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Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Meditation - Ephesians 2:20 - Cornerstone

I'm working my way through the Institute Manual for the first half of the Old Testament.  Currently, I'm reading a section on Symbolism of Christ.  I decided to go through each symbol and record in my journal how I see Christ as that symbol.  This morning, I pondered Cornerstone.  Once I got a definition of cornerstone, it was very clear and simple.

Cornerstone:  A cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation; all other stones will be set in reference to this stone thus determining the position of the entire structure.

The Church/Gospel uses Christ as its Cornerstone - all doctrines/teachings/practices use Christ as a reference.  We also should do this in our lives - build our lives/decisions in reference to Him and His teachings, and the Gospel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Meditation - Exodus 5 - What Pharaoh taught me

In Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites go sacrifice unto the Lord.  Pharaoh's response is no.  And then he tells the taskmasters to make the Israelites gather their own straw because, obviously, the Israelites must be idle since they feel they have enough time to go worship.

As I read this chapter, my first reaction was that people need time to worship and also to relax so they can rejuvenate.  Then I had an immediate weight of conviction put on me - how often do I do this with my family?  Thinking "Oh, you have time to play on your iPod?"  "How do you have time to play?"  "How can you get to do something fun while I'm always working?"  And then I normally ask/assign a family member to do a chore.  To be honest, it does seem like I'm doing all the work while everyone else is always relaxing/playing (except for the time that they are at work/school).  After seeing how I was being like Pharaoh.  I am now more conscious of the need for downtime for each member of our family, including me.  When I push for someone to do a chore, I'm striving to limit what I'm asking.  I'm also seeking to show by example that we work for a time and then relax for a time.  My girls will yell at me when I ask them to clean their room "but you're on the laptop" or "you're reading a book!".  Rather than simply telling them I'm their mother, I am pointing out to them all that I just accomplished.  Yes, they need to not talk back to me but they also need to learn that we get to relax/play after we work and they won't learn that if I don't explain it (again, and again, and again).

I'm not missing

No one has asked, but I wonder if anyone has been wondering what happened to this blog.  My family blog has also been neglected.

Throughout 2010, many of the blogs that I regularly follow have been focusing on minimizing - their homes and their lives.  This has also been one of my focuses.  I kept finding myself distracted by the computer/internet throughout the day and at times, neglecting my home, other duties, and sometimes my children.  With the start of the school year, I put myself on a schedule hoping to be able to get more things done and spend some time with my daughters.  Princess Naked Toes started Preschool for 4 half days each week.  About this same time, many other changes happened in my life.  One being I received a new calling at church (I'm now the secretary for the Relief Society in our ward).  Our Relief Society President gave a lesson on priorities and distractions based on a talk by Sis. Julie B. Beck.

All of this combined to tell me I needed to keep the computer turned off more - limiting my browsing time and even my "working" time on the computer.  I'm trying to keep the computer turned off throughout the morning, striving to only be on the computer while both girls are at school and after they've gone to bed, and even then limiting it to only 1/2 hr of browsing (facebook, blog reading and writing) during the afternoon and maybe an hour in the evening.  But this has not enough time to keep up the blogs - will try to improve upon that.  But I will say that I am liking the schedule I've established so far - as long as I stay to it.  I'm getting more things done that I need to get done - as long as I remember to look at my To Do list and prioritize it each day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Recipes

I think I have a nice arsenal of great recipes.  And then, I find something I really want to try.  And since I subscribe to several food blogs, I keep finding more.  Many of them are dessert recipes and I already have a recipes I'm looking at trying soon!

Caramel Apple Muffins

One-Bowl Pumpkin Bread (made with honey)

Baked Potato Soup

Lite Pasta

What recipes are you trying?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Meditation - Who sold Joseph into Egypt?

Last week, if you had asked me to tell the story of Joseph being sold into Egypt, I probably would have said...  Joseph's had 11 brothers.  Many of them (probably not Benjamin) didn't like that he was their father's favorite.  So one day, when he came to visit them while they were tending the flocks, they desired to be rid of him and threw him into a pit.  While they were eating, the decided that instead of leaving him there to die, they would sell him to a group of Ishmeelites who were passing by.  They took him out of the pit and sold him and the Ishmeelites then took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar.

Friday, as I was reading in Genesis, I discovered a major difference in the facts of this story.  Joseph's brothers came up with the plan to sell him but when they went to get him out of the pit, he wasn't there.  While they had been eating, a group of Midianites came along and found him in the pit.  They had the same idea as Joseph's brothers and sold him to the Ishmeelites.

Yesterday, I was still pondering this and thinking of how many times I've read that verse (Genesis 37:28) and yet never caught that piece of information.  Then I had the reminder pop into my head that the intent to sin is a sin.  We've been taught that you commit the sin in your heart before you commit it in action.  Joseph's brothers did not commit the sin in action but they had in their hearts (and would have committed it in action if given the opportunity).  And yet, probably most people would tell the story similar to the way I would have last week.  Joseph's brothers have the reputation of having committed this sin thousands of years later!

What does that teach us?  Not only do we need to be careful of our actions, we need to be careful of our thoughts and intents to do evil.  When new in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we tend to focus on our actions, not committing sins.  As we progress in our testimonies, we are taught to control our thoughts.  This story has reminded me that as much as Satan can tell us that no one will know our sins, others not only can not our sins, but they can know our intent to sin.  It is so important to give a wide berth to that cliff!  Or we may gain a reputation that we do not desire.

Update:  A friend just let me know that her version of the Bible (waiting to hear which one) says that the brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit when the Midianites passed by.  Maybe later today, I'll try to find the different versions and see how they compare, including some translating from the original Hebrew.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WFMW - Coupon Organization Part 1

I love coupons!  With a little effort, I'm able to save quite a bit... well I don't save any money, I get more food than I would with my food budget otherwise.  With that thought, maybe I need to stop couponing so we have less food in the house so I eat less.  Hmm, have to think on that one.

Thinking is done.  Nope!  Going to keep on couponing!

Finding the coupons I need to match up with a sale could be quite difficult with my coupon stash if they weren't organized.  There are several options for organizing coupons.  One is to immediately cut out the ones you will use and discard the rest.  Another filing system using baseball card organizers in a binder - you cut out ALL the coupons and put them in the binder and take it with you shopping.  Neither of those work for me.  So here's my system.

First, I sort my coupons.  Since I usually have 5-6 sets of each insert (coupon insert sources is another topic), I take each insert and put all identical pages together and staple it.  I go through each stapled group and cut out the coupons I know I'll use and set them aside to put in my coupon pouch that goes to the store with me.

The stapled groups are then filed in a file folder with the date on the tab (in pencil because I reuse the folders over and over).  The file folder is then put in a hanging file with all the other coupon insert files.

Why do I do these steps?

So many of the blogs that I follow will give coupon match ups for items on sale, listing the coupons by date and insert.  For example $1/2 Peter Pan Peanut Butter 8/1 SS (Smart Source).  If I like the final price, I then go to my coupon file and pull out that date. I flip through the stapled groups until I find the peanut butter coupon.  Sometimes, though, that coupon wasn't put in my paper (it's done by regions).  Fortunately, by having them organized by date, I'm not looking through the entire 3 inch stack.  (Yes it's probably that big but no, I haven't measured it.  Okay, okay, now you've got me curious.  I'm getting the ruler....  Well, what do you know?  It was 2 1/2 inches.)

If I'm looking for a coupon on a specific product, there are several free coupon databases out there.  I've used Coupon Mom and I believe Stretching a Buck now has one too.

Hope that gives you an idea for how to organize your coupon stash.  This method definitely works for me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Piano Lessons

Here's information about Piano Lessons....

Availability

Tuesdays at 4, 4:30, 5, and 5:30 pm
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1 pm, 1:30 pm, and 2:00 pm.


Piano Lesson Policies


1. Tuition is $40 for a 4 week session. Tuition is due the 1st scheduled lesson of each month unless other arrangements are made. Late tuition may be subject to a late charge or the time slot may be re-assigned to another student.

2. Makeup lessons may be available on a limited, infrequent basis. Students will not receive a discount for lessons they miss. Makeup lessons or a discount will be offered when the teacher is unavailable for a scheduled lesson.

3. Students are expected to practice regularly between lessons. Parents are highly encouraged to participate in practice times.

4. Students may discontinue lessons with a 2 week notice.

5. Students are expected to purchase their own music and additional supplies. The cost of books is not included in the monthly tuition. In order to obtain the correct music, students may request the teacher to obtain the music and the costs will be added to tuition for the month.

6. The preferred method is the Hal Leonard series. But other methods are acceptable.

7. Be sure to notify teacher prior to a missed lesson, as soon as you know you will not be attending your lesson.

8. If a check bounces, students will be required to pay for future tuition in cash.

9. A Spring Recital will be scheduled and all students will be asked to participate. If students are interested in participating in various festivals, we will make all efforts to make this possible.

Calendar

Session dates are as follows:

Sept 1 – 30
Oct 1 – 31
Nov 1 – 27
Nov 28 – Dec 23
Session Break Dec 24 through Jan 2
Jan 3 – 31
Feb 1 – 28
Mar 1 – 31 (no lessons 3/20-27)
Apr 1 – 30
May 1 – 27

Work from Home decision

For about a year, I have not been working (for income).  Before that I have done several part-time work from home jobs and each has ended when it was supposed to.  The last one had had a lot of work which then basically ceased at the same time that we paid off our last debt.  It then trickled along and I ended up earning two small paychecks in 6 months.  6 months later, I decided it was time to officially resign.  Now we are just over 6 months after that and we are feeling a crunch in our budget.  Princess Naked Toes is starting Preschool so that is being added to our budget.  Her gymnastics also went up starting this month.  If you missed the hints from my last post, my husband just had a kidney stone zapped so now we have a large (to us) medical bill to pay out of our savings (Thank you Emergency Fund!) which means we need to rebuild our emergency fund.  Finally, through all our outings and activities this summer, many involving water, we have lost Princess Smiles-A-Lot's hearing aid and we must replace it ASAP.  If you are not aware, an inexpensive hearing aid will cost $1300.  With her hearing loss, we will not be getting the "cheap" hearing aid and hopefully will be able to get her an FM receiver so she can hear the teacher's voice directly in the hearing aid.  And this isn't factoring in that my husband's car needs some repair work equal to its value or a new-to-us vehicle.

I've considered several work at home jobs.  My dream job would be working with numbers (I'm a spreadsheet/paperwork addict - I know I'm strange) but haven't figured out how to find this kind of job from home or an office for the limited time I would have available.  I really don't want to spend the whole of the 2 hrs I have with both girls at school 4 days a week working.  Those two hours are already going quickly to errands, cleaning out projects and visiting teaching - maybe even some sewing projects that are waiting my attention.

So my husband and I have decided that I will start teaching piano lessons.  See this post for details on lessons.  I'm hoping to make just a couple hundred a month to ease the crunch, pay medical bills, and build back up our emergency fund.  I am so done with debt that I'm not comfortable with our emergency fund being as low as it's going to be very soon without a plan to build it back up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Choosing a Health Insurance Plan

Except for the past 12 months, for most of our marriage, one or both of us have been employed by a large health system that provided decent HMO insurance.  We had a set copay for a visit to our Primary Care Physician and a slightly higher copay for specialists (and it required a referral).  We also had a set copay for an Urgent Care Visit and a copay for Emergency Room Visits.  Lab and radiology work was generally covered 100% (I can't recall ever paying anything for any lab work or radiology).

Then last June, my husband was "laid off" (it was termed laid off but there was no plan to have him return so really it was terminated).  We were blessed with a specified term of severance and we chose a COBRA option of that termination.

Then one year ago this week, my husband started a new job and we had to totally switch gears with our health insurance, including switching our care to the major competitor for his previous employer.  This has been a hard switch and we delayed switching physicians as long as we could.  We still miss our previous physicians, espeically our pediatrician and ENT/audiologists.  When we selected our healthplan, we selected the more expensive plan because it was closest to what we were used to AND was cheaper than what we'd been paying.  The hardest adjustment has been switching from an HMO mindset (all those set co-pays) to a PPO setting (with the benefit of being able to see a specialist without a referral - we don't even have to select a specific Primary Care Physician; we can change who we see at anytime without notifying anyone).

Just a 2 months later, we were having to re-select our insurance plan for the 2010 year as our new employer was adding a 3rd option for Healthcare.  The Premium PPO would be $236/month for our family.  The Value PPO was set at $95/month.  And then the new Consumer PPO plan would be FREE!  Oh how wonderful to think that we could not pay a monthly premium for health insurance!!

Fortunately, I LOVE LOVE LOVE spreadsheets and math.  I sat down and came up with a couple likely scenarios.  Love gets kidney stones every few years and it had been several years so odds were it could happen in 2010.  Princess Naked Toes is very adventurous so it was extremely likely in 2010 that she would end up in the ER or Urgent Care for some incident during an adventure.  My personal experience with my former PCP (who I had a love/hate relationship with) was that if I was sick or had a problem needing to be seen fairly quickly, he would be completely booked for a month out so I'd have to go to Urgent Care.  I estimated costs for those 3 likelihoods and then plugged in how much it would cost us under each of those three PPO plans.  Based on those numbers (our tendency to choose the Better over the Good and not buying the most expensive items), we selected the Value PPO.

In mid-July (2010), my husband started experiencing some severe pains which he self-diagnosed as a kidney stone.  After several weeks of painful days/nights followed by okay days, he was in enough pain that I was able to convince him to see a Urologist and we were blessed to find someone to see him in the office that day rather than an ER visit.  Under the Value PPO, we have a copay for office visits verses 80% after deductible for ER services.

That was a Monday.  He ended up having a CT Scan that afternoon, confirming a kidney stone that still had a LONG way to go to work it's way out.  Based on the stone's position and size, it was decided to do a lithotripsy that Friday.  Let me just say that I WAY under-estimated the costs for a kidney stone.

So today, I sat down with all of our claims information for 2010 and created a wonderful spreadsheet comparing how much we've paid this year to how much we would have had to pay with both the Premium plan and the Consumer Plan.  Now, I went ahead and calculated all 2010 monthly premiums into our costs so basically it's assuming, we have no more medical expenses.  So far, there is only a difference of $800 between the 3 plans with the Value Plan (the one we chose) having the lowest costs to us!! 

I've decided to keep the spreadsheet up to date with any future 2010 claims so that as we get to select for 2011, we'll be very educated on potential healthcare expenses in 2011 for each plan.  Of course, monthly premiums and coverages may change so I'll have to change the spreadsheet accordingly, but I already have the base numbers ready to go.

As you prepare to select your own insurance plan coverage, I strongly encourage you to come up with what is reasonable for your family to experience during that coverage period.  Include annual well-child exams, immunizations, glasses, a replacement hearing aid for the one that your family loses over the summer (oops - forgot to put that in our spreadsheet but I'll use the excuse that we haven't purchased the replacement yet), an ER visit for your own adventurous child, and maybe even an urgent care visit for the potential bike accident of your bike-riding spouse.  The hardest part is estimating costs and a call to the local hospital may not be helpful because they'll won't know the specifics.  So estimate HIGH.

Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making up for Saturday

So to make up for Saturday, I've been posting things we don't need on Craigslist this morning.  I still need to post my old dishes since that's what we actually replaced.  My goal is to make at least as much as we spent on the new dishes (since I did get such a great deal on them... more below on that).  So far, I've posted a pack that attaches to a bike frame, our collection of Disney movies on VHS (our VCR died this spring so we haven't been able to watch them; plus whenever anyone wants to watch a movie, they always go to the DVDs first anyway), a spiderman costume (which I bought on clearance to use as a gift or for when friends come over to play but it's just sat in the closet for almost a year), a toddler swing (Princess Naked Toes likes a big girl swing now), and a snowsuit.  I still have a few more items to go add.

As I took the stickers off our new plates and put them in the dishwasher, I discovered that regular price on those plates is $9.99!  So I got really nice plates for about 1/3rd of their regular cost.  I had forgotten too that those purchases came with the Kohl's dollars which I'll be heading back to Kohl's to use at the end of this week.  Maybe I'll look for serving dishes to go with my new dishes... or a little something for me.

And an update on using the new plates, Saturday's dinner was definitely smaller because I used the smaller plates.  But Sunday night, my husband opted for paper plates because he had filled the dishwasher with bowls when making chocolate chip cookies.  Kind of defeats the fewer calories from dinner the night before though.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Utility bills

I was chatting with my brother's mother-in-law the other day.  (Is there a term for what that makes her to me?  No idea.  But we get along so the only term I can think of for her is friend.)  Her house is a little smaller than mine (I just looked it up online and it's 200 sq ft smaller).  But her total utility bills (gas, electric, water and sewer) are less than half of mine!  One advantage she has is large trees all around her home providing lots of shade (meaning she doesn't need as much air conditioning to cool it down).  But more than half!  So now I'm on a mission to figure out why our gas, electric, water and sewer are so much.  I'm getting together with some friends who are willing to share the intimate details of their utilities so that maybe we can figure some things out.  Maybe MeeMaw (what my nephews call their grandmother) likes it hot in the summer and cold in the winter (I like it cold in the winter though).  Maybe she sits in the dark.  I'm also curious to see if I can find the bills from before I was a SAHM.  Is it because I'm home all day, using lights, more a/c, etc?

We've been talking for a few years about investing in more insulation in the attic, and adding it to the crawlspace.  Maybe this is the difference?

If you're interested in participating in our "research", feel free to chime in.  If you don't live in the same area, we won't be able to compare cost but we can compare usage (comparing therms or kilowatts, or gallons of water).  I'll share the results and our efforts as we go.

Not a good example today

Just had to share, I was not the best example today of being a frugal shopper.  Well, in some ways I was.  We got some great deals.  But my best advice, to myself and others, for being frugal - don't go shopping.  And today, we went shopping.  My next best advice, and it may not apply to you but it definitely applies to me - shop without your husband.  Whenever my husband is with me, we tend to spend more, including if that means going over budget.

This weekend is Tax Free weekend for back to school.  Our city is not participating so it's cutting out the state taxes, which is about half the tax bill.  Now for me, this generally does not impact us because we don't buy a lot at one time.  And even on a $100 bill, what's the difference between 7% and 3.5% - a whole $3.50!  Is that enough to make me spend this weekend rather than next?  What if next weekend, the items I want are 10% cheaper than this weekend?  So I generally don't plan around the tax break.

But today I wanted to go get the girls a back to school outfit.  Kohl's was generous enough to send me a 15% off your entire purchase coupon (good through the whole weekend so you can use it multiple times).  If you spend $100 or more, it's 20% of.  Combining my coupon with the tax break, and a back to school budget, a canceled vacation due to a sick Princess Naked Toes (she's better now), and I couldn't resist a trip.

While we were trying on a million outfits (a slight exaggeration but it didn't feel like it), my husband called.  He got off work early for an x-ray (a follow-up on a kidney stone) and the x-ray was right next door to Kohl's.  So he came over and joined us.  He approved the outfits we had picked out for the girls (one each plus a few shirts for Princess Smiles-A-Lot).  Then we started our way over to shoes.  We made a brief pit stop at the dorm room decor stuff.  We picked up two clip on lamps that the girls have been needing for their beds so that one can read when the other wants the light out. 

We detoured through the housewares, looking at dishes.  We've been talking about getting new plates - smaller ones, to help us with our portion control.  So we browsed through (I had no intention of actually purchasing but just getting a feel for what he would be okay with and what he wouldn't - normally what I like, he doesn't).  As we browsed, he held up a salad plate.  I liked it.  He liked it.  It was on clearance.

They only had 2 of that one.  They had 3 of another one that coordinated.  We took a plate to the kiosk to see if they had more of the one we really liked online.  Nothing.  We ended up with the 5 plates.

The plates took us above the $100 mark so we saved a few extra dollars by going from 15% off to 20% off.  That's a great excuse right?

Then we headed home.  And I wondered if Kohl's.com would actually have the plates since the kiosk didn't.  Guess what?!  They did!  Here's one thing I discovered about this set - you don't get to pick the pattern.  There are 4 patterns in it, and you just tell them how many you want.  Since we'd already spent so much (I know some of you are laughing but I don't normally spend that much at one time unless it's my stock up buying at Sam's Club or Christmas), we decided to go for it.  We ordered 7 more plates so we have 12, plus we ordered 8 bowls.

My coupon worked online too.  Kohl's will let you use up to 2 promo codes at the same time. So I did an internet search and found a code for free shipping over $50.  I added a eco-friendly shopping bag for 78 cents to my shopping cart to hit $50.  After several attempts, I discovered that I could only use both if my after 15% off cost was above $50.  So I did some browsing, thinking about things we've been saying we need, and discovered a pair of Chaps pillows for $9.  I added that, deleted the shopping bag (not needed).  And voila, I got the 15% off and the free shipping so I basically paid $1 to free for the pillows.

Or to justify purchasing dishes that weren't truly a NEED, maybe I should apply those savings to the dishes and say I bought pillows for $9 and my dishes were less?

Curious about our new dishes?  Here's the one that first caught our eye.

I really like square plates but my husband informed me today he doesn't.  Guess it's a good thing he was there.  This pattern is on the other 3 plates we bought today.
I don't know what will come in our package from Kohl's.  But here are the other two patterns.
And in case you want some too, here they are at Kohl's.

I promise to go back to my normally frugal, penny-pinching ways tomorrow.  I guess my back-to-school shopping is done.  Dishes are back to school, right?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BlogHop 2010

Hi!  Welcome Bloghoppers to Mothers Who Know!

Today, I'm participating in Pensieve's Blog Hop '10 in honor of BlogHer.

I started Mothers Who Know as a place to share ideas (and hopefully gain some ideas from others) on how to live providently.  Provident living is using our resources, including time, money, and our stuff, wisely.  I participate in Works for Me Wednesday often (but not every week) sharing things that are working for our family, including ways that we teach our daughters about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

You will also find recipes that my family loves.  One of my goals with the recipes is to identify recipes that are naturally gluten-free that my family will eat.  This means recipes that don't require special ingredients to be gluten-free.

I am a stay at home mom.  After many years in the workplace, I started staying home shortly before our oldest daughter was born.  Since then, I take the approach that stretching my husband's income is my "job".  With that approach, we've been able to make it on one income (with some part-time work at home assistance periodically) and survived a summer-long unemployment in 2009.

So look around and hope to see you around again soon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taco Dip

We attended a BYU Send-Off party tonight for two young friends who are heading off to BYU in a few weeks.  Each family was asked to bring a treat to share.  One of the families (the host family) have two members with Celiac's disease (they can't eat wheat/gluten) and I wanted to bring treats that everyone could eat and that I didn't have to go buy specialty flours.  After browsing the internet, I finally came up with two recipes from my recipe box that we've made tons of times.  The first recipe was fudge which my husband makes.  Tonight I'm sharing the second recipe - Taco Dip.  This recipe came from a co-worked when I worked in Florida.  She brought it to work one day and I had to get her recipe.  I've made it many times over the years and it's always a hit.

Taco Dip

12 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
2 t. chili powder
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/28 t. red pepper
1/2 c. salsa

Combine ingredients and place in serving dish (I use a glass pie plate).

Toppings:
Cheddar Cheese
Monterey Jack
Diced tomatoes
green onion
black and green olives

Sprinkle toppings over dip.  Serve with tortilla chips.


Tonight's seemed a little spicier than normal and as I typed this out I realized why - when I read the recipe I saw 1 1/2 t red pepper instead of 1 1/8 teaspoon.  But I was out of chili powder so it probably really wasn't any spicier.

Another change for tonight was that I used the "Mexican" blend of shredded cheese rather than the cheddar and monterey.  I also didn't have green onions or olives to put on (we don't normally do the olives since no one in my family eats them).  In the past, I have put some green or orange peppers on it for more color.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WFMW - Ice Cream Novelties

I LOVE ice cream!  That's probably an understatement, actually.  I have only had a few instances in my life where I have turned down ice cream (the majority of those times being when the only flavor was coffee/mocha which I won't eat - yuck!).

But I try not to buy ice cream.  Do you know what happens when I have ice cream in my house?  Even if it's not my favorite kind?  I eat it.  Every day.  And I'm not good at following serving sizes - have you ever measured out your ice cream?

This Spring, we discovered boxes of Good Humor ice cream treats at Sam's Club.  And they are working for our family!  I love the ice cream bars and the cones are good too.  My family also loves the ice cream sandwiches and fudge bars.  But what I love even more is that it is proportioned out for me.   No offense to Good Humor, but I'm also able to resist having it every day.  It satisfies my ice cream desire without HAVING to have some.  (Kind of like my love for cheese curls - I just can't resist but I can resist Doritoes - so which do you think I buy?)

Buying ice cream novelties Works for Me.  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WFMW - Credit Card Motivation

Years ago, we paid off all our credit cards and our car (this took years to do).  But we failed to cancel our credit cards, in case we needed them in an emergency.  Then we decided to purchase a van, believing we could afford the payments.  We could but it stretched our budget and we made a few poor decisions that we ended up putting some charges on our credit cards.  A few thousand dollars later, we were feeling the weight that comes with being a slave to the lender.  We got serious about paying off that debt, again.

If you have been trying to pay off credit card debt, you've probably heard about Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball method.  If you haven't, here's a very quick summary - list your debts from smallest to largest, then tackle the smallest one first (paying minimums on all the rest).  The reason you pay off smallest to largest is for the excitement you feel paying something off - it motivates you to keep going.  If you worked on the largest debt first, it would take longer to get that "reward" so you might lose your momentum.

But what do you do if you have a huge amount you're trying to pay or you are still losing your momentum?  We needed a reality check that second go around of paying off consumer debt.  Do you notice I bolded consumer?  That's because so much of what we, as a country, use our credit cards for is consumed.  Here's what we did...

In addition to smallest to largest, I made a LONG list of all the charges that made up the debt.  So if there was a $1000 balance, I made a list of all the charges on that credit card, working backwards in time so I could see what made up the $1000 (I made interest charges their own item).  Then as we made a payment of $50, I looked at the oldest charge and if the $50 covered it, I marked it off or as many items as the payment covered.  Sometimes that charge was an interest payment.  Sometimes it was an oil change that a vehicle needed.  And sometimes it was a trip to McDonald's 18 months ago!!!!  Isn't that ridiculous?!  We were paying for something we ATE 18 MONTHS AGO!

That was a big reality check for us!  It was also a great motivator.  At that time, I was working part-time from home.  We lived off of my husband's salary and used my variable income to pay off the debt.   If I saw that the next oldest month of charges was $125, I would work really hard to make at least that much of a payment from my next paycheck.  I was paid every two weeks and everything from my checks (after tithing) went to decreasing debt or emergencies.

So check out what you're actually paying when you pay your next credit card payment.  It will probably surprise you what you're paying for - and hopefully motivate you to move forward in getting rid of that credit card and not use it again.

This method definitely Worked for Me for motivation and reality.  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Time Out for Women - Kansas City Survey

I just received an email from DeseretBook's Time Out for Women manager, Chrislyn Woolston.  They are looking at coming back to Kansas City in 2011 (not St. Louis) on November 4-5 to the Overland Park Convention Center.  Chrislyn has asked me to ask you the following questions.  You can email your answers or leave them as a comment and I'll forward them too DeseretBook.  I was disappointed that we didn't have a Time Out close to us this year so I'm excited that they are looking at next year (but I was hoping for St. Louis).  To give you some ideas but hopefully not influence your comments (other than to encourage you to send in your comments), I'm putting my answers below too.

1. What stake are you in and how far of a drive is it to Kansas City?

Springfield Missouri South Stake - 3-4 hour drive

2. Do you see any conflicts with this date?

Not at this time but our Stake calendar hasn't come out yet.

3. Would you attend the event in Kansas City in 2011? Why or why not?

I probably would attend but I'd prefer one in St. Louis because when if I'm going to travel, I'd like to combine it with a Temple trip.  If the Kansas City event waited until 2012, the KC Temple will be opening and I'd be able to combine a Temple and Time Out trip in KC.
4. Do you think women from your area would be willing to travel there?
Kansas City tends to be less popular with our area because it is a little further and not as convenient as St. Louis.  Downtown KC is not an easy location but with the change to Overland Park it may increase interest  (Love the change to Overland Park!).

5. Would you be willing to be on a team for this event?
Willing to be on the Team again - but if others are interested, willing to let them participate instead.
6. Do you see any obstacles in having the event in Kansas City in 2011?
Same comments as question #3 - wait until 2012 when the Kansas City Temple will be open (whether for the open house time frame or after it's open - but not during the dedication times).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WFMW - Piano Practice Tips

Princess1 has been taking piano lessons for almost 18 months. I think she's very talented (yes, I know I'm a little biased) and she could be an outstanding pianist with practice. Practice? Yes, you need to practice and practice regularly. We've gone through spurts of being great about this and times of not so great. Part of it could be a hectic schedule and sometimes it's attitude issues and/or being too tired. Here are tips that we've learned to make practice time a success in our home.

1) Pick a practice time that works with your child's interest/personality.
I did learn this past school year that if Princess1 could get up early enough in the morning, she did really well at the piano in the morning rather than practicing after school. Sadly, this is not an easy accomplishment. But this summer, without having to head off to school before 8 am, we're doing much better with practicing in the morning. Some kids will do better in the afternoon. For next school year, we'll be discussing with Princess1 if she wants to continue practicing in the morning, before school, or we'll pick a time in the afternoon. One option we may look into is practicing at school while we wait the 30 minutes for Princess2 to get out of preschool (they release 30 minutes after the elementary).

2) It's okay to take a break sometimes.
Earlier this summer, we headed on vacation and did not have access to a piano or keyboard. I decided to not take the flash cards with us because I didn't think she'd be willing to drill flash cards on vacation. Turns out this was great for Princess1. She was excited to play the piano when we got back and her brain used the vacation to recognize the notes better.

3) Use a practice chart/reward system.
While on vacation, we met Jenny Oaks Baker, who is a professional violinist. Princess1 was really excited to meet her. I was excited to pick her brain for practice tips since she has 4 kids also learning instruments. Her recommendation was to look into Suzuki's 100 day method. This method involves practicing 100 days in a row (we're using Sundays as a bye each week for the Sabbath but counting it in the 100 days). At the end of successfully completing the chart, Princess1 has chosen a trip to St. Louis as her reward (to visit friends).  If you miss a day (even just one), you start the whole chart over.  We completed Day 10 today!

4) Determine your practice method
Decide if you are going to practice for a set time limit or by task. We tried using a set time amount but too much of that would go into waiting for attitude to dissolve. So now we are doing tasks - Princess1 plays her assigned pieces (1-2 from each of Lesson, Technique, and solo, plus the Sonatina she's learning, hopefully for a festival this fall). She also is required to do 1 page from either the Theory, Practice Games or Notespeller books, or she can review her flash cards. If she completes these 5 things (Lesson, Technique, Solos, Sonatina and non-music), she earns a sticker for her 100 days chart.

5) Be with your child.
Practice time goes so much better when you actively participate in practice time with your child. If you don't know how to read music, you can learn along with your child. Help them keep track of where they are in their song and repeat trouble areas.
6) Allow your child to make some decisions.
Children like to have some control and tend to rebel (or have attitude) when everything is decided for them. This makes sense since Heavenly Father gifted us with our agency to choose. But as parents, we can't allow our children complete autonomy.
From reading Tip #4, you might think Princess1 has no choice in the matter. She has lots of choices.
First, she gets to choose when we practice (yes, I know Tip #1 says to have a set time but sometimes my strong-willed child doesn't agree with the clock). She also gets to choose to have attitude and take a break to finish practicing later, rather than wasting my time.
She also gets to choose what order she does her practice in - what song to practice first or if she wants to do the non-music part first.
And then she gets to choose which of the non-music activities to do (she has decided she loves Notespeller).
Ultimately, she gets to decide whether or not she earns a sticker for practicing each day.

7) Praise.
Let your child know they are doing great.

8) Remind child of progress made.
This really comes in handy for Princess1 when she won't try because the music is hard. I've learned to remind her of different music that she's learned and thought was hard when she first started it. Then I ask her if it's still hard or is it now easy. She usually becomes inspired to try the hard stuff (at least one or two measures of it) and realizes that each time it becomes a little easier.

9) Take it easy.
As I explained above, we have to play each of the assigned pieces of music. Sometimes this is multiple times as we play as a solo or with the accompaniment CD. But as long as we play it once, we're good to go. Because we're practicing every day, she makes lots of progress even if we don't perfect a piece each day.

10) Play known pieces.
Sometimes to get over attitude or just for fun, we pull out pieces we've already "perfected" and play them. This helps with Tip #8 but also lets the piano be simply enjoyable instead of always "work."

These ideas are working for us, hopefully something here will work for you. For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family. Love it!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WFMW - How to wash child's thick hair

I read another blog post this morning from Works for Me Wednesday that inspired me to write this tip.

Princess1 has really thick hair! It's so thick that even when she lays in water and we swish it around, there are sections of hair that are still dry. This makes it really difficult to wash.

Add to this thick hair, Princess1 has Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Fortunately, it's better than when she was a toddler. One of her biggest areas of issue has always been her scalp. She would scream bloody murder whenever I tried to wash her hair when she was little and couldn't stand to have her hair brushed either. It is a little better now - I don't have to pin her to the bathroom counter EVERY day to brush her hair, just once a week. And she is learning to brush her hair herself and do it more often so there are less tangles which pull on her scalp.

So washing her hair has always been difficult.

Now that she's out of the baby/toddler stage, I've been trying different kid shampoos for her but it wasn't until I tried the Suave kids shampoo that I found success. It works great for her hair, without using an entire handful of shampoo to cover her hair.

At a Relief Society getaway weekend in March, I got a tip from a stylist with the dry hair sections. She said that when the hair doesn't suds, it's still dirty and to wash again.

I came home and tried it. It works! One of Princess1's complaints was how long I took to wash her hair and all the scrubbing. Now, we get along great because washing twice takes less time than trying to get all the hair at one time. There's less scrubbing because I'm not trying to get dry areas wet and sudsing on the first try.

So here's what I do...

Wet hair, lifting it up as I pour the water on to try to get all sections wet.
Wash with quarter-size plus amount of shampoo.
Scrub gently
Rinse.
Using a quarter-size amount of shampoo, I wash her hair again.
Scrub gently
Rinse well.

Note the difference in rinsing? Because I know I'm washing a second time, I don't feel the need to spend 5 minutes (slight exaggeration but only slight) trying to get all the shampoo out of her hair the first time.

Also because I know I'm washing a second time, I don't stress about areas that aren't sudsing during the first wash. And generally, there's not a problem the second wash.

And that Works for Me!
For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

WFMW - Stop a soft taco from opening

Our family LOVES tacos.  Soft tacos and hard tacos.  But my little girls always have a hard time with keeping their taco together.  When you go to a restaurant (fast food or normal), they don't seem to have much problem - but I believe that's because they steam their tortillas fresh which lets them bend easier.  I've tried heating them up in the microwave but that only lasts for so long.  But earlier this year, I came up with a trick that's definitely working for my family.

Sour cream.

That's my trick.

I build the tacos for my daughters, and of course, they HAVE to have sour cream on their taco.  After putting the sour cream on the inside, fold the "bottom" up a little bit so that nothing falls out the end after you roll it.  Then roll the sides in.  On the first fold, place a small dollop of sour cream and then spread it around.  Then place the second fold on top.  The sour cream "glues" the taco together so that when my girls set it down, it doesn't fall apart on them.

For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We are THAT Family!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Forced to slow down

Note:  If you also read the family blog, the same story is posted there.

Have you ever been forced to slow down your life? I've had quite a few instances in the past few months where Heavenly Father has forced me to slow down. Normally it's been because I spent time in the sun and ended up with a migraine/nasty headache (I don't confuse the two but I've had both recently) or tummy issues (not vomiting or nausea, but just where my stomach doesn't feel good).


Then there was the day that I intended to go to Chik-Fil-A with my neighbor for lunch and ended up helping another friend try to break into her van (locked keys inside) and then her house and finally we all ended up at Chik-Fil-A. That day I decided Heavenly Father thought I needed to spend the entire day with friends.

Today, Heavenly Father decided I needed to spend the entire day at the strawberry patch. The plan - leave at 8 am, pick strawberries and back home by 10 am, make freezer jam, clean my house before pest control arrived (ants!) and then start packing my family's gear for a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house tomorrow.

Reality....

Leave home at 8 am, pick up neighbor and her kids and drive to strawberry patch (20-30 minutes away from home)
Arrive at strawberry patch, sample some strawberries as we pick them (Incredibly good! The best I've had in 20 years.).
Pay for strawberries and load all 4 kids (mine and my neighbor's) in the van.
Turn key to start van.
 "Click, click, click".
Wait a minute.
Try again.
Click, click, click.
Repeat until giving up.
Call Love. He's in at work, an hour from our home. This was not his week to drive so he doesn't have a car and left his cell phone at home.
My neighbor calls her husband. He's at work - without enough gas to drive out to us and he left his wallet at home (so he has no way to buy gas to come get her).
Call closest mechanic - he's out for the next hour.
My Mom, who lives close to the patch and has a vehicle that would hold all of us, is out of town.
Think - if we leave the van for someone to fix it there or to tow it back, who can we call to pick up all 6 of us since we won't fit in the tow truck.
At 10 am, Love leaves work with a coworker who drops him off at home.
My neighbor's husband borrows a work vehicle and picks up his family.
The girls and I hang out at the strawberry patch.
Love goes to the auto parts store and confers with them - it's the starter.
12 pm Love purchases a starter and drives to patch, stopping at McDonald's on the way to get lunch for his stranded family.
1 pm Love arrives with food, tools and a starter. Everyone enjoys lunch.
After eating, Love installs the new starter.
We try starting the van.
Click, click, click.
Arghh!!
Look in phone book for closest auto parts store for battery.
Love experiments with the van and believes we have another problem.
Love calls the tow truck to take our van to our mechanic - estimated arrive 1 hour.
I call our neighbor to come pick up the girls and take them to her house - estimated arrive 30 min.
I move everything in the van to the car.
Tow truck arrives and tries jumpstarting with their power jumper (or whatever you call it).
Van starts.
Neighbor arrives and takes our girls to her house.
Love and the wonderful guy from the tow truck try turning off the van to see if it will start on its own.
Click, click, click.
They rejump the van - success.
I drive van, with Love following, back to town.
4 pm-ish Arrive at our house, Love drives the van to auto parts store and gets a new battery.
I do some cleaning to prepare for Pest control (did I mention the ants?)
4:30 pm Pest Control arrives and Love calls to say he's headed home with a van that will start again.
4:45 pm Pest control informs Love that our immediate neighbor's house has active termites!
5:40 pm pest control finally finishes spraying for ants inside and outside our home and yard.

We were so blessed today!

Why? We were blessed to have the van break down at a location with water, shade, plenty to eat (strawberries), a bathroom (port-a-potty) and a swingset.
We were blessed that this did not happen halfway to Grandma and Grandpa's tomorrow.
We were blessed that this did not happen halfway to our vacation later this summer.
We were blessed with an incredibly detailed pest control company!  Pricing is comparable to what we've spent every other year as we've fought these ants but never have any of the other pest control companies spent almost an hour and a half searching for the ants (and termites now) and spraying.
We were blessed with a very friendly, helpful, and informative guy from the Towing company. I'd heard others recommend them but I have to say, he was better than I expected.
We were blessed with a friendly and patient owner at the strawberry patch who had no problems with us hanging out there all day.

After all these blessings, I'm going to be pondering what I'm needing to change so that Heavenly Father doesn't need to send me any more "Slow down!" messages. And we're ready to relax for the evening.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WFMW - Clothesline Tips

Two summers ago, it seemed every blog I read was talking about using a clothesline.  I learned a lot, but didn't have a clothesline.  At the end of that summer, a friend came over to visit and I mentioned my desire for a clothesline.  She asked if I had some rope.  I did.  So she immediately grabbed her cub scout son who was with her and the three of us headed outside and strung up a line between my trees.  I started using it but not always.

Then last summer, as soon as school let out, my husband got laid off from work.  Not knowing how long I would need to stretch our funds, it became a necessity to use the clothesline.  I only used the dryer for "privates" or if it was raining.  In the process, I remembered some of those tips I had read the previous summer and learned from experience. 

This last week a friend posted on Facebook "A certain friend of mine will be excited to here that I hung up a clothesline today."  I naturally assumed that friend was me because we had talked about it a few days earlier.  I immediately commented with some tips for her and thought it'd be a perfect Works for Me Wednesday post. 

Here are those tips.

1.  Hang everything loose.  When I first started, I'd hang the clothes tight between the clothespins.  Do you know what that gets you?  Stiff clothes.  They need to be able to blow in the wind and the clothes need to rub against themselves.

2.  Hang pants and shirts by waistline.  There are two reasons I've come up with for this.  First, the larger opening is held "open" by the clothespins so more air gets inside the clothes to help it dry.  Second, if you end up with any clothespin marks, they are hidden more.  Imagine you hung up your shirt by the shoulders and the pinch from the clothespin is visible while you wear the shirt later.

3.  Hang towels and sheets folded in half, with fold toward ground.  This creates an opening at the top to let air in and the halves rub against each other - the friction decreases stiffness.

4.  Snap clothes before pinning up.  I'm not exactly sure what this does - I'm assuming it gets out a little more water but if I don't snap, the clothes tend to be stiffer.

5.  If out of pins, hang panties with other clothes.  This one is a silly tip.  But if you're run out of room on your line or out of clothespins, you can hang panties by hooking the legholes over a clothespin already in use.

6.  If concerned about fading in the sun, hang inside out.

7.  If too stiff, put in dryer for 15 minutes.  Sometimes, items just get stiff (especially queen size blankets that I can't snap before putting on the clothesline on days when there is little wind).  When this happens, I simply throw the item in the dryer for 15 minutes to soften it up.  It's okay because I'm running the dryer less than I would to completely dry the item.

The benefits I've had from using my clothesline are many.  First, I use less electricity so my utility bill is lower.  Next, I'm not heating up my house from the clothes dryer so I'm using less air conditioning to counter that heat, so my utility bill is lower.  I'm not an outside person and this gets me outside for short periods of time (so I don't become overheated) and I get sunshine.  I also get more exercise from walking the clothesline and pinning than I would from tossing the clothes in the dryer (every calorie counts, right?).  My sheets smell wonderful.  I think the towels are more absorbent (but that only lasts for 1 or 2 uses).  Also, my clothes/sheets/towels have no static cling!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out We Are THAT Family!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WFMW - Scheduling Posts

For those who haven't played around with the Post Options on blogger, I'm here to encourage you to use it!  It has really helped my posting.  I've had SO many times when I've found something that works for me and think "I need to post that for Works for Me Wednesday!".  But then by the time Wednesday rolls around, I'm either super busy or I can't remember what the tip was.  I'd heard others mention writing a post in advance but I didn't know how to do it.  I figured it out a few months ago and it really Works for Me!

So here are the steps....

Click Post Options at the bottom of your draft post.  It will open up some options for you.

If you are using the updated version, in the expanded area, on the right, you'll see "Post date and time" with the options of "Automatic" and :Scheduled at". 

Click Scheduled At and then set the date that you want it to publish, even the time.

Then click "Publish Post".

If you are using the older version of blogger, when you click Post Options, you'll see a post date - just change it to be the date you want it to publish your post.

Note:  When I was figuring out how to do this, I tried using Help because I wasn't always successful.  The Help section said they were trying to figure out why it didn't work for everyone.  Not helpful at all.  But then I realized the truth.  If you click Publish Post before changing your Post Options, you can NOT go in and then change the date and have it unpublish your post and save it for the future.  As long as I set the Schedule at date BEFORE I click Publish Post, it always works for me.

Writing the posts as soon as the idea hits me definitely Works for Me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 24 - 30

Here's our meal plan for the coming week...

Monday - Italian Beef

Tuesday - Ribs (from the freezer - but maybe next time, I'll add the recipe)

Wednesday - Fish (Recipe TBD)

Thursday - Chicken Tortilla Soup (scroll down for the recipe - also a chocolate cake recipe)

Friday - Fettucini Alfredo

Saturday - CookOut

Sunday - Homemade Pizza

This menu is being posted to Menu Plan Monday on OrgJunkie!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fettucine Alfredo

I found this recipe in an Italian cookbook while I was living in Florida.  I started making it then and it has become a family favorite.  It's also a signature dish for me so I must really love you guys to be sharing it!

The alfredo can be tricky as sometimes the butter and the cheese separate - it's a timing thing but I haven't figured it out enough to tell you how to avoid it, even after 16 years of making it, except to say do not overcook it.  But it's still good even when the butter separates.

One thing about this recipe - I can't eat fettucine alfredo out anymore because 90% of restaurants use black pepper in their recipes instead of white pepper and no nutmeg.  It's just not as good.

Classic Fettucine Alfredo

3/4 lb uncooked dry fettucine*
6 T unsalted butter (I've also used margarine)
2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 t. salt
Generous dash ground white pepper
Generous dash ground nutmeg
1 c grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Cook dry fettucine in large pot of boiling water 6-8 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.

2.  Place a large, heavy skillet on the burner used for the boiling water**.  Place butter and cream in skillet over medium-low heat.  Cook and stir until butter melts and mixture just starts to bubble.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg.***  I tend to put the pepper and nutmeg (individually) in my hand and then rub my hands together over the skillet.  The rubbing seems to release some of the fragrances.

3.  Remove from heat.  Gradually stir in cheese until thoroughly blended and smooth.  Return briefly to heat to completely blend cheese if necessary.  (Do not let sauce bubble or cheese will become lumpy and tough).

4.  Drain water from fettucine and then dump into skillet with sauce (or pour sauce over fettucine in pot).  Stir and toss with 2 forks for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve immediately.****

*  I just grab what it looks like my family will eat.   I also tend to go a little less than probably the recipe calls for because we like it heavy on the sauce (opposite of the way I like my spaghetti).

** I've learned this trick - the sauce will cook much faster this way and my family can never wait for this to be ready.

*** Don't procrastinate gathering your ingredients until it's time to put them in!  You will end up overcooking the butter/cream and it could separate.

**** I love freezer cooking and meals that can be prepared ahead of time but this is NOT one of them!  It does not reheat very well (butter and cream definitely separate).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WFMW - Works for Me Wednesday

Today's tip for Works for Me Wednesday is to participate in Works for Me Wednesday!

Does that seem silly?  As I was writing last week's post, I realized that by participating in this each (or almost each) week, I am focused on the positive things in my life, things that are working and not where I need to improve.  For the areas I need to improve, I browse through everyone else's tips for ideas.

I find that as I go through my week, I am always on the lookout for those things that DO work for me.  My poor husband and mom get lots of comments like "Oh!  I need to remember to post this on Wednesday!"  And now I simply go ahead and type the post and schedule it (how to do that will be next week's WFMW post).

So look for those things in your life that are working and share them with the rest of us!

For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We are THAT Family!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 17 - 23



We cleaned out the freezer section of our refrigerator this afternoon.  Not an ordinary Sunday afternoon activity but I needed to figure out our meals for the coming week to decrease my to do's.  We found quite a few freezer meals so that will be what our meals come from.

Monday - Spaghetti (sauce from freezer)

Tuesday - Bul-ko-kee

Wednesday - Enchiladas

Thursday - Asian BBQ Chicken

Friday - Rosemary Pork Roast (from the South Beach cookbook)

Saturday - grilled hamburgers

Sunday - Lasagna

The enchiladas are leftovers in the freezer (so already cooked).  The lasagna, pork roast, chicken and bul-ko-kee are in the freezer prepped so I'll just need to take them out 1-2 days ahead to defrost in the refrigerator and then cook them.

I'm posting to Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie - go check out some great menus!

Lasagna

In a recent post, I promised my lasagna recipe.  Fair warning - I don't like meat in my lasagna so you won't find it in the recipe but you are more than welcome to add some to your's, just please not when I'm coming to dinner :)  My idea of lasagna is it's purpose is to combine pasta and melted cheese.  The original recipe came from my Mom (I seem to say that a lot in my recipe posts).

Lasagna

24 oz can of Hunt's Garlic and Herb Spaghetti Sauce **
16-24 oz cottage cheese *
1/4 c parmessan cheese
2 c. mozzarella and cheddar cheese ***
9 lasagna noodles

Cook noodles according to package directions.

In 9x13 pan, lightly cover with spaghetti sauce.  In a bowl, combine cottage cheese and parmessan cheese.

Then layer in the following order:
3 lasagna noodles
1/2 of cheese mixture
1/3 of sauce
2/3 cup mozzarella and cheddar cheeses
3 noodles
1/2 of cheese mixture
1/3 of sauce
2/3 cup mozzarella and cheddar cheeses
3 noodles
remaining sauce
sprinkle with mozarella, cheddar and parmessan

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

* 16 oz cottage cheese will work but I like lots so I try to buy the 24 oz container.  I generally make lasagna when I can combine a sale and coupon on the 24 oz container to make it really cheap, or when I find one marked down because it's Sell by date is approaching.  I then just make the lasagna to eat within a day or so or I freeze it for some future date (See note about freezing it below).
** I have been trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from our foods BUT this sauce is staying, at least for now.  Over the 15 years I've been making lasagna for my husband, I have tried different sauces.  If I use anything but this one, both of us notice the difference and it's just not as good.
*** Mom's original recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded mozarella.  A long time ago, I started using cheddar also.  I never measure either of them.  I just have a package of each and sprinkle what looks good of each on the mozarella layer.

Freezing Note:  When I freeze this, I tend to make it in two 8x8 or 9x9 square pans instead of one 9x13..  This requires more lasagna noodles - last time I used 12 or so but it really needed 1 or 2 more.  So try 14-15 noodles if you're going to make the smaller version.  My family of 4 is easily well fed with an 8x8 or 9x9 and maybe have a piece or two left over.

Chicken Enchiladas

Many years ago, a friend shared her chicken enchilada recipe with me (Thanks Jas!) after she mentioned that's what she making for dinner.  So untasted, I requested the recipe and our family loves it!  I have made a few adjustments to the recipe recently which have made them even better.  Here's my current recipe for you...

Chicken Enchiladas

1 pkg flour tortillas (soft taco or burrito size - your preference or what's on sale)
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese
1 can Ro-Tel (original works but the Mexican version with cilantro and lime is best)
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken
1/2 recipe Enchilada Sauce (scroll down to the enchilada sauce recipe)

Cook chicken and dice or shred.  Combine chicken, soup, Ro-Tel, 3/4 of the cheese and 1/4-1/2 of the enchilada sauce.

Spray bottom of 9x13 pan.

Put 2-3 large spoonfuls  into each tortilla.  Wrap tortilla around filling and place seam side down in 9x13 pan.  Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas and cover with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WFMW - A Wonderful Mother's Day

I had my best Mother's Day this week!  Part of it is due to attitude compared to previous years and part of it was due to prep work.

To explain attitude - as an adult, I've struggled with mother's day.  When I was single and living away from my Mom, it didn't mean much.  Once we started trying to have kids, unsuccessfully, it was a miserable day, more so when attending church.  So much focus on mothers makes it hard when you don't have children and want them.  Thankfully I've noticed that the church has started placing more of an emphasis on women, not specifically those with children, over the past few mother's days.  I also never liked it when they asked all the mothers to stand and then they'd hand out the mothers day goodies.  I was uncomfortable standing up when I wasn't a "mother".

Then Mother's Day at home wasn't great either.  Sometimes my husband forgot.  Or he'd try to make me a meal, but he'd make it the way he likes it, not the way I like it.  As Princess1 has gotten older, she definitely makes Mother's Day important and doesn't let ANYONE forget that it's coming.  As a result, Love doesn't forget anymore.  The presents have also gotten better over the years - Love still struggles at Christmas and birthdays to think of something for me but he's doing really well for Mother's Day (he must pay attention more for Mother's Day).  Sometimes he thinks I'm really weird for what I ask for - a shower head (the one that you can hold and move around, plus has the different streams), an undercounter radio/cd player for the kitchen, etc.  But both of those presents really made my everyday life more enjoyable and for me that's more important than flowers that die 2 weeks later (although I do like flowers too).

This year's present - a hammock for our back yard.   I've wanted one for years and now I have one.  Love and the princesses took me to Lowe's on Saturday (NEVER go to Lowe's on a Saturday and definitely NOT on the Saturday before Mother's Day).  We were going to get peat moss.  But they took me to pick out a hammock first.  We came home and set it up.  So of course, Sunday we were gone all day and then it was to rain on Monday so the hammock had to come down.  Now I need to set it back up again (Love was told to take it down before it rains to help it last longer).

So why is all this a Works for Me Wednesday tip?  Because what I did this year to make my Mother's Day great was to plan my own menu.  Love asked a week ago what I wanted for breakfast on Mother's Day - cinnamon rolls and strawberries.  I had Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls in the freezer - easy, YUMMY.  So I bought strawberries on Friday.  We would be having dinner with my mom, grandmother, sister (and family) and sister-in-law (and family).  I offered to make lasagna (using the cottage cheese I got for cheap, cheap).  So I made lasagna (recipe coming soon) and homemade italian herb bread on Saturday.  This was in addition to working on building our garden.  I also set out the cinnamon rolls to defrost and rise when I went to bed.  Saturday was crazy and exhausting.  But it was SO worth it on Sunday.  Saturday night, my sister stopped by and took the lasagna (layered but not cooked) to Mom's with her.

Sunday morning, my husband just had to put the rolls in the oven and cut up the strawberries.  It was delicious!  Easy!  Low stress for everyone!  And off to church we went.

After church, we picked up Nana (my grandmother) and drove out to the farm to meet everyone.  Mom and my sister put the lasagna in the oven and it had just finished cooking when we arrived.  I threw my bread in the microwave to heat it up.  Mom and my sister had made a salad and my sister-in-law bought some cake and cheesecake.  I had also brought some ice cream.  Again it was delicious!  (I LOVE LOVE LOVE my lasagna.)  It was easy!  And we had a great time visiting and no one spent a whole bunch of time in the kitchen (although Mom did do the dishes - but that would be worth it if you didn't have to do the cooking).

So my Works for Me Wednesday tip, if you can remember it for next year, make your own meal ahead of time and let your husband or family heat it up for you.  Then you relax.

For more Works for Me Wednesday, head to We are THAT Family!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Free to almost free Cover Girl Makeup

I went to Dillon's today (5/11) to catch some deals  (I expect they'll probably be repeated next week - I'm waiting for my ad to arrive to know).

Dillon's is doing the P&G deal where you buy 4 items and get $4 off your order.  I did the deal twice in my transaction.

Here are the great deals I got....

Crest Kids' Hannah Montana toothpaste gel - $2.49 (minus the $1 deal, minus 75 cent coupon, doubled) so 49 cents!  If Princess1 likes this, I'll go buy some more.

Crest ProHealth 4.2 oz toothpaste $2.49 (minus $1 deal, minus 50 cent coupon, doubled) = $0.49

CoverGirl Nail Polish $2.77 (minus $1 deal, minus 2.50/2 any Covergirl products) = $0.52 each

CoverGirl Eye shadow (singles) $2.24 (minus $1 deal, minus $2.50/2 any Covergirl) = FREE

CoverGirl Cheekers (single color) $2.96 (minus $1 deal, minus $2.50/2 any Covergirl) = 0.71 each

CoverGirl powder $4.46 (minus $1 deal, minus $2.50/2 any Covergirl) = $2.21

The initial prices above are sale prices.  I didn't buy 2 of everything; I mixed and matched products.  The coupons are from last week's (5/2) P&G insert in the Sunday paper.  In addition to the $2.50/2 coupon, there is a $1/1 coupon.  You will notice that I bought the single eye shadows.  The quad shadows were $2.77 after the P&G deal so I stuck with the singles since they were free.

If you need them, they also had brushes and sponges that would be free or close to it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Meditation - Freedom to Worship

Yesterday during Sacrament meeting, our Stake President made a comment that started me thinking.  He made a comment about being excited to worship this day.  I asked myself Am I excited?  How should I be excited?  I started imagining living in a country where I didn't get to choose which Church to attend, or maybe didn't even get to attend any Church.  Imagine a country where you are punished if you are caught praying, even in your home (examples are in the scriptures).  Imagine a country where you can't talk to others about the Gospel without it being punishable by law.

I worry about where our country is headed.  Many schools have limited dress codes to prevent kids from wearing clothing that would publicize their religious beliefs in case it would offend.  We hear stories of kids being prevented from praying while in the school, even if they aren't trying to get others to participate.  There are many interpretations of what the separation of Church and State means - some thinking that our government can not recognize any organized religion's existence, which in my mind means they are endorsing atheism.  This is not a political blog normally.  And I don't intend for it to become one.  But I have to say stop trying to push a lack of belief in God because by doing so it is definitely violating separation of Church and State.  In my family (parents, siblings), we have a variety of religions yet we are able to function lovingly, recognizing each other's religion as legit and an integral part of how we live our lives.  We have those who don't go to any church so Sunday is basically the same as Saturday in their lives.  We have those who go to Church, but also will shop, go to the lake, etc. on Sunday.  And then we have us Mormons who go to Church and don't shop on Sunday.  When we plan family activities, we look at what everyone's abilities/interests are.  If we're going to gather at someone's home, Sunday is fine and we work around travel schedules and church meetings.  If we want to go out to eat, shopping, an amusement park, etc., we pick a Saturday.  It's called respect.  And I am blessed to have that with my family.  That's what our founding fathers intended with the separation of Church and State - not requiring everyone to believe the same thing and not punishing someone for believing different than you.

I get tired of being told that I'm intolerant because of what I believe.  I'm not forcing you to believe as I do, don't try to make me accept your decisions as acceptable for my family.  And I will vote my conscious.  Today, I have that right as do you.  I won't threaten you or harrass you if the vote doesn't go my way.  I love that we have the right to vote and make our voices heard.  And then we need to accept that vote.  If we don't like it, then we can continue to work to get our opinion heard and change things.

Sorry for the soap-box diversion.  Back to my thoughts from yesterday.  Looking at my life, I think too often I have taken for granted my right to attend the church of my choice.  I do tend to attend every week.  But do I celebrate that ability?  Do I wake up on Sunday morning excited to get ready to attend Sacrament meeting and worship?  Or am I bogged down by all the preparations of getting my family out the door with everything we need, trying to be on time..  Do I truly praise the Lord?  I know that I seek to learn what I need to learn from the lessons.

When we go to a party at a friend's house, everyone tends to walk in happy, joyful, excited to be there and celebrate.  We should have a similar joy, excitement to attend our church services.  We can do this!  There are currently places in this world where you can't.  This is one of our freedoms.  Not only do we need to work to protect it through political means, we need to celebrate it through spiritual means.  Let Heavenly Father know you appreciate that right by exercising it and by telling Him in your prayers.

And if you are reading this blog and don't happen to believe in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father or you don't belong to the same Church that I do, or you believe but don't think that requires attending a Church, this still applies to you.  You can still celebrate and honor and protect the right you have in the United States to follow that personal belief.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.  11th Article of Faith

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WFMW - Good, Better, Best

A few years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a conference talk entitled "Good, Better, Best".  This talk really has changed my life and I use the principle he taught CONSTANTLY.  It applies to everything in our lives.  How we spend our time, what items we have in our home, what we purchase, what we eat.  Everything.

I'm in the process of purging our home and we're using this principle again.  I want simple.  I want less stuff so that I can take care of the stuff we have.  I don't want to settle for the Good - I want the Better and the Best.

I started this process with my daughters' room.  We pulled out all the toys, all the books, all the stuffed animals and will be pulling out all the clothes.  Books and stuffed animals were easy - We laid out the books ALL over the living room.  I had no idea how many books we had!  Then I had each girl pick their favorite 5 books.  And we repeated that until they had each picked 20 books.  I had them look at the remaining books - "Are there any books that you are going to be broken hearted over more than the ones you have in your keep pile?"  Princess1 swapped out 1 or 2 books.  Princess2 had to have some help with swapping out some books that we wanted to keep for ones that we didn't feel were the Better or the Best (sorry Dora books).

I put away the books we decided to keep - about 100.  And then I laid out the remaining books all over my couch and took pictures.  They were then posted on Craigslist to sell them.  My husband and I picked $20 to sell them.  He wasn't confident we could do that.  But then I counted the books as I put them into boxes - just over 100 books!  So I made sure the Craigslist ad said there were 100 books - so 20 cents per book.  I had SO many responses to this post.  But the more important part - we are moving closer to the Better and Best and simplifying our home and lives.

Interestingly - the girls have 1/2 the books they used to have and are reading MORE!

We did the same thing with the stuffed animals.  When I gathered them all up, I had 2+ large garbage sacks full of stuffed animals.  The girls picked their favorites - about 5 "large" and 3-4 "small" stuffed animals.  It's just enough that will fit in a single file across the foot of their beds.  The rest?  I recently heard that the local Juvenile courts will accept stuffed animal donations to give to children who have to go through the courts.  We experienced this ourselves when our adoptions were finalized and the girls loved receiving their animals.  So I suggested this to our family and the answer was a resounding "Yes!".  Now I just need to call the Court and find out when I can bring them the stuffed animals.

Why is this working when previous attempts to clean out didn't?  1) The girls are involved in picking the Better and Best items to keep.  2)  I've asked the girls if they like cleaning up everything that gets scattered all over their room.   Their answer is no.  So let's have less stuff that we need to clean up - their response "Okay!"  3) The items we're not keeping are leaving our home quickly and are not given the chance to make it back into circulation.

So I have been successful with the books and stuffed animals.  Toys are still making it out of the box where they are being stashed.  The problem with them is I'm trying to find all the pieces/parts for the girls to be able to pick their favorites and then to either sell or donate the remaining.  Guess I better get the remaining rooms done to find those parts.  And do it now!

This process is working for Me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WFMW - ER Bag

A few years ago, my grandmother had a stroke.  She called me after she had called the ambulance, at about 7 am.  Having worked in a hospital for many years, I'd heard many stories about long waits in the ER Waiting Room.  So as I threw on my clothes, I also grabbed my current project and I headed out the door.

Once we were in the ER, we were actually seen by the doctor immediately.  But after they ran some tests, we had to wait for results.  After being told she was being admitted, we waited some more for a bed to be ready upstairs for her.

A few weeks later, back at home, my grandmother once again called the ambulance and then me.  I again grabbed my project and put on clothes (she really likes calling the ambulance at 6:30 in the morning).  This time I also grabbed a water bottle and snacks.  She'd had a heart attack.  After a few repeats of this, I had what to grab down pat.  I also learned the items that I needed to grab for Nana.  If you didn't know, many times once the EMTs have put their patient into the ambulance, they start some basic care before driving to the hospital.  In my experiences with Nana, this took 10-15 minutes.  This also allows time for putting together your bag or gathering items for the patient.

This past December, my Mom called and said the ambulance was on its way to her house to pick up my Dad.  Knowing she had a few minutes and there wasn't anything she needed to be doing for Dad, I encouraged her to put together some items for her at the hospital - a project, a book, snacks, etc.  She hadn't thought about that; she'd was focused on my dad.

Since Mom found my thoughts helpful, I decided to share them as my Works for Me Wednesday tip this week.

Here are items to grab for yourself:
  • project to do (knitting, crochet - something that is easy to grab and doesn't require space to spread out your stuff)
  • book to read/crossword puzzles/sudoku
  • water bottle
  • snacks
  • cash (to purchase food in the cafeteria or vending machines)
  • cell phone (check your charge- you may want to grab your charger too)
  • or address book with phone numbers if you don't have a cell phone with the numbers saved
  • calling card
Here are items to grab for the patient (many of these are for if you think they'll be admitted):
  • project (If I'm the patient, I generally bring a project; but this will depend on the condition of the patient)
  • a book to read/crossword puzzles/sudoku/toys (especially important if patient is a child)
  • family picture (if it looks like they'll be admitted, this can bring a little bit of home to their room)
  • wallet with ID, insurance information
  • a change of clothes, including underwear, socks and shoes (Nana always seemed to go to the hospital in her pajamas)
  • toothbrush (when admitted, this will be provided by the hospital, but the patient may really wish for their own)
  • hairbrush
  • If they are an 80/90 year old female, you better grab the basic makeup supplies (for Nana, this was always more important than anything else except clothes)
  • keys (especially if you don't live with the patient, you don't want them to be released and have no way to get into their home).
I know that if you are heading to the ER, you're not likely to look up my blog to find this post.  But I'm hoping that some of these ideas will stick with you if you find yourself in the situation of preparing to head to the ER.  They definitely Work for Me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We are THAT Family!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WFMW - Parking Backwards

For the past few years, we've had season tickets for our local Symphony Orchestra.  When we would arrive in the parking garage, we noticed a lot of people parking backwards in the parking spots.  Hmm.  Then we decided to try it.  Wow!  We could get out of our parking spot so much faster because others leaving were more willing to let us in the line and when they weren't, we can nudge forward into the line much easier.  So now we park this way any time we can when we go to an event.

When school started this year, Princess1 changed schools.  With the new school, it is very easy to park in the school's lot and walk up to the door to pick her up.  One day I decided to try parking backwards at the school.  It worked!  I can pull out so much easier and the traffic is lighter when I'm trying to park than when I'm trying to leave.  The biggest reason I do this now - safety!  By being parked backwards, I can pull out and clearly see where all the other kids are at as they make their way to their vehicles.  No more blind spots!

This works for me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out We are THAT Family.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMW - Reusing School Papers

I don't know about other schools but Princess1 is in 1st Grade and brings home a TON of papers.  This includes her artwork, others homework assignments, papers she started to write a story on but only wrote one word, flyers, newsletters, etc.  I was feeling guilty about throwing so much paper away.  And then I realized that I could reuse some and recycle some (and of course save those most precious ones).  How do I reuse them?  If the paper is 8 1/2 x 11 and in decent condition (not folded, wrinkled, torn, etc), and is only printed on one side, I put it in my printer to print coupons!  Coupons only need 1 side to be printed on and the clerks at the grocery store don't care what's on the reverse side as long as the barcode is readable.

That works for me.  I feel less guilty because I'm not just throwing everything away and I'm saving money in two ways - not buying as much paper AND using coupons.

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out We are THAT Family.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sausage Gravy

A yummy, full of calories, recipe from my Mom.  We grew up eating Biscuits and Gravy and this is the gravy recipe we used.

Sausage Gravy

1 1/2 cup milk
3 T flour
3 T grease drippings
1 t salt
1/8 t pepper

Instead of the grease drippings, I always cook my sausage and leave it in the pan with the grease - unless the grease seems like a LOT (plus I normally double the recipe) so I'm estimating the amount of grease in my pan.  It definitely seems like some sausage creates more grease than others so I just eyeball it after cooking the sausage.  I also use a roll or links - if I use links, I pull out a few to eat as links and cut up the rest; you could do the same with patties.

In a cup with a lid (or something else you can shake), put flour, salt and pepper.  Pour in half of the milk (3/4 cup).  Put lid on container and shake until flour is mixed with milk.

With grease drippings in your large frying pan (and the sausage crumbs), pour milk mixture into pan.  Stir.  Then add the remaining milk to pan.  Stir and cook until thickened to your preference.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anniversary Chicken

My friend Denise made this for dinner on one of our trips to visit her family.  It was so yummy I had to have the recipe!  She served it with roasted green beans which has now become one of my and Adam's favorites too.

Anniversary Chicken

2 T vegetable oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup teriyaki basting sauce
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 (3 ounce) can bacon bits
1 T chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large skilled, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chicken breasts, and saute 4 to 5 minutes each side, until lightly browned.
Place browned chicken breasts in a 9x13 baking dish.  Brush with teriyaki sauce, then spoon on Ranch.  Sprinkle with cheese, green onions and bacon bits.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

Source:  "Anniversary Chicken I" recipe by VICKI117 on http://www.allrecipes.com/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Here's Colleen's Chicken Wild Rice Soup


5 2/3 cup water
1 pkg (4.3 oz) Rice-a-Roni Long Grain and Wild Rice Mix (I also use the Uncle Ben's version)
1 envelope chicken noodle soup mix (I normally use a can or two of cond. Chicken noodle soup)
1 celery rib, chopped (I'm substituting celery seed tonight since I don't have any celery and I'd have to pick it out before my family would eat it)
1 med carrot, chopped
1/3 c chopped onion (optional)
1 can cond. cream of chicken soup
2 cups cubed cooked chicken

Note:  I'm using one pkg of my chicken mix (see Haystacks recipe) so it's combining the chicken and carrots

In a large saucepan, combine water, rice with contents of seasoning packet and chicken noodle soup.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the celery, carrot and onion.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cream of chicken soup and the chicken.  Cook 8 minutes longer or until the rice and vegetables are tender.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deals for 3/24 - 3/30/10

Here are some deals for this week...

Dillons deals From Money Saving Mom...
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/MoneySavingMomStoreDealsDillons/~3/bN6Neg01dzI/dillons-deals-for-the-week-of-march-24-30-2010.html

Dillons deals From Frugal Fritzie
http://www.frugalfritzie.com/2010/03/24/dillons-deals-324-330/
Price Cutter deals from Frugal Fritize
http://www.frugalfritzie.com/2010/03/24/price-cutter-deals-324-330/

You may also see some coupon matchups for this week at Dillon's from Stretching a Buck but her deals don't always match what's on sale in our region.

Since Dillon's is continuing the deal from last week (Buy 8 participating items, get $4 off), many of the deals I posted last week will still work.

I will add any additional deals I find from my shopping to this post - add your own finds in the comments or email them to me and I'll update the post.