Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Homestead Maintenance

Wow... I am tired! Today the boys and I worked outside most of the day. We weren't working on any great project but we did get a lot of little things done.

First, we fixed a couple of rabbit fences. They are little circles of wire that we sit on the ground and put the rabbits in during the day. This allows them to forage fresh grass and feel the ground. I think they'll be much healthier rabbits for it.

We got a car ready to junk. It's been a yard ornament for about two years because it was purchased for a "parts car." Well, we've taken most of the good parts off and I'm tired of mowing around it! The junk man will be here later this week and we received a little money for it too!

We also fixed a water line in our well house...courtesy of our 16-year-old son. He did a great job. We set the water hose thingy my dad made for me so we'll have a place to hang the hose instead of it laying all around the yard.

We don't have raised beds build yet but we planted a few pepper plants in containers. We plan to put a few more things in containers this year and hopefully we'll have beds built by the fall so we can put in some fall tomatoes or something.

We're also hoping to get our clothesline poles set sometime this week and build a chicken tractor.

What is a "chicken tractor?" It's a mobile chicken coop and pen. You can move it to a new area when needed so the chickens can forage for fresh grass and bugs. We're already all lined up to get some hens that are already laying so we'll have fresh eggs.

We're so excited about finally getting around to setting up a "homestead" or "mini farm." Eventually, we'll have honey bees and goats! :)

Stay tuned to follow the adventure!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wordy Wednesday

Lighthouse on Galveston island in Texas.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Potatoes Au Gratin

Potatoes Au Gratin

4 cups cooked, diced potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups medium white sauce
2/3 cup American cheese grated
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt & Pepper

Oil baking dish with oil to prevent sticking. Make white sauce using basic sauce recipe (below). Add cheese to sauce, stir until well blended, and cheese until completely melted. Layer potatoes and onions in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour white sauce and cheese mixture over the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until hot and bubbly.

You may also substitute diced hash brown potatoes from your freezer section of you local grocery store.

Optional: You can add cooked and drained ground beef to add a meat and make a nice casserole dish.

Basic White Sauce

2 Tsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 T flour
2 cups milk (or half water and half milk)

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour and salt to make a smooth paste. Stir in milk gradually (I like to use a whisk). Heat on medium high heat until thickened.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Putting on a New Face

Hi Everyone....well, it's been a few days since I wrote but as you can see I've been working on something.

How do you like the new face? Darcy over at Graphically Designing did a wonderful job...don't you think?

Thanks Darcy!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Super Savings Saturday 4/26/2008

I made a trip to Walmart and did pretty well. Some of our prices were a little different than others have posted but here's the breakdown.

Sunsilk shampoo 4 x 3.23 = 12.92
Clean Team Wipes 2 x 1.64 = 3.28
Bic Razors 2 x 4.45 = 8.90
Red Zone Body Wash 6 x 0.97 = 5.82
Tabasco 2 x 1.18 = 2.36
Bush Grillin' Beans 3 x 1.25 = 3.75 (this were on rollback at our store)

Total 37.03 plus tax
Total coupons and rebates 24.96

Total OOP 12.07 plus tax

Friday, April 25, 2008

When our first son was born, we were very careful with most parents. We didn't want him to get dirty and cleaned him as soon as their was a speck of anything on him. My dad was really into fixing cars and often covered with car grease. No way was he holding the baby like that! There were so many things the first wasn't able to do or play.

Well time changes, right? By the time our 5th son was born we were almost tossing him under the car with grandpa! Grandpa had got used to our complaining about touching the baby with greasy hands with the first one that he was a little shocked with the later additions to our family. We always were allowing them a little more freedom...I guess it happens to all of us. I'm not sure if it's laziness or just lack of energy to chase them as much...we're not going to mention age, right?

Oh...another difference, when the first child fell...we rushed to help him up and soothe his crying. When the last child falls...we laugh, check for blood and tell him to get up and try it again.
Interesting, isn't it? It's not a lack of love or concern for the last one but rather we know more. Kids need to get dirty sometimes, they need to have a little freedom within the confines of safety and they need to know that although they fall...they must get up and try again.

This phenomenon usually appears when a couple has 3+ children. For some reason, it doesn't happen in families with only two children. Hhmmm, maybe we are just tired!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kicking the Habit

I'm doing's time. It should save at least $100.00 per year. I doesn't sound like much but hey, it adds up and I'll be doing my part to "go green" and help our environment!

What am I giving up? Paper towels! I can wipe up a spill and toss the thing in the trash but think about the number of trees cut for my convenience. I know, it might not be much but it's a start.

Here's what I've done. I purchased 100% cotton "flour sack" towels. I had some other towels too but not many. I have a few "bar mops" and I'll add to my stash from yard sale finds and thrift stores.

Have you ever used a flour sack towel? Wow, they are SO absorbent. You wouldn't think so by looking at them...they're rather thin looking but they can soak up quite a bit! Because they are so thin, they dry fast. I think they are the perfect kitchen towel!

I also plan to decorate a few by doing a little embroidery on them...won't they be cute? I'll have to show you some when I'm done. :)

I keep my towels in a drawer in the kitchen and use them as needed. When one gets too soiled, I throw it in a basket I keep under my sink. When I'm washing towel, I throw in the kitchen towels too.

It's really pretty simple and one of those things our grandma's used to do. It's amazing the things we threw out because we thought we knew better. Sometimes the "old ways" are better ways.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Free Honey Bunches Cereal

I had found coupons for $2 off a box of Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate Cluster cereal. The problem was FINDING the cereal. All the stores I had been in didn't have that flavor. Finally, I found it. You must look at the larger Walmart Super Centers...for my local readers, those are Van Buren and Rogers Avenue stores.

So you'll need to go here, here, here and here. Click the link...print the coupon...close the window and go to the next link. You should be able to print 4 coupons which means you'll get 4 boxes of free cereal.

Thanks to Sarah at Fiddle Dee Dee for the info.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Save the Nails!'re standing there washing dishes and get to the pots and pans. The casserole dish is especially "yucky" because of the baked on stuff left over from the evening meal. You scratch at it a bit with your nails and "OUCH!" Either you broke it or jambed that yucky stuff up under the nail and you're in terrible pain.

Stop! Save yourself from this picture! You've been wondering what to do with all those used up gift cards laying around. Next time, save them and put them near your sink or punch a hole in it and hang it on a hook inside the cabinet. They are great for scraping off that baked on stuff and they were free....OK...after you used it to get $0.03 off your gas at the pump.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Super Savings Saturday - 4/19/08

I didn't have a lot of things this week but I did make a rather nice trip to Walmart. I had downloaded the coupons for the Honey Bunches of Oat cereal but they were for the "Chololate cluster" version. I had checked several of the stores but didn't find it.

Well, this week I finally found one of the stores that did have it. Apparently, you have to go to one of the bigger "super center" stores to get it. So here is my loot for Walmart this week.
Honey Bunches cereal 1.98
Honey Bunches cereal 1.98
Honey Bunches cereal 1.98
Malt o meal cereal 2.68
Malt o meal cereal 2.68
Zantac Cool 4.23
Scrubbing bubble brush 4.98
Toilet scrub 4.67
Malt hot cereal 2.12
Malt hot cereal 2.12

Total 29.42 plus tax
Total coupons and rebates 20.98

Total OOP 8.44 plus 1.89 tax = 10.33

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cooking From Scratch - Baking Bread Update

Ah...sweet success! I told you of my quest to make my own bread and that my friend helped me with some hands on lessons (read about it here). Well, I think I have succeeded!

When I went to Jodi's store, I wanted to recreate exactly how I would be making bread at home. I did this by taking my own flour (ground from my mill) and all my own ingredients. I even lugged my KitchenAid mixer down there!

Jodi helped a lot and the loaves we baked that day were perfect...but could I do this at home? Well, it's been a few days and I've baked four batches of bread since then. The first batch went flat but the kids ate it still tasted too good to throw out. I figured out what I was doing wrong and adjusted accordingly. I have since baked three more batches that turned out beautiful!

I will need to get narrower pans. Mine are an old glass type that is too wide so the bread spreads out and doesn't get quite as tall as I'd like. That won't be hard, Jodi's got some at her store that I've had my eye on.

Here is the recipe I'm using...maybe you'd like to give it a try. My mixer will only hold enough dough for two loaves so if yours is bigger, go ahead and double it.

Whole Wheat Bread

2 1/4 cups warm water
1/8 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon lecithin granules (purchased at health food stores, it keeps the bread moist)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
6 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt

Add liquids to the bowl. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, yeast, lecithin and gluten while mixing. Stop mixing and scrape bowl and let it "sponge" for about 10 minutes (this means it will bubble and get about twice as high). Turn mixer back on and gradually at 2 cups of flour then the salt. Add the last of the flour until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic. While dough is kneading, prepare pans by coating with oil or non-stick spray. Shape dough into loaves and let rise until rounded over the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Take a Walk!

Last summer, I started walking with my mom. She lives next door and it made it convenient to have quality time together and get in some exercise. Unfortunately, due to a couple of different things we discontinued our walks.

During the several months we had been walking, I started loosing weight and feeling much better. I was to the point that I could walk without getting winded and tired. Well, needless to say, I'm back to my old winded and tired self so I've decided to start walking about.

I don't have time for the 3 hour walks we went on so I've been doing some research about exactly how much walking I need to do as a minimum to gain the benefits.

I have a few goals that I want the walking to accomplish.

First, I want to get into better shape physically as far as being able to walk any where at any time without getting so out of breath. I want to be able to chase my toddlers...and catch them! I want to take hikes with my wonderful husband and play baseball at our family reunions.

Second, I would like to loose a LOT of extra pounds that I've picked up over the 20 years that I've been married. Most people don't know how much I weigh because I'm rather tall for a woman. At 5'9", my height hides some of my weight. I've debated on rather or not to tell the whole world what that number is but I know many of you are friends and family and I'd like to keep you up to date on my progress. Drum roll please...I weighed in this morning at 328. Yeah...I know...WOW! However, I do know that it's better than last year. Even though we quit walking, I still lost some weight and I believe that's due to the changes we made in our diets. The changes were avoiding the high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.

Lastly, when I was walking before, it was very relaxing. Funny, is it not? Exercise...relaxing? Well, below is a list benefits of walking that I've learned in my recent research.

If you aren't already active, maybe you'll take up the habit of walking. So far, I've found that as little as 50 minutes can have great benefits and it doesn't have to be all at once. You can take a couple 30-minute walks or one long one. Also, add in extra steps by parking a little farther from the store or office. Take the stairs. Walk around your neighborhood a couple of times a day. All these things add up.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

The Benefits of Walking

The benefits of walking are numerous. Here are just a few:

Suppresses appetite
Reduces snacking
Lowers hormone levels linked to weight gain.
Increases endurance
Boosts metabolism
Lowers depression
Fights breast cancer and diabetes
Relieves stress
Helps with weight-loss

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Kellogg's Cereal

There is a coupon for Kelloggs cereal at

You can print two coupons for $1 off 2 boxes of cereal.

Then there is a rebate for $10 Gift check by mail in the "New You!" magazine I picked up at the pharmacy in Kmart.

So you'd buy 4 boxes of cereal at $10 minus 2 $1 coupons for a total of $8 OOP...then you'd get a $10 rebate earning yourself $2...minus the cost of the stamp and sales tax. :)

Mavis D.

It has been brought to my attention that the rebates are only good at the store where you picked up the magazine. So use your manufacturers coupon there and still get free cereal. You could also see if they will price match the Walgreen's ad. I'm not sure if Kmart does this or not.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Entering the Couponing World

This week I started my coupon shopping adventure. I wanted to try Walgreens first so I went armed with my coupons, sales flyer and EasySaver rebate book. I know it took me a lot of time getting organized but I'm hoping that will take less time as I learn what I'm doing.

Here's my loot from Walgreens.

Colgate toothbrush 3.99
Aquafresh toothpaste 2.00
Gillette Mach3 Razors 6.00
Gillette Venus Razors 6.00
Airwick mini 9.99
Airwick mini 9.99 - BOGO
Kleenex 0.99
Kleenex 0.99
Kleenex 0.99

Total before coupons and tax = 40.94
Total OOP after coupons, BOGO and with tax = 21.89
Expected rebates = 10.48
RR = $3.00
Total Cost = 8.41
Total Savings = 32.53

There were several items I could have gotten for very little but I simply don't use that product so I didn't bother getting them.

I also tried to find the Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate Cluster cereal but apparently none of the stores in our area carry it.

I also had taken some coupons to Walmart and Kmart and the savings we ok but not great.

Have a great day!
Mavis D.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Emergency Camping

Last night we had some severe weather in our area. There were knocked down power lines, poles, trees, and broke windows and windshields across the area. It was quite exciting sitting with our candles and oil lamps while listening to a radio that is powered by winding it up. It’s a pretty neat little gadget that my hubby bought “just in case” we needed it. Well, I’m glad he did or we wouldn’t be able to listen when we should take cover.

Severe weather is nothing to take lightly around here but we usually enjoy the evening and trust our Father to take care of us. We said a prayer for our friends, family and everyone property.

We sat for several hours at the dining room table, the boys played cards by candlelight while I worked on some writing projects on the laptop. They were just as excited when the power came back as they were when it went off!

I keep thinking that during the “severe weather” when the power goes off we end up having a family evening with all of us gathered around the table spending time together. It’s kind of funny isn’t it….the fact that a power outage brings our family closer together. Perhaps we should plan a “power outage” once a week to get in that extra family time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cooking from Scratch - Baking Bread

I've been trying to learn to bake my own bread. I know that it's much better for my family and a lot cheaper but I keep coming up with these flat loaves that are very dense. We ate them anyway because the smell and taste was so good even though the texture left something to be desired...that and I didn't want to waste the ingredients. There were only two loaves out of about 10 that we threw away...they were bad!

Yesterday, I spent several hours with my friend, Jodi, from Homestyle Mercantile learning this ancient art. I took all my own ingredients...especially flour from my own mill and my KitchenAid mixer. I wanted to make sure everything I used there would be what I'll be using at mistakes this time!

After she had her flour ground up and her mixer set up we were ready to go. She has a Bosch Universal, which is my dream machine. That thing can hold enough dough to make 4 to 6 loaves of bread! Maybe some day...I set up my little KitchenAid and we were ready to roll.

We worked through the recipe and she showed me what to look for and when I needed to add things. Mostly what my dough should look like when it's done. I am a real visual learner so this was great and I learned a lot. The bread turned out wonderful and perfect in both taste and texture. She really knows her stuff!

At the end of our time together, we had several loaves of bread and a nice visit. I love to seeing Jodi and Aaron down at the store because I always learn from them and I'm hoping this lesson sticks in my brain. I'm sure if I need a refresher she's patient enough to handle it. :)

Oh...on the way home, I couldn't help myself. The smell of that bread all through the van was irresistible! When I arrived home, there was one loaf missing the end and now there are only a few slices left on the counter. Guess I'll be making bread tomorrow...but I don't think it will be a problem.

Thanks Jodi and Aaron! Oh and kids!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Wordy Wednesday

"I'm not listening"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Financial Peace - March Update

Well, I've been reading a few other blogs and many who are also doing the Dave Ramsey plan are posting updates. I thought it was a great idea so here is my very first update.

We started our Financial Peace adventure in August 2007. With a mortgage, about $30K in credit card bills and student loans, no savings and no budget it wasn't looking good. However, now I can say that we have baby step 1 completed with our $1000 emergency fund in place, a "sinking fund" that is used for those expenses that come around once or twice a year and we are working on paying off debt using the debt snowball. We have STOPPED using credit cards completely and have paid off two of them. We have one more that will be coming off soon and another that will meet it's death with our "Stimulus package" payment. Things are looking better but it will still take us about 2 and a half years to get those things paid off...less when we use our income tax refunds which we plan to do.

How did we do in March? We stayed pretty close to our grocery budget of $550 per month. This includes stuff like cleaning supplies and paper products. It's difficult with a family of seven and I don't always succeed but we do try hard to save money in that area. This is our most difficult area to control.

All of our other budgeted areas, home maintenance, clothing, personal supplies, entertainment we fine...we had money left in the envelopes and we always let that money carry over to the next month. We let it carry over to the next month because many times we'll save up for things this way or we'll not have anything in that area that month but need more the next month. This is especially true for home maintenance and clothing.

Have you started your journey to Financial Peace? It's a great place to be and we're looking forward to our goal of being debt free!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cooking from Scratch - Healthy Living

If saving money by cooking from scratch didn't convince you how about how much it will improve your health.

Much of our modern food is for convenience...not necessarily for health. Not to mention many manufacturers use things in those products to keep their costs down so they have a larger profit margin. This does not mean they are good for our bodies.

Most of what you'll find in those easy to fix boxes are loaded with preservatives and over-processed foods. Definitely, very different from what God intended our bodies to consume.

Let's look as some of them.

High-Fructose Corn syrup - A combination of pure corn syrup (100% glucose) and other corn syrups processed to increase their fructose content. It's use as both a sweetener and a preservative and is used because it's both sweeter and cheaper than sugar. Many contribute the growing population on high fructose corn syrup...and I don't mean growing population numbers but growing as in obesity levels.

Some also believe that high fructose corn syrup is a major contributor to the higher number of those affected by diabetes and high cholesterol.

Although there isn't substantial evidence to confirm one way or another it's still a good idea to avoid it where possible...even those at the Mayo Clinic recommend cutting back (read their article here) or you can do your own research by looking up "high fructose corn syrup."

Cutting back may be harder than you might think. Go to your cabinets and start looking at the's in a lot of products and many things you wouldn't even think of!

Hydrogenated and Partially hydrogenated oils - This oil is made by the process of heating the oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. This makes the oil more dense and depending on rather it's fully hydrogenated or partially gives you different consistencies. For example, partially hydrogenated oils found in things like margarine while those more fully hydrogenated would be like vegetable shortening.

Again, the reason manufacturers' use these items are because they are cheaper and usually help to extend the shelf life but not necessarily your life. There are actually people who are working to ban these products from our foods. They contain high levels of trans fats which are not good for our bodies because they mess with our metabolic process.

They will also help make you fat. You're body needs certain types of essential fatty acids to work properly and you will be "hungry" until your body gets them. This often times causes you to eat and eat but never bee satisfied. Read more here and here.

Cooking from scratch allows you to avoid these types of "ingredients" in your food and who knows, maybe cutting out these things might help you loose that last few pounds left from Christmas. :)

Mavis D.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Curtain Climbers

Due to some issues with my back, I must sit in a chair when I wash dishes. Usually our older boys are home to help with the little boys but today they were gone to "Bible Bowl" and I was on my own.

I was sitting in the chair washing dishes when my 3 year old came in to the kitchen. He decided it would be a great idea to get up in the chair behind me. There wasn't much room for him to sit so he proceeded to climb on my back. It was fun although he was choking me a bit.

Before it was over, he had climbed up and was sitting on my shoulders. Have you ever tried washing dishes while a toddler sat on your's not easy! :) I decided to take a break and play with him awhile...the dishes can wait.

So today, I learned to be thankful for two things...the little boys who want to have fun and the big boys who are a great help to me! I must remember to never let both of them go at the same time!

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Cooking from Scratch - Saving Money

Many of you may be wondering why I choose to cook as much of our food as I can "from scratch." Well, I wanted to address that today.

There are two main reasons I cook from scratch and much to your surprise it really doesn't take much extra time. I believe the little bit of time it does take is well worth the investment. So why do this?

The first reason I cook from scratch is to save money - Cooking this way saves money on the cost of food per person or per serving. Very few items packaged as "convenience foods" are low cost. The argument is that by using these products it makes our lives easier because they are "quick and easy" to prepare. However, by using things like my oven, crock-pot and other things, I can usually make meals for a lot less cost.

Let's see some examples:

Store bought bread is probably the biggest saver and runs about $1.59 per loaf but making your own is about $0.60 per loaf and it tastes much better.

Hamburger helper is about $2.00 per box but you can often get them on sale for $1.25. It usually takes two boxes to feed my family but the homemade version is about $2.00 worth of ingredients. This makes enough to feed my family of seven and have leftovers...of course; this does not add the cost of the ground beef or turkey.

This is just a couple of examples but you can also think about cookies, cakes, breads and muffins, soups and stews, even side dishes like vegetables are a lot cheaper if you prepare them yourself.

Next time we'll talk about the other reason I cook from scratch and why you may want to join me.

Have a great day!

Mavis D.

Do you have comments or suggestions? Let's hear them!

Have you been wondering?

Have you been wondering where I went? Well, we had an interesting week and I was having a hard time fitting in blogging. I think I need a schedule so, I've decided that I will be blogging on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the very least. :) Of course, you can check back more often than that if you'd like because I might post on the other days as well...that depends on what's going on that week. Anyway, "stay tuned" because later today I'll be posting on "why I cook from scratch"....there are more reasons that you may think! :)