Thursday, July 31, 2008

Furgal Friday

This week, my Frugal Friday tip is about menu planning.
As you probably know, resources about planning meal menus at home are plentiful - perhaps overwhelming. But today I'm going to share a little of what I've learned to apply in my own life... this is tried-and-true, and helped me save my sanity!

When I was single, I would decide what I wanted to eat based on what I felt like eating. If I couldn't find something at my house, I'd go out.

When I got married, I got a husband and an instant family overnight. My husband had two young boys - ages 6 & 8. The only children I had were the ones I taught at school...but I never had to bring any of them home with me. So in the afternoons, after teaching all day, I'd pick the boys up from school. Hubby worked construction, so his arrival home would vary. As soon as we hit the front door, it would start.

Boys: "What're we having for dinner?"
Me: "Why? Are you hungry?"
Boys: "No ma'am."
Me: "Then why do you want to know what we're having if you're not even hungry?" (See how naive I was?????)
Boys: "We just wanna know."
Me: "Well, I'll let you know when I figure it out." (Yeah. Nice answer. Never let 'em see ya sweat.)

So I'd go to the refrigerator. And I'd stand there, with the door open. Waiting. Hoping for inspiration to strike. And you know what? It never did.

After about a year, (yes, I'm a quick learner), I realized I needed a plan. I knew nothing about menu planning. My mother was always at home. I never thought about what she did all day, and she never told me what happened when I was at school. I was clueless. So I began to look for resources, and I found a couple of books that talked about knowing what to fix for dinner before dinnertime actually arrived. What an intriguing idea! The kids had been banned from asking me THAT question anymore. The words "What's for dinner" sent me into a deplorable mood. Could this actually be a solution????

I got a calendar. I made a list. I asked everyone what their favorite meal was (McDonald's did not count. Neither did Pizza Hut.) I put the meals on the calendar, and decided what side dishes would go with them. Then I made a grocery list, and I bought what I needed to make the meals for about a week. And when dinnertime came, I knew what to do. WOO HOO!!!!

I also discovered that this saved us LOTS of money.
And I have adapted this strategy over the last 14 years of my marriage. And in times when we needed to watch our pennies, having a menu plan has proved invaluable. So if you think you can't do it, give it a try.... once you get started, it just might make dinnertime a little less stressful.

If you're still with me here, I've planned out our menu for the month of August. (Because now hubby & I
both teach, and we don't get another paycheck until the end of August!!) I've left some days blank, because we invariably have leftovers, and sometimes thing change. But we have a PLAN, so I'm never caught flat-footed. (If you'd like a copy of my menu - it's purely based on food my family likes - I will be happy to send it to you. Just let me know.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Big boy, little boy, Daddy.
More wordlessness here.

Tackle It Tuesday

The first tackle is a request to pray for Carolyn, who usually inspires everyone with her tackles at 5 Minutes for Mom. She's been battling depression and could use some help.

Next, for me...
In a household of two teachers, during the summertime, we must be careful to budget because we do not receive a paycheck. And the month of August always seems to bring an extra degree of belt-tightening.

So, I've decided to plan out the menus for the month, every day. I will do a big shopping trip this weekend, and will do my best NOT to grocery shop again until the end of the month.

When my big boys were young, I used to do this all the time, and got pretty good at it. The trick is, once you've got all the items for your menus, you don't need to "pick up some milk" and come home with $40 worth of other items. And the temptation to eat out, unless it is planned for, is eliminated, because I know what we're eating and it's probably already cooking. We won't be eating beans and rice everyday (although it is on the menu this month!) and I think with our garden, we'll be able to keep a pretty good selection of produce around. And it will definitely help our checkbook.

What are you tackling?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

This week will be a gentle nudge back into the school year routine. I'll be at a workshop all week, every day from 9-2, so I've got lots of meals planned using my favorite kitchen appliance, the crockpot. But first, a recap from last week!
The bacon & cheese chicken recipe was okay. My husband is pretty finicky when it comes to chicken, so I was okay with this.... two out of the last three chicken recipes have been a hit, so I'm not too disappointed. People who love chicken will probably like this just fine. The rest of the menu went just according to plan, which was good!
So for this week:
Sun~ Beef brisket (from the freezer), egg noodles, gravy w/sliced mushrooms, corn on the cob, tossed salad, biscuits
Mon~ Lemon & Herb chicken (crockpot), rice, homemade bread, broccoli
Tues~ Hamburgers on the grill pan, pasta salad
Wed~ A-1 and Dijon Steak, (crockpot again!!), mashed potatoes, broccoli w/cheese, crescent rolls
Thurs~ Pancakes & bacon. Marine Son comes home on leave!!! :)
Fri~ Fend For Yourself! I'll be attending a Beth Moore simulcast, so the boys will fend for themselves while I'm out.
Sat~ TBA... a lot depends on what Son #1 wants. We are so excited to have him home!
What are you cooking this week? Check out Organized Junkie for tons of ideas!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Frugal Friday

I told my husband about two weeks ago that I was not going to the grocery store again until the end of the month. I had purchased everything that I thought we would need, and we would make do until August 1st.

Then I needed to make food for a grieving family. So I checked my freezer and found a turkey bought on sale, and I roasted that. (I did go buy disposable containers so they did not have to worry about giving me back my dishes.) I raided our stash of garden peas and made a huge pot. Everything I took, I already had in our freezer or pantry.

This weekend, I need to make a layered bean dip for a family birthday party. Well, I do not have any refried beans. So... I looked in my pantry. I had a large bag of dried pintos. Yesterday I cooked them in the crock pot and today I will smash them up with some spices and use them in the dip. The only thing I'll need is cheese to top it off. (My guys are like mice - they eat cheese fiendishly so we are out of that.)

We are also out of bread. I am not an expert bread baker, but thankfully, I do have a bread machine. So this morning, I put the ingredients in the bread maker, and we should have a fresh loaf by noon. (I let it go through the 'dough' cycle on the machine, then put in a loaf pan to bake in the oven. We prefer the texture of the oven-baked bread.)

How are you exercising frugality?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thankful Thursday

This week's Thankful Thursday is about random thankfulness... which I feel deeply today.

After the events of the past week, and having to sing at a funeral for a baby, I am so appreciative of the time the God has given me with my own children. Being a mother is not something I really ever aspired to - because I taught young children for so many years, I wasn't sure I wanted to come home to a brood of my own! But God granted me the privilege of mothering 3 boys. Boys... the ones I felt least equipped for... He has shown His grace and strength in the midst of my weaknesses.

My oldest son just called today, to say that he is taking leave (after finishing a school) and will be home for two weeks, beginning next week. It thrills my heart to know that home is where he wants to be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday

Today, what works for me, is a great haircut.
I am notorious for neglecting my hair and then getting to the point that I am ready to shave it all off in favor of a wig.
Now, I don't really want to shave my head. It just seems that it would make life simpler sometimes. You see, I have baby-fine hair. I have lots of it, but it is superfine. So all of the really cute hairstyles that I love will not work on my hair.
My hair is also super straight. Like "who-needs-a-flat-iron-when-your-hair-is-this-straight" straight. So hairstyles are a challenge. Because my hair will never do what I want it to do, so I have had to learn to like what it will do. Sometimes. And in order to get it to do what it can do, it needs a good haircut. Which I got today.
So what works for you?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tribute Tuesday

Tribute Tuesday is being hosted by Jubilee. This is new to me, but something I can easily join in to do! My husband is a former Marine. My oldest son is currently a Marine, and my second son is a (new in June) Airman. You might think we're a little conflicted, representing two branches of the military in our family, but the interesting thing is, each boy chose what suited him best.

The curious thing is that we never stressed military service to our boys. We have not been the sort of family that said, "Your father did it, and this is what you will do." We did teach them to be responsible, to love our country, and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. We wanted them to go to college! And they did.... for a while. But they each chose the path to serve our country, and are doing so in very different ways.

I have always been thankful for the men and women who serve and defend our country. Perhaps because I have lived in 'military towns' all my life, I have always been keenly aware of the sacrifice these people - and their families - make, on a daily basis. Having two boys in the military at this time of unrest in so many places, it can make a mother nervous. But I am so incredibly proud of my sons, and daily, I pray for their protection, as well as the protection of their friends and so many others who serve.

So my tribute today is first to my husband, who is very proud of his time in the USMC, and who did such a wonderful job of teaching our boys to love their country, and that service - in whatever form it takes - is important. And my boys, as well. Their careers in the military are new... but they have made a choice, and as one of them told me, "It is an honorable thing to do."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday

This Tuesday, I have one thing to tackle, and it is a very sad thing.
I have to sing at a funeral.
That is bad enough, but it is a funeral for a baby.
For those who do, please pray for me... and for the family who is suffering this loss.
There is no way to make it nice - they just need an enormous dose of God's grace to endure it and make it to the next day.
That is enough to tackle for one day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Let's do a little re-cap from last week. The chili cheese fries were, of course, yummy. They are not something we can eat every day, but they were a fun treat. The penne with chicken and pesto was also delish. Hubby really liked it, but we both agreed that next time, I should double the sauce. We like sauce. (I used plain ol' milk instead of cream for the sauce.)

I spent all day in the kitchen on Friday, because I needed to prepare a meal for a family who is going through a real tragedy right now. A dear friend of mine lost her 9-month-old niece in a horrible accident, so I took a meal to them on Saturday. There are 16 people to feed, so it was no small task. I roasted a turkey, baked a loaf of bread, made a pot of peas, threw together a pasta salad and some roasted veggies, and made a chocolate cobbler for dessert. (By the way, I made a small cobbler for us to test first, and it is YUMMY!!!)

Now... on to this week's menu.
Sunday~ Sticky chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, tossed salad, leftover rolls
Monday~ Leftover beef tenderloin with blue cheese butter, risotto, salad, texas toast
Tuesday~ Bacon & Cheese chicken, roasted potatoes, tossed salad
(this is a new recipe for us - I love this web site! I need a crock pot meal on Tues., because I have to sing at a funeral and I know I will not be in the mood to cook much.)
Wednesday~ Soft tacos
Thursday~ TBA - probably leftovers
Friday~ dinner @ a friend's home
Saturday~ 80th birthday party for my grandpa

Be sure you check out lots of other delicious menu ideas at Organized Junkie, and have a yummy week!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Frugal Fridays

I am feeling very frugal today, even though I spent some money.

This week's Frugal Friday is about taking a break from some practices that might ordinarily be considered frugal, just because you need a break.

For instance, although I usually cook at home every meal (during the school year, we take our lunches, but during the summer, I just cook), today we went out to lunch. I cannot remember the last time we did it. And it was a nice - and welcome - treat.

I also spent money in another place today - Old Navy. I usually avoid the mall like the plague. I worked in the retail industry all through college, and actually enjoyed selling clothes very much, but once I left, I really had no desire to spend much time in the mall anymore. However, Old Navy had a FANTASTIC in-store-only sale today.... all their clearance merchandise was an additional 50% off. So I scored jeans for my son for $4 each. WOO HOO!!!! I bought clothing for back-to-school, and got great deals. (As I understand it, this is only happening in the stores in my state. We usually have a tax holiday for back-to-school items, and because money is tight everywhere this year, the legislature has decided not to do that. This sale is supposed to generate the kind of revenue that the tax holiday would normally ensure.)

I also made a delicious and fabulously frugal tomato sauce for the freezer today, using tomatoes and basil from my garden.

So as I look back on the day, I am happy with my purchases, and with my non-purchases.
How are you practicing frugality today?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thankful Thursday

This week's Thankful Thursday is about trust.
Wow, I can so relate, especially this week.

My sister has applied for a really wonderful job, and is involved in a pretty lengthy interview process. She really wants this job, so we are praying together that God will open the doors. And trusting that He will.

My youngest son overheard his father and me talking about his big brother today. Our Marine will probably deploy in January. Even now, it is an exercise in trust for me.

My second son, who is a new Airman, is still awaiting the start of his first school. He is having a rough time, and is not happy while he's waiting. I am praying for God to keep him close and speak to his heart, but since son #2 is not known to share all his thoughts, I am having to trust BIG TIME that God is working on him.

Because I know that my God is faithful.


Check out more Wordless Wednesday here!

Makes a mama proud!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday

This week, I am going to share something that would have worked beautifully if I had one.

A cherry pitter.
Sounds simple enough.
If you have one, that is.
If you don't have one, and you decide to buy an ENORMOUS bag of fresh cherries, your fingers and nails and everything you touch will be purple. For many days.

I am from Florida. I have lived here all my life. I know citrus fruit and various types of berries. I do not eat fresh cherries very often. So when I went to the grocery store this weekend, and my hubby - who is from Pittsburgh - suggested I pick up some cherries, I did not think anything about it. For a couple of days, we ate very sweet cherries, and saved some pits, because my darling seven-year-old son wants to plant them to see if they will grow. Hubby is doubtful, but we are still going to try. Anyway.

I decided that the cherries needed to be spread out and have room to breathe because I suspected some of them were going bad at the bottom of the bag. Which they were. Then my husband asked me if I would make a pie, because we would never be able to eat all those cherries. So I said, "Sure!" (Actually I made a crisp. And it was very good. It is all gone now.)

Then I began to deal with the cherries.
I pitted about one cup of cherries.
Then I called my mother.

"Do you have a cherry pitter?" I asked.
"No, your sister-in-law does, though," she replied.
"But she's in Virginia," I said.
"Yes, so I guess you can't borrow it," my mother said.

Then I called my sister.

"Do you have a cherry pitter?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Oh. Okay," I said.

So I pitted FOUR MORE CUPS of cherries. Then I explained to my husband how much he should love me because of all my labor. And then I explained to him how I now understood why cherry pie filling is expensive. And why dried cherries are expensive. And that I knew why people invented a cherry pitter. The same reason they invented the cotton gin.

Because cherry pitters work much faster than my knife and purple fingers.
Cherry pitters work for me.
What works for you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday

This week, for Tackle It Tuesday, I have a much less gruesome task than last week's popcorn ceiling adventure. This week, I'm dealing with pictures.

We found some old disposable cameras, and my hubby decided to have all of them developed. There were NINE. You cannot imagine the pictures we ended up with.... some of them are eight or nine years old! I am amazed the film could still be developed.

I love pictures. They are fun. They make me happy. My issue with pictures is that once I start to look at them, I want to share them with whoever happens to be around. I "ooooh" and "ahhhh" at the pictures of how young the boys were, or how thin we used to be, or how big my hair was.

So my project is to organize my pictures in the quickest, most efficient way possible, without stopping to show them to my husband 100 times, and without taking all day. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

Another week, another menu.
For TONS of great menu ideas,
visit Organized Junkie!

Notes on last week's menu:
We actually followed the plan to a "T"!
The Bourbon Chicken was a huge hit. It has no bourbon in it - it has apple juice! It makes kind of a barbeque-y teriyaki kind of sauce. I left out the red pepper flakes because we don't care for hot... but it was yummy!

Sunday~ Rachael Ray's chili cheese fries (I omit the beer, usually just use shredded cheese instead of making a cheese sauce.)
Monday~ Penne with chicken and pesto from (this is a new recipe for us, but we like pesto, and we like chicken, and we like pasta, so I figure we'll be safe!)
Tuesday~ ALL STAR BASEBALL GAME!!! Hot dogs, nachos, and cracker jacks in front of the TV. Yes, we are baseball fans here.
Wednesday~ Beef tenderloin on the grill, baked potatoes, tossed salad, crescent rolls
Thursday~ Sticky chicken, rice, zipper peas (from our garden!), sliced tomatoes (also from the garden), homemade biscuits
Friday~ Pancakes or waffles and bacon
Saturday~ TBA

We have a friend who is playing in a charity softball game on Monday night, and we may go watch. If we do, it'll be ball park food and the penne w/chicken & pesto will move to Saturday.
What are you cookin'??

Friday, July 11, 2008

Frugal Fridays

Crystal asked about foraging food on this week's Frugal Friday. We have a garden, so I feel like we "forage" daily! But we did have some wild blackberry vines that planted themselves in our yard, and we had a blast picking those! I personally love blackberries, but I went ahead and froze them for later. Well, later came... and I made this yummy recipe from Cooking Light. It was totally delish! And the blueberries came from relative, and I used the very blackberries I picked from my yard. Gotta love that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thankful Thursday

I've been out of pocket for the past couple of days because I've been back at the beach house with my sister, nephew & parents... my hubby & son #3 joined us yesterday for some fishing, shell collecting, and dinner. (My brother-in-law also came out for dinner.) So today, like Iris, I am just feeling generally thankful.

I am thankful for my family - though they are often quirky, they love me, they love my husband and my boys, and they love and serve God.

I am thankful for our beaches - the natural resource of this place we live... you cannot be out here and not appreciate God's creation.

I am thankful for God's provision, His protection, and His grace. Yep, that covers it for today. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday

I will not be posting a picture of what I'm tackling today. You will understand in a moment. But I will share a much more pleasant moment in time.... two of my sons playing whiffle ball in our front yard this weekend.

On to less wonderful things.
We have popcorn ceilings in our home.
We have discussed scraping them, and probably will at some point. But right now, we are just living with them. (Not that this is new... we've lived in this house for 13.5 years.) Anyway.
The ceiling in my living room is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO dirty. So I will be cleaning it today. How do I clean it, you ask? Oh - it's so exciting. With a broom. I sweep my ceilings. And then I have to clean the room, because stuff falls off the ceilings all over the place. Yeah. Now you know why I'm not posting a picture of THAT.
What are you tackling today? Be sure to share here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

I always plan my menus on Sundays... unless I get REALLY behind. Which has been known to happen. But it's just easier for me to do it then, because Sunday afternoons are ordinarily pretty quiet. So.... here's the plan for this week:

Sun~ FFYS (Fend For Yourself)... hubby & Marine Son are going out for wings before Son leaves in the morning, so son #3 & I will be at home - he'll probably have chicken tenders & I will come up with something...

Mon~ BBQ pork sandwiches (crockpot), a cucumber salad, baked beans, & corn on the cob

Tues~ I will be spending the night out at the beach house with my sister... the boys will fend for themselves!

Wed~ Hubby & son #3 will join me and my BIL & nephew will join my sister out at the beach house - we will have shish-ke-babs on the grill with my parents.

Thurs~ Bourbon Chicken, rice, tossed salad, rolls

Fri~ Tacos (hubby's request) with all the trimmings

Sat~ any leftovers in the fridge! (If there aren't any, I'll probably whip up a pasta dish to use my tomatoes from the garden)

What are you eating this week? Be sure to share at Organizing Junkie!

For the Fourth....

Laura at Heavenly Homemakers posed these questions earlier in the week. We, of course, were not at home, but I thought they were interesting questions, and am always curious what others do to celebrate holidays. So here are my answers to her questions!

Eating? Burgers & Dogs, pasta salad, potato salad, chips
Actually we ate so much food this weekend that it's too much to track... fried fish, grilled chicken, beef tenderloin...

Be with? My parents, sister, BIL & nephew (19 mos), brother & nieces (11 and 8 yrs), hubby & 2 sons (22 & 7.5)

Travelling? To a beach house about 30 minutes from our house

Guests? No - just family (well, Marine Son’s friend who is also a Marine, but we have adopted him - his family is upstate NY)

Fireworks? YES!!! They were everywhere - we watched multiple shows from the house

Light them yourself? We will later this week.

The highlight of our weekend was my parents’ renewal of their wedding vows for their 40th anniversary. WOW - 40 years!! :)

For that event... we all wore white shirts & khaki shorts and our pastor came out to the beach house and my parents renewed their vows on the dunes. It was short but very touching, as we watched the emotion of sharing 40 years together appear on our parents' faces. Then afterward, we celebrated with grilled beef tenderloin (cooked to perfection by my darling husband!), new potatoes, fresh corn on the cob (shucked that day by my 7 year old son and 8 year old niece), and tossed salad (with veggies fresh from our own garden!). The meal was followed by a toast of sparkling apple cider, and a gorgeous cake from The Cake Shop here in town. Pictures will be forthcoming!

So.... how did YOU celebrate?

Thursday, July 3, 2008 is hosting a challenge - you can see the details here

Okay. I have decided on my project. I have clutter issues and I know it.

I have a bookcase in our computer room that collects my “stuff”. Some “stuff” needs to move to my office in my classroom; some “stuff” needs to filed; some “stuff” needs to be tossed, etc.

my first step in decluttering this area was to go through all the receipts that have accumulated there, and file them in the appropriate place. That much has been done.

Next, I will return items to school, and relocate a portable DVD player to its rightful spot (along with the box of accessories!).

Then I have a pile of magazines to deal with…..

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Today, I am thankful for my garden. I am thankful for my husband, who works so hard to keep it weeded and fruitful. Truth be told, he does most of the work. I do the easy part - collecting the goodies!
This is a planter box that he built. It held a plethora of cucumber vines, along with these eggplant. The cucumbers were overrun by weeds. No kidding - it was hard to get close to the box because the weeds - which were very itchy - were sticking out about a foot past the borders. Today, he cleaned every bit of it out, and planted new cuke seeds (which I feel sure will grow just fine, as our old cucumber vines had begun to flower again).

I am thankful for things that grow, for people and for gardens. :)

Works for Me Wednesday

This week's Works-For-Me-Wednesday is focusing on recipes that use 5 or fewer ingredients.

Can I just say for a moment: I love the title "Rocks in My Dryer"
because as the mother of all boys, this is a moment similar to many I have experienced. There is just something that happens when all that testosterone merges... it's different when you toss girls into the mix... but when it's a bunch of boys, all kinds of interesting things can happen.

On to the recipe.

One Variation of Cucumber Salad
2 cucumbers (depending on how many you want to feed, you can use more. I am using what is ripe in my garden at the moment.)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
salt & pepper to taste
Mix together sour cream and mayo. Peel and seed cucumbers and toss in bowl. Add salt and pepper (and any other herbs you like - dill is great here) and combine. Chill and eat!

Wordless Wednesday

Thank you, son.
Visit Five Minutes for Moms for more Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tackle It Tuesday!

Tackle It Tuesday
is such a great motivator for me! While I am off during the summer, it is time to catch up on all the things that go undone during the school year. Last week's project of the bathroom was a huge hit with my husband. This week I am tackling our filing system.... which is not so much fun. We have filed everything in the past according to who was the recipient of our money - that is, all bills for the electric company went in one file, all bills for cell phone went in another file, and so on. This seems logical, right?
Except for what we really end up with is this:
Now this pile doesn't look too bad, but that's only because it's been tackled once already, fairly recently. It has gotten huge, with stuff falling down off the shelf onto the scanner... blah blah blah. It has taken over at times.

So hubby & I had a conversation last night about how to deal with this problem (because he HATES piles, and I tend to make a lot of them) and we came up with this solution: instead of filing the way we have been, let's try something new!! We are going to file according to the month of the year - exactly the way we would pay our bills. This may not sound revolutionary, but I think it is going to make a big difference in our clutter. This way, when I pay the bills online (which I do as often as possible), I can print more than one receipt on each piece of paper I use. This uses less paper, but has made it harder to file in the old way. With the new way, I can simply stack my receipts and stick 'em in the file for the month! So that's the project for the day.... wish me luck! :)