Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Cleaning

With the cooler weather came a small burst of energy and a desire to spruce things up around the house!

I didn't get much spring cleaning done this year so the house has been in dire need of a little deeper cleaning. I don't know if I'll get a whole "fall cleaning " done or not. Regardless of that, I've been pulling furniture and appliances out and cleaning behind them. A little extra scrubbing, dusting and decluttering goes a long way!

My childcare kids have changed to part-time in the last couple of months so I now have an extra day free each week. I sometimes need to run errands on that day but I'm trying to simplify errand running so I can stay home most weeks and work on projects here.

I was feeling quite energetic this weekend so I was able to get a number of things accomplished:

-cleaned out the trashcans(long overdue!)

-dusted the ceiling fans

-deep-cleaned the bathroom

-rearranged the living room and dusted and cleaned behind furniture

-straightened bookshelves

-swapped some pieces of furniture between several rooms for a new look and hopefully better use

-sorted toys and packed up the ones that aren't being played with- I try to keep the toys to a minimum; I've found they only play with certain favorites. Between outside play and planned activities, they are never bored!

-rearranged part of the bedroom-dusted, scrubbed and washed linens

-pulled tomato plants out of the garden; hope to plant some fall seeds today!

-organized kid's art supplies in plastic totes; I finally found a place in the dining room to store them. It will be so nice to have everything close by when we want to use them!

-washed down all chairs including the booster seats(gross!)

Am I the only one who itches to get everything cleaned and ready for cooler weather as soon as fall hits?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Futon Blessings

Remember this futon? We didn't end up getting it after all. We would've had to drive several hours to pick it up plus it needed some repairs. We weren't sure it would be worth the gas money. So we kept thinking about buying a futon to double as a couch and spare bed for guests.

We were planning to buy a futon this past Saturday. We'd found a really nice one and had the money in hand to purchase it. Saturday morning, Andy left early to take the car in for maintenance. As soon as he left, the phone rang. It was a friend from our church. "I have the futon loaded up", he said, and I'll be at your house in 20 minutes." What?!? I remember talking about buying a futon and he mentioned that he had an extra. But then we never heard anything back from him about it.

So our friend brought us a futon! We did end up purchasing a new thicker mattress for it to make it more comfortable, but it was nice not to have to purchase the whole thing. It looks quite nice and has doubled the seating area in our living room.

Andy's parents are coming this weekend so we got this just in time!

What a blessing!

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'll Pray For You

How many times have you told someone,"I'll pray for you"?

And how many times have you forgotten?

I know I've forgotten to pray for specific requests often. After I promised that I would.

I've been thinking on this a lot recently. A friend of ours said that she never promises to pray for someone anymore because she will almost always forget! The best way she said is to pray for them right then and there.

Next, she tells them that she will continue to lift them up in prayer as the Holy Spirit reminds her. How freeing is that?!? I'm not talking about avoidance here, just to be clear, but rather having a pure heart that is in tune to hearing the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I know it also helps me to have a list of prayer requests in my notebook that I can quickly jot down when they come to mind or are spoken. For this to be effective, however, you need to be sure and open your notebook or have your list nearby during your prayer time!

Whenever someone pops into my mind(especially someone I haven't seen or even thought of in a long while), I try to make a point to pray for them at that moment. I know the Holy Spirit is reminding and prompting me to pray in those times.

At one time, we used a prayer jar which really was a teapot filled with slips of paper with friends and family members names. Each morning we would pull a name out of the jar and pray for that person/family. We loved this but somehow that ritual got thrown by the wayside and we don't do it anymore. I realize that I do want to bring that back. I'll have to talk to my husband about that today!

I have a lot of room to grow in the area of intercessory prayer. It is so important but something that we or at least I tend to rush through!

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way." 1 Samuel 12:23

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"...The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

Please share your thoughts on prayer!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday: Extra Books = Extra Bucks

I listed a stack of books on Half.com last week and I've already sold four of them. Yeah!

Half.com is a part of eBay. To sell books, after creating an account, you just type in the ISBN number and follow instructions for writing a description and picking a price. Once it's up for sale, you just wait until you get an email stating that you've made a sale. All you have to do then is ship the book(s). Half.com pays you directly according to their pay schedule.

I've sold books this way off and on for years, starting in college. I would buy the books I needed this way; there are often much better prices than the campus bookstore! Then after a semester or two, I'd sell them again to make money to purchase the next semester's textbooks.

Ok, so I'm not making hundreds of dollars each month by selling books this way.(You could if you had lots of popular items to sell, I guess!) But every little bit counts. This would be a great way to make a little extra Christmas money or to help pay for a weekend away. This can be a great avenue to bumping your savings account up a bit too.

I make some extra money for only about 15 minutes of my time, declutter my bookshelves and let someone else enjoy a great book at an excellent price!

That works for me!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: When Life Gives You Basil...

...Make pesto!

My two basil plants have really produced this year. I've snipped it liberally into many different dishes. I've made chicken pasta salad with basil-walnut mayo. We've eaten pesto on pasta, pizza and even mixed into eggs. Yum!

I've wanted to try freezing some of my bounty and had heard that pesto freezes well. So one day last week, I whirred up a big batch in my food processor. What looked like a whole lot of basil turned out to be only 3 recipes/bowls of pesto!

I usually just add basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, walnuts and olive oil to taste when I make pesto. This time, I followed the recipe in my Joy of Cooking. I decreased the amount of oil that was called for. It still was pretty oily after it set a couple of days in the fridge since the recipe stated to cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil in addition to the oil in the recipe. Next time, I'll decrease the oil in the recipe even more to account for the oil that's put on top.I put the pesto on pizza and it was very oily into the crust but mixed with pasta, I probably wouldn't have noticed it as much. So all I can say is try it for yourself and see how you like it!

Other than the amount of olive oil, this pesto recipe has a delicious flavor.
Pesto from Joy of Cooking

In a food processor, mix 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts or almonds(I use walnuts).
Puree then add about 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. When really thick add 3/4 cup olive oil(I used only 1/2 cup and will decrease it further next time), adding slowly and letting the food processor mix it in until a good consistency. Pour a film of olive oil over the top and cover to refrigerate or freeze.


For more kitchen tips, please visit Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I planned this week's menu completely off what I had on hand. Even though it was time to grocery shop this weekend, I opted to buy extras to stock my somewhat depleted pantry and freezer instead. I did buy fresh salad greens, veggies and some fruit for this week though. Otherwise, I used this opportunity to buy a few extras to store away and use up a few things hiding in the back of my freezer!

This is a simple simple meal plan week. I am running pretty low on meat; I bought a little this weekend to tide us over until the big grocery trip at the beginning of October. So it's not a very meat-heavy menu; but should fill us up all the same!

Breakfasts(served with fruit)
-eggs and toast(2x)
-baked oatmeal(2x)
-pumpkin bread; smoothies (1x)

Lunches(any combination of the following usually served with a piece of fruit and veggies)
-split pea soup(frozen from dinner leftovers last week)
-hard-boiled eggs

Dinners(usually served with steamed veggies or a salad)
2)church leadership meeting-I usually take something to share-not sure what though!
3)three bean chili chowder; corn muffins
4)turkey salad sandwiches(maybe pita bread if I can get some made)
5)one dish chicken and rice(I saute some onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in a little oil. Then add some cooked and chopped chicken. Add water/chicken broth and uncooked rice. Cook altogether following rice instructions. We love this easy meal!)
6)tuna pasta salad
7)grits with cheese; sausage; fruit smoothies

Happy menu planning! Visit Organizing Junkie for more menu plans.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays-Easy Weekend Meals

I'm excited to be able to join in with Stephanie's new carnival-Living Simply Saturdays!

Like a lot of ladies in the blog-o-sphere lately,the topic of simplifying has been in my heart, mind and home. I really have no desire to live such a hectic life in order to keep up with the Jones'. My husband and I have always enjoyed a more simple life,but I still find the "more more" mentality creeping in when I'm not looking! As a result, I find myself constantly praying and asking God to help us restructure our lives to be in tune with His and to simplify our lives so that we can better focus on Him and relationships with people.

One little way I've been simplifying our lives recently is to have really easy meals on the weekends. This allows more time for us to work on projects and do stuff together on Saturdays and just relax and be together on Sundays.

My husband likes it when I take it easier on the weekends. He says, "I have 2 days off. Why shouldn't you have a little break as well?" I love that considerate man! :-)

On Saturdays we usually eat leftovers for lunch and occasionally we will eat out for breakfast/brunch. Then for dinner we have something simple like breakfast foods or hot dogs or a homemade pizza that's been frozen and just needs to be baked.

Sundays is our day to meet and fellowship with other believers. We are part of a Home Fellowship where we all share in a potluck-style meal for lunch. I often take something that's in the crock pot or something pretty easy that I've been able to make on Saturday or even Friday if possible.

On Sunday nights, we're usually not too terribly hungry because we've had a large noon meal. I've started making grilled cheese, salads, sandwiches or wraps, tortilla chips and veggies with hummus or sometimes just popcorn with some cheese and fruit.

Growing up, our usual Sunday night fare was popcorn with home-canned grape juice and sliced apples. We children would be able to fix it ourselves while Mom and Dad rested. Now I see the beauty of the simplicity of such a simple meal on a day when not much physical work is done. Quick to prepare and requires minimal clean-up.

Now, some weeks, I may feel like making something to eat on the weekends that requires a bit more time in the kitchen.This fall will find us keeping up with the Redskins and eating snacks in front of the T.V. For the most part, I'm quite content to enjoy simplifying weekend meals for time spent doing other tasks or occasionally simply doing nothing at all.

For more simple posts, please visit Keeper Of The Home.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Menu Plan Mondays

Another week, another week of menus!

Last week was busy, but fairly uneventful so my menu plan sailed right along as it was supposed to. The only change was swapping Saturday's hot dogs to Sunday(yesterday). We worked with another church this past weekend by helping with music. They graciously provided pizza for all of us after set-up on Saturday evening.

I make a menu to have a plan for the week. The plan isn't set in stone but rather acts as a guide so we know what we're eating each day. Often, I will swap meals out onto different days depending on schedules.Occasionally, I'll fix something totally different or try a new recipe if I'm in the mood. I still keep to my menu pretty much and it's much better than not having a plan at all!

Another advantage to having a plan is being able to look forward to certain meals. We love to eat so being able to look ahead to what we're having for the next meal is a highlight!:-)

After a busy weekend, I just scribbled out a quick menu this morning! I'm still in a menu plan writers block of sorts, so I just wrote down the first things that came to my mind based on what I've got in the pantry and freezer. It's simple and it works!

B-waffles, cottage cheese
L-eat out at our favorite Chinese restaurant with friends
D-hot dogs, buns, pretzels and dip, chocolate cookies

To do: thaw chicken for tomorrow, make large batch of pancake batter
B-toast, yogurt,apple slices
L-leftover hot dogs
D-church leadership meeting

L-not sure yet!
D-chicken and tomato risotto, salad

To do: thaw chicken and Spanish rice for tomorrow
B-grits, cheese, apple slices
D-split pea soup, homemade bread

To do: menu plan for next week, make grocery list
B-eggs, toast
D-chicken fajitas, Spanish rice(frozen)

D-salmon patties, homemade bread, steamed veggies

To do: grocery shop, fix food for tomorrow
B-toast, fruit
D-birthday party

For more menu plan fun, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Recycled Magazine Gift Bows

When I saw this tutorial online via Tip Nut, I knew I would have to try making some of these bows!

What a great way to use magazine pages instead of simply throwing the magazines into the recycling bin! These are really fast and easy to do. I've found it is a wonderful craft to work on while watching TV in the evening.

It's pretty addicting, so watch out!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday-The Backwards Edition!

Today is a Backwards Edition of Works For Me Wednesday. This means instead of me telling you all about my latest bright idea; you get to give me advice and answers to one of my questions. I know you're excited about that!

I'm planning to purchase a grain mill before long. I have my eye on the Nutri-mill about which I've read some good reviews. I don't have my heart set on this one however, and I'm continuing to compare between brands and types of electric mills.

If you have or have had a grain mill or know someone who does, tell me about it.

What kind of grain mill do you have? Would you recommend it to a grain mill newbie?:-) What features do you like/dislike? Please tell!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Drying Salad Greens

Maybe I'm the last one to actually try this... But this past weekend, I finally took to heart what I've read in oodles of articles and household hints books and tried spinning my lettuce leaves in the washing machine to get them dry.

It worked wonderfully.

If you're like me and don't own a salad spinner, here's how you do it. After washing lettuce, put salad greens in a large bag. I used a clean pillowcase and knotted it closed at the top. Place bag of greens in the washer and set to the final spin. Let spin. It's good to stand nearby so you don't forget about the lettuce. Also so your husband can come talk to you and, with raised eyebrow, see you remove lettuce from a pillowcase.:-)

I've always dreaded buying the lettuce that wasn't pre-washed and cut. Now I know it can be done in only a few minutes without lettuce laying on the kitchen counters being hand-blotted dry!

For more kitchen tips, please visit Tammy's blog!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Menu Plan Mondays

Happy September and Labor Day!

Last week's menu went pretty much as planned. As usual, I swapped a meal out here and there. Sometimes that just happens!

On Wednesday, I really felt like trying a new recipe, so I made a Western Beef Casserole from the What Would Jesus Eat? cookbook. This was a concoction of ground beef(I used turkey), cooked beans, rice, tomatoes and cheese on top. It was good although not that great in my opinion. It could've used a whole lot more spices even though I added more than what the recipe called for. It made a big pan so we ate it for lunches most of the rest of the week. We found that it was quite tasty with some salsa and sour cream on top and would be good in burritos.

My neighbor gave me 4 eggplants from her garden as well as some tomatoes and pears they grew. How sweet of her! For Saturday night, I sliced the smallest eggplant and fried it until browned. Then I layered eggplant, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese on sub rolls. I broiled them until melted and bubbly, then put the also browned sub roll tops on. Yummy Eggplant Subs! Very simple and extremely tasty!

For this week, I'm using up the rest of the eggplant. I'm focusing on keeping the menu pretty simple too. I was feeling a bit of "menu plan block" so I just started filling things in. That's when it's helpful to have the ingredients for your favorite meals on hand! My husband is so easy to please, that he is happy with about anything I plan (and cook). As long as there's some meat and a little variety, he's a happy camper.

Have a great week!

B-Breakfast potluck with our house church fellowship. I made orange ginger scones and a basket of hard-boiled eggs to share.
D-wraps with cream cheese and olive spread and various veggies

To do: salad prep, thaw ground beef for tomorrow, bake cookies, make pesto to freeze
B-egg burritos, apple slices
L-leftover sausage gravy and biscuits, bananas, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes
D-Dinner with friends. I'm taking a salad.

To do: make a pot of spaghetti sauce for tonight's casserole and to freeze
B-leftover scones, fruit and yogurt smoothies
L-egg salad on croissants
D-Cheesy Eggplant Bake(I'm making this up as I go!), salad

To do: mix dry ingredients for muffins(make 4 batches of mix for easy prep later), assemble soup, thaw chicken for tomorrow.
B-grits, cheese,apple slices
D-turkey rice soup(using turkey, rice and broth from the freezer), corn muffins

To do: make tabouli, make spice mix for chicken, cut chicken in chunks
B-waffles, fruit
D-Israeli Spice chicken chunks, tabouli, steamed veggies

To do:make pizza crusts(freeze one), bake bread
B-omelets, toast, fruit
D-pesto pizza, fresh veggie sticks with dip

B-cereal, milk, fruit
D-hot dogs, pretzels, fresh veggie sticks with dip

For more inspiration, please visit Menu Planning Mondays!

Orange Ginger Scones

This is one of our favorite Sunday breakfast recipes. This scone is mild tasting and would go well with a cup of tea. I first made these scones as a newlywed and was delighted with their success.

Later on, I was whining to my mom about how I couldn't make good biscuits. Her reply was this, "If you can make scones, you can make biscuits. A scone is really a glorified biscuit." She gave me pointers on following her biscuit recipe and with some trial and error, I have had pretty good success with those too.

I tell you all that to say that even if you've never made biscuits or scones, these are perfect for a beginner to make!

Orange Ginger Scones from Taste of Home
2 cups flour(I have used half whole wheat pastry flour with good results.)
4 T. sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel(I also sometimes put in a spoonful of orange juice concentrate.)

Combine flour, 2 T. sugar, baking powder, ginger, salt, and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine egg, sour cream, and orange peel; add to crumb mixture and stir until soft dough forms. Turn onto a floured surface;knead 5-6 times. Divide dough in half. Pat each portion into a 7 inch circle; cut each into 6 wedges.

Separate wedges and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 1 dozen scones.