Wednesday, March 30

Getting Good Deals Online...that Works for Me

I don't do a LOT of online shopping, but it is a great tool to use to help find things cheaper than in a brick and mortar store.  One of my favorite sites lately has been  Lately, I have found some GREAT deals on there that I have been wanting to share with everyone so that you can also find great deals and save some money!  Here are three ways I have saved money with Amazon in the last few months.

  1. Gift Cards
    • The best way I have found to get gift cards is through Swagbucks.  All you do is sign up on swagbucks and use it as your search engine.  You earn swagbucks for searches (though not everyone) and there are a variety of other ways to earn swagbucks on the site if you want to really get into it.  For every 450 swagbucks you earn, you can redeem it for a $5 Amazon gift card (FYI: You can redeem these for other things or use them to enter drawings, this is just how *I* use them).  I can earn 450 usually in about 2's not a lot, but it helps me get free or discounted things on Amazon.
    • Another way to get gift cards is to request them as birthday or holiday gifts (I do this since I also have a Kindle and can buy books with them) and I even found a Groupon deal for a gift card to amazon (paid $10 for a $20 gift card)!  You can sign up for swagbucks HERE and Groupon HERE.  (Disclaimer: I do get a referral bonus if you subscribe through my links for Swagbucks and Groupon.
  2. Subscribe and Save.  Amazon runs deals where you get an additional % off (usually 15%) if you subscribe to have the items shipped to you regularly (this can be monthly, every other month, every 6 months, etc).  You can go in and change your subscription at any time and even turn it off (meaning they won't ship again until you tell them to).
  3. Amazon Moms.  This is a new program they are offering to moms and other caregivers.  You get a discount on all baby items, free Super Saver (2-day) shipping for a few months, and other perks!  It costs nothing to sign up and has been WELL worth it for us!

How has this worked for me?
Here are a few examples.

  1. I had had my eye on a few kitchen gadgets that I just couldn't bring myself to spend money on b/c I felt they "weren't essential", but didn't feel bad buying with gift cards.  I bought a cheese planer and garlic press for free!  I also bought this quirky "action figure" as a Christmas present for a friend of ours (who, incidentally, looks just like this action figure).  All FREE with Swagbucks gift cards.
  2. I ordered 2 new wet bags and a toy hammock with a $10 off coupon I got in a magazine for any baby item through Amazon (I think it was in Baby Talk) and my Groupon card.  This entire order was also FREE! 
  3. I ordered some coconut oil (great for baking) using Subscribe and Save which got me an extra 15% off.  Total purchase was $11.51 for two containers with free 2-day shipping (b/c I signed up with Amazon Mom).
  4. Luvs diapers (since we're using sposies while I'm in classes).
    • Size 2 diapers:  normally $35.54 for 228 diapers.  Discounted 15% for subscribe and save, additional $15% for Amazon Mom subscribers, and free shipping (also from Amazon Mom)...brought my total to $24.88!
    • Size 4 diapers:  Normally $34.54 for 180 diapers.  Discounted 15% for subscribe and save, additional 15% for Amazon Mom, and free shipping...brought my total to $24.18!
  5. Pregnancy tests are expensive, but I found this package of 25 for $5.36 and ended up only paying $1.25 with gift cards.  If I only use 2 ever I will have paid myself back :)
This has definitely helped me save money on Amazon purchases in just a few easy (and mostly free)!

This has been posted as part of Works For Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

Monday, March 28

Super Easy Chicken Recipes, Make Ahead Monday

OK, so I just realized that I haven't every posted two of my favorite chicken recipes!  I wanted to rectify that today by sharing with you two recipes that my family really enjoys!  The second is one of my husbands FAVORITE dishes!  These both freeze wonderfully and are quick to heat up for dinner...which makes me love these dishes too :)  Enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Casserole (serves ~8)
4-6 c cooked, diced/shredded chicken
2 cans cream of chicken soup^
1 small can diced green chilies (undrained)
flour/corn tortillas cut into strips or cubes
grated cheese

1.  Combine chicken, soup, and chilies.
2. Layer: tortillas, 1/2 chicken filling, 1/2 cheese, and repeat.
3.  Sprinkle top with paprika and bake @ 350 for approx 20 min.
[This usually makes 2 casseroles for our family, 8x8 sized casserole dishes are what I use.  If you make the whole thing, you'll probably want to use a 9x13.]

**You can also mix all of this together and put in a Ziploc bag to freeze for later.  Then you just thaw, pour into a casserole dish, and go to step #3.

Dump Chicken (serves ~10-12)
12 chicken breasts or thighs (trust me, use boneless)
1/2 c melted butter
2 envelopes Italian salad dressing mix (you could try a homemade's one...or here)
2 cans cream of chicken soup^
1 c chicken broth/white wine (I always use broth, but the recipe originally called for wine...your choice)

1. Mix butter, dressing mix, soup, and broth/wine together.
2. Place chicken pieces in Ziploc bag and top with wet mixture.
3. To freeze, just seal it up, label with date/name/instructions, and freeze.
    To cook: Dump in crock pot and cook on low 8-9 hours (or high 4-5 hours).  toward end of cook time (about 1 hour until end), stir in a tub of flavored cream cheese (we like garden veggie).
4.  Serve over rice, potatoes, or noodles.

**I make this into two smaller batches b/c otherwise this is A LOT of food.  But this would be great to feed a crowd!  Also, even if I halve the recipe, I usually still use a full tub of cream cheese at the end (b/c if I tried to store 1/2 a tub it would inevitably go bad before I got back to it).

^I highly recommend this recipe for cream of chicken soup.  It doesn't have any MSG and it tastes so much better in my opinion.  It's also super fast and easy!  I read somewhere that you can also freeze this which sounds awesome and something I plan to try soon.  A heads up...this recipe makes the equivalent of 2 cans of cream of chicken soup so make sure you only use 1/2 if your recipe only calls for 1 can.

Thursday, March 24

WFMW - Finding Shortcuts in the Kitchen

So, I promised to write more about my marathon-o-cooking that took place last week.  Trust me, it was NOTHING compared to the cooking days I had in preparation for Henry's birth (you can read more about that here).  I do, however, like to set aside find make time to do some small things in the kitchen that help make my daily cooking adventures a bit easier.  So, from time to time, I will do a few days like this (usually not all at once) to keep my freezer stocked.  So here are a few ideas that I've found to help me keep up during busy times by being prepared for our families needs. (NOTE: Our family is different than yours, not better or worse...just different.  Find what works for you and try to make time to fit it into your schedule to make it easier on you at other times when you just CAN'T find one extra second.)

1. Browning large quantities of ground beef at once.  I don't like to brown too
much b/c of fears of freezer burn, but having some already browned ground beef that can be quickly thawed for dinner can shave off some serious time in dinner prep--especially if you're like me and often forget to thaw the raw ground beef you need to start fixing an hour.  Last week I browned about 16 lbs of ground beef, stored it in 1 lb portions in Ziploc bags, labeled them with the date and contents of the bag, and put them in the freezer.

2. Cooking up several pounds of cinnamon apples.  Carter loves cinnamon apples for breakfast, I quite enjoy them in oatmeal or grits (I true Oklahoman apparently likes sweet grits, but I'm a transplant), and James enjoys cinnamon applesauce for snacks or lunch.  I core and dice several pounds at once, cook them with a bit of cinnamon and sugar, and then put them in canning jars.  One usually goes in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.  Also, this is a super easy way to make applesauce, just puree the apples in the blender after you're done cooking them (or after you've thawed them in the fridge).

3. Blanching and freezing potatoes.  This is something that never occurred to me before last week when I was upset, once again, for having so many potatoes about to go bad and not knowing how in the world I was going to use them all.  My solution was to dice them into approximately 1" chunks and blanch them for about 5 minutes in boiling water.  I then put them on a cooking sheet and in the freezer.  Once frozen, just pop them into Ziploc bags.  This works great as we really love cheeseburger soup, stone soup, and cheesy potato soup, and makes the cooking time on all of these a lot faster also!

4. Sauteed onions and celery.  Celery is another thing that usually goes bad before I can use it all.  Today I chopped several stalks of celery and about 1/2 a large onion and sauteed them in butter, laid them out on a cooking sheet, froze them, and then bagged them up for use in future soups and stews.

5. Cooked, chopped/shredded chicken.  Usually at least once every 3-4 weeks I cook two small roasting hens in the crock pot all day.  Then I take the meat off the bone and shred/dice.  I package it in 1 cup portions and freeze them.  This is also convenient for use in making quick meals (like this one).

Well, that's what's working for me right now.  Are there shortcuts you use in the kitchen that make dinner prep easier?  I'd love to hear about them!

This was posted for Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by We are THAT Family.  

Monday, March 21

Menu Plan Monday - quick fix edition

For those of you who don't know...which is probably most ;)...I am back in college.  I am currently enrolled in a course that meets for several hours two nights a week leaving my husband to get the boys feed and to sleep all by himself...not something I even look forward to, poor guy.  Anyway, to make it easier on him I have planned pretty simple meals for those two nights, please don't think poorly of me for feeding such "junk" to my family...a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do sometimes.

Monday - cheeseburger soup

Tuesday - enchiladas (trying this for the first time, but the recipe can be found here)

Wednesday - pepperoni pizza

Thursday - hamburger helper (we are using the icky store-bough stuff, but there are great recipes out there for more homemade versions....try this one or this one...I haven't tried either but they look yummy!)

Friday - tandoori chicken (new recipe) over brown rice

Saturday - breakfast strata (recipe coming soon)

Sunday - clean our refrigerator night

Sunday, March 20

When I Learned To Cook

I was inspired today by two things.  One is my friend Lynn (who blogs at Lynn's Kitchen Adventures) and my the massive cooking day I did today (more to come on that later).  Lynn asked when we learned to cook and whether it was something we loved or hated....hmmmm.  I'd never really thought about WHEN I learned to cook, probably because I feel like I'm still learning....a lot!

All that aside, I think I have been interested in cooking for quite a while.  The first time I remember really cooking was when I was  Freshman in high school.  I begged my mom to let me plan a dinner party for my grandparents, mom, sister, and our old neighbor who lived by himself.  I was obviously interested in cooking enough to even have this idea.  I made EVERYTHING from scratch and by myself (also planned the menu on my own).  I don't remember everything, but I do remember that I made a batch of rolls, some kind of chicken dish, a fresh salad, and a side of some sort.

It was so much fun and I really enjoyed it!  This was probably my earliest memory of enjoying cooking and, of course, was for a "crowd".  I still love to do that!  I love cooking for a lot of fellowships, small group fellowships, birthdays, etc.  Now cooking for myself or my hubby and I...not so much.  That is an area where I am definitely still learning to have joy.  In high school I did a lot of cooking for myself.  I went through a phase where I was vegetarian, where I was working multiple jobs, and where I was just plain tired of only eating food my mom had either purchased from a restaurant or could make in the microwave.  Mostly this was one dish meals, casseroles, or even frozen skillet meals.  I also remember eating quite a bit chicken and hamburger helper.  It was a necessary chore and one I didn't particularly care for.

***Disclaimer:  To be fair, my mother did used to cook wonderful meals almost every night!  Pork chops, steak, burgers, pizza, etc.  That was when she was a stay-at-home mom (while I was in 4th through 8th grades).  After that she was divorced and fell into a horrible depression.  That is where the microwave meals became her friend.    I wish I had been old enough (or smart enough) to really remember the wonderful meals she made for us, but unfortunately for far too long all I remembered were the microwave meals--something I still joke around with her about.

If you care to join in...please let me know when you discovered a love for cooking or whether you're still praying to find joy in that area (as I am).

Friday, March 11

Staying Sane While Traveling with Littles

Generally speaking, we don't take many trips with our family.  It's an undertaking to get everyone to the store to buy groceries so traveling several hours in the car doesn't seem real appealing to me or the hubs.  However, when we do travel it is almost always to visit my family who lives 4 hours away.  Since they can't get away to come visit us very often, we try to make it up there usually at least twice a year.  Traveling with two boys under two is no cake walk.  It takes pretty precise planning, optimal traveling conditions, and a bit of grace.

So how do we do it?  Well, here is a list of a few things that make these trips smooth.  I would caution that some of these we learned the hard way and won't work for everyone else.

1. Lists, lists, lists!  At least a few days ahead of time I make a HUGE list of what all needs to be taken on the trip.  This includes food to prepare meals we will make there, personal items for each family member (be sure to remember any special items your kids can't do without), and a to-do list to complete before the trip.

2. Decide on your optimal travel time.  For us this means leaving at night.  We dress the kids for bed and load them in the car about bedtime.  This usually ensures they are asleep within an hour and don't get too fussy.  It does NOT mean that they sleep the entire way there, though usually any waking results in falling back to sleep relatively quickly.

3. Pack in a way that will make sense when you get there.  For us, this means I pack all my toddlers items in one bag as he sleeps in his own room, and the babies things get put in mommy and daddy's bag (or his own if there isn't room).  All the food usually gets packed together or with any other misc items.  We also pack a "snack bag" that stays up near the front seats.

4. Remember to have fun in the midst of spilled drinks, fussy babies, and multiple stops, you can't control everything.  Just try to move on and know that if you can't laugh about it'll be able to one day :)

Wednesday, March 9

The Llama Mama Speaks

My son's favorite book is Llama, Llama Red Pajama.  We read it  Sometimes more than once.  He loves the whole book (except the page that suggests that the mama llama might be gone, so we skip that one).  It really amazes me sometimes how much our everyday circumstances can be impacted by something to trivial as a children's book.  It amazes me that God can speak into our lives comforting words through simple writing and doesn't have to be something intricate and complex for us to learn a lesson.  That blows my mind!

Anyway, this book has become the inspiration for my blog.  My favorite part of the book is near the end. The mama llama comes back to baby llama's room and says, "Baby llama don't you know, mama llama loves you so.  Mama llama's always near, even if she's not right here."  Wow.

Does that speak to anyone else?  It amazes me in two ways.  1) How shockingly accurate that thought represents how I feel about my own children and 2) how amazing it is that that is how God feels about us as well!  It's such a great feeling :).  This passage also reminds me to be patient.  God is always near, seeking to give me the desires of my heart, but in his own time.  I suppose one day I will have to thank my son for his immense love of this book and explain all the wonderful ways he has blessed my life!

Tuesday, March 8


So I have used this blog to convey my opinions, things God has been doing in my life, wonderful recipes I can't live without and other various things that pop into my head from time to time.  But lately I've noticed a glaring hole in my writing.

No one knows who the heck I am!

That's right, the horribly socially awkward person I am...I have never actually introduced myself.

Well...with several of my friends starting their own blogs recently, and seeing their wonderful introduction, I have decided that I should do a bit of update myself.  Apparently my new year, new me campaign is being forced upon my blog as well.  New layout, new title, and a new post to introduce this crazy person writing :)

Here I am!

My name is Brianah, I am a transplant to OK having spent my life in the Kansas City area from birth until age 22 when we moved here to be closer to my husbands family.  Here's a picture of us from December 2009 with our son Carter (in this picture he was 2 months old).

And less than a year after this picture was taken we added another little boy to our family...our son Henry!

And for reference, this is a more recent picture of Carter.

I plan to write more about my life, how we got where we are, and my goals for this blog...but you'll just have to wait a while for that one :)

Monday, March 7

New Year, New Me :)

I realize that it's March and that most people are giving up resolutions right now, not making them.  But I've always like to be different ;)

This past week month has been terribly frustrating for me.  God has been revealing things to me that I am NOT comfortable with and things that I have tried with all my might to rationalize away.  It's not anyone surprised?  It's not the first time that God has pushed me out of my comfort zone.  There was a trip in high school that my church took to Myrtle Beach, SC...I wasn't planning on going as I had two jobs at the time.  Little did I know that God had a very different plan.  I think it may have only been a week or two before the trip that I felt so convicted to go that I quit one of my jobs and had to beg and plead to get off work at my other job.  My mom was unhappy, I was broke, and the wonderful leadership at our church helped me get everything together money-wise.  It wasn't a great trip for me...but it was a GREAT trip for God's glory in my life!  I was pushed that befriend people I had been hesitant of, to step out of my comfort zone and speak to strangers, to learn so much about God's calling for me and about leadership, and most of all to realize God's nagging guidance about some portions of my life that were HORRIBLY out of whack and defiant.  It was didn't stop hurting for almost 2 years!  Not what I thought I had signed up for in this Christianity thing.  But with the help of my youth minister, his wife, and some great friends I made it through.  The things I was being pushed to change didn't completely change for a while and it took some more major intervening from God, but when they did life was so much better!  I met my husband and was able to feel God's leading in my life once again.  I was also so much more grown up spiritually for having gone through this tough time. 

So that brings us to 2005, but in 2011 there are some new challenges God has been weaving into my consciousness.  Not so say that there haven't been growth periods, pruning, and difficulties between then and now...but that's a whole string of posts for another time (or a book).  Though the things I'm dealing with now aren't as pressing as what I dealt with back then, they are still tough for me.  Is it ever easy to listen to God tell you that you've not been doing well and he has some major changes in store?

One thing he has convicted me about is my use of the computer.  I love reading other people's blogs.  Mostly on food, parenting, and living a Christian life.  I feel that it is very uplifting to me, most of the time, and helps give me ideas on how to be engaged with my family better.  But that's only true when I'm doing my main job which is caring for the family and lives that God has entrusted to me.

Titus 2:4-5 has been on my heart lately:
"Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

My ministry right now, is my family and that's how it should be.  Though I know that...I've not been living that.  So, in an effort to change, I have made some decisions--with God's guidance and much prayer.  I am shutting down my Facebook page (not because it's evil, but because it is not uplifting to me the way it should be and it is a time waster for me) and I'm majorly scaling back on the number of blogs I read.  So that is my resolution for this time in my life.  To get my priorities in order and begin to prune all activities that aren't leading me toward my goal of being a Titus 2 woman!