Monday, December 16, 2013

Goals - Week of December 15, 2013


It's a busy week heading into the last little bit a Advent for us.  The kids have their last week of school before break this week, we had the Church Christmas Program and the Fall Piano Recital this Sunday already and we have the school Christmas Concert this week too.  Whew!   John has a final to finish and I have grading coming out of my ears that needs to be done ASAP.   With my folks coming we also have some deeper than normal house cleaning to do and we need to bring 4-dozen bars or cookies to the concert this week.

I'm trying to keep it simple - some days that works better than others!

Here's my goals list for the week:

Work:
* Grading
* Proposal

School:
* Email Advisor again
* Proposal (final draft)

Jazzercise:
* Teach two classes
* Learn two new routines
* Review new routines DVD

Family:
* Piano Recital
* Piano Lessons
* Pick up my parents from the Airport
* School Christmas Program
* Dance Lessons
* Swimming Lessons
* Attend a play followed by dinner out (we paid for the play tickets, my parents pay for dinner as part of our Christmas present to each other)

Home:
* Deep clean the bathrooms
* Get the guest room ready for company
* Have the furnace serviced
* Get the rest of the Christmas Decorations up
* Have the children tidy their rooms
* Catch up the ironing

Faith/Church/Ministry:
* Church Christmas Program
* Send a note to a friend who had hip surgery
* Finalize John's preaching schedule for January and February

What are you up to this week?  Visit Money Saving Mom for inspiration and to share!

Menu Plan Monday - Menu for the Week of December 15, 2013




I've been trying some new recipes - yum!  So many good recipes out there!   I'm so glad that I have so many options for wonderful food for my family and the opportunity to find recipes for us to try and enjoy (or eliminate depending on the recipe!).

We have company coming for a whole month starting on Wednesday this week and we are SO excited.  My parents are braving the cold and joining us for Christmas, New Year's and John's 40th Birthday.  I can't believe John is turning 40 - and just around the corner too!  We're hoping his parents can come visit for that too. We'll see. 

Anyway, we did some stock up shopping this last week and a quick run to Sam's Club the week before to get some things that we were low on - spices for Christmas baking, bread flour, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and a few other things.  We stayed within out budget and were very happy with the holiday grocery deals the last few weeks.  I picked up a turkey for 59-cents/pound and a couple of whole roasting chicken for 98-cents/pound.  We also bought oranges and grapefruit at 89-cents/pound.  My refrigerator, freezer and pantry are full to overflowing right now with everything we had and everything we bought!  We are planning on doing a challenge in part of January and February after our company leaves.  Partly to see how long we can eat from our stockpile and partly to use up what we have.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, December 15:
  Breakfast: Leftover Coffee Cake, Bananas
  Lunch: Apples and Peanut Butter, Cut Veggies
  Snack (After Piano Recital): Christmas Cookies at the Reception
  Dinner:  Butternut Squash Soup, Irish Soda Bread, Orange Wedges

Monday, December 16:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Fish Tacos, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Tuesday, December 17:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Tossed Salad with Chicken, Mandarin Oranges and Craisins

Wednesday, December 18:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Homemade French Bread, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges
   Dessert: Cookies and Bars after the Christmas Program at the Reception

Thursday, December 19:
   Breakfast: Pancakes with Peach Jam and Pecans
   Lunch: Leftover Chicken Wild Rice Soup and Bread
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Split Pea Soup, Homemade French Bread, Orange Wedges

Friday, December 20:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Craisins
   Lunch: Leftover Split Pea Soup and Bread
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Cracker Backed Chicken, Baked Squash, Tossed Salad, Fruit Salad

Saturday, December 21:
   Breakfast:  Waffles with Pecans and Peach Jam
   Lunch: Leftover Soup, Bread and Oranges
   Snack: Christmas Cookies
   Dinner: Out after a play (my parents will treat us to this as part of our Christmas gift)
 
What are you eating this week?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Little Things for December

We have been soooo busy these last few weeks and doctor appointments for John added to the mix just made things more chaotic.   We are diligently trying to celebrate Advent here and my photos are carefully ensconced on my iPod.  So, sorry, no photos with this post!  Hope to have some up later this week!

Here are some of my favorite little things this last week or two:

 
Celebrating St. Nicholas Day.
 
The Advent wreath.
 
Our fun fabric Nativity (a wedding gift from friends of my parents).
 
The children playing Christmas carols on the piano.
 
Cookies!!!!  YUM!
Starting to wrap the gifts.
 
Decorating the china hutch and the kitchen shelf.
 
Getting ready for company.
 
Finishing up the semester - for John and I.
 
Making Christmas gifts.
 
Hot Cocoa.
 
Marshmallows.
 
Hot Tea.
 
Hot Coffee.
 
Trying new recipes.
 
Christmas lights! (One of our neighbors has the best display this year!)
 
Seeing friends while running errands.
 
Advent music at church.
 
New Christmas dresses for me and Missy.
 
New dress clothes for Buddy that color-coordinate with the girls.
 
Not having to buy a thing for John to match all the rest of us.
 
St. Lucia Day.
 
Christmas cards.
 
Having time to read books for leisure again - so many books, so little time!
Hugs and smiles and laughter.
 
Candles.
 
John doing much better (thank you for your prayers) health-wise.
 
 
What are your favorite things so far this December?
 
 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Frugal Things We Did This Last Week

I'm hoping to get back to more regular posting about our little life in here in frozen Minnesota (our high yesterday was a balmy +3F - Brrrr!).  We'll see how that goes because we always know that something will come up!  That's the plan anyway.  Thanks so much for sticking with me!

So we'll start by sharing frugality!  Here are the things that we did this last week that were frugal:

* We watched a Christmas movie on Netflix with the children.

* I used the turkey carcass I brought home from Thanksgiving dinner at our friends' house to make Turkey Noodle Soup.  We ate some for dinner one night, took some for lunch at work and froze the rest for later use.

* I worked from home several days either to avoid paying for childcare or to avoid driving on our super-icky roads this week (rain-snow mix anyone? no thank you).

* I mended a pair of pants, three camisoles, a pair of pajamas and I took in the waist on a pair of snow pants.

* John returned a four sets of window blinds that don't work with our window frames. This was a serious disappointment as we need new ones badly and these would have been inexpensive, nice and well-functioning but the hardware is made for windows with a deeper frame than we have.  Hanging them outside the frame isn't an option for a variety of reasons, so we need to keep looking.

* Made some small things to put in the children's shoes for St. Nicholas Day - coupons for dates with Mom and Dad and for cooking or sewing lessons (depending on the child), and bookmarks.  I used Brandy's printable bookmarks for the bookmarks with a ribbon rather than a tassel. 

* Had two at home date nights with my husband - one watching a movie together on Netflix and the other doing some daydreaming about the future. 

* I put away the fall decorations and started to get our Christmas decorations.  Since we're in Advent now and Christmas doesn't officially start until the 25th, we put up our decorations slowly, building up to the 25th.  So far I have the Jesse tree, the Nativity, and the Advent wreath as well as some Christmas table linens out.  Tomorrow we'll add some of the greenery and our Christmas card holders since we're starting to get Christmas cards.  Our tree doesn't go up until the 15th and then it will stay up until Epiphany (the 6th of January). 

* Bought bread flour at Sam's Club so I can get back to baking bread on a regular basis - I've been really bad about that lately.  Also working harder on turning off the lights in rooms that aren't in use and line drying the clothes that can be line dried easily inside.  We've also kept the heat at 67F during the day when someone is home and 58F at night and when no one is home.  I'm hoping this will drop our heating bill a tiny bit.

* Bought ourselves a really nice wooden cutting board so we don't need to replace our cutting board as often. 

* John's family draws names for Christmas and we sent our lists off with mostly needs - things like a new lunch box for both of us, dress socks for John, and pajamas for the children.  I also like to ask for things like candles and coffee beans, which we use regularly and love. 

* I've also been working on making a few Christmas gifts for the children and for my parents.  I made homemade bath salts for the children's teachers and a couple of girl friends (Epsom salts were on a sale a few weeks ago and I had essential oils and olive oil on hand).

* The children made homemade Christmas ornaments from pipe cleaners and leftover cardboard tubes (TP, paper towel and gift wrap) to give to their Grandparents, teachers and friends. 

* John and I made the commitment a few weeks ago to spend 30 minutes per day 5 days a week cleaning out our insane amount of stuff that we own.  We took a large load of items that we don't need to our local thrift store.  We have several slips for shopping credit in return for our past donations, so this time we took a tax deduction slip instead.  The house is shaping up nicely and I am thinking that by the time May comes we'll have a house that is mostly uncluttered and much easier to care for than it currently is! 

What have you done in the last few weeks to help you and your family be frugal?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

What am I thankful for today?
 
So very much...
 
...my husband...
...our children...
...all the rest of our family...
...having a nice, warm, safe place to call home...
...having plenty to eat and wear...
...having good health...
...careers with jobs and a pretty good income...
...having transportation available to us...
...all our many friends...
...sunshine...
...the grace of God Almighty...
...and all of you out there in cyberspace...
 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
I hope you have a wonderful day!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Week of November 24, 2013

Nacho chips with refried beans and salsa with mango slices.  From this summer.
So we're trying to stay warm this week - we've been stuck in the low teens with wind chills dropping them down to low single digits.  Brrrr. As a gentleman at church responded this morning when I asked him how he was doing "I haven't frozen solid yet!"   We have Thanksgiving at a friend's house this week - John has to work both Friday and Sunday so traveling is out - and we're looking forward to time with friends - cuddling new babies, eating good food and visiting. 

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, November 24:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Vegetable Pasty, Orange Wedges
   Snack: Apple Oat Bars
   Dinner: Chicken Flavored Rice, Carrots and Green Beans, Pineapple-Orange-Apple Salad

Monday, November 25:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Apple Wheat Berry Salad for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Apple Oat Bars
   Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Tossed Salad, Apple-Orange-Pineapple Salad

Tuesday, November 26:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Craisins
   Lunch: Apple Wheat Berry Salad for Adults, Hot Lunch for Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Potato Pancakes with Blueberries

Wednesday, November 27:
   Breakfast: Leftover Potato Pancakes with Applesauce
   Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese, Sliced Apples
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Orange Wedges

Thursday, November 28, Thanksgiving Day:
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls, Bananas
   Lunch/Snack/Early Dinner: At a Friend's House: Bring Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
   Dinner/Late Snack: Leftovers

Friday, November 29:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Matzo, Oranges
   Snack: Pumpkin Bars
   Dinner: Pan Fried White Fish, Steamed Carrots, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Saturday, November 30:
   Breakfast: Out for All - Bible Study
   Lunch: Pumpkin Bars, Apple-Oat Bars, Yogurt, Fruit (we're usually really full after breakfast so we don't eat much!)
   Snack: Same as lunch

What are you eating this week?
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Sunday, November 24, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things - So Grateful

So our week didn't really turn out the way we'd hoped. 

I was sick with some kind of virus/stomach bug Wednesday and Thursday.  I slept all day Wednesday and kind of limped along through what I had to do on Thursday.

But Friday was the kicker.

My Thankful List at the end of the day went something like this:

Today's Blessings:
* The ER
* Aspirin
* John not having a heart attack

Yep - we spent Friday in the ER with John having chest pain, radiating down his arm no less.  Fortunately all of his tests came back negative so he did NOT have a heart attack, but he does have to follow up with a cardiologist on either Monday or Tuesday.  His heart rate and his blood pressure were terribly high - something that is extremely odd for him - and they definitely want to check him out and make sure everything is okay.

I am so very grateful.

Grateful for immediate care for my husband.
Grateful for simple things like Aspirin that are easy preventive medicine.
Grateful for my husband coming home with us on Friday rather than having to stay overnight in the hospital.
Grateful for God's mercy that John did not have a heart attack.
Grateful that we have good medical care available and that we have both insurance and a flex spend account to pay for it.
Grateful that I have more time with my husband.

What are you grateful for today?

Super Savings - Spent $20.72

It was a week that had things happen that we really didn't want to have happen (I'll hopefully write more about that later) so I only went to one store this weekend for grocery shopping.   We had $20.75 this week to spend on groceries and we just squeaked under with 3 cents to spare! Whew!  It's weeks like this that I'm grateful for my stockpile and our freezer!

 
I have no idea what happened to the receipt but everything except the bananas, TP and cotton swabs were on sale.  The two expensive things were the cotton swabs (just under $3) and the TP (almost $4 - yep, totally ridiculous price for a 4-pack of TP but that was the best price I could find; everything cheaper was sold out).  The Dole pineapple was $0.89 per can and the Campbell's soup was $0.77 each.  The oranges were under $3 for 4lbs, the eggs were $1.98 for 18 and the milk was $2.50.  We're enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with friends - I'm bringing dessert so we didn't have to worry about cooking a Thanksgiving meal this week.
 
I'm probably going to hit up the sales this week - most likely early Thursday AM (our grocery stores are open until 3pm here) - since the sale prices all end on Thursday for groceries here this week.  I'm excited to see on really good prices on some things we're out of as well as good deals on things like body wash and TP.  I'm looking forward to seeing how well I can do with $30 this coming week!
 
In the meantime we still have lots of veggies and some meat in the freezer as well as apples, pears, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, potatoes and tomatoes left from earlier weeks and several squash from the garden still.  I had purchased some wheat berries earlier this month on clearance sale and I'm going to try making a salad that can be eaten hot or cold for us to take for lunch this week.  The children have three days off and so do I so I'm looking forward to some time with them - hopefully making some Christmas gifts for the Grandparents and teachers!
 
We have lots of company in December but we're thinking of starting off January with a no-spend month of some sort.  I'm hoping to do our "usual" $50 for the month for groceries in January - but first I need to see where we're at in December!
 
Come back tomorrow (Monday) to see what we're eating this week.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goals - Week of November 17, 2013

We're busy here with the semester winding up and heading into Advent.  We've been cleaning out like fiends and I'm loving the "empty" space! 

We finally finished cleaning out our bedroom, which seems to be a catch-all for so many things since the children aren't allowed in, with the delivery of our new mattress this weekend. We took the opportunity to clean out everything in the room, sweep, mop, dust and wash the walls down. Since we had to move the whole bed anyway, it seemed like a good time to do it.   I'm loving having the space!  Up next - finishing up the last couple of problem spots in the living room!  We tend to have specific spots where clutter collects and usually the clutter is things that don't have a true "home".  So we've been working on having homes for everything and getting rid of the excess.  Loving that!

Here's my goals for this week:

Work:
Grading
Lessons for this week and next
Finishing up some paperwork

School:
Email my advisor again
Finish 3 things on my list

Jazzercise:
Teach 2 classes
Learn 2 new routines
Attend 2 classes

Family:
Piano Lessons
Dance Lessons
Swimming Lessons
Show Missy how to sew on a button
Missy has a birthday party to go to
Family Night: Play a board game
Date Night: Put together a puzzle

Home:
Update the budget book
Problem spots in the Living Room
Ironing
Clean out the guest room closet
3 things on my Christmas gift list
Mend 3 items

Faith/Church/Ministry:
Deliver the Operation Christmas Child Boxes
Update my prayer book again
Finish prep for Advent observations
Listen to Sunday's sermon online again

What are you up to this week?
Visit Money Saving Mom to see what others are up to and for some inspiration.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Super Savings Saturday - $39.26 spent this week

Wow - nothing like going AWOL for two whole weeks!  We've had colds, some kind of virus and a huge attack of my shingles, complete with locked up muscles.  Yuck. 

John went shopping this week. Last week we all went as a family and we spent our $30 budget right on the nose - it made me laugh when the cashier had to look again to make sure we didn't owe any change!  This week we went over - which is okay, it just means we have $20.74 for next week since we do our budget in two week chunks.  We decided that it was okay to go over this week since there was a really good deal on steak at one of our local stores. 

So, today, while I was teaching Jazzercise, John and the children ran to the store.  He didn't get a photo but here's what he bought:

Store #1:
Hunts' Tomato Sauce 2 @ $0.88 = $1.76
3.56lbs Beef Sirloin Steak @ $2.99/lb = $10.64
Crystal Farms Shredded Cheddar Cheese 2 @ $1.98 = $3.96
Crystal Farms Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 2 @ $1.98 = $3.96
Yoplait Yogurt 10 @ $0.55 each = $5.55
Total Spent Store #1: $25.82

Store #2:
Pert Plus $2
2.85lbs Bartlet Pears @ $1.69/lb = 4.81
3lbs Gala Apples $3.49
Gallon Skim Milk $2.98
Total including tax Store #2: $13.44

Total Spent Both Stores: $39.26
Total Saved According to Receipts: $4.27 (actual saved is way higher than this!)

We really didn't need much this week but we're getting low on meat so we decided we probably should buy some and with steak at $2.99 - which is a price we almost never see here - we decided to buy some.  We'll use most of it in stir fry or sandwiches or on top of salads so stretch it out a bit and enjoy it for a while.  We had apples, pineapple and a watermelon plus some mandarin oranges from the previous weeks and have lots of other things in the freezer, cupboards and the veggie drawer of the refrigerator so we will be eating fine.

Our big purchase this week was a new queen size mattress - I'd been getting hip, neck and thigh pain from our old one plus neither of us were sleeping well so we decided it was time.  There was  a really good sale so we bought a new mattress and had it delivered today.  I'm excited to get a good night's sleep tonight! Don't even ask about cleaning out under the bed, though - yikes!

How did you do with your shopping this week?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Goals Week of November 3, 2013

It's Monday and that means it's time to review our goals again.  I had a pretty ambitious goals list for last week but I got several things done.  I didn't get everything done but I'm pretty pleased with what I did get done, so I'll just go with that.

Work:
Submit mid-term grades.
Write, solve and edit a test.
Lessons for the week.
Post solutions from the last unit online.


School:
Turn in paperwork.
Reading (in prep for meeting with my committee).  Did some of this but not as much as I would like.
Finish going through my data one last time.
Jazzercise:
Teach 2 classes.
Learn 3 new routines.  I learned two.
Update my iTunes.

Family:
Visit the Apple Orchard (Family Night)
Piano Lessons x2
Swimming Lessons
Friends over on Friday
Trick or Treating


Home:  I got part of all of these done but only finished the two Christmas gifts.
Ironing - I have four tablecloths that need to be pressed right now and it's weighing on me!
Update Our Budget Book.
Shred Papers in Living Room.
Mending pile on Living Room Chair (don't ask!).
Finish Two Christmas Gifts.

Faith/Church/Ministry:
Pray for and about the situation that came up with John's church work.
Pray about some other things that are happening in our life right now.
Update my prayer book and make sure I get in daily devotional time.


Personal:
Paint my toenails.
Read novel loaned to me by a friend and return.
1 hour on my embroidery

Get to bed on time 5 nights this week.  I got to bed 4 times on time this last week.

So, here's what's on the docket here this week:

Work:
* Update midterm grades to include our second test
* Be ready for class each day
* Revise the term project
* Paperwork for next semester

School:
* Finish reading
* Cross 2 more things off my to-do list

Jazzercise:
* Teach twice
* Attend at least one other class
* Learn 2 new routines
* Either get my iPod fixed or buy a new one

Family:
* Trip to the Library
* Piano Lessons
* Dance Lessons x 2
* Swimming Lessons
* Family Night: Review of All Saint's Day Lesson
* At-Home Date Night: Puzzle or a Bonfire and Pumpkin Cookies
* Have the children write letters to their Grandparents

Home:
* Ironing
* Mending
* Finish the shredding
* Finish updating the budget book
* Process the horseradish from our yard
* Finish deadheading the perennials
* Cross of three things from my Christmas gift to-do list
* Find a shirt for Buddy for family photos

Faith/Ministry/Family:
* Pray about our family observing Advent and finish putting together the lessons for Family Night
* Continue making daily quiet time and family devotions a priority
* Pray about all the things on my mind and in our upcoming weeks

Personal:
* Get to bed on time 5 days this week
* 1 hour of embroidery (this actually "counts double" since I'm making Christmas gifts, but I find it very, very relaxing as well so it's "me time" too!)

What are you up to this week?  Check out Money Saving Mom to be inspired!

Menu Plan Monday - Week of November 3, 2013


Okay, so I just had to share the krumkake photo again - they're so very yummy!   Cookies like this are part of what I love about this time of year - though I could definitely be persuaded to make these just about any time of the year! LOL

We have a relatively "normal" week here for us this week and I'm going to try a new recipe or two, depending on how things actually work out this week.  I've been feeling pretty icky these last few days with a migraine-like headache, so hopefully I won't end up down and out for the count! The weather is beautiful so I'm hoping to be up and about outside this week - hopefully that will help!

We had lots of apples left in the fridge after our trip to the Apple Orchard last week and we have a whole pineapple that we bought last week but wasn't ripe yet too.  I looked through the freezer and realized we had all the "stuff" to make jambalaya, so we're going to try making that this week - haven't done that before!  I'm also trying an Asian recipe from my time in Thailand for what loosely translates as "corn fritters" - they're more like a small pancake with whole corn in it.  We'll see how they turn out too!
Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, November 3, All Saint's Sunday:
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls
   Lunch: Leftovers
   Snack: Pecan Pie
   Dinner: Tomato Basil Soup, French Bread, Sliced Apples

Monday, November 4:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Sliced Apples
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Corn Fritters, Tossed Salad, Apple-Pear-Pineapple Salad

Tuesday, November 5:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Diced Apples and Cinnamon
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Jambalaya

Wednesday, November 6:
   Breakfast: Yogurt with Granola
   Lunch: Apples with Peanut Butter, Cheerios with Milk, Carrot Sticks or Tomatoes
   Snack: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Sliced Apples and Pears

Thursday, November 7:
    Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
    Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Picnic dinner between dance classes

Friday, November 8:
   Breakfast: Waffles with Almonds and Applesauce
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Tossed Salad, Pineapple-Apple-Pear Salad

Saturday, November 9:
   Breakfast: At Bible Study
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for Children, Leftovers for Adults
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks, Sliced Apples

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Super Savings - $31.51 Shopping Trip

 
 
Sorry for the poor quality photo!  You can cringe all you like - my camera completely bit the dust (Sigh) and my poor iPod was dropped and the glass cracked. It's still working (mostly) but taking photos is hit or miss - but it's the only "camera" I have right now!  Yep - exciting times at the Stormhammer household!
 
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled grocery shopping this week.  We decided to not quite start our stocking up for Internship yet - we have extra and unexpected bills pop up with the van and our appliances that we want to take care of first, not to mention that don't want food products to expire before we need them or that the space to store paper products (mostly TP, dental floss, etc) isn't quite ready yet.  Either way, we have a number assigned to what we'd like to have in the house for Internship and we'll keep you posted as we go along - when we get to that point!
 
For right now, here's our shopping trip for this week:
 
Store #1:
Tide Detergent 50oz $5.99 - $2 = $3.99 (sale plus coupon)
2lb Light Brown Sugar $1.49 (store coupon)
2.24lb Bartlett Pears @ $0.98/lb = $2.20
Whole White Mushrooms $0.98 (store coupon)
 
Total Store #1: $9.09
Total Savings According to Receipt: $.3.17
 
Store #2:
 Quaker Quick Cooking Oatmeal 18oz 2 @ 2/$3 = $3 (Store Coupon)
Chicken of the Sea Chunk Tuna 2 @ $0.88  = $1.76 (sale)
Pert Plus Shampoo $2 (sale)
Carrots 1lb 2 @ $0.77 = $1.54
10oz Cherry Tomatoes $2 (store coupon)
8 oz Mini Peppers $2 (store coupon)
Smart Balance $3.49
Yoplait Yogurt 10 @ 10/$5 = $5 (store coupon)
 
Total Store #2: $22.42
Total Saved According to Store Receipt: $8.52
 
Total Both Stores: $31.51
Total Saved Both Stores: $11.69 (27%)
 
How did you do this week with your shopping?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Frugal Things We've Done the Last Two Weeks


* I made krumkakke for a fundraiser (that's what's in the photo) using what I had on hand. I'm always amazed at how easy it is to make even if it is time consuming!

* Downloaded several free books for my free Kindle for PC.  Also checked out several books and a couple of movies from the Library.

* My Mom taught my daughter how to use the sewing machine - I'd previously been working on hand sewing with her - and she has been completely enthralled!  She's started making lots of pillows from my scrap bag - two for herself and a matching one for her best friend, then one for each Grandma for Christmas.  Now she's making burp clothes for my best friend for her new Grandbaby that's due in March.  I'm hoping to move on to simple clothes next!

* Enjoyed two Halloween parties that included dinner!  Mom makes my children costumes (she loves to sew and is very good and very creative so this is something she really enjoys) and we use the nice homemade felt Trick-or-Treat bags she bought them when they were two.  The only expense we had was glow-in-the-dark bracelets from the dollar store for night time.

* The children attended a birthday party where they were fed lunch so John and I went on a "date" running errands we have a difficult time running with the children in tow and grabbed a quick bite ourselves using a coupon. 

* Accepted two free shirts for the children from a friend.

* Enjoyed a wonderful meal at church after services on Reformation Sunday, courtesy of the families of the Confirmands at the church John was preaching at.  Fantastic food!

* Went to the Apple Orchard and enjoyed a free hayride and petting zoo.  We purchased a half-bushel of apples for 30-cents less per pound than we could buy in the store. 

* I froze diced apples in two cup portions to make apple crisp with later this year. I also dried what seemed like a mountain of apples and made apple crisp.  We still have quite a few in the refrigerator to eat fresh.  And I want to make apple oat bars too - they are SOOO yummy!

* I also made whole wheat sandwich bread and toasted pumpkin seeds. 

* We cleaned up the front yard and part of the back yard for winter.  I saved seeds from my marigolds and my giant zinnias to use next year.  We moved a bunch of dirt from where we dug a hole to expand our patio to the vegetable garden box.  We turned the compost and deadheaded about half of the perennials.  We half about half the perennials left to do and we need put the patio furniture away yet.  I'm hoping for at least a couple more nice weekends to have a fall bonfire or two before winter really sets in.

* John hung our Christmas lights rather than hiring someone to do it.  We have a ranch-style house so there isn't much ladder climbing the our son handed things up to him so he didn't have to go up and down the ladder. (Maybe I shouldn't put this on here since we've never hired someone to put up the lights, but we've only put up lights for 2 years now anyway!)

* Accepted a free loaf of French Bread from a friend.

* Made several meals in the crock pot so we wouldn't be tempted to eat out.

* Got our flu shots for free from our clinic - just had to call ahead to make an appointment! Since it's classified under "preventive medicine" we had no co-pay at all!

* Started working on Christmas gifts.  I'm hoping to post some of those in the future and maybe some tutorials as well.

* I also started putting together some of the things that we're hoping to do to celebrate Advent. I'm looking forward to that this year!

* Mended a skirt for Missy, a cami for me, and a pair of pants for John.

* Went to a fundraiser lunch at church and came home with a pecan pie! I think I need to find out who made it - it was amazing (I'm very, very picky about my pecan pie). 

* I'm not sure if this is truly frugal but we thought it was: Our Pastor (and John's Mentor Pastor) is very, very creative and always had things for sale at the church's fall boutique. Everything is donated and the proceeds go back to the church.  Last year we bought a lovely pottery bowl. This year we bought two pottery Nativity sets - one for each of our children.  They were a complete steal at $15 each for the set - Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, two sheep, a Shepherd, and the Three Kings.  All handmade and signed. 

Okay, I think that's it, other than our usual eating at home, brown bagging lunches and the like.

What have you been up to?

Check out Frugal Friday at Life as Mom and The Prudent Homemaker's Blog and Website to share and be inspired!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Goals Week of October 27, 2013

It's been a few weeks since I posted my weekly goals here.  I feel like I've gotten more efficient in my work during the day or maybe it's that I'm finally starting to get in some sort of rhythm and know how much I really can accomplish each day.  I do want to make sure that I'm available for my family in the evenings so that is definitely motivation too!  My list is rather long this week but many of the things are small things that take very little time - in fact, I already have 5 of these things completed and it's only Monday!  We'll see how the week goes but I'm cautiously optimistic!

Here's the goals for the week:

Work:
Submit mid-term grades.
Write, solve and edit a test.
Lessons for the week.
Post solutions from the last unit online.

School:
Turn in paperwork.
Reading (in prep for meeting with my committee).
Finish going through my data one last time.

Jazzercise:
Teach 2 classes.
Learn 3 new routines.
Update my iTunes.

Family:
Visit the Apple Orchard (Family Night)
Piano Lessons x2
Swimming Lessons
Friends over on Friday
Trick or Treating

Home:
Ironing - I have four tablecloths that need to be pressed right now and it's weighing on me!
Update Our Budget Book.
Shred Papers in Living Room.
Mending pile on Living Room Chair (don't ask!).
Finish Two Christmas Gifts.

Faith/Church/Ministry:
Pray for and about the situation that came up with John's church work.
Pray about some other things that are happening in our life right now.
Update my prayer book and make sure I get in daily devotional time.

Personal:
Paint my toenails.
Read novel loaned to me by a friend and return.
1 hour on my embroidery
Get to bed on time 5 nights this week.

What are your goals for the week?

Menu Plan Monday - Week of October 27, 2013


Did I show you these yet? They're my attempt at Cranberry-Orange scones and, my, were they good! I went a little overboard with the glaze so I think a dusting of powdered sugar would be better next time.  Anyway, yum, yum, yum!!!  I used to think scones were a fancy, hard to make thing. Not so! Easy and yummy and even better as leftovers!
 
 I'm feeling like were FINALLY getting back to a more restful pace around here - John isn't doing quite as much time on-call for work now and his preaching schedule is lightening up going into the Christmas holiday as well. We don't have any in-house company until right before Christmas either. I'm looking forward to a few weeks of our own crazy "normal" rather than trying to fit a lot of "extra" stuff on top of it all.
 
 
We're on revamp number umpteen of the grocery budget and it seems to be working okay.  I'm getting a little concerned about meat but we aren't anywhere near a danger zone yet and we have some really good deals on chicken coming up this week.  My parents usually buy groceries while they are here - such a treat! - but they usually buy a lot of things we don't normally buy like ice cream, lunch meat, and packaged cookies.  They did buy milk, celery and cheese for us this time, but otherwise most of the purchases were not our normal items.
 
We're still trying to do more crockpot eating during the week so we have two meals in the crockpot this week using meat from the freezer and pantry.  It was Reformation Sunday this weekend and we were treated to a lovely lunch after the service at church put on by the families of the Confirmands.  Delicious and well appreciated - I didn't have to cook when we got home and we had no idea what to make anyway!  Love it when that works out like that!
 
 
Here's what we're eating this week:
 
Sunday, October 27:
   Breakfast: Cereal
   Lunch: At Church
   Snack:  Apple Doughnuts at the Apple Orchard
   Dinner:  Pork Loin, Roasted Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Banana-Raspberry-Strawberry Salad
 
Monday, October 28:
   Breakfast: Yogurt with Raspberries and Granola, Peanut Butter Toast
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for the Children, Leftovers for the Adults
   Snack: Yogurt and Granola
   Dinner: Vegetable Calzones, Sliced Apples and Pears
 
Tuesday, October 29:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Walnuts and Craisins
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for the Children,  Leftovers for the Adults
   Snack: Carrot Sticks
   Dinner:  Crock pot Shrimp Fried Rice, Pineapple
 
Wednesday, October 30:
   Breakfast: Pancakes with Strawberries and Walnuts
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for the Children, Leftover for the Adults
   Snack: Carrot and Celery Sticks with Yogurt Dip
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup,  Cornbread,  Sliced Apples and Pears
 
Thursday, October 31: All Hallows Eve (Halloween)
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Hot Lunch for the Children, Leftovers for the Adults
   Snack:  Soul Cakes
   Dinner: Crock pot Beef Tips and Gravy (made with venison), Rice, Pineapple-Strawberry-Apple Salad
 
Friday, November 1: All Saint's Day
   Breakfast: Maple Oat Scones
   Lunch: Homemade Cheese Pizza and Bread sticks, Sliced Apples (the children are having friends over since they don't have school that day due to it being the end of the term)
   Snack: Soul Cakes
   Dinner: Cabbage Rolls, Baking Powder Biscuits, Sliced Pineapple
 
Saturday, November 2:
  Breakfast: Leftover Scones, Yogurt with Granola
  Lunch: Vegetable Soup, Tossed Salad
  Snack: Popcorn
  Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Tossed Salad
  At-Home Date Night Dessert: Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce
 
What are you eating this week?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Super Savings "Saturday" - $39.28 Shopping Trip

It's been a very busy two weeks - company, school events, MEA weekend (with the children off school for two days), fall and Halloween events, our first really hard frost (which means we need to get the yard cleaned up big time), a fundraiser, mid-term or end-of-quarter for everyone at school, and all the usual craziness around here! 

We went grocery shopping in two pieces yesterday between all sorts of other things that we had to do (whoever said weekends were for relaxing never lived at our house!) so I didn't get a photo of either time.  Sigh.  Hopefully back to regularly scheduled programming this week so I can actually get a photo!

My parents were here last week and bought us groceries last weekend and I bought only light bulbs with our "grocery" money last week so we had an "extra" $12 to add to the grocery budget this week.  So we had a total of $42 to spend at the stores.  I spent $39.28 and here's what I got.

Store #1:
Fresh Express Salad 2 @ 2/$3 = $3
Pint Grape Tomatoes $2.50
Driscoll Raspberries 2 @ 2/$4 = $4
Cool Whip $1.99
Tombstone Pizza 4 @ $2.88 ea = $11.52
Total Store #1: $23.01
Total Saved According to Receipt: $10.42 (31%)

Store #2:
Store Brand Baking Powder $1.29
16oz Turkey Franks 2 @ 2/$2 = $2
1lb Strawberries $2
Large Whole Pineapple $2.99
8oz Block Cheddar Cheese $1.5
8oz Bagged Shredded Cheese (2 Mozzarella and 1 Cheddar) 3 @ $1.50ea = $4.50
1 dozen large eggs $1.99
Total Store #2: $16.27
Total Saved According to Receipt: $15.63 (48%)

Total Spent: $39.28
Total Save According to Receipts: $26.05 (40%)

I have rarely seen franks (hot dogs) this cheep so my folks bought us 2 packages this last weekend and we bought two more.  These should last us until well after Christmas.  I'm hoping we can have one night where it's warm enough to roast them over a fire in the fire pit in our backyard.  The raspberries and Cool Whip were for treats I made for the fundraiser.  We had leftovers so we had extra treats in the house - the kids were thrilled.  Just what we need along with Halloween candy, right?  I'm a little sad with the price of eggs right now - they seem so expensive since we've been blessed to have them right around $1/dozen for so long.  We had milk, apples, carrots, pears and celery leftover from the last few weeks as well as meat in the deep freeze and canned venison in our pantry.  We are truly blessed!  Come back on Monday to see what we're eating this week.

How did you do this week with your shopping? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Super Savings "Saturday" - I saved more than I spent

Okay, so maybe I should say "John saved more than he spent" since I sent him out to the store since my cousin Diane was visiting and I wanted to stay home and visit with her. :)  Love that man for doing things like that for me!   And I didn't get a picture either - since we had company we just put the groceries away rather than setting them out to take a picture.

We spent $32 and change.  I "saved" $34 and change.  Of course, I put the receipt somewhere where I would remember where I put it and now I can't find it! :)

Here's the deals I remember:

5lb All Purpose Flour $1.77 (sale)
Westpac Mixed Veggies $0.77 - $0.35 - $0.35 = $0.07 (sale minus doubled coupon)
Cheerios 3 boxes at 3/$6 - $1 - $1 - $0.50 - $0.50 = $3 (sale minus two doubled coupons)
Quaker Oatmeal 2 @ $1.77 = $3.54  (sale)
Skippy Peanut Butter 2/$3 = $3 (sale)
5lb Potatoes $0.99 (sale)
3lb Yellow Onions $0.99 (sale)
2lb Carrots $0.99 (sale)
Yoplait Greek Yogurt 6oz 10/$10 - $1 - $1 - $0.60 - $0.60 = $6.80 ($0.68 each) (sale minus two doubled coupons)

We also bought pears, mushrooms, tea and something else that I'm forgetting.

It was a really good week grocery-wise and I was happy to stock up on some flour, oatmeal, cheerios and peanut butter.  We were completely out of potatoes and carrots so those were much appreciated and the yogurt makes for something easy to take for lunch for me. 

I'm feeling a bit like a heel that I can't find the receipt but I'll chalk that up to a busy weekend.  We got some really difficult news this weekend and it's leaving us very disappointed and hurt - Lord willing, I'll write more about that on Thursday this week.  Company always makes things crazy and I'm heading into mid-term projects at school which makes things even busier. 

In the meantime, my folks are visiting (super fun!), we had a great weekend with my cousin, and it's MEA weekend this weekend  - the kids get a four day weekend!  We're excited about doing some fall things this weekend and we're enjoying some definitely fall weather.   Come back on Monday and see what we're eating.

How did you do with your shopping this weekend?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Frugal Friday - Frugal Things We've Done the Last Few Weeks

 
We've had a very weird fall - lots of people in and out visiting and staying with us, lots of schedule "stuff" all over the place, and getting ready for a huge life change in the spring with John leaving his current job and heading into Internship.  I feel like we've been caught in the whirlwind and there hasn't been much of a pause.   I've finally realized that no matter what there's always going to be something "weird' or "unusual" going on - and that's just the way life is right now.
 
 
We've been trying to work on being frugal in spite of the circumstances and trying to host more people for meals and fellowship time in our home.  That's been a challenge but it's been a good challenge!
 
 
In that vein, here are some things that we've done over the last few weeks to be frugal:
 
 
* Picked more veggies from our garden - green peppers and tomatoes.
 
 
 
 
* We received an "extra" box of veggies from our CSA.
 
* We enjoyed a bonfire and potluck dinner at our CSA's farm - which was a wonderful time enjoying food, games, hay rides, a bonfire and live music.
 
* Attended a fundraiser at school and had the kids faces painted and they got to play for a while with their friends.  We got to visit with the other parents.  It was also a really good time.
 
* Checked out several books and movies from the library.
 
* Chopped up the lilac branches we had trimmed off the bushes this year so it can season over winter for next year's fall bonfires.
 
* Cut up and froze many, many green peppers.
 
* Received a quart jar of each of the following: applesauce, sweet dill pickles, bear meat, and spaghetti sauce from a houseguest.
 
* Fed all of our guests from our regular grocery budget and/or what we had in the house/pantry rather than doing something really out of the ordinary.
 
* Made up a list of homemade Christmas gifts to make for our family and a few friends this year  and started making a few things.
 
* Cleaned my coffee pot so it works better and the coffee tastes better.
 
* Cleaned my clothes washer as well.
 
* My daughter came home from a birthday party with a new teddy bear - the party had been at Build-a-Bear.
 
* Purchased a fun notebook for part of my son's Christmas present for $0.90  on clearance.
 
* Made homemade whole-wheat sandwich bread.
 
* Baked muffins, scones, and biscuits.
 
* Tried 4 new recipes.
 
* Updated the budget books.
 
* My mom sent us three items she had made for us using the fabric she bought while here in September - a jumper for my daughter, a fleece pull-over for my son, and my Christmas dress (made from fabric I've had since high school).  We need to take in my dress and my daughter's jumper a little around the torso, but otherwise they fit lovely!
 
I personally think cleaning out and donating the crazy amount of things that we don't need anymore falls into the frugal category too and we've been doing a lot of that these last few weeks.  Our furnace room is almost presentable now - it's the only "real" storage area we have in our house and we are hoping to have a humidifier put on the furnace this fall before winter sets in.  We're at a point where I wouldn't be embarrassed to have a workman come in!
 
What have you done to live frugally the last few weeks?
 
For more inspiration visit Frugal Friday and The Prudent Homemaker's Blog and Website.




Monday, October 7, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Week of October 6, 2013


With our unusual shopping and our free CSA "box" this week, we're still eating super well. I feel so very blessed to have such a wonderful bounty to eat from each week!    It's fall weather here and was rainy all weekend to boot - ick.  Feels like soup weather here right now.

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday, October 6:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Leftover Chili, Baked Potatoes, Fruit Salad
   Snack: Apple Crisp with Ice Cream
   Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan, Irish Soda Bread, Fruit Salad

Monday, October 7:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
   Lunch: Leftovers or Hot Lunch at School
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Baked Salmon, Roasted Potatoes, Broccoli, Fruit Salad

Tuesday, October 8:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftovers or Hot Lunch at School
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cut Veggies, Sliced Fruit

Wednesday, October 9:
   Breakfast: Pancakes with Applesauce
   Lunch: Leftovers or Hot Lunch at School
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Pasta with Vegetable Marinara Sauce, Fruit Salad

Thursday, October 10:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Walnuts
   Lunch: Leftovers or Hot Lunch at School
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Beef Barley Soup in the Crockpot, Whole Wheat Rolls, Fruit Salad

Friday, October 11:
   Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls, Fruit
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Sliced Fruit
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Fruit Salad

Saturday, October 12:
   Breakfast: Maple Scones, Fruit
   Lunch: Leftover Chicken Pot Pie, Sliced Fruit
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks
   Date Night Dessert: Apple Crisp with Ice Cream

What are you eating this week?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Super Savings Saturday - $33.07 Shopping Trip and an Extra CSA Box

So this week was a very productive week in so many ways but the biggest surprise was getting an extra CSA box.  I had to return our last box - they had a harvest party at the farm last weekend complete with Hay rides and a bonfire and I totally forgot to bring them back - so I stopped by one day this week to do that.  The owner had been cleaning out the last bit of the garden produce before tilling the plants under for the winter and we were given two huge bags full of produce - including pears, which were not available during the year! SO EXCITING!  An no additional charge - just being in the right place at the right time!  Love that!
Here's that produce:


Clockwise from upper left: 2 watermelon, 9 eggplant, 2 types of cucumbers (English and burpless), 7 green peppers, tomatillos, grape tomatoes, 3 green chili, a cantaloupe, and 12 pears.  YUM!!!   And a totally unexpected blessing too! 

So with all this and bananas, apples, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, and cabbage leftover from last week plus tomatoes and peppers still from the garden, we decided to do a weird for us shop this week and purchase mostly meat.   I went to one store and here's what we bought this week:



Here's the price breakdown:
2 Gallons Store Brand Milk 2/$5 = $5 (sale w/store coupon)
2 48oz Kemp's Premium Ice Cream 2/$5 = $5 (sale w/store coupon)
2 Jimmy Dean Ground Sausage 2/$7 = $7 (sale price)
Ground Chuck $4.31 (sale price)
Ground Chuck $3.87 (sale price)
32 oz Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt $2.99 (regular price)
Carpi Sun Drink Boxes 10ct $1.98 (sale w/store coupon)
Skippy Peanut Butter 16oz $2.89 (sale price)

Total plus tax on the drink boxes: $33.07
Total Saved According to the Receipt: $10.03

I rarely buy ground beef at this price but it was on sale for $3.99/lb, which is a  pretty good price around here, and we decided that since we had the money this week, we'd do that.  We have a lot of squash in the garden still and we like to stuff the squash with sausage.  We use 1/2 lb sausage plus bread crumbs, celery, peppers, and onion to stuff 2 acorn squash so the Jimmy Dean sausage will last us for 4 meals that way. We have two more pounds of sausage in the freezer from a few weeks ago so that will be 8 meals of stuffed squash for us - yum!   I bought the drink boxes for dinner between dance classes.  This year we have two dance classes on one evening with an hour between - it's not enough time to go home and eat so we bring a box lunch and have a picnic in a public area near where the class meets. It works well in that we still get dinner together and I thought that these would be a nice treat for the children rather than a water bottle. 

How did you do with your shopping this week? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Work, Home and Family - Some New-to-us Recipes

I love to bake and I enjoy eating my own cooking more than the food at most restaurants plus with the savings, we almost always cook at home for breakfast and dinner and eat leftovers for lunch.  As someone who is not home most of any given day, that means finding ways to make dinner easier.

I love my slow cooker and one of my goals for this school year is to have dinner made using that anywhere from 2-3 nights each week.  That way we can toss a salad, slice bread or do something else simple and just sit down and eat when we get home.  No fuss, no hassle.  Love that!

Here are the links to a couple of new-to-us recipes that we've tried the last couple of weeks that we enjoyed and made our "eat this!" list:

Recipe #1: Crock Pot Honey Dijon Chicken Thighs

We actually made this with chicken legs, rather than thighs, since that's what we had in the freezer.  And we used fresh baby Portobello mushrooms since they were on sale, rather than white mushrooms or canned.   Even both children loved this (Buddy can be very picky) and John pulled the leftover meat off the bone and mixed it with some roasted root veggies (carrots, parsnips, and potatoes) for lunch the next day.  We served this with French bread and a fruit salad.  Yummy!

Recipe #2: Crock Pot Beef Tips and Gravy

Totally cheated on this one and used canned venison with the accompanying broth rather than beef and the broth listed in the recipe.   Super easy and super yummy!  We served this with rice and a fruit salad.  We are going to try a different onion soup mix brand next time since the one we tried was very salty (we rarely add extra salt to our food so this really stood out to us).  Even salty, it was really yummy! 

Both of these can be prepped ahead of time and put into the freezer.  We prepped the chicken since we had extra chicken, but since the venison was canned, we decided to just leave it that way.

What new recipes have you tried lately?  How do you make dinner time a breeze?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013 - Those Shoes

For most of us in the western world, shoes are seen as a necessity.  They are also one of the things that can make or break our health habits or our whole day.

Habit #6: Invest in Some Good Shoes


As women, many of us have a love-hate relationship with shoes.  We need them and if they fit well, they are great.  If you're like me, you dislike trying on shoes and some of those current styles - wow!  I don't have a clue who they are made for but they're definitely not made for me! :)

As a Jazzercise instructor, I often get asked about shoes and I go through about 4 pair of aerobic shoes each year.  As someone who is on my feet all day and has to look nice, I have my own preferences for "dress" shoes.  I know one thing I've discovered between those two things: Having the right shoes can make or break what I do in a day.

We've all had the pair of shoes that look great but make our feet hurt after about 10 minutes in them.  Or that give us blisters.  Or that flop around.  Or just plain don't work - they're too loose, or too tight, or they rub wrong or they don't breathe or something.  Maybe we can't put our finger on what exactly, but the shoes just don't work.

Especially when money is tight, it's easy to go with cheap or cheaply made shoes and just lump it.  Personally, I think that's a huge mistake.  Our feet our so important to our whole body!

Wearing ill-fitting or painful shoes effects the way we walk and stand. 
This in turn effects the way our joints, ligaments and muscles line up.
Which can lead to far more serious problems down the line.

My dear cousin Diane had to go on disability at the young age of 42 because of not getting the prescribed orthotics for her shoes.  Why, you ask?  She permanently messed up her back to the point where she couldn't do much of anything for quite a while.  Yes, her back.  Because of her shoes.
Go figure.

Here are some hints and tips about shoes to consider:

Buy the right shoe for the right activity.  Do you run? Buy a running shoe.  Do you walk?  Buy a walking shoe.  Do you do aerobics? Buy an aerobic shoe.  Do you walk, play pickup basketball occasionally, and sometimes do other active things (take the occasional class, etc.)?  Buy a good cross trainer.   And, by the way, if you're taking any kind of fitness class, make sure you have the right shoe for the class - your instructor should be able to tell you the best shoe to buy.  The way your foot lands for all of these is different so the cushioning in the shoe is in a different place.  Having the cushioning in the wrong place can cause more harm than good.

Get your foot measured!  This is particularly important if you're still growing (kids and teenagers) or if you've just had a baby (those pesky ligaments!) or if you've never been measured before.  Remember that the shoe size, like your clothes size, is just a number.  It does not tell the world anything about who you are as a person, just what size shoe will fit properly on your foot.  You will also find out if you have a wide or narrow foot, flat or high arch, or a narrow heel or anything else that you need to look for.  My feet are pretty normal, thankfully, but even if they're not, we live in a time where there are so many different shoe types available that you should be able to find something that fits well and looks nice.  Remember shoes should not pinch or rub when you buy them - if they do they don't fit! And shoes should never have to be "broken in" either.  That's another sign that they don't fit right.

Get orthotic inserts if you need them.  Yes, they are expensive but you only need one or two sets (depending on what you do in your life) and they last a long time.  And they can make the difference between short term savings on the orthotics themselves and long-term loss of ability and the mountains of medical bills that can accompany that.  On the flip side, please make sure you definitely need them before you get them!  John had a recommendation for orthotics from our GP and when he went to the podiatrist, the podiatrist recommended a particular brand of shoe instead. 

Stay away from the super-high heels.  I don't know about you, but I've noticed that it's really hard to find heels that aren't super-high.  Those super-high heels do nothing good for your feet, ankles and knees.  And they are hard to stand and walk in to boot.  Lower heels (1 1/2 inches or less) or flats with support are far better for your feet than those high heels.

Buy quality.   I stick with nationally known, long-term brands that are known for high quality.  Why?  I know how they work and that they will wear well. They tend to last at least two years before they start to look icky or wear out and that means I need to buy fewer pairs per year - I tend to buy 2 pairs per year. I also buy natural materials - usually real leather.  It wears far better than the synthetics and are much easier to care for. Shoes should also have a sole that bends with a push but is thick enough that you can see it.  Many of our flip-flops and ballet shoes today have soles so thin that they offer nothing more than protection again scrapes.  Many of our other shoes have soles so rigid they can't bend with your foot's natural movement.

Shop clearance.  The problem with high quality shoes - they do cost more if you pay full retail.  There are discount stores and coupons and deals. Always.  They usually only happen a couple of times a year - John buys his shoes on Buy 1/Get 1 sale once a year and buys two pairs at that time. I usually shop season-end clearance at a discount chain and have gotten some great deals - Naturalizer pumps for $14 are my favorite bargain.    Being a little more open on style is helpful for this, but you should be able to get something for less than retail, even if it takes a bit of looking.  Remember that you don't need to own shoes for every outfit - two or three pairs in classic styles and neutral colors will go a long way.

Take care of your shoes.  Good quality shoes need to breathe.  They need to be cared for regularly with polish and buffing (if necessary) and they need to be kept dry.  These things are fairly straight-forward and not at all time consuming, even though they sound like it at first.  A tub of shoe polish lasts for a very long time and you can use an old sock - you know, one of those lonely ones that returned from the dryer without a mate - to polish and another old sock to buff, though a buffing brush does give the shoes a nicer shine.  Shoe trees or racks are relatively inexpensive and do a good job of caring for shoes.  If you only have a couple pair of shoes, sitting them on the floor of your clothes closet is a good alternative to a shoe tree.  An inexpensive spray coating can protect shoes from water, salt and snow.  Or you can buy a good pair of boots and change into your shoes when you get where you're going instead if you live in a climate with weather extremes.  Not only do these help longevity of the shoe, but they keep the shoe fitting the way it should over the life of the shoe.

Hopefully these hints and tips (and that's exactly what they are - nothing more!) will help you think about your future shoe purchases and, in the process, help yourself lead a better and healthier life!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Goals - Week of September 22, 2013


So, the photo has NOTHING to do with my goals this week!  This was a tomato we got from our CSA end of August and we used it for BLT's for 6 (two adults and two children) one night for dinner.  It was huge (my hand is in the photo for comparison) but it was so tasty!  I think I might have to find out the type of tomato and see if we can grow some next year in our backyard.

My goals for this week are pretty straight forward.  I don't have a whole lot on the docket for things around the home right now - we're pretty swamped at work and I have been having medical issues again so I thought it would be better to just keep things relatively simple this week.

So here's what I'm hoping to get done:

Work:
* Course Prep for this week and next
* Keep my grading all caught up
* Order the rest of my equipment

School:
*  Meet with my advisor
* Work on the proposal with my colleague

Jazzercise:
* Learn 3 new routines
* Teach 3 classes
* Get my paperwork for October ready

Family:
* Have friends over for lunch after Worship on Sunday
* Piano Lessons Tuesday at School (children)
* Choir Practice Wednesday (me)
* Dance Lessons Thursday (children)
* Swimming Lessons Friday (children)
* Family Night Friday: Michael and All Angels
* At Home Date Night Saturday: Bonfire with Apple Crisp

Home:
* Finish purging clutter from the living room (almost done with this)
* Weeding
* Mending - replacing hooks and eyes only
* Inventory the pantry and kitchen cupboards

Faith/Worship/Church:
* Pray for the congregation we'll be at on Sunday this next week
* Proofread John's Sermon for Sunday
* Thank you notes to two friends who accompanied service for us in August (totally spaced that one!)
* Update my prayer book
* Update the memory verse system we used when the children were little and start using it again

Personal:
* Complete 1 hour of embroidery this week
* Soak my feet and paint my toenails
* Pray for some guidance with some things I've been struggling with lately

What are you up to this week?

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 22, 2013

Our last CSA of the year from two weeks ago - clockwise, from lower left: eggplant, kale, green beans, cantaloupe, cabbage, cucumbers, beets and tomatoes in the middle.

I think we're officially into fall - the weather is in the mid to upper 70'sF and I'm looking forward to soups and stews and chili!  Yum!  The sweaters have been dug out and we are ready for cooler weather.  I just have to sew the missing button back on my fall/spring jacket and we'll be all set!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, September 22:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch (with friends over): Ham, Corn on the Cob, Biscuits, Fruit Salad, and Caramel Apples
   Snack: Popcorn or Caramel Apples
   Dinner: 3 Bean Chili, Cornbread, Watermelon

Monday, September 23:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
   Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites
   Dinner: Baked Potatoes with Leftover Chili, Cantaloupe

Tuesday, September 24:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Lunch;  Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Crockpot Beef Tips with Gravy, Rice, Grape-Cantaloupe-Watermelon Salad

Wednesday, September 25:
   Breakfast: Pancakes with Applesauce
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
   Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites
   Dinner: Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, Breadsticks, Watermelon and Cantaloupe

Thursday, September 26:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: At John's Work

Friday, September 27:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Leftovers for Adults, Hot Lunch for the Children
   Snack: No Bake Energy Bites
   Dinner: Veggie Fried Rice, Sliced Apples and Pears

Saturday, September 28:
   Breakfast: Cranberry Orange Scones
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Carrot Sticks, Grapes and Apple Slices
   Snack: Popcorn
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Little Things

So many days feel so hard right now - between the multiple directions we're being pulled with school, work, activities, and all the church "stuff' going on, and my anxiety and living with two chronic illnesses, it is so easy to get bogged down in all that isn't going right.
 
I have been working extra hard to enjoy the blessings - we have SO MANY!
Here are some of the little things from the last two months:
 
Zucchini bread in the freezer.
 
Finding a recipe for chocolate-chocolate chip zucchini bread - super yummy!
 
Yummy treats at the churches we've been at. Including a really yummy egg salad - and I don't normally like egg salad.
 
 
This wonderful loaf of zucchini-nut bread from an elderly couple at one of the churches John preached at - their son-in-law is a pastor in another part of the state.  I love the blue bow!
 
Stories, prayers and encouragement from the folks at the churches we get the privilege of worshiping and leading worship at.
 
How the Holy Spirit speaks so clearly some times.
 
Having to take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit.
 
Learning the rudiments of sign language - one of the churches we have been at regularly has a sign language interpreters at everything!
 
The beauty of God's creation.
 
My giant zinnias.
 
John buying me beautiful anniversary flowers that lasted for weeks!

 
The tail end of my anniversary bouquet tucked into a teapot that Missy and I painted together a couple of years ago.
 
 Tea parties with my girl.
 
Snuggling up and reading books together.
 
The children laughing and playing in the back yard - and coming in smelling like sunshine and grass.

 
Buddy hijacking my iPod and taking photos like this - one of our pumpkins, just starting to turn.

 
This photo, also taken by Buddy, of a fish pond where we met my cousin Diane and her husband Bo for a wonderful lunch and visit.
 
Time spent with my parents - we've missed that so much this last year and a half.
 
My Dad being in remission from cancer.
 
My Mom's broken wrist (did I tell you about that?) healing very well.
 
Time to have lunch with my cousin.
 
Third grade going well - I love hearing them talk about their days!
 
Reading, reading and more reading!
 
Finally getting the children's rooms shaped up again - this seemed to take forever this year!

 
Giant Lego Sculptures!  The perk of living in the Twin Cities is that you can occasionally go to the Mall of America and see the Giant Lego sculptures (is that what they're called) at the Lego store.  It's fun to just go look and see what they have!
 
Going to the Mall of America and wondering "Why in the world am I here?" and realizing that I really don't need anything that they are selling!  Nor do I like being there - waaayyy to many people and waaayyyy too crowded for my taste!
 
Feeling abundantly blessed with what we have - and freely giving away some of our excess.
 
Finding the perfect recipient for a pair of bright yellow goulashes that we had for Buddy when he was a preschooler.  Our friend's little boy fits them to a T!
 
Getting caught up to current on my grading! (This is always a battle.)
 
Having everything we need and more than a little of what we want.
 
How very blessed we are!
 
Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.