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.
(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!!

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).


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

(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

(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
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!