Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday, I LOVE You!

I'm having a really, really good day!

I woke up early (way too early) this morning. Got up. Checked email and a blog or two, then decided that since the rest of my family was still in bed, I'd try to fall back asleep. 

And I did.

For two whole hours! 

Got up at 8:15AM (that's late for me!) and found John in the kitchen making breakfast. Waffles for the kids, eggs for the two of us. He makes THE best eggs.

I unplugged yesterday and got my house spic and span so I'm going to read and watch a few Little House on the Prairie episodes with the kids and pretty much do nothing until this evening. 

John is taking me on a date and I am SO excited. There are many things I love in life, but time alone with my husband tops my list. 

It's shaping up to be a beautiful day.


On a totally unrelated note,  I think I'm ready for a blog break. It might be two days, it might be two weeks (doubt it) but I want to unplug for awhile. 

I'm going to post my Final No-Spend Challenge Update sometime this week but beyond that I just don't know. 


Oh, and thanks for your support on my Truth and Facts post. I loved reading your comments (and emails) so much. Sounds like a lot of us are on a quest for authenticity. If you have some time, go back and read what Melissa@Breath of Life wrote in her comment. She suggested that maybe I had my facts and truth mixed up, and I think she is totally right! Swapping the words "fact" and "truth" in that post makes so much more sense to me.


I keep meaning to tell you about my dad. He started chemo and radiation last week. It was sooner than we first thought, but his doc thought he was ready. He's had two full weeks of chemo and hasn't felt bad (big praise!). He got off track with radiation this week because of the ice storm in AR but he said they'll just tack those days on at the end. Thanks to those of you who have emailed me asking about him. He seems to be doing well and feeling good.


Diane@Diane's Place is the winner of the $5 Starbucks card. Lucky girl. I bet she's going to use it to thaw out from the ice storm that hit her area last week! Congrats, Diane. Email me with your info and I'll mail it on Monday.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-01-31 16:11:19 UTC

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Facts and truth...

Not long ago, I posted a link to one of John's older blog posts. It is primarily about how the facts often have little to do with the truth. I've been thinking so much about that in my own life lately, and this list just sorta spilled out in my head. 

Because I desire to live an authentic life, I'm sharing my list. It's still growing but here's a start:

The fact is that I'm a good mom. The truth is that I blow it on a daily basis, and often have to go back and apologize to at least one of my children. (And sometimes I'm stubborn and I don't even apologize.)

The fact is that I'm an organized homemaker. The truth is that it takes huge effort for me to even keep my house clean. HUGE effort. And many days I just give up and clear a path through the mess.

The fact is that I have a lot of friends. The truth is that I've been feeling over-relationshipped for a long time.

The fact is I'm a good friend. The truth is that I've been a terrible friend lately and feel like I've hurt some people I care about.

The fact is that I have a nice home. The truth is that I struggle with being content within these walls.

The fact is that I have great kids. The truth is that they're not perfect and some days are very hard. We argue over silly things like wearing a winter coat or cleaning their rooms. They lose their temper with me and I turn right around and give 'em a dose of mine. 

The fact is that I have a good marriage. The truth is that there are plenty of days John and I don't like each other very much, and sometimes on days like that we go to bed still upset with each other.

The fact is that I know God's heart towards me is good. The truth is that I doubt His kindness often. 

The fact is that I seem very "together". The truth is I'm not. I'm struggling with some depression right now that is kicking my butt and making me feel like I'm functioning at about 50% of my norm.

The fact is that I love being at home with my family. The truth is that I enjoy it now that my kids aren't babies/toddlers. Back in those days I was always looking for an excuse to get out of the house.

The fact is that I believe the responsibility of teaching my children about things of faith belongs to me and their dad. The truth is that the last time we had a family devotion was during Advent.

The fact is that I trust God with the details of my life. The truth is that I scheme and strive and maneuver things to go my way. And that truth reveals my distrust.

The fact is that I love blogging. The truth is that it is a huge distraction in my life.

The fact is that I'm a little afraid to hit "publish" on this post. However, I know truth is freeing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carnival: What I Learned This Week

I've seen this on a few blogs I love and since I can't seem to think of anything else interesting to post today, I thought I'd play along too. Most of the posts I've read have been thoughtful ones about what God has been showing people, or what they're learning about themselves--you know, deep stuff.

I'm not feeling all that deep today, so here's a sampling of not-so-serious things I've learned this week:

1. I learned that if you're going to send out a district wide email about the Gifted and Talented program in your school district, it would be a good idea to spell "gifted" correctly. Or at least hit spell check. I wish I could tell you that my district was inspiring confidence in me these days, but that wouldn't be true.

2. I learned that there are some honest repairmen in this world. John called a guy to come take a look at our barely-functioning garage door and the guy gave him some things to try before he made a service call. It worked! John was able to fix it and we saved mucho money!

3. I learned that it cost more to have a suede shirt dry cleaned than it does for me to get my hair cut. Shocking. More about this on my No-Spend Challenge recap this weekend.

4. I learned that my oven has a self-cleaning feature. No joke. I've lived in this house for 5 years and didn't realize that until last weekend. (You're not allowed to ask if I've cleaned my oven in five years).

5. I learned that you can cook steel cut oats overnight in the crockpot, and that steel cut oats aren't your normal run-of-the-mill oats.

6. I also learned that these muffins are really good with some raw sunflower seeds and coconut mixed in. We've had them for breakfast twice this week! (Healthy and low-fat too!)

If you want some deeper inspiration, check out what others have learned this week HERE!

If you've learned something you want to share it's not too late to join the fun! (And might even win a cool prize!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lots of Happy (and Silly) Stuff...

I gotta be honest. I woke up yesterday wondering if it was going to be a happy day.

The temp was a whopping 3 degrees, Jack-the-Beagle pooped on the stairs (what?), and Abbey threw a melodramatic fit when I told her she wasn't leaving the house without a hat and gloves. And that was after the meltdown she had when I told her that the windbreaker wasn't an option. Oh my. And did I mention my garage door won't open (consistently)? And that it was snowing? Yeah, Mondays can be a bit rough.

But things started perking up. 

I got my hair cut which always makes me happy. There's a reason it's called hairapy.
(My stylist, Rachel, is THE BEST!)

And after my haircut, I ran by Jamie's house to pick up the loot she bought for me at Trader Joe's while she was in New Mexico last week. Jack is happy again now that he has his favorite peanut butter treats. (Thanks, Jamie!) I got home and had a phone conversation with of my most favorite bloggers on the planet. It was so great talking with her...I've put that off for too long. Seriously, she's so funny and so real and I just want her to live in Colorado again and be one of my best friends! (Thanks, Gretchen...the pleasure was all mine!)

I also turned in all of our Brownie troop's cookie order forms. Our troop sold almost 900 boxes! I am very glad to be finished with that for a couple of weeks. The real fun will begin when the cookies come in. 

I made one of my favorite dinners last night. Southwestern Stir-Fry. So yummy, and pretty healthy too.
Can I just say again that it was COLD here yesterday. We reached 15 degrees for our high but it started dropping around 4pm and by the time John got home from work it was 6 degrees. 

I couldn't get warm so I put on my pjs and my down booties. Both make me happy! 

John gave me these booties a couple of years ago for Christmas, and while they look completely ridiculous (think moon boots) they are the warmest things ever. My feet stay nice and toasty.
A couple of you have asked if I got the slanket that I wanted for Christmas. Well, no, I didn't. Not because my husband wasn't willing to buy it for me. He tried. Very hard. They were out of stock before Christmas. When they were available again, I talked him out of buying one because I couldn't justify spending $45 on a blanket.

Last night I had a flash of brilliance (coupled with an effort to stay warm) and I MADE MY OWN SLANKET. Oh yes, I did. 

I cut a big slit in one of our dozen fleece blankets and made myself a big ole fleece poncho sl-anket. I even made John take a picture, but it's so tacky that I can't bring myself to post it. You'll have to trust me...even though it's hideous, it's warm. Plus, my hands are free to type and to talk on the phone and to change the channel and everything. 

I talk to friends all the time who tell me that the reason they don't have a blog is because they don't have anything interesting to write about. I hope they're reading this post so that they can see that obviously, neither do I!

*That 3 degrees yesterday was cold, but it was even colder this morning. Actual temp when I woke up was -8. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Alright, I'm In

I wasn't going to participate in the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival this time, but I just talked myself into it.

Who wants to win a $5 Starbucks card?

Leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite drink from Starbucks is. I'll close comments and draw a winner on Saturday, January 31 at 9AM MST. 

You don't have to have a blog to participate, but you MUST leave me a way to contact you if you win.

Be sure to check out all the other giveaways here.

My Closet Cheerleader

Contrary to the title of this post, I never have been, nor ever desired to be a cheerleader. I was in my room reading on Saturday when Sarah came in to visit with me. She was talking to me about a myriad of things when all of the sudden she looked up in my closet, saw a pair of doll feet, and asked me who they belonged to. Sandwiched in between baby books and Nooma dvds was this very old cheerleader doll of mine. I'm pretty sure I named her Susie. She's cute, isn't she?
I always loved her red, vinyl boots, but what makes this doll unique is that there is a a pull cord on back that makes Susie cheer.
She's not just cheering for anyone though. She's cheering for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Here...take a listen (sorry for the lopsided video.)

She has six different "cheers" that she repeats (in random order). 

1. Go Hogs Go!
2. We Want a Touchdown!
3. Hold 'Em Hogs, Hold 'Em
4. All the Way, Arkansas!
5. Beat Texas! 
6. Woo Pig Sooie! 

I could listen to her over and over and over, and the girls and I did just that on Saturday.

I tried to find a similar doll on ebay to no avail. She's as old as I am and is extremely sentimental to me. I'm telling you that Razorback roots run deep in my family. Finding this doll on Saturday made me a tiny bit less jealous that my sister has these.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


My google reader is completely empty. I read every single one of the 200+ unread posts that have been hanging over my head for weeks. I am so happy.

Now...if I could just figure out a way to keep it clear. *sigh*

Twenty-five on the 25th

I've been tagged by at least six different people to list 25 random things about myself. I wasn't going to do it, but then I realized that today is the 25th day of January, so why not make it a theme.

Here's my 25 Random Things:

1. I could never be a vegetarian. I love meat too much to give it up. 

2. I don't like chocolate. At all. And yes, I realize that I'm weird and un-American. I don't really like ice cream all that much either. Sadly, not loving those things hasn't made me skinny.

3. I drive a mini-van named Minnie-the-Van. She's seven years old, but she's paid for!

4. I've been married almost 19 years to my best friend. 

5. I refer to myself as a "recovering pastor's wife". My husband was a pastor for years and years and years. Most of those years were good, but there were some rough ones that have left a really bitter taste in my mouth.

6. I am happiest when I am at home with my family of five.

7. Rocky Mountain National Park is my favorite place in Colorado.

8. We're going to Durango, CO this summer...but I still don't think it can hold a candle to RMNP.

9. I want to learn to compost this spring/summer.

10. The 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

11. I love movies. I would watch one every day if I had the time. I especially love independent, artsy films. I recently watched Henry Poole Is Here...and I loved it.

12. The last movie I saw in the theater was The Tale of Despereaux. I loved it too.

13. I'm also a tv addict, but this season I haven't seen one single episode of any of my favorite shows--LOST, The Bachelor, '24', and Friday Night Lights. I'm hopelessly behind. (We don't have a dvr).

13. God speaks to me through nature.

14. I do not like going barefoot. Even in the summer. I usually always have on some kind of footwear--shoes, slippers, flip-flops, boots.

15. I like words. In fact, I see them in my head. Weird, but true.

16. I rarely buy books. I'm a library nerd. I bought a total of three books last year: Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. I don't know what got into me. 

17. I like my steak rare, bloody even. My family always asks for well-done while giving me funny looks.

18. I love family traditions. I think our family has some really fun ones. 

19. I've seen a bear. From a pretty close distance. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and an answer to a very specific prayer. 

20. I often think about homeschooling my children. 

21. I cry easily. And I'm okay with that. I'm trying to teach my children that there is no shame in tears or honest emotion. 

22. My husband and I are very protective of our time on weekends. We believe very strongly in rest.

23. Sleeping in for me means 7:30 or 8AM. I made it to almost 8AM this morning. It was wonderful!

24. I would love to go to Africa someday. Specifically, to Rwanda.

25. I sleep every night (even in the summer) with an afghan that my Nana knit for me. I call it my "african"...I don't know why, but I've called it that for years. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Spend Challenge: Week Three

I did pretty good this week with my spending. Challenging myself to spend no money outside of groceries, gas, and household items is harder than I thought it would be, but it's been great in that I've become aware of places I spend money without really thinking twice.

Here's my weekly breakdown:

-0- We stayed home all day.

Like I said last week, between church and home it's easy to not spend money.

Our kids were out of school for MLK day, so we headed to the Springs for some errands and lunch with friends at Chick-Fil-A. Spent $12.97 on lunch. The four of us shared two meals.

We also went to Michael's... $6.44

My very talented friend and summit sister, Chele, made a 12x12 digital scrapbook print of our Pikes Peak ascent. It's been hanging on the side of my refrigerator for the last four months and I keep meaning to buy a frame for it. 

I priced them at Michael's last fall and they were $10. I knew I could use a 40% off coupon and get it for $6, but I never seemed to have my coupon with me when I needed it. At Christmas, they had the frames on sale for $5, but I wasn't in town. Last week they were on sale for $4...and I couldn't resist the bargain. Doesn't it look GREAT in this frame??? I love it!
I let the girls pick up some Hannah Montana stuff from the clearance bins. The dollar stuff was half-price so they each got a dry erase board and a set of mechanical pencils for $1. It was a cheap thrill for them, and that dry erase board kept them busy for the rest of the afternoon!

I also spent .75 at Best Buy. Will used a gift certificate to buy a Wii game and I covered his overage.

Probably because I was at home all day!

I was at home almost all morning, but met my friend at the tea house that afternoon. I had a gift card from Christmas, and lucky for me, I still have a balance!

$1.07  I picked Will up from school and took him by McDonald's for a soda. The day before had been a hard one for him/us so it was a small act of restoration.

-0- I'm not counting the $261 grocery shopping trip, but I saved $36.35 in coupons! Woohoo!

So, I think I had a better week. I stayed home almost every day though and honestly, that will drastically cut your spending. I'm such a homebody! 

Like I said at the beginning of this challenge, I'm not a legalist. I'm not beating myself up for spending money. I'm primarily using this challenge to identify areas of thoughtless spending.

One more week to go. 

This week might be a bit more spendy. I came home from picking kids up yesterday afternoon and couldn't get our garage door open. Looks like we're going to have to call the repairman. AND, I JUST made an appointment to get my hair cut next week. I tried to make it until February, I really did, but it needs some serious attention.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hello, my name is Meredith and I have a problem...

I've decided that I'm unplugging once a week, on a day that I have at home in order to completely conquer my to-do list. It's drastic, but I seem to have a little problem with walking away from the computer. I wish I was stronger, but I'm weak, weak, weak. John and I talked about it today and sadly, he agrees that I have a bit of a problem with the computer and time parameters. From the comments I've received on posts about this, it sounds like I'm not alone. Maybe we need to form a support group...

...because ya'll, I got so much accomplished today (and last time, and the time before that) without a computer at home to distract me.

(Chasing a rabbit for a sec: Did you notice I said "ya'll" in that last sentence? My youngest asked me yesterday why I keep saying ya'll. She was even doing the eye-rolling thing and used a slightly exasperated tone when she asked. She'd rather me say "you guys", but I told her she wasn't a guy so I was sticking with ya'll.)

So, one of the things I did today was plan meals and make a ginormous shopping list which I need to tackle sometime tomorrow. I just posted my meal plan for the next two weeks here.

I also cleaned out the fridge and pantry, got my laundry completely caught up, helped Abbey sell some more Girl Scout cookies, and even had time this afternoon to start a new book. 

I am SO behind on all of the blogs I read, but I'm hoping to get caught up over the weekend. It's looking to be cold and snowy...perfect for lazing around which is how we prefer to spend our Saturdays and Sundays.

One blog that I have been keeping up with daily is Kelly's. Harper made some GREAT progress yesterday...go read the latest and rejoice with them! 

*Some of you mentioned that you'd like to "unplug" but it's challenging because you have a desktop computer. I thought my friend, Trish, had a brilliant remedy. She unplugged her mouse and sent it with her husband. Isn't that genius? 


I'm unplugging again today.

It seems like I HAVE to in order to get things done around here.

I've been home all day for TWO days this week and I've gotten one-third of what I wanted to get accomplished checked off my list.

I get so distracted by this silly computer.

It might be called addiction.

I get sucked in and waste extraordinary amounts of time.

But out of sight is out of mind for me, so I'm sending Mac (John refers to him as my boyfriend) to the office with J today.

I have some appts to schedule, some cleaning to do, some planning to tackle, and I'm even thinking of befriending our lonely treadmill again. I want to completely clear my to-do list instead of pushing things to the next day.

So adios... (for now).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i heart him.

some of the many reasons why i love john...

he keeps gas in my van. he went last night and filled me up so that i wouldn't have to do it this morning.

he unloads the dishwasher for me every. single. morning. can i just tell you how much that means to me? it's my most dreaded chore. every once in a while he has an early morning meeting/breakfast and he doesn't get it done, but he always leaves me a note apologizing. isn't that sweet?

he helps the kids with their homework. (another of my least favorite tasks).

he picks up the slack in laundry when i fall behind. and i'm behind these days.

he gives me starbucks gift cards because he knows i have a fond affection for non-fat chai lattes.

he makes me laugh. even when i'm mad. which usually helps me snap out of it and get back in the happies. (yeah, we call it the happies).

he tells me i'm beautiful. especially when i feel anything BUT.

he calls me from work...multiple times a day. just to say hi.

he eats whatever i make for dinner, without complaining. (that's more than i can say for our children).

he works hard so that i can be at home full-time. and he loves that i have time during the day to spend with friends.

he adores our children. 

he has a huge heart. a tender heart too. (we're not afraid of tears around here.)

i love you, j.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thinking out loud...

I have exactly 20 minutes before leaving for my Brownie meeting...


Just enough time to do some thinking out loud.


I never thought I'd hear myself say that I long for humidity, but I do. It is so dry here. My hands are cracking (despite lotion) and my hair is so brittle. Just a little moisture would be nice.

And speaking of weather, it's been BEAUTIFUL here since Friday with highs in the 60s. Very unseasonal, but I'm NOT complaining.

Lots of my southern Facebook/Twitter friends have been talking about the snow they have today, and here I am contemplating capris. It's nice to flip weather patterns for a change.

Anyone ever "unfriended" a friend on Facebook? I'm ready to drop a few of mine because the status updates are just too much. (Who's worried I'm talking about them? *wink*)(Don't worry because the ones I'm talking about probably don't read my blog). 

My house smells delicious right now because I have this in the crockpot.

Did the Obama girls steal the show this morning or what? Those two are adorable. Should be fun to watch the for them next four years.

My son will be twelve in 3 short weeks. How did that happen???

He's a great kid. John and I are so proud of him for jumping into the middle school youth group at our church. He *loves* it, and has made some fun new friends.

I'm having a really hard time getting back into a routine since Christmas break. 

I think it's because we haven't had a full week since we started back. We've missed the last three Mondays...for a teacher workday, snow, and MLK day. I could get really used to 4 day weeks.

Then again, I really don't like starting my week on Tuesdays. It throws me (way) off.

Anyone (local only) need Girl Scout cookies? We're pitifully behind on sales this year. I find it hard to push a first grader to sell, sell, sell. (So I don't).

I hope to have some time to read tonight. Translate: I hope the kids have minimal homework. I only have a few more pages in Drowning Ruth and it's getting very suspenseful.

Speaking of reading...Sarah got the first three Nancy Drew books for Christmas and she devoured them. I was SO happy she finally got into them (been trying forEVER to get her interested in Nancy Drew). She loved them just as I knew she would. They were my favorites growing up and I read them over and over and over. She wants to read them in order and she's on the wait list for #4.

I was reading some old posts on John's blog this afternoon. I know I'm a bit partial, but I think he's a brilliant writer. Anyway, I loved this post. SO true.

I probably need to go...the Brownies call! (And I'm not talking about chocolate know I can't stand the stuff, right?)

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wait! Don't Throw That Away!

If you know me at all, you know that I'm very much into recycling. It is something easy we can all do and it makes a huge impact.

Along with recycling come the ideas of reducing and reusing. I'm always trying to think how I might be able to re-purpose items that are typically thrown away. (You'd be surprised at how many ways I can re-use a cereal box!)

Last spring I came across a blog post with instructions for making your own shrinky dinks using #6 plastic. We've made them half a dozen times since and it's GREAT fun. Click here for the tutorial!

#6 plastic is most commonly used in deli packaging. Strawberry containers and lettuce clamshells are items I routinely save for this craft. I recently happened upon a gold mine of #6 plastic at the girls' elementary school. Every day, the cafeteria serves salad as a lunch option. The top of the salad box is perfect for shrinky dinks. I try to remember on days I'm at school over the lunch period to go in with my scissors and cut the tops off of the containers (that would otherwise get thrown away *cringe*). Here are a few that I had leftover from a Brownie craft last fall.
I thought about writing out the Shrinky Dink instructions for you--complete with pictures--but this tutorial is great, so why ruin a good thing?

Here are a few of the Shrinky Dinks we made this morning. (LOVED having the day off from school!)My kids like to make tags for their backpacks, charms for bracelets, and other imaginative designs.

We used this idea with Abbey's Brownie troop last fall and made simple bracelets as part of our Art-to-Wear try it and were able to reinforce the "use resources wisely" part of the Girl Scout law.
Another great craft idea that re-purposes something you'd ordinarily throw away are these fun rings.
You use the pull-tabs from half-n-half cartons (or lemonade). The ring part slips over your finger and you decorate the top of the tab. We've used glue and glitter, beads, rhinestones, markers, and feathers to make our rings. The possibilities are endless. I would advise tacky glue if you're using beads or rhinestones as they tend to be heavy.

Have fun!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meal Planning Part III's the final post in the meal planning series. I didn't intend for it to really be a series but it just felt like too much info for one post.

Let me try to answer some of your questions:

1. What is your method for cooking all that chicken.
So simple, really. I just throw the chicken breasts into a pot with some onion, celery, garlic, carrots, salt and pepper (really, whatever you have on hand) bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a couple of hours. I don't even cut the veggies up well...just halve an onion, cut off a few stalks of celery (leaves and all), and chunk 'em in your pot.The longer you simmer at a low temp, the more tender your meat will be. Then, just let cool and shred the meat (I use my fingers), divide up into your meal sized portions and freeze. We're not talking rocket science here!

DON'T throw away the broth! It's so good and flavorful! I divide it up too and freeze it in ziploc bags or rubbermaid containers. I seem to freeze it in 2 cup amounts...seems like that's a good amount for soups and other recipes.

I buy whatever kind of chicken is on sale, but I'm partial to boneless, skinless breasts. The bone-in kind were .99/lb not long ago so I stocked up (bones give your meat/broth a better flavor). I don't enjoy pulling the meat off of a whole chicken so I usually only buy those when I'm planning to roast one, but I think they might be cheaper. Don't know because I don't buy them often enough.

2. What is the time commitment for pre-cooking your meat?
I've gotten in the habit of doing this as I'm cooking dinner. For example, I did my grocery shopping last Saturday. We had spaghetti soup for dinner that night, so as I was browning the ground beef for the soup, I just browned the beef for the other meals. A day or two later I made chicken spaghetti for dinner, so I prepped all my chicken at that time. 

It's a minimal time commitment if you multi-task, and the pay-off is HUGE!

3. What's the deal with Tillamook cheese?
I don't's just my favorite brand. It is more natural than some of the other brands (no artificial orange coloring) and it tastes great! I buy either the medium or the sharp cheddar.
I do NOT freeze my shredded cheese. Some of you asked me that, but I think you misread my text. I use my food processor to grate it all at once and keep in ziploc in the refrigerator! 
The two pound block lasts us at least two weeks, and oftentimes longer. 

It's such a time-saving step. I don't know about you, but I can't even begin to count the number of times I'd get everything ready for tacos only to realize I hadn't grated the cheese! Argh. 

4. What about leftovers?
I count on having leftovers. 

John and I usually eat leftovers for lunch each day. I really don't like sandwiches and I prefer something hot for lunch.

Sometimes I find myself with lots of leftovers accumulating in the fridge and we'll have "Leftover Night" which usually means that we each eat something different and I get the night off from cooking. If we don't end up eating everything, I freeze what I can for another meal. I try very hard not to waste food.

At the end of the two-week meal plan period, if there are meals I haven't prepared, they just get added to the next two-week rotation.

5. Do you ever double the recipe and freeze for later? 
Absolutely! Soups, chili, and casseroles are easy to freeze.

Here is a GREAT tip for freezing casseroles for later use. I got this from a Southern Living magazine years ago:

Line your baking dish with heavy duty aluminum foil, leaving 4-6 inches extra on the sides of dish. Pour casserole into foil lined dish. Seal the foil tightly. Freeze. When frozen, remove frozen casserole in the foil and return to freezer. When ready to bake, place thawed casserole (in foil) back in dish and cook. NO CLEAN-UP--just throw the foil away!!!

6. Any great crock-pot recipes to share?
Here are some slow cooker recipes from my recipe blog. Susan posted one last week for black bean chili that I can't wait to try, and Carrie posted one for cranberry chicken that sounded good too. Most soup recipes can easily be adapted for the slow cooker. If you have loads of time on your hands, you can sort through the 100+ links at Boomama's Souptacular Crockpotalooza.

If you have a great crockpot recipe you want to share, leave me a link in the comments.

7. What kitchen tools do you think are essential?
That's hard. SO many to choose from. 

I use my large, heavy, non-stick skillet (Calphalon One--a gift from John a few years ago) almost every day. 

My large stock pot sees lots of use too.

Good, sharp knives and cutting board(s).

Garlic press.


Kitchen shears.

Ali asked about the food processor...honestly, I really only use mine (pictured above) to shred cheese and to crumble cornbread when I make cornbread dressing. It's nice, but not necessary.

What about you guys...what is essential in your kitchen?

If you're just now finding this post, you can read Part I here, and Part II here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oh Gee...

I was catching up on Gretchen's blog this afternoon and saw this fun meme. I feel like all I've been posting about lately are meals and money and thought this would be a fun break from those themes.

Here's the deal:
If you want to play, leave a comment on this post letting me know, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place. When people comment on your list, you give them a letter, and the chain continues on and on...

Gretchen gave me the letter "G".

1. Guacamole. Mmmmmmm...I could make a meal of it.
2. Girls' Night Out! It's even better when it's with my Summit Sisters!

3. Google! I love so many of the Google apps, but Gmail is my favorite! Not loving Google reader so much these days because it always reminds me how behind I am on blog reading. Just so you know--I have too many unread posts in my reader. Again.

4. Grosgrain ribbon. I seem to have a fetish for it. I have crazy amounts of ribbon--mostly grosgrain. Stripes, gingham, polka dots, and solids. I use it for lots of things and it just makes me happy.
5. Green. I love almost every shade but apple green is my favorite. Olive green would be a close second. 

I found this piece of wallpaper the other day when I was cleaning out a closet. It's from my kitchen in Arkadelphia, and I still adore it--such lovely shades of green!

6. Gifts. I really enjoy giving them, though receiving them is fun too!

7. Gingerbread coffee from Trader Joe's. This can was a gift from my friend, Jamie. It is SO good. (I have an unhealthy obsession with TJ's these days.) The smell is heavenly. Aromatherapy in a can.
8. Gretchen. I was so disappointed that I didn't get to meet her when she and her family were here in November. One of these days, friend, one of these days... 

9. Games. Our family loves games. We've played lots of Uno and Set lately, but I'm a big fan of Blokus, Scattergories, A-Z, Outburst, Catchphrase, and Cadoo. Oh, and Yahtzee. (And about a dozen or so more.)

10. Granola. Yeah, I'm one of those crunchy, Colorado health nuts.

(Yes, I'm aware that I left God off of my list. I thought you guys would understand that He's a given.)

Let me know if you want to play along and I'll assign a letter to you! (If you comment and don't hear back from me in your inbox...check the comments on this post. I STILL can't reply to some of you directly because your email isn't linked to your Blogger profile). (Ya'll are going to make me start naming names, aren't you?) *wink wink*

No Spend Challenge: Week Two

I wish I had posted this yesterday instead of today because things were going really well until then.

Here's the day by day breakdown.

Well, not exactly true, but I only bought groceries and groceries don't count. Plus, I did really well at sticking to my list and using coupons.

-0- It's easy to not spend money at church and at home. (smile)

-0- Snow day! Stayed home all day in our pjs! (Bliss)

$1.85 Mailed a package to a friend in Arkansas. (Steph, I'm mailing yours in February b/c it's going to cost more than $1.85.)

-0- I was going to meet Jamie for coffee at Starbucks (still have a gift card balance!) but we ended up having coffee at her house instead. 

See? I'm doing so good. $1.85 
(Isn't there some verse about pride going before a fall?)(grin)

$25 John and I met our pastor for lunch--our treat--at Qdoba. We're trying to get connected at our new church and we've been trying to get together with him for awhile. It worked out we could all meet on this day and lunch was the best option. He's a great guy. He answered all of our questions, got to know us a little more, and I left feeling very encouraged and excited about this leg of our faith journey.

$5 for Bunco. We play for money, and we each throw $5 into the pot. I tied for most wins last night and we decided to split the prize so I walked away with my original $5 plus $5 more. Nice. 

I was feeling all smug at one point yesterday thinking that I was doing really well with my spending. 

In the middle of Bunco I realized that I forgot all about two big things. John took the kids out for dinner...and to the movies last night. I didn't ask him for a total, but it was probably at least $40. Granted I needed them out of the house for a few hours, but I didn't think about the extra expense.

So...not as great a week as I'd hoped...but still not too bad. This challenge is proving to be challenging indeed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

For Harper

My sweet friend, Kelly, and her family need your urgent prayers. Kelly gave birth to Harper today. Harper is the daughter that Kelly and Scott have longed for, prayed for, and waited on the Lord for...and Harper's condition right now is very serious. Please, please lift this family up in prayer. They trusted God to bring Harper into this world, and they're trusting Him to now sustain her. Harper's little life is completely in His (strong and mighty) hands.

Frugal Friday: Going Paperless

My friend, Joanne, mentioned that she's going to begin Frugal Friday posts. I love that idea. In fact, I just read what she posted today about shopping from the pantry.

I have a frugal tip to share today too. 

I haven't bought paper towels in years. I also try not to buy paper plates (that's harder), and if I had enough cloth napkins (something I'm hoping to make more of soon), I'd go totally paperless. Well, except for toilet paper.

I save money by not buying those things constantly and do our environment a huge favor as well. 

Think about it. What do you use paper towels for that you can't use a dishtowel or rag for instead? And paper plates? It just takes a little more effort to wash a real one. 

I'm also excited to check in with my an update on my  no-spend challenge this week. I did much better. I'll post that tomorrow because I'm sending the laptop to work again with John. My kids have a half day of school (3.5 day weekend!!!) and I have a big list to tackle before they get home! 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Killing two birds with one stone...

My friend, Lisa, tagged me for a meme.

Lisa is a real life friend of mine. She and her family were members of a church John pastored in Arkansas and we love them dearly. I love that she recently started blogging, but it makes me painfully homesick for the community we left behind five years ago. I miss her very much. Ditto for Amber. And Stephanie. But I digress.

Lisa's meme instructs:
1) Choose the 4th folder where you store your pictures on your computer
2) Select the 4th picture in the folder
3) Explain the picture
4) Tag 4 people to do the same

Alrighty. It's a picture of Jack, our beagle.

He's a beautiful dog, isn't he? I think he probably needs one of the fancy dog collars that Lisa makes. 

Seeing this picture reminded me of another meme that I was tagged for by Jen

Actually, she tagged Jack to write six random things about his life as a dog in our home. Here's what he'd write if he could.

1. I love my peeps. They take good care of me and love me. Especially my mom, Mer. She even lets me sleep in her favorite chair and now my smell is all over it. I love it, but I don't think she does because she keeps spraying fabric refresher on it. It must rub off on me a little because now I smell great too.

2. I've gotten really good at scavenging for people food at my house. If my family leaves anything on the table, I know how to pull the placemat to the floor so I can gobble up any leftovers. Our babysitter didn't know that about me and walked away from her pizza the last time she was here. I had two whole pieces. Pizza....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

3. Peanut butter treats from Trader Joe's are my absolute favorite. I got some for Christmas.
(Poor Jack is going to be so sad when our supply runs out.) 

4. I love it when my mom loads the dishwasher. No matter where I am in the house, when I hear the door to that fascinating appliance open, I will head that way instantly. I especially love it when my mom doesn't rinse things off well and I get to (literally) lick the spoon. I don't think my mom loves it though. She gets kinda grumpy when I stand on the open dishwasher door.

5. My dad (John) is my most favorite person in my house. I hear the garage open every night when he comes home from work and I go C-R-A-Z-Y. I run to the back door and whine until I see his handsome face. He loves me and I know it.

6. I love it when my family walks me. They're slacking in that department these days...I think because it's so cold and snowy here...but a dog needs to be walked. Peeps, are you listening???

For both of these memes, I'm supposed to tag people. I don't love doing that so I'm just going to let you play along if you choose. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A really good day...

Today was an exceptionally good day. SO many things happened that have me still feeling happy in fact, that I want to share a few of them.

I think a list is in order. Imagine that.

1. Had coffee with my friend, Jamie. We hadn't seen each other since before Christmas and had a lot of catching up to do. Four hours of catching up in fact. It was GOOD and my heart needed that time with her today. Jamie is someone that I'm completely at ease with. She isn't shocked or put off by my honest emotions or by anything I say. I love that about her. 

2. Came home and talked with HisGirl on the phone. I heart that girl too. She is wise and funny and it feels like I've known her for years! I could have talked to her for hours and I don't even like talking on the phone.

3. We went to church tonight. First time in over 5 years that I've been on a Wednesday night. The churches we've been a part of in the last several years haven't had Wednesday services, but the church we're going to now DOES. John's goal for our family in 2009 is to get connected in this new church, and so we jumped into tonight's activities with both feet.

Gotta tell you I was hesitant. Church on Wednesday nights is a routine that I have easily worked myself out of. I love evenings at home. I love not feeling rushed to get dinner on the table or homework completed before we rush out the door. 

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed tonight. It felt comfortable and familiar and very much like a place we belong. It was a surprise and a blessing! I'm pretty sure that my husband felt the same way.

Pretty please with sugar on top...

I LOVE getting your comments on my posts, friends. I especially loved the ones you left yesterday on the meal planning post...they were all encouraging and inspiring. Thank you!

So much of the time I want to respond individually to your comments, especially if you ask me a question.

But I can't respond to your comments if you don't link your profile to your email address.

So I need a big favor from you guys.

Go into your Blogger profile (on the left side of your Blogger dashboard), click Edit Profile, and enter your email address. It's not required, so it's likely that you left it blank. As long as you check the appropriate box, it will NOT show up on your blog or be accessible to anyone. It will allow people (like me) to respond to comments. If you're sensitive to your privacy, which is very understandable, you could just create a free email account for this purpose. Or, you could do nothing and ignore this little piece of blogging info! I'm okay with that. I won't be offended if you don't all rush to your profile and enter your email address.

Personal note to Ali: I really need you to do this or to send me your email address. You've asked some great questions that I want to respond to but not in the context of a blog post and I have NO way to get in touch with you. You can email me at

And credit to Angie for that last paragraph. I "lifted" her instructions from this post which I linked to a few weeks ago and is super informative for bloggers!

*********Updated November '09*****************

The box you need to check is the first one, in the Privacy section, SHOW MY EMAIL. If you don't want your name to appear, create an email address like or something.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meal Planning Part II

Again, let me say that I feel kinda silly sharing this because it's probably stuff that most of you already do anyway. I am NO expert. I am, however, a big believer in doing what works best for your family. What works for me might not work for you, so keep that in mind as you read this.

1. Sit down with the family calendar.
I plan meals two weeks at a time and do my shopping accordingly. 

I find it helpful to sit down with our calendar and look at everything that we have going on in the two-week period I'm planning for. After-school activities mean that I need to plan easy meals, preferably crock-pot meals, on those nights. 

Parties/Get-togethers (like Bunco)? Do I need to bring a dish? We used to get together with our small group for dinner and that was something I needed to factor into my meal planning. Classroom parties? Do I have cookies to make or a snack to bring? Are we having guests for dinner? That usually means I plan dessert. Is John out of town? If so, we have easy, easy meals.

Eating out? We usually plan at least once a month to eat out. Sometimes more, sometimes less. My favorite times of the week to eat out are Friday nights and Sundays after church.

Everything on the calendar gets incorporated into my planning. 

2. Plan meals.
I gather all the grocery store ads and flip through them to see what's on sale. If chicken breasts are .99/lb, you can bet we're having lots of meals with chicken. If roast is on sale, I'll plan to have that too.

I also take a quick inventory of my pantry/freezer and plan around what I have an excess of.

Variety is key. I try to vary meats (chicken/beef/pork/fish) in each two week rotation as well as including some meatless meals (lentils/eggs/potatoes/pancakes).

When I lack inspiration, I ask my family for ideas. They're usually quick to suggest some favorites.

I also like to peruse cookbooks and cooking blogs for ideas. If I find a recipe I want to try, I make a note of the page number and cookbook it was in, or bookmark the website so that I can find it quickly when it's time to prepare the meal.

I also plan the sides to have with our meals. Usually this is a salad, bread, and/or veggie. It seems like we eat lots and lots of salad in the summer and more frozen veggies in the winter. 

3. Make grocery shopping list from meal plan.
I go through the meals I've planned one by one and write down all the ingredients I need to buy. I like to do this a day or two before I go to the store so that I have time to think of other things I need and gives me time to gather my coupons. My list is very specific. If I think of something I know I need as I'm planning menus, then I jot it down at that time. I've been known to forget important things if I don't write them down immediately!

4. Write menu plan in list form and stick on fridge.
I bought this magnetic note pad at the dollar store and I keep a list of all the meals on my menu plan written down on it. Once I prepare a meal, I cross it off the list.

5. Check the menu daily and decide what's for dinner.
I've gotten in the habit over the years of looking at my list each morning and deciding what we're having for dinner that evening. This allows me to think about my day and be flexible when I need to. I don't assign a meal to each day because my schedule isn't always predictable.

After I decide what we're having (I often ask John or one of the kids to choose) I set the meat for that meal down to thaw.

If I'm going to be at home all day, I'll choose make something that requires a little more time and effort. If we have somewhere to go that night, I'll do something easy like tacos or spaghetti. On days that I have a Brownie meeting and get home at dinner time, I make sure I use my crock-pot. 

I also try to be thinking ahead when I select meals each day. For example, I do not like coming home after church on Sundays (starving) and trying to figure out what we're having for lunch, so I try to make something on Saturday night that will ensure we have leftovers the next day. 

My Best Tip

After I got into a regular routine of planning meals and sticking to my plan, I began to look for ways to simplify the process. While I can't tell you that I've found a way to make planning easier or faster, I have found a way to make meal preparation easier.

I buy meat in bulk when it's on sale. When I get home from the store, I "process" it all at the same time. With chicken, I look at my chicken meals and figure out how much I need to cook, then cook it and freeze in meal-sized portions in a labeled ziploc bag (quart size). If the recipe calls for raw chicken, I go ahead and slice/dice it before freezing, saving me a step later.Yes, that's a pumpkin in the background because I took these pictures in October--back before I talked myself out of doing this post!
I've found that freezing meat in ziploc bags works well because they stack nicely (taking up less room in freezer) and they thaw quickly. 

These are all pictures of chicken, but I do the same thing with ground beef. I just cook it all at once and freeze in meal-sized portions. In the summer, we eat lots of burgers, so I make the patties and freeze between sheets of waxed paper. 

In the mornings, I just pull the package out for whatever meal I've decided on and let it thaw. 

This saves time each evening because you've eliminated one cooking step.

It saves clean up too because you make the mess once and you're done.

It has saved us money because it allows me to throw a meal together really quickly. One day not too ago, I forgot to put the meat down to thaw. I was planning on having chili and I didn't realize until 5:00pm that the meat was still frozen. 

It was kids eat free night at our favorite restaurant and we had almost talked ourselves into going, but I realized that by the time we drove to the restaurant, ordered and received our food, I could have the pre-cooked meat thawed (thank goodness for microwaves) and simmering along with everything else in the pot. I got our meal from freezer to table in about 40 minutes. If I'd had to start from scratch that night we would have spent $30+ on dinner.

I also do the same thing with cheese. I buy a 2lb block (Tillamook!) every two weeks, and come home, shred it in my food processor, and store in a gallon sized ziploc bag in the fridge. Saves tons of time when you're throwing a meal together, plus it's cheaper to buy in a block than pre-shredded.

So................there you go.

I'm sure that I'm forgetting things, so I'm going to do a Part III later this week. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer them in that next post. If you have ideas or suggestions, add those too. I'd love for this to be a dialogue!