Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand - October

This is my first time participating in the What's On Your Nightstand? meme at 5 Minutes for Books. I love their blog - I'm always checking it for new books to add to my "To Be Read" pile - which keeps growing! A few of the books on my first list below were recommended by 5 Minutes for Books.

Alas, I didn't get much housework done this month but I did get some books read! The dreary, wet fall days we are having in Maryland are just perfect for cozying up with a good book and warm drink. I'm looking forward to November, December and January so I can do a lot more reading. Oh wait....Christmas is coming and I need to buy presents for the children, decorate the house, bake and so on and so forth. Oh, well, I'll fit it in somewhere!

Here's what I read this month:

1. Dawn's Prelude by Tracie Peterson. This was an okay read. I loved reading about the Alaskan frontier but I had a hard time connecting with the main character. I think I felt that she spent too much time feeling sorry for herself. When I read a book, I like to think about which character I'd be if I could jump in the story. Lydia, the main character, was not my first choice. I rather pictured myself as her aunt - yikes, whose name I can't recall. I need to start journaling when I read so I have better notes for these posts! I've read other books by Ms. Peterson and I have to say this was not one of my favorites. This is the first in the Song of Alaska series and I do want to read the second book Morning's Refrain when it is available at my library.

2. The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers. This is the second time I've read this story of Sierra and Alex. I had to re-read it for my book club which meets in November. I enjoyed the book so much more the second time around. Francine Rivers is a master story teller and I enjoy how she weaves a Bible story into her fictitious retelling.

3. The Noticer by Andy Andrews. This was the first time I read anything by Andy Andrews and I enjoyed this story of an apparent vagrant who helps the people in a small town notice what's around them and change their perspective. Very subtle story-telling. For some reason, I thought Mr. Andrews was a comedian from the '80's. I'll need to research that a little bit more. Anyway, I wouldn't mind reading other books of his.

4. First Things First by Kurt and Brenda Warner. I enjoyed reading this book and learning how the Warner's teach their children to love others first. Brenda Warner was very candid about sharing her heart and struggles as a Mom and Kurt Warner appears to be a very hands-on Dad. They are raising their children to know the Lord and to be in the world, not of it. The only thing I did not like was how Brenda's attitude came across sometimes. She seemed very flip about the fact that they had money, maids, nannies and she was able to jaunt off with her girlfriends often. That's great that they have the money - and they give generously - but I felt like she was putting it in my face. Just my opinion. I did enjoy this book and it gave me a lot to think about concerning my three teens.

So what's left on my nightstand? Just a few hundred books yet...well, they are really on my dresser, my jewelry armoire, the bookshelf in the hallway, my desk and so on. But here are a few that I plan to read next:

1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. This is my current read. Oh. My. Goodness. Is this book good!!! My boss recommended this to me and I can't put it down. A little hard to read in some parts just because it is so raw and open but definitely a page turner. Again, Ms. Rivers took a Bible story and meshed it into the 19th century frontier. This is by far the best book I have read in a very long time!

2. Family Driven Faith by Voddie Bauchum. I've heard nothing but praise regarding this book so I ordered it off of Ebay and will be reading it next.

3. Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. This has been on my shelf for a while so it's time to dust it off and give it a spin.

That's it for now. I don't want to get too ambitious with what I plan to read because you never know what's in store for me next month!

What are you reading? Head over to 5 Minutes for Books to see what others are reading.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Lack of Posts

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I want this blog to be. Do I want frugal living, simple living, cooking, reading, my life? What?

Frugal, simple living is my favorite thing to research, read and talk about but I'm not sure if what I have to say is any "different" than some of the other great blogs that are out there. I do love to read but my interests are too varied to just have this be a blog about books...plus there are some great blogs already out there about that too!

Anywhoo, please bear with me as I try to get my feet planted somewhere in this blogosphere!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Extreme Food Makeover, Part 1

Maybe this post should be titled "How to Feed Your Teens Cheaply, Yet Nutritiously, on a Budget While Trying to Lose Some Weight"! I'll be sharing over the next few days how I'm trying feed my family on the cheap while keeping it healthy and fun.

I have three teenagers. Well, my youngest is 12 and a boy. A boy who eats...a lot...and is never full. My girls don't seem to have hollow legs but they do eat. We also struggle with our weight...all five of us. Those that know me in real life know that I have fought this battle my entire adult life and the bad eating habits that I have are being picked up by my kids. The mom guilt I carry because of that is weighing heavy on my heart when my son tells me the kids at school pick on him. Enter more mom guilt because if I'd known about homeschooling 10 years ago when my oldest started kindergarten they would not have entered public schools and the teasing might not be happening. But that is another story and it is also something I need to let go of.

So, I've recently made it my mission to work on our diet. And, I'm not calling it a diet per se, I'm calling it an extreme food makeover....a covert extreme food makeover because the three deputies (children) haven't been apprised of the situation. The sheriff (hubby) and jail-keeper (me) are in on the plan.

My first mission was to get rid of most of the junk food. Junk food to me means chips, cookies, soda and such. Not that there is anything wrong with this food...well, there is and I know there is but we don't need to be eating so much of it. But let me be completely honest here that I LOVE soda. Remember that weight problem...free flowing soda in college started a downward spiral and it's been a hard habit to try and break. I've stopped buying it and am now at the point where I can walk right past it in the grocery store without even putting a two liter in the cart. I also find all this junk food to be a comfort food for me - something I'm sure my kids see and are copying from me.

Junk food can also blow your budget and in this economy where I have to make every penny count, we need to spend our money wisely and get the most bang for our buck. So as it's been eaten, I'm trying not to replace it. The only item I purchase out of the chip aisle in the grocery store are pretzels and popcorn kernels for popcorn.

Because I'm the mom and I had to set the tone, it is up to me to make the changes. I do all of the grocery shopping and meal prep at our home. And, I absolutely LOVE doing all that....and my family enjoys all the fruits of my labor! I am replacing the snacks and goodies with food that is healthy, inexpensive and that they will eat. Each of my children has different food quirks - one likes this, one likes that, two won't even touch those and one will eat whatever is put before him. They all would snack all day if I would allow it but I find that if they are busy then they are not bored and digging through the pantry. We generally only allow snacks after school and maybe in the evening (such as popcorn with our movie night).

Some ideas of things my kids WILL eat:
Carrots and celery sticks
Sliced cucumbers
Sliced apples with peanut butter
Popcorn ~ not microwaved but fresh popped
Muffins - made with pureed and whole fruits (applesauce, bananas, blueberries)

This is just a partial list. What do you feed your kids for snacks? If you have teens, how are you filling them up?

Coming next ~ fueling them up for the day!

Menu Plan Monday - 10.12.09

Well, better late than never. Here's our plan for the week ~ simple, quick and easy! I cooked big batches of chicken noodle soup and spaghetti sauce over the weekend so we have plenty of leftovers for this week.

Monday ~ Leftover chicken noodle soup and rolls.

Tuesday ~ Tilapia and broccoli,rice and cheese casserole. After doing a search for casserole recipes, I've come to the conclusion that cooking up a few cups of rice and mixing in a few cups of cooked broccoli and a homemade white sauce with cheese will be what I'm looking for.

Wednesday ~ Leftover spaghetti, salad.

Thursday ~ Tuna salad sandwiches, pickles, celery and carrots. Scout night.

Friday ~ All three kids are going in different directions so I think hubby and I will get another date night! Yippee!

Saturday ~ Pepper steak and rice. I will post the recipe soon.

Sunday ~ Pork roast, saurkraut, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls.

Head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more tasty menus and ideas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guess What? Christmas is 12 Weeks Away!!

Yes, you read that right ~ 12 weeks! Yikes! Where did this year go? I am in no way ready for Christmas...well, that's not true. I did redeem some of my points on Mypoints for a gift card for one of my daughter's but that's all I've done. Now is the time to start planning if you haven't already.

My goal for this year is to simplify our holidays even more. We've scaled back the gifts - my kids were getting a ton of useless stuff and generally by March is was either in the trash or the Goodwill pile. So, this year I asked for a list of 5 things they really, really wanted. We'll see what I get.

I'll also begin planning my menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as make a list of what I want to bake. I have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and then do buffet meals for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Because I plan early, I can watch for sales and stock up on my ingredients early. If I purchase smartly, I can have my pantry stocked well into the new year.

We'll also scale back our decorating this year because we have a puppy and he loves to chew. Nothing is safe! There won't be as many "things" sitting around which will free up some of my time. Still not sure if this is a good thing or not since I love the "look" of the holiday but I also need to remind myself that it is not about the decorating, baking, gift giving - it's about spending precious time with my family and enjoying the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior.

Here's a great 12 week plan to help you prepare for Christmas from Simple Mom.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 10.5.09

Another week - another plan! We did pretty well with our menu last week. Saturday was a jam-packed day so we didn't get to have the King Ranch Chicken Casserole so we'll try again on Monday. Monday is my day off so I have a little more time to prepare a more in depth meal. Hubby is away for several days this week so it will be more teen friendly fare!

Monday ~ King Ranch Chicken Casserole and salad. I found the recipe online that is actually in my 2008 Southern Living Cookbook. I don't plan on using a whole chicken as instructed in the recipe since I have several chicken breasts in the freezer so I'll use those instead. I adapt recipes all the time to use what I have on hand.

Tuesday ~ Pizza...from a local delivery. Not budget friendly but I have a scout meeting for leaders that I need to lead and only 45 minutes turn around time from getting home from work and leaving. Plus, the pizza shop is next door to the church so I can order before quitting time and pick it up when I head home. Leftovers can be used for lunches...well, if there is any leftover!

Wednesday ~ Uptown Blues Wraps with celery and carrot sticks. This recipe sounds yummy but I think I will adapt it by cooking a beef roast in the crockpot the night before, shredding it and mixing in bottled bbq sauce. I'll also leave out the red peppers because no one will eat them and maybe add a sliced tomato! My daughter can prepare the rice in the rice cooker when she gets home from school to help with prep since it's teen Bible study night and we need to get back out the door.

Thursday ~ Leftovers - it's a scout meeting night.

Friday ~ Broiled tilapia, cheese potatoes, green beans. This is the one fish all of my kids like.

Saturday ~ Chicken and noodles. This is a recipe I threw together one day and it became a 5 star in our house (that means everyone liked it!). I will cook off a whole chicken today since I'll have time - plus add celery, carrots, seasonings and a few chicken carcasses I have in the freezer - strain the broth and debone the chicken. Put the broth and meat in a soup pot, add peas (canned, frozen or leftover - whatever is handy), salt, pepper and thyme. If I have any leftover gravy, I'll toss it in too. I've added that before but no gravy on the plans for this week. This is also a good after Thanksgiving meal - use up the rest of the turkey and gravy and make your broth from the turkey carcass. Bring to a boil and add a bag of egg noodles. Cook until noodles are done. Serve with crusty rolls. Tonight is homecoming at the high school so we need something I can cook early in the day and then serve as we are getting my daughter ready to go.

Sunday ~ Spaghetti with ground venison, salad and garlic bread. Plan is to make the sauce on Saturday since it always tastes better after it has sat for a day.

What are you cooking this week?

Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for other great menu plans.

Friday, October 2, 2009

RedBox Codes!

Here are a few new redbox codes for the weekend~

Use codes: KRJX6M3, RXGVGMV

9H2VEE27 (this code is valid at Hy-Vee locations only)

DVDATWAG (This code is valid at Walgreens locations only)

You can go here to find a redbox location near you and check movie selections.

Tonight is date night for hubby and me so this will be a nice freebie treat for the kids while we're out.

Frugal Friday - Finding Cheap Reads

I am a book collector. It seems that I collect books quicker than I can read them and my "to read" pile is always overflowing. And, since I also happen to be a "piler" my books are piled high on every flat surface throughout the house - well, not every flat surface but my husband would say very definitely most of them! So where do I find these books? As I tend to lead a more frugal lifestyle ~ or I attempt to! ~ I make it a goal to find my books as cheaply as possible. Here are a few suggestions:

1. I am very blessed to be employed at my church and we have a huge library of donated books - everything from fiction to non-fiction to dvd's and cd's of sermons. I borrow and bring back - plus donate my own as I finish with them (I rarely keep books after I've read them). Part of my duties as an employee are to keep the library tidy and organized. What a great job I have! The glory of this is I don't even have to go anywhere out of my way to pick up my books! Have you checked to see if your church has a lending library?

2. Of course, the public library is a fantastic free source for books, movies and cd's. I pass our library every day when I go to and from work. As I learn of new books I want to read, I check the online catalog and place a request. I have to be careful of overdue fees because even though I drive by the library daily, I tend to be in a hurry to get home and will forget to stop!

3. Your local thrift store. I am a big thrift store shopper and in the past I've often purchased many of my books from the Salvation Army, Goodwill or Value Village. The downside is they are usually not current bestsellers, which doesn't bother me since I tend to read based on what I'm interested in at the time, not what's current and popular. I have noticed that thrift store prices have gone up in the last year and the Salvation Army in our area is no longer offering Book Specials on Monday's and Thursday's. I still always look when I go in.

4. Charity sales. Several times a year in our county, there is a charity sale put on by the local Rotary club. Buyers bring a bag, or pick up a paper sack there, and you can fill it for a set fee. Costs go to help with costs to ship books to Africa. Now, I was very adept at packing my college dorm room items into my two door Chevette so I can get A LOT of books into my bag! I try to only attend this sale once a year because I do bring home so many books - like I said, I tend to be a book collector! My kids like to go too - I give them their own bag and then we pare down our piles, combining our choices into one bag - and we make a day of it. Lots of fun and a good cause.

5. Paperback Swap . I've not ventured into trying this yet but I've heard great things about the ease and inexpensiveness of using this site. I'll eventually get around to trying this but, like I said above, my "to read" pile is huge and I want to slow down on acquiring more books until I've read some of the stash I already have.

6. Let your friends and family know that you will gladly swap books with them or take their extras off their hands. My office mate is also an avid reader and we swap books all the time.

And, what to do with those books when you are done and don't want to keep them around? Bless another by donating them to someone else or another charitable organization.

See other great Frugal Friday tips at Life as Mom.