Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pantry Challenge - part 2

Today I'm sharing my pantry contents...  Does anyone else find it weird to show the whole world what's inside your fridge/freezer and pantry?  Or is that just me?

Moving right along then - here is yesterday's post of what I found in my freezers and fridges (it's A LOT more than I thought I had).

Top 3 shelves (that second shelf is baking supplies -and a jumbo container of taco seasoning- only)

Bottom shelf and floor.

Here's what I found in the pantry (tally marks indicate 1 meal of each item, unless otherwise noted):
Tuna - I
Canned chicken - I  I
Salmon - I
Rotel - I  I  I
Green beans - I  I
Peas - I
Tomato paste - I  I
Tomato sauce - I
Home canned spag. sauce - 1½ pints
Dehydrated tomatoes - 1 bag
Black olives - I  I
Home canned jalapenos - ½ pint
Home canned apple butter - ½ pint
Pizza sauce - I  I  I  I
Peanut butter - 4 jars
Apple sauce - ½ gallon
Pumpkin pancake mix - I  I  I
Italian dressing (marinade) - I
Baking supplies - PLENTY (including about 12lb of flour and ½ giant bag of chocolate chips in garage fridge)
Pasta - I  I
Corn chips - 1 bag = I  I  I

Other random items include - snacks left over from Christmas sacks, tea, popcorn, cereal, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar.

I have WAY more food than I ever dreamed I had in my house.  I managed to make an entire month's menu plan and only added a few items to my list that I'll need to buy during the second half of the month.  I picked up a few things today and I shouldn't need to purchase anything for at least 2 weeks.

On Monday I'll share my menu plan for the entire month of January and my budget for the month (including what I spent today).

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pantry Challenge - part 1

Are you taking the pantry challenge?  I am!  If you're not familiar with what the pantry challenge is all about, you can hop over to either Money Saving Mom or Life As Mom and find out more.

My first step in starting this month of eating from what we have with minimal shopping was to take an inventory of my freezers, fridges and pantry.

Today I'm sharing my fridges and freezers with you.

This is the freezer in my garage.

This is the freezer inside.
Here's my freezer inventory (each tally mark represents 1 meal worth of the item - unless otherwise noted):
Fish - I
Chicken breasts - I
Ground beef - I  I  I  I  I  I  I
Browned taco meat - I
Steak - I
Antelope steaks - I
Deer sausage - I
Whole chicken - I
Cooked shredded chicken - I  I  I
Jumbo bag of chicken nuggets

Carrots - I  I
Pumpkin puree - 11 pints
Frozen mixed veggies - I  I  I  I  I
Frozen corn - I  I  ½
Frozen broccoli - I
Jumbo unopened bag of frozen strawberries
Jumbo bag of frozen blueberries - ½

Chicken stock - I  I  I
Bread - 2 loaves

This is the fridge in the garage.

This is the inside fridge.

Here is my fridge inventory:
Crescent rolls (canned) - I  I  I  I
Pizza crust (canned) - I  I  I  I
Tortillas - 2+ packages = appx. 24
Brown rice - I  I  I  I
Quinoa - I  I  I  I

Several jars of beans in varying amounts, including - pinto, navy, red/kidney, lentils, black and black eyed peas.
Refried beans - I

Turkey pepperoni - ½ bag
Hot dogs - I  I  I
Deli meat - I

Salsa (homemade) - 3 pints
Applesauce - ½ jar
Onions - I  I  I  I  I  I  I
Garlic - tons from my aunt's garden
Potatoes - I  I

Cheddar - 2lb
Mozzarella - ½lb
Eggs - 2 doz.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow, I'll give you my pantry inventory and my meal plan for the entire month of January!  I'll also include my goal for how much I'll spend for the month and what I'll be purchasing with that amount.

You can follow along with Part 2, also.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Incredibly thankful

I have never participated in Gratituesday, but thought it was about time since I can think of so many things to be thankful for this year.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I'm thankful for from 2009:

~ My garden and all of it's abundance.
~ Eli has made so much progress with physical therapy that he is down to only going once per month! (That link is to a really old post, but it will give you background on Eli's condition in case you aren't familiar).
~ Homeschooling and a kindergartener that is so eager to learn and easy to teach.
~ A wonderful husband who serves this country faithfully without ever complaining and is currently serving a 6 month deployment in Iraq.
~ The best next door neighbors a family could ever ask for.  Seriously, they take care of our yard and house each time we are away, shovel my snow when Michael isn't home, check on the kids and me frequently when he's away and babysit (for free!).
~ How God is using us to minister to a young unmarried couple we are friends with and the wonderful fruits I see of our investment of time and family into these young lives.
~ Bloggy friends who I'm proud to say are now real-life friends.  It is such a pleasure to call Carrie and Amy my new real-life friends!
~ Our new church.  In late July, after much prayer and many discussions, we moved our family to a new church and could not be happier.  This church is exactly what we were looking for and the entire family loves it!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

My little Houdini!

This child can get out of just about any shirt I put her in (unless it snaps in the crotch)!  It's quite comical!  I think the only reason she didn't get this one completely off is because it had a snap at the back of the neck.  In this photo she's 8 months old.

She can also get out of velcro diapers when she's not wearing something to cover them.  I learned this the hard way with a very nasty diaper this summer (not pictured...)! She's 10 months in this photo.

Good morning mama!  13 months.

And this was taken today - and she's done this more than once today!!  She's 15 months.

She also frequently tries to get her sleepers off while I have them unzipped changing her diaper.  She tries feverishly to get her arms out before I get done with the diaper change!!  She WILL NOT leave socks on.  I have to put Robeez on her to get her to keep her socks on because the Robeez have elastic around the ankles and she hasn't figured out how to get them off yet.  She also constantly pulls on the feet of her tights trying to pull them off.

She's funny!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quite overwhelmed

Whew!  What a whirlwind 2 weeks.  I am feeling quite overwhelmed today.

If you missed it, two weeks ago, we found out we are moving to Turkey in July!  Why the stress, July is many months away still?  Did I mention that Michael is leaving TOMORROW and will be in Iraq for the next six months...  Oy vey!

There have been so many things that were necessary to accomplish before he left that I feel like I haven't stopped or taken a breath in the last two weeks.

Beyond my regular motherly/homemaker duties we have:
~ Completely cleared our crawl space before Michael leaves (because the movers won't go in there) since I didn't want to get stuck trying to bring all the stuff up by myself.
~ I have sorted EVERY piece of baby/kid clothing and gear in all of the bins we were keeping for future children (most of you know that we won't be having any more children since I had such extreme complications following Rachael's birth).  I have taken photos and listed a lot of our gear on craigslist, given/sold some to friends and taken tons to Goodwill.
~ All of the items that had previously been stored (in Rubbermaid tubs) in the crawl space are now stored in the garage, so I've completely rearranged the garage to accommodate all the bins AND the van.
~ Spent countless hours discussing all the ins-and-outs of things I will need to accomplish while Michael is away.
~ Decided not to sell our house.
~ Filled out lots of paperwork.
~ Plus tons more small things that I know I'm forgetting because my head is so full of information, I feel like it will explode at any moment.

Today is the final appointment of items to be accomplished before Michael leaves.  We must go apply for our military passports and Visas.  The paperwork is complete and photos have been taken, the only thing left is to go in at 2:00 and finalize it all.

I still have a long journey ahead of me, but it's all manageable since I don't have to accomplish it all in a two week time span (and I have some wonderful babysitters lined up for those days when I just don't want to take the children to certain appointments)!

So, dear readers, if I'm not around much over the next few weeks, it's not because I've abandoned you, it's because I'm taking a wee break.  The kids and I will be driving to Arkansas to spend Christmas with some of my extended family and I'm going to rest my tired self and gain up my strength to endure this deployment!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal Christmas for kids

As a family, we do not place a lot of emphasis on Christmas gifts the way the commercial world would like us to.  We choose to mostly celebrate Jesus' birth!  We do give gifts to our children, but they are usually small and Christmas morning is NOT an elaborate gift-opening-event in our home.  Rather, it is leisurely.  There's a fresh, hot breakfast and then the children are permitted to open their gifts.

Michael and I also typically do not exchange gifts.  Not because we're anti-gift, but simply because we have decided that if there is truly something out there we want, and it's in the budget, we would go ahead and purchase it, no need for a special occasion!  However, there are, on occasion, surprises!!

This year the children are receiving small gifts.

~ new pair of waterproof gloves
~ ninja costume
~ pillow case with a photo of Michael and the boys
~ stuffed animal with recorded greeting from Michael (these are provided by Airman and Family Readiness Center)

~ new winter ha
~ Power Ranger costume
~ pillow case with a photo of Michael and the boys
~ stuffed animal with recorded greeting from Michael

~ Cabbage Patch doll (each child has received a Cabbage Patch doll on their first Christmas, however, last Christmas, the company only had reproduction 25th anniversary dolls out - and they were much too retro for my taste!)
~ stuffed animal with recorded greeting from Michael

Michael is deploying to Iraq on Wednesday, December 16, so the boys will receive their pillow cases this Tuesday (provided I get them finished this weekend - I've already printed the transfers, just need to iron them on) as a special gift to help them sleep well and feel like daddy is close, even though he's very far away.

Tip: I shop Target on November 1 each year and purchase a few costumes for each child.  I got both costumes this year for $15 total.  Retailers deeply discount any left over Halloween costumes starting the day after Halloween.  This year Michael was TDY for the first 2 weeks of November (he left VERY early on the 1st) and I wasn't unable to purchase any other costumes (the kids were with me even for the ones I did buy, but I *think* they've forgotten about them by now).  Rachael is still a bit young for dressing up, so she isn't receiving a costume this year.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Littles and card games

I enjoy playing card games with the boys and it's so fun to watch them learn and develop new thinking and reasoning skills.  We are currently mostly playing games like Go Fish or Crazy 8's with card sets found at Dollar Tree (but Jacob also really enjoys Uno). These are awesome and usually come in packs of two - we have one that had Crazy 8's and Go Fish and another pack that they received as a gift that had Crazy 8's and Memory and each pack is only $1!!  So far they're holding up quite nicely!

However, Jacob has finally gotten to the age where he understands that his hand of cards should be kept out of view of everyone else playing the game but at almost 6, his hand isn't quite big enough to pull of the feat of holding them all....

Enter, the card holder:

This has quickly become one of my favorite "gadgets" for having fun with littles.  It seems to be even more helpful for Eli who is 3 and is constantly fidgety and always knocking his cards off the table.  It helps him keep them all in one place and for Jacob it is helping him learn the art of keeping his hand hidden!

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Easy peel hard boiled eggs

Do you have trouble peeling your boiled eggs?  I did too, until I learned a wonderful, new trick and I have barely had any trouble with peeling eggs since!!

I'm going to share with you my egg boiling procedure start to finish:

* Choose your oldest eggs (I usually have 2 cartons of eggs in my fridge, and always leave the older eggs in the bottom carton, using the eggs in the carton on top for baking, breakfast, etc.).  Older eggs crack and the shell separates from the egg more easily.
* Place desired amount of eggs in a pot with cold water to about 2" above the eggs.
* Turn on high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, set your timer for 13 minutes and continue to boil.
* While eggs are boiling, make an ice water bath (large bowl, ½ ice and ½ water).
* Once your timer beeps, turn the eggs off and immediately dip them out of boiling water and place in ice water bath.
* Leave in ice water bath until completely chilled through (this is usually when I move on to another project and come back in an hour or two when I remember that I have eggs chillin'!).
* Remove eggs from ice water onto a towel.
* If you are not using the eggs immediately, allow to dry, slip them into a ziploc and place in fridge.
* If you are using the eggs immediately:
     :: Crack egg on counter (similar to how you'd crack a raw egg) until a dime size area is cracked.
     :: Roll your egg on the counter while applying gentle pressure to crack the egg all the way around.  (It's best if you use your palm, but I wanted you to actually see the egg!).  The idea is to gently 'smush' the peel and release the membrane from the white while rolling.  If you don't apply enough pressure the membrane won't loosen, however, if you apply too much pressure it will actually break the white and then you'll have a heck-of-a-time getting the peel off... ask me how I know!

     :: The cracked egg should look something like this (they don't always work this well, but are still definitely peel-able):

     :: And if you're really fortunate, this will happen:

:: Now, you're ready to peel the rest and prepare that dish!

I boiled 12 eggs and only 2 of them had any white damage after I peeled them. I was making deviled eggs and one of them was definitely not usable (it was absolutely awful to peel) and the other was doable, but the boys came in from playing outside just as I was finishing peeling the eggs, so they ate the damaged ones and I made the rest into deviled eggs!

Total time spent peeling 12 eggs, under 15 minutes!!

This post is linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

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To sell or not to sell. . .

Ho hum.  Sometimes I wish God would just slap me in the face with the correct path to take in life.

On Wednesday, we thought we were set on selling the house, but it turns out, after much more discussion, we still have no idea what we are going to do.  ::sigh::

I spoke with a realtor on Saturday and he will be getting me all of the market comparisons, time on market info., etc. on Tuesday.  In the mean time I will be contacting property management companies to get all of my questions answered.

Time with Michael is dwindling since he leaves for Iraq in about 10 days.

In the mean time, until we actually make a decision, we have been acting as if we are selling.  I have been purging like a crazy woman (we have a weight limit for household goods)!  I have finally found a good excuse to part with all of the baby "stuff"* so that has all been brought up from the crawl space and I've already listed some of it on Craigslist.

*Until this point, I was having a very hard time (emotionally speaking) deciding to depart with all of the baby items.  Even though I know we most likely won't have another child, I had been so torn over this decision.  So, I guess in retrospect, this might have been God slapping me in the face about it being a good time to part with all of those things, because I am very much at peace with it now.

So far, I have purged 3 large, "outdoor" size trash bags with clothing that I had been hanging on to, bags/purses/backpacks and stuffed animals all to go to the Disabled American Veterans.  We have also purged another 2 of those trash bags of "junk" for the trash.  The only other major thing to be purged will be toys.  We have way too many and I'm so tired of it - this is a really good time to get the toys down to a manageable amount.  Why do we have so much stuff???

Even with all of the work we've been doing and the seemingly daunting task ahead of me, I'm overcome with excitement for his move!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

We're moving....

to Turkey!!!  Yes dear readers, next July we will be residing in Turkey at Incirlik Air Force Base!!

Michael called me early yesterday afternoon to tell me he got a PCS (permanent change of station) assignment to Turkey!  AND he is still leaving for Iraq for 6 months in under 2 weeks.  He'll be home sometime in late June and his report date for Incirlik is the end of July.  Whew, it's going to be a very busy time for me.

The biggest time consumer is going to be selling our house.  Doesn't that sound like something you want to do all by yourself with three young children?  No?  Me either... I'm sure this season will be very trying, but I am so thankful to have wonderful friends.

Turkey was actually one of the countries listed on Michael's overseas "wish-list" so we are definitely very excited about this move!!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent study for young children

Once again, I waited until the last minute to try to get an Advent study together for our family...  However, I managed to pull it off without too much fuss and no money spent.  What I came up with will suffice for this year, and I WILL get my act together and create real ornaments for next year!

What I devised as an interim, until I can make permanent ornaments, is to use this devotion along with some printed "ornaments".  I opened MS Word and got busy finding clip art suitable for each ornament.  I made a document with each the clip arts sized to what I thought was appropriate and printed it on matte photo supreme paper (it's as thick as cardstock).  It's not the best thing ever, but thankfully my children don't really care about aesthetic appeal.  I have posted the Word document I created here, you're welcome to it.*

I cut out each of the items with decorative scissors, leaving enough room at the top for a small hole punch to feed a ribbon through.  Then the ribbon in a loop to make a "hanger" for the tree.  We will just hang them on our regular tree in with our regular ornaments.  You might also want to have a separate small tree devoted to being a Jesse Tree.

We were 5 days late getting started, so yesterday we covered the first three days' devotions during our Bible time.  We managed to not get any school work done today so we will try to get caught up on Friday and then do one a day as we're suppose to.

If you are looking for Advent/Jesse Tree devotionals for your family for the Christmas season, you might want to check out some of these wonderful posts:

* Keeping Christ in Christmas with the Jesse Tree from A High and Noble Calling
* Celebrate with Joy: Week 1 from Keeper of the Home
* Our Jesse Tree: A Focused Advent Celebration from Passionate Homemaking
* Jesse Tree from Rocks in My Dryer (from 2008)
* Advent Daily Dose: The Jesse Tree from Kitchen Stewardship

* Feel free to print and use the Advent "ornaments" I created, however if you link to the document on a post, I would appreciate a link-back.  Thanks.

This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reusing ziploc bags

I am a big fan of reusing ziploc bags.  I reuse all of my ziplocs that have not had raw meat in them.  I use them until they simply give out and get a hole or spring a leak.

If they have held something dry (crackers, cookies, etc.) I usually just empty the crumbs into the trash and stick the bag back in my stash.  However, if they've held another type of food or something messy, I wash them by hand.

My tip for you is to hang on to your bottle/sippy cup drying rack once you're no longer using it for its intended purpose, it makes a really good baggie drying rack.  I also frequently have more bags to dry than will fit on the rack so I move my utensil bucket onto a towel and place bags onto taller spoons and spatulas to dry.  Here's what my kitchen counter looks like on those occasions.

Be sure to head on over to Kitchen Tip Tuesday for more wonderful tips to make your kitchen time go more smoothly.

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