Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I have realized something about myself recently.
I don't like to create things.
I do like to edit, revise, change, adjust, alter, modify, adapt and transform.
I'm just not so much into the creating.
I don't look at a blank room and see painted walls, pictures hanging and furniture all aligned.
I see a blank room.
I don't see a bunch of ingredients and make up a recipe.
I adjust recipes to make them my own based on what I like and what I have.

This blog was intended to keep me accountable, help others with things I have learned along the way, and have fun writing. I do enjoy writing, but for me (at least with this blog) it has become more of a job, more of a chore, more difficult than I would have thought. It has become a chore for me to come up with posts, to try and think about what others might want to know about and then write about it. I've decided that is just not me. I am not a twitter fanatic because I do not constantly think about tweeting what I am doing, but instead I just enjoy what I am doing. And in the same way, I am not always thinking about writing about the things that I am doing and learning. I am just doing and learning. At least at this stage in my life, with 2 kids under 2 and a husband and 2 part time jobs and a house, etc. this is where I am.

I thought about just stopping this blog, cold turkey, with no notice, but I know even though my content has dwindled a bit, I do still have followers (mom, I'll still share recipes with you!) and I wanted to help you understand where I am at right now. For me, right now, it is simply practical to stop this blog...at least for now...

Thank you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - June 14

I get a break from meal planning and from cooking this week (From Sunday dinner through Friday breakfast)!

Breakfast: whatever is provided for me

Lunch: whatever is provided for me

Dinner: whatever is provided for me

Snacks: Apple Breakfast Bars (scroll down for recipe), bananas, applesauce, variety of muffins with veggies in them (beets, zucchini, carrots)

A simple week! And a nice break to help me feel renewed about plans and cooking when I return.
Head over to Orgjunkie for more ideas for menus.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Yard Sale Advice

I recently had my first yard sale. I had been trying to decide off and on for a few weeks if I really wanted to do it, when I wanted to do it, and how hard core I wanted to do it. Since I had been thinking about it, I had been gradually gathering things to sell.
Then, one Friday night I was looking at Craigslist for other sales and found out my neighbor was having one! Perfect. It's gotta be good to have a neighbor doing one since you can get each others business. I quickly got to work on making it happen the next day (even knowing my in-laws were coming in town that day)...

I recently asked in a post what are some of your best tips for yard sales? I got some helpful tips from there, and some good ones from the Today Show a while back as well. Here's what worked for me:

Leading up to the sale:

I had already spent time (very small amounts here and there) in the weeks (and months, really) leading up to this day gathering things that I would want to sell. I would put them with like things and was collecting them all in one spot of the house (the basement) for this such occasion.

The night before the sale:

I listed my sale on Craigslist with address, date, time and somw of the main items or categories of items I knew I would put put.
I went to the bank to get some small bills and change.
Then I went to Wal Mart and picked up some bright neon poster board (when I am out looking for sales, I LOVE it when the signs are bright, big enough to see before I am at the turn and with writing big enough to actually read. The signs can really make me want to visit a sale or not, so I knew what I wanted here!).
I also bought the price stickers because I hate having to ask about every item...it didn't take too long and was worth my while in the end.
After the kids were in bed, I pulled all of these items right up to the front door, ready to go out the next morning.
Then I sorted through the items, pricing each item (or group of items) at what I would want to pay for the item at a sale.
I made sure again that all like-items were together so that the process of putting stuff out in the morning would be quick (and thoughtless, since it was going to be early!).
I made my posters to go on some street corners. Where we live there are so many different ways to get to our house, but I chose just a few of the main intersections to mark (and it helped that our neighbors put signs out too, so this doubled our chances). I would have hung them that night as well, but there was a good chance for rain and storms, so I had my posters and staple gun ready by the door for the morning.
Made sure to have everything together by the front door, ready to go for the morning.

The morning of the sale:

I asked my neighbors (who were already out getting their stuff on the lawn as well) where they put their signs and then left to quickly hang my signs around the neighborhood streets and busy intersections.
While I was away, my husband starting taking out tables (helpful to not have to make everyone bend to the ground for all items) and then all of the items that were to be sold. This was easy for him since I had already grouped things.
One thing to note: I put cheap "tablecloths" on my tables so people would not assume they were for sale.

During the sale:

I had bags (from when I forget my reusable bags at grocery stores) available for people to take things home.
I had a calculator for quick addition of items to be bought. No need to think too hard early in the morning.
I wore an apron with front pockets in it so that I would not have to have a cash box and different items sitting out (looking sloppy and not being readily available). I kept my small bills and some change, ready for transactions, and also kept my calculator in here so it was close by at all times.
I made sure to greet/talk to everyone that came by. It helps to make conversation and find the balance between making them feel welcomed and making them feel like they can't look at/think about what you have available. I didn't want to feel overbearing since I am more of a "just let me look" shopper.
I would go lower on a price (but previously decided on how low I would go on some bigger items so I would get caught in the moment and go lower than I was willing), but I was also willing to make a counter offer if I felt the offering price was too low.
I would give a discount if someone was buying more things, especially like items, or if someone was looking for a while and I thought a slightly lower price would help them make a decision. For most things, I would rather have it gone and get some money for it, than to just take it back inside at the end of the day.
I visited the sale next door (nothing to do with hosting a sale except convenience, and theirs was to raise money for a trip so I felt helpful by buying jeans for $.50 from them!).

After the sale:

Decided what I just wanted to get rid of quickly (books, lots and lots of books) and put these in the van to go to a local store that buys books.
Took everything else back down to the basement for a future sale at some point. I feel less cluttered with this stuff out of the way, so I didn't want to try to incorporate these things back into daily usage.
General cleanup of the front of the house.

We made close to $200. Not amazing, but not bad either. And it was close to $200 more than we had before. It was worth it! The weather was beautiful! My toddler slept through most of it, and played with some toys we had out for sale for some of it. And my baby just laid around lazily, taking it all in I suppose. Glad I did it. Wouldn't want to do it every week, but would definitely do it again when the time is right.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - June 7

Most weeks we do not get to half of what I plan for or what I think we will get through. Things come up, we have other cravings, meals last longer (more leftovers) than I plan for, etc. But looking back at last weeks plan I am amazed that we made/ate everything on the menu! Good times!
The granola was great as a breakfast item and snack item with yogurt, and I am finding the best way to get it crunchy (the way I really like it) is to do the amount of time suggested (or sometimes a little more) and then turn the oven off and leave the granola in the oven as it cools. Seems to work like a charm!
The butterscotch oatmeal was good, but I wouldn't make it everyday. I prefer to make baked oatmeal and have it ready for the week. I don't need much variety to survive (strange, since I love trying new things!).
We got a lot more lettuce again from our garden and we made meals out of salads 3 times. Salads are good for you and you can put just about anything on top to make it fun and exciting. This was one way.
And the rest of our meals were also good, and simple. The way I like it!

This week will be a "clean out the fridge, freezer, pantry" week before we leave for a bit (away at camp where our meals are planned for us and I don't have to think/plan at all...except for my toddler...). We have a few tomatoes right now that will make for good tomato sandwiches. Also have zucchini from our co-op that will make for some good muffins and maybe a side salad. And picked up some leftover hamburgers and hot dogs from a party that we will eat as well. And I will also be preparing some snacks for my toddler for the following week. Should be even simpler than this past week, but still enjoyable. What do you have planned for your week.

Head to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great ideas!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Get Outside! And Get Wet!

This may be obvious to some, or even to most, but get outside this summer! It's easy and cheap and fun!

We do not have a big yard, or fancy toys, but we get outside and we have fun.

Of course, there are lots of things to do, from walking/running to playing in the playground, from a sandbox to a swimming pool. It's been hot around here lately and water just sounds good. Of course, this could be difficult if you are in a drought or you live in a townhouse/apartment, but otherwise, get out and get wet.

There is always a simple hose. This is a favorite around our house. For watering the lawn, washing cars, filling buckets, and chasing after mommy!
Or you can upgrade to a sprinkler! Easy fun without having to carry around the hose.
If you're lucky (or if your kids are lucky) you might get a baby pool with a hose!

And if you're really lucky, you might belong to a local pool (or better yet, have your own) and just go swimming everyday.

But for now, and for us playing in the water is fun and cheap, and it is pretty limitless if you let little imaginations run wild!

Here's to a great summer! This is what works for us.

Simple Salad

I LOVE salad. I love that it is healthy. And versatile. And tasty. And can be frugal.

We've gotten some great lettuce out of our garden this year and it's made for some great meals. We easily make an entire meal out of salad, and we did that tonight. Cut the lettuce this morning, cleaned it, added some strawberries (that are still for a great price around here), found some mandarin oranges in the cupboard, had some already-cooked chicken in the refrigerator, then added some cashews and dried cranberries for toppings. And then topped it with some dressing I had made last week. A Poppy seed dressing. What a great combo!

We normally make the salad right in the bowl we are going to eat it out of, so an even amount of lettuce and toppings in each of two bowls (we like a good amount of toppings, but measure to your preference):

Fresh lettuce
Mandarin oranges
Sliced chicken (cooked of course)
Dried cranberries
Poppy Seed dressing

Dressing (adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up and Annie's Eats):
1/2 C Apple cider vinegar
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C splenda
1 Tbs Dried minced onion
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp Salt
1/2 C Light mayonaise
1/3 C apple juice
6 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp Poppy seeds
Combine all ingredients through juice in a food processor and blend well. With feed tube open, gradually add oil while blending, continuing until fully blended in. Add poppy seeds and pulse until just blended. Store in air-tight container in refrigerator until ready to top your salad.

Baked Oatmeal

I was recently asked about the baked oatmeal I make. I was asked in a comment (through comment moderation) and for the life of me, I cannot find that comment again so that I can reply and tell you how I do it. So, here's to hoping that you come back and see this post. This is the baked oatmeal I make. I make many different versions of oatmeal (my son loves it, and I have enjoyed many different recipes) but often fall back on this one for ease, low cost, and also for enjoyment! Unfortunately, I found this recipe before I started using Evernote (which automatically tracks the URL) and I do not remember where I got the original recipe, but I've made many of my own adjustments and variations.

(bad picture, but the only one I had in my archives from making it)

Baked Oatmeal (I get 6-8 servings depending on my toddler's appetite)

1 1/2 C quick oats
1/4 C wheat germ
1/4 C ground flaxseed
1/8 C sugar (I've also used splenda, but this adds more cost)
3/4 C milk (I've used 2% and vanilla soy)
1/4 C applesauce (I've also subbed spinach puree to help my son get more veggies)
2 eggs  (or 1/2 C egg substitute but this adds more cost)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (I use homemade vanilla)
*From time to time, I've added about 1/2 C frozen blueberries
**Total Cost (when using regular sugar and eggs) is slightly over $1. For the whole pan! Great cost for a week of breakfast for my son!
Heat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Spread into greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden and top is crusty. Spoon into bowls and top with milk. Or, do what I do and cut into 8 servings, store in the fridge (or freezer) and use for a week of already made breakfasts for toddler. When doing this, I simply add a little milk, heat for about a minute, then break up and stir to your desired consistency.

What I like about it:
sweet without too much sugar
it has wheat germ and flaxseed
the cost is very low
it is simple, and yet very versitle
it is both soft on the inside and crispy on the outside

Do you have a favorite oatmeal? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 31

Last week turned out a bit different than I planned...I think that happens a lot around here! It was mostly changed by family being in town and then a short visit "out of town" to visit family, with a bunch of salad in between using lettuce from our garden.

This is lettuce and herbs!

And our garden is ready to pick about this much again! Good thing we like salad! 

Yogurt and Almond Ginger Granola
Butterscotch oatmeal
Baked Oatmeal

Salad! with a variety of toppings and dressings depending on mood and availability

Snobby Joes (never got to last week)
Poppy Seed Chicken (also never got to)

Homemade granola bars

For more great meal ideas, head over to Orgjunkie!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homemade Snacks

In my quest for saving money I have realized that snacks are greatly enjoyed in our house, but can also be the culprit of more money spent than should be reasonable for the benefit of them...
I have always loved making my own applesauce, and have recently enjoyed finding the best granola recipe. I have also been working on the perfect granola bar (another day, another post) but have also tried to make some other snacks recently.
My first was roasting chick peas. It sounded fun and interesting, I like crunchy, I figured it should be healthy, and a good change from nuts...I read many different ways to add spice and flavor (I chose sweet) and different ways of roasting, like adding flavor before vs. after roasting (I chose before). I would like to try again, adding the flavor after the roasting and see what this does. They took a lot longer than what I read, but were definitely best fresh. I made too many to eat them all fresh. Hubs was not that excited. Luckily my toddler was!
I also had my first attempt ever at making bread (besides making quick breads like this amazing apple bread that I love!). I don't have a fancy mixer or a bread machine or the time/patience for lots of kneading and rising, so I think I qualified for this recipe I found.
 (letting it rise while I found other things to do...)
I made it 100% whole wheat and was very excited for the result, especially when it was right out of the oven (and with a thin layer of nutella). I think I did it on a cooler day recently and had a hard time with the rising, but it eventually got there and it was good. And easy. And I am going to make it again. Soon.
Making snacks from scratch works for me! Got any homemade snacks you love and want to share?