Saturday, December 31, 2011

Post Christmas Post

This might have been the best Christmas ever. Not because of some huge thing that happened, but just because being with family meant more this year than it ever has. 

Highs of Christmas 2011:
Jude and Ezra on Christmas morning. They were super cute and they made it fun. 
Being with my Mam Maw and Ross's Grandma again this year. This makes me so, so happy. All that was missing was Naughnie!
Meeting Lainey Meade. She was so yummy! 
Each moment spent with each family member. Every single one was special. More time with the hubs (love his 2 weeks vacation at Christmas time!), giving Phil his birthday card that the boys made him, giving my sister a gift this year (which I'm not always able to do), the awesome food my mom and Mam Maw made, laughs at the table with the in-laws, jokes over matching pjs, great talks with my mother-in-law, and the generosity of others always humbles me. I truly felt loved and I hope I was able to make someone else feel loved also. It was such a great year and to be honest, I'm a little sad its over. 

You can't have a holiday without a few pictures, so here is our Christmas in photos:

Now its 2012 (can't believe this!) and while I know I have no control over the things that will happen this year, I have been reflecting on it nonetheless. Goals, dreams, hopes, plans, its scary and exciting at the same time. While I have no idea what is going to happen this next year, I do know one thing. I desire so much in 2012 for my understanding of who Jesus is to grow, so that my faith will grow as well. So much so that I just can't keep it to myself. That is my main hope for the new year. 

What about you, any new year's resolutions?

Friday, December 23, 2011

DtD Challenge #9 - LAUNDRY ROOM

I have to start out by saying this. One of the top 5 selling points that led us to deciding to buy our house was this: our laundry room. I know that sounds silly, right? But, when we opened the door, we were amazed. It was gigantic, it was glorious, there were 2 decent sized closets for storage space, and it was a room all on its own (a lot of older houses like ours don't have separated laundry spaces, unless they were added on later). We loved it. I'm not sure why it was so exciting to us, but I'm pretty sure we were ready to sign right there. 

Fast forward to today, 5 years later. I still love the room, very much so. But, the cats have kind of taken over it as their space, it holds lots all of our junk, and nothing is organized in there, so everything is pretty much just strewn about. As a result of these things, I hate going in there. In fact, I try to avoid it at all costs. Except on laundry day, of course. :) So, it should not surprise you to know that I did not clean it this week. Not even a little. Yes, I did get all Jude's summer clothes put up (I'm only a few months late, right?) and not just thrown in the laundry room (which is what I normally would have done), but I did not clean, nor straighten, nor organize any part of it. This time of year is just so crazy, there's always a million things to be done, things that do not include the laundry room. And Ross is off work, which makes it harder...if he's on break then I should be too, right? 

Not exactly. So, I think there needs to be a change of mindset here, on my part. If I stop dreading the laundry room and go back to remembering why I loved it in the first place, then maybe this will help me to do what needs to be done in there. And my mother-in-law told me something this past weekend that has been playing in my head over and over, even regarding the darn laundry room. She said, praise is always the answer. 

This may seem silly, but if I praise God for my laundry room, and be thankful for it, then maybe I won't hate it so much, and just maybe it will actually get clean. Maybe it will go from a duty to a delight. That is my hope and prayer for this next week.

And I know what some of you might say, what is the big deal??? Its just a laundry room! And you may be right. It is just a laundry room and it doesn't determine who I am, or whether I am a good housekeeper or not. Those of you who know me know that I don't take life too seriously and don't let every little thing get to me. But even though it may not seem like a big deal, it is to me. The fact that I dread it, procrastinate, and let it steal my joy is a problem for me. So, here's to change! I like change when its good...even if the process is usually hard.

Even though I didn't get my laundry room cleaned, I did, in fact, get my ornament done. Yippeeee!! Would you like to see it? 
I know, it's nothing special, but at least I will remember what we looked like in December of 2011. Yeah!

I thought I'd include some photos of our fun cooking baking event this morning. 
 Jude and I had fun doing this together. E joined us at the end. 

 Yum! They were delish! (don't mind my messy oven, eek! A future DtD Challenge perhaps?)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Nativity Story

Joseph: If I claim this child as mine, I will be lying. I would have broken a law laid down by God. 
Mary: I would never ask you to lie. 
Joseph: If I say this child is not mine, they will ask what I'm going to do. If I accuse you... 
Mary: There is a will for this child greater than my fear of what they may do. 

As soon as Ross and I popped this movie in last night, I was captivated. I've never seen this part of the story told on screen before, not like this. I was touched by it. I laughed at parts, and I cried at parts. But I couldn't help but wonder while I watched. I wondered what it would be like to be Mary, in her little village of Nazareth, so young, barely married and very pregnant, about to participate in the biggest, most amazing event in history. The looks she received. The rejection she must have faced. The loneliness that this huge step of faith must have produced. People didn't get it. They didn't understand. But somehow she did. Of course, she didn't get the full extent of it and she must have been so afraid, but she knew it was huge, important and that she had to do it. There was a purpose in it. Bigger than her, bigger than anything that had ever been.

My favorite scene in the movie was this:

Mary: You've never really told me of your dream. 
Joseph: My dream? 
[pause, he is teasing her and also contemplating his response
Joseph: No. 
Mary: Please, tell me. 
Joseph: An angel came to me. He told me the child within you had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and that I should not be afraid. 
Mary: Are you afraid? 
Joseph: Yes. 
Joseph: Are you? 
Mary: Yes. Do you ever wonder when we'll know? 
Joseph: Know what? 
Mary: When he is more than just a child. Will it be something he says? A look in his eyes?  How do we raise such a child?  
Joseph: I wonder if I will even be able to teach him anything.

I just love that. Mary and Joseph were just normal people. There was nothing special about them, yet they were about to have and raise the Son of God, God Himself in the flesh. Wow. Talk about overwhelming! And I love what that means for us. That even if the task is scary, and seems impossible, God can and will use us, normal, ordinary people to accomplish His purposes. We just have to be willing to step out in faith and submit it all to Him.

With that being said, I just remembered that I haven't posted my weekly photo yet this week. So, in keeping with the nativity theme, I thought I'd get in a photo of our nativity scene (that I took outside). 

Luke 2: 17-20
''When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.''

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm back!

Until Saturday, anyway. Ahh, back to the swing of things. I always love being with family. There's just such a comforting feeling that comes with being with family, where you can be yourself, be and feel loved and love back in a really strong way. Its such a great thing. 

But today, back at home, there is laundry that is being done and a house that needs picking up. ...I should probably be doing that now. 

Instead, I want to share a few things that I received recently that I am in love with. 

These pants from Old Navy. I put them on and they felt like I was wearing a piece of heaven. In fact, I may never even take them off. They're only $6 online, so if you're thinking of getting yourself something nice and comfy, or getting an inexpensive gift for someone, get them a pair of these. They will thank you...and be warm in the process.

A sweet friend gave me this cookbook for Christmas, and I have to say, I just love the Pioneer Woman. I use a lot of recipes on her website and am really pumped about trying out some from her book. 

And these two books I checked out from the library:
I'm really excited about reading these. The Family Meal is written by a gourmet chef and he's adapted some really nice recipes so that us domestic ladies can use them. He explains how to cook them from start to finish, all the different ways you can cook an egg, what different oils are best to cook with, and lots of other really good information. I like cookbooks, but I really like books that help you in the kitchen. The second book I don't know much about, but it looked interesting. This subtitle sounded intriguing to me: Family, France and the Meaning of Food. We shall see!

What are you loving and excited about these days?

Friday, December 16, 2011

DtD Challenge #8 - ORNAMENT!

Just about all of the ornaments on our Christmas tree have some sort of meaning to our family. Whether they were given to us by someone on our first Christmas, or the kids first Christmas ornaments, they're all sentimental to me in some way. And every year, I get a family ornament to signify that year. Several years I have bought an ornament, and several years I have made them and put our picture in it. I think its fun to look back and see how you looked each year. Last year I meant to get a photo of us on the ornament I bought, being that it was our first Christmas as a family of four. But, it just didn't happen...and that made me sad. So, this year, when I bought our ornament, I was determined to get our picture put in it. 

So last week, I challenged myself to do just that. A whole week, I was sure I could do it. 

But, my week got away from me, and even though I tried once to figure out how I could get just 1 wallet sized photo of us, our 2011 ornament still looks like this:

Boo. This week's challenge was a fail. I still have a week before Christmas though, so hopefully I will get this done by then.

Next week: I have 2 this week, and one of them I might have to stretch over 2 weeks. The first is that I want to bake cookies with my kiddos. And the second one is that I desperately need to get my laundry room cleaned. That is a project that I have been in the middle of doing for months now. So, now I just need to do it! Ross will be off next week, so I'm hoping to get it done.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Menu plan~

This is an unusual week, being that we'll be having dinner with our families a few of those nights and will still have a week's worth of meals. And I'm going to try my best to stretch the budget as far as it will go, being as close as it is to Christmas, our budget is even tighter than usual. So, this week, boneless skinless chicken breasts are still on sale, so hopefully they won't be out this time! Here we go:

Easy night (because it is shopping day), something like hot dogs & mac n cheese (nutritious, right?)

Turkey (or pork chops), mashed potatoes & steamed broccoli (amended to tilapia and potatoes, the pork chops at Kroger were outrageously expensive and I couldn't find any turkey-except big huge ones)

Chicken pasta pesto & spinach salad

Christmas dinner with family

Dinner with family

Almost lasagna 

Homemade ravioli with spinach filling (trying this for the first time, we'll see how it turns out!)

Chicken soup and bread

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Christmas!

We went to the library today for story time, to see Santa, and to have some yummies that were provided to everyone by the library. I am so thankful for our library and their employees. All the free fun kid activities they provide are so great. We have such an awesome library! It was a good time, but the kids were so restless and running all over the place. It made me tired! Even so, Jude enjoyed seeing Santa and being with our friends, of which I was glad. Ezra had a good time too...for the most part. He loved the food, the playing, but did not love sitting in Santa's lap. He did cry...and quite loudly. I only tortured him for a second, quick enough to get a picture. If you haven't seen the picture on facebook, you should go check it out. It's quite comical. Good thing he won't remember it, right? Well, except for when he looks at the photo when he gets older and wonders why I would do such a horrible thing to him. It wouldn't be Christmas without a few tears!

Some photos I got of the kids today:

This weekend we plan on going to look at Christmas lights, one of our favorite annual Christmas traditions. If you have never looked at lights with a 3-almost-4 year old, you are missing out. It is really fun, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Only 11 more days til Christmas!! (hope you all have your shopping done...we do NOT. eeek!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Personal Photo challenge

I love to take photos. I'm sure you're aware of this by now. I probably take several photos, if not more, just about every day. But they're mostly done with my crappy quality phone camera. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to document our daily lives, even with a crappy phone camera. But, I have been itching to take more "real" photos. I need to get my creative juices flowing.

I've decided that in order to do that, I've got to set a goal for myself. And what better way to do that than to do my own photo challenge! I need to get outside and stretch my photography skills. I want and need to do it! Every week I want to get outside and take of picture of something that is not in my house. I'm hoping this will force me to go outside of my own front yard and devote a little bit of time to my favorite hobby, the only serious one I want to have time for.

So, here are my rules:
1. All my photos must be taken outside.
2. All my photos must be taken with my Canon DSLR camera (not just my phone).
3. All my photos must be taken within that week (I can't pull one from a long time ago and say that's my photo for the week)
4. No photos of the kids. While I love love love taking pictures of them, I need to branch out. That's the whole point of this!

And here is my first one. I took the boys for a walk earlier and they L.O.V.E planes. They will literally stop whatever they're doing when we're outside if they hear a plane. They want to find it in the sky. So, we heard this one and Ezra started saying "Paaaaannneeeee!!!" and I wanted to try to catch it with my camera.

 In this case, I wish I had a zoom lens. But, at least you can tell what it is! :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The toy monster

(eating ice cream at the mall today with friends)

I thought it would be a good idea to take Jude and Ezra to get their cousin a Christmas present the other night. As we went from store to store, Jude would say "I think Shawn wants this," but I really think he was the one who wanted it. Although I did at least get an idea of what we could get him from the grandparents, it certainly did not end pleasantly, with me carrying Jude out of the store - football style - while he threw a screaming, thrashing fit. Good times with a 3 year old, right?

For the past 3 Christmases, since having kids, we have been able to use that line "they're not old enough to really care what they get" and its been true. I have to admit, I've loved that rule. They'd be happy with just about anything we got them. But this year, consumerism has reared its ugly head. For a kid who doesn't get a lot of "stuff," and who has probably only seen 2 commercials in his life, he is going full speed on the "I want" train. He wants just about everything, and all he can talk about is presents. When are we getting presents, where's all the presents, when is it time for presents, is what I hear 50 times a day.

I have prayed, asked friends and racked my brain as to how I gear him more to giving, rather than receiving and to help him see what the real present/focus is during the Christmas season, but that's a hard concept to convey to a 3-almost-4 year old. My wise mama-friend of 5 kiddos told me some much-needed-to-hear things. She of course told me to model what giving looks like, and show how joyful it is to give. But she also told me just to continue to remind him what the season is all about. To have lots of talks with him. To emphasize Jesus and how giving is more important than receiving. To be gentle, and keep reminding him who the real Present is. My tendency is to get frustrated, having to say the same things over and over and over again. But, its important. Little ones forget things so quickly, they need to be reminded again and again. In fact, I think that a lot of times, I tend to forget quickly and need to be reminded again and again too. 

Here is Jude, hard at work coloring the frog green. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DtD Challenge #7- GRANOLA!

With all the homemade things out there, granola was last on my radar. Not for any reason, other than I just never thought about it. A good friend of mine makes her own granola and I thought I should do this...I COULD do this! So I did. We would eat granola around here more often if it wasn't so expensive. I love to have it in my greek yogurt, and its good for you! (minus all the sugar, which is why I wanted to make it myself so I could control the amount of sugar that went in). 

So, I got my friend's recipe and took a shot at it. 

I bought some off-brand old fashioned oats and applesauce and set to work. 

The first batch: Was too applesaucy, and I way overcooked it, which made it look like this:

Doesn't that look appetizing? No? It doesn't to me either. I'm not sure even the dog would eat that. I was sorta bummed, but that's to be expected. I usually mess up the first time I cook something. 

So, I tried again. I put less applesauce, more honey, and cooked it for a shorter amount of time. 

It turned out better, it tasted yummy! But it was still a little too hard. I went a bit too oven-happy again. Apparently you need to take it out of the oven while its still soft and let it harden while cooling. I didn't know this, so I kept cooking it, thinking it needed to harden while in the oven. 

Then I ran out of oats. Boo. I will try this again, (I want to try THIS recipe) and hopefully will continue to do it once I get the hang of it. It's much more healthy, and way more cost effective...not to mention, SO yummy! 

Next week: this is kind of silly, but I desperately need to get our family ornament done this year because last year's didn't get done at all...and I'm sad about that. So, I need to put a time frame on it and just do it. You guys will keep keep me accountable, right? :) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How do you grocery shop?

Something I've learned in the 5 years I've been married - grocery shopping is an art. Grocery shopping on a budget is an even harder art. It takes time, brain power and planning. It's not rocket science, but it does require you to be mindful and purposeful. I admit, I used to not have a clue how to grocery shop. I'd go in, buy a bunch of random ingredients and even though I covered everything we needed and then some, I'd way overspend. Then, during the week, food would end up going bad because I bought too much, or didn't feel like thinking about what to cook every day, so we'd spend money on eating out.

I think we as a society tend to over-grocery shop. We buy way too much food. This includes me. In some countries, they only shop per day for the groceries they need. An every day trip to the grocery store? You couldn't pay me enough! But they may be onto something, shopping for only what they need. Makes sense, right?

So, I finally decided that I needed to get with the program, stop wasting money and wasting food. I didn't know what I was doing when I started. Sometimes I still don't. But, I came up with a plan and while its not perfect, and I'm not super great at it yet, I'm working out the kinks...and its really, really simple.

How do you grocery shop? Do you walk in and go, where in the world do I start? Do you just go through and get a bunch of random ingredients? Do you just shop for sale items? Do you get the easiest things to make/warm up? Do you stock-pile? There are a billion ways to shop. There is no one right way, and the way I do it is probably one in a million ways to do it. Here is my way, and I'll tell you how I save money by doing it. (and I'm not talking about couponing either. I'm not a big couponer and I'll share why in another post.)

Questions I ask myself before my weekly grocery trip:
1. What meats are on sale?
2. What meals haven't we had in awhile?
3. What do we already have in the house?
4. What are we out of?

First, I spend a little time planning my meals for the week. I am planning a post on how I do that, but for now you will have to wait. :)

Next, I make a list. A list of all the ingredients I'm going to need for each dish. These are not extravagant meals, so there's not a billion ingredients. And sometimes I already have some of the ingredients, but I get all I need based on my meal plan and the staple things we are out of.

I ONLY shop by my list. No grabbing extra things that I think I might need. There's no need for that when you menu plan and list all of your ingredients (the ones you don't already have).

That's it! Have you figured out what my secret plan is? My secret plan is only buying what we need for that week.'s so simple that I can't believe I never thought of it before. But I'm glad I did because now I'm saving money, I'm not wasting near as much food, and I actually enjoy grocery shopping. It used to be such a duty, such a chore, but now I can honestly consider it a delight.

Some notes about how I shop: I don't stock-pile (although I know ladies who do this and it totally works for them), I don't buy a lot of extras (no pre-prepared snacky foods or frozen easy meals), Of course, there are staple items I need every week, like eggs, milk, oats, Cheerios, fruit, etc, but for the most part, I only shop by my list. And I will report that the the last several grocery runs, I have spent $20 less than our budgeted amount. That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it adds up. I will say, sometimes its hard to resist things I want to get, but when you shop on a budget, you have to be discerning about what you really need and what you want. I always want too many extra things that I don't really need.

What about you, how do you grocery shop?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Menu plan~

My menu plan threatened to be thrown off this week because Kroger was out of boneless skinless chicken breasts...again. So I had to make a few adjustments, and it took me a long time at the store of figuring out and deciding what to do instead, but I finally got it done. And here it is!

Fixing chili for my small group tonight, my mama's recipe

Roasted chicken leg quarters and beans & cornbread

Fish n chips (potato wedges)

Homemade pizza


Turkey paninis

Cream cheese chicken and broccoli

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crock pot = love

What did we, as a society, ever do without slow cookers? It's the busy (or tired) mom's best friend. I have used my crock pot plenty in the 5 years I've been married, but I use it for awhile and then forget about it for awhile. The last couple of weeks I've used it quite a bit. Every time I cook a meal in it, I re-fall in love with my crock pot all over again. I don't remember who gave that to us as a wedding gift, but they should be thanked again. So, thank you, person-who-got-us-one-of-the-best-gifts-ever.

Here are some of my new and old favorite meals I like to cook in the crock pot:

Lately I've been cooking my pork chops in the crock pot. I pour some chicken broth and seasonings in there, cook it on high for just a few hours (or low for longer) and the meat just falls apart when it's done. I like this way better than baking the pork chops in the oven, which makes the meat sort of tough and tasteless, in my opinion.

Who can deny the yumminess of beef pot roast cooked in the slow cooker? I put potatoes and carrots in with it and it is one of my favorite meals of all time.

A month or so ago, I smothered a few chicken breasts in bbq sauce in the crock pot and had chicken bbq sandwiches. I shredded the chicken and it ended up looking just like pork bbq. It was delish and sooo easy!

I'm trying a new beef stew recipe I just made up tonight, so we'll see how that goes. Instead of potatoes and carrots, I put zucchini, squash, broccoli, celery, green pepper and onion...hopefully it'll be good! It sure smells good.

There are a ton of things you can do in the crock pot...share them with me! I want to add a few new recipes to my crock pot staple. I did see a crock pot lasagna recipe on pinterest that I'd like to try soon. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Things vs. memories

(this is not our house, I just found it online and thought it was neat!)

Every year after Thanksgiving, we put the tree and lights up, we get the decorations out and the Christmas records and excitement and joy flood my heart. But then a few weeks later, the excitement and joy slowly disappear and stress and anxiety replace it. Instead of focusing on Christ, which is what Christmas really is about, I start obsessing about what things we're going to be able to get the boys, what I wish I could get Ross, and figuring out how in the world we can bless our families and others on such a tight budget. I'm starting to realize that in the past, I have let our budget determine my joy, which is really sad. I don't want to that anymore.

This year, our Christmas budget for the boys is really small. Like really really small. We don't normally buy them a lot of things anyway because they get a lot from everyone, and we try as hard as we can to stay free of consumerism/materialism; even though we always seem to fall into it a little every year. And sad to say, we don't do the thing where we save up all year, or even a few months in advance. Every year at Christmas I think man, we should have been saving all year long...but we're just not able to do that at this time. So, I've gotten the boys a few things and may get them a few more, but I am determined not to let our budget steal my joy this year.

Gifts are exciting. I know we always want to focus on giving instead of receiving, but who doesn't get excited when they open a present? I know I do. When we reference something exciting, we say "like a kid on Christmas morning." Seeing all the new things you have gotten is pretty exciting. Which got me thinking about our Christmas this year. We aren't able to get our kids mounds of gifts this year, so how can we, as a family, still keep the mystery and excitement in Christmas?

Of course Jesus is our main source of joy and excitement during this time of year (and all year). But kids don't always fully understand that. Heck, I don't even think I fully understand it. So, I had an idea. This year, instead of focusing on what the kids are getting, and instead of letting that be the main thing that gets them excited (which is what we've done in the past), I'm going to gear us more toward the things we do together as a family. We started a tradition of going to get frozen custard and looking at Christmas lights, but I want there to be more traditions, more memories. We may not always remember the gifts we receive, but we remember times spent with people, fun things we've done together. Those are the times that we cherish most. So, I looked online I found some inexpensive/frugal activities to do during Christmas time. Some people do an advent calendar which is kind of like this, but I'm not doing a calendar per se. We'll just do them randomly, not on certain days. Here are a few things I'm considering doing as a family and maybe doing with some of our friends:

  • The notorious cookie making/decorating. I think we've only tried this once, but we may make a bigger deal about it this year. We may invite our friends over for this one! 
  • Visit widows and nursing homes in my area. We did a Halloween parade at a couple of homes in October and it was so great. They enjoyed seeing the kiddos and the kids enjoyed the residents also. We may do this again for Christmas. 
  • Make homemade ornaments. I think we're going to start doing that every year and adding them to our tree. 
  • Collect your children's old crayons. Peel and place into Christmas candy molds. Place in pans of hot water to melt, or if the molds are heat resistant, melt at low setting in the microwave or oven. Cool and let your children create Christmas cards and pictures for others with their "new crayons."
  • Study how other cultures and countries celebrate Christmas. Try incorporating a foreign tradition into your celebration.
  • Invite the neighbors over for hot cocoa, coffee and cookies (Loooove this idea, plan on doing this one for sure)
  • Do something outside together on Christmas morning. If its snowing, have a play time in the snow. If its not snowing, we could do another outside activity. 
Christmas can be exciting and joy-filled even if we only get a few things, or even no things for Christmas. I truly hope all of you have a great holiday season. Make memories with your family and let's stop worrying about all the things we think they need! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

New discoveries

This is my niece...isn't she a beauty? Her picture has nothing to do with this post, but I took some photos of my sister's family for their Christmas card on Thanksgiving and this is one of them. I love this girl!

Anyway, on to the post. Next week I'm going to go back to my normal duties to delights challenges, I'm trying something new that I'm really excited about. This week I just thought I'd share some things that have helped me save money and provide healthier options for my family.

1. Baking our own bread. I do this for many reasons. a) its healthier. I know exactly what goes into my bread and there's not a billion ingredients or preservatives. b) its WAY yummier. If you'd ever have homemade bread, you'd never want to eat store bought again. c) its cheaper. Store-bought bread that is actually healthy is kind of expensive. But I have to admit, I don't bake our bread ALL all the time. I do it more often than not, and I really do enjoy it. And let me just encourage the non-Kitchenaid mixer people out there, and the non-bread machine havers out there also. I do not own a mixer of any kind (except a hand mixer), nor a bread machine. I do this all by hand and use my regular ole oven. Its a little harder, but I'm so used to it, so I don't mind it that much.

2. Making our own jam. Note: I am not great at this. In fact, I've never had a batch of jam actually turn out correctly, and I think I know why that is. It's always too runny, but it tastes pretty good, so we eat it anyway. The jam-making process is pretty easy itself, so I like doing this for us. Now if I could just get it to work right...

3. Using napkins and actual towels instead of paper towels. It cuts down on trash out-put and an extra expense in the budget.

4. Using reusable bags at the grocery store. The only hard part about this is remembering to take my bags into the store. I have gotten much better at this, and don't forget near as often as I used to. When we're done unloading the groceries, I usually put them right back in the car so they're there the next time I go shopping.

5. I shop mostly secondhand for clothes for myself and the kids. Believe it or not, you can find some really great, cute used clothes at the Goodwill and consignment shops. Try it!

Other things I've done recently and loved: making our own laundry detergent, cleaning with only vinegar and baking soda, making my own face wash, and homemade shampoo. All cost savers and way better than commercial products!

I love discovering new ways of doing things, if you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

Next week: Making my own homemade granola. A friend shared her awesome recipe, so I'll let you know how it turns out!

Disclaimer and Copyright

All information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Whether you try any of my methods or ideas is totally up to you. I am in no way saying you should do everything the way I do, every family is different and you should find out what's best for yours. I would, however, be delighted if you tried some new things in your own lives (whether be my ideas, your own, or someone else's), and shared it with me.

Also, you may use any of the content of this blog for your own personal use, but please do not take the ideas on my blog and claim them as your own. You may link back to my site with proper credit. This is much appreciated.

Helpful Sites

The Frugal Girl (frugality, repurposing, etc)

The Pioneer Woman (recipes)

MCP Actions (photography, PS/PSE actions)

Coffeeshop Blog (photography, digital design and PS freebies)

Digital Photography School (photography)