Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Homemade Pizza!

   Our family loves pizza!  When I was very young, there was no pizza place so my mother, the wonderfully creative woman that she is, made us homemade pizza for special occasions.  It was always such a treat and something that we looked forward to.  Over the years, pizza places did come to our small community, but we still looked forward to Mom's homemade pizza.

   Being on a tight budget, especially all those years we homeschooled our kids, I also made homemade pizza for our family and still do to this day.  It saves us tons of money since we live in a tiny rural community and not only would we have to pay more for a premade pizza, but we would also have to drive about 50 miles round trip to get one.  Above are two of our current favorites, Barbecued Chicken and Ranch Garlic Chicken.  They are easy to make and oh so yummy!  The Barbecued Chicken is made with BBQ sauce and chicken that I precooked and chunked up along with some cheese and green onions from the garden.  The Ranch Chicken is made with Ranch salad dressing as the sauce, more of my homemade precooked chicken, green onions from the garden, a dice up plum tomato and cheese.  Both were on a homemade crust that I pre-bake for about 10 minutes before I add the toppings and put it back into the oven to finish.  I find that by pre-baking the crust, it is not doughy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Command Central

   Above is a picture of my white board.  It, along with my calendar, is what keeps us on track.  For the longest time now we have had a saying in our home that if it is not on the calendar, it is not happening.  ;)

   My white board is mounted onto the door to the laundry room.  It is a very convenient location and right where I can see and access it easily.  The red box is where I put our menu for the week.  This remains flexible in case something comes up and we don't get to making that item.  If that is the case, it most likely will just get moved to the next week's menu.  The blue columns are my "to do" lists.  The column on the left is my "must do" list for that day.  The column to the right is my ongoing projects list and I try to get at least 2 of those items knocked off the list each day.  It is a ever changing list with things being taken off when they are accomplished and new things added on.  I cross the items off as I and/or Jeff finishes them and at the end of the day it gives me a sense of achievement to see what all has been done.  And yes, it does not take much to amuse me. :)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Isaiah's Special Date with Grammie and G-pa

   Friday was Isaiah's special date day with Grammie.  G-pa had planned on mowing the lawn in the afternoon that day but was quickly convinced that spending some time with Isaiah would be way more fun!  Isaiah was thrilled that he got both Grammie and G-pa all to himself. 

   G-pa and Grammie had all kinds of fun things planned.  First stop was Zip's to get ice cream for Isaiah and some lunch for G-pa since he had not eaten since he woke up (G-pa works the graveyard shift).  We sat in a booth near the drive through window so Isaiah, who has excellent taste in pretty young women, had fun flashing those big bright blue eyes of his and flirting with all the college girls that came through the drive through lane.  The next stop was the thrift store where G-pa found Isaiah a fierce dinosaur and a bowling set (that one is living at Grammie's house to play with on rainy days in the long hall). 

    Grammie needed to make a stop at Rite Aid where we found even more fun stuff.  Easter candy was marked way down so we bought some of that and we even found Gummie Bears!  Isaiah loves Gummie Bears!!!  On to our next destination, the park.  Oh what a fun park it was for little guys with so many toys to climb, explore and lots of slides to go down.  Even G-pa took a turn on one of the big slides.  :)  Finally, it was time to head home.  We shared a few more Gummie Bears, hoping we would not spoil our dinners and played in the front yard until Mommy and Bradley returned from the movies.  I think we all had a wonderful  time and all three of us are looking forward to our next special date day.

The Beauty of Spring Mornings

   Waking up early on a Spring morning is one of life's simple pleasures.  It's a magical time of day.  

    The light from the sun warming the flowers and casting shadows is amazing.  Is it any wonder artists and photographers love to be out early to capture the beauty of it all?

   The birds are waking up and calling back and forth to one another.  First the Mourning Doves, gently cooing and taking me back to my childhood.  Such a soothing sound to my soul.  Then the Robins and tiny Finches join in the chorus.

  The cherry tree is in full bloom and the apple tree is just starting to bloom.  Their flowers gently perfume the air and hint at the promise of delicious fruit later in the Summer.  Our Caesar sets out to try and catch and eat all the bees that he can before he is once again stung in his mouth by an irate bee.  Silly dog will never learn it seems.

   While I am sipping on my coffee out on our back porch, the rest of the neighborhood slowly wakes up.  I hear dogs barking in the distance and people hooking up their trailers and golf carts to go out and enjoy this glorious day.  Soon the lawn mowers will be running, hammers will be pounding as people work on their Spring projects and children will be out laughing and playing.  For now I will enjoy the sounds of nature with a few interruptions before the day shifts into full swing. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Decisions and Doing the Math

     Have you ever felt like circumstances beyond your control have caused you to look heavenward and reevaluate some things in your life?  Recently I had a nagging feeling that something was coming down the path that would drastically change things for me.  It put me on edge because I had no idea which direction it would come from or what it would be.  I have always had a "sense" of  when good and bad things are about to happen, even when there is no reason to suspect anything.  Well it did, and it shook me to the core and caused me to look deep within myself and have long talks with my husband about what is really important to us both.

   Quality of life is very important to us.  We want to live a life that is personally fulfilling and also enables us to help others.  We want to be healthy.  We do not want to be stressed out emotionally or financially.  Thus running the numbers.

   A couple of weeks ago I spent time putting our budget down on paper and evaluated our income and expenses.  One of the things that kind of shocked me was that it was costing us more money to have me work my part time job than I was actually making.  After taking into account my expenses for working and then coupling that with how much I could save by being home more and doing more cooking from scratch, working my points programs, gardening, and searching out the best deals, we made the decision for me to stay home full time for the rest of this school year and Summer and see how things played out.  

   I will miss the kids I work with as a substitute teacher and I will also miss the staff.  I do love them and this has been a difficult decision to make.  This decision though is a "for now" one.  I am leaving the door open to returning to subbing again next year at this point.  It has taken Jeff and I three weeks of soul searching and weighing out the options to come to the decision that is best for us.  So here's to yet another chapter in our lives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frugal Doings for the First Part of April 2015

Did you get your tax return done and submitted yet?  Today is the deadline or you will have to file an extension.  We already got ours done and got back a small refund which was used to pay for repairs on my car.  The little car must have been jealous of the attention that my car was getting at the hands of our wonderful mechanic because last night it decided to "act up" too.  Good thing we are in frugal mode here right?

Here is a list of some of the things we have done this month to either save or even make money:
~checked our warranty on my car and it paid for about half the repairs needed on my car

~Jeff was able to do the repair to his little car himself

~getting free products in exchange for doing reviews on them

~doing my various points programs and getting gift cards, free magazine subscriptions, etc. as rewards

~took back a phone I bought on sale at Shopko when I found the identical phone at Walmart for half the price

~watching some shows that I like online

~making my own bread, rolls, pizza dough, etc.

~transplanted 4 blueberry bushes that were not doing well in their they are thriving in their new "home"

~buying and planting more fruit bearing plants in our yard

~using the trimmed apple branches to make bean tepees 

~borrowing books and movies from the library

~piggy back baking and baking potatoes in the oven whenever I am baking something else

~cooking up double batches of things to either have leftovers, freeze and eat later or to make into something else later in the week

~using coupons to reduce the cost of our purchases

~buying the loss leaders at the grocery stores and making our menus around that

~signing up for free samples

~placed an order at and went through to get points there, also got a free sample with my order and hit the B1G1Free sale for some of the things we needed

~got some great deals at the thrift store lately like watercolor paints, a kite (our oldest grandson loved it), some clothing, a basket for using to haul produce from the garden

~my parents blessed us with homemade jam and syrup, an antique chair that was my great grandmother's, Kona coffee and they brought dinner and also took us out for lunch

~bought some geraniums at a wonderfully low price and will be trying to propagate them from cutting so I have even more plants

~using the earth layering method on my blackberry bush to get more plants

~using my laundry line to dry a good portion of our laundry

~found an awesome deal on a set of brand new Queen sized 100% cotton sheet set at Walmart that was only $5 after their half off clearance deal

~Chris was able to get us a new automatic garage door opener for free

~Chris is also giving us a nice garden glider swing

~every time I go to the grocery store, I buy a can of coffee since the store brand is at a crazy low price, I hope to have a stockpile of 10 within the next few months before the prices go up

~taking advantage of the nicer weather and getting out on more walks with the dog

~using leftover coffee to make iced coffee drinks at home

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Blessing of Being There For Those You Love

  I got a phone call on Thursday from my son Chris asking me if I would be able to help them out.  They are in the process of trying to sell their home and, as anyone knows, that can be stressful.  Add two young children into the mix and not only are Mom and Dad stressed, but so are the kids.  It seems my oldest grandson Bradley was really feeling it and didn't know how to express it in words, so he started acting out.  Having been in that same situation before with our children when they were about the same age, I knew what was going on and that he needed some one on one time where he could just have a break (and so could his Mommy).  

   I was in town shopping when I got the call and quickly finished my errands and headed over to their house.  Bradley and Isaiah were surprised to see me there when they woke up from their naps.  Bradley immediately crawled up into my lap to cuddle and I asked him if he wanted to come home with me and keep me company since G-pa had to go to bowling league that night.  He was pretty excited about that and reminded me that I had told him the next time he came over that we would get the big Tonka trucks and diggers out to play with. ;)  Isaiah got excited when Heather told him they were going on a special Mommy and Zaiah date, just the two of them. :)

   Bradley and I had a wonderful time surprising G-pa when Bradley hopped out of the car and ran to give G-pa a big hug!  We headed down to the park to play for a bit before Jeff had to head out and then Bradley and I had dinner, worked in his sticker book, read stories and watch a favorite video.  After a nice warm bath, brushing teeth and prayers, he was off to sleep and slept clear through.  This morning he crawled into bed and cuddled with me and had some cuddle time with G-pa before we had breakfast, blew and chased bubbles outside, played with the Tonka trucks and he helped me pick out huge apple tree branches that Jeff had pruned to make bean tower tepees with.  Tomorrow he is coming back again to spend the night because last weekend we promised him he could spend this Saturday night with us so he could have some special time with G-pa too.  Yesterday was just a "bonus" sleepover. ;)  There are plans in the works for Isaiah to have some special one on one time with us soon.  

  Oh what a blessing it was to be able to just say "yes" when my family needed me.  Sure, there were other plans that had to be put on hold, but those could wait.  My family and friends are my priority...they come first.  I can't always say yes, but I try to as much as I am able and am so thankful that my husband is of the same frame of mind.  Sunday, when we take Bradley back home, Jeff will be working with Chris on a home improvement project and I know how important that is to both of them also.  The project in one that needs to get done, but more importantly, it is about the relationship that we have with our friends and family that know we will always try to be there to support and help them whenever we are able.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Product Review: Freeman Facial Masks

From time to time I am sent products to review from various companies.  I enjoy testing these products and giving my honest opinion on them.  I would love to be able to give rave reviews to all the products I have tried, but sadly that is not the case.

Recently Influenster sent me some of the Freeman Facial Masks to try and review.  Tonight I decided to try the Cucumber Peel-Off Mask.  I read the directions on the package and gave it a go.  First off, the product is very sticky, the consistency of honey when you put it on your face.  The packaging said it would be dry in 5-10 minutes.  Well 20 minutes later and there were still areas that were not dry.  I decided to peel it off, as per the directions, and it hurt!  The areas that were not totally dry came off like rubber cement.  I washed my face gently with warm water to get the residue off and can I just say that here it is about 25 minutes later and my skin is still stinging on some areas.  I also cannot see much of a difference in my skin, other than the stinging.  To be fair, I have not tried the other masks yet, but I would give this particular mask a big thumbs down.

 "I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes."