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Showing posts from June, 2009

Frog Sighting

In the summer, our yard is overloaded with little frogs. I mean overloaded! They are super cute and they grow to huge by the time summer is over. They get about the size of a man's fist.

Today we saw our first one. A special thanks to my son for being willing to hold him for this shot. I love them because they eat a lot of bugs. Plus they're cute. My husband isn't a fan because it's impossible to miss them with the lawnmower. This is sad...but true. There are so many that really you would think we had a plague.

But then something happens. The snakes come out. We find snakes all summer long too, and boy can they run!! Well...slither, but you get the idea. We haven't been able to catch one yet....for scientific purposes, of course. But last year, we saw one catch and eat a frog right in front of us. We had a playdate over at the time and all of the kids watched with their eyes wide and mouths open. I didn't know what to do. Do I save the frog? Or do I just let nat…

Quote for the Day

Nature is a tonic for the soul
Henry David Thoreau
It certainly is for me. I feel so much calmer in the forest or in my garden. I laughed today because my husband made lunch and was calling for me to come in. I was in the forest and I didn't want to leave. How many times have I called for him when he was in the places that are special to him. I let him wait a few minutes....just like he does to me.

The Effect of Exercise on Kids

My children are present and often participate when I exercise. I often wonder what type of impact that will have on them. They are like sponges after all. The only adult t.v. show they've ever seen is The Biggest Loser. They'd watch it with me every week (because it comes on at 7....grrr). They have remembered so much from that show! When we are at parties, if they see someone drinking a soda, they will in no uncertain terms, tell that person that drinking soda will make them fat! They will tell you the same thing if they see you eating a donut or french fries. And on and on. People look at me like I must be a food nazi. And I am, but I try to stress moderation with them. We (or they) can eat butter and candy and cheese and anything they want, just not all the time.

For a long time, I didn't ask them to do any type of physical activity. They run around and play most of the day. We take long walks in the woods, and we're out gardening or playing quite a bit. But ever si…

Homemade Chicken Stock ~Using a Crockpot

Whenever I make a whole chicken, I save the bones and skin to make chicken stock (or broth...I think the two are basically the same). It's actually super simple and it's one of the best things I learned to do last year (after hula hooping, of course). It's so easy. This is what you do. Take all your bones, fat, skin, drippings, any meat pieces you didn't want to eat and throw them in the crock pot. At this point, you can also chop up a couple of carrots, 1-2 celery, and 1 onion and throw them in the crockpot. Don't get fancy with it because you are going to eventually throw them out. Or you can blend them up and have a thicker stock, but I like a clear looking chicken noodle soup and don't save the veggies. Okay, so with all the ingredients in the pot, I add one bay leaf, 3-4 peppercorns, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, and fill the pot with just enough water to cover it all.

Then you turn the crockpot on low and leave it for 10-12 hours. I almost always start the crockp…

Free Easy Vegan Recipe Booklet

Check out this site for a free "Easy Vegan Recipes" Book. I'm always trying to find new, healthy recipes, so I signed up for it and can't wait to see what's inside.

For our deals, check out the "deals" category on the right hand side of this blog. I will occasionally post deals for free (or considerably cheap) things I would request myself. I'm not big into clutter or unhealthy items, so you won't find many of the things that might create excess (of all kinds) in your home.

Cute little berries!

We got 6 little strawberries today. They are so good and sweet. My kids love going out to the little patch and picking a couple at a time. I think it's good that we have such a small berry patch. It really makes the berries you get enjoyable. And you can look forward to more because you never get full. Today, I'm so much more grateful for the small garden we have.

And I'm so grateful that I'm home to enjoy these moments with my kids. I got to watch them eat the berries...and that's always my favorite part.

Spinach Lasagna

We used some of the spinach we froze here to make lasagna. I love to put spinach in lasagna. I chopped it up and made one layer of spinach.
I also added spinach to the sauce, so each layer contained extra spinach. :) Traditionally, lasagna has a lot of cheese, but since I try to limit our saturated fat, I used only 2 cups of 2% cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. I used 1/2 cup of 1% cottage cheese. It's a good, inexpensive alternative to ricotta.

Ran on a Saturday....

Just for the record...I ran today. Just 4.1 miles, but that makes 3 times this week. I'm almost back on schedule. I actually feel better too. It's become apparent to me that I'm going to need to stick around 4.1 for awhile. I might make it to 4.2 a couple of times, but it will be awhile before I bust out 4.5miles. Maybe by the time summer is over I'll be there.

Half the Sugar

We've made a lot of changes in our diet over the last year, but one of the most helpful has been limiting the amount of sweeteners we use. I checked out the book Little Sugar Addicts: End the Mood Swings, Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Low Self-Esteem in Your Child Today from the library and it opened my eyes to how much sugar we actually consume and how it effects our children. I can definitely see that my children are "sugar addicts" and I am too!

The book offered some great ideas, like pairing sugars with proteins, and it really encouraged me to read the labels for foods. Reading food labels has been shocking. I never knew we were eating so much high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) and sugar. Plus all the other chemicals.

We've made great strides in limiting the number of processed foods we buy, and have made changes in the ones we ultimately choose. For example, I only buy bread that does not contain HFCS and contains whole grains. I've also been more choosy about whi…

My sister's daycare ~ A nightmare story

Okay, so I'm going to tell you about my sister's daycare provider. First of all, she's not licensed and she watches my sister's 3 children, 3 or 4 of her own, and 3 or 4 other random children. She also has transient people coming and going throughout the day. My sister refers to it as "the zoo". Not a great place for kids. Yeah...my sister knows this, but feels trapped financially. It's easy to judge, but everyone has to make their own choices.

So one day my sister calls me and says she's worried about the zoo. Specifically, there are some mentally handicapped adults that hang out at the zoo and she's worried they might take her 2 year old daughter somewhere to be alone. You get the drift. Of course this freaks me out, and she's really worried. Well...as it happens she had reason to worry, but thankfully not for the reason she was concerned.

That morning her daughter had climbed a dresser and fallen off. Her arm was broken. Surely, she had to ha…

Weekly Savings June 21-27, 2009

This is the first week I've kept track of my weekly earnings (savings).

Here's what I saved.

$5 Amazon Gift Card from swagbucks
$73.63 in grocery savings (sale prices and coupons)
$1.20 coupon savings for Father's day gift
$3 Flatbread Pizza Rebate
$.02 Found one penny in the parking lot, one at the library
$7.50 Clearance shopping (75% off pants for daughter)
$10 Coupon savings at garden store (free compost and twine)

Total Savings $100.35

Weekly Spending June 21-27, 2009

This is my first week keeping track of my spending.

It breaks down like this.

$10 Movie playdate
$8.32 Father's day Gift
$61.73 Grocery Shopping
$6.50 Garage sale shopping (new ice skates, Easter dress and 2 pairs of jeans for daughter)
$5 American Cancer Society Race Donation
$2.48 Clearance shopping (2 pairs of pants for daughter)
$15 Copay for ultrasound
$4 Strawberry picking

Total Spending $114.03

So, what's up with the flax?

I eat a lot of ground flaxseed. Actually, I like to eat flaxseeds whole too, but they aren't absorbed well if they aren't ground. So what's the deal? Did I just wake up one morning and say, "hmmm...I bet flax would taste good on this?" Did I try a sample at the store and become hooked? Nope and Nope.

I eat flax because it's a great (non-meat) source of omega-3 fatty acids. I'm trying to lower my body's inflammatory response (working great on a systemic level...crp less than .01) so I have upped my consumption of fish and other omega-3 sources while decreasing the amount of most other meats. Why not just pop an omega-3 pill? Well...I have those and sometimes I take them if I haven't had much fish or flax lately, but I prefer to eat things to get nutrients rather than take pills if at all possible.

So flax is super high in omega-3s and it tastes...well, let's be honest, like nothing. So it can be added to yogurt, oatmeal, baked goods, a lot of t…

Free School Year's Eve Party Kit

Check out this free party kit from Cookie Magazine. I'm not sure what's inside the kit, but it's to help you kick off the new school year with a School Year's Eve party. Sounds like a great idea. We have a son entering kindergarten this year and having a party to make it extra special sounds like fun! When you get to the website, scroll down to regist.er for the free party kit.

My Children's Garden

Our garden borders our neighbors yard and because I'm sure he will be using chemicals on his lawn at some point, we needed a buffer between his yard and our vegetables. So we dedicated the last few feet of the garden to flowers.

I let my children plant all kinds of random wildflower seeds. We were lucky to receive two free pansy plants, a free packet of wildflower seeds, and a free packet of sunflower seeds. My son planted the marigold at preschool and gave it to me as a Mother's day gift.

They were excited to have a place in the garden that is all their own. I'm happy to have a chemical buffer and I'm excited to see which flowers pop up.

Feeling Blessed

I've been trying to grow black raspberries near our forest edge, with no luck. I planted 3 Bristol raspberries last fall, and this spring, none of them had survived. I contacted the nursery and they graciously replaced them for a small handling fee. Sadly, only one has survived, and it's barely holding on. Are chipmunks to blame? Maybe, but either way I have been so sad about the berries not making it.

Well, today I was following my son on the new "trail" he made in the forest, when I spotted black raspberries. Not just the plant, but a plant with berries on it, and 2 new plants growing at it's crown. I almost cried. They were actually just off the trail where I wanted them. I felt so blessed. It was a major answer to prayer, even if I had never verbalized the request, my heart had been wanting black raspberries to grow there, and there they were, wild!

I have felt so blessed with our forest lately. I had been going back and forth with my husband about wanting to …

My son's clutter

Check out one of my son's clutters collections. He has a lot of these. All of my best attempts to lose them, vacuum them up, and hide them continue to fail. I think he'll be collecting for quite some time.

My Old Raspberry Patch

Sometimes I like to reminisce about my old raspberry patch.... It all started 7 years ago when my mom gave me 3 raspberry canes. I left them in my laundry room for days and forgot to plant them. My mom called to see if I had planted the berries, and so I finally went out and put them somewhere, a random spot in my yard with nothing growing on it. I'm happy to say that my gardening skills have improved some. I'm still lazy but I actually love it now.

My mom then came over to check if I had planted the berries and I told her they were in the back yard. She went to see for herself and came in to scold me about spacing. Well, I forgot about all about them after that, until the next summer when I saw my neighbor out watering them. She told me how much she loved raspberries and wanted to make sure they made it. So you mean you have to water plants??? Yep, I was lazy. I am so thankful to this neighbor because in truth she taught me pretty much everything I know about pruning, transpla…

I went rollerblading!

Well, no more excuses. I'm going to use these legs while they still work! So I strapped on my roller blades for the first time in almost 6 years. Now, when I say I went roller blading, what I mean is I went super slow alongside my 3 year old on her bike (think "Driving Miss Daisy"), while my almost 5 year old raced off ahead of us. Not quite the voyage I had in mind, but as good as it's going to get for awhile. My daughter did run me down once, but I was able to catch her on the way down and neither of us were seriously hurt. I don't know that I really even moved my legs that much, but it's one step in the right direction to being an avid skater again. Maybe I'll even do the marathon again. It's on my bucket list...but this time I'll do it with the whole family.

Saving Money is Making Money

I often feel bad about not contributing financially to our family. I stay at home with our two young children and do not have an income-earning job or hobby (unless of course I make a few bucks from this blog).

I've come to realize that our biggest cost of raising our children as been the opportunity cost of my lost income. But my being home must have some financial benefit, right?

I've decided to start tracking my weekly spending and saving to see if my habits as a frugal mom are helping (or maybe hurting) our family's bottom line.

Saving money is making money, right? In most cases, I believe that it is. Buying something you don't need or will never use just because it's 90% off is not saving money. But buying gifts for family and friends at a sharp discount, or saving money on groceries is making money.

Keeping track of our spending is easy. Keeping track of savings isn't quite so straight forward. So, I will be keeping track of my grocery savings by comparing …

Oatmeal Pecan Waffles

We love breakfast at our house. I could never imagine skipping or forgetting to eat breakfast. I've been experimenting with different flours and other add-ins when making all of our breakfast favorites.

This morning I made oatmeal pecan waffles. They were super tasty, but fell apart much easier than our usual whole wheat waffles. I ground old fashioned oatmeal to make oat flour, added a handful of chopped pecans, a little vanilla, and of course, ground flax.


I made a quick berry topping by heating strawberries, blueberries and cinnamon until they berries were crushed.


Then I put it all together with some fat-free whipped cream.



The kids and I loved these. I think our favorites are still the whole wheat and ground almond waffles, but I'll definitely make these again.

The Bucket List --- 5 Things Down

I keep a bucket list of things I want to do before I die. Within the last year I have crossed 5 things off that list (yay!):

Swim with Dolphins
Take a Cruise (even though I am afraid of water)
Learn to Hula Hoop (done and mastered, thank you)
Eat Sushi
Finalize my will (yes it's on the list because I care about what happens to my family when I'm gone)

I have 64 things left on the list...I may add or subtract (scuba diving!) a couple items as I revise my plans, but here are the 3 I'm actively working on accomplishing by the end of this year:

Stop swearing and yelling
Run a 5K
Learn to bake bread...that tastes good

Show us the Cow ~ Vote for Mark

Check out Chik-fil-A's new photo competition and vote for your favorite cow. Select "Vote" and search for Mark in Raleigh, NC. My sister spent a lot of time painting her 1 year old for this and he was a great sport.

So, please Vote for Mark!

I'm back!

It took everything in me to run today. We had an AM playdate (the perfect excuse to miss a workout), so I ran at lunch time. It was a big mental hurdle for me. I really didn't want to run, but I wanted to be able to make it, to pass the 4 mile mark again.

I was sweaty and so out of breath when I made it to 4.16 miles today! I worked the hardest I possibly could. My right leg was tingling and losing feeling throughout the whole run, but that's all the more reason to run, right? I'm still researching how to effect CNS inflammation, but until then I have to keep trying to lower my systemic inflammation and hope there is some crossover.

I am so excited to have made it again.

Parents Magazine ~ Free 2 year subscription

*Deal has expired*Here's another great offer for free magazines. Click here for a 2 year subscription to Parents Magazine from Valuemags.

Thanks to Kimberly for alerting me to this deal.

Free $5 Amazon Gift Card

I just received another $5 gift card from Swagbucks. If you haven't signed up for Swagbucks, it's super easy. I like to search the web for all sorts of things, so it's nice to get "paid" for doing something I would normally be doing anyway.


You can click here to sign up. They usually give you at least 3 swagbucks just for signing up. I usually win at least once per day and have cashed in over $60 in gift cards. In my opinion, the amazon gift cards are the best deal in the swag store, but they also have music downloads, video games, and all sorts of prizes. Go check it out.



A quick tip...I wouldn't spend a lot of time chasing down swag codes. Swag codes are randomly sent out in the web and require hunting to find. That can be fun, but it's really not worth the time. Unless a code is sent to you directly through e-mail, it's usually expired or met it's limit by the time you find it. Definitely not a good use of time.

Free Subscription to O Magazine

*Deal has expired*
Get a Free 4 month subscription to O magazine (Oprah), here. I get at least 20 magazines in my mailbox each month and they are all free through deals like this one.

Success

Today, we won the battle against the chipmunk.
We placed rocks all around the strawberry netting to block any entrance to the berries. My children were such a great help in gathering and placing the rocks. I am just so happy that it worked.

And we got to eat our first berries (ever from our strawberries, last year the deer mowed them all down). When we left last night, there were 2 berries that were just about ready. But today when we went to pick them. Surprise! There were 3 ripe berries. That meant I actually got to have one of our berries.

Interestingly enough, my daughter ate hers first (the new rock/netting system made it slow work for me to get berries too) and then asked if I would split mine with her. Such is the life of a mom. The berries were sweet and tasty. And exactly what I needed after such a week of blah.

Swinging in the Jungle

Like Tarzan a monkey, I took a swing on a large grape vine in the forest today. My son asked me if we could swing on one of the vines, and like the good bad mom that I am, I said, "sure". So, I tested the vine to see if it could hold me, then I went for it. For about 3 seconds I was in monkey swinging bliss. Then I hit the tree (pictured next to the vine) with my left shoulder. Ouch. But I didn't cry. I just handed the vine off to my son and said, "your turn". He bravely swung out into the air and ended up hitting the tree as well. I really am a bad mom, but it was worth a try, right?

I've been on the lookout for grape vines ever since I saw one in our own backyard, and what I've found has been exciting. I've found hundreds of wild grape vines and hundreds of wild raspberries. I don't know why I've never noticed them before. I'm guessing that the animals get to all the fruit before I have had a chance to see them, but in any event I'm…

Free Bread Baking Recipe Book

I signed up to receive this free bread baking recipe book from Fleischmann's yeast. It came in the mail right away and it looks like it's still available here.

I was excited to make the no-knead multi grain recipe. Bread baking is a talent that I haven't yet mastered. And I've tried a bunch. I was a little worried about leaving it on the counter for 20 hours but in the end it was still edible. A word of caution, do not lift the plastic wrap to smell the bread. The alcohol smell burned my nostrils.

All in all the bread was good. I love the fact that it contained flax seeds, sesame seeds, oats, and brown rice. It's tough to find a good multi-grain bread recipe. I'll definitely try it again.

Nice herbs.....

My husband and I argued about what type of plants to put in our porch. I wanted to plant vegetables and herbs. He wanted flowers. So I suggested, just herbs. He said no. While he was away, my children and I went to buy flowers for our patio and planted them in small planters.

When he returned from work, he said, "I really like the herbs you planted in the porch". Grrrr.... They were flowers! Could I have really gotten away with planting herbs?? Note to self...next time just buy the plants I want.

Jon and Kate plus 8

I just watched the episode of Jon and Kate plus 8 where they confirmed that they are getting a divorce. What horrible news for that family. I was thinking/hoping that their affair rumors were created just to boost the shows ratings, but I guess I was wrong.

I did watch the show tonight for the first time in years, just because of the divorce rumor, but I really did like them in the beginning. I remember thinking they were a "real" couple just trying to make it and do the best for their children. Then Kate had a tummy-tuck. Then they kept ditching the kids with random people and taking off on vacations and spa days. That's when I stopped watching. It seems like forever ago.

And now, they just seem so different. It seems like the show is just about getting things for free and making money. I'm all about making money and getting things for free, but I'm not a fan of making it the main focus of your life. Hopefully they can get their lives straightened out and get back…

2 More Missing

Today we went out to check our strawberries and there were two more missing. I was so angry and broken up about it. In total, we've only lost maybe 25c in berries, but to me it was one last straw. One more thing that was out of my control.

I sat out in the sun and looked at the berries for awhile. When I told my husband, he suggested we get some traps and set them out to kill the chipmunks. I couldn't do that. I'm mad at the chipmunk, but I can't kill over a few (or even all) of our berries. I always tell our kids that the animals in the forest have a right to live there and that God provides for them. Alas, I need to practice what I preach.

But today I was endlessly unhappy. It just seemed like so many things were out of my hands. Then my husband told me that a neighbor was angry with me because I had been "shunning" her. In reality, I do need some space, and I probably didn't deal with the situation in the right way, but that was when I completely lost i…

Clutter

Over half of the cupboards and drawers in my house are empty. That surprises a lot of people, but I am really a minimalist at heart. I do not like clutter. It stresses me out.

We have a rule in our house that if something isn't being used, it gets donated or sold. I give away my children's clothes as soon as they outgrow them. I rotate their toys and when something isn't being played with anymore, I give it away. I give away my clothes as soon as they no longer fit or I tire of them.

Every few months I look through our drawers and closets to see if we have accumulated any excess things, and then....I give them away. It's so freeing and so nice to think that someone else might have a use for something that was just taking up space to me.

So sad....

I'm feeling exceptionally sad today. I think it has a lot to do with my lack of control over my own health. Or maybe it has to do with the nature of the disease itself. Depression is listed as one of the symptoms of MS. I suspect that's because of the helplessness of the disease. And the frustration with not being able to stop it.

I've been having so many more symptoms lately. My right leg has been numb all day and I've been having more and more issues at night. I feel so tired, and I am just so annoyed. And some of the worst symptoms are back. One of the worst is what happens when I step into a store. It's most pronounced at Target and Walgreens, maybe because of they lights they use or the coloring of their stores? I haven't figured it out.

When I walk into the store it's almost like I'm in a movie. I am no longer the center of what I'm seeing. People and objects move toward me in slow motion, but their associated sounds are at normal speed. It'…

When you don't fence the garden

We have to fence our garden to keep out the deer and rabbits. It annoys me to have a fenced garden but whenever I get the urge to rip it all down, I remember what happened last year.

This is what happened to our pumpkins just days before they were ready to be harvested. Deer prints were everywhere. I am once again grateful for our fence. And so grateful that my husband was able to create a fence that goes up easily and comes down even easier. That way it's less of an eyesore for our neighbors.

A gift from my son

My son went outside to play for a few minutes (Yes--alone, I never thought I'd be okay with that) and when he came back in he had these for me.


It's nice to know he was thinking of me.

Homemade Aqua Globes

We went on vacation for 9 days. I was really worried about our newly planted flowers. How could they make it 9 days? My father generously volunteered to come water our garden and flowers once or twice.

I thought about buying aquaglobes but from the reviews I read, it seemed like they break easily and don't hold very much water. So, I decided to make something of my own.

I took empty wine bottles (these are from sparkling juice), filled them with water, and shoved them into the dirt. Then I waited to see what happened. The plants slowly drank the water over the next few days. Since I put the bottles deep into the dirt, the tops of the bottles became "plugged" with dirt. The dirt in the bottle acted as a wick, allowing the pot to take water from the bottle as needed, and without dumping out.

I found that I needed to put the bottle in a different place each time I filled to insure an adequate dirt plug in the bottle.

The verdict....our plants survived! In fact, I've…

No Running Today...

I thought for sure I'd make it three times this week. I was going to get on track, right? Well, I made it twice and was about to run today when....my daughter ended up with a 102 F fever. That's 102 after taking medicine. I know, I know! You are supposed to take their temp before giving medication. I'm a bad mom, what can I say?

So, I spent the day watching every princess movie we own and laying with her on the couch. Not exactly an active day.

I'm sure I'll have a million excuses by the time she goes to bed tonight, so I may try to run on Saturday (something I don't usually do because it annoys my husband). I really want to make it back on schedule.

Confession....

Sometimes I eat candy while I watch The Biggest Loser.

Speaking of The Biggest Loser....I miss that show. I don't watch t.v. very often. Actually, I only watch The Biggest Loser. I can't wait for next season.....

They are missing!

We've had 3 strawberries turn pink. We have went out to look for those same berries just days after they turned pink, only to find them missing. 100% gone. I think it may be the chipmunks from our forest. I've seen squirrels pick berries right off of our raspberry bushes. They have such cute little hands, but not when they are picking my berries.

This is our only evidence. These are chipmunk holes found nearby our berry patch. The berries are completely netted off, but a little chipmunk could certainly sneak in. It's frustrating to lose our whole patch to deer or rabbits, but it's equally annoying to lose it one berry at a time. I can only hope they stay out of the garden...that fence would be easily trespassed by squirrels and chipmunks.

My Sister's Garden

I'm jealous of my sister's garden. It's huge! And all of her plants seem to get so much bigger than mine. She is also very generous with her produce. Check out the spinach she sent home with me. We picked all of her plants about halfway.


Since I have some spinach in the fridge already, I decided to freeze this for lasagna. I quickly blanched the spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes, then put it right into an ice bath for 2 minutes, then strained out the water and put it in ziploc bags. This is how much it cooked down. I love the smell of cooked spinach. It was so hard to resist eating it all.

She told me she has 27 tomato plants. FYI--her family doesn't eat tomatoes. She planted them so she could share them. Gotta love it.

The best part...after my husband saw how much spinach I brought home he mentioned that we might be able to extend my garden another 4 feet next year. Wahoo!