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Monday, February 28, 2011

An Actual Craft Project!

What's this? An actual craft project on my crafty blog? I know, I know, it's been far too long. I've been meaning to make this nifty magazine holder for awhile, but I knew it was time when Jesse asked me why an empty cereal box had been sitting on the table for the past two weeks.

Materials:
  • Empty cereal box
  • Wrapping paper or scrapbook paper
  • Decorations of your choice
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tape

Directions:

Cut cereal box so it looks like one of those fancy store-bought magazine holders. You know, angled down so you can see what's inside it. Then wrap it with pretty paper. I chose a pretty Tiffany's blue, which isn't exactly showing up in my pictures. *Helpful hint: Make the seams of your paper meet at the back (the longest side, which is to the right in the picture below) and the bottom, which won't be showing when you have this set out.*

Decorate! I used ribbon and my hot glue gun. I may add more later on, but for now, I like it. Now to read those magazines...

Menu Plan Monday

It's been a few weeks since I've done a menu plan post, mostly because we've taken a few weekend trips and meals have been pretty scattered. Now that we are back home for awhile, things can get back to normal.

Lunches:

Monday: English Muffin Pizzas
Tuesday: English Muffin Pizzas
Wednesday: Beans, Cheese, and Tortillas
Thursday: Turkey Sandwiches
Friday: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Saturday: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Sunday: Macaroni and Cheese

Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Tacos
Wednesday/Thursday: Mexi Turkey Skillet
Friday/Saturday: Veggie Stir Fry
Sunday/Monday: Mini Turkey Loaves with Green Beans

We've been getting a little tired of mostly vegetarian dinners, so we're mixing some meat-inclusive meals back in, although we'll be using a mixture of meat and beans in some of them, so they're still healthier, and less expensive.

I'm going to make a double batch of the bean/ground turkey taco mixture, which we'll have in both tacos and the mexi skillet. That should make meal prep pretty easy for those. I make mini turkey loaves in muffin tins, which means they cook faster, and one of them is the perfect kid portion.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What I'm Reading...

A Collection of Free Kindle Resources. My favorite is to just go to the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers list and look at the top freebies. (The Simple Dollar)

List of Ingredients to Avoid in Cleaning Products. For those interested in greener living. (Life Your Way)

Organizing on a Budget: Using What You Have. I can think of at least 3 baskets/containers off the top of my head that aren't currently being used where they are, but could be used elsewhere in my house. (Northern Cheapskate)

How to Be a More Patient Mom in 24 Hours. Such simple steps, but important. I find myself frequently multi-tasking parenting with something else, but I notice that Jonah and I both have more fun when we're just hanging out together. It's not always possible, but it's good to aim for that. (Inspired to Action via Simple Mom)

10 Ways to Get Small Children Involved in the Kitchen. I am happy to say that we already do a couple of these. (Life Your Way)

Loving Your Family Through Meal Planning. Jonah and I really like sweet potatoes and squash. Jesse does not. We only make him suffer through those meals occasionally, and I usually cook them separately if I can so he doesn't have to eat them. (Good Cheap Eats)

How to Get Free Baby-Sitting and a Mom's Night Out. This sounds like a very reasonable idea. My kid goes to bed at 7:00. Just saying... (Passionate Homemaking)

The Thoughtful Parent's Guide to Thinking Through Vaccinations. This presents both sides of the issue. We ended up choosing to go with the traditional vaccination schedule for Jonah, but not without research. (Keeper of the Home)

How to Get Groceries for Free by Gleaning. This sounds like an interesting idea. I would think once you got everything set up, it wouldn't actually be too much effort, just picking things up and sorting them. (MSN via Money Saving Mom)

Busy Mom's Guide to Easy Recycling. The main idea here is to give yourself places to put all of your recyclables. I only wish we had recycling in our apartment building. (Life Your Way)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crafty Link-Up

Recycled Newspaper Crafts. A lot of these look really cool, although I think the hand-spun newspaper yarn is the most intriguing. (Life Your Way)

DIY Homemade Cake Mix Recipe. (I Am Baker via Deal Seeking Mom)


DIY Fleece Liners to Keep Your Cloth-Diapered Baby Dry at Night. We've been doing disposables at night because Jonah soaks through them, but I wonder if this would help. (Offbeat Mama)


How to Make Chocolate Butterfly Cake Decorations. These are pretty sweet. (Everything Old via not martha)

Recycled Gift Bows from Phone Books. Similar to ones I've posted before. (How About Orange)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I'm Reading...

The Best Friends' Guide to Newborns. Someone remind me to read this when I'm, oh, about 2 weeks in and haven't slept in 3 days. (Goddess Guidebook via Offbeat Mama)

I Don't Have Time to Be Frugal! Being frugal does not mean spending hours on coupon clipping or manual labor. It means being smart and organized. (The Simple Dollar)

Does Cutting Meat, Eggs, or Dairy from Your Diet Save You Money? Yes and no. You spend more on produce. You spend less on meat. There are smart ways to buy either way. (The Simple Dollar)

The Buck Stops Here: How to Lower Your Monthly Bills. I've seen many of these, but it's always a helpful reminder that you can negotiate for lower rates on many bills. (Life Your Way)

It's Harder to Get Started Today. An interesting cost-of-living comparison of life today vs. 30 years ago. (The Simple Dollar)

Does Your Family Have a Drinking Problem? Some days we do. This is a cute and simple idea. (Smockity Frocks via I'm an Organizing Junkie)

This pantry redo is really awesome. I would LOVE a pantry like that. (Honey + Fitz via I'm an Organizing Junkie)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crafty Link-Up

Simple Cooked Play-Doh Recipe. I think we made something similar when I was younger. Fun! (Money Saving Mom)

This Freezer Paper Stenciled Scarf is really cool looking. I already have too many scarves. (How About Orange)

Personalized Children's Canvas Wall Art. I don't think my dollar store sells canvases. If they did, I would buy a bunch. (Full of Great Ideas)

Diaper Boxes into Lined Canvas Bins. Brilliant! I have no idea what canvas/pretty fabric for lining would cost though. (Positively Splendid via Money Saving Mom)

Rain Gutter Bookshelves. What a nifty way to display books for kids! (Raising Olives)

Stained Glass Heart Cookies. These are very similar to the stained glass cookies I want to bake. (Deal Seeking Mom)

Make Your Own Reusable Sandwich Bags. I've thought about doing this, but we use mostly containers anyways. (Living a Frugal Life via Deal Seeking Mom)

A really smart way to organize ribbons. (Spunky Junky via I'm an Organizing Junkie)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Double Your Space with Wire Shelves and Dividers. I like a lot of these ideas. (I'm An Organizing Junkie)

Here's a big list of Freezable Foods. My favorite things to freeze are chopped veggies. When I'm cooking, I can simply grab a container of whatever I want and throw it in, no chopping necessary. I've found that freezing meals doesn't work too well for us. We aren't good at eating them. (Simple Organized Living)


Clean Out Your Inbox: 7 Steps to E-mail Success. I use Hotmail, not Gmail, but the idea is the same. Organize, split into folders, and only keep subscriptions to things you actually use or enjoy. (Life as Mom)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grandma Winter's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


This is probably the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever had. Seriously delicious.
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter (I do half applesauce and half butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (or as many as you dump in)

Directions:

Combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add vanilla and egg. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Add in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. The recipe makes 2 dozen, give or take a few. I always double the recipe. Try not to eat all in one day.

In the time it took to type up this post, I may or may not have eaten that plate of cookies pictured above...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crafty Link-Up

This Hidden Heart Cake is just amazing. And it actually doesn't look too hard (although time consuming). I do think flipping one onto the other might give me a heart attack though. (I Am Baker via not martha)

Map of the United States made out of cereal boxes. Go look. It's cool. (Inhabitots via Life Your Way)


How to Make Your Own Sprinkles. You know I will try this at some point. (BraveTart via not martha)


Homemade Chili and Taco Seasoning. I find it just as easy to add the spices separately and vary depending on the recipe, but if you like having a mix ready to go, here's how to make your own. (My Baking Addiction)

Recycled Egg Carton Crafts. Very kid friendly! (Life Your Way)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last week went kind of according to plan. Jesse and Jonah both got a cold, which I so far seem to have escaped from. But I did catch a bit of the "I'm pregnant and I don't want to cook", so we grabbed some Subway one day.

Lunches:

Monday: Turkey Wraps and Pears
Tuesday: Beans, Tortillas, and Cheese with Apples
Wednesday: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Thursday: Tortilla Pizzas
Friday: Eat Out after doctor appointment (had to schedule right at lunch time)
Saturday: Turkey Sandwiches
Sunday: Macaroni and Cheese

Dinners:

Monday: Veggie Spaghetti
Tuesday/Wednesday: All Season Risotto (from 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes)
Thursday/Friday: Chicken Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Broccoli
Saturday/Sunday: Winter Bean and Veggie Stew (from 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes)

I have to say, I am so glad I pre-cut all of our veggies early last week, because it made throwing together homemade spaghetti sauce so easy yesterday, meaning we didn't order pizza or Erbert & Gerbert's. I really thought about it.

Update on New Year's Resolutions

Not the most exciting ones, but...
  • Finding money for various upcoming events in our lives and putting it where it needs to be is just about done. All we are waiting on is our tax refund, and then everything will be set.
  • Rework the budget to include fun money! We each get $20 a month. Not a lot, but I get my Caribou every so often, Jesse gets a new book, or we go out to eat. Or whatever. It's our fun money. Now I want to see how far I can make it stretch...

    We also adjusted some of our other budget numbers to account for things as they are now - we've been going off of numbers from the beginning of last year for awhile, and some of them were a bit off. For example, we have coin laundry machines in our apartment building. Laundry money never really made the budget sheet. We just kind of grabbed quarters from the bank as we needed to. Now it's on there.

    The idea is that by budgeting for everything, and maybe even over-budgeting on some items, we'll have extra at the end of the month that can go toward saving for our next big goal. We have yet to determine what that is, although our emergency fund or a new (to us) car, seem to be the most likely options.
  • Finish Jesse's Christmas present. It only took me until February.
The big goal for me now is to finish Matthew's baby blanket. He's less than 2 months away! I see lots of little squares in my future...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Taco Bell's Beef Problem: Convenience and the Value of Knowing What You're Consuming. I am a bit surprised at the numbers (36%! 40%!), but then again, maybe I'm not. And I wish I could say that this will change my love for the occasional taco, but again, maybe not. (The Simple Dollar)


Five Steps to Reclaim Your Living Room. We need to do this, if only so that it makes us go through and get rid of some of the clutter. (Unclutterer)


Home Sweet Decorated Home: Framing a Design. I completely agree that having a collection of different things with a unifying theme is the way to go. Almost all of my picture frames in my living room are black. There are many styles, sizes, and materials, but they're black, and that ties them together. (Northern Cheapskate)


Cooking 101: How to Hard-Boil Your Eggs. I usually just boil for 12 minutes, then give them a cold water soak. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don't. (Life Your Way)

Stop Your Toilets from Taking a Leak. I'm not a big fan of playing with toilets, but I like the food coloring idea to see if your toilet is wasting water. Still glad I have a landlord, though... (Northern Cheapskate)

Prepare Your Kids Early for a Successful Launch Later. Foster independence in your children right away, including letting them make their own age appropriate choices and mistakes. I like to let Jonah pick between a few options for clothes, lunch, toys, and so on. These are the easy ones. Hopefully I can continue to let him make his own way as he gets older. (Simple Mom)

Organizing Photographs. This one is for my mama, who has one? (two?) big tubs of pictures in the basement. (Unclutterer)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Easy Knitted Dishcloths


These knitted dishcloths are one of those projects that is easy to pick up while watching a movie, and you can do them in one sitting. If you're curious, each one is 30 stitches by 50 stitches, knitted on #7 needles. The only thing to remember with these is to make sure you get cotton yarn, so you can wash and dry repeatedly without them shrinking or felting. So far I've made this color and some lovely green ones. Much cuter than the boring black and white Walmart rags I had been using...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jesse's Christmas Present


I got the idea and pattern for this from my friend Lawanda. The verse on the right hand side is Joshua 24:15. "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." In Hebrew. She made a cross stitched version of this for her house, and once I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for Jesse's someday office. It's our wedding verse, and a verse that we try to apply to our lives every day. My favorite part, though it's kind of hard to see in the picture, is the little french knot for the doorknob.
I finished most of the lettering and the house right away, but I finally finished the white background this week. Now all I have to do is find a frame that will work for it - it's about 9x12, give or take a little bit. Maybe I'll use one of those Hobby Lobby or Michael's sales to get a nice mat cut to size and a cool frame.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Magic Peanut Butter Middle Cookies

Call this phase one of "I have too much peanut butter in the cupboard." These cookies are one of the best combinations in the world - chocolate and peanut butter. They take a little bit of work (but not too much!), but they're so worth it.

Chocolate Cookie Dough:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Mix together sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Mix in vanilla and egg. Add dry ingredients and stir to mix. Set aside.

Peanut Butter Filling: Mix 3/4 cup peanut butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar.

Roll filling mixture into tiny balls. My recipe says to make 30. I made 20 out of this batch. Make them small, and then take some off and make them even smaller, at least if you want 30 cookies. Cover each peanut butter ball with chocolate dough. Whether you make big or small balls, you should have just about the right amount of chocolate dough.

My sous chef woke up from naptime while I was making my cookie balls. He wanted to help.

Bake at 375F for 7-9 minutes (if you actually got 30 balls), or about 12 minutes if you made less but bigger, like me.


Cool on pans for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire cooling rack. Or, you know, eat them even though they're hot.


Surprise! Now where did that third cookie wander off to?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Routines, Routines

I read Creating a Dinnertime Routine from Keeper of the Home yesterday, and I wanted to share some of our routines with you. These are things that help our home run more smoothly, and they might work for you too.

Food:
I meal plan. I have been doing this ever since we got married, and while it has gotten more detailed lately, I have always found it to be helpful. We grocery shop for 2 weeks at a time, picking up occasional extras in between. I plan out lunches and dinners. You can see my latest meal plan here. Planning these out allows me to always know what we're having to eat, and to use some of the same ingredients while still keeping variety.

We keep the same two breakfasts in rotation: eggs and toast, and cereal. These are not the most exciting, but we always have the ingredients, and they're quick and easy ways to start the morning.

I really liked the article's mention of doing prep for meals beforehand. I chop up most of our veggies for the two weeks at one time, within a day or two of shopping. Any that we aren't using that day get put in small containers, labeled, and frozen. That way I can just pull out the ones we need (1 green pepper, 1 carrot and celery mix, etc.) when we need them. I love love love not having to chop veggies for every meal and still being able to use fresh ingredients. If we are having two meals within a couple days of each other that both use dried beans, I'll cook up a double portion right away and keep them in the refrigerator. Have I mentioned that I love meals where I can just throw everything in a pot, turn the heat on, and be done? Oh yeah.

Cleaning:
I clean on Mondays. For whatever reason, that's the point in time when I feel most productive. Laundry gets done throughout the day. The bathroom (usually) gets cleaned, and the rags thrown right in the wash. Same with dusting. I scare Jonah with the vacuum, and he helps me pick up miscellaneous items that have wandered throughout the house. Some people find it easier to spread these chores out. I like to do them all at once, at least at this point. Ask me in a couple months when Matthew is born, and it will probably be a completely different story...

I really try to do dishes every morning. It's far easier to do one sinkful at a time than to try to finish the sinkful, plus the stack on the counter, plus the pots on the stovetop, all within the few minutes Jonah is distracted dumping toys from pot to pot on the kitchen floor.

Other:
Naptime is me time. Jonah is down to one nap in the middle of the day. I shower, grab a mug of hot cocoa or a small snack, have my personal devotion, and catch up on my blogs or read or do something fun. I try not to do my chores during this time, because having a bit of down time does wonders for my productivity and patience level during the rest of the day. I am really not looking forward to that inevitable time when naptime disappears, but for now, I really cherish it.

Jonah has a bedtime routine that we stick to as well. Dinner, bathtime, read 3 stories, and play some music while we pick up toys and relax. Then we say prayers and off to sleep he goes. They say kids thrive on routines, but I think it's true for adults too. Do you have any routines that make life easier?

Crafty Link-Up

These Valentine's Day Butterfly Cards would be a cute homemade Valentine that your kids could help make themselves. (Full of Great Ideas) Or, Alien Cards for the boys. (Full of Great Ideas)

Cafe Mocha Cupcakes. Can you say yum? (My Baking Addiction)

Iron Craft just finished Week #5 yesterday, with the theme of "Be Mine". I haven't actually participated in any of these yet, because I haven't found the time, but I love looking at the posts with the completed projects. So inspiring! (Iron Craft)

Chocolate Candy Cane Valentine Suckers. This is a cute way to use up leftovers from Christmas. (Blossom Bunkhouse via Money Saving Mom)

I am trying to come up with a good Valentine's Day decorative craft to make in the next week or so. Look for that soon!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Homemaking Binder

To help make my home life run more smoothly, I wanted to start using a kitchen binder and a homemaking binder. You can read about my kitchen binder here.

The homemaking binder is still a work in progress, but right now I have a few things in there. The first page is my weekly plan. You can find the customizable downloads from Money Saving Mom here. This includes my to-do list, my weekly chores, my meal plans, any upcoming birthdays/events, devotional lists, work/meetings/appointments, and blog posts I want to write. A few are filled in for you, but most of these are headings I came up with because they work for me. Yours may be different.

I also use the front pocket for any recipes I've found that look interesting. If I use them in our weekly menu and we like them, I copy them down into my kitchen binder. If we're not fans, or if they've been sitting in there for awhile without getting made, they get tossed.

Next I have my monthly calendars, which I printed off here. I have birthdays and anniversaries listed, as well as my work schedule, appointments, trips, family plans, Jesse's school schedule, and pretty much anything else I want to remember. I refer to these when I'm setting up my weekly plans, and take note of anything in the next couple weeks that I need to be aware of.
I also keep a blank notebook in the back for anything I need to write down: grocery lists and meal plans, project lists, coupon match-ups, and so on. Eventually I want to have an "ongoing projects" list for my crafts, organizational stuff, and so on, but I haven't quite gotten that figured out yet. I also need to buy or make dividers still, but I have the groundwork done. I am most definitely a list person, and I love being able to cross things off of my weekly plan sheet and see how much I've gotten done!

How do you stay organized? Are you a list person, like me, or do you have some other way of doing things?