Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Break

I am taking a short blogging break in order to enjoy Christmas and New Year's with my family and friends. I might have an update or two along the way but regular features will not return until after the new year. I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and that you remember Jesus is the reason why we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last Minute Gift: White Chocolate Popcorn

If you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift, white chocolate popcorn is about as easy as they come. I made packages of these for my son's Sunday School teachers and his babysitter. I put them in cellophane bags that can be bought at craft stores for about $1 for 50. Christmas tins work great too. To make them even more festive, feel free to add M&M's, red hots, or other colorful candies.

White Chocolate Popcorn

1 bag microwave popcorn, popped
1/2 lb white chocolate melting wafers (found at most craft stores)

Once popcorn has cooled, remove any unpopped kernels. Place in a large bowl. Melt chocolate in microwave, 10 seconds at a time. Be careful not to burn chocolate. Pour chocolate over popcorn, seal bowl, and shake until popcorn is cooled. Pour out onto waxed paper and let cool for about 30 minutes. Once cooled, break up large pieces and package.

* This works with almond bark too but the wafers melt better and have a stronger chocolate flavor.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Food Friday: Pizza Crust

It is pizza night in our house so I thought I would share our pizza crust recipe I use. This is for the bread machine and I found the recipe off of Recipezaar.com. This freezes beautifully so I make up several when I have time to keep in the freezer.

Pizza Crust

1 cup water, room temperature
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Layer in bread pan according to manufacturer's recommendations. Select 'dough' setting. When dough cycle is done, pat dough into greased 12x15 inch jelly roll pan. Prick dough with fork. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and add desired toppings. Baste crust edges with butter. Return to oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is done.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Every since our child was born, we have talked about the importance of keeping Christmas focused on Christ. I feel we have done a pretty good job but our child is just 2 1/2 so I think it is a bit early to tell. How have we done this?

Gifts. We've taken the focus off of gifts. The first thing he hears each season is about baby Jesus, not about what does he want on his wishlist. He still receives gifts and enjoys helping mommy shop for gifts, but that isn't the main focus.

Santa. Our child barely knows who Santa is and I'm ok with that. When he sees a picture of Santa he always asks who it is. When we went to visit Santa, he was scared to death even though we had talked about it ahead of time. We've tried to associate Santa with giving gifts and making people happy, not on receiving a bunch of gifts.

Books. Our child loves books so we bought him several Christmas books from the Christian book store. They all point back to the birth of Jesus. The best time to get books is after Christmas and they are usually 50-75% off. I buy a few each year so that he has new books the next time Christmas comes around.

We eventually want to add an advent calendar too but he doesn't quite get it yet. We know that as he gets older and has more worldly influences, Santa and other things will creep in more, but we hope having the early influence will help him keep Christ in Christmas.

Let me close with a cute story of the conversation my child and I had while reading the Christmas story this week:

We open to the page with Mary and Joseph in the stable holding baby Jesus

Me: Who is that?

S: Mommy, daddy, and me

Me: I thought that was Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus

S: No, mommy, daddy, and me - and Papaw's cow

We then turn the page and there is one angel on the page - he proceeds to say that is daddy. I turn the next page and there are five angels. He informs me they are all mommy.

I think we have some work to do on setting him straight but it makes for a great story to tell him when he is older.

What are you doing to keep Christ in Christmas? Feel free to share in the comments section or leave a link to your blog post on this topic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Christmas Cards

Ever wonder what to do with Christmas cards once the season is over? I turn them into gift tags. Simply cut around the pretty pictures and you have a unique gift tag. You can tape them onto packages or punch a hole and tie them onto gift bags.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dave Ramsey Sale

Dave Ramsey has his books and CD's on sale for $10 through Sunday. To find some great Christmas presents for friends and family, click here. I'm a huge Dave Ramsey fan and can thank him for my emergency fund that has gotten us through this past year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Food Friday: Baked Eggs

Sorry for the delay in getting Food Friday up - it has been a crazy day around here as I'm babysitting my nieces at the last minute. It has been fun to play with them though so no complaints here.

Today's recipe came from a friend many years ago who is a Weight Watchers leader. I always look forward to her recipes because I know they will be healthy and delicious. This recipe serves one, but feel free to make it as large as you need it. My husband does not like veggies so I usually make this when I know he will not be home for dinner. I make at least enough for two though so I can have leftovers the next day. The options are endless for this recipe but my favorites are to use cabbage, broccoli, and onions and I prefer the cottage cheese over the ricotta.

Nancy's Baked Eggs

1 cup cut up vegetables - ex. zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomato, cabbage, etc.
1 large egg, beaten slightly
2 Tbsp fat-free ricotta or cottage cheese
2 Tbsp mozzarella cheese

Prepare baking dish with Pam, use a small dish for 1-2 servings and an 8x8 or 11x7 for 3-4 servings. Slice and cut up vegetables, spread in bottom of baking dish. Mix egg and ricotta or cottage cheese together, pour over vegetables. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake another 5 minutes or until egg is done. Top with salsa for added flavor. This makes a great meal with light toast, fat free hashbrowns made in a nonstick skillet, and fresh fruit.

Points for casserole only: 3.5 per serving

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Christmas Decorations

Looking for a new idea for Christmas decorations? I love the wreath above that is made using old ties. This idea and picture came from the latest edition of Good Housekeeping and can be found online also. What a great way to use up old ties and have a unique decoration too.

Another idea for Christmas decorations is to find a large vase or bowl and fill it with bulb ornaments. It looks expensive but costs pennies when using items you have around the house. For added flair, add some pine swags to the table or in the vase. I've been told you can pick these up for free from places that sell live Christmas trees. My mom bought bulbs that cannot break and keeps them in a bowl on her coffee table. It looks nice for company and then when the grandkids come, it makes a fun toy. They spend quite a bit of time taking the bulbs in and out of the bowl.

What are some fun ideas you have seen or used to create inexpensive Christmas decorations? Feel free to share your idea or blog link in the comments section.

Book Review: Success is a Given

Many of us are undergoing change in our life due to many factors such as layoffs, children, aging parents, etc. This book is a great example of how to be successful while reinventing yourself. Marlene is a friend I met through a professional organization I attend. She started out working the line at Kraft Foods and left to be a successful motivational speaker. Her story is inspiring. This book would make a great Christmas present for anyone going through a change in their life. It also is a good book to help with those New Year's resolutions so many of us make. Visit Successisagiven.com to purchase this book today.

Marlene is hosting her national launch today and if you buy today, you will receive over $10,000 worth of free bonus downloads to help inspire you during your reinvention. Her site is linked with Amazon.com so your purchase is secure.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I apologize for being absent for the past week or so. Life got in the way while I was dealing with morning sickness and way too many commitments (most not holiday related). I realized a few things while feeling stressed out last week though and that is the need to simplify life. In the blogging world, I'm trying not to get stressed out if I can't post as often as I want, don't have time to drop Entrecards everyday, or find myself staying away from Twitter because I know it will eat my time. I've also learned a lot over the past year about simplifying my everyday life but I will share some of that in a later post. Today, I'm going to talk about simplifying Christmas.

Be realistic. Do not try to take on more than you can chew at the holidays and realize it is ok to say no. I've had years I was so busy I could hardly see straight and that was just not fun. It may be too late to get out of a few commitments this year but make a mental list of how you can change things next year.

Cut down on the decorations. I love to decorate my house for Christmas but it has gotten out of hand. I always put up my decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving. I got my upstairs tree up and a few other things this year and then came down with two migraines in two days. Having a horribly busy week last week meant I was never able to touch the decorations again. My plan today is to finish putting them up but only the items I really like. I'm not going to stress about getting every single item up.

Keep presents within reason.
So many parents have gotten out of hand with gifts for their kids. Children do not need a ton of items, many are happy with a simple cardboard box. Our child is only getting 3-4 gifts this year from us and I think that is plenty. I'm also not worrying about getting a gift for every person I have ever met.

Bake less. I love to bake and look forward to it every holiday but I always take on more than I have time for. This year, I can hardly stand to be near a kitchen thanks to morning sickness. I miss my baking but I'm also learning life goes on without it. My child has asked to cut out sugar cookies so I will probably buy some pre-made dough and make Christmas cookies with him sometime this week. If I can stomach it, I will make a few loaves of pumpkin bread, but that is probably the extent of my cooking this holiday season.

What are some practical ways you can simplfy the Christmas season? Trust me when I say, you will enjoy the holidays so much more when you simplify.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Food Friday: Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

These are super easy to make and are great because you assemble them ahead of time. I made these when I had company over for Black Friday. When I got up at the crack of dawn, I turned the oven on and by the time I was ready for the morning, breakfast was done. This recipe comes from a friend at MOPS who brought this one day and we all thought she had spent hours making us homemade cinnamon rolls.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

1 package Rhoades frozen cinnamon rolls (12 count)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup vanilla ice cream

Place frozen rolls in a 13x9 pan. Combine brown sugar, white sugar, butter, and ice cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour sauce over frozen rolls and place in oven overnight (no heat). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Frost with icing that comes with cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Paper Sacks

Need quick and cheap wrapping paper this holiday season? Use paper grocery sacks instead of buying paper. Simply cut open the sack and wrap your gift using the non-printed side. You can tie with a nice bow or decorate the paper. If you have kids, have them color the paper. If you are in to crafting, stamp or use scrapbook leftovers to embellish the paper. You will have unique wrapping paper and it didn't cost a dime.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Morning Sickness Ideas Needed

I'm now dealing with full time morning sickness and I could use some help from my readers. With my last child, as long as I ate once an hour, I was ok. With this one, I'm pretty much sick 24/7 and food sometimes helps. This week I can't stand anything sweet and cooking doesn't go so well. I'm asking you guys for some quick and easy ideas for dinners and snacks. I know many of you have been through this before so feel free to give direct links to your blog.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I made up a few snacks and cooked up several batches of meat anticipating that morning sickness would kick in. Unfortunately, I didn't cook nearly enough as I've just about run out of everything.

I noticed that Money Saving Mom increased her grocery budget during the first trimester to help out with her inability to deal with food. I've had to slightly increase ours too as I'm looking at more quick prep meals and occasional fast food. Any other ideas are greatly appreciated.

Thank you for all of the comments and links - I look forward to them all. I will be back with more money saving articles this week once I figure out how to settle my stomach a little.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday and Other Ramblings

I did not forget Food Friday this week, it just didn't happen. We had a house full of people until after dinnertime on Friday and then shortly after they left I came down with a migraine. I got another one about lunchtime today so it has been fun around here. Lucky me, I get migraines when I'm pregnant. Some people have them completely go away but I go from two a year to about one a week.

On to better things. Did anyone get out for Black Friday yesterday? I did and guess what I bought? - a new digital camera. You guys can now stop listening to me complain about my dying camera. I've taken several pictures with the new camera but due to the migraines, I haven't had time to download the software and figure out how to get the pics onto my computer. I hope to do that within the next few days though. My camera came from Walmart. My husband and his brother-in-law came with me to fight the madness. We arrived at 4:30 and the sale started at 5. We all found what we wanted but then it took an hour to check out. After that we hit a few more sales and then were home by mid-morning. I've been saving for a camera for ages and this was under budget so I'm excited.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Week of Thanks: My House

I am thankful for the large home God has given us. As you read this, I have a house full of company. All of my husband's family moves to my house after Thanksgiving dinner so we can spend the weekend shopping. I'm thankful God gave us a house large enough to entertain. We've been able to accommodate many people throughout the years and that makes me happy. My husband and I have the gift of hospitality so we are always ready at a moment's notice to welcome people into our house. After our flood and not being able to use large parts of our house for months, we realized just how thankful we are for our house. God has given us a huge blessing in our house and we want to use it for Him.

What are you thankful for? I hope you have taken a few moments this week to give thanks for the blessings in your life.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Back During the Holidays

We spend so much time thinking about ourselves during the holidays that many people forget to give back. For some, this isn't a problem, but for others it is. Although we cannot afford to give like we would like to, here are a few ways we are giving back to our community during the holidays.

Food: I've been picking up free and close to free items at the grocery store each week. Our church is collecting food all this month for a local food pantry so I've been donating each week. There have been several articles lately about how food pantry's are seeing more clients and less donors. Take time to go through your stockpile and see what you can donate.

Time: It does not cost a thing to give a little of your time. Some of you have the tradition of serving a meal during the holidays to those less fortunate. Others have the tradition of helping others. When I was in high school, our youth group would adopt the elderly in our church and help them decorate their place for Christmas. Find ways you can help your neighbors during this holiday season.

Baking: I love to bake but I don't like consuming all those calories by myself. During the holidays I will bake something and randomly give it to friends, family, and co-workers. It puts a smile on their face to see home baked goods, especially when they weren't expecting it. This is not part of their Christmas present, it is simply a random act of kindness.

These are just a few simple ideas of how I give back. There are many more ideas out there, especially in the random acts of kindness category, but I hope this gets you started thinking about how you are going to give back.

How are you giving back during the holidays? Feel free to leave a comment or post a link telling us how you give back.

A Week of Thanks: Church

I am thankful for a incredible church and the freedom to worship in it. I have several friends who are missionaries around the world and they are not able to openly worship. Hearing their stories makes me so thankful for the wonderful services we have each week and the opportunity to corporately worship.

What are you thankful for? Feel free to leave a comment or a blog link.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Thanksgiving Leftovers

I had planned to do a post on Thanksgiving leftovers for my Waste Less Wednesday feature this week but I opened my reader Tuesday morning and found this post from beingfrugal.net. Lynnae and her readers have some great ideas on how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. I invite you to check out her blog post and add your thoughts there too.

A Week of Thanks: Seasons

I love the season changes and here in MO we usually experience them all. Summer is my favorite season because I love the sun and wearing flip-flops. I'm thankful for the time I get to spend outside with my child during the summer and the many memories that are made.

I'm thankful for fall for the beautiful leaves. I stand in awe of the beauty God has created when I see the leaves changing.

Winter is my least favorite season but I am thankful for the beauty of a fresh snow. I'm also thankful that I get to spend more time cuddling my husband and son during these cold months.

Finally, there is spring. It feels like life is beginning again each year when spring rolls around and the flowers start popping up. I am thankful for my garden and the time I am able to spend working in it. My son loves to play in the dirt and it is great to spend time gardening with him.

What are you thankful for? Feel free to leave a comment or grab my button and post what you are thankful for on your blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Week of Thanks: Food

So many times we take for granted the simple things in life. I've never had to worry where my next meal is coming from but many people in the world do. I'm thankful that I have plenty of food. There was an article in our local paper last week how a group of social workers participated in a simulation on homelessness. As part of it, they visited a soup kitchen where they were given one small bowl of soup, one roll, and a small cup of iced tea. Many said they would starve if this was all they had to live on. This immediately made me think about how thankful I am that I don't have to worry about my next meal or if it will be large enough.

Take time today to give thanks for some of the things you usually take for granted.

Feel free to grab my button and participate in A Week of Thanks on your blog.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Week of Thanks: Family

I am thankful for my family. Both my immediate family and my extended family. My family has been a huge help over this past year of living on part time income. They have been both financial and emotional support to us.

I am lucky enough to have three whole days without my child this week (he is staying at my in-laws with all of his cousins) and I am really missing him. Times apart make me appreciate him that much more.

Finally, I'm thankful that our family is about to grow. Yes, you read that right - I am pregnant! We are a bit scared about affording the child but we know this child is from God and He will take care of the details. I am due in July.

What are you thankful for? Feel free to grab my button and join me in A Week of Thanks on your blog. Leave a comment below with the link.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Week of Thanks

Starting Monday, I will be posting one thing a day that I am thankful for. Obviously, there are plenty more than a week's worth, but I think it is good to pick out a few things every now and then and remember how thankful we are for them. We spend too much time getting ready for the holidays but we forget why we are really celebrating them. Feel free to join me in A Week of Thanks by posting a comment or a blog link as to what you are thankful for. You are also welcome to grab the button above to use on your blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baby Samples


Click on the Huggies box above to sign up for free samples, coupons, and newsletters. With my first child, I signed up for every baby company I could find and I received great coupons and samples throughout the first year. I'm still receiving great coupons from Huggies except they are now for Pull-Ups. These coupons are higher value than I usually find anywhere else.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Food Friday: Crockpot Apples

This is an easy way to have a yummy side dish or dessert when company is visiting. I've also brought it to potlucks too. When making it for a crowd, I usually double the recipe. It makes a great ice cream or pancake topping too. It can be a bit messy to clean up the crockpot so I suggest a crockpot liner if you have them. It makes cleanup a breeze so you can enjoy more time with your company.

Crockpot "Fried" Apples

3 lbs tart apples, sliced, cored, and peeled
1 tsp cinnamon
1 dash ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup sugar
2-3 Tbsp butter, sliced into a few thin pieces

Put first 5 ingredients in your crockpot and stir well to coat the apples with the spices. Dot with butter. Cook on low about 4 hours, stirring once during cooking. This should have the consistency of apple pie filling when it is done. Temperatures vary on crockpots so adjust time accordingly.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black Friday

Are you heading out on Black Friday? What are your plans for the day?

I will be out sometime that day, but I have no idea when or where. I have two Black Friday strategies and it depends on which family I am celebrating Thanksgiving with that year.

This year I will be at my in-laws for Thanksgiving. They live an hour and a half away in a very small town and we are the closest shopping hub. Sometime Thanksgiving night or Friday morning, everyone heads to our house. I've learned that the years I spend with my husband's side of the family that my strategy is to go with the flow. I make no plans and do not read the ads ahead of time as I will get frustrated. Luckily, I am almost done Christmas shopping this year so there is nothing that I need to rush out and get.

My strategy when I'm celebrating with my family is different. My parents live minutes from my house so my mom and I get up at the crack of dawn and hit the mall. We have found over the years that the mall has some incredible buys early in the morning, but no one is there because they are at places like Best Buy and Target. We get some great buys without fighting the crowds. By mid-morning we are done and head to any other stores away from the mall we want to hit. We try to be done by noon and then meet all the guys for lunch. Sometimes we go back out early evening once the crowds have died down a bit. A few times I have fought the crowds at the big box stores but I rarely need the items they have on sale.

My husband did get out one year at 4:30 am to buy a TV at Best Buy. We knew what we wanted and our price range at this fit perfectly. We quickly learned we should have researched the brand first. After hours of trying to get a universal remote to work, we discovered it is rare to get one to work with this brand. Then, a few of the pixels went out. Then, the picture started getting a bit fuzzy. We took the TV back and vowed never to buy a Black Friday item by price alone - we will research brands before we head out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hallmark Greeting Card Contest


Have you ever wanted to create your own creating card? Hallmark is having a contest to create a Mother's Day or Father's Day card. Click on the button above to enter this fun contest.

Waste Less Wednesday: Clothes/Toys

Is your closet full of clothes you never wear? Do your kids have too many toys but are sick of them? Then it is time to organize a swap. I find it works better if you pick one category for a swap as it can get crazy when people bring half of their house. A swap is a great way to receive new items without spending a dime. It also helps the environment because items are being reused. And, it cleans out the clutter in your house.

If trading clothes, it helps to invite friends who are similar in size to you. There are many ways to organize a swap so go with what works best for you. I like for everyone to display their items in an area and then have the guests go around the room and pick out what they want. The rule is that you cannot take more than you brought. Of course, if there are several items left at the end, this rule can be bent a little. Anything that is not claimed can then be donated to a local charity.

To make it even more fun, serve snack food and beverages. Once the swap is done, it is fun to see what everyone picked out. This makes a great girls night out too.

Have you organized a swap before? If so, please leave a comment and share about it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pillsbury Newsletter

Sign up for the Pillsbury newsletter today and receive a book packed with $10 in coupons. Our family uses Pillsbury crescent rolls and biscuits often and you can find great deals combining coupons with sales so sign up today. With the holidays here, the newsletter will be packed with yummy recipes that can be made very quickly.

Operation Christmas Child

This week is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. If you have never heard of Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child, I invite you to check out their website. The concept is to fill a box with items for children from another country who would not otherwise receive Christmas gifts and Samaritan's Purse will deliver them. The video they produce each year is touching and makes me want to keep on giving.

Our family always fills at least one box and sometimes many more. We shop sales all year long so that the child can receive some great gifts without it breaking the bank. This year, we found a cute shorts outfit for less than $3 at the K-Mart end of the season sale. We found some fun Cars items at the dollar store and train at Target. I've also included toothpaste, a toothbrush, and soap - all bought free by combining sales and coupons. Finally, we put in a few prepackaged food items. If you are filling a box, remember that nothing that looks like a weapon or any items that could leak are allowed.

If you would like to fill a box, check out the website to find a drop off location near you. My church is collecting boxes this Sunday, as are many around the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coupon Winners

The winners of the coupons according to random.org are:

The eBay Coach

I do not have a way to contact you Letty so if you see this, please email me by Monday evening with your name and address. In case a winner does not notify me, a new one will be chosen. Thank you to everyone who entered. I discovered some great new blogs through this contest!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giveaway Ends Tomorrow

In case you have not had a chance to enter my coupon giveaway, here is your friendly reminder that the contest ends tomorrow. I will be at a women's conference most of the day on Saturday so the winner will be announced either Saturday night or Sunday sometime.

Food Friday: Chicken & Dumplings

I first discovered this recipe when searching for comfort food last year. It was a cold day and my husband was wanting something like this but he did not like any of the recipes I had on hand. Since then it has become a staple in our winter menus and he even had me make a big batch to send to work with him one day. When cooking for just the three of us, I cut this recipe in half but still use the full can of biscuits as we like a lot of dumplings.

Caroline's Quick Chicken and Dumplings
From RecipeZaar -
Recipe #50495



1. In a large pot, bring first 5 ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat; stir often.

2. Separate each biscuit in half, making 2 rounds per biscuit.
3. Cut each round in half.
4. Drop biscuit pieces, 1 at a time, into boiling broth mixture; stir.
5. Place cover on pot, turn heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 to 30 minutes or until dumplings are desired doneness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Christmas Decorations

When do you begin decorating for Christmas? If it was up to me, I would be starting this weekend. My husband throws a fit if anything is up before Thanksgiving though so it will have to wait.

I'm trying to pare down my decorations, but I love Christmas so this is hard. I normally put up 2 large trees and one small tree. The small one is my baking tree and my ornaments are about to overtake the tree. I started this one two years ago since I love to cook and my family has taken off with the idea. I would like to convert this to a pencil tree but that probably won't happen for awhile as our monkey is into everything these days.

Our upstairs tree is super simple but oh so beautiful. When we were first married, I decorated the tree and put it in the front window. It put me in the Christmas mood every night when I would drive home and see it shining in my front window. When I was pregnant with our son, my husband was working about 4 hours away. It was too much for me to put everything up so I simply put up the pre-lit tree - no decorations on it. It was such a beautiful tree that it didn't need anything else. Since then, I've not hung ornaments on the tree. Some years I put garland on it but that is it. The tree has since been moved to a corner in my kitchen but it is still beautiful where it is.

The final tree goes in our basement. I put all of the ornaments I have collected since I was a little child on it. My mom would buy us at least one ornament every year for Christmas. It was great when I moved out because I had some decorations for my first tree. It is fun to go through the memories each year as I unpack each ornament.

I have several other decorations that I put out each year but I would say my next favorite item is my nativity collection. I put them on the mantle above my fireplace. I have one large set and several smaller ones. Jesus is the reason for the season so I feel it is important to display that somewhere. Some years, my trees and nativity collection are all that make it out of the box. Before a toddler, I got everything out, but I would rather it be safe in the box now instead of broken in two seconds flat.

What are your favorite decorations and how are you keeping things more simple this year? Feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Food

It is so easy to buy something when it is on sale at the store and then forget to use it. This week I suggest you waste less by going through your pantry, fridge, and freezer and seeing what needs to be used up. The easiest way to use up those strange ingredients is in a stir fry, soup, or quiche. All three are very forgiving and allow for a wide range of ingredients. If this is overwhelming to you, pick one area and go through it or pick one day a week and vow to only eat from your pantry. You will be amazed at what you can come up with thanks to those random ingredients you find.

Have you found a great recipe because you were wanting to use up random ingredients in your house? If so, leave me a comment or a link.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Very Full Freezer

Our Christmas present of 1/4 of a beef arrived this weekend. Above is a picture of our very full freezer. The middle shelf is beef only and there are various steaks and roasts tucked in on all of the other shelves. It took some work, but we were able to fit it all in. It was kind of fun eating out of my freezer for a few months trying to make room for the meat. I plan on taking at least one week each month and only eating things in our pantry or freezer. I used to do this but stopped for some unknown reason. It really helps the budget by only buying fruit/veggies and milk one week a month.

By the way, don't forget to enter my coupon giveaway below.
I'm giving away two sets!

Monday, November 10, 2008

100th Post Giveaway

Last week, I promised a giveaway in honor of my 100th post and here it is. This is for some high value coupons and I have two sets to giveaway. Here is what you will receive:

3 Chex Mix bars coupons - $1.50 off each, expires 2/25/09
3 Pillsbury pizza crust coupons - $1.110 off each, expires 2/25/09
2 Starkist coupons - buy one, get one free, expires 12/31/08
3 Redbox codes - expires 12/31/08

If you are wondering how I received these great coupons, I suggest checking out Vocalpoint and Psst. These great communities give you products and high value coupons to try out and pass out to friends.

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave me a comment. If you would like more entries, subscribe to my blog in a reader and/or post this on your blog. For each task that you complete, leave a separate comment. Contest ends on Saturday morning at 9 am CST.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

BBQ Beef

This is a great meal for company because it is cooked in the crockpot. I usually make the sauce the night before and then stick everything in of a morning. It would be a wonderful meal to have after a hard day of Christmas shopping since it will already be done. I've also taken this to a Super Bowl party and the guys loved it.

BBQ Beef

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon-style mustard (I've used regular yellow mustard)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 (approx. 4 lb) boneless chuck roast (works great with a pork roast too)

In a large bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place chuck roast in a slow cooker, pour ketchup mixture over roast. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Remove roast from slow cooker, shred with fork and return to slow cooker. Stir meat to evenly coat with sauce and continue cooking approx. one hour (I usually only cook until my side dishes are done).

Friday, November 7, 2008


Did anyone happen to notice the new banner on the side of this blog? I'm now selling Tupperware. You can visit my Tupperware site at anytime to buy directly from me. I know it seems weird to be selling things when I'm trying to teach you how to live on less, but Tupperware can help you live on less. Their items come with a lifetime warranty and are "safe" plastic. I used to buy the cheapy plastic containers at the store and then complain that they didn't hold up well. A few years ago I started slowly replacing those with Tupperware. I save money by not having to replace my items every year or so. Now is a great time to buy since the holidays are coming up and there are some great things on sale. Please note that my site just went live and I plan on tweaking it in the days to come but feel free to stop on by at anytime. If you have any questions about a product or how to become a consultant, feel free to shoot me an email.

Food Friday: Overnight French Toast Casserole

This is a great casserole for company because it can be assembled ahead and baked the next morning. It is also a very economical way to serve guests a fun meal.

Overnight French Toast Casserole

1/2 cup butter or margarine
12 slices white bread
1 cup brown sugar (I usually only use 2/3 cup)
1 tsp cinnamon
5-6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk

Melt margarine in a 9 x 13 baking pan. Put 6 slices of bread in bottom of pan. In a bowl, mix 1 cup brown sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/2 of this mixture over bread. Add another layer of 6 slices of bread. In a bowl, whisk eggs with milk until well blended. Pour over bread layers. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 15 minutes or until set and browned.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I was baking a casserole for MOPS the other day and quickly realized I had forgot to buy the hashbrowns. In my moment of panic, I hopped on the internet and searched for recipes for hashbrowns. I'm not sure why I've been wasting my money on store bought hashbrowns all of these years because they are super simple to make. I made a few extra that morning so my husband and son could have some for breakfast. A few days later my super picky husband asked me to make them again. If he asks for something again, that means it has to be good because he very rarely ever wants me to make a new recipe again.

Hash Browns

onions or onion powder (optional)

I did not put quantities because you can adjust for the number of people you are serving. Start by heating a pan with oil (you can adjust the amount to fit your tastes and dietary needs). Next, peel potatoes and grate them. Mix with salt, pepper, and onion (if desired). Add mixture to hot pan (either as single serve patties or as one large serving) and cook until desired doneness, stirring as needed.

I made a batch with onion powder and one without and he approved of both (not knowing there was onion powder in one). My husband detests onions so I did not even try to use a real onion in them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Minute To Move It

McDonald's is celebrating the release of Madagascar 2 by hosting One Minute To Move It. Beginning this Friday, visit http://www.happymeal.com/ to find great ways you and your family can "move it". The goal is to spend one minute moving it and hopefully this will lead to fun activities for your family.

Since my child loves Madagascar and gets excited everytime he sees the commercial, I plan on participating. He loves to groove to the music so I think our first one minute activity will be dancing. This promotion runs through Nov. 19 so we might try to find an activity a day. I'm sure at least one of those will be playing chase in our hallway. Our child loves to run up and down the hall and it is even more exciting when mom and dad participate.

How will you participate? If you post a link at The Mom Salon you might even win the entire set of McDonald's toys for Madagascar 2, along with a $20 Arch card.

Mexican Orange-Cornmeal Sandies

I first discovered this recipe in high school when I had to create something from another country for a geography class. I found this in a women's magazine such as Good Housekeeping (I can't remember exactly which one). It quickly became a tradition for me to make these and my friends would request it, along with my pumpkin bread, every year. I stopped making these when my child was born but I plan to make them again in the future. They do take a bit of time but they are fun to make with friends or family and they are absolutely delicious.

Mexican Orange-Cornmeal Sandies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
1 tsp orange extract
1/4 ground walnuts
6 oz. chocolate melting wafers

1. Combine flour, cornmeal, salt and soda in a bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugar in a medium-size bowl until creamy and smooth. Beat in egg yolks, rind, and extract until fluffy. Stir in flour mixture and walnuts. Divide dough in half, flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

4. On lightly floured surface, roll half of dough 1/4 inch thick. With floured 3 1/2 inch round or star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out dough. If using rounds, cut each round in half. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Bake in 350 degree oven about 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on wire rack.

6. Melt chocolate in small saucepan (or double boiler) over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from heat and dip cookies into chocolate. Place cookies on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Let stand until chocolate hardens, approximately 1 hour. Freeze or store at room temperture.

**This recipe makes 30 cookies if using stars or approximately 60 if using half rounds. I've only made these as rounds and I only dip the round part, leaving the flat side without chocolate.
**If kept covered, these will last a long time (assuming they are not immediately gobbled up!).

One Year

One year ago today, my husband's job loss took effect. We actually learned about it 13 months ago today, but they gave him a month before it took effect. We've had several ups and downs over that past year, but we are surviving by the grace of God.

In that time we have grown much closer as a family, learned how to have frugal fun and how to decrease grocery costs. My husband has gone back to college and we are paying for it in cash. He only has 9 classes to go before he has his B.S. We have worked every odd job we can find and have only had to dip into our emergency fund twice. Some months we were actually able to put a little in the fund so we are about even.

Although it has been a tough year, we have learned a lot and we've grown closer to God. We pray it is not another year, but we are leaving that in God's hands. I want to share the chorus to a song that has come to mean a lot to me over this past year. This is from I Am Blessed by Rachael Lampa.

I am blessed,
I am blessed,
From when I rise up in the morning,
'Till I lay my head to rest,
And I feel you near me,
You sooth me when I'm weary.
Oh, Lord,For all the worst and all the best,
I am blessed.

By this way, this is my 100th post. I will be hosting a giveaway next week in honor, but for now, I want to reflect on the blessings of our past year.

Waste Less Wednesday: Food Containers

Have you ever wondered what to do with empty food containers such as cake mix boxes and egg cartons? Give them to your child to play with. You can give them to your child as is and play kitchen or grocery store. If you want to get more adventurous, wrap the containers in different colors and use as blocks. This teaches your child about stacking, colors, and counting. Empty food containers can make great educational toys for your child.

If you do not have a child, the boxes are great to wrap presents in. One year at Christmas, I ran out of small boxes so I used a cake mix box. Everyone thought it was creative and then started paying more attention to what I wrapped things in. It helps the environment by reusing common items and it makes for a great conversation piece.

Have you found any other uses for empty food containers? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Taco Soup

This is one of my favorite soups when it is cold outside. I usually serve it Thanksgiving weekend and/or Christmas Eve when we are looking to an alternative to turkey.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 (14.5 oz) can beef broth
1 (14.5 oz) can peeled diced tomatoes w/garlic & oregano (I use whatever I have on hand)
1 1/2 tomato cans of water
1 (15 oz) can ranch style beans, undrained
1 (8 oz) can whole kernel corn, undrained (again, I use whatever size I have on hand)
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (can leave out if you prefer it more mild)
1/2 tsp ground oregano
salt to taste
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup uncooked small pasta shells
grate cheddar or monterey jack cheese for garnish

In a large pot, brown meat. Drain fat. Mix everything together except pasta and cheese. Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes. Add pasta and continue to simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Add more water to adjust consistency, if desired. Garnish with cheese.

Vote (And Then Enjoy Some Freebies)

I'm sure you are sick of hearing this by now but here is your friendly reminder to get out and vote today. Once you are done, there are several freebies being offered for voting. It only took me about 30 minutes this morning and I was planning on longer so on my way to work I stopped by to get two of the freebies. First, I stopped at the Starbucks down the street from the polling place and received my free tall cup of coffee. Next, I stopped by Krispy Kreme (it is on my way to work) and received a free star shaped donut with sprinkles. I'm sitting here enjoying both as I type. If you have to take a child with you to vote (I saw a few there), a donut would make a nice bribe (I mean reward).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christmas Came Early

Guess what I'm doing right now? I'm setting up my new laptop!!! My parents gave us an early Christmas present by helping us out with it. It is so nice to now be able to save passwords and download things. I was not able to do either with my husband's work computer. I'm grateful we had it though. Our computer friend is stopping by tomorrow to help us recover important files off our old hard drive. We think the fan went out on the old laptop and that the power supply was connected to the fan. Our friend said it would cost more to fix that than to buy a new computer. I'm hoping to have everything fully running by the end of the week. For now, I'm just playing around and setting up the computer to my liking.

Baked Fruit

Today's recipe can be used for just about any meal of the day or for a fun snack. I was first introduced to this recipe at a brunch but I could easily see it served at other meals.

Baked Fruit

1 can (16 oz) chunk peaches, drained
1 can (16 oz.) chunk pears, drained
1 can (16 oz.) chunk pineapple, drained
2 medium bananas, sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix fruit, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Place in a casserole dish (I used 9 x 13 but it would easily fit in something smaller) and top with slices of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Week of Recipes


On Monday, Modern Mommyhood is featuring Christmas recipes as part of her 12 Days of Christmas. In honor of this (and because I'm in a serious cooking mood), I'm going to feature a recipe a day for the next week. Come back Monday through Saturday for a new recipe each day.

If you are looking for ways to save money on your holiday cooking, I suggest signing up for The Grocery Game. This wonderful service will teach you how to combine coupons with sales in order to save a bundle on groceries. If you do sign up, my referral email is light52b at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Food Friday: Pumpkin Bread

I'm not sure where my mom found this recipe, but it is a Christmas tradition around my house. Two years in a row my office gave it out to our vendors as Christmas presents. Both of those years I baked over 40 loaves. It was insane to bake that many but it was fun too. I normally start making these sometime in October and freeze them as I go. My Christmas present of beef is arriving next week so I have not begun baking them this year as I need the freezer space.

This recipe makes two medium sized loaves but you can use a variety of sizes, just adjust the baking time. Many times I make one large loaf and several smaller ones. Wrapped in plastic wrap and topped with a pretty bow, this makes a great Christmas present.

Pumpkin Bread

3 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 cups canned pumpkin (1 can)
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Mix eggs and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

How Well Do You Know Your States

If you are bored, go here for a fun game where you place all of the states in their correct place. Being years since I've been in school, this was a fun refresher game for me. For those who homeschool, this could be a great way for the kids to learn geography of the United States.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Electricity

I normally focus on an actual item that can be reused but this week we are going to talk about reducing the electricity bill by using less of it. Each day, we waste energy without even realizing it but here are a few very easy ways to waste less:

Turn the thermostat down: I know you have heard this one before but it still amazes me how many times I hear "that won't work in my house". The easiest way to change this is to drop the thermostat one degree each week. Because it is such a small change, most people will never notice. We keep our heat on 69, but I'm trying to get it a little lower. If you are cold, simply put another layer on or grab a blanket and snuggle with your significant other. The same theory works in the summer by turning up the A/C one degree at a time. We keep it on 78 most of the summer.

Unplug appliances: When we began living on less a year ago, the first thing I did was go through the house and unplug everything that was not necessary. It still drives my husband crazy that he has to plug in the toaster every time he wants to use it, but it is saving us money. Appliances still use energy when plugged in, even if they are not turned on. Most appliances these days have lights, clocks, etc and those take electricity too.

Turn out the lights: We are lucky in that we live in a house with a lot of natural light. Many days, I never turn on the lights until it gets dark outside. If you are not so lucky, feel free to turn on the lights but turn them off as soon as you leave the room. I make it a habit to turn off all lights when not in use and now my 2 year old is doing the same thing. It amazes me that he has picked up on this but I'm glad he is learning now instead of having to reprogram him later.

Use a fan: In the summer, we wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C and use ceiling fans instead. It really cuts down on our electricity bill. I've been told to turn the fan on in the opposite direction during the winter in order to pull the air up. It is just now getting cold here so I plan on trying that in the near future.

Using these tips, and many others, we have significantly lowered our utility bill. In our area, gas, electric, water, and sewer all come on one bill. Our babysitter lives down the street in a very similar house to ours. She was ecstatic over the nice weather because it dropped her bill to just under $300. Our bill for the same time period was $102. A few changes do make a difference!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free Chex Mix Bar


Sign up for the Betty Crocker newsletter and receive a free Chex Mix bar. I've tried these new bars and they are a yummy treat. This is a great way to try something new for free and get a useful newsletter with recipes and coupons.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Always Back Up Your Computer

My computer is officially toast. We were able to get power to it for awhile this weekend, but not very long. The fan went out and there is a weak connection where the power supply plugs in. Please let this serve as a reminder to back up your computer often. We hadn't in awhile and now I'm scrambling to replace those documents. When I get a new computer, I plan on backing up more often by placing a reminder on my calendar. We are going to take the computer to one of our computer geek friends and see if they can take the hard drive out and put it in another computer so we can get our information off.

In the meantime, I'm using my husband's work computer. It makes me appreciate my computer that much more. He isn't allowed to save any passwords or download anything on this computer. It is driving me crazy that there is no tab feature on his Internet Explorer and that I have to type in every single password. I am grateful for a backup computer though so I can't complain too much. We hope to have a new computer sometime in the next few week's. My parents offered to help us out by applying our Christmas money towards the computer. I will miss opening presents under the tree, but I'm glad we don't have to dip further into savings for our computer.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Can The Flood Please Stop?

I think I can safely say that my "when it rains, it pours" posts have turned into a flood. My laptop just died. I'm using my husband's work computer to get things done. The computer will work for a few seconds and then it will say there is no battery power. The battery barely works but the computer is plugged in. For some reason, it will not recognize that it is plugged in for more than about five minutes. I'm looking right now to see how much a replacement power supply is but I'm thinking it is time to replace the whole thing since we have had one problem after another with computer. For the record, I'm no longer a fan of Compaq. Our computer is 2 1/2 years old and should have lasted much longer.

To top off this fun time of everything expensive dying, my son has been a holy terror today. He finally just crashed for a nap - on the couch. I'm grateful for the nap, but I really need him in his bed. I was planning on cooking during naptime because my parents are coming over for dinner. The kitchen is right next to the living room so this will not work. After trying to move him three times, I finally gave up.

On the positive side, my husband was off work yesterday and he thoroughly cleaned the house. I came home from work to a very nice looking house.

Food Friday: Apple Bars

I was searching for some main dish recipes on the internet this past Saturday and came across this amazing recipe. Of course, it isn't a main dish, but that didn't stop me from trying them. I was planning on making cookies that afternoon but as soon as I realized I had the ingredients, these bars quickly replaced the cookies. They will be gooey when done but they are delicious. Warning, it is hard not to eat the entire pan.

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

2 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice (I left this out since I didn't have any)
small pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 apples, cored and diced (a little less than 2 cups)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Whisk to combine well and set aside.

In a bowl from stand mixer, combine sugars and butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about one minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine. Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined. Fold in apples.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar. Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving (bars will be very soft and gooey).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Family Traditions

Many families have long standing traditions during the holidays and ours used to until I became married. My brother happened to get married 7 weeks later so the two of us really messed up the holiday traditions in our family. Since we both have our own families now, we are working on new traditions. Our biggest tradition, pre-family, was to go to my grandparents for Christmas and then have a huge family gathering the afternoon of Christmas.

The biggest change came from my husband's side. His family alternates on which holiday they celebrate each year - Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year we will be celebrating on Thanksgiving, which means I need to get cracking on my shopping for his family. I kind of like this tradition because then we do not have to figure out how to visit both families each year.

Another tradition we do is to get together with several of our friends. Since college, I have hosted a Christmas party for my friends every year. Ok, a few times someone else hosted, but I helped organize the annual event. I started this tradition because many of my friends were spread out across the country for college. Many of them still are, but we all try to get together every year. If someone can not make it, we give them a call during the party. It has evolved over the years from going out to a nice dinner to now having a potluck and watching the kids play. A couple of years ago we added a secret santa aspect to it.

I heard a great tradition this week from one of our MOPS mentor moms. The kids dress up in their PJ's and they all drive around town looking at Christmas lights. Afterwards, they go to Krispy Kreme for a yummy treat. My child loves lights so I'm thinking of doing something similar this year.

I also hope to include him in my marathon baking sessions. Some years I bake a ton, and some years just a little. Last year I bought ready made cookie dough and let him cut out cookies. He loved it and the cookie dough saved me the mess of making it homemade (I wasn't in the mood to clean up the flour that would have been thrown throughout the kitchen).

What are your family traditions and how have they evolved over the years? Feel free to leave a comment.

Vacuum Update

The vacuum is dead - it was not the belt. In fact, the belt was in perfectly good condition. I saw a Dyson on Craigslist last night for next to nothing (comparable to a new Dyson) and was very tempted to buy it but it is still way out of our budget. For now, I will get my exercise lugging my basement one up and down the stairs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours Part 2

My vacuum just died. It has been sounding awful for awhile but as you know, we are on a super tight budget so we've just been praying it would limp by until my husband has a full time job. I was cleaning the couch and it died. My house smells like burnt rubber so I'm going to check and see if it was simply a belt but I'm thinking it was more. Of course, my little monkey will not go down for a nap so I check it. If all else fails, I have another that I use in the basement and I will lug it upstairs everytime I need it. I'm appreciating the new flooring that much more right now because it is less rooms I have to clean with the vacuum.

Waste Less Wednesday: Chicken

For those of you new to this blog, each week I take one common item from around the house and show you how to reuse it in order to be more frugal and green.

This week's feature is on chicken. Many times, I've cooked chicken to put in a casserole and had some leftover or we've had chicken for dinner and none of us could finish it. I've also been known to buy rotisserie chickens when they are discounted in order to have ready cooked meat. Instead of letting the chicken go to waste, here are a few ideas on how to reuse it.

Soup: Precooked chicken is a super easy way to add protein to just about any soup. Sometimes I gather all of the stray chicken and veggie leftovers and freeze them in a Ziploc bag. Once the bag is full, I add broth and seasonings and have a one of a kind soup.

Quesadillas: This is a great way to hide some veggies for kids too! Put chicken, veggies, and cheese between two tortillas and heat in a pan until desired crispiness.

Nachos: Can you tell I like Mexican food? Build your own nacho night is one of my favorites. Top chips with leftover chicken, cheese and veggies and cook in microwave or oven until warm.

Baked Potato: For a quick dinner, bake a potato in the microwave for approximately 5 minutes. Top with leftover chicken and salsa for a healthy meal. Cheese, brocolli, or your other favorite toppings can be added to.

How else do you use leftover chicken? Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Store

Today was co-op and it was my day to play so I decided to do a little shopping. I have very few fall clothes that fit but I have very little budget for clothes right now so it is a challenge to find anything. I was armed with $10 in gift cards to Target and $20 of birthday money left. The funny thing that happened is that I found my priorities have changed drastically over the past year. I used to find a decent shirt or skirt for a few bucks and buy it if it fit without thinking much about it. I've always been frugal so nothing was usually over $20. Today, I found several cute things, but I couldn't even bring myself to try it on unless I absolutely loved it. No more buying just because I wanted something new.

I wound up with a shirt from Target for $9.99 and a shirt from Goodwill for $5. I really wanted a new skirt since I only have one fall skirt that actually fits and is semi in style but apparently skirts aren't selling right now. I saw a few out there but most store barely even had one rack for them. It looks like I will be wearing slacks to work and church instead of skirts but at least I have two new shirts and even a little money left over.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Creatively Entertaining Your Child

Ellen at Thrifty & Chic Mom had a great Sanity Saver post this weekend on how to keep her toddler occupied while caring for a sick child (who knew there was such a thing as window markers?!). This post got me to thinking about creative ways to keep my child entertained when I need to get something accomplished. She made a great point that many times the activities are simple, we just need a little refresher to think about them.

One of my new finds for entertaining my child is the camera on my phone. My parents recently took us out to lunch and our little monkey would not sit still for anything. I turned on the camera on my phone and he was fascinated with seeing everything through it. He would hold it up to the menu, my parents, his food, etc and squeal with delight every time something he recognized came on the screen.

Another saver for me is toy cars. A new car can keep him occupied for quite awhile. I pick up cars at garage sales all the time for next to nothing.

What is your sanity saver for entertaining your child? Feel free to share so we can all learn new ideas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Modern Mommy

Each Friday, Modern Mommyhood features an interview with a mom blogger and today I am the featured blogger. Check out the interview here. Thanks Rachel for featuring me!

Food Friday: Chocolate Crackles

This is one of my favorite, easy cookies and they aren't too bad health wise either. One cookie is approximately 60 calories and 2 grams of fat. When I'm in the mood for chocolate, this cures the craving.

Chocolate Crackles

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat a medium speed until blended. Add egg and egg whites and beat until well blended. With a spoon, stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish or large Ziploc bag. Shape dough into 1" balls and roll or shake in powdered sugar until coated. Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly. Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are a great way to give a personalized gift and they can be frugal too. I pick up baskets or fun containers at garage sales to hold all of the goodies. You can be creative too and hold the items in something other than a basket such as a hat box, trash can, or sand pail. By shopping all year long, you can put together a great gift basket for pennies. These make great gifts for Christmas and other holidays. Here are a few of my favorite baskets I've put together:

Family Night: For this one, I put in an age appropriate game, DVD, and snacks. It gives the family an excuse to spend time together and it saves you money by buying one gift for the family instead of a gift for each person.

Movie Basket: If you know a movie the recipient would like, go ahead and buy it when you see it on sale. If you do not know their taste, put in a gift card for movie rentals. I also add bags of microwave popcorn and movie theater boxes of candy (you can buy these at the dollar store). My favorite way to tie it all together is to put it in a popcorn bowl. Last year, I found some great bowls in the dollar section at Target.

Food: This is great for college students and foodies alike. For college students, put in basic cooking utensils and packages of muffin, cookie, and/or cake mixes. Easy things to eat are great too such as Chex Mix, granola bars, or small packages of candy. One of my friends knows I love to cook so last year she put together the ingredients for chocolate pretzel candy, a sample she made, and the recipe card in a nice Christmas container. It was a great gift for me and I'm thinking of doing something similar this year for my foodie friends.

For the bride: A practical gift for the new couple just starting out is a laundry basket full of cleaning supplies. By shopping sales, you can pick these up for cheap and it will greatly help out the new couple.

What are some fun gift baskets you have put together or received? Feel free to leave a comment letting my readers now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Waste Less Wednesday: Coffee Filters

Photo from Brenda Hyde

Coffee filters have many more uses than just to make coffee. They are super cheap too. Today we are going to focus on ways to use them for crafts. Down the road, we will look into household uses for them.

The picture at the top is made simply using water colors. My two year old even did this craft at church so it is great for the younger crowd too.

Once you paint your coffee filter, it is easy to turn it into a butterfly, flower, or holiday decorations. To find several great coffee filter crafts, click here.

If you have used a coffee filter for a craft, please let my readers know. I enjoy finding great crafts for my child and this is an easy one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Potty Training & Freezer Updates

I know you all are just dying to know how the potty training is going. Today was the first day he asked to go as soon as he got up. Yesterday he decided he was done with diapers and would only use Pull-ups. I took some Pull-Ups to the babysitters today so hopefully he is doing good in them. If he keeps doing so well, we may try underwear this weekend. I'm very excited that he is doing this on his own and I'm not having to put much effort into it.

Now, for the freezer update. I found the door of the freezer yesterday. That is a huge start because bread fits perfectly in it so I can put my bread stash in there and probably free up at least half a shelf. We have been trying hard to eat from our freezer but I fell off the bandwagon today as we are having egg salad sandwiches for dinner. I have about a month and a half to find more room for all of the meat coming and I'm starting to think I can make it. Last week, I wasn't so sure.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

It seems like every electronic item in our house is falling apart lately. With my husband not working full time we cannot afford to replace them all at once. Here is my plan of attack on how to replace these items:

Laptop: This seems to be dying rather rapidly and it doesn't help that my toddler keeps pulling the keys off. We had someone look at it last week to take care of a few issues and it seems to be working better. It still randomly shuts off but a few other issues are taken care of so this will have to work for now. We are hoping it can at least limp by for a few more months.

Digital Camera: You have heard my complaints about my camera before so you know I am hoping to get another one for Christmas. If I do not get another one, my plan is to use my swagbucks points to get several Best Buy gift cards. I'm getting close to having enough for my first one. Digital cameras are becoming more and more affordable so hopefully I can make up any minor difference from our budget. If you would like to sign up for the swagbucks search engine and begin earning your own rewards, click on the button to the right of this post.

Television: The TV in our basement flat lined last week. Literally. My son was watching it and all of sudden, there was a line straight across the middle of the screen. You could still hear the show, but there was no picture. I can now turn on the TV and get a picture for awhile, but it still flat lines everytime. We are searching Craigslist for a decent replacement because a new one is definitely out of our budget right now.

How do you handle unexpected expenses? We could probably take money from our emergency fund but none of these seem an emergency at the moment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Wow, what an exciting week - first an award and now a tag! SnappyMom tagged me and I'm supposed to tell you seven random things about myself.
1. I'm a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I've never been a fan of debt but listening to his radio show convinced me even more to work my tail off to avoid debt.
2. I freelance on the side as a virtual assistant. I started doing this to make a little more money when my husband had his hours cut but I'm finding I'm really enjoying it.
3. My favorite food is Mexican. I could eat chips and salsa every day of my life and be very content.
4. My staple wardrobe every summer is tank tops and flip flops. It is a sad day when I have to put these clothes away since I love the summer.
5. My child is more active than the average toddler. Most people think I'm making that up until they meet him.
6. I'm addicted to Diet Coke from McDonald's. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed it until I was pregnant and could not have it. I craved it daily but did not have a Diet Coke until after delivery. When the L&D nurse asked if I wanted anything to drink shortly after labor, my entire family told her in unison that I wanted a Diet Coke.
7. If I could have any profession in the world, it would be to work in a bakery. I love to bake and have dreams of turning it into a job someday.
I'm supposed to tag seven others but I was recently tagged on my private blog so I'm going to pass this time. Thanks SnappyMom for the tag!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Free Trade Magazines

Click the above banner for free trade magazines through TradePub.com. I know many of you are SAHM's and think this is weird but if you plan to go back to work at some point, this is a great way to stay up on your industry. I subscribe to several trade publications in my industry in order to stay on top of the changes.

Food Friday: Black Bean Burritos

One simple way to save money on groceries is to eat vegetarian meals. Meat can be expensive but there are some great non-meat meals out there. Today I am featuring one of the few vegetarian meals my meat loving husband will actually eat. These are easy to make and taste just as yummy as leftovers.

Black Bean Burritos

1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chicken broth
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups picante sauce (I use salsa)
12 flour tortillas (fat free or reduced fat work fine)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (reduced fat is fine)
3 cups shredded lettuce
6 Tbsp fat free sour cream

In a non-stick skillet, cook and stir onion and green pepper in broth for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Mash one can of black beans. Add to the skillet with 3/4 cup of picante sauce and remaining beans; heat through. Spoon 1/4 cup mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 13"x9"x2'' baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Combine tomatoes and remaining picante sauce; spoon over enchiladas. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheeses. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese has melted. To serve, place 1/2 cup lettuce on each plate and top with 2 enchiladas. Garnish each serving with one tablespoon sour cream.

For those on Weight Watchers, these are 3 points per burrito. I calculated that many years ago so feel free double check this.

My husband seriously dislikes tomatoes so I sometimes leave them out on simply only put them on side of the dish. This is an easy dish to adjust to your likes and dislikes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blog Award

I've been nominated for my first award! Thanks to Money Saving Pro for nominating me. It means a lot that a fellow frugal blogger enjoys my writing.
The words to this award are in Portuguese and mean, “This blog invests and believes, the proximity” (meaning, that blogging makes us ‘close’ -being close through proxy). I feel like I have gotten to know many of you well over the few months I've been blogging and I agree that it makes us close.
I'm passing this award on to eight other bloggers that I follow. I hope you enjoy reading their posts and feel free to leave them a comment saying you found them through Living on Less.

Mary from Owlhaven

Potty Training

I've always heard that if you wait long enough to potty train, it will be easy and some kids will train themselves. I think we may be entering that stage. For about a year now, our son has loved to sit on the potty but he never does anything on it (half the time he is fully clothed). A month or so ago he was interested for about two weeks and actually peed on the potty a few times. Just when we thought it might be time to take this seriously, he lost interest. Towards the end of last week he decided to give it a go again. We made huge progress when he asked me Sunday night at church to use the potty. This was our first public experience so that was exciting. Today was our best day so far and I didn't even really try. I let him wear a pull-up this morning and he went three times on the potty. Two of those times I didn't even ask, he simply took off his pull-up, opened the bathroom door and hopped on the potty all by himself. I sure hope this is the beginning of good things to come. I let his babysitter know so she is going to work with him the two days a week he is there. I'm sure we have some challenging days ahead, but I'm hoping we can say goodbye to daytime diapers soon. He still overflows a diaper at night so I don't expect overnight potty training to happen for awhile. Anyone have any potty training tips you would like to share?

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