Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Funny Boy ...

Yeah, I know my last post suggested I wouldn't blog anything until after the New Year, but this is funny and I wanted to share a good laugh with you all.
Picture this ... It's the afternoon of December 24th. Mr. B has agreed to take EJ to the Dollar General to finish up his Christmas shopping. EJ has a $10 budget and wants to buy for his 3 older brothers and grandpa. (Note: Mr.B, decided to "help" EJ out with a little extra cash & he'd asked me to pick up popcorn seasoning for BT, who enjoys a big bowl of popcorn while watching movies).
Mr.B and EJ enter the store and EJ immediately begins walking back to the household cleaners section. He stops near the Swiffer Dusters.
Mr.B: "What are we doing back here, Toot?"
EJ: "Well, I was gonna get Grandpa a swiffer for all that stuff he has in his cabin, but it's $13 dollars."
EJ takes off and heads down the stationary isle.
EJ: "Here, I'll get him these pens. He's old and old people like to write." (note: Mr.B is almost near tears trying NOT to laugh out loud.) While on the stationary isle, EJ also picks up a word search book for his brother JP.
EJ then cruises over to the personal care isle.
Mr.B: "Alright, Toot, what are you buying now, shampoo?"
EJ: "No, I'm gonna get AB some deodorant."
At this point, Mr.B can not hold his laughter in any longer and through a very hearty laugh he suggests that they leave the Dollar General and make a quick stop by the hardware store for AB's gift.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wishing You and Yours ...


a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
I am one of those people who absolutely LOVES blessing others with gifts. Christmas is a very exciting time of year for me because it is the PERFECT opportunity to bless our Sunday school teachers, music teachers, coaches, etc. with a little thank you.
In less than one hour I made these cute little Christmas stockings using remnant fabric that I picked up for only $1 and small pieces of left over trim from various projects. At less than $.017 each, they make adorable and reusable gift wrap for the recipient. They are the perfect size to stuff with all sorts of small gifts. Teachers appreciate pens, pencils, notepads, erasers, paperclips, bookmarks, travel sized lotion and body wash, etc.
This year we also blessed a few folks with homemade snowman soup, aka, homemade hot cocoa mix in a snowman mug with a peppermint "stir" stick. Snowman soup is one of my favorite gifts and almost anyone who knows me personally has received this at least once. I think this is the BEST hot cocoa mix I've ever had and I'd like to share it with you.
HOMEMADE HOT COCOA MIX
(gleaned from a t.v. program many years ago)
1 2lb. box powdered Nesquick chocolate milk mix (I use the store brand)
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
1lb. confectioners sugar
11 oz. non-dairy creamer
1 8qt. box non-fat dry milk
1 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows (optional)
In a VERY large bowl mix the chocolate milk mix and cinnamon until combined well. Add the confectioners sugar and non-dairy creamer, mixing well after each addition. Stir in 1/2 the dry milk until blended well. Add remaining dry milk, stirring until mixed well. Stir in marshmallows. Store in a large airtight container in a cool dry pantry.
To Use:
Add 2-3 tablespoons cocoa mix to a mug. Add hot water, stir and ENJOY. For a special treat top with homemade whipped cream and use a peppermint stick to stir.
Makes about 75 mugs of cocoa mix @ about $0.16 per cup & far tastier than what you'll find on the grocer's shelf.
Well, although I've been away from the computer this week, today the Christmas stockings covered a Make It For Less Monday and a Waste Not Want Not Wednesday. I also squeezed in a Frugal Feasting Friday with the homemade cocoa mix.
During the next couple weeks I plan to enjoy my family and won't be around the computer. I leave you all with the following prayer:
Lord, I pray my readers and their families experience a blessed Christmas season. As we approach the celebration of the birth of Christ, your abundantly generous gift to all mankind, help us to remember WHY Christ came. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17 NIV). Amen.
See you next year!!
Blessings,
Mrs.B

Friday, December 10, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday

Shake-N-Bake pork chop / chicken coating was a household staple in my mom's pantry when I was a girl. Yup, my mom was a "modern" cook who utilized ALL the prepared and quick fix products available at the time. (Just for the record I learned all my basic cooking skills while living with my uncle and aunt during my early teen aged years. My aunt J was / is a fabulous home cook. ) As a young girl I LOVED pork chops and chicken baked in shake-n-bake. But once I left my mom's house, I never ate it again. Mostly because my aunt J didn't cook with the stuff and once I was out on my own, I couldn't afford the stuff. As the years passed, I forgot about it.

Recently, I ran across a homemade recipe that claimed one couldn't tell the difference between this recipe and the store bought shake-n-bake. This evening I decided I'd give it a try and after a bit of tweaking (you know me, I can't leave any recipe in its original form), this homemade shake-n-bake REALLY DOES taste exactly like I remember it as a child!!

I don't know if making it yourself is any cheaper than the name brand, but whenever I have every single ingredient already on hand, it makes absolutely no sense in my mind to go out and purchase a boxed product made out of the same ingredients sitting on my own pantry shelf. So, here's my tweaked version of the homemade shake-n-bake recipe I recently came across (sorry, I don't' remember the web-site I gleaned this from - but I don't want anyone to think I've taken credit for a recipe that isn't my own).

HOMEMADE SHAKE-N-BAKE

3/4 c. cornflake crumbs
2 tsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until ground into course powder. Mixture will coat 4 pork chops or 4 pieces of chicken. I think this recipe would double or triple very well.
To Use:
Place homemade shake-n-bake in a gallon sized plastic bag. Add pork chops or chicken. Shake vigorously. Place meat on a lightly greased baking sheet. Lightly spray meat with with olive oil or other baking spray. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear.
Serves 4

P.S. tonight was the first time the littles have ever had shake-n-bake, the big boys have never tried it, and it seems the littles LOVED this stuff as much as I did when I was a kid.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Talking Points...


This afternoon, OG decided to write President Obama a brief letter outlining a few suggestions on how to stimulate job growth within the U.S. economy.
After writing the letter she decided to send carbon copies to Vice President Joe Biden and her U.S. Representative, U.S. Senators, State Representative, State Senators and State Governor.
As she was addressing the envelopes we had a very short conversation that went something like this:
ME: "What would you do if someone from one of these offices contacted you regarding an interview?"
OG: "I'd say YES!"
ME: "How would you prepare for the interview? Would you write up some talking point notes, etc.?"
OG: (Looking up at me with an are you kidding me expression) "What would I WEAR !!"
End of conversation ...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday

As well as saving money in the kitchen, I also like to save time whenever possible. If you've read my previous post you know that we have begun prepping for our family Christmas celebration. Since I cook most of our meals from scratch, cooking large specialty meals on the few occasions when everyone's home is a time consuming task. Through the years as I've searched for time saving techniques that work for me, I've found the freezer to be one of the best.
As mentioned in previous posts, our family often enjoys homemade pizza on Friday evenings. Well, this week instead of preparing one spinach alfredo pizza for the littles and me, I prepared two. I baked one for our supper tonight and I placed the other in the freezer for our planned pizza buffet night the week following Christmas ( remember, I've made a meal plan for the week everyone's home ). Of course, one pizza will not be enough to feed my crew of 8 (I have two who can inhale an entire pizza on their own), but over the next two weeks I will triple our pizza recipes and freeze the extras. On pizza night, instead of standing in the kitchen making pizza pies one after the other, I'll just pop the made ahead frozen ones in the oven, toss up a nice garden salad and in 30 short minutes I'll have a favorite and frugal meal on the buffet counter for my gang.

Spinach Alfredo Pizza

Dough:
(the following measurements are for one pizza - this recipe doubles and triples well)
1 tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar or honey
1 c. warm (115 degrees F) water
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour, all-purpose whole wheat or a combination of both

Toppings:
(if making 2 or 3 pizzas, double or triple the following quantities)
7 oz. store bought alfredo sauce (approx. 1/2 jar)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
3 c. fresh baby spinach, chopped
2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated

In a medium bowl combine yeast, sugar or honey and warm water. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in oil and salt. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface (I prefer to use my pastry cloth) and kneed slightly. Shape into a disk and roll out into a 15" disk. Place dough onto a well oiled baking sheet. Roll edges to form pie shape. Spread alfredo sauce evenly over dough using the back of a large spoon. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over sauce followed by chopped fresh spinach. Evenly sprinkle mozzarella cheese over spinach. Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Makes one 14" pizza /8 slices.

To Prepare Spinach Alfredo Pizza for the Freezer:
Follow above directions for preparing pizza dough. Before spreading dough with alfredo sauce, combine fresh spinach and sauce in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for approximately 2 minutes, remove, stir. Sauce will have turned green. Spread spinach & sauce mixture over dough and sprinkle with parmesan cheese followed by mozzarella cheese. Allow to freeze in the freezer for 3-4 hours before wrapping securely in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil.
To Bake:
Remove wrap from pizza and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melty and gooey & edges of crust are browned to your preference.
Makes 8 slices

Here is a photo of a frozen spinach alfredo pizza:


Cost Breakdown:

homemade dough $0.74
store bought alfredo suace $1.15
baby spinach $1.00
parmesan cheese $0.60
mozzarella cheese $1.75
Total: $5.24 per pizza OR $0.66 per slice




Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday


(clipart/photo is courtesy of vkme over at www.photobook.com)
The official countdown to Christmas has begun ... only 25 days!
So, today's Waste Not Want Not topic will be effective use of time during this very busy season.
It may be 25 days until Christmas, but I've only got 22 days left to get ready!! All my guys, Mr. B, the big boys and Grandpa, will begin a parade of incoming flights on the 23rd. Our family's personal taxi service, ME, will pick the first up the morning of the 23rd and pick the last up the evening of the 24th. They will be flying in from all over the U.S., some from the west coast, some from the east coast and some in between. They all will be home for a minimum of EIGHT DAYS !!! (Whoo! Hoo! - you all should be jealous - I'm getting at least 8 whole days with the most wonder fellas I know!!!) That means the littles and I have a lot of prep work to finish before the 23rd.
This single most important tool I can utilize in managing the next 22 days effectively is to WRITE out a plan. Yeah, for the past couple weeks I've been mulling ideas over in my head, but today is the day I will write out EVERYTHING I need and want to complete before everyone begins arriving.
After getting all my "to do's" down on paper, I will then prioritize all those tasks. What do I need to do vs. what would I like to do. For instance, the greatest gift I can bless my boys with are their personal favorite home cooked, from scratch meals. Therefore, I MUST have my meal plans, kitchen prep work and shopping for those meals completed before they arrive - otherwise, I will end up spending ALL my time isolated in the kitchen resulting in no time with my family. I have to finish some gift shopping (only 3 to go - all the rest was completed while in my p.j.'s, via a wonderful little tool called the internet) and have a few homemade gifts to finish up. I also want the house to be tidy and organized before they arrive. When you are expecting to go from only 3 to 8 overnight, things need to be in good order so the new arrivals will have a place to stash their luggage and personal belongings during the visit. And of course, I'd like to put up a few Christmas decorations, which means a trip to storage (we've already packed all our seasonal belongings and put them in storage in preparation for our move). There are a few others, but I think you get where I'm going with this.
I have three weeks to complete my prep work. So, I will yet again prioritize my list into three weeks and assign myself various tasks that need to be completed each day. I will divide my weeks into 5 days. This will allow us to maintain our Sabbath and give us 1 extra work day for "make-up" work each week, just in case something goes awry.
I know that for many "making a list & checking it twice" is not your idea of holiday cheer. But I promise the hour or two I spend writing out this plan will keep me focused during the next three weeks enabling me to utilize my time effectively. When my boys arrive on the 23rd, I will have everything I need to complete and most of what I want to complete finished. My family will come home to a wife/mother/daughter who did her "homework" resulting in a joyous, relaxing time of fellowship and togetherness.
So, get off the computer. Get your note pad, pencil and calendar and start planning for your family's big get together. I pray you and your family have a BLESSED Christmas season!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Taking a Stand

Today, all scripture references are quoted from the NIV Bible.

Today, I have decided to write about a topic that has been heavy on my heart for a while. Within my extended family, it is a controversial and divisive topic.

In the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Church of Corinth sexual immorality had been brought to his attention. Causing him the need to address that sexual sin within the church is not to be permitted. In chapter 5, verses 1-8, we find a man who had taken his father's wife and to Paul's chagrin, the church of Corinth had been accepting to this - even the unsaved, Gentiles, didn't engage in this particular practice of sexual sin. Paul admonishes the church of Corinth for glorifying such an act. (1 Cor. 5:1-2: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that the he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you." 1 Cor. 5:6-7; Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.")

In Chapter 5, verses 9-13, Paul instructs the church that God judges the unsaved, whereas the church judges the brethren. Paul instructs the church to turn away and not even eat with fellow brethren who are engaged in sexual immorality, covetous, idolatry, revelry, drunkenness or extortion. Please note again, Paul leaves the judging of the un-saved to God, and instructs the church is to continue its witnessing to the unsaved world. It is clear from this passage that we are not to condone or glorify sexual sin among brethren. (1 Cor. 9-13; I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler , or a drunkard, or an extortioner - not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person.")

As we continue reading down to Chapter 6, verses 9-11, we find Paul warning us not to be deceived. He emphatically stresses that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul also reminds us that we were once the unrighteous but through Salvation in Jesus Christ we have been sanctified and justified. (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards or revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.)

It is with a heavy heart that I report that there are MANY unsaved in our family. Although heavily exposed to the Word of God and Christianity, the majority on both sides of our families have intentionally rejected salvation through Jesus Christ. We have found that most of the unsaved in our family have bought stock in the lie that being a nice, successful and "good" person is enough. However, we all know that the Word of God tell us, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."- Romans 3:23. I am sure there are many others out there who find themselves surrounded with unsaved family members.

Today, I am not addressing sin among fellow brethren. I want to address how do we, as Christians, interact with unsaved family members who actively engage in sexual immorality? (I've met many who refuse any association with unsaved family who engage in sexual immorality; causing a great devide.) According to 1 Cor. 9-10, we are to continue an interaction with the unsaved so that we can maintain a witness to them. We personally have many unsaved in our family who are guilty of marital relations outside of marriage and even some who have justified adultery. We also have family who have found themselves dating others who have family members in same sex relationships.

Does 1Cor. 5:9-10 indicate that I am to allow the unsaved to bring sexual immorality into my home? 1 Cor. 6:18 says, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body". In order to maintain a righteous witness to the unsaved, I think it is very important that I say, "No". Unsaved family members are and continue to be welcomed guests into our home. We love them and pray for them. Most are very nice people and we enjoy hosting them. However, they are NOT permitted to engage in immoral behaviours while in our home. We do not allow unmarried couples to share a bedroom. Contrary to what they think or assume, I do not judge our unsaved family members, that's God's job. However, as a Christian, and as a parent, I must maintain a Biblical standard in my home.

Unfortunately, I often find myself in the situation of unsaved family members avoiding fellowship in our home. Most of our family lives out of state, those who live in state live hundreds of miles away. When they visit it is expected that they will stay for several days. Unfortunately, we find many don't visit because we do not allow them to share a bed/bedroom with their unmarried friend. We've had friends of family members who didn't want to meet us because they assumed we would be mean and judgemental regarding the sexual immorality they, or even their own extended family members, are involved in. On occasion, we've experienced this with our grown sons' friends. Sometimes when our sons have shared our Christian convictions some of their friends make a decision to not meet us. (I wonder if my sons shared this information with a negative tone? ) Again, I want to stress that although I take a stance regarding Biblical standards, I am not rude or mean to the unsaved who come into my home. To do so, would not be very "Christian" of me. It is my Christian duty to demonstrate the love of Christ to not only fellow brethern, but also to the unsaved.

I find this topic to not only to be one of Christian standards, but also one of common courtesy. Most smokers are considerate and do not become offended when non-smoking friends and family do not allow smoking in their homes. The smokers simply abstain from smoking inside the homes and cars of non-smokers. Why, then, have I experienced the unsaved becoming terribly offended when we Christians expect them to abstain from sexual immorality while in our homes? I've been accused of negatively judging them. I maintain that my judgements aren't necessary, God is very well capable of that. But, I am responsible for maintaining an environment of Biblical standards in my home. I am responsible for any and all sinful behaviours that I allow into my home home which could have an un-Biblical influence on our children. I can not completely and fully shield my children from sin. It is everywhere. We can not even drive down the road without seeing an inappropriate billboard or walk into a grocery store without seeing someone who needs more clothing. Just because our society is accepting of and drowning in sin, does not mean I must allow it into the sanctuary our home. I certainly can not send a message to our children that sin is acceptable. If I fail to teach them that sin has severe consequences, then how are they supposed to recognize their own need for salvation?

I pray that our unsaved family members will come to understand that we too were at one time separated from God by our own sins. I pray that they will come to understand that our firm stance regarding the issue of guarding our home against sexual immorality is not a judgement directed at them, but is a standard that we must maintain as a witness to, not only our children but, them. I pray they will, soon, accept the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ and turn away from their sin.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday

(photo: L-Mrs. A; R- Mrs.B)

Today's Topic: Hosting Guests / Little $$$

God did not bless me with a biological sister, however, more than 10 years ago, He blessed me with Mrs.A.
She and I have not only become the closest of friends but we've also become sisters. Even our children think of themselves as cousins. Because of the poor and sinful choices I made as a teenager and young woman, I lost most of my extended family. But, a few short years after accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour, God blessed me and our family with Mrs.A. She and hers have literally become our extended family. I will forever praise and thank the Lord for blessing us with her.

This afternoon the littles and I had the pleasure of hosting Mrs.A for lunch! On her way to our house she picked up a movie AND some dark chocolate covered raisins -- yum-0. I've often visited with folks who often feel intimidated in the area of hospitality. They don't think their entertainment skills are polished enough, they worry they can't afford elaborate meals, appetizers or snacks OR they simply worry their home is not decorated well.

Today, I want to drown those fears and anxieties. First of all, when others accept an invitation to your home they are choosing to spend time with you and your family. Most do not make this decision based upon the meal or entertainment you are providing. Very few worry about your decor. Others come into your home because they desire to spend time with YOU.

Now, of course we all want our homes to be clean and neat (not necessarily spotless) when hosting others. The one thing our guests do not want to experience when they visit is a hostess who is so worried about making everything perfect, she doesn't have any fun or have any time to spend with them. If we don't have time to visit with our guests or if we don't have a pleasant time ourselves, then what's the point of hosting others in our homes? It took me many years to learn that when guests arrive at my home, they are there to spend time with ME. Do they enjoy a tasty meal? Of course. Do they feel more comfortable if the house is tidy? Of course they do. Do they expect or want me to nervously run around trying to make and keep everything perfect while they are there? NO! Is an expensive, extravagant and above board elegant dinner party the reason they came? NO!

This afternoon I served my dear sweet sister, Mrs.A, stuffed eggs, taco soup, garlic bread and water or iced tea - inexpensive, tasty, filling and SIMPLE. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Mrs.A enjoyed snuggling under a throw quilt, sitting on a pillow on our living room floor while OG played with her hair during our viewing of the movie she brought. We all leisurely snacked on, yum-o, dark chocolate covered raisins. We had a FABULOUS afternoon. It was easy, casual, relaxed and filled with the blessing of just being with those who love you. If you often or occasionally find yourself intimidated by hosting others in your home, please, take a deep breath and keep it simple.
Here's my VERY frugal and simple taco soup recipe:

TACO SOUP

Soup:
1 lb. ground meat (today I used elk)
1 med. onion, chopped
1 qt. chopped tomatoes w/ juice
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
3 6 oz. cans water
1 batch taco seasoning (recipe here: http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/search/label/recipes%3A%20homemade%20mixes )
1 bay leaf

Toppings: (optional)
broken tortilla chips
chopped lettuce
sour cream
diced tomatoes
grated cheese
snipped green onion OR fresh chives
diced avocado
sliced olives

Place soup ingredients in large soup pot. Mix well. Cook over medium heat for 45 min. - 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.
I prefer to serve the toppings on the side so everyone can add whatever and however much they personally desire.
Serves 6

cost breakdown:

ground elk: free (a friend blessed us with more than 50# earlier this year)
tomatoes: $1.18
onion: $.34
tomato paste: $.20
taco seasoning: .$34
toppings: $2.00
stuffed eggs: $.50 (cost is for mix-ins - we sell our extra yard eggs to pay for chicken feed = free eggs)
garlic bread: $.96
iced tea: $1.60

TOTAL: $7.12 OR $1.19 per person
(note: if you had to purchase the meat and eggs your cost would increase to only $9.61 OR $1.60 per person.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving & A Few Odds and Ends

Happy Thanksgiving to All !!!

Last Friday I had to have oral surgery to remove a wisdom tooth and Mr. B flew home from the bitterly cold north to help with the children while I recovered. Since he was home, we celebrated our Thanksgiving last Thursday evening. Today Mr. B is back up North, and the littles and I are enjoying a relaxing day of piddling around and not doing much of anything.

We pray you and yours enjoy a blessed day filled with many smiles and the makings of very happy memories.

Recently I've spent about an hour a day reading posts by MaryAnn from over at "A Joyful Chaos" ( http://ajoyfulchaos.blogspot.com/ ). I've really enjoyed the sweet precious memories she has generously shared about her Amish childhood. A while back she wrote a post entitled "Odd Things About Me" and I've decided I'd also like to share some "odd things about me" with my readers. I hope some you do the same as I always find it fun and interesting to learn new things about others.

1. Do you like bleu cheese? Yes. I love all sort of cheeses - it's one of my favorite foods.

2. Have you ever smoked? No - Well, I tried to puff a cigarette once, gagged and to this day I can't fathom why anyone would desire to smoke.

3. What color Kool Aid was your favorite? I've never liked Kool-Aid

4. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Yes. I don't like being touched by people outside my family.

5. What do you think of hot dogs? I like them only on occasion. For instance, when camping or at a cookout & then I like to roast them over a fire until the outside is slightly charred.

6. Favorite Christmas movie? It's A Wonderful Life, of course.

7. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Milk

8. Can you do push ups? A few.

9. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? I actually have two favorite pieces. A diamond rose patterned dinner ring that belonged to my maternal grandmother AND a "mother's" ring that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I don't wear either because I do not have pretty hands.

10. Favorite hobby? Gardening.

11. Do you have A. D. D.? Medically speaking no - but some days things are so crazy around here one would think I do.

12. Do you wear glasses/contacts? No. However, I have started wearing low strength reading glasses for small print, threading needles, crochet and embroidery.

13. Middle name? Begins with letter J.

14. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment. a. I am excited about my husband and the big boys coming home for Christmas. b. I wish our home would sell so the littles and I can move north to be with Mr.B. c. Our weather is warm today - doesn't "feel" like Thanksgiving.

15. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Water, milk, sweet iced tea

16. Current worry? N. & S. Korea - what will this mean for my JP who is active duty Navy.

17. Current hate? Living in "limbo". For almost two years our family has been considering or trying to move north where Mr.B works. Much of our life has been "on hold" while we've been house hunting, trying to sell our current house, etc.

18. Where would you like to go? North so the littles can be with their daddy.

19. Do you own slippers? Yes. Since we do not wear street shoes in the house, our hardwood floors make them a necessity during winter.

20. What color shirt are you wearing? White & pink.

21. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? No. I like 600 or more thread count cotton for summers and when up north during winter I like heavy flannel.

22. Can you whistle? Nope.

23. Where are you now? Dining room

24. Would you be a pirate? No.

25. What songs do you sing in the shower? I usually don't sing. I am VERY inhibited about my poor singing abilities.

26. Favorite Girl's Name? Esther

27. Favorite boy's name? Andrew

28. What's in your pocket right now? Nothing

29. Who last made you laugh? OG and EJ

30. What vehicle do you drive? 4-wheel drive Expedition - GREAT for traveling to the north and when all our kiddos are home, everyone fits.

31. Worst injury you've ever had? It's a toss up between a broken tailbone and a broken knee cap.

32. Do you love where you live? No. But it is much better than many other places I've lived so, no complaints.

33. How many TVs do you have in your house? One. Before I married I didn't have a t.v. However, marriage to Mr.B has changed that - I firmly put my foot down to owning only one.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane


Ahhh, air dried bed linens. Every Monday evening as I crawl into bed at night, the scent of freshly washed and line dried bed linens takes me back, so many years ago, to Grandma's house.
Memories of my paternal grandmother, or Grandma as I called her, are my most treasured memories. As a little bitty girl she was my best friend. As a young girl, she was still my best friend. Even as a teenager, although we were separated by 1,000 miles, it turned out that she was still my best friend.
Grandma was 60 years old when I was born. It wasn't long before I became the apple of her eye. "Babydoll" was her name for me. She called me that even after I'd become a mother myself. When OG was a little bitty girl, my dad often commented on how much she was like me when I was little. If that is true, I can easily see how I quickly became so special to Grandma. OG was the sweetest and happiest little girl.
I remember as a small child living in Grandma's home. A little bitty 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom frame house. She didn't have a car. She didn't have air conditioning. She didn't even have a washing machine. But ahhhhh - love ... she had sooo much love and she showered me with it daily.
When I was little she used to wash the laundry in the bathtub. She used an old plunger handle to stir and swish the water. She'd drain out the wash water and fill the tub with clean rinse water and stir and swish the soap out of the laundry. She did this twice - "wash once, rinse twice" she'd say. Then she's hand wring the laundry and place it in a basket and carry it to her little back stoop where she had a wringer attached. As she fed the laundry into the wringer, she often times let me turn the crank, it would fall into another basket. She would then haul the laundry out to the clothes line and pin it up to dry.
On hot summer evenings, after my bath I would never use a towel to dry off. I'd put my jammie's on while I was still damp. Grandma would then help me brush my teeth and she would brush out and braid my knee length hair. My jammie's would be damp from the bath water when I climbed into her bed. She had a large fan in the window that blew a gentle breeze across the middle of the bed and it would make us just cool enough to fall asleep. Each night I drifted off to sleep with the scent of line dried bed linens and Grandma softly singing old Celtic tunes to me ... "you take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scottland 'fore ye ..."
Line dried bed linens - if love had a scent, that's what it would smell like to me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday


There was a time when instant dry milk was all our family could afford. Times have changed and we are now blessed to be able to generally drink organic whole milk, sometimes we are blessed with raw milk - Mmmm the best.
However, I still find uses for the budget friendly instant dry milk. I like to keep a quart sized container of dry milk mixed up and ready for use in my fridge. I use it in baked goods, macaroni & cheese, cream type soups, gravies, puddings, custard type pies, etc.
Last evening we enjoyed our Thanksgiving early by celebrating with Mr.B who came home to assist me while having a wisdom tooth removed later today. Chocolate cream pie is Mr.B's favorite dessert, thus I HAD to make one for our early Thanksgiving celebration. Here's my chocolate cream pie recipe that, of course, uses instant dry milk.
CHOCOLATE CREAM PIE
Pudding/Pie Master Mix:
5 1/2 c. sugar
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour OR 2 c. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. instant dry milk
Combine all ingredients and store in a air tight container in a cool dry place. Makes about 10 c. mix. (see additional recipes for master mix below chocolate cream pie recipe)
Chocolate Filling:
1 1/4 c. pudding/pie master mix
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 3/4 c. reconstituted instant dry milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. butter
Cream Topping:
1 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
cocoa powder OR bittersweet chocolate squares (for garnish)
In a medium pan, combine master mix, sugar, cocoa powder and 1 c. reconstituted milk. Stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat, gradually adding remaining 1 3/4 c. reconstituted milk, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil slightly and thickens. Remove from heat. Gradually add 1/2 hot pudding mixture to the beaten eggs while stirring constantly (this is called tempering). Slowly blend egg mixture back into the pudding mixture. Cook an additional 1 minute, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and butter. Cool and pour into a prepared pie crust. Refrigerate.
In a medium COLD bowl (place it the refrigerator for 20 minutes) combine whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer on high speed for 3-5 minutes until cream stiffens into a whipped cream texture. Spread whipped cream over the chocolate pie filling. Grate bittersweet chocolate over the top of the whipped cream OR sprinkle with cocoa powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
makes 8 servings
This pie also freezes well. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator before serving.
*To make chocolate pudding: increase milk to 3 cups
*To make vanilla pudding: increase milk to 3 cups, omit cocoa powder and 1/4 c. sugar
*To make vanilla pie filling: omit cocoa powder and 1/4 c. sugar
*To make coconut cream pie: prepare vanilla pie filling, stir in 1 c. shredded coconut when adding vanilla and butter. Sprinkle additional coconut over whipped cream topping
*To make banana cream pie: prepare vanilla pie filling, stir in two sliced bananas when adding vanilla and butter
*To make a meringue pies: omit whipped cream topping and top with your favorite meringue recipe, bake until peaks brown slightly, cool and refrigerate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Composting -

Composting is a terrific way to reuse organic matter. It will feed your vegetable garden, flowerbeds and lawn. I rarely purchase fertilizer because rich compost will provide you with all the fertilizer your plant life can consume. Composting is a simple task that even apartment dwellers can do - it is great for those container gardens I often see apartment dwellers tending while out on their patios.

For many years, I had a homemade compost bin made out of three pallets turned up on their sides and held together with baling wire. We simply deposited our organic matter in a pile in the bin. During dry periods, I would water it to keep it moist, not wet, and 2-3 times per month I would use a pitch fork to turn / stir the piled up matter. Last spring I purchased a composting barrel that turns with a crank. It was a 2009 clearance model so, I bought it at a deeply discounted price. I think a composting barrel would work well for folks living in an apartment who have limited space. However, I've also met folks who use a large black garbage bag for composting as well.

Here's a list of organic materials we have put in our compost bin:

shredded paper
dryer lint
vegetable & fruit scraps
grass clippings
leaves
old hay from the hen house / rabbit pens
chicken manure
5 gal. buckets of the baled, yucky water from the stock trough (I do this 1-2 times per month / I also pour this water on my flower beds -the plants LOVE it)
rabbit manure
vegetarian feeds that have gotten wet & are no longer usable
horse manure
cow manure
dead plants that did not die from disease or fungus

Things we NEVER put in our compost bin include:

meat or processed animal products, such as milk or cheese
animal feces from any carnivorous animal, such as our dog
garden or flowerbed plants that have a plant disease or fungus (it is best to dispose of these in the burn pit OR in the trash)

So, in the end don't waste those kitchen scraps and other organic materials by throwing them in the trash. Save some money on your gardens, flowerbeds and lawn by reusing it in the form of FREE compost.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Make It For Less Monday


Today, I'd like to share another penny pinching idea with you. Almost every time I venture into a Hobby Lobby, JoAnn's Fabric or other sewing / crafting retailer, I make sure to stop by the deeply discounted remnant section of the store. Here in this area I've had the pleasure of finding all sorts of wonderful fabrics, trims, yarns, etc. always discounted a minimum of 50%, often times as much as 90 - 95%.
Recently I found the above floral valance and matching throw pillow fabric, 1.5 yards, marked down from $12.00 per yard to $5.78 for the entire 1 1/2 yard remnant. Also in the discount bin was the sage & gold tasseled valance trim, 1 7/8 yard for only 1.98! I had some left over pillow stuffing stashed away from a previous project, so for less than $8.00 I made TWO window valances and a matching throw pillow for my bedroom. Now, that's a bargain and I'm loving the "face lift" this beautiful fabric gave my room.
So, next time you venture into your local sewing / crafting center make sure you stop by the remnant section, you never know what kind of gems could be there waiting for you.
Note: I always set myself a remnant budget of $5 - $25 depending upon what I can afford at that given time. Also, there are times when nothing in the remnant bin strikes my fancy. In that situation, I just tuck my remnant money away for another day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday (Belated, Again)


Yes, I know ... I am "tardy" again with a Frugal Feasting Friday post ... What ever are we going to do with me?
Today's frugal feasting tip: Stretching a 2 pie recipe into 3 pies. Earlier this week I volunteered to donate a couple pumpkin pies to our church for a bake sale. Yesterday, I realized that I was out of the disposable aluminum pie pans that are perfect for bake sales. So, off I went to my local dollar store to purchase a 3 or 4 pack for, well, a dollar. However, my local store was out of 9 & 10 inch plates, all they had in stock were the 8 inch size. I purchased a three pack.
My pumpkin pie recipe makes two nice 10 in. pies, with only 8 in. pans what would I do with the left over pie crust and pumpkin filling? I decided to try "stretching" two 10 in. pumpkin pie recipes into three 8 in. pies tins. Guess what? It worked beautifully. By 8:00 am I had three beautiful, perfect pumpkin pies - no overages or shortages. So, I took two to the bake sale and the littles and I shared a LARGE slice of the third when we returned home this afternoon ... a Thanksgiving tease.
Here's my pumpkin pie recipe, it will make two 10 in. pies OR three 8 in. pies.
Pie Crust (from Amish Cooking pg. 182 - This is, by the way, the BEST pie crust recipe you'll ever find anywhere)
3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 c. shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
5 tbsp. ice water
1 tsp. vinegar
Mix flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in shortening. Combine egg, water and vinegar. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until a soft dough forms. (If necessary add more ice water 1/2 tsp. at a time). Divide dough into two or three equal portions. Refrigerate while making pie filling.
*When ready to roll out the pie dough, I have found using a floured pastry cloth and covering your rolling pin with a floured knit rolling pin tube (a clean stray sock with the toe cut out also works well) is a tremendous benefit - I highly recommend purchasing these - they are machine washable and can be reused for years.
*I've found the easiest method of transferring the pie crust from the pastry cloth to the pie plate is to roll the pie crust around the rolling pin and then un-roll the crust over the pie plate. I then trim and /or fold under the excess and flute the edges.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
2 15 oz. cans pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 10 in. unbaked pie shells OR 3 unbaked 8in pie shells
Mix pumpkin, vanilla, and ground spices well. Add sweetened condensed milk and eggs. Stir until well combined. Pour equal amounts into unbaked pie shells. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake another 35 - 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pies completely before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers. This recipe freezes well; thaw in refrigerator.
Makes 2 10 in. pies / 16 servings OR 3 8 in. pies / 24 servings
Frugal Calorie Tip:
When each pie is sliced into 8 servings, the 8 in. slices result in a smaller serving than the 10 in. slices- thus, fewer calories.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank A Veteran

(photo courtesy of: samanthaTSU at www.photobucket.com)


Today, I'd like to encourage you to pray for our U.S. military, active and veterans, and their families.
Whether you take great pride and fully support our military OR even if you disagree with the jobs and missions they are assigned to carry out, I gently remind all that because of the job they do, they personally ensure your freedom to hold and express your opinion. Because of this, I think our veterans and military personnel, from the highest ranking down to the newly enlisted, deserve our utmost respect and, of course, prayers for protection, guidance and wisdom regardless of our personal opinions.
Yes, I am biased in my own opinion(s). I am a proud mother of a U.S. Air Force Veteran and I am currently a proud mother of an Active Duty U.S. Sailor. I've previously written about the mixed feelings and emotions I experience, endure and contend with as a mother of active duty children. Feelings of pride and hope coupled with feelings of worry and uncertainty.
Regardless of any emotion I, as a mother, may be experiencing at any given moment, I always carry a feeling of gratitude. I am grateful that my sons, and all the others who have gone before them and all those who will come after them, were and are ready, able and, most of all, willing to enter into service for their fellow countrymen - even service for those who disagree with or despise them.
I hope today you will take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks for the men and women who have made personal sacrifices to serve our nation and also show some gratitude to those who are currently serving our nation. Because of them, we all have the freedom to hold the ideas and opinions we carry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday


We are in our 7th year of home schooling and can you believe that we've never purchased a single ream of copy paper for school worksheets or assignments? Recycling the back side of paper is the key to this environmentally friendly money saver. It's simple, if the back side of an 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper is unused, instead of throwing it away, I draw an "X" across the printed side and place it in our "school paper" drawer for use in our printer/copier.
I "recycle" almost every piece of 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper that comes through our home. I not only use recycled paper for school work; I also use it when printing off Map Quest directions, misc. copies that I need to keep on file, non-business correspondence, shopping lists, etc. Most of our recycled paper arrives via junk mail but I've also had friends donate scrap paper from their offices or home businesses. Basically, I reuse anything that doesn't need to be kept on file.
So, if you are looking for another way to pinch a penny or two, consider recycling the unused side of copy paper. Do you have a Waste Not Want Not tip you'd like to share?
NOTE: NEVER use documents / papers that contain social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or other information that could possibly aid someone with identity theft - identifying documents / papers should ALWAYS be cross-shredded and securely disposed of.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday

On Friday evenings I generally like to keep our meals quick, simple and fun. We often enjoy homemade pizzas or nachos. However, today, we finally awoke to cool autumn temperatures - low 40's ... why some folks here in S.E. Texas would even consider that down right COLD. I know better than that ... although I am a native Texan, I have had the opportunity to live and visit elsewhere. From personal experience I've learned that 40 something does not constitute COLD weather.

This morning's cooler temperatures did put me in the mood for some good old spicy comfort food, like chili and cornbread. (Yeah, I know, many yanks like their chili over pasta or rice, but here in Texas, we eat it with a SIDE of cornbread, garlic bread or crackers.) So this evening I will share my quick, simple, and frugal chili recipe with you.


Chili and Cornbread

3 1/2 c. cooked pinto beans, (1 lb. pkg. dried)
1/2 lb. ground meat (today I used elk, but you can use beef)
1 tbsp. bacon grease (omit if using store bought ground beef)
1 qt. tomatoes w/ juice, diced
1 lg. onion, diced
1 tbsp. Spanish paprika
2-3 tbsp. chili powder (less for mild / more for spicy)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. all-purpose seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
water

In a large stock pot, stir together all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly. If too thick, stir in water until desired consistancy is reached. Reduce heat and simmer an additional 20 minutes. Serve immediately with a side of cornbread ( http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/07/fried-green-tomatoes.html ).
Makes 6 servings.

Frugal Time Tip: Cook dried beans (1/2 the price per oz. of canned) ahead of time and freeze them in 1 or 2 cup portions. Whenever a recipe calls for cooked beans, they are cooked up and ready for use. I generally cook mine overnight while sleeping by using my crock pot. Cooking dried beans while sleeping or out of the house is a huge time and money saver.

Cost Breakdown:
1 lb. dried beans, $0.98
1/2 lb. ground beef, $0.99
qt. tomatoes $1.18
onion $0.34
spices $0.50 (est.)
homemade cornbread $0.78 (8 servings)

Total: $4.77 OR only $0.76 per person

2009 - 2010 Histroy Trail

A few months ago, (June '10), I shared photos from our 2009 Nature Trail. Today, I'd like to share a few photos from some of the history field trips we've had the opportunity to experience during the last year and a half. Whenever we travel, we try to incorporate various field trips. I think the opportunity to experience re-enactments and visit historical museums helps history come alive in a child's mind giving them a better understanding of the times they've studied.

Renaissance Festival - 2010, Plantersville, TX


OG and a home school mate in period dress. I think they are dancing in this photo.


Birds of prey demonstration.
Bell Instrument. It is played by one person using a pulley type system. Quite amazing!


Demonstration of the Gutenberg Press. If it had not been invented, would we have unrestricted access to the Holy Bible today?



Blacksmithing demonstration. This is a trade that remained virtually unchanged for centuries. There are still folks who use traditional blacksmithing methods even today.

History Trail - Part 2

Naval Air Base Museum - 2010, Pensacola, FL
Board singed by Navy personnel stationed in Baghdad during the 1st wave of the Iraq War post 9/11.
Sea landing Bi-plane from the early 1900's

As modern as this jet looks, it is antiquated by today's standards. Notice how the wings fold up and in. It is designed this way for transport and use on and from aircraft carriers.

History Trail - Part 3

Indian Arts Festival - 2009 Ft. Union, MT
We had the privledge of attending the Indian Arts Festival held at Ft. Union last summer. It was very interesting to learn a few facts about early Americn Native American culture.
Tee-pee: traditional mobile shelter used by Native Americans in early history

Elk Antlers

Demonstration of Brian Tanning an Elk Hide: Did you know that every animal's brain contains the exact amount of brain matter to needed to tan it's hide?


Demonstration of one of many Native American Dances



Demonstration of another Native American Dance



History Trail - Part 4

Mount Rushmore's Museum - 2009, South Dakota
It was so cloudy during our visit to Mt. Rushmore, we couldn't see the faces carved into the mountain. Instead,we saw the majestic image of the U.S. Flag flying in front of a very thick haze. We also toured the museum. Steam engine equipment used as part of the blasting/carving process.
Another display explaining the process of "carving" these huge images into the mountain rock.

History Trail Part - 5

Lewis & Clark Trail Rendezvous Re-Enactment 2009, Ft. Union, MT
These photos are from the re-enactment of the early American Rendezvous along the Lewis and Clark trail. Each year the fur companies from the east would meet up with the trappers and Native Americans out west to purchase furs and hides. The rendezvous served as not only places of commerce but also as a place of rare entertainment and socialization. OG wearing her prairie dress.
Buffalo Hide Press

Annual Supply Manifest



Replica of one of the many shelters that would be used by American trappers and Native Americans alike.

Histroy Trail - Part 6

Gunsmithing

Indian Finger Weaving


Period Dress & a Buffalo Hide Boat


Replica of General Store



Fort Union




Monday, November 1, 2010

Belated Frugal Feasting Friday

You all know that I usually have a plan and I always mean well, but sometimes life just throws us curve ball and we end up dropping it. So, I'm a few days late with a Frugal Feasting Friday post. I apologize for my tardiness.

Any of you who have been following my blog for any length of time know that for over 20 years our family lived on a very lean budget. Our family has three birthdays in the month of October, so, today I am going to share our family's frugal birthday tradition that was started 26 1/2 years ago with the birth of our first son, AB.

Years ago, we couldn't have afforded a lavish birthday party and numerous gifts no matter how much we may have desired it. However, we still wanted our children's birthdays to be special and memorable. So, for the past 26 1/2 years we have done the following:

**Birthday parties are limited to only family members.
**Mom and Dad select ONE budget friendly gift for the birthday boy or girl.
**Brothers and sister each give ONE gift. (the littles have a $5 store bought budget or $5 materials budget for homemade & they must use their own money)
**Mom cooks, from scratch the birthday boy or girl's favorite meal.
**Mom bakes the birthday boy or girl their favorite cake.
**We all eat supper together.
**We light the birthday candles and sing while the birthday boy or girl makes a wish and blows them out.
** We open gifts and take photos.
** We enjoy birthday cake and sometimes ice cream.

That's it. Very simple and very frugal. Have our children ever felt like they've missed out by not having a huge party or an excessive amount of expensive gifts? Not to my knowledge. Each of our children have always seemed very excited about their approaching birthdays. Like other children, ours are very eager to let everyone they know their birthdays are approaching and they always seem to have fun and are happy and thankful for their gift(s). The big boys, who are now grown, seem to have fond memories of birthday time around our house. I personally think the key to this is the consistency of the same tradition from year to year and from child to child.

Here's a couple photos from last week's birthday celebrations.

EJ, opening his gift from OG - some new rubber fishing worms and a new lure.



OG making her wish before she blows out the candles on her German chocolate cupcakes.

Another photo of OG, posing with her gifts.
This year, both EJ and OG requested seafood meals for their birthday suppers. I had some shrimp and crab meat left over and decided to make up a pot of Seafood Etoufee (a creole dish with just a bit of spice). Here's my recipe, if y'all try it I hope y'all enjoy it as much as we do.
SEAFOOD ETOUFEE

1/2 c. vegetable oil (no substitutions)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. onion, diced
1 c. celery, diced
1/2 c. bell pepper, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 dashes hot sauce
1 small can clam juice
1 pint tomatoes, chopped
1 c. chicken broth (estimated amount)
1 lb. raw, uncooked seafood (shrimp, crab, scallops, fish, creyfish, etc. or any combination)
1/2 stick butter (no substitutions)
3 c. hot cooked rice
green onion, chopped for garnish
In a heavy stock pot or cast iron dutch oven stir together vegetable oil and flour to make a roux, about 20 minutes. (Roux: equal parts oil and flour cooked over medium heat stirring frequently until mixture turns brown and smells nutty. Roux is an essential component of many Creole and Cajun recipes).
Add onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and hot pepper sauce. Add clam juice and tomatoes. Stir, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes stirring occasionally. The mixture should be about as thick as stew, if it is thick like gravy stir in enough chicken broth to thin out mixture. Add seafood and stir. After 3-5 minutes (when seafood is cooked through) remove from heat and stir in butter. Serve 1 cup of etoufee over 1/2 cup of hot cooked rice, garnish with green onions.
Makes 6 servings.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugal Feasting Friday


This past Saturday I had the following conversation with my EJ.
Mom: "Hey EJ, would you like a treat after you finish cleaning the hen house and coop?"
EJ: "Oh Yes! What kind of treat?"
Mom: "How about a banana split?"
EJ: "OH!! Yes, Yes, Yes!!"
This very excited response is immediately followed by a sudden pause of silence. Then ...
EJ: "Mom, what's a banana split?"
How's that for terrible parenting? My poor, deprived, little EJ has lived a long life of 8 years and doesn't even know what a banana split is!! How, oh! how can this be?
It is because poor, deprived, little EJ's mom is a MAJOR TIGHTWAD. I realistically can not bring myself to spend $3 or more on a banana split Sunday at Dairy Queen, Sonic, Baskin Robbins, Marble Slab or any other specialty ice cream shop. Especially when we lovely folks down here in S.E. Texas have all the Blue Bell ice cream those folks at the Blue Bell ice cream factory can not finish eating. Why, there simply is not a store bought ice cream better than Blue Bell. (for those of you who don't have the privilege of Blue Bell, I extend my sympathies... everyone down here knows that at Blue Bell, "they eat all they can and sell the rest" - they really do ... employees can literally eat all the ice cream they want for free directly before their shifts, on breaks or directly after their shifts).
I usually have only one flavored dessert sauce on hand at any given time hence, usually a plain old Sunday not the extravagance of a banana split. However, this past Saturday I felt industrious and made three, yes THREE flavors. The total costs of all three homemade sauces & whipped cream, the ice cream, and the bananas is a little more than $12. However, by making the sauces and whipped cream myself and purchasing the Blue Bell and bananas from the grocer, I can make around 10 banana splits. That's only a cost of about $1.30 each vs. the $3 ea., or more, from the specialty store.
So, this Frugal Feasting Friday I'm going to share recipes for homemade dessert sauces with you. Please remember these sauces are also very yummy over pancakes, waffles, French toast, brownies, etc. Best of all these sauces take less than 10 minutes from start to finish to make :-)
Homemade Hershey's Chocolate Sauce
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened Hershey's Cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
In a large sauce pan whisk together the sugar, water and cocoa powder. Heat, stirring constantly over medium heat. When mixture comes to a full rolling boil stir and boil for a full 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Allow to come to room temperature before pouring into a pint size jar. Store in the refrigerator.
Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. butter (do not substitute margarine)
1/4 c. corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
In a large sauce pan combine all ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil and stir for a full 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a pint jar. Store in the refrigerator. This sauce will thicken up while in the fridge. Just scoop some out into a small bowl and soften either in a hot water bath or in the microwave.
Homemade Strawberry Sauce
2 c. sugar
1 c. chopped strawberries
1/3 c. water
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is melted. Remove mixture from heat and pour into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Return mixture to pan and bring mixture to a boil stirring frequently. Once the mixture begins to boil stir constantly and boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a pint sized jar, store in the refrigerator. NOTE: with the exception of bananas, you can substitute any of your favorite fruits (fresh, canned or frozen), in this recipe.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back To (Home)School ...

During the past week or so I've read a few blogs and it seems most folks have "back to school" posts up. Since we home school year round, taking time off as needed for Mr. B's travel schedule (aka visits home), family visits, holidays, etc., we generally don't have any "back to school" trauma, events, expenses ... yes, I said expenses.

I was shocked to learn that my neighbor's kindergartner's school supply list included items such as a flash drive, dry erase markers, file folders in various colors, post-it notes, etc. I was even more shocked to find that after refusing to purchase items such as the flash drive, dry erase markers, etc., her little kindergartner's school supply list still cost more than $135.00!! My neighbor stated that if she had purchased everything on "the list", she would have been out more than $200.00 ... AND her child will not bring a single school supply item home at the end of the year. This, of course, does not include the expenses of school clothes and the $2.10 per day school lunches.

I remember when my older boys were in public school and the supply lists began morphing into an office supply vs. a school supply list. I was one of "those" parents who would stay up until 2AM writing, in permanent marker, my child's name on EVERY item I sent off in his back pack. Yup, I labeled every single file folder, box of chalk and pencil with my child's name. As I remember, back then the school never returned the crayons, pencil bag/box, map pencils, etc. at the end of the year either.

Thus, I come to the point of my post. Many parents have told me they'd love to home educate their children, but they simply can't afford it. They assume the curriculum is too expensive. Most parents, we certainly always have, generally keep "real" school supplies (glue, scissors, constructions paper, crayons, colored map pencils, etc.) on hand at home for various crafts and entertainment. When adding up the expenses of public education, I continually wonder how anyone can afford public school?
"School" Supplies
$200.00 per child

Lunches - our district attends school 183 days per year (yeah, one could always brown bag it, my older boys did, but I seriously do not personally know a single family whose children take their lunches to school now days.)
$384.40 per child

Field Trip (budgeting for only ONE per year)
$15.00 per child

That's a total of $599.40 per child and that does not include school clothes/uniforms OR extra curricular activities such as, cheer leading, sports, cosmetology, art, etc.

May, 2010 was our seven year anniversary since we chose to liberate our family from our state's public school system. After visiting with my neighbor, I decided to figure out exactly how much money we've spent on curriculum home educating our children during the past 7 years. (I am a type "A" personality and thus, a record keeper - I have all my home education receipts on file). During the past 7 years, we've spent a total of $2,582.24 on home schooling curriculum, that's an average of $368.89 per year for up to 3 students. We haven't purchased "school" clothes in seven years. Our kiddos have play/work clothes and church clothes. Since we home school, we don't need "school" clothes or uniforms.

Our first year home schooling was our most expensive year as we were educating only 1 child. Years 2-4 we educated 2, year 5 we were educating 3, years 6&7 we are now back down to 2 (JP, our 1st child to home school, was graduated from high school 2 years ago). I have met several home educating families who spend upwards of $2,500.00 or more per year, per child. Because of this, many often wonder how we educate our children so frugally. Here's a few things I do: (And believe it or not, I've actually met folks who home educate for as little as $50 per year, per student!).

1. We do not participate in satellite schools, distance learning schools or programs that take care of record keeping, etc. These "services" are, in my opinion, very expensive AND I personally think they restrict our family's personal freedom in educational choices. When using these programs / services the family must use the program's/ service's curriculum, one is restricted to grading period deadlines (not good for families who travel often), etc.

2. We do not use computer dependent curriculum. Not only are they expensive, can not be re-sold, but we can not save it and pass it down to younger children because of expiration dates.

3. We search for, find and purchase used text books and teacher's manuals. After all, if my kiddos were in public school they'd be issued used text books. Used curriculum is literally 1/2 the cost of new. 95% of ours is purchased through our local home school curriculum stores.

4. Because of an 8 year gap between JP and OG, when JP had completed his curriculum to our satisfaction, we re-sold the books. Our local home school curriculum stores will buy back used curriculum at 25% the cost of new. Occasionally, I've sold our used curriculum to other home schoolers at 50% the cost of new, so I've always recouped 50 %-100% of our initial investment (remember, I generally purchase used curriculum at 1/2 the cost of new).

5. There is only 3 years between OG and EJ, thus I save OG's curriculum to use with EJ. When EJ finishes to our satisfaction, I re-sell that used (twice by our family) curriculum which allows us to recoup at least 25% of our initial investment.

6. We use the public library. After all, our tax dollars have already purchased all those books.

7. If we need the sort of information generally found in an encyclopedia, we use the internet to look it up.

8. Many of our school supplies have been in our craft cabinet for years. We only add to them when needed. Thus, we literally spend less than $15.00 per year on consumables like glue, construction paper and maybe a new box of crayons every now and then.

Hummmm, $368.89 divided by 3 = $122.96 per student (WoW! that year we spent less than the public school supply list for all our curriculum).
$368.89 divided by 2 = $184.45 per student (WoW! still less than the public school supply list!)

Well, after considering how much money we've saved by home educating, I don't think our family can afford to place our children in public school ... Not that we'd ever want to go back to that ...