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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Sugared Popcorn

My mom's sugared popcorn
This stuff is heavenly!  My mommy used to make it for Halloween, her mommy used to make it and now I'm passing it down to you.  I just gave a bowlful of it to my daughter and she took a taste, her eyes opened wide and she said,"What IS this? It's Great!"  So, there's an unsolicited testimonial as well  :)

Sugared Popcorn
2 packages microwave popcorn, popped  (This is the only variation to my mom's original recipe...they didn't have microwave ovens back in the old days  :))
1 c. sugar
3 T. water
1 T. butter

Put popped popcorn into large bowl.  Don't just empty the package into the bowl - you'll get unpopped kernels and they're bad for your teeth!  Scoop out the popcorn with your hands.
Combine the sugar, water and butter in saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  When it comes to a boil, turn heat down to medium and boil for 5 minutes.  You don't have to stir it or anything.  Just make sure it stays at a rolling boil.  After 5 minutes, stir into large bowl of popped popcorn.  Keep stirring until the sugar solution is all incorporated into the popcorn.

Boil the sugar mixture for 5 minutes

What I like most about this popcorn is that it isn't sticky, gooey or messy.  It just gives a subtle sugary taste to the salty popcorn.  Delicious!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - A learned Skill

If you thought you were doomed to keeping a messy house because you just aren't the organizing kind, there's hope for you!  Organizing isn't an inborn talent, it's a learned skill.  Isn't that nice to know?  :)

So, are you ready to learn a new skill?  Let's compare learning how to get organized with learning how to ride a bike.  Riding a bike looked pretty easy didn't it?  That is, until you actually got on that wobbly two wheeled contraption!  Getting organized looks like a piece of cake too...until you are surrounded with stuff and realize you have no idea where to start.

Why did you get back on that bike?  Determination, a bit of courage and you could just picture yourself riding down the street, your hair streaming behind you, the wind in your face.  That was your motivation.  Why are you trying to get organized?  Can you picture your home, neat and clean and a welcome place for your family and friends?  Are you determined?  Are you ready to make it happen?

When you got that shiny new bicycle, did your dad or sister or someone else help you, hold the bike steady and give you tips on staying on the bike?  Have you asked a trusted friend to help you get organized or give you ideas on how to do it?   Someone who has learned the skill you are trying to learn is an excellent source of helpful advice.

Did you fall off your bike?  Did you get back on?  How many times?  Learning something new means practice and persistence.  Have you tried to get organized?  Did you try again?  What did you do differently?

 Learning a new skill doesn't happen overnight.  It requires determination, persistence and practice.   Getting organized is an ongoing learning process that will evolve as you master new techniques.  The time to start is now and the place to start is in your home.  Visualize what you want to accomplish, make a plan, stick to it, ask for help and don't quit.  Just like you learned how to ride a bike, you can learn how to be organized.  Give yourself a chance  :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Help! My kid doesn't care about homework!

You have a smart child in elementary school but he just doesn't seem to care about doing homework.  No matter what you do or threaten, he dawdles, does a sloppy job, forgets his work and makes your life miserable.  If you could just get it into his head that school is important for his future, you know he'd take interest in his schoolwork, and life would be more pleasant for you, him and the rest of the family.

Let's think this through together.  Does he have a learning disability or other medical condition that makes it hard to concentrate?  Have you talked with his teacher to get suggestions for getting him to fulfill his assignments?  Does he have a designated study place at home?  Does he know the consequences of not completing his work?

Often the best time to do homework is right after school, before he gets busy with friends and activities.  Get him a snack, ask him about his day, have him go to the bathroom and change his clothes.  Set him up at his work place, set a time to complete the assignment, and stay close to monitor his progress and answer questions.  You can use this time to do paperwork of your own (budget, bills, writing etc).  When his time is up, calmly go over his work with him and either dismiss him to go play or hand out the consequence of not finishing.  No arguing, no pleading, no threatening, no deal-making.  Just a disappointed mom following through.  And DO follow through, even if he has soccer practice, a birthday party to go to, a Scout activity, whatever.  It shouldn't take too many times of missing something fun for him to realize that you mean business.

If you don't want this issue to turn into a power struggle between you and your son, you'll do your best to stay calm and matter-of-fact when dealing with the situation.  The fact is you cannot make your child care...about schoolwork or anything.  You can provide an atmosphere of learning and support but he is the one who has to do the work.  You can set expectations and then follow through with appropriate consequences...consistently!  Then he has the opportunity to complete his work in a timely manner or risk losing privileges and activities when he fails to meet the expectations of you and his teacher.   It's up to him.  You've done your part.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The best of both worlds

A funny thing happens when two people get married.  You combine a man with a unique background and traditions with a woman who has her own set of traditions and values and try to put them together to make a new family unit.  Conflicts can show up fairly quickly, even before the marriage.  You want things one way and he wants them another.  Your family did things this way and his did things that way.  When traditions are questioned, it's as if your whole upbringing is being questioned.  The fact of the matter is that there can be more than one way to do things right.  His way worked for his family.  Your way worked for yours.  How can you resolve this?

Well, for one thing, build on the successes of the families you both grew up in.  Identify what worked well for them.  Talk with your parents.  Do the same with your husband's family.  Ask them what they felt were their successes.  Ask them how their traditions got started.  You might be surprised.  If you understood how a particular tradition of your husbands came about, you might understand his insistence that it be continued in your new little family.  And he might find out about where you are coming from when YOU want things a certain way.  Then ask both families what they would do differently.  Hindsight can be a valuable lesson for the next generation.  You can learn from their experiences, both successes and failures.

Sometimes compromise is what you both have to do to keep the peace.  That means neither is completely happy with the outcome but maybe that dissatisfaction will be short-lived.  A compromise might be the beginning of some new tradition that becomes a part of what defines your family.  Or then again, maybe not  :)  The good thing about making a decision is that if it doesn't work out, you can try something different next time.

A family is all about learning and growing.  Incorporate the best of your childhood families, add to them and create your own loving, strong and successful family. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Why is it so hard to accept some people?  Do they do things differently than we do?  Do they dress differently or talk differently?  Are they poorer or richer?  Do they make us feel insecure or lacking?

Did you ever stop and think that maybe we are missing out when we summarily dismiss someone simply because they are different or make us feel uncomfortable?  It's true that sometimes there is an instant connection between you and another person but that doesn't mean that you can't learn from or even become friends with someone who challenges you or your way of thinking. 

Friends forever and always
You want to be accepted and not judged unfairly, don't you?  That is a basic need that we all have.  If you can put aside your first impression of someone and try to get to know them, you might be surprised at what you learn.  You might find common ground.  You might be able to sympathize with their situation.  You might find that they are just as insecure as you feel.  Even if you still don't get along with them, you can treat them with respect and consideration.  It's easier to get along with people if you can accept them, regardless of their differences. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Everyday rituals

No, I'm not referring to animal sacrifice or other weird practices.  :)  I'm talking about the small things your family does every day that help your children feel a sense of belonging and love.   You probably already have several family rituals that you aren't even aware of (but I bet your children are).   Most aren't even planned...they just evolve until they become a unique and personal part of your family.

Reading a story every lunchtime, saying a blessing on the food, kissing an owie to make it better,  waiting up for a teenager, tucking in your kids before turning off the light, saying "I love you" when someone leaves the house, all these are fairly common rituals. 

Have I gotten you thinking yet?  What kind of family rituals are in YOUR family? 

Thrifty Thursday - The gas guzzler

While we had all eight of our kids at home, we drove a great, big Dodge 350 15 passenger van.  That thing was enormous!  We could haul our kids, some of their friends, everyone's gear and still be comfortable.  We hauled a piano, a bathtub, various appliances, lumber, goats, hay, tons of name it, we could haul it.  Unfortunately, it only got 10-14 miles per gallon, with its 35 gallon tank.  When the kids started leaving the nest, we replaced the behemoth with a cute, little minivan and then a fuel efficient Nissan sedan.

With fuel prices so high, we need to do everything we can to keep costs down.  Whether you need a 15 passenger van or a little sedan, there are things that can lessen the impact on your budget.

Too bad...not an option  :)
1. Buy what you can afford.  If you can only afford a used car, buy the best you can find within your price range.  Be realistic.
2. Maintain that car!  Especially if it's used, you want to get all the miles out of it as you can.  Regular oil changes, tire rotation, and tuneups will prolong its life.
3. Combine trips whenever possible.  We had a town day once a week (we lived 20 miles from the nearest town when we had the Dodge) where we combined doctors appointments, shopping and fun activities, like meeting Daddy for lunch!
4. Don't be so quick to trade in a car.  If yours is still functional and dependable, use it a little longer.  However, if you no longer need a huge van, replacing it with something more fuel efficient might be worth it.
5. Drive carefully.  Getting a speeding ticket or having an accident is usually avoidable and costly.

For most of us, having a car is a necessity.  Sometimes, having two cars is a necessity.  Whatever your situation,  a car is a big expenditure but you do have some control over how much it impacts your budget.

I still miss my Dodge van  :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Real Pumpkin Pie Shake

Although this recipe takes a bit of preparation in advance, it's worth it!  It uses real pie crust pieces, which gives it that unique pumpkin pie taste.  And if you make the pie crust ahead of time and freeze it, the actual prep time is very short.

Real Pumpkin Pie Shake!
So...first you have to make a pie crust.  Either buy a package from the refrigerated section of the grocery store or make one from scratch.  For this post, I bought the packaged kind for the first time in my life.  It actually tasted like a real crust!  All I had to do was unroll the dough and put it on a cookie sheet.  It doesn't have to be in a pie tin...flat works great too.  After unrolling it, I sprinkled the surface lightly with sugar.  Then I baked it as directed.  After I took it out of the oven, I let it cool and then broke it into small pieces, put the pieces in a freezer bag and stuck it in the freezer.

Pumpkin Pie Shake

1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. milk
1 c. vanilla ice cream (approx. 2 scoops)
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
3 T. instant pudding mix (4 T. if you want an extra thick shake)
Handful of pie crust pieces

Blend the first four ingredients together until smooth.  Slowly add the instant pudding mix until the shake is the consistency you want.  Mix in the pie crust pieces.  Don't blend them in the blender!
Pour into two glasses.  Top with whipped cream.  Heavenly!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Little Helpers

One thing that toddlers and preschoolers love to do is help their mommy.  They may be small but they are eager and willing to do whatever Mommy is doing.  You can encourage this by providing simple tasks that they can do and praising their efforts.

Here are some ideas to help you get started -
1. Look for kid-sized tools.  Chuck and Lilly love to help sweep the floor but an adult-sized broom can be lethal when swung around  :)  You can either get a child-sized broom or cut down an adult sized one.
2. Scrubbing the floor is a great excuse to play with water.  Provide a small plastic bin of warm water and a washcloth or sponge and watch the fun begin.
3. There are many lightweight vacuums around.  We had a small Oreck vacuum that even our three and four year olds enjoyed using...just like Mommy.
4. Let the kids use a feather duster (cut the handle down if it's too long) to dust the furniture but keep them away from lamps and fragile, breakable things.
5. Chuck loves watering the plants and picking off the dead leaves.  
6. Kids can plump pillows (as they throw them around and stomp on them!)
7.  And of course there's the always favorite job of picking up their toys  :)

I know...none of these things sound like much fun to you but remember that little kids watch and imitate their mommies and want to please them.  There may never be another stage in your child's life where he is more willing to help...take advantage of it while you still can  :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Launching Pad

Every home needs a launching pad.  It doesn't matter if you have a large entry, a mudroom, or just a front or back door, you need a place where thing gets dropped off as family members come into the house and get picked up as they leave.   It's useful to have a row of hooks to hang coats, hats and umbrellas as well as a flat surface (either a narrow table or bench) to put backpacks, lunches, keys, purses and the rest of the stuff you don't want to forget or lose.  If you have room, it's also nice to have a place to leave shoes as you come in the door.  Your flooring stays cleaner that way too.

Life can be pretty chaotic with the normal comings and goings of your average busy family and you don't have to make it harder on yourself by misplacing keys, purses and other things.  And if kids have a place to put their backpacks and other school stuff (and if they regularly put them there!), they are more likely to remember to take them as they leave in the morning.  The result?  A little less stress to begin the day.  Totally worth it!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Are you ready for the new week?

I wonder if it's a natural instinct to procrastinate?  I know there are things that need to be done and yet I find other things that are more interesting to do.
Too much to do!

It's now Sunday night and there is a whole new week starting tomorrow.  Do I want to start it already behind?  What do I need to do now to make the next week better?

Well, I need to do the dishes and get the kitchen tidy so when I wake up, I'm not overwhelmed with the prospect of last night's dishes staring me in the face.

I need to make sure my husband has clean clothes for work tomorrow.  Luckily, they're clean...but need to be folded and put away.  So, I better do that.

Do I know my husband and kid's schedules?  Are there any surprises?

What are the urgent tasks that I have been putting off?  Sigh...there are a few of those.  Better write them down to take care of first thing in the morning.

Did I check my calendar for obligations?

Does the house look clean and neat?  Did everyone put their stuff away?

Oh, gotta get the trash out to the curb!

How about you?  Is there anything you need to do to make next week better?   Are the kids ready for school tomorrow?  Backpacks and school papers where they can be found?  Clothes laid out?  You can help them start their week out right too.

Let's have a great week!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fun with Chuck...

Waiting for our sandwiches
Chuck (age 4) and I went to the local sandwich shop to get sandwiches for the family for dinner tonight. 

Chuck, "Are we going to eat here or at home?"
Me, "We'll take it home and eat with Daddy, Sissy, and Grumpy."
Chuck, "Not Sissy! I don't want to eat with Sissy!"
Me, "Sissy will be hungry."
Chuck, "No! No Sissy!"
Me, "If she doesn't eat, she'll starve."
Chuck (worried face), "Ok, I guess she can eat with us.  I don't want her to starve."
He loves his little sister  :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

October is National Anti-Bulllying Awareness Month

Friends protect each other!
On October 6th, I wrote a post on bullying.  I didn't know at the time that October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.  I didn't even know there was such a distinction.  Now that I know, I want to add a few more comments on the subject, only this time not talk about the bully but talk about the bullied.

As mothers, we have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for our children and protect them from harm.  Bullying is not something new in our society.   I'm sure you can remember instances in your childhood where either you or someone you knew was the target of a bully.  I know I can still remember.  Even so, it isn't a natural or normal part of childhood and shouldn't be dismissed nor tolerated.

If you think your child is being bullied, there are things you can do to help him.
1. First, talk to him and get details.  Do not show that you are upset.
2. Be calm and reassuring.
3. Show support for him and his situation.  
3. Help him come up with appropriate ways to respond when being bullied.  Usually the best way is to walk away and not show anger or fear.  Fighting back is NOT a good idea.
4. Have him practice what to do if it happens again.
5. Make sure he knows that he can always come to you with his problems.
6. When he's away from home, encourage him to be with friends as often as possible.  Bullies rarely target a group of children.
7. Keep a closer eye on the kids playing in the neighborhood.  Discourage unsupervised play.
8. Talk to other mothers and work together to ensure the safety of the children.

Often, bullying occurs at school so you will need to involve the teacher and school administrators.  They need to know what is going on so they can monitor the situation. Your child's mental and physical health and safety are not things to be dealt with lightly.

These are just simple steps you can use to help your child with bullies.  Hopefully, working together with your child and teaching him a few coping techniques will be enough to take care of the problem.  If it isn't enough or the problem is severe, you might have to take more drastic steps and involve law enforcement.   Every child deserves to feel safe, at home, at school, and in the community. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - the art of frugality

When you think of artists, you think of creativity...a person's ability to express a thought or idea onto paper or other medium, in music or writing. gives this definition of creativity -

1.the state or quality of being creative.  (no surprise there!)
2.the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.
3.the process by which one utilizes creative  ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.
By this definition, frugality is an art form  :)   You are finding novel ways to solve everyday problems and developing new ideas and solutions.  It takes creativity to work with a limited budget and make the best use of your money.  
I think back to my first apartment as a newlywed.  We were "starving students", living on very little money and trying to furnish our first home.  We had to figure out what was most important for our comfort and what would give us the most use for our money.  You'd think we would have chosen a bed.  Wrong.  Sleeping on the floor with sleeping bags and blankets was surprisingly comfortable.  The first thing we bought was a card table and two chairs.  A table made it possible for us to do our homework (try typing on the floor!), it gave me a place to sew and work on projects, and of course, we could eat at the table.  It was also compact and portable so wouldn't take up much space when we eventually moved.  
To hold our clothes, we turned cardboard boxes on their sides, taped them together and had instant shelves.  Like most other college students, we made bookshelves out of bricks and boards.  Bedsheets were used as curtains.   It was a happy time of our lives and laid the foundation for being frugal to this day.  

Before you run out and spend a bunch of money to buy something, think about what you already have at your disposal and see if there's a less expensive alternative.  Can you repurpose something?  Can you do without?  Can you find it used?  Be creative! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - Lentil and Ham Soup

Today seemed like the perfect day for a warm bowl of soup and cornbread.  It has been a long time since I've made Lentil Soup so that's what's cooking tonight.  Lentils are a wonderful source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  They are also extremely inexpensive and are quick cooking (for a legume).

Lentil and Ham Soup

7-8 c. water
2 c. dried lentils
2 t. chicken soup base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 t. pepper
1 onion, cut into small pieces
2 c. chopped carrots
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 c. ham, cubed
1 t. salt (optional)

Combine water and lentils in large pot.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes.  While simmering, add chicken soup base and pepper.  After 15 minutes, add the onion, carrots and celery.  Continue to cook over the stove for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it gets too thick.  Add diced tomatoes and ham.  Cook until heated through.  If it tastes too bland, add the additional teaspoon salt.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve with warm cornbread.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Denial

I admit, I do love the show Hoarders.  It always amazes me how people can live in such horrible conditions and think nothing of it.  Among other things, they all suffer from denial...denial that there is anything wrong in their lives or living conditions. 

It's easy to get used to things we see every day until we are hardly aware of them.  Here's a little experiment.  Imagine you are your critical Great Aunt Bertha coming to visit.  Look around with Bertha's eyes.  What do you see?  I see a pair of socks and a throw pillow on the floor, the breakfast dishes still in the sink and a few cobwebs on the ceiling (hey, it's Halloween decorations!).  These things take less than one minute to take care of.  Of course, if I knew Great Aunt Bertha were coming, I'd do a quick pick up around the house.  But it's still interesting to see your home and property from the eyes of someone else. 

A month or so ago, my insurance company sent a letter saying that as part of their periodic policy review, they were sending someone over to take a few pictures of the outside of our home.  Believe me, I went outside and looked around as if I were the photographer.  Nothing was amiss but I made sure that the front porch and deck were swept and my husband's tools were put away.  What did you leave outside?  Are there toys all over the yard?  Are the trash cans put away?  Does your house look loved? 

Our families are worth a comfortable, well loved and well taken care of home.  Not a sterile showpiece for a magazine cover where you are afraid to even sit down, but a place that says "Welcome, come in and relax."  

Monday, October 15, 2012

The family that eats together...

Often overlooked in today's society is a simple family ritual known as the family dinner.  I know, everyone's too busy to sit down to a meal regularly but before you dismiss the idea, think of the benefits.

It might be the only time in the day when the whole family is together.  How can a family be close to one another if they rarely even see each other?  A meal, eaten together, anchors the family.

A meal is about, ideas, funny stories, events of the day.

Good manners are taught and reinforced at the dinner table by both instruction and example.

 In general, a family meal prepared and eaten at home is more nutritious and less expensive than everyone doing their own thing whenever or wherever they feel like it.

Studies have shown that teenagers are less likely to have social problems, like smoking, drinking, and drug use when they regularly eat together with their family.

You might now be saying, "That's not the way it is at MY house!"  That's ok.  You can always start where you are right now.  The first item of business is to make time for at least one meal a day a shared one.  Most often that will be dinner but if your schedule doesn't allow that, breakfast might have to do.  Make it a priority.  We make a lot of choices and have more discretion than we give ourselves credit for.

Decide to make dinner a pleasant time.  Save confrontations, problems, arguments etc. for another time and another place. 

Put a little effort into atmosphere.  Set the table nicely.  Turn off the TV.  Put the cell phones in another room.

Enlist the children to help you, either with food prep or table setting.

If you make eating together a priority, you and your children will be able to build stronger ties and create lasting memories and traditions.   The benefits far outweigh the negatives and everyone has to eat so why not make the effort to eat together?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fake it

Yesterday my son, his wife and two little children were in a car accident.  Although everyone was fine, my son was justifiably shaken.  When I talked to him this morning, he said he kept reliving the accident and was having problems letting it go.  He didn't want to worry anyone so he asked for advice.  My answer?  "Fake it."

Isn't that what we have to do sometimes?  We don't always have the luxury of showing our true emotions when our children are watching.  What they need from us in stressful situations is the reassurance that their parents are in control and will take care of them.   It isn't easy when all you want to do is freak out but the last thing you need is kids who really DO start freaking out because that's what their parents are doing.  So, fake it.  Put on that calm demeanor and reassure them that everything will be ok.  You might even convince yourself. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"How can you change your way of thinking?"

A very sweet and talented friend posted the question a few days ago, "How do you change your way of thinking?"  She doesn't think she deserves to be happy.  This is such an excellent question that so many of us are plagued with that I thought I'd devote today's post to it.

We are not only faced with pressure from outside to be perfect but even within ourselves, we struggle with the idea that we aren't good enough.  How do we overcome such an onslaught?

A few things to remember -
1.  We deserve to be happy.
2.  We are not perfect.  Not now, not ever in this life.
3.  We all have the ability to control our thoughts.
4.  Even bad days have things to be happy about.
5.  Habits built over time take time to change.
6.  Change is possible.

With those things in mind, how can we make the necessary changes to our lives?  Some suggestions -

1.  Decide now that you CAN change your thinking. Give yourself permission to change.
2.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  A loving Heavenly Father always wants to help.
3.  Recognize when negative thoughts are creeping into your mind and refuse to dwell on them.
4.  Exchange the negative thoughts with an uplifting song in your head.  Sing it to yourself or out loud.
5.  Post reminders to yourself on your mirror, by the door, wherever you will see them to remind yourself that you are worth being happy.
My happy place is at the beach!
6.  A gratitude journal, written daily, will get you thinking of the positive things in your life.
7.  Talking with an understanding friend can help put things in perspective.
8.  Sometimes, the problem is a chemical imbalance within your body.  There is nothing wrong with medication, prescribed by a physician, to bring balance back to your body.
9.  Stay busy.  Inactivity lets negative thoughts creep back in.
10.  Read uplifting books. 
11.  Be content with baby steps.  If you try too much too soon, you'll just be making yourself feel bad again for not accomplishing enough.
12.  Don't let discouragement set you back.

I think we are often harder on ourselves than anyone else.  If we are trying our best, even though we aren't perfect, and look for the good around us, we can succeed. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday - healthy eating

Last Wednesday, I was flying to my daughter's house and couldn't make anything.  Today I am flying home so no cooking for me today either.  However...I thought I'd share some thoughts about eating healthily.

At the age of 42, my husband had a substantial heart attack.  He had no warning symptoms although he was overweight and his desk job didn't allow for much exercise time.  All that changed pretty much in the blink of an eye.  Talk about wake-up call...not only for him but for the kids and I.  We would all have to learn new ways of eating and living.

I remember taking my younger children to the grocery store shortly thereafter and my youngest daughter, age seven,  went up and down the aisles, pulling boxes and cans off the shelves (don't worry, she replaced them), reading their nutrition labels.  A fellow shopper asked me in a whisper if my daughter had a health problem.  :)  No, no problem, just trying to help her daddy.

I had to learn how to adjust recipes to lower their fat content and calorie content.  Out went the butter, shortening, the whole fat milk and other dairy products.  In came the egg replacer, olive oil and canola oil, the fat free milk.  Out went the huge portions of beef.  In came chicken breast and seafood.  Whole grains were substituted for enriched and processed grains.   I tried new recipes.  Some worked, some were flops.  But, this was a learning process for me and for the family and the changes we made were good for everyone, not just Dad.

Having a major life change can be really scary but if the whole family works together, new habits are easier to make and maintain.  Over the months after his heart attack, my husband lost 50 pounds and we all learned to drink fat free milk  :) 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - reorganizing the kitchen

If it's one thing I like to do, it's helping someone organize their home.  While visiting with my married daughter, she asked me if I'd help her with her kitchen and so yesterday was the big day.

Before - My daughter wanted to tidy up first but I wouldn't let her!
Her kitchen has some definite's very small and the cabinets are oddly shaped and have non-adjustable shelves.  The positive is that she has additional pantry space downstairs.  We were going to try to use the storage containers she already had and not spend very much on the project.

We started by taking everything out of the cabinets.  Food items were checked for expiration dates.  Expired food was thrown away.  Food that was not going to be eaten was thrown away.  We then organized the remaining food by category...baking, breakfast, pasta, spices, etc.  Equipment and utensils were next.  My daughter decided which things she wanted to keep in the kitchen, which things could go into the pantry (seasonal, rarely used), and which things she could get rid of.   We ended up filling five trash bags with expired food, storage containers with no lids, or lids with no containers,  and obvious trash.  A box of canning jars, several platters, and miscellaneous bakeware went to the pantry as well as extra canned goods and duplicate food items.  Things that didn't belong in the kitchen were put where they belonged.  A good scrubbing down of the interior and exterior of each cabinet, and we were ready to replace everything.

Before - No place for anything!  No counter space.
After - A place for bulk items and useable counter space.  The containers still need labels.
Before - Food in bags, needs organizing.

After - a shelf for breakfast food, a shelf for pasta, and a third shelf for extra baking supplies.  Still need labels.

Before - No place for pots and pans, needs place for cooking oil and spices.

Before - Mixture of food and equipment. 

After - A shelf for storage containers (all have lids), a shelf for hand mixers, grater and other equipment.
We used the cabinets on the right side to hold all the dishes, bakeware, glasses, storage containers, and equipment like hand mixer, cheese grater, strainer and pressure cooker.  The left side was for food.  There was a shelf for bread and baked goods, one for cereal and breakfast food, another for baking supplies, one large shelf for spices (she really likes her spices!) and so on.  Because her shelves can't be adjusted, we exchanged the original containers of some things (cooking oil, a large bottle of vanilla) for containers that would fit on the shelf.  The excess went down to the pantry.   One thing that worked out nicely was what we did with three of the super skinny cabinets (6 inches wide!)  We designated one for the children's treats, one for my son-in-law's treats and one for my daughter's treats.   There they can keep their granola bars, drink mixes, favorite nuts and whatever else that is uniquely theirs.  When the kids want treats, they know just where to look. 

After - Oven cleared of stuff, counter tops clear.  Refrigerator clean and has Things I Need list.  You can't see it but the tops of the cabinet are empty now.
The end result is a kitchen that is functional and not over crowded.  The countertops are useable.  The food is organized and there's a place for everything.  It was a good day's work. 

After - Room to cook and clean!

Monday, October 8, 2012


It seems like everyone has a social cause they are passionate about.  I want to start a crusade about civility.   I'm just kidding but really, where has civility gone?   I've spent the last week in another state visiting one of my daughters and it's been interesting to watch how people act towards one another.   While shopping, I've observed really crabby customers and some not so nice store employees.  Is everyone so busy and frazzled that they can't show a little kindness to another person?  And driving?  Wow!  Talk about lack of civility!  I've never seen so many people cut off other drivers, tailgate, refuse to yield to incoming traffic and offer choice gestures to their fellow travelers (not at me, of course!).

Yes, there were also very nice people I encountered but for some reason, the rude, unkind ones were glaringly obvious.  It got me thinking about what would it be like if more people stopped long enough to smile or say thank you or help someone in need.  Would it hurt to yield to a car trying to merge onto a freeway?   Our lives are hectic and chaotic but a smile doesn't take any extra time or effort nor does looking at a cashier and telling her "thank you".  You might make someone's day brighter.  And it makes you feel good too!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It's the little things...

Like many of you, I love to look at Pinterest.  There are so many clever ideas.  It's amazing how creative some people can be!  It can also be a little intimidating, seeing elaborate themed birthday parties, special date night ideas, feasts fit for a king, and craft ideas any princess would love. 

When comparing these fantastic creations and ideas against the things you do for your family, don't dismiss the little things you do every day.  It's surprising what a powerful influence just a little gesture can make.

It's the little things...
A note in a lunch, a fun size candy bar on a bed, a single rose, a warmed towel after a shower, a backrub, a fresh baked cinnamon roll, a hug after school, a favorite bedtime many things can be done to show your love for your husband and children.  Believe me, they will be remembered.

So, while the big things can be exciting every once in a while, don't forget the little things.  Little things add up!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If your child is a bully...

Hearing that your child has been bullying another child is not something that you want to hear.  You might respond with defensiveness or disbelief...not YOUR child!  Before you do anything consider the following -

All kids have disagreements and even occasional fights.  That is normal.  What isn't normal is finding pleasure in making someone cry or hurting them or making them feel bad just for the fun of it.  That kind of behavior needs to be

Kids use bullying for different reasons.  Some kids are insecure or have trouble interacting with their peers.  Some see bullying at home or in the neighborhood.  Some have anger issues.  Some do it to be accepted by a particular peer group.  Before dealing with your child, do some detective work and determine why your child is being a bully.  If you don't see a reason, talk with teachers, your child's friend's parents, neighbors and see if there is a pattern.

When you talk with your child, let him know that some behavior is not acceptable under any circumstances.  Be firm!  Being unkind to another child is one of those unacceptable behaviors.  Let him know that there WILL be consequences if they are mean to anyone.  Teach him how to deal with people he doesn't like.  If you see your child being a bully, intervene.  Stop him and remove him from the situation.  You might have to monitor his interactions with other kids for a while.

If he has social issues, help him learn how to treat his peers in an acceptable manner. Let him know that no one likes a bully.

If he sees bullying at home, of course, that needs to stop.

If he has anger or violent issues, you might need to work with professionals to help him overcome those tendencies.

Whatever the reason, let your child know that you love him and want him to be happy.  Tell him that he cannot be happy if he makes someone else unhappy.  He needs your help on this one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"How to have a new husband by Friday"

While walking through a bookstore yesterday, a title jumped out at me.  It was something like, "How to have a new husband by Friday."  Catchy title, huh?  Now, I didn't buy the book nor did I scan through it so I don't know what it's all about but the title got me thinking.  What if the title had read, "How to have a new wife by Friday."?  I think there would be a strong backlash against such an offensive title, yet most people don't think twice about the opposite idea.

Sometimes I feel sorry for our husbands.  Most try their best and get little credit for their effort.  Rarely do they have a support group of other husbands to bounce off their frustrations.  There are few books available to address the difficulties they have to go through as husbands (of course, I don't think many men read self-help books anyway but then again, I'm stereotyping so, who knows?) 

The truth of the matter is, if you want to change your husband, you have to change yourself.  You cannot change another person but you CAN influence him by changing the way YOU do things.  It's so much easier to complain about your spouse's weaknesses than acknowledge the weaknesses you have.  I am very much aware of the imperfections I have and yet I still haven't overcome them.  So, rather than focus on the things my husband does that drive me crazy, maybe I should concentrate on the things I do that drive HIM crazy.  Intriguing thought, isn't it? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thrifty Thursday - Review your policies

It's amazing how much of our income is tied up in things like insurance policies, bank accounts, and necessary services.  If you're like me, you sign up with a provider and promptly forget about it (except to notice each month that these services are taking up a larger proportion of our money). 

What we forget is that companies often change their offerings.  Technology improves, new services are introduced, needs change.  Which means that periodically we should review our policies with a representative of each company we deal with to make sure we are getting the best service for our money.

You might find that you are paying too much money for something like your cable or cell phone service.  You might find that your insurance company offers discounts that you weren't aware of.  Your bank might still be charging you for monthly fees.  These things add up!  You might also find that another company will provide better services than the one you are currently working with.  I know, it takes time and effort to research these things.  But it doesn't hurt to find out and it might just save you lots of money! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's cooking? Wednesday? Nothing!

Today is What's cooking? Wednesday and I'm not cooking anything!   All I've had to eat today is a gigantic Costco Pumpkin Spice muffin (about 800 cal.) and my tummy is still feeling the effects of it.  Note to self...1/2 Costco muffin is more than plenty!   Too much of a good thing is still...too much!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tidy Tuesday - Use the right tools!

Oh my goodness!  I can't believe what a difference the right tools and equipment make!  I'm in the process of redoing my laundry room and yesterday I started on the floor.  The old flooring was an awful black and white vinyl tile over concrete.  I spent the day removing the old tile by ironing each one until the adhesive became sticky and then pulled them up.  Some were easier than others but by the end of the day they were all removed, leaving an incredibly sticky concrete floor.  I bought a product designed to dissolve the old adhesive, choosing it because it was supposed to be safe and non-toxic and had no harmful fumes.  Well, all those nice things made it so the product didn't work at all.  It only made the adhesive gummier.  I dreaded the amount of work it would take to get the floor ready for the new tiles.

Today I took a different approach.  I went to the local Home Depot and bought the strongest, most lethal sounding product they had.  After taking the proper precautions with ventilation and safety, I tried it on a square about 3 ft by 3 ft.  In a few short minutes, the adhesive practically lifted off with one quick swipe of the scraper.  Wow!  I'm in love!

Too often we struggle with the job of house cleaning and maintenance because we don't have the right stuff to do the job well.  If you have a tough job to do and it doesn't seem to be working, go to a professional cleaning store or your local home improvement store and ask for help.  Somewhere out there is probably a product or piece of equipment that will make your job easier.  You're worth the effort!

Monday, October 1, 2012

(Mom's) Separation Anxiety

When you hear someone talking about separation anxiety, it's usually referring to a baby or child.  Rarely is it acknowledged that moms can feel a form of separation anxiety too when faced with leaving their child.  It doesn't matter if it's a new mom afraid of leaving her newborn baby, or a mom waving good-bye to her kindergartener, or the mom going back to work, or the seasoned mom watching her adult child going off to college or getting married.  There are always twinges of sadness and loss as you watch your child growing one step closer to independence and adulthood.  It isn't uncommon to hear the mother's lament, "My baby is growing up!"  I don't think moms ever stop worrying about their children.  sigh...

There are things you can do to lessen the impact of separation issues.  You have to stay busy.  Fill your newly available time with good things.  This might be a great time to begin that project you've been putting off for a long time.  You can volunteer in the community.  You can go back to school.  When my youngest went off the college last January, I took up blogging  :)

Talk with other mothers going through the same thing.  Never underestimate the value and wisdom of those who have experienced (or are currently experiencing) what you are going through.  Just knowing that you aren't the only one is a great comfort.

And, whatever else you do, don't make your child feel guilty for growing up or having his or her own adventures without you!  Don't hold him back!  Be happy and supportive for him.  Encourage her and help her feel confident as she embarks on new experiences.  Remember, he or she is probably also feeling some separation anxiety too.