Tuesday, June 30, 2009

America's Yard Sale

During the month of July, Focus on the Family is promoting a nationwide yard sale called America's Yard Sale to help families who are struggling financially. If you've got the Itch to Pitch, now would be a great time to clean out your closest and under your beds. What a way to multitask. Not only do you get rid of the clutter, you can help out your family by earning a little cash, plus help out other families by giving them the opportunity to purchase gently-used items at a fraction of the retail price.

Photo courtesy of Focus on the Family

Here's a little bit of information about America's Yard Sale. This information comes from a weekly newsletter that I received from Focus on the Family.

Dear Focus Friend,

Ever wonder how your old toys, tools and treasures could bless families in need?

This July, join us for America's Family Yard Sale™--a nationwide effort to support hurting families in our neighborhoods and around the world.

Just clean out your attic, closets and drawers. Your unused "clutter" will quickly become much-needed items that some families may not have otherwise been able to afford--especially in our difficult economy.

After your sale, we encourage you to contribute a portion of your funds to Focus on the Family®, your local church or a non-profit organization [another way to help out a needy family :) --DeAna]. And when you tell us your story, we'll send you an Adventures in Odyssey® animation cel...a one-of-a-kind collectable!

For more information about America's Yard Sale, and to receive a complimentary yard sale kit, click here. If you're in the Colorado area, you can register to join the yard sale on July 11 with Focus on the Family. Or you can have your own yard sale at your home and post your yard sale on the map with others around the nation who are participating.

New & Reset Coupons Available!

This just in: new coupons & reset coupons at Coupons.com. There will be even more come July, so be on the lookout. Some of today's highlights:
  • Save $1 on any one (1) package of Special K protein shakes, 4 ct or larger, any flavor
  • Save $0.50 on any Green Works product
  • Save $0.40 on any two (2) Viva Towels Big Roll packages or any one (1) 2-pack or larger
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) package of Kellogg's Special K crackers, 4.62oz or larger, any flavor
  • Save $1.00 on one (1) package of Kellogg's Special K Blueberry Cereal, 11.4oz or larger
  • Save $1.00 on any two (2) packages of Keebler Fudge Shoppe Cookies, 8.5oz or larger, any flavor, mix or match
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) Smithfield boneless ham [I was able ot print 4 copies before finally reaching the print limit--DeAna]
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) package of Smithfield Smoked Pork Chops [I was able to print 4 copies before finally reaching the print limit--DeAna]
  • Save $1.00 on any two (2) 20oz or less Gorton's bagged items [their grilled shrimp is awesome! --DeAna]
  • Save $1.50 on any one (1) Pond's Wet Cleansing Towelettes, 30ct only
  • Save $1.00 on any two (2) packages of Keebler and/or Sunshine 100 Calorie Right Bites Snacks, 6ct or larger
  • Save $1.00 off any flavor Land O Lakes Seasoning
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) Listerine Agent Cool Blue or Listerine Smart Rinse, 500mL or larger
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) 10oz or 14oz can of Scotchgard Fabric Protector
  • Save $10.00 on the purchase of one (1) Monopoly Electronic Banking Game
  • Save $5.00 on the purchase of one (1) Pictureka! game [I was able to use two coupons to buy the travel version of this game, which happened to be discounted 5% at Target, so instead of paying the sale price of $6.64, I paid only $1.64 each. Now I have two inexpensive Christmas presents (doesn't hurt to start buying early, ya' know? :)]
  • Save $10.00 on the purchase of one (1) Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game

Don't forget that you can print these Bricks coupons through MyPoints. Each coupon that you clip & redeem will earn you 10 points, plus an entry into a giveaway for a $200 gift card (new winner each week!). And since they are Bricks coupons, you should be able to print at least 2 copies (4 for the Smithfield ham & smoked pork chops).

There are also new Smartsource coupons available to print. And just like Bricks coupons, you should be able to print these up to two times:

  • Save $0.50 on any Curad product
  • Save $0.40 on any two (2) Viva Towels Big Roll packages or one (1) Big Roll 2pk or larger [yes, available at Smartsource & Coupons.com! Time to stockpile if they go on sale. :) --DeAna]
  • Save $1 off of any 18oz or 33.8oz bottle of Act mouthwash
  • Save $0.55 on one (1) Land O Lakes Butter with Olive Oil or Spreadable Butter product
  • Save $2.00 on 24 rolls of White Cloud premium-quality bathroom tissue when you visit their website.

Also several coupons available at Hormel.com (thanks, Lori @ Moms By Heart!) available for printing:

  • Save $0.55 on one (1) package Hormel Natural Choice Deli Sandwich Meat
  • Save $0.55 on one (1) package Hormel Pepperoni [this is great for making homemade pizza! --DeAna]
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) package Hormel Microwave Ready Bacon
  • Save $1.00 on any one (1) package Hormel Party Tray
  • Save $2.00 on one (1) package Hormel Refrigerated Entree'

For those of you brave enough to tackle the sales ads and match them with these coupons, please share your savings ideas by posting a comment here! :)

Wok's For Dinner: Saucy Scalloped Potatoes

Two words: LOVED IT!

Seriously, it was really, really yummy and smellled like Heaven. I'll definitely make this meal again in the future. It makes a great hands-free Crock-Pot meal. I try to make one crock meal each month when I make my once a month freezer meals, and I made the main course for tonight's meal during my June once a month freezer meal day. It froze well, thawed within a reasonable amount of time, and was easy to heat up in the microwave. Oh, and by the way, the recipe came from one of the Slow Cooker & Cassroles newsletters I received from Taste of Home.

Saucy Scalloped Potatoes


4 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (about 2 lbs)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of celery soup or mushroom soup, undiluted (I used cream of celery)
1 can (12 oz) evaproated milk
1 large onion, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped fully cooked ham


In a 3-qt slow cooker, combine the first seven ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Stir in ham. Reduce heat to low; cook 6-8 hours longer or until potatoes are tender. Yield: 8 servings.

The potatoes were a little "well done" for this meal. I followed the directions, high 1 hour, low for only 6 hours, and still they overcooked. I've decided that my 3qt crock is cooking on "high" even if I have the setting on "low." It wasn't the first time I overcooked a meal with the 3qt crock. But that's okay. Nothing was burnt, and it certainly didn't affect the flavor of tonight's meal. If anything, it was like eating a really, really good potato & ham chowder. Like I mentioned earlier, LOVED IT!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cheap Family Fun: Minor League Baseball

If you plan well ahead of time, taking your family to a minor league baseball game can be an inexpensive and fun family activity.

We took the kids to see the Kinston Indians (K-Tribe) play Saturday night. It was their first experience to watch a professional baseball game. They really enjoyed the experience and the excitement of the evening.

Here's how we made it an cheap family night out, and some of the highlights.

1) For an evening game, eat dinner before going to the game. The game started at 7pm, which meant we either ate an early dinner or ate at the game. Hmmm...hot dogs at the game, which cost money? Plus fries and drinks? Or...hot dogs and fries at home, which we already had, and didn't have to spend any money to get. The answer was an easy decision for me, although it took me a long time to convince my husband. He had "heard" that K-Tribe had the best hot dogs around, and he was looking forward to trying out 2 or 3 to find out for himself. But in the interest of sticking to our budget, I had to put my foot down and say no. So we ate hot dogs & fries at home about 5pm before heading out. You could do the same thing for games that started around lunch time.

2) Find out when the team will have cheap ticket games. K-Tribe has $2 Tuesday, when all tickets cost just $2. Plus, if you take a Kraft Single wrapper with you to a minor league game on Tuesday nights, you can take advantage of a BOGO opportunity (buy one ticket get one free!). Details here. Since I work during the day, and knowing I'd have to go in to work on Wednesday, we chose to not go to a Tuesday game and to stick with a Saturday game.

3) Not only does K-Tribe offer $2 Tuesdays, they also provide a military discount on tickets. My father-in-law (who is retired Air Force) and mother-in-law decided to go with us to the game Saturday night. Dad stepped in line in front of us just before we got to the ticket booth, and whipped out his military discount. So instead of paying $7 per person, he only paid $4. We lucked out and didn't have to buy tickets thanks to his generosity. So even if you're not able to go on your team's discount day, you can still save on tickets if you are military (or you have a generous father-in-law!).

3) If you do buy something, i.e. snacks/drinks/souvenirs, stick to a budget. I brought only $10 cash to buy snacks and drinks. That didn't go very far, but it kept us from getting more than what we actually needed. I brought drinks for the kids in sippy cups, a bottle of water for me, and hubs packed a couple of sodas into a large cup with a lid. It was a warm evening, so we quickly drank everything up. So I spent our $10 cash on a large drink for hubs and slurpees for the kids, which I shared with them. Had I been thinking, I would have packed a few snacks in my purse as well. My son insisted that he wanted ice cream and only ice cream would do. But I didn't have money for ice cream since I had already used up the $10 by the time he begged for ice cream. Fortunately, my mother-in-law had packed a baggie of snacks for the kids. Oh well, you live, you learn.

We went on Spider-Man night. The kids were really excited to see Spider-Man, but I couldn't convince either of them to go near him for a photo op. This was the best I could get--from the top of the bleachers where we were sitting, looking out at the back of the park where Spider-Man was and getting a shot of him with my zoom lens.
Even though we were in the nose bleed section, literally the uppermost row of bleachers, we still had great seats in my opinion. We were right behind home plate. No way we'd be able to catch a foul ball, but we could see all the action, and there was a really good breeze that wasn't in other sections of the stadium.It was fun watching some of the activities inbetween innings, like these two going at it sumo-wrestler style!
About the 8th inning, my daughter decided she was ready to go home. She was wore out & tired! But she was a good trooper and stuck it out until the end of the 12th inning, when we called it a night and headed home. The game was tied 2-2, and who knew how long it'd take for someone to win and the game to be decided.
For his first professional baseball game (come to think of it, it was also my first professional baseball game) my son held up very well. He was easily distracted, as most 5-year-olds tend to be, but he did have fun and we were able to teach him a little more about the game. He was impressed at the outfielders catching fly balls. He played in the outfield nearly the entire season on his coach pitch team, and he absolutely hated it because it was "boring." I think he realized that outfielders are important, too!

Wok's For Dinner: Barbecued Sloppy Joes

Tonight's meal was quick and easy to prepare, thanks to our garden (provider of the summer squash), Angel Food Ministries (provider of the watermelon and ground beef for the sloppy joe's) and once a month freezer meals (provider of the prepared sloppy joe's)!

Barbecued Sloppy Joe's

1 lb ground beef
1/2 chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup barbecue sauce, any flavor
hamburger buns

Cook ground beef in a large nonstick skillet until cooked through; drain. Add peppers and onion; cook and stir until tender. Add barbecue sauce; cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Fill buns with beef mixture and serve. If freezing: After mixing in barbecue sauce, place beef mixture into a freezer bag, squeeze out air, seal and freeze. Thaw at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Heat in microwave in a microwave-safe bowl for about 3-4 minutes then serve.

My little 2 1/2 yr-old daughter ate her entire sloppy joe--I am still stunned. I cut hers up into 4 triangles and she ate every bit of it. She wouldn't touch the squash or the watermelon, but I can't complain since she happily ate her sloppy joe. On the other hand, my son ate all of his watermelon, plus his sister's watermelon, but refused to eat more than a couple bites of his sloppy joe, and none of the squash. Isn't it amazing how two kids, who were raised in the same house, fed the same food, have such different appetites?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wok's For Dinner: Herbed Chicken

I've only made this meal a couple times, but it's always turned out well. I added it to my June Once a Month Mom freezer meal plan since I had bought a 10 lb bag of chicken leg quarters that were on sale (48 cents a pound!). After preparing and cooking this meal on my freezer meal cooking day, I simply placed the chicken leg quarters into a gallon-size freezer bag and stuck it in the freezer. The leg quarters were a little bulky, but they froze up nicely. I let the leg quarters thaw in the fridge for about 36 hours (pulled them out Saturday morning and heated in the microwave Sunday evening before serving). They were very tender, moist & juicy--yummy and full of flavor!

Herbed Chicken

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh or 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
3/4 tsp chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp dried marjoram leaves
3/4 tsp chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp dried oregano leaves (I used fresh oregano from my garden)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3-3 1/2 lb broiler/fryer chicken, cut up (I used chicken leg quarters)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix olive oil with onion, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, herbs and garlic. Place chicken in 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Coat with herb mixture. Bake uncovered 45-60 minutes or until juices run clear.

Hubs had seconds on the chicken and the kids gobbled up their chicken drumsticks. For myself, I enjoyed this meal, too. I must have done something right! :)

Menu Plan Monday: 6/29-7/5

Finally, it looks as though we will have a semi-quiet week! Here's what we are planning for our dinners after coordinating the meals with what's on the calendar.
Monday--Barbecued Sloppy Joes, Watermelon, Summer Squash, Pickles
This is our weekly Family Home Evening night. We'll be learning about forgiving.
Tuesday--Saucy Scalloped Potatoes, Broccoli, Veggie Tray
Wednesday--Asian Chicken Salad, White Flesh Peaches, Grilled Zucchini
Thursday--Chicken and Squash, Cucumbers
Friday--Burritos, Spanish Rice, Corn
We'll be heading to the Mall after dinner for the annual city 4th of July fireworks. I'm surprised that they're actually having the fireworks on the 3rd this year. They're always on the 4th, even if it's the middle of the week.
Saturday--Out for dinner! Going to hubs's aunt & uncle's house for 4th of July and dinner. We're supposed to bring chips.
Sunday--Chicken and Cheese Lasagna, Cucumber Salad
For hundreds of weekly meal plans, visit OrgJunkie.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Portrait of a Healthy Mom

The following article came in my monthly To Your Health newsletter. I thought it was so timely! At least for me, since I've been under some stress the past couple of weeks.

Portrait of a Healthy Mom
It may sound impossible, but many women actually find the time and clarity to eat right, exercise consistently and maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle even with children, a job, a spouse and myriad other responsibilities. How do they do it? By learning simple, effective ways to prioritize their own health and wellness.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Being a mom is tough, especially when it comes to finding time to exercise, eat right and just plain relax while doing all the other things moms do every day. In short, moms are continuously challenged to treat themselves with the same care and concern they selflessly dedicate to their children, their spouse and countless others. Finding the time is one of the biggest challenges, but it's an absolute necessity for your sake and the sake of your loved ones. Here are four ways to stay healthy - physically and emotionally - in the midst of the chaos:

1. Make the world your gym. This might sound strange, but it's great advice, especially when you're running around with your head cut off and can't possibly see yourself making it the gym for an hour a day, three or four days a week. "I don't have the time" is no excuse for not exercising, not when there are so many ways to get a great workout with limited equipment and time. At home, you can increase your metabolism (which promotes weight loss) and tone your muscles with simple body-resistance exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, etc.) in as little as 10-15 minutes a day. If you're with the kids at a park, bring a few cones and set up a sprint course for you (and them) to run. Even riding the swings can be a heart-pumping, muscle-toning activity. Commit yourself to exercise and you'll find a million easy, enjoyable ways to do it, no matter where you are or how little time you seemingly have. (The living room floor makes a great home gym for me. :) --DeAna)

2. Plan ahead - way ahead. This is a great suggestion in general, but with respect to ensuring proper nutrition for you and your family, it's essential. Why wait until the last minute and end up rushing to prepare breakfast, get lunches ready or whip up dinner after work? In the end, not only do your kids likely suffer from a higher percentage of prepackaged, processed, microwaved foods, but so will you. To combat this all-too-common trend, plan weekly meals (Better yet, plan monthly meals & do some once a month freezer meal cooking!--DeAna). On the weekends, shop for the week, paying particular attention to purchasing a variety of healthy, easy-to-prepare foods you can turn into quick meals. Anything that can be prepared beforehand and/or in large quantities is perfect - leftovers are a great way to ensure good meals during the hectic week. And involve your children in the process; it will take some of the work off your shoulders while teaching them the value of good nutrition.

3. Give yourself a break. Sometimes finding time to do nothing is just as important as finding time to exercise, eat right or do something. Just because you've finally found an "extra" 20 minutes in your day doesn't necessarily mean you've got to fill it with an activity. Taking a few moments to unwind, de-stress and get away from it all can do wonders. If the kids are asleep or otherwise occupied, kick off your shoes and relax in your favorite chair with soft music and aromatherapy (or complete silence, if that's possible); if the house is still bustling, a casual walk around the block can be just as freeing. This can also be a great time to review your day and work through any negative emotions or stresses in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. (This is really hard for me. Even though it's nice on the few rare occasions when I'm able to do it, I feel so guilty just sitting around for any length of time. Gotta work on that.--DeAna)

4. Put yourself on your list of priorities. This is a no-brainer, but it's the key to accomplishing all of the above. One of the very qualities that makes moms so special - selflessness - can also be their downfall. To avoid this, make sure you're on your priority list (and not at the bottom); this doesn't mean being selfish or putting yourself ahead of your children or your other responsibilities; it's really about identifying when you need your time - and then taking it without feeling guilty. If you're convinced that sacrificing your own health and wellness to ensure the same for your children is acceptable, think of it this way: By giving to yourself, you'll be giving to them, too. By exercising, eating right and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you'll be in an infinitely better position to provide for them in every way. And isn't that what being a mom is all about?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wok's For Dinner: Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken & Rice)

I'll be scrapbooking Friday night (not on the calendar when I made my menu for this week, but it should have been on the calendar, just forgot to add it), so I made this meal for hubs and the kids ahead of time. The chicken was leftover from Chicken in a Pot, Tuesday's meal. Hubs isn't too talented in the rice department, so I went ahead and made a pot of rice Thursday night. All hubs will have to do is mix up the rice & chicken, heat them up, and serve with a vegetable or two for him & the kids. I'll be missing out on eating this meal since dinner is served at the crop, but I'm crossing my fingers that maybe there will be leftovers and I can have some for lunch on Saturday.

Here's the "semi-homemade" version for Arroz Con Pollo, the version that I made this evening.

Arroz Con Pollo (semi-homemade style)

2-3 cups fully cooked chicken
3/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup rice, uncooked
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh or 1/2 tsp dried oregano (I used fresh oregano from my garden, gotta love it! :)
1/8-1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 can chicken broth (I used 2 cups homemade chicken broth)

Place all ingredients into a rice cooker, excluding the cooked chicken, and cook rice mixture. On my rice cooker, I just push a button and it automatically shuts off after about 20 minutes then goes into a "warm" status. Meanwhile, heat chicken in microwave. After rice is done cooking, mix chicken with rice. Serve & enjoy.

My mouth is already watering just thinking about the meal I'm going to miss out on. I'll keep my fingers crossed that there will be leftovers!

When The Going Gets Tough...

...the tough get scrapbooking!

At least, that's my motto. There are only a few guaranteed de-stressors for me, and scrapbookig is one of them. If I had my way, I'd scrap at least once a week like I did prior to having kids. But those days just don't happen like they used to. So I make a point of scrapbooking once a month with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law at my MIL's church. She has a friend who is a Creative Memories consultant, and for $10, I get to crop-all-I-want for 6 hours straight, plus I get a dinner and dessert. And no kids. I find it really, really relaxing, and it's nice to have something that I can focus on and feel really productive because I'm able to accomplish something.

Did I mention no kids?

Scrapbook.com has a great forum with lots of helpful hints, from getting started to photography to chipboard albums. Lots & lots of useful information! And if you're not a scrapper and you're having trouble falling asleep, then this just may help you get some zzzzz's. :) I've always tried to scrap on my own talents and with my own inspiration, but I do find that I'll start recreating the same page and layout over and over, and that gets old. So it's always nice to hunt around the Internet and check out forums like the one at Scrapbook.com so I can get some great ideas and useful information.

And did I mention that there are no kids when I scrapbook?

Some other great stress relievers that I rely on:
  1. painting my toenails. I used to ALWAYS have my toenails painted, but I stopped doing it after my daughter was born in 2006. I'm trying to slowly get back into the habit and paint my t-nails about once a quarter. Not anywhere near as frequently as I used to do, but I gotta prioritize. It may occur only once a quarter, but at least it's a little opportunity to relieve some stress.
  2. cleaning house. Yeah, go figure. But putting all my energy and frustrations into kicking out the dust bunnies really helps me relieve a LOT of stress. I clean a little here and a little there all throughout the week. But at least once a month, I'll do a really big cleaning job and spend an entire afternoon on the weekend cleaning the house top to bottom. Hasn't happened in the past couple of months since we've had an awful lot of stuff going on. Probably explains why I'm a little on edge (the messy house doesn't help either!). Definitely overdue for some mid-Summer cleaning!
  3. taking a bubble bath. Aaahhhhh, nothing like soaking in a hot tub of suds! I do this about once every month or two and it's a guaranteed stress-reliever. I'll take a book or magazine with me and get some reading done while soaking in the tub. Usually, I only get to do this after the kids have gone to bed. So, so, relaxing and enjoyable.
  4. reading. A luxury that I just don't get to do very often. Unless you count the blogs and forums I keep up with, or at least try to, when Surf Control isn't on the rampage during my lunch hour at work. I mean real books, not the cute kiddie books that I read to the kids before bedtime. But when I do finally manage to pick up an honest-to-goodness real book, it's hard to put it down! I get truly engrossed in the story. And I absolutely love happy endings. They just seem to put me in the right spirits.

What about you? Do you have some fail-proof stress relievers? Please share them here by posting a comment! If you've already posted this on your blog, please share the link. :)

Great Giveaway at Melissa's Bargain Blog!

Melissa at Melissa's Bargain Blog recently announced an awesome giveaway! My Blogspark has offered her a giveaway for one of her readers (this could also be you!). The giveaway is for a set of books courtesy of Cheerios and My Blogspark.

This is a great giveaway, so head on over here to check out all the details on how to enter. Melissa's giveaway will close on Sunday, 6/28/09 at 11:59pm. There are only a handful or two of entries, so your chances of winning are really good!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wok's For Dinner: Salads and Texas Pete

With everything that's been going on this week (busy, busy!) I've tried to keep our meals nice & simple.
Wednesday night was Chicken Tenders, French Fries & Cantaloupe. I decided to get a little fancy with the cantaloupe and made melon balls. I think hubs and I were still newlyweds the last time I made melon balls. The kids were really intrigued and quickly gobbled up the little melon balls. So I may have to make them again. I wanted a tasty dipping sauce for the chicken tenders and fries, and immediately thought of my favorite--honey mustard. But since I took the time to make melon balls, and it was supposed to be a "quick" meal, I didn't even bother to make homemade honey mustard sauce. Instead, I pulled out the good ol' trusty Texas Pete Honey Mustard Sauce. It tasted good and was a perfect fit for the meal, so I guess I did all right. ;)

And then tonight, I made more of a chef salad ratherthan the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad that I had originally planned. The chicken I had cooked up on my Once a Month Mom freezer meal cooking day this past Saturday. I cut the chicken into strips, cooked it up in a skillet with some Italian dressing and froze in a freezer bag. For tonight, after making a salad with some lettuce, shredded carrots, and sliced cucumbers (from the garden!) I heated the chicken (already thawed in frig) with some cubed turkey ham in the microwave for about 1 minute, then placed on top of the salad. Added a light amount of honey mustard dressing (not Texas Pete this time :) and voila! Chef Salad. The whole family enjoyed it, and it tasted really good.

Have you ever tried marinating your chicken with Italian dressing? Give it a try. Even if you're not an Italian dressing fan, I think you'll really enjoy the flavor of grilled or saute'd chicken that has marinated in Italian dressing. Your chicken will be very flavorful, moist and tender!

Please Pardon The Interruption

Sorry, everyone for being "here today and gone tomorrow." It's like a hit or miss this week on whether or not I'll be able to work on the blog.

I try to moderate comments during my lunch hour at work. But on Monday, Surf Control was up & running and wouldn't let me get into blogger. I couldn't even get into my personal email account to read any of the newsletters for the blogs I follow. It was a rough day for me in the blogging world.

Tuesday was fine and I got out a couple of posts in the late evening. Wednesday, however, hubs insisted that we go ahead and can the stash of cucumbers we had recently picked but were hogging up space in our refrigerator. So after getting the kids to bed, we had a mini date night together and canned our first 8 jars of pickles. It was a really great evening, but it wasn't over until after 11pm. Too late to start working on the blog considering I had to get up early and go to work this morning.

So please accept my apologies. I've published all the recent comments (I promise that I was not ignoring you!). If I had my way, I'd be a SAHM or at least a part-time employee so I could devote more time to all my projects that are running around in my head. But for now I continue the play the balancing act and try to prioritize everything as best as I can.

And for those of you who are interested, here's our pickle pictures. We did 4 jars of spears and 4 jars of hamburger dill slices. Can't wait to try them out (hubs gave away a few jars to family & friends and told them they were our guinea pigs; if they keel over then we know the pickles are no good! :) hahaha!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tip O' Me Hat To: The Happy Housewife and Her Itch to Pitch

If you've never heard of The Happy Housewife or visited her blog, now is the time to do so. Especially if you've got a messy room or two that is in desperate need of organization. She is a SAHM home-schooling mom & Navy wife of 16 years with 7 (yes, 7!) children ranging in age from a few months to 14 yrs. The Happy Housewife recently started a series called Itch to Pitch. She's a lot like me, in that a messy house = a disaster for a wife. When the clutter starts piling up, I get sick to my stomach, nervous, anxious, irritable, and stressed-out to the point that I can't stand it. And then I'm so distresssed that I can't even start to clean up the disaster area because my motivation goes right out the door.

It gets really bad when hubs goes on the warpath and remodels a room...a slow process we started when we moved into & bought the house nearly 7 years ago. We've been working on one room at a time, literally from floor to ceiling. We are currently on our 2nd remodel of the dining room (the 1st didn't turn out quite as we expected, so we "tolerated" it until a few months ago when hubs got the "itch to remodel." So when it's remodel time, it tends to be pile-up clutter time too. The whole house. Not just the room that's being redone.

Our worst room is currently the kids' room. With them being only 2 1/2 and 5 years of age, it's not reasonable to expect them to be perfect at keeping a clean room. But I'm partly to blame for slacking off and not helping them out. My son will "clean" his room about once every couple of months. He does it on his own without any prompting, but his version of cleaning is to throw all the toys into a giant heap on the closet floor.

Like this:

Note that there are two toy boxes inside the closet (difficult to see because they are in the back corners behind the doors) and the toys still end up on the closet floor, not in the toy boxes. I can't get mad or upset at my son for his version of "cleaning up" because it is a sincere effort and he's always so pleased with the results and excited about showing me what a big boy he is each time he cleans. My goal right now is to steer him in the direction of putting toys into the toy boxes and books on the bookshelf, and to do so in a manner that is encouraging to him. The last thing I want is for him to feel like his version is not good enough.

Here's the rest of the bedroom. We had an indoor camping night that lasted more like a week, and now the tent is still sitting in the middle of the room--not where it belongs, of course.

And, sadly, here's another view...
I am quite embarrassed about how the kids' room is looking right now. I promise you that it's never been this bad. But between the remodel of the dining room, our son in baseball (he has only one game left, hooray!!!) and everything else that's been going on the last couple weeks, it has been extremely difficult to keep up with the day-to-day household chores. I've tried to stick to the bare minimum--dishes, laundry, and bathroom--and not worried too much about things like putting away toys.

But it can't stay this way forever. It can't even stay this way for another week. So I've got the Itch to Pitch and will be participating in The Happy Housewife's campaign to de-clutter. I'll be spending a little bit of each evening for the next week or so (or however long it takes) and will be creating "keep", "sell" and "pitch" piles, starting with the kids' room.

Thank you, Happy Housewife, for helping me get my motivation back!

Wok's For Dinner: Chicken In A Pot

This meal has become a staple in our home. It's a convenient meal to make because I just chop up some vegetables and throw everything into a Crock-Pot. The meal then cooks itself. What's even better is that I can use the chicken for more than one meal. After everything cooked up, I used half of the chicken for tonight's meal with the vegetables, and I froze the other half of the chicken which I will use when I make Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken and Rice). Plus, I put the chicken bones back into the crock and added some water, set it to low, and within an hour or so I'll have homemade chicken broth that I will freeze and use to make rice and other meals. Using a wole broiler/fryer chicken is definitely a great value!

I don't think that I make this meal the same way twice, but this is what I did when I put everything in the crock this morning:

Chicken In A Pot

3 carrot sticks, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stocks, diced
4 small-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3lb broiler/fryer chicken
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano (I almost used the fresh oregano from my garden, but didn't feel like going outside to get any, so I settled for the dried version)
1/2 cup water

Put vegetables into bottom of Crock-Pot. Add whole chicken. Top with seasonings & herbs. Slowly pour water over top of chicken. Cover; cook on low 8-10 hours or high 3 1/2-5 hours (use 1 cup water instead of 1/2 cup if using high setting).

I chopped up the vegetables and put everything into the crock this morning before heading out to work. Hubs didn't have to work today, so he was able to take the crock out of the fridge and turning it on about 10am to the low setting (one of these days I'll buy one of those Crock-Pots that has a timer, but for now I'll just rely on hubs if I use my crock in the middle of the week :). Everything was ready to eat at 6pm. The chicken was so moist and tender and easily fell off the bone. The veggies were full of flavor. My daughter refused to eat the carrots, but I taught her a trick to drink a sip of milk with a bite of carrot, and after trying that, she decided that she "loved" her carrots. Whatever works!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June OAMM Cooking Results

Saturday was my Once a Month Mom freezer meal cooking day! I was so proud of myself for being able to make all the dinner meals in one day. I started cooking once a month in March, and it's taken me two days to make all the meals. Now I did not make any of the breakfast meals this time, so that's probably why I was able to do all the dinner meals in one day this time! haha I'll be making the breakfast meals later this coming week.

One of the biggest helps for my monthly freezer meal cooking is buying some of my food from Angel Food Ministries. It helps take the guess work out of grocery shopping, definitely for the meats, which aren't always priced good at the grocery stores. And with working full-time, I don't always get to devote a lot of time or energy to pricing the sales ads and getting to the grocery stores. I do what I can, and AFM makes up the difference. Plus, I'm getting some really great deals on some really great food. Click here for more information about Angel Food Ministries and here for some of the reasons why I started buying food AFM.

I plan my freezer meal cooking day to coincidee with my AFM pick-up day, which is usually the 3rd Saturday of the month. Since I'm bringing home a stack of meats, it makes sense to just cook everything up all on the same day. You can view my menu for June here. Below is what I got from AFM for just $74.
June Special #3 Box, $22--4.5 lb whole broiler/fryer chicken, 3 lb split chicken breast, 2 lb breaded chicken tenders, 1.5 lb boneless/skinless chicken breast

June Special #4, $22--1 seedless watermelon, 1 cantaloupe, 2 mangoes, 3 lb Valencia oranges, 1 lb kiwi fruit, 4 ears super-sweet yellow corn, 2 zucchini squash, 2 yellow squash (we've got squash & zucchini coming out of our ears from our garden, but I figured, what's a few more squash?), 2 lb Vidalia onions, 1 head cabbage, 1 head iceberg lettuce, 3 lb Idaho potatoes, 1 16 oz bottle Italian dressing and marinade

One regular box, $30--1.5 lb ribeye steaks, 2 lb homestyle lasagna dinner entree, 2 lb beef & bean burritos, 2 lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts chunks, 28 oz jumbo beef pattie entree with gravy, 1lb lean ground beef, 1 lb all meat hot dog, 10 oz cheese slices, 20 oz shoestring fries, 1 lb broccoli cuts, 12 oz peanut butter, 1 lb rice, 1 lb pinto beans, 1 lb tub margarine, 32 oz 2% shelf stable milk, dozen eggs, lemon raspberry cream pie, (not pictured, 1 doz eggs)

This OAMM freezer meal cooking day was a little stressful to me, probably because I really wanted to get the dinners cooked in the same day, and I didn't get to start working on the freezer meals until about lunch time. My kids were a constant flow in & out of the kitchen, and that didn't help. Hubs did his best to try to corral them into the living room or encourage them to play outside, but sometimes they just didn't want anyone but mommy, a fact I had to face back when my oldest was just a little tyke. But all in all it was a great day and I really felt like I accomplished a lot.
Several of the meals called for oregano, so I happily used some of the fresh oregano growing in our organic garden. I need to pluck some more sprigs and make homemade dried oregano.

Above: Cooking up some Chicken & Garden Vegetables. For this particular recipe, the squash and zucchini came from our garden.

Above: Chicken and Squash cooking in the skillet. This recipe came from a recipe card I got in my May Angel Food Ministries order.
As always, I'll post the recipes as I cook them up. I've got the Angel Food Ministries menu for July, so I'll start working on a July OAMM menu as that month approaches. My next once a month mom cooking day will be here before I know it!

Wok's For Dinner: Baby Back Bash Ribs

We were supposed to have Chicken & Cornbread Casserole this evening, but hubs said that he wanted ribs instead. With it being Father's Day, I didn't mind changing the meal. And it didn't hurt that I had recently bought country style pork ribs from Food Lion, so it was just a matter of making the rub and sauce then cooking them up!

I got this recipe from the Hidden Valley Orignal Bites Cookbook. It just sounded so good! I made a few changes based on our family's tastes (for instance, my kids wouldn't be too happy with the taste of hot pepper sauce, so I omitted it). Here's my version:

Baby Back Bash Ribs

2 racks country style boneless pork ribs
Rub: 1/2 packet ranch dip mix, 2 Tbsp paprika, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Sauce: 2/3 bottle honey-flavored barbecue sauce, 1/2 packet ranch dip mix

Preheat oven to 325F. Rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Place ribs in a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 packet Ranch dip mix, paprika and ground black pepper. Rub top of ribs with seasoning mixture. In a medium bowl, stir together remaining ingredients; pour sauce over ribs. Cover with foil and roast in oven for 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes.

These ribs were SOOO good! They were so tender and literally fell apart as I took them out of the pan. Both of the kids enjoyed them, and hubs ate two helpings! He had been a little leery about me making this recipe, because he wanted me to make a baby back ribs recipe that I last made about two years ago. But I tried to reassure him that everything would turn out all right; he just needed to trust me. From the results of this meal, I think it turned out way more than all right. It was fantastic!

Menu Plan Monday: 6/22-6/28

UPDATED: 6/25/09 I completely forgot that Friday night was my monthly girls' night out scrapbooking night. So hubs will be on his own for dinner with the kids. I feel bad since hubs hasn't been feeling well, so I'll cook up the rice for Arroz Con Pollo the night before, and hubs will just have to heat it up with the fully-cooked chicken that I'll have leftover from Chicken in a Pot, Tuesday's meal.

I was introduced to the whole "Menu Plan Monday" by my friend Melissa over at Melissa's Bargain Blog. I thought, "What a great concept!" Little did I know that she was one of several hundred bloggers who participated in the Menu Plan Monday. You can't go wrong with an idea that works.

My family has benefited since I started participating in MPM a couple months ago. Gone are the "What's for dinner?" days. If hubs wants to know, all he has to do is look on the frig and see what's posted. By no means is the menu posted set in stone. It is prone to change as things come up. Like tonight, with it being Father's Day, hubs vetoed what I had originally planned for dinner and requested ribs instead. We've definitely saved money following a menu plan and not eating out as much. What a difference! I only wish I had started sooner.

So here's the plan for this week. I will post the recipes throughout the week.

Monday--Grilled Shrimp & Salad, Fried Eggplant (from the garden!)
This is our weekly Family Home Evening night. We're going to learn about saying "I'm sorry."

Tuesday--Chicken in a Pot with root vegetables
Hubs has to conduct a Personal Priesthood Interview at church, which will give our kids some "Mommy time."

Wednesday--Chicken Tenders, French Fries, Cantaloupe
Hubs has an Elders Quorum Presidency meeting at church, so the kids will have more "Mommy time."

Thursday--Grilled Chicken Salad, Mango & Kiwi
Hubs and the missionaries will be visiting some of the families in our church this evening. He sure has a lot of meetings! But that's okay because the kids will get more "Mommy time," something I know they will not object to.

Friday--Arroz Con Pollo, Mixed Vegetables
Nothing on the calendar...yet!

Saturday--Hot Dogs, French Fries, Watermelon
This is our son's last baseball game day. So as a kind of celebration for a job well done, we're going to take him to a minor league baseball game so he can see how the pro's play. We'll eat an early dinner before heading out.

Sunday--Herbed Chicken, Summer Squash Casserole
Hubs and I have choir practice late this afternoon, but that shouldn't interfere with having a nice meal at home.

I encourage you to visit Melissa's Bargain Blog and take a peek at her menu plan. She has some really scrumptious recipes. Melissa has given me several crock-pot recipes that have been added to our list of family favorites. I've said it before--she knows her stuff!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Get More Bricks Coupons

Bricks coupons are FANTASTIC! Assuming, of course, that your store(s) accept them. There are 3 Wal-mart Supercenters within a 10-mile radius of my house, and all 3 refuse to accept Internet print coupons. But that's a story for another day.

Bricks coupons are great because you can usually print two of each coupon. Whether it's through Coupons.com, or Bricks coupons available directly on a manufacturer's product website, they often provide more cents-off and dollars-off than what I've seen in some of the newspaper coupon inserts. And since the grocery stores in my area, for the most part, do not double or triple coupons, I'm all about printing some Bricks coupons.

But did you know that, not only can you print up to 2 Bricks coupons, you can also receive a Bricks coupon in the mail? Not for every coupon, but for many you can. The trick to finding out if you can get one is easy.

For instance, you can print two $1/1 Morning Star Farms coupons here (thanks, Melissa!). However, today when I clicked on the "print coupons" button, I received a message to "install the coupon printer." Well, it's already installed on my PC, and even after clicking on the "install the coupon printer" button, I still receive the same message:

Not a problem. How so? I simply clicked on the "Help" link and was given the opportunity to request a coupon by mail (you can click here to receive your coupon by mail, too!).

Note that not all Bricks coupons will take you to the screen to request one by mail, nor will all coupons you can request by mail prompt you to "install the coupon printer." So whether or not you're able to print your Bricks coupon, it's worth clicking on the "Help" link just to see what happens.

By the way, I did print up two Morning Star Farms coupons about a week ago without the "install the coupon printer" error message. With the coupon I requested by mail today, that makes for three coupons, or triple the savings in my book. :)

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