Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Photos--Thursday Thirteen

In honor of Thursday Thirteen, I am posting 13 photos from Christmas! Enjoy!

Here is my youngest with his 3 gifts from Santa.

My youngest daughter with her gifts from Santa. She was happy, doesn't look like it here.

My second oldest with her Santa loot.

My oldest with her Santa gifts. She still loves playing with American Girl stuff even though she is 9.

Tearing into his gifts.

Seeing what his sister got!

He puts everything on his head.

This is my crazy girl at the in-laws.

Always ready to pose for a photo.

My oldest, the only girl I know who wears her soccer shirts ALL the time!

She loves Polly Pockets. She will play with these for hours.

She loves her colors.

Honestly, he was happiest just playing with the paper.

We all had a wonderful Christmas, of course it isn't about the gifts. Everyone was happy though, as they all got what was on their letter to Santa. My oldest daughter asked for nothing for herself in her letter. She simply asked Santa for a good Christmas for her family. Isn't that sweet?

My husband did a wonderful job as usual on the gifts for me. However, I feel my greatest gift is my family all healthy and happy. I couldn't ask for anything more.

This post linked to Thursday Thirteen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Biography Fair

This is my second oldest at her Biography Fair this year. She was Sally Ride.
Isn't she adorable?

This post links to Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Curly Fries

My kids love homemade curly fries. From helping to make them to eating them.

Last year for Christmas my husband bought me one of these.

At first I thought it would be something neat to try once then put it in the closet. But because my kids like it so much, we use it quite often.

This particular one not only does potatoes but apples as well. You can remove the skin at the same time that you are slicing the potato or apple into curly pieces. Or leave the skin on, as I do.

We simply cut up a bunch of potatoes, sprinkle with olive oil and then coat with garlic salt, pepper and a little hot salt. I then bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. They turn out so good. My kids will eat every one, eating helping after helping until they are all gone.

I have also used this to make homemade apple crisp. But instead of leaving the apples in long strands, I cut up the strands and have nice thin slices.

This post linked to Tasty Tuesday.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan, Week of December 27

Wow, what a week! We had a wonderful holiday with family. My kids really enjoyed themselves. We have all been going to bed late, except for my son, who likes to wake up early. So I am staying up late with my older ones but getting up early with my youngest. Which explaines how I fell alseep sitting up at my in-laws on Christmas Day!

I am in organization mode, which I always get after Christmas. I am on a mission to rid my house of useless things, clean and ORGANIZE.

One of my new favorite toys is a labeler. So I am finding all kinds of things to organize and label!

We had my parents over for dinner on Sunday, I made homemade spaghetti sauce, rolls and salad. It was great! And I have so many leftovers to freeze!

Here is our options for the week!

Breakfast: cinnamon rolls, chocolate banana muffins, bacon, cold cereal

Lunches: spanish rice, leftover spaghetti, buttered noodles, sandwiches

Dinners: chicken legs (not decided how I am going to cook yet), beef stew, steak stir fry (still have not gotten to this yet), snacky type meal on New Years Eve, mini meatloaves

This post links to Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Grocery Store

Please allow me a few minutes to vent. I came home the other night from the grocery store and was not a happy camper. No it was not from my 4 kids that I took with me, it was from the rude, fellow adult grocery shoppers.

Normally I go during the day, it really avoids the crowds and if I go in the morning I have only a baby with me. Or if I go after preschool, I have a baby and a 4 year old. When the 4 year old is there with the baby, she takes her big sister roll very seriously. She becomes a wonderful helper.

On this particular day, I had been at school helping out with the holiday parties. My 4th grader had a holiday lunch that I brought food in for. My 2nd grader also had a holiday party, and I brought stuff in for that as well. I had the two younger kids with me also, just to add to the fun.

After the parties, the girls chose to stay and watch a movie with the class. That allowed me just enough to take the younger two and run to my moms to pick up something.

So after they got off the bus, I loaded them all up in the car and headed to the local grocery store. We got there around 4:15 or so. I pushed the 9 month old in the cart and the older three walked.

I am always mindful of keeping to one side in the aisles so that other people can pass. And I make sure the kids stay right with me, they aren't running around all crazy or anything. They are very well behaved in the grocery store.

So, yes, we got there around when people were getting off of work. Not to mention that around here, when people hear the word snow in the forecast, they have to stock up on everything like they are going to be snowed in for weeks. I needed milk as we had only a half gallon, which isn't even enough for a meal for us. And it was supposed to snow the next day, so I did stock up on a few other things. I also let the kids pick out some special snacks since they are off for the next two weeks from school.

Can I just say, wow? The rudeness of the adults that had stopped by after work was very abundent. They were impatient, and rude to the point of huffing and puffing as I got my items off the shelf. I was simply picking out my items, in a very timely manner, they could easily go around me. But heaven for bid I needed the same item they did, then I was in their way.

Even though I was simply shopping like they were, I found myself apologizing to everybody, constantly saying excuse me and I am sorry. Why was I apologizing? Their rudeness made me feel so uncomfortable. There was one particular man, who happened to be turning the corner at the same time as me, coming from different directions. He was so upset with me, for no reason.

Yes, I have four kids, yes we take up more space, but come on. Four kids isn't alot of kids, it isn't like we have 20 or something. Just four, and they behave very well.

The only thing I can think of is it was Friday, snow was coming and people were just tired and ready to be home. That is no excuse to be rude.

The only silver lining was this sweet old lady, who was stanind in front of the cherries. She was waiting very patiently for someone tall to walk by so  they could help her get the very last container of green cherries, on the top shelf, in the very back! Well, I fit the bill, being very tall. So she very kindly asked me if I would get it for her. She thanked me over and over. Even complimenting me on the sweetness of the baby and how well behaved my kids were.

The moral of this store is this: don't go to the store at rush hour, when there is snow in the forecast, with all four of your kids. Because I gaurantee had I gone back at that same time, even without the snow, people would be rude.

I will go back to going during the day, when there are other moms with their kids. Moms who understand that you are trying to organize your coupons, keep your baby from eating your list and making sure you keep an eye on your kids to keep them safe!

Thanks for allowing me to complain for just a few minutes.

Anyone else have any stories of rudeness at stores. Or any funny stories about having a large family?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

That Man of Mine

So, I am convinced that I have the most thoughtful husband anywhere.

To give you a bit of background on us, we dated in junior highschool. You know, back when dating meant that you talked on the phone, but go to a dance and you act like you don't even know each other. The girls hung with the girls and the guys hung with the guys. That was so long ago that I have no idea why we broke up, you know, young love.

So, fast forward a few years and we met again working at the local grocery store, when I was a sophomore in  highschool and he a junior. I was a cashier, he was a stock clerk, cart boy and bagger boy. He was so cute it was ridiculous. We dated through highschool and into college. Freshmen year was a bit bumpy, but I finally got my head on straight and we never looked back!

We were married in September of 1996 and had our first child in the year 2000. Since then we have had 3 more kids, for a total of 4.

So now you know the basics, let's get to why my man is a keeper.

My husband is a big, manly guy. He is smart, tough, funny, strong, very handsome; you know, a real guy-guy. The kind of guy who won't wear pink, but who isn't afraid of letting his daughters put barrets in his hair and a pink crown.

He is wonderful with the kids. He always knows the way to put things to them so that they understand. He is a great homework helper and good with project ideas. He loves to wrestle with the kids, they all pile on and act like daddy is getting them.

Here is is coaching (assistant) my youngest daughters soccer team.

He has a soft spot for animals. He cannot go to a rescue and not bring one home. Someone getting rid of a dog? We'll take it. He has a very big heart.

He is the guy who remembers everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, any important date, he knows it all.

He pays attention to details. One time I mentioned that I was having trouble finding my favorite face lotion at the store. So he took it upon himself  to find it online. And then he proceded to buy 5, so that I wouldn't run out any time soon. Isn't that sweet?

This is him and his mini me at the local air force base.

He opens all doors, let's me walk through first. On a sidewalk, he always walks on the side with the cars. He makes his plate last at dinner and always makes sure everyone else has had enough to eat before he goes for seconds.

He gives me the best pillow at night and makes sure I am comfortable, whether I am hot, cold, etc. He always adjusts around me.

He is an excellent gift giver. He pays attention. That perfume you mentioned you liked? or that book your friend mentioned that you thought sounded good? He stores it away and remembers that for birthdays and Christmas or just because.

I feel very safe when he is home. I sleep more soundly and have not a care in the world. Knowing he will double check all the door locks, etc.

And everytime I am at the kitchen sink washing bottles, dishes, etc. He comes up behind me, hugs me and kisses me on  the neck.

He hates getting his photo taken, can you tell?

Yes, sometimes he drives me crazy, just as I am sure that I drive him crazy at times as well. But I can over look the bread crumbs on the counter from his midnight snack. No ones perfect.

 And sometimes he does something super sweet. Like this past weekend when he surprised me Saturday after the soccer game and Sunday when he went to get the paper. He came home bearing my favorite Mint Mocha. So I spent the afternoon wrapping gifts and drinking my mocha while he took care of the kids. How sweet is that?

Yes, he is definately a keeper. And after 13 years of marriage, I am still so in love with him.

What about your man? What does he do that melts your heart?

This post linked to Gratituesday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan, Week of December 20

Well, it is almost here, I cannot believe that Christmas is this week! Boy how the time flies.

Anyhoo! We have some places to go for the holidays so dinners will be sporadic this week.

Sunday, December 20: cinnamon roles, leftover pizza and a pork shoulder

Breakfasts for the week: cold cereal, muffins, some days my older kids will wake up very late, so breakfast will probably be lunch!

Lunches: leftovers, homemade pizza, baked potatoes, buttered noodles, sandwiches

Dinners: leftover pork shoulder turned into bbq sandwiches, steak stir-fry(we didn't get to this last week), hamburgers, snacky type dinner at my moms on Christmas Eve, dinner at in-laws for Christmas, ham

Enjoy your week. I still have more baking to do! This week is slow after today, can't wait to listen to Christmas musice, enjoy my kids and finish my baking. We might through in a craft or two as well.

This links to Menu Plan Mondays.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oldest Daughters Christmas Choir Show

My oldest daughter is in choir. I don't post many photos of her for a reason, she doesn't really care to have her photo taken. Especially now that it might show up on my blog!

Well she had a Christmas Choir Show the other night and they all looked so mature, in their red shirts and black pants.

I am very proud of my oldest. She is gets A's in school, is good at sports and get multple awards at school for her character and being a good roll model. I am definately a proud momma.

Here is a photo of her group singing on the stage.

She is the second from the right on the top row. I know you can't see her, but she is there, I kid you not!

She even had a speaking part, ignore the scary eyes! Clearly I need photography help. Ironic since I went to an art college and even took photography. Alas, it is not my thing! I blame the camera.

Finally a good photo of her. Here she is holding her baby brother. Oh, how she spoils him! He does love his big sister.

And did I mention how wonderful they all sang? They sounded beautiful. I can't wait for the Spring Concert!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What you get when you let the 4 year old have the camera!

So, I let my 4 year old take photos the other day. This is what we got. Enjoy.

The pantry door, with our countdown to Christmas. And her paper bell she made in preschool, that has been torn in half, yet we cannot take it down.

My bear with our mini tree. And yes, my stairs do need a good vacuuming don't they.

Okay, she took photos of photos.

No idea what this is, but whatever it is needs to be washed, since it has dog hair all over it. I better go ask what it was!

A photo of her waterless snow globe she made.

A shot of our ceiling, wall and top of our tree.

The Grinch and Frosty, sitting on our couch.

Her brother eating.

This is a photo of the wall in her bedroom.

A crooked photo of her mirror in her room, also needing a good cleaning. I don't think I want to know what she has smeared on this.

And of course, she had to take a photo of herself.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Great Gift Idea for Kids

This is a great frugal idea. I made these for my youngest daughters preschool class. It is a great way to use up old crayons, or the crayons that you receive at restuarants. What is it you ask? A crayon!

We put little gift bags together with the homemade crayons and candy canes.

Here is what we did. We took all the old crayons that we had and removed the leftover paper and broke them into little pieces. I sprayed my muffin tin with baking spray first. Then we placed the crayon pieces in a mini muffin tin.

I then placed them in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. After they were melted, I placed them outside, where they would cool faster.

I then brought them back inside and simply flipped over the pan, they popped right out.

I broke off the thin edges and this is what you get.

All I had to buy was the treat bags ($1.97) and the candy canes (99 cents). So for around $3 I was able to make 16 treat bags and have plenty left over.

The kids loved these, and when you color with them, you get a multi color look. Too cute.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Preschool Christmas Party

This was my youngest daughters first preschool Christmas party. They sang for us and had treats and even a book exchange. They had a ball, she was so proud.

Here she is entering the class room, she got to be the line leader.

She was very excited, for the first time, she got to eat what everyone else was eating. There is another little boy in class who is also allergic to eggs, dairy, peanuts and treenuts. His mom contacted me about my recipe that I have. So she made the recipe and used the safe icing for her son and my daughter as well.

She was very leary, and kept asking if I was sure she could have it. We have trained her well not to eat anything unless we make sure it is safe. And she is used to me bringing her cake to all functions. Once I convinced her that it was safe, she took a bite and realized it was our recipe! She was so excited!

Here she is getting into the circle to sing songs.

This is her singing a song about reindeer!

They had a book exchange and here she is showing me the book that she just opened!

Here she is receiving her official "Reindeer Flying License" that was mailed from Santa to her teachers. They practiced a couple of weeks ago and they all passed and received their license.

In the photo with her is Ms. Coleen and Ms. Jean, the best preschool teachers around. We love them.

And here we are, her brother is trying to make an escape!

Allergy Free Muffins

This is a super easy, delicious recipe that makes 2 dozen muffins. I stumbled upon this recipe years ago, before I had a daughter with food allergies. So I took the base recipe and then tweaked it so that my daughter could eat it, we all love it, even my 9 month old.

Yes, my stove top is dirty, but to my defense I just got done cooking dinner and hadn't cleaned the top yet. I would never buy a WHITE flat top stove, it is impossible to keep clean. So just ignore it.

It is very versatile, I have made it using chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, bananas and blueberries.

The recipe is:

1 cup margerine (I use a vegan margerine)
2 cups sugar (yes, a lot, you can use less if you want to, but it is for 2 dozen muffins)
6 T water, 6 T oil, 4 tsp baking powder - all mixed together in a separate container, then add
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup rice or soy milk
4 cups flour
1 T vanilla
2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Optional: chocolate chips, blueberries, whatever you want to through in!

Cream margarine and sugar, then add the egg replacement (oil, water and baking soda mixture), milk and mix. Once that is mixed, mix the rest of the ingredients in. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for cupcakes and up to 1 hour for bread pans, depending on how large they are. I used mini loaf pans, so it was only in for 35 minutes. But a large loaf could take an hour.

This last batch I separated it in half and made a dozen blueberry and a dozen chocolate chunk. The chocolate chunk I not only made muffins but I made some of my mini loaves to give as gifts to the busdriver, etc. Anyone that I want to  give a simple gift to, but not spend a lot of money, just to say thanks.

Here is my finished gift for the busdriver. Isn't it cute?

This post linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap and Tasty Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I don't know about you guys, but my absolute favorite food is pizza, thick crust, thin crust, plain cheese, meat, fully loaded, it doesn't matter much to me. I just love the combination of sauce(lots of sauce), crust and cheese(light cheese). There is nothing better.  It is the end all be all for me, I could eat it every day.

However, we don't order pizza very often, only as a special treat. Yes I do love having it delivered, fresh and hot to my door, but honestly it costs us $40 every time we order pizza. You see, we cannot simply order from whoever has the best deal, not with a child with food allergies. We have to order from the most expensive pizza place around. Yes, it is delicious, but we order it because they are so cautious and aware. When I place an order, they immediately send me to the supervisor, because our address/phone number is flagged. It is flagged to say that we have a dairy allergy in the house. They always ask if this person is eating the pizza today. Then they procede to tell me that they always use new pizza cutters, etc. when making a pizza with a dairy allergy. We always order one with no cheese at all, and it has never been delivered wrong, not one single time.

So while it is worth it to spend the extra when ordering pizza, to make sure that we receive a safe one for my daughter. I don't like spending $40 on pizza every Friday, that adds up to $160-$200 a month, just for pizza. So, I have figured out a way to make my own.

I do not buy store bought crust, I make mine from scratch. Sometimes I will even make them in advance and freeze them for when the rest of the family will have frozen pizza, my youngest daughter and I will have homemade pizza, with the frozen dough. Or when all of us have homemade pizza, I will make 2 fresh crusts.

Here is the recipe that I have used for years. I even use this for homemade breadsticks.
2 tsp yeast
1 cup hot water
sprinkle of sugar
2 T oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups of flour ( I usually do one cup whole wheat and 2 cups white flour)

In a bowl, I mix the yeast, hot water and sugar and let it sit for 5 minutes. It turns a little foamy.  Then I simply mix everything together. Once it is mixed, I will knead it on the counter for a few minutes. I have used it right away many times, but that makes a thin crust. I prefer to cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise some. This makes a thicker crust, which is my favorite.

Then I will use either spaghetti sauce that I made and froze or store bought from a jar. I have even used straight tomato sauce from a can in a pinch. I sprinkle garlic salt, italian seasoning and parmesian cheese on the saue. Then I sprinkle with cheese. We usually do hamburger and pepperoni, that is my kids favorite. We always make a whole or half of one without cheese, this not only accomodates my food allergy daughter but also my oldest, who likes hers better plain or with little cheese.

Here is the finished product, doesn't it look yummy?

Around here Friday is usually pizza night. After a long week, it is nice to eat something easy that doesn't dirty up a lot of dishes.

Do you enjoy homemade pizza? If so, how do you make it?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ways We Give Back and Donate

Every year we try to look for ways that we can give back or donate. I like to remind my kids that there are many people less fortunate than we are and that it is our duty to help out where we can.

Some of the ways that we do this are as follows:

We donate to Toys for Tots. My kids each get to pick out a gift and then we drop it off at our local fire house.

Our local grocery store has a service every Christmas where you can buy a grocery bag that is already stocked full of food and it is then passed out to those in need at the local shelter. I make a point to get atleast one and simply tack it to my grocery purchase.

We always donate blood when our company has a blood drive, my husband donates the double as often as he can.

I have recently started to keep my free cat food and cat treats to donate to the local SPCA instead of keeping them for our cats. Also, all of our dogs have come from rescues, or been dropped off to the vet.

Our local YMCA has a tree with little tags decorating it. Each tag has something that a child might need. For instance it might say " 8 year old, socks". I usually let all three of my older kids pick one tag each.

The girls' school takes donations to send to the military overseas. They need things like baby wipes and small stuffed animals to pass out. We send in whatever I can get to donate.

The girls' school also has a tree in the cafeteria where the kids bring in mittens, gloves and hats and put them on the tree as decorations. This year they also are asking for toothpaste and toothbrushes to put under the tree.
Our work also takes donation throughout the year for food and toiletries. We always bring in double, from both my husband and myself.

And of course we donate lots throughout the year to Goodwill.

I have graciously accepted hand me downs, especially for my 8 month old son. And of course I pass  it along and give them to someone else who will graciously accept them as well.

We also try to donate when they are running certain fundraisers. For instance a family whose house burned down, or when they were taking donations for hurrican Katrina.

At work they seem to be always having some kind of bake sale or raffle to help out a local family who has been affected with cancer, or another illness. Again, I make sure to donate something.

This time of year, there are always kettles for the Salvation Army outside of stores. I always give each of my kids money even if I only have change on me to put in the kettle.

In addition to these things, I remember to use my manners, be polite and hold the door for people. The other day after I had loaded my groceries into the car and got the kids loaded, I was pulling out of the lot when I noticed an older lady who was having trouble loading her groceries. Of course I pulled the car over and offered to help with her groceries. She was so grateful. And after the girls said "wow, mommy, that was very nice of you to offer". And it was nice, but it didn't take a whole lot of time, it was something little that I could do but it meant a great deal to that lady.

Of course I want my kids to grow up and be smart, to find love and to do something they enjoy for a living. But in addition to that, I really want my kids to grow up to be good people. To be kind, to treat others as they would want to be treated and to think of themselves last.

I am so thankful that we are in a position to be able to give back.

This post is linked to Gratituesday and Finer Things Friday.

What ways do you donate? How do you try to give back.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Plan, Week of December 13

This is a very busy week for me during the day. I have all kinds of doctor visits this week. I have 4 chiropracter appointments, hoping it will help my back problems that I have been dealing with for almost 20 years! I have a dermatologist appointment, hoping that the spots I found turn out to be nothing. And I have a checkup with my general practioner to see if my bloodpressure is coming down, I have struggled with high bloodpressure since the birth of our fourth child.

I also have to bake something for the busdriver's gift, bake something for my 4th graders Christmas luncheon, get something together for my 2nd graders Christmas party. I have to wrap lots of presents still and find time to do some holiday baking.

We have Brownies, student council and basketball practice this week, but no choir practice as last week was the holiday show.

So what am I making for meals this week? Believe it or not, I will still make yummy homemade dinners. Here is  what I have planned:

Sunday: breakfast was a hodgepodge, my husband and I forgot to eat, the older two were at a sleepover and the younger two ate bananas and cold cereal. Lunch was a Baptism luncheon, dinner was sandwiches on fresh baked italian bread, that I didn't make.

Breakfasts this week: sausage, cold cereal, oatmeal, toast

Lunches this week: leftovers, buttered noodles, sandwiches

Dinners: chili, roast and mashed potatoes, steak stir-fry, taco soup with homemade rolls, leftovers and pizza

I made these homemade buns last week and they were a huge hit. But they thought they tasted more like rolls than anything else. I do not eat bread very often, I have said before, it is a texture thing. So between the 3 older kids and my husband, they ate 16 rolls. The batch made 20 and only 4 were left. My older two took them in their lunches the next day. They loved them. So I will be making them again.

This post linked to Menu Plan Mondays.