Monday, April 30, 2012

A long overdue DtD Challenge

Back in December (wow, has it really been that long???), I made a duties to delights challenge to myself to clean my laundry room. My laundry room is kind of the catch-all-throw-all-our-junk-there room. The junk just kept piling up and piling up and it got to the point where I was just literally throwing stuff in there. 

I don't recommend you do this. Ever. 

It became so overwhelming that I just gave up on trying to ever get it clean. I had my sister always encouraging me to get it organized, but I just never had the energy. 

Until one day I just did. I saw some tubs on sale at Walmart and I snagged about 6 or 7 of them. I finally got motivated and got to work. 

It took me a few weeks, but I'm happy to report that I can now walk through my laundry room, and you can even see the floor! It looks like this:

You have no idea how happy this makes me. While it's not spic and span, and I don't think it will ever be, just to be able to walk around in this room is a huge improvement. And it only took me 4 months, y'all. That's not a long time or anything, right? ;)

Please let this encourage you to get started on any house projects you've been putting off, because take it from me, putting things only makes it harder and more overwhelming. And it's just the right time for spring cleaning!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Salsa and menu post

Looking for a yummy addition to a wrap, or something to dip your quesadilla in? I just recently discovered this delicious salsa and I want to eat it with everything. It's Private Selection brand (from Kroger), I think it costed a little over $2 and it may be one of my new favorite store-bought salsas. Yes, I know that homemade salsas are better...especially my mother-in-law's salsa. But really, who has the time to make everything from scratch? 

Not me, unfortunately. I tend to stay away from store bought jarred foods because of all the preservatives and added unhealthy ingredients that I can never pronounce. This salsa has none of that! Just regular ole ingredients that I would use at home. 

Private Selection Tequila Tart Lime Flavor salsa
Ingredients: Diced tomatoes, water, jalapeno peppers, crushed tomatoes, dehydrated onions, lime juice, cilantro, granulated garlic, coriander, natural flavors. 
Serving size 2 tbsp: 15 calories per serving, 0 fat, 240g sodium

I am in love.

Now for our meals this week!


Having friends over for dinner, so I'm making a pork loin, mashed potatoes, green beans and homemade rolls

Steaks and baked potatoes


Homemade chicken tenders & veggies


Ham wraps and mac n cheese

Small sroup dinner night at Chick Fil A

Homemade pizza

Small group night, will take something

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Off-brands vs. name brands

Trying to figure out where to spend money and where to save it is difficult sometimes. I feel like a lot of times, we get tricked into thinking that the name brand thing is the best and everything else is crap. And while that is true in some cases, it’s not true in all. Marketing is deceitful, and mostly I’ve just done this by trial and error. Figuring out what brands work best for us, which ones to spend the money for the name-brand and where to save money with the off-brand. It’s a journey I’m still on, so I thought I’d share what products we’ve used off brand that we like, and the items to go name brand on. 

This could potentially be a very long list, so I'll probably need to do this in several posts.

I'll start with the off-brand first. Most of the time, we don't feel as secure about off-brands as we do about name brands. I am guilty of this myself. But when you're on a tight budget, you learn to cut corners where you can, and sometimes that means going with a less than popular brand.

Off-brand products to try:
Feminine Products: Those name brands are costly, people, and to be honest, the off-brands are just as good.

Contact solution: I've used the off-brand for so long. Ross and I tried the name brand Renu stuff recently (that is crazy expensive), and while I like it, I'm not sure I can even tell much of a difference. So, back to the off-brand we go!

Medicines: We use the off-brand for the kids' medicines and for ours. The only type of medicine we stay away from is medicine from the Dollar Tree, because I read that most of their stuff isn't FDA approved, which freaks me out a little.

Certain foods, like milk, oats, cheese, coffee creamer, yogurt, (*this list is noncomprehensive)

Baby formula: Some people can't do this due to their sensitive little one's tummies, or for many other reasons, but we were able to use the Target brand formula with Ezra and he was just fine.

Things to buy name brand:

Cereal: Have you ever tried off-brand Cheerios? Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch? So gross. No matter what, Great Value nor Kroger brand can get it right.

Deodarant: I've tried off-brand deodorant and it just doesn't work as well. Enough said.

Camera equipment: I'm a Canon girl, and nothing else will do. Love my Canon camera and lenses!

Razors: I personally use the off-brand, and while they are fine, they really don't work as well. Those name brand razors cost a pretty penny though!

Peanut butter: I am utterly in love with Jif Natural Peanut Butter and nothing else will even compare. I've even tried other "better" brands and the off-brands too. Nothing beats Jif Natural!

More later! What about you? What off-brands do you use?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The journey of the American Robin

Let me just start this post off by saying, I really don't care for birds. Some might even say I'm a little afraid of them. I've never had any sort of encounter that has left me with a forever fear-scar, I just don't like things flying around my head. And birds can be mean, y'all. I don't trust them at all! So, when we saw the beginnings of a nest forming on our back patio floodlight, I wanted to be rid of it. Ross wasn't too keen on the idea of birds making our back patio their home either. 

So what did he do? He moved the nest. Not once, not even twice, but 3 times. He threw it up on the roof, tried to tear it apart, but that mama robin was seriously determined to have her babies in our backyard. Then one day, we looked in there, ready to toss it again, and saw these:

Even though we're not fans of birds, we aren't completely heartless, so we left it there and decided we would just deal with whatever having bird babies in our backyard meant. 

We honestly weren't sure what that would mean. I envisioned a protective Mama bird dive bombing my children as they played joyfully outside. 

I envisioned chirping baby birds that wouldn't be quiet...ever.

I envisioned our dog (or possibly even cat) eating the poor thing if it ever fell out of the nest, or even when it flew out. 

But, much to our surprise, none of that happened. In fact, it took so long for the eggs to hatch, we thought they were duds. Until one day, I saw this:

The boys and I were outside playing when the mama bird flew over to the nest with food. I saw the little baby birds' heads shoot up with their mouths wide open waiting for that tasty morsel of worm or whatever it was that Mama had brought them. 

And instantly, my heart melted. It was funny, I was thinking about how birds are on my top 5 not-favorite-things-of-all-time, yet I had this instinct to protect them, to scare off other birds who were waiting prey-like for the Mama to fly off and leave her babies vulnerable. 

I was scared to get too close those first few days. I wondered if I got too close, would the Mama abandon them? So, I kept a close distance. 

But as they got bigger, I got more daring. 

The Mama lost one egg and I'm not really sure whatever happened to the second, but I only ever saw 2 babies in there. And it was so sweet, watching how well the Mom and Dad cared for them, protected them, and cleaned up after them. 

It made me think of God, who loves, protects and takes care of us. We are so helpless, so needy and dependent, like these bird babies, and He holds each and every one of us in the palm of His hand. 

10 days after I saw the first little newborn baby bird head pop up, they started standing up and flapping their wings. I knew it was getting close to time for them to fly out of the nest. The boys were playing outside yesterday afternoon and I looked out the window to see Fiona going after something in the yard, while the kids were watching. 

I automatically knew what was happening. I ran outside, ordered Fiona back in, and stooped down to see the first baby bird had flown (probably more like hovered) out and was now needing to learn how to fly. 

It hopped around the yard and found a safe hiding spot. I watched it for awhile and finally came in, but not without snapping a photo of the other bird enjoying some solitude in the nest for some time.

This guy knew it was his turn next. He flapped and flapped, trying to get the courage. Finally, as I walked out the back door later that afternoon, he flew out! 

I felt like a proud Mama! I had grown attached to these silly birds and even though I was a bit sad, I felt pride as this little one had finally grown up. 

Neither of them are in the yard anymore, so I assume they learned how to fly and are off learning how to be grown-up Robins. This experience was a first for me, and it was a neat one. Nature is always a fun thing to watch and be a part of. And to be honest, it made me introspective about my own parenting and how I need to teach my kiddos how to live in the world, just like this Mama robin is going to teach her babies how to live in the bird world. 

Now, off to teach my own little birds how to grow up and fly on their own. It's a tough job, but one worth doing well. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Homemade Icing and menu post

My husband isn't a big sweets lover. He likes candy, but cakes, cookies, brownies, none are really his thing. Except for strawberry cake. He does love a good strawberry cake. So every year on his birthday, I make him a strawberry cake, light the candles on it, and the boys and I sing Happy Birthday in our loud outside voices. 

Every year up until now, I have bought icing to put on the cake. In the past year for all cake-making celebrations,I've been making my own. So today, I got out the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla and got to work. 

I like making my own icing because even though its still not really healthy, even a little, it doesn't have all the preservatives, or any of the extra weird ingredients that I can't pronounce in it. That makes me very happy! Here is the cream cheese icing recipe I used. 

And here is our menu plan for the week!

Baked chicken legs, corn on the cob & fried green beans

Steak on the grill & baked potatoes (bumped)

Homemade pizza

Chicken wraps & mac n cheese

Small group dinner at Chick Fil A

Baked tilapia and veggies (using one of my new season veggie recipes, yeah!)

Group night, something easy

I am ready for some birthday cake!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New ways to season veggies

I am feeling very unmotivated today. When that happens, I usually try to inspire myself in whatever area I'm feeling unmotivated in. Lately, I've been unmotivated in my cooking, not really wanting to venture out and cook anything new. So, what do I do? I get cookbooks and look online to try to spark my interest of things that look good and want to try.

When I roast or steam my veggies, I usually do the same flavors. Salt, pepper, butter and garlic powder (or salt). It usually tastes good, but I long to do something different with them, I just never know what.

I've been looking through this One Pot Meal cookbook and in the back, they had some really great flavors to try with your roasted veggies. These are the ones I'm going to try:

1. Cardamom-butter - Before roasting, toss the veggies with 3 tsp melted butter, 1 tsp canola oil, 3/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp salt.

2. Garlic-Thyme - Before roasting, toss the veggies with 2 tbsp EVOO, 2 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried), 1/4 tsp each salt and ground pepper. About 5 minutes before the vegetables are done, stir in 1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic and continue roasting.

3. Maple - Before roasting, toss the veggies with 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, 1 tbsp melted butter, 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and ground pepper. (Never ever thought of using maple syrup on my veggies, Yum!)

4. Mediterranean - Before roasting, toss the veggies with 4 tsp EVOO, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/4 tsp salt. After roasting, toss with 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp dried oregano and 2 tsp capers (optional).

5. Spicy orange - Before roasting, toss the veggies with 4 tsp EVOO, the zest of 1 orange, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper. (This sounds delish!)

I have been wanting to use more zest in my recipes, and am pumped to try some in my veggie roasts!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alphabet photo challenge D!

D is for dirty! 
A storm rolled through last night, leaving quite a bit of puddles and mud in our backyard. Of course, true to boyhood form, my boys wanted to go out and play in it today. My only rule? "You can't throw the mud"...which was a rule given after they had thrown a ton of it all over the house, all over the back door and all in Ezra's hair.

After they came in and laid down, I thought, I should go get dirty too. Just a little. After all, can't a mama have a little fun in the mud? I haven't played in the mud since I was a kid. And while I didn't full on play in the mud, just stepping in it and letting it squish between my toes brought me back to my childhood and all the simple ways we used to have fun.

I definitely need a mood-lifter today, and doing that small thing did just that.

Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Recent Goodwill finds

I know I've talked about the Goodwill before, but I've never posted any of my finds from there. Most of the time when I go in, I walk out with something. There's always a cute, casual shirt or a fun colored cami that I don't mind spending $2 on (I just found a royal purple one, yay!). It's also a really great place to donate unwanted or unused items! I have taken numerous things there to rid my house of clutter. On my last few trips to Goodwill, I found a few great summery items.

A super comfy/cute green flowy shirt...

Comfy grey skirt from Charlotte Russe

Springy cardigans (I've also found a light green one and an orange one that I love)

And a few other items I didn't post as well. I always love it when I find a good deal on just about anything, but especially clothes. Clothes are so expensive these days!

Obviously I can't say enough about Goodwill, it's such a great organization. So everyone please shop, donate, and save a life!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Menu post

I realized as I made this week's menu that we're grilling out twice this next week. That makes me very happy! It's grilling season, so we're warming up our grill and eating some yummy meats (salmon on the grill is YUM). Actually, just about anything on the grill is yummy.

What are your favorite grilled entrees?

Menu week!

Burgers on the grill and fried green beans (bumped)

Homemade pizza

It's my nephew's birthday party, so we'll be celebrating with them

Something easy

Chicken, spinach, cheese quesadillas (bumped)

Steaks on the grill and baked potatoes

Small group night

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A natural coughing remedy

There are so many things to love about Springtime. The sun, things blooming, nice weather, but one thing I don’t like that is synonymous with Spring? Allergy and sinus season. Runny noses and nights of coughing seem to be the norm around here these days. As I type this, I too, and fighting sinusy sickness. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with relatively healthy children, but they are no strangers to sore throats and mounds of chest congestion.

When my boys get sick, they cough all night long. It’s hard for a mama to listen to her little ones cough and cough and not being able to do anything about it, not to mention, it’s impossible for them (or us) to get any rest! While I am not anti-medicine by any means, in fact, I am pro-medicine on lots of cases. However, I do try to limit the amount of meds that I give to myself and my boys. With the all night coughing going on, I had to figure out an alternative.

I stumbled upon a natural remedy site that had some helpful suggestions and I came up with this remedy:
honey  lemon juice water

Now, you know me. I don’t measure anything. But if I had to guess, I’d say to put 1 cup of honey, 3 tbsp lemon juice, and ¼ cup water. (Or you could do less, which is usually what I do).
Let me clarify a few things:

Honey: I buy local honey. It’s the only honey I use with this recipe (and with other things too). Local honey is supposedly helpful in fighting allergy/sinus problems, and it tastes way better than store-made honey. I suppose you could use raw honey also, but it is more pricey.

Lemon juice: I bet juice squeezed right from the lemon is best. As you saw from the picture, I use the lemon juice concentrate, mainly because it’s easier and I already had some on hand. I think either would work just fine.

I typically put all three ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over the stove until very warm and well blended. Then I just can it and put it in the fridge. When I am ready to give the boys a dose, I pour out a tablespoon, nuke in the microwave for 10ish seconds (just to a pretty warm state), stir and give it to them.

I usually also couple this with vicks on the chest and it does the trick every time. No coughing through the night! It also helps with breaking up all that yuckiness in their chests and noses.

Yay for natural remedies!

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Good Friday Post

This has been a rough morning. My kids’ attitudes have been just plain stinky, and we had to come home from our errands early because they just weren’t acting right. So, when we got home, I sent them to their rooms for awhile, explaining to them the reasons they were going to their rooms. But as I did that, I was reminded of how important it is to discipline gently and to extend love and grace to them as I correct them.

I always want my kids to feel loved and safe. Even when they do things that aren't good, I always want them to know I love them no matter what, in spite of what they do. So, I told them as I put them in their rooms that they were loved and accepted no matter what they did. “Mommy loves you no matter what.” Those words are powerful, but they didn’t come from me. Those words first came from Jesus.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” John 15:9 

Which led me to thinking about today, Good Friday, and what Jesus’s love for us really means. He loves us no matter what.“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for each other.” 1 John 3:16

When I think about this day and what it represents to me as a follower of Jesus (and I think about it a lot), sometimes I don’t quite know how to express how I feel about it. Some days the words/thoughts/feelings come and I am overflowing with gratitude. Other days I am stunned and awestruck at the cost, which leaves me speechless. 

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

It was a beautiful thing, what was done on the cross, but very costly. As I sit here today and reflect on this day, a few things go through my mind.

I am humbled.
I am moved.
I am shaken.
I am changed.
And I want it to change me more.

I pray often that I would love others (and especially my kids) as Jesus loves them. But do I really want that? Jesus endured a lot because of His love for us. He suffered, He died willingly for love. Will I be willing to do the same?

And I’m not just talking about physical dying either, although that is included. I’m talking about dying to my selfishness, pouring out my life to my kids and to others, living for others and not myself, caring about others’ joy. I know it will cost me a lot, a lot of my time, my energy, my everything. But, this is what I’m called to do. This is what I want to do. And I want to do it well.  

I just remembered that I was supposed to post about my laundry room, but we have been sickly this week and I just haven’t felt up to vacuuming and getting the last finishing touches done on cleaning it. So, it will have to wait til next week.

Hope your Good Friday is a blessed one!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tortillas and menu post

I try to make my foods at home as much as possible. I make my own bread, my own granola, my own muffins, and if I'm feeling super awesome (which is rarely ever), I will attempt to make my own jam. One thing I eat quite a bit of is tortilla wraps. But, the packaged ones are full of hydrogenated oils. I'm sure there is some packaged brand that doesn't have those things in it, but I can't see spending the moola that you have to spend to get the unprocessed stuff. So, I've been thinking about making my own tortillas at home. Has anyone done this? I'm wondering about the success rate of making them at home. It seems hard to store them, and what about making them soft? I've been thinking about doing THIS recipe, one I found on pinterest. I guess we'll see!

This is what we're eating this week:

Burgers on the grill and fried green beans

Grilled cheeses or turkey sandwiches; we're having a Good Friday service at church, so this needs to be an easy night

Homemade pizza as per usual

Easter egg hunt and cookout with our friends

Chick Fil A small group dinner night (or we may eat something easy at home, depends on the budget)

Chicken, spinach and cheese quesadillas

Small group night, will take something

Happy Wednesday, friends! Hope you are having an awesomely blessed Holy Week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cleaning! and Seventh Generation soap

This photo that I’ve seen on Pinterest always make me shake my head a little:
That is a ton of cleaning products!! I give kudos to the person who actually thought up this idea though. It’s super organized and a real space saver. And I have to admit, my cleaning cabinet used to look just like that. Well, not JUST like that. I am not near that organized. But in trying to reduce the amount of chemical I bring into my house, I stumbled upon some facts that made my life simpler, and cost me less money, which always makes me a happy woman!

I think I’ve mentioned these before, but they can always stand to be mentioned again. :)

Fact number one: Baking soda can clean just about anything. From toilets (I use it to clean my toilets every week), to glass oven tops (I use it to get all the cooked on nastiness from my stovetop), to cleaning out all that burnt food from inside the oven, to carpets (I haven’t used it in this aspect yet, but I plan to), to attacking the soap scum in the bathtub, in litter boxes or refrigerators (to help take the stank out), on clothes and stains, and even on my face (I use it with honey once a week to exfoliate and to clean all makeup off my face). It’s a handy little product to have. I always keep a large box of it in the cupboard in my house. Here are a ton of other uses for baking soda also.

Fact number two: Vinegar is fabulous. It smells really grody, but it sure can clean the crap out of my laminate floors, my toilet seats, and my counter tops. Don’t forget your windows too! (and I use apple cider vinegar as a toner on my face!)

Fact number three: Borax is pretty fabulous also. It (along with Fels Naptha and washing soda) makes my clothes squeaky clean!

No longer are the days of stinking up my house and clouding up my lungs with bleach. I hate the stuff. I’m glad to be done with it. And I’m done with buying tons of cleaners with toxic chemicals in them (including bleach). Woot for simplicity AND health!

Since I’m talking about cleaning, I wanted to give a shout out to my new Seventh Generation dish liquid soap. 

I just bought some (since it costs only .20 more than what my other dish soap costs) and I hope I will be satisfied!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kids and chores

One of my strongest desires as a mama of boys (who will one day be men) is to instill a really good, strong work ethic into my children. I want them to work hard when they are out on their own, rather than just doing enough to get by. I want them to be helpers, to serve others, to be the ones to step up and say “I’ll do it!” when there is a need for men workers. Men were made to be the workers, the providers, and I want them to be ambitious to do just that. Translation = I don’t want them to be lazy. I have come to the conclusion that teaching them about this is something that is learned over time, not something they can learn in just a few short years. And, like everything else, takes intentional training on my part, and my husband’s too, of course.

Now my 2 year old will help you do anything. His name (Ezra) actually means “helper”, and he lives up to that name, for sure. But Jude on the other hand, who just turned 4 in February, doesn’t like to work. It’s a chore just to get him to do anything. And it’s a battle that usually goes like this:
Me: “Jude, please pick up all the toys in your room and put them in the bins.”
Jude: “I don’t WANT to clean my room!!” (in that high, whiny voice that makes me want to plug my ears and run for the hills)
Thus begins a long, drawn out battle, which usually ends with a somewhat clean room, but one very exhausted Mama.

This sound familiar? Now, I’ve since learned that he gets overwhelmed by tasks that seem too big, like, picking up all the toys in his room. If I break it down, he will (sometimes) do it without fighting me every step of the way. But, other times, he simply doesn’t want to. And here enters the training part of this deal. I have to be intentional about this if I want my kids to be hard workers.

I have to admit, a lot of times I am tempted to just do the easy thing, and either not make them clean at all, or make it easier on them so they don’t have to do so much. Neither of these things are good, and even though I give in to this temptation from time to time, I have to remind myself of the goal here. Do I want to just do what’s easiest for me (and them), or do I want to do my part by putting in the work to try to develop strong character as best I can?

That’s a no-brainer, huh?

The man who married Ross and I (check him out HERE, he’s pretty awesome) has called it 7000 days of intentional parenting, from crib to college. I love this thought, this way of viewing it. I want to do just that. Have 7000ish days of intentional parenting with each of my children. Goh, that sounds like a lot of days, doesn’t it? It really isn’t, though. It goes by so quickly and we, as parents, don’t have that much time with them. Let’s make the time we have with them count!

Oh, right, I was talking about chores. In our house, the only chore I am consistent with is having Jude make his bed every day. That’s it, folks. They will help me pick up the living room when I ask them (which isn’t every day, I confess). But this tells me I need to be better about this. I really need to make them a chore chart. Anyone know where I can get a good one? Since my kiddos don’t read yet, that makes doing the chart thing a little more difficult. Maybe make chore cards with pictures on them? I don’t know, but I am thinking it through and getting a plan in place.

On my own chore issue, I did finally get my laundry room mostly clean and organized, yippee!! Stay tuned to hear about it on Friday!

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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.

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The Frugal Girl (frugality, repurposing, etc)

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Digital Photography School (photography)