Thursday, January 31, 2008

Soup ~ a healthy and frugal meal

This week we have had some very cold weather (down to -30 and with wind chill a ways below that). Soup is the perfect meal for cold weather. Homemade soup is also very frugal and nutritious. Pair it up with fresh bread, biscuits, rolls or corn bread and you have a wonderful meal.

Usually when I make soups I just look around and use what I have and don't follow a recipe. That is what my mom does and so I learned that from her. It is nice if you have some sort of broth to start with. I was given some home grown chicken (which can be a little tougher) so I boiled a lot of it down and now have many containers of chicken broth with a little meat in my freezer ready to make soups. After Thanksgiving I also boiled the turkey carcas and now have a lot of turkey broth in my freezer too. To the broth you can add all sorts of vegies, noodles, rice or barley or whatever you desire. It is fun to be creative and see how great your soup can be.

I thought I would share a couple of recipes as well. Don't feel like you have to follow a recipe exactly, just use it for a guideline.

No Fuss Potato Soup
6 cups cubed peeled potatoes
5 cups water
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules (or just use broth instead of the water)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can evaporated milk
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Ham, cheese and snipped chives optional
Put together everything except the milk, parsley, cheese and chives in crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 7-8 hours. (or you can make this on your stove top a lot faster). Add milk and parsley and mix well. Cover and cook for another 1/2 hour, until heater through. Garnish with cheese and chives if desired.
Also my Mom's cornbread:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
Mix dry ingrediants together. Then gently stir in wet ingrediants. Don't stir to much, some lumps are okay. Put in greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes, check with toothpick to see when done.
For more frugal tips go visit Biblical womanhood.
What are your favorite soups?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tote bag giveaway

I decided it would be fun to do one more giveaway. I have been having fun sewing today and I thought it would be fun to sew a bag like the one above for one of you. This denim tote bag is great for trips to the library, putting your groceries in, hauling around your knitting, a diaper bag or whatever you want.

To enter you need to leave a comment. The colorful fabric will be different than the one pictured so in your comment please tell me a few of your favorite colors and hopefully I will be able to use fabric that has a color you like on your bag.

This contest is only open to those in the USA due to shipping costs. Both old and new visitors to my blog are free to enter. This giveaway will close at midnight on Saturday Feb. 2. I will contact the winner after that and they can get back to me with their address.

For over 800 other contests to enter go visit the Bloggy Giveaways.

Bloggy giveaways!

There is a Bloggy Giveaways Carnival going on and I decided it would be fun to be part of it. I have decided to give away a ring pillow. I recently made a bunch of these to use for my business Abbi's Bridal Design and I thought I would offer one of them as a giveaway. Because of shipping this will only be open to US residents. To enter you must:
  • Post a comment, leaving your blog link or an e-mail address so that I can contact you.
  • Tell me which pillow you would like.
  • And because I am curious, tell me what you want it for, perhaps your wedding, for a friend or for something else.

This giveaway will be closed at midnight on Saturday Feb 2 and I will post the winner on Sunday.

Works for me Wednesday ~ Garage organization

Our family enjoys camping and various outdoor activities. All of those things come with a lot of stuff which can sometimes be a challange to store. To solve that problem Ken bought the inexpensive plastic shelves that snap together (they are quite sturdy) and lined them up along one wall in the garage.
We have our tents, camp chairs, sleeping bags, balls, tennis raquets, etc. all on these shelves. It is so very handy because we can quickly through it in our van when it is time to go and then when we get home unpacking and putting away goes very quickly!

It definetely works for me! For other Works for me Wednesday tips go to Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Organizing fun

This afternoon and evening has been a busy one. Jonathan and I decided to go through all the toys in the boys room. I think that we might actually now have every single lego in the Lego box, every single tinker toy in the tinker toy box, etc. We do try to keep them all separate but with little kids and then having company often toys have a tendency to get a little scattered.

We also were able to throw away a fair amount of broken stuff and got rid of a box full of stuff as well. We able to have only one tub (instead of 2) of general toys. It feels very nice to get rid of clutter! Jonathan is a great helper for a project like this, he loves to organize and is very eager to get rid of things.

I believe that clutter is a huge time waster but yet I struggle with it regularly. This year it is my goal to get rid of clutter in our home. I am working to get rid of clutter that we already have and try to guard against bringing any more in. I have decided to try not to buy anything that is non-consumable unless totally necessary. How do you keep clutter out of your home? Do you have any organizing tips for us?

Strength for the weary.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary."
Isaiah 40:28-31

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Jersey Banquet and information

This week we have been having a lot of fun learning about New Jersey. We have been reading about it and doing online searches. On Thursday night we decided to again have a banquet. The kids thought the last one was a lot of fun and have been asking to do it again. Jonathan is pretty much a pro at setting a formal table now. He took a lot of pride in making sure it was just right. The kids all dressed up again. The boys went and got church clothes on (in very odd combinations, Jonathan had on his black pants and dress shoes, his orange polo shirt and his black tie, tied very loosely around his neck. He also wore Aaron's black vest.) and Mara pulled a skirt out of our dress-up drawer. Below is our menu.


Salsa and Kashi Crackers (bought with a coupon for just 50 cents)

1st course

Dinner salad and homemade bread and butter

Main Course

Raspberry Chicken

and Jersey City Macaroni Salad


New Jersey Cheese Bars

New Jersey sounds like it would be a pretty neat place to visit. Here are some facts we learned about it:
  • The Capital is Trenton
  • The world's longest Boardwalk is in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (4 miles are in Atlantic City and it is connected to 2 more miles in the next town.)
  • The Purple Violet is state flower.
  • New Jersey is almost completely surrounded by water. It has the Atlantic coast or rivers all around except 50 miles that are connected to New York. It's other next door states are Pennsylvania and Delaware.
  • It is the 3rd state admitted to the union on Dec. 18, 1787
  • Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Molly Pitcher and Walt Whitman were from New Jersey.
  • It is one of the smallest states in land size and one of the largest in population.

Here is a list of 101 fun things to do in New Jersey.

Here is an interesting story about Shark attacks in New Jersey.

We also made Atlantic City salt water taffy. If any of you have anything interesting to tell us about New Jersey we are still interested in learning.

Our next State is Georgia. Are any of you from Georgia? What do like to eat, do or see there? What is special about your state? I would love to hear!

A good book on health

I just wanted to share with you a good book that I recently got from the Library and read. It is called "The Sugar Solution" and is put out by the editors of "Prevention" magazine. We already try to live very healthfully (no smoking, no alcohol, whole foods, balanced diet, active lifestyle and plenty of rest) and I am not really concerned that we are nearing diabetes which this book really addresses but it is very neat to just get it reaffirmed that we are indeed doing the right thing.

This book points out the need for lowering stress. They point out the helpfulness of meditation. Funny but the Bible also talks about meditating. God has many answers for lowering stress in our lives. I know for me that have a daily prayer time helps immensely!

They also speak a lot about your diet. Whole foods help keep our blood sugar in line. Plenty of protein is also helpful. White flour and white sugar are not helpful! They include menu ideas and recipes.

They also speak a lot about the need to be active! Walking is very recommended. It made me realize how important that it is for me to keep me resolution to get outside and be active regularly. They also included this fun list that reminds us that any moving helps us out.

  • Chew sugarless gum for an hour and burn 11 calories.
  • Play tag and in 5-6 minutes you will burn 40 calories.
  • Take a flight of stairs and burn 16 calories.
  • Sing! Belting out a song will burn about 20 calories. Tomorrow night at church we are having a singspiration. We will be singing for over an hour. I am not afraid to "belt it out", I bet I will lose a bunch of calories!!
  • Play action games with your kids for 10 minutes and lose 80-137 calories.
  • Move furniture and burn 100 calories in 15 minutes.
  • Play an instrument for an hour and burn 150 calories or more!
  • Clean the house for 25-35 minutes and burn 100 calories.

This is based on if you weigh 150 pounds. (If you weigh more you are actually burning more, if you weigh less unfortunately it is less.)

We also need to make sure we have plenty of rest. If we don't get enough sleep then our body cannot work as well as it should.

Anyway if you want to read a motivating book I would recommend this one!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Frugal and healthy snacks

At our home we like to do a lot of snacking. Ken isn't really into it and he is amazed at how much the rest of us can eat. We usually eat breakfast in pretty good time, have a snack around 10:30 am, then eat lunch and then snack again mid afternoon, eat supper at 6 pm and then have a snack again around 8 pm. This isn't always done but it is frequently. You would think we all would be roly poly with all that snacking but actually we aren't. Actually for many women and children it is recommended to eat small meals (snacks) to help out how you blood sugar works. With all of that snacking we need to have quick and easy things to snack on. I thought I would share some of the things that we like.

  • Apples and peanut butter. I always slice the apples for the kids as that way we have a lot less waste. None of them can eat a whole apple yet anyway.

  • Fresh fruit. This is quick and obviously good for you.

  • Carrot sticks.

  • Honey and homemade bread. This is one of their top favorites.

  • Popcorn. We love this stuff and it is very good for you and very cheap! I bought a 25 lb. bag from a co-op and we either use our air popper or pop it in a pan on the stove top. (Microwave popcorn is very expensive compared to just buying the seeds. It also has stuff with it that makes it not so healthy.)

  • Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins.

  • Homemade cookies from wholesome ingredients.

  • Frozen peas or corn.
  • Soda crackers and peanut butter.
  • Homemade crackers with egg salad or cream cheese.

I like this recipe for Norwegian flat bread:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour. I use a mixture of white and whole wheat. Sometimes I will add rye flour for a neat taste.
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup butter milk or sour milk (or just plain milk. - you can add a tiny bit or vinegar to sour it.)

Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in the softened butter. Make a well in the ingredients and pour in the milk all at once. Mix well.

Lightly grease baking sheets; set aside. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead gently until nearly smooth. Divide dough into 10 portions. Roll each portion into an 8 inch circle. Place circles on baking sheets and prick with a fork. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 -12 minutes or till done. Remove and cool.

  • A spoonful of peanut butter. Ken really laughs at us over this one but the kids and I love it. It very fast and gives you a quick dose of protein.

Anyway there are some of the snacks we enjoy. What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Baking experiment

Yesterday I was making bread and started thinking about Balinas. Balinas are prunes wrapped in bread dough and then deep fried and then rolled in sugar. They are something that my mom sometimes made growing up which I believe she learned from her Grandmother, I think they are from Germany but am not sure. I like them and hadn't made them for a while.

However I didn't feel like deep fat frying anything, partly because of the mess and also because I like to minimize our oil use when possible. So I thought possibly I could bake them. So that is what I did. I just put them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350 degrees until the bread was done. After I took them out I brushed melted butter on them and then sprinkled them with sugar. I thought they turned out quite good. Jonathan also loves them. The others thought they were okay but don't have the same appreciation for prunes that Jonathan and I have.

This is quite a nutritious little snack if you use whole wheat bread dough as I did. I also included some cooked squash in the dough to give it extra nutrition.

Are there any other Balina appreciators out there?

Giving Thanks

This morning in my reading in Isaiah I found this verse:

"It is the living who give thanks to Thee, as I do today;
A father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness."
Isaiah 38:19
This was in a prayer that Hezekiah prayed after God had told him he was going to die. I just thought it was a good reminder of how we are supposed to be. Even though he was going to die soon (he was praying to ask God to change His mind.) he said that he was giving thanks today. Even when things are not looking so great for us, are we still giving thanks?
Being thankful can help our attitude better than anything else I know. I want to live a joyful life but just telling myself to be joyful when I am feeling blue doesn't seem to help a lot. But if I start thinking of the very, very many things that I have to be thankful for than I start feeling far more joyful about life. Singing songs of Thanksgiving is also incredibly helpful for me.
I also appreciate that reminder of telling sons about God's faithfulness. I love being a stay at home mom and getting to be with my kids nearly 24/7. But am I always using that time to its full advantage? Am I telling my children about God and His faithfulness as much as I could be? I think that I can always improve in that area and I hope and pray that I do. When we notice the beautiful sun shining down on us, lets not just keep that observation to ourselves but how about mentioning it to our children and thanking God for it and reminding them how faithful God is to keep us warm and care for us!
I hope that this has been a day of Thanksgiving for you and that you are sharing those observations with your children.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Works for me Wednesday ~Living room organization

Today I thought I would share some of our organization in the living room. It isn't to exciting but it works for us!

I bought these side tables quite a while back and wondered what we would do with all of the magazine rack space. However we have figured out how to use it quite well.
One of them does hold magazines and catalogs. It is very nice to have just one place to put these things. If it starts getting to full I know it is time to go through them and get rid of some. I try to make sure that we only have the current catalog on hand and only if I think I might want to buy something. Often old ones will get turned into craft projects. For magazines I try to read them soon and then pass them on to someone else who might enjoy them as well.

The other table holds the kids library books in it. It is very handy as we do most of our reading aloud in the living room. Another handy thing about it is that the kids put them in and out quite easily. This area is just for the little kids books, Mara and I have different shelves for ours. It is very good to have a set place for library books so that they don't get spread out all over the house.

Another storage space in the living room is under our couch. I read somewhere that it was a great place for storing your extra table leaf. I agree. It stays nicely hidden under there until we need it and then it is quite handy to use.

Do you have any storage tricks or ideas that you would like to share? These particular ones work for me!

$100 certificate giveaway

Over at Biblical Womanhood right now you can enter to win a $100 gift certificate for use at Vision Forum. Vision Forum has many great items for Christians and homeschoolers. The contest is running through Jan. 28.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Some fun Home school co-op classes

We have had some fun co-op classes lately. This afternoon I taught one here at our house on flower arranging. Each student was able to make their own small arrangement. They did a very good job and we all had a lot of fun. I also showed them how to make a florist bow.
Here they are hard at work!
Last week we got to go to the home of another family and attend a class about our body. The mother who was teaching that class had poster board for each child to have their body traced on. Then she had many of the organs and some muscles and bones copied from a neat book on the body. The kids all colored the different parts and then glued them in their body. While they were coloring the parts she talked about what that part was for and how it worked. Very fun stuff!!
Jonathan is getting some help from a friend. These boys were the speediest of the bunch but did a very good job.
Aaron is working on his body.

These classes are fun because we get to learn but it is also fun because the kids get to enjoy being with other kids and the mom's also get to have fun visiting. Both of these classes were fairly small in size, which is nice because there is more learning and less chaos.

Have any of you been involved in home school co-op classes? What have you enjoyed doing? Or maybe you have a wonderful idea for me to use next year. I hearing your thoughts.

I do have one more co-op class to teach this year, it is on "Fun with music". I will be sure to report about it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Luke!

Today is my Brother Luke's 21st birthday. We went over to my parents house today for a very yummy supper and to help celebrate. There were some of our other friends there as well.
This is a picture of Luke opening some presents from us. One of them was a ball from Aaron who decided that everybody needed a ball and he really wanted to give something to uncle Luke that was just from him.

I am very blessed to have a great brother like Luke. He is a great uncle for my kids, he is a hard worker at his job and helping out at church and wherever he is needed (often helping us). He has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around. Most of all he is a devoted Christian. Even when many people would go out and party on this particular birthday, we don't have to be concerned about anything like that with Luke.

We love you Luke.

Learning about the States ~Pennsylvania and New Jersey

This past week we learned about Pennsylvania. We started out doing a lot of research but then I got very busy and we didn't do to much the rest of the week. I didn't do as much as I wanted too but something is better than nothing.

Sarah left a comment earlier that I really appreciated that told us a lot about Pennsylvania so I thought I would share it with you.

"Some fun things about PA. Skeeball, the fun and famous arcade game, is made here! Our slogan is "Pennsylvania: The State of Independence." That's a double entendre! Our governor is Ed Rendell, who was once the mayor of the City of Philadelphia. We're a great state, because, at least where I live, we are within a two-hour drive of the beach or the mountains! (New Jersey beaches, and Pocono Mountains)Some things we enjoy eating here, are, of course, cheesesteaks! Philadelphia is world famous for the cheesesteaks, and I've heard that they cannot be replicated anywhere else. I think it has something to do with the water, which makes the rolls perfect. I have also heard that the water makes sourdough pretzels made in PA extra special. Ever had Snyders of Hanover? They're made here. Do you love those marshmallow bunnies and chicks you get on Easter? The Just Born facility makes Peeps, they're located in Allentown, PA. And of course, you've had Hershey's chocolate, that's here in PA, too!"

In our reading we decided that Pennsylvania would be a very fun place to visit. Not only is there beautiful scenery but also lots and lots of historical places. I would love to go and check out all of those places. What a fun way to learn history!

There are many Amish is Pennsylvania, so for food I pulled out my Amish cookbooks (that were written in Pennsylvania) and we tried some new foods.

We also enjoyed some Hershey's Chocolate this week as well as Ice cream sodas and Banana splits both of which we read were invented there. (Quite a lot of sweets this week but for Banana splits we went heavy on the Bananas.)

We learned that a lot of our money is made it the mint in Penn.

We learned that Stephen Foster was from Pennsylvania so we had fun singing some of his songs last week.

This week we are on to New Jersey. Is anyone reading that lives there or used to live there? We would love to hear about your state!! We would enjoy marking your town on the map and hearing what is special about your state, what is fun to do there and what is fun to eat. Why would we want to go there?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The last few days have been rather busy. This afternoon I had a booth at a local Bridal show, so I have been busy preparing for that. I am tired tonight from some late nights and lots of full days (And no nap today~ that is the hard one for me!! :-), but I thought I would share some of my pictures.
Here are some of the nearly 300 brochures that I had to fold to be ready for the show.
Here are some of the flowers ready to be used.
Here are a couple of ring pillows that I made to sell. I made 10 in all. I had fun making each one original.

Here is my sweetie modeling a head wreath.

Here is the ice sculpture and some flowers that I had at the show. Ice sculptures are nice to display because they attract quite a bit of attention. Many people like to stop and touch it and check if it is really ice.
A bright basket for a flower girl.
I had fun adding peacock feathers to this one. The green Kermit flowers look a little funny colored in this picture.
A cascade bouquet.I love these flowers.

I just thought I would share about my afternoon (This morning and evening I enjoyed some wonderful times at church , thought I had to skip out on about 10 minutes this morning.) How was your day?

Friday, January 18, 2008

A new skirt from old clothes

Something that I enjoy doing is remaking clothes. I like doing it for several reasons, First it gives us something new to wear without costing anything, also we get to use something that might otherwise be thrown out (which I like very much for environmental reasons), and also it is a great way to express your creativity (you are using free stuff so if it turns out ugly it isn't a big deal, you can make it in to something else).

One of my recent projects was a skirt for Mara. I had been given a piece of material that had been part of somebody else's dress that hadn't gotten holes in some of the other parts so they could no longer wear it. I decided to combine that material with the top of some old jeans to make a skirt.

Here are the materials that I started with: Old jeans that were to short and a part of an old dress. (Both materials were still sturdy which is an important thing to check otherwise you are just wasting your time.)
I cut the jeans off like pictured above. Then I pleated the fabric on (which was already sewn into a tube) and hemmed the bottom and I was done. It was very quick and easy and Mara was very pleased. One of her friends had a store bought skirt like that and Mara had liked that and was happy to get one for herself.
Here is a picture of Mara wearing the finished product.

Have you done any re-making of clothes? I would love to hear what you have done.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I just wanted to share with you how much fun I have been having teaching Jonathan lately. He is learning to read right now as well as learning about money and very much enjoying doing math. I find teaching somebody to read to be a little challenging but oh so rewarding when they learn! Jonathan is really starting to catch on to both reading and math and it is so exciting.

One of the things that I love about homeschooling is very selfish on my part. I am so glad that I get to be the one that watches and helps out in these big steps in my child's life. I love getting to be with my children each day and totally enjoy their companionship. Homeschooling is the best!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Works for me Wednesday ~Boy's room organization

A month or so ago my parents brought over a couple of desks for our boys. We were excited about it as then they would have a place to store their stuff and work on projects. However when we moved them in the room in left very little space for actual playing. What to do? I decided to try out putting the dresser in the closet. It has worked out very well. They have plenty of room for playing and still get their desks. Some of our other organization methods in their room are:
  • We have their toys divided up in different containers according to type. The kids are only supposed to get one type out at a time and then pick it up before they get out something else. Some of the smaller types like legos are kept up on the high shelf in the closet so they need to ask for my help before getting it down.
  • When hanging up their clothes we have them divided into each boys' clothes and then all the pants hang together, all the short sleeved shirts, all the long sleeved, etc. It makes it much easier for finding everything.
  • On the shelf we also keep boxes of clothes that are too big for the boys. I have them labeled according to approximate size and it makes it very quick to find what we need.

That is what works for me in our boy's room, How do you organize your children's rooms?


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