Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cutting Food Costs


As you know from my previous posts, I struggle to keep my food costs down. Therefore, I have been trying to learn the art and science of couponing, in order to help me lower my grocery expenditures. Recently, I realized that most of the good coupons were for snacks, treats, and other processed foods. Therefore, the following post from Money Saving Mom really caught my eye -- "Does Couponing Only Work if You Eat Junk Food?" This is a great post, and provides links to other informative blogs, so I decided to mention it here, and encourage you to take a look at it. I realize that many of you already follow Crystal's blog -- but for those of you don't -- click on over and check this out!


If you have any cost-cutting tips that you would like to share, I'd love it if you would leave a comment, or leave a link to your favorite blog post about the subject, so I can continue to learn more about this subject. It is an ongoing challenge to attempt to fill up many tummies (some of them bottomless pits) with nutritious food on a budget.

Weight Loss Wednesday -- Beware of this Hazard!


I stepped on the scale with fear and trepidation this morning. Sure enough, I gained one pound back this week. :(
My conclusion? Birthdays are hazardous to your weight!

Unfortunately, we have another birthday to celebrate tomorrow! I will have to leave the cake for the birthday boy! Maybe I can just munch on the candles???? :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's for Supper?

In spite of reading about the merits of menu planning repeatedly on many of my favorite blogs, and even though I have, in days gone by, planned marvelous monthy menus, and even dabbled in once-a-month cooking, I seem to be unable to put together a workable menu plan at this point in my life.


It may be due to a lack of time, an inability to really focus on the task long enough to gather my thoughts and pull a menu together, indecisiveness over what I really want to prepare and eat in the days and weeks ahead, perfectionism, or an uncertainty over what foods I should include in my daily diet. (To eat carbs or not to eat carbs is the question??) I think all of these factors have me immobolized and unable to commit a menu plan to paper!


So, I usually approach the week with a few meals in mind, which are often based on the weekly sales ads, and then I just wing it for the rest! This requires a lot of flexibility and creativity, and means I wake up most days with the burning question on my mind -- "What's for Supper??" I'm sometimes able to answer this question early in the day, while sometimes it is supper time before I know the answer!


I know this is not the ideal situation -- but I'm just being honest! This is where I am right now!


So, today I wrestled with the age old question once again, and finally came up with this creation for supper. I took some leftover whole wheat spaghetti noodles from last night and combined them with some cooked fajita chicken strips. Then, I sauteed some strips of onion, colored bell peppers, and zucchini in olive oil and McCormick Fajita seasoning. I love how colorful the veggies looked while cooking.





Then, I tossed it all together in a big bowl and served with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.






I received some positive feedback from my hungry crew. Now, all I need is a creative name for my tasty creation. Have any suggestions?? I've thought of Chicken Fajita Spaghetti, Chicken Fajetti, and Chicken Spajita!!! :) Obviously, I need help!! Please leave me a comment and let me know what you would name this dish!


The Perfect Fall Cake


I wanted to share the recipe for my birthday cake with y'all. This is my Mom's recipe, and is a long-time family favorite. More often than not, it has been my birthday choice. It is the perfect cake for fall -- especially if you have a bunch of apples at your disposal.




Apple Chip Cake


Ingredients:

4 cups peeled and chipped apples
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut





Topping:

2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
1 TBSP cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar




Directions:


1. Pour sugar over chipped apples and stir. Let Stand for One Hour!!!


2. Add oil, beaten eggs, and vanilla.


3. Mix well.


4. Mix together flour, salt and baking soda and add to apple mixture.


5. Add walnuts and coconut and mix well.


6. Pour into 9x13 baking dish.


7. For topping, mix together with hands:


  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
8. Sprinkle this mixture on top of cake batter.


9. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


10. For best results, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!


Expressions of Love for my Birthday

Thanks to all those who sent me a birthday greeting via email, Facebook, or a blog comment! I really appreciated all the greetings and it made my day special!


I did have a nice birthday with many expressions of love from my family and friends. That's what I've selected to share with you today:


1. Mum Mum (my MIL) took me to Cracker Barrel for lunch on Thursday. We tried to get some pictures of us together, but I think the waitress was photographically challenged! After we ate, we looked around the gift shop, and Mum Mum bought me a swirly fall skirt and shirt and this "apple pie" potpourri thingie that you warm in the oven, so you can fill your home with the tantalizing scents of apples and cinnamon.


2. On Saturday, Alan and the children cleaned the house and caught up the laundry while I was at the swim meet. So, I came home to a Clean House! :)

3. Alan took me out to dinner Saturday night. We went to Longhorn, where I ordered the Parmesan Chicken breast with a baked sweet potato and steamed veggies. YUMMO!

4. Tiffany made me my favorite cake -- Apple Chip Cake! I will have to post the recipe!



5. Tiffany got up early Sunday morning to leave little notes all over my room and bathroom. She also made me a special breakfast -- a scrumptious omelette with cheddar cheese, chopped ham, tomatoes, onion and bell pepper. It was soo good!






6. Alan and Tiffany made Sunday dinner. Then the children worked together to clean up the dishes. I was banned from the kitchen! :)




7. The children gave me many little handmade cards and some Dollar Tree gifts! ;)

8. Alan's gift was a new crockpot! I am so excited because it is much larger than the one I have now and is oval instead of round, holding 7 quarts.




9. Big T called from college to wish me a happy birthday. He was excited about the new BIG crock pot, and is hoping I will try it out this weekend when he comes home for a visit! :)

10. My friend, Martha, is taking me out to lunch today and already brought me a birthday gift last Friday. :)

I feel very blessed by all of these expressions of love from my family and friends!!!



Edit: I had a lovely lunch with my friend, Martha today! We went to Chili's, where I ordered the same menu item that I ate on my birthday last year -- Quesadilla Explosion! It was soooo good! We sat outside, so we could enjoy the cooler temperatures! Martha had on a new shirt and looked so pretty, and I really should have taken a picture -- but we just had so much fun talking that I forgot to!!! Thank you, Martha!! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Blogoversary -- A Year's Worth of Blogs!


It is hard to believe that I've been blogging for a year now! It has certainly been an adventure! The first event I blogged about was my 46th birthday. Guess what I'm going to blog about next? Probably my 47th birthday! :)



In honor of my blogoversary, I have decided to highlight a few of the blogs that have blessed me this past year. It would be impossible for me to name all of them, as there are so many wonderful blogs, but I want to draw attention to a few of the ones that have influenced me in the past 365 days. My dear friend, Melissa is the one who introduced me to blogging. The twists and turns of life have been such that she has not continued to update her blog, but I always enjoy reading her oldest daughter, Christie's blog -- Divine Calling, and I appreciate Melissa and Christie for giving me the inspiration and the nudge I needed to step out into the blogosphere. I have been blessed, inspired, encouraged, edified, and educated by the many wonderful blogs that I now read regularly.


I read blogs from moms who live on the other side of the country, or even on the other side of the world, which expands my horizons greatly. It is amazing to enter into the daily lives of other Christian mothers, whose lives are so incredibly different, while also amazingly similar to mine. I love to visit Jules in New Zealand, Kathy in Florida, Trisch in Indiana, and precious Joy in Indonesia, just to name a few.


I have certainly been encouraged and educated in frugality this year through blogs such as Money Saving Mom and Time2Save, where I am learning how to use coupons to reduce my grocery bills, and am learning how to work those amazing CVS deals! So many of you share your frugal tips, your CVS deals, your inexpensive menu ideas, and other money-saving suggestions, and it provides a great incentive to learn new habits and to get excited about saving money! Thanks to all of you who share ideas along these lines! I look forward to learning new tips this coming year!


I have also learned some great organizational tips from blogs such as, I'm an Organzing Junkie and Peaceful Home. I really love Lainie's blog! We seem to have a lot in common and I enjoy reading about her family, in addition to learning some great tips from her for managing a large family.


I am also inspired and encouraged as a Christian wife and mother through edifying and beautiful blogs such as She Looketh Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, and Generation Cedar. There are many blogs that encourage me along these lines, but these are some of my favorites. I never fail to be convicted, encouraged, or challenged when visiting these annointed blogs!


Sometimes I need to not take life quite so seriously, but to just Laugh at life! We all have a lot of the same challenges and concerns and imperfections, and instead of beating myself up once again for failing to be all that I should be, sometimes I just need to find the humor in the situation. For those times, there is nothing better than a visit to Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen or 365 Days of Donna. I know both of these bloggers in the "real world" and they are two of the funniest ladies you could ever meet! Very real and transparent, they help me keep a cheerful heart!


Many blogs also encourage me as a homeschooling mom. One such blog is Bloom Where You are Planted, which is a blog I always enjoy visiting. Just the title alone encourages me to be grateful and to make the most of the situation where I find myself. Another inspiring blog for home educating moms is my friend, Trish's blog -- Never a Dull Moment.


Other blogs encourage me as I seek to eat more healthfully and get in shape. I have learned a lot about health and nutrition from blogs like Health Begins with Mom, and I am mega-motivated to lose weight and get in shape every time I see Charlotte's blog, Renew You. She is such an inspiration! Confessions of a Sugar Aficionado is also a motivating blog I've recently discovered.


A blogger that encourages me to think a little deeper and take time to look a little closer at the things I often rush right by, is my friend Karen. If you've ever felt that you "marched to the beat of a different drummer," you will really appreciate her insightful blog -- May I Ask You a Question. May I suggest that you start with this signature post -- Braille in 20/20?


Recently, I've discovered a blog that moves me deeply. If you want to read beautiful, well-crafted writing, accompanied by vivid photography and deep insights into life, you will want to visit Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. Don't expect to come away unchanged.


I've also had the privilege of encouraging the birth of some great new blogs this past year. Both of my daughters have started their own blogs, even though they are too busy to keep them updated! If you stop by their blogs, you will see that they are both wonderfully different, creative, talented and godly young women! Visit Tiffany at Singulary Blessed and visit Ashlyn at Captured by Beauty. I also encouraged my sister to start a blog, and she has a very enjoyable and inpisiring blog called Rebecca's Refining. We have had a lot of fun being "blogging buddies." It helps span the miles between Georgia and Ohio. Then, just this month, my best friend, Lori, from SC gave birth to a blog, aptly named Happy Busy Mama. I know you'll want to stop by and say, "Hey" (that's Southern for Hello!)


I encourage you to visit some of these fantastic blogs. Also, if you have a blog, or know of a great blog, which I have neglected to mention, please leave me a comment with the link.


Looking forward to another great year!!! :)

How I Gained a Year!

You may worry about me when I tell you this, but I thought I was turning 48 today -- because that's what one of my children told someone last week -- and I believed them. However, when I finally thought about what year I was born (1962), and what year it is now (2009), and then put to use my higher math skills, I realized that I am only 47 today!!! Hooray! I feel like I gained an extra year of life!!! :)


Today is not only my birthday, but also my blogoversary! So, I have lots to celebrate and lots to blog about! To read my very first blog post, click here. I will post a special blogoversary post later.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Meet

Josh had his first swim meet today in Thomasville, GA.


It has been years since I've been to a swim meet. Back when I was a girl, my sister and I swam on a community swim team. It was fun, and I have a collection of mostly second and third place ribbons, but I was not a stand-out swimmer, by any means. I've never been particularly good at anything that requires speed, agility, strength or endurance. (Except for perhaps Motherhood!!) ;)


Now, my son Josh has taken up swimming. He has been working on his own for the past year, trying to improve his stroke, and just recently started receiving some coaching. He is doing amazingly well, to be so new at swimming, and he is very excited to have finally found his sport!


This fall, he has been swimming with the Darton College swim team, but since he is technically still in high school, as a dual enrollment student, he is not eligible to compete at the collegiate level. So, his coach found a team for him to swim with this year, to help him gain needed experience.


Today's meet was his first competitive event. Within a time period of two hours, he swam the following:

100 meter breaststroke
100 meter backstroke
100 meter freestyle
200 meter IM
200 meter freestyle


That was a lot in a short amount of time, and he lacked the endurance to swim every race at his top speed; however, he still came away with 5 Third and Fourth place ribbons, and missed winning the third place trophy by only one point. Not bad for his very first meet!


The following picture shows Josh with another swimmer from his team and their coaches.






Josh on the starting blocks . . . .





On your mark . . .




Swimming breaststroke . . .




Congratulations Josh!

The Pep Rally Was a Success




If you watched that amazing Pep Rally yesterday, surely you must have wondered whether all that enthusiasm helped determine the team's fate on Friday night. Well, that I cannot answer definitively, but the Eagles did pull off another win, improving their record to 3-1!



The game got tense, when Sherwood squandered a 23-7 lead, and allowed their opponent to come back in the second half, but they still managed to come out on top, 23-20.






#80 played well, both on offense and defense. I was disappointed that the quarterback never threw him the ball, even when he ran his route and was open. This is especially true since the QB likes to pass it to a couple really short guys, who are both great receivers, but he almost always throws it too high for them to catch! If he's going to throw it so high, he needs to train his eye to look for Joe!



Maybe next week . . .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Proof that 50 is the New 30!

For the past couple of years (ever since a significant birthday), my husband has been trying to persuade me that 50 is the new 30! Well, now I have proof!! I videotaped him this morning giving Joe one of his private, invitation-only, Friday morning Pep Rallies!!!!


Let me warn you -- take whatever precautions you need to take before you push "Play" -- because this is Hilarious!~ It can be dangerous to laugh So Hard!


Now, to fully appreciate this, you have to understand that my husband is a very quit, mild-mannered, serious type of guy. He is highly respected, and many people find it difficult to call him by his first name! So, this is a new side of his personality not often seen by the average Joe! :)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weight Loss Wednesday -- 7 Truths

Today I want to share Seven Truths about Obesity from the late Gus Prosch Jr., MD, who was an obesity specialist in Birmingham, AL. These are sobering and thought-provoking principles.


1. If you're obese, you have a lifetime disease.

2. Your metabolic processes will always tend to be abnormal.

3. You cannot eat what others eat and stay thin.

4. Anyone can lose weight and stay slim provided the causes of weight gain are determined, addressed, and corrected.

5. Understanding insulin metabolism is the key to losing weight intelligently.

6. There is absolutely no physiological requirement for sugar or processed foods in your diet.

7. You must address all the contributing factors causing obesity.



The bottom line is that losing weight and keeping it off involves a major lifestyle change. The harsh reality of that is hard for most of us to accept. We have our routines, our habits, our celebrations, our comfort foods . . . Accepting that many of those things must change -- f o r e v er -- is a bit challenging and depressing.


That is probably why I only have a measly half pound of weight loss to report this week. :(

I hope you did better!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Blogoversary!!!!

I can't believe my Blogoversary is almost here!!!! Yes, it has nearly been a year since my very first blog post. I'm wondering what I should do to celebrate it?? Any suggestions? If you have a blog, what did you do to celebrate your blogoversary????





Monday, September 21, 2009

Labor Day Revisited

Remember my recent Labor Day Post? In that post, I promised to share some pictures from my favorite Labor Day, in which I worked hard, but gained a lasting reward! So, here are the promised pics:


This is me with my midwife and my 8th child, Luke Daniel, shortly after his debut.






This is Tiffany, Joshua, Joseph, and Christopher -- checking out their new baby brother! I'm not exactly sure what Chris was expecting to find! ;)




Unfortunately, this radiant young woman is not one of my own dear daughters, but the daughter of one of my favorite bloggers! She stayed with us for a couple weeks before and after Luke's birth, and was the best Mama's Helper in the world! Now, she is the perfect little homemaker and has an adorable little family of her own!!

Edit: I forgot to mention that she is also an amazing blogger! Check out her blog -- Redefining Normal.





That was September 1998 -- a Labor Day I'll never forget!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Morning I Coudn't Wash Dishes or Do Laundry!

I woke up this morning to the sound of gurgling and the sight of water rising in the toilets. Not a very pleasant way to start the day! I was soon doing a Google search on backed up septic systems. I learned that you should have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years with normal use. The key words being -- Normal use! :)


I wish you could have seen the expression on the face of the "pumper man" when he asked me if I did laundry everyday, and I replied emphatically, "Yes! About five or six loads!!" Obviously, not a normal or ideal load for any residential septic tank!


Fortunately, he had our septic tank all cleaned out by noon. This proved to be a very interesting diversion for the children, who interrupted their classes to watch the entire process with much interest.














Unfortunately, they were not able to observe from a "smell-proof booth!" :) LOL!





Thankfully, we are back in business and I can start the dishwasher and the washing machine and flush all of the toilets!


How about you? Did you have any unexpected hurdles in your day??



Edited at 3:00 pm -- I'm afraid I posted too soon!!! Even though we tested all of the toilets before the septic tank men left, I am regretfully back to four gurgling toilets that won't flush and showers that won't drain! Ugh!! There is obviously more to this story . . . .maybe a blockage in the line?? Maybe more character that needs built in my life?? I will keep you posted as soon as I find out what the root problem is!!!



Edited at 4:30 pm -- I guess we just experienced a "sewer heart attack!" It turns out that "the main artery was blocked" where the septic system had backed up into the lines. When I flooded the lines with water from the washing machine, the dishwasher, the toilets, etc., it resulted in the "heart attack!" So, after a 911 call to A-1 Septic Tank Service, our emergency is resolved, and everything is now flowing smoothly again.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weight Loss Wednesday - Backtracking


It has been about a month since I last posted a Weight Loss Wednesday post. During that time, I lost 2 pounds . . . and then gained 3 back while at the beach. :(


I have never been able to understand why it is such a long, arduous process to lose weight -- and yet the pounds jump back on seemingly overnight. :( It seems I am always taking one step forward, and two steps back.

But, I refuse to be discouraged or immobilized by this temporary setback. I am determined to get back on track and continue my weight loss journey. Care to join me??


Monday, September 14, 2009

A Visit with Big T




If you assumed my weekend did not include a football game, since I was at the beach during Sherwood's game Friday night, you are Mistaken! Actually, we drove up to LaGrange on Sunday to see "Big T" play.


As a freshman football player, he gets to dress out with the Varsity team, but isn't likely to see any playing time for a year or two. However, he does get to play JV. Unfortunately, the JV team plays on Sunday afternoons at 1:00, which is a rather awkward time for us to be able to attend many of his games.


This picture shows Taylor (#71) and his roommate (#73). As you can see, they are both Big Fellas!!! Taylor has a few inches on his roommate, while his roomie has a few pounds on him. ;)




They are usually in the game together, as right and left tackle. They alternate with another offensive squad, getting to play every other drive down the field.






Here are my attempts at zooming in and capturing some action during the game.











Here is a good shot of Taylor and his roommate after the game. I can't remember his name, but Tay calls him Ike.




Celebrating the 29-9 victory with his teammates . . .





We went down on the field after the game to see Taylor. This is the first time we have seen him since he left for college. I know I look a little goofy in this picture -- I was giggling because I was being "slimed!" :) But, I thought Taylor looked Cute in this picture! (That is, if a 6'8", 330 pound football player can be cute!!!)




I'm always amazed how small "Big Al" looks beside "Big T!"


This is Luke, Joe and Matt with Tay. I think they are examining the turf -- but who knows???




This is in Taylor's dorm room. I was not impressed! He promises that they cleaned it up that morning and even cleaned the bathroom -- but if I were to choose adjectives to describe his room, I would start with these -- miniscule, messy, cluttered, cramped, dark, and depressing! Turns out that Taylor's roommate is more "neat-challenged" than Taylor is!!! :o



After the game, we took Taylor out to Longhorn's for a decent meal. He stocked up accordingly!! ;) He enjoyed his steak, and also enjoyed running into a few of his buddies at the restaurant. One of his teammates asked him if he liked cheesecake, which is actually Taylor's favorite dessert! A little while later, the waiter brought Taylor this -- compliments of his friend!







And now for my favorite picture of the day. (I saved the best for last!)


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Welcome Home!

I have the sweetest husband in the world! He and Tiffany worked hard all day Saturday to get the house clean and the laundry all caught up, so it would be a blessing to me when I got home from the beach! (I think Josh and Joe might have helped some, too!) Wasn't that sweet?! The house looked and smelled great, and because we utilized the washer and dryer in the condo, we didn't drag a bunch of sandy laundry into the clean house!


Alan helped us get the van unloaded and everything put away, and then he surprised us with dinner out at Blackbeard's! :) He didn't want me to have to come home and cook, plus he didn't want his clean kitchen messed up! ;)


Here are some pictures of us "beach bums" waiting for a table at Blackbeard's.




As soon as Bethany caught sight of Joseph, she was done with the photo shoot! She wanted her Joey to hold her! :)






Our vacation was incredible, but it is always good to be home, and to sleep in your own bed!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Final Beach Post!


Are you getting tired of reading about our week at the beach??? Probably so! However, I'm not yet tired of posting pictures of our vacation, so brace yourself for a few more! :) This is the grand finale, I promise! :)


Here is a picture of two of Lori's daughters who were at the beach with us. They are energetic, enthusiastic and a lot of fun!




And here is a picture of my friend, Lori. Unbelievably, we have been friends for about 18 years now!!! Obviously, we were very young when we first met! ;)





This is the view we faced each time we walked down the boardwalk to the beach! Isn't it inviting?




This is looking to the left of where we set up camp each day . . .


And this is looking back to the right . . .




This is the view looking behind "our spot" . . .



And this is the view in front of us . . .





As you can see, digging in the sand was fun for everyone!




The children dug holes and built an elaborate system of channels for the water to run through! One afternoon, a couple of architects walked by and stopped to admire their work and encourage their creativity by telling them, "Keep up the good work! You are the future architects of America!"












The beach was beautiful this week, but the thing I love about Hilton Head is that the entire island is so lush and gorgeous, with all of the tropical plants! Of course, pictures can't begin to do it justice, but here are a few final pictures of the beautiful scenes we enjoyed every day.








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