Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mezzo Farte Chili

Mezzo Farte Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, diced

Brown and drain.

1 can (46 oz.) tomato juice
1 can (16 oz.) red beans, rinsed
1 Tbls. + 2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until thick, approx. 1-2 hours.

Snacks for Toddlers

Per request, here are some of snacks that I serve to my two toddlers:

-cheese and crackers (mine prefer saltines)
-apple slices
-any kind of chopped fruit
-veggies and ranch
-cottage cheese
-good 'ol Cheerios (or any kind of cereal, w/o milk)
-bread and butter
-bread and peanut butter (we use natural peanut butter- Smuckers- cause it has less sugar)
-zucchini or pumpkin bread
-pretzels (mine like to dip in mustard)
-organic blue corn tortilla chips (from Aldi)
-lunch meat
-graham crackers

You ladies have any other snacks your toddlers love? Please share!

PS: if my kids don't like a certain something (like a veggie or meat), I've been known on many an occasion to blend the tar out of it in a food processor and sneak it into the food. They never know the difference.

What I discovered the other day

This is profound, but I discovered something in the basement here the other day.


Alright, it's not so secret or hidden. It's actually out in the middle of the floor in the den right outside my bedroom door. It's been there for as long as I've know RD, but never paid much attention to it.

What got me thinking about it was my sister-in-law, Shauna, who likes to run. I'm not a big runner, but she got me thinking about the "gotta stay in shape" concept that I've been neglecting a bit here lately. I'm stuck at 9 more pounds to lose to be at my pre-pregnancy weight. So it's time to kick in gear and lose it. Thank you, Shauna, for the reminder.

So this treadmill's been sitting there collecting dust for at least the 5 years that I've known RD and I've never really taken notice of it... until I got back from MI for Thanksgiving. I woke up Sunday morning, stepped outside my bedroom door, and had one of those "ah-ha" moments, you know, where the clouds part, rays of light are shining down from the sky, and angels start singing in a mighty chorus. (Yeah, try getting have one of these at 5 am.)

I decided to try it... and I think I am really liking it. I'll start walking, pick up speed, start praying or thinking about something, and the next thing I know, -bam- I've walked 2 miles. It's actually pretty easy, even though I'm hoofing it. And I know it's working cause I'm sore.

Who knew?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

6 mo. pics of Cassandra now available

Check out the Duckwall Family weblog!!!

How to feed a family of (5) for $50/wk.

One word... Aldi.

-sigh- I must say, Aldi is probably my most favorite store ever. It took me nearly three years to discover it. Money was super tight our first few years of marriage (and tight might be an understatement). All I knew and was familiar with was Kroger. To boot, I didn't know how to meal plan appropriately. Needless to say, for a family of two, we were racking up bills of $100+ every time we went "Krogering". Much of it we ended up throwing away because we couldn't eat it fast enough. We were wasting our money. Finally, we got to a point financially where we said "enough is enough" and drastically cut our food bill. We said "no more than $50/wk". I was forced to figure it out. In comes Aldi!

1. I started by making very simple meals like spaghetti, BBQ ribs, baked chicken and veggies. And when I say simple, I'm meaning 2-5 ingredients. Spaghetti, sauce, ground beef. BBQ sauce and pork ribs in a crock-pot. Chicken breasts, seasoning, and cauliflower baked. I like very simple, but super tasty meals, not only because they are much cheaper to purchase but also, with three kids, I don't have time to prepare the fru-fru dishes.

2. What really helped me figure out basic cooking skills was a cookbook I received for Christmas one year entitled "Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics". A wonderful book for the kitchen weary and fearful. I highly recommend it. Pictures galore!

3. Another thing that I did was stretch meals with rice, pasta, potatoes, and couscous.

4. I'd also stretch foods by using the meat/main dish for several meals in a row. For example:
*Make a pot of chili... meals that could come from it:
-1: chili and rice
-2: chili dogs
-3: potato bar with chili and cheese
-4: taco salad (Wendy's style) w/ chili
-5: nacho night with chili

5. OR I'd make a double batch of chili and freeze a portion of it so that we could eat it at a later meal. (Freezing extra's is always an awesome idea. I did a lot of meal freezing prior to labor/delivery so that when my babies were born and life was hectic with adjustment, meals weren't so much of a hassle.)

6. Other ways I stretched food was to take things like hamburger buns, hotdog buns, or slices of bread that were getting close to their expiration date and turned them into garlic toast or croutons.

7. Basically, I had to be creative. If something was getting close to "going bad", I tried to come up with a way to use it... like in a soup, for example.

8. At all times, I try keep my spices and baking cupboard well stocked so I can bake and "fluff up" a meal to make it go further.

9. But otherwise, I only buy what I plan on using for the week and no extras. For a while there, we bought absolutely no chips, pop, cookies, etc. If we wanted them, I baked them. Now, if there's a little extra money, I might buy a surprise purchase as a treat.

10. We rarely eat out. And when we do, it's usually because there's a little extra money that week. It's amazing how much fast food adds up.

11. When I first started out with this $50/wk thing (and when I was just learning how to cook), I have to admit, we didn't eat super healthy. Sometimes it was Ramen noodle soup or fish/mac/peas. As I got more comfortable with being in the kitchen, I decided to try things like whole grains, brown rice, wheat pasta, etc. A lot of the healthy stuff is more expensive, so I'd wait for it to go on sale.

12. Every Monday here in Peru, the grocery ads come in the newspaper... every Tuesday, I go grocery shopping. I meal plan around the sale items, especially the meat (which can also be expensive). When I purchase meat, I really only purchase it when it's on-sale. I also keep an eye out for the orange tagged meat that needs to be sold that day (which is usually marked down considerably).

13. I still do this, but I started calling my friends to come over more often for meals and have mini pot lucks. "I'll provide the meat if you guys provide the side dishes" sort of gatherings. Super cheap and fun cause you're hanging out with friends.

14. Cottage cheese. Sounds silly, but we love it. And added as a side dish, the meal gets stretched.

15. Make homemade bread. Serve with dinner. More stretching.

16. Homemade desserts rather than ice cream and boxed yummies.

17. Add a salad to your meal. Even more stretching.

OK. My brain is throbbing. Like when I play Sudoku. :-) If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

Keep it simple.
If it's not on your list, don't buy it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Things to consider before becoming a Domestic Engineer (Part 2)

6. HOUSE-FLEEING: A lot of women who are used to the high-paced life of the work-world get stir-crazy when working at home full-time. Perhaps it ties into the whole "no goals" category, but many women face the temptation to flee the home any chance they can get, oftentimes without even realizing it. Several women find it quite difficult at first to find contentment with their new situation. Realize that being a Domestic Engineer doesn't tie you to the home 24-7. (We stay-at-homers need to get out, believe you me.) But, when you're out of the home more than you're in the home (during waking hours), you may have fallen into this category.

7. SUPER-WOMAN: Now that you'll have more freedom and flexibility in your day, it is very difficult to not fall into this trap. The "I can do everything because I'm available" syndrome. Yes, you are available and can help out more during the daytime hours, BUT your first and foremost responsibility as a Domestic Engineer is the home. Weigh your responsibilities carefully. Balance. Balance. Balance. Oh, and did I mention balance? :-) Yes, you can help babysit your girlfriends' kids. Yes you can help out with miscellaneous church functions. Yes, you can join Bible Studies, fitness classes, clubs, politics, etc... BUT, if any of it keeps you from getting your duties at home done, then you need to learn an awesome two-letter word... "NO". It's that easy. Just say "no". Am I saying never help out or join/do anything fun? No way. Fun keeps you young. But if you are consistently/habitually neglecting laundry, meal prep, house cleaning, money management, homework with kids, time with hubby/kids, etc. for the sake of your activity level, then you need to start saying "no". Home and family come first!

8. DISCOURAGEMENT: For the Domestic Engineer, our rewards are usually not immediate. Sure we get peanut butter smiles, hugs, lovin-on's, and the occasional thank you, but it sure is different than getting a paycheck, raise, holiday bonus, promotion, etc. A lot of our rewards aren't even seen this side of heaven. It is terribly easy for the stay-at-home wife to think that she is doing nothing of significance, especially when the world around her poo poo's her home efforts. The world says that there is nothing useful about laundry, cooking meals, wiping runny noses, changing diapers, cleaning house. They look at it with disdain and ridicule, possibly even something to be avoided. I can't even count how many times I've heard people comment on how their brains "wasted" during their years of homemaking because they weren't using it. The thing is, they probably weren't! If you pour all your energy, time, and creativity into making your house a home, believe me, you'll use your brain. Since I've stayed home, I've been forced to learn how to efficiently/effectively meal plan and grocery shop, keeping our grocery bill around $50/wk. for a family of (5). I've had to do a TON of research on childrearing, home remedies for illness, healthy eating habits, breastfeeding, homeschooling, etc. I've been forced to grow up and think about others before myself. I'm forced to think about things like local and national politics and global news because of how it may impact myself and my family. I've been forced to think about Biblical doctrine and why I believe what I believe. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If your heart and eyes are truly focused on the home, believe me, you will (or at least you should) use your brain constantly. And you may not see immediate results for all your hard work, but the best rewards will be when your children rise up and call you blessed (Prov. 31), your husband speaks highly of you around town (Prov. 31) and when God looks at you at the end of your life and calls you a "good and faithful servant".

9. USED TO STRESS: Many women (since they're used to the high-stress levels of working full-time then coming home in the evenings/weekends to take care of the house) aren't used to a slower-paced life when they decide to come home full-time. It's like an eery silence within the four walls of their home. Even if they have kids to take care of, many women are uncomfortable with the slowness of life. And what do many women decide to do? Increase the stress levels, because it's comfortable for them. It's hard to get used to/comfortable with this new pace in life, but if at all possible, cut back on the stress level. Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the slowness. Use this new-found quiet to spend time with the Lord in prayer.

***Hope this list helps some of you that are considering staying at home full-time. If there are other "things to consider" that I've failed to mention, I'd love to post them and to hear how you women have dealt with them.

Yummies with Ranch

Bacon Ranch Chicken

4 large chicken breasts
6 oz. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
3/4 package of bacon (cooked/chopped)
1/2 package powdered Ranch Dressing mix

Spray bake pan with non-stick spray. Evenly place de-thawed chicken breasts in pan. In this order place over chicken: Ranch Dressing powder, cheese, and bacon. Add 1/4 in. water. Place lid over it and put in 350F oven for approx. 25 min. or until chicken is no longer pink.
*I rarely use a timer with this recipe. Usually by the time I can REALLY smell the chicken, it's done.

Ranch Broccoli

-steam your broccoli with a healthy sprinkling of Ranch Dressing powder. Stir it in for a thorough coating.

So funny!

Seriously, if you haven't checked out Doc Hamstrung's Parlor, you are sorely missing out on some major humor. Need a laugh? See the Doc!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I love my hubby

Fresh fam pics

Check out the family weblog here.

Things to consider before becoming a Domestic Engineer (Part 1)

One of my girlfriends is planning on quitting her job and staying home full-time at the end of this year. She's on kid #3 (who's now 18 mo.) and has been working for as long as she can remember. Her very words to me the other day were, "I'm excited... but I'm also scared."

Her comment is so terribly common among women who are contemplating staying home.

Here is Part 1 of some common issues that Stay-at-Home-Wifers have to constantly contend with:

1) LAZINESS: Just because you can sleep in until 9 or 10am everyday doesn't mean you should. Just because you can watch soap operas all afternoon doesn't mean you should. Just because you "have all day" doesn't mean you should neglect your responsibilities. When you're home all day, it is sometimes really hard to fight back the "but I don't feel like it" or "I can just get to that later" thoughts. Granted, if you have little ones, it's sometimes VERY hard to get things done NOW, but "later" usually never comes (we all know that). Being a Domestic Engineer is a full-time job and should be respected as such. Have a definite start time for your day. Get a good night's sleep. Get your clothes out the night before. Set up a daily schedule. Think of managing your day at home as you would a normal 9am-5pm job.

2) DISTRACTIONS: There are a gazillion things to distract us from getting our work done during the day. TV. Radio. Movies. Internet. Books/magazines. If it distracts you, just say NO! I like having the radio on and listening to praise music during the day. But when the talk shows come on, I sometimes have to turn it off because I find myself paying more attention to what the speaker is saying rather than on my kids or my chores (which are actually called Home Blessings in my house). If something is prying at your attention, shut it off or get rid of it. Make it a reward or a treat after the hard work is done.

3) MOOCH COMPLEX: How many times have we as women heard this comment being said, "stay-at-home wives are mooching off their hubby's income since they're not contributing a pay check"? -sigh- It breaks my heart when I hear comments like this being said, especially if I see it deter a woman from staying home. We may not be making money, but we sure can SAVE it. Think about it. No more daycare costs. Less wear and tear on the car(s). Fewer oil changes and mechanical repairs. Less eating out. There will be time to look for good deals, to shop off season, and to buy stuff on sale. More things will be made/repaired from home. Women can save $1,000's of dollars by staying home. Not just in saving money, but we also contribute in other ways, too. Since our home IS our job, we can dedicate our full time, energy, creative juices, and drive into it and not have to worry about being "too tired" at the end of the day to give anything to our husband, home, and children.
*On a side note, our pastor once told us that he'd come across some research stating that if a stay-at-home wife actually got cut a check for all her tireless effort of taking care of the home, she'd be making $150,000+ a year!

4) NO GOALS: If you don't have a goal, you don't know where to aim. If Domestic Engineers don't make goals for themselves, they won't have proper focus during the day. What do I mean by goals? I make daily and weekly goals for childrearing/home blessing. It gives me something to strive for. You might want to call it a schedule perhaps. I know that on Mondays I topical dust and meal plan. Tuesdays, I take the kids to reading hour at the library and go grocery shopping. Etc. I also make childrearing goals. One of my goals for Benjamin is for him to stop playing at the dinner table. For Arianna, I want her to stop whining after I give her a command. It gives me something to work toward rather than batting at the wind not knowing what I'm aiming for. It gives me focus. We'd have goals at an outside job. We should have them in our stay-at-home job, too.

5) LET YOURSELF GO: We wouldn't go to work (typically) un-showered, without make-up, hair not done-up, wearing sweats... so why would you do this at your stay-at-home job? Just because no one (but maybe the kids) will see you? Once again, this is a real job and should be respected as such. Not that we have to dress to the nines just to feed and diaper a baby and take the trash out, but I am saying we should at least get dressed and presentable. Believe me, hubby will appreciate it. AND you'll feel better about yourself during the day, too. As the FlyLady says, dress to the shoes!

Friday, November 17, 2006

This is terrifying.... is it true?

One of RD and I's friends is contemplating getting a vasectomy. I decided to do a little research on the subject and immediately came across this and this. Is this stuff TRUE?!!! Have any of you ever heard of this before?!!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

More humor

For some more laughs, check out "Ralph for President" campaign stuff on the family weblog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Semi-recent family pics

This was seriously the best of 10 poses.
Do you know how hard it is to make 5 different people
(three of whom are under the age of 3)
cooperate for a picture?!
-mom looks tired of trying to be civil-
Next time we're bringing a taser gun.
*it would have looked much better with a brighter background for contrast*

This one' s a little better.
*Note: RD gains sympathy weight with Mel during her pregnancies...
it does go away.*

Monday, November 06, 2006

You girls are great!

This one is from Amy K. John Piper is bad. Thanks for yet another laugh today. :-)

This takes the cake!

Serina, what a hoot! I laughed so hard when I looked at this site. I just had to share with my readers. (My favorite was the menorah.)

Currently reading

The Bible says so much about heaven,
yet so few people have really taken the time to read it and study it
to know what we'll experience when we die.
A must-read for Believers.

Are you a nursing mom?

Quick question. Any mom's out there that have used cloth breast pads? I currently use disposables (Lansinoh) but am considering using cloth/re-useables. What brands/types would you recommend (for med. to heavy flow)?

Friday, November 03, 2006

New feature

You can now contact me via e-mail (for comments, concerns, snide remarks, fan mail, letters of adoration, topic ideas, sharing of info/personal stories, etc. -smile-) Thought that'd make my blog more effective/user-friendly.

At the end of each post you'll see an envelope with an arrow. Click on it it and you can e-mail me. Also, my address is posted in my profile.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Urinary Tract Infections

If you've never had one, count yourself blessed. If you have had one, you can understand when I say, "YEE-OW!".

Common symptoms: near-constant urgency to urinate & painful/burning sensation during urination

I'm typically a little hesitant to try natural healing and herbal remedies, but I'm slowly starting to become a believer in them, that is, concerning stuff that's non-major medical in nature.

Recently, I experienced the unpleasantness of a UTI and decided to try treating it naturally (rather than having to pay for an office visit to my doctor/urine screen/prescription for antibiotics). After doing some research, I decided to try the cranberry route and for $15, I'm now UTI free!

Cranberry treatment: lots of water, Cranberry Juice (100% juice), and cranberry concentrate herbal supplements (I got mine from from Kroger).

I think the key is catching the UTI early and treating it immediately. If you wait too long, the infection can get into your bladder/kidneys (which is quite dangerous and certainly requires medical attention).

As soon as you experience these symptoms, try the cranberry route and see if it saves you a visit to the doctor.

*the herbal supplements I purchased were called: Super cranberry fruit 1680mg. plus vitamin C (100 softgels)
*my mother-in-law also swears by these vitamins called AZO

Note: if in 2-3 days your symptom persist or get worse, see your health care provider immediately