Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Goldwater Lake

*click on photo to see larger image*

Today was a beautiful fall day. Just a little chill has crept into the air over the last few days and it has been wonderful. There is something about fall that makes me want to go fishing so fishing is what we did. My friend Stephanie and her daughter joined us for a little fishin', a little hikin', a little playin, and a little picnicin'. Oh and check out Stephanie's not so favorite part of the day...right next to the "Day Trip" label is her friend Mr. Snake. Poor girl about turned white as a ghost but all the kids wanted to touch it. Bree even argued "but mamma, it's not a rattlesnake...". Yeah I still don't think so Bubba Lou but your daddy sure would be proud of you. (and you held it together well Miss Steph as I know how much you loath snakes!)

I just love these last lazy days of summer. I praise God for allowing me to experience life again through my children. He is so good!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Getting It All Together: Emergency Contact List

It's been a while since I shared anything with you from my Household Notebook. I've gotten most of the sections done (that NEED to be done anyway). It's been more of an undertaking than I thought it would since I've had to weed through a lot of unnecessary papers that have been shoved into the notebook over the years.
I've been working on updating our Emergency Contact List. A new one was definitely in order so I created a fresh one in Excel and I saved off a master copy just for you to download (here) and fill in on your own. If you need it in a PDF file just leave me a comment and I'll add that one too.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Warm Oatmeal Cake

My Aunt Gail sent in a request for this recipe. It is one of my favorites given to me by a gal I used to work with at the school district - hi Laura! This time of year seems to be the perfect time to make it since fall is right around the corner. If anyone wants a printed version of this recipe card just send me a comment with your email and I'll get one over to you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Garden Reminisce

I was sorting through some blog posts the other day and realized I had this page scheduled to post but I never posted it. How funny I find this after my rant on garden invaders. This gives me hope to try again. Good thing I have a few months to “lick my wounds” before I start again. You can’t keep this Chinobilly down!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Garden Friends and Foes

This Chinobilly has worked pretty dang hard on preparing and planting our garden –

only to have these annoying pests move in and destroy what we’ve worked so hard to build up. It seems that aphids can damage plants within a matter of hours and what they don’t consume the pesky grasshopper chomp away at the fruits of our labor. Aaaaahhh! No one wants to see their labor of love go down the drain by losing their plants to those icky pests who are shacking up in the garden.

Even our helpful friendly pals like ladybugs and spiders…the best bodyguards a Chinobilly garden could have aren’t able to combat this evil brood.
The aphids are so bad that even the recommended simple solution of anti-bacterial soap and water can’t combat them.

Well, maybe we’ll have better luck next year. For now I’ll try to nurse the remaining tomatoes through the rest of the season.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Getting It All Together: Menu Planning

The Menu Section of my notebook…hmmm…hasn’t seen much action lately. I have seriously let this department go for quite some time which is why I’ve been racking my brain the last few days trying to find inspiration for this post. After a great talk with my friend Stephanie yesterday (Thanks Steph) I finally got some motivation. Yay!
I was out of healthy dinner ideas. Making nutritious meals my kids will actually eat is no easy feat. It’s no wonder I’m stuck in a rut and end up making the same food time and time again. But no more! The age old question of “What’s for dinner?” will now be neatly placed in my notebook in the form of a menu plan. Menu planning actually used to be one of my favorite weekly “chores”. Far too many times recently, making a menu plan is something I intend to do . . . when I get around to it. Somehow the days fly by and I’m faced with a hungry brood with no idea what to prepare. I tell myself "Oh well, another week shot, maybe I'll get to it next week, when I'm more organized." (In my head I'm a perfectionist and tend NOT to accomplish anything if I can't do it my way right the first time.) I know it doesn't have to be complicated. I know a small investment of time can reap great rewards: like saving money, saving time, and saving your health. Can you hear me still muttering, "But I don't wanna ..."?

Well, let’s keep it real, anyone who knows me knows that I think it is great fun to think about indexing my recipe collection, entering the data in a relational database and crunching menus till the year 2015, but I shall resist the urge. Hi my name is Jenn, I'm a list-a-holic. These days elaborate hoop-lah becomes just another failed exercise in home management overkill. So repeat after me “I shall break into menu planning easily by starting small and simple.” Think, next week- seven days- one trip to the grocery store.

Where to start? Here’s my game plan:
I wandered to my cupboards and refrigerator to check what I had on hand only to discover a few of last week's purchases that were languishing beneath wilting lettuce or hardening tortillas. Bad girl! So the first step for me is to take a pantry inventory. You can download my cheat sheet here. Once I do this I will have a good idea of what I already have on hand. I know I’m overstocked so I should probably proclaim a no spend month just to clean out those darn cupboards. Crickets chirping

Moving on…

What does my family like to eat?
Next I will make a list of everything I like to cook or things I know my family will eat. This will give me a start on my list of meals.
What is on sale?
Then I will dig out the grocery fliers from my local newspaper. I'll use the ads to get a feel for the week's sales and bargains and use that feeling to guide my menu plan.
Okay. Ready? Time to rough out a simple menu plan.
What does my week look like?
Now I drag out the good ol’ household notebook and open it to the calendar pages. I will flesh out my menu plan by matching it up with the family's calendar. This way I can save the oven roast for a Sunday afternoon and the quick-fix taco salad for Survivor night *wink, etc.
Lists~oh I love thee
Make your shopping list. You can print my blank family shopping list here. Post it on the refrigerator. I generally keep 1 extra of our most used items on hand. Say I use the last of the grape jelly. No big deal, I go to the cupboard pull out the next grape jelly and immediately write grape jelly in the corresponding category on my shopping list. It has worked great with boys husbands who don't write "Frosted Mini Wheats” on the list when they empty the box eat Trix cereal for the rest of the week.
Ready, set, shop--but shop WITH COUPONS
Some sites that I’ve had a reasonable amount of success are
The Grocery Game (membership required but worth the small investment)
Coupon Mom (free but sometimes difficult to get the deep discounts found using the grocery game.
Practical Saver My friend Stephanie uses this one. I have just been too lazy to try it yet, although Stephanie’s GINORMOUS savings at Safeway a few weeks ago has me on the verge.
Post the menu plan on the refrigerator door. Refer to it during the coming week as you prepare meals.
That's it! The bare bones of menu planning. You've made a draft plan, shopped from a list, firmed up your plan and held yourself accountable. The devil, however, is in the details. Here are some points to ponder as you bring menu planning under control:
Yes, there are some well-organized souls among us (don’t look at me) who don't make formal meal plans. I bet if you look close though you'll discover that household meal time dances to a routine. Sunday's a big dinner, Monday is burger night, Tuesday gets the leftovers from Sunday, Wednesday sees spaghetti, Thursday's the day for a casserole, and Dad grills on Friday. Saturday night, it's take-out or pizza.
Create a routine around your menu planning. Sure, you can try new recipes just don't let your enthusiasm for the glossy pages of the latest Taste Of Home issue con you into doing so more than three or four times month. Cooking tried-and-true speeds dinner preparation and streamlines menu planning.
To do it, look for cues in the family schedule. Make the routine yours, and it will serve you well. Remember though to stay flexible as menu plans aren't written in stone. If you are dodging cramps on the "big" cooking day? Swap it out with Pizza Night and go to bed early. The purpose of a meal planner is to make the dinner decision time less agonizing and to help you with your grocery shopping.
After you've made menu plans for a few weeks, the beauty of the activity shines through: recycle them! Your family won't mind, and you'll save even more time and energy.
Instead of an ambitious plan for 30-day menus, tuck completed menu plans in your notebook. Next time chicken is 59 cents a pound at the store, pull out the plan you made that week. Done!
With that said all you first-born-organizer-slightly-OCD-types I have found THE TOOL OF THE CENTURY for you. Go to this website and scroll down to the weekly and monthly menu planner and download whichever one tickles your fancy (I downloaded both just in case the aforementioned indexing of recipe collection compulsion sets in). The creators of this template, Jon and Maria Wittwer,God bless their pea pickin' hearts state “For each main dish, side dish, breakfast, and lunch entry, you can select an item from a drop-down list within the cell. You can edit the meal lists based upon your own favorite foods and recipes. The weekly meal planner also has a notes and grocery list section.” Oh how I love a good list. I’m just giddy with excitement to try this one out.

I double dog dare you to do it!
Take the vow with me. "I, [state your name], hereby promise not to visit the supermarket again until I've made a simple menu plan!" Amen

PS. Kris over at ScrapWarrior has made some PDF and Excel files for us. So visit her blog for these downloads. Thanks Kris!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

City Girls With Country Hearts

The chinobilly girls were invited to a birthday party for our very favorite neighbor friend Ella. Ella's party proved to be the party of all parties in Abby & Bree's book. Oh yes, there was a real-live-horse. They couldn't have been more excited. These chinobillies might not be growing up as country bumpkins like Matt and I did but they are pretty darn lucky to be country at heart.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today's Special

"Every word that comes out of our mouths has power in it- creative or destructive, positive or negative"
Those are the words I've been mulling over lately. We've been talking a lot about this concept in our home recently. The girls and I have been working on understanding Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." In simple 3 year old terms I've been driving home the point that God instructs us not to use polluting language like COMPLAINING about everything. Complaining pollutes our body mind and spirit.
Yesterday I declared, "from now on we will start each day with gratitude and thanksgiving darn it all!" God is not only dealing with my children on this but repeatedly dealing with me about it too. Your thinking well...where do you think they are learning it. Well this chinobilly is a tad bit slow in this realization. I was studying in Hebrews 13:15 when I realized I need to purposely choose to offer up praise and thanksgiving rather than complaints and grumbles.
This morning the girls just weren't really "getting it" so I grabbed a Ziploc bag and placed a piece of bread in it (this was something I remember teaching to my class of 3rd graders back in our Calvary Chapel days). I sat down on my dirty kitchen floor and gathered my little ones around me. I held up the bag and said "our hearts are like this piece of bread and God is like this sandwich bag. Nothing can get to us to destroy us as long as we respect the seal of the sandwich bag. But if we are not careful and let air into the bag the bread will become stale and hard in a few short hours. It makes God sad when we use careless words and complain a lot. We are not protecting the seal. So today our goal is to be as positive and thankful as possible."
I think I might have seen light bulbs go on as they were mumbling ok mamma but I wasn't quite sure yet. We went about our morning preparing for the Tuesday outing at the library and not much happened. I think the kids knew I was growing weary and cranky. So maybe the combination of the talk and the look in mamma's eyes motivated them. Library went well. We came home and I set to work making lunch. Today's lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices. I called the girls to the table and asked them to bring a book they checked out from the library. I read to them while they ate their lunch. After I finished the book and was busy eating my lunch Abby pipes up and says, "Mamma, you make the best gooey cheese must weelly wove us." silence...then "fank you for wuving us"

Lawsy mercy I think I've died and gone to heaven! I think it's sinking in!

Proverbs 18:21 "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit".
It's amazing the awesome power we have right under our produce life or death...

Abby's sincerity motivated me to want to do more for them. Just think of how much more generous our Lord and Savior is.