Sunday, July 31, 2011

Media and Your Homemaking

This week over at Women Living Well the topic is Media and Your Homemaking.  While most of my other posts have been negative about media, I'm going to admit that I think the media has been a tremendous boon to our homemaking skills!

Back in the day when I got married, a Betty Crocker cookbook was pretty much the go to book for recipes.  I did have other cookbooks but that was pretty much my primary resource, how cool is it that now anything you want to make is at the tip of your fingertips?  Not only recipes but any kind of cooking skill that you need to master.  I will admit to still pulling out my newlywed Betty Crocker cookbook on occasion, but I definitely go to the web to recreate foods that I have had at restaurants and loved!

Not only do I use the Internet for recipes but also for other homemaking stuff; napkin folding, formal table settings, questions about my flower garden, what to do if your dog eats chocolate, what to do if you child eats petroleum jelly - oh wait, that was before the Internet so we needed to call Poison Control!  I'm sure you get the idea, the Internet gives us all of our answers at our fingertips. 

For all the negative things that I feel the media advancement has brought us, the help that is available to us is amazing. 

What fun homemaking things have you looked up on the Internet?

You might also like:
Media & Parenting
Media & Marriage

Menu Planning W/O July 31st

Guess what week it is in the Midwest - corn week!  There is nothing that says summer like corn picked fresh from the farmer's field.  We had corn with dinner every night this week, which means we did have to do a little tweaking because corn on the cob doesn't go very well with tacos. 

I'm pretty pleased with how we followed our menu plan this week, we were able to eat together almost every day this week.  Instead of going out for dinner we had steaks on the grill (note to self - don't send the kids out to buy the steak.  They don't know how to look at prices, yikes!) and instead of tacos we had brats two nights this week(to go with the corn theme).  It helped that the husband was on vacation this week so he could have dinner on the table when I got home from work.

I don't typically talk about our sides very often, mostly because I don't really know what I'm going to serve until dinner is pretty much on the table!  This week we served; pasta salad, fresh tomatoes with salt & pepper, baked potatoes, watermelon, new potatoes with mushroom & onions and of course corn on the cob!   

I'm planning on the following for the upcoming week


Blueberry muffins (I bought blueberries at the farmer's market this week so we'll go with scratch this week)
Jimmy Dean sausage sandwiches


Personal Pizzas
Bagel sandwiches
Hot dogs


Chicken/stuffing casserole
Dinner out
Take out
Fend for yourself (we have at least one crazy evening where everyone will grab whatever they want)

We'll see if there will be corn again this week :)

What about you?  Do you have an interesting menu planned?

I'll be sharing these over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:
Carrot Cake Recipe
How to Save Money - Freezing Strawberries
Cleaning out the Refrigerator

Friday, July 29, 2011

Freezing Tomatoes

I absolutely love tomatoes.  My favorite way to eat a tomato is to pick it from the vine, wash it and eat it like an apple.  Nothing says summer like a fresh tomato.  During the winter months (when there are no fresh tomatoes) we eat a lot of tomato based sauces.  Spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, chili - do I need to go on?

Typically the only sauce I don't like to make from scratch is my spaghetti sauce (no one does it like Paul Newman!) so tomatoes are a staple for my freezer.  Luckily for me that I usually have friends, neighbors or coworkers who have way to many tomatoes than they know what to do with so the cost of my tomatoes is usually plants from my flower bed or some other bartering payment.

The first year I froze my tomatoes I spent hours blanching and pureeing only to discover that my tomato sauce was pretty runny.  The next year I threw them in the freezer, after washing and drying, skin and all!  Just to clarify, I actually put them into a Ziploc bag and THEN threw them in the freezer.  Didn't want you guys to think I was scrapping tomatoes from the inside of my freezer!  When it came time to need my tomatoes I would take them from the freezer, let them sit on the counter for a few minutes and then peel the skin right off.  At this point the tomatoes are so soft that just mashing them usually does the trick.  If I need them more pureed I can stick them in the food processor at that point.

This is my cheap, easy way to have fresh tomato sauce all winter long.  How do you freeze your tomatoes?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Basement Organization - Sort

Before I start my post on my organizing project update I want to remind you to enter the Tastefully Simple Giveaway that ends this Sunday at noon!

As I wrote about last week, my laundry/junk room has gotten out of control and needs to be reined in.  Unfortunately this tends to be a once a year project.  I clean and organize the area, then life happens and it gets out of control again.  I am committed (and forcing family commitment) to not let it get this bad again.

In case you've forgotten, here is the room before I started working on it this past week.

I'm taking a 5S approach to this cleaning project in the hope that I will be able to SUSTAIN (the final S) the organization that I've put into place.

To give you a brief overview, Lean is a philosophy derived mostly from Toyota that is centered on preserving value with less work.  Basically there are a set of 'tools' that assist in the identification and elimination of waste.  The Japanese word 'Seiri' is the first step come in the 5S system, our word in English is SORT.  If this was a workplace 5S I would be doing a Red Tag Event that would include attaching a red tag to anything that did not belong in the workstation and logging it in a book.  Since this is my own personal event I'm not going to that detail :)  I did break my sort down into three categories

  • Discarded because it is no longer needed (either garbage or donation pile)
  • Item(s) are being kept but need a designated place (I grouped these together and will need to determine an appropriate place for them at a later date)
  • Item is needed and in it's appropriate place (i.e. laundry detergent will probably be left in it's current place)
I didn't get completely through the sort process (I was suppose to be convalescing after all!) but my husband was pretty impressed with my progress and I am pleased with how far I've gotten.  Here is the current state of the laundry room.  See - I told you there was a table in that mess!

Here is a picture of my donation pile.  I thought about taking a picture of the thousands (it felt like thousands) of used dryer sheets that I threw away but I thought that may be a little overkill!

That's my update for this week.  How about you?  Did you get as far on your project as you would have liked?

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Give Back Thursday

Last year the company that I worked for commissioned Gallup to poll their employees to see how engaged they were with the company. The questions were quite interesting; even though it felt like some of them were a little unnecessary (I don’t feel like I need a best friend at work!). As managers we received feedback as to how our employees felt and focused on areas of opportunities.

One of the areas highlighted for my group was that they wanted to be recognized more. When we discussed what this truly meant, the resounding theme was that they really wanted to celebrate the little things more often. Some of the suggestions included; getting a card for their birthday from the group, getting together more often for lunch, etc. Not major things in the scheme of life but important enough for the group to verbally express their desire for them.

I have a confession to make, one of my weaknesses is I don’t take enough time out of my day to show appreciation to the people who are important to me. Quite often I’m so focused on the goal that I can run over people trying to reach it. I took to heart what the team talked about and decided to start celebrating their birthdays. For each and every one member of my staff (there are 11 of them) I get them a birthday card (signed by the whole department) and a birthday cake from the bakery. Today at work is JoAnn’s birthday so my Give Back for the week is her cake. Since she never told me what her favorite flavor is we’re going with a white cake with white frosting. Otherwise known as my favorite :)
What was your give back for the week?

I'll be linking this up over at Living so Abundantly and Life in a Cookie Jar

You might also like:

Working Women Wednesday
Tastefully Simple Giveaway

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Working Women Wednesday - You Can't Do It All

Welcome to the premier posting of Working Women Wednesday.  As women we all wear many different hats, our hats are just a little different if we also work outside the home.  The focus of my Wednesday posts will be geared towards topics that will help women who work outside of the home but SAHM moms will hopefully glean some insights as well. 

When I'm not being a wife and mother, I'm a Director of an analytic/financial department at a billion dollar manufacturing company.  I'll be using my experiences to write about ;  balancing home and work, your image at work, climbing the ladder and leadership to name a few.  If there is something you'd be interested in reading about, please let me know.  I'm also interested in having a few guest posts so if you have a have a topic you would like to write about please send me an e-mail to and we can explore some options.

I hope you enjoy the series, I'd love to hear your feedback.

You Can't Do It All

Is anyone else out there old enough to remember the Enjoli commercials?  They featured a breathtakingly beautiful, well dressed women singing "I can bring home the bacon!  Fry it up in the pan! And never, never, never let you forget you're a man because I'm a women!"  For some reason that commercial resonated with me as a kid and I remember going around the house singing it all the time.  I think that was the beginning of my Wonder Woman complex.  After all, if she could do it all why can't I?

I still occasionally break out in song but I've updated the lyrics.  They go something like this "I can bring home the bacon!  Sometimes fry it up in the pan!  And once in a while I'll help you remember you're a man because I'm a tired woman!"  Not quite as catchy but a little more realistic.

Ladies, I hate to be the one to tell you this but you have been sold a false bill of goods.  You can't, and shouldn't, try to do it all even though society has led us to believe we can.  Does that mean you shouldn't have a job outside the house and a family?  Absolutely not!  I do think you can have a successful career and a successful family life but that point is you can't do it all by yourself.  To truly be successful and happy you need a support system in place who will help you be successful.  The saying "it takes a village" becomes even more necessary if you are working outside the home.  Believing that you are Wonder Woman, when in fact you have no super powers, will only leave you worn out and exhausted.  However, there are ways to give the illusion of Wonder Woman by accepting help and learning when 'ok' is good enough.  While behind every successful man is a woman, behind every successful woman is a full team of people.

I'm sure if there are children involved, the decision to work outside the home wasn't made lightly or in a vacuum.  For some of us it truly wasn't much of a decision if we wanted to have food on the table.  However, it was a decision that we've made and we need to find ways to balance the different aspects of our lives.  We only have this one life to live so making sure that we lead it to the utmost fullest is essential. 

Next week I'll be writing about building the support system, hope you'll join me!

I'll be linking this up at Women Living WellWe are THAT Family and Day and Age Design

Don't forget to sign up for the Tastefully Simple Giveaway!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Media and Parenting

I'm going to let you guys in on the secret, I'm old and I remember when MTV first debuted.  We had just gotten cable (didn't have the microwave yet) and I was forbidden from watching MTV because of the message it was sending.  This was back in the day when MTV was strictly music videos and didn't contain all the overtly sexual shows they do now.  Oh, how I long for the good old days that my mother had when raising me!

It's amazing, when my daughter and I have discussions about what she can and can't watch on TV I get deja vu.  I feel like I'm transported back in time and am having the same discussion but her argument is coming out of my lips!  I guess some things never change.

What has changed is that Pandora's box has been slowly opening over all these years and the knowledge can never be put back in.  We are now accepting things in society that were completely taboo 30 years ago.  As a conservative feminist I struggle with this a little, social change is good.  I'm thankful that I have the opportunities that are available by those that have come before but I'm saddened by some of the other things those struggles have brought.

As a mother I realize that I can't keep them completely hidden from the dangers of the world so I've picked a few topics that I discuss with my kids (even the 20 year old) on a very open basis.

  • The S word - Does anything strike fear in the heart of a mother more than talking sex with her children?  I have made it a point to be very matter of fact with my children since the day they found out what it was.  I've had very frank talks with both my son and daughter that the behavior seen on TV (jumping into bed on the first date) isn't appropriate and definitely not what I want for them.  We've talked about the emotions that go with a physical relationship as well as the dangers of disease and pregnancies.
  • Marriage - In today's disposable society it seems like the value of marriage is being tarnished.  The natural step is to live together before marriage and if it doesn't work out you just move on to the next person.  I worry that my kids see the marriage that my husband and I have now and compare their relationships to it.  Just like every marriage ours has had it's ups and downs, settling into a wonderful place right now.  By sharing some of the struggles that we had early on I hope to keep things in perspective for them.  A wonderful relationship is the reward for walking through the trenches, but I'm also not naive enough to believe that there won't be more trenches coming at some point.
  • Communication - How is the next generation every going to learn to communicate with all those gadgets?  Breaking up over Facebook or text seems to be acceptable.  The lack of face to face communication makes it so much easier to hurtful things in life.  We develop the filters that we do by going through those painful experiences.  How are our children going to grow up to be well adjusted, communicating adults?
I've noticed that most of my observations tend to be of a negative nature.  There are a couple of positives that I would like to address.

  • The ability to stay in touch - I was raised quite far away from my grandparents.  Kudos to my parents for establishing a strong relationship between me and my grandparents even with the miles in between.  With Skype, Facebook and all the other social media available; keeping in touch with family has never been easier.
  • Information- Back in the stone ages when I was in school we had a set of outdated encyclopedias as a reference tool.  Now, anything you need to know is available with just a few key strokes.  Finding the make-up of the Geranium atom at 5pm the day before it's due I'm sure is much easier now than when my mother was helping me with my homework!
How about you?  Where you allowed to watch MTV when it first came out or was I the only nerd?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't Let the Kids Put Away the Groceries!

Just had to share with you what my pantry looks like after asking my son to put away groceries last night.  Guess what I'll be doing this evening.  Oh well, straightening up is a lot easier than going through and re-organizing.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Weiners

Bacon Wrapped Weiners
1 package of Little Smokies
1 package of bacon
Box of toothpicks
Brown sugar

Without tearing the bacon apart, cut it into three seperate sections.  Keep one section out and refrigerator the rest, the bacon is easier to work with if it's cold.  Separate each piece of bacon in the section, wrap it around a Little Smokie and pierce with a toothpick to hold it together.  Continue on until you are completely done with your bacon and Little Smokies.

At this point you have two options. I prefer to line up my bacon wrapped weiners in a 9x13 pan, cover them with brown sugar and cook in the overn for 30-45 minutes on 425. Once they are done I put them in a slow cooker and take them to the party.

The other option is to be them directly into the crockpot, cover them with brown sugar and cook them on high for a few hours.  You will know that they are ready to eat when the bacon is cooked.

Do you have any specialties you like to take to a cook-out?

I will be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tastefully Simple Giveaway - The Trio

As a former Tastefully Simple consultant I may a little biased, but I absolutely love Tastefully Simple products.  I was buying so much product retail that the consultant I bought from recommended that I sign-up just to get the discount since I was pretty much already meeting the minimum quarterly requirement.  The only reason I stopped being a consultant myself was that I had a pantry full of product and always seemed to find myself sliding under the wire to get my order in.  Now I just buy retail again :(

The Potato Soup with Beer Bread is one of my kids favorite meals, I always make sure to have both of those on hand during the winter months.  The Giddy-Up Guacamole is my favorite.  I'll make some up and eat it with a pita for lunch, yum!

I've chosen The Trio for my giveaway.  Included in The Trio is three different dips packs; Bacon Bacon, Garlic Garlic & Onion Onion.  You have up to two opportunities to win the product, here they are:

Choose one of these two options to receive one entry
  • Post a comment on this post with what your favorite Tastefully Simple product is (if you haven't had any before just tell me what you would like to try) and an e-mail address I can contact you at.  
  • If you don't want to leave your e-mail address in the comment section drop me an e-mail at
For a second entry do one of the following
  • Follow my blog (drop me a note at the above e-mail just so I don't miss it)
  • Like me on Facebook
I will be closing entries on July 31st at noon central time.  The winner will be notified by Wednesday, August 3rd.  At that time the winner can provide me with their address to send the product to.

Good Luck!

Carrot Cake Recipe

Last weekend was my husband's birthday.  While we don't have birthday parties for the adults, we do try to make birthdays special by getting a nice cake and going out for dinner.  My husband's favorite cake is carrot cake, which I prefer to bake from scratch.  For years I had a cake that we liked but was very dense and difficult to cook perfectly. 

A friend of mine at work has major stomach problems.  Trying to find a solution, she found a program called Great Taste No Pain that spoke to certain food combinations to ease the stomach pains.  The program contains a cookbook with awesome recipes as well as a book that talks about the science behind the program and what changes you can make to your diet to alleviate pain without taking medication.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saving Money Eating Out

We like to eat out - a lot.  Unfortunately our eating out isn't necessarily at cheap places.  Even though I budget for eating out I also like to save money.  Here are a few things that I do to save money while eating out.

Answer Surveys
Quite a few restaurants offer surveys with a free item as their thank you.  Take advantage of these surveys, if nothing else going out for the free appetizer or desert and drinks would be a nice date night.

Check for Frequent Buyer Cards
Our absolute favorite place to eat is Outback.  Not only do they offer the surveys (and we get Aussie Fries every time we go) but they also have a rewards card.  I input the code at the bottom of our receipt and watch the points grow.  Right now I have enough points for a $10 gift card and an appetizer or desert.  Our other favorite place to go (it's a local establishment) has a similar deal but they gave us a card to present every time we pay.  I've gotten free house wine, free desert, free appetizer and $'s off.  Don't be afraid to ask your favorite restaurant if they have a program.

Eat During Happy Hour
If you like to have an occasional drink, make sure you go out during the week at Happy Hour.  The Outback by us has their Sangria's (my all time favorite drink is Outback's Strawberry Sangria) on double bubble during the week.  Can anyone say date night?  Free appetizer and 2 for 1 drinks.

Check Out Sites like Groupon
There are a plethora of sites that offer discounted gift certificates so look around.  We're all familiar with Groupon, but some cities have sites that are unique to their area.  One of our local radio stations every Friday offer a 50% off gift certificate at a certain restaurant.  Take advantage of it but make sure you read the fine print.  When I went to use one of my Groupons at Papa Murphy's they wouldn't let me use it with the Internet sale price I ordered with.  Didn't save me as much as it should have.  I won't be buying Papa Murphy's Groupons any more

Use Points for Gift Cards
Sites like Swagbucks as well as most credit cards let you redeem restaurant gift certificates with your points.  Go for it, is there anything sweeter than a free meal?  Just make sure that you aren't using a credit card to gain points and then have to pay interest.  You would have been better paying for your meal.

Ask for Gift Cards
Every year my mom gives my husband a $50 gift card to Outback for Christmas.  It's one of my favorite presents because I know that we'll use it.  I always ask for gift cards to restaurants for Christmas (note:  most restaurants offer specials during Christmas allowing you to get more for your money)

Many places offer coupons in weekly circulars or in publications like the Entertainment Book.  Look for them and take advantage of them.

Update - Living so Abundantly shared a website that lists coupons available at different restaurants.  Surviving the Stores has quite a listing of available coupons.  Thanks Living so Abundantly!

What do you do to save money eating out?

I'm linking this up over at Life as Mom.

You might also like:
Freezing My Own Strawberries
Saving Money on Communications
Buying Clothes Off Season

New Series - Working Woman Wednesdays

I wanted to share with you an idea for a new series that I will be launching next week entitled Working Woman Wednesdays.  The intent of the series is to post articles related to working outside the home.  Some of the topics will include; career paths, dressing for success, networking, going back to work after the baby, etc.  I've been working with some other bloggers who work outside the home to submit guest posts so I'm hoping to have some other perspectives to share with you.

The intent is to offer topics that are of interest to women in various stages of their careers so if there are topics that you would be interested in reading about I'd love to hear from you.  The first post will be going up next Wedneday, July 2th.  I hope you'll join me.

Organization Project - Getting Started

I was not able to do an organizational project this week but I've mapped out my next 'big' project that I'm going to tackle.  Most likely this will be a several week project but I'll be posting updates as I go.

Here is it, a little embarrassing isn't it?  This is my laundry room/junk room.  It's the only part of our basement that isn't finished and the only real storage area that we have.  There's a table underneath that big pile in the center so it's not quite as awful as it looks, I know it looks pretty awful!  I was quite happy to see that my son was caught up with folding so at the least laundry baskets are empty except for socks:)

I will be using the 5S process to get this room in order.  5S is an organizational method that is used as part of Lean and Six Sigma and stands for; Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

Most likely I will try to address one of these each week to make the process a little less overwhelming and will be reporting my process as I accomplish each one.  During my reporting I'll go into a little more depth about the meaning of the process. 

This week I'll be tackling the Sort process.  I have already identified several large categories that I need to find solutions for (clean clothes, stockpile items, give away items, photos/scrapbook items, sewing items, etc).  I'll keep you updated!

How do you plan out a major organization project?  I'll be linking this up at I'm an Organizing JunkieStuff and Nonsense and The Shabby Nest.

By the way, I haven't forgotten my other project (you can read about that here).  With this heatwave I haven't wanted to do a lot of manual labor, so that's getting pushed aside until the heat breaks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Give Back Thursday - Scrapbook

I didn't have to look to my neighbors this week for my Give Back Thursday post!  It also didn't entail me having bruised knees and a sprained wrist - always a bonus.  This week's give back has actually been in the works for a couple of weeks.

One of the problems in my Wonder Woman complex is that I always have grand plans but don't often have the time or energy to complete them.  Scrapbooking is one area that I get really excited over but never follow through.  I get a lot of grief from my friends over this, they just throw their pictures in an old fashion album and make fun of me for my box (by box I mean the largest plastic tote they make) of pictures.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, we took our first 'friend vacation'.  One of the first things we did when we got back was exchange pictures (don't you love digital files?).  I've heard about websites that you could make a scrapbook and have it printed out, I thought it would be fun to do with the Las Vegas pictures.  Over my vacation a couple of weeks ago, there had been a post about Mixbook offering a free photo album.  Who wouldn't jump all over a free photo album!  Unfortunately the system was overloaded and I never got my free album, it also would have helped if I had picked the landscape and not the portfolio, but I went ahead an ordered two of them any way.  After almost six hours of work I wasn't going to walk away empty handed.  I did find a code online so I saved 30% at least.  Mike and I had so much fun putting it together, I can't remember the last time we laughed so hard!  It was well worth the money.

The books came this week and I was absolutely thrilled with the results.  I was so excited that I rushed right over to their house to give them their copy.  We had so much fun looking at the pictures together and re-living the trip.  When the guys got together a couple of days ago John was still telling Mike how much they loved the book.  I'm just glad that we have such great friends to travel with, I feel like this book was just a small token of how thankful we are to have them in our life.  We're also glad that they were good sports about the funny pictures and sayings we put in!

How about you, do you have any good give back stories today.  I'll be linking this up over at Living so Abundantly and Life in a Cookie Jar.  I'd encourage you to stop over and read some of the other giving stories.

You might also like

The Lost Dog
Sharing With the Neighbors

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Water Park Cake

Guest post by my friend Annie

Over the years, I’ve made most of the birthday cakes for my four children. Even today as young adults they continue to enjoy the homemade cakes decorated by mom. The tradition for their 18th birthdays is they can choose their favorite cake from one of their previous birthdays to be recreated. My daughter, our youngest child, turned 18 in June and her favorite cake was the water park cake from her 8th birthday. My first thought when she made this request was “oh no, that was one of my worst decorating jobs” and since we were planning a combination 18th Birthday / Graduation party with 30+ people I was not too excited. My first response was to try to convince her to choose a different cake but this is the one my daughter really wanted so I set out to create a new and improved Water Park Cake.

I baked a 3 layered cake using one larger round pan and 2 smaller sized pans. Then I aligned the top two layers along one side of the bottom layer and frosted the whole cake with Cool Whip. Next I added the pool at the bottom of the slide which is cut from a Jello Jiggler made the night before. I added sand by crushing up graham crackers and then formed a slide out of a bar of Sparkle Cherry Laffy Taffy. I drew swimsuits on the Teddy Grahams with gel icing tubes and used Peach O’s for the inner tubes. Fruit roll ups were used to create the towels and graduation caps on each of the teddies. For the final touches, I added drink umbrellas, trees (drink stir rods I found at a local party store) and candles, “CONGRATS” on the 2nd layer for the graduation and “18” on the top for her birthday.

As stressed out as I felt about making this cake and embarrassing myself at this party; I was quite pleased with how well it turned out. If fact, it was a big hit with all our guests and more importantly the Birthday Girl.

What was your child’s favorite birthday cake that you made?

I'm linking this up over at Women Living Well, We areThat Family and Crystal & Comp

Monday, July 18, 2011

Media and Our Marriages

As I participate in Courtney’s series on media and how it affects our lives I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, not just on my life but on society as a whole. Media (I’m including TV & movies in here as well as social media) has had a huge impact on our lives over the last 50-60 years and I think a lot of it has been quite negative.

When I reflect on relationships, the media is doing a grave disservice to the young people who are starting their journeys with the opposite sex.

Out of wedlock pregnancies are encouraged – When I was twenty I found myself pregnant and unmarried so I do understand that these things happen and at that point you have to make the best of it. I was very fortunate that the father and I had been together for a very long time and wanted to be together in the future so marriage wasn’t something we were ‘forced’ into but a path we took joyfully. Since we just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary I would say that it worked out very well. However, it wasn’t an easy road and I’ve been very candid with my children that I hope they choose a different path. My daughter loves the show “16 and Pregnant” and doesn’t understand my aversion to it or why I don’t let her watch it. I’ve tried explaining that by glorifying shows like that on TV it becomes main stream acceptable but it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Raising children in this world is hard enough with two parents, being a single mother (especially a young one) adds so much stress is really hard.  I want to be clear, I'm not knocking anyone who has had an out of wedlock pregnancy, I just don't think any of us want to encourage that as a choice for young kids.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meal Plan Week of July 17

As party of the Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats, I've made menu planning a priority as well as taking inventory prior to shopping.

While I did a great job last week planning my menu I didn't do a very good job implementing it.  Some of that was due to unexpected issues (flat tire that couldn't be patched and company coming for dinner ) as well as a husband who choose to eat out on his day to cook (I didn't argue to much).  Oh well, the best laid plans...... 

This week I updated our menu, took inventory and then shopped.  I'm happy to report that our grocery bill was only about $140 this week (our bill was actually higher but ~$25 was supplements which go under a different budget).  This included the special items I needed for my husband's birthday cake so I'm pretty pleased - Spider Man doesn't come cheap!  The trick will be to actually use the menu and not eat out as much.  I'm having surgery on Thursday (nothing major but I'll be down for a few days) so I'm relying on the husband and the kids to cover dinner.


Blueberry Muffins (from a mix)
Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches

Pizza rolls
Personal pizzas
Bagel sandwiches
Corn dogs
Hot dogs
Frozen meals

Dinner Out
Taco's/taco salad
Stuffed chicken breasts
Pizza (take out)
Graduation Party

How about you, do you plan a menu and if so are you good about implementing?

I'm also posting this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie,

You might also enjoy:
Pantry Challenge Goals
Pantry Challenge Update

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Flower Deal

As I posted earlier in the week (you can read about it here), I'm working on cleaning up and re-planting one of my flower beds.  As I was thinking about this project I decided to run to one of the stores and check out their flower clearance center.  If you are ever want to add different plants to your flower bed I would recommend waiting until the end of the season and buying your flowers that way - just my two cents! 

Lilies are my favorite flower, any kind of lily.  However, the Asiatic Lily is right up there as my all time favorite.  I love them so much they made up a significant portion of my wedding bouquet.  Imagine my delight when the store we visited had marked them down to a clearance price of $3/pot.  I contained myself and only bought two, but I was pretty excited.  Here is a picture of my buy (taken today), isn't it beautiful? 

Ignore the ground around the flower, that's my work in progress!  How about you?  Did you score any good flower deals this week?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Searching for More Cost Effective Alternatives

As a wife and mother who also works outside the home I'm always looking for different ways to save me time.  Sometimes saving time means sacrificing money.  I have about a 30 - 45 minute commute both ways to work every day.  While I truly don't mind the commute it is about an hour and a half out of my day that I'm non-productive.  As we all know productivity is key to running a successful household/business.

A while ago I got the brainstorm that I could write my posts on my way to and from work (that's when I compose them in my head but I have to wait until I get home to actually write them!) if I had a speech to text program.  My initial thought was that I could buy the program and a recording device, biting the cost bullet for a time saving.  Instead I decided to do some research to see what other alternatives were available.

Most of what I read on the Internet steered me away from the free downloads, however one writer that I came across talked about Google Voice.  Google Voice is a FREE service (at least for now) offered through, are you ready for this, Google.  This writer said that he signed up and used their voicemail service to write and that it worked pretty well for him.  I figured, hey it's free so what do I have to lose!

I have signed up and done some testing with reasonable success.  This most likely will not be my final solution as it doesn't translate 100% perfect but for now it will work.  As I get closer to launching my second blog I might still bite the bullet and buy some more sophisticated software to help me write.  However, I'm pretty pleased that I was able to find a solution that was successful enough for now for NO CHARGE!  How sweet is that.

Moral of the story, sometimes doing some additional research will save you money.  The solution isn't what I thought it would look like but it is fine for the time being.

Does anyone use speech to text software?  Pros/cons of the different options available would be appreciated.

I'll be linking this up at Life as Mom.


Camping Meals

When we go camping we rough it; tents, sleeping bags, over the fire meals etc. One of my favorite meals to make while camping is breakfast. Our lunch and evening meals tend to be similar to what we eat at home (sandwiches, chips, hamburgers, etc) but breakfast we tend to do different things.

There are two main things that I like to cook for breakfast while camping, doughnuts and scrambled eggs. Here’s what we do:


Tin of dinner biscuits
Pronged skewers
Bag of cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar

Place biscuit on end of multi-pronged skewer, a single skewer doesn’t work well and your biscuit will end up in the fire. Hold the skewer over the fire and cook biscuit like you would a marshmallow, turning semi-frequently.

When biscuit is fully cooked place biscuit in bag and shake until coated. Enjoy!

Scrambled Eggs

If you’ve read about my Vegas trip post you will know how much I like breakfast, no different when I’m camping. One of the best ways that I’ve found to make eggs is to cook each person’s individually in a baggy. In a bowl, mix the eggs, dash of milk, seasoning and anything else you would want in an omelet (mushrooms, onions, sausage, bacon, etc), pour into a zip lock baggy and boil in water for about 14 minutes. Super easy and everyone gets exactly what they ordered. You can boil as many bags at one time that will fit in your pot.

I’ll be linking this up over at Life as Mom, do you have any camping meals to share. We’re planning a camping trip in August so I’m looking for good ideas.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving Back Thursday - The Unplanned Giving

As I wrote last week I wanted to be more intentional in how I 'give back'.  Making sure that I'm continuously giving back is important.  I knew that my week was going to be pretty busy and that I had an overnight business trip  so I was a little worried about what I could do to help someone out.  I was thinking that I may need to write about the blueberries that our neighbor shared with us :)

Ask and you shall receive! Friday night we were watching Sherlock Holmes while Belle was having a sleepover (three girls downstairs in the family room).  About 8:30 someone knocked at our door, it was our next door neighbor asking if she could borrow one of our dogs.  It seems that their dog, Luigi, managed to escape from the fenced in yard.  Since Luigi is bethrothed to our dog Sophie, the neighbor thought she might be able to entice Luigi to come home.  Of course, the problem is she didn't know where he was.

Bathroom Organization

As you know I was on vacation the last week and a half (if you don't know you can read about it here).  When I'm on vacation from work I try to get done a lot of the stuff around the house I typically don't have time to do. 

A while ago I wrote about how I keep the bathroom semi-company ready and I shared a picture of our deep dark secret

Yep - our messy cabinet.  I like to think of it as a burglar alarm, if any of our company snoops we'll hear them when everything falls out!  Here's another one of our dirty secrets - my drawer

You see that hair clip that has a prominent spot in the drawer?  I hate it and never use it but I just push it around every day because that seems easier than actually cleaning out the drawer.  Well, I've finally had enough so I headed over to the dollar store and bought myself some totes.  I then got pretty ruthless throwing out stuff and organizing it.  Here are the results:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Project

elI started work on a new project this weekend that I thought I would share with you.  Unfortunately I was still suffering the consequences of our excitement last Friday (come back Thursday - I'm sharing the story then) so I couldn't get to far but I have made some headway.

The side of our garage has really been a pit.  I wish I had pictures of how it looked before Belle's confirmation party, but alas I didn't think about taking a picture of our eyesore.  Here is what it looked like Saturday afternoon, shortly after I began working on it.

You can see that I had already started pulling out weeds and the Snow on the Mountain that was taking over.  I'll be finishing it up shortly and will show you how I managed to re-do this whole area for very little money.

Do you have any outside DIY projects your working on?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Media and Our Walk with God

I've decided to participate in the Women Living Well Media Monday series.  Courtney has an eight week schedule planned, the first of which is entitled Media and our Walk with God.

The past week I've been mulling over this topic and trying to decide how I wanted to address it.  While I'm not afraid to discuss my faith with people, I do feel like it's a little more personal for me.  For some reason I'm not entirely comfortable shouting it from the rooftops like others are.  I'm going to say something here that may be a little controversial.  I sometimes think that some people shout it but I wonder if they are living it.  It's a little like PDA within a marriage.  Sometimes it's the weakest marriages that have the biggest public displays of affection.

Well - I've thrown that out there and you can stop booing me now.  I truly think that there are a lot of honest bloggers out there sharing their faith and are living that faith.  Those are not the people that I'm talking about.  What I think the media, social media specifically, does is it allows an opportunity for anyone to say anything without any ramifications.  Their words are thrown out there into cyberspace allowing them to be who they would like to be, not who they are.  (Hang with me, there are positives towards the end of the article.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Menu Planning - Pantry Challenge Update

One of my goals in the http://www.goodcheapeats./ was to start my menu planning.  I'm happy to report that this was my second week of menu planning and I've had some success with bringing down my grocery bill.

I'm going to be the first to admit that our grocery budget is pretty crazy.  We are at a time in our life where I don't have time to be running around to different stores looking for deals and/or spending hours cutting and clipping coupons.  I've found the lowest price store in our area and I shop it faithfully.  Usually I do take a couple of minutes to see if I can find any coupons on line before shopping as well as picking up coupons that the store lays out for us.  That's about the extent of my couponing. 

The company I work for decided to implement summer hours this year so I was able to leave work at 2:30 this Friday.  I went home, made my menu, inventoried my pantry & fridge then shopped.  Guess what, I saved ~$40 this week - AWESOME!  My grocery bill budget is (you better sit down) $200/week.  Typically we spend between $175 & $200, this includes our food, dog food & supplies such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.  With pretty much four adults eating, one of which is a weight lifter and needs LOTS of protein I've found that planning on spending the money is better than being frustrated every week because we are over budget.  This week my grocery bill was $137.52, pretty sweet.  We bought pretty much everything we normally buy, the exception being I didn't over buy because I did the inventory.

Here's the menu that I planned for the coming week.  Not to different from last week but it works for us.

Blueberry Muffins (from scratch this week with fresh blueberries from the farmer's market)
Cinnamon Rolls

Pizza rolls
Personal pizzas
Bagel sandwiches
Corn dogs
Hot dogs

Steaks on the grill (or dinner out, we haven't decided yet)
Taco's/taco salad
Mac n Cheese

How about you, did you do any menu planning this week?

I'm also posting this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie, another great blog I've recently found with some really good ideas.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How I Save Money - Freezing My Own Strawberries

I know - it seems like I must have strawberries on the brain since I've written so much about them lately.  I have to admit -  I do!  After picking and preparing six flats of strawberries over the last two weeks that's pretty much what I have on my mind.  You can read about my strawberry picking escapades here and here.  I pick this many strawberries for a few reasons 1)my family loves my strawberry shortcake (recipe here) 2) The strawberries I freeze are better than the strawberries I buy in the store 3) I save money and I LOVE saving money. 

Here's the break down of my savings:

Each 16 oz I freeze costs ~$1.50 (includes strawberries, sugar & container)
a 16 oz store container    ~$3.00 - $4.50 (depending on store & sales)
Minimum savings            ~$1.50 per package

I made at least 40 16 oz batches so I estimate that I saved about $60.  For the time and effort I put into this $60 doesn't sound like a lot, however we get a lot of enjoyment out of the picking and the family prefers the taste better.

Did you pick any strawberries this summer?  What do you do with yours?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today we are celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary.  I have now officially been married longer than I've been single.  It has been quite a ride filled with ups and downs but I'm so thankful that I've gotten to spend so much of my life with my soul mate. 
I was 14 when I fell for my husband (scary - that's how old our daughter is now).  Almost every morning of my freshman year I'd come up the spiral steps in the library at our high school and see him there - I thought he was pretty cute but he thought I was a little nerdy with my long hair and glasses.  The first day of my sophomore year I walked into typing class and there he was, I was hooked.  It wasn't until the following year when we had computer class together (computer classes 27 years ago were quite different than they are today) that I finally got him to notice me after well over a year of trying to get his attention.  OK, he definitely noticed me (it would have been hard not to with all the chasing I did) but it took him quite a while to work up the courage to ask me out.  He likes to say it was the haircut and contacts that finally won him over but I got those my freshman year so I still don't know why he would have waited so long!  When he did finally ask me out my friends didn't believe me, I had talked about him for so long they all thought I was teasing.  I sure showed them :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Give Back Thursday

Living So Abundantly and Life in a Cookie Jar are co-hosting a new weekly link entitled Give Back Thursday.  Life gets so busy that sometimes we take people for granted.  I liked the idea of purposely thinking about giving back throughout the week, even if it's something small.

As I think about what I did for others this week I'm a little appalled at how little I did.  I did come up with a couple of small items to share.

-Shared my strawberry bounty.  As I spoke about in previous posts (here and here) I picked a bunch of strawberries this week.  I took a couple quarts of prepared strawberries over to my in-laws (they love my strawberry shortcake) and I gave a couple of pounds of fresh strawberries to one of my neighbors.

-Shared our patio furniture and yard (for games) with our neighbor who threw a 4th of July party for her cousin who is leaving for Afghanistan.

Not much, is it?  I'll definitely be thinking about this more over the coming week so I can do a better job of giving back.

What about you?  What have you given back this past week?

Strawberry Picking - Again!

Sunday afternoon we went strawberry picking for the second time and ended up with three more flats of strawberries.  Here is our days take.  For full disclosure - mine is the one on the right that doesn't have straw or green berries it :)

The cutting of the first two flats went fairly quickly but the last flat was a little painful.  I sent a container of them home with the friend who helped us pick them and I offered a container to our neighbors.  She wanted to know if I was a glutton for punishment to go pick another three flats.  Unfortunately she declined my offer because they received some in their CSA box.

What do I do with all these strawberries?  I cut them up, sugar them and freeze them for strawberry shortcake.  My shortcake is one of my families favorite deserts and very simple to make.  Here's the recipe that I use

Cleaning out the Refrigerator - Pantry Challenge Update

As part of the Pantry Challenge, I decided to clean out the kitchen refrigerator and freezer (we have a second one out in the garage).  Judging by the expiration dates on some of the things I found in the freezer it's been a long time coming!

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the before but here is the after picture.

As when I cleaned out the pantry (you can read about that here) I was a little appalled at our wastefulness.  From the freezer I threw out quite a bit including:  1/4 gallon ice cream, two packages of pitas, one package of tortilla, 1/2 a bag of cinnamon rolls......Need I go on? 

Now that I've realized how wasteful we are, what am I going to do about it?  My husband and I discussed the problem and here is how we are going to try and be less wasteful:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

4th of July Pictures - Parade on the National Mall in Washington, DC

In celebration of our country's independence I thought I share some interesting facts with you courtesy of Purple Trail

■The major objection to being ruled by Britain was taxation without representation. The colonists had no say in the decisions of English Parliament.

■Betsy Ross, according to legend, sewed the first American flag in May or June 1776, as commissioned by the Congressional Committee.

■Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776.

■The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, summoning citizens to gather for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.

■June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, looking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

■Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826.

■The names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect the signers. If independence had not been achieved, the treasonable act of the signers would have, by law, resulted in their deaths.

I think we as Americans take our freedom for granted.  We should be using this day to not only celebrate the freedom that we have but to really think about the sacrifices of those who came before us to give us those freedoms.  Would we be willing to make the sacrifices our forefathers did?

I'd personally like to thank all the men and women (and their families) who are currently or who have served to continue to make this country great.  
Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan

For those of you who read my blog regularly you will know that I don't typically post menu plans.  There are a couple of reasons for that: 1)I'm not organized enough about meals to know in advance what we're going to eat 2)Even if I make a plan we don't always seem to stick to it.  However, as part of the pantry challenge I'm looking to clear out some of the stuff from my pantry which means I need to think about what we're going to eat.

Here is my plan for the week.  I don't know what days we're going to eat what (you have to remember, my husband does a lot of the cooking during the week so it's whatever he feels like making) so I'll just post what I'm going to have available.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I'm on Facebook!

I'm trying to take my blog to the next level and I have to admit it's a little overwhelming.  I did join Facebook today so I would encourage you (if you don't mind) to head over there and like me :) My page is called "Wonder Woman I'm Not".  I still have some work to do over there as far as getting a picture up and figuring out how to do some of the other stuff available but I'm on my way. 

While I like to think I'm not an idiot, some of this computer stuff is a little over my head.  In addition to my Facebook account, I've signed up for Twitter, I did buy my domain name ( and I signed up over at Wordpress (including paying for a host).  That's where I start running into some problems.  If there is anyone out there who has any suggestions (that won't cost me money) as to resources (books/websites) to actually getting my new page up and running I'd appreciate it. 

Just wanted to share my good news with you - hope to see you over there soon!

Weeds in the Garden

For the last eighteen years I've had flower gardens that have been works in progress.  Are you ever really finished with a flower bed?  I don't think so: rearranging, splitting and adding to my beds every year gives me a lot of pleasure.  I'm going to let you in on a little secret, there are a couple of weeds blooming in my beds.  Yep - you heard me, I actually have two 'weeds' that I'm passing off as flowers. 

I didn't start off planning on letting these weeds bloom, in fact I tend to be a little ruthless with the weeds (at least until July when I get tired of weeding!).  These weeds though pulled off a little trick, they started flowering before I could yank them out.  I was so enchanted by the flowers that these weeds produced that I've left them in the garden.  Not only are they in the garden, they're not in a spot they really belong!  I like my gardens to be symetrical, these weeds tend to make it a little asymetrical.  In my opinion it adds a little interest to the garden.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Old Navy Deal

I went to Old Navy today thinking I was going to get some killer deals but I didn't end up with as much as I had hoped.  A few weeks ago I had bought the Old Navy Groupon for $10.  Everything in the store was 40% today so I thought I could score some sweet deals on some needed items.  What I didn't count on was that regular price on the items we purchased was buy 2 pay $6.50 (normally $10).  Since everything was 40% off, the buy 2 didn't count so we only got a sale price of $6.  Since they were needed items we went ahead and bought them anyway.

End result was I got $44 worth of product for $17 (including tax).  Not a bad spend on some necessities but a little worse than what I had hoped for.  As a side note, Old Navy is running a special right now where you can buy troops overseas flip flops, socks or one other item and get 10% off your purchase.  It's a nice way to support our troops.

How about you, did you get any good deals this week?

Cleaning out the Pantry

One of the first steps in my pantry challenge (you can read about it here) was cleaning out the pantry. Novel idea, isn't it? I've toiled away most of the morning, here is pretty much what it looked like when I started:

It's a picture I took a few weeks ago but it gives you an idea of what I started with.  Cleaning the pantry is always a little overwhelming and creates a plethora of emotions.  I'm disgusted by our wastefulness.  I'm frustrated with my inability to manage something seemingly so simple.  Seeing our leftover Gingerbread House supplies brings a smile to my face.  I feel ambitious when I see all the things I could bake if I had 100 hours.  Need I go on?

Here are some of the things I've discovered buried in the depths of the pantry.

2 opened (large) bottles of cinnamon
2 opened (large) bottles of Pepto Bismol
3 (yes - 3) packages of toothpicks. 
3 packages of muffin tins
6 half filled packages of dog treats
2 cans and 4 sticks of Crisco (which I rarely use)
1 can of tuna - can you believe it after the stack you see in the before picture?

Need I go on?  The good news is I have cleaned out the pantry and feel like I have a fresh start.  We'll see how good I am at keeping it this clean.  Maybe I should have a weekly posting on the status of my pantry.  Nothing keeps you on your toes like strangers seeing your pantry!  Here is my after picture.

I'll be linking this over at A Slob Comes Clean,  I'm an Organizing Junkie and Organize with Sandy, I'd encourage you to go over and check out those sites.

What are your tips for keeping your pantry clean?

Pantry Challenge

Did you know that Thomas Edison made over 10,000 attempts before he had a working light bulb.  However, he didn't view himself as a failure.  He was able to definitely tell you 10,000 ways a light bulb wouldn't work.  I try to keep that philosophy in mind whenever I fail at something, there are many of them!

This past January I was all pumped and ready to participate in the pantry challenge.  Guess what, I failed.  However I'm ready to try it again!  Just like everyone else our life is really hectic, working outside the house adds a different dimension.  Unfortunately meal planning and cooking falls a little by the wayside.  I like this pantry challenge because it is a little more loosey goosey, which I thrive on!

I will be joining Jessica at Good Cheap Eats for her pantry challenge this summer.  Here are my goals:

Clean out and re-organize the pantry (already working on that!)
Use up product that has been sitting in the pantry for a while
Eat together more as a family - healthier meals
Clean out refrigerator and freezer

What about you?  Are you joining the challenge and what are your goals?


Vacation Week

I had a week off of work this week.  You know what that means, right?  You guessed it, there was a huge list of items that I wanted to accomplish.  Considering that we were going to be gone for three of the days I don't know what I was thinking, I guess that's where the Wonder Woman complex comes in.

Part of my to-do list this week was:

  • Re-do my living (paint, window treatments, start shopping for fabric for new cushions)
  • Clean out the laundry/junk room
  • Clean out kitchen pantry
  • Give house thorough cleaning

Guess how much I got done?  You guessed it, a big fat goose egg.  Oh well, it's only Friday and I don't go back to work until next Wednesday.  There's still hope :)

With that being said, I did get some stuff accomplished so I haven't been a total slack off.  Here is what we have done:

  • Picked and prepared three flats of strawberries.  You can read about that here
  • Prepared for and spent three days at a water park.  You can read about that excursion here
  • Took two road trips to the Cabela's store that was over an hour away for my husband's father's day/birthday present.
  • Created a scrapbook on Mixbook from our Vegas trip.  I made one for both us and our friends, took me quite a bit of time (about six hours) but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out and can't wait to receive it.  I'm going to try and do another one today from a trip we took a few years ago.
I'll let you know next week what else (if anything) I manage to accomplish this week.

Update - I did manage to get the pantry cleaned out.  You can read about that here

What do you do when you're on 'vacation'