Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Bigger Share

We are now on week 3 of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The first couple weeks were a little sparse but no more! Here is a picture of my share this week after splitting it in half:

I am so glad we're splitting this in half! I don't think we've hit peak season yet either. I'm happy to see some more familiar vegetables this week. I don't mind trying new things once in awhile but I like what I know. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009


My sister is coming tomorrow and staying until Friday. Fun! I was asking her for some meal ideas and apparently she really likes chicken. So these are some tentative meal ideas, listed in random order:

- hot dogs, mac-n-cheese
- chicken divan, bread
- chicken enchiladas, spanish rice, chips
- hamburgers, pasta salad
- creamy italian chicken, bread, green beans

It will be interesting to see how little Barrett does being surrounded by this chaos. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Most people would say I'm not rebellious. I tend to follow rules and don't like to get in trouble. Outwardly, I stay between the lines. But inwardly, that is a different story. There is a part of me that wants to be different and break some rules. So when I make up a list of meals for the week, I start out following it like a good little girl and then around day 4, I begin to rebel.

I don't want to have that for supper, that doesn't sound good at all, who says I have to have that, what if I don't thaw the meat?

The meals left for this week are fondue, chicken garlic pasta, and bar-b-q beef. None of those sound good or particularly easy. We just had bami tonight and it was good but I don't want another chicken dish with noodles. Fondue is a little time consuming and I haven't put the beef in the crock pot yet for bar-b-q beef. So tomorrow might be something not on the meal plan. Hear my rebel yell.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sometimes you just know . . .

when it's time to move on. When it's time for the next step. I plan ahead and often will worry about what is coming up next and how it will go. But I'm realizing that when the time comes, it just happens and it works out.

I've been thinking about potty training Rachel and Owen this summer. When I potty-trained Brendan and Tori, I moved them to a regular bed so they could get out and go when they needed to go. I try to encourage independence from an early age with certain things.

So I knew that when I started potty-training Rachel and Owen, I'd want to move them to regular beds. We've also been planning to eventually switch the kids so Brendan and Owen are in one room and Tori and Rachel are in the other. It seems to make the most sense to do one big switch all at once.

We've been talking about possibilities for sleeping arrangements and what beds will fit where and I'm actually getting excited about it. I think I'm ready for this new phase. It's getting easier for our family to do things together and I love it. It doesn't feel like we're split in two as much - you stay with the younger two and I'll go with the older two. I like all of us together. It's time.

Bami recipe

Here is the recipe for bami, an indonesian stir fry.

4 or 6 pieces chopped bacon
1 sm onion chopped
2 lg chicken breasts, cut to bite size
1/2 bag noodles, cooked
1/2 head cabbage, chopped to bite size
soy sauce (to taste)

Brown bacon in 4 or 5 qt pan. Remove bacon; saute onion in bacon grease. Remove onion; brown and cook chicken in grease. Then add cooked noodles, cabbage, bacon and onion. Add soy sauce to coat.

We also make this without cabbage and think it's pretty tasty that way. But I have a 1/2 head of cabbage from our farm co-op so I plan to use that this time. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meal plan and laundry update

Here is what I'm thinking for meals this week:

- chicken enchiladas, spanish rice
- tator tot casserole, green beans
- bami (indonesian chicken and cabbage stir-fry), applesauce
- fondue, bread, salad
-chicken garlic pasta, focaccia bread
- bar-b-q beef sandwiches, tator tots, fresh veggies

Notice I didn't assign days for this, although this is the tentative order for the week.

My magic Tide is not performing as well as I expected. Certainly not as well as it did at the laundromat while on vacation. Was that a fluke? Was it because I used more because it was a sample pack and I had to use the whole thing? Are the washers better there? I'm not sure but I do know that if I still need to use stain removers with the expensive Tide here then it's not worth it. I think I will try the homemade stain remover and see if that works. Still hoping to save some money somewhere with all the laundry I do!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I just need to say that being smart with money does not come easily for me. I wasn't one of those who was born to save money or who never liked parting with money. I know I shop according to my mood swings and whole-heartedly believe in "retail therapy". I remember the first time I made a significant amount of money (somewhere between $70 and $80) when I was in junior high and how I took that money to Wal-Mart (after tithing 10%, of course) and spent the whole thing. I know I bought some blank tapes (to record favorite songs off the radio) and I remember a sweet pink purse but that is about it. Where did it all go?

The funny thing is that Josh was the complete opposite as a child. His mom told me that he and his sister, Jennifer, were both really good at saving money and always putting money in their bank accounts. She said that sometimes one of the kids would ask about going out to eat and sometimes they were told there wasn't enough money. According to her, Jennifer would occasionally offer to pay but Josh never did. That does not surprise me. :) He has loosened up now (it took about 10 years) and is really generous but he still would rather put money in the bank than spend it. And I know that is a big reason why I am able to stay home with our kids so I do appreciate and respect his attitude about money.

We are much the same today as we were back then. I can walk through Target and easily fill a cart with things that I want to buy. He will walk through and not be tempted by a single item. But then when I need new shoes, I hem and haw about spending $60 because it's so much money but he can buy them without even blinking because he hasn't wasted $100 on trivial items. Those little things can really add up.

I look back and see where mistakes were made. I can see where smarter choices way back then would have led to easier choices today. And I don't want to make the same mistake twice. Okay, I've already made the same mistake way more than twice. But I don't want to quit. I can see big improvements already in my way of thinking and my attitude about money. I'm learning to say "no" to little things because I know that will allow me to say "yes" to bigger things in the future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Menu plan update

So far, Monday is the only meal that has gone according to plan. Josh did opt to have sloppy joes on Tuesday and then today I realized I hadn't taken out pork chops to thaw, making it difficult to brown them and put them in the crock pot. So tonight was steak, mashed potatoes, cheese-garlic biscuits and broccoli and cauliflower fresh from the garden! It was a good meal but it felt more like a Friday meal than a Wednesday one. I'm strange like that. :) Now I'm trying to decide if I want pork chops tomorrow. I should probably take them out of the freezer so I at least have the option. I think next time I'll just list meals and not assign them to days at all.

By the way, here's a really good way to fix broccoli and cauliflower:
Cut broccoli and cauliflower in bite size pieces. Put a small amount of water in a 2-qt saucepan with salt. Bring to a boil; add broccoli and cauliflower. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and put in a bowl. Pour some olive oil over and sprinkle sea salt on. It was so tasty!

Update on house

After much discussion (not kidding about that), we decided to stop trying to sell the house on our own and list it with our realtor. I felt like a huge burden has been lifted. Not that selling our house on our own was that hard - there were just a lot of decisions to make. Should we have an open house? How much do we spend on advertising? Should we buy a MLS #? What do we do next? It also seemed like we were spending money and not getting any results.

So now the sale of our house is in the hands of a very capable realtor. We haven't seen much action yet. I'm okay with that because I haven't found a house that I really wanted either. I'm just praying still for direction and wisdom. I don't feel like we've outgrown this house yet but the time could be close. I'm tentatively planning to start potty-training Owen and Rachel next month (although I can see myself using any excuse to put that off longer) and also get them out of their cribs. I was hoping to sell our house before potty-training (where do I put those if we have a showing?) but I don't think that will happen. Life goes on and we just try and go with the flow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Setting precedents

Brendan and Tori will each be participating in two different camps this summer. Brendan attended a baseball camp two weeks ago and Tori is attending a ballet camp in a few weeks and then both of them will attend a basketball camp.

I often worry about setting a precedent. I worry that they will think this is the norm or that they can do this every year. I am trying to think more short-term: we can do it this year so why not? It's not difficult to get out of the house, our schedule is flexible, it fits in our budget and these are things the kids are interested in.

Next summer it might be a whole different situation and they might be disappointed but that's no reason to tell them "no" now. The last two years I've tried to stay home as much as possible in the summer because with two little ones taking at least two naps, I didn't like to be away from home during nap time. Now we have more freedom again and I want to take advantage of it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Menu plan

This is one of those things that I know makes things a lot easier but I still resist doing. I'm not sure why. When I do have a meal plan for the week, I tend to make sure I have the ingredients I need and I spend less on other things at the store that might sound good but then don't end up using. This week I'm doing things a little backwards. I went to the store already but now am going to try to come up with meals for this week based on what I already bought. I had some ideas in mind while I was there so that helped.

Monday - chicken fajitas, spanish rice

Tuesday - hot dogs, mac-n-cheese

Wednesday - pork chops and rice, salad, bread

Thursday - tacos

Friday - steak, potatoes, salad

Saturday - sloppy joes, fresh veggies, chips

I'm very flexible about my meal plans and switch it up if I feel like having something else on any given day. Tuesday I'll be going out to dinner with some friends so Josh may decide he'd rather have sloppy joes with the kids and we'd just switch Tuesday and Saturday.

I didn't get this posted so now it's two days late. We did switch Saturday and Tuesday. I also joined a CSA program through a local farm and received my first box today. There are lots of interesting greens and I will plan to use some of those for a yummy salad tomorrow night with our pork chops.
Doesn't that look beautiful? I'm splitting it with a friend so for less than $13 a week, I'll get half of what you see here. And during peak season, I'll get more. I'll take a picture tomorrow after we split it up. Some things might be tricky to halve. I'm looking forward to fresh produce weekly without the work of a garden and trying new things and supporting a local farm. Win-win-win situation!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just like Daddy

We spent last week at my uncle's vacation resort up north. He bought it last fall and has been working on fixing it up. Our family has been taking a vacation every year together and this year it was a "working vacation", with more work than vacation, thanks in part to the weather. That was okay, we knew we were working for better vacations in the future and still enjoyed being together. I say "we" but I didn't do much besides chase a couple toddlers around and check in on the older two every so often.

One of the projects Josh worked on was clearing a trail down to the lake. Owen was his little helper and loved carrying big sticks up the trail, just like daddy.

"I got it, dad."
Off to get more sticks.

Taking a break to throw some stones in the lake.

If you're looking for a great place in northern Michigan to vacation for the summer, you should check out Pines of Paradise!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tide vs. Homemade laundry soap

I have never used expensive laundry soap. We used to have a Sam's Club membership and I would buy the cheapest one there. Then last August, I started using coupons and shopping at CVS and Walgreens and decided to see if a membership was really necessary or if I could find deals on the things I normally bought there. I have successfully avoided Sam's Club for almost a year and spent a lot less on groceries and household items. The downside is that there has been more running around and more time spent on looking for deals. I'm not ready to give it up entirely but I'm thinking about seeing if I can continue a cash budget and have a membership at Sam's to simplify life a little.

But I digress - this is about laundry soap. Recently I found a blog about homemade laundry soap. The author said that she had 3 boys who were very dirty and it worked great. I looked at the store the next time I was there and found the 3 products needed (bar of Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, Borax) and it would be less than $10 total. Those 3 would make at least 3 batches of 3 gallons so it really appealed to me.

I made the soap two weeks ago and it was really easy to do. Then I tried it out on a regular load of clothes and was very disappointed. There were a few clothes with dirt on them and after the wash cycle, they looked exactly the same except wet. So disappointing.

Then we went on vacation and I knew I'd have to do laundry once while we were gone. I had gotten some samples of Tide in the mail so I took those. When I got to the laundromat with our very filthy clothes, I realized I had no stain remover. I wondered how they would turn out but decided they'd at least smell better. I couldn't believe it when I pulled them out and saw that almost everything was completely clean! The only thing that wasn't were some of Brendan's socks.

When we got home yesterday, I had lots of laundry to do so decided to try a couple things. I did one load with All and used the homemade as a stain remover. Everything came out pretty clean. I did one load with the homemade and also used the homemade as a stain remover and nothing came out clean. I did a load of whites with All and bleach - Brendan's socks looked just the same as they did after using Tide.

I am seriously thinking about switching to Tide but not sure if I can really pay so much after paying so little all year. I keep reminding myself that I'll save time and money by not having to use stain removers, too. Maybe I'll buy a little bottle of Tide and do some more experiements first. I'd love comments about your favorite laundry soap!