Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Dec 21...and school fundraisers

In order to raise money for new Smart Boards, my kids' school decided to sell cookbooks. It was a great fundraiser. I am usually anti-school fundraisers. I hate spending money for junk, and let's face it, most of the time the things from fundraisers are junk. I also don't like wasting money, so cookie dough is usually overpriced to me. So, I get to be the anti-social parent that doesn't ever send money for anything. Add in that with three kids in a semi-public school with lots of great field trips all at the same time, there's usually not a lot left over for the fundraisers, anyway.

That's why I was so excited about the cookbooks. I love to cook. It was something the kids could participate in and make a meaningful contribution. I just wish mine wouldn't have all been sick the day the recipe submissions were due! We didn't get any of our favorite family recipes added. I am really hoping they do the cookbook every few years so we can get another chance.

The bad news on this is that while the grandparents were more than happy to send a check for the cookbooks, none of them actually wanted a cookbook. Now, I have three copies! I'm going to be on the lookout for someone to gift one of these lovely cookbooks! There has to be at least a half dozen different macaroni and cheese recipes LOL

I'm going to be looking through the book over the coming weeks trying to find some new favorites and I'll post the recipes here. The cookbooks didn't arrive in time for my grocery shopping trip, so no recipes this week from it.

Monday: Pork Stir Fry
Tuesday: Mustard Tarragon Chicken
Wednesday: Beef Pot Roast
Thursday: Beef Curry
Friday: Turkey roast
Saturday: Spaghetti
Sunday: leftovers

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lookee I found...Cool Christmas idea!

Do you all remember back in the 70s and 80s, you could get these mix and match plates with different clothing items and textures on them. You'd put them together and color them and you'd end up with unique pictures? I remember mine had Barbie. It's been a lot of years and I still remember that being one of my favorite toys of all time.

Well, that idea has been totally updated for today's girl. allows girls to create their own fashions, then ORDER them to wear!

Oh. My.'s like my inner little girl dream come true.

I think it would be the coolest gift idea for a little diva. She can make her own outfit. Very unique and be able to wear it! I know my daughter will spend tons of time just deciding what to do.

It starts with a basic template the kids can personalize. Then you order. That simple. But they can spend a lot of time mixing and customizing that, IMO, it would be well worth it.

As a special treat to my readers, twittermoms is offering a great discount

Get $15 off your first purchase at Fashion Playtes!
Use the code TwitterMom15 at checkout.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Socks are the real enemy

I think the title says it all, don't you?

Show of hands for everyone who hates dealing with socks. I know I hate them.

I have long since given up hope of trapping the monster that eats the socks right out of the dryer. My focus is now on the monster that sneaks them out of the laundry basket and prevents them from making them in to the wash in the first place! I think our sock monster prefers dirty stinky smelly socks to clean ones.

My children keep leaving enticing sock snacks all over the house. I have told them so many times that the kitchen is not the laundry. Their dirty smelly socks are not to be kicked off while they are doing homework at the table. I also have been finding socks stuffed under the couch cushions. You can't see me, but I'm shaking my head.

All the men folk in this house wear the same sized socks. Yes, that includes Ben. I swear we have Sasquatch DNA somewhere in the family. The men tend to have big feet and are really hairy. D was until he shaved his head. As for the girls, Leelee and I wear the same size (that is, if i actually wore socks. I have issues with them). Kari, Lizzy and Millie all share the same size.

If you think about it, socks should be easy in this house: Men socks, women socks and baby socks.

No. Nothing is ever easy.

I've tried the mesh bags and putting like socks together. I've washed the socks in the bag, but that only helps if the socks actually make it to the wash.

Once the socks are washed, they go into a big basket. The dreaded sock basket. I'm sure you all have them. I was talking to one mom who's punishment for her children was to make them fold the sock basket. That's just child abuse, right there!

Our sock basket situation is quickly deteriorating. We can't find any matches. It's never been this bad.

It took me awhile to figure out why things are in this crazy sock state. That's when I realized we've been in this house five years! FIVE YEARS! We used to move about every 2-3 years before settling here. And, each time we moved, I'd match what I could find and toss out the rest of the socks. We'd start fresh in the new place.

I know that sounds so terribly wasteful, but the socks drive me crazy otherwise.

This Christmas, everyone is getting new socks and my gift to myself is throwing out 8 people's worth of mismatched socks.

I am fully aware this is not the best solution, and would greatly appreciate to hear from my readers the solutions they've found to destroying the sock monster!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--Dec 14

This Monday is my husband's 39th birthday. I'm sure he's just thrilled that I'm announcing it to the entire world! The kids keep teasing him that now he's officially old. I have reminded the children that official official oldness happens next year when he turns 40.

I know I certainly don't feel my age. And, last time I posted a picture of myself on a forum, someone commented that I looked 12. I keep thinking that's going to come in handy and I'll appreciate my youthful appearance when I'm officially officially old.

This week will also see us very busy. We still haven't gotten around to getting a tree. Not sure when. I'm sort of lobbying for not at all. With the 3 year old, the 8 month old and a cat, the less time the tree is up, the better! Besides, the tree isn't what Christmas is about.

And I also wanted to update on the pantry challenge! I shopped last week just for fresh produce, milk and bread. I spent a whopping $48! And, I don't have to go shopping for anything but bread and milk this week, either...oh and a can of pineapple, but still...$48 for eight people for two weeks is not too shabby! I'll probably spent about $12 this week.

Monday: Hawaiian Meatballs (DH's choice)
Tuesday: Chicken Parm
Wednesday: Beef Stew
Thursday: Pizza
Friday: Church Christmas party (bringing soup and dessert)
Saturday: Lasagna
Sunday: turkey roast

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ruby Pinwheels! Blog Tour!

A few weeks ago, I was presented with the chance to be a stop on the Ruby Pinwheels blog tour. Ruby Pinwheels is a company where organic and natural meet hip and cool. They have eco-friendly and fare trade products ranging from clothes to personal care items.

If you enjoy natural products, they have a very large selection. They have super cute stuff for the holidays.

I love supporting mom businesses. I'm a firm believer that small businesses are going to be the thing that turns this economy around. I really encourage all of you to shop small businesses this holiday season, especially if you are shopping online.

As part of the blog tour, I was given a bottle of Dancing Detangler to try on my girls. Detangler is a big deal in this house, especially with four girls!

First, I want to give props for fast shipment. The turn around time was very quick. I had a question/comment on the item and was also given a quick response. So thumbs up for their customer service!

Back to the detangler. My oldest three girls have some hair issues, and I hate trying to find a detangler that works equally well on all of them. I was also a bit leary of this product because it's all natural. I'm sometimes suspect of all natural products for hair. So I'm going in to this skeptical.

First, we tried it on Leelee. She has thick hair with a bit of wave. Her problem is morning hair. It took a couple spritzes on the underside of her hair and she brushed it out without a fuss. Yay!

Next, we have Lizzy. Her problem is carseat hair. You know, where the hair gets all knotted from riding in the carseat. I didn't carry this around and spritz. I did a preventative layer to see if it would minimize the frizz. The good news is her carseat hair was less than normal.

The biggest test of this was on Danger Girl. Kari has naturally curly hair. In the morning, we call her Medusa. Her hair is *everywhere* and it's big. And when it's humid...*shudder* Her hair has left me, one who always wished for curly hair, praying that I don't have another child with curly hair.

We had to use large amounts of the detangler to get through her morning tangles. Even if she showers and combs her hair out the night before, each morning it's a complete nightmare. While it didn't totally make her hair a dream to brush through, it was a significant improvement. We had a couple low humidity days where all we did was spray the detangler in her hair just to freshen it up a bit. The only thing I really didn't like about it was that it did weigh Kari's hair down, but that probably had more to do with the amount we had to use on her rather than the product itself.

Kari was the only one who commented on the smell. She found it pleasant. The girl who sits next to her in class told her that her hair smelled like grape pie. She's in kindergarten, so who knows what she was trying to say.

I really have to give the ladies at Ruby Pinwheels two thumbs up for their products. I saw so many companies on their website that I hadn't seen before. The selection is very good!

So, go! shop! buy from a small business and buy organic and fare trade!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Pantry and Stash Challenges

I'm all about being frugal wherever I can. I love the idea of a pantry challenge right around Christmas. Use up what you have in the pantry. The end of the year is the perfect time to rotate through food stores. Throughout the year, I tend to stock up on things and well, never use them. I put them in back corners of my pantry and then totally forget about them. We usually buy fresh produce, but I'll buy dented cans of vegetables thinking eventually we'll eat them. I end up with 10 cans of peas or something.

Tonight's dinner was a perfect use it up meal.

I "big family" sized it. You can do the proportions to whatever looks like it will feed your family. D had used one of those infamous cans of peas for his lunch today so I happened to have a freshly opened can of peas to throw in the mix.

Leftover Casserole

2 C of whatever leftover meat you have on hand (I had chopped ham)
1 can cream of whatever soup
various vegetables (I used peas, mushrooms, and green onions)
1/2 C milk
Cooked rice
1 C shredded cheese
2 slices of toasted bread

Mix up the meat, soup, veggies and milk in a bowl. Stir in enough rice to fill up whatever sizes casserole dish will feed your family. Top with shredded cheese. Crumble up the toasted bread on top like bread crumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven til cheese is melted.

I was really surprised at how well received this was. It looked like one of those frightening casseroles from the 1960s recipe books. It probably was in one of those recipe books!

Another thing we've been doing a lot of is baked oatmeal. I love oatmeal on cold winter mornings. Most baked oatmeals call for applesauce. That gets old pretty quickly. My cleaning out the pantry solution is to use jars of baby food. Yes, baby food. Millie has decided she no longer cares for mushed stuff. She wants the real deal. I now have about 60 jars of baby foods in my pantry.

Many of the vegetables are getting used in recipes from Deceptively Delicious. I decided to swap out the applesauce for peaches to get a peaches and cream baked oatmeal! YUMMMY

Baby Food Baked Oatmeal

2 C oats (not instant)
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 C milk
2 T melted butter
3 jars of stage 2 fruit baby food (equivalent of 1 C)

Mix together the oats, brown sugar and baking powder in a casserole dish. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until set.

My other stash challenge going on is to use up my fabric stash. I am growing out of my limited storage. That means I need to actually sew things up. This is being a slow process as everyone has been sick with different things. Last week I had a tooth pulled and was so messed up from those meds it took me a few days to get things back in working order. Then, kids started dropping with a nasty intestinal thing. blech. I think we're healthy now. We'll see how long this actually lasts.

In the meantime, I'm sewing like a mad woman. I have several things cut and ready to go. I just need to keep the little Miss and the Terrorist out of trouble long enough to get it done! I'll be posting pictures of some of my projects in the coming days.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday- Dec. 8

This week, I'm still doing the pantry challenge. I do have to stop at the store this week for some basics like TP and milk. But I'm going to use up what we have. We're going to be eating a lot of rice dishes.

Monday: Pork Fried Rice (using tonight's leftovers) and egg drop soup
Tuesday: Hot Dog Fundraiser at the school
Wednesday: Ham and Rice bake
Thursday: Mexican deep dish pizza
Friday: Katsudon
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Pot Roast

We're hopefully going to get a Christmas tree this weekend, probably Saturday. It's going to be busy, so I may just make a soup in the crockpot. That will leave us the time to get the tree up and not worry about dinner.

I made a big discovery tonight. Did you know you could use cake mixes to make cookies? I had no idea.

The basic recipe I found called for
1 box of cake mix
1 egg
1/4 C water
1/3 C oil
chocolate chips

mix with a spoon. bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

They taste like toll house premade dough cookies! I love those cookies but I can never justify the expense. I haven't figured out how these compare in price using a box of cake mix, but I do know they go together faster than cookies from scratch and they are cheaper than buying the powdered cookie mix.

I also found a few other cookies from cake mix recipes. I'm pretty pleased and now just have to make sure I don't eat them all myself!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

hair bows!

I'm just sharing this picture because I'm so excited! Girl number four and I finally get one that will leave a hair bow in!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Considering Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It's really feeling like Christmas down here in the south! Or at least like I'm used to Christmas. It's cold and rainy, just like Oregon.

With the children, we really have tried to step away from over indulging them. They have very loving and wonderful grandparents who can do that!

The sheer volume of toys and gifts that would come in to the house when we had just three children was overwhelming. Around that time, my mom began giving our family a membership to the zoo. It was a fantastic gift. It didn't take up any space and it got us all out of the house.

This year, my mom isn't getting us a zoo membership. The biggest reason is that most of the kids won't use it and it's not fair to the big kids.

Still, I didn't particularly want the kids to get more toys they'd lose interest in. Our solution was magazine subscriptions! The kids love to get mail and getting a magazine suited to their individual interests is something that will make them happy (and get them reading) all year. When Kari turned 4, my mom gave her a subscription to zoo books. Two years later, she's still looking at those magazines and learning. This year, she's getting Highlights!

Another way we are curbing the present overload is getting one large gift for the family to play with. Last year, we got a Wii. Grandma and Grandpa S helped with that one. The kids all received some games, too. This year, the same grandparents contributed towards a new TV. That one was a bit hard to hide from the kids and it's already set up in the living room. We really needed one as the old one was built last century and had a green spot.

The idea of a family gift was one that we discussed with the kids. We asked them if they wanted a bunch of smaller gifts or one large gift for the family. Kari was the only dissenting vote as she wanted ice skating lessons, and let's face it...Kari aka danger girl on ice skates is either going to be very good or very very very bad, as in amputated finger or something bad.

An idea for Christmas I really fell in love with followed this little rhyme:

Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read

How great is that? It makes shopping and idea finding very easy! Based on that little rhyme, my holiday shopping is just about over.

Christmas isn't about gift overload. It's about the birth of Jesus Christ. We've already been given the greatest gift from Him. And, it's our job as parents to show that Love to others and teach our children how to do the same. When Christmas becomes about the presents, it really loses it's meaning. I don't want that for my kids.