Sunday, May 31, 2009

Provident Living Quiz Questions Revealed

As promised, here are the answers to yesterday's Providing Living Quiz.
  1. F--Spending within your means is essential to your financial security.

  2. T--You should try to limit your debt whenever possible to a modest home (definitely don't want to take on more mortgage than what you can afford to pay!), education or other vital needs. Avoid debt like the plague!

  3. F--Life will be better if we don't keep up with the Jones's!

  4. T--I'm living testament that debt causes tension and stress.

  5. T--Wouldn't you rather be in control of your circumstances, rather than have your circumstances control you? I remember a commercial with a guy showing off all his "stuff" and at the end he said that he managed to do it because he was in debt up to his eye balls. Not the prettiest site to imagine, at least for me. :)

  6. T--It makes sense to give back to our Heavenly Father a portion of what he has given us, so put your tithes first.

  7. F--I don't know about you, but there's no way I can remember each & every expense I, and my husband, for that matter, incur. Plus, I'm not very good at math, so adding & substracting in my head won't work either. Best to keep it down on paper.

  8. T--There are many useful tools to help you plan your budget, and a budget worksheet is most definitely a useful tool.

  9. F--Rather than spend your surplus on something frivolous, add that frivolous item to your budget. If you feel like it's absolutely positively necessary to get that 60-inch flat screen TV, don't dip into your savings account to make it happen. Instead, set aside a portion of your income each month and save for it. And you may benefit by waiting because the price is likely to go down.

  10. T--It is extremely important that you teach your family members financial responsibility. Hubs said his parents never taught him diddly squat about money, and he got himself into real trouble for irresponsibility after graduating high and entering the "real world." On the other hand, I grew up hearing "we can't afford that" and "we don't have any money" all the time, and as such I'm such a tightwad. I lean towards hoarding each & every penny and living off Ramen noodles. Had our parents taught us about financial responsibility, we might not be in the predicament that we are currently in--debt to creditors. Not saying a parent who teaches his/her child won't see that child make mistakes. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children. And to remember that our children have their agency, or free will, and they will make their own choices. But at least we will not be held accountable for not trying.

  11. F--There is a LOT you can do if you are in financial trouble. Our church has a welfare program that provides temporary relief to families or individuals in need. Your church may have a similar means to help out. There is a lot of information on the Internet as well. I would recommend You can sign up for a monthly newsletter with great tips, free budgeting worksheets and coupons. Additionally, if you want to speak to a professional financial advisor, you can talk to a Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Just be careful about the company you select--they should never charge your first payment as a fee for service.

  12. F--Bankruptcy should be the absolute last resort. If you take on debt, acknowledge that you signed the dotted line for that loan or that credit card agreement. If you're not able to make your payment, talk to the bank or credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate, or for them to waive the late fee for that last payment, or to change your payment due date, etc., etc. Most financial institutions will work with you.

  13. T & F (depends on how you look at it--I had to throw a trick question in there!)--Hardships may come regardless of your income level. But if you are debt-free, at least you have one less thing to worry about.

I'm no poster child for financial know-how. After clearing up my husband's credit we charged up my credit cards and are having to pay off 4 credit cards. I'm thankful that we've paid off both vehicle loans, but we have a long way to go, at least with the credit cards. It's a struggle, I'll admit, but being debt-free is a goal that we are working to achieve. It may take 3-5 years, but I know that if hubs and I remain on the same team, that we can do it!

Be Careful What You Volunteer For

The Enrichment Meeting (an activity once every quarter for the women at my church) last Thursday was themed "Wear It Out, Use It Up, Make It Do, Or Do Without" with tips on sewing techniques, making homemade household cleaners, saving on utilities, and budgeting. My friend EuJene' was supposed to teach the budgeting class, but since her husband was scheduled to come home from Iraq a couple days before-hand, she called me up and asked me if I would take over the class for her. I said sure.

So I gathered a few things that I found on the Internet, plus my own shopper's intuition and what I've learned thanks to all my blogging friends, and put together a 30-minute presentation on budgeting. I was so nervous Thursday night! But I manage to teach two small groups a thing or two about budgeting. I don't know if I really stunk it up or if I really did a great job, but my bishop (pastor) called me up and asked me to teach it today during the combined Relief Society & Priesthood Meeting (the women & men meet together during the 3rd hour if there's a 5th Sunday in a month, and the bishop directs what the lesson will be about). Yikes! Me? Stand up in front of 100+ men and women and talk to them?!

Well, I just couldn't say no. Thankfully, I had kept everything from Thursday night's meeting, so it wasn't too much of a stretch planning something out for today. I had created a quiz of true/false statements and used that as my "opener". Most of the statements in the quiz came from the Family Finance section in Provident Living. I definitely did not make this stuff up!

I thought I'd share with you the quiz. Test your knowledge and see how well you do. Then come back tomorrow when I post the results. :)

Provident Living Quz
  1. ____T ____F Spending more money than you make is essential to your financial security.
  2. ____T ____F With the exception of a modest home, education or other vital needs, you should avoid debt.
  3. ____T ____F Life will be better if we surround ourselves with an abundance of things.
  4. ____T ____F Debt can cause tension and stress, making the debtor a slave to creditors.
  5. ____T ____F Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances.
  6. ____T ____F Successful family finances begin with the payment of an honest tithe and the giving of a generous fast offering.
  7. ____T ____F It is not necessary to keep a record of your expenditures, as long as you try to keep track of your expenses in your head.
  8. ____T ____F A budget worksheet is a useful tool.
  9. ____T ____F Gradually build a financial reserve and spend that money on something frivolous.
  10. ____T ____F It is important to teach your family members the principles of financial management.
  11. ____T ____F If you are in financial trouble, there is absolutely nothing you can do except to get over it.
  12. ____T ____F Bankruptcy is the first resort when you become aware that you are having financial difficulty.
  13. ____T ____F A debt-free life is a worry-free life.
I didn't realize that there were only 13 questions on this quiz--oops. Hope no one's superstitious! ;)

Menu Plan Monday--6/1-6/7

Thus far after looking at the calendar, it appears that we'll have a quiet week for the most part--halleluia!! We REALLY need a break, considering there was something going nearly every night last week.

Monday--Cordon Bleu Casserole, Salad, Celery Sticks
This is our Family Home Evening night. We plan on developing a chore list with the kids' help.

Tuesday--Chicken Fritters, Mixed Vegetables
We've had a baseball game or practice every Tuesday night since the season started. Thankfully, this is a "free" night for baseball. But our nieces will be having their dance recital, so hubs will put together the meal and have it ready when I get home from work so we'll be able to go to the recital immediately afterwards.

Wednesday--Steak Fajitas, Tomato & Avocado Salad, Watermelon

Thursday--Apricot Glazed Pork (turkey substituted since I couldn't find an inexpensive pork loin), Rice Threads, Broccoli & Carrots

Friday--Don't Know The Name But It's Delicious, Long Grain & Wild Rice, Cinnamon Apples

Saturday--Stir Fry Beef & Broccoli, White Rice, Celery & Carrot Sticks

Sunday--Parmesan Chicken, Green Beans, Summer Squash
We have a bell pepper and a couple summer squash that are SOOO close to being ready to harvest from our garden. I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to use them in this meal.

Wok's For Dinner: Cabbage Rolls

Sorry, no picture with tonight's meal. My camera battery decided to run out of juice and wasn't charged up enough by the time dinner was ready. I had two heads of cabbage with my May Angel Food Ministries order, and I used one for Kielbasa & Cabbage last week. I didn't want a repeat of the same meal, however.

But I remembered a girl I went to school with oh so many years ago. In Junior High especially, nearly every time we had a class party, she brought Cabbage Rolls. It always struck me as an odd thing for a teenager to want to bring to schol for a party, but she loved them! I never got her mom's recipe, so when I added Cabbage Rolls to my May Once a Month cooking menu, I had to do some Internet searching to find a recipe that matched my memory of what Cabbage Rolls were supposed to be like.

This is the recipe I used, with a few variations since I turned it into a freezer meal. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef for the filling. Basically, I cooked the ground turkey with chopped onion, salt & pepper, then placed in a freezer bag and into the freezer it went. Today I prepared the rice in my rice cooker, then mixed with the (thawed) ground turkey. While the rice was cooking, I boiled the cabbage leaves for 20 minutes to really soften them up. For the sauce, I made as directed in the recipe. After rolling the filling into the cabbage leaves, instead of baking, I placed the cabbage rolls in a 6-qt sauce pan, covered with the sauce, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. I omitted the 2tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water.

Hubs said the cabbage rolls needed more salt, my daughter loved the cabbage rolls and ate all of hers plus her brother's, my son didn't like it one bit, and I enjoyed it although I agreed with my husband that they were bland. I probably should have salted the water when I boiled the cabbage leaves. But all in all, it was a change of pace to try something different.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fighting Fatigue

Lately, I've been going to bed late and getting up early, which unfortunately leaves me dragging during the day. I say lately, but it's been going on for a few months now. All too often, I find myself zoning in & out of consciousness while sitting at my computer at work. That's usually when it's the worst. Not that I find my job boring! I love working in human resources. But sometimes, things get a little tedious, especially on days that I don't acquire much sleep.

I don't drink coffee, so I needed to find a few ways to help me get a good "pick me up". To Your Health lists 3 simple steps that can be taken to help fight fatigue. They're so simple! Why didn't I think of this before?!

Get a Move-On
While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, moderate physical activity actually increases your energy levels. Even something as simple as a brisk walk around the block can be enough to get you out of your couch potato doldrums.

In fact, fatigue can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle; the less you move, the more tired you are, particularly when movement is required.

Chow Down
Eating the right kinds of food at the right intervals is vital to maximizing energy throughout the day. It all starts with a balanced breakfast, followed by small meals and snacks every two to three hours. Choose low-fat, complex carbohydrates to fuel your body, and avoid foods that can deplete energy stores; sugar and caffeine, though temporary boosts, will sap energy quickly.

Stay Balanced

Stress, anger and other types of negative energy can lead to profound fatigue, particularly if you're losing sleep over it. Obsessing over an irritating co-worker or a personal financial crisis will do little to solve anything, but it definitely will expend valuable mental and physical energy. Whenever you're stressed or angry, find ways to stay balanced and let it all out productively.

So thankfullly, I haven't fallen asleep at work today. Must have eaten the right kind of foods or I'm doing a good job at staying "balanced" because I definitely did not get a move on today!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Goody Bag

pdated 5/29/09: corrected the links for the band-aid coupon print & mail

Not much out there that hasn't been blogged into the ground about.

Freebies 4 U:
  • Free Glue Dots sample upon email or faxed request. Details are here.
  • Want to know if you have hard water...? soft water? Click here to request a free water test strip from Morton Salt.
  • Free coloring pages at The Coloring Barn that you can print by clickinghere. You don't have to be a member.
  • Free My Little Cookbook at Lady Bug Products, available here.
  • 3 magnet samples from Magnet Street Baby. Click here for details.
  • Click here and Kraft will donate a box of Mac & Cheese to Feeding America.

Coupons 4 U:

  • Receive $4 off 2 dinners or $2 off 1 dinner at Olive Garden. Click here for coupon; exp 6/11.
  • $1 off Red Cross First Aid Brand Bandage, coupon available by print here or mail here.
  • $1 off print for any Method product, available at Ideal Bite (Method products sold at Target and Lowe's, although I'm not sure if Lowe's accepts coupons). Click here to print coupon.
  • $1 off Bear N a k e d print here, mail here.
  • .55 off Dial Soap Pump or Refill print here.

You Know You're Too Busy When...'ve got something going on 6 out of 7 evenings! Sunday--a baptism at church. Monday--Memorial Day, the beach trip, and dinner with family. Tuesday--ball game. Wednesday--birthday party at home. Thursday--women's activity at church. Friday--scrapbooking night (which I completely forgot about until tonight when my sister-in-law called and reminded me. Saturday--so far, thankfully, NOTHING! Finally, a break. And we only have 2 kids!

So I will, once again, need to make adjustments to the menu for this week. Tacos Friday night will become Tacos Saturday night, and Saturday night's meal will become Sunday night's meal, and so forth. Hubs will be on his own for dinner Friday night since I will be scrapbooking, and they'll have a meal provided. Hmmm, I wonder what hubs will make...probably something like mac 'n cheese and hot dogs!

What about you blogosphere sisters out there? What does your husband serve for breakfast/lunch/dinner when you are not around?

Minor League Baseball Ticket BOGO

"Take me out to the ball game...!" Now through September 1, take one Kraft Singles wrapper to a minor league baseball game and you can buy one ticket and get one free! The ticket offer is only valid on Tuesdays at participating Minor League Baseball teams' home games.

For more information, click here to visit the official Minor League Baseball website. The excluded cities are listed on the site, but you should check with your box office to make sure they are participating.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Another year come and gone. Sometimes, I feel old, and sometimes I feel like that mousey little freshman in college that I once was...Mostly, though, I feel very blessed. :)

Wok's For Dinner: Oven-Fried Chicken

I think I my have gotten this recipe from Oprah about 10 years ago...I think, but I'm not 100% positive. I used to make this meal a lot more often when we were first married, but I don't make it very often because I've done a lot more branching out on chicken recipes. You can use either breadcrumbs or corn flakes. I always use corn flakes and I used to crush them with my bare hands! Painful but left my hands feeling baby soft. :) This year, however, I discovered that I could put the corn flakes into a gallon-size zipper bag and crush them with a rolling pin instead--way, WAY, easier! And a lot less painful. Except my hands don't come out as baby soft. hehe :)
Oven-Fried Chicken
3 cups cornflakes or 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp marjoram
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup margarine or butter
Preheat oven to 375 F. If using cornflakes, crush finely enough to make 1 cup crumbs (to crush, place in zip-loc bag and seal; lay bag flat on countertop and roll over bag with a rolling pin). For coating mixture, in a medium-sized bowl, mix cornflake or breadcrumbs with herbs; set aside. Rinse chicken; pat dry. If desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush chicken with melted butter; roll chicken pieces in coating mixture. In a baking pan, arrange chicken pieces, skin side up, so pieces don't touch. Drizzle remaining butter on top. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until tender and no longer pink. Do not turn chicken. If freezing: Allow chicken to cool slightly after baking. Place in food saver, seal and freeze, or flash freeze for 15-20 minutes then place in gallon-size freezer bag, remve air, seal and freeze. Allow to thaw in refrigerator at least 24 hours. Heat in microwave and serve.
When I took the chicken out of the microwave, I swear they smelled exactly like KFC original chicken. I'm serious! They smelled SOOOOO good!! And tasted really good, too. :)

Make-It-Yourself Cleaners

This helpful hint was in my Old Farmers Almanac newsletter. Our grandmothers would be so proud. :)

WARNING: Never mix cleaning products containing bleach and ammonia as dangerous fumes will result.

GENERAL CLEANER: dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water.

GENERAL-PURPOSE CLEANER: combine 1 teaspoon borax, 1/2 teaspoon washing soda, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 2 cups hot water. If you don't have washing soda (generally found in the laundry section of supermarkets), use 1 teaspoon baking soda instead. For a more pleasant smell, use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Be sure to label the bottle accordingly.

SURFACE CLEANER: mix together vinegar and salt. Apply and rinse with water.

EASY SCRUB: combine 3/4 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup borax dishwashing liquid. Mix in enough dishwashing liquid to make a smooth paste. If you prefer a pleasant smell, add 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice to the paste.

HEAVY-DUTY DISINFECTANT CLEANER: slowly stir together 1/4 cup powdered laundry detergent with 1 tablespoon borax into 3/4 cup hot water until dissolved. Add 1/4 cup pine oil (available at hardware stores and supermarkets), or pine-based cleaner, and mix well. For bathroom cleaning, use the mixture full strength. In the kitchen, dilute it with water.

TOILET CLEANER: combine 1 cup borax with 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice to make a paste. Apply it to the inside of the toilet bowl; let sit for 1 to 2 hours, and scrub.

MILDEW REMOVER: in a pail, combine 1 tablespoon powdered laundry detergent with 1 quart chlorine bleach and 2 quarts water. Wearing rubber gloves, wash off the mildew.

GLASS CLEANER: Combine 2 tablespoons ammonia, 1/2 cup alcohol, 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and a few drops blue food coloring water. Then add enough water to make 1 quart. If you prefer a nonammoniated cleaner, substitute 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice for the ammonia.

DRAIN CLEANER: pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush it.

OVEN CLEANER: mix together 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid, 2 teaspoons borax, 1/4 cup ammonia and 1-1/2 cups warm water. Apply to oven spills, and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Scrub with an abrasive nylon-backed sponge and rinse well.

POLISHING CLOTHS I: you can make your own polish-impregnated cloths to dust furniture. Pour some furniture polish into a large glass jar and shake it until the sides are coated. Pour the remainder of the polish back into the polish container. Place terry or other absorbent cloths in the jar and cover tightly. Leave overnight or until the cloths have absorbed all the polish. Store the cloths in the jar.

POLISHING CLOTHS II: here's another method for making polishing cloths. Add 1/4 cup polish (such as lemon oil) to 2 cups hot water. Mix well. Soak dust cloths in the mixture, then let them dry before using. Save the mixture in a glass jar. When the cloths become soiled, wash them, re-treat them, and use again.

FURNITURE POLISH I: mix two parts vegetable oil or olive oil and one part lemon juice. Apply and polish with a soft cloth.

FURNITURE POLISH II: Add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice with 1 tablespoon boiled linseed oil and 1 tablespoon turpentine into in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake until blended. Dampen a cloth with cold water and wring it out until it's as dry as you can get it. Saturate the cloth with the mixture and apply sparingly to a small area at a time. Let dry for about 30 minutes, then polish with a soft cloth. Note that this mixture gets gummy as it sits, so make just enough for one day's work.

WOOD FLOOR POLISH: mix together 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Rub on the floor and buff with a clean, dry cloth.

FLOOR WAX REMOVER: mix together 1 cup laundry detergent, 3/4 cup ammonia and 1 gallon warm water. Apply to a small area of the floor. Let the solution sit long enough for it to loosen the old wax, at least 5 to 10 minutes. Mop up the old wax (or scrape it up, if there's a lot of it, using a squeegee and a dustpan). Rinse thoroughly with 1 cup vinegar in 1 gallon water and let dry before applying a new finish.

RUG CLEANER: Combine 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid with 1 cup lukewarm water. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution over a large area, or use the solution to spot-clean nongreasy stains. (Don't use laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent in place of dishwashing liquid, as they may contain additives that can affect the rug's color.)

CARPET FRESHENER: Combine 1 cup crushed dried herbs (such as rosemary, southernwood, or lavender), 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons baking soda in a large jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to blend. Sprinkle some of the mixture on your carpet, let it sit for an hour or so, and then vacuum it up. It will give the room a pleasant smell and neutralize carpet odors.

JEWELRY CLEANER: combine 1/4 cup ammonia with 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid and 3/4 cup water; mix well. Then soak your jewelry in the solution for a few minutes. Clean around the stones and designs with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Buff dry. (Caution: Don't use this with gold-plated jewelry; with soft stones such as pearls, opals, or jade; or with costume jewelry, because it could ruin the plastics or loosen the glue.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheap Family Fun: The Beach

I think the last time we spent the day at the beach was about 4 years ago. My son was just a year old. Since our last trip was so long ago, and since we were going to my husband's aunt & uncle's house, which is near the coast, for Memorial Day dinner, we decided to spend a couple hours at the beach. Nothing like soaking up some sun and sand!

We went to Fort Macon State Park. The main beach parking lot was full, so we had to go to the other beach that was closer to the fort. Unfortunately, the "other" beach doesn't allow swimming or wading due to strong rip currents. This beach is on the tip of the island and is a high traffic area for boats due to the harbor. Still, we were ok with not swimming in the ocean knowing the kids wouldn't be interested in doing much more than building sand castles. We did, however, stick our feet in the waves just so we could say we "swam" in the Atlantic, haha!

Our daughter's first time in the Atlantic. She tried to be a real trooper when the water touched her toes. She also kept insisting on sticking out her tongue every time I tried to get a picture of her getting her toes wet.

The kids loved the waves and watching the boats pass by. I say waves, but really it was the wake from the boats. The actual ocean waves were about a football field's length away down the beach close to the jetty. We were too close to the harbor side, so there just weren't any real waves.

Our son enjoying the Atlantic as well. This was about as close as he was willing to get!

The beach on this side of the island is actually very wide. The tide comes in quite far up the beach, and we saw that a pool of tidal water had been created in a dip in the sand. There were several families with small children that were playing and swimming in the pool. So we ditched the "no swimming, no wading" water and headed over to this tidal pool to investigate. Sure enough, there was a very long pool of water and probably 50 people--from the very young to the very old--swimming and wading in it. Perfect! So we set up camp and proceeded to test the water. No waves, some shallow parts, some deep parts, and perfect for our kids.

Here's our son with the large expanse of beach behind him.

At one point I had to rescue my daughter. Hubs was relocating our towels and picnic supplies. I asked our daughter to wait in one spot while I grabbed her brother and helped him across one area of the pool. She decided to not wait and jumped in. Of course being 2 1/2 and with no experience swimming, she immediately started struggling to stay afloat. While holding onto my son with one hand (no way was I going to let him go and say "wait here"), I raced to my daughter and grabbed her with my other hand. In her panic, she grabbed my bathing suit and we had a wardrobe malfunction right there on the beach! Aaghhh!! I did my best to remain modest until I could set the problem awright and tried to brush it all off, hoping no one saw anything during the whole commotion. The good news is that my daughter's near drowning did not affect her joy of the water, and she was happy to continue swimming (while hanging onto me of course!) and wading (and was actually quite brave wading in shallow water all by herself!).

Here's our daughter being "brave" wading by herself. The water was about 4 inches deep in the center of the pool along this side. It was much deeper--close to 5 feet deep--about 50 yards down. The kids liked experiencing both the shallow & the deep parts.

We kept the activity very inexpensive due to some well-coordinated planning. The parking & beach were free. We were scheduled to eat an early dinner, so we ate a late breakfast and skipped lunch. I brought snacks and juice boxes so we could have a family picnic on the beach, holding us over until dinner.
All-in-all, we had a really fun & inexpensive family activity, and lots of pictures to help us remember the occasion. :)

Wok's For Dinner: Kielbasa & Cabbage

Tonight's meal was Kielbasa & Cabbage, or what I sometimes refer to as Poor Man's Soup. It's kielbasa sausage and can't be any simpler than that. The meal definitely falls in the $5 dinners category. Maybe one day I'll be able to truly participate in the $5 Dinner Challenge. I think this meal cost somewhere in the $3 range. I don't keep up with how much everything costs me, so that's a rough estimate.

Normally, I cook this in a large pot on the stove. But I thought I'd save time and cook it in the microwave instead, assuming it'd be quicker. Nope. Took just as long to get that cabbage to cook down. Guess that's ok since it still tasted good. :)

Kielbasa & Cabbage


1 polska kielbasa sausage

1/2 head cabbage



Slice kielbasa; shred cabbage. Place both in large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for 15-20 minutes. You can serve this as a soup or strain it.

It's taken me a long time to develop the taste for cabbage. It wasn't on my favorite list growing up. But hubs likes it, and since I usually get a head of cabbage with my monthly Angel Food Ministries order, I try to make a point of using it. More often than not, I make this meal because it's simple and relatively hassle-free. The kids like it, too and refer to the cabbage as "salad", one of their favorite ways to eat vegetables. I'll let them call their cabbage salad as long as they keep on eating it! :)

Balancing Act Basics Siesta

What a weekened our family had! Between preschool graduation, ball game, shopping at Target (and saving over 50% on my bill using coupons), a haircut, going to the beach, church, yada yada yada, we had a very busy and fun-filled holiday weekend.

We got home late Monday night after spending Memorial Day swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and eating steaks at hubs' aunt & uncle's house, so I took a break from posting anything. Please forgive me--sometimes a blogger just needs to take a break from blogging and instead cuddle up with her husband on the couch. All part of that "balancing act" of prioritizing and putting family first. :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--5/25-5/31

Update: change of plans for this week's meal. I'll be scrapbooking Friday night, so hubs and the kids will be on their own. We'll have tacos on Saturday night instead, and cabbage rolls on Sunday, and so forth.

Lots going on this week--nothing new in our family!

Monday--Steak & Potatoes at my husband's aunt & uncle's house for Memorial Day

Tuesday--Kielbasa & Cabbage, Mixed Vegetables. Our son has a baseball game so we need something quick & easy

Wednesday--Oven-Fried Chicken, Cabbage, Honeydew--this just happens to be my birthday!

Thursday--Tomato-Basil Chicken, Tossed Salad--my church is having an Enrichment meeting, which is an activity night for the women of the church. Hubs has volunteered to help out in the nursery. Thank goodness for freezer meals! I'll be able to heat this up so we can eat as soon as I get home from work and head out to the activity.

Friday--Tacos, Jalapeno Poppers, Spanish Rice

Saturday--Cabbage Rolls, Broccoli & Cauliflower, Crescent Rolls

Sunday--Cordon Bleu Casserole, Tossed Salad, Celery Sticks

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Those Pesky Critters

I did some weeding in our garden today, and low and behold my radishes had been stripped! I had noticed some holes in my radish leaves a few days ago and knew something had gotten to them, but I didn't have much time to look and see what was going on until today. But it was already too late! This is what I found:

Why, why why?!! I mean nearly every leaf was gone!! I did some looking and hunting and finally found the pesky critter that caused this damage:

And this:

In fact, I found about 10 of these green caterpillars of various sizes all over my plants! Ugh!! The first one was huge. The kids and I took it out into the woods and put it on a nice leafy plant. I'll spare you the details, but the others were not so fortunate. And since I found the super tiny one shown above on my hand, I knew there had to be more super tiny ones that are hidden somewhere, which means the 4 or 5 leaves left on my plants may be gone by tomorrow morning. So I may have yet another caterpillar battle on my hands, especially if the critters try to move on to more plants.

So I did some research to find out if there are any organic resources to get rid of these creatures. What I learned is that they are very difficult to get rid of, but there are a few environmentally friendly solutions. It's just a matter of trying a few out and seeing what works best.

  1. Handpick caterpillars off your plants. What you do with the caterpillars is up to you--transport them out of your garden onto another plant, like we did by placing the largest caterpillar on a plant out in our woods, or ....well, let's not go there. The problem with that is the caterpillar will eventually turn into a moth or butterfly, which will lay its eggs on another plant, and the eggs will become more caterpillars to eat more plants. And the cycle will just continue.

  2. Just leave them alone. So maybe they'll just eat what they need, build a cocoon, turn into a butterfly or moth and be done with the destruction. Or maybe not. I read that for plants such as cauliflower and broccoli, the caterpillars will eat the outer leaves and leave the rest for you. That would be great for us, but we weren't successful growing cauliflower and broccoli. And obviously they really enjoyed my radish leaves, leaving me just the stems and whatever is underground.

  3. Place sticky bands around the base of plants. This might work for pests such as ants or beetles that would get on your plants by walking up to them, but I'm not sure about the plants that the caterpillars are already on. I mean, they're only on my radishes because a butterfly or moth laid its eggs on my radish plants. But something to consider for other pests.

  4. Spray with an organic pesticide. There are some non-toxic pesticides available that may be biodegradable or organic. Different types include B. Thuriengiensis spray, Beat-a-Bug, chili and garlic spray, biodegradable soap spray such as NatraSoap, Eco Oil, and Pest Oil.

  5. Introduce predatory pests into your garden, including frogs, lizards and wasps. Toads and frogs like little "homes" that provide shade and moisture. You can attract them by turning broken clay pots upside down and in a couple corners of your garden. Raise them up a bit by putting a corner of the pot up on stones so there's room for the toads or frogs to crawl beneath. They're a really good help in keeping garden pests under control.

I'm going to try option #5 next. I have some unused clay pots, so I'll be putting them up around my garden to welcome our toads & tree frogs. We see them every year. In fact, we've had a few tree frogs who somehow managed to unsuccessfully take up residence in our house (the cats found them and that was the end of that), so hopefully we won't have a problem getting them to take up residence in the garden!

Wok's For Dinner: Southwestern Chicken Fajita Wraps

This is a recipe I found in one of Betty Crocker's newsletters. It sounded good so I printed a copy and held onto it. As I was planning my freezer meal menu for this month, I came across the recipe, and since I had ordered chicken fajita meat with my May Angel Food Ministries order, it seemed to be a perfect fit. You can find the original recipe here. Below is the version I made.

Southwestern Chicken Fajita Wraps


1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp olive oil

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips in fajita marinade

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium orange bell pepper, chopped

1 roma tomato, seeded, chopped

1 can Mexican style corn, drained

1 pkg flour tortillas

1/2 cup shredded cheese

sour cream


In 12-inch skillet, cook chicken with spices, onions and bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken is no longer pink in center and bell pepper is crisp-tender. If freezing: place chicken mixture in gallon-size freezer bag and freeze; thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Add corn and chopped tomato; stir mixture. Heat in microwave-safe bowl in microwave for about 4 minutes. Place about 3/4 cup chicken mixture down center of tortilla. Top with cheese and sour cream.

We really enjoyed this meal, including the kids. The flavor was really good. I would recommend preparing your tortillas first with cheese, sour cream, etc., then heat up the chicken & corn mixture to ensure it's still warm by the time you eat. I heated the chicken & corn mixture first, then prepared the tortillas, and by the time we ate, it was cold. But it still tasted good, so it all worked out. :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Joys of Being a Parent

There are certain milestones our kids eventually reach that remind us that being a parent is a very rewarding assignment from our Heavenly Father.

For instance, our children eventually go to school. Whether it's preschool, public school, or home school, it will eventually happen. And when that day comes, they will, we hope, graduate. My son graduated from preschool Thursday night. It was a very proud parent moment and my heart is still swelling. :) He said that he is ready to go to Kindergarten now. I'm not so sure that I'm ready for him to go to Kindergarten, but it makes my heart happy to know how much he loves school and learning and that he's excited for the next step.

Another proud parent moment is when our children discover that crayons work on other things aside from paper and coloring books, like the car door and window. Okay, maybe not so much a "proud" parent moment. My son never went through this phase. But the reality is that some kids do, and my daughter is definitely one of those kids. She recently started coloring her clothes, her shoes, the walls of the house, and today's experiment was on the car. **sigh** I did hand her a wipe and together we cleaned it off. She promised that she would only color on paper and coloring books from now on. We'll see how long it lasts!! haha

Wok's For Dinner: Rustic Stuffed Potatoes

Hubs was out this evening doing a service project, and I was so tempted to just resort to PB&J sandwiches for tonight's dinner. But I didn't and instead the kids and I enjoyed a really tasty meal of corn on the cob, celery sticks (Ants on a Log for the kids, except they refused to eat the "logs") and Rustic Stuffed Potatoes. I cooked up the potatoes tonight, but made the stuffing part as a freezer meal earlier this month.

I found this recipe from the American Heart Association Low-Calorie Cookbook, which you can view here, so it's a healther alternative to a traditional loaded baked potato. The recipe calls for red potatoes, but you can use whatever kind you have or prefer. I used plain ol' Idaho potatoes and they still taste great. :)

If you sign up for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women national program, which promotes awareness and prevention of heart disease, the #1 killer of women, you can get free recipes from the A.H.A.'s cookbooks. I've tried several recipes on my family, not just Rustic Stuffed Potatoes, and they're all really good. I developed preeclampsia when I was 36 weeks pregnant with my son, and he had to be delivered prematurely due to the severity of my condition. After that, I battled borderline blood pressure for several months until it actually crossed into the high category about the time my son turned 1. With the assistance of medication for a couple months and some tips I learned from Go Red For Women, I was able to reduce my blood pressure back into the low range where it has remained ever since, including while I was pregnant with my daughter, and I haven't had to take any medication since it dropped back to acceptable levels. I owe a debt of gratitude to Go Red For Women for helping me get my heart back into & staying heart healthy, so I hope you don't mind me taking a little opportunity to get on my soapbox and ask you to check it out. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wok's For Dinner: Steak Fajita Quesadillas

One thing that I miss about Texas is Tex-Mex cuisine. I love the flavors of lime, cumin, celantro, and garlic all blended together. There are Mexican restaurants here in North Carolina near where we live. Although the food is really good, it's just not quite the same as what I grew up with living outside of San Antonio and Austin.

So I was really tickled when my May Angel Food Ministries order offered steak fajita meat. In fact, I felt that I had died and gone to Heaven. Normally, if I want fajitas, then I have to make it myself because the grocery stores here don't sell preseasoned fajita meat. So when I created my freezer meal menu for this month, I decided to include Steak Fajita Quesadillas--a blend of my two favorite Tex-Mex meals, fajitas and quesadillas. Now I did not make a freezer meal out of this; instead, I decided to make it fresh the day of.

Steak Fajita Quesadillas

1 lb steak fajita meat (or 1 lb beef skirt steak, seasoned with your favorite Mexican spices)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
10 flour tortillas

Cut fajita meat into thin strips. Cook in skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink. You can add onion and/or bell pepper slices or omit; I did not include onion or bell pepper for this meal. When meat is done, remove from skillet and place on a plate. Clean skillet with paper towel. Take a couple tortillas and place on skillet. Add a spoonful of fajita meat and little bit of cheese onto 1/2 of each tortilla. Fold over tortilla half that is not covered with meat or cheese. Allow tortilla to brown until golden, then flip tortilla and brown other side. Remove and transfer to a plate. Cut heated quesadillas into 3 triangles. Serve with your favorite Mexican side dish.

Summer Salads: Tomato & Avocado Salad

If you like salads but want something unique, then Tomato & Avocado Salad might satisfy your taste buds. This salad is a perfect accompaniment for tacos or fajitas and is definitely a healthier alternative than refried beans or Spanish rice.

Tomato & Avocado Salad

1 roma tomato, diced, seeds removed
1 avocado, peeled & pitted, diced
1 tsp lemon juice
ground pepper, to taste

Please appropriate portions of diced tomato & avocado on plates for each family member (the ingredients above may be enough for a family of 4). Add a little bit of lemon juice on avocado to prevent browning. Sprinkle a little pepper on each serving to taste.

I have to admit that, on their own, I am not a tomato or avocado fan, but I really enjoy this salad. The tanginess of the tomato blends very well with the creaminess of the avocado. It made a great side dish to Steak Fajita Quesadillas.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Goody Bag

Lots of goodies out there in cyberspace, at least in the coupon department, that you may not be aware of (I try to post stuff that I don't see on other blogs):


  • Glad ForceFlex Tall Kitchen Garbage Bag at Sam's Club here. You do not have to be a member to receive.
  • Sample Playtex Gentle Glide at Wal-mart. Click here.
  • Arby's FREE with purchase on Wednesdays: May 20th - Free Chocolate Malt Swirl Shake with sandwich purchase. No coupon necessary as long as your Arby's is participating.
  • FREE Guitar Pickholder and 5 black picks here.
  • Click here for a free float or freeze with purchase at A&W.


  • Coupon for $3 off your purchase of 2 Nair products here.
  • $1 Purex Complete 3 in 1 Laundry Sheets. Click here to print and here to receive by mail.
  • At K-Mart, right by the sales flyers in the stores, my K-mart had a nice coupon book with over $75 savings. It is called "Spring is savings season from K-Mart." Some have to be used at K-Mart, and some don't.
  • $1 off Special K Blueberry Cereal here.
  • Coupon off $1 Lil Drumstick Cones by Nestle. Click here to print and here to receive by mail.
  • Get up to 8 $1 off coupons at Organic Valley. Coupons are valid for 30 days from the date on which they are printed. Our online coupons are limited to two (2) prints per coupon offer. Click here to print.
  • Blue Bunny rebate for purchases between 5/23 & 5/25. Print out form here and redeem by 6/10/09.
  • $2 off Hawaiian Tropic. Click here to print.
  • Coupon for $1.50 off Bertolli. Click here to register & print your coupon.
  • $1.50 Pedialyte coupon. Click here to print and here to receive by mail.
  • Several coupons for products by French's here (mustard, Worcestershire sauce, etc.)
  • Get $2 off your next purchase of any Zyrtec product (registration required) here.
  • $1 off coupon for Hefty Waste Bags here.
  • $2 off any Clean & Clear product here (excludes trial/travel size).

Summer Reading Programs: Participating in Summer Reading Programs is a great way to keep your kids interested in reading and learning over the summer, and they can earn Free Books and other Fun Stuff too!

  • Scholastic Summer Challenge - a great way to motivate kids by earning points for reading. There are tons of resources, a Save the Children charity drive, and sweepstakes that you can enter to Win books and other prizes.
  • Barnes & Noble - for kids in Grades 1 thru 6, you can earn a free book after reading 8 and some locations also have a regularly scheduled story time (check find an event for your store).
  • Half-Price Books Feed Your Brain - Stop by a Half-Price Books and CiCi’s Pizza where your kids can make money on reading! Kids under 12 can earn a $3 Half-Price Books gift card for every week they read at least 15 minutes from June 1 to July 31. Talk about a rewarding reading program!
  • Pottery Barns Book Club - not just a Summer program, this regularly scheduled storytime goes on all year long on Tuesdays from 11 to 11:30 am. And your kids get a coupon ($10 off a purchase I hear) after attending 5 sessions and getting their booklet stamped.
  • TD Bank Summer Reading - read 10 books and get $10! A great incentive if you’ve got this bank near you.
  • For Texas readers: HEBuddy Reading Club - read 10 books and earn a free t-shirt and 20 point sticker.

Of course check your own local library for their Summer Reading programs and check back at for more resources.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Announcing the winner of the $258+ coupon giveaway (drum roll please):

Denise! I love using coupons because it not only saves me money, but it is freeing up money that I can use to pay down bills.

There were a total of 20 entries. Using, I plugged in 1-20 for the True Random Number Generator, and the winner was #5, or the 5th entry, Denise's.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway. I will continue to have giveaways periodically, so don't fret if you were not the winner this time. Be on the lookout for the next B.A.B. giveaway! :)

Wok's For Dinner: Grilled Shrimp On Mixed Green Salad

With a ball game this evening, I knew we'd get home late, so we needed a quick and hassle-free meal. Sure enough, it was about 8pm when we finally got home. Thank goodness I planned out my menu for the week in advance so I wouldn't have to rack my brain about "what's for dinner" nor did we have to do fast food. Instead, I still managed to serve up a healthy and great-tasting meal.

Grilled Shrimp on Mixed Green Salad

1 bag of Gorton's Grilled Shrimp
1/2 container of Earthbound Farms organic spring lettuce salad
1 carrot stick, peeled and grated
1/3 cup shredded cheese
handful of bacon bits
handful of croutons
salad dressing of your choice

Prepare shrimp according to directions. Meanwhile, place salad on dinner plates. Add grated carrots, cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and any other topping of your choice. Place 4 or 5 cooked shrimp on top. Add salad dressing. Voila! You're done!

I had intended on making Mexican Squash Casserole, but that didn't happen since it was so late when we got home. Not a problem; I'll just plan it for another day.
Tomorrow...Steak Fajita Quesadillas! Mmm...fajitas...quesadillas...

Tip o' Me Hat to Melissa's Bargain Blog

Have you ever had a really, really, really bad shopping experience? Ever presented a valid coupon and had it rejected? Ever shopped for an advertised deal and things just didn't go your way? Yeah, that happened to me at a recent shopping trip to Walmart Supercenter.

I went late at night, thinking it was the perfect opportunity because hubs was home with the kids, I could be by myself, and the store is usually empty. Little did I know that two of the four cashiers called in, my cashier refused to take my Internet coupons, forgot to ring up the two coupons I presented that weren't Internet, refused to price match one Walgreens advertised special for Dole fruit cups because Walgreens wasn't "competitor", forgot to ring up the cat litter and it had to be rung up separately, and...the list goes on. And since they were short on cashiers, the two open registers had lines backed up to the wazoo, so I didn't bother spending too much time arguing with the cashier. However, as soon as she handed me my 4th receipt (yes, 4th), I went to someone and asked to speak to a manager. When all was said and done, I learned that yes, Walmart still accepts Internet coupons, and the manager honored my coupons, saving me nearly $11 off my bill.

Has anything like that ever happened to you, too? Well, if so, never fear because my great friend Melissa at Melissa's Bargain Blog is there to help! During the whole experience, I couldn't help but recall an article Melissa had about standing your ground when using coupons. Melissa and I have known each other since freshman year at college, nearly 15 years ago. Gosh, has it been that long?! Melissa, who is an educator by day and bargain hunter by night, has been a huge help for me, always sharing recipes, bargain hunting tips, freebies, and great websites for earning $. Her blog has become a huge success. One of her features includes providing scenarios for CVS, Walgreens & Target shopping to help you maximize your savings and reduce your out of pocket (OOP) costs. You won't believe how she manages to spend $40 or less on groceries each week for her family of four. I'm still in awe--how does she do it?! The short of it: she knows her stuff.

Here's an excerpt from Melissa's post, Tip of the Day Tuesday: Standing Up for Yourself When Using Coupons:

I have been using coupons for over five years now, and even after years of experience, there are times when I still have anxiety about getting hassled over my coupons. Here are a few tips to help you stand up for yourself when using coupons:

1. Make sure you are using your coupons correctly: Make sure you read the fine print on your coupons and that what you are buying matches up with the details on your coupon. I have noticed that many of my stores have become much more particular about coupons. More often than not, they read the fine print and make sure that my items match up, especially if they beep. Avoid embarrassment at check-out by using your coupons legitimately!

2. Know your store's coupon policies: If you do a search online for individual stores and "coupon policies" you will find letters that others have received from customer service regarding store coupon policies. Sometimes it's helpful to print these letters to share with your cashiers...[click here to view the complete article]

When it comes to bargain hunting and getting the best deal, I promise you that Melissa will give you honest, helpful advice and won't steer you wrong! So let's all give a big "Shoutout!" to Melissa by visiting her blog and taking a peek at the tips and advice that she has for you.

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