favorite blogs: Having Fun at Home

This is, hands down my favorite blog of all: Having Fun at Home. The entire site is dedicated to simple, inexpensive and creative ways to have fun and help kids learn.

Because Katey, the writer, has a toddler, most of the ideas are for this age. This is perfect for me since Baby Girl is fast approaching toddlerdom! I have saved almost all of her ideas to use in the not to distant future.

I really appreciate that the ideas are so simple and can usually be done with things you already have around the house. Katey also does a great job of posting regularly (I have no idea how she keeps coming up with this stuff!)

Here are a few ideas I can't wait to try:
Play Soups
Magnetic Flower Arranging
Magnet Letter Game
Pickle Jar Lanterns (this isn't a toddler thing but I love it!)

I highly recommend browsing her site for more fun ideas.


love this

"As the psalmist said, joy cometh in the morning (Ps. 30:5, KJV), but the very anticipation invites it into our night." (Stepping Up, Beth Moore)

Not feeling the joy lately? It's coming in the morning, long for it!


book review: Elijah of Buxton

My 2009 Book List gets a BIG thumbs down. Not that the books aren't good... it's just that I haven't read them!

I got half way through The Reason for God and skimmed Total Money Makeover. Does that count? I'm thinking not.

Recently though, a friend (who teaches Early Childhood Ed/Reading) lent me Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis which has won both the Newberry Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. It's technically considered young adult fiction... a favorite genre of mine, and this book did not disappoint!

Elijah is the twelve year old, born-free, son of former slaves. His family lives in the very real community of Buxton in Southern Ontario, Canada, a town specifically for escaped and freed slaves. The book follows Elijah in his day to day life, the mishaps he gets into with his friend Cooter, time at school, and interactions with others in Buxton. Though Elijah is labeled a "fra-gile" boy, at the end of the story he realizes that love and hope and determination can overcome his fear as he helps a family of slaves who had escaped but were recaptured.

The more I think on this book the more I like it.

I really enjoyed it while I was reading, as I was laughing one minute and in tears the next. But the overarching lessons and history that this book imparts are much further reaching.

- The community of Buxton is built around the townspeople helping one another. Elijah truly is depicted with a spirit of generosity and helpfulness.

- Historically the book is very real. Curtis does not shy away from harshness or horror of slavery, but at the same time, as this is a young adult book, he handles to topic in a manner suitable for young readers

- Self-sacrifice is a theme I see throughout. Mr. Leroy's sacrifice for his family, Elijah's sacrifice to try to help the recaptured slave family, the town's sacrifice of personal wealth for the good and betterment of everyone else, etc.

I highly recommend this book to young readers and older readers alike. This would be a great book for a parent and child to read together and discuss.


WFMW- shopping list organization

It's not beautiful... I'll give you that, but this system of organizing my shopping list works for me!

All I've done here is cut off the front cover of an old three ring binder, the kind that has the clear plastic pocket on the front.

On the clear plastic side I keep my price list (which I keep track of on an excel document with really small type).

I use a large pad with sticky on the top on the other side to keep my regular grocery list (for example, here I was using some prescription pad I got free somewhere).

Any stores I am using coupons at (CVS, KMart, Rite Aid, etc.) but am not buying a TON of stuff at I write the list on a small post-it note, paperclip the coupons together and stick them down in the pocket.

I usually put my small calculator and a pen in the front pocket as well.

I love having everything in one place and it's nice to have a firm surface to make additional notes on or to cross things out on my list I as I put them in the buggy... I can't shop without crossing things off... it just doesn't work.

It's not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but this system works for me. Check out We are THAT Family for other WFMW tips!


favorite blogs: the series

In the next few weeks I'm planning to start a series highlighting my favorite blogs.

This is mainly because I have people ask me often what I read and it's helpful to say, "check out my blog I've highlighted my favorites."

Look for this series starting soon!

cloth diaper update: prefolds

A while back I wrote about my experience with cloth diapers.
I then updated with my thoughts on how solid poo affected my feelings about cloth diapers.

In the past few months I decided to purchas some prefolds and covers to inexpensively increase our stash in the hopes of not using our Bum Genius diapers as much in order to prolong their lives.

I've learned that I LOVE PREFOLDS!

Who would have ever thought it?!

When we first decided to cloth diaper and I began researching all my options I was way too hesitant to try prefolds. They just seemed too complicated to me. But in some ways I have decided they are actually simpler:

- Prefolds are less bulky when traveling. Because they are flat and you don't have to have a ton of covers they fold up very nicely.

- Less laundry. Because covers don't have to be washed after every use this really cuts down on the amount of laundry.

- Prefolds dry more quickly. I hang the covers and they dry in no time on the line the prefolds themselves fluff up quickly in the dryer.

- No leaks! So far we have not had a single leak while using prefolds.

We have tried several different versions of diapers and covers and our preference at this time is:
- Chinese prefolds for day
- Kissaluvs contours for night
- Snappis to fasten
- Thirsties covers (these are by FAR my favorite)
For our next child I'll continue to add prefolds to our stash.
I only wish I knew "then" what I know now!


monday menu

We're back safe and sound from a nice weekend away (albeit with allergies driving us CRAZY).

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday- hamburger helper, green peas, homemade bread (I cannot believe I am posting on the internet that I'm making hamburger helper for dinner... it was practically free with coupons awhile back)

Tuesday- tuna patties and butter/garlic green beans

Wednesday- spaghetti and marinara with shrimp, green beans and homemade italian bread with dipping sauce

Thursday- black beans and rice with corn muffins (this may change if my mom's in town as I'm not sure if she will like black beans and rice... just let me know mom!)

Friday- homemade pizza

Saturday- Refrigerator Magic or Split Pea Soup and muffins (I have been dying to try this soup so I may make it anyway and then just have lots of leftovers at the beginning of the next week)

Sunday- potluck lunch at church- I'll be taking cupcakes and possibly black beans and rice if we don't eat that on Thursday... I just found out about the potluck today so no plans are totally set yet


amazing tuna patties

  • My aunt gave me this recipe and it has become a staple in our meal planning. Jon absolutely loves it... and so do I! Most of the ingredients are things you probably already have on hand.

  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) chicken flavored stuffing mix
  • 2 can tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar (I usually cut this back a tad)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 2 Tbls. sweet relish
  • 3/4 cup water

Mix all. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Using about 1/3 cup of mixture make into patties. Fry on a skillet over medium heat (spray pan with cooking spray! as they easily stick). Cook about 3 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

A few thoughts:

- You can also use chicken for this recipe (my mom made this and used one chicken breast to make the recipe)

- This mix up great in a stand mixer and that is much less messy. Otherwise it is helpful to mix with your hands.

- Since the mix has to sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes this means you can easily mix all this up early in the day when it is convenient and let it set in the fridge until time to cook them up at dinner. Very handy.

- All of these ingredients can be found at Aldi (that makes it an A+ recipe in my book!)


WFMW- "homemade" salsa

In my mind it is impossible to beat homemade salsa... but if the tomatoes aren't super ripe it's no good, so for us it's usually not an option except in the summer. It's also somewhat of an ordeal to dice all the ingredients. This recipe is a great compromise between fresh homemade salsa and store-bought.

Our friends the Snipes brought this to our Mexican-style Easter lunch on Sunday and it was a huge hit. They were gracious enough to leave us a bowl of the leftovers... but I forgot to snap a picture until after it was all gone! It's just that good.

1 can Rotel
1 can italian style diced tomatoes
finely diced onion (to taste)
minced garlic (to taste)
salt (recommend going light on the salt and tasting before adding too much)

That's it. Seriously... that's all there is to it!

Since I'm a self-proclaimed Aldi-aholic and I don't believe they carry the italian style diced tomatoes I will probably try to make this with regular diced tomatoes and add some basil, oregano, italian seasoning, etc. It's at least worth a try.


monday menu

This is somewhat of a short week for us as we'll be heading out of town on Thursday.

Monday- leftover chicken enchiladas from Easter lunch (yes we had Mexican food for Easter)

Tuesday- $2 burritos from Moe's ***

Wednesday- pancakes and bacon

Thursday through Sunday we'll be out of town- we're taking White Chicken Chili, Herb Sticks and Cinnamon Rolls to contribute for the weekend.

*** Yes folks... Moe's has $2 burritos one Tuesday each month! Even the "Homewrecker"... the most massive burrito ever... is only two bucks. It comes with chips and salsa. Check with your local store to see if they offer a deal like this!!! It makes a quick weeknight dinner or a cheap date night!***


free Easter basket

Yes I know the picture is sideways... anyone have ideas on how to fix this?!?!

It's possible to go all out for Easter baskets. I remember a friend in high school who got a new pair of (name brand) jeans for Easter one year. I was jealous. Now I'm just confused... I mean seriously... even if you roll them up real tight jeans can't even fit in an Easter basket!

Since Easter is most definitely not about the basket or the candy or the bunny we wanted to make sure that was not our focus so we're keeping the gifts simple... and in that we are also keeping it free.

The basket was mine when I was little. The "grass" is cut up tissue paper (I'm thinking she'll find this part most intriguing). As participants over at Paperback Swap I found two new to us board books (Runaway Bunny and Good Dog, Carl). Then I used some of a leftover giftcard at Belk to buy a pack of ruffly socks (which I already have determined are probably going to be exchanged for a bigger size).
Most importantly we're looking forward to talking to Baby Girl (even though she won't have a clue at this point what we're saying) about the real gift of Easter, the risen Christ!

Easter lunch

Since we saw my family last weekend and will see Jon's next we are opting for Easter at home this year which I must say I'm looking forward to.

For a while I debated cooking a huge, traditional Easter lunch... ham and all. Then I looked at the food budget and quickly changed gears. Here are our plans for a simple Easter lunch.

We're having three other couples over after church to celebrate with us. We're eating.... drumroll please... enchiladas. Yes folks, we're having a Mexican themed Easter lunch. I'll be cooking two kinds, chicken and bean. One couple is bringing a salad, another an appetizer and another dessert. I'll probably cook up some rice and beans as an extra side.

I borrowed a table cloth and napkins in a pretty springy blue last weekend and for a centerpiece will use my hurricane filled with hand-sewn eggs my Mom has made for me over the years.

It's simple, it's frugal, I'm using a lot of what I have on hand and am not being shy to ask guests to bring a dish to share.

More importantly by not messing with the fuss of a huge meal we can spend the day focusing on what really matters, celebrating the risen Christ!

Check back later to see the free Easter basket I am creating for my daughter and head over to Life as Mom for more Frugal Friday tips!


WFMW- best rolls EVER

Sure they have an "official" name... but for our purposes they are... the best rolls EVER (don't forget to capitalize).

This recipe comes from a long time family friend (and I'm wondering why I just found out about it this weekend!!).

My favorite part is that the dough is refrigerated and you can pinch off just what you need to use each night. What a great way to have hot bread with dinner that I didn't have to actually make that day. Okay... maybe my favorite part is how yummy they are too.

Have I talked these up too much. Just try them for yourself. (Sorry there are no pictures of the finished product... they were eaten... by someone).

2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast (or 2 Tbls.)
1 c. warm water
1 c. shortening (I didn't say they were good for you... they just taste good!)
1 c. sugar (see note above)
1 tsp. salt
1 c. boiling water
2 eggs
6 c. AP flour

Combine yeast and warm water in 2 c. liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

Place shortening, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Add boiling water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and yeast mixture, beating at low speed until blended; gradually beat in flour. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Shape into 1 inch balls; place 3 balls in each greased muffin cup. (I used a little flour on the counter and my hands while doing this).

Cover and let rise in warm place, free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (I let mine rise several hours)

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until lightly browned (don't let them get too brown and crispy! They should be very soft.)

Eat. Preferrably with butter... lots of butter.
Check out We are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday tips!!


do it yourself

My frugal lesson for the week is DIY (Do It Yourself!). We recently discovered that our car's left rear brake light AND turn signal were out. Jon was busy with work and classes all week and wasn't going to have a good chance to look into it and I really wanted to relieve him of the burden to do so.... so I tackled the car issue myself!

At first thought I reasoned... it must be a short... if it's BOTH lights they wouldn't have both burned out at once, right? I called our mechanic (who is exceptional and very honest) who recommended trying to replace the bulb first on my own before bringing it in to the shop. It would be easier and cheaper they said...

Off to the autoparts store. I walked in... baby on hip... and explained my problem. They looked up what kind of bulb our car required in the computer... and the grand total was $6.09! News to me that the turn signal and the brake light are the same bulb! I also got them to show me which screws to undo to get to the old bulb.

Later that day Baby Girl and I trekked out to the car (we live on a college campus and don't have parking close by). I sat her on a blanket in the back so she could watch me while I worked.

I must say... it was rather anticlimatic. Within a few mintues it was fixed! Just like that!
Jon was thrilled and I have so much more confidence now to try fixing things on my own that I previously may not have tackled.
This post is in conjunction with Frugal Friday over at Life as Mom. Check out Jessica's blog for more Frugal tips and to share tips of your own!


happenstance recycling

Here's my Thrifty Green Thursday tip for the week. Check out Green Baby Guide for more tips!
At first glance "happenstance" recycling might not seem very green... we should be intentional about recycling! We do that too... don't fret... but we also recycle by chance.
We don't buy canned sodas in our house. Ever. We drink them occasionally when we're out but we don't buy them.
We have realized however that lots of other people buy them and leave their cans random places. Such as the ground, the trash, in bushes, etc.
So whenever we're out we just keep our eyes open. We pick up a can here and a can there and bring them home, crush them and put them in a bin. It takes a long time to fill up the bin, but we're not in any rush.
Once the bin is full we take it to our local recycling center where it's contents usually net us around 4 bucks... that's the thrifty part. (So after one and a half bins it pays for one meal at our local Japanese express place.)
The tortoise or the hare? We're definitely the tortoise but we're doing our part.