Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #28:  Check out some of these double-duty decorating ideas from Real Simple!  So clever!

Here are my favorites:
(ideas and photos are courtesy of Real Simple)

*Use earrings as push pins.
 (I am always forever holding on to that one cool earring that I've lost the mate...perfect solution!)
*Dress up your refrigerator door with old brooches.
(How cute are these?)

*Use cupcake foils as votives.
(Displayed on cute scrapbook paper too--how cute would that be!)

*Hang a skateboard as a shelf.
(Now I just need to find an inexpensive, roughed up one at a garage sale!)

*Cake stands make perfect platforms for candles.
(Boy, thank goodness I've started collecting these!)

*Use action figures for hooks.
(Thank you garage sale 50 cent box!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One big pot of HAPPY!

When I saw the colors pop in the broccoli and tomatoes, I seriously got giddy happy about this meal!
(I know...I need a life!)
This was the most refreshing summer meal.  
It's super simple but packed full of flavor.  
The kids couldn't get enough!  

We just prepared some whole-wheat penne, added a head of cut of broccoli for the last minute of cooking, drained it well, and added fresh diced tomatoes, basil from our garden, and a little garlic salt.  
The kids had a little parmesan on the top which always makes everything *perfect* in their cheesy-loving book!

What favorite summer vegetables will you add to your pasta?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


One of my favorite things in blogland is stumbling across amazingly talented chefs / photographers who share their amazing recipes.
Awhile back, I stumbled upon Satisfied.
Not only are Chef Louise's pictures absolutely beautiful, her recipes are super delicious (and shared so well that even I can make them and get close to the same beautiful, delicious results--however, photography skills are still deeply lacking!)

Here's the recipe taken right from Satisfied--she gets ALL the credit!
We've enjoyed several times lately.  So delicious...I can't quit craving them!

Blueberry Orange Cornmeal Pancakes

½ Pint fresh blueberries (1 Cup)
1 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 large orange
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
½ Teaspoon salt
½ Teaspoon baking powder
¼ Teaspoon baking soda
¾ Cup buttermilk
¼ Cup milk +3-4 Additional Tablespoons to thin out
1 Large egg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter – melted- cooled to warm
½ Teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl toss blueberries in 2 teaspoons of flour

In a larger bowl mix together flour, zest, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda

In a Pyrex measuring cup whisk together milk, buttermilk, egg, cooled butter, and vanilla extract

Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients mixing with a spatula until just combined- add in extra milk to thin batter out if too thick- batter should be on the thinner side

Carefully fold in blueberries

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium/high heat

Brush pan vegetable oil, butter, or cooking spray

Pour pancakes ¼ cup at a time

When bubbles appear in the top of the pancake and the bottoms are golden brown about 2-3 minutes , then flip
Continue cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy 11th Anniversary Baby!
I love you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #27:  Before placing an order online, google for discounts!  You might be pleasantly me!

The other day, I received an email from Old Navy advertising a 20% off code.  I found a couple of items that were on a pretty good sale, but I wanted to see if there were any other codes floating around because sometimes you can "stack" discounts online.  Surprise!  A code popped up for $10 off any order when you used an Old Navy or Gap card.  Enter THANKYOU at the checkout!  I hope it will work for you!  They have a super cute ladies denim coat for only $12.99...only $ .41 with the discounts!  If you have a Gap Silver or Gap Visa, you can get free shipping too!

What a deal!  What a deal!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Me Oh My Muffins!

Have you heard the good news?
A Trader Joe's is coming to our town!

While visiting a Trader Joe's in Chicago, I came across Multi Grain Hot Cereal.
It's a combination of rye, barley, oats, and wheat.
We love it with rhubarb sauce!

The back of the container had a muffin recipe that sounded delicious 
and we were in dire need of a quick, healthy breakfast option to grab on the way out the door to VBS!

We weren't disappointed!
 Applesauce Multigrain Muffins
(courtesy of Country Choice Organics)

1 c. multigrain hot cereal (uncooked)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sunflower oil
1 egg

Streusel Topping
1/3 c. multigrain hot cereal
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper baking cups.

Prepare topping by mixing oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon together.  Add the melted butter, mix well.

Prepare muffins by combining oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Mix well.  In separate bowl mix together the applesauce, milk, brown sugar, oil and egg.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Serve warm.  (or cooled, still delicious!)

***Don't you love these muffin liners?  
I wish we were getting one of those in our town, too!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I always seem to under estimate the amount of energy VBS requires:
Crazy dress up days!
Out the door extra early!
 Giggly friends to pick up!
Songs to sing!
Love it!
(but I need a nap!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

This may come as a surprise...
My children are ages four and seven, and I've never taken them to the city swimming pool!
In fact, I have never really even taken them swimming at motels or campgrounds without the help of a grandma, my sister, or Cody.  I'm a BIG CHICKEN when it comes to water!  (Odd since my brother and sister were both lifeguards!)  We've always just stuck to the kiddie pool in the backyard.

 However, this summer, I'm feeling brave!

We went swimming with my sister and her kids today, and we all survived quite nicely!

So here it comes...
Thrifty Tip #26:  Don't pay the high prices at swimming pools this summer; be on the look out for deals and creative splash options!

*Our local pool has "Splash Stimulus" deals where admission is half price during certain hours.
*Watch for "Family Night" deals where admission is just $10 for the whole family.
*Check out local wading pools which are drained and filled with fresh water every day. (also free!)
*Sprinkler parks are popping up everywhere!  (This option seems super fun and safe to me!)
*Find a clean lake with a nice beach and enjoy the benefits of God's beautiful creation!
*Buy a little kiddie pool and fill it up in the backyard.  
*If you live anywhere near the ocean, please become my best friend so I can come for a visit! (haha!)

What great activities is your family going to do to stay cool this summer?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cuties and Cupcakes

A birthday needed to be celebrated...
line 'em up and give 'em cupcakes!

Happy Birthday {belated} Liz!
Sorry we didn't let Elijah sit up there in the middle!
Next time...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's summer time!  
Fire up the grill!
Our favorite:  KABOBS!
Here are a couple of tried and true family favorites!

Steak and Pepper Kabobs

1 lb  sirloin steak, (about 1 inch thick, cubed)
1 large green pepper
green onions, cut in chunks
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

In a gallon size ziploc bag, mix together oil, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper; add beef and shake to coat. Marinate for 1-2 hours.

For kabobs: seed, core and cut red pepper into 1-inch pieces. Alternately thread beef, pepper and onion loosely onto metal or soaked wooden skewers.

Place skewers on grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, until beef is browned but still pink inside, about 10 minutes.

Chicken Speedy Kabobs
(this recipe was snagged by my mother-in-law)
5-6 chicken breasts (cut into 1-2 in. cubes)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. vinegar
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 T. parsley
1 T. rosemary
1 bay leaf

Let chicken  marinade for several hours.
Soak bamboo skewers in water and then thread on the chicken.
Grill over medium heat until chicken is cooled through. (about 10 min)
I threw on some onions and zucchini.  It was so good!

Our Kabob Krew

Monday, June 7, 2010

Willow Creek

I really love my church family.
Yesterday was a great day with that family.
Once a month, I get to trade out playing the piano to sing.
My favorite part of singing is that as I see everyone singing and worshiping, I am just overwhelmingly grateful for the amazing stories of grace in peoples' lives.

People struggling with an illness.
People who have lost their jobs.
People coping with the death of a loved one.
People celebrating the life of a new baby.
People rejoicing in a new job.
People stepping out in faith with a new direction for their lives.
Single. Married. Divorced. Widowed.
Young. Old.
New believers.
Seasoned believers.

I love them!
It's God's people coming together to worship the ONE who has given us a Savior,
the ONE who has given us grace so we can have a relationship with Him.

You can share a part of what we have at Willow Creek every week by listening to Pastor Mike's podcasts here.
(or you could just join us!)

His points yesterday from Exodus 13 were exceptionally good:
BIG IDEA:  Sometimes God's intended and best path for us is the circuitous route
#1:  Sometimes God deliberately leads us on the circuitous route to reach the destination
#2:  The reason He leads us on the circuitous route is because of danger of the direct route
#3:  God always provides necessary encouragement while we are on the circuitous route

I loved that last point...yes, sometimes my life does take or feels like it's taking a circuitous route, but God will provide the encouragement I need to make it.  It might be a note from a good friend, it might be a need supplied, it might be a verse of Scripture, it might be a song of hope...

I've posted a video of one of my current most favorite songs.  It's definitely got a unique sound, but is one that is an encouragement to me.  Someday...maybe I'll get myself a set of bells so Cody and I can strike up melody like this!  Any takers on the cello?

Beautiful Things

Words and Music by Lisa Gungor and Michael Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if I my life could really change at all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Life is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Bridge:You make me new, You are making me new

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy National Donut Day!

Have you heard the great news?

Today is National Donut Day!

If you live close to a donut shop, check to see if they have free donuts! with sprinkles are my favorite!

We have a house full of children today, so we won't be making any donut trips, but we will be enjoying donut shaped sandwiches, donut shaped sugar cookies, and learning about the really cool history of Donut Day!

"The idea for Donut Day began on the battlefields of France during World War I when Salvation Army workers served coffee and doughnuts to soldiers in the trenches. Rations were poor so the doughnut idea was conceived as a means of bringing the soldiers cheer. Doughnuts were not the reason Salvation Army workers were in the fighting zones of France. Those men and women were there primarily to give spiritual aid and comfort to the American soldier and his allies. They were there to be a link with home and family.

Though that world war has come and gone, Salvation Army workers continue to care for and comfort thousands of people each day who battle hunger around the world..."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #25:  It's the Silver Weekly Anniversary of Thrifty Thursdays!  Let's celebrate by saving in 25 different ways!

1.  Do not buy things from vending machines  It pays to be a mom with snacks in your purse at all times!

2.  Buy in bulk  This is usually best for grains and non-perishable items.  ALWAYS do the math though.  Diapers were usually not cheaper in bulk compared to stacking coupons at Target.

3. Use ceiling fans, floor fans, space heaters, or heating blankets  We use these things to assist with heating and cooling – depending on the season of course!  The electricity they use is less expensive than running the furnace or air conditioner.  Always be careful of space heaters and heating blankets around little ones.

4.  Use natural light  As much as we can, we leave the lights off in the house during the day.  It keeps the house cooler in the summer.  In winter, we let the sun aid in heating our house by opening the shades.

5.  Open the windows  Fresh air feels so nice--it's like a blast of oxygen!  Often we can cool the house down in the morning with open windows and it will stay cool enough to leave the air conditioning off in the afternoon.

6.  Order free samples online  Samples of shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant are perfect for summer travels!  Samples of food items are usually the perfect size to drop in your purse!

7.  Turn off or unplug unused appliances   I did not realize that unused appliances that are plugged in are still sucking electricity...and costing me money!   Leave them unplugged!  It only takes a second to plug them back in when you go to use them.

8.  Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats save you an estimated 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills. When we aren’t home, or we are sleeping, our house is quite a bit warmer or cooler, depending on the season. We save a substantial amount on our utilities compared to our neighbors! 

9. Use rewards credit cards   You can get cash back on every purchase, and if you pay the card off every month you don’t pay any interest fees. I recommend reward cards, but only if you have no current credit card debt, and can afford to pay the balance every month!  Often I use a store credit card where payments are taken in-store and can be done immediately.  It earns me great rewards and no interest in involved!

10.  Pay bills online  This is such an easy thing to do, takes less time than writing a checking and placing it in an envelope, and saves on the cost of postage.  If you're a tree hugger, it also saves a tree!

11.  Use cell phones – skip the landline  We do not use a regular telephone at our house. We have been doing this for several years and have never had a problem. I was worried about babysitters not having a land line, but I've yet to come across a teenager without a cell phone!

12.  Actively search out deals  It never hurts to try and find a better deal, or request a better deal from your service providers. I always politely ask at Children's Place and Gymboree if there is a coupon I should be remembering to use...they'll either remind me of a mailer I have or just give me the current promotion..

13.  Cook for multiple days  My brilliant friend One Girl Among Boys posts amazing freezer meal ideas weekly.

14.  Use coupons for everything that you can  It's amazing how many coupons float around for everything from oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases, to movie tickets and hotels.  There are many great websites that keep a running list of current coupons.

15.  Buy generic  You can save a lot of money on generic items for which the brand name product is essentially the same as the store brand. Food and medicines come to mind as items where generic products are good deals.

16. Don’t pay banking fees  Our bank provides free bill pay, automatic deposits, and free checks. We have to use their ATM's to avoid fees, but it's worth saving the $2.00!

17.  Use the library  Books are so ridiculously expensive if you buy them right off the shelf at Barnes and Noble.  I love going there to find interesting new books...then I head to the library to check them out! 

18.  Pick up pennies  This sounds silly, but having kids with eagle eyes for coins has earned our family crazy amounts of change (almost $3 on one trip!)!  Best places to find change:  near the gumball machines and under the counters.  I always have the kids ask the store employee if they can keep the change.  The answer has always been yes, but I don't ever want to cheat the store from change that is rightfully theirs.

19.  Re-use plastic shopping bags as trash bags or save them for your garage sale  I wish I could say I remembered to always take my nice reusable shopping bags along when I buy groceries, but often I forget and end up with a zillion plastic grocery bags.  They are super handy to use for trash bags--especially for stinky diapers!

20. Use parks  I would especially have to say use parks...for their sandboxes!  We don't have a sandbox and don't really want one, but it's nice for the boys to meet their need to dig at the park!  We're also on the hunt for some free wading pools at parks this summer!

21. Take care of things. I would have to agree with the following statement from CashMoneyLife:  I treat things I own with respect and take good care of them. This includes doing things such as cleaning our house, washing our cars, and polishing shoes. Things last much longer when you take good care of them. 

22.  No cable  We just took this plunge...again... Cody pays attention to the deals and sometimes it's cheaper to bundle cable with our internet and sometimes it's cheaper to just have internet.  It's really fine to live "attenna only".  So many shows are available on hulu or on the networks' websites.  Plus, I don't think we'd die with a little less tv watching!

23.  Make it automatic  It's a great idea to automatically set apart a good portion of each paycheck to be diverted to 401(k), savings, and tithing.  

24. Cancel subscriptions. We don’t get the newspaper or magazines--unless it's through a free subscription I've found online or a gift. Almost everything we want can be found online for free. 

25.  Make lists…and stick to them   There's nothing worse than going to Target for two things, planning to spend $5, and leaving with more things for $50.  It's hard to stay focused, but I find that unless it's just a killer deal, it's an impulse buy that I'll probably regret getting sucked into!

These ideas are a compilations from lists I found at How I Save Money and Cash Money Life.  I cannot endorse these sites for financial dealings as I really know nothing about the authors other than that their lists were quite helpful and insightful in saving money!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Catching Up!

Phew!  I am having a hard time getting back into the swing of "normal" life!

I don't actually know if you can call the last week of school following a holiday weekend "normal", but we're trying!

Because I can't seem to are more glimpses at my carefree week:

Mornings at Glencoe Beach...
This was the lovely area where I spent hours reading...
...and enjoying a tasty treat...
...and a not so nice surprise...

Then it was off to another fun store:
Oh my, I could come here every single day...
(And soon I will!  One is opening 2 miles from my house!  Yippee!!!)
...I picked up a special treat for a picnic lunch...
...and drooled over sugary treats at a fun bakery...

While I was out enjoying life, Cody sat in class...
...and did this after class...
...while we ate the famous Giordano's Stuffed Pizza.

When Friday rolled around and class finished,
we hit the town!
We rode the train in to beat the traffic...
...and enjoyed walking all around the city...
...acted like tourists...
...saw the beautiful horses and carriages...
...laughed at the funny window displays...
...checked out "The Bean" at Millenium Park...
...took funny distorted pictures...
 ...dreamed about having a shop like this one...
...enjoyed the lights of a big city...
All aboard!
Farewell 'til next time sweet Chicago!