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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dinner is Important

Did you know kids who have dinner around the table with their family at least 5 times a week are less likely to use drugs and alcohol? There's a great community resource Parents Empowered ( that has lots of great stuff on how to talk to your kids about the dangers of using. Now, from personal experience I know that having dinner together often isn't a for sure method for keeping your kids off drugs, but we will all admit that time together as a family is important, bonds siblings to each other and to parents and creates time to concentrate on relationships. So at our house we have dinner nearly every night, together. Granted my kids aren't running off in 1000 different directions yet, but someday they will. So I know the better prepared I am in having dinner ready, the better chance we all get at least 30 minutes of open communication around the table together.

Each night we have the "family dinner question." Each person gets a turn during the week to ask a question. It doesn't have to be serious, just interesting. Here's a list of some we've used.

1. If you could have dinner with 3 people living, or dead, who would they be and why?
2. What's the one thing you'd bring if we had to leave right now?
3. What's your favorite animal?
4. What's your favorite scripture story?
5. Who is one person who has influenced you?
6. Besides family, food and shelter, what are you most grateful for?
7. Name one place you want go before you die.
8. What is something you like to study?
9. If you live on a deserted island, that magically had life sustaining necessities, what 3 items would you need to survive?
10. Name a quote from your favorite movie.
11. What's one thing you want to accomplish in life?
12. What attributes do you admire in others?
13. Name one great thing about everyone at the table.
14. What's one thing you can teach others?
15. If you were to introduce yourself at an awards ceremony, what would you say?
16. Name one good thing about today, and one bad thing.

We are often surprised at the kids' answers. Our son told us the other day his favorite animal was "for sure NOT a fart bug." Fart bug? Really? We'll I'm glad for that! These conversation starters are the cement holding our family's foundation together. We learn that our kids do listen to us sometimes, that we share common likes and dislikes, some of us are right brained, and others definitely left brained. We talk about things that have happened during the day and find solutions to problems. It has been such a great experience for us.

It is my hope that as they grow up and the answers and questions get more difficult, that this experience will help them know they can come to us with anything, and although we may not agree with every decision they make, they have a safe place to go when they need it.

Try it around your table; you never know what you may learn.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How can you reuse....

I am all about making things simple. Since I have a new baby, simple is the best I can do. And speaking of cans I have a hundred empty cans of baby formula and have felt guilty just recycling them in the recycling bin. So here are 10 ways I have found to reuse these great things.

1. Ribbon Jar--I put my lose ribbon in the can, cut small holes in the top of the can, pull the ribbon through and my ribbon stays organized, smooth and I can find it.
2. Nail/small hardware parts container
3. Money bank. Although I haven't finished this yet, we are decorating the can with scrapbook paper and stickers,and slicing a hole in the top. Every kid of mine is going to know how to save wisely.
4. Crayon holder
5. Gift box-I decorate the can with scrapbook paper and fill it with stickers, crayons, art supplies, lipgloss, treats, etc. to use as gifts for the kids' friends.
6. Seed container. I am storing all my seeds in envelopes and then in the can to keep them from sprouting early.
7. Hiding treats from the kids. Do you know how fast chocolate disappears around here? 2.2 seconds--they're like vampires--they can smell it before I even take it out of the car.
8. Dice cup. We love dice games and these cans are the perfect size to store a bunch of dice and the printed rules for many games. Instant party in a can.
9. Bug catcher--in light of the recent Similac recall this kind of makes my skin crawl, but we catch the bugs AFTER the formula is gone, not before. My 3 year old can make a nice "home" for many potato bugs in these cans.
10. If all else fails a good game of kick the can keeps the kids busy and active long enough to let me powder my nose in peace.

Savings in your city

Follow this link to local, awesome $aving$. You may have to copy and paste it into your browser.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cheap Date Ideas

Awhile ago Andy and I started having Friday night dates. It has been so fun to reconnect on a one-on-one level with a grown up!

Growing up my parents had a monthly date to play cards with friends and quite often they'd get together and go to dinner with my dad's college buddies and their spouses. I kinda hated it when they went. I was usually left in charge and sometimes that was hard to control the chaos, but it taught me a lot. One of the most important things it taught me was that just because you're married, that doesn't mean you have to stop dating. Of course, you can only date your spouse, but if you chose the right one, then that's ok, right??

So since we have a lot of small kids who we can't leave alone for more than 5 minutes, we've had to come up with some creative ways to spend quality time together, and not break the bank. Luckily I have awesome parents who are very supportive and take our kids often so we can have a break. THANK YOU PARENTS! I also have awesome neighbors who are willing to kid swap with me. Thanks girls!

Since we can't always farm the kids out, we do some dates at home, after the kids go to bed. This sounds lame, but we've done a lot of fun things. One of my favorite is getting Chinese take out and renting a redbox movie. Redbox has awesome free rental codes ( that you can use to rent one free night. Check your local library and you can reserve and get movies free there too.

Also there are tons of food coupons in money mailers, newspaper and Happenings books--if you don't have one of these get one. They are about $30, but are loaded with coupons you will use. The address is and if you want you can specify your local school to send a portion of the funds to your school. If there's a specific retaruant you enjoy often they have specials and coupons on their websites, or a punch card if you visit often--something like buy 9 pizzas or sandwiches get the 10th free. Anyway I love being at home, eating out of the chinese cartons and watching something without Elmo, Angelina Ballerina or Princesses in it.

We also do stuff like play air hockey at Nicklecade--again coupons on their website and nearly every game is .05 to .50 cents to play. Sometimes we go shopping--which sounds girly, but it can be very theraputic--grocery shopping DOES NOT count. I am talking about a walk around Gardner Village or Gateway just to see what's there. Another cheap date is the Farmer's Markets. There are some amazing things at these places and I think it's great to support local businesses. We also love to play the Wii together--we are not normally very competitive, but give Andy a golf club or a bowling ball and all bets are off. So the fact that I have a near perfect score on Wii Basketball drives him crazy, but all in all it's good fun. We also love board games. Another cheap idea is going to get ice cream or yogurt.

One of our most favorite dates is going to the U of U football games. I am a proud alum of this fine school and after 10 years of our being together, finally converted Andy from blue to red. Save your comments for why they should or shouldn't be in the PAC-you can direct those to UTEFANS. It's just plain fun to go and scream at the top of your lungs for 3 hours at guys that can't hear you, and enjoy a Cowboy Corndog. This is not a cheap date, but I figure Andy is a great provider and husband and father, and this is the least I can do to help our relationship. We do share our tickets with some of the kids and it has become one favorite family tradition.

Doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're together. And most of all, while we're on these dates, we try not to talk about money issues, kid issues or work issues. Kind of feels like we're young(er) and reminds me why I married him in the first place. Remember it's not about things, it's about time together.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Here's another Make and Freeze Meal

Sweet and Sour Chicken
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. pineapple juice (use the reserve juice from a can of cubed pineapple; you can garnish this dish with the pineapple when serving)
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. ketchup
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 chicken breasts, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix the first six ingredients together in a bowl. Brown the chicken in olive oil. Next combine the sauce with the chicken in a gallon ziploc bag. Label and freeze.

To serve thaw and bake in a 13 X 9 pan coated with spray. Bake at 350 deg. for 45 minutes, basting occassionally. I like to garnish this with cilantro, pineapple cubes and occasionally crushed cashews, just for a new spin. Also this is great over Jasmine rice, white rice, brown rice or Chinese noodles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A million uses for baking soda

There are a million uses for baking soda. It's cheap and effective. Try the following to keep you house clean and your family healthy.

Add a cup to bathwater to soften your skin and relieve skin irritations.

Relieve skin itch from insect bites and pain from sunburn.

Remove strong odors from your hands by rubbing them with baking soda and water.

Put two tablespoons in your baby’s bathwater to help relieve diaper rash.

Heartburn? Take a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one-half glass of water.

Freshen your mouth by gargling half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed water.

Apply it on jellyfish sting to draw out the venom.

Unblock stuffy nose by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to your vaporizer.
Keep cut flowers fresh longer by adding a teaspoon to the water in the vase.

Put out small fires on rugs, upholstery, clothing, and wood.

Put an open container of baking soda in the fridge to absorb the odors.

Sprinkle it on your slippers, boots, shoes, and socks to eliminate foul odor.

Turn baking soda into modeling clay by combining it with one and 1/4 cups of water and one cup of cornstarch.

Put it under sinks and along basement windows to repel cockroaches and ants.

Scatter baking soda around flowerbeds to prevent rabbits from eating your veggies.

Sweeten your tomatoes by sprinkling baking soda on the soil around your tomato plants.

Sprinkle it onto your cat’s litter box to absorb the bad odor.

Sprinkle it on your pet’s comb or brush to deodorize their fur and skin.

Use it to scrub sinks, showers, plastic and porcelain tubs

Add a spoonful to your dishwasher to make scrubbing dishes easier.

Remove grease from pots and pans.

Sprinkle it in the washer with towels to remove odor

My mom always kept a box of baking soda in our fridge and freezer. I love to use the ones that just stick to the sides of the fridge with a suction cup. There are a million more uses for this amazing product. You can google it for more uses. I love this product because it can do so much, I don't have to buy several different products to clean, and best of all, it's cheap!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stretch Those Pennies

Usually I hate going to the mail box. I don't need the lastest Land's End or Victoria's Secret catalogue. I don't care to switch insurance companies and I just bought a new car --Larry Miller stop sending me fake keys with a "chance to win a new Dodge Caravan." I had a Dodge Caravan for 7 years. Hated it!!! And let's not forget all those bills that keep coming that I don't want to pay.

Anyway, this week was a little different. I went to my mailbox and there was Kohls cash and JC Penny cash!! I love these $10 off $10 coupons. I know it's a marketing ploy to get you in there to spend more than $10, but so far I have staved off spending too much over the $10. These are like little free shopping sprees for me. The "money" they send me isn't like other money I get--intended to be spent on something specific. I can use this any way I choose. Some of you may just be throwing these out with other 'junk' mail. Don't do that.

Here's what I've been able to do with my "free money" from these two fine establishments. These purchases have been made over the last 6 months, using the coupons from the mail

One full set of Sage Green Towels retail $13 I paid .63 cents
2 packages underwear (6 pr. each) retail $20 I paid $1.61 (for both)
Dangling Chandelier earrings retail $15 I paid .53 cents (love these earrings!!)
Fisher price learning toy retail $25-30 I paid $2.13
Dora Birthday doll retail $15 I paid $2.12
Tan toiletseat cover retail $16 I paid $2.13
3 boys t-shirts retail $21 I paid .68 cents
Two scarves retail $40 I paid $2.12
Disney Princess I Spy book -FREE
Disney Princess back pack FREE
Girls Pj's retail $18 I paid $4

I 've said to many of you in the past that math was never my strong suit. Hence five kids in 8 1/2 years--I am way outnumbered. But clearance math, sales math and money math I can do. These coupons are awesome because you can use them on sale and clearance items. JC Penny does have some retrictions--listed on the coupons, but Kohls is awesome. So next time you go to throw out your coupons think about this: "What basics can I stock up on?" Keep a list of who needs socks,t-shirts, underwear. towels, etc. in your head or wallet. Yes you will probably spend a dollar to two, but chances are these are items you would be buying anyway, so why not save a bit. Also if you don't have a current need you can always pass it on to someone else or you can buy basics and donate them to local charities. When I worked at the homeless shelter we were always looking for socks, towels, blankets and other necessities for our clients.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's For Dinner???

Here's another quick and delicious meal we all love.

Lemon Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice (ok you can use bottled)
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano (I like fresh, but dried works too.)

In a one gallon ziploc freezer bag place the chicken and then throw all the other ingredients in the bag. I seal the bag and then mix everything around. Then label and freeze. If you don't need quite this much chicken for one meal, you can make the whole recipe and use the leftovers in salad or over pasta, or make the whole recipe and then divide it into two seperate bags for two different meals.

To cook, thaw and grill. Or you can bake it in the oven at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

I like to serve this over spinach greens with feta...but we also use it over pasta or with rice. I also like it in a pita pocket with greens, purple onion and feta.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Memories, Not Materialism

"Making Memories, Not Materialism" has been our family motto for awhile now. I came up with it one day while trying to teach our kids what service to others really means. It has proven to be a great way to teach our kids the value of service, as well as the value of a dollar. Last Christmas we gave the kids each ten handmade gift certificates for different experiences. One was good for attending a U of U gymnastic meet, another a one-on-one date with mom, a trip to the dollar store, a family game night including pizza and treats. Each experience had a dollar amount attached. For example, they each got $10 for a one-on-one date with mom to spend however they chose.

I wasn't sure how they would react. They were all under 8 years old and I know how excited I was to open presents on Christmas morning at those ages. Turns out they were the best gifts ever. I can say this idea was inspired and we've had so much fun. Sometimes the kids combined their certificates so we could all go do something together-like Marble Slab for ice cream; other times Andy or I had the opportunity to be with one kid and spend some good quality time together, just the two of us. One night my sweet second daughter knew I was having a hard day and spent her pizza and game night certificate to give me a break. Too Cute!!

We set aside the amount we spent on each kid in a seperate account so the money is safe from being spent where it wasn't intended. Each child still had some flexibility--most of the certificates are not intended for a specific store, so they could choose which dollar store they wanted to go to, or which ice cream or pizza chain they wanted to eat at, they could choose a movie or game, or they could choose where they wanted to go with mom or dad for their one-on-one time.

They are making their Christmas lists now and the older three have this gift at the top of their lists. What a great parenting moment for me! Now the practical side of me says to add to the fabulousness (is that a word?) of this gift I can combine these certificates with coupons to help them strectch their dollars.

This has been such a great way to experience Christmas all year long.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recyle Re-use

So my cute, oldest girl came home from school today with a book about recycling things into new things and this got me thinking about managing my family's resources. I think it's safe to say the last few years the economy hasn't been kind to anyone. I feel really blessed we've weathered the storm (knocking on wood). I believe that is in part, because I learned early on how to manage my resources (thanks moms and dad) and since I stay at home, have had to be reminded how to stretch those resources to survive. Anyhow, I was looking at my daughter today, who brought home her school stuff in a recycled jean-tote that we made last year and she is the inspiration behind the following:

Ode to the Blue Jean
We've used jeans in a millon different ways and here's some tips that will save you money and help you hold on to your favorite jeans a little bit longer.

1- Cut offs--yeah I know, duh! I didn't start doing this until last year, but such an easy way to get more use out of pants with blown out holes in the knees. I just do a zig zag hem around the bottom and the kids can play in the dirt or paint or whatever other mess they create and I don't have to freak.
2- Cut them into quilt squares. My grandma was an amazing quilter and these were a big rage when I was a teen. I still have the one I made in high school in the back of my car for emergencies.
3- Jean bag/ purse. I cut off the legs just below the crotch, then cut that part open. Cut open one pant leg and sew it around the open top part of the pant to form the bottom of the bag. Use the other pant leg as a strap. My girls have used their bags almost 2 school years. They are awesome because they already have pockets and they use clips to hang things from the belt loops.
4- Skirts- I cut off the legs and then sew new fabic onto the bottom, cut off part of the pant to make a jean skirt
5- Pocket purse-cut off the pocket--go all the way through the jean, don't just cut off the pocket part and you have a cute little bag.

There's a million more uses but that's all for now.

45 minutes; 6 meals

I enjoy cooking, but with a new baby and four other kids, throwing together a decent meal is tough. So awhile ago I discovered once a month cooking. The concept is you spend a few hours during one or two days, planning, shopping and preparing, and then freezing a month's worth of meals. Yeah--I don't have a day to do that, so I adapted. I take 45 minutes each month to dice, cut, (ok so the actual touching of the meat is done by Andy) marinate and whatever else, to make 6 to 8 meals. Not as many as 30 days worth, but enough that combined with other simple recipes, makes my life easier. Now get this, ALL my kids (and husband) eat these. So now no more "chicken nuggets for me mom, I hate whatever you're making." Yippee. The following is one of our favorites. I was going to add pictures, but by the time I got there, the food was gone.

Sticky Chicken

4-6 boneless chicken breasts, halved

Season the chicken with the following:
1 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste

In a quart sized freezer bag put:
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
1/3 to 1/2 honey (depending on your sugar tolerance)
1/4 cup oil (I've used vegetable or olive)

Put the seasoned chicken breasts in a freezer gallon bag (label it); add the bag of sauce on top--taped together.

When you are ready to cook it--thaw it and place in coated 9 x 13 pan. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake at 400 for 45 minutes; or grill it.

I serve this with steamed veggies and rice or sometimes stuffing.

There are several other recipes as easy as this that I just throw together and freeze and then use on those nights that are super busy dinner is done. This method of cooking has really cut our "going out" budget by about 45%.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome to our World

So I've finally joined cyberworld after much consideration and procrastination. Generally I feel like if you want to know what's going on with us, ask. But, since our family and friends are growing in number and living out of the "five mile radius," here we are online, so you can see all the fantastic things (and not so fantastic) we do.

We have five kids--four girls and one boy--poor guy! Andy is a computer geek--don't ask me the details I am just glad he brings home a paycheck. He also is the scoutmaster for our area and loves it. Our kids are all amazing--not just saying that cuz they are mine--they are wonderful and we are lucky. I am a stay at home mom, PTO volunteer, active in our community and love to find deals.

Since we all have such busy lives I hope that this blog will help all of you learn from the cool things I've found to make life easier. Everything from recipes, cool deals and organization tips may, at some time, find itself on our blog.

Welcome to our for more soon. Katie