Saturday, December 27, 2008

Italian Sprouts

Our family loves Brussell sprouts and here is a simple recipe to serve them. You can use homemade Italian dressing or your favorite brand.

2 (16 oz.) packages of Brussell sprouts
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Put sprouts in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes then drain. Put cooked sprouts into a serving dish. Pour dressing over the sprouts and mix lightly to coat. Top with grated cheese and serve.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grandma's Divinity

This is the time of year for candy making, cookie baking and all sorts of things to fix the sweet tooth! I'm not a candy maker...I prefer to eat it. My mom, however, has been making Fudge and Divinity for years and I have fond memories of scraping the last of the fudge out of the pan or stealing pieces of Divinity when she wasn't looking. It's wonderful stuff and we just can't get enough. My son, the candy maker of our family, plans to get hands-on training in the art of making this divinity. Last year he learned fudge making...this year, it's Grandma's Divinity! I can't wait! YUM!

2 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 egg whites (stiffly beaten)
2/3 cups pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, syrup and water in a pan, stir over low heat until sugar dissolves; Cook without stirring to 260 degrees. Remove from heat and pour beating constantly in a fine stream into the beaten egg whites. Add vanilla, fold in nuts. Spread into a buttered pan or spoon onto buttered cookie sheet. Top with pecan halves.

Have a great day and don't eat TOO much Divinity!

Mavis D.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Make-A-Mix Monday - Ranch Dressing Mix

Our boys love Ranch Dressing with carrot sticks and other fresh vegetables. This is a great treat but sometimes they get out of hand with the dressing. To make it a little cheaper, I've started making my own. Most of the ingredients I already had but I did buy the dill weed and it's simple mix this up and keep it on hand. I use an empty pickle relish jar to store it.

1/2 cup buttermilk powder
1 Tblsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dill weed
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt (or adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix well and store in an airtight container. To use, mix 1 tablespoon of mix with 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 cup of milk.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Did I Tell You? Huh? Huh? Huh?


Well...did I? Our oldest son who has been serving in Baghdad, Iraq is coming home!

He should be here in a matter of days and we'll be so happy to have him home and safe.

Please continue to keep these men and women in your prayers. There are still many more over there and even when they do come home they need the prayers to help them adjust back into "normal" life.

To Will...we are proud of you and love you very much!

To everyone else...have a great week!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homemade Vapor Rub

It's cold and flu season again and we've already had our first round of colds for the year. I hate having a cold and we've always seemed to use a lot of Vicks. However, lately I'm concerned with a lot of ingredients in many of the things we use rather it's food items or medicines.

There's a product called Winter Breeze vapor rub that is made with natural things like beeswax, oil and essential oils but it's rather costly. I've found some instructions to make my own "vapor rub" so I thought I'd share.

Here are the instructions I used:

Vapor rub

1/2 cup non-petroleum gel
1/2 Tbsp sweet almond or olive oil
1/2 tsp essential oil of Eucalyptus
2 - 3 drops of tea tree oil

Combine the non-petroleum gel and the almond/olive oil in a double boiler. Melt together, blending well, then remove from the heat. Add in the eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil and mix well. Pour into container and allow cooling and setting.

How to make "non-petroleum gel"

Using a double boiler melt together 1 ounce of beeswax per 1/2 cup of oil. Pour into container and allow to set.

You can use baby oil, mineral oil, almond oil or olive oil. I used olive oil because mineral oil is a by product of petroleum (like what is used to make gasoline!) and baby oil is usually made of mineral oil. Almond oil is ok but might be more costly...I haven't compared the cost of it to olive oil but I also just like the properties of olive oil.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Preparations...Not for the Faint of Heart



The trim is DONE in the living room. It's amazing how "finished" it looks even though it's not painted yet.

Tonight, we'll be repairing a toilet by installing a new wax ring and possibly install the trim in the "main" bathroom.

On another note, how many of you braved the chaos and cold to go shopping on Black Friday? I scanned the ads while the turkey was baking and was not excited about anything. With our economy as it is, I really expected more "fabulous" sales and savings...you know, to get the customers out to stimulate the economy and help their bottom-lines.

Many found something worth going out for but I stayed home and waited until about 10am before I left. I only stopped at two stores...Walmart and Walgreen's to pick up a few things...most were already gone but I did get a few things I wanted to purchase.

I came home, we set up the tree, and decorated a little...we don't usually decorate much, just a tree and the mantel. We definitely don't do a bunch of lights outside but this year I plan to have at least a wreath on the door. I've done bows in the past but I'm thinking I want a wreath instead.

Lastly, I've been working on Christmas gifts. I plan putting together some gift baskets and I really want to think about what would be a good theme for each person. For example, I have one person that is always journaling so I'll probably put together a basket for her that has something to do with writing her "life's story" or other short stories. It's something she enjoyed when she was younger. Don't worry, she's not "online" so she won't be reading this! LOL!

I do have to stay within a budget...like everyone else so I'm trying to get the most bang for my buck and trying to make many things as "homemade" as possible.

Do you have any ideas? What are you doing to keep your Christmas budget from getting out of hand? I'd love to hear more ideas including gift ideas...so leave a comment and tell us how you are filling your Christmas with cheer.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I didn't Fall off the Earth!


Well...I guess you might think I fell off the earth. Not quite although I think it might be a nice vacation!

It's been an interesting month. I've been working on a few project and trying to get things ready for the holidays. We've also been doing some work on the house.

We started the house in 2003 and we are FINALLY putting up some trim. The living room and hallway look GREAT and they are almost finished! I'm so excited! I also got a great deal on a mantel-shelf and hubby and the boys put that up Saturday. Soon they will be done with the installing the trim and they'll be looking to me to paint it! LOL! I didn't think about it until later but I should have taken a "before" and "after" photo to show you! Oh well...you'll forgive me, right? I hope so.

Another thing I did this past month was present a "Money Saving Tips" night to my fellow homeschool moms. It was great! We played a little game; had some snacks and they tell me that they learned a lot. I hope they did. :) We even made homemade laundry soap although my crockpot (which I used to heat and dissolve the soap) went cold on me so the soap didn't turn out EXACTLY right but it still works.

Now I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. I've experimented with a few new recipes and want to share those with you and I'm working on a few more.

Thank you for checking back with me and thanks to all those who subscribe!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Make-A-Mix Monday - Savory Rice & Vegetables

This recipe uses instant rice and dehydrated vegetables called "soup greens" to make an easy and healthy alternative to those boxed dinners. Place all the dry ingredients into a Mason jar or reseal-able bag to make an easy to prepare mix.

1 1/2 cups instant white rice
3 Tbsp. dehydrated Soup Greens (can be found in health food stores or online at HomeStyle Mercantile)
1 Tbsp chicken bullion granules
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

Mix and store an airtight container until needed.

To prepare - Bring 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 of milk to a boil. Stir in rice. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes or until all the water and milk is absorbed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Make a Mix Monday - Rich Chocolate Cake Mix

Last Saturday was the birthday of one of the boys. We don't do birthdays like a lot of families we know. It's usually a nice quiet evening at home with just our family. We enjoy a cake and usually even have candles for the smaller guys. The birthday boy gets to choose what is for dinner and he choose what kind of cake he wants. Chocolate is a pretty good favorite around our house so it didn't surprise me that he chose German Chocolate cake.

It's hard to find a chocolate cake mix that doesn't have those nasty things in it like hydrogenated oils and things but more than that it's just not in me to pay so much for a decent cake mix when I can put together my own.

So, here it is..."Make-a-Mix Monday" and I thought I'd share our recipe. It's a dark chocolate cake mix that you put together yourself. Make up a few and put them into bags so they'll be ready. Personally, I'm going to try putting mine into a mason jar. I don't know what it is but I like the looks of things in mason jars. :)

Rich Chocolate Cake Mix

2 cups self-rising flour
2/3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups baking cocoa powder
1/4 cup dry buttermilk powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well and store in a tight container. Gallon sized bags work well.

To Prepare:

1 pkg Rich Chocolate Cake Mix
2 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium eggs

Place the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk a bit. Add in the olive oil, water, and mix a bit more. Add the cake mix and stir for 2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and all the lumps are gone. Pour into oiled 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Insert knife or toothpick into center to check. Cool and frost how you like.

It's not "German" chocolate but it tastes great with coconut pecan frosting!

By the way, our boys have always thought the best part of having a birthday is that they make their own birthday cake. :) Some of our friends think this is mean...let them make their own birthday cake but there's quite a commotion when I try to make it for them!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Basic Corn Bread

One of my husbands favorite meals is Pinto beans, corn bread and taters. Can you tell we're from the South? :) He doesn't much care what kind of taters we have...we've had all types including the Italian Herb Roasted potatoes. Most of the time though...I serve beans and cornbread with tater TOTS!

We've tried a lot of corn bread recipes over the 20 years we've been married and this one is our favorite. Sometimes we'll add a chopped up onion or a cup of cheddar cheese to the mix...either way, it always turns out great!

Basic Corn Bread

2 cups yellow corn meal
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix until most of the lumps are gone but don't over mix. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan and bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

You can also put all the dry ingredients together and store in a jar so you'll have a cornbread "mix" that's handy to have ready.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Make a Mix Monday - Spaghetti Sauce Mix

It's often difficult to find already prepared sauces that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. Even if you do find some without these ingredients, it is difficult to control the amount of sugar in them. After many trial and error evenings eating spaghetti with different types of sauce, I think we have finally found a winner.

We also want to have something that's as easy and convenient as pre-made sauce. So here it is!

Spaghetti Sauce Mix

1 cup cornstarch
1 cup dried minced onion
1 cup dried parsley
3/4 cup dehydrated bell peppers (found at health food stores or online at HomeStyle Mercantile)
1/2 cup Italian Seasoning
2 Tbsp garlic granules
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Lemon Pepper seasoning

Mix and store in a tight fitting container...I like to use a canning jar.

To use: Mix 1/4 cup of seasoning mix with 1 can of tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Simmer for 10 minutes to incorporate flavors. Feel free to add a pound of browned ground beef, prepared meatballs or your other favorite meats.

This also makes a great sauce for lasagna!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

The blocks are set, plumbing installed in the floor and concrete poured. When looking at the floor it looks HUGE compared to our small mobile home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Over the next few weeks I'd like to show you something.
In 2003, we started building our own house. We did about 75-80 percent of the work ourselves. We had someone do the foundation, framing and roofing...then we took over the rest. It's been an adventure!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Busy Lives

We are just starting basketball for the new school year. The first practice was last Friday and I know it is going to get busy around here. Many times when we get busy, we do not eat well because we'll grab something from the fast food joints and scarf it down on the way to our next appointment. The stress of a too busy lifestyle is NOT the topic of this post but it is a good topic to explore...someday.

To make sure we eat well during this time of the year I usually use my crockpot a lot. Another thing I do is to make up mixes ahead of time...simple things that cook up fast with just a little prep work. Think of those overpriced rice packages and meal kits. You can make up the same thing at a fraction of the cost, avoid all the preservatives and you'll feel good about serving "made from scratch" meals to your family.

So...welcome to the first edition of (drum roll please)...

Make A Mix Monday!

Most of the time, I put these into mason jars and put on an "already used" lid on it. There is no point in using a new lid or heat because the rubber seal on the lid is just fine for our purpose. If you were making these up for long-term food storage then you'd do it a little differently. You can also purchase the plastic lids that fit your jars in the canning isles of your local store. I prefer to use up all my regular mouth jars because I don't like using them for canning.

Let's get to our first recipe!

Cheesy Potato Soup Mix

1 3/4 cups instant mashed potato flakes
1 1/2 cup dry milk powder
1/2 cup dry cheese powder (local health food stores or HomeStyle Mercantile)
2 Tbsp chicken bouillon
2 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Store in quart sized Mason jar or other suitable container. For long-term storage, simply add a 55cc oxygen absorber and seal tightly.

To use: Combine 1/2 cup mix with 1 cup boiling water...stir until smooth.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

This is my sweet baby James. He's sick today...had sniffles last night and it's slowly gotten worse. His brother is now "infected" and it will probably spread through the whole family. Perhaps I taught them to share too much! LOL!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Preparing for Class

Did I mention that we homeschool? Well...we do. We started homeschooling our oldest around 1994 or so and joined the local homeschool group in 1995.

Funny thing, when we first had children we said..."it doesn't matter if I have to work two jobs but they are going to a Christian school." Well, the school we planned to send them to closed and we were a bit lost at what we would do. Someone, in passing, mentioned homeschooling. What was my reaction? I exclaimed with great passion "That's not LEGAL!" :) Since then I found it was legal and we love it!

So, what does that have to do with "preparing for class?" Well, I have volunteered to teach a class with our local co-op for the fall session. Digital Photography 101!

I love photography and taking tons of pictures...yeah, sometimes they don't turn out as planned but I still love it and I'm going to teach what I've learned. The problem is that as the class gets closer and closer I get more and more nervous. Hey...I'm older than they are and I know more but I still get a little nervous at the thought of teaching "other peoples kids" anything!

Don't worry, I'll get over it and do just fine...I just hate those butterflies. :)

Have a great week!

Mavis D.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Italian Herb Roasted Potatoes

We just love simple foods and this one is no different. There are several variations that I use but it's all basically the same.

First, start with enough red potatoes to feed your family. A good rule of thumb is one good-sized potato for each person and then add 2 or 3 more...just in case they are a little extra hungry.

Red potatoes
1/4 cup Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - optional

Wash and dry potatoes then cut into cubes about 1 inch square. Put them in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and parmesan cheese and toss to coat well and distribute the herbs. Spread on un-greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees until fork tender and lightly browned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prayer Knitting?

For you knitters out there...have you ever noticed how very relaxing it is? I am sure you have. It is very therapeutic...especially the simple projects that do not require a lot of counting or increasing and decreasing. It is so relaxing that sometimes I will even fall asleep with needles in my hands and I know one thing for sure, it is a lot cheaper than therapy!

I can sit for a few minutes or a few hours and I seem to be nice and calm. When things are a little crazy around the house, which often happens with this many boys, I go and sit for a few minutes and work a few stitches or a couple of rows and before long it seems all is right with the world and we can get back to work on whatever it was we were doing.

I think about lots of different things while knitting, solutions to problems, work out homeschool issues, think and concentrate on things. I am sure we could solve the world's problems if we all just took up knitting!

Another thing I do is pray. While I was knitting the scarves my boys requested, my mind would drift to future scenes of seeing the scarf on them, keeping them warm, even keeping them warm when I am not there to do it...maybe a little hug from mom while they are outside playing. I also found myself praying for them while I was knitting. With each stitch or row, a small utterance of good will, blessings, and thoughts for their protection and success in life went into each scarf.

Have I stumbled onto something? I think I have and it is wonderful! I call it "prayer knitting," so you know what I had to do next. Yep...I had to "Google" it to see what came up.

There are women and probably some men who knit different things all while praying for the future owner. Prayer shawls that will comfort someone during a loss, hats for chemo patients or premature babies, blankets for children who have lost someone close to them...all knitted with prayers and blessings intertwined in each stitch.

I would have never guessed that this new "hobby" would end up bringing spiritual blessings to me but I am glad it has...funny how things work out like that isn't it?

If you knit and would like to find a ministry to work with, check out these sites. There are many patterns available online and with each organization.

Prayer Shawl Ministry - shawls to comfort those who have experienced a loss

Head Huggers - Chemo caps

Head Huggers "No Hair Day" pattern - (I love this one!)

The Preemie Project - booties, bonnets, and blankets for premature babies

Project Linus - Providing security through blankets

Mother Bear Project - Make a bear. Make a difference.

Warm Up America Foundation

Snuggles Project - blankets for animals in shelters

Monday, August 18, 2008

Grandma Franca's Italian Style Green Beans

There is a wonderful little woman in our family named Franca. She is my DHs stepmother although we do not think of her as a "stepmother"...she is simply "mom."

Mom is Italian and when we go to visit (which is not nearly as often as we would like) she makes these wonderful "authentic" Italian foods. One that she makes each time is fresh green beans. There is no real recipe for them so you will need to play with it to get the right amount for your family. I hope you like it as much as we do.

Fresh green beans - enough for your family
1 large can of crushed Roma tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves - minced
Fresh garlic - minced
Extra virgin olive oil

Wash and snap the ends off the beans but otherwise, leave them whole. Put oil (about 2 tablespoons) into a large skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté lightly being careful not to burn it. Add in the green beans and toss to coat with oil and garlic. Sauté for just a few minutes until there are small parts on the beans until lightly browned. They will appear "stir-fried" but still crisp. Pour crushed tomatoes over the beans and add the basil. Simmer for just a few minutes to allow the flavors to mix but not over cook the beans. You will want them just a little crisp instead of cooked through.

These are wonderful served with a nice pot roast!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

I work part time as a field inspector for mortgage and insurance companies and I have to take my laptop with me in my van. I looked for a laptop desk or mount to put in my van but none really fit and they were quite expensive.




My wonderful husband made this one with scraps of plywood and PVC pipe. We use bungie cords to strap it into the seat so the seat acts as a shock absorber for the computer. It's worked well now for about a year even though it looks pretty weird! LOL!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They're Keeping Me Busy!



Wow...I have been busy! July is canning season here in Arkansas and although I do not can (preserve) a lot of things, one thing that my pantry is well stocked with is home canned tomatoes. Usually I put them in the jar whole but this year I wanted to chop them up and see if I can fit more tomatoes in the jar without so much liquid. I think it is working out nicely, don't you?

I use home canned tomatoes in a variety of items throughout the year. To name a few: chili, Italian Vegetable soup, spaghetti, stews, and several other things.

This year I also chose to make salsa! We just adore having "chips and salsa" all through the year so I want to have several jars canned before the tomatoes run out.

Also keeping me busy...we put up several ears of corn. We purchased them from a local grower and my son and I had lots of fun husking them. We usually just blanch them and put them in large zipper freezer bags. This lets me get out what I need when I need them. The fun part of that is watching my 13 year old "vacuum pack" them. He uses a straw inserted in the side of the bag...closes the bag across until he gets to the straw. Then he sucks the air out, gently pulls the straw out and seals the bag. So far, he's the best one at this....he can get the bag "vacuumed" down really tight and get the straw out before air gets back in! LOL! Hey, if nothing else...he can get a job vacuum sealing stuff...right?

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

He was found hopping around in our back yard. Do you know what kind of bird he is? Let us know!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Make your own "Hamburger Helper™"


Those prepackaged meals in a box are handy when you have a starving family looking at you and whining. However, the cost of those convenience meals keep going up and up,, This doesn't mention the contents of the package with all of it's preservatives, no where near the quality food you want to feed your family.

Here is a mix you can put together to have on hand in just such a case..."no preservatives added!"

The directions are simple. You will assemble all the dry ingredients and mix well. Place them in a zipper bag until needed. These can also be stored in mason jars normally used for canning or preserving foods. I like to put them in those and put the plastic reusable lids on them.

Beefy Mac Skillet Dinner

1/4 cup dried chopped onions
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

1 large can of diced tomatoes (28 ounces)

Place the first 5 ingredients into your storage container (jar or zippered bag) and store until needed. This is your "packaged dinner."

To use...simply brown 1 pound of ground beef in a skillet until done. Drain off fat and set aside. Pour the tomatoes into the skillet, add your "packaged dinner" and mix well. Add the ground beef back in and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until macaroni are as tender as you like.

Have a big family? Double the recipe and feed the whole crowd! The photo is a "double-batch" because of our large family.

Keep watching...I have many more recipes to build a well-stocked pantry.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Learning to Knit

Well...it has been a couple of months since I started my journey into the world of knitting. I have made quite a few projects...mostly "small" ones. Here are the two scarves I made for two of my boys that I mentioned here.


The red one is for my 6 year old and the gray one is for my 13 year old. They are knitted in a simple garter stitch pattern so it would look the same on both sides. I cast on about 30 stitches and just knit them. We would measure for length when we thought it was long enough.

I know one thing for sure. I am addicted! I snatch time here and there to knit and I usually do not leave home without something...even a simple project. I have found that I can "watch" TV or listen to audio books while knitting...unless it is a patterned project...then I'm too busy counting! It seems to help my concentration and I can actually remember what I have listened to...I wonder how our preacher would like it if I were knitting while listening to his sermon. :)

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Bunches, Please

Psst...Come closer. Do you remember the cereal that has been coming up lately all over the internet because of the great coupons? The "Just Bunches" from the makers of Honey Bunches of Oats? I purchased two of those boxes (with coupons, of course). The first box was devoured so fast I didn't get a chance to look at it closely but I was able to snag the second box and take a closer look. It is exactly what the name implies....it's just the "bunches" from the Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, which of course is everyone's favorite part of that cereal....right?

So I took an even closer look and found that the "bunches" which are made up of a secret ingredient...in fact, they are none other than... (drum roll, please)...granola! That is right folks, those sweet little flavorful bites of honey, nuts, and oats, otherwise known as granola. Therefore, at $2.68 a box I think we can think of something else that will save money, make our families happy and is probably a healthier choice since we'll be avoiding the preservatives. Make up a batch of this granola...break it into pieces and serve with cold milk. You can even mix it with a box of cheap corn flakes to make it stretch farther but try to find some that doesn't have high fructose corn-syrup.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Granola

9 cups rolled oats
2 cups wheat germ
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups slivered almonds
1 cups olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 Tbs vanilla
3/4 cup honey

Mix the first four ingredients together well in a large bowl. Mix the last four ingredients together in a separate bowl. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and mix well. Spread on trays and bake at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cooling then break it up into bite-sized pieces.

Wordy Wednesday

Patty cake or Prayer?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ranch Style Beans

We just love Ranch beans and the homemade beans are the best. Try this recipe for stocking up or building your "recession proof pantry."

2 lbs bacon, optional
7 lbs pinto beans
3 bottles catsup (small)
1 large can of tomato juice
2 T. chili powder
1/2 cup salt
6 large onions, chopped

Pick and wash the beans and soak over night. Next morning, drain them and cover with cold water then cook for 25 minutes at a simmer. Add water if needed. Mix all other ingredients, pour over beans, and simmer 10 more minutes. Pack hot into clean and sterilized quart size jars leaving 1 1/2 inch headspace. Process the jars in a pressure canner at 10 lbs of pressure for one hour. This will make 16 quarts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Super Savings Saturday

Here's the savings for this week. I made 2 trips to Walmart...none out of my way, I was already in the area for other business.



Transaction 1

Planters Peanuts - 2.68 x 2
Kotex pantiliners - $1 x 2
Just Bunches cereal 2.62 x 1
Crayola crayons .22 x 4
Koolaid 0.20 x 6
Gold Bond lotion - 0.97 x 1
Buddies soap 0.94 x 4
Schick razors 1.97 x 2

Total before coupons - 20.73
Minus coupons - 19.00
Total AFTER coupons - 1.73




Transaction 2

Planters Peanuts 2.68 x 2
V8 Fusion 2.98 x 1
Just Bunches cereal 2.50 x 1
Pert Plus shampoo 2.88 x 2
French's mustard 1.52 x 1
Vlasic relish 1.08 x 2
Vlasic Ovals 1.98 x 2
Zantac 4.23 x 1
Buddies soap 0.94 x 6
Gold Bond lotion 0.97 x 2
Koolaid 0.20 x 6

Total before coupons - 37.25
Minus coupons - 30.52 (one was the free mustard)
Total AFTER coupons - 6.73

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Challenge?

My friend, Michelle, has challenged me to post more often. She tells me that she checks several times a day to see if anything is new. She has also suggested a few things she would like to see which is very helpful for thinking of topics.

Therefore, my question is...what topics YOU would like to see covered. I have a few on my list that I'm working on but I like to keep that list full....so leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Financial Peace - June Update

In June, we paid off another credit card! Whoo Hooo!

Here is where we are in our "Baby Steps"

1. Emergency fund - DONE! August 2007
2. Debt Snowball - working, scheduled to complete by January 2010 but we are working HARD to be done before then...hopefully WAY before then!

It does not seem like we have gone far but when you consider where we were in August 2007 when we took our first class, we have made leaps of progress. We are no longer on the brink of bankruptcy and we see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel more hope than ever before!

We are also going to be saving for a van to replace ours when needed. It is getting old but we are hoping to hold off a little longer...after all...it ONLY has 191,000 miles on it! :) I have mixed feelings about replacing it because it has been such a good van with very few mechanical problems but, as with all things in this life...they don't last forever.

We were coordinators for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University back during the spring and we are happy to announce the beginning of our second class. We learned a lot in our first session and we're excited to get started again and apply what we learned. This will be our second time "teaching" and our third time "in" the class. We will be starting in late August and finish right before Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season. Please pray with us that this class will make great changes in the lives of the participants.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beef Marinades

A couple weeks ago, we had some delicious marinades for chicken. Today, along those same lines, we have marinades for beef. As with the chicken marinades, mix these up, divide steaks into gallon sized freezer bags, pour in the marinade, mix it around a little and freeze flat. Then simply thaw and cook as desired by baking, slow cooker or grilling.

Use these to save money and avoid those yucky preservatives found in store-bought marinades.

Basic instructions are to mix ingredients together well and marinate beef (steaks or roasts) overnight or put it in the freezer for later.

Stir-Fry (slice beef thin)

1/3 cup sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Schzeuchuan pepper seasoning
2 tsp ground ginger

Fajitas (slice beef thin)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 Tbs dried onion
1 tsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced

Teriyaki

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp curry
1/2 cup beef broth
3 Tbs orange juice

Beef Marinade (for roasts or steaks, this is great in the crockpot)

1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 small can mushroom pieces (optional)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Herb Mix

Herb Mix

This herb mix is used in many different ways and is easy to make and store. Use dried herbs to extend shelf life.

1/4 cup thyme
1/4 cup marjoram
1/4 cup savory
1 Tbs basil
1 Tbs rosemary (crushed)
1 Tbs fennel seeds
1 tsp sage

Mix together well in a bowl and put into a 1/2 pint jar with tight-fitting lid.

To use:

Herbed Chicken

Place chicken parts in baking dish and sprinkle with herb mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


Herb Roasted Potatoes

4 large white potatoes (washed well and cut in cubes, you can leave skins on or peel them, whichever you prefer.

1/2 tsp black pepper (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs Herb mix
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl and add all other ingredients. Toss to coat potatoes well.

Spread potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan.

Bake 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Makes four to six servings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cleaning the Castle

Cleaning house has never been a favorite passion of mine. Oh, I come by it honestly, my mom was not a clean freak either but you do have to do it from time to time. If nothing else, you will need to dig yourself out every so often.

I have a friend over at Squidoo that has put together a wonderful page about making house cleaning fun and how to enlist the help of your kiddos. You know, those who usually help make the bulk of the messes!

Check out her page here and be sure to say "Hi" to Susan. She's a former homeschool mom, mother of soldiers and a work-at-home mom/wife.

Have a great day and happy cleaning!

Mavis D.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why I Shop at Aldi's

I have a few friends that have asked me why I am willing to drive 25+ miles to shop at a certain store called Aldi's. Of course, this amazes me that they have not even tried it! I guess it would really blow their minds to know that I used to drive over 50 miles to shop at an Aldi store before our "local" city earned its place on the map. My mother, sister and myself would all take the truck and make a day of it and we would buy enough canned goods to last our families at least 3 months.

Now you must remember that I do not shop Aldi's exclusively but I do get the bulk of our food there. I also do not shop there once a week. If I happen to be "in town" and I will be close to it then I'll stop there for my fresh produce or a gallon of milk, otherwise, it's usually a once a month shopping trip and I prepare our meals from the pantry.

I have found that shopping at Aldi helps keep my food budget down which is very helpful when feeding a family of six...it used to be seven but one has left home now. When combining my Aldi shopping with cooking from scratch and taking advantage of sales, I have managed to keep our food bill down to $600 per month. For some, this may sound like a lot but most of those have smaller families. In addition, I have checked with the USDA's food plan chart, which says a family our size, should have a budget of $1058 per month on the "low cost plan!" It doesn't describe the "low cost plan" but I'm assuming it allows for a couple of roasts per month and a couple of evenings with lower cost steak choices with the bulk of other meats being chicken, ground beef, fish or pork.

I have compared prices with many different stores and have consistently found Aldi to be cheaper. Their "store brands" compare to those name brand items you are used to buying and many times the same company, on the same lines as the name brand labels, manufactures them. Of course, that is usually the case with most store brands located in all stores. I know this personally, as I worked in a canning company for a short time.

If you would like to compare prices without actually going to the store a homeschool dad was able to get a price list and he scanned it for the rest of the world. These prices were current for April 2008 and may differ a little bit by your location. It's now posted on SlickDeals...open the PDF file from there.

As with all of your shopping, I recommend you read the labels. As you may know, we avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils for health reasons but those things are in all processed foods no matter where you buy them. To read more about why you should avoid them check out "Cooking from Scratch - Healthy Living"

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stop Bleeding Quickly!

Have you had a cut that you thought you'd never get stopped bleeding? I have and I have friends and relatives who take blood thinners that have a serious problem if they cut themselves. Here is a little trick for stopping the blood flow quickly and it is as close as your spice rack!

Next time you have a cut, get your powdered Cayenne pepper out, sprinkle it on the cut, and cover with a bandage and amazingly enough, it does not sting! Because it is high in vitamin K, it has excellent clotting properties. You will also find that it has anti-microbial and astringent qualities that will help prevent infection.

Those of you who take blood thinner medications should carry a small container of the powdered cayenne with you. You never know when you might need it.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Chicken Marinades

Here are several marinade combinations that are sure to please. Try making them up, put them into gallon sized freezer bags and then add your chicken. You can freeze them and have them all ready to go; just thaw and grill or bake.

Many times, I will bake my chicken (especially leg/thigh parts) in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow them to cool then marinate them over night in a gallon-sized bag. The next day, when it is dinnertime, I just put them on the grill to heat them through and give them the "grilled" flavor. This serves two purposes; the chicken is completely cooked and it is great for quick barbeques when friends are coming over.

They are also a great money saver and avoids many of the preservatives found in storebought marinades.

Basic instructions are to mix ingredients together well and marinate chicken overnight or put it in the freezer for later use. There are special instructions for the Sweet and Sour chicken.

Pineapple Orange Chicken

1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup crushed pineapple in juice
1 tsp powdered ginger

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs dried rosemary

Honey Tarragon Chicken

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried tarragon

Tangy Italian Chicken

1 cup vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 Tbs garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dry mustard

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple with juice
1/4 cup wine vinegar
3 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs ketchup
3 Tbsp soy sauce (feel free to use low sodium soy sauce)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground ginger

NOTE: Special instructions for "Sweet and Sour Chicken" marinade. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan until well blended. Heat on low stirring to prevent scorching. Cook until slightly thickened. Allow to cool before adding to the meat. This also makes a good dipping sauce.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Learning to Knit

As many of you know, I have been learning to knit. This is not small undertaking for me. I have tried learning needlecrafts in the past. Like the time I tried to crochet. I was making a "doily" but when I finished it looked more like a bag! Apparently, I have a problem with tension...funny, a mom of 5 sons having a problem with tension? Impossible!

Well, I must report that I am not tied in knots and crying out for help. In fact, I have become quite addicted! This morning I ask hubby to drive to church instead of me driving...it was so I could sit on the passenger side and knit!

I have made two dishcloths, a scarf and I am working on a second scarf. My five year old "Little T" asked me to make him one...how could I say "no?"

I did try the "cheating" way as some of my friends call it. I bought a loom kit and tried that when I just could not get the hang of hand knitting. Now, I have done both and really enjoy the hand knitting much better. The loom knitting seems to roll up a lot more than the hand knitting

Here are two dishcloths I have made. The one on the right is the hand knit one (blue) and the other is the loom knit dishcloth (multicolored). I did make a mistake in my first one but I "fixed" it and it will serve its purpose after all. However, do you see how the loom knit one rolls at the top of the picture...I do not like that so I have all but stored the looms and bought more needles!


I have found knitting to be very relaxing and I've even loosened up my tension.

I am a visual learner so I need to SEE something before I can do it. I was able to find some great videos online that were very helpful to me and you'll find them here. I hope they are as helpful to you as they were to me.

Have a great knitting day!

Mavis D.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Score!

I have been checking my favorite haunts online for great deals in my local Walgreen's store. One deal this week is on Walgreen's brand maxi pads...yeah, yeah, I know I should get out more but this was a great deal!

First, they were buy one get one free. Not a great price at 4.99 for the cheapest package (the size I use) but when you combine it with the fact they listed a rebate on them in the Easy Saver book...you get them free!

If you buy 2, you get a $5 rebate and if you buy 3, you get a $10 rebate. You can get one of each. So I "bought" 4 the first trip...they ring all four up and then take off two...there's my $10 rebate. On the second trip I "bought" 2...they ring up both and then it takes one off...there's my $5 rebate.

Now, I'm pretty new to this stuff so I'm not 100% sure it will work but I spent $15 for 6 packages and I will definitely get the $10 rebate so I really spent $5 for all 6 of them and if I get the $5 rebate then I got them all free!

Of course, I paid for it with my gift card that had money refunded to me for past rebates. I also purchased many of the other "free after rebate" items that they have available for June and used coupons in junction with sales to get very low cost laundry detergent.

I know some of you hate dealing with rebates but you should really check out Walgreen's. They have made claiming rebates so easy...everything is done online so you do not even have to use a stamp to send it to them!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, June 16, 2008

When the Lights Go Out!

Today we spent over half the day without power. You never really think about the electric unless it's not working properly or it's time to pay the bill. Although we are trying to conserve energy we saw today how dependent are on it, a dependency that was a little on the scary side!

Without electricity, I am unable to cook meals, wash clothes, make phone calls, and a whole list of other things including blogging and checking my email. Last night when the power was off for a short time, we were unable to see except by candle or flashlight that and we only had a little wind up radio that my hubby bought for emergencies. It worked ok but we sure were tired of winding it up! LOL!

It makes me wonder just how prepared for emergencies our family really is and gives me ideas for some things we need to add to our household to prepare. Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes and many times, we never know how long they will last. When the power goes out you never know how long it will last!

I can get by without checking my email and if I really need to do that, I can always take the laptop to the local truck-stop where they have free wireless but what about eating? We've become quite accustomed to eating every day but what happens if I can't cook? Oh, we have a camping stove and we could set that up so we do have something but it is not an ideal situation and it probably is not would considered safe inside the house.

Anyway, after our little emergency, I've made a list of things around our home that we want to change or add to make life easier during those emergencies. I hope the list helps you as much as I know it will help our family.

1. Alternate ways of cooking: camping stove, barbeque grill, sterno cans, etc.

2. Emergency lighting: lamps with battery backups, emergency lighting, solar powered/battery backup lighting.

3. Communications: battery powered radio with rechargeable batteries; batteries stay in charger until needed.

4. Alternate heat source: Fireplace, vent-less gas stove,

5. Canned foods that do not require cooking. On this note, one last thing I want to change...we have a very large freezer where we keep frozen foods and meats. I could not imagine trying to deal with all of that thawing at one time. I am rethinking the whole idea of keeping that much meat and other foods frozen. I have decided to start canning a good portion of our meats and things. This will have a two-fold benefit. First, thee meat is canned and cannot spoil if the electricity goes out. Second, the children could make any type of meal they wanted by simply opening a jar. They would not need to cook any meat and I would not worry if they burned themselves trying to drain grease off or anything like that. I have a friend who does this and her children have been able to cook meals by themselves at very young ages.

Are there things you can think of that might help prepare for emergencies? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Mom's Favorite Biscuits

I found this recipe some time ago and we have fallen in love with it. It makes biscuits similar to those found at KFC. I always make several batches to freeze so they are handy to make. Just make them as usual, place them on a cookie sheet (before baking) and "flash freeze" them and put them in a freezer bag. When ready to use them, place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake as usual.

6 cups - all-purpose flour
6 tsp - salt
4 tbsp - sugar
4 tbsp - baking powder
2 2/3 cup - milk
1 1/3 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (unless you are making a "freezer batch")

Lightly stir together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and cut in until it is crumbly...I usually use my hands but you can use a pastry cutter or two butter knives. Add milk and mix well to form soft dough. Turn onto floured surface and gently knead 6-8 times. Pat or roll dough into 1/2 inch thick circle. Cut into biscuits. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in oven for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes approximately 36 biscuits. Serve with hot gravy or butter and jam!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Barbeque Sauce

This Barbeque sauce is a great alternative to the store-bought stuff that's loaded with things you can't pronounce and other things that simply aren't healthy for you. If you like it with a little spice to it...double the cayenne pepper.

2 Tbs oil
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 large can tomato sauce (institutional size)
3 cups brown sugar
3 cups Worcestershire (from the $1 isle available in most stores)
1 1/2 cups prepared mustard
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 Tbs ground cayenne pepper

Put oil in large stockpot and add onions. Sauté until onions are clear. Stir in spices and brown sugar; mix well. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce; adding tomato sauce last. Stir well and simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes. Pour hot into pint jars and process in pressure canner for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. Makes 12 pints.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

These are two of my babies. That big one there is now serving in the Army National Guard in Iraq. We're thankful for your prayers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Low Cost Gardening Supplies

Have you been buying your bags of mulch and compost from your local garden center? The cost of those bags is unbelievable especially if you have a large garden or flower bed that will take many bags.

Instead of purchasing those bags, try calling your local landfill or county road department. Most of them shred tree limbs and other yard debris and process it to make mulch or compost and it may be purchased in bulk. Our local landfill charges $10 per pickup truck load...that is a lot of mulch! Even if you cannot use that much, you can share the cost with a friend or neighbor and still come out far ahead of the game. They usually have mulch in brown or red and many times those bags you are buying were processed at that same landfill... a local company purchased it in bulk and packaged it for sale.

Be sure to call early for compost as it usually disappears fast in the spring. Mulch is usually available year round, especially if you have recently had storms in your area.

Have a great day and happy gardening!

Mavis D.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sloppy Jo's

1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup tomato catsup
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 t. ground oregano
1/4 t garlic salt

Brown ground beef and onions in a skillet until no pink remains. Drain fat off. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Serve on buns or toasted bread. Makes 4-6 servings.

This is one of our boys favorite meals. We usually serve it with oven fries and coleslaw. Of course, we avoid catsup that has hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Going "Girly"

Ok...it's weird...maybe it's my age or maybe it is because I've lived for 20 years as the only female in our home but some strange things are taking place around here. You have noticed the blog. Flowers? Who would have thought it? I love those little Gerber Daisies...they are so cute!

I have always been a "tomboy" so girly things were just a little foreign to me but lately I have started changing things to look more feminine and I'm not sure where that change has come from.

Some of the changes...besides the flowers on the blog...are that I have started wearing a lot pinker, lacier stuff and I am learning to knit. I am learning many things I always considered girl stuff.

Still, I haven't given up all of my tom boyish ways. I like playing in the dirt but we call it gardening now and I have to watch my speed when driving....I like to race but I think that comes from my mom so I don't know if it's a guy thing or not! I still hate to wear dresses and I am most comfortable in my jeans and t-shirts. I do not wear make-up and I think anything more than brushing my hair is a nuisance. Maybe I am not changing as many things as I think I am. Hhhmm Well...maybe there is hope for me yet!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Detachable Hearts

There are benefits to the modern world in which we live. Due to technology, we have faster travel and supposedly easier lives. All these conveniences come with price tags attached either in that we must work to earn the money to buy those things or they affect our lives in other ways.

One of those things is that we have a very mobile world. No longer, do families live in one place for long periods but many families move quite often for either jobs or other reasons. This is especially true of our military families. Those moves are often very difficult on the children involved but they are also difficult on some adults. I happen to be one of them.

I have lived in the same general area for 99% of my life. I lived in one home from the time I was 6 months old until I married at 18 and I have lived on the same piece of land for 15 of those 20 married years. You could say that my roots run very deep.

During the last year, our sons have participated in our local homeschool basketball team. In that time, we have grown very close to several of the families. We have recently learned that one of those families will be moving soon and our hearts ache.

There are many reasons why they are choosing to take a new job but most of all it means that "dad" will be able to spend more time at home with his family and when he is home, he will really BE home and not constantly on the phone trying to fix problems at work. I know it will be a blessing for their family and I know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.

The problem is that we have grown very attached to them. The "mom" feels like a sister to me and we have shared a lot together. We were even "neighbors" for a week when the team went to nationals and it had me daydreaming of what it would be like to live in a neighborhood with all of our close friends next door. Our children play together and have little fights with each other that they soon got over, like all children.

I have to be honest, I have been praying that the job would fall through...so have our children, at least the ones old enough to understand. It rather makes you wish for a detachable heart. One that you can turn off the emotions and feelings and run on facts only... but would I really want to live in a world like that? Maybe not.

So, to our very close friends, we will miss you more than words can say. We pray God's blessings on your new home. We pray you will find the kind of friends there that you have been to us here. Moreover, we pray we will see you again.

Godspeed, Yarnalls.

Mavis D.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe is super easy even though you wouldn't think it would work. It's great for those who have a wheat allergy and we usually make a double batch!

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix together well. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Roll tablespoon sized balls in your hands, place on a cookie sheet and press a fork into them to make the traditional x on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

During baking, the cookie will rise up and then come back down. Our boys always like to watch them. :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Book Review - The Dangerous Book for Boys

In "The Dangerous Book for Boys," Hal and Con Iggulden have compiled a wonderful resource for boys. From "how to" lessons and instructions to history of great battles, men of character and even a little advice on "girls" and grammar...they have compiled the ultimate guide for boys.

I have recently purchased this book for one of my sons. When I showed it to his older brother (now 18) he commented that it was very similar to a book he often borrowed from the library. I remember that book; he would read it constantly and always wished he would not have to return it. Unfortunately, it was out of print and I could not find one.

I highly recommend the book although there is a section on role-playing games and it uses the example of Dungeons and Dragons. These games are not for everyone but there is too much great stuff in the book to toss it for that.

Check it out and you will probably end up purchasing one for your adventuresome young man!

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Are What You Eat?

Have you looked at the amount of food items imported from China lately? I've become an avid label reader and it is near impossible to find fish that isn't a "Product of China."

I have nothing against the Chinese but you have to admit the standards that other countries have for what is grown or manufactured in their countries are not as strict as they are in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working to put inspectors in those countries but how many countries will it and will it help?

There are currently 13 inspectors waiting for approval of visas so they can perform inspections in processing plants in China. Only 13 inspectors for all of the facilities in China? So I am wondering...just how many processing plants are there in China that process foods bound for the states?

Think about this; I have checked the shelves at several of our local Walmart stores and even at my favorite store, Aldi's. Every package of fish I found was a "product of China." Now consider the thousands of Walmart stores in the U.S. That is a lot of fish for 13 inspectors to keep a check.

When these inspectors get there...will it help make our food safer? We hear about food recalls every year...food manufactured in the states. Foods recalled for E-Coli or Salmonella.

All this has made an impact on the food I buy for my family. I want to keep them healthy by feeding them nutritious food that is also safe. Here are steps I have taken to protect our family and I hope they will benefit yours as well.

First, buy foods that are products of the USA. Even though our system is not fool-proof, it is better than what's available in many countries.

Second, try to buy your food items from local farmers. Explore farmers markets and buy what is in season...you'll save money and eat healthier. Also, check local butcher shops because many can tell you where the beef comes from. We are lucky as we have a local abattoir who only sells beef they have raised or raised for them.

Third, cook meats thoroughly...especially ground beef. Cook meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill both E-Coli and Salmonella.

Lastly, if it is possible, grow your own. This will not only insure that you know how it was raised but what has happened to it between the garden and the table. Of course, this also saves you money.

I hope you've found this article helpful.

Have a great day!
Mavis D.

Keeping Your Cool in the Summer Heat

It is starting to heat up in our part of the country. We are expecting temperatures in the 90s this week. Every year about this time, my dear husband starts thinking about the cost of cooling the house and ways we can save electricity.

One thing that has always been troublesome is preparing meals without heating the house. Over the years, we have found ways to cope with that problem and I hope these ideas will bless you as well.

1. Avoid using the oven as much as possible. For people like us, we bake our own bread so instead of baking several times a week I will simply bake a weeks worth of bread in one day. I may throw in a few other treats that the boys like to enjoy like cinnamon rolls too. As soon as the bread cools completely, it goes into the freezer for use later in the week.

2. Use items like indoor grills and crock-pots more often. These heat a smaller space so the kitchen not warmed up as much. I have even put the crock-pot outside in a safe place (away from critters and hungry pups) so that heat was not inside.

3. Use your outside grill as much as possible. Not only does this keep from heating the house, you will also enjoy wonderful summer evenings with your family. Don't forget most of them have burners as well so side dishes can be cooked there too. If you preserve foods by canning them in jars, you can use that burner as well.

4. Think about changing your menu up to include foods that are not cooked. Tuna salads are just right for warm summer evenings and many other foods don't require cooking.

5. Combine cooking chores. If you are having grilled chicken breast tonight for dinner, grill a few extras for tomorrow or later in the week. You can chop them and add them to a garden salad for a nice cool weather meal or using them in recipes like the Teriyaki Chicken with Brown Rice and Veggies.

6. Don't forget your microwave oven. Although not everyone uses a microwave oven, those of you who do can save electricity by use those instead of cooking on stovetops and in ovens.

I hope some of these ideas help you keep the temperatures down in your home.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Teriyaki Chicken with Brown Rice and Veggies

2 tbs. olive oil
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
3 1/4 cups water
2/3 cups teriyaki sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
4 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 cup frozen peas and diced carrots mix

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven type pan or big skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook through. Pour in water, teriyaki sauce, peas/carrot mix and garlic; then bring to a boil. Add the rice and broccoli. Stir to combine well. Cook on low for 5 minutes then remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Makes eight servings.

My guys (including hubby) gobbled this up fast! They cleaned their plates in record time and even emptied the pan. I was barely able to save some for dad's lunch. You can make this especially quick and easy by using precooked diced chicken.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Save Money on White Erase Boards

You've seen the large white erase boards... right? They are so handy but wow are they expensive! Here's a handy tip. If you need a large one, go to your local hardware store and purchase the smooth "shower board."

If you need a smaller one, measure and cut your board with a utility knife. We used masking tape to protect the board and help us cut a straight line. Score the board then gently break it.

You can even get edging to make the board have a nice finished look around the edges.

I purchased a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet for less than $10 and we used the clear mirror mounts to put it on the wall. It works perfectly!

You could also cut one sheet into several boards, decorate and give as gifts.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Cuttin the Costs of Haircuts

When you have as many boys as I have, it's always a money saver if you learn how to cut hair!

Boy's haircuts aren't really all that hard. I started learning many years ago and my husband, bless his heart, volunteered to be my guinea pig while I learned. I've never been to a barber school but I've watched many haircuts be given.

With John, it was a little scary. He needed a haircut that wasn't bad looking but we couldn't take the easy way by giving him a "buzz cut." Much to my surprise, the first haircut wasn't bad and as the years have gone by I have learned how his hair lays and it looks great when I'm done.

With our sons, they all started with simple "buzz" cuts because most of the time it was too difficult to get them to sit still. As they've gotten older (and I've had more practice on dad), they've graduated to regular boy cuts. I still give the little ones buzz cuts though. :)

Examples:



This is "Little T" who got the usual buzz cut....he wanted to be "bald" like his big brother who is in the military but we didn't go that far. As you can see, he does have a HUGE "cow-lick" in the front, which will make a regular boy cut more challenging. He is blessed with a double crown that swirls in opposite directions and another swirl in the back. It's interesting to say the least.




This is "Herman" (his nickname given to him by his basketball team because he's so tall...as in Herman Munster! LOL!). He is 16 and likes his hair a little on the longer side. His hair is springy. He combs it down and it springs back up. It's pretty easy to cut and he likes to use hair gel to keep it in place.

If you think about each one getting haircuts every 3 months, which is generous (they probably get them more often), then I figure I have given about 360 haircuts in 19 years. This does not include friends who have asked me to cut their husbands or sons hair. At about $8 per haircut that is, $2880.00 saved! During that time, I have owned two pair of clippers at a cost of about $20 for one set and about $50 for the other.

Therefore, I encourage you, if you have many young men in your family. Buy a set of clippers and learn to cut their hair. Don't worry about messing it up, especially when they are young, the hair will grow back. My favorite motto when learning to give "boy haircuts" is "if all else fails, put on a guard and buzz it!"

Happy cutting!

Mavis D.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Homemade Flour Tortillas

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening - coconut oil or butter can be used
1/2 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt well. Cut in shortening or butter. Add water and mix well. Divide into 10 balls and roll out flat. Toast them on a medium to hot griddle.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Buying a "New" Car

We're considering buying a "new" van. The one we have has been great and there is part of me that doesn't want to give it up.

It's a 1995 Chevrolet Astro with 188K miles on it. It still runs decent although I think it is in desperate need of a tune up. It has a few other minor things to fix but we are also thinking of the gas mileage it gets. It's about 14 miles to the gallon and at almost $4 per gallon...that's not good. Of course, it would be better if it were running correctly.

You can see our dilemma. Do we keep it and fix what is wrong at a cost of about $500 - $1000 or do we buy one with fewer miles but will cost about $4000 - $5000. If we fixed it, how much longer can we expect it to run? I've heard of other Astro vans running as long as 300K miles with no major problems.

So what do you think? I think we had better pray for wisdom!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Friends of All Ages

My 5-year-old son has a new friend. She is a wonderful grandmotherly lady in our church...in fact, there are several but this one stands out among the others. She is so sweet to him often giving him gifts and he lavishes on the unconditional love of a child. It is sweet to watch.

Sometimes I wonder if he pays special attention to her because of the gifts but I know he gave her hugs and kisses before the gifts started. I always remind him to be nice and say "thank you."

Today she came bearing gifts again. Three large Hershey's chocolate kisses...one for the 5-year-old, one for his little brother and one for his mom (how did she know I love chocolate?).

Her daughter tells us that her mom talks about our boy all week and that she simply cannot miss a Sunday at church services because she cannot miss him. I think we will surprise her next Sunday and bring her a bouquet of flowers. :)

We love you, Ms Nancy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Super Savings Saturday

I did not really get very many deals this week...it seems they run in bunches so it is either feast or famine. I see many stores on other blogs that are simply not available here. We have Walgreen's and Walmart available with a small Kmart although they call it a "BigK" I do not think it is all that big since all they did was remodel a regular Kmart.

At Walgreen's I picked up a bottle of Pert Plus and I had a coupon for $1 off...with the $2.50 rebate it will be free. I also bought two bottles of Gillette body wash so I got two free and lastly, I purchased some Sure deodorant. The Sure was on sale for $1.99 and I found a double pack on the shelf...it rang up at the sale price and I had a $1 coupon so each one cost $0.50 each.

I did have coupons for the Smart Start cereal that I would have purchased four boxes and ended up getting them for $0.50 each but I passed them up. I read the label and they have high-fructose corn syrup in them. I thought that was odd since it was supposed to be a "healthy" cereal.

I picked up a few things at Walmart:

Two French's mustard - both free with coupon
Zantac - free with coupon
Olive oil - not very cheap but I did have two coupons for $1 off so I bought two bottles
Two boxes of Live Active cereal - $2.98 minus $3 coupon made it free
Two Farmland bacon packages - $2.50 minus $2 coupons made them free - we don't eat pork but my mom and dad will enjoy them. :)

That is it for this week. I hope this next week is better but if it's not, I don't know of anything we can't live without. I have thought of making some of my own toothpaste because I have a little one that does not really brush his teeth...he likes to eat the toothpaste instead.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Low Cost Wall Paper Remover

Trying to remove wallpaper can be difficult and if you are using the wallpaper remover from the local discount store it can get expensive. Try using liquid fabric softner mixed half and half with water. Just put it in a spray bottle and spray walls. Let it soak in a bit and then start scraping or peeling the paper off. You can even use the "cheap" stuff to make your mix.

Try it out!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Legos! Build a World of Imagination!

Red! Blue! Yellow! Black! Green! The colorful little blocks have been out for years and have entertained literally millions of children around the world! There are even adults who play with them!

We personally own about an 18-gallon plastic tub of them and our sons still have a great time playing and building with them. We've bought kits that build Star Wars ships, boats, cars and even an SUV but they usually throw away the instructions for those and build their own creations. Many of which I have taken pictures of to "keep" the project in our memories but free up the blocks to build something else.

One day our boys were quiet playing Legos in their room. At that time, we lived in a mobile home that had air conditioner vents in the floor. When I went to check on them, they had built a whole town complete with an electric generating plant! The "generating plant" was a little building that had a Lego fan on it and when the air conditioner in the house turned on...it turned the fan to generate electricity! How ingenious I thought! Even funnier was the houses and stores were all connected with thread used as power lines!

There were no parents/adults involved in their building...just two boys ages 6 and 9 playing quietly in their room. That told me that Legos would always have a place in our home and I hope they are in yours as well. If you don't have a set for your children, consider purchasing a set and let their imaginations run wild!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Are You Paying Too Much on Your Property Taxes?

I'm sure all of you have heard of the recent mortgage crisis but have you thought about how it affects you? You might not think that it is a great thing to happen, especially if you are one of the many who are loosing your home to foreclosure. Unfortunately, it does affect you...especially if you are trying to sell your home.

The mortgage crisis and following glut of homes up on the market due to foreclosure has driven the selling prices of many homes downward. It can is considered a "buyers market" for a home right now...which could mean more in your pocket when it comes to real estate property taxes.

The value of your home determines the real estate taxes, in most states. If the current market value is less than it was a couple of years ago, you may be able to get your tax assessors office to adjust that amount and decrease your taxes.

Most assessors' offices have certain actions you must take to get them to review your assessed value but a simple call to their office will give you this information. You will be requesting a review of the market value of your home. To make your chances better you may want to do a little research before you do so you are prepared to state your case properly. Here are some steps that might help:

First, check for inaccuracies on your current assessment. Have you removed an old shed? Is the square footage and acreages correct? Does it report the correct number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Be sure to correct anything that is wrong and make sure they know of your homes faults too. Is the home not 100% complete? Let them know, it means it is valued a little less.

Second, check your assessor's website or visit their office and compare homes in your area. Be sure to check as closely as possible to size of home, condition, and lot size or acreage.

Third, you can request a "current market analysis" from a local real estate agent. This tells you what the realtor believes the home would sell for in the current market. Also have the realtor to give you a list of homes that have sold in the last six months that compare to your home.

Lastly, when all else fails and you truly think your house should be valued less. Hire an appraiser. This may not be cost effective in the short time but might pay for itself over a few years...especially if the value difference is significant.

Remember, the more paperwork you have to back up your appeal, the better.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wordy Wednesday

Fall 2007, Ozark Mountains

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Can You Survive a "Recession?"

There has been a lot of talk about rather we are or are not in an economic recession. I've seen "recession" defined a hundred times and I'm still simply wondering what matter does it really make.

If our country is in a recession and you have planned for lean times. Are you debt free or close to it? Have you planned for lean times with a fully stocked pantry, a little extra cash "just in case," etc.? Do you work your occupation to the best of your ability and make yourself indispensable to your company? Do you know how to live a frugal lifestyle and actually enjoy it? Well, I believe you will be all right rather a recession hits or not.

After all, what can any of us really do about our national economy? Sure, we can buy "American" or "Made in USA" but other than that, we can only pray we choose wise leaders.

Another thing that will help our national economy is to take care of our personal economy. We can take lessons from those who lived during the depression and apply many of those lessons to our daily lives. I do not believe we should wait until the wolf is at the door to decide to prepare...we must expect him and prepare before he comes huffing and puffing. Those who successfully survived the depression and some who even prospered did so by preparing. Let us take lessons from them. Here are some first steps to take:

1. Establish an emergency fund of at least $1000 (for most)
2. Pay off debt...start with the smallest ones first and roll those payments over to the next one. This is consumer debt such as credit cards, gas cards, car loans, etc.....not the house.
3. Save 3-6 months living expenses - this will be easy once the debt is gone.
4. Invest 15% for retirement
5. Set up college funds.
6. Pay off house early.
7. Build wealth and have fun giving some away.

Do these steps sound familiar? These are the tips lined out by Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University but most importantly, they work!

So don't loose your head and panic because Chicken Little said the sky is falling....simply get an umbrella and wait for the rain....after all, after the rain is the rainbow.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Tipster Tuesday - Bug Off!

The folks over at BeCentsAble host a Tipster Tuesday so I thought I would play along.

The one I heard, use Listerine (mouthwash) as a spray to keep mosquitoes and ticks off. Sounds simple enough...I wonder if the generic brands work.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Extension Homemaker's Clubs

We live in a very rural area and due to the gas prices; I wanted to find things to be involved in that are closer to home. I have recently learned there is a 4-H group that meets near our home. In fact, we have a little community building out here that does tons of stuff throughout the year!

Tonight I attended a meeting of the TLC Club. The TLC Club is an "Extension Homemaker's club." Ask your grandma about them...she can tell you. They lend support to homemakers by having educational programs and activities throughout the year. They allow the ladies to get to know their neighbors better and help build strong communities.

Well, tonight we had a speaker talk about E-Coli and other harmful bacteria, where it came from, how it spreads and most importantly, how to protect our families. It was very interesting.

A short meeting and then refreshments followed the speaker. It was very nice and I had a good time getting to know all of these women and hear of their hair-raising tales of trying to catch mice. Some of the stories were really quite funny!

Yes, I was the youngest person there but I look forward to learning from these ladies in the future. I hear they get together on Wednesday mornings to quilt too!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Coleslaw Dressing

Have you ever tried finding the perfect coleslaw dressing? It is very difficult. Some like it more sour and some like it sweet. I have always liked the Kraft coleslaw dressing but haven't found a recipe that compares too much. Therefore, this week I am trying this one. Why not try it with me?

1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp seasoned salt or Creole seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine all in a jar and shake well. Refrigerate until ready for slaw. Toss with shredded cabbage and carrots. Makes about 2 cups.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My New Solar Powered Clothes Dryer

We did it...we're not quite done but we've installed our new solar powered clothes dryer! OK...so it is a clothesline but I am excited. I love the smell of hanging stuff outside and I do not even mind that the clothes are a little stiff...I can soften them up with a few minutes in the dryer.

Mostly, I'm excited about seeing what my electric bill does. I sure hope it goes down enough to pay for the concrete! Someone on FreeCycle gave the poles to us and all we need to do now is get new wire. The old wire was twisted badly enough it could not be used besides that we add a third pole (from another source) in the middle to make a longer run. I do have 6 of us still living at home.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Something I've Noticed

Since my journey into the coupon world started I have found a few interesting things happening. First, we are now fully stocked on both toothpaste and detergent for our dishwasher.

The other thing is that some of our coupons for the area are a little different than those others are reporting on their blogs. For example, a few weeks ago there was a Suave coupon that everyone was talking about that was for $1 off but our coupon was only $0.50 off. Another one someone listed (I forget what product it was) a coupon that came in a certain paper but I searched mine and found no coupon.

Therefore ladies, keep that in mind with surfing the net and looking for the coupon deals everyone else is doing...some of them may not work in your area.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Financial Peace - April Update

Everything went smoothly this month except for our grocery budget. I can see a few changes in prices in the local grocery stores especially with wheat products and dairy products. I guess everyone is feeling the pinch. We'll have to tighten this a bit more but we also decided to increase our grocery budget by $100. Part of this increase is due to the fact we are eating a lot healthier. I'm really not sure what a family of 6 should be spending on groceries a month. I should research that a bit...we have two adults, two teen boys and two toddlers. Therefore, if you have ideas how to figure it, I'd love to hear it!

Our debt snowball is rolling a long and gaining some snow along the way. We're making some changes to our leftover credit card bills...mostly switching to lower rates. We're also calling our card companies and requesting lower rates because of our great payment history. Most are willing to lower them...those who aren't usually get culled out. I know...Dave says playing with them will get you bit eventually. However, we have switched one balance to a lower rate card and closed the old account...we're pretty diligent about closing accounts. Some companies just do not want to work with you.

Our Baby Step 1 emergency fund is still healthy...no problems have come up to need it and when there was a small problem, we absorbed it through working it out of our budget.

We've decided to put our stimulus package into a savings to replace our family van. We'll add to it over the next few months and try to find a great deal in the fall when prices are generally lower. Right before Christmas is a great time to buy a used vehicle. :)

That's about it for the update. Have you started your journey to Financial Peace?

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Walgreen's Lesson

Today I made a couple stops at Walgreen's. I wanted see if I get do more great deals. Well, I learned something.

On Sunday, I bought Cascade (P&G products) that gave me $20 in Register Rewards, plus $3 for the Zantac and $6 for the Venus razors. Today I had planned getting more Cascade and use one of the $10 Register rewards to pay for most of it. Well...that's when I learned that you would not get more reward dollars if you use those you got before on the same product. Therefore, Cascade produced rewards you should not be use toward more purchases of Cascade...but they can go toward other purchases.

This is what I figured out. At the beginning of the month, I buy things that have the register rewards or things on sale that we use anyway. Save the register reward dollars to purchase the items that I'll get free after the rebate (they're in the EasySaver catalog) or things that are on sale and I also have a coupon.

You must remember to use the Register Rewards before they expire...they are only good for about 2 weeks. Hope this helps!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Too Fast!

Today I spent part of my day going to get a new table...well, new to us anyway, I won't buy NEW furniture...not with boys around. Anyway, I took son #2 with me, we'll call him Too-Tall. He did the navigating with the GPS and we could take advantage of his muscles.

Too-Tall is really good with the GPS program. It works from my laptop and he makes sure I turn where I should and that I don't get lost. It's really great and I'm glad he's learning it so quickly. It's especially helpful when I see a sign and want to make a detour, he and the computer re-map my route to accommodate me.

When we arrived we went inside to see the table and chairs and after deciding that "yes, I did want it" he and the husband of the house started taking it apart and loading it.

It's great having teen boys, the stuff they can carry and the help they can be. Yeah, sure there's hormones to deal with sometimes, which makes them a little cranky but for the most part it's pretty fun having them around.

His favorite cologne is Axe (Phoenix) and he was wearing it today. When we got home, I gave him a hug and thanked him for helping. It was an interesting smell...I like Axe but his cologne today had what I (lovingly) call "boy funk" mixed it. Wow, that was interesting!

Do you know what the problem is when they are teens? Knowing that soon they'll be leaving home. He's only 16 now but I'm trying to cherish every minute. He has an older brother and although he still lives at home, we don't see him as much. It's kind of hard to take...they simply grow up Too Fast.

Mavis D.