Thursday, December 2

Snack Time!

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I've posted...yikes!  If I could ever find my camera and the cord to link to my computer I could actually finish my post on organization but, alas, I think my toddler has other plans :)

Anyway, today I got to do some actually cooking/experimenting in my kitchen with some new recipes for snack items to keep around the house.  I've been looking to move away from using too much white sugar, but I can't afford to switch to anything better (read: more expensive and more nutritious) right I've been trying my hand at some recipes using honey and maple syrup as sweeteners and the results have been, well, YUMMY!

Today I made rice crispy treats (a healthier version) and chewy granola bars.  Now, I will warn you that the granola bars taste much more like no-bake cookies (and much yummier than any version I've ever made before) proceed with caution!

This is the recipe I used for Rice Crispy Treats (and here is a link to the original...which you should totally check out because she has SO MANY other wonderful treats that I can't wait to try).

Rice Crispy Treats
1 c smooth peanut butter
1/2 c honey
1/2 t vanilla extract
3 c crispy rice cereal (this is what I used and it was kind of has a chocolately flavor which was a special addition to the bars)

1. Melt the peanut butter and honey in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Remove from heat and add the vanilla, stir until combined.
3. Stir in the crispy rice cereal
4. Spread into greased pan and allow to cool (9x9 works well).

And here is the recipe for the granola bars I made (again the original can be found here - told you she had lots of other yummy things on her site)...

Chewy Granola Bars
1/2 c smooth peanut butter
1/3 c honey
1/4 c coconut oil
1 c oats (I used a combination of quick oats and old fashioned oats)
1/2 c shredded coconut
1/2 c mini chocolate chips  (you can try these dairy-free chocolate chips if you have to avoid dairy)

1. Melt together peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil over medium heat until well blended.
2. Remove from heat and add oats, coconut, and chocolate chips.  Stir well.
3. Spread into greased pan (I used a 9x9 pan).
4. Cool approx 2 hours (30 minutes on counter and then transferred to refrigerator for remaining time).
5. Cut into bars and TRY, TRY, TRY not to devour every single one b/c you know that you're supposed to share with your family and that it's never good to eat that much at once...everything in moderation ;)

FYI: The chocolate chips melted completely into the mixture and I think I'd scale back to 1/4 cup next time and use more coconut or maybe add some sunflower seeds or something, but that's just me.

If your look for some relatively healthier options this holiday season to the normal fare (think fudge, cookies, cream pies, and the like) then these could be a great alternative!   Enjoy!

Monday, November 8

Make Ahead Monday: Chili

When my husband and I were in college, one of the "things to do" in that small town was to go to a burger chain there called Steak'N'Shake.  It was super yummy!  Almost everything they serve is wonderful, but one thing I especially love there is their chili.  We searched long and hard to find a chili that compared and finally I found a knock-off recipe online.  After a few minor tweaks here is what we ended up with.  We really enjoy this hearty meal during the colder months, but have even been known to enjoy it in the spring and summer!  Even better is what a frugal meal this is (though not completely healthy as I have yet to find a good substitute for the cola) and the fact that it is done in the slow cooker AND it freezes well for a quick meal!

Steak'N'Shake Style Chili

2 T oil
1 lbs ground beef
½ t salt
1 T chili powder
2 t ground cumin
½ t pepper
2 t cocoa
3 (15 oz) cans chili/kidney beans
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup cola (not diet)

Brown ground beef and salt in oil – if there is a high fat content to the ground beef you can omit the oil (I usually do).
Drain meat and add to slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.
Let simmer on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.

To Freeze: Mix ingredients together and transfer to freezer bag (or other container for freezing).  I usually double bag soup style dinners to prevent leakage when thawing.  Also be sure to write the date and directions for cooking on the bag.  Take out of freezer the day before to thaw (or thaw in cool water in sink--will probably take a few hours), place in slow cooker morning/afternoon you want to enjoy and follow cooking instructions.

**Frugal Tip: You can cut the amount of ground beef in half and add more beans to make this stretch further and be cheaper.

Monday, November 1

Make Ahead Monday: Chicken Cordon Bleu

This recipe isn't as frugal as most of the others I have or will post, but it is super yummy!  It is something I usually make for special occasions with my husband as some of the ingredients are usually on my regular shopping list (boneless, skinless chicken breast being one of them).  My husband also enjoys the leftover ham and swiss cheese for sandwiches the following week ;)

Chicken Cordon Bleu

6 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
6 thin ham slices
6 slices swiss cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup 
1/4 c white wine or chicken stock (I never have wine in the house)
1/4 c nonfat sour cream
1 T dijon (or spicy brown) mustard
1 c mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 t minced garlic
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 t salt (preferably kosher or sea salt)
1/2 t black pepper
2 scallions, chopped (optional)

Putting the dinner together:
  1. Place the chicken breasts on a plastic cutting board.  Arrange a slice of ham and swiss cheese on top of each one.  Roll each chicken breast tightly and secure with a toothpick.  
  2. Place the rolled breasts in the prepared baking dish(es).  
  3. In a bowl, combine the soup, wine, sour cream, mustard, mushrooms, garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly.  
  4. Pour the mixture over the chicken.  
  5. Sprinkle with the scallions.

For dinner tonight:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

To freeze:
Cover the dishes with plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking as directed above.

***Frugal Tip:  Since I only make this for the two of us, I usually cook 3 portions (one for each for dinner and one lunch for the next day) and freeze the other three.  So, theoretically, if you doubled this recipe you could make enough meals for 4 nights.

Monday, October 25

Make Ahead Monday: Mexican Casserole

For our second installment of Make Ahead Monday, I am sharing a recipe that I found online.  I am fairly certain that, in some way, it came from a recipe on The Common Room blog, but I can't for the life of me locate the recipe.  I also know that I have cut it down from it's original amounts.  Anyway, here it goes...and please check out The Common Room for other recipe ideas (especially to feed a large family or crowd on the cheap).

Mexican Casserole

2-3 lb ground beef
2 cans cream of chicken soup (can use this recipe to make a homemade, gluten free version)
2 cans black beans
2 cans corn/ranch beans/pinto beans (optional)
1 can rotel or 1 c salsa
¼ c taco seasoning
Grated cheese
Tortillas or corn chips

Cook and drain ground beef.  Add soup, beans, rotel/salsa, and taco seasoning.  Heat and stir.

In large greased roaster (or 2 9x13 pans), layer as follows:
- tortillas cut to fit (cubes/strips)
- ½ meat sauce
- ½ grated cheese
- repeat

Heat in oven @ 325 until bubbly, about 25 minutes.

***A few hints about this recipe:
  1. I can split this recipe (as written) into 3 9x9 casserole dishes and I freeze the extra to that and heat up later.  You can also mix everything up (instead of layering) and freeze in a gallon size freezer bag.  This method takes up a lot less space and means that you won't have a casserole dish out of use.
  2. You can add extra beans and take out some of the meat to make this a more frugal options.  Or you can just add extra beans to stretch the meal even further.
  3. We prefer this dish made with corn tortillas instead of flour.  We just like the taste better that way. [And now that we are gluten free, as long as we use a gluten free cream of chicken soup, the corn tortillas make this an easy gf meal!]

Wednesday, October 20

Works for Me Wednesday: Freezer Cooking for Baby

I thought I would take this time to write about how I have been preparing for a new baby in the kitchen.  In the way of preparations, cooking probably isn't one that a lot of people think about.  Between painting and preparing nurseries, picking out names, and caring for other children...who has time?  But our budget is small and so tending to these details before baby came was very important to our financial security after baby came.  Soooo....I decided to make many meals for my family and keep them in the freezer, things that could be pulled out to thaw and cooked quickly, things that didn't require a lot of sides to make them a complete meal, things that my mother could cook (who has very little cooking skill), and things that would be nutritious for our family.

My goal was to have enough food to get us through almost a whole month.  This way, if my husband or I feel like cooking we can...and if we feel a bit overwhelmed then we don't have to worry about it.  It will keep us from eating fast food or attempting to go out to eat with an infant and a 13 month old (which probably wouldn't be good for any of our sanity).  I will link to any recipes that I have online and have planned a series of posts for "Make Ahead Monday" where I will post any recipes I use that are not found online.  So here goes...
(FYI: the number in parenthesis is how many meals worth I made and froze)

  1. Ranch Chicken with Potatoes (2)
  2. Chicken Enchilada Casserole (2)
  3. Sloppy Joe Meat (2)
  4. Mexican Casserole (3)
  5. Chili (2)
  6. Taco Meat (2) - This is just ground beef prepared with homemade taco seasoning and a bit of water...I'll post the seasoning recipe on Wednesday
  7. Chicken Cordon Bleu (3)
  8. Manicotti (2)
  9. Dump Chicken (2)
  10. Meatloaf (4) - For these I made up mini-meatloaves and froze them in individual servings totaling approx. 8 servings so this would function as 4 lunches/dinners for me and my husband.
I also prepared/bought and froze some things with which to cook up quick meals and make mealtime a bit easier. Here's what I put back and how it can be used to save time on meal prep.

  • Precooked and Diced Chicken - Frozen in 2 cup portions which can be easily used for Chicken and Rice Wraps, quesadillas, and casseroles.
  • Breakfast Sausage - Frozen in 1 lb portions and can be used for sausage grave, omelets, or breakfast burritos.  Could also be used in spaghetti sauce and served over pasta.
  • Frozen, Preformed Hamburger Patties - Can be thawed and grilled or cooked on the stove for a quick lunch or dinner.
  • Frozen Bratwurst and Hotdogs - Thawed they make a quick lunch or dinner.

Monday, October 18

Make Ahead Monday: Ranch Chicken and Potatoes

I am headed to the doctor this morning for another blood pressure check and, most likely, will be headed to the hospital this afternoon to be induced.  Since a lot is going on in our house, I have planned out a few posts for the next few weeks in lieu of Menu Plan Monday.

I am calling these posts "Make Ahead Monday" as they are all meals that freeze incredibly well and can make for a quick dinner during the week or during a stressful time in life.  These make wonderful meals to take to others.  For instance new mothers, after loss of loved ones, when people are sick, or just to let someone know you're thinking of them.  These meals are all fairly frugal options and easy to assemble.  They are also easy to double or triple and then you can cook one night and have 2-3 meals to put in the freezer for the future (this method has really helped us in not going out to eat as much).

I will be posting various recipes, most of which we will be enjoying after the baby comes thanks to my marathon freezer cooking session a few weeks ago.  I hope that you will enjoy these recipes and that they will bless your bellies and wallets :)

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes

1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, quartered and blanched in boiling water for 3-5 minutes
1 c red bell peppers, diced/minced 
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thirds (I usually use diced/shredded, precooked chicken to make this faster and cheaper)
1 c nonfat sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1-oz package powdered ranch salad dressing
1 t garlic salt

  1. Spread the potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish(es).  Layer the bell peppers and chicken breasts on top of the potatoes.  Set aside.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, soup, ranch dressing mix, and salt and stir thoroughly.  
  3. Spread sour cream mixture over the chicken.

For dinner tonight:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 ½ hours, until browned and bubbly (may take less time if using precooked chicken--test potatoes after 45 minutes).
To freeze:
Cover with plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking as directed above.

Monday, October 11

Menu Planning Monday

Last week went very well!  We were able to share meals with friends on two separate nights while not making much of a change to our actual menu.  The only difference was Friday when we ended up eating dinner at my in-laws house and thus postponing sloppy joes (which we will be enjoying for dinner tonight).

Of the new recipes we had planned to try, here's the verdict...
Cheeseburger Soup was AMAZING!  I'm not a big fan of soup, but it was really quite wonderful and we had plenty left over for a soup and sandwich lunch the next day.  This will DEFINITELY be made again in our house...probably soon!

- We did decide against the Baked Egg Cups as we ended up with more gravy than we had anticipated.

- Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli was generally well received by my husband, but it made a HUGE amount of food and some ended up in the garbage as we couldn't possibly finish it all for lunches.  I don't know that I would make it again for a regular meal, but it would be wonderful for a church function or other type of potluck meal (not very expensive and makes a lot of food).

Quite a few new recipes in the rotation again this week and I'll be sure to keep you updated on how they turn out!

Monday - Sloppy Joes; au gratin potatoes; salad
Wednesday - Beef Stew
Thursday - Fettuccini Alfredo+ with Chicken and Broccoli
Saturday - Pizza (trying again with this recipe for the dough)
Sunday - Penne with meat sauce; garlic bread; salad

+ A new recipe I'm trying this week.

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at  Please head over and check out all the other wonderful recipes and menus posted to get ideas for your own menu plan!

Saturday, October 9

Oy Vey! Blogging made...very frustrating!

It has been hard to find either the motivation or time to sit down and blog this week.  I have so many ideas of things I want to write about.  Things like why church seems to be a place that people are most hesitant to tackle touchy issues and why Christians work so hard to be like everybody else when we have clearly been called to be more and our journey to parenthood.  I also have a few not so in-depth topics I'd like to menu planning, how to deal with feeding a growing family on a VERY tiny grocery budget, having a good attitude during pregnancy, and organizing solutions for tough/small spaces.

Unfortunately, none of these things seems solid enough in my mind for me to actually sit down and write a post that would be cohesive enough to make sense to anyone outside of my head.  Perhaps I can blame in on the end of pregnancy brain we all hear so much about :)

Whatever it is, I do hope to add to this blog over the next few weeks with posts that will be thoughtful and well planned out.  Until I can actually accomplish that, I hope that the few readers I have will stick with me and be patient while I find my voice amid the cacophony of other thoughts and uncertainties swimming around in my brain as I near the end of my pregnancy.

Monday, October 4

Confessions of a Recipe-aholic...and Menu Plan Monday

Hi, my name is Brianah and I'm an addict...a recipe addict that is.  Yep, I'm sure I'm not alone in the boat, but if I see a recipe I like I write it down (or bookmark it, or tag it in my blog reader, or copy it into a Word document).  Needless to say I have accumulated quite a large amount of recipes over the last year and a half or so--since I started trying to feed my family healthier and cook more from scratch.  Unfortunately, due to the time restraints of caring for a small child, I usually end up making the same few meals over and over again.  Normally the reason falls in to one of three categories: it's easy and/or I don't need the actual recipe anymore, it's cheap to make, or it goes in the slow cooker.

Since realize this about myself I have started paring down my recipes to things I might *actually* make for my family which means they need to meet a few criteria.  Here's what I came up with:
1. It must be easy and quick to prepare.
2. It must be made with easy to find and inexpensive ingredients (preferably things that can be found at Aldi's or that I already keep on hand).
3. It must be filling (this just lets me get more mileage out of leftovers).
4. It must sound like something my family would actually eat...amazing how many were vetoed b/c of this rule.

So I have pared down many of my recipes and am now starting the process of going through them.  I plan on noting new recipe trials in my menu each week from now on.  Any recipe that is online, will be linked in my menu plan.  Other recipes will, hopefully, be reviewed later in the week and posted on (hoping that I get time to really follow through with that one).

Without any further ado, here is my plan for the week of October 4-10.

Monday - Cheeseburger Soup+; Salad
Tuesday - Baked Egg Cups+; Biscuits & Gravy
Wednesday - C.O.R.N./rewind*
Thursday - Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli+; Salad
Friday - Sloppy Joes; Au Gratin Potatoes; Salad
Saturday - Pizza (trying Laura's recipe for bread machine pizza dough found here+); salad
Sunday - One Pot Spaghetti; salad

*C.O.R.N. - Clean Out Refrigerator Night.  This means we are either eating on leftovers or I might "rewind" a meal that I had planned for earlier in the week but didn't, for whatever reason, get to--usually because of eating out with friends/family or a church fellowship I failed to account for when planning my menu.

+ means it is a new recipe we are trying...lots of those this week!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at  Please head over and check out all the other wonderful recipes and menus posted to get ideas for your own menu plan!

Wednesday, September 29

The most amazing thing happened...

27 years ago today, my husband was born!  This is quite possible THE most amazing thing that could ever have happened b/c even though my parents hadn't even met yet, God was already orchestrating life so that one day I would meet this amazing man.

It is amazing to me to look back over the years we've been together (and even the years before) and see how amazingly God's hand was present in bringing us together.  I am so thankful that this wonderfully creative and funny man was able to look past my weaknesses and see me as his wife.

Today he turns 27 and I am looking back over the last few years we've shared and am truly astonished by all that he has accomplished.  If you know my husband, James, please take some time to send him a message and wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


***Next week, we'll return to the normal schedule of Works for Me Wednesday with a post on organization in our kid's room and how I combat the limited space.***

Monday, September 27

Wow...has it really been that long?

I can't believe how long it has been since I've posted...must get better about that.  Well, my new goal for this blog is to get at least two posts up each week:  menu plan Monday and works for me Wednesday.  Without further ado, here is my menu for this week.

Monday - Tacos (using this recipe, but serving in corn tortillas instead of over potatoes) and Spanish rice
Tuesday - Buckwheat pancakes with sausage patties
Wednesday - Chicken and Rice Wraps (I'll be tripling the recipe and freezing the extra for after baby comes); salad
Thursday - C. O. R. N./rewind (Clean Out Refrigerator Night, or I rewind and make a meal I skipped--for whatever reason--earlier in the week)
Friday - Sloppy Joes; salad
Saturday - Chicken and Ramen noodles (cook noodles, drain, add chicken, some seasoning/soy sauce, and stir fry veggies)
Sunday - Spaghetti with meat sauce; salad; garlic bread

So that's what's on the menu for this week.  Check out the other Menu Plan Monday posts linked up at and feel free to link up yourself.  I'd love to hear what you're plan is if you don't have a post to link up, please feel free to share in the comments below!

Also, coming up for the next few weeks I have some posts planned for Works for Me Wednesday on organization in a small space.  So stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 27

Cloth Diapers - A Love Affair

Fellow Blogger, Amy, over at Raising Arrows is doing a giveaway this week for some FuzziBunz diapers and it got me thinking about our cloth diaper path.  She is talking about her path to using cloth diapers and how it has changed over the years.  Go check out this post for more information on the giveaway and here for info on her cloth diaper path.
For us, we started out on our journey about 1/2 way through my pregnancy with our first son.  I knew I needed an alternative to disposables because of the cost factor and had some friends that cloth diapered their kids, so I started asking questions and doing more research.  It was pretty evident early on that we needed an option that wouldn't cost a lot to start up and we weren't terribly concerned about the ease of use since I was planning to stay home with my son and didn't mind the extra work.  It helps to note that my husband was on board with all of this and also didn't really care about how easy the system would be to use.

There are tons of sites out there to do research on cloth diapers and compare prices, but I ended up ordering from Cotton Babies and we decided to start with prefolds, Dappi covers (the pull-on nylon pants), and Snappi's as a closure instead of diaper pins.  So for little out of pocket expense we got ourselves set up to start.  

We waited a few weeks after Carter came home to jump in (we had a lot of disposables given to us at showers and so we used those during this time).  Once we started, we quickly got the hang of things.  There is a learning curve and I did a lot of research on different ways to fold the prefolds for maximum absorption, but it really wasn't too bad.  The laundry was also a breeze!  Since I was exclusively breastfeeding, everything just went straight from Carter, to the diaper pail, and into the laundry.

Once we had the hang of things I started looking for other kinds of diapers on sale.  We got some all-in-ones from a garage sale and some "seconds"/clearance of the BumGenius 3.0's from Cotton Babies (TIP: seconds may seem like a risk, but they have been wonderful for us...a great way to try new diapers without the sticker shock of buying them brand new).  I eventually also bought some hemp liners for my BumGenius diapers that have been WONDERFUL!  I found some homemade diaper wipes from a woman on Freecycle and bought some BumGenius wipes from a garage sale (I prefer the homemade wipes which are mostly just flannel and are super easy to make on your own).

A few months ago Cotton Babies came out with 2 new diapers, Econobum and Flip.  I was interested in trying the covers with my prefolds as the dappi covers have to be purchased in each size and these covers were one-size (meaning they adjust to fit your baby from birth to potty training, generally).  I found some Econobum covers being sold in their clearance section and bought a few.  Well, me and my husband LOVED them!  They were so much easier than Dappis, and since we bought them on clearance the price wasn't too bad either.  When they went on clearance again we bought enough to diaper our son and the baby that we were expecting (due this October).  We also got, via a trade on Craigslist, some fitted diapers that would work for a wide variety of sizes and we really enjoyed them.  We are currently on the lookout for another brand of fitted diaper to use with Carter as he gets bigger and to add to our diaper stash for the new baby as well.

Overall I have been incredibly happy with cloth diapering!  It hasn't been too much extra work and I'm not a slave to the system.  We still use disposables at times when I know I can't keep up with cloth (when I'm sick, baby is sick, or we are traveling a lot) and he is usually in disposables when we go out of the house or to relatives.  We don't expect other family members to cloth diaper him, we have disposables available for these times.  I'm still frustrated at finding a good cloth diaper for overnights as our son is a pretty heave wetter, but I don't mind using disposables for these times either.  Hopefully in the next few months we will be adding to our stash and, as we do, I will try to update with any new products that we try.

Wednesday, July 7

Works-for-Me Wednesday....making my life easier edition

works for me wednesday at we are that family

The other day my husband and I were talking about the "stuff" we own and how it affects our lives.  We've all heard the guys on TV, other bloggers, friends, and family talking about how some new gadget or machine has made their life so much easier...but is it true?  Do we really need new things to make life easier?

In some ways I completely agree!  I really enjoying having a washer and dryer and do feel that those make my life easier.  But I'll admit that I have, before, become caught up in owning new cleaning gadgets and they end up making my life more difficult and tying me down with lots of stuff!  That's not easier for me.

Here are some things that we do and don't own that HAVE made my life easier...some of them you may agree with and some of them you won't...but this is what works for me!  

1. Not using paper towels.
This was not something we actually did on purpose, believe it or not.  I had read of people who stopped buying and using paper towels and it sounded like a nice idea, but one that I thought would have to wait until we had the "right" cloth options.  That's what I thought anyway.  One day we ran out of paper towels and I just didn't buy anymore...we had a ton of paper napkins that did the job in a pinch and we really weren't ever using them so I thought I'd wait to buy paper towels until we ran out of napkins.  It has now been several months since we ran out of napkins.  I don't really know when it happened and certainly didn't notice until cooking bacon a few days ago and I wasn't about to leave what I was doing to go buy a roll of paper towels!  So we used a wire cooling rack.  The next time we used a regular dishrag (clean of course) and it worked great!  

2. Not having a working dishwasher.
I never thought I would enjoy NOT having a dishwasher.  We do have one, technically, but it has been broken for goodness knows how long and we just haven't had time to fix it.  While I do miss the convenience when we have lots of people over, I don't miss how many dishes we used to have and use!  Since we have to wash everything by hand, we only have 4 place settings.  This wouldn't have been enough to fill up our dishwasher and I would have felt bad using all that water for a very less-than-full machine, but by washing things by hand we use fewer dishes.  We also question every time we want to get out a dish...which has lead to less snacking!

3. Using "family cloth" in the bathroom.
If you aren't familiar with this, please check out these posts for more information.  This came as an idea from a fellow blogger and I am so happy with it!  Since I already wash cloth diapers, I can just throw them in with my son's diapers, but I've been known to throw them in with regular towels also.  The name is a bit misleading, I am the only one in the house that uses these and I only use them for....shall we say, "wet" trips to the restroom.  My family thinks I'm crazy and it's OK if you do too!  I love it!  The cloths are more absorbent, comfortable, and leave no paper residue.

4. Owning a steam mop.
We recently had to buy a new vacuum cleaner and while we briefly thought of shelling out major dough for a top of the line one for allergies (as the whole family has been plagued this summer something awful) we reconsidered.  We only actually have one room with carpet (which is hopefully going to be torn up this summer) and 3 area rugs.  It didn't make much sense to spend so much on something that would really only clean a handful of surfaces/floors in our house.  So we looked at steam mops.  I HATE mopping!  I really am not so keen on sweeping either, but it's necessary so it happens most of the time.  With the new steam mop I can vacuum the floors and steam mop in the same time it takes me to sweep/mop with normal methods.  But this way I don't have to worry about any nasty cleaners being harmful to my babies and I don't have to mess with a mop/bucket.  It works for me and I love it!

Those are just a few things that I thought of that make my life easier.  Maybe not always simpler...but definitely easier :).  What are some of the things you use/own that make your life easier?  

This blog post is submitted to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Thursday, May 20

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup...just what we needed

Last night was yet another night of rain here in Green Country...and for those of you that don't know, that's Oklahoma.  :)

We have had rain every day (or so it feels) for the last few weeks.  This has made for almost an extended winter menu in our house.  We love soups and stews during rainy nights and last night was no different.  I should warn that I'm still learning how to cook by taste instead of by recipe...making recipes my own and improvising is not something I usually do well.  Last night was an exception as it left my husband asking for seconds both for dinner and lunch today...yay!  So I'm sharing my success with all of you and here goes.

Chicken Noodle Soup
2.5 quarts water
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 T onion powder (could substitute fresh onion, but I was out)
2 stalks celery
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
2 c cooked chicken (cut into small pieces or shredded)
8 oz pasta (we used the wide egg noodles from the store...the ones with the Amish buggy on the front)
drizzle of EVOO
thyme, salt, and pepper to taste

Drizzle EVOO in bottom of stock pot and add veggies (I shredded our carots, celery, and garlic...if you do this, shred over the pan so you get all the good juices/flavor).

Cook over medium until everything is soft and fragrant (if you shred them, do this for about 5 min).

Add water, bouillon, and chicken to pot and bring to a boil.

Add noodles and seasoning and cook according to package directions for noodles.

I let it set on the stove, covered for about an hour after I turned off the heat to let all the flavors really come together and let the noodles soak up the broth.


**This is just what I had on hand and what looked right for us.  You could add as much celery, carrots, or onion as your family prefers.

Monday, May 10

Mother's Day Weekend

Wow!  What a weekend!  This was my first official Mother's Day and my husband made it wonderfully special!

We spent lots of time with family (my mom and grandma even came down from Kansas City) and had a wonderful time.  Friday night James had to work late helping with graduation, but when he finally made it home he had flowers and ice cream.  We spent the evening watching a movie and then headed to bed.  We got up early on Saturday to prepare for the guests we were expecting on Sunday and James went to help his dad with some jewelry work (for those of you that don't know...his dad is a goldsmith).  My family arrived and set about helping me with some last minute preparations and some chores around the house that I have not been able to get to.

When James got home on Saturday it was just me and Carter and he confessed that he hadn't been telling me the whole truth...he was working on jewelry for me! :)  I was so surprised and immediately started crying.  This is the gorgeous, silver necklace he made me with the flowers he brought home on Friday.

Sunday was Carter's dedication at to come later...and it was awesome!  I was so excited all morning and it was really great to have most of our families there to celebrate with us.  Our pastor also gave a wonderful sermon on prioritizing on purpose as parents.  All about the priorities we set for our kids and how those need to reflect what we want them to know when they grow up.  A great reminder that our actions and words have huge ramifications!  It was one of my favorite sermons since we started attending our church.

After church our families came over for lunch.  Sandwiches, fruit, veggies, pasta salad, and homemade cookies!  It was a great way to celebrate mothers day!  Afterward, James went to a baseball game with a friend and my wonderful sister-in-law watched Carter so I could take a much needed nap. :)

Overall, it will be hard to top next year!

For another wonderful Mother's Day post check out my friend Grace's blog!

Monday, April 26

Blogging: 5 W's

My friend Grace is talking today about the 5 W's of her blogging journey over at and I thought I would jump on the bandwagon as well!

Who do you blog for?
I blog mostly for myself right now.  Kind of a chronicle of my journey through life (marriage, parenting, spiritual journey, etc.).  I also post this for friends and family that live in other parts of the country.

What do you blog about?
Lately it has been things God has been laying on my heart about our life.  I also hope to blog in the future about cloth diapering, cooking, my journey of being a home manager, and more about our family.

When do you blog?
During Carter's nap times and after he goes to sleep (if we don't have any other pressing chores to work on).

Where do you blog?
In our guest room/office.

Why do you blog?
As a way to keep myself accountable to the things I am working on.  I also blog as a way to show a bit of our life to others around us and hopefully help others understand the "odd" things we do.  I would also love to be able to share with others that there are other options out there.  Many of the things we do might come off as strange in the culture/society we live in, but these choices are valid options and things that don't need to be scary.

Monday, April 19

Weekend Epiphany (pt. 2)...a long time coming

So several weeks ago I wrote about my weekend crazy shelf that runs my life ;).  It has taken me some time to come to grips with part two of what I realized that weekend.  

While I was driving home from the grocery store, it was one of those rare times where James was at home, the baby was at my in-laws, and I was alone in the car with God and my thoughts.  I had been struggling with the concept of doing what is best for my family.  For those of you who don't know, I am a perfectionist.  It is something God has been slowing working on in my heart for years...and unfortunately something I tend to fight Him on way too often.  I want to do the absolute best things for my family.  I think I know, in many cases, what those things look like but not always how to go about changing and I tend to think in terms of all or nothing.  

For example, cooking with Teflon coated pans has been shown to be bad for your health in the long term.  To me that means throwing out my Teflon coated pans and cooking with other types of cookware (which I already own).  But I also know that eating meat full of hormones and antibiotics is bad for you.  So in my mind the answer is to start eating grass-fed, free range meat in addition to throwing out my Teflon cookware.

That even sounds crazy to me!  Why, you may ask, don't you take one step at a time.  Good God has also been asking.  Which brings me to the revelation I had in the car that day.

I need to do what is best for my family at this time with the resources God has blessed us with.

That doesn't mean perfection.  It doesn't mean starting over or doing every single thing that I feel needs to be done right now.  It means taking into consideration the most important things and changing what I can.  For us, in this season of life, that means staying on budget.  That is the most important aspect of my daily life...staying within the income God has blessed us with without complaint and while honoring God through my diligence and obedience.

The action plan has taken shape over the last few weeks (with much thanks to the films Food Inc. and Super Size Me for their wealth of information and to my husband for his direction and wisdom).  For our family this means we won't eat out at fast food restaurants (which is good for us in LOTS of ways), we will cook as much as we can from scratch, and cooking through our overflowing pantry.  It means focusing our grocery budget on fresh produce.  With the next step being that once our pantry is depleted, we will restock with foods that are much healthier (i. e. not repurchasing but the occasional can of cream of whatever soup, processed foods, and junk food).  I am learning to make more from scratch -- which I have always loved doing -- and I am setting us up for a healthier life.  We are also making sure that our son will benefit from healthier foods that will nourish him as he grows and hopefully avoid some of the poor eating habits James and I have had in the past.

I could probably write for hours about the things we are changing and the things I want to work on next, but that would be getting ahead of where we are right now.  And thus, challenging the path God has laid before be present in what I am doing right now instead of living in the future.  For me, this takes continual trust in God and requires me to seek His guidance and provision every day.  I would love to fall back on my own understanding, but that would get me!

Sunday, April 4

Giveaways Galore :)

So I know I am long overdue for a post about my weekend epiphany...from last weekend, but things have been a little crazy.  More to come on that later.

In the meantime, I wanted to let everyone know about a wonderful set of giveaways being hosted by my friend Grace.  You can check them out at her  Enter to win some cool stuff made by work-at-home-moms and check out her other posts about her crazy exciting life as a stay at home mom to 4 littles all under 5 (amazing, huh?).

Monday, March 29

Weekend Epiphany (pt. 1)

I had a revelation this past weekend...two actually.  It is changing the way I think about my home, life, and parenting.  Isn't it amazing when that happens?

Revelation #1
Some people say that they need one room in their house clean to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  For some people this is the bedroom or maybe their kitchen.  If that one "safe haven" looks good and everything is in order, so is the rest of their life.  No burnout, feeling overwhelmed, or frustrated.  These people will tell you that if that room or space isn't clean they just can't function.  They may start fighting with their spouse or getting frustrated with their kids.  I realized this weekend that I have this problem...but not with a room.

Oh no, my problem?  When one particular shelf in my pantry is disorganized.  That's read correctly...ONE SHELF!  It's utterly amazing!  I did not know this about myself on Friday, but by Sunday night I was at my boiling point with my house.  Everything felt out of control and I didn't know where to start.  I took out my frustration on my husband (bless him for dealing with my horrible attitude) and even got frustrated with my son.  That is until I realized the source of my frustration was one shelf in my kitchen.

To be fair, there are few convenient shelves in my kitchen.  Many require the use of a step ladder to reach and we have way too little cabinet space anyway.  This one shelf is the most convenient shelf in my whole kitchen, and it happens to be where I keep plates, bowls, mugs, and cups.  Over the last few weeks, random things have gotten piled on that shelf because there wasn't a better place to put them (see previous note about minuscule cabinet space).  A half loaf of bread, box of cereal, funnel, pudding mix, and a can of something.  That was what it took to turn me into a horrible person.  I cleared it off and awoke this morning to the same chaos (house is cluttered, dirty dishes in the sink, fussy baby) but my attitude was remarkably better.

I will leave you with that for today, tomorrow I will post about revelation #2.  It's quite life altering for me and I'm just feeling I need more time to truly get into the subject before I'm ready to post it for all to see.

Thursday, March 25

Mommy, are we poor?

I read an article** today about what the average, middle-class family looks like today.  The median income is $81,000, the low end is $51,000.  The average family takes one vacation a year, usually totaling $3100 and lasting one week, typically to a beach or somewhere coastal.  They have 2 medium size sedans, their home is typically worth approximately $231,000, and spend roughly $1200 a month on living expenses (clothing, food, utilities, entertainment, etc.).


I started thinking about how our family stacks up to these odds and have to admit that we fall short.  I have never really considered our financial position in terms of middle-class versus working/lower class.  I always felt that we had more than enough and didn't lack for anything we needed, and not usually anything we wanted.  Other people, I know, see it differently.  Even our family members seem to think we are not well off because we choose a different lifestyle than most.  And I hate to say that I feel a lot of that is our fault.  It is so much easier to tell someone we do something because it costs less or because we don't have the money to do it than to really explain our point or reasoning for why we choose the things we do.

For example, save 2 months when we first moved to Tulsa, we have never had cable (we only had it then because it was accidentally installed with our internet and we thought we'd give it a shot).  We quickly realized what a time waster cable was for us.  We could sit in the apartment all night, get nothing done, go to bed late, and have nothing to show for it except that we could tell you exactly what happened all night on TBS.  It was just sad.  So we got rid of it and have never considered going back.  This means we pay less for tv than most people (nothing) and have more time for other things.  By not having cable, we aren't as likely to waste our evening sitting on the couch--though we still find plenty of time for that with basic/local channels.

This seems like a luxury that most people don't realize is just luxury.  It isn't neccessary to have cable or to even have a tv, but some people think we are poor because we don't pay for cable.  Fine with me.

My husband and I have also chosen to give up taking out loans on new cars.  Our one, and only, "new" car purchase was a Saturn that we bought used from a dealership for much more than we should have paid.  We gave up the car and loan about a year and a half ago and I don't miss writing that check every month.  We currently have one car that is used and paid off.  Sure it needs work every now and then, but by not making a monthly car payment the occasional mechanic fees don't seem that bad.  The fact that we can opt for minimum insurance coverage is also a bonus.  But having one car for a family of 3 seems to be impossible in the view of our society.

We do other things that most people consider odd.  We cloth diaper our son, don't look down on any free clothes, I breastfed as I could, we check out movies and books from the library, we have one cell phone and a prepaid for emergencies, use cloth instead of paper products whenever necessary, and we don't have a credit card.  You would think people had never done any of these things for the responses that we get some times.

I will admit that there are times when I feel it would be nice to have more money, like when I'm cooking dinner and really feel like just going out.  But the payoff is so much better than what we would get from having those things that society tells us we absolutely need.

We are doing what we feel God has lead us to do giving me the opportunity to stay home with my son all day every day.  That is something that is worth more than what I could monetarily bring in with a 9-5 job.  We eat fairly well and we're doing better all the time since we are actually learning how to cook and cook well.  We also know a lot more about Bonobo Monkeys and Cuttlefish than the average person (who doesn't watch tons of PBS) and our favorite shows are things like Big Bang Theory, America's Test Kitchen, and The Red Green Show.  Many of these are things we would never experience if we had cable.  I know how to cook a variety of foods, my favorite thing to do is replicate restaurant dishes at home and they always taste better.

All in all I am happy with where we are and that is enough for me.  I am going to try to stick up for our choices more instead of using the easy way out.  God definitely didn't call us in this direction because it was easy and it is of no benefit to anyone for me to act that way.  I am proud of the decisions we have made because they are right for our family, maybe not for everyone, but for us it's perfect!

**If you want to read the full article, here's the link:

Wednesday, March 24

Happiness vs. Contentment

I've been thinking a lot recently about the difference between happiness and contentment. It all started when I read a wonderful post by a fellow mommy out there in cyberland.  She talks in the post about how much she loves her kids and while she wants them to be successful in life, she doesn't make it her goal to make them happy in every way.  She says this not because she doesn't want them to be happy, but because she doesn't want them to base their life and decisions on striving for total happiness in everything they do.  That is a pretty unattainable goal in the world we live in, especially as a Christian.  Being happy is hard especially when you are doing something that is uncomfortable or something that you aren't completely sure will have a good ending.  Following God can be like that sometimes.

As I read this post and thought about my own son and my family, it really hit home.  I hate hearing my son cry, but tears are sometimes neccessary for him to grow up to be a successful person.  Our nighttime situation has been the most recent and glaring example of this in our house.  We have been trying to help Carter learn how to put himself to bed at night.  While we don't expect perfection from him and hate hearing him fuss (for what seems like an eternity) we know that we are doing what is best for our family.  James and I can't be there every second of the night and day when he needs to be comforted and by learning to handle some of that on his own, we are helping him become a successful person.  This is by now means fun or a happy time for anyone...but so neccessary and we feel it is what God has asked us to do.

As I sit here writing, Carter is crying.  It breaks my heart every time because I know he is frustrated and wants nothing more than for me to come and hold him and help him fall asleep.  Could I go in there right now...sure.  Would I be helping him in the long run...nope!  This is one of those things that I can't show him how to do or help him do, it is something he has to learn on his own.  Of course I don't let him just cry and cry for hours, I go in every 15 minutes and check on him so he knows I am close by and still there for him while he is learning this new skill.

To bring me back to my original point, Carter isn't happy and James and I aren't happy to hear him cry.  But we are content knowing we are doing what is best for Carter and for us.  We are content knowing that this will pass, Carter will learn how to sleep, and we will tackle the next skill when it comes along.