Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexican Bean Dip

Mmmm! This was really good. I served it as one of my appetizers for our Oscar Party. I put out diced tomatoes and thinly sliced scallions as toppers.

Mexican Bean Dip

1 can refried beans
1 80z pkg cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
1 sm container sour cream
1 pkg taco mix
10 drops Tabasco sauce (I omitted)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (I used another 1/2 cup and sprinkled on top before baking)

Mix all ingredients and place in a medium casserole or a 9x9 greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

It makes great leftovers too. The boys and I had bean tacos for lunch. Mmm!

Oscar Party Review

Our Oscar party was a lot of fun! We had a lot of fun razzing each other about who were were picking to win. All the ballots were placed in a sealed envelope and then we had a Master Ballot that we used to keep track of the wins. There were 24 categories and our winner got only 12 correct (50%). This just goes to show that none of us get out much. ;) The winner received the DVD My Cousin Vinny Gold Academy Awards Edition in which Marissa Tomei won best supporting actress at a previous Academy Awards.

We had a LOT of food and some great creative names:

**Benjamin Bellybutton Roll-ups (tortilla roll-ups) - our pick for most creative name
Pineapple Express Pizza (fruit pizza)
Alien Eyes (pickle wraps)
Nacho Libre Dip (layered Mexican dip)
Wall-E Brownies (Cosmic brownies)

I also bought ingredients to make sparkling apple juice - apple juice and ginger ale. It tasted great and looked really pretty. And I bought some "special" drinks for our guests. We usually don't have soda in the house, but we get it when we know people are coming over. I knew what my guests' favorites were so that's what I bought.

Mountain Dew - 2 of my husbands co-workers
Cherry 7-Up - a nursing mom
Diet Coke - our dear friend (who usually brings a can along because we don't usually have soda)
Carolyn's Irish cream - a co-workers wife

Kind of fun to get special "treats" for guests. Especially when they don't suspect it! ;)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

81st Academy Awards!

I'm hosting and Oscar Party! Yep, we're celebrating the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday Night. I have ballots printed out for all the guests. They're at 7pm during the red-carpet interviews so they can fill in their picks. I asked everyone to bring an appetizer or a dessert. I thought it would be fun to get together, even though I don't know a lot of the movies that are up for awards. It should be fun anyway. Oh, and I'm giving away a little prize to the winner.

I will be serving:

Red Carpet Cookies - sugar cookies with red sugar
Chex and the City Mix
Three Amigo's Dip - layerd Mexican bean dip
Punch - ginger ale and apple juice or Cherry 7-Up

(I got the Red Carpet Cookies idea from the latest Food Network Magazine. I also got the Chex and the City Mix recipe from the Food Network Magazine. It's not a good recipe. Kind of bland...I just don't like it. If I could do it over again, I'd use my original Chex Mix recipe and add the wasabi peas and chow mein noodles.)

Happy Birthday Elmo!!

Tomorrow Borders will be celebrating Elmo's birthday with stories, art activities, games and more (for kids ages 3-8). Some stores will be hosting a trivia game and a dance party for older kids as well. Call your local store for more information. We'll be there. Will you?

* Update - The birthday party was pretty lame. They had some coloring sheets and handed out some Dum-Dums. Bummer!! There were screaming, impolite children everywhere. It wasn't very fun. My son kept asking where the party was. There were no balloons and, to my son, that's the definition of a birthday party. We picked out Hop on Pop to buy and take home (used a gift card) and my son was happy with that. The problem...there are little trinkets all the way to the check-out. I kept reminding my son about the book in his hands but I can't say there wasn't any whining. So glad we were out of there in 30 mintues! ;)

(the picture is a craft we did before we went to the store for the party)

Hitting the Snooze

I have not been doing well (at all) at getting up at 6am. I've probably only gotten up at 6am twice and 6:30am four times. My husband and I are not disciplined at all about going to bed on time. I can name a bunch of really good excuses and a few lame ones, but that's just it, they're excuses.

Monica at Homespun Heart has been talking a lot about discipline. It's easy to talk about disciplining our kids. Whether you spank, use time-outs, take away privileges, we know that our children need discipline. It's good for them to learn to obey God and their parents. It's good for them to eat their vegetables. It's good for them to pick-up their toys before bed. It's good for them to stay in the circle of safety, as Shepherding a Child's Heart describes. It's a blessing to be disciplined in life.

And here I sit, not disciplined about my bedtime, exhausted. Not feeling blessed. Feeling tired and irritable. My boys, on the other hand, have been doing better about going to bed on time...which means early mornings. Their internal clocks were set to a 7:30am wake-up alarm. And now it's turned into 6:50am. I guess I have two dilemmas:

1. I need to go to bed on time!
I need to get back into my "routine" and get my work done before dinner so that after dinner all that's left is the dishes and general pick-up. Then I need to set the alarm, that's right, NOT the clock-radio (I can sleep through that for hours...or until it turns off). I need to get adequate sleep at night so that I can get up in the morning refreshed, ready to face the day. So I can get my exercising in. So I can be in the Word and in focused prayer time. So I can be blessed by God!

2. I need to get my boys (mostly the older one) to stay in his room until 7:30am.
This is going to take a lot of work. Right now he gets up at 6:50am and runs to the fridge for an apple. Wakes me up (hopefully before he wakes up his brother) by crunching an apple in my face. I turn on PBS in my room so that he can watch Clifford and I can doze for 30 more minutes. I'm not really sure how I can keep him in his room. I'm open to suggestions. Having your kids wake you feels like such a terrible thing and I really can't believe that I'm sharing this. But I need to be honest so I can get some accountability.

I really want to do this. I really want to be up at 6am. I really want to be in bed at 10:30pm, ready for reading or sleep. I really want my kids to stay in their rooms until 7:30am so I can exercise, have quiet time and get a shower in before 4pm. I really want this!! So, I need to do something about it and get disciplined.

Please, check out Monica's posts about discipline (and we're not talking about your kids here).
Living with Discipline 1
Living with Discipline 2
Living with Discipline 3
Living with Discipline 4

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Meal Planning

Well, I've been promising to put up a post about my meal planning. It really isn't too complicated.

First, I made a list of our favorite meals, main dishes and side dishes. I included the cookbook and page where they can be found, or if the recipe is on a recipe card in my box.

Second, I created a weekly calendar that hangs on my refrigerator door. It has a section at the bottom for "next weeks grocery list."

Third, I created a spreadsheet for the grocery store by aisle. I put all of our "usuals" on the list and nothing "special." That way, I don't get sidetracked and focus on the things we need instead of the things we want. (I'll see the things I want anyway.)

Fourth, I fill in the dates on the calendar and add any evening events that may affect our meal schedule.

Here's the process:

Sunday - usually homemade pizza and a side salad. We have church stuff most of the day so it's an easy homemade meal for us in the evening that doesn't require a lot of time or work.

Wednesday - the little boys and I will have breakfast. We'll choose something like omelets, waffles & bacon, etc. Dad has youth club that evening so he isn't home for dinner. I like to make something easy. And I'll usually do a double batch of Bisquick items (waffles, pancakes, etc) to put in the freezer for another week.

Thursday - date night. My husband and I usually go out on Thursday nights to give me a break from the kitchen. We don't spend a lot when we go out but we make it a priority. Anyway, I'll have leftovers or sandwiches ready for the kids, or some nights they'll get something "special" like hotdogs (since we rarely ever have those around because of my food allergy).

So, those nights are covered. That leaves Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Not too bad.

Next, I'll look at the calendar and see if we have anything going on the rest of the evenings. Twice a month we have small group on Tuesday, so either I'm cooking for a large group, or we eat at their house. And if there's a sports event for the middle school or high school I'll factor if we have to eat early, take something along, eat there, or eat when we come home. That determines how much time I have to cook something. And if there's anything else going on that will change a meal-time, I'll add that to the list.

Then I look at our tried-and-true recipe list. I try to vary the beef and the chicken. Sometimes it's vegetarian and sometimes it's fish. About every week or every other week I add in something new (probably a recipe out of my Food Network Magazine, Cook's Country Magazine, or from one of your blogs). That way, we don't get too sick and tired of the food we eat at home.

Then I fill out the master grocery list. I put on all the meat, most dairy, some fresh, and all of the non-perishables. Then I look at the weekly needs and add it to the bottom of my weekly calendar that hangs on the fridge. I can add items that we need to that list throughout the week, if we run out of cinnamon for example.

This is what it looks like for the next two weeks:

Sunday, February 22
Side: dessert
Main: appetizer x2 (layered taco dip, Chex and City Mix)
Oscar's Party

Monday, February 23
side: potato chips
main: BBQ sandwiches (cook the roast on Saturday and shred the meat)
veggie: cole slaw
AMS BB 8th 4:30p
Jess TCHLTB meeting at 6:30p

Tuesday, February 24
main: leftovers
Jess gone for baby shower

Wednesday, February 25 - new recipe
side: breadsticks-Mrs. D's recipe (freeze half)
main: penne w/ white beans and baby spinach-Short Stop's recipe
Youth Club
Hubby's mom in town

Thursday, February 26
side: "potato ole's"
main: tacos
Hubby and I gone until Saturday 1pm
Grandma to sit

Friday, February 27
side: chips
main: hotdogs
veggie: veggie sticks (celery, carrots)
Hubby and I gone until Saturday 1pm
Grandma to sit

Saturday, February 28
side: breadsticks (in freezer)
main: spaghetti
veggie: side salad

Grocery List for Next Week:
P's apple sauce


Sunday, March 1
main: homemade pizza
veggie: side salad

Monday, March 2
side: baked potato
main: porcupine meatballs
veggie: dilled corn
meal delivery (double batch for dinner)

Tuesday, March 3
meal at growth group

Wednsday, March 4
side: toast with homemade strawberry jam
main: omelets
Youth Club

Thursday, March 5
side: cheesy potatoes
main: baked ham and cheese buns
veggie: peas
Date Night

Friday, March 6
side: baked sweet potatoes
main: beef wellington
veggie: fresh green beans with toasted almonds

Saturday, March 7
main: leftovers
TCHLTB - Jess gone

Grocery List for Next Week:
sweet potatoes

As for saving money during this process, I just save by sticking to my list. I'll also check the ads before I get to the store to see if anything I want on the list is on sale or if there's a coupon. If there's a really good deal, I might stock up on something (10# 93% lean ground beef for $2.79/#). Sometimes I might alter my list if there's a good deal and change things around. I always make my list in pencil so I can move meals around if I want to or add something different.

Hope this I write it out it seems more confusing that it really is.

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday tips head over to Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Becoming a Frugal Shopper

I have to admit that I've gained my mother's shopping skills. She is the best bargain shopper I know. I bought groceries for the next 3 weeks. Here's what I know:

Fareway: $79.50 (food only, followed my meal plan & bought some special things for our Oscar Party, special snacks for the kiddies and even a small chocolate milk for my oldest son)
Wal-Mart: $18.63 (diapers and a pie)
Hy-Vee: $11.70 (Hy-Vee brand pull-ups ($5.69 on sale) and food groceries)
Target: $13.79 (large box Target wipes - usually lasts about 3-4 months)

Total: $123.62 for the next 3+ weeks of food, about a 2 months diapers and 4 months wipes. Not too shabby for a beginner. I used two coupons and went to three other places for cheaper items that we know work well (Target wipes, Hy-Vee training pants, Wal-Mart diapers).

A friend suggested trying the Hy-Vee pull-ups as the Pampers Pull-Ups are $15 + and the Hy-Vee training pants are regularly $7.16 bought on sale today for $5.69. Yay!!

Now I know there are a lot of you out there who are even more amazing shoppers because you're great at couponing. I'm not that great, but am learning. I've been making progress and it shows. I have been able to purchase special treats for my boys that I haven't been able to do for a while (fruit snacks, yogurt, string cheese, etc). Our growth group meets twice a month for a meal, prayer and study. This month is my month to host and I thought it would be tough, but we've been able to make a great meal and get extras (soda and a pie - yum). I think the best money saver for me is sticking to my meal plan and using only cash.

That's what I know. How do you save on your groceries?

Monday, February 16, 2009

And We're Back!

Our family just returned from a trip to Arkansas to visit some "old" friends. We had a really nice time with them, catching up and encouraging each other. I have to admit that it was hard being away from the computer...especially since I've been blogging so frequently. But it was such a joy being with close friends. I just wish they lived closer so we could hang out more often.

Our boys handled the trip pretty well. The younger one slept a lot and was in his own little world, but the older one was harder. He just asked to be out of his seat and wanted to go play. I felt bad for him. I can at list shift my weight around, but in those car seats, they can't really move. At lease they were safe.

This week I will be in full-bore cleaning mode because my mother-in-law is coming to watch the kids next weekend. My husband and I are going to a youth pastors and wives overnighter. It should be a good time of encouragement and laughter. We've gone several times before and it's a lot of fun. It's also nice to hear about how people's ministries are going and learn from others what works and what doesn't. For a "newer" ministry couple like us, it's nice to hear encouraging words from more "experienced" youth workers. It's always a great time of refreshment for us. My husband found a hotel in an adjacent town that will give ministry people a free night. So we're going down a night early and taking some time for ourselves and our marriage. So glad to have such a healthy and fun student ministries district.

Hope you all had a great weekend and I will be purusing the blogosphere this afternoon and evening finding out what you've all been up to.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Bucket of Shoes

Our older son has a LOT of shoes, thanks to his wonderful Papa and Nana. My mom is the best second-hand shopper around. It helps that there are three clothing consignment shops in my hometown and they're all really good quality. Anyway, I'm off the topic.

My parents had gotten our son some summer toys for his Easter basket when he was 2 months old. The toys are in the shed now waiting for another Spring where they can bring joy and delight to (now) two little boys. But I saved the bucket for the house. The shoe-bucket now sits by the door with ALL his current shoes in it. I change out the shoes for the season and sometimes the bucket goes in the big basket (which is now housing the hats, scarves, mittens, and gloves). I take joy in this little bucket because it saves me from the headache of finding his shoes so we can run out of the house because we're late...again. But more than that, I smile at this wondering how many years will his shoes fit in this little red bucket...'til he's 10? 16?

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more Works-for-Me Wednesdays.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

15-minute Pick-up

FlyLady always says, "You can do anything in 15 mintues." And it's true. All it takes is 15 minutes. Just set your timer and get to work. No distractions. No jumping from room to room. Only 15 minutes in one room! It's amazing.

Check out what I did in 15 minutes this morning:

This may not look like much, but we're not talking deep cleaning, just picking up and putting things away where they belong.

This was probably my biggest mess and I still need to go through all of my papers, but at least they're not scattered all over the desk.

Here, again, I put things away that shouldn't be out. I didn't have time to wash the dishes, but at least all the dirty dishes in the kitchen and living room were at the sink. Makes it easier to do if you don't have to keep refilling the sink or not getting finished because you keep finding "one more cup."

I didn't get the towels folded, but I decreased the distractions by putting the toys away, the coats and shoes in the closet.

Remember, this is a 15-minute pick-up, NOT A DEEP CLEAN. I'm not even talking about vacuuming. It's just a pick-up and put things away. My husband stopped home after lunch and was impressed by how "clean" the house was. He treasures having the house picked up and I try to honor that. It definitely doesn't happen everyday, but it happens when I set that timer.

Now, GO! Set your timer and see what you can get done in just 15 minutes.

(The dishes are now resting in the cupboards and the towels are folded and put away. Sometimes I just have to remove the other distractions so I can get some "real" work done.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Zucchini Pie

This is an easy recipe from Steph at Live.Love.Eat, one of my favorite foodie blogs. She has great recipes and is now posting Not-So-Fat Fridays. Be sure to check out her blog!!

Zucchini Pie

3 c. zucchini, sliced thin, with skin on
1 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. chopped onion
3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash oregano
1 c. oil
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Pour into greased casserole & bake at 350 degrees until brown & firm, about 35 - 45 minutes.

My toddler even helped with the prep of this meal by pouring the ingredients in the bowl. He also "helped" by eating the extra sliced zucchini. He ate a plateful of zucchini pie at dinner and I don't know if it's because he liked it or because he helped make it. One thing: I would add more cheese. I love cheese and would make it an even cup of Parmesan. I served a side salad with it and a glass of ice cold milk. Yumm!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Reheating Popcorn

We don't go to the movies much anymore. Usually it's hard to find a babysitter so we can eat dinner and see a movie because it gets kind of late. Also, going to the theater is expensive. We do have a "dollar theater" in town that plays movies that aren't in the regular theater and they're not released on DVD yet. It's only $2 to get in, but there's still the time factor. And then if you want popcorn!! YIKES!! That can get spendy fast!

What we've been doing is getting a movie from Redbox for $1 a night, or using the codes for a free movie on Mondays. Then my wonderful husband will stop at Target, if I remind him, to get a bag of popcorn for $0.50 or so. Yumm! It's just like the theater's popcorn. Popcorn is my favorite snack so sometimes I ask him to grab two bags and save one for later in the week. I keep it in the paper sack and then put it in a zip-lock bag. Later in the week, I'll line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, set the oven to 250 degrees and pour my popcorn onto the baking sheet. You bake it for about 10 minutes and Voila! you have that movie theater popcorn all over again. It really is good!!

For more Works-for-Me-Wednesdays head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Getting Prayer Focused

I've been reading a book series by Neta Jackson - "Yada Yada Prayer Group". It's a really good series of 9 books. I'm almost half-way through the 8th book and they're pretty easy reading.

These books have really encouraged me in my prayer life. I want to grow like these women and to include prayer in everyday. I want to have an active prayer life so that I may better be able to discern what God's will is for my life. I think prayer is very important.

There's a woman, Delores, in the Yada Yada book series that is really good at praying the Word of God. I want to be better at that and so I've purchased the book "The Power of Praying Through the Bible" by Stormie Omartian. I'm really excited to read it and to start some Scripture memorization that I can use in prayer. I think it's such a neat way to pray and I'm excited to get started!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

At the Heart of Hospitality: A Plan

Organization and planning ahead:
Know Thy Recipe!
Have a plan!
Make lists!
Experience the power of delegation!
~ Sandy Coughlin

First of all: I love a plan and I love organization. It's so fun for me to check off an item on a list of to-do's. Done and done. See how much fun that is!

Sandy mentions four main things when it comes to planning ahead when playing hostess: know your recipe, have a plan, make a list, and delegate.

Know Thy Recipe!
I have to admit that I'm not great with this one. It depends who is coming over for dinner, but I tend to "try things out" on my guests. It's not a great idea, but I've done well with it so far. I don't try out new main dishes on my guests very often, but I've tried out various appetizers, side dishes, and desserts on my guests. But if I know my guests well and know that they're adventurous, I'll plan on something new...and if it fails, we can always order pizza.

Here are some dishes I've served to guests many times and they always turn out delicious:
  • Easy Pasta Casserole
  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Grilled Vegetable Skewers
  • Quick and Easy Chicken and Rice
  • Salad Pizza

Some of the dishes that I've tried on people that were really yummy:
  • Fish Tacos
  • Sliced Grilled Steak on Blue Cheese Biscuits
  • Pear Cranberry Side Salad
  • Hummus
Knowing my recipe is something I need to work on, but it's fun to try out a new recipe on friends and family, just not on the newbies.

Have a Plan!
Planning the menu is something that comes easy for me because I already have a weekly menu plan. I try to plan it out about 4-6 weeks in advance. Sometimes I move things around if there's a particular sale going on, but usually we stick to the plan. This helps when having guests over as well. It's nice to know you have all the ingredients in the pantry, and even ingredients for a back-up plan if necessary. Like I said, I love planning a menu so this is fun for me. Here's how I plan my weekly menu for each day:

main dish:

I do this for each day of the week and at the bottom of the sheet (for easy tear-off) I put the grocery list. I usually get most of my items in one stop then stop in weekly for fruits and veggies. That way I don't have an excuse for not making dinner and just ordering out. It has really helped us stay in our budget.

Make Lists!
Yet another thing I love to do. It's nice to have a list made out in advance of preparations when having guests over. I like to ask myself if there's anything I can do ahead of time (like a day or two before) so I don't have to do it on the day of. For example, I'm hosting our small group this month. I'm planning on making Cincinnati Chili and Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Brownie Bites for dessert. They're coming over on Tuesday, so on Monday I will make the brownie bites and brown the hamburger for Tuesday. Since it's mainly a crock pot dish, I will chop my veggies tonight so tomorrow morning I can toss them in the pan with the meat, canned goods, close the lid and let it simmer. Being organized and crossing things off of my list is something that I enjoy.

Experience the Power of Delegation!
This is a hard concept for me because I want to be the hostess that can do it all. But I can't. I can, but I'm not always at peace with it. (This is an area in which I struggle in other aspects of my life as well.) So, if someone asks if they can bring something, I say yes, look at my menu and tell them something that they can bring. I usually try to make it fairly simple like bread, a beverage, or a side salad. Nothing that they have to spend a lot of time making.

"It's easy to spend days in elaborate preparations that just rob us of our time." Again we must look at our attitude when serving our guests:

1. Am I feeling stressed or burdened by the need to impress?
2. Am I putting my guests first (i.e. not the dirty dishes in the sink after the meal)?
3. Am I expecting something in return?

Sandy tries to have all of her cooking done 3o minutes before guests arrive so she can sit and relax with her husband before the guests knock on the door. I'm not good at that and I don't feel comfortable with that yet. I'm still working on my timing and I admit that I'd feel nervous if I had time to sit and I forgot something. This is something that I will work towards as I grow in my hostessing skills.

All quotes are from Sandy Coughlin from 4 Reluctant Entertainers. This is the second of her "Ten Commandments" to hospitality. Please read what she has to say regarding being organized and having a plan. Thanks!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Please Pray!

Please pray for our dear friends, Clint and Jess. The birthmom has now decided to keep the baby. Please pray. Pray for healing for all involved. Pray for the birthmom. Pray for Clint and Jess. Pray for that precious baby girl.

Psalm 20:4
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Psalm 33:11
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.