Ads 468x60px

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Bestest Bread - Part 2

I know this is Thrifty Thursday but that's ok.  Making bread and bread products from scratch is super inexpensive and easy and tastes so much better than the stuff you buy in stores.  It also makes the house smell wonderful!

So, here's the next installment of what to make with the basic dough recipe from yesterday.  We'll start with the easiest one.

Breadsticks - (you probably don't want to use a whole batch of dough for this)

After dough has risen the first time, punch it down and put it on a lightly floured surface.  Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2" high.  It doesn't matter what length or width the rectangle is.  Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic powder and/or parmesan cheese.  Cut dough into strips about 1" wide and however long you want them to be.  I use a round pizza cutter to do this.  Carefully place each breadstick on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Cinnamon rolls -

Use 1/2 of the batch of dough.  After dough has risen the first time, punch it down and put it on a lightly floured surface.  Pat and roll the dough into a large rectangle, very thin for lots of cinnamon sweetness or thicker for more bready rolls.   Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (the ratio is 4 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon; amounts will vary with the size of the rectangle).  If you like raisins, sprinkle them on now too.  Roll up tightly and pinch the seam closed.  Cut into slices about 1 1/2" wide and place on baking sheet.  Let rise again for about 1/2 hour.   Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick the rolls are.  Remove from baking sheet immediately so they won't stick.  Serve plain or topped with vanilla glaze or frosting.

Pizza rolls - This is a favorite with everybody!  I use the entire batch of dough and freeze leftovers

Pizza/spaghetti sauce, either store bought (like Prego) or homemade.
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
Pepperoni slices

 After dough has risen the first time, punch it down and put it on a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 2 blobs.  This will make the rest of the job easier.  For each blob, pat and roll dough into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cover surface with pizza sauce and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Top with slices of Pepperoni and roll up as for cinnamon rolls.  Pinch seam closed.  Cut into 1 1/2" pieces and place on greased baking sheet.  Let rise an additional 1/2 hour.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from baking sheet immediately.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - The Bestest Bread recipe!

I've tried a lot of bread recipes over the years but I always come back to this one.  It is easy, versatile and uses very few ingredients.  Many people ask me what my secret to making good bread products is and the answer is gluten flour.  You can find this in the health food section of your grocery store and usually has the Bob's Red Mill brand.  For any yeasty recipe, use one heaping tablespoon for about every four cups of flour.

Today I'll cover basic bread, cheese bread and rolls.  Tomorrow, with the same basic recipe, I'll cover breadsticks, cinnamon rolls, and pizza rolls.  And then on Friday, I'll finish up with pizza and soft pretzels.  By the way, I made all of the above with one four loaf batch of bread today.

Bestest Bread - Makes 4 large loaves

In large bowl combine -
4 1/2 c. lukewarm water
4 T. yeast
Add -
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil (I use Canola)
1 1/2 T. salt
Mix in -
10-12 c. flour (I use unbleached)  The amount depends on the protein content of the flour and the humidity.
4 heaping T. gluten flour

Plop onto lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough for about 6 minutes until the consistency is smooth and somewhere between sticky and stiff.  Place dough in lightly greased (or sprayed with Pam) large bowl and let rest for about 1 hour.  It should have risen about double.  This takes longer in the colder months and faster when it's warm out.

Now it's time to play with it!

For basic bread - Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.    Form each into a smooth cylinder and tuck into greased loaf pans (4 1/2 X8 1/2 ").  Let rise again until double (about 30-45 min).  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Enjoy!

Dinner rolls - Break off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball.  Smooth into balls.  Place on greased baking sheets (about 12 per pan).  Let rise for about 1/2 hour.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  This make a lot of rolls!

Cheese bread - Divide dough into 4 equal pieces as above.  For each loaf, coarsely chop about 2-3 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese.  Do not use grated cheese.  Pat each blob of dough into a rectangle about 6 inches wide and about 12 inches long.  Sprinkle cheese over the dough and roll up like you would for cinnamon rolls.  Continue with the instructions for basic bread.  Yummy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Ten Minute Challenge

Your husband is due to come home soon and the house is a mess. Or a friend you haven't seen in a long time calls and is on her way to visit.  Or the kids have trashed the family room again.  What to do?  Bring out the timer and announce to the children that it's Ten Minute Challenge time!  That's right...set the timer for ten minutes and race to see how much can get done.  Children love a challenge and actually seem to enjoy this activity.  It's amazing how much DOES get done in such a short period of time.
Ikea it!

You can also use this technique to tackle a job you aren't looking forward to doing...such as cleaning out the refrigerator, decluttering the living room, organizing drawers or filing papers.

Today I pulled out my junk drawer (everyone has to have a junk drawer!) and took out the stuff that had homes elsewhere, threw out the things that I had no idea why I kept, wiped out the organizer, and returned the rest of the stuff to their proper place.  Ten minutes with time to spare.

What are YOU going to do with ten minutes today?  This is a challenge!  :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yay for Monday!

My friends think I'm weird but I love Monday.  My weekends are always too hectic and tiring!  To me Monday represents the beginning of a new week and an opportunity for a fresh start.  And it's not like New Year's resolutions which only happen once a year (and are forgotten a few days later).  It's 52 weeks of new beginnings.  If you want to start a new routine with the children or for yourself, today is the perfect day to take those first steps!  If you have a project you've been thinking of working on, how about starting today?  If you have a resolve to get your life back in order, what better time than now?  No matter how hard last week was or how disappointed you feel for falling back into old habits,  you can always begin again.  Don't despair over things you have no control over but learn from them and change what needs to be changed to make things better.  It's a great feeling!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Surviving kids at church

Going to church should be a a time of peace and renewal.  Believe it or not, it is possible even if you have children.  Maybe not all the time (because everyone has a bad day once in a while, even on Sunday) but most of the time.  There are a number of things you can do to increase the odds of actually being able to sit through a church meeting AND get something out of it.

1. Prepare the night before by making sure everyone has their bath and has clean clothes laid out ready to wear the next day.
2. Give your family plenty of time to get ready...that includes breakfast.
3. Try to get to church a few minutes early.  Rushing creates stress and you haven't even gotten to church yet!
4. Make your expectations clear that there are certain behaviors that you will not allow  and make sure they know just what those expectations are.
5. No food during the meeting.  This is the number one rule!  Even very young children can go an hour or two without having to eat snacks.  If they know there will be no treats, they won't be nagging all through the meeting for their Cheerios or Goldfish crackers.  And they won't be making a mess for you or someone else to clean up.
6. Bring a few quiet books and/or coloring books and crayons for your kids to play with.  Have a bag packed with things that are only available to the kids during church.
7. When kids cry or are distracting, quietly remove them from the room and sit with them in an empty room until they are ready to return to the meeting.  Don't make it a fun time for them or you are actually rewarding them for acting up.
8. Don't worry if your child yells at you while you are carrying him out.  The other parents in the congregation understand what you are going through and sympathize :)   Remain calm and in control.
9. Reward good behavior.
10. Remember this is a learning process for your child.  Children aren't naturally quiet and they will need to be trained how to behave appropriately.
11. Be consistent!

With some time and effort on your part, it should be possible for you and your entire family to have an enjoyable time at church.  The last thing you want is for Sunday to be a day looked forward to with dread by you or your children.  Don't give up!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


If you don't already have a pet, sooner or later your child is going to want one.  Before you rush over to the animal shelter or pet store, consider the following -
1. Who is actually going to take care of it? 
2. How much space do you have?  
3. Can you commit to this animal for the rest of its life?
4. Have you thought out what would be the best animal for your family?  Consider the ages of your children and the temperament of the animal you are thinking about.  Your children's safety is top priority here!  Maybe that exotic python isn't the best choice  :)

It's true that a dog or cat can be a well-loved member of the family but be sure you know the responsibilities that go with it and are willing to keep it happy and healthy.  Even though you think having a pet will teach your child responsibility, you'll still have to follow up and see that its needs are met. Kids can be forgetful.

Oh, and be a responsible owner too and make sure your dog or cat is neutered!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Mother's Curse

Remember when your mother said, "I hope you have one just like you!"?  Usually she wasn't being complimentary when she said that either :)  And then, many years later, you realize it happened.  Your mother was right.  Your daughter (or son) is behaving just like you did when you were their age and somewhere your mother is gently smiling (or smirking) and thinking that justice has been served.

Before you curse that Mother's Curse,  think of the blessing it really is.  Who can better understand what your child is going through than you?  Who can help her better than you?  You are the perfect mother for this child.  You can empathize with her struggles but you also know what she needs to overcome her difficulties.  You have the gift of hindsight.  She can learn from your experiences. 

I say we change the term from Mother's Curse to Mother's Blessing from now on!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Alternative to Fast Food

Taking eight kids on a trip was an adventure in itself and feeding all ten of us on the road could have been quite expensive except we never stopped at fast food restaurants.  No, we didn't pack sack lunches for everyone...that would be boring (knowing my lack of creativity in the sack lunch category).  We just headed for the nearest grocery store in whatever city we happened to be in.  Even the smallest town has a grocery store and you can make some pretty healthy, filling meals for very little cost.  The usual choice of the kids was bagels and cream cheese or fresh baked rolls with deli meat and cheese, yogurt, fruit, cookies and bottled water.  We tried to stay away from anything super messy or hard to eat.  If the weather was nice, we'd look for a park to have our picnic lunch and stretch our legs.  It was sure better than the greasy, fat and sodium laden offerings that the local fast food restaurant offered. 

I know this is such a small suggestion but my grown kids still would rather eat this way on a trip than go to ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Sushi bowls

This is my 100th post!!!

 My husband loves to make sushi and is really quite good at it.  Unfortunately, I'm not fond of some of the ingredients in traditional sushi so I would pick mine apart to eat only the "good stuff".  It took me a while but I realized one day that I could take the rice and other fixings that I like and have a sushi bowl. A win-win solution!
Grilled chicken sushi bowl

The following is loosely based on the California Roll although it's gone through a lot of modifications throughout the years.

Sushi Bowl (for about 4 servings)
4 cups cooked rice.  You can use any kind of rice.  When my husband makes sushi, I use his short grain white rice but when I'm just making it, I use long grain brown rice
2 avocados, chopped
1 bunch green onions, cut into small pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into slices and then quartered
about 1 pound cooked chicken*, shrimp, salmon, smoked salmon, or crab meat

Divide all ingredients into 4 bowls.  Serve warm or cold.  Have soy sauce on the side.  That's it!

Smoked salmon sushi bowl
*Grilled chicken -
2 thawed chicken breasts
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. BBQ sauce
about 1 T. water

Combine soy sauce, BBQ sauce and water in ziploc bag.  Add chicken breasts and let marinate for about 1/2 hour in the refrigerator.  Grill chicken until done.  Slice thinly.

I love making this!  It's fast, easy, economical, fairly healthy, and easily adaptable or modified. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - The Bathroom

If there's one room in the house that needs to be tidy and organized and clean it's the bathroom.  For such a small room, it sure collects a lot of clutter, excess stuff and yucky germs.  But, because it's such a small room, cleaning it up shouldn't be a huge project (unless your bathroom is the size of a normal bedroom!).  So, where to begin...

As with every other cleaning project, you should always start with decluttering.  Throw out anything that is expired, no longer used by anyone, obvious trash and broken items.

Gather things that don't belong in the bathroom and return them to their rightful home.  If you have many people using a particular bathroom, consider having them store their towels in their own room.

Empty every drawer (one at a time), clean it, and return the contents...but only those things that really need to be there.   Use drawer dividers to separate all the little stuff.  Small plastic containers work really well too.

The medicine cabinet - I can't understand why there is always a medicine cabinet in the bathroom.  Medications are affected by heat and humidity - all in great abundance in the average bathroom.  If possible, find an alternate place to store medications.  Anyway, clean it out and find something useful to put in it - maybe first aid supplies or hair accessories?

Try to keep the bathroom counter free of excess stuff.  If you have to keep the bathroom clean, you may as well make it easier on yourself by having a clear surface to clean.

Do you really need all the cute little accessories?  Streamline as much as possible.  Consider hanging toothbrushes on a rack, rather than storing them in a cup or holder.  Have you looked inside that cup or holder recently?  Ugh!  And that soap dish?  Do you like cleaning soap scum?  Exchange it for a liquid soap dispenser.

In a bathroom shared by children, try not to have anything breakable in the room.  Cleaning up shards of broken glass is not fun!

And of course, teach your children how to clean a bathroom and share the experience with them.  After all, they use it too  :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The strong-willed child

I knew she was different the moment she was born.   Her cry sounded...angry.  Like, "How dare you disturb my peace and quiet!"  Every time I put her in her car seat, you'd have thought I was torturing her.  More piercing screams.  When she was 4 months old, I caught her trying to escape from her crib.  By 10 months old, she broke the crib, bending the side metal connections.  On her first birthday, I presented her with a cute little cupcake with one lit candle on it and she gave me this look of suspicion.  No, I was not planning on setting her on fire!  When she was 14 months old, I went into her room and she was sitting on the floor with all the pieces of the second crib scattered around her.  My husband made her a new crib with lag screws and bolts holding it together.  Time outs became time outs for the both of us because I had to sit on the time out chair, holding her firmly on my lap or she would escape.  Nothing seemed to work for this child.  I tried everything.  Her childhood was one big strategy game.  For her, how to outwit Mom.  For me, how to just stay in the game! 

But even though she was difficult to handle, she was also very curious, determined and bright.  She loved animals. She cared about people. She loved making things and teaching herself new skills.  And, when she was channeling all that energy into things she liked to do, she wasn't getting into trouble and I could breathe a sigh of relief.  

I struggled with her until she was about 14 years old.  Funny too, because that's when a lot of young teenage girls START having problems.  But she seemed to calm down and stop fighting everything.  She became focused on school, determined to enter college early.  She made a 10 year plan (another evidence of her strong will).  She became a nurse, and now she's a doctor.  She is still strong-willed and determined but she uses those traits to reach her lifelong dreams.

From this daughter I learned the importance of consistency and patience.  It would have been so easy to let her have her way just to keep the peace and prevent a tantrum but she needed to learn how to control herself and turn that determination into something positive.  So, be patient but firm with your strong-willed child.  There is a lot of potential there. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moms need other moms

In the olden days (like pre 1990's) mothers regularly got together with other mothers to chat, swap babysitting, share child rearing horror stories and just enjoy the companionship of each other.  This was when most women stayed home with their children while their husbands worked.  Activities were often during the day and mothers had a built in support structure of peers.

I miss those days.  I really think women need other women friends, people they can relate to and who can relate to them and their lifestyle.  Sometimes mothers who stay at home feel isolated or lonely without that kind of companionship.  In a way, I think the explosion of mommy blogs and social sites like Facebook are an attempt to address this need.  You can develop "friends" through your blog and see that others are going through similar experiences and share ideas with them.  Facebook connects you with friends far and near so even at 3 am, you can usually connect with someone you know who can't sleep either.  It's an amazing world and I am grateful for the technology that makes it possible to be in touch with so many friends and family.

But I'm especially grateful for the friends who live close by who I can call up anytime and share my woes with and who will give me a big hug when things are going rough.  And I'm glad to do the same for them.  Those special friends are a treasure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bonus Parents

A short time ago I heard the title "bonus parent" and it struck me as the perfect definition of some of the people who are important in our family.  They aren't related by blood or marriage but are far more than just a friend of the family.  The sweet lady who took my strong willed daughter under her wing and taught her how to crochet and garden.  The older couple who were more like grandparents to my kids when their own grandparents lived far away.  The good friend who taught my son valuable work skills and helped him through a tough time.  The amazing school administrator who befriended my oldest kids on the first day of school and watched out for them and all their siblings who followed.  Bonus parent or angel, these people (and more) hold a special place in our hearts.

How about you?  Is there someone who has made a difference in your life or the lives of your children?  Be thankful for these "bonus parents"!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - track your spending

It's a sad fact of life that if you want to save money, you have to stop spending money.  Not all money, of course.  It takes a certain amount of money to live and raise a family.  But, how much of the money you have available to you each month goes to impulse and/or frivolous items?  Have you ever tracked your money for a month to see where the money actually goes?  That is a real eye opener!  I suggest you try it sometime...but don't cheat!  Write down everything.  Compare it with the money that you have each month.  With that information, you will have an idea where your problem areas are and can begin addressing them.

Usual problem areas are food, clothes, household costs, and the ever famous miscellaneous category.  Luckily, there are things you can do in each of those areas that will save you money.  For now, just start being aware of what kind of choices you make when making purchases in those categories.

Hopefully, you don't have to make drastic changes all at once.  You want to be developing new habits and that is easier if you take little steps.  By the way, that's true in just about any area you want to improve.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Cake Balls

Today is What's Cooking? Wednesday and I'm up to my eyeballs in balls...cake balls, that is.  For my daughter's wedding Open House she wanted cake balls and who am I to deny her such a simple request?  Hah!  I started about a week ago, and I should be finished tonight!  Only 140 more to go and I'll have 960 cake balls!  I am now sick of cake balls.  I am now sick of food of any sort.

Seven different flavors!
But!  I figured out something really useful!   I worried about how I was going to store and transport all those cake balls and I came up with a great boxes!  They're perfect!  I went to the local restaurant supply store and bought a bunch of 12 inch  boxes for 30 cents each!  They each hold 64 balls and stack neatly in the freezer.  I was really proud of myself!

 For those of you who asked for the recipe for cake balls, here it is...

1 package cake mix, baked as directed on package (any flavor)
1 can frosting, any flavor to compliment the flavor of cake

Let cake cool.  Break cake into small pieces in large bowl.  Open top of frosting and cook in microwave oven for 1 minute.  Pour frosting over cake chunks.  Mix together well with spoon or hands.  Chill in refrigerator for about 1 hour.  Shape into 1" balls.  Freeze until ready to coat with chocolate.

Chocolate coating for cake balls

1 package Candy Melts wafers (can be bought in bulk or at stores like JoAnn Fabric or Michael's)

 Melt wafers in microwave or in double boiler.  I like using a double boiler because the wafers stay melted longer while dipping the balls.  Using a fork, dip each ball into coating, tapping side of bowl to let excess drip back into the bowl.  Place on waxed paper.  Sprinkle with candy sprinkles, nuts, coconut, colored sugar, whatever you want.  When the cake balls have hardened, they can be kept in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to use.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - the spouse

Rare is the couple who have the same organizational style.  For this post, I'm going to assume that it is your spouse who is more organizationally challenged...don't ask me why :)  What can you do about it?

This is one of those awkward situations where you are going to have to compromise.  And you know what a compromise means...neither one of you is satisfied with the outcome.  I think it's logical to expect that certain areas of the house remain clean and neat.  That includes the living room, kitchen and bathrooms.  Those are your public spaces where you entertain guests and everyone gathers.  Your bedroom is shared space so that's one room where you'll have to compromise.  And, certain areas are your domain and certain areas are his.  Those should remain off limits to anyone.  Even though it's tempting to want to clean up his office, he won't appreciate it.  Trust me on that one!

It's easy to look at your husband's stuff and think that he should get rid of much of it.  After all, you don't have any connection with it.  To you it may all look like trash.  But, put yourself in his shoes for a minute.  He might be feeling the same way about YOUR stuff.  Hey!  But your stuff is useful and has meaning, and you're going to use it someday and ...  You see where I'm going here?

Some organizing books say that if you keep things clean and set a good example for your husband, he will notice how nice everything looks and will immediately want to change his habits and clean up after himself.  Wishful thinking!!!  Don't count on that happening!  The best you can do here is not make it a major issue and do your part to see that your stuff doesn't get out of control either.

I was going to include a picture of my husband's office but some things are best left private  :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Consequences - Part 2

Another kind of consequence for misbehavior is related consequences.  As the name implies, the consequence is related to the crime.  For example, if your daughter spills her milk, she cleans it up.  If your son breaks a window, he pays for it.  If he empties out all the toys in his room onto the floor, he gets to put them away.  It's a very logical process.  This method works pretty well if you are consistent and see that your child follows through. 

One of the worst things you can do when your child misbehaves is to bribe her.  What that's telling her is that if she misbehaves or throws a tantrum, she'll get a reward. You are essentially reinforcing the bad behavior and I don't think that's the message you want to send.

If you want to reward your child, why not watch for good behavior and reward that instead?  It's sad but true that the kids who get noticed are those who are making the most noise or who are getting into trouble. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all my friends and fellow mothers!  When one of my daughters asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day, I told her I'd really like an hour of her time to help with yard work.  She was underwhelmed.  I think she was hoping I'd say a potted plant.  :)

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Consequences - Part 1

A while ago, I wrote about time-out as a way of disciplining young children.  But, what about the older ones?  It looks a little silly seeing a ten or thirteen year old in time-out and it just doesn't have the same impact on him either.  Probably the most effective kind of consequence for misbehavior is a natural consequence.  Unless there is a potential safety issue for him or anyone around him, letting him experience the result of his actions will teach him more powerfully than anything you can come up with.  The hardest part for moms is not stepping in and fixing things (we're moms after all - we like to fix things and we don't like to see our kids suffer).  But, lessons do need to be learned and we need to let our kids learn them.

Some examples - She forgot her lunch.  Oh well.  She won't starve for one afternoon.  He slept through his alarm.  Too bad.  Missing something once isn't the end of the world.  You told them to bring in their toys from the front yard.  Now they're gone.  Someone took them.  Sad.  She waited until the last minute to study for a test...and didn't do well on it.  That's what happens.

I'm not heartless but some things just need to be experienced to make an impact on a person.  Don't prevent that from happening.  Oh, and again, if your child is in a position where he could be in danger, you've got to use another approach!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stuck in a rut

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, although most agree it wasn't said by him.  Not to be taken literally (I don't think any of us are insane!), it has particular application for mothers.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and wonder why things aren't working out like we think they should.  The kids don't mind, we fight with our husbands over the same things, we feel overwhelmed.  When that happens, it's time for a little self analysis.  Are we doing the same things over and over again?  Is it effective?  If what we're doing hasn't worked in the past, it probably isn't going to work in the present or future.  Why not try a different approach?  Don't respond or react the same way that you usually do.  That will get their attention!  By doing something different, you throw off their usual response and force them to change theirs as well.  If you're used to yelling to get your kid's attention, try whispering or talking in a soft voice.  If nagging doesn't get you the results you want, try something else.  If you're overwhelmed, try saying no instead of yes occasionally.

Who knows, you just might find more effective ways of interacting with your children and communicating with your spouse.  At least, you won't be doing the same thing over and over...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Yard Sales

It's Spring and that means...the beginning of yard sale season!  Yes, it's time to check out the yard sale ads in the Classified section of the newspaper and watch for signs in the neighborhood.

Here are a few tips for successful yard saling.

Most of the suggestions I posted last week for thrift store shopping apply to yard sales too.  See post dated 5/3/12

Watch for neighborhood or community sales...more houses, less travel.

Upscale neighborhoods usually have higher quality goods and not necessarily higher prices.

If a price on something is reasonable to you, don't haggle or dicker over the price.  Some people price low to sell quickly.  Be nice to them!

Bring cash, preferably lower denominations.

Yard sales are particularly good for buying  inexpensive toys, clothing, books and household items.

I'll end with a story today.  Two weeks ago, I went to a yard sale in a nice part of the city.  Most of the stuff wasn't very interesting but they had a lot of kitchen gadgets, all marked with bright neon stickers, telling the price.  Most were marked 25, 50, 75 etc.  I picked up a slicer thingy.  It looked pretty good so I took it up to the owner of the home.  Well, imagine my surprise when the little slicer thingy was 50 DOLLARS, not 50 cents!  I'm usually not that dumb but it just looked like a cheap plastic slicer to me and 50 cents seemed reasonable  :)  I declined to purchase it.   Know your prices!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's Cooking? Wednesday - Pasta Salad Bowl

Today is What's cooking? Wednesday and it felt like a good day to make a pasta salad for dinner.  This is one of our favorite meals during the warm months.  Like most of the things I make, it isn't really a traditional recipe but it's easy, quick and tastes good.

I forgot to put the Parmesan Cheese on top...oops!
Pasta Salad (used to be called Spaghetti Salad but I don't always use spaghetti pasta so I changed the name)

1 - 2  lbs dry pasta, cooked according to directions, drained and cooled in cold water
1 bottle Italian Dressing (today I used Bernstein's Fat Free Cheese and Garlic Italian)
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
handful black olives, sliced
handful green olives, sliced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 oz mozzarella cheese, cut in cubes
15-20 slices of pepperoni (lay flat on paper towels, microwave for 1 min. at high power, cool), crumbled or cut into 1/4ths
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Optional -
raw broccoli, broken into small florets
lightly steamed asparagus, cut into small pieces
raw zucchini, sliced and cut into 1/4ths

Mix everything together in large bowl and cool until ready to eat.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.  Serve with slices of toasted french bread and fruit.

All the ingredients can be varied depending on personal preference and how many people you are cooking for.  Also, you might not use all the Italian depends on how much pasta you used and how "wet" you like it.    It's a very forgiving recipe.  :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - kids

Kids are messy.  We all know that.  Messy is its place.  We wouldn't want to inhibit our kid's  curiosity and creativity but maybe we can have certain areas where certain things are played with, hopefully someplace easy to clean.  And, when they're finished playing, you might want to put the paints, playdough, glue sticks, and moon sand waaaay up high somewhere where they can't get into it whenever they want.  It's hard enough to keep a house clean but we don't have to make it harder on ourselves than absolutely necessary!

And another thing...teaching kids to keep food in the kitchen (or dining room, or wherever they eat) will help considerably in cleaning up after them.  There's no reason for the remnants of fossilized food and drink to leave their mark on your carpet, furniture, and walls.  Maybe husbands should be taught to eat in the kitchen too!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Are you a M.O.M. aka Mean Ol' Mom?  Do you give your children chores to do, expect them to treat you respectfully and have them do their homework before they play?  Do you restrict the amount of time they watch television or play video games?  Do you have consequences for bad behavior?  Do you try not to indulge them excessively?  Do your teenagers have curfew and is it enforced?  Do you expect your children to have reasonably good manners?  Do you care what kind of music they listen to and what kind of friends they have?  Do you love them unconditionally but sometimes get pretty exasperated with them? 

If you said yes, welcome to the group!   I'm a M.O.M. too and proud of it! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Don't you just hate the perfect mom?  She is attractive, athletically trim, neatly dressed, has perfect well behaved children and everything seems to be going ... perfectly.  Guess what?  The perfect mom doesn't exist.  Really.  We do ourselves a huge disservice by comparing ourselves with others.  We see the public face of a person and think they don't have a care in the world.  We don't know their struggles.  We don't know the pain they might be going through.  We don't know the difficulties they might have with their children or husband.  We don't know the financial problems they might be dealing with.  We just don't know. 

When we compare ourselves with others we tend to compare our weaknesses with their strengths.  That's not exactly fair to you or them.  Instead of comparing, maybe we would be happier if we treated people with the same consideration we would have them give us.  Genuinely compliment other people on their successes and be a support during their struggles and don't worry about what you see on the outside.  Learn to get to know the person within.

Who knows?  There could be people who look up to you and admire the job you are doing with your family!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happily Ever After

Today my daughter married the love of her life in a beautiful, simple ceremony.  She looked so radiant and he looked so handsome as they began the first day of their lives together.  I love them both dearly. 
Where did the time go?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Family Focus Friday-Puzzle Pieces

A family is like a puzzle.  It is made up of many different parts, each a different size and shape.  Each is important to the complete picture, none is insignificant.  Even the smallest piece is needed.  Have you ever seen a puzzle where just one piece is missing?  It leaves a glaring hole in the picture.  We don't want that with our family.  We want a beautiful, complete picture!

In my family, we often used the puzzle piece analogy to stress the importance of each and every member of the family.  All the individual characteristics that each child and parent brings into the family make us the unique family unit that we are.

Your family might consist of many pieces or just a few.  It doesn't matter how many pieces there are.  What matters is that there is a special place for each one.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thrifty Thursday- Thrift Store Shopping

I'm changing Frugal Friday to Thrifty Thursday so I can do something else on Friday.  It's kinda fun to come up with a topic for each day of the week.

I love shopping at thrift stores.  I love a good bargain and love to explore the unique offerings found in second hand stores.  With the popularity of craigslist and ebay (you are competing with people who look for and sell used goods), it's sometimes harder to find the amazing bargain but it's still possible.  Here are some ideas for getting the most out of your shopping experience. 

Know what the current styles are.  Go to the mall and take note of the newest colors and styles.  Check out the general price range for the types of clothing and other items you are looking for.

While you're at home, get a pair of pants that fit you well and hold them snugly against you.  Pretend that you are considering buying them.  See how they fit around the hips and waist.  Check the length.  You are doing this so when you go to a thrift store that doesn't allow trying things on, you can aim for a similar fit as the pants you already have and know fits.  It's an easy form of measuring.  Do the same with dresses, blouses and sweaters.  Most of the time there are dressing rooms but my favorite thrift store doesn't have them.

Remember that sizes are not standard.  When shopping, look at sizes larger and smaller than your own or your children.  It's fit that matters, not size.

Concentrate on quality, not quantity.  Often name brands are made with higher quality materials and construction and they're usually the same price as the lesser brands.

Check closely for flaws, stains, broken or missing fasteners.  Some things can be repaired.  Some things aren't worth it.  You have to decide.

 Don't buy something just because it's cheap.  It's better to have a small wardrobe of good quality things you love and use than an overwhelming amount of miscellaneous clothes.  The same is true for your children.  Don't overwhelm them with too many clothes.  Most of us can wash clothes at least once a week so we really don't need that many clothes for every day wear.

Go to the thrift store often.  Selection changes daily. 

Thrift store shopping is an adventure.  You'd be surprised how many people shop there!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday

Confession time - I don't like to cook.  It's not that I don't know how to cook or that I can't cook. I just would rather do something else.  Because of that, I am always on the lookout for recipes that are quick, easy to make, and use ingredients that are pretty basic.  When browsing through recipe books at the bookstore or library, I glance at the type and number of ingredients and if the majority of ingredients are unfamiliar, I know I don't need that book.

Over the next several weeks, I hope to share some of the recipes that have become favorites with my family.  It's hard to find something that everyone likes and these have (in general) passed the test of 10 picky palates.  :)

Today was my grandson's birthday and he wanted me to make Oreo cake balls so that is my first recipe here.

Oreo Cake Balls

1 16 oz package Oreos, any flavor (not Double Stuf). We used Mint Oreos today
1 8 oz package cream cheese.  I usually use Fat Free or Light

Combine both ingredients in food processor until thoroughly mixed or mash up really, really good in a plastic bag with a rolling pin.  Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.  Form into 1 inch balls.  Freeze until ready to coat with chocolate.

Chocolate Coating
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. Candy Melts
1-2 T. Crisco

Melt ingredients in double boiler.  Stir until smooth.  Make sure NO water gets into the chocolate!  It will make it separate.  The Candy Melts are made for dipping candy and the chocolate chips improve the flavor.  The Crisco makes it a little thinner and easier to coat.  For the green balls on the right, I used white Candy Melts and mint chips. 

Use a fork to dip the balls into the chocolate to coat completely.  Put onto wax-paper or parchment covered cookie sheet.  Before they harden you can add sprinkles, coconut, nuts or other decorations.

That's it!  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Kitchen Organization

If I have a Frugal Friday, can I have a Tidy Tuesday?  I think I will use Tuesdays to focus on decluttering (which I talked about a week or so ago) and organization.  Even though we'd sometimes like to ignore the mundane tasks of home maintenance, it is part of providing a comfortable, peaceful home for our family.

Because I talked about decluttering the kitchen, maybe I can now offer a few tips on organizing it.  Whole books have been written on the topic and I am not in the mood to write an entire book at the moment so a few tips will have to do. :)  Besides, even a few changes can make a big difference.  If you cleared out your cupboards and refrigerator of the expired food and other unnecessary supplies, you now have a little more room to work with.

Most experts on kitchen organization recommend that you store supplies where you usually use them.  So...pot holders and trivets near the stove, dishes and silverware near the dishwasher, baking supplies near the counter where you work, etc.

Store things you use frequently in the most accessible place.  For things you only use on holidays or other occasions, you don't even have to keep them in the kitchen if you don't have room for them.

I know you're not supposed to keep spices near the stove but I do keep them in a cupboard right next to it.  There are little riser things you can buy to elevate the back row of spices to make them easier to see...I use a 2"X4"piece of wood cut to the length of the cupboard and that works just as well.

Even though most people store cleaning supplies under the sink, I never did because kids could reach them too easily.  I keep the trash containers (one for recycling and one for throw-out stuff) and dish drainer under the sink and keep the cleaning supplies in a lockable cupboard.

Because I make bread frequently, I have one cupboard devoted to all my bread-making supplies.  Having everything in the same place makes it quick and easy to prepare bread.  If there's something you make frequently, it's a good idea to keep the supplies close together.

My husband watches what he eats so I keep extra sets of measuring cups and spoons in the serving area so I can easily keep track of the amount he eats. (no guesswork!)

Plastic storage containers seem to multiply so it's a good idea to occasionally toss out extras.  You really don't need THAT many containers.  I keep the lids in a separate plastic shoe-box...neater that way.

For little things that slide around in drawers, use dividers made for silverware or cosmetics to contain them.

I think I've written enough for today.  There's a lot you can do to make your kitchen more efficient and fun to work in.  Did I actually say fun?