Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blog Post Roundup 3/31/12

Here are some posts I thought y'all might be interested in.









How to Get Your Toddler to Eat Anything @ Five in Tow

Tea Time Discipleship @ The Better Mom

10 Ways to Renew Your Spirit @ Encouraging Words

Building a Legacy of Faithfulness @ Pastor Paul Chappell

My Reputation @ Learning God's Lessons (a new-to-me blog that is well worth following!)

I Can't Wait (Part 1)
I Can't Wait (Part 2) @ Learning God's Lessons
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Many Stamps?

One thing that I consider to be somewhat of a time-waster is taking letters to the post office to see if they need more than one stamp, especially at my post office which is not very efficient.

It came to me one day that the perfect solution is to use my digital kitchen scale to weigh the letter!  Anything less than 1 ounce takes one first class/forever stamp.

Another tip I read somewhere is to keep the kitchen scale in a drawer.  When you need it, open the drawer and there it is, ready to use!  Before I'd been keeping it in an upper cabinet and taking it out as needed.  I don't have to move the scale at all.  I bought this scale at Target, I believe, and I really like it.  We've even used it for the Pine Derby Race at church.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Organizing Paper Files // Taxes

My messy file cabinet
For a few years, I've had the lofty goal of going through and reorganizing my paper files every few months rather than once a year or less.  I finally figured out that that was NOT going to happen, and decided to continue with dealing with it just once a year when preparing to do our taxes.

I'm a person who likes to keep everything for "just in case."  True, no one is going to care how much we spent on our water bill 15 years from now, but you just never know.  It really doesn't take that much space to keep and I'd rather "have it and not need it than need it and not have it."  So, the first thing I do is take out all bills, statements, and other paperwork for the previous year and put them in large envelopes to be stored away.  This year, I took my labeler and labeled my file folders.  This helps to give a fresh new start to my filing cabinet.

One thing I did this past year that really helped save on time was to use a file folder box (the cardboard box that file folders come in) to throw in my tax deductible receipts and other documentation.  Inside this box there are folders for each type of document (income, charitable giving, medical, work-related, real estate taxes, etc.).  When it comes time to get things together, it's very easy to put the receipts in the appropriate folder and then go from there.  I was able to put together all the information in one evening, rather than in a couple or several days like in the past.

Another thing I do to save time -- not MY time, but our accountant's time (which saves us money) -- is to include a list of everything that's included with totals for each category.

Another new thing I did this year was create a table that listed all of our medical-related visits -- copays for office visits, procedures and tests done, etc. -- along with how much we paid for each AND the mileage for each visit.  I did not realize, until last week, that mileage for medical stuff is tax deductible (providing your medical expenses total more than 7-1/2 % of your income -- I think that figure is correct.)  I also did not know that any insurance premiums you pay (including supplemental coverage for medical-related coverage including cancer) can count for that total as well.

I put all tax-related stuff in that file folder box, and I take that to my accountant.  I think it's easier than manilla envelopes, and it can easily be reused every year (with help from packing tape to keep it all together).  It's not pretty, but it works!  When I get my paperwork back along with our return, I put it all in a large envelope and store it with the other envelopes.  Then my file folder box is ready to use for this year's tax stuff.

I still need to go through my other files (reference, ideas, old schoolwork, etc.) to see what needs to be reorganized, thrown away, and labeled.  My mom has been visiting us and is sleeping in my office which is QUITE crowded right now, so I'll have to try to take care of it after she leaves.
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blog Post Roundup 3/17/12

Here are some articles I thought were worth sharing with you.









The Most Powerful Parenting Practice @ Encouraging Words

What Children Crave @ The Humble Homemaker

A Parenting Moment: Are you Raising Me to DO Good? Not Just Be Good? @ Toddler Approved
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corndog Muffins

I've seen a couple of different pins on Pinterest for these Corndog Muffins.  I could only find one of them quickly when I was ready to make them, so I used the one that's shown at the bottom of this post.

Before cooking
Ingredients:
Jiffy cornbread mix (plus whatever it takes to make the batter)
hotdogs (Hebrew National is our favorite brand)
cheese
shortening to grease muffin tins
chili (optional but recommended)

Directions:
1.  Mix up the Jiffy cornbread batter.
2.  Cut up the hotdogs.  I cut them into "coins" rather than chunks for my daughter.
3.  Grease the muffin tins.
4.  Put about a spoonful or so of batter in the muffin wells.  Put in some hotdogs (I put 5 "coins."), add some cheese (I did not add enough), and top with more batter.
5.  Bake according to Jiffy directions.

I only had one box of Jiffy so I was only able to make 8 muffins.  We also had some hotdogs left over in the package.  I put them in a baking dish and baked them along with the muffins.  They came out perfectly cooked.

I wasn't sure if the cornbread muffins would be rather dry, so I heated up some Hormel chili with beans to eat on the muffins and/or hot dogs.  They definitely added to the meal.

Gracie ate one of the muffins at supper and enjoyed it.  When I gave her the two leftover muffins for lunch, she had her Grandma help her pick out the hotdogs and she ate those, leaving the cornbread.

Ready to eat!

This was an ok recipe.  I would not have wanted them plain, so I'm glad I added the chili.  I couldn't really detect the cheese, so I did not put enough.  Since Gracie picked out the hot dogs, I'm guessing she's not a big fan of the cornbread, either.  Maybe when she is older, she will like them better.  They would make a great make-a-bunch-ahead-and-freeze lunch for her.





Original Source:
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cooking Bacon in the Oven

I found this idea on Pinterest. I liked the idea of cooking so much bacon at once with less cleanup. I also thought it would be great to cook up a bunch of bacon at once in the evening to have ready for breakfast over the next few days.

I cooked up two baking sheets' worth of bacon (16 slices). The first batch I cooked for 20 minutes at 350. They didn't look done enough, so, for the second batch, I cooked them for 22 minutes at 350. I put them in a container and put them in the fridge.

Just about every day this week, I've microwaved the bacon for breakfast. I put two or three (usually three) slices inside a folded-up paper towel on a microwave plate and set the microwave for 1 minute. It comes out perfectly and is oh-so-good!





Original source:
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Organizing Clothes for Children

 
I love switching out Gracie's clothes! It's like Christmas getting to see the clothes I've acquired!
As soon as I found out I was having a girl, I started collecting clothes for her.  I found some really cute clothes from Goodwill and garage sales.  We were also given many beautiful clothes at our baby showers (along with 25+ baby blankets, but that's a different story).

During her first year, I concentrated on getting clothing for the next year or so but if I found some really good deals on larger sizes, I got those as well.  I keep her clothes in gray rubbermaid-type boxes.  In general, they are sorted like this:  newborn/0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, 12-18 months, 18 months - 2T, 3T (current size), and 4T+.

At first, I used smaller boxes, but switched them out for larger boxes as our collection grew.  I did have them ALL (dangerously) piled up in Gracie's closet, but after we built our garage and Robert put an attic/loft above the garage, I was able to put most of them up there.  Currently, I have just the 18-months - 2T box and the 3T box in her closet.  The 18 months - 2T box will be able to be stored by summer, most likely.  The 3T box just has winter clothes in it for next fall/winter.

Because clothing are not all sized uniformly, I have some split between two boxes.  For example, some 12 month clothes can be worn at 9 months, so I put them in the 9-12 months box; others, I put in the 12-18 months box.

Rather than writing on the boxes, I wrote the sizes on a piece of copy paper and taped it to the top of the box.  That way, it's easy to relabel the boxes.

Another thing I do to make things easier is I hang a shopping bag from a hanger and put it in Gracie's closet and use that to put "too big" clothes (that I buy on sale or at thrift stores or garage sales or that people give me).  I hang another one for "too small" clothes to put the clothes that she outgrows.

When it's time to switch out clothes, I grab everything from her dresser drawers and closet and put it on my bed.  I also get out the gray boxes and the hanging shopping bags.  I sort all of these clothes according to sizes and put the smaller clothes in the appropriate box.  Lastly, I open up the next size and sort those according to type (church clothes, play clothes, dressy casual, jammies, etc.).  That way I can tell if I'm lacking in any categories or if I need to find something that matches a shirt or a skirt.  This time, I'm happy to say that I really don't need much to fill in.  I haven't checked all of her shirts and skirts, but I think I will be able to put most of them together into outfits.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Review

I know I'm really late on posting about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge that I did last month.  The Challenge was hosted by Barbara at Stray Thoughts blog.

I did get to read two of Laura's books, Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.  I really enjoyed reading them.  These books are like "comfort food" to me.  They remind me of a very happy time in my childhood and make me think of the olden days like what my grandparents lived in.  My grandma had just gone to Heaven before I started reading and it was a good time to read these books.

Little House in the Big Woods takes place when Laura is four and five years old.  It covers one year from fall to fall.  In LHitBW, we learn about many things that the Ingalls have to do just to survive:  butchering, hunting, gardening, churning butter, smoking meat, and I'm sure there's more that I can't think of right now.  We also read about the fun things that Laura and her sister Mary do: play ball with the pig's bladder, play among the harvested vegetables in the attic, attend a dance at their Grandma's, play with cousins, make snow angels, eat snow ice cream, visit town for the first time in their lives, and play with their dolls.  We learn about Ma who is very industrious and quiet and Pa who is loud and playful.  We read wonderful stories told by Pa and if we listen hard enough, we can hear Pa's fiddle as he plays at bedtime.

Little House on the Prairie takes place the next year after LHitBW.  Pa has decided to move west to find a better place to live, one that has better hunting and room to breathe.  Ma probably didn't like the idea too much as she is always one for being near civilization, school, and church, but she supports her husband and is an excellent example of a helpmeet to him.  Laura thinks it's all one grand adventure.  You can really sense the excitement and wonder throughout the book.  I love how Laura describes how they made a home on the prairie.  They were such hard workers, thrifty and creative in making do.

As a mother, I really liked how both books stressed obedience.  I really can't wait to be able to read these with my daughter!

I forgot to mention that I did find a few of the picture books to read with Gracie.  I'm sorry to say that she wasn't very impressed.  When she gets older, I think she will like them, though.

I didn't get to try any recipes.  I really wanted to make the heart-shaped cakes, but I didn't get to.  Maybe next year!
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rainbow Drops

 Gracie, like me, takes a little while to wake up in the mornings.  Most of the time, after she wakes up and I get her out of bed, I take her into the living room and we'll sit on the couch and watch TV until she's wide awake and raring to go.  This morning, we watched the Sprout channel.  The hostess was doing a fun art activity with Chica where they were dropping colored water into a pan of colored water, making neat designs.  I asked Gracie if she wanted to do that and she said, somewhat hesitantly, "please."

I could tell that either the liquid in the baking dish they used or the colored water was oil-based since the two liquids were not really mixing all that much.  This is what we wound up doing:  I poured vegetable oil into the baking dish, just enough for a thin layer.  I then poured water into eight condiment cups (which I bought to use to feed Gracie baby food when she was very small) and dropped food coloring into each, roughly the colors of the rainbow.  I put the cups onto a tray along with some plastic spoons, mostly to make it easier to carry all of them to the table, but it also helped to give them a "home" so that Gracie wouldn't put them all over the place risking spills.

Gracie really enjoyed this activity!  I'm glad I took the time to be spontaneous and do an activity that was fun for both of us to do together!

Starting out, she's intrigued by the setup!

ROY G BIV

 
This is supposed to be a video.  Hope it shows up!

She was having fun!

So intent!

Busy at it!

After a while, the colors did run together.

It's fun to dump the whole thing in, too!
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Firecracker Burgers

A friend of mine shared this recipe on Facebook, and I tried it out the very next day!  Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures.











Ingredients:
1 lb. hamburger meat
1/4 cup salsa (I used the nasty Great Value salsa that I bought to try, didn't like it, and told Robert he could have it.)
2 tsp Taco seasoning (I used 1 tablespoon of my homemade taco seasoning.)
2 tsp garlic salt (I used 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1/4 tsp of salt.)

Mix well and cook.  Be careful because the meat will turn dark on the inside before it is actually done.

Top with pepperjack cheese and guacomole (optional).

Robert and I both really liked these burgers!
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blog Post Roundup 3/10/12

Here are some article I think are worth passing along.










The Simple Overlooking of a Daily Duty @ Like a Bubbling Brook

Waiting on God @ Keeper of the Home (Note: Bible verses used are not KJB)

4 Ways to Take the Drudgery out of Motherhood @ Keeper of the Home

The Rules @ Five in Tow


Counting the Hours @ Five in Tow


Earning His Love @ The Better Mom
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Clothespin Game for Toddlers

 I based this project on an activity mentioned in the book The Toddler's Busy Book.  The activity they mentioned involved just cutting holes in the bottom of the egg carton and sticking clothespins in them.

I decided to make it more of a learning game by coloring the egg carton and the clothespins.





First, get a clean egg carton.  Use an exacto knife to cut a hole in the bottom of each egg cup.  Use markers to color the edges of the holes and to write the name of the color on the corresponding egg cup.  Use same markers to color the ends of the clothespins and to write the names of the colors.

This was a super-easy project.  I'm pretty sure it took less than half an hour to do.

Right now, Gracie enjoys taking the clothespins out and putting them back in, not necessarily in the "correct" holes.  Sometimes, she will match, and when she does, I make a big deal out of it.  When I've prompted her to find a specific color to match the clothespin, she will do it.  This is a great game for fine motor manipulation and for teaching colors.

You do have to be careful about your child pinching her fingers or hands with the clothespins.  Gracie likes to squeeze the clothespins and will get pinched.  Sometimes I think she does it on purpose just so she can say, "Ow!"



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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Just in case you missed it.....

I'm hosting a giveaway of the book The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall.

Click here to go to the original post with the book review and Giveaway Rafflecopter Form.

I forgot to put "Giveaway" in the blog post title, so some of you may have missed it.

The giveaway ends Monday night (March 12th).  I'll announce the winner on Tuesday morning.
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Pistachio Dessert

Pistachio Dessert on dessert table at Old Fashioned Sunday
My sister-in-law Kris gave me this recipe years ago. It's really good! Of course, anything with pistachios, and especially pistachio pudding, is going to be delicious!








Ingredients:

1 stick oleo* (That's the old name for margarine, but I use butter.)
1 cup flour*
2 Tbs sugar*
1/2 cup nuts* (I chopped up pecans.)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
large carton of Cool Whip (16 oz.), thawed and divided
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 small packages instant pistachio pudding
2-1/2 cups milk
Extra nuts for sprinkling


Directions:

1. Before starting, make sure the oleo/margarine/butter, cream cheese, and Cool Whip are thawed or soft.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3.  Bottom layer:
Mix 1 stick oleo/margarine/butter, 1 cup flour, 2 Tbs sugar, and 1/2 cup nuts.  Put on bottom of your 9x13 pan. (*I may have had it too thick, but it didn't cover the whole bottom, so I mixed up some more to cover the whole bottom of the dish.)  Bake 10 minutes.  Take out and let cool.

4.  Next layer:
Mix 8 ounces cream cheese, half of the large carton of Cool Whip, and 2/3 cup powdered sugar.  Layer on top of the crust.

5.  Next layer:
Mix 2 small packages of instant pistachio pudding and 2-1/2 cups milk.  Put in fridge to make pudding.  Layer on top of the cream cheese-Cool Whip layer.

6.  Final layer:
Put the remaining Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with nuts.  Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

The finished dessert


Came home with half of it.  Not bad considering all of the other yummy desserts that were there!
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review & Giveaway: The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall




This novella about a Plain Old Order Mennonite girl and a Plain Old Order Amish young man who develop forbidden feelings for one another is somewhat reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet -- but without the feuding and suicides.

Annie goes to live with her grandfather after a disagreement with her mother. Her grandfather is a partner in Zook's Diner which is run by the Zook family, including Aden Zook (a talented artist with a stutter who works the kitchen, allowing him to keep from talking, an uncomfortable task for one with a speech impediment) and his twin brother Roman (an outgoing, charming young man who has been wheelchair bound for five years) deals with customers. Aden and Zook help each other's weaknesses which looks good on the surface but has a somewhat enabling, trapping effect limiting them from developing their full potential.

They have known Annie for years from when she has stayed with her grandfather to help him when he's been ill. After Roman's accident, she helped in their diner which is when she and Aden began to like each other. Knowing that a union between the two would create havoc in their families and religious communities, especially after they both made their vows and officially joined their churches, they were forced to keep their feelings to themselves.

This time around, when Annie once again helps in the diner during a very busy, yet understaffed week, she and Aden become close friends and begin seeing each other secretly in Annie's grandfather's cherry orchard, falling more deeply in love as the days go on. The story behind the cherry orchard is a beautiful one as well.

I won't give away any more details about the story so as not to ruin it for you. This was a beautiful story with several intertwining storylines (I can sense another novella coming out about Roman!) showing development and growth of character.

If you are a Cindy Woodsmall fan, you will not be disappointed in this book. (I have never read a dud by her!). I gave this book five stars on GoodReads.com because I couldn't find any reason to give it less than that!

Related Links:
The Official Site of Author Cindy Woodsmall
More Information from Publisher Waterbrook Multnomah
Read Chapter 1
Author Spotlight

Giveaway!


Blogging for Books accidentally sent me two copies of the book. When I contacted them about it, they said to use the extra book in a giveaway!

I will have this giveaway open until Monday, March 12th. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Reviews on Blogging for Books can be reviewed and ranked by others.  I would love it if you would visit my review on the Blogging for Books site and rank my review.  Upon ranking my review, you will be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of this book!  Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings if you give me a bad review.  I'd rather have an honest bad review than a dishonest good review.  "Faithful are the wounds of a friend: but the kisses of an enemy deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6)


Here is the link for my review.

FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.”  I was not required to provide a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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New Game ... Interrupted.

video

Gracie loves playing with her new game (watch for blog post on Friday for more details), but interrupted herself when something else she loves came up.
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Hanging Hand Towel for Little Ones

This is one of my "surprise" projects mentioned in my March Projects the other day.

I want Gracie to be able to wash her hands without much help from me.  In the hall bathroom, our handtowel holder is located rather high which makes it difficult for her to reach the towel when she needs to dry her hands.  I solved this problem by sewing ribbon onto a couple of handtowels and hanging the handtowel on the ring which makes it easier for her to reach.

The two handtowels and ribbon.

First, I cut off 8" of ribbon and pinned it to the upper left corner of the towel.  This is the back side of the towel.
Here, you can see how I stitched the ribbon onto the towel.  I basically made a square and X'd the square.  I also did a zigzag across the fold of the towel.


Here it is hanging in our {tiny} bathroom.

I added a regular handtowel for the grownups.

Here is the other towel.
This took about 15 minutes to do and only took that long because of the time it took to take the above pictures.

One final word of advice:  When you buy new pink towels, wash them separately.  DO NOT just think to yourself, "Oh, they'll be all right," and stick them in a load of regular wash.  You will regret it.

Coming soon:  a post about using Oxi-Clean to remove red and pink dye from white clothes!  Stay tuned!
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crispy Onion Chicken

I got this recipe from the February-March 2011 issue of Taste of Home.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic salt (I used garlic powder and sprinkled some salt.)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (6 ounces) cheddar or original french-fried onions, crushed (I used a 6-ounce bag of original french-friend onions.)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
2.  In a shallow bowl, combine the butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic salt, and pepper. (I microwaved the butter in the shallow bowl and added the other ingredients to it.)  In another shallow bowl, add 1/2 cup fried onions.  Dip chicken in the butter mixture, then coat with onions.
3.  Place the chicken in the greased baking dish.  Top with the remaining onions; drizzle with any remaining butter mixture.
4.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

We really enjoyed this chicken.  I think I may have cooked it a little longer than the 35 minutes (but not by much).  The chicken, even the thick breasts, were done perfectly while the onions were somewhat overdone, but not burnt.
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blog Post Roundup 3/3/12

Here is this week's list of notable posts.  Hope you enjoy!









Motherhood:  A Risky Business @ The Better Mom

Say My Name, Say My Name @ Cake Wrecks (This cracked me up.  She posts great cake wrecks, but sometimes her commentary can be inappropriate, so proceed with caution.  This post is rated G.)

Don't Fight the Small Stuff @ The Organizing Junkie

But for God's Grace !! @ Hidden Treasures

Four Focuses of Effective Parents @ Encouraging Words


Lessons of Life @ The Gil & Kelly Bates Family

How to Grow the Church by Keeping it Small @ Pastor Paul Chappell
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Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Project Plans

As I mentioned yesterday, I unfortunately did not get to do all of my planned projects for February.  This means that I have just a few leftover projects to do this month.  Most of my March projects appear to be simple, one-evening projects, so there shouldn't be any trouble completing all of them this month. (We'll see!)

Leftover Projects from February:

New Projects for March:

Simple surprise project.

Christmas Projects

To be decided.  Perhaps, one or more of these:








Get Ready for Easter

Here is my Easter Ideas Pinterest Board.  I may do several of the following this year:
















Other Projects:

Make Velcro Band-aids for Stuffed Animals.
Source: Pink and Green Mama

Play Felt Envelopes
Source:  Miss Pretty Pretty Etsy Shop
Make Felt Play Food for Gracie's Kitchen.
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