Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frugal Living - Slow Cooker & Batch Prep

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to bake, but I despise cooking.  The drudgery of deciding what to make every night is draining to me.  The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away so there isn't a "wing it" dinner.  Meals need to be planned to make sure we have all the ingredients.

Since I hate cooking, I love my slow cooker.  Throw some food in and let it go.  It's done when I get home.  How can it get any better?  Well, if I had a personal chef it would be better, but I don't, so I do this.

After work today, I did the drudgery of shopping.  I had my meals planned and my list in hand when I hit my Aldi store to get all my groceries.

When I got home, I prepped everything and put it in labeled bags with any additional instructions.  For my Tortellini Soup, I need to add the tortellini about an hour before serving, so that instruction is on the bag.

All my veggies were cut at one time and nothing needed to be cooked ahead, so there are no dishes.  Another benefit of slow cooker or crock pot cooking.  Usually the only thing you need to wash is your crock pot.  It took me an hour to get everything together and I have 12 meals prepped.  All I have to do is pop them in the crock pot before I leave in the morning.

I do have ingredients for spaghetti as a back up in case I forget to dump something in the slow cooker before I leave in the morning.

On our menu for the next couple of weeks.....

Swiss Steak
Tortellini soup
Chicken & Dumplings
Cheesy chicken & rice
Soup pork chops  (pork chops with a can of chicken & rice soup)
Beef stew
Chicken leg quarters (add a packet of onion soup mix and some water) and I am making extra so I have leftover chicken to make a stir fry.
Balsamic vinegar chicken (this is a regular oven recipe that I'm making in the slow cooker instead)
BBQ Pork Chops
BBQ Chicken breast

If you're on Pinterest, you can find most the recipes on there.  I make life as easy as I can.

The great thing is that most of these recipes are naturally gluten free for those that need to follow a special diet, and they are pretty healthy so I can keep on track with my weight loss program.

Now I can settle in for the night and get my other chores done, knowing that cooking won't be on my agenda for the coming weeks.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Product Review - Embellish Magnetic Scrapbooking

I love, love, love this new product.  I don't have time to do scrapbooking, but I love showing off pictures and I love to decorate for the holidays.

This product allows you to show off your pictures while decorating at the same time.  There are magnets available for so many occasions.  Weddings, babies, various holidays, sports, musical interests and so on.

And the colors can be done to coordinate with your decor, school colors or other interests.

I made these frames for my in-laws for Mother's Day and Father's Day.  My mother-in-law teaches music education and her school colors are red and black.  My father-in-law is much more "rustic" so his was the more metal look.

You can also make home decor with them.  Does your family have a favorite saying?  Words are available in different sayings.

Have I told you how much I love this product?

Check out the Magnetic Scrapbook Store to find great products.  If you have a particular interest that you don't find on the site, call 1-877-848-8300.  You can also check out the Facebook page to get more ideas.

Have fun with it.  There are so many possibilities.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cleaning Make Up Brushes

Yes, this post is labeled under health.  After what I just witnessed, you'll agree with me when you get done reading.

Your face is clean when you put your make up on, right?  Therefor, your make up brushes shouldn't get gunked up, right?  So very wrong.

Like most women I've read about cleaning my make up brushes, but I didn't put much thought into it.  I haven't dropped them in the toilet or anything, so they should be pretty clean.  Yeah, no.

Today I was avoiding other chores had some spare time, so I decided to give it a shot.

1) Run your brushes under lukewarm water.

2) Put a little bit of gentle soap into your hand (baby soap or other similar soap) and swirl your brush in your hand.

3) Don't gross out by what you see.  OK, that's not in the formal directions, but when you see what comes out, you will be grossed out.

4) Rinse under running water until water runs clear.

5) Lightly brush your now clean brushes on some paper towel.

6) Lay your brushes on a clean towel to air dry.

It doesn't take much time and I really recommend doing this.  My blush brush was the worse.  Clumps of things came out.  No matter how clean your face is, you still have natural oils and things on your face, and they get into your brush.

You're supposed to do this weekly, but well, you probably aren't going to.  Do it as often as you can.  It really is healthier for your body.  You wouldn't put a dirty toothbrush in your mouth. Don't use dirty brushes on your face either.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Do you want a healthy version of an oatmeal cookie that you can serve your kids for breakfast?  Or need a breakfast that you can eat on the run?  This is what happens in my house.  I'm lucky if I roll out of bed and am awake, much less eating a healthy breakfast.  I developed this recipe.

These are a little bit denser than a regular muffin.  Kind of a cross between a muffin and oatmeal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/3 C butter - melted
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C quick cooking oatmeal (not the instant packets)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (or more if you like cinnamon)
1 C raisins (or other dried fruit)

Mix together the butter, sugar, and egg.  Slowly add in dry ingredients, adding milk to keep the mixture moist.  Still until just combined.  Stir in raisins.

Scoop into muffin liners with an ice cream scoop.  This should make 12 nice sized muffins. They're not going to rise a bunch, so you can fill them almost to the top.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

If you like, you can sprinkle the muffins with a cinnamon and sugar mix before baking.  The oatmeal adds bulk and fiber to help keep your child full longer.  They also make a great after school snack when they want something sweet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage and Parenting

I read a book recently, called The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell.  A marriage is put to the test when a teen girl is dropped on the family's doorstep claiming to be the biological daughter of the husband.

This is a Christian based book so it is about the journey of faith of this family, in addition to how the family is shaped by the change.

There were several paragraphs that struck me.  If you are married or have children, you will be able to relate to them, especially if there are challenges in your marriage, such as children with special needs.

"Marriage isn't easy.  You both have to work at it, and I'm sure you know that.  Love is a choice, not a feeling.  We choose to love our mate even when the feelings aren't there, because it's what we promised to do.  The feelings follow the commitment.

Being a parent is much the same.  There are times we almost wish we could run away and not have to deal with the problems our children bring us.  But God placed them in our lives for a reason.  Sometime it's for their growth, sometimes for ours."

Any marriage goes through good and bad times.  There are things that happen in some marriages that can destroy it.  I've seen it happen.

When one person is working at the marriage, and the other is not, resentment can grow like you can't believe.  Marriage is between two people, not one.  The partner being taken advantage of must speak up in order for the marriage to survive.

Being a parent is hard work too.  Yes, there are times I have wanted to walk away from it, especially when we were going through the worst stuff with our son.  Often times I have wondered if he gained anything by being in our family.  I think he's gained a few things, but all he ever wanted was to be with his birth family.  I do know that I have grown and changed, drastically, because of what we have been through.

One thing I want people reading this to take away is the statement, "Love is a choice, not a feeling."

In the book it refers to the marriage.  I challenge you to think about those of us who are parenting children who have been abused and/or neglected.  Our children have a choice to love us.  Some do and some don't.  Our daughter loves us.  Our son....I'm not so sure.  I think he loves us to the level he is capable of loving anyone, but it's not anywhere near a "normal" relationship.

When you look at a family that is struggling, remember that the child was placed in that family.  The child doesn't receive a "love transplant" upon placement.  As hard as we try, we can't make a child love us, anymore than we can make a spouse or significant other love us.  Think of a time when you had a crush or were "in love" with someone who didn't return those feelings.  Were you able to "make" that person feel something for you that you didn't feel?  That's how it is with our kids.  Trust me.  If there was a way to make our children feel true love, we would do it!!!

I know there are people reading this that will be able to relate, and to you I say, You are Not Alone!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frugal Living - Batch Cooking

I have an 11 year old girl with a fabulous metabolism.  A bowl of cereal will not keep this kiddo full for any length of time.  She eats big breakfasts.  Once a month or so, I will spend a couple of hours making up breakfasts for her.  Good, healthy, filling breakfasts.

I'm also a mean mom.  I don't buy Pop Tarts or Toaster Strudel or any of the other things that kids WANT to eat.  It's just not healthy.  As a general rule, I use as little processed food as possible.  That's not to say it's 100% processed free, but I cook from scratch as much as possible.  I'm trying to teach her better eating habits that I have developed.

This is what I made today.  Starting in the center and going left... Stone Fruit Pancakes (peaches, nectarines, and plums), peanut butter and banana oatmeal squares, pumpkin scones, ham/egg/cheese biscuits, blueberry muffins and oatmeal raisin muffins.  This will last about six weeks.

Peanut butter oatmeal bars

My daughter has taken an interest in cooking, so she has started helping in the preparations.  The only processed food is the biscuits.

Press some canned biscuits into the bottom of a muffin tin, top with scrambled eggs, ham and cheese and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

All of  these things will be frozen and she will just microwave them in the coming weeks.  These are all things she likes, and they're easy to make.  They are certainly healthier than many other options, and gives her servings of fruit she might not eat otherwise.  They are much higher in protein than cold cereal and have nutrients that aren't high in other foods.

Pumpkin Scones

And because I cook with the seasonal ingredients, I can save money.  The cost per serving is significantly lower than pre-made things, especially when you have a child who eats larger quantities.

The best thing is, you cook once and clean up once.  I'm not the June Cleaver type who is going to get up every morning and cook a hot breakfast and I certainly don't run a short order kitchen!!  My daughter can choose what she wants, and she gets some input into what I make. She also takes great pride when she eats something she helped prepare.  If she wants to help cook, I'm not going to turn down help.  What do you think I am?  Crazy?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What I Did this Summer

Many kids start school with the "What I Did this Summer" assignment, so I'll share mine.

This was a crazy summer for me.  I did A LOT of traveling.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day I was on five different trips.  Let me say, this is highly unusual for me.  I don't travel this much in two years, much less in one summer.

I started with a trip to Houston to see my best friend and to watch her daughter graduate high school.

The graduate isn't in the picture because she was off getting ready for graduation, and she'd probably kill me anyway.

I was home until mid-July, which began my insanity.  My friend, Katrina, and I went to visit my friend, Nancy.  She had lost her mother a few weeks prior and we went to spend some time with our friend.  Nancy is the founder of the Attachment & Trauma Network.  I met her in 2004 when we first got a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder.

It is because of Nancy that our daughter is in our home, but it's a bit of a long story.  I will forever be grateful for the gift that she gave us, and the gifts she has given to so many families.

After a week at home, it was time to leave again.  I set off to Pennsylvania with four other adults and seven youth from our church.  We went to do a week long service trip with Week of Hope.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  It was my first time doing prolonged mission work.  I'd never done anything more than a day or a weekend, so it was a new experience.  We spent a long time traveling (14 hours each way) and with each other, but it was worth it.

The friends we made and the lessons we learned were amazing.

We returned home for, literally, two days before we set off again.  This time we left as a family.  We went to Colorado with my in-laws for a trip that my husband took often as a child and teen.  It was the first time our whole family was together in over ten years.  The chance to be together again and for us to experience things that my husband did was extraordinary.

For a girl who doesn't like heights, I did OK with being up at 13,000 feet on the top of a mountain.  A little hint - don't look down!!

After that it was home for a couple weeks, ending my summer with a quick trip to Atlanta.  This was the most "work" oriented trip.  ATN was proud to host the Southern premier of a movie called "The Boarder", about a child with attachment disorder and how it affects the family.  It was a very worthwhile weekend.  I love the chance to connect with my fellow ATN staff and Board Members, as well as meeting the families that we work with.

In this picture are Executive Director, Julie Beem along with Board Members and staff, Tanya Bowers-Dean, Stephanie Garde and myself.  Along with the movie, we hosted a resource expo for families to find services and to meet other families.  After the evening showing, we hosted a small appetizer and cocktail reception.  After 12 hours on our feet, we were ready to sit down, but spent a couple of hours staying up and talking.

And now I am home and will be for the next several months.  Every one of these trips was worth it!  I am paying for it now in weight gain and fatigue, but I will get back on my feet.  The memories are ones I will carry with me for years to come and will certain bring light on dark days.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of these memories.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's Hard to Care

Back in January I blogged about my need to lose weight.  Yeah, well, that didn't happen.

Today I had to shop for a size larger jeans.  I hate the way I feel.  I hate the way I look.  I hate how much effort it takes to keep weight off.  I hate exercise.  I hate cooking.

I've lost the weight before and I know how hard it is to do.  It's so much easier to put it on. We all want the magic pill that will take the weight off with no effort.  Unfortunately, that's not an option.

I'm in a bad spot right now where I hate how I look, but getting up the energy to care and do something about it.  I'm physically and emotionally exhausted.  This summer was crazy with five trips over the summer.  I don't travel that much in two years, much less in one summer.  It threw everything off with my body.

I'm also dealing with the hormonal changes of aging, and the fact that the meds that I take to help with my allergies and migraines also cause weight gain.

I know I'm not the only person that feels this way.  If there was an exercise that I liked, it would be much easier.  Earlier this week I went to a Zumba class with my friend and co-worker, Carol.  She has been doing Zumba regularly, and she looks fabulous!! She really loves it.  I did enjoy the class, but my knee did not.  It locked up several times and caused some pretty severe pain.  Because of my knee issues, anything high impact is out.  I wish I could swim, but there are no pools easily available where I live.  The only pools are in schools, so the schedules are very difficult to manage.

I did "enjoy" an aerobic yoga when I did my big weight loss.  I was ready to start that back up again, but couldn't find the DVD.  I bought a new one today and I will force myself to get up early and get back at it.

I know that weight loss and emotional issues go hand in hand.  Losing weight will help my emotional health.

I need motivation.  Does anyone have any extra laying around??  Does anyone want to "buddy up" and hold each other accountable?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Frugal Living - Back to school sale

The kiddos are back in school.  Anyone else doing the happy dance?

So why would I recommend a back to school sale after the kids are in school?  I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know how to find a bargain.

Yep, that big word - SALE!  Now is the time to pick up office supplies, sheets, towels, lamps, rugs and many other things.

The things that didn't sell for the college kids are all priced down now.  Some of the things may not be the colors you want, such as sheets and towels, but you may be able to find what you're looking for, or something you can compromise on.  It's also a great time to pick up things for the kids or snag deals for next year.

I had to go to Walmart yesterday to pick up some standard things and the back to school supplies are right at the front of the store.  You have to walk past them to get to virtually anything else.  I saw many things already marked down.  Stock up on notebooks, pens, pencils, and whatever office or school supplies you may use throughout the year.

I saw sheets for $7 - $15 a set and comforters for around $20, some even less.  Stores would rather sell it than store it, so you might as well get the bargain while you can!