank you for joining us!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Modesty – A Command, Not a Conviction.

Welcome Courtship Connection Readers!  So glad to have you!

A guest post from my oldest!





Modesty.  So often we skirt the issue (literally, but I will get to that later). We often gloss over it, make excuses, and tell each other that modesty is really a thing of the heart. While modesty starts in the heart, it doesn’t stop in the heart. Our appearance is a direct reflection of what is inside.

The truth is that we have been commanded to be modest. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.(NIV) This isn’t an area open to conviction. It isn’t an area that only applies only to those under 30, or those who are unmarried. 50 year olds and married women are called to be just as modest as a 15 year old. We are called to do all that we can to keep our brothers in Christ from stumbling on account of us.

So what does modesty encompass  exactly? Should we all wear baggy turtlenecks and poufy floor-sweeping skirts? Become nuns? Hey, if that’s your style, go for it! But in all seriousness, who is to say what is modest and is not?  I run a terrible risk in writing this post.  I will probably be accused of being too harsh by some and not modest enough by others.  I am not going to declare that you have to wear a skirt to be modest, or that a shirt has to have at least short sleeves. I am however, going to use this opportunity to share some things that I have learned in seeking the Lord and been taught by some super godly women in my life.

1.       Pray. If you are truly, and I do mean truly, seeking the Lord in this area and willing to open your heart to His Word, He will show you  things that aren’t pleasing to Him and things that are causing your brothers in Christ to stumble. Trust me! The Lord will make it quite clear to you. That uncomfortable or guilty feeling is almost always conviction (ask me how I know!).

2.       Ask a male in your life. By that I mean a father, brother, grandfather, or husband. Sorry, boyfriends do not count here. Have them evaluate your wardrobe with you. As males they will be able to tell you which pieces are immodest, or are going to have a negative effect on guys.

3.       Some things to avoid at all costs.

a.       Exposed bra straps, camisole straps, and underwear. Countless guys have shared that these are real issues for them. If we know it, why do we continue to ignore it? Why is it ok to have any of your underwear showing?

b.      Exposed midriffs. In other words, your shirt should cover your skin at all times. Besides, how many of us have stomachs worthy of showing off? =)

c.       Low neck-lines. We are all different.  A shirt that is modest on me might not be on you. Put on your shirts and evaluate them.  Are they too low? Can you bend over without being exposed? Can someone taller than you look down into them? Can you raise your arms without seeing your stomach?

d.      Short skirts and shorts. This one is hard. What so many girls and ladies don’t seem to realize is that skirts and shorts get shorter when you sit. That skirt that hits mid-thigh while you stand up is not going to stay there when you sit down. Same thing with shorts. I would encourage you to again ask a man in your life (see 2 for guidelines) what length he thinks is appropriate, keeping in mind that it is better to err on the side of caution. Make a "rule" for yourself, and use it in evaluating all your clothing. I decided long ago that I would not wear anything higher than right at or just above my knees. For me it was (and is) an easy way to make sure that I am being modest and I don’t have to worry about sitting down or bending over.

e.      Tight clothing and sheer/see-through clothing. The whole point of clothing is to cover your body. When we wear skin-tight clothing and sheer clothing we are defeating that purpose.  You might as well go out in your underwear. It also goes back to point a. If you can make out the color of your undergarments, or “un-mentionables,” as my brother calls them, you should re-think what you are wearing.

4.       It comes down to a simple question. Are you pleasing men, yourself, and the world, or are you pleasing God? Could you stand before Jesus in what you are wearing right now and feel absolutely no shame?

I know this post has the potential to ruffle some feathers. Quite honestly, I want it to. If we as Christians have gotten to the point where we no longer want to be convicted we have become lukewarm. As I write this I also want to make it clear that I am not God. (Although I am sure that is perfectly obvious.) I am still being convicted about clothes. I mess up. Sometimes I wear things that I later realize weren’t the best of choices. To be honest, I am still struggling with the issue of bathing suits. Just ask my mother and sister, who were both convinced that me sewing my own bathing suit/bathing skirt was going to be a disaster. (For the record, it turned out better than I had hoped.) Right now I am wrestling over why our standards are tossed out the window when we go swimming. The point is we have all messed up at one time or another, but Christ offers us forgiveness and a second chance.

Ladies, we have heard about modesty and we have talked about it. I think it is time to stop talking about it and time to start living it. Your second chance starts today.

This post is being linked today! (10/9/12) Make sure you take the time to visit Courtship Connection to see other posts in their Tuesday Link Up!
Courtship Connection

I Choose Joy!
Womanhood With Purpose

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cupcakes and a Giveaway!



Everyone loves cupcakes! Right?! You know you do! A friend of mine over at The Hot Pink Polka- Dot even turned them into an AMAZING birthday theme for her beautiful one year old. And because Rachel got so excited, she's a crafty gal, she has put together a cupcake party pack for a giveaway. CUTE, CUTE, CUTE! Visit her site, tell her I sent you, and register to win! Can't wait to hear if one of you wins that adorable pack! In the meantime, here is a yummy recipe she posted from the party. Get cooking, gals!

 


OREO CUPCAKES
Ingredients

1 Package of Oreos
1 Package of Mini Oreos
1 Box white cake mix
1 Cup of water
1/3 Cup of oil
3 Eggs
8 Ounces Cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp Vanilla extract
4 Cups Confectioners sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp Heavy cream


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners. Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up. In a medium bowl, combine the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs. In a plastic bag, place the unused halves of the oreo cookies you placed in the liners. Using a rolling pin, crush the Oreos. Gently fold in the 3/4 of the crushed Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. {Reserve the remaining portion of crushed Oreos for the frosting.}

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla extract. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gently fold in the remaining crushed Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated. Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with a mini Oreo.

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Sounds yummy, huh?! Rachel also has three other cupcake recipes on her blog and great pictures so you can see how to do a cupcake party with style! Let me know which ones you try and which one you like best!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Boys Just Wanna Have Fun!

Boys, they wanna, wanna have fun!  I know that is not how the song goes.  I will even age myself by admitting that I can sing that song almost in its entirety to you (I won't, but just know I can) and once had the hair and clothes to match.  But, my girls are getting older, sigh, and don't really play much anymore, so it's the boys turn to take over the house.  Ponies, Polly Pockets and a certain purple dinosaur are things of the past.  Those sweet, innocent playthings have been replaced by Legos, weapons (we'll save that post for another day) and tents!

Just for the record, we did do some school yesterday.  Most of it.  But we also got a little sidetracked along the way.



See?  Tents and tunnels took over our formal living room. (who needs that wasted space anyway?)  And thanks to big sister's help, a mini campsite was erected, school pushed to the side, and the playing commenced.

Lots of playing!  And lots of fun!

And so I reminded myself that one of the glories of homeschooling is that sometimes, just sometimes, family and fun get to come first.  I let them play for hours.  Can I just tell you how it makes my heart smile to hear my 4 1/2 year old and 10 year old playing like they are best friends?  Cool!  The giggles, the creativity...the gift!  After all, a child's work should be play, and I am not in a hurry to make them grow up.
School is great...sometimes play is even better.


And I actually got a few things done today around the house.  A win win situation, wouldn't you say?

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Life As an Air Force Wife...questions answered!


You had to know it was coming, right?  After all, I have been an Air Force wife for almost 20 years and I have a few things to say. (just a few).  So here are some FAQs and my answers.  Keep in mind, these are Michele's opinions and do not necessarily represent the opinion of all military spouses. (But I'd be willing to bet that if you listen carefully you may hear a few Amens out there! ;))  These represent just a small sample of the thoughtful and not so thoughtful things people through the years have really asked.

1- Wow, an AF wife. That must be exciting! (yes, I know it's not a question technically)
  Um, well, that would be one adjective to describe it, but maybe not the one I would pick first.  But, sure, we'll go with that...exciting.

2-  Your husband flies helicopters.  How cool! (another non-question)
  Again, not my first choice of adjectives.  Maybe his!  He goes to work everyday and does his job.  It happens to be one that he really enjoys...like a little kid having fun. (don't tell him I said that!)  Me...I try not to think about it on an hourly basis because it brings me to my adjective...terrifying/  Note:  for the first time in a very long time, CP is "flying" a desk.  Now THAT is COOL!

3-  Isn't flying dangerous?
  Yes, and thank you for reminding me.  See number 2!  Moving on...

4-  Have you ever gotten to fly in a helicopter?
  Me personally- NO!  Have there been opportunities- yes!  At many bases they have spouse flights in which you can go up in a helicopter, piloted by someone else's husband, and "experience" your husband's job.  No thank you, I have a good imagination.  Many friends have done so however.  I think they are crazy, but I love them anyway.

5-  How many times have you moved?  Aren't you tired of moving?
  12 times in 19 1/2 years, I think.  Every time I try to count I get lost and have to start over.  And yes, I am tired.  But not of moving, just because I am getting old.   Moving is an adventure that I have sadly become addicted to.  This crazy family tends to get the moving itch after about 18 months of being in the same place.  Sad, but true.

6- What has been your favorite assignment?
  COLORADO, Air Force Academy!  God's country!  "Nuff said!

7-  Didn't you spend a year alone?
  Yes, with a 2 1/2 year old, also 7 months, 6 weeks, 2 out of 3 years...you name it.  I have often told the gals I have the privilege of being an AF wife with, you can't compare numbers.  1 day or 1 year...both stink.  And both you eventually get over.

8-  Haven't you pretty much raised your kids alone?
  Well, yes and no.  When we are without dad, I am boss.  But the minute he steps through the door, HE is boss again.  And he more than makes up for the lost time.  Oh, and then there are those friends, neighbors, church members, kind strangers, more friends, God...so no, not really alone!

9- When are you all getting out?
  Hmmmmmm.....not really sure.  Hey. we have almost hit 20, what's a few more years?  Plus what would we do, we are pretty use to this crazy life now.

10- Don't you miss the friends you make?
  YES!  All of the time!  Some of our closest friends are many miles away.  We write, call, email and visit when we can.  And we are blessed to make new friends every few years.   Many of you have bettered my life because of the Air Force and for that, I am grateful!


Ok, military wives...here's your chance!  What's your favorite FAQ or comment and YOUR answer!  Go for it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Peanut butter + Chocolate= Happy Friday!

A quick recipe for your Friday.  It was brought to me by a friend, Lori C., I think after I gave birth to RNP in Florida.  It has been one of my favorites since because, well, it has two of my favorite things in it!  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pie

1/2 C peanut butter
1/3 C milk
3 oz. cream cheese
1 C powered sugar
8 oz. cool whip
1- 9 inch graham cracker pie crust
1-10 oz. jar chocolate fudge sauce

Mix the first 4 ingredients for 3 minutes.  Fold in cool whip and put into crust.  Freeze 4 hours/  Spread chocolate sauce on pie, freeze 4 hours.  EAT!


See 'ya on Monday for a look inside the military life!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Decluttered Life

I have been on a new mission...To declutter our home and declutter our lives.  Shhhh...don't tell.  The other 5 that live here may start to notice that things have disappeared and start rummaging through the trash.

First, our home...that part is pretty easy.  Especially if you have a type A daughter who loves to organize and throw things out.  Just mention the word simplify and she is all over it.  As a matter of fact, I might have to go through the trash.  So no room has been safe.  One room at a time, one space at a time, one drawer at a time, we have been throwing away or giving away.  You would think that as a military family we would have scaled down a long time ago.  We did!  But we are now entering our third year in one place, something that we have only done only once before in our military life, and well...stuff happens!  Stuff accumulates!  Stuff takes over!  I did mention to my dear husband that the easy answer was just to move, but for now that is a no go.  (I think he even rolled his eyes at me)  As hard of a task as it has been, for me, not ALP mind you, it is a good thing and one I encourage you to try.  After all,  just how many spatulas do you need, how many books have been read and should be passed on and how many items in your pantry have outlived their expiration dates? umm, just a few random examples, of course.

Second, our lives.  A slightly harder challenge.  I just read this written by Nancy Twigg, "...clutter is anything that complicates your life and stands in the way of simplicity."  hmmmm.... over-commitment,  kids' activities, spending, emotions...you fill in the blank. 

Nancy continues, "Clutter does more than affect us physically and emotionally; it affects us spiritually because it keeps us from following Jesus fully.  We simply cannot make room for Him when so many other things are in the way."  Ouch!

So despite all my effort to declutter the physical things from our home, maybe the priority should simply be to declutter my heart.  To have a heart for Him.  Not stuff.  Not schedules.  Not the things this world says are important.   And in doing so I will be able to spend less time on the craziness of this world and more time on the craziness of His love for us!

Sounds like a simple plan!

"Do no store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy...but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..."  Matthew 6:20

"How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!" Psalm 36:7

Monday, March 12, 2012

Applications, essays and acceptance letters, oh my!

Since my oldest is now 18, the next logical step for our family is college.  Well, logical for mom and dad.  ALP, on the other hand, not so much.  Until recently she would have been just as content to stay home with us, garden and sew and help out around the house.  And believe me, part of me would have been just fine with that.  As a matter of fact, we finally did tell her she could stay home as long as she was pursuing a degree of some sort. Enter duel-crediting classes.

Since last summer ALP has been taking one to two classes every 8 weeks and by this summer will have finished her freshman year of college at home.  Through that experience she has gained the confidence she needed to continue on campus in the fall.  She has since decided to attend a small baptist college in Wisconsin...a million. miles. from. home...I mean, we are so excited! ;)

And our days have been filled with applications, essays and acceptance letters!  Can I share with you these things I have learned:

1-  I do not care how old your child is now, start filling out forms.  Any forms, doesn't matter.  You will need the practice. 
2-  Know you child's social, your social, the neighbor's social.  Really, they just might ask. 
3-  Know who will write reference letters and then get them to do so now.  You cannot keep friends if you ask them last minute to supply a letter...tomorrow!
4-  Keep a calendar with deadlines on it...especially for scholarships.  See number 3! (Thank you L family!)
5-  Have your child practice randomly generated and completely off the wall essay questions.  Again, start now!  One of the ones ALP had to write was this... (my paraphrase)  If you could pick four faces to put on a new Mt. Rushmore, who would they be?  No made up people!  (After that scholarship is announced, I intend to post ALP's response...I know I am biased, but I think she did a great job and it made me cry!)
6-  Keep track of every extracurricular activity your child does to include hours participated.  If in doubt, write it down anyway!  Your memory is not as good as you think it is...trust me on this one.
7- As long as you have your calendar out, just go on and clear the year of any other plans not related to THE COLLEGE SEARCH.  This eats takes your time, people!
8-  And lastly...but maybe most important for some of us...warn your friends, family and maybe even the neighbors that you are going to be a little on the emotional side..say, for a year or so while.

She is my firstborn, you know...and I kinda like her!  ;)

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, March 10, 2012

18 years ago!

The Lord blessed us with our first child 18 years ago. We had no clue then what marvelous adventures she would take us on and how totally in love with her we would become. We have enjoyed the privilege of watching her grow into a mature young woman who loves the Lord with all her heart. She has blessed us with her smile, her patience, her laughter, and even her cooking! As she gets ready to head to college in the fall, we know she is well on her way to fulfilling the Lord's purpose in her life. Happy Birthday ALP! We love you and are so proud of you!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Internet, Sickness and Sites


On Wednesday I was going to post about teenagers. The internet was not supposed to go down. It did!
On Thursday, I was going to catch up with the blog. I was not supposed to get sick. I did!
And today, life was supposed to resume as normal. It has not!
And so these quick, two things are what I have for you...

Have ever met someone that just won your heart immediately? I have...several of them. But today I want to introduce you to one- Zack, a dear son of friends of ours. We met this special family by chance...well, I don't believe in chance, but you know what I mean. Obviously a God thing! And from that moment that boy (and his sister, and his parents) have won our hearts. For a 17 year old...he is simply amazing...smart, witty, and AN AMAZING LOVE for the Lord! So much to teach us, and yet an amazingly teachable spirit. Oh, how I pray for that for my own boys. I encourage you to check out all he has to say at Army of the Cross. You will see why I like him! ;) And he just might teach you a thing or two!

And number two... For you nutrition minded mommies...check this new product for kids. These two "inventors" are friends of my cousin, which is how I happened upon the link. I have not met them, but I love this! Maybe I will just have to go find one...anyone interested in a giveaway?!

Have a blessed weekend.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The B Word!

The B word...budget...or how I cut our grocery bill in half!

Budget...not a nice word in many a vocabulary, but oh, so needed!  I want to teach my children to live within their means, possibly even below their means, and be good stewards of their money.  To do that we ourselves must be faithful!

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little cwill also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"  Luke 16:10-11(NIV)

We use to spend a lot of money at the grocery store.  I mean, A LOT!  Like that was one of our biggest expenditures.  And yet we never seemed to have any groceries in the house.  The "there's nothing in this house to eat" kind of nothing to eat.  Drove me crazy!

Fast forward three years...
Our pantry, fridge and freezer are full, there are no more echos of there is nothing to eat and we are spending about $400.00 a month for a family of six, toiletries included.
I am not an expert at this, nor do I spend hours a week concentrating on this area of life.  Not my hobby, just a necessity of life.  So while there are plenty of useful guides out there, here's how I did it:

1- Coupons!  Seemed like a waste of time to me, but it does work.  I would not qualify for that silly show on TV, nor would I want to, but I have been stopped several times on my way out of a store by people wanting to know how I just bought that many groceries for that low of a price.  It's a cool thing.  At first it was a personal challenge to see what percentage I could save, then it became a silly family game with even CP asking each week if we had beat our savings record.  I know, we are silly like that...easily entertained.  See the things that will entertain you when you get rid of cable?  haha
Anyway, you can cut all the coupons out at once, use what you need and send the extra ones to an overseas military base, or keep all the flyers and cut out what you need as you go.  NOTE-  Don't use a coupon just because you have it.  If it is something you use or really want to try, then buy it.  Otherwise don't buy it to just to buy it with a coupon... a waste of money.

2-  Look for sales and then use coupons on top of those sale items.  Some of my friends are awesome at identifying these on their own...not me.  I cheat.  I started getting my cheat sheets at Thegrocerygame.com, free trail.  I now pay a small fee each month for their lists (I love how organized their lists are), but there are also tons of gals out there who do it for free and are just as helpful.  A few I use are Thefrugalfind, Streachingabuck and moneysavingmom.  They will also save you lots of money on tons of other items- you will not be sorry if you subscribe to their sites.

3- Use the grocery store customer cards!  Ya know, those free little ditties you hang on your key chain.  One of my latest trips to Kroger started with a total of about $140.00 and once they scanned that little card the total was about $70.00- and that was before coupons.  So if the gal behind me bought the same things and did not use a magic card for whatever reason she would have paid double.  Crazy!

4- Another site I love...$5 Dinners.  Erin is awesome.  She has lots of money saving ideas, but what I love is that her recipes are geared for the budget minded mom or dad.  Let's face it, if a recipe calls for a million expensive ingredients you just broke your budget on one meal.  I have both of her current cookbooks and love them.  (she does giveaways..I won them both!)  Check her out...again, you won't be sorry.

5- Learn how to get free stuff, especially at drugstores and on double coupon days at your local grocery store.  A lot of my stockpile comes from these free items...haven't paid for toothpaste in forever!  Dish soap, air fresheners and salad dressings are also often free.

6-  And that brings us to stockpiling.  Forget that silly show for a minute and stay with me.  NO one needs 100 tubes or cans of ANYTHING!  That is just crazy!  But, sales do tend to run in 6 week cycles so when things (and here's the key phrase) that you use are on sale, buy enough to last your family about 6 weeks.  That way you never pay full price again.  You can "shop" from your pantry when you need ketchup or you can run to the store and pay full price at the 9th hour.  You choose.

7- Shop for a week at a time, or two if you are brave.  The more you go to the store the more money you spend.  Menu planning works for that reason,  Nuff said.

8-  Use cloth napkins and towels in the kitchen.  We started this for fun, not really to save the planet, but hey, every little bit helps.  For larger families, those things are big ticket items!

Two final notes...since we started this journey we have gone to a less processed food lifestyle.  Because of that, I do not use as many coupons I use to, but you can still find them for milk, eggs and other organic products.  They are out there, promise.  Because we grind our own wheat and make much from scratch these days, there are less canned goods to buy.  That money saved goes towards buying bulk grains and fresh produce.  In season veggies and fruits can be found cheap.  I have found a $3.00 bag of potatoes makes a lot more side dishes, and more diversified, than boxes of scalloped potatoes, no matter how cheap I could get them for.  Just works for us.  I tease my family that my goal is to have a bar code free pantry!  ;)

Also, we eat out a lot less these days.  That will eat up a budget faster than you can say eat out!  Seriously.  Our goal, and mind you this is just a goal, is to eat out 2 lunches a month, usually after church, and one dinner.  A family of 6 in a restaurant = big bucks!  Because I do menu plan, we do have less panic moments of what can we eat which helps a lot.

OK, so ask away...what questions do you have, what can I help you with and what do you do that works for your family?  We may have to have a part 2 to this post gals!  There's a lot more we could cover!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mrs. Arlana's Pizza Dough

Yep, another recipe from our friend Arlana over at Holding the Fortress...we use it a lot.  Really...A LOT!

First let me tell you why I like love it.  It only has 6 ingredients, one of which is water.  Loving it already, aren't you?!  Plus, you do not need to make it way ahead of time...a good thing for those of us who sometimes wait until the last minute to make a menu decision. (not naming names...you know who you are)  If you have time to let it rise great, if not, no prob, Bob!  (Bob the Builder here)  Plus, with this recipe, I often make 1 bar pan sized pizza and freeze 1 or 2 personal sized ones for later.  After doing that several times we have a stack of pizzas in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner.  (roll out to desired size and freeze each one between two pieces of wax or freezer paper.  To use, pop off paper, top with goodies and stick in the oven.  That easy!)

Kid's are happy- mom is happy! And THAT makes Dad happy!

Here goes:

Pizza Dough
1 TBSP yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 C water

Mix and let rest 5 minutes.
Add:
3 c flour (yes, we use our whole wheat)
2 TBSP oil
1 tsp garlic salt or powder

Mix and form into a ball.  Let rise 5 minutes to 2 hours
Bake pizzas @ 400 degrees 20-25 minutes.  Enjoy!

Visit back on Monday- I'll be sharing how I cut our grocery bill in half!
Happy Friday, friends!