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Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Favorite Student

I love teaching people the art of saving money. I never know if anyone is listening. However, my constant chatting about saving money is heard by the people I live with. The kids often ask if I got something on sale or how much they would need to earn to buy something with a coupon. This week was a huge success, as my favorite student passed his couponing test (no there is no actual test, he's just paying attention). MY HUSBAND went to the store, without me, used peelies (coupons attached to products) for something we intended to buy!

We've all had the pukes. Every single one of us has been sick. I've never seen such a mess, and I've worked in some disgusting places. Anyway, pardon the drama, but it was awful! We ran out of Gatorade and Tide so he had to go to the store. He went to Wal-Mart and Gatorade was $1.58 per 32 oz. bottle. He tells me he "knew he could beat that price" so he went to our local store. It was on sale $1 for a 32 oz bottle and way at the back of the shelf there were bottles with peelies--buy 3 get 1 free. He took all those bottles instead of the ones in front and saved us $4 in coupons, plus got a better deal than if he'd just bought it at Wal-Mart. Awesome!

I guess some guys do really listen when their wives talk! Great job Honey, and No, I won't expect it all the time.:) Here's hoping we're done with the Bissell, buckets and blaaahs.

Our Tree

So maybe a little late, but it was a cute tree!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Fun

We had a great Christmas holiday. The kids were all happy and got what they wanted. We saw family and caught up with old friends. We had great meals and made lots of memories. And then we got the flu and the worst cold I've had since 1999. Wouldn't be Christmas without it!

One of my favorite things this year was spending time with my cousins, aunts, mom and sister at a cooking class, gifted to us by wonderful Aunt Elaine. Let me just say that biology doesn't make a family. Family is made up of those who love you and accept you for being you. They are there for you no matter how much money you make, where you live, what you drive or what you do. The women I was with were not blood relatives (ok, except my sister) and they are more my family than many of my actual relatives are. If there's a silver lining to losing my mom way too early it's being accepted into the Shurtleff family and being included in family events without exception. It was fun to learn new cooking skills and just relax with this amazing group. Talk about great memories--this is mine!

Although we've battled illness most of this winter break, we've had some fun. It was really fun to watch the kids open their gifts. Danni didn't stop jumping up and down...everything she opened was her favorite. When she lost her new kitty toy and Andy found it she said, "Now who's a good daddy?"  Jackson got a new U of U bed set and finally gave up his holey baby blanket. The girls loved their new "growning up" room decor and the pillow pets from Grandpa and Grandma. Lexi loved shaking the boxes and crunching the paper.

Now onto the new year. We've always said the years we've had a new baby have been the hardest. You would think after 1 or 2 kids, the tough years would deter you from having more. I'm not a fast learner apparently, maybe it's a math thing. I am grateful for my little family and love them very much, but financially, physically, emotionally, mentally...adding a new baby stresses out all my abilities. I will be glad to usher in a new year and hope it's happier and healthier than 2010.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

The presents are wrapped, the candy is gone, we've celebrated China, the Christmas Story told, and the children are nestled snugly in their beds, although getting to sleep may be far off. I'm taking a moment to remind myself of why we celebrate tomorrow. Growing up I thought everyone believed in Jesus. It wasn't until much later I found that not only were people of different cultures and religions, they had different lifestyles-some totally opposite of mine. It would be so boring if we were all the same. I appreciate the differences in my neighbors, friends and family.

Although my faith has wavered over the years, my belief system has stayed. The following is taken from our church newsletter. I don't know who said it, I am guessing Pres. Thomas S. Monson, but it is an excellent message for tonight.

"As we contemplate the birth of Jesus Christ and reflect on His life, let us make the every day choices that will lead us back to Him. We can look for opportunities every day to lift those around us and strengthen ourselves in the process."

Reflecting on the commonly asked question "What did you get for Christmas?," we should be asking "What did we give for Christmas?"

"Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminated the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only to drop the last syllable and it becomes the Spirit of Christ."

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cheap Family Fun

We've had lots of family time this month. It's been fun, and loud and I had no idea all my kids were so competitive. It's funny how little kids are just as excited (or sometimes more) about the paper and boxes as they are about what came in them.

One thing that helps us relax and enjoy each other is a good game. It doesn't matter if it's electronic, board game or cards. Although my patience runs very thin after trying to figure out that Miss Scarlett killed someone in the ballroom with the wrench with five little helper detectives who may or may not look at their cards to see where on the board they should be headed. It almost becomes "what mom did to one of the kids in the basement with her fire blowing eyeballs." Anyway I had a great idea and tried it out on the kids. So far so good, and it only cost $1.

I found some cheap dice (8 for $1) and then printed a bunch of dice games off I keep the dice in an empty Similac can and in this one can, there are variations of about 10 dice games. There is room for pens and a small pad of paper for keeping score when necessary. Literally a game on the go, constant entertainment and of course to make it more appealing to my kids, I renamed the games with Pirate themes or Harry Potter themes, since that's what they are into these days. Just a quick trick to keeping everyone happy and busy during the downtime.

Heck they may even learn a math trick or two.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The big deal about Sunday dinners is it doesn't have to be a big deal

It's Saturday night and you're tired. You don't want to think about having to go back to work, prepare for another school week, get kids dressed and hair done for church, and cook a fabulous, huge, family style Sunday dinner--again. Whoever thinks Sunday is a day of rest must not have kids, doesn't cook, isn't exhausted from the previous week and probably slept through the night. It's probably some guy. I know it SHOULD be, but in my experience it rarely is restful.

When I was a kid I remember roasts, lamb, steak or bbq for many of our Sunday dinners. My grandparents lived with us and my grandpa was a butcher, so we usually had really good meat and big, yummy dinners nearly every week. I remember a story about a girl learning how to make roast. She cut off the ends of the roast and put it in her pan. When asked why she cut off the ends she said that's the way she was taught. When she asked her mom, her mom said that's the way her mom had done it. When the granddaughter asked her grandma, she said because she had to make the meat fit in the pan she had.

I don't cook the way my mom and grandma did. I was not so domesticated when I got married. But like my dad always says, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." Maybe not the best analogy, but you get the point. So I am here, once again, to bring back Sunday to the peaceful, resting place it should be--at least in the kitchen.

Use your make ahead meals. Some are listed on this blog and there are more to come. You marinade your meat in a plastic bag--which can be done up to 24 hours ahead and then throw it in an aluminum roasting pan to cook. No clean up. Dinner is served. You can also freeze many meals--like make one, freeze one recipes--and all you have to do is thaw them on Saturday, throw them in a disposable lined crockpot or aluminum pan and again--done!

Family time is most important so if you forget to thaw, try simple meals like canned chili or soups and sandwiches. I have a friend who serves her family their favorite appetizers for one Sunday dinner. Frozen pizza, although not always the most exciting, is cheap and easy.

It is my opinion that there are better ways to spend time with friends and family than me standing at the sink or stove stirring, peeling, washing, etc. while everyone else has fun. Motherhood is not a punishment. It is an adventure and should be fun, at least sometimes.

Find what works for you: make-aheads, crockpot, easy & simple or left overs. Don't feel guilty you don't serve roast and lamb every Sunday. It's ok to make a Big Deal Sunday Dinner, using some shortcuts. Make a big deal about the fact you can have a great dinner, without a lot of work, stress and clean up, and get to what is really a big deal--making memories!

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Funny

The other day I was messin' with Abby and told her I had an announcement. Then I told her we were going to have another baby. Her eyes got wide, her mouth dropped opened and she said, "You're kidding me. Please tell me you are kidding. I've got all the babies I can handle!" To her credit she is my best baby sitter. I laughed and told her it was a joke. Well today I took the girls to a movie. On the way there this is what she said,"Mom do you remember when you told me you were pregnant? Well that isn't going to happen again is it?" "Doubtful," I told her. "Good," she said "cuz all I could think about was telling you and Dad to cut your bed in half! Don't tell Dad I said this, I don't want him to be mad." I laughed so hard I cried. She is too funny.

We went to see "Tangled" or if you ask D. "The movie where Barbie gets strangled." It was cute. D. didn't sit down the entire time. She stood watching wide-eyed, enamored by the big screen. When the bad witch died, she started jumping up and down, screaming "Yes, Yes. Nice, I like it!"  Maybe she's seen us cheer for too many football games?!?

Ziti with meat sauce

Not a make ahead, but easy enough my 9 year old made it.

1 box of Ziti noodles, cooked
28 oz. of tomatoes, diced
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1-2 tsp. each onion flake, Italian seasoning, garlic powder--you can add more or less for your taste
1 lb. sausage
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella

Cook noodles according to directions
Chop, brown and drain sausage in large skillet
Add tomatoes and sauce and seasonings
Simmer 30-45 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally
Add cooked noodles and ricotta
Stir in ricotta cheese until it's incorporated with the mixture--you don't want to see any white chunks of cheese
Add shredded mozzarella and cover skillet until mozzarella is melted
Serve with salad, warm bread and fruit

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Craft Geek Strikes Again

Last week I had some time to spend with some friends talking about fun Holiday traditions. My friend Kenndi makes these cute countdown calendars for her kids each year. I don't have a pic, but I'll try to explain. I think I am doing this next year!

Roll out about 2-3 feet of tulle, cellophane or saran wrap. Place treats (notes, candy, money, etc) spaced evenly along the wrapping. You can make 25 spots or 12 spots--however many days you want to countdown to Christmas. Once the treats are placed, roll the treats into the wrapping---rolling it into a long tube. Tie off each treat so when cut, only one treat is cut off at a time. She made cute tags with each kid's name and hangs them in her house a part of the decor. Too Cute, Thanks Kenndi!

I also have a few quick, cheap decor ideas.
Take 2 paper plates, any size, but they must both be the same size. Paint them red and white and let dry. Invert them and glue or staple the edges together. Wrap them in red cellophane. Tie the ends with fancy ribbon or wire. I made these this year and hung them on my porch garland.

String leftover ornaments on festive ribbon and hang them with pins or teacup hooks inside windows, on banisters or along wall overhangs.

Wrap empty boxes and decorate them to add size,color and dimension to existing decor.

Use plain colored plates and spell holiday words with vinyl lettering (or you could use paper letters if you didn't have extra plates). You can display on plate stands (available at dollar store) or plate racks.

We have really high ceilings. I like to make the whole room part of my decor. I used a piece of holiday wire and tied paper die-cut ornaments and the words Merry Christmas to the wire. I hung the wire across an archway in my front room. It catches the light nicely and makes use of space I rarely use.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Favorite Day

Yesterday we participated in my favorite holiday tradition. We made cocoa and grabbed our doughnuts and drove around to see the lights. Some were really pretty--Temple Square quality. Others were "funky" and left something to be desired. Does Santa really belong peering over the manger, Jesus and Mary?? How about Christmas pigs? Really we live in a rural area, but lit Christmas pigs with green and red bows IS NOT a Christmas decoration!

We voted on our favorites and least faves and decided our simple decor held its own. The kids sang songs together. Let's clarify--they were all singing at the same time, but not the same song at the same time. Even the baby joined in with her squealing and laughing.

It was fun to hear what appealed to them. We saw a house with a Y on the left and a U on the right. Syd said she liked this house the best because "the U was on the right side, because it's the right school." Brainwashed, possibly....Brownie Points, definitely!

We got to bring an extra person along. Doby (Harry Potter's house elf) has apparently joined our clan. He lives in Danni's princess tent in the basement and spills water or punch at least once a day. He's also in charge of helping Danni cast spells, turn on TVs, forget to turn off lights, etc. At least I don't have to feed him and she gets some entertainment that is not electronic on any given day. Doby's favorite was the red and white lights--maybe he's a Ute too.

Anyway it was a great day and I loved sharing it with my kids. 12 days and counting....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Patchwork Quilt

There are times when many of us may feel depressed and stressed. I think the holidays can be not so merry for many. Sometimes we get overwhelmed and it's hard to be happy. This can be a magical and wonderful time of year if you can focus on seeing the good in each day. Trials are a part of everyday life and to my friends who are struggling I offer this unsolicited, but vital advice.

It has been my vast experience that what we go through in our life, or parts of our story, are learning processes. Our job is to discover what we are being taught--what Christlike attributes are we to attain through this particular trial? Think about this analogy when you get down: Your life is like a patchwork quilt. Each person you meet, each thing you do, each decision you make, is a part of your quilt. Now, some fabric may be ugly, some stitches may not be perfect and some blocks may not be square. However, when you step back, and get outside yourself and current trial, and look at the quilt I bet you will be amazed at the beautiful masterpiece you have created.

Share a part of your quilt this holiday season. Get outside yourself, serve someone else and I will bet you'll feel better. You will likely add a new, beautiful square to your quilt.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Fun

We survived the Christmas shopping for others on Monday. It was so fun....really....5 kids....lots of opinions...only 2 that counted.....decisions, decisions, decisions and finally with the promise of ice cream hanging in the balance, everyone made wonderful choices and we got what we came for. Well almost. Our initial shopping trip had gifts for everyone and then somehow the gift J-Dog was in charge of never made it to the bagging process. So at 11 p.m. Andy went back to the store and got what we'd forgotten. He's so dedicated to making me happy. Thanks babe! I guess the fact we also forgot a power strip may have been a small incentive too.

The kids wrapped their gifts for each other last night. I think they had more fun doing that than shopping. And of course I got more coupons so I snagged the last two gifts I needed for $1.45! Total--Savings of $37. I was so excited because what I needed to buy was on sale last month, but I chose to spend my JC Penny cash on more pertinent needs. When I got more cash this week I went back and stuff was on 80% clearance. Awesome!

I also made a bunch of Christmas treats. The favorite was Chocolate Dipped Brownie bites. It was so funny how this happened. I made Mint Chocolate brownies and the kids asked if they could have one. "One!" I said. But my portion of one and theirs vastly differed. So when I got to the part of my day to finish them, there was 1/2 a pan left. Do I have a mouse in my house??? No, just chocoholics--it's genetic I'm sure. Looking at the pan made me crazy as I did not want to bake another batch. So I gave Danni a taste and as I was pulling it out of the pan I rolled the edges so she could handle it easily. A mini ice cream scoop and some dipping chocolate later, we had a new treat. I rolled them in crushed peppermint and it is a masterpiece of delicious goodness! Now that's makin' lemonade out of lemons (or awesomeness out of nothingness)!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Countdown

I am so excited for Christmas this year. My kids are old enough to be excited and help out. The older ones, although likely know the "whole truth" behind Santa, are smart enough to keep the magic alive for the little ones. We decorated with the kids this past weekend, despite having a stomach bug lurking around. Luckily we are on the mend and looking forward to a few traditions. Every year we pick a theme for our tree--be it a color scheme, kid themed, paper or whatever. This year our tree pays homage to our second religion, football. I'll post a pic as soon as I figure out where I put the camera. When I was a kid, we'd decorate together, then my mom would move things around to "balance out the tree." It must be a parent thing cuz I did that too. I know they won't notice.

Anyway tonight we are going shopping for a local charity. The kids each drew names of kids in need and we are getting their gifts along with gifts for them to exchange with their siblings on Christmas Eve, another tradition. It's my goal for them to get past the getting and focus on the giving. I have high hopes......

Another tradition that we love is getting cocoa and doughnuts and driving around neighborhoods and looking at lights. It is my FAVORITE thing to do. Again, good memories from my childhood come flooding back when we do this.

We've also chosen a country to study their holiday traditions. We are doing China this year. China has Christmas? Why yes they do, although not as popular as Chinese New Year. The majority of people are not Christian, but there are those who celebrate. The reason we picked this country is because J-Dog is in a Chinese Immersion program at school. He learns half day in Chinese, the other in English. He's learned a lot, even though we can't understand everything he says. I've learned a lot too. Like after 30 it's a lot harder to remember new stuff and though you may be able to "teach an old dog new tricks," she likely won't remember them unless it's written down. That being said, it should be a fun year and open the kids' minds up to the fact that different can be good.

18 days and counting....we're making candies and other goodies for friends and families. This year has been more fun for me than most, maybe that's because 2 of the last 4 years I've been very prego at this time. Maybe it's because the kids still see the magic this time of year has to offer. Whatever the reason it's going to be a year not to get caught up in the trimmings and a year to remember the JOY of the season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Total Drama Daughter

Today we were running errands-just me and the little girls. I got a Redbox, went to the bank, etc, etc. On the way home D. starts screaming, "I have to get a stitch. I hate stitches. Mom, take me to the Dr."
I calmly reply, "Is there blood?"
"Yes! White blood. Take me now!!!!!"
"D. calm down. I am sure you are fine."
"No Mom, I am not. I have to get a stitch. You get 5 strikes. I am going to die."
"D. you won't die. It's just a scratch. You are such total drama."
"No Mom, You're Harry Potter and you're gonna make me die. Would Harry do that?"

The conversation turned to 3 year old gibberish after this, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't stop. This infuriated the demon child in my backseat. She threatened to take away my high heels, put me in jail, tell my husband/her father, and a myriad of other wildly hilarious threats. We did take care of the "white blood" when we got home. She scratched herself and there was a piece of skin hanging off her ankle. All I could think to myself was "Total Drama times 4 for the next 20 years; Wow, I really am bad at math."

Later D. was watching a show with her Dad and there was a sentimental part. He noticed she had tears quietly running down her face. He asked her if she was sad and she said, "No. It's just love coming out my eyes."  WOW!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cut Your Budget Again

Hopefully you've seen yesterday's post about how to fight increasing food prices. Today here are some tips on other money saving things.

1. Re-use what you can. Old clothes can often be remade into other items or blankets. Old towels and sheets can be used for painting or car maintenance needs. Shipping boxes can be used for storage or organizational purposes. Repainting and re-purposing household items or furnishings can redecorate your home --check out HGTV sites for great ideas. I have a child's desk in one of my kids' rooms. I use it as the changing table now. It's perfect. Diapers, wipes, creams, bibs, burp cloths and blankets all fit perfectly in there. When the time comes my daugter can use it for its intended use. It was my mom's and we've just replaced the knobs and given it a coat of white paint.

2. Repair before replacing. As a child I remember my Dad being an expert on this. He can fix anything, I swear. I remember tin foil on rabbit ears to get our TV picture to come in better--at least I think that's what all that was about. They say women often look for qualities in their husbands that remind them of their Dad. I guess that all depends on your experience, but I can say Andy has this in common with my Dad. He can also fix anything and was well trained by his Dad in the field of home repair. You can check out "How To" guides online and at the local library to learn how to make easy repairs around the home and with the car. Obviously if it's too extreme of a repair, call an expert.

3. If you do have to replace something, shop around. We have horrible water where we live. We've been looking at buying a home water system with filtered water for months. Some systems we looked at were around $300, plus water. I found a basic system that would work for $129. After Andy called around we found a very similar system for $60 that includes six months of maintenance and 15 gallons of water. We will still have to purchase additional water bottles, but I am spending $15 a month on filtered water in smaller bottles anyway, so it will likely be a wash in our budget. Even better they are letting us try it for FREE for 30 days.

4. Borrow or Rent. Tools, books, dishes for special occasions, movies, etc. If you aren't sure you need one to survive, or you are only going to use it once, don't invest in it. I had a large dinner I was putting on for 50 people and I was able to borrow dishes and tablecloths so I didn't have to buy anything. Saved me lots of money.

5. Christmas can be a stressful time for many. How to make ends meet and still fulfill obligations and expectations can cause ulcers and insomnia, in my experience. Consider the gift of time or homemade items. I was at Cabella's the other day and saw a Mason jar of tomato preserves. It was $12.95. I almost died! I have the same stuff in my basement --although my doesn't have a fancy sticker or gingham cloth--and there's no way I could pay that much for one bottle. Homemade gifts, if done well and right, can be worth more than other gifts. They take time and thought to create. The gift of time is also precious. Consider a service swap among family members--we did this in our ward a few months ago and I had a great experience and made a new friend through my service. Everyone needs something whether it's babysitting, a meal on a busy night, lawn mowed, housecleaning or whatever. It doesn't cost you anything to do and may make a great gift.

6. Always ask yourself, "Do I need it, or do I want it?" There is room for both in a budget, just make sure the needs are met first. Chances are you can live a happy life without many wants.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Increase in food again???

From time to time I have the pleasure of reconnecting with the adult world by watching a little news. Today I saw a report that food prices are likely to rise 10-20 percent over the next year! It's the biggest increase since 2008 and the economy is worse now, according to some "experts" than it was then--this was based on loss and lack of jobs and rate of foreclosure. So much for reconnecting, next time I'm sticking with PBS kids.

Now that this cheery news has reached my ears I have some tips to help lift the burden of the upcoming "economic storm."

1. Coupons--use them on everything. Even if you don't want to clip them out, you can use e-coupons at many stores that offer loyalty programs. Smiths uses a program called Cellfire and you can download coupons onto your Fresh Values card. If they are Kroger or Smiths coupons, you can also combine these with Manufacturer coupons to increase your savings. Target also has their own coupons and you can combine Manufacturer coupons with them too.

2. Have a list. Only buy what you need unless you've made room in your budget to stock up on certain items that are on sale.

3.Go shopping in your pantry. Lots of times things get pushed to the back or you forgot you bought something. Using what you already have saves you time and money.

4. Make a menu of meals for the week(s) you are shopping for.

5. Buy frozen fruits and veggies. If the fresh things you need are out of season it's often cheaper to buy frozen. Also if you are purchasing fresh produce, buy in season since they are cheaper.

6. Shop your ads-if you don't want to use coupons, you can still save money by planning your menu by purchasing what's on sale at your local grocery store.

7. Dual Use products- there is no need to buy many basic or specialty cleaners. Chances are you can use products you already have like liquid dish soap, hairspray, Vaseline, white toothpaste, Alka seltzer, etc. to clean things around your home.

8. Buy generic brands. Sometimes even with coupons the generic or store brand is cheaper and often tastes very similar to the National brand. One word of warning, if you haven't tried an item in a particular store brand buy only one box or can before you stock up to make sure you'll eat it. Long ago, when Andy and I were first married I bought Rainbow macaroni and cheese. I was sure Kraft was not better and the cheap stuff would be the same. I was wrong. Kraft does have a different flavor and texture and we pay a little more for it rather than generic. This is the exception in my experience, not the rule.

9. Be ware of impulse purchasing. Studies show that when you try a lot of food samples at grocery stores you begin salivating and this leads to you being enticed by food and buying things you don't need, but just look good to eat because you've been eating tasty samples. Also be aware of your store's layout. Many sale items are up front, nicely displayed or on end caps of aisles. If you need a sale item great, you know where to go. However, if you weren't planning on purchasing a sale item, these things will catch your eye and if you're not careful those "great deals" you don't really need will pad your final bill.

10. If you are going out choose where you dine carefully. Many restaurants have early bird specials or family meal deals or a certain night where discounts apply. Also using, or Happenings coupons can cut your bill drastically.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Larsen Cafe and Bakery

We've gotten creative at the "Larsen Cafe and Bakery," that's what I call my kitchen so I can feel better about cooking at home all the time. One of my goals this year was to not eat out a lot, saving time and pounds. So here's how I've reused our leftovers from Thanksgiving.

Turkey Sandwiches

Turkey Noodle Soup
3                     CARROTS, PEELED AND SLICED
3                      RIBS OF CELERY, SLICED
                        LAWRY’S SEASONING, SALT, PEPPER TO TASTE
 Turkey Pot Pie
                                 Pie pastry shells
1-14.5 oz. can           Chicken broth
2 cups                         Diced turkey
1 ½ cups                    Diced carrots
1 ½ cups                    Frozen peas
4 med                         Red potatoes, diced
½ cup                         Diced onion
2 Tbsp.                       Olive oil
2/3 cup                       water
1/3 cup                       flour
                                    Salt, Pepper and Lawry’s season salt, to taste
In deep dish frying pan, saute onion in Olive oil.
Add turkey, potatoes, carrots, peas and broth to pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
Mix water and flour together, add to pan; simmer all ingredients about 5 minutes, until thick.
Pour ingredients into pie shell; cut out shape in top of second pie shell—this will allow for steam to escape as pie cooks.
Place second pie shell on top and pinch top and bottom edges together.
Bake for 30 minutes @ 450 degrees.
TIP- Buy pre-made frozen pie shells and use one bag of frozen mixed vegetables instead of carrots and peas.  You can also double this recipe and freeze one pie for dinner later in the month.

Sheppard's Pie
2 c. mashed potatoes
2 c. gravy
2 c. shredded or chopped cooked turkey
2 c. frozen veggies (your choice)
sliced cheese

Place veggies in a 9 X 9 Pyrex. Place turkey on top and pour gravy over both the turkey and veggies. Cover with the potatoes making a crust. Cover the potatoes with cheese. Bake for 30 min. at 350 degrees. If you are using leftovers warm them a bit before assembly, or add 10-15 minutes to cooking time.

Turkey Tetrazzini
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped onion
7 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/4 c. flour
2 c. half and half
1/4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 c. cooked, chopped turkey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
12 oz. pkg. fettuccine noodles, cooked
1 c. bread crumbs
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese

Saute mushrooms and onions in 1 Tbsp. butter; remove from skillet. Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in same skillet, whisk in flour, salt and pepper until smooth and bubbly. Add half and half, boil for one minute. Remove from heat and mix in broth, turkey, cooked noodles and mushroom mixture. Spoon into 9 x 13 coated pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan; set aside. Melt remaining butter and toss with bread crumbs; spread over casserole. Bake 40-45 min at 350 deg.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let it be Thanks were Givin'

Tis the season for snowmen, snowflakes, snow days, and did I mention snow? We survived the "Blizzard of 2010." It's good to know we were prepared, even if the huge dump of that 3 inches didn't do us in. I'm thinking maybe it was a dry run to test us all on our emergency preparedness. Luckily we only had to travel a few miles for Thanksgiving this year, so the snow was not a problem. I count that as one blessing. We had a great weekend. Since it's Thanksgiving I'd like to take a moment to post my blessings. It goes without saying that I am thankful for my family, home, food and warm clothes. After spending 13 years in the non-profit community I have had some pretty eye opening and amazing holidays. I have spent Thanksgivings at the Food Bank preparing others dinner, and Christmases at the Homeless Shelter packing up gifts for those who've met hard times. It's true that sometimes these experiences can make you calloused, especially when you see people taking advantage of the system. However, I've seen incredible miracles too. Families who have literally nothing giving thanks that they are together, men praying and thanking God for leading them to a safe, warm place to stay, new moms receiving basics like diapers and formula for a baby they weren't planning on having, and did. It makes me thankful for basics and opens my eyes to all the extras I have.

This week was especially wonderful. Andy surprised me and came home early on Tues. and had Wed. off. So I had help nearly the entire week. I am most thankful for good surprises, which sounds simplistic I know. It is hard to keep secrets in our house--even good ones. We usually celebrate special occasions early cuz someone can't wait to unwrap or give something. This year I got a husband for 5 whole days--don't doubt that miracles are possible. He made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner--turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, yams, pies, Jell-o and squash. Everything was from scratch. I did pitch in and made the pies, green beans and Jell-O. Since I don't touch meat I was off the hook for the big stuff. It was great! I asked each child to list 3 blessings they were thankful for --and it couldn't be home, family or food---that's too easy. They came up with some great ideas. I was impressed they came up with anything, but they listed electricity, school and doctors among their blessings. We watched the Charlie Brown special--a tradition from my childhood and made candy.

We joined my side of the family for more eating Friday. It's always fun to see my kids with their cousins. They are a tight knit group. And of course we finished off the week with a nail biting football game where our team won, barely. It could have gone either way. I am thankful it was in our favor, not for the sake of winning, but for the fact that I can have a happy husband to finish out the weekend with. We also went and put up lights for Andy's mom. This is another tradition we have done for years. It makes me glad to watch the kids watch their dad serving others. They told me he's "like a gaurdian angel. And we get to keep him."

I have 2 more things to get and my Christmas shopping is done--another blessing. I did score a couple of awesome gifts for the twins and the baby. Can't tell you cuz it's a secret, but they will be happy. I also received a book I wrote for Lexi. It turned out really cute. Now to turn my thoughts to the Christmas Tree and how to protect its holly jolly goodness from my blond tornado and tiny babe.......

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alternative uses for hairspray

Aerosol cans may not be a popular as they were when I was a kid, but safe ones (and likely some not so safe ones) are out there. They can provide quick fixes for many solutions.
Check out some of these solutions from

Use hairspray to remove ink marks from hard surfaces. Just spray and wipe.
Ink stains on fabrics can be removed by spraying with hairspray before washing.

Ladders in stockings or tights can be stopped by spraying with hairspray.

Spraying newspaper with hairspray gives it a sheen and makes excellent wrapping paper.

Hairspray will preserve leaves in a flower display and help to keep the colour in autumn leaves.
Artwork done in chalks can be stabilised with hairspray. Spray over and the chalk won’t come off.

After polishing metal like brass and copper, spray with hairspray as it will keep it shiny for longer.
Hair spray will remove some kinds of dried on glue.
If you have a zipper that keeps coming down spray it with hairspray containing lacquer and it will stay up.

Spray hairspray onto a tissue and use to pick pet hairs off of soft furnishings. They will stick to the tissue.
Hairspray is a good emergency insect spray and will kill most flying insects.

Spray recipe cards used in the kitchen with hairspray. It will help to keep them clean.
Straighten out ruffled curtains. Hold curtain in folds and spray with hairspray to keep them there. This works best with thin fabrics.

Hairspray will also remove lipstick. Spray and leave for few minutes and then wipe away.
Polish shoes and add a coating of hairspray and they will stay shiny longer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facebook Chili

We had this chili at a church function a few weeks ago. I stole it off Andy's FB account, where a friend had posted it. It's easy and it freezes well for future meals.

Facebook Chili

2 lbs. Hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans of kidney beans
2 cans of pinto beans
2 TBSP chili powder
2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. of garlic powder
salt, pepper to taste
1-2 jalapeno or Anaheim peppers chopped, leave seeds in if you like it hot
3 cans of whole tomatoes

Cook the hamburger and onion together. Add the spices and peppers, tomatoes, beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Add a bit of water if it seems too thick.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sign up at the following link and receive $20 free credit at You have to use this link, hurry time's running out. There are some books and children's items that when used with your credit will end up being free.

Check out this website! Good Luck

Holy Crap Batman II

Some of you may remember when D. came to me a couple of weeks ago and told me she was "doing research in the bathroom." Turns out she actually is. I was cleaning up and happened to walk down the hall to put away some large serving platters when I noticed her sitting on top of the toilet, lid open, and a lovely toilet paper fountain about to explode from my commode. I screamed, shifted the plates to my left hip and grabbed-bare handed- the ever-growing mound of wet t.p. from the toilet. Oh what becoming a mother does to one's senses! I stopped the toilet from completely overflowing. D. was shocked, as were the other kids and Andy that I would just grab stuff out of the toilet, but I hate cleaning up and really wanted to protect my wood floors--so ya do what ya gotta do. I do admit that it was only toilet paper in there, nothing else. Otherwise my heroics may not have been so...heroic. Poor Andy asked for surgical gloves and set to removing the rest of D.s "research" from the bathroom. Fun Night. I shudder to think what she will come up with next.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Money in My Mailbox

I love my mailman! Ok, I'm not in love-in love with him, but I love what he brings me almost weekly. This week I got more Kohl's cash--$20. I am shaking with excitement at the thoughts of what things I can get off my Christmas list for free from Kohl's. They are one retailer I am thankful for. I should include them in my prayers so they won't fall prey to the evil economy monster. Yeah, they are likely still making money off all the less savvy shoppers who spend more than their $20 coupons. This time I got A. and L. new jammies--for free! I almost passed out at how great that was, only to become more excited when I saw a Dollar Tree is coming my town! What a great day.

My other "free money" came in the way of the Smith's Mega 10 ad. If you live in an area with a Smith's Food or Kroger’s find your ad. Their deals this month have been amazing, and it's on stuff you would actually use--not like buy 200 items get one free, or free cheap toothbrush with toothpaste purchase. The best thing, you don't have to have coupons to make it worth going--course if you do the savings are even better.

We were down to nothing on a lot of things, so I took 45 minutes and ran to the sale. I got 10 Swanson broths, 12 cans Campbell's soup, 7 packages of American Beauty pasta, 4 boxes of BC Fruit Snacks, 6 Carnation Evaporated milk, 6 boxes Quaker Granola bars, 2 liters soda, 1 Ricola cough drops, 6 boxes Pillsbury Toaster pastries, 10 Gatorades, 4 cans of Hormel chili, 2 cookie mixes, 2 boxes of Nestle cocoa, 2 boxes of Stove Top, 4 boxes of Jello and some Captn. Crunch.

The way the Mega sale works is that you have to purchase quantities of 10 participating items in the same transaction--and there are tons of other products I didn't buy that are part of this sale too. You don't have to purchase 10 Hormel chili's or 10 pastas--just need 10 items, and then you save $5 (with your Fresh Values card--also free and available at customer service if you need one) per every 10 items purchased.

I purchased 80 items. It's sad to admit, but I was actually shaking with excitement at the check out. I love the way my Smith's computers work too. They show you the total before any Mega savings or coupons, and then you watch the total rapidly fall as it deducts your savings. It's like going to Vegas and winning every time. So I received a $40 Mega credit and had $20 in coupons. My total went from $140 to $49! I asked Andy to help unload the car just so he could see how much we saved! Yeah and he's big and strong and doesn't hate carrying large quantities to the basement.

Anyway, if you need groceries, or stock up on Holiday items--go to Smith's. Sales are good through this Tuesday and a complete list of sale items is available online ( or at the customer service desk. If you want help on making your dollar stretch, comment on this post or call.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holy Crap Batman

What can I say? It's been a week from outer darkness. We've all had colds, I have been stressing about feeding 50 teachers two nights for Parent Teacher Conferences, we have had very little food in the house, and the Utes were defeated in a way I hope to see never again. Blowouts in general are bad: tires, diapers, football--all bad scenarios. Usually I wouldn't care, but where we live, you have to be ready to bat back the banter from the opponent, but not so much you can't sit next to them in church on Sunday. It's a slippery slope. I actually saw two grown men crying at the devestaing loss. Not that there's anything wrong with men crying--maybe the venue just threw me off.

Back to the week of darkness. On Sunday Andy said to me, "I think Danni's sick again." Earlier this year we endured months of expensive medication and surgery to correct a medical condition involving her kidneys and bladder. We thought we may get lucky and be done with it, but such is not the case. I had suspected something was up too. My mom meter had been buzzing all day that something wasn't right...I tried to tell myself it was the cold medication I was taking, but truly I knew better. So fast forward to Monday. Picture it: Me, five kids, rain, wedge flip flops, crying (me & the kids), stress about what's wrong with Danni, and 45 minutes to see the Dr. I raced to school to get the 3 older kids, the raced to the dr., arriving late-yuck. Ran in wedge flip flops in the rain with 4 kids scattering and a very heavy carseat in my recently operated on hands. I fell of course, but was more concerned with the fact that Danni had forgotten a coat and wanted me to carry her. Why don't moms get another set of hands with each baby they have??

My older girls were awesome. Syd took Jack, Abby took Danni and we made it inside and up to the Dr. Of course to check to see what was wrong with D. we had to get her to pee in a cup. This is like asking a llama to perform open heart surgery on a gnat. And D. had just gone before we left the house. So here I am in the Dr. office, trying to get D. to drink enough to get a sample so they can charge me $20 for a result I already know. I am running between the lobby to check on the other 4 kids, while trying to get Danni to drink and not go potty by herself so I can get the much needed sample.

I have to hand it to my older ones. They were great. They did their reading, took the baby and when I told S. to go down the elevator to the car and get the bottle, her only response was "Oh, I feel so grown up."

Finally D. does her business and we get no more than a 1/2 tsp. Luckily it was enough. So the Dr. comes back and says D. has to get back on medication, but we shouldn't worry this is a normal part of her recovery from surgery. Great. Looks like more waiting --FYI I am not a patient person--to find out what the final outcome will be.

I learned a lot this week. Patience is a virtue I have yet to conquer. My kids are amazing and can hold their own, at least on occassion. Modern medicine, although at times pricey, is a miracle. I have learned to look for little miracles everyday, because if I only look for big ones I will miss out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Multi Use Toothpaste

You were thinking how much more stuff can she come up with for dual use products? Lucky reader, feast on the following. And honey if you're reading this...these posts are not funny; they are informative, creative and economical. You should be thanking me. (Thanks to my dad and writer Nora Dunn for the following.)I'm thinking the following ideas were tried with white toothpaste and not the colored gels.

My dad and I talk nearly everyday. He is really good at checking up on us. I really appreciate talking to another adult. He called me the other day with some advice that was right up my alley. He asked if we ever get the milky deposits on our glassware even after they’ve gone through the dishwasher. Of course we do. We live in a part of the valley not known for it’s great water capabilities. He said rub some toothpaste on the stain and it should disappear. You can also use it to shine up stainless steel pots and pans. I ran to the dollar store and found some cheap, white toothpaste and viola the stuff works. Of course if it works on that, imagine what else it can do. When you are done imagining, read the rest of this post, which I borrowed from fellow writer Nora Dunn.

Crayon on Painted Walls
So the kiddies decided to express their artistic side all over the walls, huh? No worries. Rub a damp cloth and some toothpaste on your marked-up wall and rinse with a clean wet cloth.
Carpet Cleaning/Stain removal
Scrub away with an abrasive brush and toothpaste, rinse, and you’ll scrub the stain right out. You may even realize how dirty the rest of your carpet is in the process.
Cleaning Running Shoes
Similar to above, scrub away (especially on those scuffed up white rubber soles), wipe with a damp cloth, and watch your tootsies gleam.
Scuffed Leather Shoes
Put a dab on the scuff, rub in with a soft cloth, and rinse with a damp cloth.
Stained Clothes
It stands to reason that if toothpaste works on your carpets, it will work on clothes too. Apply the toothpaste directly to the stained fabric and rub the fabric together with all you’ve got. Rinse with water. You may have to do this a few times to fully remove the stain. This may not work on all fabrics or stains.
Cleaning Piano Keys
A well-used piano usually means some darker piano keys after a while. Scrub with toothpaste and a toothbrush, then wipe dry with a damp cloth, and you’ll be tickling some ivory ivories again.
Baby Bottles
If your baby bottles are getting a sour-milk smell, clean them out with some toothpaste using a bottle-scrubber, and rinse really well with water.
Cleaning The Iron
I guess I don’t use an iron enough for it to get gunky (wait a minute – I don’t even own an iron), but apparently crap can accumulate along the plate and bottom edge. Toothpaste has just enough abrasive in it to do the job nicely.
Make Chrome Gleam
Ran out of your bathroom or kitchen cleaner? Use some toothpaste in a pinch, and watch your taps shine.
Scrub Those Nails
Fingernails and toenails are made of similar stuff as teeth are. So scrub away using toothpaste and a nail brush for some shiny extremities.
Wash your Watch Band
I tried this on a plastic watchband I have that is embarrassingly dirty with only minimal results. Then again maybe this watchband was beyond repair.
Obviously if the watch itself is not water-resistant, be careful to keep it dry in the cleaning and rinsing process.
Take water rings off coffee table
Simply rub some toothpaste into the offending mark with a soft cloth and wipe dry with a clean damp cloth. Finish off with some furniture polish to help protect grandma’s antique table from staining again. Better yet – use coasters.
Jewelry Cleaner
I tried this on some seriously dull-looking jewelry the other day, and was very impressed with the results. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub lightly with a dab of toothpaste, rinse it, and polish it dry with a soft towel. You’ll discover a whole new shine to your precious accessories.
If you are dealing with a lot of grunge, dab some toothpaste on and let it sit overnight. Or better yet, dissolve some toothpaste in a small amount of water, and drop the jewelry in it for an overnight soak. Then follow up with the steps above. Note: Do not use this technique on pearls, as you may damage the finish.
Overnight zit cream
Inevitably it happens right before a big job interview, or while you’re on the road without having brought along your trusty zit cream: the pimple of the century emerges. Never fear though: your toothpaste will do in a pinch to reduce the redness and dry out your greasy disaster. Just don’t forget to wash it off in the morning, or else they’ll be giving you some strange looks at that job interview.
Bee Sting ointment
I try not to get too close to these useful but annoying insects, but occasionally they like to get close to me. A touch of toothpaste can take the edge off the pain, and soothe the wound. Be sure to take the stinger out first of course.
Bug Bite Relief
Aaahh. Instead of scratching those pesky bites until they swell up and become unbearable, dab a little toothpaste on it and forget about your itchy worries.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Give Me A Break!!

I've been around a lot of women in my lifetime. Women who have taught me great skills and given me knowledge. Women who've made me a better friend, wife, mother, sister and daughter. I've had women in my life during my greatest trials and my most wonderful achievements. I am in the process of raising 4 future women. And do you know what I've found? NO ONE REALIZES HOW GREAT THEY ARE! We must be genetically preprogrammed to not like ourselves. I don't know what it is about us, but we fail to give ourselves a break.

I find it amazing that we can tell you our greatest faults and totally discount our strengths. Do we think it's prideful or sounds snotty to say we are doing and have done great things? It's not! Why do we hold ourselves to some great "Barbie" standard? I've got a secret. Those "perfect" supermodels we see on magazines are fake. They have been airbrushed to perfection. And there are very few women in the world who cook, bake, sew, fix their own cars, repair their own homes, have brilliant, always well behaved children, have immaculate homes no matter what time of day or year it is, have size 2 bodies even after giving birth several times, give to others, have dinner waiting on the table when their husbands walk through the door and are happy all of the time. Why in the H*** do we think everyone but us has this type of life?

Give yourself a break. There are things in life that need to be done. Children need to be fed, laundry needs to be done and bills need to be paid. We are all in this together, living a similar lifestyle. Don't compare your worst self to others best selves. We should support eachother and ASK FOR HELP. Asking is not a sign of weakness, it's sign of honesty. No one expects you to do everything, all the time by yourself. It's ok to say no to things. It's okay to ask for support.

Do what you do and do it the best you can. Don't worry about the rest. Take a deep breath, relax, have a diet coke and remember to take care of your best self. You will be a happier woman.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes

My very funny 3 year old shared the following today:

"Don't freak out Lexi, everybody poops."
"Mom, boobs are supposed to be small not huge." (imagine hand gestures here)
"I learned something new. I can sit Lexi up, even if she doesn't want too."
"No,no, not another 4 years...."
"Where is my Dad, I mean your husband??"
"I just can't do any more chores!!"
"If I can't marry Jack or Daddy, who am I going to marry?? Can I marry one of Dad's scouts?"

"Mom, prentend I'm in love with Harry Potter, okay? Well actually, I am in love with Harry Potter."

I was watching election results and she says, "Uggh, why can't we just watch a kid's show? I don't want to see this momma show."

Lastly she saw a Chuck E. Cheese commercial and came running throught the kitchen screaming "I wanna go to Chucky Jesus. Please can I go see Chucky Jesus?"

It's only noon and I've been laughing for hours.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This is a great website that has two awesome benefits. My girls told me they use this site in their math class and it's a great tool.

1. has a variety of questions you answer in a variety of subjects--so the first benefit is you are testing your brain and gaining knowledge.
2. For every answer you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to those in need worldwide.

This program comes with accolades from many reliable news and government sources, so I believe it's legit.

In either case it's a great way to teach kids about new subjects, and more importantly how easy it can be to help others. Great concept!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feed the Family for $10 Eating Out

By now you know I am organized and a planner, sometimes to a fault. I enjoy cooking, but there are those days that just haven't gone my way and I need a break. A while ago I had a very wise friend, with 7 children, who taught me a great trick to eating out affordably. So I dedicate this to you Sharon.

We can feed 4 kids and 2 adults for around $10 at many places. Here is how this works:
Order 2 small chilis with onion (I like the extra flavor) $1.98
Order each child a hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken sand $3.96
Order 2 double stacks $1.98
1 order of spicy nuggets $.99
1 lg. fry (shared by all) $1.89
We either bring our own drinks or have water
Total $11

To even make this a better deal we don't order fries and bring chips or fruit along.

Del Taco/Taco Time
Del Taco has 3 tacos for $1 on Tues. Recently they have been .39 every other day
I order 10 of these and 1 cheese quesadilla--Total $6
We order water or bring drinks

Taco Time has a small dollar menu, but the kids like the chicken burritos

Many places have online deals, but if you don't have a coupon 5 Buck has $5 pepperoni and cheese large sized pizzas for carry out only. Big Daddy's has $5.55 pepperoni or cheese; $6.66 for Hawaiian or $7.77 for combo carry out. And there's always Little Caesars--recently they've been sending out free crazy bread coupons with any purchase too.

I usually get one large pepperoni, one large cheese--I ask them to cut it breadstick style or not to cut it at all since this makes an easy breadstick option without paying for additional "breadsticks," and one medium Hawaiian. There are leftovers for lunches the next day and we spend about $16.

We buy 2 or 3 foot longs and split them between us. I get all the veggies the kids will eat on them and then those who hate it can pick it off after they try it first.You also earn Subway points on your card if you have one (if you don't ask for one) and you can redeem these later for free items.

Carl's Jr.
Great 99 cent chicken sandwich. Kids eat free on Wednesday with paying adult

Basically the rules to saving money when eating out boil down to this:
1.Go through the drive through to order main meal items and supplement at home or take it to the park. You'll spend less and eat better.
2. If you are eating in the fast food place, bring your supplements (drinks, fruit, chips, etc.) from home.
3. Use coupons
4. Eat off the dollar menu
5. Drink water--healthy and cheap
6. Share large portions--one large fry can feed a family of 6 if you let it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crafty weekend

I found my inner craft geek and spent the weekend with her. Don't worry, I'm not crazy even though I carried on complete conversations with myself while I was crafting. I am excited because I've been finding ways to redecorate the twins' room--Note to parents of girls: Princesses are not cool after you turn 9. So Santa has been asked to take care of part of the project--love that he shops Target clearance sales and I've heard he got some killer deals--and I am doing the accessories.

I am putting on my thinking cap and getting out my glue gun and air compressor to fix a few things. The girls each have a bulletin board in their room. When I first decorated their Princess room, I bought inexpensive boards and had covered the cork in Princess material and then stapled the frame back together and added their names down the side with wooden letters. Now that Princesses are not cool, I was going to just get them new boards, until I saw how expensive the kind I wanted was. Using my skills from HGTV, I took off the letters from the boards they already had, let them pick out fabric from my trunk of inherited craft crap, and made them French Memo boards. See attached pic for awesome results. I also found a cute lamp at Target, but it wasn't the right colors so I covered up the non-matching color with ribbon I had, that will eventually coordinate with their new room.

My second awesome project are these "quiet gloves" for Danni. She has a hard time sitting in church, don't we all??? So I threw these together last night at 11 p.m. after the Utah vs. Air Force game--I needed a few minutes to recoup my roller coaster of emotions.

I was pretty thrilled that my crafts worked out.

Happy Halloween???!!!???

I am so grateful to live in an awesome place. Each year our church organizes a Trunk-or-Treat. Most of you know what this is, but if you don't we all get together have chili, scones/rolls, donuts, have a costume parade and then send the kids around the church parking lot to "trick or treat." This takes lots of work and volunteers, so to any of you who helped this year THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I love this because of course, it's family friendly, and I get to talk to adults which normally I don't get to do. Also it keeps everyone safe. I have ample photo ops. The kids get more than enough ghoulish goodies and we're done with usually very little crying or frostbite.

This year we did a new thing at our house. We decided that since the Trunk or Treat took care of our trick or treating needs, we had a family fun night instead of braving the cold again for more goodies on Halloween. I know that as the kids get older they may not want to stay home on Halloween--great I say. Take your friends and you can go freeze your backsides off. But for this year, we had a homemade pumpkin pizza (shaped pumpkin, not veggie pumpkin), candy carnival, spider making night all our own. This makes me so happy that I didn't have to bundle everyone up--why go to all that trouble when no one will see how cute their costumes are??? and brave the cold, wet weather with tiny people who will undoubtedly have to go to the bathroom at inopportune times, or get cold and cry to come home when we're on the opposite side of the neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong-I LOVE HALLOWEEN. It's my favorite holiday. But I wanted to have fun too. This year everyone got what they wanted.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Funny Stuff

We pulled out all the yummy stuff from our garden this weekend and winterized it. So happy the older girls were so willing to help. While we were out there my curious three year old asked her dad what he was doing...

3 year old: "Daddy whatcha doin'?"
Andy: "Pulling up potatoes."
3 y.o.: "What kind are those?"
Andy: "Red potatoes and Yukon gold."
3 y.o.:"Oh. Let me know if you find any mashed potatoes in there."

I wish I could just go pull up some yummy ready to eat mashed kids are too cute.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My girls

Being the mom of four girls is as rewarding for me as it is challenging, but I have to take a moment and give a shout out to my twins. Sydney and Abby sang a duet in our church's primary program today. They knocked it out of the park. They have been practicing for months and I hope they realize that their hard work paid off.

I HATE to cry, especially in public, but I couldn't contain my emotions today. I was so proud these girls are mine and of course it made me miss my mom who had a beautiful voice. They made the program a success and did such a beautiful job.

Today was one of the happiest moments I've had being their mom. I am so proud they braved the nerves of being in front of hundreds to sing, they kept their composure and remembered the words. They received so many compliments, as did I, and it was just a great day.

Love my girls!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Free Money

I ran across another cool website.

This is a new couponing source. You sign up on their website and they will deliver to your home, local manufacturer coupons. This is a new offer that starts Nov. 1. There are only certain zip codes getting them, but try yours and if it doesn't work you can always send it to a relative's house in your name, provided they don't want to use the service themselves. Limit one per household. I love finding new ways to save money!

Also I met Andy for lunch yesterday and received another money saving offer. Visit for a buy one get one on family games. The games are between $20 to $25, but there are 2 codes to choose from that will make one game free. So you pay about $30 after shipping, but get 2 fun family friendly games. The games normally retail for $18-$27 each, depending on where you shop, so this is still a money saver.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

26 Uses for Vaseline

Here's another tip on using ordinary things that you likely already have to do several jobs and save money.

For Personal Grooming
Moisturize your lips and more

If you don't want to pay a lot for expensive lip balm, makeup remover, or even facial moisturizer, then your answer is a tube of petroleum jelly. It can soothe lips, take off foundation, eye shadow, mascara, and more. It will even act as a moisturizer on your face.

Make emergency makeup

Add a bit of food coloring to petroleum jelly and apply as usual. This is a quick way to make stopgap blush, lipstick, or eye shadow.

Lengthen the life of perfume

You've picked out a great scent to wear on your night out, but it's got to last. Worry not. Dab a bit of petroleum jelly on your pulse points. Then spray on the perfume. Now you can dance the night away and not worry about your perfume turning in early.

Remove a stuck ring

Soften chapped hands

If you're constantly applying hand lotion to your tired, chapped hands, but then taking it off again so you can get more work done, try this tip. Apply a liberal amount of petroleum jelly to your hands just before you go to bed. By morning, they'll be soft and smooth.

No more messy manicures

During home manicures, it's hard to keep the nail polish from running over on your cuticles. Petroleum jelly can help your manicures look more professional. Dab some along the base of your nails and the sides. If polish seeps off the nail during the manicure, all you do is wipe off the petroleum jelly and the sloppy nail polish is gone.

Smooth wild eyebrow hairs

If you have runaway eyebrows -- the ones where the hairs won't lie flat but curl up instead, control the wildness with some petroleum jelly. Rub a dab into your brows. They'll calm down and behave.

Heal windburned skin

You've just had a glorious hike through the countryside in autumn. And as much as you enjoyed the changing colors of the season, the hike has left you with an unpleasant souvenir: windburn. Grab a jar of petroleum jelly and apply it liberally to your face or wherever you've been chapped. The jelly helps relieve the pain.

Help prevent diaper rash

It's so heartbreaking to hear a baby experiencing the pain of diaper rash. Help is just a few moments away. Petroleum jelly sets up a protective coat on the skin so the rash can heal. No more pain.

No more shampoo tears

Thinking of buying special no-tears shampoo for your child? Forget about it. If you have some petroleum jelly, you have the solution. Rub a fair amount into your baby's eyebrows. It acts as a protective shield against shampoo running down into his eyes.

Around the House
Smoother closing shower curtains

Stop the water from squirting out onto the bathroom floor. Get that shower curtain into place quickly. Lubricate the curtain rod with petroleum jelly and you'll whip that curtain across the shower in no time.

Take out lipstick stains

You set the table at that lovely dinner party with your favorite cloth napkins, but your girlfriends left their mark all over them. Now dotted with lipstick stains, those napkins may be headed for the trash. But try this first. Before you wash them, blot petroleum jelly on the stain. Launder as usual and hopefully you will kiss the stains good-bye.

Eject wax from candlesticks

The long red tapers you used at last night's candlelit dinner were a beautiful sight until you saw the candle wax drippings left in the candleholders. Next time apply petroleum jelly to the insides of the holders before you put the candles in. The wax will pop out for easy cleaning.

Remove chewing gum from wood

Did you discover bubble gum stuck under the dining room table or behind the headboard of Junior's bed? Trouble yourself about it no further. Squeeze some petroleum jelly on the offending wad, rub it in until the gum starts to disintegrate, then remove.

Shine patent-leather shoes

You've got a great pair of patent-leather shoes and a dynamite bag to match. The luster stays longer if you polish the items with petroleum jelly.

Restore leather jackets

You don't need fancy leather moisturizer to take care of your favorite leather jacket. Petroleum jelly does the job just as well. Apply, rub it in, wipe off the excess, and you're ready to go.

Keep ants away from pet food bowls

Poor Fido's food bowl has been invaded by ants. Since she prefers her food without them, help her out with this idea. Ring her food bowl with petroleum jelly. The ants will no longer be tempted by the kibble if they have to cross that mountain of petroleum jelly.

Grease a baseball mitt

Got a new baseball mitt, but it's as stiff as a dugout bench? Soften it up with petroleum jelly. Apply liberal amounts. Work it into the glove, then tie it up with a baseball inside. Do this in the winter, and by the spring you'll be ready to take the field.

Keep a bottle lid from sticking

If you're having a hard time unscrewing that bottle of glue or nail polish, remember this tip for when you finally do get it open. Rub a little petroleum jelly along the rim of the bottle. Next time, the top won't stick.
For the Do-It-Yourselfer
Mask doorknobs when painting

You're about to undertake painting the family room. But do you really want to fiddle with removing all the metal fixtures, including doorknobs? Petroleum jelly rubbed on the metal will prevent paint from sticking. When you're done painting, just wipe off the jelly and the unwanted paint is gone.

Stop battery terminal corrosion

It's no coincidence that your car battery always dies on the coldest winter day. Low temperatures increase electrical resistance and thicken engine oil, making the battery work harder. Corrosion on the battery terminals also increases resistance and might just be the last straw that makes the battery give up. Before winter starts, disconnect the terminals and clean them with a wire brush. Reconnect, then smear with petroleum jelly. The jelly will prevent corrosion and help keep the battery cranking all winter long.

Protect stored chrome

If you're getting ready to store the kids' bikes for the winter, or stow that stroller until your next baby comes along, stop a moment before you stash. Take some petroleum jelly and apply it to the chrome parts of the equipment. When it's time to take the items out of storage, they'll be rust-free. The same method works for machinery stored in your garage.

Keep an outdoor lightbulb from sticking

Have you ever unscrewed a lightbulb and found yourself holding the glass while the metal base remains in the socket? It won't happen again if you remember to apply petroleum jelly to the base of the bulb before screwing it into the fixture. This is an especially good idea for lightbulbs used outdoors.

Lubricate cabinets and windows

Can't stand to hear your medicine cabinet door creak along its runners? Or how about that window that you have to force open every time you want a breeze in the house? With a small paintbrush, apply petroleum jelly to the window sash channel and cabinet door runners. Let the sliding begin.

Stop squeaking door hinges

It's so annoying when a squeaky door makes an ill-timed noise when you're trying to keep quiet. Put petroleum jelly on the hinge pins of the door. No more squeaks.

Remove watermarks on wood

Your most recent party left lots of watermark rings on your wood furniture. To make them disappear, apply petroleum jelly and let it sit overnight. In the morning, wipe the watermark away with the jelly.
From Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, nachos, rice, etc.

Another awesome dinner last night. Even my picky eater ate it--not all of it, but getting him to try it was a major accomplishment.

BBQ Chicken

6 small boneless chicken breasts OR 4 Large chicken breasts
1 c. chopped onion--I like purple but you can use yellow or white
1 c. chopped green pepper
4 Tbsp. butter
2 c. BBQ sauce
2 c. water
salt and pepper to taste

When serving you'll need the following:
chopped cilantro, if desired
buns, chips OR rice

Place chicken in a freezer bag. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and pour over chicken. Label and freeze.

When ready to cook thaw and put in crockpot on low 6-8 hours. I actually forgot to thaw, so I just threw it in the crockpot frozen and cooked it for 10 hours on low.

When finished pull the chicken out of the crock, shred and add 1/4 cup of juices plus 1/2 c. bbq sauce and mix together. We served this on top of fries or buns. I had leftovers and made nachos out of it. DELICIOUS!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Neighbor Gifts

I am an OCD personality. I accept it; I deal with it; I have tried to make it a friend. So as I have been checking out deals and coupons I've come up with a few gifts that won't break the bank, but will still tell my neighbors and friends Merry Christmas.

1. Pouch of Betty Crocker Muffin mix about $.44-.89 "You're getting 'muffin' for Christmas." OR Corn muffins Cornbread or Mix - "We're not trying to be "Corny" we just want you to have a Merry Christmas!"
2. Metal whisk filled with candy kisses; about $.50 at the $ store. "We 'whisk' you a Merry Kissmas. Hugs & Kisses"
3. Bottle of Glade or air freshening spray ($.94 and usually coupons are in the paper) "Merry Christmas, hope it doesn't stink."
4. Bag of Jolly Ranchers $1; "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas."
5. Star ornament $.25 at $ store; "May His light shine in your home this holiday season."
6. Wooden spoon, about $1 for 5 at the $ store- "Whether stirring up cakes, cookies, soups or souffl├ęs; You'll find this spoon useful in so many ways. But whatever it's use, it says, "Merry Christmas from us to you!"
7. Cinnamon Sprinkles - You can make your own Cinnamon sugar and get bottles at Ikea or buy the premade colored sprinkles for $.89 at most stores.(Cinnamon & Sugar, or cookie sprinkles); "May your Christmas be sprinkled with laughter and love!" Merry Christmas!
8. Any Sweet Treat (can buy in bulk for about $1 or less per gift)- "Wishing you a season filled with sweetness!"
9. Chocolate or regular Oranges - "Orange" you glad we're Friends!?" Merry Christmas!!
10. Bubble Gum or Bubble Bath - "May your holidays "Bubble" over with fun!! (.$20 per pack of Bubble Yum at $ store)
11. Pencil and Notepad - "Merry Christmas from our pad to yours!!" or Merry Christmas to a "noteworthy" friend!" (.35 per gift)
12. Cookie cutter with favorite recipe attached (These are about $.20-.50 per cutter. I've found them at Roberts and $ stores for cheap)
13. Banana Bread - "Banana Bread just for you, because you have so much to do... We also love you a whole "Bunch" too! Merry Christmas!"
14. Hot cocoa mix with mini marshmallows (.50 with coupons around the holidays) "Warm wishes during this sweet season."
15. Recipe - "Just like you,'s tried and true, just for you! Happy Holiday Baking or Merry Christmas Cooking!" You can print these on cardstock for about .05 plus the cost of anything you want to add to it, like an item from your favorite recipe.
16. Seasoning .33 for a pouch of Western Family seasoning or .50 for a bottle of certain sesonings at Wal-mart. "Jesus is the reason for the season." or "Hoping your holidays are seasoned with joy."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thought for the Day

"Mom, remember when I was in the bathroom doing research?"--my three year old daughter said this to me yesterday and I haven't stopped laughing!

Then last night I was helping my son get ready for bed and he said, "Sometimes when I get out of the bath my underwear gets all skimpy."

I am so grateful for all my kids and their senses of humor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clean Freak!

A few of you have asked me for my organization tips. Here are a few.

1. Let everyone help. It won't always get done the way you want, but it will get done, and kids won't learn any younger. I have a chore chart where the kids rotate jobs each week. They don't get allowance for these basics (set table, clear table, clean bathroom, vacuum living room, stairs, clean family room, empty trash). They get to do these jobs cuz they live here rent free, and oh yeah, I want them to be responsible. Even my 3 year old can pick up her toys and put her laundry away. Older kids clean their rooms, and help younger kids with their rooms, if they want extra allowance.

2- There is a list of "deep cleaning" tasks if any kid wants to earn money or an extra privilege. These are generally things like wipe down walls or cabinets, organize and clean out closets, rotate food storage, etc.

3. Each family member has a basket with their name on it. I put all the things that never find their proper place in the buckets. Each night, or every other night, the kids empty their buckets before bed.

4. We have a check off list for Saturday chores to make sure they are learning how to be responsible.

5. When I'm not too frazzled I try to make it fun. Like setting the timer for 60 seconds and see who can get the most done; or listening to music while we clean--I remember Marilyn McCoo and Lionel Ritchie blaring from our stereo on Saturdays when I was a kid.

6. I also try to praise everyone for a job well done and offer incentives to those who go the extra mile. Often we offer the kids a mild bribe like if you get all your chores done we can go swimming, or have a campout, or make a treat.

Since the baby was born I feel like I live in a Fisher Price-Book bag-Coat-Shoe war zone. Things are not the way I'd love them to be, but that's okay. We have lots of places to shove things when visitors come. I have had some messy roommates in my lifetime and it was awful, for me, to live in place that was a constant disaster zone.

Other tips
I have a large calendar on the back of my door. Andy hates it there, but it's in the kitchen which is where I normally am. I have a different colored marker for each kid so I know who should be where on what day at a glance. You can use your cell phone, Blackberry, iPhone, Franklin, piece of paper, or other devices to accomplish the same thing.

Shopping List
I keep an on-going list of what I need on my fridge. I also keep a meal plan for the week there so I know what needs to thaw for the upcoming meal.

Remember that you aren't going to get everything done that you want to do in a day, whether you have kids or not. Life (or something else) Happens. On those days that just aren't going my way I try to look at accomplishing one thing. What absolutely has to get done today? If nothing is a priority then somedays nothing gets done. I remind myself I don't have to do it alone and I ask for help. My older kids are great helpers and if I give Andy a honey-do list he's right on task. But being organized is my thing. It keeps me from going in 1000 directions at once and taking things one at a time so priorities are met and life is less chaotic. Hope this helps those of you who asked.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Herb Chicken

6 chicken breasts (again if you don't need this much for one meal, freeze in 2 or 3 separate bags for other meals)

1/4 c. olive oil
4 tsp. (in total) of any combo of the following: rosemary, sage, time, parsley, basil, oregano
1 tsp. garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. flour

Place chicken in a large bowl. Mix the herbs with the oil and pour over chicken; sprinkle salt and pepper onto meat.

Coat the inside of a ziploc bag with the flour and THEN place the chicken into bag. Label and freeze.

When ready to eat, thaw chicken and bake in 13 x 9 dish at 350 deg. for 45-60 min., until juices run clear.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Clearance Day Deals

Andy is away--again for Scout Camp. I figure if he gets to have fun, so do I. Before he left I took 2 hours and went clearance shopping. I found some good deals at Target--love perimeter shopping. I have tried to keep a list in my purse of things I actually need, and not just buy stuff (read: crap) because it's cheap. If you can't really use it or don't know why you are buying it, it's wasting money, not saving it.

Anyway we had some rugs that needed replacing and I got new ones 75% off. I also bought the girls some clothes for next summer--retail $13 for shorts $8 for shirts, I paid $3 for shorts and $1.74 for shirts and I also got them pjs for Xmas for $5.74. If you have kids and don't already shop a year ahead you may want to consider buying some things on clearance. Yes, there are trends that come and go, and if storage is an issue it may not work, but some smart retail decisions can save money in the long run. Here is what works for me: 1- keep a list of current sizes and needs for each kid. 2- Only buy basics-jeans are jeans and t-shirts are t-shirts no matter what the decade. I don't buy a ton, but if there's a huge clearance sale, I will stock 2 or 3 items per kid. This mixed with whatever made it through the previous season usually makes a decent wardrobe. Also I stock up on socks, underwear and seasonal items in the next size up because, again, it's basic and you'll use it.

So my oldest girls have 4 pairs of shorts each and 3 t-shirts for next spring/summer and the shorts were between $10 and $15 per pair, I paid $2-3 per pair. The shirts were between $8-10 each and I paid $1.74 - $3 each. I also try to pay for these things in cash so it doesn't sit on a credit card. The shorts are long enough that unless they grow a literal 10 inches by next summer, they will work. And everything has adjustable waists to fit them where needed. I can't believe how expensive tween's clothing is. Total sticker shock since my little girls have lots of hand me downs from the older girls and boy's clothing is basically a church suit, jeans, polos and t's.

My advice for clearance shopping: 1-be organized-keep a list of needs so you're pennies stretch. That's not to say an occassional want can't be purchased. 2- be familiar with current prices. Sometimes a "deal" at one store can be found as a regular price at another. 3- Shop the perimeter--outside aisles and endcaps for great clearance at stores like Wal-mart and Target. 4. If you use coupons, bring them with you when you shop because you can use many maufacturers coupons on items that are on clearance.

After my spree today I can home exhausted. Andy was on his way out the door and I had 5 hungry mouths to feed. I had a dinner planned, but I figured let's forget "the plan" and go out. I had a gift certificate to a local pizza place that I'd purchased online at an extreme discount and a redbox code so we had a nice dinner out and a fun movie at home. Maybe the kids won't be so sad that their dad is gone....maybe they'll have so much fun they won't's hoping the tears aren't many.