Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Take advantage of the season

Right now it is super hot here. It is definitely summer, with the high humidity and 95 degree days all week. I have been dealing with this heat all my life, you think it would not shock me when it goes from the gorgeous mild spring weather here to the "please try to find somewhere air conditioned for the afternoon and mow the lawn after 8 pm weather" in what seems like 1 day, but it does.
This early heat makes for good gardening though, you just have to hydrate- hydrate- hydrate, you and the plants that is. We are limited by what we can put in the ground, by where we live and the provisions of the housing community, but I have a thriving container garden that seems to have really taken off. I am so excited by this, not only because it cuts my grocery budget some, but I thought until this year that I may have inherited my mother's black thumb. The only thing I had managed to keep alive for any amount of time was an aloe plant that actually liked when I forgot to water it.
There is something in the southern woman psyche that makes us want to garden even in the oppressive heat. Maybe it is the connection to our grandmothers and their ability to feed an entire brood of children with stuff out of the yard, in my grandmother's case 10 kids a husband and whoever he brought home from work.

I love squash blossoms, they are beautiful to me. They can also be tasty stuffed with goat cheese and herbs... but since I want to have squash I am just going to let them do their thing. 

My first Romas, can't wait till they turn red!

The strawberries from a local farm. These were going to be jam, but we have chomped on them and now I think I will buy more for jam and freeze what is left of these. There is nothing like having summer's strawberries when there is frost on the ground.

Lastly, today I am making my first batch of sun tea for this year. Here are instructions if you have never made sun tea.  How to make sun tea

What are you doing to enjoy the summer? Do you have any plants producing yet? 

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Recharging your batteries

Last week I took a break from the norm and took a trip with my mother in law to a quiet lake home. There was no internet in the lake house and I thought that may put a damper on the fun, as it has become such an integral part of my day. However, I found that I was fine without it. Although I did miss the contact from friends and being able to just look something up when I wanted to go sight see, it was not a great disadvantage.
I took less than 5 toys for my daughter and she played with none of them. She had more fun running to the end of the large fenced yard and back than playing with the toys I had for her.
I read a novel, for the first time in a long time and we spent a lot of time outside when the day had not yet gotten too hot. We took picnic lunches on our trips and cooked simple things for dinner most nights. (Although I will admit we did eat out more than my frugal side liked, but it was supposed to be a break for everyone and sometimes on the go you have to.) We visited inexpensive sites around the lake house, and had lots of fun together as a family. My husband was not able to join us because of work and we missed him, but I am really glad I took time to take care of myself too.
I learned that I had taken too long between rests that I had stretched myself too thin and that I need to take a break before I get to that point next time. I learned that my rest helps my mood and therefore helps my child and husband's mood making for a happier family. I learned that no one can go at full speed for so long without having to break routine and recharge.
How do you recharge? How can you recharge if you don't have the ability to get away?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'll Fly Away

This morning a song that my Grandmother and Mom used to sing was in my head. It reminds me of sweet tea and lazy days, and the promise of the hereafter. I hope you enjoy it too.
I'll Fly Away - Allison Krauss

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mommy Redirection

I have one little girl who is 2. Everyday we fight the battle of the wills of who gets to decide what we are doing and when. I set boundaries and rules and she tries to break them, not because she is bad or malicious, but because her job is to test boundaries and my job is to set them. When we reach a behavior issue that needs attention I try to determine a few things before acting.
1- Is this really worth it? If all she really wants is to wear the clothes she picked out that don't match at all, then No, the ensuing tantrum is not worth it. Clothes that don't match never hurt anyone. However if it is something like not wanting to brush her teeth, or hitting some one then Yes it must be dealt with now. 
2- Am I angry? If I am angry I need to take a moment to calm myself before approaching her. Discipline through anger teaches her fear, not correct behavior. Mommy time outs are a good place to go from here, before disciplining her. 
3-Is this really not a discipline lesson, but a power struggle? If I feel myself about to say "Because I told you so." or truly getting aggravated over the choice of mismatched clothes, it is probably a power struggle.

Redirection is a common discipline technique with little kids... "No you may not play with the blinds or jump on the couch, but you may play with your blocks or jump outside or on the floor." I think perhaps it is also a good idea to redirect my energy as mom when things come up. Since I am in need of reminding sometimes, I wrote a list to help me redirect.

Things I would rather do than engage in a power struggle with my child:
Read the Bible 
Read another book
Breathe deep 10 times 
Give a bear hug 
Sing a silly song 
Go on a walk
Eat a cookie
Get a box of stuff ready to donate 
Dance to the radio 
Look at my garden
Make a gift for some one else
Drink hot tea
Go somewhere else - the park, the museum 
Take a relaxing shower

What redirection techniques do you use for you? 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Menu Plan

Menu Plan for 9 days
Cereal x5
French Toast and apples
Egg, Bacon and Potato casserole
Muffins – probably strawberry, but I need to go pick them, so if not then applesauce
Oatmeal with dry fruit and pecans

Leftovers x4
Grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato wedges
Vegetable soup
Beans and Rice
Salmon patties and peas
Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and carrot sticks

Sloppy joes from chicken, with onion and pepper and lima beans
Tilapia in Italian dressing, green beans with almonds
Split pea soup and rolls
Country style deer steak with gravy, black eyed peas and mashed potatoes
Tuna Casserole
Chicken and black bean Chili (with hidden veggies)
Roasted whole chicken, Corn, Green beans
Vegetable fried rice with brown rice
Chicken Alfredo pasta (from leftover roast chicken) and peas

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Helping each other

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Exodus 17:12

This is from a battle in which the Israelites were winning if Moses kept his hands up, but if he grew tired and lowered them the Israelites began to lose. He needed Aaron and Hur to help him, the give him rest when he could not take one himself. 
Sometimes in our church body or our family we don't realize that others need us to help hold up their hands. We get wrapped up in whatever we are doing and do not see that our leaders, or our loved ones need a rest. I know also sometimes we do not feel as though we can go on one minute longer. We are the ones that need a rest. 
I hope that I can strive to be the holder of hands when it is needed. 

Dear Lord, 
Today I pray that I can be there when needed to hold another's hand. That I can look outside myself to where I can be most useful to you, and that my hands can be your hands. Please help me know when I am needed and if I need to rest let me know when and how.
In your name I pray, 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Frugal Food- Southwest Chicken Enchilada casserole

This recipe is one I concocted from a few other recipes and a desire to get the same depth of flavor in less time.
It serves 6 -8 depending on how big you make your enchiladas.
You will need
2 cups shredded chicken
1 jar (16 oz) prepared salsa (or an equal amount fresh salsa)
1 package whole wheat tortilla wraps -8 inch size (or two packs if you prefer smaller enchiladas)
1 can drained rinsed black beans
1 cup frozen corn
8 oz shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or Cheddar work well)
Chili Powder to taste
Onion Powder to taste
Cayenne pepper if desired

Place your shredded chicken in a large pot with the salsa, corn and beans. Add your spices- I used 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp onion powder and a pinch of cayenne, but your spices will vary with your choice of salsa. Heat on medium heat for about thirty minutes warmed through and flavors have melded together. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Now take a large bowl, and a strainer big enough to hold your chicken mixture. Place the strainer over the bowl and press the mixture from one side to the other in the strainer with enough pressure to drain excess liquid without squishing your beans. I have found a small wooden slotted spoon is easiest to work with. Get as much of the liquid out of the mixture as you can.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pyrex dish, and start making your enchiladas. Place 1-2 spoonfulls of mixture in the center of the tortilla and roll, place seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat until your dish is full or you run out of mixture. You will have to scoot them to the side as you add them so they fit properly, they will lay on each other a bit.
Pour your sauce (the drained liquid) over the top of your enchiladas. Cover with the shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes covered with foil and if you desire remove the foil to brown your cheese for the last ten minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
I did not brown the cheese, but here is the finished product. My husband and child both really enjoyed it.  I hope you do as well!

Cost break down
The chicken was leftover from a whole roast chicken I made, and the whole chicken cost $4.78, the portion I used for this casserole was about 1/3 of that so $1.60
The salsa was $1.99 at Aldi
Beans $.59
Corn $.33 (about 1/3 of a bag of frozen corn at $.99) -Aldi
Tortilla wraps - $2.59 - Food Lion
Cheese $2.00 at Aldi

Total $9.10 or $1.52 a serving at 6 servings (this fed our family of 3 twice)

You can further cut costs by using flour tortillas or changing your meat option to something cheaper, but we are trying to eat more whole grains here so that is why the recipe calls for whole wheat. As for the meat, I would use a shredded meat and not ground, if you choose to switch that up. Shredded pork works nicely as well.

This is shared at Simple Homemaking link up through Raisingarrows.net (button on the sidebar).
This is also shared with Homemaking Link up at
Raising Homemakers

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Menu Plan

This is for 9 days as I am hoping to space out my shopping trips more. I don't assign days to the meals, just try and go through all the options in the given days.

Cold Cereal and fruit x 5
Pineapple Pecan whole wheat muffins x2
Banana Pancakes with homemade applesauce and scrambled eggs 
Eggs with Ham and Cheese with biscuits
Drinks- Coffee, OJ, Milk 


Leftovers x 5 
Tuna cakes, applesauce 
Quick home made mac and cheese with carrots 
Salsa eggs in a whole wheat tortilla 
Sandwiches and bananas

Hamburger steak with gravy, mashed potatoes (with sneaky cauliflower), peas
Roasted chicken, lima beans and corn, green beans (Bonus- chicken broth made in crock pot over night to freeze) 
Meatloaf with hidden carrots, sweet potatoes 
Chicken (from the whole roast chicken) enchilada casserole with orange bell peppers and onion mixed in
Chicken (from the whole roast chicken) pot pie
Black bean soup with rolls 
Baked ravioli with hidden veggies in the sauce 
Seared blackened tilapia, with lima beans and rice 
Catfish nuggets with black eyed peas and homemade fries

This is shared at the homemaking link up at
Raising Homemakers

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rising costs and simple living

Gas in our area is about $3.75 a gallon right now, and grocery prices this past week at the store were higher than I ever remember them being. This was a sharp jump in the last month or so, and we are really starting to feel the pinch. I have changed some of my spending habits and limits again. We own two vehicles, one of which is used for my husband to get back and forth to work, and the gas in that vehicle has gone up $25 a week (from $35 to $60), or $100 a month. That of course is a cost that can't be skipped as we need him to be able to get to work. Our local grocery store had coffee ( the 12 oz bricks) at $4.89, whereas two weeks ago that same brick cost $3.00. I used to be able to juggle with the sales and get produce for $1/pound in season, and meat for $1.50 and under a pound (sometimes much lower if there was a good sale), but even the sale prices were creeping around $3.00 a pound. Easily my $60 a week grocery budget has jumped to $80.
So what are we doing about it?
I have planted a container vegetable garden and we are also helping my father in law with his large vegetable garden, in exchange for produce. I was also given a canner that will get great use this year so we have that extra taken off the grocery bills in the winter months. I have found a local source for eggs, that are also family, and all they have asked in exchange is baked goods when I make them. We also plan to split a cow with another family come summer, and that should fill my chest freezer with meat, along with the hunting and fishing that the extended family does. I have also scaled back some on the amount of meat that goes in meat meals, and no one seems to notice a difference. We are eating healthier and better as I am pickier about what we spend those dollars on, and we are trying to purchase local if we can. I shop on the outside aisles of the grocery store( meaning the outer ring of dairy, produce, bread, meat) and leave all the convenience stuff to others. It definitely takes more time and planning, but we have found it is worth it.
As for the gas, we like a lot of Americans are finding things to do closer to home. We have several nice parks and local attractions that we are taking advantage of. I also combine as many errands as I can at one time, and we are really using the family memberships to museums or the like on too hot or too rainy days. I had no idea how many close free activities there were, and we have been having lots of fun finding them, and most of all it gives us quality time together to really make memories.

What are you doing to help with the rising costs of everyday life? Did you change to a more simple lifestyle when the prices started to rise, or were you like us and just readjusted what you were already doing a little? What tips do you have?