Monday, June 29, 2009

Not Me! Monday

On my vacation I did not
... realize how much my kids were growing up.
... gain 5 pounds.
... let kids shower in public showers due to convenience (it's ok... Grandma was in charge of that one!)
... go without a shower myself for too long!
... loose my mind while driving with my kids for 10 hours in a car.
... ask my husband to flip off the crazy drivers on that 10 hour car ride.
... (and he certainly did not do it!)
... survive the car trip only because a big party with lots of alcohol refreshing water was at the end!
I am not procrastinating unpacking while I am blogging, thanks MckMama.
And I certainly did not cry when reading this blog...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen - Peanut Butter

We love to make homemade peanut butter!
Starting with peanuts still in the shell is a great activity for kids of all ages. As a preschool teacher, I used this activity to exercise the fingers and work on hand muscle coordination. Shelling enough peanuts for peanut butter is hard work, but the kids love it (and it's economical too)! I always double check to make sure that no shells get in the peanuts. In my little food processor I add about a Tablespoon of oil ( peanut oil is preferable, if you have it) for each cup of peanuts. If you want the exact measurements, the web has tons of recipes!


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got Books? One Potato Two Potato

Book club this week was so rushed. By the time the first guest had arrived, the kitchen had not been cleaned and I had forgotten to eat lunch. While one child entertained the guests, the others ran around cleaning while I tried to get something to eat. The snack person didn't show so I was running around between acts to get some cookies in the oven! ...and we leave tomorrow to go out of town for a few weeks... so my mind was not totally focused...
Despite all of that... The show went on.
No one had gotten the book the girls had chosen, so I set out a Bluebonnet picture book, One Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia DeFelice and had the girls each take turns acting out a few pages. Everyone participated. It took a long time to do the activity, and I was thrilled about that. It gave me time to get some cookies in the oven! I kept the theme going by making potato stamps. The girls had half of a potato and used a butter knife to carve a stamp into the potatoes. They came out ok... It was much harder than I had anticipated. They stamped for awhile but the thick paint did not stamp well and the girls ended up doing finger painting instead of painting with stamps. Maybe try stamp pads? Anyone use potatoes on stamp pads before?
Finding a book to read is as hard as I had thought it would be... any suggestions for soon-to-be 5th and 6th grade girls?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family Reunion

Every year my family has a big family reunion. Relatives from my great grandparents down gather for a few days of eating, talking, game playing, reminiscing, eating, wondering who is who and who they belong to, and more eating! We've been meeting at the same state park ever since I can remember... My dad pays for 4 cabins for our crew to stay in. This year so many of our group came, we had to double up and some even stayed off site at a hotel.
None of the great grandparents are with us anymore. The elders are my dad, his siblings and cousins. One of my dad's brothers, Uncle Bubba just turned 80. It was also his 50th wedding anniversary that weekend. My dad put together a slide show, his son spoke, a famous cousin, Bill Abel, who is a blues singer, put on a little show and there was the traditional cake and punch. The presentation took place Saturday night, after the annual fish fry. It was the largest turn out for a fish fry yet! We love you Uncle Bubba!

(Pictured here: My dad, Aunt Cami, Uncle Bubba, Uncle Billy Joe)
I love being part of big family. This year I saw so many examples of the things I want to instill in my kids. A sense of belonging and acceptance. The spiritual heritage that no matter what church you attend, a love of Jesus and trusting in Him is what is important. The laughter and love of being together. These are things I saw. I also saw my mother's servant heart. She cares so much for all of the relatives and works so hard to make the reunion fun and easy for everyone else. I saw the respect and love everyone has for my dad. When he talks, people listen. When he walks in, people smile. His quiet care and concern is evident to all. He shines in our family. I love you Dad! Happy Father's Day!
To see more pictures and memories from this event, visit my sister's blog here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen - Robert's fish

This is Robert, my nephew, who is 11 years old. Robert loves to fish. He caught 4 fish today! After his dad prepared them, Robert cooked the fish. I was so proud of him! His mom gave the instructions and he followed them like a pro! Good job Robert!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh No! Mr. Bill!

Let me introduce you to our newest travelling companion... Do you know who he is?

Mr. Bill! Many of you remember him from the Saturday Night Live skits from the old days. Thank you, Aunt Karen, for the GREAT idea! My kids loved it when she started doing it on her trips. He became an instant friend. We got one for our family and started this game with him. You will see him in the backgrounds of many of our pictures.

Keep your eyes open!

You never know when he will pop up... or what he will be doing!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Shark Teeth

Adventures with cousins
Playing in the creek bed in Mississippi...
No telling what you will dig up!
How about some shark teeth?

For more pictures on my sister's blog about this outing, look here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen - Angela

Angela was so excited about her turn in the kitchen. She loves to help cook!After much contemplation (about two and half seconds), she decided to do her secret recipe. Lucky for you, she has given me permission to share her secret recipe on this blog!
It is her favorite sandwich. You have to say it with a sing-song kind of voice. Here goes:
Turkey or ham
Cheese and Mayo
Bread on the bottom... Bread on the top!
I did put out some other things. She knows that we like to add (or in Evelyn's case, take away) some of the key ingredients. Add some chips and fruit and you have the perfect meal!
Bon Appetite!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Couponing... MY way!

I've been saving money with coupons... a lot of money! It's a lot easier than I thought it would be. It's a lot easier than it was backintheday when there were no blogs about it! This is how I do coupons. You can do them however suits your fancy. There are tons of blogs out there about this very thing. (beware... some of them have you pay for a subscription. Although they are user friendly... you can find the exact same info on the blogs I have listed and on many others.) Find what fits you then start saving! Hopefully I can help. Remember, I'm just a blog comment or email away!

My suggestion for getting started is to keep the inserts from the papers for a few weeks before you really start. If not, you won't be able to use many of the deals because you won't have a stash of coupons (and nothing starts a fit in me faster than a good deal I miss out on...). Couponmom suggests organizing your coupons a really easy way: write the date on the top page of the insert and keep it all together, don't cut any out until you are ready to use them. To stay even more organized, keep them in a large accordion file folder. The websites that tell you the weekly deals also tell you what insert they are in, so it saves time. These websites tell you where you can print coupons (my faves are listed at the end) and if you go through some of these websites, they get credit. Also, find a neighbor or two that will save their coupon inserts to give you. When there is a really good deal, you will want to stockpile and use more than one coupon.

Stockpiling is a great way to save money. A stockpile is when you buy more than one even if you don't need it. If dish washing liquid is 75% off with a coupon, buy as many as coupons you have! That way, when you need some, you won't have to pay full price (gasp!). By stockpiling, I haven't paid more than 25 cents for a tube of toothpaste and I've even made money by buying shampoo!

Not only do the websites tell you what is on sale, many tell you where to get free samples. To keep my email inbox from getting spammed by signing up for coupons, I created a different email account. It is only for when I sign up for things. You can get tons of coupons AND FREE things.

Here are the websites that I have found to be the best. Couponmom (you have to sign up, but it's free!) is the main site I use to make my list. It breaks down everything that is on sale and tells you what coupons to use and what percentage off you can get. You can use it make a shopping list. I only look at items for more than 50% off, even if it is not our normal brand. Brand loyalty is out the window for me now! Southern Savers is good for reading more about how to do the whole coupon thing. She lists different scenarios. I double check my list with hers because she lists some deals that are not on couponmom. Becentsable is awesome because it has the grocery gathering. It lists most all grocery stores and what blogs tell about the weekly savings. Couponing can look overwhelming at first, but once you learn it, it is so easy! Freebies for mom lists free stuff. Coupons to print from


1. Keep coupon inserts from Sunday's paper and come up with your way to organize them. Find neighbors to give you their inserts. There are also groups that meet locally and do coupon swaps.

2. Check out the websites and read about how to save and get familiar with the whole concept of couponing.

3. Open an email account.

4. After you have a few weeks of coupons saved, and have learned about coupons, go shopping!

To avoid coupon mistakes, here are two tips:

1. Make sure you know when your store changes sales. Krogers near me sends out the sales papers on Sunday, but it doesn't go into use until Wednesday.

2. Be sure you know exactly what the specials are. (weekly store inserts from Sunday paper, and they are mailed to you)

Have fun learning about how to save money! I've cut our grocery bills in half! It's saving us $50 - $75 a week! AND since I'm buying more and stockpiling, we don't eat out or have fast food anymore! Since I've been couponing, our average monthly savings has been around $300!

If you have any questions, just ask!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Got Books?

No, we have bookmarks! Remember the Book Club? Here are the directions for the bookmarks we made! I wanted to use my Cricut, like I did for the Mother's Day Card and I used the SCAL program to make the word READ all stuck together. I used the font heavy heap and made the letters 1 1/2 by 5 1/4. The size of the bookmark is 3 x 6.

I cut those out on the Cricut in different colors.

I kept the negative image (the outline of the word and the inside pieces) and cut those into strips that were a little smaller than the 3x6 bookmark. To keep track of the inside pieces, I put them in little storage containers and put a "tag" inside saying if it was the inside of the R, top or bottom, the inside of the e, the a, or the d.

I set all the pieces on the table with glue sticks and the girls made the bookmarks! I also set out some shape makers (punches) with the leftover paper from the words and they used that for decoration. It only took them about 15 minutes to assemble the bookmarks. No one really used the negative image ones, although those were my favorites!

Here are the finished products!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Free 8 x 10 photo! (and how it turned into $83 of savings!)

My husband says I have a sickness... I can not pass up a good deal. I've always been a stickler for good deals, my mother taught me well! Now that I've had to watch our finances oh-so-much-more I've gotten that-much-more pickier with my good deals. Back then (a whole 6 months ago) if I saved anything on items we were going to get anyway (musthaves) I walked away with a smile. Now, if it's not a savings of 50%, you'll probably find me pouting. (not really... I only pout with less than 25% savings on must-haves) In packing for a two week trip, I didn't think I would have a lick of time to save any... but... you can save lots with little time... even when you're running 'round all scatter brained! I'm proof of that!
My great deals this week!

I needed to run to CVS to take advantage of a Father's Day Photo special. If you enter a checkout code of FREE8x10 you will get a... FREE 8x10 photo! Also, I signed up as a new customer with my cvs card and will get 50 photos free! It took me 10 - 15 mins to look up what sales there were by going to Southern Savers! There were a few musthaves and my daughter wanted an itunes card so this is what I did and my savings...

Transaction #1:
2 Prilosec 42 ct
1 razor
1 itunes card ($15)
coupon for razor (-$4)
CVS sale prices (-8.44)
coupon for Prilosec (-$7)
CVS coupon when you spend $50 (-$10)
CVS ECB (-$2)
Spent $49.53
Saved 31.44
received ECB +14 (as if I saved $45)
Eligible for Flexible spending account total of $49.53.

Transaction #2
2 Dawn soap
4 Olay skin care
coupon for Dawn (-.25)
coupon for skin care (-1)
ECB (-10)
spent 18.09
saved 13.23
received ECB +11 (as if I saved 24)

*note I could have found more coupons and saved on the skin care and I could have made more transactions to use the other ECBs BUT I was in a hurry and distracted and didn't... note to self... do not let the fact the photo lab was down distract you from your savings! If any of you want to write up how I could have saved even more by re-working the transactions, I would love to hear your suggestions! I could have probably saved $10 - $15 more if I had done reworked things differently!

Value of items... $146
Total spent... $63
Total savings (with the 50 free prints)... $83 (57%)

I did get the photos... I called the 1 800 # and they rerouted them. They were so nice and helpful! But please note... they do not do the true digital size, so some pics (almost all in my case, but not the 8x10... ThankYouLord!) will be cut off. Can I just say one more time that talking to them was so nice it was refreshing! I love it when dealing with Customer service leaves me smiling!

What coupon sickness savings have you gotten excited about this week?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Hip Hip Hooray!

Hip Hip Hooray! It's summer!
Wordless Wednesday is a part of 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Favorite Summer Find!

This is our new favorite summer find... and it's FREE! Remember this? Free is good!

We love everything about this park! It is close by, less than five miles. From what I can tell, construction started on it around 2 years ago and the park is not yet very well known (it doesn't even show up on google earth yet!). So far, it has not been crowded at all. I hope it stays that way!
There are three sections, the first section has a pavilion, playground and a large grassy area all surrounded by a bike path that leads you to the second section which has a pond, dock and picnic tables. There is a walkway that leads across a street and to a third area which houses an aquatic center and another playground.

The plan is to have a "Pool, Picnic and Park Night" once a week. After the intense heat is over, our shoes stop trying to melt on the sidewalk and the day begins to cool, we will head up to the pool for a swim. A picnic will be packed and there will be fresh fruit to snack on as well as drinks. After the kids get their fill of swimming and hunger sets in, we will load up the car (if there is any room between the bikes, swim gear and change of clothes) and head to the park. Dad will hopefully meet us for the picnic... which will be followed by a bike ride to both of the playgrounds. As the sun is setting, we will head back to the car and home for bed for the now tired children...

That is the plan! So far we have had two evening spent this way and they were both nominated for best nights ever!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Not Me! Monday

The last week of school for the kids meant the last week of FREEDOM for me!

I did NOT stay in my pjs as long as possible for as many days as possible...

I did NOT cancel my plans so I could stay home and veg for another day...

I did NOT leave the TV and radio off then mute the computer for two days just so I could feel how quiet it was...

I did NOT mope around on my last day of freedom because I neglected to plan a last lunch date...

And... I certainly DID NOT spend my last day of freedom totally chillin' out and curled up with a good book!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Lemonds to Lemonade

As I write this, I'm thinking of a nice, tall, ice cold glass of lemonade. Summertime is all about sippin' some lemonade, sittin' in the shade and watchin' the kiddos. This summer, I'm turning lemons (financial stress) into lemonade (the best, most relaxed, cheapest summer ever)! This summer I'm rebelling against the mentality of jam packed days... stick everything you can into a summer... go go go... shuffling schedules... carting kids across town... ... you get the idea, right? The hustle and bustle of summer is not for me... this year. This summer we are going to enjoy the lazy days of summer!

Spending time together as a family.

Reading projects, sewing projects, cooking projects, music projects!

Letting the kids be kids

Carefree and FUN!

Library days, swim days, friends over days (and nights)!

What brings this need for a shift of pace? m-o-n-e-y! The financial stress and uncertainty of the economy looms over our household ... We have been given lemons.
I do not want to go into debt by signing the kids up for a camp every week or going out every day. I do not want to spend the summer knee-deep in plans and not sure how to fit it all in... or how to pay for it. The only planning I will be doing is how to save, save, save and not spend, spend, spend! Join me, will you? Check back often to see how I entertain the kids on a no-spend (not very much at least), super tight budget!

Watch how I turn our lemons into lemonade!

Grocery Store Savings

This was today's trip to the grocery store. Yes... a lot of it is junk food. And I'll confess... there are 5 12 packs of soda. I NEVER buy soda... but I couldn't resist the sale. When the kids were unloading the car, one said "WOW! It's ALL junk food!!!!!!" I tend to buy more junky stuff during summer.
Here are the savings... I saved (drum roll please!) 52%! I get such a rush when the number comes back at anything over 50%! I spent $88.10 and saved $94.86!!
How did I do it, you ask? I used grocerymom's website and coupons. The store I went to (Randalls) tends to be more expensive, but have good sales every so often. I only go there when they are having this good of a sale and my list consists of only sale items. I buy the rest of my weekly list at a cheaper store. I know some don't like to spend the time doing this, but it only took an hour prep and an hour shopping! That's equivalent to getting paid $40 and hour!
If you liked this post and want to hear more about how to save at the grocery store, leave me a comment. I would love to help your family have more money... and pass the grocery store rush to you too!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Evelyn's Debut in the Kitchen!

Kids in the Kitchen
I like to introduce my kids to working in the kitchen as soon as they have an interest. Last year I started teaching my older two how to cook and they helped with a few meals of their choosing. It was so popular that we decided to bring it back this summer and start teaching the younger girls too. Evelyn was so excited to be the first one to plan her meal!
She planned exactly what we would be having, made a grocery list, went grocery shopping (just the two of us!), cooked and cleaned! It was a great time to spend with her.
The lesson started with her learning how to use the can opener. The vegetable of her choice was green beans, her favorite!

Her main meal was tortellini with your choice of red or white sauce.
Both sauces were store bought and we heated them in the microwave in pretty glass bowls. We had forgotten garlic bread, but Dad came to rescue and stopped at the store on his way home! We also forgot about it in the oven... but mom took it out just in time!
Dessert was a huge hit! Strawberries and marshmallows dipped in white or dark chocolate! YUM!!

Now all the kids are planning what their meal will be!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Not Me! Monday

Welcome to my first Not Me! post. Not Me! Monday was started by MckMama to provide mom's with an opportunity to show their realness in a humorous way. I'm all for mom's telling how things really are!

I absolutely did NOT brag like a crazy mom about my kids this week!

I did NOT almost miss getting pics of my daughter because I did not realize she placed so high! Emily came in SECOND place out of the entire 5th grade in Reading this year!

I did NOT hoot and holler (because I know she can not stand it!) when Emily came in 4th place in Math... out of all the 5th graders in the school!

I did NOT look smugly at those parents (you know them... like the one who made a comment my face... about me not doing as much as they did because I'm not concerned/caring about my daughter) No... I did NOT look smugly at that mom when Emily came in 7th in Science (and her child did not place...not me!) out of ALL the 5th graders! Which means Emily placed in the top 10 in ALL academic categories! No... I did NOT gloat!
I did NOT take her out of school for the day. We did not go shopping (all be it resale and thrift stores...) and then we did not go out to lunch with her daddy. Why would we celebrate like that... not our family!

When it was time for my 4th grader's awards, I did NOT skip the ceremony. I also did NOT think she wouldn't place... when Amber proved her mom wrong and came in the top 10 in Reading... say it with me... Out of the WHOLE 4th grade! You can prove me wrong any day sweetheart!
I certainly did NOT feel like the worstmom all day for missing her awards!

I did NOT tell everyone I came across, post it on facebook, twitter about it or make any phone calls about my kids winning awards! NOT me!

No... I am certainly NOT a proud... bragging mom!