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Archive for the ‘Works For Me Wednesday’ Category

So today is a bit tongue in cheek, but I couldn’t resist. My son is thirteen, and while I’m fortunate to still get hugs freely from him, getting prolonged hugs is another matter entirely. So tonight I figured out the trick.

Appeal to their natural curiosity. While hugging him (I was sitting down, he was standing) I realized I could hear his heart beating. I pulled him closer and said “I can hear your heart beating…” and snuggled my cheek into his chest some more. After another minute I said “Cool!” and kept hugging him. He chuckled and let me hug him some more.

Sneaky? Heck yeah. And I’m not ashamed one bit!

For more great Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out Shannon’s blog at Rocks in My Dryer.

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We’ve all had it happen. At the last minute, one of the kids (including that biggest of kids, dear husband himself) will say “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to bring something with us.” Um, we are? “Yeah, just a dessert or something.” This, an hour before we’re supposed to be there, and its a 20 minute drive. Or, you have unexpected company for supper…you don’t really have enough prepared, but a dessert will ensure that everyone gets more than enough to eat.

So I have a standard fall-back. Thirty minutes isn’t enough time to do my most-requested dessert (homemade banana pudding), so I go to this one in a crunch. I make sure I always, ALWAYS have at least one can each of peaches in heavy syrup and apple pie filling in the pantry. ALWAYS.

Homemade cobbler (or crisp)

1 large can peaches in syrup OR apple pie filling
1 – 1 1/4 cups sugar
cinnamon (for apple pie filling)
1 stick butter or margerine
3/4 cup flour

*Pour can into baking dish. For peaches, sprinkle 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar over top. For apple pie filling, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Mix
* melt 3/4 stick of butter or margerine. Mix melted butter with 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup flour to make a “crumble” consistency.
*sprinkle crumbles all over the fruit in baking dish to form an even layer. Take remaining butter and dot or sprinkle (if melted) over crumbs.
*bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Preheat your oven then make it and the oven is hot about the same time you’re ready to slide the dish in. At this point, I take the VERY hot baking dish, wrap it in towels, stick it in an insulated bag, and head off to whatever function the dessert was needed for, or for that unexpected company, serve warm, right out of the oven. Its always a huge hit. It takes literally 3-4 minutes to prepare. Fast, easy, and you look like a hero.

For more great Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out Shannon’s blog at Rocks in My Dryer.

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You get up, start your day, and you feel awful. Flu, cold, general malaise, you just don’t feel like doing anything, right? You get the kids off to school, and realize that while you can skip by without breakfast or lunch for yourself (or without something fancy at least) you HAVE to cook supper for the tribe tonight. What to do? You don’t have the energy to get creative.

My beef stew is good, REALLY good, even though I cheat like crazy making it. You’ll need:

1-2 packages stew meat (dependent on how many you’re feedng)
Lawry’s seasoning
Adolph’s seasoning
1 package Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix (any will work, I prefer Golden)
instant mashed potatoes
salt
pepper
carrots (I prefer the baby carrots…again, another cheat since they’re already peeled and the right size)
small red potatoes

if your stew meat is frozen, do a quick thaw in the microwave. It doesn’t have to be complete, just enough to break the meat apart into large chunks.

Put meat into large crockpot, cover with water until water is 2 inches above meat. Put crockpot on low-medium heat (depending on the cooker, and how long you have before the meal)

add lipton’s onion soup mix, and healthy amounts of Lawry’s and Adolph’s. You can use any seasonings you want really, but for me, the onion soup mix is a must.

let cook 3-4 hours, but be sure to check back after 30 minutes to break all the meat up if it was partially frozen when you put it in.

scrub potatoes under running water with a steel wool, leaving most of the peeling. Add 1-2 potatoes per person, and enough baby carrots to have 3-4 per person or more, depending on how well your family likes carrots. Add more water to cover all the meat and vegetables.

Let cook another hour. When carrots are floating, add 1-2 cups instant mashed potatoes to thicken. Add salt and pepper to season (this is important…your stew may taste perfect, but once you add those potatoes, you WILL need to add more seasoning). Make SURE you stir well while adding potato flakes. You may need more or less depending on how thick or thin you want your stock to be.

Let simmer until ready to serve. I serve mine over rice and cook biscuits to go with it. Its simple, its TASTY, and I haven’t had to worry all day over it, or slave over a stove to make a hearty meal. All total, I spend maybe 10 minutes in total preparation time. The rest of the day, I can either go to work, go back to bed, clean house (ha ha) or whatever.

Its not the way our mothers cooked it, but when my husband loves it (and his mother is the southern version of Julia Child), well then I know it works for me.

For more great Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out Shannon’s blog at Rocks in My Dryer.

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Not feeling all that creative tonight, so I’m just going to steal something from my board. Another mom asked what do you do with all the stuff your kids bring home from school…all the papers with info on meetings, functions, etc…sometimes just writing the date on the calendar isn’t enough…you need the details, but then your home looks like a litter bomb exploded.

I’ve had different systems at different times, but I finally condensed down to what I use now. I still have my calendar, that I write all the important stuff on…but if more info is needed (what time kid has to be there for instance, if its earlier than when the function begins) I put an asterisk (*) beside it. The asterisk tells me to check my folder. I keep a regular folder in my top center desk drawer in the kitchen that I put all the papers from school in that need to be kept up with. Every week I go through the folder and toss the stuff I no longer need. I have them in chronological order in the folder too…the functions/events that are soonest are on top…the ones that are later are on bottom. That way I can see at a quick glance what is coming up soon and may need urgent attention.

I used to have a folder for each child, but the single folder works best for me, because I only have to look in one place. Anyway…it works for me :)

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips, visit Shannon’s blog at Rocks in My Dryer.

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So today I’m having a lot of trouble deciding what to do for WFMW (for details on how to play along, go visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer). I’m currently on vacation, and usually my “inspiration” (yeah like I have inspiration…I’ve done TWO WFMW posts so far lol) comes from looking around my house and gathering ideas. I can’t even remember the ones I tossed out at my kids last week for them to choose from.

I was walking down the Las Vegas Strip, on my way to see the white tiger at The Mirage, when it hit me. Vegas vacation spending!

Having three kids, you have to get frugal with your choices at times, vacations being one of them (for some truly awesome frugal tips, check out what Lynnae at her blog Being Frugal has to offer). This trip is no different.

I knew when we planned for me to accompany Justin on this business trip that I would have little to no spending money. Folks, that was indeed the case. I ended up spending $60 of my trip money to take the kids to the fair the day before we left. That was the first time in ages I’d splurged on them, and I gave up two of the shows I really wanted to see in Vegas in order to be able to do that for them. We had a blast. So I get on the plane to Vegas with $50 in the bank and $25 in my wallet. I kid you not. I managed to snag another $20 from Justin, and woo hoo I was RICH!

Saving money in Vegas actually can be done, especially if you don’t gamble (which I don’t). All of the casino/hotels offer a rewards program. Signing up for the cards in each one will give you a LOT of coupons for freebies and deep discounts. We came in Saturday evening, and the only food we really had to buy was then. Most of the coupons are “buy one, get one free” type deals, but hey, there are two of us, so that’s perfect! I joined three different Rewards Programs, and got enough coupons and freebies that I only spent roughly $8 in two days on my dining/snacks/treats. If you’re not sure, just stop random tourists (who look friendly and sober) and ask them if they know of any deals or have any advice. That’s how I found out about the Rewards Programs.

In addition to the Rewards cards, just about every casino/hotel has a time share plan. Now…I can’t afford to buy a time share right now. Money is budgeted elsewhere, and we’ve made a commitment to not make any more major purchases (aside from a new truck for Justin when his 11 year old truck gives up the ghost) until we are OUT of debt. However, the time share tours are accomplished in 90 minutes to two hours, and you get freebies for doing them. There’s no real pressure at all, and if you have the time and the patience, you can rack up. Justin and I together did the Mariott Grand Chateau one, and got tickets to a show at Planet Hollywood (one we actually wanted to see) and free buffet coupons at Sahara. In addition to that, we got three “buy one get one free” coupons for any drink of our choice from Treasure Island (we’ve been using those for bottled water…NOT CHEAP on the Strip!), and two more buffet coupons…buy one get one free for the buffet here in our own hotel (The Flamingo), and another one just down the street at one of the other really nice resorts (I forget which one at the moment). I signed up for another tour, with the Hilton group, and got two more free buffet tickets, and $100 play in the casino. I haven’t used that yet, but I plan to have a little fun with it. All in all, that’s over $400 in free dining and entertainment just from spending four hours total on two tours. To be honest, the Mariott plan is one that Justin and I are definitely going to do just as soon as we get out of debt. Its a truly awesome plan.

Another way to save money is to just look around in the casino/hotel lobbies. There are a TON of freebies that are given away every day. There are hosts/hostesses who will give you comps also. I still have $30 cash on me, and here I am on my 4th day in Vegas (and I still have $45 in the bank). Along the strip, there are dozens of cheap souvenir shops that have bottled water for 50 cents a bottle, soft drinks for 75 cents a bottle (20 ounce bottles), cheap snacks, and almost identical merchandise as what you find in the large shops and hotels for a fraction of the price. I bought some HUGE post cards for about 5 cents each. I bought t-shirts (really nice ones) for all 3 of my kids for $1.99 each. I got another suitcase for $7, and it has a Vegas decor, looks like those made out of the carpet material, and is pretty sturdy.

We went to Wal-Mart and bought a total of two 1-gallon jugs of water for 64 cents each. We fill our water bottles from these, and stick them in the ice chest, and don’t have to pay $2-4 for a 20 ounce bottle of water (I kid you not, those prices are real).

A lot of times, if a casino host/hostess asks you if you need help learning rules of play, you can get offers there too. Today I told the host that I didn’t need help, just wasn’t sure if I wanted to waste my money on the slots since I was here on a budget. He gave me a ticket to use with $10 in credits. I told him I don’t really gamble and tried to hand it back and he told me to keep it…I could use it however I liked. I stopped back in on my way back with my lunch and cashed it in. Nice!

All in all, look for the deals, don’t be afraid to take a time share tour (we said “no” and that was it, and they were really nice about it), and ask those who look to be experienced tourists. If you’re not careful, you can spend a lot more money here in Vegas than you intended to, but with just a little bit of looking around, you can also save a ton as well. I’ve spent less money on food/gas/miscellaneous this week than what I do when I’m at home and going to work for a week, and I’ve had a HECK of a lot more FUN doing it :)

It really is possible to save money in Vegas but you have to be smart. Sure there’s a McDonald’s on the Strip that’s really convenient…but if you walk back ONE BLOCK behind the strip (pick a hotel and go out the back door) to the next street, you can get the exact same food from another McDonald’s for $2 a person cheaper. When you have more than one person, that makes it worth the short walk…not to mention, you’re going to walk a LOT farther than that during your daily sojourns anyway. And, those $2 a pop add up REAL fast into major money. It literally takes 5-7 minutes to walk back a block.

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Once again I decided to participate in the Works For Me Wednesday carnival at Rocks in My Dryer.

This week I wasn’t sure what to write about…so I decided to let my kids choose from a range of topics I supplied them. The winner was my collection of books.

I love books. I adore books. I eat, sleep, and breathe books. Did I mention I like books? There’s one major problem with my love affair with the written word…space. We live in a single-wide trailer that we purchased in 2002, anticipating the building of a home soon. We didn’t realize God had blessed us with our now-4-year-old daughter the day before we ordered this trailer, or we would have ordered a double-wide, knowing we’d be in it for a while. But, I digress. This trailer is 3 bedrooms, two baths. Sounds fairly decent, yes? Now imagine that being crammed into a space that’s 16 feet wide by 80 feet long…and imagine five people living in it. The bedrooms are TINY. The living spaces are SMALL. I would happily line the walls with bookshelves and never think twice about it, but my husband put his foot down. He has allergies, our daughter has allergies, and my oldest child has allergies. Oh yeah, *I* have allergies. Dust. ‘Nuff said.

Books are horrible if you have allergies. So I devised a plan. I bought several Rubbermaid ™ totes from Wal-Mart (where else??) and a huge black Sharpie ™ permanent marker. The kind with the tip that is almost 1/2 inch wide. REALLY big marker. I separated all my paperback books by genre and author. I tend to like to read the same types of books…I’ll go a few weeks reading mysteries, another few weeks reading historical fiction (i.e. sappy romances), another few weeks reading true crime…etc etc. I labelled the totes and put the books into them. I then store the totes in our shed outside. I have ONE bookshelf, behind my recliner. I empty the contents of a tote into the bookshelf (its a 3-shelf one, and perfectly fits the contents of one of the totes). I then read for a few weeks, decide I want to read something else, repack the tote, and make the switch.

Now obviously I need more than one tote for each genre since I’ve been collecting books non-stop all my life. Discounting the books I lost when my house burned in 1999, I still have a ton of books. Some totes are labelled “Romance: A – B” for authors beginning with A or B (last names). I don’t pack them full…for one thing I need to be able to lift them…for another, I want room in them for when I buy a new book. After I read a recently purchased book, I can go out to the shed (I usually wait until I have 5-7 books to store) and easily slip the book into the appropriate tote.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but you’d be surprised just how easy it is. My husband is happy because I only have one bookshelf of paperbacks in the house now. I’m happy because my books are very well-protected.

One day, I WILL have my house, and it WILL have one room that is solely devoted to my books. Yes, I want a nice little farmhouse…but I want it to have a library. I’m a strange duck indeed

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So I finally decided to participate in this…

The first thing that came to mind for me was my DVD collection. I love to collect DVDs. I usually burn copies, and we use the copies for daily viewing, and the originals go into safe-keeping. I discovered I had DVD cases running out my ears a while back, and they’d get scattered, fall over, etc, and generally look cluttered and unkempt.

I bought two large CD binders from Wal-Mart. One holds all my original DVDs. I took the sleeves out of the cases, and cut the titles out (sometimes part of the picture too if it’d fit) and I slip that into the sleeves on the pages of the binders, then put the DVD behind the title. Everything is in alphabetical order. The child-friendly DVD’s are at the beginning…animated…then it progresses from there. The second binder holds all my copied DVDs. When a copy gets too scratched to view, I trash it, go to my original binder, burn a new copy, and put the new one in the “daily” binder. I don’t have to worry about replacing scratched DVDs at a high cost, and when we go on road trips, I just grab the binder and go, rather than picking and choosing which DVD’s to take with us. The binder is extremely portable. If its lost or stolen, I’m only out a few dollars (the cost of the binder and the blank DVDs).

So…it works for me

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