Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It sure has been quite the year! I'm posting my Christmas Letter for those of you who didn't get one by snail mail. I'm excited to share posts of some darling pics I've taken, weight loss tips, whether or not I reached my goal of reading through the Bible in a year, and goals for the new year in early January, so stay tuned!


A Recap of our Year


was a difficult year....

* Josiah broke one wrist and sprained the other doing a small jump (one of the youth group kids caught it on video) on a youth group snowboarding trip. He had a 3 hour surgery on it to repair torn ligaments the day it happened.

* There was tons of paperwork dealing with medical bill and insurance stuff. He had to have a second surgery to remove the pins in his arm. We ended up driving to Billings (several hours away) about 3 times and Cody twice to see his doctors.

*We potty-trained Jeremiah. If you have kids you know how stressful this is!

*My brother got married and returned to Honduras for 3 years (so we thought).

* Busyness--We were invited to 8 weddings this year (most close friends or family--it must have been THE year to get married) and we attended over 51 picnics, showers, church events, family dinners, etc. this summer.

* My brother Colter and his wife Anna were evacuated from Honduras during the coup there.

*My youngest brother Grant, ended up closing down his bike business after 1.5 years of owning it. He moved to Portland, OR in Oct.

* The Blasdel family moved to Kansas (their home state) in late September. Each one in our family is missing a best friend.

’ *I deal with severe neck pain on and off and have to see a chiropractor sometimes.

*Our house was supposed to be elevated 4 ft. so a new foundation could be rebuilt; we thought we could stay in it but last minute the workers told us no so we were theoretically homeless and desperately looking for a place to live for a couple of weeks until our landlord decided (for our benefit) to postpone the project until spring. Thank you!

* My Grandma Brown's serious health issues, strife in a friendship, the slower economy, job anxieties, milk supply issues with baby earlier in the year, flu scares, and trials that have hit many of our friends this year have been hard.

But God.....(one of the coolest phrases out there because He gets the last word)....was with us through EVERYTHING and He showed us so much about Himself and blessed us in so many ways!

* God provided for our every need while Josiah was injured! With our income cut in half for a while, we were still fine and I took in some babysitting clients a couple of times a week for a few months and Josiah returned to working as soon as he possibly could.

* We love our current house and are so thankful for the PRIVACY and the big, fenced yard, the many windows, quiet neighbors, and the nearness to the river walk and park.

* We gained two new family members this year, a sweet sister-in-law, Anna, and a cute nephew David, born into Josiah's sister's family.

* Colter and Anna's evacuation meant lots of extra visits and time with them as they are doing mission work in WY until they can go back.

* We got our first dishwasher! After 20 years of washing dishes without one, it's my favorite appliance! Just like our van, it was a big answer to prayer!

* We are blessed to have so many family and friends and such a great church family to keep us plenty busy!

* God has brought numerous new friends into our lives to ease the pain of our friends' move. We miss them very much, but at least we can stay in touch with them and other friends who are far away online.

* Our brief bout of homelessness was the push we needed to "get our feet wet" in real estate and to understand the process more so that when God opens the door for us to buy, we will be ready.

* We were able to visit the Denver Zoo this summer, go camping with my family once, do a trip with just the 5 of us in some nearby mountains, and spend a week's vacation in MN visiting Josiah's family in July. We also had fun attending our church's yearly Family Camp event over Labor Day Weekend.

* I've been involved in an excellent Ladies Bible Study through the summer and fall which my mom leads and some of my relatives attend. I have seen God save my cousin and ignite her heart for Him and we have grown close.

* For the first time in 4 years we haven't gotten a horrible sickness in early November and we have had very good health.

*The trials have made our marriage and family stronger.

*We have found ourselves on our knees more, the best position to be in.

* We have talked with many folks who are in the midst of far greater trials than we have had this year--ours seem minor in comparison.

Alathia JoyAli Joy is almost 5 years old and technically a preschooler but is advancing in homeschooling beyond that level. She lives to color and can spend hours a day at it. She started to read and spell before I even really taught her how! She is a new Christian and is growing into a sweet little girl. She loves to help Mama and her brothers so much that her brothers are in danger of becoming helpless ninnies. Sometimes she needs to be reminded that she isn't the mom! Ali can often be found wearing dress-up clothes or playing with her ponies or dolls. She's taking her first ballet class once a week and it is her favorite time of the week.

Jeremiah DavidJeremiah is always good for a hug or some cuddling. After 9 months of potty-training I think we're finally done! (Whew!) We have found his name to be very appropriate for him (Jeremiah in the Bible was known as "the weeping prophet.") Having a brother to sword fight and wrestle with will be great for him. Jeremiah has often come up to me with a sweet face and fluttering lashes and said, "Mama, will you marry me?" He's quick to comfort a sibling when they are sad or hurt. He loves to sit on my lap while we read an enormous stack of library books. Jeremiah just turned 3 and lives for monster trucks, T-rex, and snakes. The highlight of his year was when we visited the Denver Zoo in June.
Justus Abraham
Justus turned 1 in mid-August. This little guy was our biggest baby at birth but is also our shortest and most petite child thus far. He is our easiest baby, but is also our most adventurous. He was our earliest walker but latest teether and surprisingly has much lighter hair than the rest of us. He is both laid-back and sweet but can be aggressive and is very tough. His favorite words are hot, cup, ball, hi there, and that. Sometimes we call him the garbage disposal because he will eat just about any food out there and lots of it! He's particularly fond of cherry tomatoes! Justy is very self-motivated and independent like his sis. He is a master at finding knives, matches, scissors, garbage, and the toilet faster than you can blink so watch out if he's around!

“Feeling loved by God means feeling glad not only that He crushed His Son so that I can be forgiven, but that He’s crushing everything that takes away from my praising of the glory of His grace."
-John Piper-

Josiah and I
We celebrated 6 years of marriage in June! Josiah continues to work for my dad as a carpenter and I am a teacher, nurse, chef, interior decorator, accountant, taxi driver, soul sculptor, facilitator, referee, restorer of order and sanitation, and counselor in the haven of home. Josiah is still very active in helping with the church youth group, especially now that the youth pastor moved away. I am transitioning out of being the nursery coordinator at church to lead and teach a teen girl's Bible study in 2010. I still get my kicks by listening to excellent sermons online and having rousing debates while Josiah is hopelessly devoted to checking the weather and loves listening to music. We drink spinach smoothies made from homemade yogurt, make our own granola and tortillas, and still cloth diaper half of the time--can someone say "crunchy?" Josiah liked my brother Grant's motorized bicycle so much he built his own; it gets 150 miles to the gallon and is so fun to ride! I hang out at the new library building a lot (lifelong bookworm) and Josiah will always consider ice-cream one of the major food groups and will probably never weigh more than he did in 10th grade in spite of that. We love to throw kiddie pool parties from May through September and to have new people over for lunch on Sundays.
Most of all, we firmly believe that God is most exalted in our lives when we are most satisfied in Him and the flip side of that is that we are most satisfied for all time when God is worshiped to the max in our lives.
We don't know what the future holds but we know WHO holds the future and want our lives to be all about Him.

Monday, December 21, 2009

REAL Christmas Photo

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2007
A self-timed one that turned out pretty cool in spite of the fact that no one is really looking!


What's with the weird chicken flapping?

Running away from the photographer (a friend of mine).

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2009

Bailing out of the basket

Ali-9 months old.
She made the funniest face while holding a sign that says, "Joy to the World."

(I have to say that thanks to our friend Jesse, we had very nice photos to work with for our Christmas card this year, but I couldn't resist sharing these past attempts at getting a good Christmas photo in the Happy Housewife's REAL Christmas Photo carnival today!)

Super Gift!

Everyone has to have one friend that's a Martha Stewart Clone, right? Well, my friend Lora, happens to be that friend and makes very fabulous homemade gifts! Last year, I blogged about what she brought me, and this year the goodie basket was even bigger! It was such a pretty gift I wanted to share the pics with you all here! There were also some Cherry Revel bars in the basket which I didn't get a picture of. Snack Cookies
Fruit Dip Mix

Cute, old-fashioned-looking ornament

Squash tea bread

Soup mix in a jar

Raspberry Jam--A wonderful treat our family will devour quickly!

Thank you Lora! You inspire me with your beautiful home decorating, your excellent parties, and your tasty treats and recipes!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Common Drink

My husband is skeptical, but I'm fairly sure that the yogurt smoothies we drink often have contributed to the lack of colds and sickness we've had this fall and winter thus far!
I throw in whatever we have on hand: frozen or fresh fruit, spinach leaves, plain yogurt (made in my crockpot), flax seeds, wheat germ, vegetable purees, etc. I've found that a good smoothie curbs sugar and chocolate cravings pretty well!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Gift for my Friends

Instead of goodies this year, I decided to bless my fellow mom friends with something that is truly rare for moms: time away from the kiddoes! I sent out a letter explaining that they could drop the boys off on Thursday and the girls off on Friday for a few hours in the morning. I've planned activities and a craft and we'll read Christmas stories. I'll pull out all the tools and trucks for the boys and the dress-ups and babies for the girls and turn Christmas music on. The moms are welcome to go get a haircut, go to breakfast with a friend, take a long, hot bath in quiet, clean the house, pack for Christmas trips, finish up their shopping and wrapping, or whatever they want to do as long as they enjoy their "mom time!"
For the families with both a boy and a girl they are welcome to bring both kids on the same day, whichever they choose, to make things simpler. However, most of my friends have either just one gender of kids or one boy that's in school and a girl that's not, making my boy/girl day plan very workable.
My kids are excited about this "gift" too! We've had some cold weather recently that has made us grateful for every opportunity to have a change of pace and routine and for playmates coming to our house! I know I just posted about how I don't like babysitting regularly or being taken advantage of by friends in this area, but I truly do love to watch other kids when it is my gift for my friends and I am prepared for it. I think we will have a lot of fun today!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Lindsey is Making This Week....

I bought a shoe-organizer this summer and rigged up a rough version of this for our last trip to MN, but because it was that thin, mesh-type stuff it ripped shortly after we returned from the trip. I'm gearing up to make some nice ones from sturdy fabric this week for our upcoming trip. So excited to have found this simple tutorial!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What's Under Our Tree This Year.....

After decorating the tree they ate pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies and drank hot cocoa while listening to Christmas music

I alway enjoy reading about gift ideas or hearing about what my friends are giving others so I can get ideas. So, I decided to post what we are giving this year to give you some ideas. Because my hubby occasionally reads this blog, I'll have to refrain from revealing what I am giving him.
Last year I did a "Giftorama" series featuring pics of lots of gifts we gave. Go here to see them.

I was too busy to get pics of everything before it was wrapped, so it'll just be a list this year:

*4 pretty little girl dolls (8inch x 4inch) with comb-able hair and outfits (25 cents for all of them at a yard sale this summer)

*A placemat I created on the half-off sale at with lots of pics from our Denver Zoo trip featuring her favorite animals

*A SEEDS music CD--Encouragement (Bible verses set to upbeat music the whole family can enjoy)

*A BPA-free water bottle

*A fun sweatshirt hoodie ($3 on Black Friday)

*A stuffed ballerina doll (25 cents at the thrift store)

*A 1983 Cuddles baby My Little Pony ($2 on ebay--Ali plays with My Little Ponies nonstop like I did when I was little but I can't stand the new style of ponies with their misshapen bodies and huge heads and enormous eyes. So, I found the first pony I ever had, Cuddles, for a fun surprise for her!)

Total Spent: $22.50


*A toy vaccuum (25 cents at my friend's yard sale--he loves to play with this and everytime we would go over there he'd play with that the whole time, so of course I bought it!)

*A toy jeep (10 cents at a yard sale in like-new condition)

*A placemat with his favorite pics from the Denver Zoo

*A stuffed monkey (to replace the favorite one he lost somewhere-the kid loses EVERYTHING!)

*A BPA-free water bottle

*A SEEDS worship music CD--Praise

Total spent: $22.35


*A stainless steel sippy cup (The Safe Sippy)

*A big white Teddy Bear with clothes that say "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" (25 cents at the thrift store)

*A plastic baby train set (25 cents at a yard sale)

*New pacifiers

Since I don't have a lot for Justus I thought about wrapping up some old toys from the shed because he'd never know they were his own old toys and wouldn't care. But, now that I think about it, I think he'll be so wrapped up in playing with his train he won't even care that he didn't have quite as much as the other kids to open this year!

Total Spent: $17.50

Gifts For Them To Share:

*Candy cane coloring books--tell the story behind the candy cane

*Praise DVDs (they LOVE to dance to praise and worship music, especially music videos of it. Found a couple on sale on for $3-4 each).

*Virtue Books--6 books on manners, honesty, friendship, kindness, etc.

Total spent: $13

*I will also be throwing some little boxes of raisins, some bagged crackers, and some cutie pie oranges in their stockings (instead of candy) since they love all of those things.*

Total Spent on the kiddoes for a wonderful Christmas:

Some of you may think this is terribly high, while others may think this is terribly low. To each his own, right? The funny thing is, we only budgeted $20 to spend on ALL THREE kiddoes this year because we knew we had quite a few yard sale toys in storage for Christmas. But, I went a little overboard, as I have a tendency to do with all the great Christmas sales, and the extra $50 just came out of my grocery money, which is fine since bulk-cooking allows for a lot of wiggle room with the grocery budget!

I should add that the toys from the yard sale are in TOP-NOTCH condition! I have a friend who has some very zealous in-laws and parents who buy her girls gazillions of toys and she is a perfect housekeeper who keeps her toys absolutely spotless (even runs them through the dishwasher once a week!) So when she planned a yard sale I planned to be there FIRST! Unfortunately some early birds came when she was setting up and cleaned out "all of the good stuff" so she said, but I still came away with 4 or 5 bags of awesome toys for a couple of bucks. Some went to our church nursery, some we used as little surprises for the kids to unwrap on our last 18 hour drive to MN, and some we saved for Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Packing for Trips--Healthy Snack Ideas

Every year, I attempt to work on areas of growth in healthier living/eating. Stay tuned for my yearly goal list at the beginning of the year to find out how I hope to grow in 2010 in these areas.
We end up doing a lot of road trips with kids because my husband's family lives in Minnesota and we happen to live 18 hours away from there! Though I often have packed healthy snacks for our trips, I am well aware that I could do better. I've often splurged on things like Capri Suns, fruit-roll-ups or Cheez-Itz for trips. Recently reading the book Eat This, Not That really opened my eyes in a new way to things I could do to swap unhealthy foods for healthier versions. So, as I begin to pack for our upcoming trip, healthy food is going to be top priority!
What I Plan to Pack:
Fruit leather instead of Fruit-roll-ups
Frozen blueberries and frozen peas in little containers
Cheese cubes and String cheese sticks
Pretzel sticks
Unsweetened applesauce cups
Low-fat, low-sugar granola bars
Cutie Pie (aka clementines) oranges
TLC cheese crackers
Healthier cookies
Homemade wheat bread slices
WW tortillas with Peanut Butter
Popcorn, lightly salted, no butter
100% juice boxes
Everyone in our family will be receiving either a stainless steel water bottle or BPA-free water bottle for Christmas so we will have tastier water on our trip too!
I realize the healthier food is often more expensive. It would be cheaper to buy Twinkies than frozen blueberries, etc. However, the healthier we have been eating, the better we have been feeling. It's worth the investment! I have found that you don't need to buy all organic or spend a ton to eat nutritious foods. By using coupons or buying on sale in some areas, you have a little more flex in other areas so that you can afford the healthier version. And a lot of these things can be found on sales, discounts, or made at home. If we fill up on nutritious food, we will be less likely to spend our cash at greasy fast-food places and the kids will be less cranky from being all sugared up!
I welcome your ideas! What are your favorite healthy snacks for long car trips?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brrr! It's cold today! So the kids and I made these....and of course we kind of created our own recipe...substituting honey and brown sugar for white, wheat flour for white, oats for half of the flour, pumpkin puree for half of the butter, etc. Yum!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Place for Everything and Everything in It's Place.....

...........even when it's not yours.
It's only taken me YEARS to finally realize that my house won't be clutter free once so-and-so picks up their such-and-such or I get rid of all my swap clothing bags/piles. Because once it's gone there are more piles and things. So now, this cute little cupboard in my closet is my "TO-GO Place." Here wait the bags of hand-me-downs to take to MN, the books my friend and father-in-law have loaned me, and the little things I need to remember to give to so-and-so. It's a little more out-of-sight-out-of-mind then putting this stuff on top of the entertainment center by the door, but I love the way it aids in a more clutter-free environment.
What do you do? Do you have a nifty shelf in your closet or a dresser drawer where you store these kinds of things?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A RANT Post--Boundaries with Friends

I've mentioned before on my blog that if you are a mom who stays home with your children you will no doubt be innundated with endless requests for help, either from family members who think you have all the time in the world, working friends/acquaintances, church committees, etc. It can be an all-out battle some days just to actually remain an "at-home" mom when so many people want a piece of your time. I've mentioned before that sometimes people ask for something small, not realizing that fifty other people have also asked for something small too. Or, other times you have people asking for something really big, which can be equally frustrating


This post is not to discourage you from doing hard things for the Lord if He calls you to do so. Life is not supposed to be comfortable for us at every turn and God uses difficult times and situations to grow us. However, I do think it's biblical and wise to manage our households well and keep our priorities in order. One way we can do this is by having a "game plan" for dealing with requests.

Many times in the past I have struggled with bitterness over feeling taken advantage of, especially in the area of childcare, by several different people I know. Because I routinely tackle big projects and have lots of energy, many folks feel comfortable asking me for "the impossible." But resentment can easily build when communication or boundaries are lacking.
If a friend is making money, I'm making money too babysitting their kid. It's not right to expect your stay-at-home mom friends to babysit for you while you go to work if you aren't willing to pay well or barter. A lot of people think I'm "lucky" to be a SAHM but the truth is it has taken lots of sacrifice, frugality, and personal discipline to live on one small income in today's world. I didn't make those sacrifices so I could raise someone else's kids. I'm not saying I won't help working moms who truly have to work and are going through hard times or are desperate for childcare now and then but have no money. However, no more babysitting for people who can afford to pay me but don't. If they are in a pinch because the normal sitter is sick or something like that then they are welcome to call me and ask, provided they are willing to pay.
I will not "give them a break" on babysitting fees merely because they are my friend. At-home care, which often includes homeschooling lessons, healthy snacks, and more personal attention, should earn at least the amount the local daycare gets, if not more. I have one friend who pays me double the amount of local day-cares, and though I've told her she doesn't need to, she insists because she feels my work is worth it; I really appreciate her!
When a friend takes advantage of some help I've offered, it really tends to burn the bridge. I'm not trying to be harsh and say that the friendship is over, but if they're late picking up the kids after I've specifically told them the time I wanted them back, do you think I'm gonna say yes to a request to watch their kids again? Not likely! My family is my first ministry and if folks won't respect that I have a schedule too then their lack of consideration is probably going to hurt our friendship. It boggles my mind sometimes that people in my life even ask so much of a mother of 3 anyway! It's one thing to ask for help from a mom of 1 but it seems downright rude to force your kids on someone, especially someone with 3 kids 4 and under! Our former difficult neighbors are back in town and they recently dropped their 2 kids off for a couple of hours on Jeremiah's birthday unexpectedly.
I will not babysit regularly (as I've found that to be too stressful for our current stage of life) and I will not babysit for people who are going to go out drinking/partying. My time is valuable, and though I could be making more money by babysitting more often or while people go on weekend drinking binges, that's not how I want to spend my time, nor do I want to support that lifestyle. My cousin in another state who owns an in-home daycare really enjoys her home business and line of work but I would rather make money in a different way if I needed to supplement the income on a regular basis. Right now my own kids are a big enough job and taking on more of them seems a little insane. If my friend is going to the ER, needs to see the dentist, or wants to trade babysitting so we can have a rare date with our husbands, no problem! If my friend wants to drop her kids off so she can relax or get a pedicure, no! She can do something like that on her husband's or Grandma and Grandpa's time! Unless I've offered this as a way to bless her on her birthday or we do a regular babysitting co-op where we take turns giving each other "errand running time", I'm going to veto that. Finally, I'm selective about "WHO" I will babysit. If the child is not disciplined at home, babysitting is a nightmare and way more work than anyone could compensate you for. If the child tends to rile my own kids up or leads them astray, I'll only babysit that kid in a dire emergency.
I have needed to ask my friends for help from time to time, whether to go to the doctor, the chiropractor, or to put an offer on a house (the one that was rejected). I appreciate my stay-at-home mom friends who will trade favors in this way and am more than happy to help them out if a need arises. Also, if I offer to watch a friend's children, you can be sure I want to do it and want to bless my friends in this way. My personal code of etiquette:
*I will not ask them for a babysitting favor if I'm not willing to watch their kids for the same amount of time
*I will bring snacks for my kids if someone is watching them over snacktime.
*I will not take sick children to someone's home.
*Daddy or Grammy are my first choices; if something needs to be done when neither of them are available.....then...I will usually only ask someone who has offered their help (in a difficult time) or someone who "owes" me for taking advantage of me in situations mentioned above
*I will try to make the babysitting time as short as possible, not running extra errands while I'm out
*If I ever needed someone to watch the kids for a longer period of time I would split the kids up to go to 2 or 3 different homes
*I will always thank the babysitter profusely and offer to pay or trade them.
Obviously these are guidelines and not meant to be legalistic. If one of my kids chopped off their arm or something I would probably thrust my others kids on someone, even without a snack, and even if they had colds.
We can help our friendships with other moms by having boundaries and sticking with them. Being honest from the beginning and gently explaining your standards to your friends can save you a lot of frustration in the long run. Don't expect it to be easy, especially when it involves close friends, but you will be glad you have guidelines.
I guess it's obvious that I haven't been either clear enough or firm enough in dealing with my friends in the past. My recent feelings have been a wake-up call to re-vamp this area of my life. A lot of these situations happened rather unexpectedly for me due to lack of good communication. When more requests come for babysitting, and I know they surely will, I will have my new standards in place.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yard Sale Flop

It's only fair to share my worst yard sale buy after all the great yard sale buys I've bragged about on this blog. I know now why the parents got rid of this for $2. It's a little machine that turns old crayons into racecar crayons. It takes load of batteries and needs plugged in too. After 20-30 long minutes, one small crayon is done. The racecar crayon (which had wheels it can ride on) was so flimsy Jeremiah broke it instantly. One of my good friends' whom I went Black Friday shopping with said, "There's a really good sale on little crayon maker things." I said, "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
My advice: Make your own swirl crayons the old fashioned way in an old muffin tin or metal cups in the oven.

Uses for Artwork

Much of the kids' artwork
will end up
as wrapping paper this year.
But it's also just the right size for placemats.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I've been wanting to share some of these funnies for a while.
Hope you get a kick out of them.

Sweet Buns
A certain guy was having lunch with us at a restaurant. He had ordered a hamburger and it ended up being enormous! There was a beautiful, sesame-topped bun on top of the hamburger and the waitress, whom I knew, set his plate down and turned to grab another plate off of her little serving stand. Right as she bent over this guy proclaimed loudly, looking at his hamburger, "Wow! Those are some sweet buns!" The waitress quickly looked at him, shocked, and my hubby and I couldn't help but giggle ourselves silly while trying to pretend we weren't and avoid embarrassing the now flushing waitress. Our poor friend must have turned 10 shades of red and didn't know how he could possibly correct what had just gone down, so he didn't try. His girlfriend, now wife, was there with him, giggling too. At least he said, "sweet" instead of "big!"
Hellbound Parents
Someone we know gave a testimony in church on Easter Sunday at the pastor's request. He was very nervous. In the midst of his testimony he said, "I heard about Hell and was scared and didn't want to go there because I knew my parent's would be there....." OOPS! He meant to say WOULDN'T! Again, it was pure torture not bursting out in loud guffaws during that service.
"So that's what you think of us, huh, Son?"

Don't Ask a Question
If You Can't Handle the Answer
Recently a friend of mine from High School eloped with her fiancee. She had her parent's blessing, and she still plans to go through with the big wedding in June, and she's nearly 30 so it's not like it was an awful thing. When questioned at work by fellow Christian school teachers about why she eloped, this sweet, quiet, pastor's daughter replied, "Well the Bible says that it's better to marry than to burn with passion." Awkward silence...........

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Christmas Stuff at Yard Sales

I found these little crafts at a yard sale this summer.They were at most $1 for about 20 of them, brand new, still in the packages.

Ali enjoyed making these for some relatives.

Messy, but fun!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Grandma's Popcorn Balls

1/2 C. white or brown sugar
1 C. white Karo syrup
1 small box of Jello
5-6 Q. popcorn

A simple, frugal way to make the popcorn, thanks to a tip from Frugal Friday: Put 1/3 C. popcorn kernels in a small brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top over and tape with one piece of scotch tape. Cook in microwave until pops are 4 or more seconds apart (my microwave takes 1 minute and 30 seconds). Make 3-4 brown bags of popcorn and dump the popcorn into a large pot.

Combine sugar and Karo syrup in sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in small box of Jello. Be sure to separate the popcorn from the unpopped kernels otherwise the popcorn balls will be filled with little seeds that will try to break the recipients' teeth! Pour the mixture over the popcorn. Stir well. Lay the popcorn on wax paper and serve as is (like caramel corn) or coat your hands in butter and shape the popcorn into balls and set on wax paper to harden. Store popcorn in airtight container or hardened popcorn balls in Ziploc bags

Update on OAMC

I wimped out and hardly took any pics this time around due to our crazy busy week. However, everything on my list is done and I'm quite happy with the fact that meal prep for the rest of the month should be a snap. The biggest problem I have is the size of our freezer. We do have a deep freeze in our shed, but don't really have the space for it here. So, we make do with the little above-the-fridge freezer. However, at our last house I could store about twice as much. Our fridge is very small and so is the freezer. I ended up having to pull as much as I could out of our freezer, saving some to thaw for meals in the next 7 days, giving my kids ice cream for dessert to try to free up freezer space, and having to cook half as much rice as I wanted to. I would have liked to save all of the cookies and muffins for later in the month but I had to thaw some already since the space just isn't there. Because of this issue, I think my future bulk cooking days will omit actual meals and that I will go back to doing meats, beans, rice, tortillas, and shredded cheeses and stick with dry mixes as much as possible for baked goods.

Helpful Tips I picked up on this go-around:

*My new griddle from Black Friday (I used my Christmas money for my first little cheapo mp3 player and a pancake griddle) made tortilla making so much nicer! Before, I could do one tortilla at a time and it took a couple of hours to make them. Now I can do 4 at a time and it's done within about 45 minutes. Yay!

*I really like doing just a few hours a day stretched out for more days. I was so sapped after the last bulk cook-a-rama, but this week I have just been focusing on a few bulk things a day and life has been much easier, even though we've had tons of stuff going on in our lives this week with church events, ballet recitals and performances coming up, and family things.

*Dry mixes are awesome! Having 7-Grain roll mixes on hand last month to just throw in the bread machine with water and 2 T. butter sure was handy! I forgot all about the cornbread mixes I made last month and never used them but this month since I have 4 bags of frozen chili made up, I will pair them with that.

*My dishwasher is such a blessing for clean-up! I doubt I would do these cooking days without one!

*Whether or not you cook once a month or not, you ABSOLUTELY should have a generalized guide for a month's worth of meals. I know people survive without them, but I think that it is a wonderful blessing to have at least a rough idea of how the month is going to go meal-wise so that you're not racking your brain for supper ideas at 4 p.m., or trying to find time each week to sit down and make a menu. If you like more variety than the same meals over and over go for themes. For example: Monday is Italian night. One week chose Ravioli, the next choose Pizza, the next Spaghetti, the next Alfredo. Tuesday is Mexican night. Wednesday is Asian. Thursday is Fast Meals. Friday is Kid's Favorites. Saturday is Breakfast for Dinner. Sunday is Leftover Night, etc. When you go with themes you will find that a month's worth of ideas come together in a flash. Then you just have to stock up all at once or weekly to buy the ingredients.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Once a Month Cooking!

It's that time again! I'm having fun stocking the fridge and freezer this week in preparation for the busy month ahead. Instead of doing all of the cooking on 1 or 2 days, I've decided to just spend a couple of hours a day on it for 4-5 days until it's done so that I can do it when the kids are napping or sleeping.

Here's our menu for the month. I tried to keep this REALLY simple because of all of the holiday events going on and I am using up a lot of the things we had on hand to keep our costs down.

Breakfast for Dinner x4
Vegetarian Black Bean Chili and cornbread x4
Sherry Chicken over brown rice x3
Elk Roast with baked or mashed potatoes x 4
Turkey-for misc. meals
Granola-2 gallons
5 7-Grain Roll mixes
Pizza x2
Ravioli x2
Spaghetti x4
Pumpkin Cookies (6 dozen)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins (5 dozen)
Whole Wheat Tortillas x4 (about 40)
Tuna Casserole x4

Since we're most likely to have breakfast for dinner (waffles, pancakes, french toast) on the weekends, I'm not going to prep that ahead of time; it will be very simple to whip up with what we have on hand.

My freezer is quickly filling up so I don't have to room for more spaghetti noodles in it therefore 3 of the spaghetti meals will be not frozen ahead of time; I have all the ingredients on hand in the pantry and some hamburger from last month's bulk cooking in the freezer which I can quickly add to the sauce. Lest you think I'm superwoman, I will tell you I'm not making the ravioli from scratch. I buy the frozen bags in the store and merely throw them in a pan with a jar of spaghetti sauce and a couple of cups of mozzarella and bake. So the ravioli x2 technically wasn't "made" by me.

Last month the tortillas, homemade cream of chicken soup, and the roll mixes were my favorite things to have on hand. And my hubby, who hates cooked oatmeal and tends to like the less-healthy cereals LOVES the homemade granola and requests that I make it all the time from now on!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Thanksgiving Slightly Healthier

My attempt at creating a healthier apple pie was a smashing success! My dad, who hates whole wheat bread and my husband, who said it's a crime to try to make Thanksgiving food healthy, both gave it the thumbs up for delicious!
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. unbleached all-purpose (or experiment using a different kind)
1 t. sea salt
2/3 C. coconut oil
5-7 T. cold water
6-8 apples, peeled and sliced
1 T. lemon juice to stir into apples to help them retain their color
1/2 C. honey (I warmed this in the microwave and mixed in the spices and butter and then dumped over the apples)
2 T. ww flour
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. butter

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes! This was the yummiest pie I've ever tasted! I think a big part of that was knowing that I was eating a somewhat more nutritious piece than one loaded with lard and bleached flour and white sugar!
Ali made this green bean casserole with her Mama's help. Though the fried onions still make it a high-cal dish, it was a bit healthier made with homemade cream of chicken soup from my last bulk cooking day, which was made with ww flour.
These luscious butterhorns are my favorite! I substituted half of the white flour for whole wheat and I always use butter instead of shortning. You can use coconut oil in place of butter if you have it. The recipe is here.
No one even noticed that I used half plain yogurt mixed with half of the ranch dressing. If you make your own dressing, you could use all yogurt in place of sour cream.
NOT PICTURED: The potatoes I made were from Trisha's freezer mashed potato recipe. Instead of peeling them, I mashed them up with the skins on, for a higher-fiber dish. It was so handy having some freezer stuff on hand to make cooking for Thanksgiving much easier!
Alas, one's best efforts to make a healthy meal are in vain when a Grandma is around! My mom, as usual, had a sugary treat for the kids. I thought the indian corn was cute, although sickly sweet, so I included a pic here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recent Pics

Playing "train" together
Learning about measurements with water

Playing dress-up. Thankfully someone recently gave us a carpenter and dinosaur costume for Jeremiah so he doesn't have to put on girly dress-ups anymore.

Our boys discovered swordfighting with tools the other day

3 little munchkins ready for bed!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Homeschooling Pics

Enjoying some new birthday paints we bought for Jeremiah to replenish our waning stash. Their paintings will end up as wrapping paper for Christmas gifts!
A reading treasure hunt game I made for Ali since she enjoys reading words, but gets frustrated with the length of books at this point in time.

Her exuberance upon reading the clues!

Looking under the rug. The last clue led her to some Hershey's kisses in our pink library bag.

Ali showing Justus how to color

Homeschooling is a lot of fun! I must admit I was surprised that Ali learned to read in mid-October, just by playing with some alphabet blocks. Learning the letters at age 2 from Leap frog toys and songs and books, taking pre-school from Miss Jenny last year, and doing lots of letter worksheets and phonics practice so far this year was the foundation for quickly learning to read! She doesn't enjoy reading books very much although I've started her on the Bob books and some easy readers some friends gave us. She prefers to make words with blocks or magnetic letters, spell out words on her own as she hears them, read words in games or on reading flashcards, etc. I was stunned that she started reading so quickly, almost without any help on my part! Here I had been saving the book How To Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons for January, thinking that we would review letters and sounds until then! I didn't want to rush her or push her into it too soon. I guess I may not even need the book, at least until Jer is ready for it!
Because Ali is reading now our schooling day now includes more reading activities and 5 spelling words per week, including an informal spelling test at the end of the week. We're still doing hands-on activities, lots of art and crafts, and reading lots of books. I've discovered that I love the Explode the Code books a veteran homeschooling mom recommended to us. Ali finished the first book in just 6 weeks. She begged to do more and more pages each day even though I would have been happy with 2 or 3. We ordered the next 4 workbooks in the series so those should keep her busy for a while.
I've found that as we push towards the end of this "semester" it is definitely hard to be self-disciplined every single day. We've taken some break days just to break up the routine and so that I could do bulk cooking or so that they could rest more to prevent colds. At the beginning I was more formal and stern about hours, but now I feel that as long as we have covered about 1-2 hours a week for 4 days out of the week we're totally good. Following the recommendation of the excellent book "A Well-Trained Mind" I am letting the kids listen to books on CD at night in bed and also during nap/quiet time in the afternoon. The kids are delighted with this and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't do it a few years ago when I was having major naptime struggles wtih Ali. It keeps them quiet and gives me a little break in the afternoons even though Jer is joining his sister these days in the I've-Outgrown-Naps-Club. Instead of being pestered by the kids for endless requests at bedtime, after we do their prayer/snuggle/Bible story bedtime routine, they are excited to listen to their audio books while drifting off. So far, they've listened to these books from the local libary, several times each: Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Boxcar Children, Hank the Cowdog (a few different books in this series), and the Bible (we own this one).

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