Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory Monday- #8

We're slipping a little this month. We worked on the verse last week, but don't really KNOW it, like we do the previous set of six. This morning I was reviewing with Quinlan, and talking a bit about what it means. "For all have....what? What has everyone done?" He wasn't sure. "All have sinned. Everyone has sinned in their life." He didn't buy that, though "Nuh, uh! Not everyone!" I expressed my confusion. "Jesus never sinned!" He had me with that one!

Memorize This:
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 6:23

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Putting Christ in Christmas

There are many things we could be doing this month to celebrate Christ's birth. I have a few favorite books we use to guide our discussion. My all-time favorite is Lisa Whelchel's Adventure of Christmas. This book goes through many of our holiday traditions and explains how that came about and ties it to Christ.

A few years ago we made an Advent Wreath (from dollar store supplies), that's still holding up to our use of it. Each Sunday we light the candle(s) and talk about what that week stands for. This culminates on Christmas Eve when all four wreath candles, plus the center Christ candle are all lit. This year, we also have A Family Advent, but have not utilized it much, yet. What a great way to keep Jesus as the center of our focus this month!


This is the first year our kids have made a list of things they want. To keep the focus off of presents, we do not put the gifts under the tree until the week of Christmas. The gifts the kids buy/make for each other are wrapped and placed in their stockings, so those are also out of sight. We had a blessing in disguise while my husband was laid off, after we were first married. At that time, there was no money for presents under the tree. We had little ones that wouldn't remember, and had to be creative about the few gifts that made it into the stockings. Since that time, each child gets one present under the tree from Mom and Dad and a stocking full of goodies from siblings. It's so sweet to take them to a $1 aisle and have them ponder the gifts for each other, or watch as they make things, or even wrap up their own toys for each other. In this way, my hope is that the focus isn't on what they're getting, and spending hours staring at presents wondering. My hope is that they are thinking about what will bring a smile to someone else.

What do you do? What are your favorite resources to prepare your heart this season? How are you intentionally passing these things on to your kids?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Need to Order Christmas Cards?

Check out SeeHere.com and photo cards at a great price. This makes me want to expand my mailing list. I ordered mine before Thanksgiving, but these deal is incredible! Use the code 50cards to get 50 free cards. Pay only shipping (about $5). Or use the same code on 24 cards and pay about $2.50 in shipping.

This site also offers free shipping if you order more than 60 cards, so get the best deal by ordering 60, type in the code for 50 free cards and pay $4.90 for your order.

This deal is good through the December 12th.

Check out Freebies 4 Moms for other great deals, too.

Memory Monday- #7

With the Advent season upon us, there are so many good things to ponder. I've decided to continue working through our verse list. Check back tomorrow for some ideas on bringing Christ to the center of your celebrations.

Memorize This:
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." ~Romans 3:23

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memory Monday- Review

The discipline of memorizing verses is a great one. The focus and concentrated effort is good for our minds, hiding God's Word is good for our hearts...so many benefits. And it's been a lot easier to do than I had previously thought. Of course, having kids makes it easier. We're adding hand motions and singing. That's not how I memorized when I was in college :) but it's so much easier! 

It's also really easy to lose verses. How did that one start? What's next? I had that one! ...and now it's gone. We're working our way through a list that will take us just over a year. But after every six verses, I'm building in a review week. This way, God's Word is ever before us and we can be sure we really have it in our hearts and minds. Here's the list of verses we've worked on over the last six weeks. If you don't have them memorized, pick one and hide it in your heart. 


How do you review memory verses? Any tricks or games? 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daily Deals

There are so many tips and tricks to saving money and getting good deals. I've discovered that most of it is about being able to wait until the good deal comes along. Because it will. Eventually. We've purchased everything from Mac and Cheese to a van at a greatly reduced rates because we were able to wait for it to hit our price point. It's a little harder when something suddenly breaks, but even there at least one store will have that item on sale or you can find a floor model.

I troll daily deal websites. There are four I currently keep up with, so if you know of any more, please let me know! We've bought a few items- head phones, pull up bar, child's microscope- at great prices. When you see these deals, you have to be able to know something about the product, or be able to do a quick bit of research. They're only up until midnight! It's always better to pass on something you're unsure of. I've been keeping tabs on these sites for a couple of months, and the deal usually comes around again.

My most recent purchase was a Shark cordless sweeper. I HATE sweeping my kitchen, and this thing is great. Plus, the kids can do it- even my two year old! They fight over who "gets" to sweep, so I have to send them to vacuum other rooms with it, too. The reason I'm sharing this, is because it's the daily deal on 1saleaday.com again today. I do not make any money if you buy one. It's just such a good deal on a product I'm falling in love with. I had to pass it on!

Daily Deal Sites:
www.1saleaday.com
www.woot.com
www.tanga.com
www.groupon.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Memory Monday- #6

I'm so thankful that we have the Word. That here in the U.S. we can pull out our Bible's anytime and anywhere. Many places around the world are not able to do this in safety. Memorizing Scripture allows us to put these verses in our hearts and minds. It does help us now, but it will also help us if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we cannot have our Bibles openly.


Last week, I didn't have an opportunity to spend time reading the Word. I used to guffaw when I heard people say that, but now I'm a mom with five kids, and I've been sick to boot, so no more snickering from this corner! Anyways, I was running an errand in my husband's car with no stereo and the verses that we've memorized just cycled through my mind (in the song form I taught them to my kids!). What a great time I had mulling over those verses and really THINKING about what they meant. I do believe that I now understand what meditation is about a little better. 

This week is our family's sixth verse from the Topical Memory System
Memorize This:
Matthew 4:19
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (NIV, 2010)
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (NIV, 1984)
"And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (NASB)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas Photo Cards

Have you taken your family photo yet? The time is now here to get a great deal on your Christmas photo cards.

Go to www.seehere.com and upload your photos. Right now there is 50% off all of their photo products when you enter the code cards-39 and get free shipping on a purchase of 60 cards or more for a total of about $15. New accounts also get 25 free 4x8 cards when you use code 25cards, you'll have to pay about $5 shipping. You can only use one code per order, so determine what will work best for you.

Or go to www.vistaprints.com and turn your photo into a postcard. You'll save on shipping, too! Right now order 100 postcards for $17.50. These are often free, so get your cards ready and wait for the deal!
Update, I got an e-mail on 11-17, postcards are now free! Pay only shipping when you order 100 postcards.

I'm not sure how long these promotions will last, so get those pictures taken!

Memory Monday- #5

We've had a great couple of weeks singing our memory verses. How do you get these to stick?

Memorize this:
For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them. Matthew 18:20

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall Art and Science Lesson

This fall we had a great time when Grandma came down to do an art lesson with us. This one was started from the book "Leaf Man" by Lois Ehlert. Grandma read this book to the kids all snuggled up on the couch. Then came the science lesson.

We are lucky enough to live across the street from a park. They went on a nature walk and collected a bounty of leaves, petals, nuts, and other goodies. Conversation focused on which tree different leaves came from, the difference in the colors, and what would happen to that nut if it was planted.

Everyone came inside to warm up and that bounty was dumped on the kitchen table. Large pieces of art paper were handed around and the kids turned that bounty of fall foliage into beautiful works of art. One leaf man is holding a bouquet of flowers. One isn't a man, it's a leaf fish!

After a hearty lunch, we chose the greenest leaves to make leaf prints. Make sure you have something protecting your table, as this one can quickly get messy. The "veiny" side of the leaf was painted (don't use too much!) with an acrylic paint (although tempera would work as well) then pressed onto the paper. Different leaves in different colors to make a wonderful collage of leaves. After the paintings dried, they drew animals in their forests! Just like Henri Rousseau!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Memory Monday

know that it's hard to memorize verses, or at least we THINK it's hard to memorize. It's really not. How many songs do we know? How many lines can we quote from movies? How many definitions and other things have we learned for exams? When our pastor recently passed out a list of 60 verses that we could memorize, our family made the decision to memorize them. We're on our fourth verse, and I've decided to chronicle our journey through a weekly post called "Memory Monday." If you'd like to join us in our journey, check back every Monday for the new week's verse! (If you'd like to just get the list for yourself you can find it here.)

Recently, Eleanor (age 2.5) was saying "17...new creation...old has gone...new has come" over and over again (from 2 Cor 5:17, the first week) She doesn't have the first part of the verse, but if a two year old can do it, I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that we adults can do it, too!

Memorize This: 
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." 
~John 15:7

I'd love to hear/see how you chose to memorize this verse. Did you just repeat it over and over? Did you illustrate it with clip art? Did you add hand motions? Make a song of it? Share with us!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Singapore Math

There are three things that I think it's important to teach my children everyday- Bible, language, and math. I'm convinced that everything else is more about learning the process of learning than anything else. (I mean really, do you remember your 2nd grade social studies?) Math is an essential building block for many other subjects. It needs to be built upon gradually over time. Oh, the pressure to get it right!

There are so many math curriculum out there. Quite honestly, I chose this one because it was inexpensive. Prior to purchasing these books (again from a used curriculum website!), I made it up as I went along. I found a list of things that kids needed to know at different grade levels and worked through that. We could do more/less while playing with cars, we could do big/little while standing in line at the grocery store, we could do counting while setting the table. That's what I love about homeschooling- incorporating what they're learning into every day life. you can do this with a child who goes to a traditional school, too, as long as you know what material they are covering in class. It's the best way to learn- seeing how it plays out in real life. Eventually, we hit a point where I wanted to make sure I was covering everything and in an order that would help them later on, too. So, I found a Singapore Math text and have been using it as a teacher's guide. We still do the "daily life" math as before, I just have an organized plan behind it now!

However, my kids seem to like worksheets. (weird, huh?) So, I make those up on my own. Or buy a cheap workbook from Sam's Club. Or both. This summer we made counting sticks. We glued ten beans to a craft stick. Now we can practice counting by tens, learn about place value, etc. This year, my boys are starting in books 1A and 2A. Quinlan should be able to finish 1A before Christmas, and Zachary will work up to the multiplication section in 2A. We'll go through one sub-chapter each week, utilizing lots of games and manipulative ideas. We'll probably start some timed drills at their own levels in a few weeks.

My girls are learning math, too. Those cheap workbooks from Sam's Club come in handy, as do a number of free resources on the internet. Veronica (age 4) is learning simple addition and subtraction- both how to do it and how to write it. She's learning her shapes and calendar skills. Veronica loves having her own workbook, and how easily she can complete a page lets me know what we need to work on. If it's hard, we need to "play" more with that topic. Eleanor (age 2) is learning about counting and colors and shapes. Most of the math the girls are doing is learned through play. Each week I pick one thing to be intentional about. "Eleanor bring me a blue ball." and there we've just had a math lesson!

What math resources do you use and love? Have you ever used an abacus? I still don't know what that's all about. How can we moms incorporate math learning into our daily conversations with our children?

Internet Math Resources
Singapore Math
Hubbard's Cupboard
Free Math Worksheets
Right Start Math

Friday, August 13, 2010

Art Lessons

My idea of art is setting a box of crayons and some construction paper on the table. If we're going to be crazy, I might add a pair of scissors and a glue stick! But I don't want to deprive my kids of the wonderful art experience. I remember making fun projects in elementary school and being challenged in junior high. I start out with good intentions, and check out craft books from the library, but we don't often do any of the projects.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law used to be a preschool teacher. I think she's starting to miss it because this summer she suggested coming down and doing art lessons with the kids. Of course, I said yes! So, every couple of weeks, she will prepare a lesson on a particular artist and his/her style of art.

We started with Eric Carle, and oh, how fun it was! Check out the official Eric Carle website to see pictures of how he makes his art, to hear him read stories, and more. We modified his method a bit because painting tissue paper sounded way too messy! So, we used a newsprint style paper instead. We dug through drawers and boxes looking for fun objects to make texture with. Then we spent well over an hour painting. It got messy.

After a break for lunch, running around the block, and reading some of Eric Carle's books, most of the papers were dry enough to do the second phase of the project. This meant cutting shapes out of the painted paper and gluing them to some nice art paper to create our pictures. We also made a few cards, and have plenty of painted paper left to make a bazillion more!

And here's a shot of the kiddos with their final projects. Tools needed for this project: tempera paints, paint trays (we used egg crates), newsprint paper, brushes (sponge brushes, fat brushes, skinny brushes, whatever you have), objects to create texture/designs (serrated cake scrapers and potato mashers were fun), art paper/cardstock, scissors, glue sticks, and loads of patience. Also consider a table covering, paint shirts, and lots of paper towels. The end result could be simulated simply using construction paper or tissue paper on white cardstock. All in all, this was a pretty fun project. Grandma's a little worried than none of the other lessons will quite stack up to the fun of this one. But I think my kids are sufficiently art deprived, that they will be excited about anything! I would totally do this again. It was nice having another adult in the room, especially during clean up time, so I would probably invite another family to join us.

Are you art deficient like me? How do you teach art to your children? Have you ever done an Eric Carle- like project? What other variations on this theme can you think of?

Monday, August 9, 2010

First Language Lessons

We began our school year with language lessons. Not for any grand educational reasons, but solely because the book I use has all my lesson plans laid out, even telling me what to say. I've been meaning to work out the structure to the rest of the subjects, but July just got away from me. (Don't tell me that doesn't happen to you!)

I feel very poorly equipped to teach language to my children. I never really learned much about grammar and sentence structure. Literature and poem memorization wasn't part of my education. This was not something I felt adequate to making up on my own. I knew that I needed a text that would lay it all out, clearly and succinctly. Thankfully, a fellow homeschooling mom suggested this book, and we have fallen in love with it. I've been so excited about it that other moms have picked up a copy and are using it in their homes, too! The text that we are using is called First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. It appears that my copy of the text is out of stock on the publisher's website as they are now publishing each level separately. I was lucky enough to find mine on a used curriculum website for $10. It's been a great investment, and we're planning to continue in this series.

What I love about this text is that I have no prep work. That's right, none! Click the link to the Amazon page and you'll be able to see a few sample lessons. Everything is scripted for me, there's no need to think. :) An added benefit is that someone else can do these lessons with my kids, if I can't, and they don't need to think, either!

Copy work!
Right from day one, we are learning about the parts of a sentence and day two we start memorizing a poem! This book contains the first and second grade levels. So, both of my boys are using this book. The foundation for good grammar is being built, memorization and recitation is starting, dictation and copy work are begun in the first grade level and are more heavily emphasized in the second grade level.

My second grader has a composition notebook that he is using to record his copy work. He does not enjoy writing, but I'm glad for this opportunity to sit still and practice it. He usually chooses to lay on the floor for his writing, which really isn't best practice for his penmanship, but we'll worry about that later!

What resources do you utilize for teaching your children language skills? Do you do anything for penmanship? How about spelling? We don't do either of those right now, and I'm wondering what's out there.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Starting School

first day of school
As a homeschool family, we have the luxury of choosing our school calendar. I've been eager to start what I consider "structured school" for some time now. This summer has been full of fun activity, but my kids were starting to get that whiny "I'm bored" attitude. There was fighting and bickering and it was time to do something.

Oh, yeah, "structured school" is the stuff I plan out ahead of time. Things like reading and math lessons, science experiments, unit studies, that kind of thing. A lot of what we do that's not structured or planned could also count as school hours if I needed to keep track of them. Things like going to the library or zoo, baking cookies or doing chores, I can think of a way to make most anything count!

One thing I've learned is that jumping into the school schedule full bore does not work for me or the kids. We get tired, worn out, and crabby. So, I slowly add things in over a few weeks and hope that by the time we hit September we're actually doing everything on our full schedule. Take that ride with us. As we add each subject, I'll share what we're doing, the materials we're using, and the fun we're having.

Whether you homeschool or not, you're constantly teaching your children. Are you intentional about the things that you're passing on, or are you just hoping that things will turn out for the best? What kinds of things are you teaching them, how are you doing it. Please share!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm Back, and Ready to Blog

It's been awhile since I've posted anything on this blog. I've been thinking a lot about it and how this blog compares to others out there. There are so many great  blogs about saving money and I don't want to repost all that same information. I went back to my first post and thought about that for a bit. Saving money on groceries and other expenses is just one aspect of our approach to our finances. Yet, that's what I felt like I was focusing on, not just here on the blog, but in my life. I got burned out.

As I reread my first postings, my heart got excited again. We really have learned a lot about finances, more than just how to save money. Writing about each lesson learned just once, isn't really enough! I'm excited to examine my life for ways I can be incorporating those in more and sharing them with you. I'm excited to can tomatoes this fall and share my experiences with you. I'm excited to show you some great deals- the ones we run with, the ones we don't, and the logic behind our decisions. I'm excited to share our homeschool adventures with you, and how we manage to do that without spending a lot of money.

And I'm interested in the things that you're learning through your finances, the ways you're saving, the choices you're making. I'm interested in starting a conversation and providing a format where we can learn from each other. I'm interested in doing writing blog posts about things you're interested in learning about. So, leave a comment today, leave a comment everyday. Let us learn from one another and make the most of what we have.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Resource Review- restaurant.com

Today was my anniversary. I guess it still is, but the day is almost over. Eight years ago today we were getting our pictures taken at Sunken Gardens, pledging our lives to one another, eating a great meal, and dancing with our friends and family. It was a great day. (and I don't appear to have any of my wedding photos digitized, so enjoy this engagement pic!) We had a terrific honeymoon. We spend our week eating one meal out each day! Our hotel had an awesome breakfast and we decided to combine our lunch and dinner budget and eat at great restaurants every day. We won't be able to do something like that again for quite a while...now that we have five kids.

But we do make a point to have a date night a couple of times a month and we usually enjoy a dinner as part of our evening together. You may wonder how we manage to do that. Well, there's the mystery shopping. I try to get us some meals out for the cost of my time to fill out the survey afterwards. Most of our dinners are spent this way. Tonight we utilized a new favorite resource- restaurant.com.

Restaurant.com offers certificates to a number of restaurants at a discounted price. Usually you'd pay $10 for a $25 gift certificate. Last fall, we signed up for the dinner of the month club. Each month we receive a $25 gift certificate redeemable at any of the restaurants on the site. Some restrictions apply- gratuity is added, minimum purchase amounts, etc. The best part is, that I was able to use a promo code and bought our year's worth of dinner out for the low price of TWENTY-FOUR DOLLARS! And now, you can enjoy the same incredible savings. Enter the promo code ENJOY through May 13th, and you'll receive 80% off. Get your $25 gift certificates for only $2!!!

And peruse some other great tips at Works for Me Wednesday. Remember, you've got until Thursday to get a great deal on dinner!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Menu Plan Monday


One thing I've learned about dinner time is that if the meal takes a lot of work to prepare, I just don't want to do that clean up. And if it only takes a little bit of work to prepare, I still don't want to do the clean up! Today, I remembered that my skillet can go in the oven. I have one recipe that utilizes this feature- you brown you chicken in the skillet, add the other ingredients, then stick it in the oven. Do you think I can do this with any type of casserole I might make? What one-pot meals do you make? Even crock pot meals are great- as long as the crock pot is the only dish I have to clean up!

Monday- BBQ Pork Chops, Potato Salad, Green Salad
Tuesday- Date Night! Fried Rice for kiddos
Wednesday- Green Bean Casserole for small group dinner
Thursday- Burritoes
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Fried Rice and side dish for Cub Scout dinner
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night

Check out orgjunkie.com for more menu ideas this week.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Need Diapers?

This spring I started using diapers.com. I love it. I love that they have a referral program, I love that they offer discounts, I love that they have free shipping. Most of all, I love that I get my order in just a couple of days. It's great!

If you need diapers, sign up for an account and use my referral code (NETT4468). You'll receive $10 off your first order (of $49 or more) and $5 off your second order! You can even mail in your coupons for more savings! If you're already a diapers.com customer, use the Mother's Day code 5formom and receive $5 off your order.

I'll be stocking up on diapers this weekend, how about you? They also offer a variety of baby and children's products. So, if you're lucky enough to have all your kids out of diapers, check out their website and see if you can score a great deal on anything else right now!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is a Garden Really Worth It?

Spring is here, spring is here! I love being warm again. It's fun to see the flowers growing inches ever day and the bright colors can't help but make me feel more cheerful and optimistic. This spring we put in a small strawberry bed, but I have yet to put in any veggies.

I like to get the most bang out of the small space we have. Why plant potatoes when I can get them so cheaply all year round? I'm not going to put a watermelon plant in, because then that's all I'd have! Plus, I could probably buy one for less than the cost of watering it. We typically go for things like dark green lettuces, sugar snap peas, roma tomatoes, basil, and spinach. While it's not much of a variety, we can have a daily salad, make some salsa or tomato sauce and can it, and get some pesto in the freezer. I usually have extra peas to freeze, as well. These are the things my family eats that cost a bit more at the store, so it's worth my time and effort to grow them myself.

Last year, I found this great article from one person who kept track of their garden costs for one year to see if they had any savings over purchasing their food from the store. It's a great read and gets you thinking about what  you plant and why you plant it. Most gardeners aren't just doing it for the savings, but for those of us who are frugally minded, it's a great resource for helping you do a cost-analysis of your garden. In seeing where your money goes, you can make changes to save even more if you choose to.

What's going in your garden this year?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Resource Review- The Messies Manual

I picked up a bunch of books a couple of weeks ago. They were laying out on a table and said "free"... how could I refuse? I did leave some for others, but went back at the end of the time and grabbed a couple more. I sure do love books!

One of the books I snagged, was called "The Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping." I am definetly in a phase where I am trying to get my house under control. I really don't like stepping over things (you know- toys, books, folded laundry) and I don't like having to clean all the time. It's hard to have fun and enjoy my children when I'm constantly thinking about how much work there is to do. I'm learning that it needs to be streamlined and that there are ways to organize my home so that it is less prone to being messy.

I've also been thinking about how much stuff we have. We were able to visit Asia last summer, and it's really amazing how little people can live with. Here in the States, we think we need to have everything readily available. Think about how much stuff in your home just sits there, gathering dust. We have shelves full of books that are rarely read, closets full of clothes that don't even fit, kitchens full of appliances with purposes too specific to warrant the amount of space they take up. The list goes on and on! If I trust God to provide for me when we need it, I should be able to get rid of all the excess and let Him give us what we need. It's a hard concept! If only I could remember that when I give, it will come back to me.

Felton does a great job providing an overview of what causes us to be messy. She talks straight and helps us deal with the reasons we're holding on to our stuff and have a hard time getting rid of it. We all have neat, organized friends that we wish we could be like. She takes us in to the mind of Neat person and helps us learn the things that come so naturally to them. Little tips on how to organize our space more wisely and plan our time better. We don't need to spend all day cleaning to have a beautiful maintained home, and Felton shows you how.

This book was written in 1983, and there is an updated version available. I have not read this updated version, so I do not know where the differences lie between the two. Felton has spend the last thirty years teaching classes and writing books. I'm sure that anything that she has added will be well worth the read.

I now have a vision for clearning out my clutter. We don't need most of the stuff in our home, and it will be so much easier to manage if it's not here! I feel like I need a little jumpstart, though. I have decided to hire a teen or two to come and help me get things off on the right foot. Even having a friend come and take my children to the park would be extrememly helpfull!

What's one project you wish you could get a jumpstart on?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I've gone without a menu plan for a couple of weeks. I realized that I desperately need my menu plan! Some people say they like the freedom of choosing their dinners each night or wonder what they would do if they don't feel like eating what's on the schedule. I say, you'll feel like eating what's on the schedule if it's planned out for you and you have all the ingredients in the house! My grocery shopping has been pretty sporadic, which means I'm out of potatoes How could I be out of potatoes?!? It's hard deciding what meat to pull out of the freezer in the morning, hard to decide what to do with it in the afternoons, hard to make what I want with the ingredients we happen to have lying around. 

So, back to my menu plan! It will be so good to save my brain power this week for important things- like decluttering the kids' clothes and planning a field trip! I also discovered that without a plan I just wanted to go out and pick something up. I've decided to have a "busy day backup" of items quick and easy to prepare. Then, when I feel done in after a busy day it will be easier to pull that out than head to the grocery store for deli chicken! What kinds of meals do you keep on hand to save you a trip through the drive thru?

Monday- tuna casserole
Tuesday- roast, potatoes, carrots
Wednesday- fried rice
Thursday- tacoes
Friday- pizza night
Saturday- graduation party
Sunday- mother's day picnic
Back up- hotdogs, chips, fruit

That's my plan! Check out more plans on Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.org. What's on your menu this week?

Friday, April 30, 2010

and the winner is....

Congratulations to #5 Elisabeth! Your Jiffy Lube gift card will be arriving soon.

Giveaway

Only a couple more hours to enter the giveaway posted here! Enter for your chance to win a $35 Jiffy Lube gift card. I got mine this week. I'm glad because I'm really overdue for an oil change AND our AC needs to be recharged! A winner will be announced this afternoon. Enter now!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Resource Review- Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it

I love looking at cook books. Seeing all the pretty pictures of food. Thinking about what it would be like to eat that yummy food. But I rarely actually try a new recipe. We stick with our favorites and slight variations on them. If I do want to try a new recipe, I generally opt for the children's books! The recipes are easy to follow and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.

I've recently discovered a book entitiled "Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it" by Karen Solomon. The twelve chapters in this book will give you different methods of making your own foods and preserving them. Each recipe comes with very clear instructions, including the time involved for the project and prep ahead instructions. But not just recipes are included in this book. There are reference pages that will give you direction in how to can produce, how to smoke meat on your grill, and how to make your own cheese press!

The big question when starting on make it yourself project is if there is actually a cost savings. I've done some rough calculating before starting many projects and have discovered that the answer's not easy. Making something myself is generally less expensive than the comparable store-bought version, but more expensive than the cheaper products I tend to by. Bread for example. Making a yummy whole wheat bread myself is cheaper than purchasing a high-quality bread from store or bakery, but it is time consuming. However, I usually buy cheaper bread at a discount bread store, and that is much less expensive and less time consuming! Since the quality of that bread is fine, that's what I usually do! If you buy your products in bulk or on sale, that also reduces your home-making costs. Ultimately, I'll try just about anything once or twice, as long as there isn't a huge expense of equipment. And if it's fun and much better, we'll keep doing it!

Canning is a whole other ball-game. There's an initial expense in equipment (or you can try freecycle, which is how I got dozens of jars for free!) and using a large pasta pot will work for the water bath method while you're trying to figure it out. Canning produce from your garden or homemade jam is a great way to feed your garden goodies to your family throughout the year. It also makes great gifts. Think about it. Everyone would look at you funny if you gave your child's teacher a can of green beans as a Christmas gift. But if it's green beans you canned from your garden with a pretty bow on it, suddenly it's a great gift!

If you're looking for a book that will show you how to make marshmallows, or your own ravioli, I highly recommend "Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it." Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vehicle Maintenance and GIVEAWAY

Where do you get most of your savings? Do you count on your grocery budget to maximize your monthly savings? Or do you also shop thrift stores for clothes, buy floor models for appliances and furniture, and shut lights off when you're not in the room? All of these are great ways to save money. Another way to save money is by spending a little. It's true! Routine maintenance costs money. But we still wash our clothes and have our coats drycleaned. We spend money on putting in a garden bed because it's fun and we'll get yummy strawberries. And we need to give our vehicles proper maintenance, as well. 


Sometimes it irritates me to bring in the van for an oil change when there's nothing else wrong with it, but I know it's paying off in the long run because our eight year old van has over 100,000 miles and has never had any issues. Spending the money on an oil change a few times a year is much better than spending a LOT of money on a major repair. It saves a lot of stress associated with having our primary vehicle in the shop, too! Well, did you know that April is National Car Care Month? It is! And I should totally take our van in for it's over-due oil change.


That's why I was so excited when My Blog Spark and Shell Lubricants offered me a $35 Jiffy Lube gift card to get my oil changed. Apparently April is also National Informed Women Month. What do you know about your car? I for one, have never even popped the hood of our van! If we had a flat tire, I wouldn't even be able to tell a kind Samaritan stopping to help where the tire changing stuff is stored.


Well stop by www.motoroilmatters.com and take a little quiz to test your motor oil knowledge. (I scored 6 out of 7) While you're there take a look around learn something new about your car's oil. Come back and tell me about it, and you could win a $35 gift card too! That's right, I get to give away one free oil change to a lucky reader! Here's how you can enter (please post a SEPARATE comment for EACH entry)


1. Earn one entry for visiting the Motor Oil Matters website and learning something new. What misconception was laid to rest? What's something that surprised you? What did you learn?


2. Earn an extra entry for being a follower/subscriber to my blog (links on right-hand side of page)


3. Earn a third entry for blogging or posting this contest in another format, leave a link and let me know!


The winner will be selected at noon on April 30th. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Resource Review- House Works

Do you know how to clean your house, I mean really clean your house? Or are you and your family up to your eyeballs in piles of paper and heaps of toys? Do you roll your eyes at people who dust their ceiling fans because that is the least of your worries? Me too! I think I'm cleaning-impaired. I know I need help. I have loved utilizing the methods from Sink Reflections in my life and have seen some amount of success over the past couple of years.

House Works by Cyntia Ewer is a great resource for any home, but especially those who have trouble in the cleaning area. The brightly colored pictures inspire me to raise my standards. The before and after pictures of clutter areas help to see how it can be done. There are lists for things to include in your pantry and how long typical items are good for. My personal favorite is the step by step instructions for folding a fitted sheet! With pictures and everything!

Ms Ewer starts the book by examining different clutter personalities. Everyone has stuff that can't bare to get rid of, but do you know why you keep it in your house? I have learned that I am a combination of the hoarder and the perfectionist. Knowing this about myself and having some tips on how to combat my natural tendencies, I will hopefully be able to more thoroughly rid my home and life of the clutter. This first section includes tips for organizing your home, instruction on how to clean like a pro, and a chapter devoted to helping you maintain a structure for ensuring these jobs are done.

The second half of the book takes you through some of the biggies of our home- food, clothing, paperwork, and more. Everything starts with a plan. What is that you actual need and use? What's the best method for storing the items in your home? How do you keep it from becoming cluttered again? All of these questions are answered in a simple logical format. Each page is one tip or idea and makes it so easy to flip through the book and pick one thing to implement today.

I started reading this book last week and have been struck by one particular phrase. "Things should be harder to take out than they are to put away." This will revolutionize the way I think about storage. If it's difficult to take something out family members (especially kids) won't take it out unless they really want it. If it's easy to put away, then clean up is a snap! I'll be going through the kids' rooms and things and keeping this principle in mind as I reorganize their storage space. I'm thinking this will be a useful principle to apply to my desk space, as well!

Has the spring cleaning bug bitten you, yet? What's a space in your home that's a cleaning or organizational nightmare?

Mine is the kids' clothes. We have two dressers packed to the gills for the four kids, and no space for another dresser once the baby moves into their room. The closet is used for out of season, out of size clothing storage with some hanging space reserved for the girls' dresses. Any tips or suggestions for me?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

With spring comes sunshine and beautiful flowers. Open windows and a desire to clean. That's what I've been doing these past two weeks. How about you? I feel like I could be cleaning all day every day and not really make much progress. It takes almost all of my energy just to maintain our household, let alone add in some closet cleaning and pile dumping. But I'm tired of the clutter and ready to get it out of my house. And I wanted it done yesterday.

My kids are good helpers for a little while, but eventually they need their attention turned to something else. So, I'm stuck doing most of the work myself while my kids are playing and messing up a recently cleaned up bedroom. I'm reading a new book right now and a phrase keeps popping out at me: "It should be harder to take out than it is to put away." I'm trying to figure out what that means in my home. The example given is to use a tub for books instead of a shelf. Kids need to flip through the stack until the find one they want, then they just slide it back in when done. We have tubs for the kids toys- small ones for cars and wooden blocks and larger ones for kitchen toys and baby dolls. I thought that these were easy enough to put away. Maybe it's hard because they tend to use the blocks to make buildings and roads, then they each have a couple dozen cars and animals out as well. That's a big job to clean up no matter how easy the work is!

I love reading books about cleaning and organizing. My favorite so far has been Sink Reflections. I'm reading another one right now that's looking really good. What are your favorite resources for keeping your home in order? How does your spring cleaning system work? What jobs do you wish you had the time and energy to tackle?

Monday, April 5, 2010

DIY- Raised Garden Bed

While at Sam's Club recently, I saw a kit for making a raised bed garden. It was pretty sophisticated. It had built in trellis pieces that you could raise into place and a pump and sprayer for automatic watering. Even with all those extras, I would not be willing to pay the $150+ that it was priced at. The one without all the accessories was still close to $70. We built our own raised bed this week, and I took pictures just for the purpose of sharing with you! Our cost? A mere $25 for the wood and fill dirt. And a little bit of work for my husband. :)

Raised beds are great for small yards (like ours). Having an area contained for the garden also helps teach the younger children where they're not allowed to walk. The garden is clearly defined and it's not a nebulous line between yard and garden. First, pick a spot to put the garden. We already have one raised bed, and thought we would put the second near it. In fact, there's enough space to do three beds across the back of our lot by the alley, so we'll probably be adding another one next year. Our first bed is 4 ft by 4ft. We've utilized the square foot gardening method for this bed and have managed to have quite a nice salad and salsa garden. The second bed will be home to some transplanted strawberries. Make sure to call your local digging hotline before beginning any work. Expect them to take a week or so to come out and mark things.It's hard to see the flags in the pictures, but where we wanted to dig our garden is about a foot away from the lines.

Building your box is relatively easy. Go to the local lumber store and purchase some 8 foot boards of treated lumber. Saw in half and screw together. Now you've got a square!

Digging up the sod is probably the toughest part of the job. It takes some elbow grease for this part! Put your frame where you want your garden to be and mark out where you need to dig. We reused the orange flags to mark our corners! If it's good weed-free sod, it can be reused in your yard if you have any areas full of weeds to dig up. We have lots of "helpers" for this part of the job. They were mostly on worm rescue!

Once you have your sod out, it's time to put the box in place. Our spot was on a slight incline, so Greg pulled out his level and dug a little more. If the box is nice and level that means you'll have a good level planting area. Water won't pool in one corner or wash away your seedlings.

Next it's time to fill your garden with dirt. We filled ours with a top soil and compost mixture. The top soil was purchased at the store and the compost was free from the dump. Now is a good time to treat your soil if it has any special needs. You can see the stakes put at the corners of the first garden. During the growing season, we wrap chicken wire around the garden to keep the bunnies from eating my lettuce!

Now, you're ready to plant your garden! This box is home to about 20 transplanted strawberries. They've been living in a plastic sack all week. I hope they perk up soon. And I'm really looking forward to fresh strawberries this summer!

The finished product! Just a pile of compost we'll use to fertilize the yard and some sod scraps that we'll use to patch some weedy areas. Now it's time to dig through my seeds to determine what we'll be planting next month. Should I focus on salad or salsa this year?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shopping One Friday Morning

It was a beautiful morning in Nebraska. One mom and her five children decided to head to the stores. First it was Sam's Club. They climbed on top of the cans of tomato sauce. Ran into other people's cards. They hid behind posts. The lack of free samples gave her nothing to bribe her children with. Luckily, she had a few powdered donuts that had been leftovers at the previous day's MOPS meeting. "If you're good in Hy-Vee, a donut for each of you!" While this mom was digging through her coupons in the yogurt aisle, the kids were poking the eggs. While she was trying to figure out which pop was on sale, they almost knocked over a display of wine. She didn't even make it to frozen foods, instead deciding to check out and be done with it. While she piled the items on the belt, the kids rearranged the candy. Finally, she had enough, "Sit down with your backs on the wall and your hands on your knees." She had been hoping to fit one more store into their morning, but alas it would not be. Amazingly, the man bagging the groceries complimented the behavior of these naughty children of hers. As she paid her bill, she sighed, at least she had gotten some good deals!

HyVee does have some good deals this week. These are the ones I took advantage of. I'm so frazzled that I can't even tell you if these are weekend sale items, or they will be going through Tuesday. If you plan to hit the store on Saturday, you should get these same prices. My total for this transaction was $21.37. I had around 12 dollars in savings from coupons alone! How awesome is that?
4 Dr Pepper 12 packs 4/$10 w/coupon from circular
2 Russet Potatoes $1.18 for 5 lb 
2 Betty Crocker Potatoes 5/$5 used $1/2 MQ from Con Agra booklet
1 Wesson Canola Oil reduced to $2.99 used $1 off MQ from Con Agra booklet
1 Nestle Chocolate Chips at $1.69 with circular coupon also used $.75 coupon (from Nestle Baking Club?)
1 Yoplait Yogurt FREE w/MyBlogSpark coupon
1 Philidelphia Cream Cheese Minis FREE w/First Taste mailer
1 Bunch Celery $.58
1 C&H Sugar $1.88 w/circular coupon used $.50 MQ from online (not sure where I printed this)
2 Blue Bonnet Margarine $.77 each
2 Betty Crocker frosting tubs $.89 each used $1/2 MQ from Con Agra booklet

I hope I have a chance to get to Super Saver this afternoon. It might have to wait until Greg gets home, so we don't have a repeat of our frustrating morning! They have 4 pounds of strawberries for $4.98. Add that to the bananas and blueberries I picked up at Sam's and we'll be enjoying some cheap smoothies. I love spring! Any other good deals this weekend? Let me know!

We Have a Winner

Thanks all for entering the Yoplait giveaway. I got my free yogurt at the grocery store this morning, and wish that I could be the one to eat it. Alas, I got a cherry cobbler for Greg. We'll see how he likes it. The winner of the My Blog Spark Yoplait giveaway is comment number 6- Mrs Rohlf. Congratulations! Once I confirm your address, your package will be on it's way. Don't forget, you can get a coupon for Yoplait yogurt here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do It Yourself

I have a hard time spending money. Especially on things that I feel I should be able to do myself. Pay someone to install our new floor? No way! Someone to landscape my yard? My kids can dig a hole, and I can stick a flower in it! It's easy to see how one could save money by doing the bigger projects yourself, but what about the small things? How much money are you paying someone to do some easy, but time consuming tasks? You may not think there any, but if you look at your grocery list, I bet you can find a couple! It's easy to make refried beans and chicken stock for pennies. It's a fun family project to make and can salsa and pesto.

The types of projects I'm thinking about are the ones that women used to do more frequently, things that used to be considered common knowledge. The first time I made refried beans, or canned a jar of pickles, I spent hours at the computer or leafing through library books. It's tough to take the knowledge of the written word and transfer it into a kitchen or garden setting, at least for me! My favorite cookbooks are the ones for children because they include a picture for each step. I'm going to do that for you! I'm not a crafty or handy person, so I figure if I can do these projects, anybody can! On my list of projects to share with you this summer will be the following items. Most of these are ones that I do on a fairly regular basis:

how to can salsa (and other food items)
making refried beans
making a good broth or stock (chicken, beef, ham)
what to do with that broth or stock (soups and gravies)
building a raised bed garden
what's up with square foot gardening?
frosting- why buy a can?
cornbread from scratch
pizza dough in your mixer
baby food in your blender
my husband brought home a deer, now what?
grinding sausage
drying jerky
turn a can of tomato sauce into something edible (marinara, soup, pizza sauce)
blanching vegetables
dividing plants

I have spent the last couple of years figuring out how to do these things. It's been a struggle, and I'd love to share what I've learned with you, and see if you have any tips for me. I'm always up for trying something new, though, and would love to add to my list of things we make ourselves. What kinds of things do you wish you knew more about? Let's learn together! Leave a comment and I'll add it to my list. I'm looking forward to a great summer of working in my garden and reaping the harvest. Are you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Resource Review- Down Came the Rain

This week's resource has nothing to do with finances, or time management. At least not directly. But it's one that I think is important for all women to read, or at least be aware of the issue that it addresses. I'm recommending that you pick up a copy of Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields.

After baby number five was born, I was really struggling with my emotions. (You can read a little bit about my story here.) This book was recommended to me from two different sources. So I finally broke down and picked it up. Then I let it sit in my bag for a few days. It wasn't until after I had been to the doctor that I felt brave enough to give it a read. What I read was a story of excrutiating pain as Brooke describes her journey to first become pregnant and then to enjoy her mother hood.

She writes in such a way, that I now feel as if we're friends :) It's an easy read- I read the whole thing in one long afternoon. It can be emotional at times, as she describes the pain and emotions that she was feeling. She also does a really good job of explaining what her husband and close friends and family were seeing. It would be a good book to read so you can recognize the signs of post-partum depression not only in yourself but in a woman you love.

However, if you are currently struggling with post-partum, I hesitate in offering this as a resource for you. I read this book after I had been to the doctor. My fears had been confirmed and I was diagnosed and treated (read about my treatment here). Two days later as I was reading this book I kept thinking, "well maybe I'm not so bad, maybe I don't really have this." Can you believe it? part of the struggle is in the depression itself, you don't really think it's that bad. And even Brooke describes a very scary time when she took herself off of her medication. Another factor is that her depression was very acute and dramatic while mine was the weight of impending doom always hanging over me with a few moments of anxiety and a panic attack mixed in.

Understanding post-partum depression is important for women everywhere. Some of the new things I've learned is that it can hit at any time. While you're still pregnant, several months after giving birth, when you stop nursing...pretty much any time there's a potential for a hormonal imbalance! Get the knowledge you need to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Read this book about one woman's struggle and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Monday, March 29, 2010

School Time

A couple weeks ago I shared about our morning routine. I think that doing the same thing every morning has offered my children some stability. Every day looks a little different, but we try to start out the same. Here's a peek into our school time.

I found a great resource from World Book of what they should know at each grade level. I would love to be the kind of mom who could take that and teach my kids very naturally throughout the day. Unfortunately, I no longer have the brain power to be able to do that. There are plenty of resources out there, though, to help me teach my kids in a manner that fits us.

Reading/Language- I think it's pretty important for kids to learn how to read. Once they can read, they are able to find out anything they want to. But my boys hated sitting still long enough to get this very basic knowledge into them. I read a great book by Ruth Beechick (A Home Start in Reading) that helped me to see that reading is not the all there is. It's more important to teach kids about the world around them (science) and allow them to build a thirst for knowledge. Once I stopped pushing on the reading, things really improved.

Math- I am perfectly comfortable teaching my kids their math without needing a text. We do word problems in the van while running errands. We play counting and simple math games while setting the table. But math is so sequential that I was afraid I would miss something. So, we have a text, but it's more for me to see what they should be learning than it is for them to work from. I'm discovering that while my method is teaching them their math skills just fine, they don't really understand the written equation- we'll work on it :)

Each of these topics takes about ten minutes per child. Usually the kids are all playing on the floor. I'll call one over to me and we'll do a lesson from their book. Recently, Zachary's language lessons have involved drawing pictures of each season, so all the kids did that with him. Or I'll be working on patterns with Veronica, and the boys will want patterns, too. More often than not, I'm even folding laundry during this time, as well! It's pretty laid back, but I like the structure that the books we have chosen give us. For these lessons, there's little to nothing to prepare ahead of time. This makes it easy for Daddy or Grandma to do a lesson, as well.


Bible Study- We're always doing something different for this. Right now we have a Character Building curriculum that we're really enjoying. Sometimes we just read through a whole Bible. Other times our unit study is more Biblically based and we have a lot of projects that we're working on. Our favorite of all time was reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Unit Studies- What about everything else? Science, history, geography, etc. We have chosen to immerse ourselves in one topic at a time and study it from all angles. There are many great programs that offer unit studies. We are currently using Konos. The units are based on character traits and are multi-level. All the kids study the same thing at the same time. Many times during the school year we don't do this part and just check out stacks of library books. It serves the same purpose- to introduce the kids to a variety of topics and to enjoy the learning process. Using Konos is my way of being intentional about choosing the topics and projects and the other method is the kids picking out what they're interested in. Both are valid methods of teaching and we utilize them both.

Right now, Bible study and unit studies are done altogether. Crafts and science can be done by all the children- each to their own level of skill and understanding. Some things we've already covered twice and I anticipate covering them again. The baby needs to learn about Adam and Eve and how weather works, too!

Add in a little playtime and doing a couple chores and it's lunchtime! My how the day flies by. How do you structure your day? Do you do any structured activities with your kids?

Menu Plan Monday


I usually love having meals together with other families. Whether the menu is planned out, or it's just a regular ole' pot luck, I love them all. I love weddings and graduations parties. Pretty much anything that means I don't have to cook for my family. :)

One of the worst parts about not eating dairy because of baby is having to avoid food of all sorts that I have not cooked (and I barely trust that!). I don't know that I have a point to all this complaining, but it has certainly made me more conscious of the food issues that other people may have and has altered the foods I bring to events, even when I'm not nursing a baby. Now, when I have a brunch to attend, I bring a hot item that doesn't contain cheese. When it's my turn to bring snacks, I'm opting for fruit salads and peanut butter on celery sticks. And when we have a pot luck to attend, I bring along a sandwich.

This past weekend we went to a wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I kept wondering what would be served as the meal. It turns out that I could safely eat about half of it, so I was fine. (I had a granola bar along, just in case!) This summer is probably going to be filled with church potlucks and picnics since we are putting the finishing touches on a building and everyone is looking forward to doing that sort of thing. (I am not.) What do you do when attending an event where you know you won't be able to eat the food? Any tips for me?

Monday- Tuna Casserole (mine made separately without cheese)
Tuesday- Roast
Wednesday- Fried Rice
Thursday- Sausage and potatoes
Friday- Pizza Night (mine made without cheese)
Saturday- Leftovers
Easter Sunday- Dinner w/family

Check out more menus at orgjunkie.org

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yoplait Giveaway

March is almost over, how are you doing on your New Year's Resolution's? I didn't make any this year. I was a little busy with the new baby. :) But I have hit the point in post-pregnancy weight loss where I'm no longer losing weight quickly and easily. If I want to lose any more, I have to do something pro-active. 


That's why I was so excited when My Blog Spark and Yoplait offered to send me an "Outsmarting Temptation" gift pack plus a coupon for a free yogurt sample. I love the lunch tote that is included with this pack. It's so pretty I want to use it for more than just lunch! And the journal will be very helpful to track my eating habits. It gives me a place to record the foods I eat and it's nutritional content. 


I have to say that Yoplait has done a pretty good job with their yogurt's in the past, and their new flavors seem to be a great alternative to a sugary, fat-filled dessert. Red Velvet Cake and Blueberry Pie are two of the offerings on the menu. (Check out all flavors and get a $1 off coupon here.) Unfortunately, with baby's dislike of anything dairy, I won't be able to try these flavors any time soon. But my family is sure to like them!


I am pleased to announce that My Blog Spark and Yoplait have given me the opportunity to share a gift pack with one of my readers! One lucky winner will be selected at random. You will receive a Yoplait Light "Outsmarting Temptation" gift pack, which includes an insulated gourmet lunch tote, a food journal and a travel utensil set. 


Leave a comment as your submission along with a way for me to contact you. A winner will be announced at noon on April 2, and you will have 48 hours to respond with your mailing address. Leave a separate comment for each submission.


1, Leave a comment with what flavor of the new Yoplait Light you'd like to try.
2. Become a follower or subscriber and leave a comment letting me know. [How to become a follower: click the link on the right of the blog that says "follower" to follow using blogger. Click the link that says "subscribe to posts" to choose another reader.]


A winner has been announced!