Save 40% off photo books, calendars, and cards 5×5 or larger. Use the code to help preserve all the memories from the recent holiday season. Also, new customers will receive 50 free prints.
I ordered my Christmas cards and prints from Shutterfly and received several compliments on the quality and color.
Disclaimer: This post contains my referral links.
December 7, 2013
Each year, I enjoy making ornaments with my students. I try to find ornaments that aren’t too expensive or time consuming. Here is a video that shows how to make handprint Santa ornaments. I made this video a few years ago with my children. We made several of these to give away to aunts and grandparents. Enjoy!
Here is a picture of one I made a few years ago. I was teaching pre-k so I laminated these so that they would last longer.
You might also like these Snowmen Ornaments.
November 10, 2013
This is the time of year to try new recipes of chilis, soups, and beans. I love to throw something in the crockpot and not have to spend hours in the kitchen. Fall brings about a desire to try something new. Yesterday while I was perusing the shelves at Harris Teeter I saw bags of beans. The one labeled “15 Bean Soup” caught my eye. I decided to pick up the bag and bring it home, but upon reading the suggested recipe I knew I needed to make things a little more interesting.
On a side note, I’m blogging this recipe not just for your benefit, but for mine as well. I can’t tell you how many times I browse my blog and go ‘Oh yeah, I haven’t made that in a while!’
If you like your food very flavorful, you might want to use twice as many seasoning than listed below. I tend not to measure so these are probably conservative measurements.
Check out my new soup bowls. I have been wanting a set of new soup bowls for a long time but haven’t been able to find what I wanted (and was willing to pay). Hubby and I were in Sam’s Club a few weeks ago and I saw these bowls. They were $15 for 4 bowls. They weren’t terribly expensive but since we had so much other stuff to purchase that day, I just couldn’t bring myself to put them in the cart. While I was in line, hubby left and came back with the bowls. I’m glad he did.
- 1 lb bag of 15 bean soup
- 1 onion diced
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 3 large cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp. lime or lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 cube chicken bouillon
- 1 28 oz can tomato purree or petite diced tomatoes
- 1/2 lb sliced ham or smoked sausage
Soak beans in water overnight. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Saute diced onions in oil for 5-7 minutes until onions are soft.
In a crockpot, add all of the ingredients listed above, including the soaked beans and cooked onions. I also added the seasoning packet that came with the beans. Cover beans with water (I think I used two of the tomato sized cans full of water). Cook in the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with corn bread.
Whenever I have ham for supper I freeze the leftovers and use it in soaps and casseroles. The leftover ham made this a very inexpensive recipe. The bag of beans was about $1.60. The tomatoes were buy 2 get 3 free. I ended up making a big pot of 15 bean soup for about $2.50. There is also enough left to use for tomorrow’s lunch. Yummy!
November 5, 2013
For years we have heard the expression, “follow your heart”. Whom do you date? Whom do you love? Whom do you marry? The decision is usually based upon following your heart. Roxette sang a famous catchy song that says, “listen to your heart”. Following your heart seems to be the popular answer. When faced with a decision, people will quickly tell you to follow your heart. They’re not giving you an answer or some type of guidance — they’re basically telling you to do whatever feels right or whatever it is that you want to do.
The problem is, my heart is deceitful. It can’t be trusted. Jeremiah 17:29 says that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick.
Our hearts tell us to be rude to someone that upsets us. The truth is they are having a bad day and need grace.
Our hearts tell us to talk about a friend that annoys us. The truth is that we should be loyal and discuss the issue and work it out.
Our hearts tell us to leave our spouse and to seek comfort in another mate. The truth is our mate is our gift. No one else knows us like they do.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:19
Those are pretty strong accusations. Solomon is considered to be one of the wisest men that ever lived. He warned us to “guard our heart above all else”. God’s idea is not that we would follow our heart, but that we would guard it.
The problem is, our emotions lie to us. They tell us we’re not pretty enough, not thin enough, not good at our job, that people don’t like us, that our spouses are lousy, that we could do better, and that we need things we can’t afford.
Emotions aren’t bad things. It’s important to realize that they are emotions; they are not dictators.
Feelings are indicators, not dictators. ~Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministries
Feelings can indicate where your heart is in the moment but that doesn’t mean they have the right to boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings!
photo from kidultchia
October 15, 2013
Download or order your free cookbook from Sun-Maid. The cookbook is packed with 30 kid-friendly recipes using the whole ingredients moms love. It is available as a FREE PDF download or you can order the printed book while supplies last!
Here is a sample recipe to try.
2 c. biscuit baking mix
1/2 c. Sun-Maid Natural Raisins
1/2 c. sour cream
3 T. milk
2 T. butter, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. nuts, finely chopped
1/2 t. cinnamon
Garnish: raisins, sliced almonds
In a bowl, stir together baking mix, raisins, sour cream and milk until just combined. Gently gather dough into a ball on a floured tea towel.
Knead 10 times. Roll out dough into a 12” x 10” rectangle. Spread dough with butter. Mix together brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.
Starting at a long end, roll up dough tightly. Cut roll into 12 slices. Place 6 slices, cut-side down, on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
Unroll remaining 6 rolls and place on cookie sheet touching one of the rolled cinnamon rolls; fold ends under and shape into bunny ears.
Pinch dough to secure. Arrange raisins and almonds to look like eyes, noses and teeth. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden. Makes 6.
September 29, 2013
This morning I decided to stay home from church. Anyone that knows me, knows that I normally don’t do this. I started feeling a little yucky yesterday from what I’m sure is seasonal allergies. I LOVE fall but am not particularly thrilled with the allergy issues that come with each season change. I took two Benadryl last night and I think I had a little bit of a Benadryl hangover this morning. I was grouchy and sensitive to noise. When I got up in the middle of the night to potty (yes, I am a teacher so I use the word potty), I ran into the wall in my bedroom. Ahem . . . Stop laughing! Ok, go ahead. haha. My nose is still a little sore.
After my family left I decided to enjoy some quiet time on the couch. I’m all snug with my afghan and sole custody of the remote. :) As I was lying here and trying to enjoy the thought of nothing to do except nap, I had the dreaded feeling that I needed to have a meal ready for my family when they returned home this afternoon.
What could I cook that is fast and most importantly EASY so that I can get back to the couch? I suddenly remembered that I have precooked hamburger in the freezer. When ground beef goes on sale, I like to buy some extra and precook it to freeze. It comes in very handy for chili, spaghetti, Manwich, and other meals. It sure helps speed up the cooking process on weeknights.
Below are pictures of what I used. There are two pictures since I forgot a few things in the first picture.
To make things as low cost as possible, I use the stockpile method. This is where I stock up on things my family uses when they are at rock bottom prices. If I remember correctly, the beans were 2/$1 at Harris Teeter and the corn was 2/$1 at Piggly Wiggly. I usually buy a large container of minced garlic from Sams Club or Walmart. The large container of taco seasoning was purchased at Sams. The frozen green chilis were a close out clearance item from Harris Teeter. I was excited to get these. Green chilis are normally $1-1.40 per can. I got this large container for only $1. I purchased two of them for my freezer. I used about 2 tbsp. of green chilis and a quart jar of my canned tomatoes in place of using Rotel tomatoes. As mentioned above, the ground beef was purchased on sale, cooked, and frozen. Years ago when I was staying at home, I might already have precooked beans in the freezer. This is definitely a money saver, but as Sweet Brown says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”.
I don’t remember the exact cost of everything pictured, but I would estimate it to be around $6-7 for a large crockpot full of taco chili. This will probably be enough for two meals or one meal and some lunches this week. Of course, we’ll top it with sour cream and cheese and serve it with tortilla chips. This will put our cost right around $5 per meal, which is a nice target price. This chili also freezes well.
For more instructions on making this chili, click on the recipe for taco soup/taco chili. I call it whichever comes to mind first. This is not an exact recipe. I use different kinds of beans sometimes. Feel free to modify it to your liking.
September 28, 2013
A few years ago I posted about this issue in an article, Have You Set Up Boundaries in Your Life? Today I needed to elaborate a bit.
It seems every family has them — these “adults” that never seem to grow up. They end up staying with relatives, eating their food, and not contributing a fair share of the bills. I am so puzzled by this. Why in the world would someone pay for an adult’s monthly expenses? I mean, if you go to work and work hard each day to earn a paycheck to pay your bills, why would you enable someone else not to do the same?
Eventually these families grow very irritated with these moochers and yet for some reason they lack the nerve to do anything about it. I honestly think they feel trapped. When they ask the person for money, the person usually says they can’t afford it. It is strangely interesting though that many of these live-ins can afford a new car, going out for frequent lunch dates, new clothes, a cell phone with data package, and a whole list of other necessities that I don’t have.
As you might imagine from this post, this is a very touchy subject for me. Many times I have seen my loved ones at the receiving end of these adolescent adults. Perhaps they are poor managers of money but usually, they are just not forced to grow up. I mean why foot the bill when someone else will do it for you? I honestly can’t imagine treating someone this way. My parents raised me to show respect for others and sucking someone dry is not showing respect.
Sometimes these adolescent adults might even give a little money each month and they usually feel very good about it . . . as if they are somehow helping out or doing someone a favor. Let me tell you something — the $150 contribution is only a drop in the bucket for the electric, water, internet, phone, mortgage, and food. Don’t let it ease your conscience.
Please understand that I am not talking about college students or adult children with health problems. There are exceptions but these are few and far between.
These adult leeches are something I still see on a regular basis. It upsets me for many reasons – I think the major reason being that it is disrespectful to the people I love.
Personally, I think there are a few ways to handle this situation.
1. You could give the person a reasonable timeline to move out. That would enable them enough time to save up some deposits. Honestly, I think they should already have some money set aside since they have been mooching off of others. They probably don’t though, since they are poor money managers.
2. You could give them a reasonable amount to pay. Take into consideration the things they are using and if they are eating your food. Come up with a fair amount. If they are eating your food and stay there every day, you might decide they should pay $500 per month. If you live in an expensive area or have a mortgage payment, it might be more. Tell them that you can’t foot the bill for them and that they shouldn’t expect it. Let them know that you expect that amount next month and every month after that or they can find another place to live. This enables them to continue to live with you and have responsibilities at a fair and shared rate or they can decide to move out and pay a higher rate.
It’s time to quit enabling people and make them grow up!
A few other articles that might interest you:
Adolescence: A modern plague, but there is a cure by Matt Walsh
image by suitee
September 15, 2013
The beginning of school is exhausting! It is the busiest time of the year for me. Even experienced teachers that have been teaching the same grade level for many years are at school late each night. This is my second consecutive year in first grade. Although it is a bit easier this year, there is still lots to do!
Last week I came home from work and had a prepattied meatloaf waiting for me in the refrigerator. This was something I had made during the summer when I had a little more time on my hands. I only had to prepare mashed potatoes and green beans while the meatloaf cooked in the oven.
I have been on the lookout for some easy weeknight meals that are also inexpensive. While at Sam’s Club I noticed that they had a 2 lb. roll of Jimmy Dean sausage for only $5. I decided to pick some up so that I could premake sausage balls for the freezer.
I simply mixed 2 lbs. of sausage with 2 cups of baking mix such a Bisquick, and 1 pound of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix the sausage and baking mix together first until well mixed and then add the cheese and mix together. If you are only using 1 pound of sausage, use 1 cup of baking mix and 8 oz of cheese. Some recipes call for 3 cups of baking mix per pound of sausage. I found this to be way too bready for our family’s taste. Make these however you choose; the recipe is very adaptable.
After mixing up the ingredients, I rolled up the mixture in small balls. Normally I would put them on a cookie sheet and bake them. Since I was freezing them, I put them on parchment paper. I popped them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so and then put them in a Ziploc freezer bag and into the freezer for later use.
Quick freezing the sausage balls is not necessary. Some people simply put them into Ziploc bags. I chose to freeze them first so that they wouldn’t stick together.
When you’re ready for the sausage balls, put as many as you need into the refrigerator to thaw. You could probably cook them from frozen. I’ve never done it though.
Spray your pan with cooking span and bake them at 350F for 20 minutes or so, or until brown. I like mine a little crispy.
Sausage balls can be eaten hot or cold. I have taken them out on a boat ride for an easy on-the-go lunch. You can serve them as appetizers, at a baby or bridal shower, or as part of a meal. I also put them in my children’s lunches to give them some variety. They are very versatile.
What is your favorite freezer friendly meal?
August 14, 2013
Sometimes when I see the way the rest of the world lives I wonder how they afford it. Sometimes I wonder what they think of me. I don’t drive a nice car. I don’t have fancy clothes. I try not to think about it much. I’m not living my life for them anyway. It is very apparent though that there are some things my family does to cut back on expenses. Sometimes we do these things just because we can and because we like to save money. Right now though, many of these are necessities to getting by every month.
Some things on this list may seem crazy to you. That’s ok. I was considering a few titles for this post. One had the word “crazy” and another had the word “extreme”. I don’t think these are extreme or crazy so those didn’t seem to fit in the title. Perhaps these items will make you think and wonder if you could do one or two of these to help save your family some money.
We don’t make coffee runs. I enjoy my coffee just as much as anyone but I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on an indulgence. Coffee can cost $2-5 per cup. I can make a lot of coffee at home for that price. I know of some folks whose coffee habit cost them over $100 per month. That’s a lot of money! I don’t mind getting a coffee treat every now and again, but these treats might be once a month. They are certainly not a daily habit.
We don’t have a car payment. You may be wondering how in the world I can have three cars in my driveway and no car payment. I have always been a frugal gal, but about 7 years ago my hubby and I took Financial Peace University classes at our church. We sold our van. Actually we paid the dealership $1,000 to take it back. Yes, that hurt. Since then we have been buying used vehicles. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $700 car to get us by for a year until we can afford something better or a $3000 vehicle that we can drive for a while, we pay cash. Some people say that they want a car that they don’t have to worry about or they say they can’t afford to make repairs. If I’m not paying $350-500 per month in a payment, I can easily justify making some repairs from time to time.
We limit hair appointments. When my hubby was in the Marines, he got plenty of experience cutting hair while on ship. He cuts his hair and my son’s hair. That alone saves us about $200 or more per year. I also limit my hair appointments. To be honest, I don’t go to the salon as much as I would like. It makes me cringe to spend that much money on my hair. I have longer hair so I can get by without making frequent visits to the salon. If you have a regular appointment scheduled for every six weeks, maybe try to go seven or eight weeks and see how it goes. You might be able to go another week or two which will save you money over time.
We don’t get manicures and pedicures. While nails look attractive, I can’t really spare an extra $40 for my nails to look good.
We don’t smoke. Smoking is an extremely expensive habit. Enough said.
We haul off our own trash. When we lived in the city, it was nice to roll our trash out to the curb every week and not worry with it. Of course, we paid for trash removal in our city taxes. Now that we have moved to another part of the state, they do things differently around here. In some areas you pay per bag. We just decided to make trips to the landfill. Every two or three weeks my hubby and son haul off all of the trash and recycling. I’m guessing that this saves us about $50 per month.
We do our own yard work. Well, actually, my hubby does the yard work. :) He mows the grass, uses the weed eater, puts out grass feed, and whatever else needs to be done.
We drink water. When we go out to eat we always order water. The exception is if the kids’ meals come with a drink. Think about it — If your family of four goes out to eat and orders four drinks, that will cost you around $8. There’s quite a bit of savings for choosing water. Even at home we drink water. Sodas and sugary drinks aren’t good for us anyway. We have a water system in our house and another filter on our refrigerator so we just drink it from the tap.
We pack our lunch. When I was in college and worked at a restaurant, I would see people that came in to eat lunch every day. Every day! Eating out every day is so expensive. I’m not saying I don’t like to eat out. Trust me, we like to eat out. When we do, it is using coupons, sharing meals, or as a treat. It is not an every day thing. I have also seen people eat in the school cafeteria every day. Those $3, $5 or more each day add up quickly. I try to pack leftovers, a sandwich, and I try to keep things like peanut butter and hummus at school for those days when I’m extra hungry or I don’t have time to prepare something. You know what? I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say he also packs his lunch. He can afford to go out to eat and chooses not to because it’s not a frugal option.
We limit costly entertainment options. I can’t even tell you the last time I went to the movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going to the movies. I just can’t see paying such high prices just to watch a movie. We have learned to look for free and cheap events in our area. Whether it be a trip to the beach, a museum, state park, parade, or a festival, we find things to do. I look online for happenings in our area. There are also free pamphlets and papers listing events. Do a google search and see what you can find. These kinds of events are more memorable for our children and are certainly better for our budget.
We don’t have a dog. I know that dogs are like a part of the family and if I had a dog, I certainly wouldn’t get rid of it just to save money. But I don’t have a dog and right now another animal is not on my list of priorities. Dogs are expensive — the shots, deworming, medicines, vet bills . . . whew I am seeing visions of dollar signs. I love animals and I have two cats. This is just one of the things my husband and I have agreed not to spend money on right now.
We constantly look for good deals. My husband and I tend to be conservative on our purchases. Rather than going out and spending $200 on a camera we see in store, we’ll spend two or three hours at home reading about the camera and looking for reviews. Instead of buying our clothes full price we shop the clearance racks or look for great sales. I just shopped a back to school sale on a tax free weekend and used a $10 coupon and bought myself some shirts for work. I try to know the cycles for when items are at their lowest prices. For example, I know that Target has deeply discounted toys twice each year. I know that November and December are the months when cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups will be the cheapest. We try to be good stewards of our money and make it go the farthest that we can.
We don’t have the latest in technology. In fact, I don’t even have a smart phone. I just can’t see spending $30 or more each month. This equals almost $400 per year! We don’t have iPads or iPhones. My son just recently got a used DS. haha. Contrary to what many people think, technology is not a necessity. It’s not air and water. If your job requires you to have a smart phone, then so be it. Checking facebook, twitter, and email on the go is not essential.
When possible, we buy used. This can include toys, furniture, bicycles, etc. (The exception is used mattresses.) Some of my favorite pieces in my home are used. I like the thrill of finding a unique item. I am also teaching my children the value of buying used. A few years ago my daughter wanted some Polly Pocket toys. She went to Target with her birthday money and came home with one small toy for $14. She was sad at how little she got for the money. I told her I would look online to see what I could find. We ended up finding a big box of Polly Pocket stuff – mall, pool, clothes, dolls, etc for $40. The cost of these things would have been over $200 new. My children have learned that they get more for their money this way.
We pay cash. This is probably the biggest way that we save money. We just moved into our new home seven months ago. I would love to have new blinds and curtains throughout my home. New wall hangings, shower curtains, rugs, I could go on. If I just swipe that credit card I can have it all now. The problem with that is, there comes a day to pay our debts and with interest. I choose not to be in bondage of debt. Sure, I would really like to have those things but for now, I am trying to be thankful for all of the other wonderful things I have and know that in time I will furnish my home.
I know that these tips may not work for everyone but they help my family out tremendously. I’m estimating that these things alone keep my family from spending over $10,000 each year! In what ways does your family save money?
image source: kwod from sxc.hu
August 6, 2013
It’s hard to believe it has been two years since the helicopter was shot down in Wardak province, Afghanistan killing 31 U.S. troops. Of the Navy SEALS that were killed 15 were members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six. A long time family friend Chris Campbell was one of those killed.
Chris’ request was that if anything happened to him in combat, that his family wouldn’t focus on his loss. His wish was that people would focus on wounded troops. Chris requested that 100,000 people donate $1 to Wounded Warriors to help our wounded troops that have given so much for their country. Chris’ family and friends are dedicated to seeing his request fulfilled.