Saturday, April 28, 2012

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese for a Crowd

My kids and grandson are coming over tomorrow to have lunch, hot tub and SKYPE with Josh and Jess in Germany.  I wanted to make something for lunch that could be put in the crock pot on low while we were at church and would be ready for us when we got home.  I also had an abundance of spaghetti noodles, cheese and milk so I decided to make a family favorite...homemade mac and cheese. :)

In a large stockpot boil a 2 pound package of spaghetti noodles until fully cooked and then drain them. In the same pot (because I am lazy and I am going to need to blend the sauce and noodles together before putting them in the crock pot) melt a stick of butter and add 1 cup of all purpose flour to it to make a roux.  Cook that off for several minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and then whisk in 4 cups of chicken broth, a little at a time.  You should have a fairly thick sauce at this point.  Add enough milk to make a nice medium but not pasty sauce (you are making a medium white sauce at this point) and then add about 6 shakes of hot sauce to it.  From there stir in 1 pound of cheddar cheese, cut up in cubes to help it melt faster and more evenly.  Cook for a few minutes and then take off the heat and add your drained noodles to it.  Stir it all together.  If it seems to thick you can add a bit more milk to the mixture and stir it in well so it is creamy and not "gummy".  Coat your crock pot with non stick cooking spray and then put your mac and cheese in the crock pot.  You can either cook it right now in the crock pot on low for about an hour and add some shredded cheese on top or you can do like I am and let it cool then put in in the fridge and pull it out the next day.  I'll put it in the crock pot on low before we head to church in the morning.  We will be gone about 2 1/2  hours with travel time and service time so it should be hot when we get home.  I'll just add some shredded cheddar on top and let it melt.  You could also just bake this off in the oven at 375F for about an hour (covered with foil) and add your shredded cheese for the last 10 minutes of so (uncovered).  Easy and oh so good!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Our Sweet Surprise

I heard a knock on my door this morning and was given a gift by our sweet "Grandma Eva".  Grandma Eva is am amazing lady whom we have had the honor to know for almost 20 years now.  She has a beautiful garden and loves her flowers and has shared many gardening tips with us over the years.   Today she brought over this beautiful miniature rose bush as a "Thank You" gift for my husband and I.  What a blessing she is to us and to everyone else in this community.  We love you Grandma Eva and thank you for all the love and encouragement you have shown us over these many years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Letter to my Sons...

 Dear Boys,
    I hope you know how much Dad and I love all of you.  We are so proud of the men you have become!  You are each so different in so many ways and yet you are the same in the ways that matter most.
   All three of you have a servant's heart.  You all have been raised to show love, volunteer and give back to those around you and it does our hearts good to see you continue to do this as adults. 
  You all have a heart for God and you know where your source of strength comes from.  Never ever forget that.
   Children love you!  Children have an uncanny way of knowing who "good people" are and they are drawn to them.  I have always enjoyed watching you interact with kids and having fun with them.  Now that one of you is an awesome daddy, and all three of you are fantastic uncles, I can see it all the more!
   Two of you are now married and are very caring and loving husbands to your wives.  I know that when God brings the right one for you my oldest son, that you too will be a wonderful husband to your wife. We absolutely love our daughters-in- law/love and they have truly become our daughters.  You chose well!  We also love and adore our first grandson that we have been blessed with and are looking forward to welcoming many more grandchildren in the future.  This being a grandparent thing is awesome! :)  No pressure boys...and yes, I mean that! ;)
   You all know right from wrong and stand up for what is right and good...even when it is difficult or uncomfortable to do so.     
   You share a deep bond, respect and love for one another.  I know that you will always be there for each other through thick and thin.  That brings great comfort to Dad and I.
   Each of you is following the path in your life that you are drawn to and working hard at it.  That does our heart good as parents knowing that you can all accomplish anything you put your minds to.
   You are the most amazing sons any parent could ever be blessed with.  Dad and I feel so fortunate that even as you have become adults, that we all have remained very close.  When Dad and I first met we talked about the kind of family that we both wanted and I have to say, the reality of what we have with you boys far exceeded our hopes and dreams (and believe me, we had big hopes and dreams).  Thank you for being the wonderful, caring and loving sons that you are and for the joy that you have all brought to Dad and I!  No parents could ever be prouder or love their sons more than we do.

Much love,



Monday, April 23, 2012

A Warm Spring Day in Pictures

Jeff pruning the apple tree.

Laundry drying on the laundry line in from of the cherry tree that is just starting to bloom.

Raspberry canes leafing out with the promise of an abundant harvest.

Bright and happy flowers blooming in the front flower bed.

Rhubarb pushing up through the soil after a long winter nap.

A peek over the fence.

Bleeding Heart flowers getting ready to open up and put on a glorious show.

You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.  Enjoy! :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Yard Sale Scores April 21, 2012

I love yard sale season...there are just so many treasures out there just waiting to be found!  Today I hit the jackpot!  I spent $24 and retail this would have cost $582.03,  a savings of  $558.03 !

Rock Your Body DVD by Jamie King $1  retail $12.14

All Dogs go to Heaven DVD .50  retail $6.49

Blue’s Big Musical Movie  DVD .50  retail $7.49

Veggie Tales Lyle the Kindly Viking VHS .50 retail $ 5.65

Pig’s Eggs .25  retail $8.83

Beatrice’s Goat .25 retail $16.81

Cackle Goes A-Courting .25 retail $8.85

Guess How Much I Love You .50 retail $6.99

First Farm Rhymes .50 retail $1.00

The Runaway Bunny .50 retail $8.99

The Saggy Baggy Elephant’s Great Big Counting Book .50 retail $12.00 used on

Mr. Cat-and-a-Half .25 retail:$12.95

Bag of hand loomed beaded jewelry $2.00 retail about $50 at craft fair prices

Bracelet .50 retail $2

Little Tykes Discover Sounds Sports Center $3 retail $29.99

Ikea Kid’s Pounding Bench .50 retail $7  ?

Big plastic tote full of magnetic letters $1 retail $ 10

Big plastic tote full of foam animals, letters and puzzles $1 retail $15

Big Ziplock Bag full of plastic animals $3 retail $20

LLBean Pin Tucked Pullover Shirt .50  retail $39.95

2 Christopher and Banks cotton ¾ length sleeves shirts .50 each retail $20 each

Style and Co Magenta Ruffled Blouse .50 retail $42 at Macy’s

Men’s NorthCrest Brown Sweater (looks brand new) .50 retail $20

Vintage Designer Originals black Sweater .50 retail $40

Coldwater Creek Plum 70% silk 30% cotton Sweater .50 retail $69.95

Coldwater Creek Purple Sweater .50 retail $69.95

Cheetah printed narrow scarf .50 retail $5

Pink 100% silk scarf $2 retail $20

Pink print Pashmina scarf .50 retail $20

10 items of kids clothing for Bradley $2  retail $70

I think I did pretty well today!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Life is Like an Old Crazy Quilt

Today I got out an old crazy quilt that I bought at an antique auction years ago.  I wanted to put it on the bed in the front guest bedroom but had to hand wash it in the bathtub first and then put it out on the line to dry.  I would never put this beautiful old quilt through the washer or dryer where it would be harshly twisted and beaten...I'm afraid it would fall apart.  It needs to be handled gently and with care.  As I was taking the quilt down off the line and checking to make sure there was no damage to it that needed mending, it got me to thinking how life is like an old crazy quilt.  

In the days that this quilt was made, they did not run out and buy new fabric just to cut it up and make a quilt.  Quilts were made with fabric taken from worn out, outgrown or ripped pieces of clothing, tablecloths, curtains and even flour bags.
Nothing was wasted.  Each piece of fabric represents something, someone or some event in that family's life.
Each piece of fabric, no matter how small, it important to this quilt.  It would not be "whole" without it.  

Our lives are like that...each event, not matter how small, it important.  It helps mold us into the person we are.  Our relationships with others, our education, a scene that caught our eye and that we tried to recreate later, the way the rain makes you feel on a hot day, the aroma of freshly baked cookies that instantly transports you back in time to your mother's kitchen, a special book given to you by your beloved grandmother, family heirlooms, a found letter from a cherished friend, a kind and encouraging word...all of these things, on their own, may not mean much, but pieced together over time form the "crazy quilt" that is your life.  I must admit, the "crazy" part fits well doesn't it?  After all, who has a completely calm life without any craziness in it? ;)  Maybe that is why I love these old crazy quilts so much...they represent me! :D

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sometimes it's Best to Keep Quiet and Focus on the Good

I have long debated about writing this post but feel it is time.  Some of my close friends and family know what I have been through but others do not.  Some of them have urged me to be bold and share with everyone what has happened and how I have overcome it.  I do share my story with certain people IF I feel it can help them also but I am cautious about who I share with because of the ramifications to others.

There are a few questions that I had to ask myself:

1. Would it help me to just put it all out there?

2.  Would it help others?

3.  Would it hurt others?

1.  Yes, it has helped me to share the pain of what I have gone through and how I dealt with it and overcame it.  I am not a victim anymore but am victorious!

2.  Yes again, if I see someone who is going through what I went through, I will approach them to share that there is hope and forgiveness is the key along with setting healthy boundaries.

3.  Again yes, it would hurt certain people in my life if they knew the truth.  It could also cause major conflict and damage to these people and to their relationships with certain other parties.  Because I love these people so much, I want to protect them.  I do not want them to go through the pain and also guilt of knowing what happened.  I do not want to see their relationships possibly destroyed.  There is nothing they can do to change what has happened so why cause them that pain?  It is not their fault that bad things happen, they are not responsible for it.  Thus the keeping quiet about it to them.

Here are a few things that I have found helpful in dealing with pain in my life:
~Find someone you can trust to be there for you and who loves you unconditionally (for me it is my husband).
~If the pain is too much to bear, do get some professional help.
~Share your story with those you can trust, it will help lessen the pain over time.
~If and when you feel ready and have overcome it, then reach out to others who are going through something similar and help them through it also so they know they are not alone.
~Set healthy boundaries...this is so not allow the people who hurt you to do it again.  If they are in your life on a regular basis, try to limit contact with them.  You do not need to put up with their abusive and hurtful behavior.  
~If you have children, remember they are watching you and depending on you to protect them also.
*If the person is doing something illegal that is also putting others at risk of being hurt, then you do need to report it to the authorities.

I am a much stronger person for all that I have gone through.  It has also made me more compassionate towards other who have or are going through something similar.  It has made me a better parent because I have learned that I need to give my children the skills needed to protect themselves and help them learn to set healthy physical  and emotional boundaries as well.  I have learned to NEVER hold something against anyone else who is related or close to the person who has hurt me.  Everyone makes their own choices, good or bad, in life and they alone need to be held accountable.  You also cannot change someone.  Some people truly do love to hurt and manipulate others...they are sick.  You have the choice to put up with it or not.  I choose to walk away and not put up with it.  Life is too short to have to deal with badly behaving people who cause you stress.  I choose to focus on what is good and healthy and to spend time with people who are kind hearted, loving and fun.  I have so much that is good in my life and brings me great joy!  I have a wonderful husband who is there for me at all times, 5 great kids (my sons and their wives), an adorable and sweet grandson, my hanai kids, great friends and lots of other positives in my life.  That is my focus!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why I Stockpile...

I recently had someone ask me why I stockpile grocery, health and beauty products and other needed items.  My answer is 2 fold...why not stock up when the prices are the lowest or you can get it free rather than paying full price for it and you never know when something may happen that cause you  or someone else to have a need for it and no money to purchase it.

In the past, my family has gone through a period of no income due to job loss and also to injury on the job that caused my husband to be unable to work.  L and I was very slow at processing his claim when he was hurt and that meant no income.  We still had bills to pay and kids to feed.  We were homeschooling our children so my husband was the sole wage earner at the time.  It was scary to say the least but I was able to feed our family because of my stockpile.

I now work as a substitute teacher which means my income fluctuates due to how much work I get each month during the school year and of course, there is no work during the Summer.  My paychecks are also delayed by a month meaning whatever I "earn" this month, I do not get a paycheck for until the end of next month.  This makes things very tight around here since we are also aggressively paying down our debt.  Last month subbing was very slow and the times that I did get called, I was unable to work due to family obligations (wedding and an illness).  That means I have no paycheck coming in at the end of this month.  I am very thankful that my husband's paychecks cover our regular bills but if it is one of those months when the property taxes and life insurances are all due at once or if we have a major repair bill, we need my checks too. 

This Summer looks to be an expensive one for us.  We have to travel to my son's wedding and stay in a hotel for 2 nights plus we are paying for 1 night in the hotel for another son and his family and we have a reception up here a few days later for the happy couple that we are paying for. We  also have other weddings to go to and buy gifts for and we have the graduation season upon us where we also give gifts to some very special seniors that are a part of our lives. :)  All of these are happy moments but the costs do add up.  By not having to spend as much money on groceries and health care items since I already have them in my stock pile, that frees up money to spend on these other occasions.

As for gifts, I also have a gift closet where I will buy nice things when they are on sale and put them away for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, Christmas, graduations and baby showers.  I buy things throughout the year knowing that I will need gift itemsSome items are bought with a specific person in mind and others are more general gifts that would be nice for anyone.  This saves me time and money.

Stockpiling for me not only saves me time and money,  but it takes a lot of stress out of my life.  I live in a small town with no grocery store so if I run out of something, it is not just a quick 5 minute trip to get to the store.  I keep a running list of items that we are getting low on and that way I can stock up on them when they go on sale.  It also allows me to be generous and help others in times of crisis.  I love being able to fill a bag full of items for a family in need at the spur of the moment and lessen the stress in their lives.  I also keep a running list of "gift giving occasions" that are coming up so I will be on the lookout for appropriate gifts for those.  Being able to bless others is something that brings me great joy and stockpiling helps make it happen. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Amuse Bradley with Modern Technology ;)

Look Grammie at that cute baby in the computer!
Yesterday Jeff and I had the great pleasure of getting to take care of our grandson while his mommy and daddy went out to dinner.  Bradley was a bit fussy after his bottle (poor little guy had gas) and I burped and rocked him for a bit and then decided to try an old trick that I used to use with my sons when they were fussy to distract them.  I used to take them into the bathroom and let them look at themselves in the mirror...babies seem to love to do that. ;)  This time though Grammie used the webcam on the computer!  Bradley was very taken by the cute baby looking back at him and watched that baby for about 10 minutes.  Being that he is only 5 weeks old, 10 minutes of full concentration on one thing is a pretty amazing feat in itself. ;)  I loved watching the expressions on his face when he got excited about what "the baby in the computer" was doing. :)  Grammie even took the screenshot above of Bradley enjoying himself.  Oh how I love being Bradley's Grammie!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Welcome Spring Tuna-Broccoli Pasta Salad

Today we celebrate the sun being out and the weather finally being warm.  I have laundry hanging out on the line drying and my hubby is busy working on a remodeling project.  After a long Winter my taste buds were longing for something fresh tasting for lunch today.  This is one of those things that I just throw together and frequently add other veggies to also. :)

Tuna-Broccoli Pasta Salad

1 package dry pasta (I prefer a substantial pasta that will hold it's shape)
1 head of broccoli chopped
2 bunches green  finely chopped
1 large can of tuna, drained
about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of mayo
celery salt to taste

Cook your pasta according to the package direction until just about done.  Add your chopped broccoli for the last 4 minutes of your pasta cooking time.  Drain and run under cool water to stop the cooking process and get the pasta nice and cold.  Drain again.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix your tuna, mayo and green onions.  Add your pasta and broccoli to this, stir to mix together.  Add celery salt to taste. 

This recipe is so easy and good!  It's a great "go to" recipe for potlucks and picnics and will not break the bank to make. ;)

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Drama Queens (or Kings) Allowed

 How do I feel about Drama Queens and Kings???...yep, Molly's expression says it all! ;)

I hereby declare my home a safe haven where Drama Kings and Queens are not welcome so that those that have to deal with them can find comfort, peace, acceptance, love, laughter and rest. :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bad Judgement and We, the Taxpayers, Paying for "School Trips".

Yes, I once again am on my soapbox and sounding off.  And yes, once again, I ask that you be kind if you choose to comment. You may not agree with me and that is fine, we are all entitled to our own opinions and we can all learn from one another.  :)  

It has been in the news recently that Malia Obama is on a school trip to Mexico.  I'm sure that her parents, like the other parents who allowed their children to go on this trip had to pay for their hotel rooms, food, etc..  But, unlike the other students, Malia's going on this trip brought up additional costs that we, the taxpayers, are paying for.  Before I get into that though, does anyone else feel like this trip was a bad idea in the first place since the State Department had issued a travel warning about violence and such in Mexico and advised people NOT to travel there? Did the president and first lady think it was wise to send their daughter down to a country where people are kidnapped and held for ransom and even killed if their families have money or political power?  Did they ever think that not only could their daughter be in danger but her presence could potentially be putting all those other kids in danger also (I question the judgement of those parents for allowing their children to go)? Not only has the Mexican media reported that they are there but also named the hotel they are staying at and published pictures of Malia and some of her classmates. The American media also followed with this same information.  And God forbid anyone even question or comment to the media about why the president allowed his daughter to go.  Anyone who has is crucified and is told that the children are "hands off".  Well I did not see anyone criticizing the children, they were just the questioning the parents who in my opinion (and it seems the opinion of many others), are not using good judgement at all.

Anyway, onto the taxpayers footing part of the bill.  First of all, Malia was sent down there with 25 Secret Service and Marines.  It has also been reported in the news that the local police in that area were also having to help with security at the hotel the group is staying at and at all the local sites they are visiting.  We, as the taxpayers, are having to pay for those police officers time.  As for the 25 Secret Service agents, we are paying for their time, transportation, food and lodging while they are there.  There is also the additional costs of vehicle rentals (and I am pretty sure they would also have to have a "hard car" for Malia to ride in), gas, etc.. Honestly, it makes me angry and disgusted that in a time of huge budget deficits, unemployment and government spending cuts to necessary things like schools, Social Security for our seniors that have worked so hard all their lives and contributed to the Social Security system for all those years with the promise that they would be taken care of in their old age, money for food programs in the United States to feed our own hungry, etc. that we would be paying for a school trip to Mexico for the president's daughter.  It is my opinion that this is irresponsible behavior on the part of the president and a slap in the face to the taxpayers.

I realize by writing this and posting it that I am putting myself on the "radar" of our government but according to what they are already looking out for since I am conservative, home schooled my kids and trying to get out of debt and pay off my credit cards and not use them but use cash when possible, I am already on it. ;)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Busy at Home

Yesterday Jeff and I were busy visiting with our grandson in the morning and then running errands after that.  When we finally got home, my hubby had to get some much needed sleep before heading to work at night.  I wanted him to sleep well, so I tried to be as quiet as possible and did not get anything done around the house.

Today was my "catch up" day.  Hubby is sleeping soundly since he was exhausted from work last night.  If you have been reading my blog or know me well, you know that we are trying to become debt free and are making some huge sacrifices to do so.  Therefore, we are doing everything we can to save money so we can pay off the debt quickly.  Here is just a glimpse of  my "frugal doings" today to help accomplish our goal and to make our lives more pleasant and even healthier in the process. ;)
~used up 2 over ripe bananas to make 2 small loaves of banana bread
~making a loaf of sourdough bread
~cooked up 2 bundles of asparagus in the oven with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
~cooked up a large pot of half brown and half white rice (we use this in our homemade dog food for our old dog who has some major digestive issues)
~did 2 loads of laundry using free laundry detergent samples
~ordered one of the supplements we need for our dog through using $20 in free credit I got via Swagbucks
~got in on a free Target Beauty Bag giveaway via facebook
~hard boiled 1 dozen eggs (eggs are a great buy right now with Easter coming up) for hubby to take to work with him to snack on
~working on some surveys that pay me in points that I can cash in for gift cards
~making a menu based on what we have on hand and/or have an abundance of that needs to be used up first
~SKYPE with my kids in Germany for about an hour
~ordered 25 free photo prints from Walgreens (a today only deal)
~watching some videos online and reading books from the library on some gardening methods that I have not tried before that are supposed to increase the yield of your crops
~printing off some high value coupons that combined with sales will bring down the cost of the HBA and grocery items that we need and use

I know that alone none of this seems like it will save much money but it all adds up.  I figure that these "little things" add up to a savings of at least $100 when you figure in the cost a phone call to Germany would be along with everything else.  This would be a day's earnings for me before taxes and everything else was taken out. I am thankful that I am able to do these things to make life much nicer for my family and that my hubby is able to do other things like remodeling our home and building furniture for us along with home and basic car repairs.  He and I make a great team!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bradley and G-pa Sharing a Moment

Jeff and I headed over to visit with Heather and Bradley this morning.  I had told Heather last week that G-pa was missing Bradley  and she graciously invited us to come over this morning.  Do G-pa and Bradley look like they are enjoying each others company?  I think so! :)   Oh yes, Bradley will be 1 month old on Thursday!  

They are having a deep conversation here. ;)

Really?  Let me think that over G-pa.

I'm telling you Bradley, G-pa has some great stories!

I never thought about it that way before...hmmmm....

Wow!  And then the doggie did what?

Bradley loves his G-pa!  I love the contrast of how big Jeff's hand is with Bradley's little hands wrapped around his.