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Showing posts from September, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - Redeeming the Time

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I have no idea who this house belongs to, but I love the colors and the architecture.  I love Victorian houses!  Or, I should say, I love the look of Victorian houses.  The upkeep is another story and I doubt I'll ever own one for that very reason. 
The thing that makes me sad about them is that there once was a great story regarding who built them and who lived there.  They had families and dreams and hopes and wishes.  And now it's reduced to a house.  A house that hopefully has found a loving new owner.  More often than, not that isnt' the case.  And I wonder if they owner left another legacy - family and friends who were touched by their lives in ways we can only dream of.  A legacy that will live on past the wood and paint and plaster and lath of the house.
Time is fleeting and precious.

I read 4 different blog posts in the last week on time management and another 3 about using time wisely.  It seems to be the hot topic lately.

I have always struggled with time managem…

Work Home and Family - Busy Mom Tips Part 2: Cooking that Meal!

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Last time on Busy Mom Tips, I talked about menu planning.  Today's topic, Cooking that Meal, is intimately linked to planning your menu.  Busy nights mean that dinner either needs to be something that can be made quickly (such as the salad with bread in the photo above) or something that can be made ahead of time and just eaten.  Slower nights mean that more time can be taken to make dinner.  Freezer cooking or simply planning ahead can aid on any night for making cooking dinner (or any meal) quick and easy.  Here are some tips that help me make dinner quickly and easily, especially on busy nights!
Learn your timing.  It takes 20 minutes to cook the brand of rice we buy. So if I'm making stir fry, I start the rice and then brown the meat at the same time, then cook everything else.  That way everything gets done at the same time.  No time wasted waiting for certain things to cook and no overdone food with others.  This does take some trial and error but just looking at the reco…

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Just Get Moving!

Since my new job started at the beginning of the month, I've been on my feet 8 1/2 more hours per week than I had been before.

Now that's teaching, not running, biking, jogging, swimming, or anything else 'active'.  Just being on my feet, ambling around my classroom, occasionally playing with toys and waving my arms in large gestures and that kind of thing, but mostly just standing or walking.  Nothing fancy.

I read a study recently that said if you have a sedentary job (anything at a desk for 5+ hours per day) you still need to watch your health because that constant sitting is what takes the toll. The study showed that people who had desk jobs were less healthy overall, even if they spent an hour a day working out.  There were still a ton of questions that needed to be answered that weren't, but it is intriguing.

My Mom and I were talking about how she felt her rear got bigger, even though her weight didn't change, when she had a desk job.  I get that thought…

Goals - Going AWOL but Making Progress

Well, as I said in our menu post, things were absolutely crazy this past week!  The kids brought home colds the tail end of last week.  Then hubby got the flu - and Buddy too.  Then Missy caught the cold. Then I caught the cold which turned into a sinus infection.  Yee haw!  That means no blogging and very little else besides the absolute musts on the list.

Life happens and not much you can do about it except survive sometimes. (And thank God for antibiotics for sinus infections!) :)

It's been a crazy week in other ways too. 

Figuring out exactly how this insane schedule of mine is going to work out has been a challenge.
Having a student with particular difficulties that is going to take more of my time as a teacher has been a challenge. 
Finding out that I have problems with my academic transcript at school has been a challenge. 
Not to mention finding out that I have to re-do several things that I though were completely off my plate simply because I changed a committee membe…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 26th

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What a week we had last week - colds, flu and a million other things!  Yikes!  It seems like everyone I talked to has had a crazy fall, up to this point at least.  And this week is no exception - at least for us.  John is out of town for part of this week, so the kids and I get to "fly solo".  Including having a family friend pick the kids up from school for a couple of days.  Haven't tried that with my 'new' schedule, so we'll see how it goes.  Freezer cooking is finally done - I had to take a break with the colds and flu.  I did 'scratch' the M&M Oatmeal cookies and totally forgot to take photos of almost everything. At least the food is in the freezer and ready to be made into full meals!  Hurray!  That makes weeks like these so much easier!  Here's what we're eating this week:
Sunday, September 26: Breakfast: Cold Cereal Lunch: Baked Eggs, Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Fruit Dinner: Roasted Root Vegetables, Homemade Bread, Fruit
Monday, Septemb…

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Children's Friends

I have to say we are very, very blessed.

I have two healthy, active and intelligent (in my humble opinion!) children.  These children have the ability to make friends easily and play well with others in almost every setting they've been in.  And now we are entering the age with constant play-dates.

My husband and I have great neighbors - both with children.  And those children are friends of our children.

My children have been blessed with good classmates at preschool. And good peers at daycare.  And even more good classmates at kindergarten. 

We have had 3 birthday parties in  a month here.  And we have had more play dates than you can shake a stick at as well.  Having neighbors with children means knocks on the door asking for someone (or someones) to play.  And we have had little feet tramping in and out of our house every evening for the last 2 weeks and all afternoon yesterday and today. 

I love it.

I love that my children have friends close by.  That helps to make up for …

Frugal Friday - Jumping Off the Consumer Bandwagon

I guess you can say that we aren't on the consumer bandwagon anymore. 

I had that realization as I was filling out my Swagbucks profiles for their "trusted survey" section a while back. I had that realization again while taking to a friend.  And then again while talking to the cashier at the grocery store.

All of these things were talking or asking about purchases that I've made in the last year in some form or another. 

On Swagbucks it was things like:
Which restaurants have you frequented in the last year?
What electronics have your bought in the last year? (Or are planning to buy in the future.)
Where do you typically buy ....(typically followed by something I've never bought in my life)?

My friend was talking about:
The cell phones they had bought recently.
The concerts they've seen recently.
How much dressing trendy is these days.
How much groceries cost.

The cashier was talking about:
How he'd had to replace his cell phone Smart Phone (or iPhone o…

In the Refiner's Fire - The Days Own Troubles

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I had a bit of a breakthrough this last weekend as I was panicking about all that I have to do right now. 

[Jesus said,] "...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34
I've always struggled with this verse. 

I had always thought it meant to think only about the immediate - what needed to be done or taken care of or what you are doing right now.  No planning ahead.  No thinking about the future.  No decision making past the immediate things, such as what to work on this minute or what to wear when you get out of the shower in 10 minutes or what to make for dinner in 5 hours.

As someone who has always been taught to plan ahead and think about the big picture, I struggled mightily with the idea of  just thinking about right now.  As a result, I always disliked that verse because it made me feel guilty about thinking about the future and planning ahead. 

My breakthrough this weekend w…

Freezer Cooking Update #1

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It's officially Wednesday and that means I am halfway through my week of "Freezer Cooking."

Have a I made progress? Yep, at least some!  Not quite what I had planned, but I have made progress, so that's a good thing.

So...What's gotten done?


My mixes: 2 cornbread, 4 baking powder biscuits, and 4 oatmeal muffins.


Stir Fry Packets: 3 Pork
Tomato Sauce (cooking as we speak in my crock pot at home).
1 gallon Turkey Stock (my 'chicken' carcass was actually a turkey!)
1 gallon Ham Stock
What still needs to be done?
chicken stir fry packets pork stir fry packets shrimp stir fry packets 16 bean soup (which will use part of the ham stock) pizzas calzones granola pancake mixes oatmeal m&m cookies grilled and diced chicken
The stir fry packets are on the agenda for tonight after I get home.  The bean soup will be made for dinner tomorrow night, and the chicken on Friday night.  I have the pizzas and calzones on the agenda for tomorrow afternoon and the granola and cookies will g…

Work Home and Family - Busy Mom Tips Part One: Meal Planning

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Busy Mom Tips Part One: Meal Planning
The thing I get asked about the most when people find out we eat dinner at home about 28 nights (or more) a month and that we cook dinner, rather than buying pre-made is "How on earth do you do it!?" 
For me this is normal.  I grew up with a working outside-of-the home Mom and a homemade dinner on the table almost every night.  Take-out or pizza was a rare treat, meaning either a special occasion or Mom was out of state visiting Grandma and Dad got to "cook".  :)  So, making dinner at night each night is just what's normal for me.  And, yes, I've put certain meals on the table at night and thought "Ack! I'm turning into my mother!"   That's okay. Really. My mom is a lovely person and she's an excellent cook.  Plus, she taught me all she knows!  Well, except how to milk a cow and butcher chickens. And unless I actually need those skills in my daily life at some point, I don't plan on learning!
An…

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Doing What I Can

I realized this weekend that I just can't squeeze another minute out of my schedule without sacrificing sleep or family time, both of which I consider essential.

So, I'm making changes where I can:  What I eat.

More specifically: How much I eat.

I eat too much for my activity level.  That's why I'm overweight.

Never mind that I'm not obese.  I don't have to be.  I've gained about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per year since I graduated from high school.  Enough that I'm about 18 pounds over the weight I was when I graduated from high school.  The medical community recommends not gaining more than about 5 over your high school graduation rate (assuming you stopped growing by then and weren't under-weight at that point) in your adult lifetime.  I certainly passed that up a LONG time ago!

Now I'd be happy with losing 5-10 pounds. 

I think that's a good goal for me - roughly a pound a week until the end of the year.  I can do that.  And, more importantly, …

Goals - Taking Harder Look at the Schedule Yet Again

I've been feeling seriously overloaded ever since my new job started last week - and no wonder!  I am teaching 3 classes a week and I need to spend about 8 hours in prep for each of them each week (including grading), plus my regular office hours with my students.    That comes out to about 32 hours a week just with that job!

Then I have my dissertation work, which I need to spend a minimum of 18 hours a week on in order to make the type of progress that I need to for graduating any time in the next 12 months, much less May, as I would like.   

If you're doing the math that's 50 hours a week right there with just those two things! 

That doesn't include sleeping, eating, worship, church activities.

Not to mention my children and my husband.

So, I'm taking a good hard look at my schedule again and trying to figure out the best way to make the most efficient use of my time.  I started writing a detailed daily to-do list - including things like getting dressed and ha…

Freezer Cooking - Homemade Baking Mixes

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A while ago I read about making homemade baking mixes on both LifeAsMom and Money Saving Mom.  I was intrigued.  "Would it really save me time?" I wondered.  I mean, I don't feel that it takes a particularly long time to whip up a batch of muffins, a pan of cornbread or a batch of biscuits or pancakes anyway. 
Well, I thought I'd give it a shot.  And I was hooked!  Since the recipes I use are fairly simple and I have managed by trial and error over time to streamline the baking process, I don't have tons of time.  An extra 10 minutes saved is 10 minutes - and I'll take it!
My "Freezer Cooking" Plan this month included making 13 baking mix packets - 2 cornbread, 3 pancake, 4 each baking powder biscuits and oatmeal muffins.
I put these 10 packets (everything but the pancakes) together in about 15 minutes, and that included running downstairs to our pantry in our laundry room to get the oatmeal for the muffins.  Part of the reason it went so fast was bec…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 12

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Wow, it's another whole week today.  Sheesh, I think the time flies faster as I get older (or something like that anyway!).  I did a 'freeze cooking' grocery run this weekend and then a trip to the farmer's market to round out what I needed.  I got a great deal on flour - 99 cents for a bag with coupon (limit 1) and then $1.50 for the next.  So I got my 2 bags of flour for about $2.50!  Hurray!  That means I have enough for all my freezer cooking this week.
Since time is at a premium for me, I built my freezer cooking into this menu plan.  Here it is:
Sunday, September 12: Breakfast: Cereal with milk Lunch: At Church (Fall Kickoff) Dinner: Birthday Party Baking: Cookies and Dry Mixes
Monday, September 13: Breakfast: Oatmeal with pecans and cinnamon Bag Lunches: PB&J Wraps, Applesauce or Mandarin Oranges, Carrot Sticks, Goldfish Crackers, Juice Box Snack for Mom: Yogurt with granola and fruit Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup (from freezer), Bread, Fruit Freezer Cooking: Chicken Sto…

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - The St. Paul Farmer's Market

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One of the things that I really enjoy about living in the Twin Cities is the St. Paul Farmer's Market.  If I remember correctly, it's the oldest continuous farmer's market in the same location in the country.  And, boy, can you find just about anything!
From produce to plants, from meat to sauces, from soap to snacks, it's all there!  And it's a heap of fun to attend.  There is so much  to look at and taste. There's balloon twisters and live music.  Handicrafts as well - sewed and woven and embroidered items.  Homemade bread.  Egg rolls and wan tons.  Kettle corn and beef jerky.
The biggest reason that I don't even try to have a large vegetable garden of my own is because I can purchase things inexpensively at the market.  I spent about $12 for everything you see above - 13 corn, 4 patty pan squash, 5 golden beats and all those baby red and full size golden tomatoes.  I love that the prices are great and the items are local.
It's our Sunday ritual to go to…

Freezer Cooking - My First Shot at This!

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What are these you ask?  My first attempt at freezer cooking, that's what!
Those, my friends, are three pork stir fry packets, meat on top and then veggies.  All frozen and ready to cook up on our stir fry pan for a quick easy meal with some rice and fruit.
Now that school is in full swing for all 4 of us, life is officially Busy (yes, with a capital B!).  And since John is doing the cooking 3 nights a week now, I wanted to make it easy on him, since he's working 40+ hours a week (usually it's 50+) and taking 3 classes this semester!  So I decided we needed some things that we can just pull out of the freezer and cook.
Now, I don't care much for 'freezer' foods - casseroles, meatloaf and things like that are just not typically on the menu. Oh, they're okay once in a while, but not on a daily basis.  Also, I really dislike the texture of bread that has been frozen, so baking my bread in advance is out (though that would have saved me a LOT of time!). 
So what…

Frugal Friday - Very Easy Way to Save on Food

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Ahh yes, grocery shopping!  Everybody needs to do it or at least everybody has to buy food.  And the Internet, magazines, and newspapers abound with articles with headlines such as "25 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill" and "Easy Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store."   There's also articles like "Ways to Save Big on Food!" that encourage people to eat at home rather than out and cook from scratch rather than buying pre-made.
Seriously - you probably know many of the 'rules' (especially those of you who popped over from Frugal Friday at LifeAsMom): shop the sales, match the sales with coupons, check the pricing per ounce, buy in season...
And the list goes on and on.
After doing all of that, many get frustrated that their grocery budget just won't budget any further - me included. I hit $75 per week for two adults and 2 toddlers and couldn't budge it down from there.  I got frustrated. And, frankly, a little upset.  If the proverbial &qu…

Work Home and Family - How Loudly Can You Say UGH?!

** I actually wrote this on Wednesday, September 8, and then saved it instead of posting it!  Ugh. So, here it is! Enjoy! **

Can I officially tear my hair out now?  Or scream?  Or cry?

I thought all the bumpy stuff with my dissertation was over. 

Oh no.

I was told today that we're just going to wait to get some things 'pushed through' the system.  Which means my graduation is being pushed back YET AGAIN to AUGUST 2011 (from May 2011). 

I am really, really erked.  Did I say erked?  Yep, erked.

And I found out that I need to have some kind of a pin code/access number to get into my records for my new job. 

And I need that to get my parking permit.

I've been running in circles trying to get things in place so I can actually be ready for teaching class today. And so that I can actually get something more done on this darn dissertation before the end of this semester.
And so that I don't strangle anyone in the process.  :)

*Sigh*

At least I can now say this:
I have a…

Healthy Habits in 2010 - Slowly Getting Back on Track

So, now that this broken toe thing is getting healed - I have about 2 weeks before I can wear 'regular' shoes and get back to exercising - I'm slowly starting to get back on track with exercising.

I dropped the majority of my snacking when I broke the toe, thinking that would help me cut calories and not gain weight.  I'm not sure it worked in terms of cutting calories - I'm wondering if I ate more at meal times due to cutting out the snacks.  However, I think I did break the mindless eating habit for the most part. 

Last week, I started back to doing Jazzercise.  I thought about doing no-impact, but I enjoy the music so much I wasn't sure I could keep it no-impact as class went on.  So, I decided to Jazz in a chair!  We've had others do that before (after foot surgery), so I decided I would try it.   My butt hurt from sitting (and moving a bit) after class and I realized that I have to work at good posture during the kicks (I tended to slouch and lean).  …

Goals Update - Big Plans!

Oh, my, oh my, do I have big plans for this fall!  Big plans!

And they all start this week.

I 'officially' start my new job on Wednesday - though I've been working on things for over a month now.  I have my keys, I have my desk, I have my ID (with both my first and last name misspelled!), I have my parking permit and my copy code. Even more important, I have my first two weeks' worth of lesson plans done and an outline done for the rest of the semester.  My goal for tomorrow is to get my labs and my homework assignments for the first unit all set so I can just roll in and keep going.  Being ahead is important - especially when I have other "jobs" on my plate.

I have my new committee member and my next deadline is fast coming up.  This week I need to get more paperwork in this week and schedule my next "exam."  If I don't have that in place by the 17th, I need to come up with a plan B - something I really don't want to do because that pushes…

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 5

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Another weekend, started off by Labor Day!  I'm having a hard time believing that summer is just a memory and another school year is upon us.  Where does that time go?
We're starting something new this week since I start teaching on Wednesday - John is making dinner Wednesday and Friday this week, since I won't get home until about 830pm on Wednesday and 730pm on Friday. Now, he's made dinner on Fridays for a long time and did most of the cooking the first 10 years of our marriage, so it really isn't that big of a deal.  Right now he's in school 2/3 time and working full time, so to me it feels like a big deal.  So I'm making a small step into freezer cooking.  I'll post more about that later since for right now, I need to post what we're eating this week!
Sunday, September 5 Breakfast: Cold Cereal Lunch: Ham Wrap Sandwiches, Tomatoes and Grapes Dinner: Leftovers
Monday, September 6 (Labor Day) Breakfast: Waffles with Strawberries and Pecans Lunch: Hot Dogs…

These are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Children's Laughter

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This picture is a favorite one of mine - not because it's particularly a good picture, but because it does a good job of capturing my children. 
My children love each other and they love John and I.  Buddy is so open and honest and everyone is his friend.  He is constantly thinking of others.  Missy is more reserved and far more temperamental, but she too, thinks of others more than herself, constantly making things for others (usually pictures involving glitter glue and pom-poms).  In this picture, they had turned around to see John and I walking down the trail at a State Park holding hands.  They decided that they needed to hold hands too - and set off down the trail holding hands and singing songs.  Very sweet!  My cousin suggested blowing this photo up to 11x14, turning it black and white and hanging it in our living room.  I may just have to do that - though I kind of like Missy's purple striped socks with her pink outfit! The thing I love the most about my children is the…

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - John's Love of Our Children

I've been down and out with a stomach bug the last two days.  It's been icky and I've spent more time just laying on the couch and in the bathroom than I have ever wanted too.  The good news is that John has been home, the kids have been good and I've been able to get some reading and computer work done.

The best part? (And, yes, there is a best part to this!) Yesterday afternoon, as I snoozed on the couch upstairs in the living room John and the kids were playing in the family room downstairs.

We got several board games for the kids' birthday in May and one of them is Giraffe-a-laff Limbo.  Hysterical!  Especially when mom and dad play.

John and the kids were playing their own version yesterday afternoon.  John was having them crab-walk, slither like a snake and dance their way under the bar in addition to the good ol' limbo! 

And on my the giggles!
Those contagious giggles floating up the stairs and into my heart!  Buddy's contagious laugh and Missy's…

Frugal Friday - Being Productive and Staying Content (Financially)

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I tend to be a rather discontented person.  I spend a lot of time wandering in the land of the "If only...".  If only I had finished this PhD before we had kids... If only I hadn't gotten so sick...  If only I had a cleaner house... If only I had a different figure...or weight...or hair type...or dissertation topic...or food for dinner...or...
You get the drift.
The reality of the matter is that dwelling in the land of the "if only..." just makes a person more discontent.  I can't change things in the past - like doing this PhD thing earlier in my life or that I have two chronic medical conditions or that it took 18 months to get diagnosed properly.  I can't change the body type I was born with or the food that's already in my refrigerator. 
The only thing I can do is make the most of what God has given to me - as imperfect as they may be and as imperfect as I am.
I realized a long time ago that having time makes me content.  Time to do things like pla…