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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).

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!